Best Non-Western and POC Fantasy Books in 2020
Recent years have seen an uptick in fantasy books that exist outside of a white American/European context.
The world of fantasy is expanding (as you can see from the awesome, expansive titles we covered in 2019). While I still love a good tale of a farm boy from a feudal nation saving the kingdom (or the world), I’m thrilled that so many great titles from beyond the traditional fantasy white European setting (so, you know, a majority of the world) are hitting American bookshelves.
This list of most-anticipated non-western fantasies has some ongoing series titles, as well as conclusions to fantasy sagas, and brand new series starters. So whether you’ve been following titles inspired by world locations beyond western Europe, or whether you are brand new to this window into where the fantasy genre can go and has gone, we’ve got you covered. Here are some of the titles I’m most looking forward to this year.
Most Anticipated Non-Western Fantasy Books in January
Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez
The Illustrians have been usurped, and Ximena, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal, is ready to seek revenge. When the usurper, Atoc, demands the hand of the Condesa in marriage, Ximena goes instead, seeking a chance to destroy the relic that brought Atoc to power. Ibañez drew inspiration on stories of revolution in Bolivia, where both of her parents are from, in creating this South American influenced fantasy world.
Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim
This YA fantasy spin on The Count of Monte Cristo begins when Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning. Sure, she’ll face greater punishment aboard the debtor’s ship that has been her home for years, she instead finds herself rewarded. The only reward she wants? Revenge on those who have wronged her. But of course, revenge comes with its own costs, and as she becomes embroiled with the son of the man she wants to destroy, she uncovers truths that convince her to trust no one. The first in this duology comes from the author of the Timekeeper trilogy, and would pair well (for adult readers) with 2019’s excellent Queen of the Conquered, which has its own echoes of The Count of Monte Cristo.
Read Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim on Amazon.
Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi
In this contemporary dystopian fantasy, Ella can see the future of others. Her powers alienate her from her family, including her younger brother Kevin, who was born on the day that the police officers who beat Rodney King were exonerated in court. Alternating between Ella and Kev’s perspectives, the story follows the siblings from Kev’s promising childhood into his incarceration—for being a young black man in America. When Ella, who vanished years before, begins to visit Kev through astral projection, she leads him through the memories of others that she has experienced, guiding him to possibilities for a different future. Onyebuchi’s #OwnVoices story shines light on the realities of the structural racism and brutality faced by contemporary black Americans.
Read Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi on Amazon.
Most Anticipated Non-Western Fantasy Books in February
Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland
Jane McKeen started putting down the restless dead in Dread Nation, and she’s back in the divided America of the 1880s. Summerland has fallen, but that doesn’t make Jane’s life any easier. Enemies are still around her, and she finds herself questioning if she really understands the world. It’s a good thing she’s got Katherine Deveraux watching her back. Kate never expected to be Jane’s ally, but she knows just exactly how important it is to have friends in a world as dangerous as this one. This sequel to Ireland’s celebrated first novel comes after Ireland penned a few Star Wars novels, and it’s great to see her back in the Weird West from a galaxy far far away.
The Seventh Sun by Lani Forbes
This Maya-and-Aztec-inspired series starter reveals that the sun is fading, despite all of Prince Ahkin’s efforts to the contrary. When he must select a bride from among six candidates—and sacrifice the other five—in order to ascend to the throne, he feels connected to Mayana. But the gods may be against them, and the world may be on the brink of a darker apocalypse.
Read The Seventh Sun by Lani Forbes on Amazon.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K. S. Villoso
A war tore Queen Talyien’s nation apart. A marriage was supposed to save it. But when her groom disappears, there’s no way to unite the rival clans of her nation, fracturing the kingdom. When, years later, he sends her a message requesting that they meet, she holds out hope that there will be peace—until someone tries to kill her. In order to save her people, and herself, she must become the Bitch Queen, the she-wolf, that her enemies have called her. Villoso grew up in the Phillipines and draws inspiration from that setting. This novel was originally self-published in 2018, but the traditionally printed books launched this year for an expected trilogy.
