YA fantasy is my absolute favorite genre and has been for as long as I can remember. There's something so special about getting lost in magical worlds. It fills me with this dreaminess that I cannot replicate elsewhere. It's also the genre that I write myself and hope to one day find myself published in. Therefore, I decided to create a list for it separate from my previous best books of the year list.
1. Only a Monster by Vanessa Len
A human-monster hybrid, Joan must team up with the son of a rival monster family, Aaron, to stop a legendary human hero, Nick, from slaughtering her family. This novel is a debut gem and a promising start to a new series. It has morally grey characters with lots of layers, riveting dynamics between Joan and the two male leads, and a thrilling time traveling heist. It will have you hooked until the very end.
Logan is the daughter of the stars of a ghost hunting show who travel across the country. She finds herself in Snakebite, Oregon where she allies with local Ashley to solve the local murders. Another debut, Gould showcases her ability to effectively write an enemies-to-lovers dynamic (perhaps the trickiest of the romance tropes). She develops a supernatural mystery that leaves you spooked but keeps you reading. If you liked the TV series Supernatural (and in particular the first few seasons) then you HAVE to pick this book up. I promise you'll thank me later.
Zarela is the daughter of a legendary dragon fighter. When tragedy strikes at an anniversary show her family risks losing their status and home. She must hire an aloof dragon hunter, Arturo, to train her to take her father's place. As with Ibañez previous works this novel features a wonderful female protagonist who is stubborn and fiery but also loyal and loving. Also like her previous novels, the rich world is inspired by her Bolivian heritage. There are dragons, dancing, and a simmering romance.
4. Once Upon a Broken Heart (books 1 and 2) by Stephanie Garber
Evangeline believes her lover is under a spell when he leaves her for her stepsisters. She enlists the help of magical being (known as a Fate) named Jacks. She soon finds herself trapped in a bargain she never saw coming. These novels read like frosty fairy tales. The settings are positively enchanting and I found myself spellbound by the plot and characters. Evangeline is a sweetheart and Jacks is a bad boy, and the angst between them is painfully sweet. I ended up being the brokenhearted one (in the best way).
Clementine is both a magician and a warden, tasked with recording nightmares and, on new moon nights, battling them when they come to life. When her father's territory is stolen by two noble brothers, she disguises herself and becomes one brother's (Phelan) partner in the hopes of learning his dark secrets. The world of this novel is bright and atmospheric and the writing is full of foreshadowing (pay careful attention!). I can see this appealing to fans of Sorcery of Thorns and it also reads like a YA Game of Thrones at times. This book reminded me why I love fantasy after going through a slump with the genre.