The Sprite And The Gardener by Rii Abrego and Joe Whitt Review {Graphic Novel}

The Sprite And The Gardener by Rii Abrego and Joe Whitt

Publisher: Oni Press

Release Date: May 11, 2021

Pages: 88

Artist & Writer: Rii Abrego & Joe Whitt (Writer)

Available through Bookshop

Summary: Long, long ago, sprites were the caretakers of gardens. Every flower was grown by their hand. But when humans appeared and began growing their own gardens, the sprites’ magical talents soon became a thing of the past. When Wisteria, an ambitious, kind-hearted sprite, starts to ask questions about the way things used to be, she’ll begin to unearth her long-lost talent of gardening. But her newly honed skills might not be the welcome surprise she intends them to be. 

[Requested a review copy via the publisher]

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Sprite And The Gardener is a “gentle fantasy” graphic novel that follows a kind-hearted sprite named Wisteria who rediscovers gardening and befriends a young girl as she continues to pursue this long-lost art! The unique artwork carries this quiet, slower paced atmospheric story through its whimsy and its latter focus on community!

Every single page of this story is filled with detailed artwork that gives it a life-like, but also very whimsical quality. The gentleness is further implied through the lighter, pastel color palette of oranges, pinks, yellows, greens, and so on. Throughout this graphic novel you’ll notice how it utilizes floral imagery that’s aesthetically beautiful to look at, whether its a withering garden, a peach tree with petals, a small patch of flowers, grasses, or a garden that’s yet to bloom.

Wisteria is new to Sylvan Trace and like many who settle in a strange, unfamiliar place, is struggling to connect with her fellow sprites, feeling unsure how to form a connection. Then its through her curious nature that she discovers a withering garden belonging to a girl named Elena. Tapping into the lost art, she secretly helps by using her floral magic to let the garden grow & thrive. But will she find the confidence to share her secret with the laid-back sprites?

There’s quite a bit of lore that gets introduced early on, establishing how sprites were once responsible as the sole caretakers of all flora, but now that humans tend to their own gardens, the art slowly went away. However, the sprites still mange to inhabit towns and cities. I liked how the novel explores the idea that while sprites that secluded in their own little oasis, they still find interest in foraging or visiting places where humans live.

The gentle quality of the story allows the foundational message of teamwork to come through, slowly throughout the story as Wisteria helps Elena tend to her garden. Couple alongside the slow pace and use of minimal action, its also expressing the heartfelt importance of friendship and beauty of restoring lost art through teamwork!

While the artwork does carry the story, it can feel like the plot itself is filled with this air of mystery and not enough clarity to make it seem fully cohesive. There’s a lot of wonderful elements introduced here no doubt, but its not developed enough where for me, it felt satisfying by the end. Side characters, while beautifully illustrated to present the floral motifs, don’t feel fleshed out enough into Wisteria’s story and the lore of the sprites honestly left me with questions out of pure curiosity: If the sprites are no longer needed what do they do in a typical day & how do they utilize their “mysterious, wondrous magic”? Where did Wisteria come from previously and what led to her softspoken, curious nature?

The worldbuilding is expanded on in a few ways by establishing on the first few pages how the sprites became important to humans, the general atmosphere of the story, and seeing the different backgrounds + locations that the sprites visit. Another interesting piece of info that lends itself to speculate the future of the world, is hearing the Sprites dream jobs if they were to work with plants again! Overall, I do like the whimsical, charming quality to the world.

Artwork is just so beautiful from the style to the colors, I also enjoyed the paneling which makes the world feel really big. The paneling gives it a “manga-esque” quality to where the panel boxes aren’t all the same, there’s a good variety and I like how certain panels layer onto the background settings, making everything come to life more. However that shouldn’t be too surprising because artist Rii was inspired by her love of shojo manga.

I think the story absolutely offers lots of interesting elements here, but to me it felt like it lacked because it only ended up presenting a more “bigger picture” kind of story, instead of further developing all the different layers it introduced. That coupled with the fact that the book did feel quite short, there could have been just a bit more development.

But, I definitely recommend this if you enjoyed ‘The Tea Dragon Society’ and are looking for another quiet, slower paced fantasy story.

The Sprite & The Gardener is a wonderfully illustrated graphic novel that tells a story of of friendship and teamwork! Despite selective exploration of this unique world, the well-utilized floral artwork, inspiring messages and charming storytelling, make this a pleasant slice of life fantasy read!

Oculta by Maya Motayne Review

Oculta by Maya Motayne (The Nocturna Trilogy #2)

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Epic Reads)

Release Date: April 6, 2021

Pages: 448

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop

Cover Artist: Mark van Leeuwen

Summary: After joining forces to save Castallan from an ancient magical evil, Alfie and Finn haven’t seen each other in months. Alfie is finally ready to take on the mantle of crown prince. His first task: preparing for the peace talks with Castallan’s former colonizers, the nation of Englass.

But when the summit coincides with the reemergence of Los Toros, the mysterious syndicate of assassins responsible for Alfie’s brother’s death, and Finn’s unexpected installation as one of the four Thief Lords of Castallan, the two must reunite to discover the hidden link between these events—before it’s too late. 

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Oculta succeeds as a sequel in so many ways! Not only does it dive deep into the idea of legacy, but also balances it’s page-turning story among the politics and intrigue, while wasting no time to elaborate even more on the unique magic system. But the foundation of the story really is about Alfie and Finn’s own personal journeys, including their own relationship throughout this intense continuation.

If you didn’t know, Nocturna is such a special YA for me because its one of the first Latine epic fantasy series I’d ever read! Seeing Latinx (specifically Dominican) culture represented in this genre means so much to me, also as an aspiring writer myself. I fell in love with Alfie and Finn’s journey, which although ends on a bittersweet note I without a doubt, was eagerly awaiting their reunion. Now 2 years later, the sequel is finally here and wow are there a myriad of thoughts to share!

Set about 4 months after the end of Nocturna, Prince Alfie is taking on more responsibility as the future king and attempting to atone for his mistakes and the effects Sombra’s magic left on many of Castallan’s people. Feeling a guilt weigh heavy on him, he attempts to live up to his brother’ Dez’s legacy as he’s also grappling with his own dilemma: trying to reconnect with his magic again as it’s slowly begun to reject him.

On the other hand, Face-changing thief Finn has been traveling and spending time away from San Cristobal. But when a mysterious organization attacks her, she quickly finds her way back to Castallan to warn Alfie. She also finds herself with a new position as Thief Lord, bringing her both annoyance and help along the way when Los Toros resurface, threatening the international Peace Summit between Castallan and Englass. Soon, Alfie and Finn are once again reunited to solve the case before its too late, especially as Los Toros begin assassinating and instilling fear across San Cristobal!

This is a sequel that not only captivated me as it showed Motayne’s strength as a writer as she tied together so many elements to her fantasy world, but also showed how those layers build on each other in such impactful ways. One of those ways is how the Peace Summit allows for us to get an even deeper look into the setting we were just introduced to in book one. Not just the Dominican-inspired setting, but the magic system, the inner politics of the royals and Castallans’ people, each of these and much more are taken to new heights through the brilliant plotting and structure of the novel.