Read The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso on Amazon.
Most Anticipated Non-Western Fantasy Books in March
Thorn by Intisar Khanani
I loved the self-published version of Thorn when it was first released in 2012, and I’m excited to see a fully revised, expanded version coming out this year from HarperTeen. Drawing inspiration from the story of the Goose Girl, the story revolves around Princess Alyrra, whose identity is stolen from her by a sorcerer, robbing her of her royalty—but also granting her a chance to start fresh, free from the expectations of her family. However, when she uncovers a plot that threatens the prince she was to marry, she must decide whether to remain silent, or return to the royal world she longed to escape. This new edition of the #OwnVoices novel also includes Khanani’s fantastic short story, “The Bone Knife.”
Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa
The eagerly awaited conclusion of Kagawa’s trilogy is almost here! This third book in the “Shadow of the Fox” series follows the cliffhanger ending of Soul of the Sword. Hopefully this installment will reveal what has happened to Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko and her love-interest-slash-enemy, Kage Tatsumi, who was possessed by a demon.
Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa on Amazon.
Wicked as You Wish by Rin Chupeco
Tala doesn’t really care about magic—and she sometimes negates it accidentally. Her family is part Filipino—she descends from Maria Makiling, a Filipina heroine—and part tied to the old, disappeared country of Avalon. When the Snow Queen returns from the dead, and an Avaolian firebird shows up on Tala’s doorstep, she’s thrust into a dangerous world of spelltech in the Royal States of America…
Wicked as You Wish by Rin Chupeco on Amazon.
A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
Although this Thai-inspired fantasy novel is geared toward middle graders, there’s no shortage of depth to the story. When prison-born Pong escapes, he discovers that the world he’d longed to see is just as unfair and impoverished as the one he left behind. The rich thrive in the supernatural lights of Chattana, but the poor remain struggling in the shadows. Nok, the prison warden’s daughter, is determined to bring Pong back inside before her family is at the center of a scandal. But her own experiences outside the prison make her question the truths she has long trusted. With inspiration drawn from Les Miserables, this middle grade fantasy also has plenty of adult appeal.
Most Anticipated Non-Western Fantasy Books in April
Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova
Renata is a memory thief, once in service of the king of Andalucia—though not of her own volition. She was kidnapped as a child and forced to carry out the King’s Wrath, leading to the deaths of thousands of her own people. Now, she has joined the rebellion, but even among the people who rescued her from the king, she is mistrusted. When she’s tasked with rescuing her commander—and love interest—from the palace, her rage and desire for revenge are tested. What will it cost her to keep her cover? Córdova is best known for the “Brookyn Brujas” series, and this Spain-set historical fantasy series starter is likely to feature some of the same appealing magic that made the contemporary fantasy series so popular.
Read Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova on Amazon.
The Ranger of Marzanna by Jon Skovron
This Russian-inspired epic fantasy features two siblings destined to oppose each other over the fate of the invading Empire. Sonya is training to be a ranger. Sebastian, her brother, is the world’s most powerful sorcerer. When their father is murdered by imperial soldiers, Sonya decides to take a stand against them, gathering together allies to push the invaders back. But Sebastian sides instead with the Empire, leading them to a final confrontation that will determine the fate of the world—and their family.
Buy The Ranger of Marzanna on Amazon.
The Red-Stained Wings by Elizabeth Bear
Set in the same world as Hugo-winner Bear’s epic “Eternal Sky” trilogy, The Red-Stained Wings continues the story of “The Lotus Kingdoms” she began in her 2017 novel The Stone in the Skull. Both books follow The Gage, a wizard-created brass automaton, and The Dead Man, a former bodyguard of the deposed Uthman Caliphate, who work as mercenaries. In the first book they delivered a message, and now all the Lotus Kingdoms are at war because of it. (While The Red-Stained Wings originally released in hardcover last year, we missed it in our 2019 roundup, and Bear’s work is too good not to mention.)
Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst
YA and middle grader readers will be familiar with Durst’s unique twist on fantasy stories, but her newest title gives adult audiences a chance to see her shine. Set in Becar, a land where your actions in life determine your next incarnation, the only way out of the cycle is to win the Races. Tamara and Raia, a trainer and a rider, work together to try to train a kehok—a monstrous mount—for Raia to ride in order for Raia to earn her freedom.
Read Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst on Amazon.
Most Anticipated Non-Western Fantasy Books in May
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
This gorgeous cover grabbed me immediately, and this ancient West African-inspired fantasy with a strong female lead looks like it could join Tomi Adeyemi’s series as a YA hit. Deka is different from everyone else, with intuition that marks her as separate. All she wants is to be a normal member of her village—but when her blood is revealed to be gold, the color of impurity, she must choose death, or a fate as a warrior for the emperor. Skewing older than Rick Riordan’s demigod fantasies, but with shades of the Dora Milaje from the Black Panther, this is definitely an #OwnVoices series starter to watch for.
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna on Amazon.
Empress of Flames by Mimi Yu
Lu and Min, the warring sisters of The Girl King, continue their battle over the Empire of the First Flame in this epic sequel. Lu, the firstborn, was destined to rule, and Min, blessed with magic, grew tired of being in her sister’s shadow. Now, while the sisters plot for the throne, a greater threat arises outside their empire—but even if they work together, they might lose everything.
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
This pirate swashbuckling adventure full of Asian folklore stars Flora, an orphan girl who takes on the identity of Florian to gain respect from a pirate crew, and Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, whose dreaded arranged marriage is interrupted by pirates. The two are thrust together, forming an unlikely bond that leads them to team up to rescue a mermaid and escape their fates—if they can survive the sea, a witch, and the Pirate Supreme himself.
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall on Amazon.
Lobizona by Romina Garber
Argentine folklore comes to life in Miami in this #OwnVoices contemporary novel that tackles real-world issues of the treatment of undocumented immigrants—and the fantastic problems of descending from a bruja and a lobizón, a werewolf. Manuela Azul is hiding from her father’s Argentine crime family in Miami. When her mother is arrested by ICE, Manu makes more discoveries about her family than she’s ready for—including the fact that, according to the rules of her family’s magical world, she’s not supposed to exist…
Read Lobizona by Romina Garger on Amazon.
The Archer at Dawn by Swati Teerdhala
This sequel to last year’s The Tiger at Midnight continues the story of the legendary rebel, Viper, in a saga based on Hindu mythology. Esha, known as Viper, and her partner Kunal infiltrate the court of King Vardaan. But while getting into the palace is easy, completing the tasks they set out to do may make them question their loyalties—to their countries, and to each other. This is the second book of a trilogy, so readers may need to expect a cliffhanger…
Most Anticipated Non-Western Fantasy Books in June
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
Sirens have to hide their powers—and Tavia is determined to keep her identity a secret rather than be forced to follow the restrictions against her people. At least she has her best friend, Effie, to help her navigate high school. But soon, Effie has to face the literal demons of her past, and Tavia’s powers are revealed in the worst moment possible. Black mermaids are taking the spotlight between Disney’s live action The Little Mermaid and Rivers Solomon’s excellent The Deep, and this #OwnVoices YA novel looks like another excellent addition to that growing subgenre. (Disclosure: this novel is not #OwnVoices for mermaids; as far as I know, Morrow is not a siren in hiding.)
