Women and authors of color really brought their A game in 2022. Holy cow. They’re tearing it up. RIP your To Read list.
J.R.R. Tolkien famously described the Second Age of Middle-earth as a “dark age, and not very much of its history is (or need be) told.” And for many years, readers would need to be content with the tantalizing glimpses of it found within the pages of The Lord of the Rings and its appendices, including the forging of the Rings of Power, the building of the Barad-dûr, and the rise of Sauron.
It was not until Christopher Tolkien published The Silmarillion after his father’s death that a fuller story could be told. Although much of the book’s content concerned the First Age of Middle-earth, there were at its close two key works that revealed the tumultuous events concerning the rise and fall of the island of Númenor. Raised out of the Great Sea and gifted to the Men of Middle-earth as a reward for aiding the angelic Valar and the Elves in the defeat and capture of the Dark Lord Morgoth, the kingdom became a seat of influence and wealth; but as the Númenoreans’ power increased, the seed of their downfall would inevitably be sown, culminating in the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.
Even greater insight into the Second Age would be revealed in subsequent publications, first in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, then expanded upon in Christopher Tolkien’s magisterial twelve-volume The History of Middle-earth, in which he presented and discussed a wealth of further tales written by his father, many in draft form.
Now, adhering to the timeline of “The Tale of Years” in the appendices to The Lord of the Rings, editor Brian Sibley has assembled into one comprehensive volume a new chronicle of the Second Age of Middle-earth, told substantially in the words of Tolkien from the various published texts, with new illustrations in watercolor and pencil by the doyen of Tolkien art, Alan Lee.
After a lifetime of bounties and bloodshed, Viv is hanging up her sword for the last time.
The battle-weary orc aims to start fresh, opening the first ever coffee shop in the city of Thune. But old and new rivals stand in the way of success―not to mention the fact that no one has the faintest idea what coffee actually is.
If Viv wants to put the blade behind her and make her plans a reality, she won’t be able to go it alone.
The true rewards of the uncharted path are the travelers you meet along the way. And whether drawn together by ancient magic, flaky pastry, or a freshly brewed cup, they may become partners, family, and something deeper than she ever could have dreamed.
“A gentle little cozy set against an epic fantasy backdrop… This charming outing will please anyone who’s ever wished to spend time in a fantasy world without all the quests and battles.”
Book 3 of The Scholomance
Book 2: The Last Graduate
Book 1: A Deadly Education
The one thing you never talk about while you’re in the Scholomance is what you’ll do when you get out. Not even the richest enclaver would tempt fate that way. But it’s all we dream about: the hideously slim chance we’ll survive to make it out the gates and improbably find ourselves with a life ahead of us, a life outside the Scholomance halls.
And now the impossible dream has come true. I’m out, we’re all out—and I didn’t even have to turn into a monstrous dark witch to make it happen. So much for my great-grandmother’s prophecy of doom and destruction. I didn’t kill enclavers, I saved them. Me and Orion and our allies. Our graduation plan worked to perfection: We saved everyone and made the world safe for all wizards and brought peace and harmony to all the enclaves everywhere.
Ha, only joking! Actually, it’s gone all wrong. Someone else has picked up the project of destroying enclaves in my stead, and probably everyone we saved is about to get killed in the brewing enclave war. And the first thing I’ve got to do now, having miraculously gotten out of the Scholomance, is turn straight around and find a way back in.
“The magic and mystery of this chillingly lovely novel will appeal to both YA and adult fans of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books… An unresolved ending leaves readers eager for the next installment.”
—Library Journal, starred review
Book 2 of The Great Cities Duology
Book 1: The City We Became
All is not well in the city that never sleeps. Even though the avatars of New York City have temporarily managed to stop the Woman in White from invading—and destroying the entire universe in the process—the mysterious capital “E” Enemy has more subtle powers at her disposal. A new candidate for mayor wielding the populist rhetoric of gentrification, xenophobia, and “law and order” may have what it takes to change the very nature of New York itself and take it down from the inside.
In order to defeat him, and the Enemy who holds his purse strings, the avatars will have to join together with the other Great Cities of the world in order to bring her down for good and protect their world from complete destruction.
“The kind of book you lose an entire day to… and emerge shaken and dazzled on the other end. The writing is clear and visceral and intense. It’s some of the most brilliant, unapologetic speculative fantasy I’ve read in years.”
Book 2: Harrow the Ninth
Book 1: Gideon the Ninth
During the overthrow of the Mexican government, Beatriz’s father was executed and her home destroyed. When handsome Don Rodolfo Solórzano proposes, Beatriz ignores the rumors surrounding his first wife’s sudden demise, choosing instead to seize the security that his estate in the countryside provides. She will have her own home again, no matter the cost.
