20 Must-Read 2021 Young Adult Fantasy Releases
Ever since I was a teen myself, devouring books by R.L. Stine and Ann M. Martin, I’ve been a huge fan of young adult books. But while my love for reading YA at the time was mostly contemporary, you could say I’ve acquired a taste for young adult fantasy in the time I’ve been a high school teacher and journalist. From romance, to drama, and, at times, angst, these anticipated 2021 YA fantasy books have us raving for a different world, one more magical and intriguing than most, that we can escape to. Read on for 20 young adult fantasy books releasing in 2021 that will gladly take space in your heart and already-packed bookshelves. There’s always space for more!
Wings of Ebony by J Elle
Released in January 2021, this book follows our heroine Rue, who’s gone through some revelations. When her mother dies, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and taken away to Ghizon, a hidden island of magic wielders.
Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred “Do Not Leave Law” and returns to Houston. There, she discovers that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. Even worse, her sister Tasha is in danger of falling into the very same forces that in the end claimed their mother’s life.
There is also evidence mounting that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon, an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from everyone.
The novel promises action and a reality check, as Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before tough forces burn it all down.
I had a chance to read this novel and author J Elle mixes in action, suspense and even romance into a novel sure to be an unforgettable hit of 2021.
Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart
Releasing on April 20, this Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut features two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy.
Divided by their order, yet united by the same intentions of vengeance, Iraya and Jazmyne could not be any more different. Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom and the revenge she seeks. Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter, but very different from her sister before her. At this point, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s unique power. In the end, they are sworn enemies.
These two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But power is intoxicating, revenge is bloody, and nothing is certain. The only thing certain are the lengths they will go to win this sudden game that could be deadly in the end.
I am so excited to dive into this world, which promises magic and darkness, as well as some otherworldly sibling rivalry.
Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard
Releasing May 4, this promises to be an action-packed fantasy from the author who brought us the beloved Red Queen series.
In the story, a strange darkness is growing in Allward. Corayne an-Amarat can feel it, tucked away in her small town at the edge of the sea, and is definitely listening.
She soon discovers the truth. She is actually the last of an ancient lineage and the last hope to save the world from destruction. But she won’t be alone. Even as darkness falls, she is joined by a band of companions: a squire, forced to choose between home and honor; an immortal, avenging a broken promise; an assassin, exiled and bloodthirsty; an ancient sorceress, whose riddles hide an eerie foresight; a forger with a secret past; and a bounty hunter with a score to settle. The group, though an unlikely crew, has the same intentions as Corayne.
Together they stand against a vicious opponent, invincible and determined to burn all kingdoms. And, even more importantly, this is an army unlike anything the realm has ever witnessed.
I am a huge fan of this novel already, which I had a chance to read an advance copy of, and recommend this thrill ride not only to fans of Victoria Aveyard’s cinematic storytelling, but also to fans of classic fantasies like the Lord of the Rings novels.
The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore
Releasing on March 16, the story follows two teens who discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party and develop a unique friendship through her family’s possibly-magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in this seemingly ethereal fantasy.
In the novel, Graciela Cristales’s whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. In protest about the recent situation, neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned, and feels a connection to him from afar.
But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him, and that their survival depends on recognizing what happened that night.
Anna-Marie McLemore is a Latinx author of magical realism twirled in with fantasy and I’m a huge fan of their novel Blanca & Roja. Looking forward to this story, which seems to promise a mix of heartbreak and hope.
Shadow City by Francesca Flores
Released in January, this sequel to Diamond City follows Aina Solís, who has fought her way to the top of criminal ranks in the city of Kosín by wresting control of an assassin empire owned by her old boss, Kohl. She never has to fear losing her home and returning to life on the streets again, except Kohl, the man who tried to ruin her life, will do anything to get his empire back.
In a chase, Aina sets out to kill him before he can kill her. But first there are some obstacles that she must face.
Alsane Bautix, the old army general who was banned from his seat in the government after Aina revealed his corruption, is working to take back power by destroying anyone who stands in his way. With a new civil war brewing and all their lives at risk, the only way for Aina to protect her home is to join up with the only other criminal more notorious than her. And who is that, actually? In a twist, it turns out to be Kohl himself.
As Bautix’s attacks increase, Aina and Kohl work together to stop his incoming weapons shipments and his plans to take back the Tower of Steel.
This novel promises a follow-up full of action and intrigue and I cannot wait to see what’s next and eagerly await this novel by Francesca Flores, who proved with the first one that she has a great sense of world-building and edgy character development.
Written in Starlight by Isabel Ibañez
Released in January, this sequel to Woven in Moonlight follows Catalina Quiroga, a condesa without a country.
