2020 was an up and down year for me and YA fantasy. Some were great, and some were terrible– nearly enough to turn me off that particular set altogether. But there were enough that I haven’t written off YA fantasy. So in no particular order, here are the best YA fantasy novels I read in 2020.
Note: these weren’t necessarily published in 2020, but I read them for the first time last year.
Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani
Kira is an outcast in her prestigious high school, and things aren’t much better at home. Her only sanctuary is the shrine her grandfather keeps, where she is training to keep the shrine, just like her grandfather. But when the shrine is attacked one night, Kira must journey to Tokyo with her friend Shiro, a half-kitsune boy. There, Kira is sent on a desperate quest to find seven ruthless shinigami– death gods– to help her defeat the demons lord Shuten-doji before he succeeds in his goal of conquering the world.
Night of the Dragon (Shadow of the Fox #3) by Julie Kagawa
In the final book of Kagawa’s Shadow of the Fox trilogy, the kitsune girl Yumeko and her friends are in a desperate race against time, for the Master of Demons has gained the power to call upon the Great Kami dragon to bring darkness upon all the lands. But even with their various powers and skills, Yumeko and her friends face even longer odds than they imagine, for another power has been watching all this time, waiting for the perfect time to strike.
King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Young king Nikolai Lantsov has a knack for accomplishing the impossible, but even he is hard-pressed to protect his people from all the threats facing them. And it doesn’t help that a dark magic is welling up inside of him, threatening to destroy everything he has worked for. So he, a monk, and a Grisha squaller travel to the heart of the kingdom where old magics lie sleeping. But some secrets should remain secret, and there are some wounds that can never fully heal.
The Court of Miracles (The Court of Miracles #1) by Kester Grant
In this tale of an alternate France, where the Revolution failed and the monarchy now holds power in its merciless clutches, a young cat burglar and rising star in the Thieves’ Guild, Eponine (aka Nina) does everything she can to protect her naive adopted sister, Cosette (aka Ettie) from the dangers of the world. For Ettie has caught the eye of the merciless leader of the Guild of Flesh. Nina vows to keep Ettie safe– a task that will take her to the lowest levels of the Parisian underworld and right up the heights of society in the glittering halls of Versailles. In so doing, Nina risks setting off a guild war that could tear Paris apart.
Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez
Thanks to her uncanny resemblance to the Condesa of the Illustrians, Ximena serves as a decoy and dedicated protector to the real Condesa. But when the ruler of the conquering Llascans summons the Condesa to the capitol in order to marry her, Ximena goes in her place. With just weeks before the wedding, Ximena must work as a spy in the palace, for it is rumored that the evil king Atoc has a deadly weapon that could help the Condesa save their people. But Ximena’s task grows ever more complicated as she grows familiar with the ordinary people who serve in the palace, and she discovers that there may be another way to save her people– if only she can turn her back on vengeance.