The plot is such a page-turner! As Alfie and Finn are attempting to piece together the mystery I loved how the story unfolded, how personal each POV felt and just being immersed in this magical world again! The writing shows the humor, secrecy, adventure, and intrigue that build across every chapter. This book is in one word: Cinematic. Not once did I ever feel pulled out of the story, each roadblock or question our trio encounters leads from one adventure to the next as they try to figure out why Los Toros are so preoccupied with the summit. It not delves into themes of legacy, family, but also destiny in a way and

Having followed Alfie and Finn on their journey through Nocturna to now seeing that they’ve spent time apart up until their reunion (which had me sobbing), we understand they are now cemented into the roles they’ve been growing into their whole lives. However, despite their duties pulling them in opposite directions, there’s something keeping them together and while I won’t spoil, the way Motayne establishes their dynamic (slowburn romance) and GROWTH is so exceptionally crafted. There’s a roughness to our witty thief Finn and she learns throughout this novel to confront her feelings, as does Alfie. Alfie and Finn deserve the biggest hugs after this book tbh…one of the highlights was seeing them face their vulnerabilities along the way.

The magic of Propios expands a bit as well, which is super fun and for me, was unexpected. I like how Motayne showed the magic system evolve overtime through the use of Finn’s face-changing abilities. Showing the evolution to her own powers, in a way, symbolized her struggle with trying to keep Ignacio’s ghost out of her head while attempting to avoid going down a similar path, the more her magic grew. Finn’s arc is truly about her overcoming trauma and yet she’s still her snarky, comedic self, I loved that being a thing at every moment of her journey.

Now we cannot forget Luka, Alfie’s cousin who is undergoing his own arc in this story as well. Feeling a deep sense of survivor’s guilt following Sombra’s attacks, he has his own secrets too, but despite it he and Alfie learn to build their dynamic even more, counting on each other to be by their side. The addition of his POV was such a brilliant move for this story! We already know so much about him, but I liked getting into the more hidden depths of his character.

Aside from characters, the other biggest strength of this novel lies in the worldbuilding. Because we are already familiar with the city’s rings, the various quests around San Cristobal cements you into the setting that much more because we as readers are transported to different pockets of the city, making it that much more immersive. With the Summit well underway as Alfie is balancing the various events throughout the week while also traveling across the city with Finn and Luka, there’s lots of opportunity for us to dig deeper into the setting and see it come to life. As Finn tries to find more clues as well when the Toros assassinations begin too, we see how both sides paint a clearer picture to the social divide between the city’s rings.

What Oculta also does which is unique for YA Fantasy is how it tackles conversation around colonization and the consequences of it since its established in the first book that Castallan was colonized in the past. With Castallan’s magic being influenced by language, it shows the important stakes of the summit since Englass still uses a caste system to block certain people from their magic based on status. The discussions around colonization, even systematic oppression are given a lot of focus, especially seen from Alfie’s POV as he and his family try to establish conversation with the Englass royals.

There’s also quite a few new characters too from the introduction of Rodrigo, Emeraude, and Elian, Thief Lords just like Finn. Including the Englass royals such as Prince Marsden, Princess Vesper and a servant named James who befriends Luka and the others along the way. There’s lots of new characters and *secrets along the way!

Some of my favorite scenes include the various events of the Summit (it was such a creative plot point), honestly any scene with Alfie and Finn together, the Alfie, Finn, and Luka trio, the adventures around the city, basically the whole plot. This sequel was SO FANTASTIC! Not only is it the world, but its our main characters, their vibrant personalities and meaningful journeys that make this book an impactful read from beginning to end. I fell in love with these characters even more, if that’s even possible?? The ending is just, WOW I need book 3 how will I wait??

The only reason I’m being so vague in this review is because its a sequel and I think its best to experience this amazing read for yourself. But let me just say this is a phenomenal continuation to the series, so if you love these characters and the world, the magic, and adventure, it gets even better here! It ends as a great sequel should, leaving you wanting to know what happens next.

Oculta succeeds as a political, character-driven sequel in the Nocturna trilogy! With its fantastic storytelling, further development to the world and magic system, in addition to the heart-wrenching journeys of our cast. Filled to the brim with intrigue, adventure, captivating plot threads that will leave you wanting to know more, this is a truly brilliant read!

Down Comes The Night by Allison Saft Review

Down Comes The Night by Allison Saft

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Pages: 388

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop

Cover Artist (Jacket Design): Olga Grlic

Summary: He saw the darkness in her magic. She saw the magic in his darkness.

Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself.

The mansion is crumbling, icy winds haunt the caved-in halls, and her eccentric host forbids her from leaving her room after dark. Worse, Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria and her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, but the secrets in the estate may lead to both of their deaths.

With sinister forces at work, Wren and Hal realize they’ll have to join together if they have any hope of saving their kingdoms. But as Wren circles closer to the nefarious truth behind Hal’s illness, they realize they have no escape from the monsters within the mansion. All they have is each other, and a startling desire that could be their downfall.

My Rating: ★★★

My Thoughts: Down Comes The Night is an atmospheric gothic YA debut that melds fantasy with a bit of horror and suspense! Through an intriguing world, science-based magic system, including an intriguing romance at its center, Saft delivers a solid standalone filled with twists, mystery, and an immersive world that comes to life!

While I’m not one to often gush about anticipated releases on the blog, DCTN was absolutely one of them! I luckily got an ARC early in the year and was captivated by the setting. The aesthetics of this novel build such a distinct atmosphere, world, and I just had to learn more about this intriguing cast of characters.

Wren Southerland is a healer of the Queen’s guard and from the very beginning of the story it’s made clear that her strength lies in her emotional, empathetic nature, which makes her journey as a protagonist not only relatable to me, but also quite interesting. She’s not on the best terms with her aunt, Queen Isabel and is on very thin ice after letting a possible suspect go early on in the novel, which could have been a clue to the whereabouts of her missing friend Jacob Byers.

After her dismissal, she receives a mysterious letter from a noble by the name of Alistair Lowry who’s in need of her skills to heal an ill servant of his. In exchange, he’ll offer Wren assistance in brokering peace between the warring kingdoms of Danu and Vesria, while also restoring her reputation. What Wren isn’t expecting is the servant “Henry” to be none other than, Hal Cavendish, “Reaper Of Vesria” and her kingdom’s sworn enemy.

As she stays in the eerie Colwick Hall to complete her work, she learns along the way that Hal is not all he appears to be and there’s something sinister about the desolate mansion. They are both eager to find comrades who’ve gone missing and perhaps together, they can find answers?

The worldbuilding has a unique set-up which is established in such a way where the setting feels lived in, expansive, and left me wanting to know more. Danu and Vesria are countries that rely heavily on magic, compared to the neutral region of Cernos which relies more heavily on technology-based innovations. There’s a clear dichotomy Saft explored through the magic system and politics, which add yet another interesting layer to the world. With a science-based magic system, the introduction to the fola, or the special vein that allows people such as Wren to tap into their magical abilities, is an integral part of the world that’s explored through both Wren and Hal.

In a world with magic, I appreciated how Saft also delved into this distinction between countries that either rely heavily on magic or 19th century technology. Through a 3rd person perspective the writing creates an atmospheric, dark. ominous tone with an equally cozy ambience. The imagery and Saft’s writing style deliver the aesthetic so well. In addition, the medical terminology adds even more to the atmosphere of the story, especially as it’s reflective of Wren’s skill as a healer.

