The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
About: The lush city of Palmares Três shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Três will never forget.
Why I Recommend: The Summer Prince still refuses to leave my brain. Johnson’s characters vibrate off the page with life that you don’t find in your everyday YA. The Summer Prince is revolutionary and alive.
Half Bad by Sally Green
About: Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it’s too late.
Why I Recommend: I read Half Bad in a day because I couldn’t put it down. It’s violent and dark and reads so well you can see it play out in your mind like a movie. Green is a genius writer and I can’t wait for the rest of the series.
Heir of Fire by Sarah Maas
About: Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Chaol has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.
Why I Recommend: Heir of Fire is the third book in Maas’ Throne of Glass series and I swear she improves by leaps and bounds with every installment. I’m pretty sure I held my breath through parts of this book. Plus, it introduces one of my favorite new characters of any YA series, Manon Blackbeak.
Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger
About: Sophronia continues second year finishing school in style — with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown. She, best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and charming Lord Felix Mersey stow away on train to return classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. No one suspects what or who would be aboard the suspiciously empty train.
Why I Recommend: I just love Carriger’s Finishing School series. She writes characters with sharp tongues as well as sharp weapons, and they are genuinely fun reads. It’s hard to find writing that is simultaneously hilarious and well polished, but she somehow pulls it off.
Clariel by Garth Nix
About: Sixteen-year-old Clariel is not adjusting well to her new life in the city of Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom. She misses roaming freely within the forests of Estwael, and she feels trapped within the stone city walls. With the discovery of a dangerous Free Magic creature loose in the city, Clariel is given the chance both to prove her worth and make her escape. But events spin rapidly out of control.
Why I Recommend: Garth Nix writes some of the most compelling female characters. I love the Abhorsen books, but Clariel as a character stands out in the series. She’s a young woman who knows exactly who she is and what she wants, and the book is better for it. Plus it’s not often that you get to watch the heroine slowly become the villain.