I come bearing gifts of great reading! Here’s a comprehensive guide to young adult speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror) being published in January 2021. Up first is a short list of the books I highly recommend, followed by a long list of basically every book being published.
Get your library cards and indie bookstore pre-orders ready, y’all.
January 19, 2021
Rise of the Red Hand by Olivia Chadha (The Mechanists #1)
“The South Asian Province is split in two. Uplanders lead luxurious lives inside a climate-controlled biodome, dependent on technology and gene therapy to keep them healthy and youthful forever. Outside, the poor and forgotten scrape by with discarded black-market robotics, a society of poverty-stricken cyborgs struggling to survive in slums threatened by rising sea levels, unbreathable air, and deadly superbugs.
Ashiva works for the Red Hand, an underground network of revolutionaries fighting the government, which is run by a merciless computer algorithm that dictates every citizen’s fate. She’s a smuggler with the best robotic arm and cybernetic enhancements the slums can offer, and her cargo includes the most vulnerable of the city’s abandoned children.
When Ashiva crosses paths with the brilliant hacker Riz-Ali, a privileged Uplander who finds himself embroiled in the Red Hand’s dangerous activities, they uncover a horrifying conspiracy that the government will do anything to bury. From armed guardians kidnapping children to massive robots flattening the slums, to a pandemic that threatens to sweep through the city like wildfire, Ashiva and Riz-Ali will have to put aside their differences in order to fight the system and save the communities they love from destruction.” – Swoon Reads
We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal (Sands of Arawiya #2)
“The battle on Sharr is over. The Arz has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan Altair set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of Old to the minarets of each caliphate, finally bringing magic to all of Arawiya. But they are low on resources and allies alike, and the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night’s return.
As the zumra plots to overthrow Arawiya’s darkest threat, Nasir fights to command the magic in his blood. He must learn to hone his power, to wield it against not only the Lion but his father as well, trapped under the Lion’s control. Zafira battles a very different darkness festering in her through her bond with the Jawarat–it hums with voices, pushing her to the brink of sanity and to the edge of a chaos she dares not unleash. In spite of everything, Zafira and Nasir find themselves falling into a love they can’t stand to lose…But time is running out, and if order is to be restored, drastic sacrifices will have to be made.” – Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
January 26, 2021
Shadow City by Francesca Flores (City of Steel and Diamonds #2)
“Aina Solís has fought her way to the top of criminal ranks in the city of Kosín by wresting control of an assassin empire owned by her old boss, Kohl. She never has to fear losing her home and returning to life on the streets again–except Kohl, the man who tried to ruin her life, will do anything to get his empire back. Aina sets out to kill him before he can kill her.
But Alsane Bautix, the old army general who was banned from his seat in the government after Aina revealed his corruption, is working to take back power by destroying anyone who stands in his way. With a new civil war on the horizon and all their lives at risk, the only way for Aina to protect her home is to join up with the only other criminal more notorious than her: Kohl himself.
As Bautix’s attacks increase, Aina and Kohl work together to stop his incoming weapons shipments and his plans to take back the Tower of Steel. To defeat them both, Aina will resort to betrayal, poison, and a deadly type of magic that hasn’t been used in years.
Through narrow alleys, across train rooftops, and deep in the city’s tunnels, Aina and Kohl will test each other’s strengths and limits, each of them knowing that once Bautix is dead, they’ll still have to face each other. If she manages to kill him, she’ll finally have the freedom she wants–but it might forever mark her as his shadow in a city where only the strongest survive.” – Wednesday Books
Wings of Ebony by J. Elle (Wings of Ebony #1)
“”Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon–a hidden island of magic wielders.
Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.
Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon–an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.” – Denene Millner Books
Written in Starlight by Isabel Ibañez (Woven in Moonlight #2)
“Catalina Quiroga is a condesa without a country. She’s lost the Inkasisa throne, the loyalty of her people, and her best friend. Banished to the perilous Yanu Jungle, Catalina knows her chances of survival are slim, but that won’t stop her from trying to escape. Her duty is to rule.
While running for her life, Catalina is rescued by Manuel, the son of her former general, who has spent years searching for allies. With his help, Catalina could find the city of gold that’s home to the fierce Illari people and strike a deal with them for an army to retake her throne.
