I’m a sucker for weird YA, vivid world-building, powerful girls, uncanny boys, enchanted objects, lush imagery, monsters with human faces, and the thin places between the mundane and the magic, so next year’s crop of fresh fantasy has me lying atop my pile of books like Smaug on his hoard. 2016 will herald the close of irresistible series from authors Marie Rutkoski and Maggie Stiefvater (if you aren’t reading the Winner’s Curse trilogy and the Raven Boys cycle yet, GET ON THAT), the introduction of intriguing new series from the likes of Susan Dennard, Alexandra Bracken, and Richelle Mead, and standalone debuts you’ll fall for hard. Time travelers, sleeping kings, demon-hunting debutantes and more fill the pages of these fantastical titles, with enough magic, romance, and delicious deceit to carry you all the way through summer.
See all of our first half of 2016 previews here (including more great fantasy among our most anticipated debuts), and check back later this year for our fall fantasy preview, full of hyper-anticipated titles from Laini Taylor, Sabaa Tahir, Nnedi Okorafor, and more.
Truthwitch, by Susan Dennard (January 5)
The first book in Dennard’s antsily awaited Witchlands series introduces friends and allies from two very different worlds. Safiya is a noble who has fled a comfortable life in order to conceal her powerful ability: she’s a Truthwitch, able to suss out deceit. Iseult is a lowborn Threadwitch, a member of an untouchable people, who can discern the intangible bonds and emotional connections between people. On the eve of a dangerous war, with a violent Bloodwitch on their heels, the two girls, “Threadsisters” bound by affinity and love, find themselves battling their way across a broken empire in pursuit of freedom.
Passenger, by Alexandra Bracken (January 5)
Etta is a talented, high-strung teen violinist preparing to make her concert debut when things fall spectacularly apart: after witnessing a fight between her mother and her mentor, she’s shunted back through time, becoming a hostage on an era-hopping ship. She quickly learns she is a member of one the remaining few families with the ability to time travel—and the ship’s captain, former slave Nicholas, has been charged with carrying her to this elite crew’s most powerful member. The two form a dangerous alliance, traveling across a patchwork globe of different time periods to retrieve an artifact hidden by Etta’s mother. Rich historical detail plus heady romance plus a heroine coming into her own? Yes, please.
The Impostor Queen, by Sarah Fine (January 5)
In a smart subversion of the Chosen One narrative, a girl meant to be queen is discovered not to possess the powers she was supposed to have. Among the Kupari people, the Valtia is both queen and powerful mage, passing her abilities on after death to an heir identified by her birthmark. But when Elli, marked and trained all her life to lead, doesn’t inherit her predecessor’s magic, she’s first tortured, then exiled. It’s in exile that her true story begins, one of building a new life and destiny from scratch. Elli is a passionate bisexual heroine whose very human tenacity—not her supernatural ability—becomes the story’s main engine.
Thief of Lies, by Brenda Drake (Library Jumpers #1) (January 5)
Now here’s a catnip concept for book nerds: a series of “gateway books” allow intrepid travelers to jump into their pages, using them as portals to glorious libraries around the world. (I volunteer as tribute!) Ballsy heroine Gia, pulled into this strange new world after witnessing an intriguing boy disappear from a rare books room, soon finds herself distracted by both romantic and mortal intrigue. And then there’s the matter of the nightmarish creatures sexy Arik and his fellow library-jumping Sentinels have to battle, keeping the mundane world free from danger…
The Dark Days Club, by Alison Goodman (January 26)
Before the arrival of the mysterious Lord Carlston into her well-ordered Regency world, Lady Helen Wrexhall’s greatest fear was being forced into an unwanted match. But Carlston’s dark influence, as well as the strange new abilities Helen suddenly possesses—heightened senses, inhumanly fast reflexes—herald her induction into a dark order, one that may have everything to do with her late mother being stamped as a traitor to the crown. Soon Helen finds herself choosing between two men who represent divergent paths: one a life of adventure and supernatural service in the demon-hunting Dark Days Club, the other the life of high-society elegance she was bred for.
The Love That Split the World, by Emily Henry (January 26)
Natalie Cleary, the adopted daughter of a loving if occasionally overbearing family in small-town Kentucky, has always suffered from strange late-night visitations, most frequently from a benevolent storyteller she knows as Grandmother. After Grandmother disappears, leaving Natalie with a cryptic warning, her life starts to fall apart. An alternate world bleeds into her own reality, one in which Natalie might not even exist—but intriguing stranger Beau does. Natalie struggles to untangle Grandmother’s words, figure out what’s happening to her, and contend with the lightning strike of first love, against a background of sultry summer and the fast approaching future.
Revenge and the Wild, by Michelle Modesto (February 2)
Westie is the hide-tough adopted daughter of eccentric inventor Nigel Butler, in the no-account wild west town of Rogue City. There, supernaturals and humans live uneasily side by side, the magical wards of the Wintu tribe keep the peace between races, and Westie plots her revenge on the cannibals that took her family and her arm. Then a family of investors hits town, ready to fund Nigel’s most vital invention—one with the power to produce pure magic. But they may be the very cannibals Westie has been hunting down for years, and her thirst for vengeance may become her downfall.
