Fall is finally here, with its promise of crisp weather, colorful leaves, and pumpkin spice-flavored everything. The nights finally begin to get a bit darker and Halloween is just around the corner and one of the most exciting times of the year in publishing is about to begin. September (and October to some extent, but we’ll deal with that next month) are when all eyes start to turn to the lucrative Christmas shopping season and booksellers begin to think about allocating shelf space for titles that will be on every book lover’s holiday wishlist.
In short, there are so many fantastic titles arriving in September that no book editor could possibly hope to cover them all—and you, dear readers, will likely be seeing reviews and features on many of them well into next month. (Hopefully, none of you will mind too much.) Fantasy lovers are particularly well-served this Fall with multiple highly anticipated sequels and several series-ending novels arriving within just days of each other and several buzzy debuts landing as well. It’s an embarrassment of reading riches and putting any sort of recommendations list together that doesn’t say some variety of just read everything in all caps was a challenge.
Here are our picks for the best fantasy books hitting shelves in September.
Release Date: September 6 from Sourcebooks Fire
Why You’ll Love it: A fresh spin on the typical teen dystopian fantasy, Monsters Born and Made follows the story of a lower-caste young woman who defies convention to enter a potentially deadly chariot race involving the same raging sea creatures she’s spent her life training for the upper classes. (Who are, incidentally, the only ones permitted to compete.) Koral’s rebellion is not just a social statement but a deeply personal one—her family’s unstable finances mean they can’t afford to care for her chronically ill sister—and her conflicts with the other contenders (including an ex-boyfriend) turn out to be just as savage as the sea beasts they’re driving. Imaginative and thorough worldbuilding helps this story stand out from the pack.
Publisher’s Description: Sixteen-year-old Koral and her older brother Emrik risk their lives each day to capture the monstrous maristags that live in the black seas around their island. They have to, or else their family will starve.
In an oceanic world swarming with vicious beasts, the Landers?the ruling elite, have indentured Koral’s family to provide the maristags for the Glory Race, a deadly chariot tournament reserved for the upper class. The winning contender receives gold and glory. The others?if they’re lucky?survive.
When the last maristag of the year escapes and Koral has no new maristag to sell, her family’s financial situation takes a turn for the worse and they can’t afford medicine for her chronically ill little sister. Koral’s only choice is to do what no one in the world has ever dared: cheat her way into the Glory Race.
But every step of the way is unpredictable as Koral races against contenders?including her ex-boyfriend?who have trained for this their whole lives and who have no intention of letting a low-caste girl steal their glory. When a rebellion rises and rogues attack Koral to try and force her to drop out, she must choose?her life or her sister’s?before the whole island burns.
Release Date: September 6 from Scribner
Why You’ll Love It: A good old-fashioned fantasy horror epic in the vein of the Dark Tower and The Talisman, Stephen King successfully mixes Grimms-esque fairytale elements with Lovecraftian style horror all while keeping his story firmly grounded in the very real world problems of a seventeen-year-old boy.
Publisher’s Description: Charlie Reade looks like a regular high school kid, great at baseball and football, a decent student. But he carries a heavy load. His mom was killed in a hit-and-run accident when he was ten, and grief drove his dad to drink. Charlie learned how to take care of himself—and his dad. When Charlie is seventeen, he meets a dog named Radar and her aging master, Howard Bowditch, a recluse in a big house at the top of a big hill, with a locked shed in the backyard. Sometimes strange sounds emerge from it.
Charlie starts doing jobs for Mr. Bowditch and loses his heart to Radar. Then, when Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie a cassette tape telling a story no one would believe. What Bowditch knows, and has kept secret all his long life, is that inside the shed is a portal to another world.
Release Date: September 13 from Gallery/Saga Press
Why You’ll Love It: If you need to know more than “Rin Chupeco wrote a vampire fantasy book!!” to put this on your to-read list right now, then I’m not really sure what to tell you other than please go read The Bone Witch immediately and become a believer.
Technically, Silver Under Nightfall marks Chupeco’s adult debut, but it really feels like nothing so much as their next evolution as an author, in a story that wrestles with similar dark themes of trauma even as it’s packed with political intrigue, courtly machinations, emotional betrayal, and a polyamorous central trio involving two members of the undead and a human who was once meant to hunt them. Run, don’t walk.
Publisher’s Description: Remy Pendergast is many things: the only son of the Duke of Valenbonne (though his father might wish otherwise), an elite bounty hunter of rogue vampires, and an outcast among his fellow Reapers. His mother was the subject of gossip even before she eloped with a vampire, giving rise to the rumors that Remy is half-vampire himself. Though the kingdom of Aluria barely tolerates him, Remy’s father has been shaping him into a weapon to fight for the kingdom at any cost.