As Wren makes herself at home within Colwick for the time being, she learns that the Reaper isn’t all he appears to be. The dynamic and chemistry between these two was my FAVORITE, despite being from opposing sides they are left on even ground with the crumbling mansion and wintery atmosphere, isolating them. This leads them to uncover more about each other, realizing there’s a lot they never really knew about one another or their countries. Wren / Hal each have their own goals, ambitions, and motivations, that propel them to grow throughout the novel.

Each character comes to life on the page and they have their own distinct personalities giving you a clear sense as to who they are. Una is Wren’s commanding officer, but also her friend and former love, there’s so much history, story, etc. between them that despite spending quite some time apart, their relationship really stood out to me. However at times certain characters can feel a bit static (in my opinion I felt this way with Queen Isabel), especially when their motivations don’t feel too fleshed out…but as a whole this is pretty well-developed cast. Wren’s dynamics with the cast overall were given enough interactions to the point where I knew them and enjoyed their arcs: Una, the Queen, Lowry, Sister Heloise, etc.

Throughout the novel, Wren is led to believe her emotions are what make her weaker, she is driven by them at every turn. However, I appreciate how Saft built this as her own personal strength. I’d say I’m a pretty emotional and the way Saft explored this as a constant through Wren’s character, presenting it as a core spirit to her character was satisfying to read about, especially in fantasy. Wren’s character arc to me felt incredibly well developed and satisfying, she grows along the way, but also stays true to her self, especially when it comes to her emotions. Una is driven by her loyalty to the kingdom, but underneath you can also tell she still worries for Wren, despite the obstacles along the way.

Interestingly despite being pitched as an enemies-to-lovers romance, I felt the execution didn’t work. Both Wren and Hal are given preconceptions about one another, their countries, etc. to the point where once they actually meet in person, there’s more of a hesitancy to their conversations than any solid antagonistic feelings between them. They do have meaningful conversations, challenge one another, and find that their love inspires growth within them, so with that said, I personally felt the enemies-to-lovers element wasn’t the best descriptor here, in my opinion.

Additionally, together the politics, magic system, mystery, character arcs, worldbuilding, and more combine so incredibly well, however looking back on each element on its own separately, it felt like more detail or development could have made them a bit stronger.

Overall there’s lots of elements woven throughout this book that I enjoyed and perhaps at a later date I hope to dive into them a bit more.

Down Comes The Night is a promising gothic fantasy debut that’s immersive, atmospheric, and packed with many different layers sure to keep you intrigued! Saft’s YA Fantasy is perfect for those who love a good fantasy with romance, and are looking for a solid standalone!

I’m shouting out fellow book blogger Cossette from Tea Time Lit and her review of this intriguing debut! In the short time I’ve known Cossette, I can tell you she is passionate about this novel, from the lush writing to Wren’s fantastic character arc, all of it! She loved this world, its characters and her review constantly reminds me of the stand out elements that Saft has weaved together. If you have yet to read this and need a motivator to pick it up, READ Cossette’s post!

Beyond The Clouds Vol. 1 by Nicke {Manga Review}

Beyond The Clouds Vol. 1 by Nicke (BTC #1)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: February 11, 2020

Pages: 212

Available Through The Book Depository and Bookshop

Summary: Living beneath the haze of Yellow Town, young Theo has never seen the stars. He works as a mechanic and spends his off hours digging through the town’s trash heap for abandoned treasures. He’s always had the soul of a dreamer, but he’s given up on living the kind of fantastical life he’s read about in books.

Then, one day, he finds an amnesiac, injured girl with wings, and everything changes. Theo’s talents help fix her wing, and their quest will take them beyond the clouds, farther than either could have imagined.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Beyond The Clouds is a fantastical, steampunk manga following Theo, a young mechanic, yearning for adventure, as he embarks on a journey after finding an amnesiac girl with wings. Through artwork that evokes the style of watercolor and delightful storytelling, this is truly a magical start to a new series!

Some hangs heavy over the dream-like city in Beyond The Clouds and young Theo grew up learning that there was a particular kind of magic in books, filled with fantastical stories that could allow him to go anywhere — and within him, that yearning for adventure is still there. As a mechanic at Chikuwa’s repair shop, he always makes time to inspect the junkyard and discover treasures. However, what he isn’t expecting is to find a girl with wings who has no memory of who she is and where she’s from, thus the adventure begins.

As Theo and Mia begin their delightful friendship, he always makes it a point to mention that Mia’s sorrow and loneliness is something he knows all too well. So he takes in upon himself to help erase her fears with the power of a good story. Their friendship was an absolute highlight of this first installment and although there is more to the dynamic I hope gets explored, Theo’s kind heart helps both him and Mia in ways I wasn’t expecting.

Through its slice-of-life atmosphere Nicke pulls you into Theo’s daily routine as a mechanic, running errands, digging for lost treasures, and his adept skills to help Mia adjust to having lost a wing and her memory. Mia and Theo’s friendship is the foundation for intense scenes woven throughout volume 1 from the explanation of Mia’s unique shadow powers and Theo’s quest to find a special medicine for her later on. I think those emotions propel the story in ways so unexpected, but much appreciated.

When I first discovered this manga through the GORGEOUS cover, it’s natural to assume the story within will be equally whimsical, with an imaginative, dream-like quality to it, but what I got was something much more. While this volume is a really broad stroke introducing an intricate, steampunk world it also leaves you with a sense of nostalgia for stories that’ve left you feeling that any fantastical world is possible.

Nicke’s artwork is presented with a light, sketchy quality to it leaving readers enchanted at the scope of the world we’ve barely scratched the surface of. No matter what page you turn to, there’s a feeling of wonder that just never leaves you, the more you follow the adorable duo. The detailed panel frames and artwork that exist outside the confines of the panel boxing was also reminiscent of Kamome Shirahama’s style, which is one of my favorites. The cover also reflects the sheer beauty of the watercolor style in a rainbow of colors.

Mixing the soft, sketch-like art and underlying whimsy of the plot conjures the feeling of reading a beloved fairytale, or reminiscing on a childhood story. The way Nicke wondrously succeeds in leaving readers with this indescribable feeling of nostalgia and wonder is in one word, magical.

The world is established with much detailed about the creatures (anthros and hybrids), but also an even more magical forest outside of Yellow Town filled with fairies and unique plants. The backgrounds really cement you into the steampunk/fairytale setting as well.

While all these elements work so incredibly well to establish a rich world, it felt like there wasn’t enough time to explore or take it in. We are sort of thrust into the setting which is a beautiful backdrop for sure that I would have loved to learn more about from the customs, locations, and world as a whole. Driven by its plot, I do hope to discover more about the world and all the minute details established here, in future volumes.

Beyond The Clouds is a quiet, magical story filled with stunning artwork, unique characters, while also establishing a compelling, spellbinding world through a plot that will leave readers with a sense of nostalgia, whimsy, and adventure!

Storm The Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells Review

Storm The Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells_Review

Storm The Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells (Shatter The Sky #2)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Release Date: October 13, 2020

Pages: 368

Available through Bookshop & The Book Depository

Cover Artist: Chloë Foglia (Designer) and Olivier Ponsonnet (illustrator)

Summary: Let them burn.

Maren’s world was shattered when her girlfriend, Kaia, was abducted by the Aurati. After a daring rescue, they’ve finally been reunited, but Maren’s life is still in pieces: Kaia seems more like a stranger than the lover Maren knew back home; Naava, the mother of all dragons, has retreated into seclusion to recover from her wounds, leaving Maren at a loss on how to set the rest of the dragons free; and worst of all, her friend Sev has been captured by the emperor’s Talons.

