A new year brings a new crop of young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels…as well as a bunch that were delayed to supply chain/covid/general hellscape issues. Lots of time travel, historical fantasy, extraterrestrials, rebellious royals, and fairy tale-esque stories to spice things up for January and February.
Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi (Pet #0.5)—Knopf Books for Young Readers; February 15, 2022
We met Jam’s artist mother, Bitter, in Pet. Now Akwaeke Emezi looks at Bitter as a teenager in this prequel. The city of Lucille is not yet the supposed utopia Jam knows when Bitter enrolls in the alternative school Eucalyptus. Bitter feels safe from the protests and oppressions outside the school walls, but she and her new friends cannot ignore the injustices for long. And when the angels arrive, things are set into motion that only her daughter will be able to resolve.
Reclaim the Stars: 17 Tales Across Realms & Space edited by Zoraida Córdova—Wednesday Books; February 15, 2022
An anthology collecting seventeen young adult speculative stories as diverse as the Latinx authors who penned them. With magic blending with space blending with ghosts, these authors demonstrate the range of experiences, voices, and identities from across the Latin American diaspora. Authors include Vita Ayala, David Bowles, J.C. Cervantes, Sara Faring, Romina Garber, Isabel Ibañez, Anna-Marie McLemore, Yamile Saied Méndez, Nina Moreno, Circe Moskowitz, Maya Motayne, Linda Raquel Nieves Pérez, Daniel José Older, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Lilliam Rivera, and Zoraida Córdova.
Magic with a Twist
In Every Generation by Kendare Blake (In Every Generation #1)—Disney-Hyperion; January 4, 2022
After Buffy, Faith, and other slayers are hit with a bombing at the annual gathering of the slayers, Frankie Rosenberg, Willow’s daughter, is tapped as the first ever slayer-witch. With her new powers come great responsibility, and she’ll need the help of Hailey, the sister of a slayer, Jake, a werewolf, Sigmund, a Sage demon, and Spike, her grumpy new Watcher. Not only will the Scoobies have to stop the latest Big Bad rampaging through the Hellmouth but they’ll also have to figure out what really happened to dear Aunt Buffy.
Ashes of Gold by J. Elle (Wings of Ebony #2)—Denene Millner Books; January 11, 2022
The magical land of Ghizon is split in two: some support the Chancellor, despite him gaining power by stealing it from Rue’s family, and others have chosen to rebel. Just when Rue is about to confront the dictator, she blacks out and wakes up in prison. She must not only break her own chains but those of her people as well. The Wings of Ebony duology comes to a spectacular close.
The Bone Spindle by Leslie Vedder (The Bone Spindle #1)—Razorbill; January 11, 2022
Briar Rose is a prince cursed by a witch to sleep for a century in this gender-swapped, queer take on “Sleeping Beauty.” Fi and Shane are treasure hunting gal pals doomed to wander the world unable to return home. After Fi pricks her finger on an old spindle, she winds up the key to breaking Briar Rose’s curse. Shane, meanwhile, falls for Red, an attractive young woman who suspiciously keeps turning up at just the right moment.
Akata Woman by Nnedi Okorafor (The Nsibidi Scripts #3)—Viking Books for Young Readers; January 18, 2022
Although it’s been five years since readers last spent time with Sunny Nwazue, it’s only been two for her. Sunny, Chichi, Orlu, Sasha, and the Great Spider Artist set out on a great quest to retrieve a scroll stolen from Udide. It will take all of her and her friends’ magic and skills to survive the spirit world and set things right. What began as a middle grade fantasy series is now firmly in young adult territory.
Fire Becomes Her by Rosiee Thor—Scholastic Press; February 1, 2022
In the Prohibition-like world of Candesce where access to magical flare determines your status lives Ingrid, a young woman on the brink. Desperate to attach herself to wealth and power (and to severe connections with her imprisoned father), she inserts herself into the lives of Senator Holt and his handsome son Linden. To win their attention, she goes undercover in his opponent’s campaign. Both parties have secrets for days, but Ingrid will eventually have to choose between herself and the rest of the world.
The Kindred by Alechia Dow—Inkyard Press; January 4, 2022
Joy and Felix are from opposite ends of the social hierarchy. Felix is a duke and heir to the Qadin throne, the rulers of the Monchuri galactic system, while Joy is a poor girl from the colonized planet of Hali. Linked by a soulmate chip, the two flee to Earth after being falsely accused of assassinating the Qadin royals.
