Top 25 Books for 2019

By Christina Ladd on

About Christina Ladd

One of the Books & Comics editors at Geekly. She/her. Sailor Rainbow. Glitter and spite and everything bright.


Or, where to spend your Christmas cash if you want books.

This is necessarily heavy on releases for the beginning of the year and sequels, since many other titles haven’t been announced. Many further goodies await, but for now, this year already looks intriguing, exciting, and magical as heck.

  1. The Wicked King (Holly Black) January 8 – Nobody does dark romance like Holly Black, and this trilogy is building up to be one of her masterpieces. Cardan and Jude, trapped in a political alliance and a love-lust-hate-murder relationship (nothing is easy in Faerie), must find a way to govern without dooming her family or losing her own head.
  2. Descendants of the Crane (Joan He) April 2 – This looks like Hamlet…set in Fantasy Asia…and the protagonist is a girl. Mystery, murder, magic and mayhem. Yeah, I’m here for it.

  1. Spin the Dawn (Elizabeth Lim) July 30 – Sometimes single-line pitches make books seem far more derivative than they are. Then there’s Spin the Dawn, which is being called Project Runway meets Mulan. All I can say is: dang. Lim previously wrote a Mulan YA novel for Disney, but this will be her original debut. Maia is definitely a girl worth fighting for, but when she looks at her reflection, she’ll have make a man out of herself to enter the competition to be the royal tailor and bring honor to us all. (Sorry not sorry.)
  2. Gods of Jade and Shadow (Silvia Moreno-Garcia) August 6 – Mayan gods meet the jazz age and a housekeeper in Southern Mexico meets the God of Death in this new book from the endlessly creative Moreno-Garcia. Casiopea will literally go on a journey to the underworld to help restore the mythic balance to death. I hope this is the book that launches Moreno-Garcia into greater fame. She richly deserves it, since her characters are always nuanced, “difficult” women who are hard to like but easy to love.
  3. Wicked Fox (Kat Cho) June 25 – Publishing is finally catching up to other industries and realizing that American audiences are ravenous for everything Korean. This one is the story of a gumiho, a nine-tailed magical fox-spirit who eats the souls of men. But then she falls in love! I can’t wait for the drama. (The regular drama. There’s already a Korean drama called My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox, so you can get excited for this book by watching that if you want!)
  4. The Girl in Red (Christina Henry) August 13 – Christina Henry has put grim twists on the whimsical Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, so I’m excited to see what kind of dark take she can bring out of an already dark story, that of Little Red Riding Hood. I’m tired of post-apocalypse, but for her, I will gladly try it. Hell, I’d read about sparkly vampires if she wrote about them. It’s going to be brilliant; all that remains to be seen is how.

  1. The Cold is in Her Bones (Peternelle van Arsdale) January 22 – I’m glad demons are getting some more attention now that vampires, werewolves, mermaids…etc. have had their day. (See also: The Good Demon and The Good Place.) Based on the story of Medusa but set on a remote farm outside a remote village, it follows Milla, a lonely girl forbidden from ever leaving the boundaries of her homestead. But when a stranger comes to stay, she learns about the curse on the village girls, and resolves to put a stop to the demon terrorizing them with random possession.
  2. The Merciful Crow (Margaret Owen) July 30 – The chief of the scavengers and undertakers directs her people to collect from dead and dying, and when she stumbles upon a still-living prince, she collects him as well. But what to do with a fugitive royal, a wicked queen, and the man who has already magically taken the prince’s place? It will take all the resourcefulness of the Crows to scrounge a future for them all.
  3. The Missing of Clairdelune (Christelle Dabos) May 7- I loved A Winter’s Promise, which felt simultaneously fresh and also like a classic along the lines of Narnia. Ophelia, the shy, sharp-eyed émigré to the terrifying court of The Pole, now finds herself thrust into a position of power—one directly in the spotlight she’s spent so long hiding from. How will she handle her new role, the godlike entity who put her there, her suspicious fiancée, and, worst of all, the sudden appearance of her family?
  4. The Iron Dragon’s Mother (Michael Swanwick) June 25 – After 10,000 books entitled “The X’s Daughter,” I am elated to finally see a book about somebody’s mother. Mothers are people too! Also, Michael Swanwick is brilliant and the previous two entries about post-industrial fairyland (which includes giant mechs, the mafia, and the subversion of all kinds of fairy-tales) were both knockouts (see The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and The Dragons of Babel). This is going to be an elaborate delight.