But Hacienda San Isidro is not the sanctuary she imagined.
When Rodolfo returns to work in the capital, visions and voices invade Beatriz’s sleep. The weight of invisible eyes follows her every move. Rodolfo’s sister, Juana, scoffs at Beatriz’s fears—but why does she refuse to enter the house at night? Why does the cook burn copal incense at the edge of the kitchen and mark the doorway with strange symbols? What really happened to the first Doña Solórzano?
Beatriz only knows two things for certain: Something is wrong with the hacienda. And no one there will save her.
Desperate for help, she clings to the young priest, Padre Andrés, as an ally. No ordinary priest, Andrés will have to rely on his skills as a witch to fight off the malevolent presence haunting the hacienda and protect the woman for whom he feels a powerful, forbidden attraction. But even he might not be enough to battle the darkness.
Far from a refuge, San Isidro may be Beatriz’s doom.
“A thing of uncanny, chilling beauty. Hauntings, exorcisms, incantations, forbidden love—The Hacienda transports one to a world where love triumphs over demons.”
—The New York Times
Book 4 of the Dandelion Dynasty
Book 3: The Veiled Throne
Book 2: The Wall of Storms
Book 1: The Grace of Kings
The concluding book of The Dandelion Dynasty begins immediately after the events of The Veiled Throne, in the middle of two wars on two lands among three people separated by an ocean yet held together by the invisible strands of love.
Harried by Lyucu pursuers, Princess Théra and Pékyu Takval try to reestablish an ancestral dream even as their hearts grow in doubt. The people of Dara continue to struggle against the genocidal Lyucu as both nations vacillate between starkly contrasting visions for their futures. Even the gods cannot see through the Wall of Storms, for only mortal hearts can decide mortal fates.
“[M]agnificent fantasy epic.”
Book 2 of The Burning Kingdoms
Book 1: The Jasmine Throne
The prophecy of the nameless god—the words that declared Malini the rightful empress of Parijatdvipa—has proven a blessing and curse. She is determined to claim the throne that fate offered her. But even with rage in her heart and the army of loyal men by her side, deposing her brother is going to be a brutal and bloody fight.
The power of the deathless waters flows through Priya’s blood. Now a thrice born priestess and an Elder of Ahiranya, she dreams of seeing her country rid of the rot that plagues it: both Parijatdvipa’s poisonous rule, and the blooming sickness that is spreading through all living things. But she doesn’t yet understand the truth of the magic she carries.
Their chosen paths once pulled them apart. But Malini and Priya’s souls remain as entwined as their destinies. And saving their kingdom from those who would rather see it burn will come at a terrible price.
“Alluring, action-packed, and gut-wrenching.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
The people suffer under the centuries-long rule of the Moon Throne. The royal family—the despotic emperor and his monstrous sons, the Three Terrors—hold the countryside in their choking grip. They bleed the land and oppress the citizens with the frightful powers they inherited from the god locked under their palace.
But that god cannot be contained forever.
With the aid of Jun, a guard broken by his guilt-stricken past, and Keema, an outcast fighting for his future, the god escapes from her royal captivity and flees from her own children, the triplet Terrors who would drag her back to her unholy prison. And so it is that she embarks with her young companions on a five-day pilgrimage in search of freedom—and a way to end the Moon Throne forever. The journey ahead will be more dangerous than any of them could have imagined.
“Lyrical, evocative, part poem, part prose—not to be missed by anyone, especially fans of historical fantasy and folktale. It’s both like nothing and everything you’ve ever read: a tale made from the threads that weave the world, and all of us, together.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.
So begins Kaikeyi’s story. The only daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, she is raised on legends of the gods: how they churned the vast ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, how they vanquish evil and ensure the land of Bharat prospers, and how they offer powerful boons to the devout and the wise. Yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, listens as her own worth is reduced to how great a marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear.
Desperate for some measure of independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With this power, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her.
But as the evil from her childhood tales threatens the cosmic order, the path she has forged clashes with the destiny the gods have chosen for her family. Kaikeyi must decide if resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak—and what legacy she intends to leave behind.
“A powerful, feminist retelling of the epic… Patel resets the balance of power, creating an unforgettable heroine who understands that it isn’t necessarily kings or gods who change history.”
—The Washington Post
Marra never wanted to be a hero.