Read A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow on Amazon.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
A Crown Princess who seeks to resurrect her dead mother by sacrificing the heart of a king. A war-stricken young man, whose only way to save his sister is to kill the Crown Princess. Fate has different plans for both of them…. Princess Karina plans to offer her hand in marriage to the winner of the Solstasia festival in order to kill her new husband and bring her mother back from the dead. Malik enters the competition, hoping to get close enough to kill Karina, so that he can save his sister from a vengeful spirit. But when their two paths collide, the two find that everything is more complicated than they expected. Brown’s debut, the first of a duology with a sequel due out next year, is inspired by West African folklore, and features plenty of tension between the two POV leads. (Malik’s sweetness and anxiety make him an unusual protagonist for many reasons, and there are reasons he’s come away as the fan favorite character.)
The Unconquered City by K. A. Doore
Doore’s “Chronicles of Ghadid” come to a conclusion in this third, action packed volume of assassins and warriors. Illi remembers the rise of the restless dead, and she works to protect her city from the guuls that travel the dunes. And Illi knows a secret that could allow her to end the threat of the dead—but only if she’s willing to risk sacrificing everything.
Read The Unconquered City by K.A. Doore on Amazon.
The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty
In the concluding volume of Chakraborty’s #OwnVoices “Daevabad Trilogy,” con-artist Nahri and exiled prince Ali are back in 18th Century Cairo after fleeing fallen Daevabad. But neither of them feel right having left their loved ones behind under the rule of a tyrant. Together with the djinn Dara, they have to find a way to remake the world. Den of Geek has been following this trilogy since book one, and it’s exciting to watch this series come to a conclusion.
The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty on Amazon.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
One of my favorite discoveries last year was Gods of Jade and Shadow, and while Moreno-Garcia takes this story in an entirely different direction with an all new cast, this re-envisioning of the gothic suspense genre in a Mexican setting looks to be just as fantastic. Noemí is a brave socialite called to rescue her cousin from a mysterious doom. When she arrives, she’s not sure whether the threat comes from her cousin’s intimidating English husband—or from the house itself, which plagues her dreams with visions of blood. Set in the 1950s, this #OwnVoices historical looks likely to feature the same kind of strong, unstoppable heroine as her 2019 title, twisting the tropes of another genre with a dose of horror.
Read Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia on Amazon.
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
“A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there,” according to the marketing hook for this one—and I have to admit, that has me hooked! This novella from Sorcerer to the Crown writer Cho is a wuxia fantasy with a female lead in far over her head. Guet has to team up with a group of thieves in order to protect a sacred object.
Read The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water on Amazon.
Most Anticipated Non-Western Fantasy Books in July
Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim
This sequel to Lim’s Spin the Dawn continues the story of Maia Tamarin, once tailor to the king, and now cursed with demon blood. When she completed three impossible dresses and freed the trapped magician who served the emperor, she set into motion events that now have far-reaching consequences. Maia must assume the place of the emperor’s bride to keep the peace—but as she begins to lose herself to the demon curse, she also plans for a future for her family, and the magician that she loves, even if she herself doesn’t survive.
Read Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim on Amazon.
We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal
Zafir and Nasir are supposed to be enemies, but when they were brought together in We Hunt the Flame, they found that nothing is as simple as they thought. Now, both on a hunt for the same lost artifact, they find a far deeper evil than either has before experienced, and realize that their prize may be more dangerous than they can imagine. This is the second in Faizal’s #OwnVoices “Sands of Arawiya” series, and should relieve readers who have been waiting since the first novel’s cliffhanger ending.
Read We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal on Amazon.
The Crow Rider by Kalyn Josephson
In this sequel to Josephson’s The Storm Crow, Princess Anthia (Thia) continues her plans to defeat the invading Illucian empire and restore Rhodaire. But her giant crow, Res, injures her when he’s unable to control his own magic, adding complications to their plans. Worse, Thia is being pursued by the Illucian Crown Prince, to whom she is irresistibly drawn. Can Thia become the crow rider she was meant to be, and reclaim her stolen kingdom? The Crow Rider concludes Josephson’s duology, set in a melting pot fantasy world.