As a prisoner of Zefed, Sev finds himself entangled in a treacherous game of court politics. With more people joining the rebellion, whispers of a rogue dragon mistress spreading, and escape seeming less likely with each passing day, Sev knows that it won’t be long before the emperor decides to make an example of him. If he’s to survive, he’ll have to strike first—or hope Maren reaches him in time.

With the final battle for Zefed looming, Maren must set aside her fears, draw upon all she’s learned about her dragon-touched abilities, and face her destiny once and for all. But when the fighting is over and the smoke clears, who will be left standing?

[Read an ARC: which I received unsolicited from the publisher]

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Storm The Earth is a character-driven conclusion to the Shatter The Sky duology! When Maren is eager to free the dragons of her nation, she also embarks on a journey to rescue a friend whose been taken prisoner. With political intrigue, additional layers to the world building, and well-rounded character arcs, this is a quiet YA fantasy adventure worth reading!

Early last year, I read a surprising debut that I personally feel went under the radar. Although I truly don’t talk about this series enough, Shatter The Sky easily became one of my new favorite books. If you have yet to read Wells’ book it can essentially be pitched as an “angry bisexual/dragon” novel.

The first novel follows Maren, a girl who lives in the quiet mountain nation of Ilvera and whose girlfriend gets taken by Aurati, seers of the empire. So, as she devises a plan to rescue Kaia, she believes the only thing she can do is steal the emperor’s beloved dragons and search for her. When her journey takes her to a stronghold, she goes undercover as an aromatory apprentice, learning more about dragons, her nation’s deeply rooted link to them, and perhaps her own special connection.

Now that Maren and Kaia are reunited with the great dragon Naava by their side, she’s hoping to uncover a lot more about her unique abilities of being able to communicate with dragons and her mysterious Dragon dreams. With Sev (who is actually a prince leading an undercover rebellion) having become prisoner by the emperor, Maren is unsure of where he could possibly be. So, while the Emperor is devising a plan to destroy the brewing rebellion, take control of the dragons, and bring an end to Maren’s plans, Sev hopes she won’t be too late. Then to make matters even more interesting, Naava decides to leave and recover, leaving Maren to discover how she’ll free the dragons on her own and determine what the dragons’ fates will be when she breaks their hold from the Emperor’s Talons’…to join her or be free.

The worldbuilding in this sequel for me, was excellent, which is where STS faltered just slightly. However what this sequel does exceedingly well is delving more into those different layers from the various nations, political ties, and how both the lore and history of dragons fit into all of it! While taking place across the Zefedi empire from Maren’s POV, her travels detail more of the location, neighboring towns, and the world feels even more grounded. While from Sev’s POV there is a much clearer picture to the tyrannical rule of Rafael and his empire.

What both Maren and Sev’s POVs offer to expand on this rich world that Wells has established are elements of economic class division, hierarchy of the court, even the Emperor’s Talons and the dragon’s forced to work for them.

I felt that telling this story from a dual perspective truly was a brilliant move on Wells’s part because at its core, this story is propelled by its compelling cast of characters, especially our main protagonists. They are each learning more about themselves and how the world is shaping them at every step. Maren and Sev both had equally strong arcs and I genuinely loved following them in this finale, seeing how their stories intertwine added a new layer to this already phenomenal series.

An interesting twist is how Maren has taken up the role as the “Chosen One” / Hero, where Kaia has become much more reluctant like Maren was at the beginning of her own journey. While it can seem like “miscommunication” is a big factor in their surprisingly uneasy dynamic, Well’s naturally explored a relationship that is shifting, changing, and left adrift. It felt quite realistic and with the focus on characters, it made perfect sense with how Maren’s journey develops by the end.

As Maren continues on her journey she also learns whether she can take up the role of “Dragon Empress” the world so desperately needs. Sev is the last remaining royal of his family after they were murdered some years ago. With Rafael knowing more about Sev’s work with the Dragon’s, his rebel group, he knows he won’t let him escape so easily. While under the Emperor’s control and influence, Sev becomes forced to face trials that make him rethink his own power as a leader while it slowly crumbles away through torture and being coerced into making innocent people suffer for Rafael’s own image.

My only complaint is that I felt there could have been a couple more plot threads, mainly across Sev’s POV because he is essentially just stuck waiting for a way to escape. There’s his Aurati watcher named Faris and Neve also makes a return, which was very exciting as she was another one of my favorite characters, plus Sev’s childhood crush Piera. I enjoyed their character arcs a lot, but again I just wish they had a bit more page-time because they were so interesting [Especially Neve, who is on the verge of demotion after what happened with Maren in Book 1!]. The pacing can feel a bit slow, but with how the building conflict adds more tension to the story, I didn’t mind so much the further I read.

Again, the new characters we’re introduced to were so well developed and despite only just meeting them in the finale, their arcs really felt complete by the end of the book. Also, the intense action scenes (especially near the end) were SO GOOD! Actually, those scenes in particular were probably some of the best I’ve read in fantasy in quite a bit. Well’s detail to movement whether it was a confrontation with a Talon, dragon, etc., were described in a neat way where I never really felt lost while reading them.

Shatter The Sky and especially this sequel also is focused on presenting Queer rep. in this fantasy world. I love how Well’s navigated Queer relationships in her world. It’s nice to see typical romantic tropes or established relationships through the lens of a normalized queer fantasy setting. In addition to the bisexual rep. there’s a character who uses they/them pronouns, and there’s also a sapphic relationship.

Once I reached the end, I was overjoyed at where the main characters journeys had ended and truthfully I’m still feeling a bit sad at saying goodbye to this amazing world. If anything Storm The Earth left me wanting to know so much more. Maren, Sev, Kaia, the little dragon Tasia, Tovin, Efren, Neve, Faris, etc. were such intriguing characters and really captured my heart throughout the story, leading up to the end!

Shatter The Sky was definitely a unique reading experience and this surprisingly quick duology, really took me on a journey. These books are in my eyes truly under the radar. Its such a great series worth checking out, highly recommend them if you are looking for Queer fantasy, more YA duologies, dragons, or just eager to read a story set in a distinct world!

Storm The Earth closes the chapter on the Shatter The Sky duology following a reluctant hero who learns to lead a rebellion. From a layered world that gets explored even more, stunning cast of characters, dragon lore, politics, and much more, this is truly a YA Fantasy duology worth the read!

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 7 by Kamome Shirahama {Manga Review}

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 7 by Kamome Shirahama (Witch Hat Atelier #7)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Pages: 176

Available Through The Book Depository and Bookshop

Summary: As the new trial comes to an end, one of Coco’s rewards from Beldaruit the Wise is the story of Qifrey’s past and how he came to desire the mysteries of magic. Feeling a connection with her own desire to save her mother, Coco departs for the source of all answers: the Tower Of Tomes. But it is a perilous journey to make on her own, and the secrets held within could sway even the most virtuous of witches…

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Witch Hat Atelier is a profound masterpiece in the making and each volume is proof of it! With breathtaking artwork, thoughtful messages, and a compelling story delving deeper into my favorite character Qifrey, Shirahama has crafted something truly special! Volume 7 reveals that the true magic lies not just within the epic fantasy world, but it’s deeply profound cast of characters. This series captivates with every installment!