When a terrifying new breed of vampire is sighted outside of the city, Remy prepares to investigate alone. But then he encounters the shockingly warmhearted vampire heiress Xiaodan Song and her infuriatingly arrogant fiancé, vampire lord Zidan Malekh, who may hold the key to defeating the creatures—though he knows associating with them won’t do his reputation any favors. When he’s offered a spot alongside them to find the truth about the mutating virus Rot that’s plaguing the kingdom, Remy faces a choice.
It’s one he’s certain he’ll regret.
But as the three face dangerous hardships during their journey, Remy develops fond and complicated feelings for the couple. He begins to question what he holds true about vampires, as well as the story behind his own family legacy. As the Rot continues to spread across the kingdom, Remy must decide where his loyalties lie: with his father and the kingdom he’s been trained all his life to defend or the vampires who might just be the death of him.
Release Date: September 13 from Tor.com
Why You’ll Love It: If, for whatever reason, you have somehow missed out on author Tamsyn Muir’s wildly imaginative Locked Tomb series, a science-fantasy space opera about necromancers, bone magic, and galactic space war, then consider this an admonition to fix your life immediately. It’s so difficult to explain exactly how good these books are without going into a sort of nonsensical wild flailing that won’t make any sense to those who haven’t read them or spoiling those that want to, but Nona the Ninth is another shining example of an author at the height of her game, weaving a complicated fantasy story that plays with perspective and only works because of precisely how much we’ve come to care about these characters.
The story told in Nona the Ninth was originally supposed to be the first act of her trilogy’s finale, titled Alecto the Ninth, but ultimately spun off to become its own thing when Muir realized the series needed to be a quartet. And, truly, another Locked Tomb book means we all win.
Publisher’s Descripton: Her city is under siege.
The zombies are coming back.
And all Nona wants is a birthday party.
In many ways, Nona is like other people. She lives with her family, has a job at her local school, and loves walks on the beach and meeting new dogs. But Nona’s not like other people. Six months ago she woke up in a stranger’s body, and she’s afraid she might have to give it back.
The whole city is falling to pieces. A monstrous blue sphere hangs on the horizon, ready to tear the planet apart. Blood of Eden forces have surrounded the last Cohort facility and wait for the Emperor Undying to come calling. Their leaders want Nona to be the weapon that will save them from the Nine Houses. Nona would prefer to live an ordinary life with the people she loves, with Pyrrha and Camilla and Palamedes, but she also knows that nothing lasts forever.
And each night, Nona dreams of a woman with a skull-painted face…
Release Date: September 13 from Anchor Books
Why You’ll Love It: The first of two (!!) Baba Yaga-adjacent fairytale retellings hitting shelves this month, Thistlefoot is the story of a pair of estranged siblings who reunite when inherit the titular Thistlefoot, a magical house that moves on chicken legs and reveals that they are descendants of the infamous witch. A difficult, occasionally over ambitious but highly original story that wrestles with complex themes, including racism, antisemitism, and (very literal) inherited trauma.
Publisher’s Description: The Yaga siblings—Bellatine, a young woodworker, and Isaac, a wayfaring street performer and con artist—have been estranged since childhood, separated both by resentment and by wide miles of American highway. But when they learn that they are to receive a mysterious inheritance, the siblings are reunited—only to discover that their bequest isn’t land or money, but something far stranger: a sentient house on chicken legs.
Thistlefoot, as the house is called, has arrived from the Yagas’ ancestral home in Russia—but not alone. A sinister figure known only as the Longshadow Man has tracked it to American shores, bearing with him violent secrets from the past: fiery memories that have hidden in Isaac and Bellatine’s blood for generations. As the Yaga siblings embark with Thistlefoot on a final cross-country tour of their family’s traveling theater show, the Longshadow Man follows in relentless pursuit, seeding destruction in his wake. Ultimately, time, magic, and legacy must collide—erupting in a powerful conflagration to determine who gets to remember the past and craft a new future.
Release Date: September 13 from Flatiron Books
Why You’ll Love It: The second installment in Stephanie Garber’s One Upon a Broken Heart series (itself a spinoff of her Caraval books), The Ballad of Never After continues the story of Evangeline Fox—princess, true love believer, and stuck in an uncomfortable bargain with a Fate who keeps betraying her trust (and who she still can’t seem to tear herself away from). A more whimsical concoction than Garber’s previous series in this universe—c’mon the heroine literally has pink hair—this is still a story that will make you want to believe in the possibility of happily ever after.
Publisher’s Description: After Jacks, the Prince of Hearts, betrays her, Evangeline Fox swears she’ll never trust him again. Now that she’s discovered her own magic, Evangeline believes she can use it to restore the chance at happily ever after that Jacks stole away.
