From gods and monsters to fairies and forest spirits, these debut novels bring magical creatures to life.
SIRENS AND SEASCAPES
MONSTERS BORN AND MADE by Tanvi Berwah from Sourcebooks/Fire on September 6, 2022
In an oceanic world swarming with vicious beasts, the Landers―the ruling elite— have indentured Koral's family to provide the maristags for the Glory Race, a deadly chariot tournament reserved for the upper class. The winning contender receives gold and glory. The others, if they're lucky, survive. When the last maristag of the year escapes and Koral has no new maristag to sell, her family's financial situation takes a turn for the worse and they can't afford medicine for her chronically ill little sister. Koral's only choice is to do what no one in the world has ever dared: cheat her way into the Glory Race. This epic South Asian-inspired fantasy will leave you breathless until the very last page.
SECOND STAR TO THE LEFT by Megan Van Dyke now available from City Owl Press
Banished for doing the unthinkable, selling the hottest drug in Neverland—pixie dust, Tinker Bell wants absolution. Determined to find a way home, Tink doesn’t hesitate to follow the one lead she has, even if that means seducing a filthy pirate to steal precious gems out from under his…hook. Captain Hook believes he’s found a real treasure in Tink. That is, until he recovers from her pixie dust laced kiss with a curse that turns the seas against him. With his ship and reputation at the mercy of raging storms, he tracks down the little minx and demands she remove the curse. Too bad she can’t.
A COMB OF WISHES by Lisa Stringfellow now available from HarperCollins/Quill Tree Books
Ever since her mother’s death, Kela feels every bit as broken as the shards of glass, known as “mermaid’s tears,” that sparkle on the beaches of St. Rita. But when she discovers a different kind of treasure, she accidentally summons an actual mermaid—the wrathful Ophidia. Ophidia makes Kela a bargain: her ancient comb, in exchange for a wish. And though Kela knows that what she wants most is her mother back, a wish that big will exact a dangerous price… Lisa Stringfellow’s mesmerizing MG novel is set against the backdrop of Caribbean culture and folklore, telling a story of impossible wishes, magic, and of course… mermaids!
A SONG OF SILVER AND GOLD by Melissa Karibian from Hansen House on June 15, 2022
A princess disguises herself as a pirate captain to avenge the death of her brother and eradicate the sirens that plague their waters. A siren warrior, banished for the death of her princess, becomes human with the help of a sea witch so she can bring the princess back to life. The main ingredient for the resurrection spell? The heart of the pirate captain. But the two never expect to fall for each other. A SONG OF SILVER AND GOLD is a young adult, sapphic, fantasy retelling of “The Little Mermaid.” (Seriously, sign me up!)
DRAGONS & UNICORNS
SKANDAR AND THE UNICORN THIEF by A.F. Steadman now available from Simon & Schuster
Skandar Smith has only ever wanted to be a unicorn rider, and the time has finally come for him to take his Hatchery Exam, which will determine whether he is destined to hatch a unicorn egg. But when Skandar is stopped from taking the exam, and the mysterious and frightening Weaver steals the most powerful unicorn in the world, becoming a rider proves a lot more dangerous than he could ever have imagined. As he faces elemental magic, fierce sky battles, ancient secrets, nail-biting races and, of course, bloodthirsty unicorns, Skandar is forced to question whether he’s meant to be the hero…or the villain. (Curating this list left me wondering… why aren’t there more books about unicorns??? Thank you A.F. Steadman, I’m looking forward to reading this one!)
THE LOST RYŪ by Emi Watanabe Cohen from Levine Querido on June 7, 2022
Kohei Fujiwara has never seen a big ryū (Japanese dragon) in real life. Those all disappeared from Japan after World War II, and twenty years later, they’ve become the stuff of legend. Their smaller cousins, who are small enough to fit in your palm, are all that remain. Still, Kohei is determined to bring the big ryū back. With the help of Isolde, his new half-Jewish, half-Japanese neighbor, and her Yiddish speaking dragon, Kohei embarks on a journey to the underwater dragon palace, Ryūgū-jō. There, he uncovers not only the dark truth behind the ryū’s disappearance, but the secrets his own family has kept to ensure his safety.
LIA PARK AND THE MISSING JEWEL by Jenna Yoon now available from Aladdin/S&S
When twelve-year-old Lia’s secret agent parents are kidnapped by an ancient diviner spirit, Lia and her friend Joon must follow a series mysterious clues to rescue them. Their journey takes them to Lia’s grandmother’s home in Korea, and eventually to the undersea kingdom of the Dragon King. (This book is like Spy Kids with dragons and Korean art history, and I cannot recommend it enough!)
GHOSTS & SPIRITS
NURA AND THE IMMORTAL PALACE by M.T. Khan from Little, Brown Books on July 5, 2022
Pakistani twelve-year-old Nura works as a mica miner to help her sweatshop worker mother. But when the mines collapse and her best friend is ruled dead, Nura digs deeper to find a portal world of jinn, and that the kids aren’t dead—they’ve been stolen. This beautiful MG fantasy novel is set in a rural Pakistani town and explores Pakistani culture, the cycle of child labor, and a glance into Islam.
RAVENFALL by Kalyn Josephson from Delacorte PRH on August 30, 2022
Thirteen-year-old Annabella Ballinkay has never been normal, even by her psychic family’s standards. Every generation uses their abilities to help run the Ravenfall Inn, a sprawling, magical B&B at the crossroads of the human world and the Otherworld. But it’s hard to contribute when your only power is foreseeing death. When fourteen-year-old Colin Pierce arrives at Ravenfall searching for his missing older brother and the supernatural creature who killed their parents, Anna jumps at the chance to help. But the mysteries tied to Colin go much deeper than either of them expects… (This book features both Celtic and Jewish folklore, and it’s a perfect spooky read for MG mystery lovers!)
GODS & MONSTERS
FRANCES AND THE MONSTER by Refe Tuma from HarperCollins on August 23, 2022
When Frances is left home yet again with only an infuriatingly clever robot named Hobbes for company, she enters her parents’ off-limits laboratory, determined to claim her freedom and prove her scientific mettle. Instead, she accidentally awakens her great-grandfather’s secret and most terrible invention—an enormous monster who breaks out of the manor and disappears into the city below. With her pet chimp, Fritz, and a reluctant Hobbes by her side, Frances sets off to find the monster, facing a persistent constable, angry locals, and an unexpected friendship along the way. But with the trail going cold and the monster nowhere in sight, Frances is running out of time before her future science career, and the town itself, are doomed forever. (Frankenstein retelling? Girls in STEM? This book has it all!)
GAME OF STRENGTH AND STORM by Rachel Menard from Flux on June 7, 2022
A gender-bent Hercules retelling set in the fictional island kingdom of Olympia. 17-year-old Gen has to complete the better half of 10 near-impossible labors before the storm-wielding Castor in order to save her father from prison. (I just realized I read a very early version of this back in 2019 and I absolutely ADORED it. Can’t wait to get my hands on a finished copy!)
THE LAST FEATHER by Shameez Patel Papathanasiou from Flame Tree Press on July 19, 2022
Twenty-two-year-old Cassia's sister is dying, and she doesn't know why. Cassia wakes up in another realm to find her missing best friend, Lucas, who knows how to save her sister. Lucas is part of a community of Reborns, people who were born on earth and after death, were reborn in this realm with magical abilities. The original beings of the realm, the Firsts, rule over them. To keep the Reborn numbers manageable, the king of the Firsts releases a curse to cull them. Cassia needs to break the curse before her time runs out and she is trapped there forever.
Curated by: Emi Watanabe Cohen
Post by: Erin La Rosa