As the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter, she escaped the traditional fate of princesses, to be married away for the sake of an uncaring throne. But her sister wasn’t so fortunate―and after years of silence, Marra is done watching her suffer at the hands of a powerful and abusive prince.
Seeking help for her rescue mission, Marra is offered the tools she needs, but only if she can complete three seemingly impossible tasks:
― build a dog of bones
― sew a cloak of nettles
― capture moonlight in a jar
But, as is the way in tales of princes and witches, doing the impossible is only the beginning.
Hero or not―now joined by a disgraced ex-knight, a reluctant fairy godmother, an enigmatic gravewitch and her fowl familiar―Marra might finally have the courage to save her sister, and topple a throne.
“Blending fairy-tale familiarity and common-sense characters, Kingfisher’s prose balances grim circumstances with humor and heart.”
—Library Journal, starred review
Book 2 of Between Earth and Sky
Book 1: Black Sun
The great city of Tova is shattered. The sun is held within the smothering grip of the Crow God’s eclipse, but a comet that marks the death of a ruler and heralds the rise of a new order is imminent.
The Meridian: a land where magic has been codified and the worship of gods suppressed. How do you live when legends come to life, and the faith you had is rewarded?
As sea captain Xiala is swept up in the chaos and currents of change, she finds an unexpected ally in the former Priest of Knives. For the Clan Matriarchs of Tova, tense alliances form as far-flung enemies gather and the war in the heavens is reflected upon the earth.
And for Serapio and Naranpa, both now living avatars, the struggle for free will and personhood in the face of destiny rages. How will Serapio stay human when he is steeped in prophecy and surrounded by those who desire only his power? Is there a future for Naranpa in a transformed Tova without her total destruction?
“The pages turn themselves. A beautifully crafted setting with complex character dynamics and layers of political intrigue? Perfection.”
—Kirkus, starred review
Charm is a witch, and she is alone. The last of a line of conquered necromantic workers, now confined within the yard of regrown bone trees at Orchard House, and the secrets of their marrow.
Charm is a prisoner, and a survivor. Charm tends the trees and their clattering fruit for the sake of her children, painstakingly grown and regrown with its fruit: Shame, Justice, Desire, Pride, and Pain.
Charm is a whore, and a madam. The wealthy and powerful of Borenguard come to her house to buy time with the girls who aren’t real.
Except on Tuesdays, which is when the Emperor himself lays claim to his mistress, Charm herself.
But now―Charm is also the only person who can keep an empire together, as the Emperor summons her to his deathbed, and charges her with choosing which of his awful, faithless sons will carry on the empire―by discovering which one is responsible for his own murder.
If she does this last thing, she will finally have what has been denied her since the fall of Inshil―her freedom. But she will also be betraying the ghosts past and present that live on within her heart.
Charm must choose. Her dead Emperor’s will or the whispers of her own ghosts. Justice for the empire or her own revenge.
“A masterfully woven plot with refreshing narrators.”
Book 1 of The Empire of the Wolf
Book 2: The Hunger of the Gods
The Empire of the Wolf simmers with unrest. Rebels, heretics, and powerful patricians all challenge the power of the Imperial throne.
Only the Order of Justices stands in the way of chaos. Sir Konrad Vonvalt is the most feared Justice of all, upholding the law by way of his sharp mind, arcane powers, and skill as a swordsman. At his side stands Helena Sedanka, his talented protégé, orphaned by the wars that forged the Empire.
When the pair investigates the murder of a provincial aristocrat, they unearth a conspiracy that stretches to the very top of Imperial society. As the stakes rise and become ever more personal, Vonvalt and Helena must make a choice: Will they abandon the laws they’ve sworn to uphold, in order to protect the Empire?
“Murder mystery meets grimdark political fantasy in this first of a trilogy… An intriguingly dark deconstruction of a beloved mystery trope.”
―Kirkus, starred review
Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for Girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home; it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile, or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.
Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant—but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.
Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him?
“Evocative prose, eerie [black and white] artwork by Šumberac, and superbly rendered characters… elevate this affective, bone-chilling standalone from Schwab, which fuses Shirley Jackson’s gothic horror sensibilities with the warmth and dark whimsy of Neil Gaiman.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Book 1 of the Kithamar Trilogy
Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories unfold.
This is Alys’s.
When her brother is murdered, a petty thief from the slums of Longhill sets out to discover who killed him and why. But the more she discovers about him, the more she learns about herself, and the truths she finds are more dangerous than knives.
Swept up in an intrigue as deep as the roots of Kithamar, where the secrets of the lowest born can sometimes topple thrones, the story Alys chooses will have the power to change everything.
