Get Familiar With Our New YA Fantasy Obsessions Written By LGBTQ Authors + WOC, Inspired Their Cultural Heritages

We are becoming increasingly alarmed at the number of books being banned by school districts across the country, especially those that examine and portray histories that tell of racism, bigotry, genocide, cultural identity and white supremacy. It should frighten us all that in the United States today, there are states and schools wanting to shield students from learning about the world through books.

So we are vowing to do our part to push back against this ugly trend, and use our platform to promote authors books and content that don’t shy away from uncomfortable truths, and additionally, books that center marginalized voices and stories in a way that allows minorities especially to see themselves represented. Whether fiction or non-fiction, GirlTalkHQ will always remain a space dedicated to books that engage and expand our understanding of the world and different cultures.

Today we’re sharing 4 new YA fantasy books you need to add to your booklist immediately! Written by women of color and queer women, these books are sure to ignite your wildest YA fantasies in ways that you never expected.

The first is Akshaya Raman‘s ‘The Ivory Key’ (Clarion Books) which is OUT NOW. In a world where magic is a physical resource that’s running out, four estranged royal siblings must go on a treasure hunt to find a mythical key to unlock more quarries. Robin Hood meets Tomb Raider in this magical debut perfect for fans of ‘The Gilded Wolves’ and ‘We Hunt the Flame’. 

Inspired by Akshaya’s own Indian heritage, ‘The Ivory Key’ is the first book in a debut epic YA fantasy duology, introducing us to the world of Ashoka, where magic is the biggest export. 

Vira, Ronak, Kaleb, and Riya may be siblings, but they’ve never been close or even liked each other that much. Torn apart by the different paths their lives have taken, only one thing can bring them back together: the search for the Ivory Key, a thing of legend that will lead the way to a new source of magic. Magic is Ashoka’s biggest export and the only thing standing between them and war with the neighboring kingdoms—as long as their enemies don’t find out that the magic mines are nearly depleted.

The siblings all have something to gain from finding the Ivory Key, and even more to lose if they don’t. For Vira, the Ivory Key is the only way to live up to the legacy of her mother, the beloved former maharani. Ronak plans to get out of his impending political marriage by selling the Ivory Key to the highest bidder. Kaleb has been falsely accused of assassinating the former maharani, and this is the only way to clear his name. And Riya needs to prove her loyalty to the Ravens, the group of rebels that wants to take control away from the maharani and give it to the people. With each sibling harboring secrets and conflicting agendas, figuring out a way to work together may be the most difficult task of all. And in a quest this dangerous, working together is the only way to survive.

Booklist describes it like this: “Raman’s Indian-inspired fantasy debut is a dream for seekers of character-driven stories…Slow-burning romance, BIPOC and queer representation, family drama, and a country under threat of war—the first in Raman’s duology does not disappoint.” 

The second book we’re featuring is ‘The Bone Spindle’ (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers) by Leslie Vedder, OUT NOW.

The centuries-old curse of Briar Rose had always been nothing but a story to bookish treasure hunter Fi (she/her), until she pricks her finger on a bone spindle and awakens his spirit. Now she and queer ax-wielding girl warrior Shane (she/her) are stuck with him while they fight to break the curse on his kingdom. In a tale of dark magic and unreadable intentions, Fi’s biggest fear isn’t the darkness that surrounds them or the mysterious witch who’s after Shane’s heart (and heaven knows what else) –– it’s falling in love with Briar Rose. A lighthearted action-packed story filled with dark magic, ancient curses and evil exes, ‘The Bone Spindle’ utilizes the familiar elements of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ to create an intoxicating queer retelling that will steal your heart.  

Kirkus Reviews calls it “An enchanting read for fans of fairy-tale romance and girls with battle axes.”

Publisher’s Weekly describes it as “[An] action-packed, gender-flipped “Sleeping Beauty” reenvisioning.”

The third book in YA Fantasy round up is ‘This Woven Kingdom’ (Harper) by New York Times bestselling and National Book Award-nominated author Tahereh Mafi, out February 1. ‘Game of Thrones’ meets Persian mythology in this new YA fantasy trilogy as readers are transported to an intricate, absorbing world that weaves political intrigue, forbidden romance, glimmering magic, and a long-forgotten queen destined to save her people. It’s reminiscent of the revolutionary energy and enemies-to-lovers romance found in ‘An Ember in the Ashes’ and ‘Children of Blood and Bone’.

In her author’s letter in the front of the galley, Mafi notes that ‘This Woven Kingdom’ is “a work of fiction heavy with metaphor, bright with feeling, and that reflects the hybridity of my own experiences; the mélange of east and west.”

Publisher’s Weekly describes it like this: “In a heart-wrenching novel based in Islamic texts and Persian poem the Shahnameh, Mafi (An Emotion of Great Delight) complements rich worldbuilding with lushly descriptive, sensorial prose that inspires the novel’s mythological backdrop, against which plays out an emotional plot, and a tortured romance, layered with court intrigue.”

Our final book in this YA roundup is ‘A Thousand Steps Into The Night’ (Clarion Books), by New York Times-bestselling author National Book Award finalist Traci Chee, out March 1, just in time for Women’s History Month. ‘A Thousand Steps into Night’ is a Japanese-influenced tale that delves deep into the realm of Awara where gods and monsters run amuck.

Miuko has always considered herself to be nothing short of ordinary, playing the part of an innkeeper’s daughter well.  But when Miuko is befallen with a horrible curse, transforming her into a demon, that all changes in an instant. Now, she must embark on a harrowing journey to reverse the curse. Plagued by a demon Prince and a multitude of deceitful obstacles, Miuko longs to return home to her normal life –– but the power and strength that comes with her new existence just might be too tempting to walk away from. Alight with Japanese culture and vibrant adventure, readers won’t be able to put this one down. 

Tracis’ previous award-winning books include YA Fantasy ‘The Reader’, and ‘We Are Not Free’ which was met with a Printz Honor and Walter Honor.

These books have us all giddy with excitement at the thought of curling up to immerse ourselves in fantasy worlds created by these diverse authors and stories. Be sure to click on the links in each roundup and join our mission to amplify the importance of books by sharing them with your community.

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