But the elusive Illari are fighting a battle of their own–a mysterious blight is corrupting the jungle, laying waste to everything they hold dear. As a seer, Catalina should be able to help, but her ability to read the future in the stars is as feeble as her survival instincts. While on her journey, Catalina must reckon with her duty and her heart to find her true calling, which is key to stopping the corruption before it destroys the jungle completely.” – Page Street Kids
Other January Titles
January 5, 2021
Crown of Bones by A.K. Wilder
“In a world on the brink of the next Great Dying, no amount of training can prepare us for what is to come…” – Entangled: Teen
The Ever After by Amanda Hocking (The Omte Origins #3)
“But opening the bridge will unleash a menagerie of monstrous creatures upon Earth that will consume everything in their path. Knowing she may lose Pan Soriano, the love of her life, Ulla nevertheless gathers an army of Trylle to stand with her and defend humanity as well as her own kind. And it is Ulla’s very heritage that holds the key to victory.” – Wednesday Books
Lore by Alexandra Bracken
“The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and a way to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to rejoin the hunt, binding her fate to Athena’s, will come at a deadly cost-and it may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.” – Disney-Hyperion
Siege of Rage and Ruin by Django Wexler (The Wells of Sorcery Trilogy #3)
“Neither Isoka’s mastery of combat magic, nor Tori’s proficiency with mind control, could have prepared them for the feelings their reunion surfaces. But they’re soon drawn back into the rebels’ fight to free the city that almost killed them.” – Tor Teen
January 12, 2021
Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer
“Deep in the wood lives a witch queen and her eight tree siren daughters. For centuries, they have harvested souls to feed the heartless tree, using its power to grow their ever reaching kingdom of ash, birch, and oak.” – Page Street Kids
Soul of Cinder by Bree Barton (Heart of Thorns #3)
“Prince Quin has returned to the river kingdom, ready to spearhead a rebellion and reclaim the throne…Across the four kingdoms, the elements have been tipped askew. Volcanoes erupt, glaciers collapse, and cities sink into the western sands. After losing Angie, Mia and Pilar journey to the glass kingdom to seek help, though soon their fragile bonds of sisterhood begin to fray.” – Katherine Tegen Books
Tales From the Hinterland by Melissa Albert (The Hazel Wood #2.5)
“Journey into the Hinterland, a brutal and beautiful world where a young woman spends a night with Death, brides are wed to a mysterious house in the trees, and an enchantress is killed twice–and still lives.” – Flatiron Books
January 19, 2021
Cast in Firelight by Dana Swift (Wickery #1)
“Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery’s fate is in the hands of rivals..? Fiancées..? Partners..? Whatever they are, it’s complicated and bound for greatness or destruction.” – Delacorte Press
A Complicated Love Story Set in Space by Shaun David Hutchinson
“When Noa closes his eyes on Earth and wakes up on a spaceship called Qriosity just as it’s about to explode, he’s pretty sure things can’t get much weirder. Boy is he wrong.” – Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Wench by Maxine Kaplan
“But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name–dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her.” – Amulet Books
Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore (Graceling Realm #4)
“Meanwhile, in Winterkeep, Lovisa Cavenda waits and watches, a fire inside her that is always hungry. The teenage daughter of two powerful politicians, she is the key to unlocking everything–but only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.” – Dial Books
January 26, 2021
City of Villains by Estelle Laure
“This dark and edgy YA series explores the reimagined origins of Maleficent, Ursula, Captain Hook, and other infamous Disney Villains like you’ve never seen before.” – Disney-Hyperion
Don’t Tell a Soul by Kirsten Miller
“The terrifying reality is that the Dead Girls may have never left the manor. And if Bram looks too hard into the town’s haunted past, she might not either.” – Delacorte Press
Time Travel for Love and Profit by Sarah Lariviere
“Nephele is also a whip-smart lover of math and science, so she makes a plan. Step one: invent time travel. Step two: go back in time, have a do-over of 9th grade, crack the code on making friends and become beloved and popular.” – Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Unchosen by Katharyn Blair
“She’ll have to break free, forge new bonds, and choose her own destiny if she has any hope of saving her sisters, her love, and maybe even the world. Because sometimes the end is just a new beginning.” – Katherine Tegen Books
A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer (Cursebreaker #3)
“As the two kingdoms come closer to conflict, loyalties are tested, love is threatened, and an old enemy resurfaces who could destroy them all, in this stunning conclusion to bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.” – Bloomsbury YA
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