The best debut young adult books fantasy/science-fiction

Asiel R. Lavie Author Of The Crossing Gate
By Asiel R. Lavie

The Books I Picked & Why

Iron Widow

By Xiran Jay Zhao

Book cover of Iron Widow

Why this book?

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn't matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it's to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister's death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.

What I love about this book is the way the author mixed sci-fi elements with characters who are inspired by historical figures from across Chinese history, with fantasy elements on how the male pilot must pair up with a female one to pilot a robot.

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A Light in the Sky

By Shina Reynolds

Book cover of A Light in the Sky

Why this book?

The world is a brilliant mix of the typical fantasy story and advanced technology with futuristic settings. I love it when the author mix fantasy with technology. You can sense some dystopian vibes too- The Hunger Games came to my mind while reading, and this is an extra reason why I was totally into this book. 

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Within These Wicked Walls

By Lauren Blackwood

Book cover of Within These Wicked Walls

Why this book?

I loved the book’s concept. The Ethiopian-inspired fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre was the best part of this book; I never read anything about Ethiopia before, and I found this book very interesting for that reason. The hint at the Ethiopian food, culture, and names were well done. The premise itself was intriguing: a curse that turned a house into an ice cube in the middle of the desert? Tell me more!

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The Binding Tempest

By Steven Rudy

Book cover of The Binding Tempest

Why this book?

I was hooked from page one and finished reading the book in just a few days. Although this is a complicated story, the description was vivid and clear. The plot was fast-paced and full of actions that will keep you on the edge of your seat most of the time.

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Beasts of Prey

By Ayana Gray

Book cover of Beasts of Prey

Why this book?

This book is brilliant! The blurb alone was enough to hook me, and I couldn’t put it down until I reached the last sentence! The story was interesting, and the world-building was vivid, and the magic system was so interesting. Give it a shoot, you won’t regret it! 

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