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Featured Review

Diverse Fantasy Young Adult Books for 2020

Many of us love a good fantasy book. The feeling of being drawn into another world where the possibilities of magic are endless and adventure abounds never fails to entertain me and over time I have read quite a few novels from the genre. Classics like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and new arrivals, such as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Throne of Glass and Red Queen are all series that we have come to love.

However, as much as I love all of these books, what people may often find missing, not only in the wider world of books, but also in the fantasy genre, is some much needed diversity. Being a young adult can often be lonely and for many this loneliness may be amplified by not seeing yourself reflected in any of the books you’re reading. So, it is important that whatever the genre, there are books and characters for everyone!

As a side note, there are already many wonderfully diverse fantasy books, however the four listed here are new ones that we can’t wait for everyone else to read as well!

1. The Good Hawk by Joseph Elliot

Published in February this year, the Good Hawk is an entirely unique fantasy novel, the likes of which I have never come across before. It follows a girl called Agatha in a mythical imagining of historical Scotland after her clan is kidnapped away from her by ruthless warriors from “Norveg”. We see Agatha embark on a dangerous mission with Jaime, the only other boy from the clan left behind to get her people back.

Although it is never explicitly stated in the book, the protagonist, Agatha, has Down’s syndrome and this is wonderfully portrayed through the author’s writing and also the other character’s behaviour towards her, whether it is Jaime’s kindness or another character’s intolerance. Both Agatha and Jaime’s character growth throughout the book makes for an incredible and heart-warming read, accompanied by a thrilling and even at times creepy plotline!

Although this book does feel aimed more at younger children, I definitely found it riveting enough for any young adult.

Recommended Reading Age: 10+

2. Havenfall by Sara Holland

You may be already familiar with Sara Holland’s name as she has already published the widely successful ‘Everless’ series, so if you loved those books, then this one is sure not to disappoint.

‘Havenfall’ is set in a modern world where every summer three different realms meet together on Earth at an inn called “Havenfall” to keep the peace between their magical kingdoms. Maddie Morrow, the protagonist, is the niece of the owner of the inn and when disaster strikes responsibility falls on her to save the peace between the three worlds from falling apart.

Once again, it is never explicitly stated that Maddie is bisexual, yet through the author’s spell-binding and nuanced writing, Sara Holland portrays an often much neglected part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Recommended Reading Age: 12+

3. The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Imagine a world where if your blood was gold, you had magic. Now imagine if that magic meant you were subject to the death mandate.

When Deka’s blood runs gold in the ritual of purity she is subject to torture by men in a world where women have no power, especially if they are “unnatural”. But when a mysterious woman arrives to recruit Deka to the king’s secret army, Deka suddenly has a way out.

Set in West Africa with a dark-skinned protagonist this book is perfect if what you’re looking for is racial diversity. The oppression of women in this hypothetical deeply patriarchal and cruel society also has an important message about empowering women and the strength that girls have (particularly when they work together!).

I must admit that the pace is slow at the start, but the incredible world-building and twist-filled plot (you won’t believe the ending) makes everything worth it. The characters were engaging and loveable and I’m already waiting eagerly for the next instalment!

Recommended Reading Age: 12+

4. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Yes, there has been enough praise heaped on this book to last enough century, but I thought since the second book has recently come out, I’d remind everyone just how amazing this story is!

“Children of Blood and Bone” and “The Gilded Ones” start off in similar ways, so if you loved one, you’re sure to love the other. They are both set in West Africa and they both follow girls with magical powers in a world where to having magic is an unforgivable flaw. Nevertheless, where the stories go from there is very different.

“Children of Blood and Bone” follows Zelie, a girl born with white hair, a sign of the magic she would have had before magic left Orisha forever. When she meets a girl in a marketplace who begs her for help, Zelie unknowingly helps smuggle the princess of Orisha out of the tyrannical king’s reach. With the princess comes invaluable information that could help bring magic back.

Riveting from the first page, this novel has everything you could want from a YA fantasy: romance, adventure, betrayal and magic. Not only are there thrilling plot twists every chapter, but there is also the deeper layer of the novel being an allegory for the oppression of black people throughout history and today. If you’re looking for a book to gobble up, this is the one.

Recommended Reading Age: 12+


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