In the novel, she’s lost the Inkasisa throne, the loyalty of her people, and even, heartbreakingly, her very best friend. After being banished to the Yanu Jungle, Catalina knows her chances of survival are not very good, but that won’t stop her from trying to escape, for she feels like her true duty in the end is to rule.
She decides to run for her life. In the process, Catalina is rescued by Manuel, the son of her former general, who has spent years searching for allies to assist him. With his help, Catalina could find the city of gold that’s home to the fierce Illari people and strike a deal with them to finally gain back her throne.
But the elusive Illari are fighting a battle of their own and a mysterious situation is corrupting the jungle. Catalina feels like she should be able to help, but her ability to read the future in the stars is not what is used to be and she also needs to fight for survival. And while on this journey, Catalina finds her true calling, which is key to stopping the corruption before it destroys the jungle completely.
Ibañez is a fabulous writer and her debut captured my heart, for it was filled with sparkling magical elements. I cannot wait to see what’s in store for Catalina in this anticipated sequel.
Cazadora by Romina Garber
In this sequel releasing August 17, we finally get to see what happens next after the ethereal and magically perfect Lobizona.
In the novel, Romina Garber promises to mix in Argentine folklore and real-world issues into a haunting, fantastical, and romantic story that will reunite readers with Manu and her friends as they continue to fight for a better future.
There is not a lot of information about this sequel yet, which has me on the edge of my seat. But, I cannot wait to see what’s in store for Manu and the rest of the group that we met in Lobizona.
Need something to read while you wait? Make sure to pick up Romina’s Zodiac series, another fantasy sure to quench your thirst for sci-fi and romance.
Sweet and Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley
Releasing March 9, this novel follows the story of Tamsin, who is the most powerful witch of her generation. But after committing the worst magical sin, she’s exiled by the ruling coven and cursed with the inability to love. The only way she can get those feelings back is to steal love from others.
On the other side, Wren is a source, a rare kind of person who is made of magic, despite being unable to use it herself. Sources are required to train with the Coven as soon as they discover their abilities, but Wren, the only caretaker to her sick father, has spent her life hiding her secret. But all this is about to change.
When a magical plague takes over the area, unfortunately Wren’s father falls ill. To save him, Wren proposes a bargain with Tamsin. The bargain includes that if she helps her catch the dark witch responsible for creating the plague, then Wren will give Tamsin her love for her father. Tamsin is eager to feel again, and this journey will surprise everyone, including the both of them.
The book promises a long journey proving that love is a tricky thing, and that sometimes people from different walks of life can find what they’re looking for by teaming up. I had a chance to read an advance copy, and I promise you will enjoy all the surprises in store in this novel.
A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth
Out now, this novel follows the story of the Eight Courts of Folk.
The Eight Courts of Folk have actually lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has kept the peace in the Courts, but then a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.
Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, form an alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike, which is a lot of responsibility to bear.
If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to be a part of it. The question remains as to which way our heroes will go in this adventure, and based on what the book promises, I cannot wait to find out what will happen.
Shuttleworth’s debut novel promises action, adventure, and a ton of surprises, and having read it myself, I highly recommend it to fans of Cassandra Clare and her The Mortal Instruments series and of high fantasy swirled in with fast-paced and thrilling action.
Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood
In this debut from a Jamaican American author, releasing on November 9, Andromeda is a debtera, an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. She would be hired, that is, if her mentor hadn’t thrown her out before she could earn her license to work.
Now she is faced with the fact that her only hope of steady work is to find a patron, which is a rich, well-connected individual who will completely vouch for her abilities.
When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rorschach reaches out to hire her, she takes the job without question, desperate to work as she wishes.
She finds out that he’s rude, demanding, and eccentric, that the contract between them comes with a number of intense rules, and that almost a dozen debtera had quit before her. But, if Andromeda wants to earn a living, she has no choice but to stay put.
The novel hints at romance. Our main character seems to realize that this is a job like no other and Magnus has some hidden secrets, which might just mean the end of her. But it seems like leaving might not be a choice because she might just be falling for Magnus.
I am so excited to pick up this book, which seems to promise drama and suspense at every single turn.
Ember of Night by Molly E. Lee
Releasing on May 4, this novel’s main character feels unloved by her abusive dad, unwanted by her classmates, and unnoticed by everyone else.
Yet, she’d do anything it takes to give her little sister a better life than the one they have lived so far. Her most coveted wish is that the minute she turns 18, she’ll be able to get them out of this hellish situation. Yet, there’s some hot stranger telling her that she is the key to stopping a war between Heaven and Hell. Where did that come from? She has no idea and does not intend to find out.
The messenger, Draven, is relentless, and she distrusts him. But what does he want from her? In the end, maybe they can grow powerful enough to work together. But at what cost and why her?
This angels-and-demons story promises pulse-pounding romance, epic world-building, and plenty of twists and turns sure to keep us turning the pages. It is giving me Fallen vibes mixed with Twilight, and I cannot wait to pick it up ASAP to see what exactly the book holds in store for us.
