Witches and Warfare: New Young Adult SFF for May and June 2021

We have an excellent batch of young adult science fiction and fantasy coming at you in May and June. Pissed off witches, mischievous gods, spaceships, rebellious soldiers, and everything in between. What are you most excited for?


Court Intrigue

In the Ravenous Dark by A.M. Strickland—May 18, 2021; Imprint

You had me at “pansexual bloodmage.” With her blue hair, Rovan Ballacra is easily recognizable as a bloodmage. After witnessing her father be executed for refusing to serve the king, she’s hidden her abilities. But when she is forced to use her powers to save a friend, she’s dragged off to the palace, bound to a shade who keeps an eye on her on behalf of the king, and is set to be married off regardless of her wishes. Somehow Rovan must figure out how to break free of the king’s shackles and expose his corruption to the world.


The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon (The Witch King #1)—June 1, 2021; Inkyard Press

Wyatt is a witch, much to the shame of his family, but lucks out at being mated with Emyr, the fae prince and heir to the Asalin throne. After being attacked and nearly burning down his village, Wyatt flees to the human world and starts life anew. That is, until Emyr drags him back (this time with Wyatt’s human bestie Briar in tow) to fulfill their marriage contract. As Emyr tries to reform a corrupt system, Wyatt just wants to escape. The three teens soon realize that sometimes neither rage nor reform are enough, that dismantling oppression is the only real answer.


Rising Like a Storm by Tanaz Bhathena (The Wrath of Ambar #2)—June 22, 2021; Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

King Lohar may be dead, but Gul and Cavas aren’t safe and sound yet. Queen Shayla wants the magical lovers dead. Cavas winds up in the clutches of Ambar’s tyrannical usurper, leaving Gul to train her army of warriors on her own. Can they save their kingdom and each other before it’s too late?


The Future Sucks

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He—May 4, 2021; Roaring Brook Press

In a future where human-made climate change has forced people into floating eco-cities, two sisters collide. The eco-cities require their citizens to work from stasis pods much of the time to reduce their energy expenditures. Kasey Mizuhara doesn’t mind the isolation, but Celia craves attention and action. After Cee vanishes on a boat, Kay isn’t ready to accept that she is very likely dead. Except she’s not. Cee wakes up on a deserted island with no memories except of her sister. The sisters, with the help of two boys with secrets of their own, must untangle the mysteries that lead to Cee’s flight and crash.


Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury (Blood Like Magic #1)—June 15, 2021; Margaret K. McElderry Books

Set in Toronto in 2049, Liselle Sambury mixes technology with witchcraft and ancestral magic. Voya Thomas has just failed her Calling, a trial that, when passed, grants her access to her magic. She’s offered a second chance, but the cost is steep: she must kill her first love or her entire extended family will lose their magic. As her family try to find a way out of the task, Voya uses futuristic technology to find a potential love interest. Unfortunately she ends up matched with a boy who is less than enthused about the prospect. Looming above everything are secrets, lies, and disappearances.


Science Fictional

Aetherbound by E.K. Johnston—May 25, 2021; Dutton Books for Young Readers

E.K. Johnston blends fantasy and science fiction in her new space adventure. The Stavenger Empire rules its denizens with an iron fist. Pendt Harland has a magical gift, gene-sense, but her family considers it a useless skill. While docked at a Brannick Station, Pendt escapes their abuse and finds comfort in brothers and heirs to the station, Ned and Fisher. Pendt marries Ned, but also feels a connection with Fisher. The trio join the rebellion to take down the empire.


The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer—June 1, 2021; Katherine Tegen Books

Two boys wake up on a spaceship with hazy memories of how they got there. Ambrose Cusk and Kodiak Celius are stuck on a ship together hurtling through space, the sole representatives of their enemy nations. The plan is to rescue Ambrose’s sister Minerva, who sent out a distress beacon years before during an attempt to colonize Titan, a moon of Saturn. But that doesn’t explain why there are clones of each boy shrink wrapped and stashed aboard the ship. Time loops, an omnipresent AI, and earth-shaking conspiracies abound.


Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta (Gearbreakers #1)—June 29, 2021; Feiwel & Friends

Eris Shindanai lives under the heel of the tyrannical government Godolia. With their god-like mechas called Windups, they rule the land and crush all resistance. Well, almost all. Eris is part of a ragtag group of rebels hiding out in the Badlands. After being captured in a mission gone bad, Eris ends up in a Godolia jail cell. There she meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot whose secretly plans to destroy the Windups from the inside. Two queer girls taking on an autocratic government? Sign me up.


Fairytales, Folklore, & Retellings

Sisters of the Snake by Sasha Nanua and Sarena Nanua (Ria & Rani #1)—June 15, 2021; HarperTeen

Ria and Rani could not be any more different. One is a princess who lives in the lap of luxury in the palace of her father, the king of Abai. The other is an orphan and thief caught committing a grave crime. But they share one big thing in common: their looks. Ria and Rani are, for reasons they don’t understand, identical. The two switch places and get sucked into dangers they are unprepared for. A South Asian-inspired retelling of The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain.


A War of Swallowed Stars by Sangu Mandanna (The Celestial Trilogy #3)—June 29, 2021; Sky Pony

Sangu Mandanna closes out her Mahābhārata-inspired Celestial series with a banger. The universe is on the edge of destruction. Alexi is exiled, Esmae is on the run, and Titania the sentient spaceship is full of opinions. The lines have been drawn, and the gods, humans, and others have chosen their sides. The fate of the galaxy comes down to Esmae and Alexi.


Magic with a Twist

Unwritten by Alicia J. Novo (The Zweeshen Chronicles #1)—May 8, 2021; Intense Publications

With her mother gone and her father neglectful, Beatrix is lonely. She can also hear books, for some strange reason. Suddenly she’s pulled into Zweeshen, a land where characters from books are flesh and blood. The magic she holds, up to now suppressed by a spell, makes her one of the most powerful magical beings in the land. She’s the only one who has a chance of stopping a wicked Charmancer who is burning books and destroying the attached worlds, but not if he doesn’t get to her first.


A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow (A Song Below Water #2)—June 1, 2021; Tor Teen

Naema Bradshaw is not the character I would’ve picked as the star of the follow-up to last summer’s phenomenal A Song Below Water, but I trust Bethany C. Morrow so I’m going with it. Naema made a name for herself, not as the beautiful, popular Eloko (a person who can woo people with their singing) influencer but as the girl who revealed that Tavia was a siren. She seeks refuge with her family outside of Portland and finds there is more to her powers than she realized.


Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria—June 8, 2021; HMH Books for Young Readers

What’s that? Dragons, you say? Yes please! In Destiny Soria’s newest novel, two dragon-slaying sisters find themselves pitted against each other. Eden and Dani Rivera have spent their lives training to kill dragons, but a chance encounter with one leaves Dani questioning everything she thinks she knows. Her sister seeks out a sorcerer to help cure her sister of her new dragon infatuation. Sisters by blood, enemies by ideology.


Alex Brown is a librarian by day, historian by night, author and writer by passion, and a queer Black person all the time. Keep up with them on Twitter, Instagram, and their blog.


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