This is quite the spring! We’ve got a nice mix of pandemic-delayed sequels, unseasonably creepy standalones, and energizing new series. Not a whole lot by way of science fiction, but there’s a decent batch of horror and dark fantasy to spice up the stacks and stacks of fantasy fiction. It’s all good, as far as I’m concerned. Now if only I had time to actually read all of these…
On This Unworthy Scaffold by Heidi Heilig (Shadow Players #3)—March 9, 2021; Greenwillow Books
In the aftermath of A Kingdom for a Stage, everything is at stake. Jetta’s homeland, colonized by outsiders years ago, is on the brink of a civil war, and her nemesis, Le Trépas, wants to take control for his own nefarious purposes. Her ability to bind souls to objects will go up against his dangerous blood magic, but she has something he doesn’t: friends and allies.
The Theft of Sunlight by Intisar Khanani (Dauntless Path #2)—March 23, 2021; HarperTeen
This standalone companion to Thorn, centers on Amraeya ni Ansarim, aka Rae, a young woman from the village of Sheltershorn. Being born with a clubfoot hasn’t been easy, especially after her magically gifted sister Niya was sent to the royal Circle of Mages to train. When her sister’s childhood friend is kidnapped, Rae jumps at the chance to visit Niya at court to try and find answers. With the help of Princess Alyrra, Rae discovers a dark web of secrets that threaten the kingdom of Menaiya.
Oculta by Maya Motayne (A Forgery of Magic #2)—April 6, 2021; Balzer + Bray
Finn the faceshifter and Prince Alfehr saved the kingdom of Castallan from an ancient and powerful evil in Nocturna, but their struggles aren’t over. While Alfie is occupied with putting together an International Peace Summit with the nation of Englass, Finn finds herself suddenly in charge as one of the Thief Lords of Castallan. The two teens are pulled back together at the summit. Castallan needs them once more.
Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart (Witches Steeped in Gold #1)—April 20, 2021; HarperTeen
In this Jamaican-inspired series opener, two teen witches discover they have a mutual threat in common. Alumbrar witch Jazmyne is set to take over as ruler of the Island of Aiyca all while Obeah witch Iraya, who has her own claim to the throne, rots in a prison cell. These two enemies must work together if they want even a chance of winning, but with ultimate power on the line, their alliance is already set up to fail.
Outcasts, Outlaws, & Rebels
Ravage the Dark by Tara Sim (Scavenge the Stars #2)—March 9, 2021; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Reeling from a great betrayal, Amaya wants to find the benefactor who promised to help her but instead used her to spread a terrible disease called ash fever. She flees the city of Moray in order to track down the cause of the plague. Cayo is willing to do whatever it takes to save his sister who is dying from ash fever. Amaya must put aside their complicated pasts and work together to stop the disease from destroying their homeland.
Dustborn by Erin Bowman—April 20, 2021; HMH Books for Young Readers
In this post-apocalyptic Western, a young woman holds the key to the future. Delta lives in a wasteland of dust and death. On her back, a map to a mythical land of plenty called Verdant is branded into her skin. After everyone in her town is executed or kidnapped by a raider known as the General, Delta suspects he’s after her.
In Deeper Waters by F.T. Lukens—April 20, 2021; Margaret K. McElderry Books
Prince Tal, an isolated young man with the unusual magical ability to create fire, sets off on his family’s traditional coming-of-age tour. His crew stumbles upon a burning ship, a hoard of treasure, and a hot boy named Athlen who vanishes into the briney deep. But when Athlen turns up on land a little while later, the two boys get sucked into a great adventure.
Fragile Remedy by Maria Ingrande Mora—March 9, 2021; Flux
Nate is a GEM, or Genetically Engineered Medi-tissue, a boy created to be used for spare parts by the elite of Gathos City. He is orphaned when his parents attempt to smuggle him to safety in the Withers, leaving him reliant on a group of ragtag ragamuffins to survive. The leader of that child gang is Reed, a boy who makes Nate’s heart go pitter patter. When Nate loses access to the drug that keeps him alive, his secret identity must be revealed, not a good thing when you’re being hunted.
Renegade Flight by Andrea Tang (Rebelwing #2)—March 23, 2021; Razorbill
Although this is technically a sequel to Rebelwing, Renegade Flight is set fifteen years after the events of the first book and features a whole new cast of teen dragon pilots. Viola Park is devastated when she’s rejected from a top-notch training academy for cheating on a test. She manages to plead her way into probationary acceptance. Keeping her spot means competing against one of her classmates and figuring out why other pilots keep going missing.
