Pack your bags, readers: It’s time for an adventure. Fans of sci-fi and fantasy know that an exciting journey can begin in the most unlikely places: a wardrobe, a rabbit hole, a cupboard under the stairs. This season, it all begins with a book. We’ve rounded up 12 of this fall’s must-read young adult sci-fi and fantasy books. There’s danger, magic, love, and hope woven into these tales. All you need to do is decide which new land to travel to first.
And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Rovina Cai
Inspired by Moby-Dick, this illustrated novel explores the war between whales and men from the perspective of the whale Bathsheba. An apprentice to Captain Alexandra, Bathsheba is a warrior trained to hunt Toby Wick, a notorious whale killer. She’s never questioned her role in the war, that is until her pod takes a human captive. This is an epic tale that explores prejudices, the blinding power of vengeance, and the true cost of war. With starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal, this is sure to be one of the most talked-about books of the season. Don’t be left out of the conversation.
On shelves: September 4
Hacker Emika Chen is back in the highly-anticipated sequel to Warcross. Picking up where the last book left off, this story finds Emika and her Warcross teammates attempting to find a way to break Hideo Tanaka’s hold on their world. Hideo created an algorithm that allows him to control anyone wearing his VR lenses. He believes that his actions are altruistic, and wants to use the control to end crime. Emika sees the act for what it is: a stripping of personal freedoms. Emika and her team have beta lenses, the only kind unaffected by Hideo’s algorithm, but in a few days their lenses will update and they too will be under his control. Knowing that time is of the essence, Emika reaches out to Zero, a hacker who she still isn’t certain she can trust. We can’t wait to get lost in Lu’s virtual reality world once more.
On shelves: September 18
Heidi Heilig explores themes of colonialism, mental illness, and war in this engaging trilogy starter. Whispers of rebellion have abounded ever since the Chakrans were conquered by the Aquitans. Sixteen-year-old Jetta Chantray never intends to get swept up in the unrest. She only hopes to use her unique magic power, which allows her to bind souls to puppets in her family’s shadow puppet theater, to win a cure for her bipolar disorder. But on her journey she begins to uncover secrets about her family, her powers, and her country that change everything she thought she knew.
On shelves: September 25
Readers, prepare for a trip down the rabbit hole. L.L. McKinney’s debut novel is an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland retelling starring seventeen-year-old Alice Kingston. Alice is tearing through the streets of Atlanta after learning of her father’s death, but she’s stopped in her tracks by Addison Hatta, who guards the gateway between the human world and Wonderland (located at the Looking Glass pub, naturally). When she finds him, Hatta is battling a Nightmare, a manifestation of fear that Alice, a mortal, shouldn’t be able to see. Realizing that there’s more to Alice than meets the eye, Hatta offers to train her in the art of slaying Nightmares. When Hatta is poisoned, it’s up to Alice to find the antidote in the dangerous world of Wonderland. If you’re looking for the perfect unbirthday present for yourself, allow us to recommend this book and a cup of tea.
On shelves: September 25
In Strange the Dreamer, readers met Lazlo Strange, a 20-year-old orphaned librarian who journeyed to the mystical city of Weep and fell for Sarai, the daughter of a goddess. The sequel finds the two where the first book left off: Lazlo is learning to control his new powers, and Sarai is a ghost who meets with Lazlo in his dreams. Author Laini Taylor explores the history of Weep in this novel, as well as the dark future ahead as gods and humans continue to struggle to find peace with each other. In a starred review, Booklist raved: “This is the gift that fantasy gives (and Taylor gives it better than most): Even in dark times, especially in dark times, life matters. We hand these books to readers… not only so they know that monsters can be fought, but so that they can look at a monstrous world and see that hope exists alongside the darkness.”
On shelves: October 2
Inspired by Beowulf, this young adult novel follows a group of female assassins as they hunt for a monster. The Boneless Mercies perform work that others are unwilling to do: providing relief in the form of a quick death to the old and the sick. But Frey, the group’s leader, isn’t content with her simple life and she longs for glory. When rumors of a horrifying beast known as Blue Vee reach the Mercies, Frey decides they should hunt the creature down and claim the reward the king is offering for its slaying. April Genevieve Tucholke’s latest follows women on a journey to change the way the world sees them.
