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Need A Break From Reality? Escape With These 11 YA Fantasy Books

by Kim Small

When things become overwhelming, sometimes it’s just nice to crack open a book and get lost in the worlds that skilled authors manage to weave together out of nothing. If you’re like me and YA novels are your heart and soul, or you’re merely looking for quality books to help you through these quarantine days, check out this list of 11 YA fantasy and supernatural books by badass women that will let you escape for a spell.

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Official synopsis: Laia lives under the Martial Empire, where defiance is met with death. But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, she is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

My two cents: Bless Sabaa Tahir. Bless this series. If you’re looking for a series that sucks you in right from the first page and doesn’t let up, this is for you. The fourth and final installment comes out in December, so now’s the perfect time to get into this. Tahir is incredible at creating high stakes.

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The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Official synopsis: For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, students at the local private school, Aglionby, she’s not so sure anymore.

My two cents: This is one of my favorite series to force all my friends (and now you) to read. If you enjoy the supernatural, look no further than Blue and her Raven boys. Following the adventures of these four friends as they uncover the power of ley lines and dreams is such a treat. Stiefvater created something so unique here. I love rereading this series and falling all over again.

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Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Official synopsis: Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Lonely refugee Alina Starkov has never been good at anything, but when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves her life-a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha… and the secrets of her heart.

My two cents: Queen Bardugo is the gift that keeps on giving. This trilogy is incredibly dynamic and goes on to include other titles in the Grishaverse. Soon to be a Netflix series based on these three books as well as the Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom duology, do yourself a favor and read the books now. You can thank me later.

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The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Official synopsis: It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance. To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood. Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.

My two cents: Chokshi has some of the best prose in the game. Her ability to write so poetically just adds an extra element to already stellar plotline. It’d be impossible not to get swept up in the antics of this crew. Set in the lush world of 19th century Paris where magic abounds, you’ll be hard pressed not to find yourself transported. Book two, The Silvered Serpents, releases in September of this year.

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Official synopsis: Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

My two cents: If you haven’t already heard about this book, I don’t know what rock you’ve been hiding under, but welcome back! There’s a reason this novel has been on the New York Times bestsellers list for two consecutive years. Adeyemi’s usage of African lore is impeccable and lends itself to heart-pumping series you’re not likely to forget.

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We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Official synopsis: Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya―but neither wants to be. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds―and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

My two cents: A Middle Eastern inspired fantasy book? Yes, please! We Hunt the Flame is so magical and rich. Faizal’s an intricate writer who will get your adrenaline racing as you follow the wild interactions throughout the book.

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This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Official synopsis: Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

My two cents: Full disclosure — I’m a super fan of Schwab, so I may be biased. However, that does not diminish the fact that this duology is everything! Whether it’s her middle grade, YA, or adult titles (penned under V.E. Schwab) you cannot go wrong with any book that has her name on it. This Savage Song is gritty and highly addictive.

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Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Official synopsis: Alex is a bruja and the most powerful witch in her family. But she’s hated magic ever since it made her father disappear into thin air. So while most girls celebrate their Quinceañera, Alex prepares for Death Day―the most important day in a bruja’s life and her only opportunity to rid herself of magic. But the curse she performs during the ceremony backfires, and her family vanishes, forcing Alex to absorb all of the magic from her family line. Left alone, Alex seeks help from Nova, a brujo with ambitions of his own. To get her family back they must travel to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland. And while she’s there, what she discovers about herself, her powers, and her family, will change everything…

My two cents: If you like Charmed, I highly suggest you get your hands on this series ASAP. I’m always in favor of more representation for marginalized groups, and Córdova shows you exactly how we all benefit when we’re given a variety and just — simply put — damn good storytelling.

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Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Official synopsis: Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home. Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden, lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

My two cents: This series is one that I need everyone to jump on. Dennard created such a unique plot that I personally hadn’t seen before. With such fleshed out characters, you almost forget for a moment that this world doesn’t actually exist. It’s intriguing and keeps you guessing — all the best markers for a good fantasy series.

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Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Official synopsis: Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess — a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner. One night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn’t always won on the battlefield. For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

My two cents: This series is a home run. Sebastian created a highly addictive and gripping series that will make you want to sit down with all three books and not get up until you’ve gotten through each of them. It does touch on some heavy themes, but they all serve the plot and are handled with such care. I’m excited to read whatever Sebastian writes next.

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 A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell

Official synopsis: Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly.

My two cents: Anthologies can be pretty hit or miss. Sometimes you may not like a vast majority of the stories but with APFMB, that just isn’t possible. Caldwell assembled a truly remarkable cast of authors (some of my faves, if I’m being honest) and in the end, we’re all the better for it. This right here is the literal Black Girl Magic we need.

In these troubled and uncertain times, consider supporting your local small business by shopping indie!

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