Queer young adult literature has been making “fantastic” strides in contemporary reads. Check out the following amazing fantasy releases to celebrate Pride or simply escape into rich, imaginative stories.
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
Every year eight Paper girls are chosen from the lowest and most oppressed caste in Ikhara for the honor of becoming the king's new consort. But this year, there's a ninth: Lei, who is still traumatized from seeing her mother taken by the royal guards as a child. During their training, Lei falls in love with one of the other Paper girls and begins to resist the notion of serving the Demon King -- but at what cost? This lush, Malaysian-inspired fantasy is the first in a trilogy.
Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy
When Ari crash-lands on Earth and pulls a magic sword from its resting place, she becomes the forty-second incarnation of King Arthur. But the reincarnated Arthurs are all cursed to repeat the cycle: finding Excalibur, falling in love with Guinevere and being killed by Morgana. Ari (who is pansexual) must work with Merlin (who, aging backward, is now a gay teen) to stop the curse and topple the oppressive government. If you enjoy this, check out Capetta's The Brilliant Death, a historical fantasy with a nonbinary protagonist and a genderfluid love interest.
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Daniela Vargas has been trained at the Medio School for Girls to become a rich man's Primera -- his first wife and business partner. But her ambitious new husband doesn't know that Dani's papers are forged; she was born on the other side of the wall. A resistance group asks Dani to become a spy in her new husband's household in exchange for keeping her secret. But the greatest danger to Dani might be Carmen, her husband's beautiful Segunda. This Latinx fantasy is first in a trilogy and offers a timely critique on immigration and a swoony f/f romance.
Black Wings Beating by Alex London
Brysen desperately wants to be a falconer, while his twin sister, Kylee, ignores her gift for the sport and only wants to clear their family's debt. But when the life of the boy he loves is threatened, Brysen is determined to travel into the dangerous mountains to find the Ghost Eagle, the bird that killed their father. Kylee goes along to protect her brother, but the twins' relationship is fraught, and Kylee's keeping a secret. And with Utzar on the brink of war, they aren't the only ones chasing the Ghost Eagle. Black Wings Beating is first in a trilogy.
Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh
Odessa is a master necromancer, bringing back Karthia's beloved Dead from the shadowy afterworld. But the placid, shrouded Dead can turn into fearsome Shades when their shrouds are removed. When a Shade attacks and kills Odessa's mentor, Odessa and her friends investigate, only to discover that someone is purposely creating Shades. Odessa begins to question the magic that has always given her purpose and struggles with grief over the death of someone close to her. With the help of Meredy, a powerful but infuriating beast mage, Odessa must fight off a new addiction and stop the plot to destroy Karthia. The second book in the duology, Song of the Dead, is already available.
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About the Author: Jess S.