Shirahama’s Witch Hat has swiftly cemented itself as a beloved series in my eyes, no matter what adventure befalls Coco, her fellow apprentices, alongside master’s Qifrey and Olruggio. Witch Hat Atelier reads like a love letter to good fantasy stories― the whimsy, and magic continue within each volume.

Volume 7 is everything you want from a sequel or continuation, the poetic exploration of characters pasts, heroes facing trials, plus a myriad of twists and secrets that leave you unable to put the book down for a second.

It opens up on a deeply metaphorical backstory to who could probably be best described as my “comfort character” Qifrey and his best friend Olruggio when they were young apprentice magicians discussing opposing elements: fire and water. Olruggio teaches him there is power in embracing what scares you and knowing those fears can help you to rest easier.

Now back in the present at the Great Hall after Qifrey has healed, the two childhood friends delve more into Qifrey’s mysterious past involving his memories, his (missing) eye, and much more. While elsewhere, Coco learns more about master Qifrey from Beldaruit, leaving her fearful of the future if her current magic can’t provide the answers she’s looking for.

Filled with nothing but dread and uneasiness, Coco is convinced she can find what she needs to save her mother in the Tower Of Tomes and runs away. However, at the same time Olruggio continues his much needed chat which reveals more to Qifrey’s obsession with locating the Brimmed Caps and how it relates to Coco.

As the group reunites and a monster close by, Qifrey reminds her how far she’s come and there is always a solution. Being the true teacher he is, he offers his young apprentice a choice…allowing her to choose whether to pursue the cryptic tower or return home, instead she chooses a different way leading her straight towards Qifrey. That was easily one of the most heartfelt moments in this surprisingly dark installment because, Coco is eager to learn more about magic and this scene is a reminder of how she wants Qifrey at her side, every step of the way, enthusiastic to keep on improving her skills no matter how long it takes. What she’s learned, the friends she’s made, and the adventures still ahead keep her anchored, allowing her to shake off any temptation to use dark magic, even if seems like the quicker solution.

With Beldaruit being Qifrey’s former master, he also learns how much he’s grown into a teacher and wonders whether he will be wise to not tear down the home he’s built for himself and his apprentices.

The last chapter though, WOW it kept me on edge. Never has Shirahama delved so deeply into the intricate past of a character like Qifrey in previous volumes. It was filled with so much pain, tension, surprise…I still cannot believe what I just read. Although I adore all of the characters in this series, Qifrey has a special place in my heart. Learning more about the lengths he’s willing to go to to protect his past and defend his future (both for himself, friends, and students) you feel for him, but also left so shaken.

Reading Qifrey’s past, being buried alive by certain magicians, losing his memories, and his former role in the rise of dark magic, Shirahama handles his story with so much care, but isn’t afraid to show us the sinister thread he still faithfully clings to making him one intriguing character I cannot wait to learn more about.

At its core though, this volume reflected on such profound themes like that of family, home, and where home truly is. As the Great Witch Beldaruit mentioned, “the mighty Silverwood, it is said, it only takes root in places it knows it will find true comfort…” (105). Much like Qifrey, the atelier is his home and despite his insistence on finding the Brimmed Caps, Beldaruit hopes he will make the wise choice in not tearing it all down.

There’s even a deeply explored concept that’s made evidently clear in this volume, that magic can be seen as both a kind of hope and despair. Coco is naïve and enthusiastic to learn everything there is to know, where Qifrey has experienced the more hostile sides of magic, both ideas co-exist and are fundamental to the superb magic system that’s been introduced thus far.

As with each volume, the story is elevated by the expert artwork. The varying shapes of panels guide the pace of the action scenes so perfectly. The specific focus to backgrounds and set details, heighten the focus of scenes as well. For example on page 21, when Beldaruit reflects on finding a younger Qifrey being buried, the page specifically splits him from the magicians with the lid of a casket acting as a divide between the scenes. Or another one of my favorite types of paneling involves Shirahama’s use of a scene as she breaks it out of a traditional panel square, it adds dimension and focus to the specific elements, which is always fantastic.

Despite Volume 7 most likely tied with 1 as my favorite in the series thus far, I did have an interesting critique once I reread this in preparation of my review. Olruggio’s side chapter in the Hall as he’s tasked with helping a royal in preparation for a banquet, in my opinion, would have fit much better in a different volume. Although it delves into a lot of great elements like introducing me to Heihart and Jujy, history surrounding the pairing of monarchs and witches, plus details into the dynamic of masters and apprentices, I believe this chapter ultimately broke up the pacing of the Qifrey-focused story.

Above all though, I truly enjoyed how there was such a character-focus to this volume, intriguing backstory, new characters as well. However, while there are quite a few dark moments in this volume, it left on a hopeful note hinting at a fun new adventure awaiting the witches of the atelier.

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 7 is a stellar installment in Shirahama’s brilliant series! From the detailed artwork, charming cast of characters, and compelling story that gets even more interesting, this series is something truly special. This series slowly unravels the deep mysteries of a phenomenal character. Each volume, as always, leaves you eager to see what happens next!

March TBR: Prioritizing ARCs and Backlist Books

Hello everyone, it’s been quite a while since I’ve shared any kind of TBR list on this blog, but I’ve been feeling inspired to chat more about the books that’ve interested me and that I’m been eager to read.

I struggle with creating TBRs because I’ve realized over the past year, I would definitely say that my reading habits have transformed me into more of a “mood reader.” I’ve also been feeling a lot more motivated to create content on the blog besides reviews and hopefully these kinds of posts will help me stick to some kind of monthly schedule.

I’d love to chat about all the books I’m hoping to get to this month and would love to hear about what your reading plans are too! So here’s my ambitious TBR over the next couple weeks:

March TBR (Current Reads)

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

Debut #OwnVoices Puerto-Rican rep.YA ContemporaryReleased: Feb. 2, 2021
I first received this book as an ARC, but of course with my reading schedule being all over the place, I haven’t gotten to finishing this one quite yet. But I’ll be honest…2021 has made me reflect on the importance of taking time to read a book and not just rushing through, which is exactly why it’s taken me a bit longer to finish up Maldonado’s book.

Overall, I’m loving Charlie’s journey in this as she learns to have a better relationship with her body, navigate love, and improve her relationship with her mom. Maldonado has written Charlie in such a realistic way, her narrative voice is interwoven with humor and heart, plus there’s such a great cast of characters! If you have yet to add this phenomenal debut to your To-read list, I highly recommend it!

Down Comes The Night by Allison Saft

Debut Bisexual rep. YA Fantasy Released: March 2, 2021

In addition to my current interest in dark academia, perhaps I should also add gothic literature to the list? Following a healer named Wren, she takes a job at a crumbling manor where she learns she’ll have to heal her kingdom’s sworn enemy! The writing is so atmospheric, I’m also just so intrigued by the setting and characters. This is another book I’m taking my time with because not only am I reading way too many things at once, but also really want to immerse myself in the magical world.

Hoping to finish this one soon, I also made an aesthetic which was lots of fun!

March TBR (Unread)

Storm The Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells (Shatter The Sky #2)

Sequel Bisexual & Sapphic rep.YA FantasyReleased: Oct. 13, 2020

Last year around early 2020 I finally read Well’s Shatter The Sky and fell in love with it. Maren is on a quest to rescue her girlfriend Kaia whose taken by prophetic seers of their empire. When Maren comes up with a plan to find a dragon to go look for her, she gets tangled up in the politics and intrigue, even makes new friends when she enters undercover in the empire’s stronghold. There’s a lot of dragon lore, interesting characters, and a unique world I’m eager to learn more about in the sequel.

