Young Adult Fantasy by Black Authors
by Rashael Apuya, Teen Services Librarian
I am a long-time fan of fantasy books. When I was about 10 years old, I picked up “Artemis Fowl” by Eoin Colfer and fell in love with magical stories. From there, I devoured modern classic fantasies like “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Stardust” by Neil Gaiman, and the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. Because these stories are full of magic and mythical creatures, I never recognized or questioned the lack of diversity of their human characters. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized I hadn’t read any fantasy books with a main character who wasn’t white or a magical creature. Similarly, I couldn’t recall reading any fantasy books by Black authors.
Fantasy is one of the most popular subgenres in Young Adult (YA) fiction. In recent years, there have been more Black authors getting published in YA. There has been a much-needed influx of realistic fiction, romance, and nonfiction books starring Black characters. Fantasy is slowly becoming more diverse, but there is still a lot of progress to be made. Black authors are historically underrepresented in fantasy for all ages, so it is important for publishers, librarians, and book stores to promote their work. As Black History Month ends, I’d like to highlight some new YA books by Black authors – and encourage you to learn about, support, and enjoy works by Black authors year-round.
Inspired by West African folklore, “A Song of Wraiths and Ruin” by Roseanne A. Brown tells the story of Malik and Karina. Malik wants to escape his war-torn home and find a new life for his family. When one of his sisters is kidnapped by a vengeful spirit, he makes a deal to kill the Crown Princess in exchange for his sister’s freedom. Karina, the Crown Princess, needs the heart of a king to bring her recently assassinated mother back to life with ancient magic. She decides to offer her hand in marriage to the winner of the Solstasia competition, so that she can kill him. When Malik enters the contest, their paths are set to collide. This August you can anticipate the sequel to this story, “A Psalm of Storms and Silence!”
“Legendborn” by Tracy Deonn is a contemporary fantasy about 16-year-old Bree Matthews, who recently lost her mother in a car accident. To get away, she does a residential program for bright high school students at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her first night there, she witnesses a magical attack and is introduced to a secret society, Legendborn, that hunts demons. Legendborn members claim to be descendants of King Arthur and his knights, and warn that there is a magical war coming.
Looking for a diverse demi-god story? “Wings of Ebony” by J. Elle follows Rue, who is taken from Houston by her father after her mother is killed, leaving her younger sister behind. She is the only half-human, half-god on Ghizon, a hidden island full of gods with magical powers who thrive on human suffering. Rue breaks a sacred rule on Ghizon by leaving to try and reunite with her sister, and finds that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. Rue needs to find her true identity and her powers to save her neighborhood before it is destroyed by the gods.
“A Song Below Water” by Bethany C. Morrow is a modern siren story about Tavia, who has always had to hide her identity and powers. Luckily, she has her best friend, Effie, by her side as they navigate family, crushes, and being high school juniors in Portland. Everything changes when the aftermath of a siren murder trial rips through the nation. Now, Effie is being haunted by literal demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally reveals her siren voice in front of the police. Suddenly, Portland isn’t safe anymore, and the girls have to save themselves from drowning. Look out for the sequel, “A Chorus Rises,” coming out this June!
Find these titles and more at the Manhattan Public Library!
The Manhattan Public Library also has fantasy books in our children’s and adult collections. If you’d like personalized book recommendations, you can fill out a request at https://www.mhklibrary.org/personalized-reading-list-2/