Book Recommendations

2021 Most Anticipated Book Releases — YA Sci-fi/Fantasy Edition

Hi hello, friends!

There are many things to look forward to in 2021: chiefly, 2020 being over and a slew of new books!

I sat down to scour all the new releases coming out next year, and came up with an unwieldy beast of a list, stretching out to every horizon. (That’s only slightly hyperbolic: there are A Lot of books coming out next year, and… a lot of trees that are going to be felled to house the sheer scope of human imagination). So I marshaled my best efforts to round-up the most exciting books of 2021, and curate a list which I will be breaking up into four blog posts based on genre: this one, as the title reads, will include offerings from YA science-fiction and fantasy, and you can also look forward to other lists of books in the Adult Sci-fi/Fantasy, YA Contemporary, and Adult Contemporary genres very soon.

Queer retellings of age-old tales (from Peter Pan to Sleeping Beauty to The Firebird)? Greek myth reworked into modern settings? Stories inspired by beloved movies and TV shows like Killing Eve, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Black Mirror? Dyslexic princesses, trans witches, pansexual bloodmages, angry magical sapphics, polyamorous relationships, and found families of cutthroats and thieves? It’s a feast!

So here, the most anticipated YA SFF of 2021. I hope the following list of 60-something books peps you up for the new year!

N.B. Books with LGBTQ+ representation are marked with a little rainbow flag emoji next to the title!


Lore by Alexandra Bracken

Release date: January 5

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“Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality.”

Set in modern New York and inspired by Greek Mythology, this novel sounds very much like Percy Jackson meets the Hunger Games, and I’m here for it!


Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Release date: January 12

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“The story of impossible love between a monstrous tree siren and a boy who lives at the edge of her wood.” A heartbreaking and darkly atmospheric gender-swapped reimagining of Beauty and the Beast? Sign me up!


Wench by Maxine Kaplan 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: January 19

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“A funny, fiercely feminist YA epic fantasy—following the adventures of a tavern wench.” (whispers) and she’s bisexual!


Rise of the Red Hand (The Mechanists #1) by Olivia Chadha

Release date: January 19

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“A rare, searing portrayal of the future of climate change in South Asia. A streetrat turned revolutionary and the disillusioned hacker son of a politician try to take down a ruthlessly technocratic government that sacrifices its poorest citizens to build its utopia.”


What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

Release date: February

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children meets The Addams Family in this haunting story of one girl’s attempt to reconnect with her monstrous family.”


Muse (Muse #1) by Brittany Cavallaro

Release date: February 2

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American Royals meets The Winner’s Curse in the first book of bestselling author Brittany Cavallaro’s new duology, set in an alternate history World’s Fair Chicago, where America is a monarchy, science is king, and magic shouldn’t exist – and one girl’s touch has the power to grant wishes.”


Nubia: Real One by L.L. McKinney, Robyn Smith (illustrator)

Release date: February 2

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McKinney’s graphic novel brings front and center the story of Nubia, Wonder Woman’s long-lost twin sister who is often dismissed as just being the “Black Wonder Woman.” The author writes,Nubia: Real One is about how society treats Black girls right now, and how they would ABSOLUTELY treat Black women as superheroes. Diana shows up to save the day, and people cheer. Nubia shows up to save the day, and those same people call the cops.”


This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: February 2

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“Asexual Karis, a servant to the mysterious Scriptorium, accidentally awakens long-dormant golem Alix, initiating an epic adventure.”


The Gilded Ones (Deathless #1) by Namina Forna

Release date: February 9

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“The Gilded Ones is about sixteen-year-old Deka, who’s told she’s an alaki, a near-immortal with exceptional gifts, when she begins bleeding gold. Because of this, she’s given a choice-fight for the Emperor or be destroyed.”


We Are the Fire by Sam Taylor

Release date: February 16

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Pitched as “an Ember in the Ashes with fire magic, twisted alchemy, and ash-gray morals,” but it’s the lines “Oksana and Pran weren’t born fire-breathing monsters” that got me hooked.


The Wide Starlight by Nicole Lesperance

Release date: February 16

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The Hazel Wood meets The Astonishing Color of After in this dreamy, atmospheric novel that follows sixteen-year-old Eli as she tries to remember what truly happened the night her mother disappeared off a glacier in Norway under the Northern Lights.”


Of Silver and Shadow by Jennifer Gruenke 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: February 16

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“In a kingdom where magic is outlawed, a Weilder hides as a thief and ends up tangled with a dangerous group of rebels.”


A Dark and Hollow Star (A Dark and Hollow Star #1) by Ashley Shuttleworth 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: Feb 23

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According to the author, this is a “sapphic (f/f) and achillean (m/m) urban fantasy about faeries and alchemy and a group of teens who don’t like each other very much, joining together to solve some murder,” featuring a half-fae outcast, an exiled tempestuous Fury, a dutiful fae prince, and his brooding guardian.