I’m eager to see how Maren’s journey wraps-up especially as there’s a few plot threads that surprised me near the end. Originally I got an arc of this one, so I’m debating whether to read my arc or just borrow a library copy.

Satoko And Nada Vol. 4 by Yupechika

FinaleJapanese & Saudi-Arabian rep.ContemporaryReleased: Dec. 29, 2020

I’ve gotten quite into the habit of starting a lot of manga series, but never finishing them. However, with only 4 volumes, Satoko & Nada captured my heart each and every time. This series follows exchange students Satoko (Japanese) and Nada (Saudi-Arabian) who become roommates and the best of friends! Across each volume, you follow their daily adventures, featuring a very slice-of-life atmosphere that’s just too wholesome!

I’m literally sobbing because this will be the last volume, but trust the author to deliver a wonderful conclusion to their adventures in America. I might be putting this one to the side for a bit, because I’m so not ready to say goodbye to these characters just yet.

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Debut#Ownvoices Black Rep.YA ContemporaryReleased: Jan. 5, 2021

After getting through Charlie Vega so far, I realized I’m also in such a contemporary romance/rom-com mood! Tessa, a dedicated writer, gets into a creative writing program, but along the way loses that spark. So with her friend Caroline, they create a romance novel-inspired list of steps to help Tessa get inspiration through a real-life love story of her own.

This just sounds like a super fun read and I’m interested in seeing what Tessa learns along the way.

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore

StandalonePan & Latinx rep. (#OwnVoices)YA Magical Realism & Fairytale retellingReleases: March 16, 2021

If you didn’t know, Anna-Marie is one of my all-time favorite authors!! They write the most beautiful Latinx fairytales and of course it’s no surprise I’d be reading their newest novel. It looks like this novel will deeply explore healing and as always, McLemore delivers such a wonderfully developed cast of characters, delves into many themes, and much more!

Also got an arc of this one, so hopefully I can get to reading it during March and share my review!

Content warning: PTSD and SA

The Unbroken by C.L. Clark (Magic Of The Lost #1)

DebutSapphic rep Epic FantasyReleases: March 23, 2021

Earlier this month I got a copy of The Unbroken! 2021 is the year I’m looking to read and catchup on adult sff/ epic fantasy, so I’m adding Clark’s debut to the list to hopefully motivate me to get through the newer releases.

The story sounds great as its set in a North-African inspired desert colony/empire. There’s even a grumpy soldier / princess dynamic and I’m so fascinated in immersing myself in this epic world.

What have you read during the month of March? Any recommendations or new releases you’re looking forward to?

The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent Vol. 1 by Yuka Tachibana {Manga Review}

The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent Vol. 1 by Yuka Tachibana, Fujiazuki (artist), and Yasuyuki Syuri (character design)

Publisher: Seven Seas

Release Date: December 8, 2020

Pages: 180

Available: The Book Depository & Bookshop

Summary: Unlimited Power and Infinite Mercy

Living the workaholic life in her mid-20s, Sei never expected she’d be summoned to another world, let alone obtain the power of a living Saint. And she especially didn’t expect to be totally ignored by the locals! While the kingdom desperately needs a hero, it turns out Sei was just the backup option.

Left alone, she explores her newfound powers at the royal Research Institute, unraveling the mysteries of magic potions. As she helps the sick and the dying, her talents reveal themselves. Might Sei be the Saint this world needs after all?

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent is an isekai series that follows Sei Nakanashi, a workaholic in her 20’s who gets transported to a fantasy kingdom during a saint summoning ritual, only to be left as the back-up option! She decides to make use of her time crafting potions and improving her talents along the way. Propelled by a charming cast of characters, this is a quiet fantasy manga worth reading!

From the moment I’d read the summary, I knew this isekai would captivate me!! I’m starting to fall in love with these kinds of stories where the mc’s are transported to other worlds, so the fact that this follows someone who possibly gains the abilities of a saint?? How could I not read this!

Sei is very much upset when she is one of two people summoned, only to be completely ignored by the prince with Aria (the other girl) being accepted as the saint. However why was the ritual performed to begin with? Well it turns out that Saints have special abilities to defeat monsters created by miasma, an almost odor or air that makes them form. So, it seems the kingdom is in desperate need of help.

However instead of letting time pass her by, Sei meets Jude in the royal gardens and with her fascination of medicinal herbs, he teaches her more about plants within the kingdom of Salutania and invites her to the Medicinal Flora Research Institute! She decides to stay there for the time being, learning to make potions and even practice magic! As the months pass also she realizes her unique abilities in crafting potions makes them 50x’s more powerful!

Throughout the manga she uses the knowledge gains in potion-making, applying it other areas of her life from cooking to creating beauty products, and even gets a chance to showcase how powerful they are when the kingdom’s knights are attacked. When her special potion even miraculously saves the commander, Albert Hawke, she finds purpose in seeing her work help other people.

The cast of characters truly make this story shine, the dynamics are exactly what you would expect, but its just done in a way where there’s an unexplainable charm. Jude is the supportive best friend teaching Sei everything about potions and Institute, then there’s Director Johan who is there to help when necessary, but also has a *somewhat of a secrecy to him as he’s asked to report anything regarding Sei’s powerful magic to the prime minister. Jude, Johan, the knights, Commander Albert, and her new library friend Liz all recognize her unique talents. There’s just such a nice camaraderie between everyone and it’s wonderful getting to follow Sei’s journey in carving out a space for herself in this new place.

Despite being set in a high-stakes fantasy world, its a very quiet slice of life type of fantasy, which I really appreciate. There’s something about these kinds of stories that just captivate me every time.

Sei is a wonderful protagonist! Although she doesn’t have much experience when it comes to romance and was always focused on work back in Japan, she uses that drive to pursue a new hobby and make friends! By the end however, she realizes she’s still focused on working, so it’s nice to see lots of reflection on why focusing on yourself is so important. Overall it’s fantastic seeing an isekai heroine in her 20’s, with the spotlight on learning more about her own interests. She really is such a relatable main character!

This manga strikes a splendid balance between the great pacing, focus on the magical research, sincerity to the characters, briefly hinting at larger themes many can relate to (putting work or business obligations over oneself), and presenting a delightful story / world you just want to stay immersed in. Such a great escapist fantasy!

There’s also little hints sprinkled in throughout the story that never explicitly state whether she is the true hero or not, however once you reach the end you begin to wonder: Could she be the real saint after all?

I’m so interested in seeing what Sei’s adventure is next and especially as her abilities continue to improve, also the subtle romance with Commander Hawke…the cutest!! Although I love the friendship dynamic with Jude too??

The art style presented such a distinct choice of paneling that highlighted the characters, pacing, and backgrounds really well. Also the FASHION? Seriously Sei’s dress is so pretty. There’s such a unique presentation of the outfits the characters wear, I just want their fancy jackets and dresses in my wardrobe now! But overall, the art’s strength was definitely shown through the character dynamics and expressions.

Overall, there’s nothing I particularly disliked, I guess this just sits at a 4-star rating for me. If anything, perhaps just more details about the world because it’s quite brief in the beginning, although I love the inclusion of research and apothecary in this fantasy setting. Maybe there could have also been a bit more background on the elements of potion-making and potions in general because it was just a lot of fun to learn about!

