Fantasy books have been my poison of choice since I first discovered dark and stormy nights and jealous faerie queens as a wee kid reader. Happily for me, every year the YA shelves fill up with more wildly imaginative and transporting fantasies, from dark fairy tales to eerie retellings to sprawling epics to delightful, uncategorizable oddballs. 2017 promises to be a treasure grove of great new fantasy; below are 26 of our most anticipated releases from the first half of the year. Check back in June for our July–December preview, and watch out for more must-read fantasy in our forthcoming sequels preview, including Windwitch, by Susan Dennard; The Cursed Queen, by Sarah Fine; The Dark Days Pact, by Alison Goodman; and The Crown’s Fate, by Evelyn Skye.
See all 2017 previews here.
Maresi, by Maria Turtschaninoff (January 3)
Translated from Finnish, Turtschaninoff’s dark fairy tale opens in the heart of the Red Abbey, where girls and women who’ve survived abuse and misfortune learn to move on from their dark pasts—or hone their desire for revenge. Maresi tries to escape her fears by focusing on her happy, bookish new life in the abbey, but newcomer Jai hungers for retribution against the father who killed her sister. When the demons of her former life encroach on the abbey’s safety, its inhabitants and their triple-aspect goddess must fight back or lose their way of life.
RoseBlood, by A.G. Howard (January 10)
Howard’s first book since completing the Splinter series is a haunting take on The Phantom of the Opera, set at contemporary arts school Roseblood. New student Rune has a double-edged gift: she’s compelled to sing, producing music that’s unearthly in its beauty, but each performance leaves her sick and depleted. Her mother sends her to Roseblood in the hopes of helping her, but it’s there that her gift may have deadly consequences. The school has alleged connections to the phantom of Gaston Leroux’s original book, and when Rune meets a mysterious masked boy named Thorn, she believes she has found the legend. But the truth is more complicated, and far more dangerous, in this tale.
Frostblood, by Elly Blake (January 10)
As one of the few remaining firebloods in a world ruled by frost, Ruby lives in semi-isolation with her mother, concealing her untrained fiery abilities. But a raid by the wicked Frost King’s men ends with her mother dead and Ruby a prisoner. After months of grief and detainment, she’s rescued by a contingent of rebels seeking to depose the king, and finds herself navigating a world of questionable allies and corruption as she learns to wield her abilities. But the king’s forces are on her trail, and she may play a larger part in the rebellion than she realizes.
Poison’s Kiss, by Breeana Shields (January 10)
Marinda is a perfect assassin: a visha kanya, or poison maiden, whose natural toxicity has been nurtured till even her kiss is fatal. Ordered by her land’s raja to kill off his enemies with a touch of her lips, she’s reluctant but obedient until ordered to kiss the wrong boy. Marinda knows Deven doesn’t deserve to die, and even while being blackmailed into acquiescence by way of her younger brother’s medical needs, his innocence forces her to question what she’s doing and why. This series starter is set in a fantasy world touched with Indian myth and culture.
Caraval, by Stephanie Garber (January 31)
This fantasy debut (and duology starter) is a synesthetic delight, carrying readers away to a dream city of luminous magic and dark secrets, all seen through an enchanted haze that blurs the lines between real and make-believe. Scarlett Dragna is the abused daughter of a brutal man living on an island in a distant world. She sees marriage to the mysterious count with whom she has been exchanging letters as her only chance for escape—but her wild younger sister, Tella, has different ideas. The sisters have always longed to attend Caraval, a floating annual game in which participants navigate a fantastical arena in pursuit of a supernatural prize. A pair of free tickets from Caraval’s elusive ringmaster, Legend, leads the sisters into the heart of the game, where one will go missing and one will risk losing herself to Legend’s dangerous enchantments.
The Edge of Everything, by Jeff Giles (January 31)
As a blizzard rolls in one winter night, Zoe sets off in pursuit of her little brother, Jonah, who wandered off in the snow. What she finds will change her life: while hunkered down in a neighbor’s empty house, Zoe and Jonah are attacked by a man so evil hell itself—imagined here as the Lowlands, a place where the world’s most despicable criminals are pressed into service as bounty hunters of their own kind—has sent an agent to claim him. That agent is X, a man who committed no crime, yet lives his life out in underworld servitude. When Zoe stops him from reaping her attacker, it sets off a chain of events that leads to first love, terrible peril, and, maybe, a change in X’s world order.
