September’s YA book club read, Serpent & Dove, was a cat-and-mouse game between a feisty witch named Louise le Blanc and Reid Diggory, the determined witch hunter who made capturing her his mission. If you’re dying for more dark magic and forbidden love, check out these ten fantasy reads to get your fix until the Serpent sequel hits shelves next year.
Scythe, by Neal Shusterman
National Book Award winner Shusterman’s Scythe is set in a future world in which hunger, disease, war, misery and even death have all been eliminated, and the ending of lives turned over to a class known as the Scythes, the series is fast-paced, cutthroat, and equal parts invigorating and devastating. The Scythes are meant to deal death, or “glean,” with compassion and fairness, but the journey of two apprentice scythes, Citra and Rowan, exposes the cracks in the system, revealing the flaws that even a supposed utopia of immortality can bring.
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
The mother of all YA dystopian, Collins’ Games launched a thousand knock-offs and Katniss redefined how we think of the “strong female heroine.” She’s self-sacrificing, smart, cunning and a true survivor in every sense of the word, which means that every self-respecting YA protagonist that followed had some massive shoes to fill. What’s more, Katniss and her heroine’s journey stood the test of time, and Collins’ cutthroat series about a group of kids who must battle it out to the death as the masses watch seems more relevant than ever.
House of Salt and Sorrows, by Erin Craig
The Virgin Suicides meets the Brothers Grimm in this gothic fairy tale debut about the seven remaining sisters (out of twelve) who dwell with their duke father and stepmother at Highmoor manor by the sea. Still reeling from the deaths of her mother and four older siblings, Annaleigh is desperate for a glimmer of happiness. She thinks she’s found it via an enchanted door that leads to another world, full of dancing and romance—but as with all magical realms, the cost of visiting is steep. This looks to be a haunting fantasy brimming with lush detail.
The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black
For those who crave something dark and elegant, consider this fantasy series starter that spirits readers away to the realm of Faerie. As a young girl, Jude saw her parents murdered—by the man who became her adoptive Faerie father. Grown fierce and resilient on her upbringing in the volatile Faerie court, Jude becomes ensnared by court intrigue and the object of the titular cruel prince Cardan’s attention. The story that follows isn’t a heartwarmer, but it certainly is a page-turner.
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The Chosen, by Taran Matharu
Matharu, bestselling author of the Summoner series, is launches an all-new epic portal fantasy series with The Chosen, which finds a teen boarding school student transported to an odd new world, where he’s forced to compete in a dangerous game among the detritus of the ancient past that asks: What if these disappeared people and objects from history were taken to another realm, traveling across time and space? What if someone was taking these people? The B&N exclusive edition features an encyclopedia of all the lost artifacts and groups featured in The Chosen, each entry a real missing thing!
Cursed, by Thomas Wheeler and Frank Miller
It’s no wonder everybody’s excitedly talking about Cursed: an original Netflix series starring Katherine Langford based on the book will be releasing in 2020. Nimue grew up an outcast, banished for her connection to magic—until her dying mother charges her with reuniting an ancient sword with a legendary sorcerer, forcing her to team up with a mercenary named Arthur and fey folk that have fled across Englnad. Who needs a king? Here, the Lady of the Lake is the true hero—a knight worthy of us all. The book features 8 full-color and 30 black-and-white pieces of original artwork by Frank Miller.
Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun, by Guillermo del Toro, Allen Williams (illustrator), Cornelia Funke
When Ofelia and her mother move to a forest in Spain to live with Ofelia’s new stepfather (whom Ofelia doesn’t trust), the young teen discovers a world beyond imagining, full of sprites and magical fauns. She also learns about her true identity, that of a reincarnated princess whose underground kingdom is ready for her return. Although inspired by the darkly beautiful, award-winning 2006 film Pan’s Labyrinth, with Funke (Dragon Rider; The Thief Lord) at the helm this becomes much more than an adaptation; the book includes stunning black-and-white illustrations and additional short stories that enrich the movie.
The Merciful Crow, by Margaret Owens
You might know Margaret Owen from the YA community due to her absolutely stunning artwork. Good news: she’s just as excellent of a writer. Margaret splashes onto the fantasy YA scene this year with her debut novel The Merciful Crow. Fie is a Crow who protects her own, one of the many undertakers and mercy-killers who think collecting the royal dead could deliver the payout of a lifetime. When she discovers the crown prince Jasimir faked his own death, she’s ready to slit his throat; but he offers protection for the Crows from the queen. But Fie isn’t the only one out for both survival and vengeance.
Teen Titans: Raven, by Kami Garcia, Gabriel Picolo (Illustrator)
You don’t have to be well-versed in the comics to appreciate this elegant graphic novel. Meet Raven, a teen girl who moves to New Orleans after her foster mother dies in a car crash. Raven has lost more than a family member; her memories of the accident have vanished, along with basic information about who she used to be. If amnesia, a new school, new friends, and a new foster sister weren’t enough to deal with, she’s also discovered a new ability: she can hear other people’s thoughts, and her own thoughts have a bad habit of coming true. Raven’s memories may hold the answers, but what if recovering them makes things worse?
The Odd Sisters, by Serena Valentino
Book six in the Disney Villains series promises to answer readers’ questions about the mysterious, dastardly Odd Sisters, who have spent the previous five installments altering the lives of Disney’s most famous baddies. Where did the sisters come from? What do they want? And will they be forced to answer at last for their crimes against the Beast, Ursula, the Wicked Queen, and more?
Stay tuned for the next YA Book Club read, Ruta Sepetys’s latest historical YA, Fountains of Silence, centering on scandal and secrets in 1950s Madrid amongst the Spanish dictatorship.
—Written by Nicole Brinkley, Sona Charaipotra, Nicole Hill and Sarah Skilton