4 YA Series Openers to Have on Your Radar

Full of excitement and intrigue, these noteworthy first books will leave YA readers clamoring for the next installment.

Full of excitement and intrigue, these noteworthy first books will leave readers clamoring for the next installment.

Burton, Gabi. Sing Me to Sleep. 432p. (Sing Me to Sleep: Bk. 1). Bloomsbury. Jun. 2023. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781547610372.
Gr 7 Up–In this murder mystery wrapped in fantasy, debut author Burton creates an entire world filled with fae, humans, witches, and a siren. The novel is set in the mythical world of Keirdren, a kingdom surrounded by a magical boundary put in place by a wicked and still ruling King. Saoirse, the last siren and the best soldier in the kingdom, would do anything for Rain, her adopted sister. Rain has expensive needs that drive Saoirse to use her siren powers as a murderer for hire. She must be careful, because the Royal family hates sirens and what they can do; if found out she would be executed. When the Royal family requests the best fighter in the graduating class to join the ranks of the Royal guard, Saoirse must hide her true nature and appearance with the aid of her adoptive aunt, a witch. Blackmail and murders take place, and a plot to murder the Crown Prince and Royal family is revealed. Saoirse is caught between saving her own family and friends or revealing her true nature and possibly losing herself to the power of her own Song. The book’s cast of characters is brown and Black. VERDICT A highly recommended addition to any collection that serves YA readers who enjoy mystery or fantasy.–Helen Prince

Jae-Jones, S. Guardians of Dawn: Zhara. 416p. (Guardians of Dawn: Bk. 1). Wednesday Bks. Aug. 2023. Tr $20. ISBN 9781250191427.
Gr 6 Up–Magicians have been outlawed in the Morning Realms. The punishment? Death. Zhara, a magician herself, has been trying to sneak by and protect her younger sister, who is blind, from her abusive stepmother. Meanwhile, Prince Han is no safer, trying to protect his young magician brother from discovery and find the Guardians of the Dawn, a rebel group that smuggles magicians to safety. When their paths collide, sparks fly. Literally. Zhara will have to reckon with her abilities, past, and, ultimately, her place in the world if she wishes to survive. Magic, monsters, and mayhem keep the pages turning in this Asian-inspired fantasy. Equally tender and awkward, the romance is highly relatable and laugh-out-loud funny. While the characters’ complete obliviousness to each other’s hidden identities may make readers groan, they’re so endearing it isn’t a bother. Counter to the characters’ humor is their depth. The pressures they feel to protect their family at all costs and desire to carve out happiness for themselves, all while dodging dangers both human and magical, will surely yank on heartstrings. Sprinkled in bits of body horror reminiscent of Chloe Gong’s books will keep fans of darker fantasy satisfied. The epilogue teases more expansive, explosive installments to come. VERDICT Perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer’s “The Lunar Chronicles,” this heartwarming, heartbreaking start to a series will leave readers aching for more.–Elisha Sheffer

Kaufman, Amie. The Isles of the Gods. 464p. (The Isles of the Gods: Bk. 1). Knopf. May 2023. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593479285.
Gr 9 Up–Kaufman is a master worldbuilder and has created a new series where the sea plays almost as important a role as her characters do. This thrilling fantasy includes adventure, magic, violence, friendship, and a small dose of romance. Selly is happiest sailing on one of her father’s merchant ships, but longs to do more than the grunt work her captain keeps giving her. On the night she decides to stow away on a ship traveling north where her father is spending the winter, she is kept aboard the Lizabetta in order to help with a clandestine journey. The crew has been tasked with getting Leander, the Prince of Alinor, to the Isle of the Gods so that he can perform a sacrifice to keep Alinor’s god happy and prevent a world war. Laskia, of Mellacea, is tired of being taken advantage of by her sister and decides to hunt down Leander and kill him so that the countries can go to war, a war that would hopefully raise Laskia’s status. Luckily for Leander, Selly and the Scholar are willing to risk their lives to help him reach the Isle. The story is told from the points of view of several characters, and the action takes place on the water and in several ports along the coast of the Crescent Sea. In this society women have many leadership roles in politics, religion, and business, and all skin colors have equal status. VERDICT Readers who love a good fantasy with lots of action, especially the the “Grishaverse” books by Leigh Bardugo, will be happy to devour this new series and will anxiously await the next volume.–Elizabeth Kahn

Tooley, Adrienne. The Third Daughter320p. (The Third Daughter: Bk. 1). Little, Brown/Christy Ottaviano. Jul. 2023. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316465694.
Gr 8 Up–The Prophecy for the population of Velle predicts the return of the venerated New Maiden, born to the third daughter of a third daughter. The eldest of three daughters, Elodie has been training to assist her youngest sister, the ascending New Maiden Brianne, as the Queen’s Regent. When their mother Queen Tera dies, Brianne is only 13 and not yet of age to take the throne. Elodie’s training is dismissed by the misogynist Chaplain, who doubles as Brianne’s father, seizing the chance to commandeer being Regent for political gain and his nefarious ideals. Desperate to keep the land from being run by the Chaplain, Elodie seeks out an apothecary, Sabine, for a potion to put her sister into a deep sleep until she is of age, with the goal of temporarily defaulting the crown back to Elodie as eldest daughter of the deceased queen. This gripping sapphic fantasy portrays the anti-hero princess taking on the patriarchy. Potential love interest Sabine has a deep sadness that results in magical tears for her potions. The absolute rage of Elodie and the softer, emotional needs of Sabine complement each other and help their alternate character traits emerge. As they work together to help Brianne unseat the Chaplain, some alliances with friends and family change, making trust hard to come by. The Chaplain’s fictitious sinister religious sect is metaphorical and a cautionary tale. Just when readers think they have this sorted out, a twist ending alludes to a second book in the planned duology. VERDICT Immersive and intense; hand this royal fantasy to readers of Kendare Blake’s “Three Dark Crowns” and Victoria Aveyard’s “Red Queen” series.–Lisa Krok

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