Wintersong, by S. Jae-Jones (February 7)
Jae-Jones’ debut is a lush, evocative fantasy with its roots in dark myth, Labyrinth, and the poetry of Christina Rossetti. Liesl is the daughter of a struggling innkeeper whose family’s hopes rest on her musician brother’s shoulders. But Liesl, too, has a great gift: she’s a composer, whose musical talent makes her irresistible prey for the dangerous, changeable goblin king. When the king abducts her headstrong younger sister, Kathë, Liesl offers to take her place as his bride, entering an enchanted underground kingdom animated by art and obsession. In the Underground she’s able to submit to both creation and attraction—but at a cost she may not be willing to pay.
King’s Cage, by Victoria Aveyard (February 7)
In Red Queen, 17-year-old Mare Barrow’s red blood made her a member of the powerless peasant class, in a world where the silver-blooded have both position and supernatural powers—until she’s revealed to have immense abilities of her own, despite the red in her veins. Sequel Glass Sword picked up right where its predecessor left off: reeling from a brutal betrayal and covered in the blood of battle, Mare Barrow sets out to recruit an army of her own, to fight back against her people’s Silver oppressors. Now, in King’s Cage, Mare is paying a terrible price for her missteps: she’s imprisoned, powerless, and under King Maven’s control. But her rebel forces are readying themselves for battle, and fallen prince Cal hasn’t given up on Mare.
Long May She Reign, by Rhiannon Thomas (February 21)
Twenty-third in line to the Eprian throne, aspiring scientist Freya is used to spending uninterrupted hours in her lab, free from anyone’s expectations but her father’s. But when the king and all his descendants, straight on down the line to Freya, are killed during a banquet she snuck away from, she finds herself thrust suddenly into the land’s highest office. Expected to keep her mouth shut and let her councillors do the talking, despite constant threats to her kingdom and her life, Freya refuses to be a puppet…and soon finds herself dealing with both the hunt for the murderer of the king and his court, and a civil uprising within her own palace.
The Ship Beyond Time, by Heidi Heilig (February 28)
At the end of Heilig’s magnificent debut, The Girl from Everywhere, Nix, wayfaring daughter of the captain of a time-traveling pirate ship, has been handed the keys (as it were) to the ship. After spending her entire life searching for a map that will bring him back to his wife prior to her death giving birth to Nix—a bit of time-folding that might result in Nix’s winking out of existence—her father, Slate, swears he’s done with that foolhardy addiction. Their ship is able to travel to the terrain of any map, to lands real and imagined; or, if traveling without a map, to wash up in Slate’s original timeline, that of contemporary New York. It’s there that Nix meets an oddly dreamy girl, who gives her a map and disappears into the rain. The map will carry them to the mythical, doomed island of Ys, where they imagine they can solve all the problems that ail them. In Ys they find a madman, a tangled, myth-touched mystery, and further explorations into the perils of trying to save the past without sacrificing the present.
Frogkisser, by Garth Nix (February 28)
In Nix’s latest skewed fairy tale, Princess Anya is the oppressed ward of an evil stepmother and an even eviler duke step-stepfather, with a magical lip balm–enhanced knack for turning her sister’s suitors, transformed into frogs by the evil duke, back into men. But with lip balm supplies running low and her sister’s latest love stuck in amphibian form, Anya sets off on a quest to replenish her magical toolkit—and to escape the duke’s wickedness—while being dogged by annoying heralds and in the company of three animal companions, two of whom would like to be human again.
The Beast Is an Animal, by Peternelle van Arsdale (February 28)
In this fairy tale that’s as haunting as the darkest chapters out of the Brothers Grimm, a village’s entire adult population is decimated by the soul eaters, twin sisters who were transformed by their father’s abandonment into something inhuman. Alys is among the children left behind, a group of refugees “rescued” by a neighboring village and forced into service as night watchmen against the return of the soul eaters. The villagers see the children as marked by their tragedy, and fear any hint of witchcraft, but Alys communes in secret with the forest’s mysterious forces, and knows the world can’t be seen in stark shades of good and evil. Soon her strange connection not just with the sisters but with the misunderstood beast living in the trees will send her on a life-changing journey through a fairytale wood.
Daughter of the Pirate King, by Tricia Levenseller (February 28)
Alosa’s the tough as nails titular pirate king’s daughter, and she’s not about to get captured unless it’s her idea. At the start of this debut, she sets out to do just that, allowing herself to be taken by a rival gang of pirates in order to case their ship for a treasure map. Though she’s tough and resourceful (and then some), she didn’t reckon on the wiles of irritatingly appealing first mate Riden, who matches her trick for trick. As she attempts to locate her quarry without giving up the game, she reckons with a growing attraction to the enemy.