Covet by Tracy Wolff
Releasing on March 2, this is the sequel to the paranormal fantasy series that includes Crave and Crush. In this book, Grace may have reached her breaking point after a series of events rocked her world.
As if trying to graduate from a school full of and for supernaturals isn’t stressful enough, her relationship status has gone from complicated to messy. Also, the Bloodletter has decided to drop a bomb of epic proportions on the students at Katmere Academy, right in the middle of Grace feeling intense stress at the way her life has turned upside down.
The hits just keep coming for our main character. Her now (but is he, really?) ex-boyfriend, the sexy vampire Jaxon has become cold toward her and The Circle at the school is torn over her upcoming coronation. As if things couldn’t get worse, now there’s an arrest warrant for Hudson and Grace for some supposed crimes, which apparently means a lifetime prison sentence with a deadly unbreakable curse.
Expect romance, fantasy, and drama in the third installment of this epic fantasy series. I’m a huge fan of Crave and Crush and Tracy Wolff’s romantic, funny and pop-culture-reference-filled writing, so this is one novel that I will certainly not miss and cannot wait to pick up.
Teen vampires, witches and werewolves? There’s that and plenty more in the series which has been compared to some of the best teen paranormal novels with great reason.
Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
Releasing on March 23 comes this epic fantasy full of mystery and intrigue from the author of Cemetery Boys.
When children start to go missing in the local woods, a teen girl must face her fears and a past she can’t remember to rescue them.
For the girl, Wendy, it’s been five years since her two brothers went missing in the woods. But when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious disappearances are brought back into the light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, whose name is Peter.
The boy, who she truly thought only lived in her stories, asks for Wendy’s help to rescue the missing kids. But can Wendy face what’s in the woods and find the courage to solve this mystery?
This novel promises an atmospheric setting and lots of twists and turns, from an author that knows how to weave epic characters, twisty dialogue, and mystery into one amazing book.
Rising Like A Storm by Tanaz Bhathena
Releasing on June 22, this sequel to Hunted by the Sky features dramatic and immersive fantastical elements for all.
With King Lohar dead and a usurper queen in power, Gul and Cavas face a new tyrannical government that is set on killing them both. Their roles in King Lohar’s death have not gone unnoticed, and the new queen is out for blood.
What she doesn’t know is that Gul and Cavas have a connection that runs deeper than just a simple romance, and together, they just might have the strength and magic to end her.
But when a grave mistake ends with Cavas taken prisoner by the government, Gul must now train an army of warriors alone. With alliances shifting and the thirst for vengeance growing, the fate of Ambar seems ever more uncertain.
This sequel to a novel that was full of action and romance will then follow Gul and Cavas and their love and sacrifice as they rush to reach their final goal of building a fairer world.
I fully expect to pick this novel up since the world-building in Hunted by the Sky left me on the edge of my seat, and this one truly promises more romantic elements packed in with courage and action.
Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater
In this follow-up to Call Down the Hawk, releasing on May 18, something is happening to the source of the dreamers’ power. It is blocked, diminished, and somewhat weakened. If it goes away entirely, what will happen to the dreamers and those who depend on them at all times?
Ronan Lynch isn’t planning to wait and find out. Backed by his mentor, Bryde, he is ready to do what needs to be done to save the dreamers and the dreamed, even if it takes him far from his family and the boy he loves. But this is a sacrifice Ronan might just have to make.
On the other hand, Jordan Hennessy knows she will not survive if the dreaming fails. So she plunges into a dark underworld in order to find an object that may help her. Then there’s Carmen Farooq-Lane, who is afraid of the dreamers, which is why she’s agreed to hunt them down. The closer she gets, though, the more complicated her feelings become towards the group.
Will the dreamers destroy the world, or will the world be destroyed trying to eliminate the dreamers? I am excited to find out in this second book of the Dreamer Trilogy.
Need more Maggie Stiefvater books while you wait? I highly recommend her Shiver and The Raven Boys series if you haven’t picked them up yet. You won’t be disappointed as you wait for this anticipated sequel to arrive.
You & Me at the End of the World by Brianna Bourne
In the book releasing July 20, Hannah Ashton wakes up to silence. The entire city around her is empty, except for one other person: the reckless, charismatic Leo Sterling.
Leo might be the hottest boy ever, as well as the only one seemingly left, but he’s also too charming, too selfish, and too devastating for his own good, and that does not bode well for Hannah.
Stuck with only each other against a backdrop of abandoned carnivals and empty museums, Hannah and Leo explore a world with no parents, no friends, and no school. In the beginning, it sounds dreamy to them, but there are surprises waiting at every turn.
