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    18 Epic Fantasy Books Starring Magical Black Leads

    The cover reveal for Redemptor, the sequel to Raybearer, is here — along with 18 more magical fantasy book recommendations you need to read!

    It’s an empirical fact that crowns, fairies, and Afros go together. Peer reviewed studies (conducted by me) have concluded that melanin and gold velvet are natural allies. But there’s a problem — until recently, almost every book involving magic was hella Eurocentric, despite the countless mythologies and imaginative traditions of African and Black diaspora peoples.

    Luckily, my New York Times bestselling novel Raybearer joined the long-needed influx of magic Black stories last year. The sequel, Redemptor, comes out August 17 — and I'm beyond thrilled to reveal the cover:

    ABRAMS

    Fairies with Afros? Check. Teen Black heroine single-handedly taking on an empire with sinister secrets? Check. Royalty plotting the downfall of the Underworld while eating fried plantain? I mean, obviously.

    But according to the aforementioned peer studies, the appropriate amount of Black fantasy words is always *more.* So, here are 17 more titles to hold you over until Redemptor hits the world’s bookshelves.

    1. Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

    Bloomsbury

    There is a Black girl with natural hair in a ballgown on this cover, which means that I bought it instantly and without thinking, as though in a fugue state, with no memory of how my credit card ended up on the bookstore counter. Once I regained self-awareness, I found myself holding a riveting retelling of the Cinderella myth, in which girls are forced to attend a ball for marriage, with a queer heroine willing to topple patriarchal systems. 10/10 fugue state purchase, would recommend.

    Get it from Bookshop.

    2. The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

    Delacorte Press

    Holee-crap, I have never been less surprised to find out that a book got optioned for a movie (days after its release, by the way). Often described as “the Dora Milaje version of The Handmaid’s Tale,” this richly-imagined military fantasy follows a heroine who matures before your eyes, beginning as a faithful acolyte of her deeply patriarchal surroundings, and growing into a revolutionary, determined to upend that same world.

    Get it from Bookshop.

    3. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin and A Psalm of Storms and Silence by Roseanne A. Brown

    Balzer & Bray/Harperteen

    Okay, I have never shipped two awkward teenagers in a fantasy kingdom harder than I’ve shipped the two main characters in this Afrofantasy epic, described as “Aladdin and Jasmine meet, but secretly plan to kill each other.” Plus the male lead has an anxiety disorder, which is both endearing and respectfully depicted as a true mental illness. I couldn’t get enough of this book. Which is fortunate, because THERE'S A SEQUEL! This book isn’t even out yet, but you can just sense the chemistry sizzling off the page. Do they want to kiss? Do they want to stab each other? Roseanne A. Brown’s answer to this question is “Why not both?” I need this book in my eyeballs, stat.

    Get them from Bookshop.

    4. Given by Nandi Taylor

    Wattpad Books

    There are two things you need to know about this gorgeously detailed book, and they are 1) the heroine has to deal with a dragon who wants to marry her, and 2) it involves beautiful descriptions of natural Black hair, so…why haven’t you read it?

    Get it from Bookshop.

    5. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

    Orbit

    Not only does this fantasy epic contain thorough world building, but it features my favorite kind of lore: god systems. And not just with any gods, a dysfunctional family of gods, one of which enslaved his soulmate to humans. I can’t even begin to scratch the surface of how amazing this book is, but luckily there’s a sequel! (And another sequel — and a novella). The Broken Kingdoms is actually my favorite book in this series, and that’s saying something because they’re all mesmerizing. This book has a badass blind female protagonist and a slow burn human-god romance. Need I say more?

    Get them from Bookshop.

    6. The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

    Freeform

    Most of y’all will have heard of this one by now, but if you haven’t, hasten to your favorite indie bookstore and get reading. It’s a fantasy duology about magical beauticians set in a world featuring palaces and evil princesses and teacup dragons. Like, I needest not-est say more.

    Get them from Bookshop.