Reign of Shadows, by Sophie Jordan (February 9)
All her life, exiled princess Luna has been living in a fairy-tale limbo: on the day she was born, a supernatural darkness fell on her kingdom. Her parents were killed, chaos reigned, and the princess was carried away to a tower by rescuers. She’s only alive because the world believes her dead, but when she rescues an archer in the nearby woods—though Luna is blind, she has battle training and heightened senses—he awakens her need for a larger life. The two escape an attack on her tower home, and set off into the perilous world.
The Abyss Surrounds Us, by Emily Skrutskie (February 8)
In a distant future of genetic modification and unified government, teenaged Cas Leung is in the family business: the training of sea monsters to protect ships against pirates. Then Cas is kidnapped by a pirate queen, who wants to use her to train a sea monster pup…as a weapon for the pirates. Trained to opt for death over giving up her family’s training secrets, Cas nevertheless chooses life over duty, and proves to be a formidable foe to her abductors. A fresh story led by two diverse women, set in the watery blue yonder of a futuristic world.
These Vicious Masks, by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas (February 9)
In a Regency sphere of stuffed-shirt suitors, boring balls, and a mother with a nose for a man with prospects, Evelyn has zero interest in becoming a bride. She takes solace in her brilliant, medically gifted younger sister, Rose; the company of the intriguing Mr. Kent; and thwarting her mother’s desire that she be agreeable. But when Rose goes missing the night after a ball—a night in which she was approached by two strange characters in need of her…extraordinary medical abilities—Evelyn doesn’t believe for a moment that she has run away. Soon Evelyn finds herself descending into a hidden world of strange people with stranger abilities in pursuit of her sister. Masks is stylish and smartly observed, with delightfully Jane Austen–worthy dialogue.
Hardcover $17.99 | $19.99
Glass Sword, by Victoria Aveyard (February 9)
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. Aveyard’s sequel picks 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.
Riders, by Veronica Rossi (February 16)
Aspiring U.S. army ranger Gideon Blake has always known he wants to serve, but he didn’t think it would be like this. After a fatal freak accident, he’s resurrected with a confining bracelet on his arm, a mystical healing ability, and a whole new identity: he has become the physical embodiment of War, joining Famine, Death, and Conquest to make up the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They’re banding together to save all of humanity from an ancient supernatural evil. But it’s after they’ve failed to do so that the stakes really climb, as Gideon tries to convince military intelligence forces of the dangers they face…
The Forbidden Wish, Jessica Khoury (February 23)
Jinni Zahra has been waiting in her lamp for 500 years, in the buried ruins of a lavish palace, when the boy Aladdin finds her. She’s a prisoner who craves freedom, a supernatural slave who somehow maintains an affection for her human masters. Their magical desert world is evoked in vivid sensory detail, as boy and jinni become allies in two very different goals: he seeks revenge on his parents’ murderer, she seeks freedom. But soon Zahra finds she must make an impossible choice—seize the liberty she craves, or be true to the human she’s falling in love with.
Burning Glass, by Kathryn Purdie (March 1)
Sonya is an Auraseer in the kingdom of Riaznin, able to sense and even take on others’ emotions. After a tragedy in the Riaznin palace, she’s sent to serve as the emperor’s protector, reading the intentions of those around him to keep him safe. But Sonya isn’t immune to the feelings she accesses, and finds she has secret sympathies for the emperor’s brother, the crown prince—though an alliance with him could be her undoing. As rebellion looms, she’s forced to make a dangerous choice.
Into the Dim, by Janet B. Taylor (March 1)
When Hope Walton’s academic mother disappears in the rubble of an earthquake overseas, homeschooled, deeply claustrophobic Hope’s world shrinks even smaller. Until her mother’s sister, whom she’s never met, invites Hope to her Scotland home. There, Hope discovers her mother isn’t dead, but trapped in time: part of a band of time travelers, she’s lost somewhere in 11th-century England. Hope joins the mission to save her, washing up in a dangerous ancient time in the days just before Eleanor of Aquitaine is crowned queen of England. Hope and her allies battle time and a ruthless rival band of time jumpers to save her mom. A thrilling cast of historical characters and the secrets of Hope’s own past thicken the plot.
Rebel of the Sands, by Alwyn Hamilton (March 8)
Hamilton combines 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, encountering rebellion, romance, and the worth-anything taste of freedom for the first time in her life.
Lady Midnight, by Cassandra Clare (March 8)
Clare kicks 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, must navigate both new supernatural challenges and old grudges in a deadly, alluring world readers are itching to return to.
The Winner’s Kiss, by Marie Rutkoski (March 29)
Rutkoski’s gorgeous, sharply intelligent, meltingly romantic trilogy concludes next March with The Winner’s Kiss, in which, if the universe be not cruel, disgraced Valorian general’s daughter Kestrel and Herrani slave-turned-rebel leader Arin will finally get together for good. When last we saw them, in 2015’s nigh perfect The Winner’s Crime, Kestrel had fallen far from her unwanted status as fiancée to the Valorian emperor’s son, exiled from his palace for treason, and Arin was dallying with strange and dangerous new allies in a distant corner of their world. Let’s watch how Rutkoski brings them back together!