Wings of Ebony (Wings of Ebony #1) by J. Elle

Release date: Feb 23

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“Perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Tomi Adeyemi, and The Hunger Games, in this riveting, keenly emotional debut fantasy, a Black teen from Houston has her world upended when she learns about her godly ancestry–and with evil sinking its claws into humans and gods alike, she’ll have to unearth the magic of her true identity to save both her worlds.”


Among Thieves by M.J. Kuhn 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: February

Cover: Yet to be Revealed

This is a queer found-family fantasy heist story “in which a team of criminals who are the best at what they do come together to pull off an impossible job and against all odds start to care about each other, all while scheming to betray each other.”


Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: March 2

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A gorgeously gothic, deeply romantic YA debut fantasy about two enemies trapped inside a crumbling mansion, with no escape from the monsters within.” According to the author, we should also expect: “pining, forbidden romance, hurt/comfort, sickly Victorian lads, macabre magic, bisexual rep. Someone also mentioned a “f/f height difference soldier/officer unrequired pining just-this-side-of hostile relationship.”


The Bright and the Pale (The Bright & the Pale Duology #1) by Jessica Rubinkowski

Release date: March 2

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Pitched as The Bear and the Nightingale meets Shadow and Bone, and inspired by Russian folklore, the story follows a orphan that has to “lead a group of cutthroats and thieves on a perilous expedition to the very mountain that claimed her family.”


A Trial of Sorcerers (A Trial of Sorcerers #1) by Elise Kova

Release date: March 4

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“Perfect for fans of The Legend of Korra, Truthwitch, and A Sorcery of Thorns, this is the first book in a young adult, epic fantasy that’s a tale of competition, coming of age, distant lands, elemental magic, and romance.”


Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson

Release date: March 9

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This is a YA gothic fantasy gender-swapped Phantom of the Opera retelling about “a young woman born with the ability to manipulate memories through song [who] must fight both against the outside world that fears her and the inner darkness that tempts her in order to save the young man she loves.”


Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: March 9

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“In this charming debut fantasy perfect for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Girls of Paper and Fire, a witch cursed to never love meets a girl hiding her own dangerous magic, and the two strike a dangerous bargain to save their queendom.” LET’S GO, SAPPHICS!


Fragile Remedy by Maria Ingrande Mora 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: March 9

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“A YA sci-fi dystopian novel that centers around 16-year-old Nate, a GEM (genetically engineered medical surrogate) who must choose to save himself or the life of the boy he loves.” Also includes, according to the author, “soft boys, friend-to-lovers, queer found family, and crying over books.”


The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: March 16

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“A magical realism reimagining of The Snow Queen, in which two teens who were sexually assaulted at the same party find their fates unexpectedly intertwined during a month of vanishing trees, enchanted pan dulce, and inherited magic.”


Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

Release date: March 23

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I’m a simple person. I hear a book is a dark, creepy reiminagining of Peter Pan set in a small town, I immediately add it to my TBR, and then I suffer waiting for its release date. Also, according to the author, it also has “haunted woods, missing kids, an evil shadown, and yearning.”


Rule of Wolves (King of Scars Duology #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Release date: March 30

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I loved King of Scars so dearly, and I can’t wait for the finale!


The Infinity Courts (The Infinity Courts #1) by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Release date: April 6

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“Pitched as Warcross meets Black Mirror, the book follows a Japanese American teen who finds herself in Infinity, a world in which the human consciousness goes after death, where she battles an AI entity posing as a queen that’s hacked its way into the afterlife with the plan to take over and control everything.”


The Prison Healer (The Prison Healer #1) by Lynette Noni

Release date: April 13

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A story about “a girl who has survived against all odds in a harsh prison by using her wits and keeping her head down, but when a dangerous prisoner arrives with a message for her, Kiva must risk her life for a bigger cause.”


Malice by Heather Walter 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: April 13

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“A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” true love is more than a simple fairy tale.”


Witches Steeped in Gold (Witches Steeped in Gold #1) by Ciannon Smart

Release date: April 20

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This is a “Caribbean-inspired fantasy debut about two witches from enemy castes–one seeking power, and one seeking revenge–who will stop at nothing to overthrow the Witch Queen, even if it means forming an alliance with each other and unleashing chaos on their island nation” and has the twisted cat-and-mouse of Killing Eve with the richly imagined fantasy world of Furyborn and Ember in the Ashes.”


These Feathered Flames (These Feathered Flames #1) by Alexandra Overy 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: April 20

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This is a queer retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale with an f/f enemie-to-lovers romance, a snarky librarian boy, court intrigue, and bears. I also remember someone on twitter describing it as Frozen but it’s the goofball sister who’s the magical lesbian and I have never been sold on something more quickly!


