Tomi Adeyemi’s writing career took off with a bang with the release of her debut best-selling, award-winning novel Children of Blood and Bone. Zélie embarks on a quest to restore magic to her fellow Diviners and free them from the king’s oppressive reign, but soon finds unexpected allies in the enemy princess and prince. Set on the backdrop of a rich fantasy world, the novel masterfully tackles themes of racism and oppression. If your heart yearns for the whimsy of magic and unforgettable characters who resist corruption, immerse yourself in these 10 diverse YA fantasy titles.
1. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, by Roseanne A. Brown
Sensitive and kind Malik wants nothing more but to flee the war and give his sisters a better life. He heads off to the Solstasia festival in search of opportunities. When his younger sister Nadia is captured by a spirit upon entry to the city, Malik is coerced into a deal–kill the Crown Princess. Meanwhile, after her mother is assassinated, Princess Karina seeks to resurrect her with necromancy that requires the beating heart of a king. To do this, she offers her hand in marriage to whoever wins the Solstasia competition, where challengers from across the kingdom compete for a grand prize. When Malik and Karina meet, they are intent on destroying each other, but their developing romance thwarts their initial plans. Inspired by West African folklore, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is the first of a duology, featuring lush worldbuilding, anxiety representation, and an enemies-to-lovers romance.
2. The Gilded Ones, by Namina Forna
The blood-letting ceremony is a rite of passage for young women to become members of their village. For Deka, it’s a chance to prove she belongs. When her blood is revealed to be gold, and thus impure, she fears for her life. Then a mysterious woman offers her the choice to stay or leave, and Deka abandons her old life to join an army composed of girls gifted with magical abilities. Engaged in a battle against the empire, Deka faces new knowledge about herself and the corrupt world in which she grew up. The Gilded Ones condemns the inherent violence of a patriarchal society and shows the inner strength and bonds of the women who resist.
3. A River of Royal Blood, by Amanda Joy
Blood magic has been absent in Myre for many years, last practised by the ruthless Queen Raina who slaughtered thousands alongside her sister. That is, until Eva is born with blood magic in her veins. According to the Rival Heir tradition, Eva is required to battle her older sister to the death for a chance at the throne. Before the impending showdown, an attempt on Eva’s life reveals she has more enemies than she believed. Newly desperate for success, she encounters a fey mentor and a handsome khimaer prince who help Eva hone her abilities. Even though fond memories of her sister make Eva question everything, if she doesn’t kill her, her own life is on the line. Abound with folklore, a unique magic system, and a strong female MC, A River of Royal Blood will keep you turning pages.
4. Raybearer, by Jordan Ifueko
Tarisai was raised in isolation by a mysterious and withdrawn woman called The Lady, but she dreams of familial love and affection. Once old enough, The Lady sends Tarisai to compete for a coveted spot on the Crown Prince’s Council, in which its magically gifted members rule together through a powerful mental bond. Tarisai is willing to remain loyal to the crown if she can finally achieve the closeness she desires, until The Lady demands the Prince’s assassination. Caught between her own goals and the whims of another, Tarisai must carve out a new path for herself. A best-selling debut with depictions of various traditions and cultures, Raybearer explores the danger of imperialism, the effects of colonization and assimilation, and the unconditional love of found family.
5. Beasts of Prey, by Ayana Gray
In Beasts of Prey, Koffi serves the Night Zoo circus, obligated to care for magical creatures in the hopes of eventually paying off her family’s debt. But when their safety is threatened by the master of the Zoo, Koffi discovers a hidden ability to tame the beasts. On the other hand, Ekon intends to become an elite warrior and fulfill his family’s legacy. But his plans are ruined when he encounters the vicious Shetani monster, saved only by Koffi’s mysterious power. The two protagonists team up to track down the beast, but Ekon wants to destroy it while Koffi thinks she can sell it for profit. Ignorant of each other’s opposing motivations, they enter the wild expanse of the Greater Jungle, where the flora and fauna are destined to hunt them.
6. Kingdom of Souls, by Rena Barron
Arrah is the offspring of two powerful witch doctors from two different worlds, but she fails to master any magic of her own, earning the disapproval of her mother. When children start to vanish without concern, Arrah takes matters into her own hands. To buy her own magical ability, she decides to undergo a high-stakes, dangerous ritual that requires trading away years of her life. In her quest for validation, she uncovers a shocking relationship with the ruling gods and a horrific revelation about her family, realizing her world contains more than she previously understood. A dark fantasy with complex worldbuilding and challenging family dynamics, Kingdom of Souls promises a gripping read.
7. Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim
Princess Shiori possesses a forbidden magic that allows her to breathe life into paper cranes, kept secret from the kingdom. The day of her betrothal ceremony to a man she doesn’t want to marry, Shiori loses control of one of her creations. Her perceived disrespect annuls the wedding and earns the scorn of her stepmother, Raikama. With her own dark magic, Raikama banishes the princess and turns her brothers into cranes. Worse, if Shiori emits any sound whatsoever, they will die. On her journey to find her missing brothers, she runs into a conspiracy against the throne, and in a twist of fate, she must learn to trust the boy whose hand she previously refused. Inspired by mythology and featuring a dragon sidekick, Six Crimson Cranes presents another atmospheric fantasy for your reading pleasure.
8. Incendiary, by Zoraida Córdova
Incendiary follows the story of Renata, a Moria magic-user brought to live in the palace when she was a child. Gifted with the ability to steal memories, she became a tool for the King to carry out a huge massacre, rendering her victims “hollow.” As a result, her people no longer trust her. A member of the rebel Whispers, Renata works against the crown to free her fellow Moria from certain death. When her commander and lover is captured by the prince, his secret mission is foiled. To carry out his unfinished work and save him, Renata must return to the palace and convince her former captors she is loyal to the crown, even though she wishes to exact revenge on the cruel ruler. With her mind full of guilt and the stolen memories of her victims, trying to navigate her past and present becomes increasingly difficult.
9. Forest of Souls, by Lori M. Lee
Sirscha Ashwyn has been training to become a spy for the Queen in order to make a name for herself. When shamans attack and kill her best friend, Saengo, she unexpectedly brings her back to life. Known as a soulguide, Sirscha is summoned to meet the Spider King in a barrier region called the Dead Wood, a cursed forest possessed by restless souls. He seeks to keep the peace between the kingdoms, but the trees are growing out of control, and he needs a soulguide to tame them. As peace becomes increasingly fraught, Sirscha must harness her magic before the trees take over and Saengo succumbs to death again. Inspired by Hmong shamanism and featuring a strong female friendship, Forest of Souls is certainly a novel worth reading.
10. The Tiger at Midnight, by Swati Teerdhala
In search of revenge after a coup rips her family apart, Esha becomes a renowned rebel assassin known as the Viper. Her newest mission consists of killing the cruel General, but when she arrives at the scene, someone has already beaten her to it and attempted to frame her. As a soldier for the king, Kunal has been locked into a deadly way of life, even though he wishes to break free and live in the outside world. Promoted after the General’s death, he is tasked with unmasking the Viper and destroying her, and Kunal sets off on an exhilarating cat-and-mouse chase. When Esha and Kunal meet, each of them believes they’re deceiving the other, but greater forces are at play. They must decide where their loyalties truly lie–and hope they haven’t made the wrong choice. The Tiger at Midnight is an Indian fantasy full of tension and explores the grey area of morality in a world where two sides clash.