On shelves: October 2
Anna-Marie McLemore is back with another captivating work of magical realism. Sisters Blanca and Roja del Cisne are cursed. Years ago, one of their ancestors begged a bevy of swans for a daughter. Their wish was granted, but at a cost. Each generation, the del Cisne family is blessed with two girls, and after the sisters come of age, one turns into a swan. Roja believes that she is the one the swans will choose, and Blanca vows to fight the curse to keep them together. Though the sisters are opposites in nearly every way, Blanca begins to mold herself in Roja’s image in the hopes that the swans will not be able to choose between them. McLemore crafts a story about fate, sisterhood, and love that is certain to put readers under its spell.
On shelves: October 9
The wait is finally over. The Throne of Glass series comes to a thrilling end this fall, and it’s certain to be a bittersweet goodbye. When readers first met Aelin Galathynius, she was being forced to fight for the crown prince in exchange for her freedom, and now she’s preparing to reclaim her own kingdom. But first, she must escape from Maeve, the Queen of the Fae. While her friends rally their allies, Aelin prepares for the fight of her life. This seven-book series (intended for older YA audiences) has captivated readers around the world, and its conclusion is certain to pack one massive book hangover. Cross your fingers that your favorite characters survive and prepare for a book filled with epic battles and swoon-worthy romance.
On shelves: October 23
Teodora di Sangro is the daughter of a high lord of Vinalia. Her family is one of the five that control Vinalia; that is, until a new ruler rises and poisons the heads of each family—including Teo’s father. Teo is a strega and she’s used her magical abilities in the past to turn her families’ enemies into objects such as mirrors and music boxes. But to protect her family now, she must use her gifts on herself to transform into a boy to sneak into the capital. Thankfully, she has a guide to help her learn to control her powers: Cielo, a genderfluid strega who Teo begins to develop feelings for. Is it safe to give her heart away in this world of political intrigue and murder plots? You’ll have to read to find out. (Psst: Want a sneak peek? Head over to BookishFirst for a first look at this upcoming release!)
On shelves: October 30
Last year Julie C. Dao’s “Snow White” retelling transported us to a rich fantasy world inspired by imperial China. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns chronicled Xifeng’s transformation from an underestimated girl to a heartless and powerful empress, willing to commit any number of dark deeds to maintain control of Feng Lu. In this sequel, Jade, the rightful princess, returns to free her people from Xifeng’s deadly clutches. Following clues found in myths and legends that her guardian once told her, Jade goes on a perilous journey to find magical artifacts that, once combined, could give her the ability to stop Xifeng once and for all.
On shelves: November 6
This fall Natasha Ngan takes readers to Ikhara, a land inspired by Asian mythology and Ngan’s childhood in Malaysia. Ikhara is divided into three castes: Paper (the oppressed human class), Steel (a human-demon hybrid class), and Moon (the ruling demon class). A Moon king rules the land and each year he chooses Paper girls to serve him as concubines. Seventeen-year-old Lei is one of nine girls brought against their wills to the Hidden Palace. It’s there that she meets Wren, a bewitching fellow Paper girl who Lei begins to fall for. This is a dark and mature read meant for older YA audiences. In a starred Publishers Weekly review, Ngan is praised for “[championing] self-empowerment while condemning classism, homophobia, and the commodification of women.”
On shelves: November 6
Marissa Meyer’s Renegades trilogy continues with a dynamic second installment. This series is set in a world where a group called the Renegades used their superhero-esque abilities to bring order to a world overrun with chaos and turmoil. The Renegades are admired, but not by everyone. The Anarchists hope to take down the Renegades by any means necessary. In this book, readers will reunite with Nova and Adrian as they recover from their fight with the Detonator and continue their mission to save Galton City.
On shelves: November 6