The next list of fantasy recommendations in my weekly series, A Thousand Lives, contains seven fantasy books by Black authors. Most of them are either low- or high-fantasy, with one urban fantasy included. All of them are beautifully written, full of colorful beautiful worlds with unforgettable characters. The magic systems involved are so unique and captivating unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
I think every fantasy lover should absolutely give the following books a try. Even if you don’t consistently read fantasy, these books will mesmerize you with their fascinating worlds and characters. I guarantee that you’ll find your next favorite story in one (or all!) of these books.
1. Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
Tarisai has lived her whole life secluded from others, raised by a strange woman Tarisai only knows as “The Lady,” who was frequently absent from Tarisai’s life. When Tarisai turns eleven, The Lady sends her to the capital of Aristar for a chance to earn a spot as one of eleven in the Crown Prince’s council. If selected, Tarisai will be joined with the others through the Ray, a strong bond that binds her loyalty to the Crown Prince and the other ten council members.
However, The Lady has bestowed upon Tarisai a wish that Tarisai must fulfill: gain the Crown Prince’s utmost trust, then kill him. Tarisai wants to please The Lady (whom she loves and fears simultaneously). However, as Tarisai becomes closer to the Crown Prince and makes friends with the other council members, she begins the desire to form her own identity and attempt to forge a new path for herself, one that isn’t determined by anyone else but her.
This is a story of love, friendship, family, justice, and magic.
The second book in this series, Redemptor, comes out August 17, 2021!
2. The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
For nearly two hundred years, the Omehi people have been at a war they cannot win. Tau wants nothing more than to marry, settle down, and raise a family in his highly militaristic, war-driven society. He has little ambition to become a warrior and fight in the numerous battles the Omehi partake in each year. But all that changes when tragedy strikes and uproots Tau’s life. Suddenly, Tau has a mission to become the greatest swordsman the Omehi people have ever seen, and seek vengeance for those who wronged him.
Tau will push himself beyond normal, human limits in order to fulfill his plan. He will sacrifice his health, his friends, and his sanity if it means he has even a single chance of killing the ones who destroyed his life. You’ll have trouble putting down this action-packed, fast-paced story about demons, magic, and dragons.
The second book in this series of four, The Fires of Vengeance, is out now!
3. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Zélie Adebola remembers when magic used to exist within the land of Orïsha. Burners created flames, Tiders brought forth waves, and Zélie’s mother, a Reaper, summoned souls. But one night, a malicious king changed everything. He ordered the execution of all maji. Zélie was left motherless, and her people lost all hope.
Zélie takes the once chance she has to return magic back to the land. She’ll need the help of a princess to outsmart and stay ahead of the crown prince, who wishes to eliminate all magic forever.
Aside from the dangerous creatures and spirits she must face, Zélie must also battle with something she did not expect, something that could be the greatest threat to her above all: the control over her powers and the feelings she’s developing for her enemy.
If you enjoyed Children of Blood and Bone, don’t forget to pick up the sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance! The third book in this series is set to debut sometime this year.
4. Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
Danso has the potential to become a great scholar, but he pushes the very limits that could very well get him thrown out of his university. His insatiable curiosity about the forbidden stories of his society and history drive him to constantly search for information. However, the elite of Basso claim nothing important lies beyond the city’s walls. Sworn to secrecy, the immigrants of Basso aren’t quick to discuss what they know.
One day, Danso happens upon a warrior wielding a magic that shouldn’t exist. Suddenly, he finds himself in the possession of one of Basso’s darkest, most dangerous secrets. Danso must leave behind the life he’s always known and venture beyond the city’s walls to uncover the full extent of what he knows. The discovery of this magic could possibly destroy the empire and the lives of those who live there.
5. Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
Tracker is searching for boy who disappeared three years ago. Although he usually works alone, he decides to team up with a motely-crew of others to find the boy. He will travel through ancient cities, large forests, and deep waters throughout his search. Along this journey, Tracker begins to form questions. He wonders about the boy’s true nature, why he disappeared, why has he been gone for all these years, and why are people trying to stop Tracker from finding him. Above all else, Tracker questions who is being truthful and who is being dishonest.
6. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
In this modern day reimagining of the Arthurian legend, Bree suffers the devastating loss of her mother. Afterwards, she decides to do away with her family memories and her childhood home. She decides to partake in a program at UC Chapel Hill for high schoolers to get away from everything. However, during her first night with the program, she witnesses a horrifying sight. She spots a demon that feeds on human energies.
She learns of the secret society, “Legendborn,” that hunt and kill those demons. When a teenager named Merlin attempts to erase Bree’s memory of the attack, he instead releases Bree’s own magic and a surprising memory: another Merlin was at the hospital the night Bree’s mother died. Bree decides to infiltrate the Legendborn and do whatever it takes to learn the truth behind her mother’s death.
Bree teams up with Nick, self-exiled from Legendborn (and still holding a grudge against them). Together, the two uncover more about Legendborn’s secrets and grow closer and closer together. Bree eventually learns the truth behind the Legendborn society: they are the descendants of King Arthur’s famed knights. And a war is coming. Bree now must not only decide how far she’s willing to go for the truth, but also whether to use her magic to destroy Legendborn, or whether to fight with them.
7. The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Deka hopes for nothing more than to belong in her society. Already seen as an outsider due to her “unnatural” intuition, she hopes that at her sacred blood ceremony, her blood will run red and she’ll finally be considered normal for once. Anxiously, Deka awaits for the moment to arrive.
At the ceremony, her blood runs gold. And Deka knows the consequences for this will be “worse than death.” Then, a strange woman approaches Deka and gives her two options: stay and bend to her fate, or join an army of other girls just like Deka, and fight for the emperor. This army is named the “alaki;” with their near-immortality and gifts, only they can thwart the emperor’s largest threat.
Deka decides to join this army, letting her desire to belong someplace outweigh the inevitable possibility of danger. Throughout the story, Deka will encounter many surprises behind the city’s walls, and learn a few things about herself along the way.
This novel is claimed to be perfect for fans of Mulan, Black Panther and Children of Blood and Bone.