Traitor to the Throne, Alwyn Hamilton (March 7)
In 2016’s Rebel of the Sands, Hamilton combined a hardbitten western setting and hardboiled narrative style with eastern myth and a restrictive, patriarchal social structure. Amani is a brilliant sharpshooter, an orphan who lives unwanted amid the casual violence of her aunt and uncle’s home. When a horrific arranged marriage looms, she realizes she can’t wait any longer to escape. She sets out with a fugitive stranger, on the back of a magical horse, to the distant promise of the capital city of Izman…but instead encounters rebellion, romance, and self-discovery in the wild expanse of the desert. In sequel Traitor, Amani is at the heart of the uprising against a brutal sultan, embedded in his palace and hungry for liberation. But not everything is as it seems, and soon she’s questioning where her loyalties should really lie.
The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco (March 7)
When Tea accidentally raises her brother from the dead, the dark ability marks her out as a bone witch, and a pariah. Cast out by her community, she and her brother are taken in by a more experienced bone witch who becomes Tea’s mentor, training her to take on the mantle of a “dark asha,” who can defang the demonic forces threatening their world. But power comes with a price, and Tea is asked to trade in her own life force in order to keep a world that would ostracize her safe from encroaching evil.
Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor (March 28)
In her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, a portal fantasy spanning Earth and the angel- and chimaera-populated land of Eretz, Taylor established her bona fides as a creator of rich, expansive worlds, author of impossible love stories, and spinner of narrative spells. In Strange the Dreamer, the first in a planned duology, she introduces a less likely hero: Lazlo Strange, an orphan-turned-librarian whose obsession with the lost city of Weep leads him, finally, to its borders. Years ago Weep’s hero, known as the Godslayer, killed the supernatural beings that held their city in thrall, but they left a dark legacy behind that he’s battling to erase. Meanwhile, a blue-skinned goddess girl and her supernaturally gifted companions walk the halls of an empty citadel, surviving on plums and rainwater. When the girl and Lazlo meet inside a dream, it’s the beginning of one of those lush, long-shot love stories Taylor excels at, from opposite sides of a seemingly unbreachable divide. TL;DR: this book is too heady and stuffed with gorgeous prose to describe in a blurb. Just read it.
A Crown of Wishes, Roshani Chokshi (March 28)
In debut The Star-Touched Queen, Chokshi introduced a world shaped by Eastern myth and rich invention, in which a princess born under ill-favored stars breaks free of her father’s control and claims her destiny in a distant supernatural kingdom. A Crown of Wishes is set in the same world, but the story belongs to Gauri, Maya’s younger sister, a warrior princess whose brother has ordered her execution following a failed uprising. Instead she escapes with the help of Vikram, a prince fighting to break free of his future as a puppet ruler. The two make their way to the Tournament of Wishes, a magical contest in a dreamlike city that can have only one winner. Crown is a celebration of myth and magic and the heady superpowers of storytelling, drenched in the same lush language that made Chokshi’s first book a must-read.
Blood Rose Rebellion, by Rosalyn Eves (March 28)
Anna has long believed herself to be “Barren,” a daughter of a powerful magical family with no magical ability of her own. But when she accidentally breaks her sister’s spellwork at her debutante showing, Anna is sent away in disgrace to live with family in Hungary. But what got her exiled may also change her life: outside the bubble of high society, she starts seeing how the real world works, and how it perceives the magical elite. She also realizes the power she inadvertently displayed is its own kind of magic, one that could change the course of her world’s history.
Given to the Sea, by Mindy McGinnis (April 11)
McGinnis envisions a world threatened by an impending tidal wave, that can be held back only by the ritualistic death of a young woman born to make that sacrifice. Khosa knows she must give up her life to save the kingdom of Stille, but can’t bear the physical costs of first producing an heir. As the sea rises, the world order the kingdom rests on is changing: magic recedes, an army goes on the march, and a young man in line for the throne questions his royal duty in the face of unexpected love.
Spindle Fire, by Lexa Hillyer (April 11)
Two heroines are at the center of Hillyer’s Sleeping Beauty retelling, royal half-sisters who’ve each lost something to the brutal fae who tithe things from the humans under their sway: Isabelle, the king’s bastard daughter, has lost her sight, and Aurora, his daughter by the queen, lost both her sense of touch and her voice. Aurora is set to be married to the prince of a neighboring kingdom, to unite the two forces against the perils of faerie magic. But when Aurora’s betrothed is killed, and Isabelle faces banishment to a convent, the sisters find their story transforming in ways they never dreamed.