Most Anticipated Non-Western Fantasy Books in August
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
Neil Gaiman’s Stardust meets Hindu mythology? Yes, please! Sheetal is the daughter of a mortal and a star. In order to save her father, she must travel to the celestial courts and serve as a champion in her mother’s family in a tournament. If she doesn’t succeed, she may never be able to return to Earth—or save her father’s life. This is a standalone #ownvoices fantasy novel that looks like it would definitely appeal to readers who loved Roshani Chokshi’s The Star Touched Queen.
Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
When most YA novels deal with immigration issues, the word “alien” doesn’t involve UFOs. Gilliand throws that expectation right out the window, creating a powerful first-person narration from the voice of a Latina who still communicates with her dead grandmother (and kitchen spirits). The narrative tackles not only undocumented immigration, human trafficking, and issues of sexual harassment and assault, but also UFOs, alien and government conspiracies, and human experimentation. The mashup of genres is unbelievably smoothly done, considering the disparate tones usually used for each, and the result is an amazing, un-put-downable novel with short chapters that inspire readers to keep going for just one more…
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
Debut author Ifueko introduces readers to a new world, where the Raybearer is guided by his Council of Eleven, each of whom has a Hallow, or magical power, to help him rule. Lonely Tarisai has been raised by The Lady to get close enough to the Crown Prince to kill him. But when Tarisai becomes a member of the Council, she finds the belonging she has always sought. Can she forge her own path, and fight the order she’s been compelled to obey? The first in a new series, Raybearer is inspired by West African mythology, and features a strong cast and a protagonist whose voice makes you want to root for her—whatever she decides.
Nujran and the Corpse in the Quadrangle by Krishna Sudhir
In this sequel to the 2017 Nujran and the Monks of Meirar, Sudhir mixes the mystery genre with Indian mythology. There’s a murder on campus that needs to be solved, but Nujran has even more to deal with: kidnapping, a prison escape, a reunion with a certain group of monks, and a new romance. It’s a lot for a college student to handle—and with a mysterious illness plaguing the teachers, there’s a lot depending on Nujran to solve the mystery! Though this is the second book in a series, it stands alone, and readers can pick up the story as they go.
Dominion: An Anthology of Black Speculative Fiction, edited by Zelda Knight and Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald
We don’t normally include anthologies on this list, but Dominion is too good to miss. The thirteen stories, written by writers from Africa and the African diaspora, range from fantasies with gods and ghosts to post-apocalyptic science fiction. Some of the tales border on horror, while others feature magicians and middle-managers. Many of the stories force their protagonists to face their dead—whatever that may mean for the story. It’s a unique collection and it’s well worth picking up and discovering a new favorite short story.
Most Anticipated Non-Western Fantasy Books in September
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Julian Diaz wants to know why he’s dead, so it’s a good thing Yadriel summoned him—accidentally—instead of the ghost he meant to bring back. Now Yadriel can’t get rid of Julian without helping the ghost tie up some loose ends. As the two spend more time together, Yadriel realizes he doesn’t really want Julian to leave after all. This novel features a Latinx trans boy determined to prove his gender to his family in a really intriguing #OwnVoices YA fantasy debut.
The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
When Lin’s father, the Emperor, passes her over as his heir, she decides to take matters into her own hands, practicing the forbidden art of bone shard magic. But Lin isn’t the only one determined to take the throne, and the revolution at the palace gates may cost her everything. This first book in the “Drowning Empire” series is Stewart’s debut, and while the world is not specifically non-western inspired, Stewart is the Chinese American daughter of immigrants, and her new setting with its migratory islands is sure to grab the interest of readers who love fresh takes on fantasy.
Buy The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart on Amazon.
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
This contemporary magical King Arthur-adjacent story, featuring a strong female lead who’s torn between taking down the Legendborn—descendents of King Arthur’s knights—for the secrets they hide from the world, or joining them in a fight against darker magical forces. Bree believes that her mother has died in an accident, until a “Merlin” attempts to wipe her memories of a magical event. Instead, Bree’s own magic is unlocked, and when she discovers another Merlin was hospitalized the night her mother died, she’s determined to uncover the secrets of the magical world. But the more she learns, the more she realizes there’s more at stake: war is coming, and Bree has to choose whose side she’s on.
Wayward Witch by Zoraida Córdova
You may have detected some excitement about Córdova’s anthology, Vampires Never Get Old, here at Den of Geek. But in addition to that Halloween perfect title, the conclusion to Córdova’s epic “Brooklyn Brujas” series also came out this fall. The award-winning series, the story of three sisters who develop their magical powers, launched with Labyrinth Lost in 2016. In this final volume, Rose is pulled through a magical portal to Adas, a magical land she has to save. Can saving another world help Rose figure out how to heal her own broken family? As Rose comes into her powers, she discovers she just may have what it takes to save herself. Fans of the series will not want to miss this finale!
The Ikessar Falcon by K. S. Villoso
The second book of the “Bitch Queen” trilogy is here! The series launched with a traditional publisher earlier this year, and in the sequel, Queen Talyien, now abandoned by her people, faces her failure to save her nation. In order to protect her king and her son, she must dismantle the myth that others have built around her—the myth she could never become. With mad dragons on one side and power-hungry men on the other Talyien’s road home is dangerous, but if she doesn’t triumph, her nation may pay the price.
Zorro’s Shadow: How a Mexican Legend Became America’s First Superhero by Stephen J. C. Andes
If superheroes are modern fantasy, the combination of legend and superhero deserves a place on this list, even if the exploration is nonfiction. Did you know that Zorro first appeared in 1919? The swashbuckling hero who fought for the poor and impoverished, while hiding his identity behind the foppish Don Diego, definitely set the stage for future cape-wearing heroes with secret-identities. But Zorro is more than just a precursor of that genre; Andes argues that he represents a Latinx, multiethnic, multicultural America. If you’ve loved Zorro in pop culture, taking a peek into the history behind the character is a must.
Most Anticipated Non-Western Fantasy Books in October
Storm the Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells
Maren and Kaia may be reunited in this explosive conclusion to the Shatter the Sky duology, but their journey has changed them. Maren remains determined to set the dragons free, and to rescue their friend, Sev, now trapped by the emperor. Though Maren knows that she will fight, she’s not sure who will survive once the battle is over…
Read Storm the Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells on Amazon.
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
Roanhorse’s Anasazi-inspired fantasy novel isn’t out until October, but the book is hitting many anticipated-fantasy lists of 2020. It’s no surprise, as Roanhorse is one of the most celebrated voices in fantasy right now, with a Nebula, Hugo, and Campbell all under her belt. While you’re waiting for more on this title, you can pick up the first two books in her Sixth World series, her Star Wars novel, or her 2020 middle-grade fantasy Race to the Sun.
Read Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse on Amazon.
Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
Lee might not be returning to the world of his middle-grade Korean-mythology space fantasy or his hard SF space opera, but the launch of a new fantasy series, full of magical automata, is just as exciting. When a symbol painter’s Phoenix Extravagant—the material they need to create pigments to program the automata—runs out, they set out to find the source. But the secrets of the Empire may be darker than the painter ever imagined. This #OwnVoices novel features a nonbinary main character in an Asian-inspired fantasy setting, and it’s at the top of my must-read list for 2020.
Of Fury and Fangs by Kyoko M.
In this fourth novel in the “Of Cinder and Bone” series, someone is trying to kill Dr. Rhett “Jack” Jackson. As one of the two scientists—alongside Dr. Kamala Anjali—who brought dragons back to life after their previous extinction, Jack has a lot of enemies. Jack and Kamala plan to solve the mystery of who wants Jack dead, but finding the truth may cost more than they expected. The “Of Cinder and Bone” series mixes science fiction and fantasy, flooding a contemporary SF setting with dragons, and adding a hefty dose of thriller in for good measure.
