I’m cheerleading for debut authors again today, because the past year has been an awfully hard time to hit the shelves for the first time. Last week, I focused on adult fantasy debuts – today I’m taking a look at YA and cross-over fantasy debuts since last year’s Wyrd And Wonder.
As ever, I’m sure this is only the tip of the iceberg, so do chime in in the comments if you know of other YA and cross-over fantasy debuts we should know about – especially indie, self-published and/or titles released outside the US/UK. I’ve once again prioritised the list based on the number of Goodreads ratings received – so the further you go, the more likely you are to have come across the titles.
One thing I note is that it appears easier for debuts marketed as YA to garner attention. The adult list only has 5 (of 18) titles with over 1000 ratings, and only the top 2 exceed 1500. Today’s YA list only includes 5 titles with under 1000 ratings, and the top 3 exceed 20,000 ratings each. Spare a thought for indie debut Cinrak the Dapper which has just 77…
Any error in including a title as YA / cross-over is entirely mine. I’m not familiar with all these titles, so have been led by blurbs and Goodreads tags. Please let me know in the comments if I’ve got it wrong.
Witherward – Hannah Mathewson | Titan Books
In spite of a teen protagonist and Fae-like alternate London setting, Witherward is billed as a cross-over urban fantasy. Expect changelings, circus acts, magical factions and the threat of war in what Titan describe as ‘Six of Crows meets The Prestige, for fans of V.E. Schwab’.
A Curse of Roses – Diana Pinguicha | Entangled: Teen
A retelling based on Portuguese myth and Catholic miracle, this is a sapphic fantasy about a cursed princess and the beautiful moura who can teach her to control it. But the moura’s price – a kiss – is treason for the betrothed princess; and she has been taught that such an attraction is a sin. Content warnings: eating disorders, homophobia, self-harm.
These Feathered Flames – Alexandra Overy | Inkyard Press
Another queer retelling, this time based on the Firebird, one of my favourite tales from Russian folklore. Here, twin princesses are separated: one will inherit the throne, the other will be trained as the future Firebird, who keeps magic in check. But when the Queen is killed, the sisters must build a relationship if they are to survive – and solve their mother’s murder.
Witches Steeped in Gold – Ciannon Smart | HarperTeen
Enough of Europe: time for a Caribbean fantasy! This one features a team-up between two witches who are also sworn enemies: one a princess reluctant to be sacrificed for her mother’s power; the other a captive, longing for vengeance. Expect a deadly game of cat and mouse, as they explore the boundaries of common interest and expose the injustices of the past.
Beyond The Ruby Veil – Mara Fitzgerald | Little, Brown
Welcome to a city where the only source of water is the blood of its inhabitants, drained by a magical creature called a watercrea when the omens are right. When an ambitious socialite resists the call to be sacrificed and kills the watercrea, she condemns Occhia to die of thirst – unless she and her best friend can cross the veil and find the source of the watercrea’s power to save their people. Dark and queer, with an unabashedly self-interested protagonist.
Queen of Coin and Whispers – Helen Corcoran | The O’Brien Press
When a teenage queen inherits a bankrupt kingdom, she appoints a new spymaster to help her unpick the plots her enemies are rapidly building around her. But the spymaster has ambitions of her own. The two must learn how far they can rely on one another – and how much they’re willing to sacrifice for their goals… and each other.
A Golden Fury – Samantha Cohoe | Wednesday Books
A fantasy of science and madness during the French Revolution. Thea Hope and her mother almost succeeded in creating the Philosopher’s Stone – until her mother destroyed it, driven mad by its curse. Now the alchemists of Oxford will stop at nothing to prise its secrets from Thea – and she must decide whether to sacrifice her sanity and create the Stone, or doom those she loves…
The Kinder Poison – Natalie Mae | Razorbill
A teenage girl’s life is up-ended when a prank results in her being chosen as a human sacrifice. The king declares that whichever heir survives a death-defying race across the desert and takes her life will inherit the throne. Sibling rivalry, political intrigue and magic ensue as Zahru searches for a way to survive the most dangerous people in her world.
The Dark Tide – Alicia Jasinska | Sourcebooks
Each year, the Witch Queen must sacrifice her love at the full moon to save her city from drowning. Devastated by her sister’s recent death, the new Witch Queen feels nothing, and without love, the sacrifice will have no power. A sapphic fantasy of grief, duty and family.
Star Daughter – Shveta Thakrar | HarperTeen
Fancy some Hindu-inflected fantasy? Half-human, half-celestial, Sheetal ascends to the heavens to save her human father, burned by her starfire – only to find herself chosen as her family’s champion in a competition to choose the next ruling house of the heavens.
Where Dreams Descend – Janella Angeles | Wednesday Books
There’s darkness at the heart of the Conquering Circus. Ambitious magicians vie to become the new headline act – but even as each takes ever-greater risks, someone is picking them off from behind the scenes. A dark fantasy with Phantom of the Opera vibes.
Elatsoe – Darcie Little Badger | Levine Querido
In a America not quite like our own, Elatsoe has the power summon the ghosts of dead animals. When her cousin is murdered, her skills will help her dug up the dark secrets the town is so keen to leave buried. Own voices indigenous fantasy with an incidentally asexual protagonist.
We’ve hit the point in the list where it’s almost impossible that you haven’t been at least peripherally aware of the hype…
Raybearer – Jordan Ifueko | Amulet Books / Hot Key Books
Tarisai is determined to win a place on the Ray-bonded Council of 11, but it will leave her at the mercy of conflicting imperatives: a murderous geas laid on her by her mother, and her vow to protect the Crown Prince.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin – Roseanne A Brown | Balzer + Bray
West African folklore-inspired kill or kiss as two young people with every reason to kill each other are hampered by attraction and the awakening of an ancient evil.
The Gilded Ones – Namina Forna | Delacorte Press / Usborne
Feminist fantasy in which an outcast joins an elite army of girls, learning to value herself for who and what she is as they face down misogyny, grow past the horrors of their pasts and take their destiny into their own hands.
These Violent Delights – Chloe Gong | Tor.com
Not quite Romeo and Juliet as 1920s Shanghai mobsters, but… When the Shanghai underworld falls prey to a mysterious disease, feuding gang leaders Roma Montagov and Juliette Cai must put aside their deadly grudges to save their city.
Legendborn – Tracy Deonn | Simon & Schuster
Murder mystery meets magical war as a grieving girl goes to boarding school, where she finds a secret society of demon-hunting students – and unlocks her own magical powers.
Cemetery Boys – Aiden Thomas | Swoon Reads
A transgender brujo is determined to prove himself to his traditional Latinx family, but when he summons the wrong ghost he agrees to help the spirit tie up loose ends. An own voices tale of fighting for your identity, acceptance and love.
Read any of these titles? What did you think?