The Glittering Court, by Richelle Mead (April 5)
In Mead’s new standalone, a steely-spined orphaned countess flees an arranged marriage with a dullard to take her maidservant’s place in the Glittering Court. The Court is equal parts school and training ground, devoted to transforming lowborn Osfridian girls into delicate ladies, destined for marriages in the wild frontier country of Adoria. Adelaide quickly takes to her new life, but it’s complicated by a doomed attraction to the son of the Court’s founder—and further perils await her among the eager suitors and unmapped lands across the sea.
Tell the Wind and Fire, by Sarah Rees Brennan (April 5)
In a world filled with cities Dark and Light, Sophie and Ethan live in Light New York, protected by Light magic and by guards keeping watch for the work of both Dark magicians and the rebel group Sans-Merci. Sophie is a Dark city refugee with power and a bitter secret, and Ethan is the lucky rich boy who seems to steer clear of their world’s danger…until the day he’s arrested for the capital crime of treason. The appearance of a boy who shares his face both saves his life and reveals his darkest secret: he has a doppelganger, a dark magic creation to which he’s inextricably bound.
The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater (April 26)
Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle started with a dark prophecy: that Blue Sargent, the unmagical daughter of a houseful of female psychics, would kill her first love—and first kiss. Over the course of the first three books, she fell in with the raven boys—doomed Gansey, angry dream thief Ronan, proud, self-sacrificing Adam, and barely-there Noah—helping them on their dangerous quest. Spearheaded by golden boy Gansey, they sought the resting place of the Welsh king Glendower, who will grant whoever wakes him a wish. Stiefvater’s storytelling is lyrical and layered, full of sucker-punch twists, creepy darkness, sly humor, and pagan magic. The story concludes with The Raven King next April, when questions will be answered, kisses kissed, and ships transmogrified into canon or not. Stiefvater’s brain is hooked up to a ley line for sure. Do not miss this series.
Hardcover $16.19 | $17.99
The Rose and the Dagger, by Renée Ahdieh (April 26)
In The Wrath and the Dawn, Ahdieh’s lush retelling of The Thousand and One Nights, Shahrzad is both storyteller and warrior, intent not just on surviving the night as the wife of matricidal caliph Khalid, but on killing him to avenge the death of her best friend and the rest of his murdered wives. But there’s more to the man and his crimes than she foresaw, and soon she finds herself falling, impossibly, in love. In The Rose and the Dagger, Shahrzad, ripped from Khalid’s side, is reunited with the childhood love who can’t understand her betrayal and a father who’s dabbling in black arts he can’t control. She must decide how to be true to herself while walking a dangerous line between old and new loyalties, with the help of the ancient magic she started to uncover in book one.
A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas (May 3)
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.
The Crown’s Game, by Evelyn Skye (May 17)
In a mystical Ottoman-era Russia exists two young enchanters: beautiful, sheltered islander Vika and hard-luck orphan Nikolai. The two are thrown into deadly opposition when the tsar decides he needs one—and only one—Imperial Enchanter, to be decided by the Crown’s Game, a series of magical contests. One will win, and the other will die, but the two contenders find themselves drawn together by more than just their shared magic. A swirl of forbidden love, dark betrayal, and submerged secrets, set against an intriguing historical backdrop tinged with enchantment.
This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab (June 7)
After giving everyone and their mother all the magical feels with 2015’s adult title, A Darker Shade of Magic, Schwab returns to YA with the first installment of her new Monsters of Verity series. Verity is a city teeming with monsters that are born 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, become unlikely allies on the run after he becomes her protector, and she discovers his secret.
Rocks Fall Everyone Dies, by Lindsay Ribar (June 7)
Aspen Quick is a thief, able to skim a different kind of valuable from his victims: hidden, intangible things, like memories, secrets, and even emotions. Along with the rest of the Quick family, he’s able to use his magic for good, too, keeping the rocky cliff over their town from collapsing onto the people below. This intriguing paranormal promises to be the coming of age of a boy born to a secret-hoarding family, and possessed of a terrible power he doesn’t fully grasp the consequences of. (Also, irresistible title is irresistible.)
And I Darken, by Kiersten White (June 28)
Lada Dragwlya got tough young—being abandoned by your royal father, to be raised in the ruthless Ottoman courts, will do that to you. But the princess has one soft spot: her kid brother, Radu, who maintains his gentle heart despite being raised, alongside his sister, as a tool and a target for the powerful. All Lada wants is to regain her family crown, until she meets Mehmed. He’s a friend for her brother, a possible soul match for Lada…and the Ottoman sultan’s heir, doomed to one day represent everything Lada hates. She must balance her political aspirations, hunger for vengeance, and two very different kinds of love, in a brutal, high-intrigue world she has spent her whole life learning to navigate.