“[An] outstanding series debut, which instantly hooks readers with dual mysteries… Readers will eagerly anticipate the sequel.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review
Book 2 of the Dark Star Trilogy
Book 1: Black Leopard, Red Wolf
In Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Sogolon the Moon Witch proved a worthy adversary to Tracker as they clashed across a mythical African landscape in search of a mysterious boy who disappeared. In Moon Witch, Spider King, Sogolon takes center stage and gives her own account of what happened to the boy, and how she plotted and fought, triumphed and failed as she looked for him.
It’s also the story of a century-long feud—seen through the eyes of a 177-year-old witch that Sogolon had with Aesi, chancellor to the king. It is said that Aesi works so closely with the king that together they are like the eight limbs of one spider. Aesi’s power is considerable—and deadly. It takes brains and courage to challenge him, which Sogolon does for reasons of her own.
“A rare sequel that is better than its predecessor… Moon Witch, Spider King is a breathtaking book, one that functions as well as a standalone as it does a sequel… Make no mistake, this series is absolutely a must-read.”
Book 2 of The Serpent Gates
Book 1: The Unspoken Name
Two years after defying the wizard Belthandros Sethennai and escaping into the great unknown, Csorwe and Shuthmili have made a new life for themselves, hunting for secrets among the ruins of an ancient snake empire.
Along for the ride is Tal Charossa, determined to leave the humiliation and heartbreak of his hometown far behind him, even if it means enduring the company of his old rival and her insufferable girlfriend.
All three of them would be quite happy never to see Sethennai again. But when a routine expedition goes off the rails and a terrifying imperial relic awakens, they find that a common enemy may be all it takes to bring them back into his orbit.
“Ancient relics, old foes, and new allies abound as Larkwood delves further into her vibrant fantasy world of fickle gods, blood sacrifices, treachery, unswerving fidelity, and boundless love that will intrigue fans and attract new series readers.” ―Booklist
Book 3 of The Nsibidi Scripts
Book 2: Akata Warrior
Book 1: Akata Witch
From the moment Sunny Nwazue discovered she had mystical energy flowing in her blood, she sought to understand and control her powers. Throughout her adventures in Akata Witch and Akata Warrior, she had to navigate the balance between nearly everything in her life—America and Nigeria, the “normal” world and the one infused with juju, human and spirit, good daughter and powerful Leopard Person.
Now, those hard lessons and abilities are put to the test in a quest so dangerous and fantastical, it would be madness to go… but may destroy the world if she does not. With the help of her friends, Sunny embarks on a mission to find a precious object hidden deep in an otherworldly realm. Defeating the guardians of the prize will take more from Sunny than she has to give, and triumph will mean she will be forever changed.
“In this series, Okorafor creates a stunningly original world of African magic that draws on Nigerian folk beliefs and rituals instead of relying on the predictable tropes of Western fantasy novels.”
Book 1 of the Celestial Kingdom
Book 2: Heart of the Sun Warrior
Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.
Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.
To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.
“Tan’s remarkable debut and duology launch transports readers into a stunning world… The result is a riveting page-turner that will leave fantasy lovers satisfied and eager for more.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Carlota Moreau: A young woman growing up on a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. The only daughter of a researcher who is either a genius or a madman.
Montgomery Laughton: A melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol. An outcast who assists Dr. Moreau with his experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas and plentiful coffers.
The hybrids: The fruits of the doctor’s labor, destined to blindly obey their creator and remain in the shadows. A motley group of part human, part animal monstrosities.
All of them live in a perfectly balanced and static world, which is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Dr. Moreau’s patron, who will unwittingly begin a dangerous chain reaction.
For Dr. Moreau keeps secrets, Carlota has questions, and, in the sweltering heat of the jungle, passions may ignite.
“The imagination of Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a thing of wonder, restless and romantic, fearless in the face of genre, embracing the polarities of storytelling—the sleek and the bizarre, wild passions and deep hatreds—with cool equanimity.”
—The New York Times, Editors’ Choice
Despite the title, yes, this is a fantasy book.
1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation—also known as Babel.
Babel is the world’s center for translation and, more importantly, magic. Silver working—the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation using enchanted silver bars—has made the British unparalleled in power, as its knowledge serves the Empire’s quest for colonization.
For Robin, Oxford is a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge obeys power, and as a Chinese boy raised in Britain, Robin realizes serving Babel means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress, Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to stopping imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide…
“Babel has earned tremendous praise and deserves all of it. It’s… inventive and engaging, passionate and precise. Kuang is fiercely disciplined even when she’s playful and experimental.”
—New York Times Book Review