Together, they get a chance to start over and be themselves instead of playing parts others cut out for them. In this new world, Hannah doesn’t have to just be an overachieving ballerina, and Leo can be more than an ’80s glam metal–obsessed guitarist. They can be anyone they want to be, together.
Leo is a mix of honesty and fun that draws Hannah out, and Hannah’s got Leo thinking about someone other than himself for the first time. Together, they search for answers amid the tough isolation and realize that they need each other more than ever as they face fantastical and epic trials in this now abandoned world.
This book seems to offer dramatic, fantasy-filled and dystopian elements, and I am definitely here, first in line, for it to be released.
Ravage the Dark by Tara Sim
Releasing March 9, this sequel to Scavenge the Stars features main character Amaya Chandra who, imprisoned for seven years on a ship, only had one plan: to survive.
But now, survival is not enough. She has people counting on her for protection, for leadership, for vengeance. And after barely escaping Moray, she’s determined to track down the man who betrayed her and all of her friends.
On the other end of the story, Cayo Mercado has lost everything, including his money, his father and even his reputation. Everything except his sister, who he adores. But he’s well on his way to losing her, too, with no way to afford the treatment for her deadly illness.
In an empire now also being ravaged by ash fever, Cayo has no choice but to join Amaya in uncovering the mystery of the counterfeit currency, the fever, and how his father was involved in their creation. But Cayo still hasn’t forgiven Amaya for her earlier deception, and their complicated feelings for each other are getting harder and harder to ignore. Could this mean love or hate?
Cayo and Amaya will learn that the corruption in Moray goes far deeper than they know, and that the only people they can trust is each other.
I adored Scavenge the Stars and all of its storytelling, so I’m highly anticipating this epic sequel.
Reaper of Souls by Rena Barron
Releasing February 16, this sequel to Kingdom of Souls follows Arrah, who has the one thing she’s always wanted: magic. But it came at too steep a price. Now the last surviving witchdoctor, she’s been left to pick up the pieces of a family that betrayed her, a kingdom suddenly in chaos, and a love that possibly can never happen.
While Arrah returns to the tribal lands to search for survivors of the prior demons’ attack, her love Rudjek hunts down what’s left of the demon army and uncovers a plot that would destroy what’s left of their world. It seems that The Demon King wants Arrah, and if she and Rudjek can’t figure out his deadly schemes, he will destroy everything.
This sequel is set in a gorgeous world inspired by tales of voodoo and folk magic. The beauty behind Kingdom of Souls was its lyrical and rich story, and I cannot wait to dive back into this unique world.
Illusionary by Zoraida Córdova
In this sequel to Incendiary releasing on May 11 Renata Convida, reeling from betrayal at the hands of the Whispers, is suddenly a girl on the run. With few options and fewer allies, she’s now faced with the fact that she must join forces with Prince Castian, her most infuriating enemy.
Yet, they’re united by similar goals, which include finding the fabled Knife of Memory, killing the ruthless King Fernando, and simply bringing peace to the nation. Together, Ren and Castian have a chance to save everything, if only they can set aside their complex and intense feelings for each other, which are the heart and center of the story.
With the king’s forces nearby at every turn, their quest across Puerto Leones and beyond leaves little room for messing up. But there’s an even greater danger within Ren. The Gray, her fortress of stolen memories, has begun to disappear and crumble, threatening her own sense of reality. She’ll have to control her magic to release her power and protect the Moria people. But at what cost?
Featuring strong characters and an exceptional narrative, this book promises magic and adventure. Need something to tide you over while you wait? Pick up Zoraida Córdova’s also amazing and fully witchy series Brooklyn Brujas, starting with Labyrinth Lost.
When Night Breaks by Janella Angeles
In this sequel to the epic Where Dreams Descend, releasing on August 24, the prior competition that the characters faced has now come to a terrible end, and Daron Demarco’s fall from grace is now front page news, something he never wanted to happen.
But not a lot matters to him beyond Kallia, the lovely contestant that he fell for, who is now lost to this world and in the hands of an evil and manipulative magician. Daron is willing to do whatever it takes to find her, even if that means having to go on a dark journey, which is a high risk with the only promise being that of not returning safe and sound.
After awaking in darkness, Kallia has never felt more lost. Especially with Jack, a magician who has answers but cannot be trusted, by her side. Together, they must navigate a dazzling world where mirrors show memories and illusions shadow every corner, a world ruled by a powerful game master who could all too easily destroy the world she left behind. Kallia also struggles with her heart as there is one specific boy she cannot seem to forget.
This lush fantasy world is sure to prove immersive, as magical tricks and romance collide. I am a huge fan of Where Dreams Descend, the author’s debut novel and first in this series, and cannot wait to dive into this thrilling world once more.
What other young adult fantasies are you excited to read in 2021? Let me know at @AuroraMiami and us know at @BookRiot. Happy reading!