You might think publishing would slow its roll for the end of the month, but instead, today is a crash landing of heaps of the year’s best and most nuanced fantasy and horror. What better way could there be to ring in the autumn than with deadly falcon masters, necromancers, and nightmares? Settle in for some terrifying treats and get to know some incredible debuts: today is gonna take you on one heck of a wild ride.
The Sisters of the Winter Wood, by Rena Rossner
The perfect read for the fall Jewish holidays going on right now, the stakes in this Eastern European–set fantasy are driven by the rising anti-Semitism happening all around Liba and Laya in their small Ukrainian village. But there’s a calmer beginning before the storm, just before their parents are summoned away, when the girls learn that their parents are shapeshifters, a gift the girls will inherit. While their parents are gone, trouble descends upon the town, in the form of two people found dead and the blame placed on the Jewish population. As strange occurrences pile up, the girls are at risk, and one will have to embrace her animal nature if she’s to keep everyone safe.
For a Muse of Fire, by Heidi Heilig
Jetta is a puppeteer, one who seems to perform magic with her family’s shadow plays…because performing magic is exactly what she’s doing. She can see the souls of the newly dead and bind them to puppets with her blood. But with colonizers having taken over, she must keep this power a secret, using it only to guarantee her family a chance to perform for the emperor. Supposedly, he has access to a spring that might cure Jetta of an ailment she doesn’t quite understand. But their journey to the spring comes with its own highs and lows, that will rock Jetta’s world, mind, and heart.
A Blade So Black, by L.L. McKinney
What if Alice in Wonderland were a little more like Black Buffy falling down the rabbit hole? That’s the question asked and answered by McKinney’s debut, about a girl named Alice who has been training to kill monsters in Wonderland ever since she was nearly killed by Nightmares that escaped it. When she’s not learning fighting and weaponry in the dark dream realm, Alice is just trying to live her life in Atlanta. But balancing homework and other typical teen stress with keeping herself safe from monsters is a little more time-consuming than anyone can handle. Then her mentor is poisoned, and Alice has no choice but to go even deeper into Wonderland to find the antidote.
Black Wings Beating, by Alex London
The opening of this new fantasy trilogy introduces twins Kylee and Brysen, both of whom were raised on the art of falconry, though only Brysen has any interest in continuing now that their abusive father is dead. But Kylee is the one with the real talent, a magical gift that pushes Brysen to be his best, too. But when the guy Brysen loves gets in over his head and beseeches his boyfriend for help, Kylee has no choice but join her brother on the most dangerous quest imaginable: hunting down the Ghost Eagle, the very creature who killed their father and so many before him. Together, can they do what no one else has been able to? Or will they succumb to the dangers surrounding them on all sides and the secrets that drive them apart? Built on a bloody, violent world of religious conflict, the action and gory twists here are so fast and frequent, they’ll make your head spin in the best way.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, by Hank Green
When April and her friend Andy stumble upon the dubious honor of being the first to document the sci-fi phenomenon of the “Carls,” giant statues popping up around the world, it thrusts her into a world of celebrity she has no idea how to handle. Her newfound fame messes with her and her relationships, and it also establishes her as the lead detective in the great mystery of what the Carls are, where they came from, and what it means that they’re suddenly everywhere.
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, by Kiersten White
Is there any author in YA as prolific as White right now? Fresh off the finale of the glorious And I Darken series, White is back to tell a whole new tale, this one of a girl named Elizabeth who gets far too close to a madman and pays the price. At first, Victor Frankenstein’s home is a respite from the terrible, neglectful childhood Elizabeth has already suffered. But as Victor’s mind goes off in terrifying and violent directions, she finds herself in an entirely new nightmare, trying to keep him calm and herself alive before she descends into madness along with him.
500 Words or Less, by Juleah del Rosario
I confess I used to think novels in verse were Not For Me…until I read so many incredibly good ones it became impossible to deny what a perfect medium they are for certain writers and stories. I’m psyched to discover this tale about Nic Chen, a girl who tries to mend the bad reputation she got for cheating on her boyfriend by writing admissions essays for her classmates. But fixing one kind of cheating with another starts to eat at Nic, forcing her to think about who she is and who she wants to be.
Give the Dark My Love, by Beth Revis
Village girls like Nedra rarely get the kinds of opportunity she’s about to take advantage of, a scholarship to study medicinal alchemy at the prestigious Yugen Academy. But Nedra wants more than anything to find a cure to the Wasting Death, a plague the wealthy seem to think only afflicts the “unhygienic” poor. She knows there’s more to it, even if more established alchemists won’t give it any attention, and drowning herself in her studies until she finds the answer is the only way to save her family from the disease making its way toward them. As one of the elites of the academy, her assigned study buddy Grey could just as easily not give a damn, but he’s endlessly intrigued by Nedra and her passion. At least until Nedra takes it too far and dabbles in the extremely forbidden art of necromancy, putting her far beyond any help Grey might be able to give her.
Nightingale, by Amy Lukavics
June Hardie isn’t exactly in the mold of the (literal) 1950s wife-and-homemaker-to-be that her parents are pushing her toward. Her dreams include traveling, college, and writing her dark sci-fi stories, not learning how to craft the perfect lattice crust. But her parents won’t have it, and when she refuses the life they’ve laid out for her, they commit her to a horribly run institution. Now June is living in nonstop terror she couldn’t have dreamed up even in her fiction, and standing up for yourself isn’t an option when the staff will stop at nothing to beat you back down. Both June’s real life and her hallucinations are horrific, leaving her no world to settle into for peace, and nothing to do but work to destroy the very institution that’s trying to destroy her for good.
The War Outside, by Monica Hesse
It’s 1944, in a Texas internment camp, where two girls—Japanese American Haruko and German American Margot—are drawn into a friendship (and maybe romance?) that becomes a lifeline as the world falls apart around them. Haruko can’t stop worrying about her brother, off fighting in Europe, while Margot is consumed with worry that imprisonment in the U.S. has drawn her German father into Nazi sympathies. Now more than ever, both girls need something to cling to, but how can anyone trust anyone else in a camp full of people branded as traitors?
Unstoppable Moses, by Tyler James Smith
Moses and Charlie weren’t just cousins; they were best friends and partners in crime. Then one night, the crime became all too real, leaving Moses adrift and alone. For a while, it seems as if his record is going to keep him stuck in his old life and town forever, but a reprieve arrives in the form of a community service opportunity: if he volunteers as a camp counselor for a week, the arson on his record will be expunged, and Moses will finally get his shot at attending Duke. Now all he needs to do is dig himself out of tragedy and figure out who he is and who he will be without Charlie at his side.
Witch Born, by Nicholas Bowling
Alyce’s mother has been burned at the stake for witchcraft, and Alyce herself is determined not to have the same fate, even as she finds herself locked in an asylum and determined to be mad. When the chance to escape presents itself, Alyce goes on the run in 16th-century London, encountering everything from witch hunters to dangerous royal plots. She’s also reckoning with her own power, something she doesn’t quite understand. Can she extricate herself from everyone who would see her imprisoned, used, or dead? Or is she destined to follow her mother to the stake?