  1. We Hunt the Flame (Hafsah Faizal) May 14 – This book is so hyped I’m shocked it hasn’t been snapped up for a movie yet. (Actually, it probably has. Be on the lookout for that.) Zafira is a hunter who risks royal wrath to feed her people; Nasir is a prince turned into an assassin by his power-mad father. Both are forced to seek an artifact that can either restore or destroy their land, but what will happen when they meet? And what will happen when they find it?
  2. The Bird King (G. Willow Wilson) March 12 – Wilson makes her triumphant return to literature (from comics, where she’s also been kicking ass writing Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel) in a tale about a magic mapmaker, an odalisque, and a perilous escape across Spain. And of course there’s a djinn. I have the entire day prior to its release set with reminders to breathe and not hyperventilate.
  3. Black Leopard, Red Wolf (Marlon James) February 5 – Marlon James won the Man Booker for his previous novel, so I’m expecting great things from this tale of a hunter hired to find missing boy. But what seems at first a straightforward tracking job turns into a quest full of battles and misdirection. Shapeshifters, uncertain allies, and secretive bystanders all conspire to block his path. Who is this boy? Why has he been missing for three years? And what will the hunter find at the end of the trail?
  4. Priory of the Orange Tree (Samantha Shannon) February 26 – Samantha Shannon is taking time away from her projected seven (!) book series that started with The Bone Season to work in a pure fantasy world. Dragons, sorcerers, and threatened queens may be staples of the genre, but I’m sure Shannon will put quite a twist on every element.

  1. Courting Darkness (Robin LaFevers) February 5 – A triumphant return for the assassins of death’s own convent, only now the god of death is mortal and the Duchess of Brittany is out of immediate danger. Or is she? Sybella—my favorite of the three excellent characters from the first trilogy—is now under cover, still protecting her beloved Duchess, but inwardly reeling from the events of the previous series. She must find a deep-cover agent and work with her to thwart a new plot, and hopefully find renewal for her weary soul.
  2. The Girl with No Face (M. Boroson) February 5 – The follow-up to The Girl with the Ghost Eyes finds Daoist Li-lin still in Chinatown in San Francisco, reeling from her battle and her disinheritance. She will have to find her own way to protect her community from ghosts and demons, and when an amulet surfaces, it seems like a blessing. It protects the wearer from bullets—but it’s powered by the trapped soul of a child. Li-lin is desperate to release the tormented soul, but to do so she will have to defy her family once more, and venture down into the land of death itself. The first book was neglected on release and deserves far more attention; I hope the second book will garner some for the series.
  3. Other Words for Smoke (Sarah Maria Griffin) March 12 – Not one but two potentially haunted houses—one burned down, one inhabited by a power called only “Sweet James”—populate this book, along with a magical cat and siblings with more than a few secrets. Desperate love, strange disappearances, and dark temptations are promised.
  4. The Candle and the Flame (Nafiza Azad) May 14 – A human girl survives a invasion by djinn, but her city—a magical place along the Silk Road—does not. Her people are slaughtered, and if she wants to do more than survive, she’ll have to wade into the politics of the djinn and their ifrit rivals. Can one girl and her oud make a place for peace and tolerance?
  5. Middlegame (Seanan McGuire) May 7 – Alchemy is usually stripped of its religious trappings and presented as showier chemistry for fantasy settings. Here, apotheosis is the goal. Alchemical children, one good with words and one with maths, are the key to godhood. But what kind of god will the alchemist be, and what of the world will survive for him to preside over? No matter what, it’ll be an interesting one, because Seanan McGuire never disappoints.

  1. Only Ashes Remain (Rebecca Schaeffer) September 3 – Not Even Bones, the first book in the Market of Monsters, was a truly grim and grisly story. I mean, she somehow wrote a YA novel about human trafficking, black market organs, cannibalism, torture, and—love? And it worked. Now marginally more free but still trying to escape her parents’ many enemies, Nita has to outwit a betrayer and hide her own abilities with nothing but her wits and a scalpel.
  2. Darkdawn (Jay Kristoff) September 3 – This book was pushed back a year to give the author more time, and while it pained me, I can’t imagine Jay Kristoff using the time poorly. I know he’s going to tie together all the threads and epic promise that the series has been building toward. Also, there will be lots of murder and sex and more murder and probably the fall of an empire. Wheeee!
  3. Warrior Moon (K. Arsenault Rivera) ? 2019 – I was a little annoyed when I found out this wasn’t a duology. But I couldn’t be sad for long, because the power couple will be back. Shizuka and Shefali, the swordswoman-empress and archer-khan, now have even more literal and figurative demons to fight to save their empires. Plus, a long-term, committed, non-tragic lesbian relationship between equal badasses? I always want more of that.
  4. Untitled Three Dark Crowns Finale (Kendare Blake) September 3 – The fourth and now-final book in what was originally intended to be a duology, this book will see three–or maybe four?–queens contend with sins of the past and crises of the present to maybe change the future of Fennbirn. Will poisoners rule? Will naturalists ascend? Will elementals take their rightful place? Or maybe the oracles and warriors will retake power–if death and undeath don’t become a new force unto themselves. September can’t come fast enough.
  5. The Hierophant’s Daughter (M. F. Sullivan) May 19 – This book had me at “cannibalistic army of genetically modified humans.” Global war, defections, resurrections, and a wisecracking crew of rebels sounds like the kind of adventure I’ve been missing with all these ultra-serious post-apocalypses.
  6. Winter of the Witch (Katherine Arden) January 8 – This is one of the most perfect trilogies in fantasy, and while I’m sad it’s coming to a close, I’m delighted that each book is now definitively an A+. Vasya’s journey of magical awakening comes to an explosive end as medieval Russia fights for its survival against the Mongol empire, and the ancient spirits of the land battle to survive in a new age.

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