There’s also an anime adaptation coming later this year and I am just so excited!! 2021 is really the year I’m trying to get back into anime and the wait is getting tough for me…This story is so full of mystery, charm, magic, and that quiet slice-of-life atmosphere that is a very specific niche love of mine, so its no surprise I’m eagerly awaiting the adaptation, add in the magical cooking, potion making, and subtle hints at romance?? The excitement is real

The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent is fantastic introduction to a new isekai series! Featuring a slice of life atmosphere, potions, and great character dynamics, the story hints at more magical adventures to come!

Cover Reveal: Melody Of Astronomical Dusk by Miri Castor

24hr.YABookBlog is delighted to share the cover for the third novel in Miri Castor’s Opal Charm Series. This self-published Young Adult Fantasy series follows a Black teen named Opal from New York who learns of an alternate world and her own magical abilities. As this discovery soon propels her to try and save both worlds, she faces many hardships along the way. However, at its core, the series is about family, friendship and strengthening those bonds!

When Miri reached out to me about revealing this cover, I was overjoyed in taking part! It’s no surprise that I’m always looking to discover new YA novels and especially indie books. After discovering Castor’s series just last year, I’ve been eager to start it and it’s exciting getting to share the forthcoming novel with all of you!


Opal Charm is in desperate need of a vacation. A trip to her grandmother’s place in the sunny town of Marisol offers tranquility and distance from recent chaotic events in Dewdrop. But Marisol brings a whole new set of mysteries about Opal’s family, including the original Twilight wielder Philomenos.  

Meanwhile, Samael Serkhan’s influence grows quickly across the alternate world of Athre. Lies, secrets, and heartache spread with Samael’s power, threatening to sever Opal’s ties with JAEL and family once and for all. With Twilight and family bonds, Opal must stop those trapped under Samael’s control from a self-destructing madness that can engulf both her worlds.

Opal Charm: Melody Of Astronomical Dusk by is set to be released April 2, 2021!

Cover Artist and Illustrator: Piere d’Arterie // Credits: Castor Press and Miri Castor

You can pre-order the novel through Amazon or add the series to your Goodreads!

Opal is a Black bi girl who is learning to grow alongside her family and friends over the course of the series. Set in the bustling suburb of Dewdrop, she meets a new friend named Hope Adaire and life slowly begins to change. She’s unveiling truths, finding her own path, and better understanding her own superpowers.

The Path To Dawn‘ is the first novel and was the launch of the series back in February of 2016. In addition to the two novels in the series thus far, there’s also a prequel novel which follows Opal’s brother Jermaine. Castor plans to conclude the Opal’s adventures with a fourth book in the series currently being written.

About Miri Castor: She spent many recesses in middle school writing fantasy stories, with Opal Charm being one of many. She has written for Black Girl Magic Literary Magazine and was featured as a Spotlight New Author in 2016. After attending a university on the East Coast, she studied biochemistry and received her B.S. in 2016. A New York native, Miri enjoys playing video games, attending music concerts, and strolling through the city. 

Find Miri Castor on: WebsiteAmazonTwitterTumblrFacebook

Have you heard of the Opal Charm Series? What are your thoughts on this cover? 🔥✨

2021 YA Books From Authors of Color to Add To Your TBR!

It’s no surprise that as we near the end of 2020, us avid readers are already prepping our 2021 TBRs! With the new year right around the corner, its the perfect time to start gushing about the phenomenal books being released by authors of color.

Support these authors, their books, and let’s celebrate them together! This list will feature debuts, new series, standalones, etc. As always my post will feature a mix of contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi, magical realism, historical fiction, and more!

While release dates and covers for some of these have yet to be finalized, I really wanted to get these books on your radar because I definitely think they need more buzz!! Join me in discussing and gushing about these reads from AOC’s we are getting so very soon.

Enjoy today’s list and let me know if your looking forward to these Young Adult releases as well or have more recommendations of your own! 📚✨

1.Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Available through The Book Depository & Bookshop
Release Date: January 5, 2021

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Tessa Johnson has never felt like the protagonist in her own life. She’s rarely seen herself reflected in the pages of the romance novels she loves. The only place she’s a true leading lady is in her own writing—in the swoony love stories she shares only with Caroline, her best friend and #1 devoted reader.

When Tessa is accepted into the creative writing program of a prestigious art school, she’s excited to finally let her stories shine. But when she goes to her first workshop, the words are just…gone. Fortunately, Caroline has a solution: Tessa just needs to find some inspiration in a real-life love story of her own. And she’s ready with a list of romance novel-inspired steps to a happily ever after. Nico, the brooding artist who looks like he walked out of one of Tessa’s stories, is cast as the perfect Prince Charming.

But as Tessa checks off each item off Caroline’s list, she gets further and further away from herself. She risks losing everything she cares about—including the surprising bond she develops with sweet Sam, who lives across the street. She’s well on her way to having her own real-life love story, but is it the one she wants, after all?

2. One Of The Good Ones by Maika and Maritza Moulite

Available Through Bookshop & The Book Depository
Release Date: January 5, 2021

Summary: When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.

One of the good ones.

Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again. 

The Hate U Give meets Get Out in this honest and powerful exploration of prejudice in the stunning novel from sister-writer duo Maika and Maritza Moulite, authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.

3. Roman & Jewel by Dana L. Davis

Summary: If Romeo and Juliet got the Hamilton treatment…who would play the leads? This vividly funny, honest, and charming romantic novel by Dana L. Davis is the story of a girl who thinks she has what it takes…and the world thinks so, too.

Jerzie Jhames will do anything to land the lead role in Broadway’s hottest new show, Roman and Jewel, a Romeo and Juliet inspired hip-hopera featuring a diverse cast and modern twists on the play. But her hopes are crushed when she learns mega-star Cinny won the lead…and Jerzie is her understudy.

Falling for male lead Zeppelin Reid is a terrible idea–especially once Jerzie learns Cinny wants him for herself. Star-crossed love always ends badly. But when a video of Jerzie and Zepp practicing goes viral and the entire world weighs in on who should play Jewel, Jerzie learns that while the price of fame is high, friendship, family, and love are priceless. 

4. Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink

Available Through Bookshop & The Book Depository
Release Date: January 12, 2021

Summary: A historical YA novel that takes place during the Greenwood Massacre of 1921, in an area of Tulsa, OK, known as the Black Wall Street.

Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Wilson is, on the surface, a town troublemaker, but is hiding that he is an avid reader and secret poet, never leaving home without his journal. A passionate follower of WEB. Du Bois, he believes that black people should rise up to claim their place as equals.

Sixteen-year-old Angel Hill is a loner, mostly disregarded by her peers as a goody-goody. Her father is dying, and her family’s financial situation is in turmoil. Also, as a loyal follower of Booker T. Washington, she believes, through education and tolerance, that black people should rise slowly and without forced conflict.

Though they’ve attended the same schools, Isaiah never noticed Angel as anything but a dorky, Bible toting church girl. Then their English teacher offers them a job on her mobile library, a three-wheel, two-seater bike. Angel can’t turn down the money and Isaiah is soon eager to be in such close quarters with Angel every afternoon.

But life changes on May 31, 1921 when a vicious white mob storms the community of Greenwood, leaving the town destroyed and thousands of residents displaced. Only then, Isaiah, Angel, and their peers realize who their real enemies are.