    7. Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

    Rick Riordan Presents

    I gush about this middle grade epic every single chance I get. Seriously, if I’d had it as a kid, it would’ve been a game changer. Imagine Chronicles of Narnia, but with African and Black American mythologies instead of British imperialism. Plus, it’s chock-full of laugh-out-loud humor, as well as thoughtful explorations of a Black teen boy dealing with grief. I wish this series was 10 books long (but I think we only get four).

    Get it from Bookshop.

    8. Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

    Wednesday Books

    I can’t really talk about this fall-release book without making squealy noises, so here’s what I said about it on Instagram a while back: Within These Wicked Walls is an indulgently gothic fairy tale, comparable in mastery with Mexican Gothic and Jane Eyre. An intricate magic system, a grimly humorous Black heroine, AND a heart-thumping romance? This book leaves nothing wanting.

    Get it from Bookshop.

    9. Winter by Marissa Meyer

    Feiwel & Friends

    This is the final book in Marissa Meyer’s breakneck-paced Lunar Chronicles series (read the others first!), and it follows the journey of my favorite member of the Lunar cast: Princess Winter. I fell in love with her instantly because she reminds me of myself: an absent minded, whimsically feminine Black girl with an uncanny habit of speaking in riddles and singing to herself. She’s also secretly empowered with the ability to control people with her mind, but she refuses to use her abilities out of sheer kindness. I rarely see Black girls portrayed as delicate, empathetic characters that others want to cuddle, and so Princess Winter will always hold a special place in my heart.

    Get it from Bookshop.

    10. A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

    Tor Teen

    Black mermaids in Portland. Black mermaids in Portland! *tents fingers, tries to regulate breathing.* Look, as a former Portlander and a Black girl who never saw portrayals of herself as a mermaid, even though she spent hours in the pool pretending to be one, I’ll admit I’m biased regarding how much I enjoyed this book. But everything Bethany C. Morrow puts out contains profound social commentary as well as mystical wonder, and so you’re going to need to get your hands on this story.

    Get it from Bookshop.

    11. A Phoenix Must Burn, edited by Patrice Caldwell

    Viking Books for Young Readers

    Okay, the collection of epic Black fantasy authors who contributed to this anthology alone is a reason to pick this one up, but also the stories are excellent! Perfect for the bite-sized fantasy fiction cravings that you surely endure throughout the week.

    Get it from Bookshop.

    12. David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

    Abaddon Books

    This book is about a freelance godhunter who works in an urban fantasy portrayal of Lagos — a premise that set my heart hammering with curiosity. Plus, the main character works with a teen girl with a disability, sending the level of marginalized rep in this book through the roof.

    Get it from Bookshop.

    13. The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

    Tordotcom

    Everything P. Djèlí Clark just shines with empathy and well-researched backgrounds, but what stands out to me especially is Clark’s love of good ‘ol magical wonder. He’s written many novellas to choose from at this point, and you can’t go wrong with any of them!

    Get it from Bookshop.

    14. Daughters of Nri by Reni K. Amayo

    Onwe Press

    I am a sucker for 1) intricate political fantasies and 2) sister stories, and luckily for me, Daughters of Nri has both, dripping with Afrocentric magic! Plus, that cover? Excuse me? Why is it staring into my soul?

    Get it from Bookshop.

    15. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

    Margaret K. McElderry Books

    It’s a modern day King Arthur retelling starring a Black girl: this is not a drill! Someone send this book in a time capsule back to nerdy 13-year-old anglophile Jordan because she will lose her freaking mind. Also, this book has already won tons of awards and is sweeping bestseller lists, so…you know. All the cool kids are buying it. That’s all you need to know, right?

    Get it from Bookshop.

    Jordan Ifueko is the NYT Bestselling author of the Raybearer series and other stories. She writes about magic Black girls who aren’t magic all the time, because honestly, they deserve a vacation. Ifueko lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their 3-legged trustafarian dog Reginald Ovahcomah. ​Follow Jordan on instagram @jordanifueko and preorder Redemptor here!

    Amulet Books, jordanifueko.com

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