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I Ranked Every YA Fantasy I Read in 2020 (Part II - #12-1)

12. Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova (rated 4.25 ⭐️)

Renata is a memory thief of the fallen kingdom of Memoria. She was kidnapped as a child and used by her enemies to aid in her people's downfall. Now, years later, she's returning to the enemy's castle as a spy. This novel had meticulous world building, effective atmosphere, and lots of juicy political intrigue. The pacing, however, left the story feeling like it was stumbling around bumping into things.

Read if: You've ever felt like an outsider.

11. Bone Crier's Moon by Kathryn Purdie (rated 4.25 ⭐️)

This French inspired tale takes place in a world where women known as Bone Criers must sacrifice their true loves in order to fulfill their destinies of helping souls into the afterlife. This book did a lot of elements well including friendship relationships, world building, and pacing (while being over 450 pages there's always something exciting happening). Unfortunately, there was insta-love of which I'm not a fan.

Read if: Music is your love language.

10. The Folk of Air trilogy by Holly Black (rated 4.33 ⭐️ avg.)

Human Jude has grown up in Faerie world since her parents' murders and seeks belonging and power in the faerie court. The first two books are intricately plotted with foreshadowing, interesting, morally grey characters, and lots of court politics. The second book was my highest rated of the trilogy (5 stars). Unfortunately, I found the conclusion to be the weakest link in the trilogy and gave it only 3.25 stars. That being said, the series is still absolutely worth the read.

Read if: You adore morally grey characters.

9. House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess (rated 4.5 ⭐️)

This book, which reads like a YA Game of Thrones, is about five people; Emilia (the liar), Lucian (the solider), Vespir (the servant), Ajax (the thief), and Hyperia (the murderer); who are competing to become the next emperor/empress. While the magic system was quite vague, the novel does have plenty to offer. There are dragons, games, and a colorful cast of characters.

Read when: You're feeling competitive.

8. Splinters of Scarlet by Emily Bain Murphy (rated 4.5 ⭐️)

Marit is an orphan living in 19th century Denmark. She possesses thread magic but it comes at a great cost; using too much magic can cause the user to freeze from the inside out. Marit will risk this horrific death in order to protect her adoptive little sister Eve and investigate her father's suspicious death. This novel effortlessly balances magic, Danish history, and a mystery. It has high stakes and shifting character dynamics, and is an easy read for someone who doesn't traditionally read fantasy.

Read if: You're a mystery lover trying to get into fantasy.

7. Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez (rated 4.5 ⭐️)

This Bolivian inspired tale is of a queen's best friend (Ximena) who poses as the queen to infiltrate the castle that has been taken over by an imposter king. You can tell from reading this book that the author has a lot of pride relating to her heritage. Ximena herself is a protagonist who displays tremendous growth throughout the novel. The one con is it's too fast paced, especially for a standalone.

Read if: You appreciate character growth.

6. The Blood of Stars duology by Elisabeth Lim (rated 4.625 ⭐️ avg.)

This Chinese inspired duology is about Maia who wants to be the imperial tailor and must sew dresses from the sun, moon and stars. The first book (Spin the Dawn) features an enchanting world and swoon worthy romance. The sequel (Unravel the Dusk) sees the series' selfless protagonist take a dark turn that is excellently executed.

Read if: You're a fan of Mulan and/or Project Runway.

5. Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust (rated 4.75 ⭐️)

This Persian inspired tale is the story of a princess named Soraya who has spent her entire life hidden away. She was cursed by a div (demon) to be poisonous to the touch. Soraya will do anything to break her curse, even if it means betraying the ones she loves. This novel is fast paced and will have you questioning who you can trust and just who the real monsters are. It reads like a modern day fairy tale and radiates Bashardoust's love for her culture's mythology.

Read if: You've ever felt trapped, yearning for something more.


4. The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones (5 ⭐️)

Gravedigger Ryn is desperate to protect what remains of her family and mapmaker Ellis is searching for his own long lost family. Together, the two travel into the mountains to defeat the curse returning the dead to life. This novel was creepy and unsettling but not outright terrifying. Ryn and Ellis play well off of each other and the author's take on the undead has a unique edge.

Read during: A Halloween read-a-thon.

3. Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee (5 ⭐️)

Sirscha is training to become the next royal spy. Her plans are upended when she unleashes her latent magic, discovering she's shamanborn. She now must travel to the Dead Wood to help cull the malevolent souls within. This novel had a really accessible magic system, a really creepy atmosphere, and well crafted characters. While there's no romance, the main character and her best friend Saengo are the friendship version of opposites attract.

Read with: Your best friend.

2. Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko (5 ⭐️)

Tarisai has grown up with a distant mother and a revolving door of tutors, longing for a family. Then she gets the chance to join the crown prince's council via the Ray which will bond her to him and ten other council members forever. The only catch is her mother has commanded her to kill him. This novel has a wholesome main cast and an expansive world. The plot went places I never expected (in the best ways).

Read if: You're a team player.

1. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown (5 ⭐️)

Refugee Malik must kill a princess to save his little sister from an evil spirit. Karina (the princess) searches for a way to resurrect her mother. This novel has amazing representation and the stunning world is inspired by West African mythology. The writing shows a deep understanding of anxiety and panic disorders (coming from someone who is diagnosed with both) and the crushing weight of grief.

Read if: You're looking for a fantasy with fantastic representation.

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