In Deeper Waters by F.T. Lukens 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: April 20

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“A young prince must rely on a mysterious stranger to save him when he is kidnapped during his coming-of-age tour in this swoony adventure that is The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Pirates of the Caribbean.”


Blade of Secrets (Bladesmith #1) by Tricia Levenseller

Release date: May 4

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“A teenage blacksmith with social anxiety accepts a commission from the wrong person and is forced to go on the run to protect the world from the most powerful magical sword she’s ever made.”


The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He

Release date: May 4

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“Pitched as We Were Liars meets Black Mirror, the story follows two sisters, one living on a deserted island with little memory of who she was the other fighting to save an Earth decimated by natural disasters, while believing her sister to be dead.”


In the Ravenous Dark by A.M. Strickland 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: May 18

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A pansexual bloodmage reluctantly teams up with an undead spirit to start a rebellion among the living and the dead.” It gets better: the love interest a lesbian mage, the best friend is non-binary/ace and also a mage, and there’s also a m/f/f poly relationship.


The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 1

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A queer sci-fi fantasy story in which “two teen boys from warring countries embark on a rescue mission to save a stranded astronaut, and as evidence accumulates that the ship itself might be the enemy, they race against time to uncover the truth of their existence–and learn that their love for each other might be the only way they’ll survive.”


The Witch King (The Witch King #1) by H.E. Edgmon 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 1

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“To save a fae kingdom, a trans witch must face his traumatic past and the royal fiancé he left behind.” SAY NO MORE.


Girls at the Edge of the World (Untitled #1) by Laura Brooke Robson 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 8

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“Set in a world on the edge of an apocryphal flood, the story follows the leader of a band of female elite aerialists who’s supposed to marry the prince until she meets the girl who’s supposed to kill him.”


Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 8

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I really enjoyed reading the author’s Beneath the Citadel, and when I heard she’s written a story about two Latinx sisters in a world of dragon-slayers turned enemies AND saw that gorgeous cover, I immediately added it to my TBR.


Daughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews

Release date: June 8

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Another retelling of a Greek myth! This time it’s the story of Daphne ft. enemies-to-lovers-to-enemies…


Blood Like Magic (Blood Like Magic #1) by Liselle Sambury

Release date: June 15

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Set in a near-future Toronto, this is “a rich, dark urban fantasy debut following a teen witch who is given a horrifying task: sacrificing her first love to save her family’s magic. The problem is, she’s never been in love—she’ll have to find the perfect guy before she can kill him.”


For the Wolf by Hannah F. Whitten

Release date: June 15

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“For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark, sweeping debut fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.”


Defy the Night (Defy the Night #1) by Brigid Kemmerer

Release date: Spring

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

“Set in the kingdom of Kandala, illuminating the divide between those with power and those without, as deadly plague returns and the rich have the antidote, but a rebellious girl knows the only way to save the poor is to break the kingdom from the inside out.”


Darling by K. Ancrum 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 22

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The words “post-modern, queer Peter Pan retelling by K. Ancrum” gave me a better dopamine rush than hard drugs ever will. Also, according to the author, here are some other things you can expect: bisexual Tinkerbelle, drag queens, violence and lots of crime. And things you can forget about: unchallenged romanticization of Peter with no consequences for his behavior, anti-Indigenous racism, and girls competing for Peter’s romantic attention.


Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 29

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Two girls on opposite sides of a war discover they’re fighting for a common purpose—and falling for each other—in Zoe Hana Mikuta’s high-octane debut Gearbreakers, perfect for fans of Pacific Rim, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Saga, and Marie Lu’s Legend series.


What We Devour by Linsey Miller 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: ?

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

“… about a young girl caught up in the machinations of a bloodthirsty queen, her violently oblivious son, and a magical door that demands blood sacrifices in order to keep demons from overrunning their world.” + ACE REP!


Six Crimson Cranes (Six Crimson Cranes #1) by Elizabeth Lim

Release date: July 6

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Inspired by East Asian folklore and perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo or Tomi Adeyemi, this book “centers an exiled princess who must unweave the curse that turned her brothers into cranes, assisted by her spurned betrothed, a mercurial dragon, and a paper bird brought to life by her own magic.”


The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: July 20

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Rumors say, “angry magical sapphics“. Need I say more?


A Dragonbird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert

Release date: August 3

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From the author’s twitter: “it’s about a dyslexic princess who marries a foreign king & moves to his country to hunt her sister’s assassin so she can free her family from her sister’s violent ghost.


Cazadora (Wolves of No World #2) by Romina Garber

Release date: August 17

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This is the sequel to Lobizona, a vibrant representation of Argentinian culture and folklore, complete with witches, werewolves, magical schools, and themes of immigration, misogyny, racism, police and yearning displacement.


Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: Fall

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

“In order to save her grandmother from a cult of dangerous priests, a peasant girl cursed with the power to steal souls enters a tenuous alliance with an exiled prince bent on taking back the Dragon Throne. The pair must learn to trust each other but are haunted by their pasts—and the true nature of her dark magic.”

This novel is inspired by East Asian mythology and folk tales, and is pitched for fans of classic fantasies by Tamora Pierce and the magical Asiatic setting of AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER. According to the author, we can look forward to: “100% POC cast, outcast seeking revenge, girl caught in the crossfire, adorable lesbian couple, hot dodgy priest, sad reluctant prince, family angst, political intrigue.”


Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

Release date: Fall

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

“An Ethiopian-inspired Jane Eyre retelling in which Andromeda—an unlicensed debtera—is hired to rid a castle of its dangerous curses, only to fall in love with the boy whose life hangs in the balance.”


A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: Fall

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

A queer contemporary YA fantasy about “nine magical siblings who live in a secluded house cut off from the rest of the world by a sinister forest with their enigmatic caretaker, who is grooming them for a dark and mysterious purpose.”


These Precious Stones by Michael Barakiva 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: Fall

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

“Pitched as Sailor Moon meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the contemporary YA fantasy features an eclectic group of queer and international teens who learn that they must bear the magical gems that will save the universe from an ancient galactic threat.”


Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: ?

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

“A Pacific Rim x The Handmaid’s Tale retelling of China’s only female emperor” with a polyamorous love-triangle ending!


Magic Mutant Nightmare Girl by Erin Grammar 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: ?

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

“Inspired by comic books and magical girls”, this follows the story of “eighteen-year-old bisexual, socially anxious Harajuku fashionista Holly Roads [who], when infected by blue blood that bestows destructive strength, strikes a deal with a stubborn ex-CIA prodigy: Capture the mutant his mad scientists accidentally unleashed on San Francisco in exchange for the cure for her powers.


Realm Breaker (Realm Breaker #1) by Victoria Aveyard

Release date: ?

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

“When the heroes fall, who is left to save the world? With the realm at the mercy of evil beyond comprehension, only the 17-year-ld daughter of the chosen one and her ragtag group of allies can save it.”


All of Us Villains (All of Us Villains #1) by Amanda Foody, Christine Lynn Herman 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: ?

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

The Hunger Games meets Schwab’s Villains series, All of Us Villains is “set in the city of Ilvernath, where every generation seven families compete to the death for control of high magick. While the “powerful, villainous” Lowes have won almost every tournament, this year, the victory is up for grabs as a “salacious, tell-all book” has given each of the other six champions “a means to win.””


The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: ?

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

“Set against the backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, this queer Jewish gothic fantasy follows a young immigrant, Alter, who is possessed by the dybbuk of his murdered best friend and is thrust into a deadly hunt for a serial killer.”


Untitled (Raybearer #2) by Jordan Ifueko 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: ?

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

This is the sequel to Raybearer, one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year, and all I know about it is that a sword-fight happens!!!


The Heartbreak Bakery by A.R. Capetta 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: ?

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

“in which agender teen baker Syd deals with first heartbreak by whipping up brownies—which break up everyone who eats them, including the owners of LGBTQIAP+ institution The Proud Muffin. With the help of magical baking and a cute transmasc bike messenger, Syd must save relationships and defend the bakery from disappearing in a fast-changing Austin, Texas.”


Children of the River Ghost by Alexandra Aceves 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: ?

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

“… in which 16-year-old Katie, reeling from bullying after her last relantionship, moves to New Mexico and falls for a mysterious, beautiful girl who may be the ghost La Llorona.”


Blackheart Knights by Laure Eve 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: ?

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

From author’s twitter: “it’s Camelot but in Gotham City; knights ride around on motorbikes instead of horses, in leather, with swords, because that is a world I’d like to live in; there’s magic but also electric trains and television and urban wastelands and dive bars; it’s sexy, and violent, and queer, and did I mention swords?


Castles in their Bones (Castles in their Bones #1) by Laura Sebastian

Release date: ?

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

“Trained for from birth in espionage and seduction, the triplet princesses of Bessemia must travel to three distant lands to marry three princes and enact their Queen mother’s plan to rule from sea to sea. But when they arrive, each sister discovers her task is not so simple, and their mother’s motives may not be what they seem.”


The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

Release date: ?

Cover: Yet to Be Revealed

“In the vein of Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, this unforgettable debut— inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology—follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.”


What’s YOUR most anticipated YA SFF release of 2021? Let me know! And don’t forget to keep an eye on here next week for the *drum rolls* Adult Sci-fi Fantasy Edition of this post. Spoiler alert: it’s very queer.

4 thoughts on “2021 Most Anticipated Book Releases — YA Sci-fi/Fantasy Edition

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