French culture lends itself beautifully to fantasy stories. The rich, decadent world, the lingering desire to behead royal families, the delicious food…what’s not to love? So it’s no surprise that it has influenced so many new and upcoming YA books. How many of these French-inspired YA fantasies will you be reading?
Spectacle (Vol. 1), by Megan Rose Geddris
Looking for a story with stunning visuals and a fantasy twist? This new graphic novel version of Geddris’s web comic, while not explicitly French, pulls inspiration from French imagery and style. Anna is a fake circus psychic—at least, until her knife-throwing sister, Kat, is murdered. Being dead doesn’t stop their working relationship when Kat comes back as a ghost, demanding Anna hunt down her killer. With both sisters sharing one body and hunting through their troupe of circus performers, they need to find the murderer before their problems get even worse.
Grim Lovelies, by Megan Shepherd
Looking for a magical romp through Paris? Mash up Stephanie Garber’s Caraval with Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies and add a dash of Parisian magic and you’ve got Shepherd’s latest. Anouk is a Beastie, an animal enchanted into human form by the witch she serves. She longs to join the human world and the Pretties beyond, but it’s simply impossible—at least, until the witch who created her is murdered, and Anouk is forced underground, suspected of the crime. The allure of the human world could be forgotten if she doesn’t avoid the Haute, the magical society pursuing her, and doesn’t find a way to keep her form before her Beastie spell fades. But if she can find the murderer, and keep the Haute off her trail, she’ll be stronger than anybody in either world could imagine.
Enchantée, by Gita Trelease
Hello, Versailles. With her parents dead, a younger sister to provide for, and a volatile brother to watch out for, Camille’s magic is the only thing keeping her family alive. When her brother runs off with the little bit of money they have, Camille decides to use her magical glamours to trick the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. But revolution is on its way, and when the glamours grow out of control, Camille must choose between the aristocratic world she wants to live in and the reality of magic and family. One of the most hotly anticipated releases of 2019, it’s essentially Eponine from Les Misérables sneaking into Versailles with magic to save her sister, and I’m into it.
The Gilded Wolves, by Roshani Chokshi
This is the book on this list I absolutely can’t wait to read. After the success of Roshani Chokshi’s middle grade novel Aru Shah, Chokshi is back in the YA world with The Gilded Wolves, a book repeatedly described to me as a French Six of Crows. Makes you want to read it too, right? It’s 1889, and Séverin is hunting down treasure. The Order of Babel could give him his stolen inheritance back, in exchange for an artifact only he can find—well, him plus an engineer, a historian, a dancer, and a brother-in-arms. What they want lies somewhere in the heart of Paris, and can change the course of history, if they survive long enough to find it.
Glitter, by Aprilynne Pike
Want a dose of Versailles but can’t wait for Enchantée? Then Aprilynne Pike’s Glitter is the dazzling, addictive fantasy story for you, and I mean that literally. Glitter imagines a modern world where the rich and powerful insist on playing out the 18th-century power fantasy of Versailles within its walls with the help of a little technology and a little glitter: a drug so addictive it could turn the court of Versailles upside-down. When Dani’s mother engages her to the most ruthless man in Versailles, she turns to glitter to get herself out of the engagement. If she can get them addicted, they’ll have to do what she says. But drugs are dangerous, and within the walls of Versailles, it’s the sort of danger that can get you killed.
The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton
Whether in blood or in spirit, I love a good sister story, which means The Belles needed to be on this list. Camellia lives as a Belle in Orléans, where she manipulates beauty, trying to climb the ranks to being Belle to the Queen herself. But once she attracts the attention of the royal family, she learns the queen wants to use the Belles’ magic in ways new and dangerous. Not doing as the Queen orders will put her sisters at risk, her life in danger—and could change the fate of Orléans and the magic within it forever. Clayton pulled from multiple backgrounds—New Orleans, France, and Japan—to create the world of The Belles. Keep an eye out for references to Marie Antoinette’s court.
For a Muse of Fire, by Heidi Heilig
Jetta can bind the souls of the dead to puppets, and it makes her family of shadow players the best of them all—and puts them in danger, as magic is now illegal. When Jetta’s supposed skill earns hers her a spot on a ship to Aquitan, where the Mad Emperor hides a spring that cures his ills—and could cure Jetta’s—she leaps at the opportunity. But the colonial army will do anything to protect their tyrannical leader, and when she meets a young smuggler, all illusion of safety is gone—and her life is at risk. The start of a brand new trilogy, For a Muse of Fire is a political fantasy in the vein of Sabaa Tahir or Renée Ahdieh. Heilig blends French colonialism and South Asian cultures to create her world, and I can’t wait to see how they weave together.
Already devoured every book on this list? Try some French-influenced backlist, like Rook, by Sharon Cameron; Die for Me, by Amy Plum; The Beautiful and the Cursed, by Page Morgan; or Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers.