Ancestral Magic and Battle Dragons: New Young Adult SFF for October, November, and December 2020

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the publishing industry, and scheduled released dates have been pushed back and pushed back and pushed back. At least the young adult science fiction and fantasy books that have made it through the chaos are worth the wait. Get ready for powerful magic, grand conspiracies, and sweeping romance.


Outcasts, Outlaws, & Rebels

Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston—October 20, 2020; Balzer + Bray

When Cerys was little, her mother and friends were killed by the Wildwood and she was cursed with magic blood. Now she lives a quiet, isolated life as the gardner at the castle ruling over the Village-in-the-Valley. But life has other plans. When the coronation of her friend, Princess Anwen, is interrupted by the wicked woods, Cerys and a playful fox hit the road searching for the lost city of Voryn and the Lady of the Wilds to save her homeland from destruction.

Rebel Sisters by Tochi Onyebuchi (War Girls #2)—November 17, 2020; Razorbill

The Biafran War ended five years ago and Ify has finally found the stability and security she’s been looking for. Only nineteen, she has completed her training in the Space Colonies and is now a medical officer hoping to spend her career aiding the vulnerable. Down in Nigeria, a synth named Uzo and Xifeng, an aid worker, are trying to salvage the memories of the victims of the war. A strange illness races through synths and refugee children in the Colonies. Ify must return to Nigeria, where she has to team up with Uzo to fight back against postwar corruption.


Death Becomes Them

We Were Restless Things by Cole Nagamatsu—October 6, 2020; Sourcebooks Fire

In the aftermath of a seemingly inexplicable death, a group of teens come together. Link, found dead from drowning in the middle of dry land, leaves behind his occasional girlfriend Noemi, a young woman exploring asexuality even as her mother’s boyfriend’s son Jonas begins to fall for her. Her two best girl friends, Lyle and Amberlyn, start a fling. And then the teens discover a secret lake that appears and disappears at random.

From Darkness by Kate Hazel Hall—November 3, 2020; Duet Books

In rural Australia, sixteen-year-old Ari Wyndham is about to die from a snakebite. The Underworld sends a summoner, Alex, to collect their newest resident, but she can’t do it. Alex, you see, was best friends with Ari and died years before in a tragic accident at Stonehaven Beach. Alex’s choice has unintended consequences for both the living and the dead. Things get even more complicated as the two girls develop feelings for each other.

The Ever Cruel Kingdom by Rin Chupeco (The Never Tilting World #2)—November 10, 2020; HarperTeen

When we last saw them, twin goddesses Haidee and Odessa had made it out of the Great Abyss having starting their world turning after their mothers stopped it years before. But things aren’t about to return to normal. The creatures from deep in the abyss are calling and the only way to stop them is to traverse beyond the seven gates of the underworld in the Cruel Kingdom. The answers they need might cost them their lives, but the sisters will do whatever is necessary to save their planet.


Here Be Dragons

Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz—October 6, 2020; Page Street Kids

The Blazewrath World Cup, the championship matches for a popular sport played with humans and dragons, is quickly approaching and Lana Torres desperately wants to represent the Puerto Rican team. After she survives an attack by Sire, a dragon cursed into human form, she gets her chance to play. But the conspiracy is bigger than one ex-dragon with a major case of vengeance. Those who control magic, those who control Blazewrath, and those whose power and popularity have waned all have their own objectives, and Lana is about to get in their way.

Storm the Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells (Shatter the Sky #2)—October 13, 2020; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

After Maren mounts a daring rescue of her kidnapped girlfriend, Kaia, they escape with the help of a dragon. Now on the run, trouble is brewing. Naava, the mother of dragons, wants Maren to free all the other dragons, but isn’t able to help her do it. Kaia is distant, forever changed by her experiences with the Emperor’s Aurati. And Maren’s friend Sev is captured and his life threatened. Maren must save her friend, her relationship, and every dragon on the planet, and she must do it all with few resources and little time.


Past Is Present

Daughters of Jubilation by Kara Lee Corthron—October 13, 2020; Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

In this historical fantasy set in the Jim Crow South, a young woman uses magic to fight against racism and white supremacy. It’s 1962 and Evvie Deschamps finally gets her magic. She reconnects with her grandmother to learn how to use and control her newfound powers and picks up a job babysitting a white child. The problems start when a white man comes to town and starts pestering her about her gifts. Whatever he wants can’t be good and Evvie knows it’s only a matter of time before he tries to take it from her by force. It’s up to her and the power gifted to her by her ancestors to defend herself.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (These Violent Delights #1)—November 17, 2020; Margaret K. McElderry Books

Another historical fantasy, this one set in 1926 in Shanghai and inspired by Romeo and Juliet. Shanghainese Juliette Cai and Russian Roma Montagov are the teenage leaders of their gangs, the Scarlets and the White Flowers, respectively. They’re also ex-lovers. Suddenly, a mysterious illness caused by a river monster starts spreading through the streets. To keep the peace and stop the infection, Roma and Juliette reluctantly join forces. Romance and death are in the air. Will our two lovebirds suffer the same fate as their progenitors?


Magic with a Twist

Spell Starter by Elsie Chapman (Caster #2)—October 6, 2020; Scholastic Press

Aza Wu was finally able to pay off her parents’ debts to the gang leader of Lotusland, but after her impressive display in the first book, she finds herself trapped under the thumb of said gang leader, Saint Willow. By day she acts as an enforcer, collecting debts and threatening business owners. By night she spellcasts in underground magical fight clubs. All of it is at the behest of her boss who could crush her and her parents’ centuries-old business like that. Keeping herself alive is hard enough, but lying to her parents is worse.

Ruinsong by Julia Ember—November 24, 2020; Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Candace, a corporeal mage who weaves magic through song, lives under the oppressive rule of Queen Elene. Every year the queen selects a Principal in the Performing where a mage tortures the nobility. This year is Candace’s turn at the wheel, but after discovering one of her soon-to-be victims is her childhood best friend Remi, Candace looks for a way out. The two girls want to save their kingdom from a cruel queen. Can they succeed?

A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha—December 1, 2020; Entangled: Teen

Based on the life of Isabel de Aragão, a late 13th to early 14th century queen consort who later was canonized as a saint, this queer historical fantasy features a cursed princess pushing back against religious zealotry and the patriarchy. Yzabel is cursed so that any food turns into flowers before she can eat it. Starving and desperate for a cure, she partners with an Enchanted Moura, a shapeshifting creature from Portuguese folklore. Her curse makes her vulnerable, helping the moura is an act of treason, and falling in love with her will make an enemy out of the prince to whom she is betrothed.


Alex Brown is a librarian by day, local historian by night, author and writer by passion, and an ace/aro Black woman all the time. Keep up with her on Twitter, Instagram, and her blog.


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