Star Wars: The High Republic: Midnight Horizon by Daniel José Older—Disney Lucasfilm Press; February 1, 2022
During the era several years before the Battle of Yavin, the Republic and the Nihil are going at it all over the galaxy. Jedi Masters Cohmac Vitus and Kantam Sy and Padawans Reath Silas and Ram Jomaram are sent to Corellia to look into a devastating attack by the Nihil. Two Jedi go undercover while the others try to negotiate. The deeper Ram and Reath go, the bigger the conspiracy appears to be.
Past Is Present
Shattered Midnight by Dhonielle Clayton (The Mirror #2)—Disney-Hyperion; January 18, 2022
In Jazz Age New Orleans lives Zora, a young woman about to debut into high society but who really just wants to play music. She meets another jazz musician, a cute boy named Phillip who has a magic mirror that can divine the future. Believing her magic is a curse, Zora is offered a chance to let it go, but at the cost of also losing music. Each book in this series is written by a different author and set in a different point in history: Julie C. Dao, Dhonielle Clayton, J.C. Cervantes, and L. L. McKinney.
Mirror Girls by Kelly McWilliams—Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; February 8, 2022
Charlie and Magnolia live very different lives at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Charlie is a proud Black organizer in Harlem while Magnolia lives the life of luxury as the heiress of a cotton plantation in Georgia. Both are shocked to learn they are sisters. After Magnolia’s reflection vanishes from all mirrors, she’s reunited with Charlie as the two girls fight ghosts, their own personal demons, and Jim Crow.
Only a Monster by Vanessa Len (Only a Monster #1)—HarperTeen; February 22, 2022
Joan doesn’t know it yet, but she comes from a family of time travelling monsters. The truth is revealed while she’s vacationing in London with her mother’s family while her father is visiting his homeland of Malaysia. The boy she had a crush on turns out to be a ruthless monster hunter, and her only ally is the son of her family’s greatest monster nemeses. They hop back to the ‘90s to save her parents, but not even the past is safe from the dangers of the present.
The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman (The Ivory Key Duology #1)—Clarion Books; January 4, 2022
After the death of the maharani, Vira is crowned. But her rule is troubled by the depletion of magic, mined in Ashoka’s quarries. Magic is the nation’s main resource, and controlling it allows them to control their destiny. To unlock the hidden quarries, Vira will need the help of her estranged siblings: Kaleb, imprisoned under charges of assassinating the former maharani, Ronak, who wants to trade the key for his freedom, and Riya, who joined the rebels trying to depose Vira.
Feather and Flame by Livia Blackburne (The Queen’s Council #2)—Disney-Hyperion; February 1, 2022
Mulan has spent her time since winning the war back in her village training the next generation of women warriors. But when the emperor declares Mulan his heir, she is thrust into dangerous court politics. She thought fighting the Hun was hard, but proving her worth and establishing her leadership all while keeping the nobility from fracturing will be the ultimate test of her mettle.
This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi (This Woven Kingdom #1)—HarperCollins; February 1, 2022
To most people in the Ardunian empire, Alizeh is little more than a low-level Jinn servant, but she’s actually the secret heir to a once-powerful Jinn kingdom. The crown prince Kamran uncovers her secret, but instead of killing her to save his father’s rule, his attraction to her drives him to do the unthinkable. If Alizeh comes into her full power, she could restore Jinn rule, but at the cost of Ardunia itself. Inspired by Islamic texts and the Persian epic poem Shahnameh.
From Dust, a Flame by Rebecca Podos—Balzer + Bray; February 8, 2022
For as long as she can remember, Hannah, Gabe, and their mother have been on the move, never settling down. One morning Hannah wakes up with golden snake eyes and sharp fangs, stricken by an ancient curse. After their mother reveals they’re Jewish, she disappears while searching for a cure. It’s up to Hannah, Gabe, their new friend Ari, and a golem to untangle the mysteries of the past. Inspired by Jewish traditions and stories.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh—Feiwel & Friends; February 22, 2022
For decades, Mina’s village has been pummeled by terrible storms. In hopes of sating the angry Sea God, every year her people throw a young woman into the water to serve as his bride. When her brother makes a reckless mistake, Mina hurls herself overboard. In the Spirit Realm, the ancient Sea God slumbers and lesser gods battle for power. To save her people, Mina must break the sleeping curse, but she may not be able to save both the village and her own soul. A retelling of the Korean classical novel “The Tale of Shim Cheong.”
Alex Brown is an Ignyte award-winning critic who writes about speculative fiction, librarianship, and Black history. Find them on twitter (@QueenOfRats), instagram (@bookjockeyalex), and their blog (bookjockeyalex.com).