5. Rise Of The Red Hand by Olivia Chadha (The Mechanists #1)

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop
Release Date: January 19, 2021

Summary: A rare, searing portrayal of the future of climate change in South Asia. A streetrat turned revolutionary and the disillusioned hacker son of a politician try to take down a ruthlessly technocratic government that sacrifices its poorest citizens to build its utopia.

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. 

6. Wings Of Ebony by J. Elle (WOE #1)

Available Through Bookshop & Barnes & Noble
Release Date: January 26, 2020

Summary: In this riveting, keenly emotional debut fantasy, a Black teen from Houston has her world upended when she learns about her godly ancestry–and with evil sinking its claws into humans and gods alike, she’ll have to unearth the magic of her true identity to save both her worlds.

“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.

7. Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop
Release Date: February 2, 2021

Summary: Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard.
Harder when your whole life is on fire, though.

Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.

People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.

But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.

8. Like Home by Louisa Onomé

Available Through Bookshop & The Book Depository
Release Date: February 23, 2021

Summary: Fans of Netflix’s On My Block, In the Heights, and readers of Elizabeth Acevedo and Ibi Zoboi will love this debut novel about a girl whose life is turned upside down after one local act of vandalism throws her relationships and even her neighborhood into turmoil.

Chinelo, or Nelo as her best friend Kate calls her, is all about her neighborhood Ginger East. She loves its chill vibe, ride-or-die sense of community, and her memories of growing up there. Ginger East isn’t what it used to be, though. After a deadly incident at the local arcade, all her closest friends moved away, except for Kate. But as long as they have each other, Nelo’s good.

Only, Kate’s parents’ corner store is vandalized, leaving Nelo shaken to her core. The police and the media are quick to point fingers, and soon more of the outside world descends on Ginger East with promises to “fix” it. Suddenly, Nelo finds herself in the middle of a drama unfolding on a national scale.

Worse yet, Kate is acting strange. She’s pushing Nelo away at the exact moment they need each other most. Nelo’s entire world is morphing into something she hates, and she must figure out how to get things back on track or risk losing everything⁠—and everyone⁠—she loves.

9. The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore

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Release Date: March 16, 2021

Summary: When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown.

Graciela Cristales’s whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.

But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depends on no one finding out what really happened.

10. The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky

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Release Date: April 13, 2021

Summary: New girl Rachel Chavez is eager to make a fresh start at Manchester Prep. But as one of the few scholarship kids, Rachel struggles to fit in, and when she gets caught up in a prank gone awry, she ends up with more enemies than friends.

To her surprise, however, the prank attracts the attention of the Mary Shelley Club, a secret club of students with one objective: come up with the scariest prank to orchestrate real fear. But as the pranks escalate, the competition turns cutthroat and takes on a life of its own.

When the tables are turned and someone targets the club itself, Rachel must track down the real-life monster in their midst . . . even if it means finally confronting the dark secrets from her past.

11. The Forest Of Stolen Girls by June Hur

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Summary: After her father vanishes while investigating the disappearance of 13 young women, a teen returns to her secretive hometown to pick up the trail in this second YA historical mystery from the author of The Silence of Bones.

Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.

To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.

12. Witches Steeped In Gold by Ciannon Smart (WSIG #1)

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Release Date:

Summary: Divided by their castes. United by their vengeance.

Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom—and vengeance.

Jazmyne is the queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.

Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain—except the lengths they will go to win this game.

13. The Other Side Of Perfect by Mariko Turk

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Release Date: May 11, 2021

Summary: Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but one terrifying fall shatters her leg–and her dreams of a professional ballet career along with it. 

After a summer healing (translation: eating vast amounts of Cool Ranch Doritos and binging ballet videos on YouTube), she is forced to trade her pre-professional dance classes for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the school musical. However, rehearsals offer more than she expected–namely Jude, her annoyingly attractive cast mate she just might be falling for. 

But to move forward, Alina must make peace with her past and face the racism she had grown to accept in the dance industry. She wonders what it means to yearn for ballet–something so beautiful, yet so broken. And as broken as she feels, can she ever open her heart to someone else? 

Touching, romantic, and peppered with humor, this debut novel explores the tenuousness of perfectionism, the possibilities of change, and the importance of raising your voice.

14. Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi (Perfectly Parvin #1)

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Release Date: May 18, 2021

Summary:  Fourteen-year-old Iranian-American Parvin Mohammadi sets out to win the ultimate date to homecoming in this heartfelt and outright hilarious debut.

Parvin has just had her heart broken when she meets the cutest boy at her new high school, Matty Fumero–with an emphasis on fumero, because he might be the smoking hot cure to all of her boy troubles. If Parvin can get Matty to ask her to homecoming, she’s positive it will erase all the awful and embarrassing feelings He Who Will Not Be Named left her with after the summer. The only problem is Matty is definitely too cool for bassoon-playing, frizzy-haired, Cheeto-eating Parvin. Since being herself has not worked for her in the past (see aforementioned relationship), she decides that to be the girl who finally gets the guy, she should start acting like the women in her favorite rom-coms. Those girls aren’t loud, they certainly don’t cackle when they laugh, and they smile much more than they talk. Easy enough, right?

But as Parvin struggles through her parent-mandated Farsi lessons on the weekends, a budding friendship with a boy she can’t help but be her unfiltered self with, and dealing with the ramifications of the Muslim Ban on her family in Iran, she realizes that being herself might just be the perfect thing after all.

15. Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

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Release Date: May 25, 2021

Summary: Crazy Rich Asians meets The Princess Diaries in this irresistible story about Izumi, a Japanese-American girl who discovers her senior year of high school that she’s really a princess of Japan.

Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity…and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.

In a whirlwind, Izzy travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.

Izzy soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairytale, happily ever after?

16. Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria

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Release Date: June 8, 2021

Summary: Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else.

Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.

Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to the mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, the sisters will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.

17. Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta

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Release Date: June 29, 2021

Summary: Two girls on opposite sides of a war discover they’re fighting for a common purpose—and falling for each other—in Zoe Hana Mikuta’s high-octane debut Gearbreakers, perfect for fans of Pacific Rim, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Saga, and Marie Lu’s Legend series.

We went past praying to deities and started to build them instead...

The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.

Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.

As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer—as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more…

18. A Beautiful Doom by Laura Pohl (Grimrose Girls #1)

Available Through Bookshop & The Book Depository
Release Date: August 3, 2021

Summary: Four troubled friends, One murdered girl… and a dark fate that may leave them all doomed.

After the mysterious death of their best friend, Ella, Yuki, and Rory are the talk of their elite school, Grimrose Académie. The police ruled it a suicide, but the trio are determined to find out what really happened.

When Nani Eszes arrives as their newest roommate, it sets into motion a series of events they couldn’t have imagined. As the girls retrace their friend’s last steps, they uncover dark secrets about themselves and their destinies, discovering they’re all cursed to repeat the brutal and gruesome endings to their stories until they can break the cycle.

This contemporary take on classic fairytales reimagines heroines as friends attending the same school. While investigating the murder of their best friend, they uncover connections to their ancient fairytale curses and attempt to forge their own fate before it’s too late.

Words can’t explain all my joy & anticipation for all the wonderful upcoming books! Although these are just some of the many POC-authored books I’m eagerly waiting for, I hope you enjoyed this list! 💜📚✨

Which 2021 YA releases from AOCs are on your TBR? 😍📚✨