If you love a good villain (who definitely thinks she’s the hero), then you no doubt adored Julie C. Dao’s debut fantasy duology, starting with Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. (And if you haven’t read it yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?) And you definitely awaited the publication of her latest, Song of the Crimson Flower, with bated breath. Luckily, it’s on shelves now. But if you’ve already devoured it, well, Julie stopped by to share five other must-read romantic fantasies you need right now.
I’ve been a bookworm for as long as I can remember, and my main genre of choice is almost always fantasy. I loved the idea of sinking into the pages and finding myself in a completely different world, similar to ours and yet full of magic, hope, and romance. And when I grew up and became a published author myself, the first books I got published were–surprise, surprise!–fantasies about a world full of magic, hope, and romance!
In Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, I got to explore the dark psyche of a powerful, ambitious girl and her rise to becoming Empress. In Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, I wrote about a reluctant heroine who embarks on a magical quest to save her world.
This year, I’m proud to share my third YA book, Song of the Crimson Flower, loosely based on an old Vietnamese folk tale. The novel follows two characters who must search for a witch to reverse a dangerous enchantment, but at its heart, it’s a love story.
And I got to thinking about some wonderful YA fantasies I’ve read that have truly swoonworthy romances:
Wicked Fox, by Kat Cho
This vibrant, gorgeously written story has a K-drama feel and a seriously swoony romance set against the backdrop of modern day Seoul. It’s about a girl named Miyoung who is part nine-tailed fox and must consume the energy of men. But when she encounters and falls in love with a human boy named Jihoon, she faces a choice between his life and her immortality. I rooted for the characters (Jihoon and Miyoung’s ruthless mom are particular favorites of mine) and held my breath through the story’s twists and turns.
Sorcery of Thorns, by Margaret Rogerson
Margaret is one of my favorite new authors because her stories remind me of the classic fantasy authors I read growing up, like Robin McKinley. Her latest novel is about a girl named Elisabeth who grew up in one of the seven Great Libraries of Austermeer, where a dark power is rising. Elisabeth must team up with the arrogant young sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn and his demon companion to protect the Great Libraries. This was such an evocative, entrancing novel, and a lot of fun to read, especially because of the will-they-won’t-they attraction between Elisabeth and Nathaniel.
Hardcover $17.99 | $19.99
There Will Come a Darkness, by Katy Rose Pool
There’s only one word that best describes this book: EPIC. From the very first pages, I could sense that this was an author with tremendous talent and a world that was both far-reaching and complex. I’ll be honest–very few writers are capable of wielding a large ensemble cast of five or six characters and making them all interesting and unique, but Katy Rose Pool is one of them. This ambitious fantasy weaves prophecy and legend with the lives of several completely different but equally immersive characters. I can’t wait to read the next book and find out whether the two people I’ve been shipping will end up happily ever after!
The Afterward, by E.K. Johnston
Most of the fantasies I read growing up–as well as the ones I read today–deal with heroes saving the world, and not many of them explore what happens afterward. This book does! And in such a fresh, funny, light-hearted way, too, with characters I couldn’t help falling in love with and rooting for instantly. Kalanthe and Olsa are two bright, brave, and very different girls whose romance is written in an intensely lovely, real way, and the whole story gave me the feel of a classic, old-fashioned epic fantasy.
Where Dreams Descend, by Janella Angeles
I am a fan of both Phantom of the Opera and Moulin Rouge, and this spectacular YA debut blends both of those into a completely brand-new, exciting story. It’s the tale of a beautiful, fiery showgirl named Kallia who embarks on a journey to take control of her own life and follow her most cherished dream of becoming a celebrated magician. The book is unabashedly, achingly romantic, with mysterious characters and a dark, seductive feel that will lure you right into its pages. I’m excited for it to be released in 2020!
Song of the Crimson Flower is on shelves now.
Julie C. Dao is a proud Vietnamese American who was born in Upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. She is the author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix and Song of the Crimson Flower. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.