A Court of Wings and Ruin (Court of Thorns and Roses #3), by Sarah J. Maas (May 2)
In 2015 series starter A Court of Thorns and Roses, a huntress trying to feed her starving family becomes key to saving the faerie realm of Prythian. After Feyre kills a wolflike beast in the woods bordering Prythian and the human world, a frightening fae comes to collect: her life for the life she took. But living with gorgeous faerie lord Tamlin isn’t the doom she thought it would be—nor is Prythian as settled as she once believed. In follow-up A Court of Mist and Fury, Feyre is more powerful than ever, but has sacrificed much to return to the Spring Court. The dark deal she made with the Night Court still hangs over her head, and the safety of herself, her love, and her two-realm world are far from secure. In A Court of Wings and Ruin, Feyre must navigate the changeable High Lords of Prythian, under the shadow of approaching war.
Dear Reader, by Mary O’Connell (May 9)
English teacher Miss Sweeney is bookish Flannery Fields’ favorite thing about life at Sacred Heart High School. So when the woman goes missing, leaving her purse behind, Flannery is on the case. Inside the purse is her only clue as to her teacher’s whereabouts, the supernatural item that tips this book into the realm of fantasy: a copy of Wuthering Heights, whose original text has been replaced by a diary account of Miss Sweeney’s spontaneous escape to New York City, where, off her medication and increasingly unwell, she searches for her recently deceased former love. Flannery follows her to Manhattan, then is led on a chase around the city, accompanied by a very interesting boy and the constantly updating diary. This genre-bender features lit-up language and a story unlike any I’ve read.
Flame in the Mist, by Renée Ahdieh (May 16)
Mariko may be a gifted alchemist, but she’s also a dutiful daughter in Feudal Japan, where the expected extent of a girl’s ambitions is an advantageous marriage, not a future of her choosing. Her samurai father pushes her into a match with a man whose relation to the Emperor will raise Mariko’s entire family’s position, but on the way to fulfilling her duty Mariko’s party is set on by murderous bandits. When she learns they were contracted to kill her, she disguises herself as a boy and attempts to embed in their ranks. Instead she’s taken as a prisoner to their leader and his right-hand man, kicking off a dangerous and deepening relationship with two men who believe her to be the boy she’s masquerading as, and whose confidences will change her life.
Lord of Shadows, by Cassandra Clare (May 23)
Clare kicked off her hotly anticipated new Dark Artifices series, set in the world of the Mortal Instruments, with Lady Midnight, centering on the Los Angeles Shadowhunters and bringing in characters old and new. Bound Nephilim warriors Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn, grieving the tragedies of their pasts, navigated both new supernatural challenges and old grudges in a deadly, alluring world readers were itching to return to. In Lord of Shadows, Emma has finally gotten the revenge she hungered for, but finds it hasn’t brought her closure. She turns to a relationship with Julian’s brother, Mark, a former faerie prisoner who may be even more changed than she realizes. In the meantime, relations with the Unseelie court are increasingly uneasy, and the hard-won peace threatens to tip into war.
Song of the Current, by Sarah Tolcser (June 6)
Tolcser’s debut, set in a watery world of nature gods, royal intrigue, and the river-faring life, is a good old-fashioned (irresistible) fantasy adventure. Caro is a wherryman’s daughter, sailing up and down the river delivering goods, with a side of smuggling. But when she’s blackmailed into making a dangerous run without her father, who will be held in prison until her return, it makes her life a lot more complicated—and her horizons a lot bigger. The world building is delicately done, weaving a slow, convincing spell, and life on Caro’s wherry is rich with sharp detail and an undertone of magic. The combative relationship between her and her unwanted cargo, an alleged courier with a secret, shades satisfyingly into something richer. And all along there’s the tingling sense of something more under the surface of her life: like the wherries’ river god, speaking to his chosen people from beneath the water, there’s something bubbling up in Caro, a mystery that starts with strange dreams and hints at a bigger magical destiny to come. This is second-world fantasy you won’t want to miss.
Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2), Victoria Schwab (June 13)
With 2016’s This Savage Song, Schwab introduced the dark city of Verity. Its streets teem with monsters that are born out of human violence, but very, very real, subsisting on bones and blood and human souls. Kate, a crime lord’s daughter, and August, a monster in human form, became unlikely allies on the run after he saved her life, and she discovered his monstrous secret. In duology ender Our Dark Duet, tensions between monsters and humans have given way to all-out war. Kate, betrayed by her sole remaining family, has become a hunter, and August an unlikely leader on the side of humanity. When an evil more deadly and insidious than any they’ve faced starts stalking the city, the two are thrown back together in the battle to vanquish it.