God Storm by Coco Ma
In this sequel to Ma’s 2019 novel, Shadow Frost, Asterin has evaded her mother’s attempt at murdering her and has risen to become queen. But the cost was high, and Asterin lost both her lifelong friend and her true love. Now, she realizes that her friends are being held by the God of Shadow. What Asterin chooses won’t just change the fate of her friends, it might change the fate of the whole mortal world.
The Shadow of Hades by Paul C. Williams
Four stories intertwine in this paranormal fantasy novel that deals with themes of grief. In one tale, a boy with no memory wakes in a graveyard; eventually he discovers the souls of the dead residing within him. In another, the fabric of the universe is coming undone in a magical wood, and the local residents have to come together to heal the breech. Eventually, the four stories merge into a single whole, an exploration of what the characters are willing to sacrifice to confront their own demons. Williams is a Black-Hispanic, LGBTQ teen author who published his first book at age seventeen; his exploration of grief and death is dark, but also offers readers a spark of hope.
Most Anticipated Non-Western Fantasy Books in November
The Conductors by Nicole Glover
A historical mystery crossed with a fantasy novel, this debut focuses on former Underground Railroad conductor Hetty Rhodes and her husband as they make their post-Civil War life in Philadelphia, solving mysteries the white authorities ignore. Hetty’s used to using her wits and her magic, and her new life is no different—especially when it comes to uncovering truths about the Black Elite of Philadelphia.
Read The Conductors by Nicole Glover on Amazon.
The Burning God by R. F. Kuang
The third, eagerly anticipated book in “The Poppy War” series sticks-the-landing (according to Kuang, quoting her editor in a Twitter post). The story finishes Rin’s saga in a world reminiscent of 20th Century, but filled with gods and monsters.
Read The Burning God by R.F. Kuang on Amazon.
The Fires of Vengeance by Evan Winter
Winter’s sequel to last year’s The Rage of Dragons follows Tau as he continues fighting a war his people have been waging for generations. In a world where some women can summon dragons and some men can magically transform into larger, stronger versions of themselves, Tau has already realized that there are greater costs to the endless war than the Omehi have admitted to their people. Alongside Tsiora, the ousted queen of the Omehi, Tau strives to delay an attack by the indigenous people of Xidda, all while the queen makes a dangerous plan to retake the throne from her sister. The reviews of The Rage of Dragons make that novel sound un-put-downable, so expect another page turner when this one hits the shelves.
Buy The Fires of Vengeance on Amazon.
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
What happens if you take Romeo and Juliet, reset it in 1920s Shanghai, then add a magical creature that drives people mad? Chloe Gong explores the answer in her YA historical fantasy. Juliette Cai has returned to Shanghai, proud to take on the role of heir to the Scarlet Gang. Roma Montagov is heir to the Scarlet Gang’s rivals, the Russian White Flowers. But while both gangs—and heirs—are prepared to war with each other, a deeper danger is rising from the depths of the Huangpu River, and the only cure to the creature’s madness comes from the Westerners in the city, who have their own motives. Unless Juliette and Roma can put aside their differences, Shanghai might fall. This is the first in a duology, to keep watching for Gong’s sequel to find out the fates of these two star-crossed lovers.
Most Anticipated Non-Western Fantasy Books in December
King of the Rising by Kacen Callender
Last year’s stunning Queen of the Conquered blew me away with its moral ambiguity and it’s gorgeous and terrible fantasy Caribbean setting. I had no idea Callender was planning a sequel, but I am incredibly excited to see where they take the world, especially with the first novel’s secondary character Loren as the point of view character in this sequel. In the first novel, when Sigourney played the catalyst for a slave revolt—that led to her own unmaking, as well—Loren was one of the revolutionaries pulling her strings, and was the man who spoke up to request mercy for her. Now, with this former slave, the child of a colonist, at the forefront of the story, readers will get a very different view of the islands, and I cannot wait to see where this narrative takes us.
Buy King of the Rising by Kacen Callender on Amazon.