The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris—April 6, 2021; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Ever since he survived the accident that took his parents’ lives, Alex has been able to see the future. Just by touching an object he can see into its future. He sees his breakup with his girlfriend, his car totaled…and his younger brother’s death. Alex must do everything in his power to save his brother before it’s too late. Can the future be changed?
Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders (Universal Expansion #1)—April 13, 2021; Tor Teen
Charlie Jane Anders finally breaks into young adult speculative fiction with this space opera about an alien clone. Although she looks human, Tina is the human genetic clone of an alien. After a life-threatening incident with another alien, she and her human bestie are whisked aboard her genetic donor’s spaceship. With her new crew and old friend, Tina must face down a dangerous enemy.
Thrills & Chills
Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft—March 2, 2021; Wednesday Books
Wren, a lieutenant in the Queen’s Guard, uses her healing magic on the battlefield. After she makes a bad choice, she’s released from her duties. Adrift and lost without the woman she loves, Wren accepts a job at the gothic Colwick Hall, but she’s shocked to learn her patient is her mortal enemy, Hal Cavendish. But something is very wrong at Colwick Hall. Strange noises echo in the halls, and the lord of the manor isn’t what he appears to be. And then there’s that pesky romance growing between Wren and Hal.
House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland—April 6, 2021; G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Ten years ago, three Scottish sisters disappeared. A month later they reappeared, their physical appearances changed in strange ways, in possession of new magical abilities, and with no memory of what befell them. When Grey vanishes again ten years later, Iris and Vivi pair up to figure out what really happened all those years ago. But who is the mysterious killer wearing a mask of a horned bull who seems to turn up in places he doesn’t belong?
The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky—April 13, 2021; Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
After a violent incident, Rachel is enrolled in a hoity-toity Upper East Side prep school. There she joins a secret club of diverse teens that hang out and watch scary movies…as well as stage elaborate pranks to inspire genuine fear amongst their classmates. As the pranks get more intense, someone starts going after club members.
The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore—March 16, 2021; Feiwel & Friends
Ciela, la bruja de los pasteles, has a talent for baking and the blessing of magic. When working in her parents’ pastelería, she whips up enchanted treats for eager customers. But after she and another boy are assaulted at a party, her gift vanishes—along with the town trees. Magical mirrored glass pops up just as a new boy, Lock, enrolls in her school. He has no memory of that dark night, and Ciela decides to keep the truth about what happened to them both at that party a secret. A reimagining of The Snow Queen.
Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas—March 23, 2021; Swoon Reads
Several years ago, Wendy and her brothers disappeared in the woods outside Astoria, Oregon. Wendy eventually made it back, but without her brothers and with no memory of what befell her. Haunted by her losses, Wendy retreats into herself. But it all comes crashing back when more kids start going missing and Peter tumbles back into her life with a dire warning. His shadow is involved in the disappearances, and only the two of them can bring them home. A retelling/reimagining of Peter Pan.
These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy (These Feathered Flames #1)—April 20, 2021; Inkyard Press
In the kingdom of Tóurin’s, magic is everywhere, but it comes at a steep cost not everyone is willing to pay. Twin sisters Izaveta and Asya are separated at birth and sent off to fulfill their destiny: Izaveta to become the next queen and Asya to become a Firebird, a creature that maintains the balance of magic. When their mother dies unexpectedly, Asya’s powers grow increasingly uncontrollable while Izaveta tries to keep the kingdom stable during her transition. Retelling of the Russian folktale “The Firebird.”
Magic With a Twist
Infinity Reaper by Adam Silvera (Infinity Cycle #2)—March 2, 2021; Quill Tree Books
Although brothers Emil and Brighton managed to defeat the Blood Casters, things are still falling apart. Brighton’s decision to consume Reaper blood to gain immortality has backfired, and Emil must delve into the phoenix powers he’s desperate to get rid of. Meanwhile, Ness is being held prisoner by his skeezy father and being forced to do his sinister will.
The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman (The Infinity Courts #1)—April 6, 2021; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Nami has a pretty good life, but it’s cut short when she’s murdered. The afterlife isn’t what she expected, either. It’s ruled over by Ophelia, a sentient AI created by humans to run their lives. Ophelia tortures the spirits of dead humans, turning them into thoughtless servants to use and abuse just as she was in the real world. Nami is pulled into a war between the escaped humans and the Residents, Ophelia’s AI creations that help her control the underworld. It might be impossible, but Nami is determined to forge a path to peace.
Alex Brown is a librarian by day, local historian by night, author and writer by passion, and an ace/aro genderqueer Black person all the time. Keep up with them on Twitter, Instagram, and their blog.