But when a new terrifying curse is revealed, Evangeline finds herself entering into a tenuous partnership with the Prince of Hearts again. Only this time, the rules have changed. Jacks isn’t the only force Evangeline needs to be wary of. In fact, he might be the only one she can trust, despite her desire to despise him.
Instead of a love spell wreaking havoc on Evangeline’s life, a murderous spell has been cast. To break it, Evangeline and Jacks will have to do battle with old friends, new foes, and a magic that plays with heads and hearts. Evangeline has always trusted her heart, but this time she’s not sure she can.
Release Date: September 13 from Orbit Books
Why You’ll Love It: A whimsical tale of interplanetary disaster and an aspiring alchemist who accidentally becomes his city’s best hope for survival when it turns out he can perform impossible magic. Set in an expansive magical world that crosses multiple planes of existence, Notorious Sorcerer doesn’t get bogged down in heavy exposition or take itself too seriously, instead trusting its readers to both keep up with its fast-paced story and laugh while they do it.
Publisher’s Description: Since the city of Bezim was shaken half into the sea by a magical earthquake, the Inquisitors have policed alchemy with brutal efficiency. Nothing too powerful, too complicated, too much like real magic is allowed-and the careful science that’s left is kept too expensive for any but the rich and indolent to tinker with. Siyon Velo, a glorified errand boy scraping together lesson money from a little inter-planar fetch and carry, doesn’t qualify.
But when Siyon accidentally commits a public act of impossible magic, he’s catapulted into the limelight. Except the limelight is a bad place to be when the planes themselves start lurching out of alignment, threatening to send the rest of the city into the sea.
Now Siyon, a dockside brat who clawed his way up and proved himself on rooftops with saber in hand, might be Bezim’s only hope. Because if they don’t fix the cascading failures of magic in their plane, the Powers and their armies in the other three will do it for them.
Release Date: September 20 from Ace Books
Why You’ll Love it: Publishing’s recent trend giving the often unfairly maligned women from folklore and mythology their voices back continues with Olesya Salnikova Gilmore’s debut. A historical fantasy that mixes mythology with Russian history to reinvent and reclaim the story of Baba Yaga, The Witch and the Tsar turns reimagines the deformed immortal witch of legend as a woman willing to risk everything to save Russia and her people from the reign of Ivan the Terrible. And we love to see it.
Publisher’s Description: As a half-goddess possessing magic, Yaga is used to living on her own, her prior entanglements with mortals having led to heartbreak. She mostly keeps to her hut in the woods, where those in need of healing seek her out, even as they spread rumors about her supposed cruelty and wicked spells. But when her old friend Anastasia—now the wife of the tsar, and suffering from a mysterious illness—arrives in her forest desperate for her protection, Yaga realizes the fate of all of Russia is tied to Anastasia’s. Yaga must step out of the shadows to protect the land she loves.
As she travels to Moscow, Yaga witnesses a sixteenth century Russia on the brink of chaos. Tsar Ivan—soon to become Ivan the Terrible—grows more volatile and tyrannical by the day, and Yaga believes the tsaritsa is being poisoned by an unknown enemy. But what Yaga cannot know is that Ivan is being manipulated by powers far older and more fearsome than anyone can imagine.
Why You’ll Love It: Exceptionally prolific author Jennifer Estep—who seems to have roughly three different series in the works at any given moment—kicks off her new Galactic Truebond trilogy, a fantasy sci-fi adventure that mixes magic, technology, and intergalactic war. Known for her fierce heroines, Only Bad Options introduces Vesper Quill, a seer with a photographic memory who finds herself entangled with an elite assassin, and definite enemies to lovers vibes ensue.
Publisher’s Description: A WOMAN WHO SEES EVERYTHING . . .
Few people know the name Vesper Quill. To most folks, I’m just a lowly lab rat who designs brewmakers and other household appliances in the research and development lab at the powerful Kent Corp. But when I point out a design flaw and a safety hazard in the new line of Kent Corp starcruisers, everyone knows who I am—and wants to eliminate me.
I might be a seer with a photographic memory, but I don’t see the trouble headed my way until it’s too late. Suddenly, I’m surrounded by enemies and fighting for my life.
I don’t think things can get any worse until I meet Kyrion Coldren, an arrogant Regal lord who insists that we have a connection, one that could be the death of us both.
A MAN WHO CAN’T FORGET HIS PAST . . .
The name Kyrion Coldren strikes fear in the hearts of people across the Archipelago Galaxy. As the leader of the Arrows, the Imperium’s elite fighting force, I’m used to being a villain, as well as the personal assassin of Lord Callus Holloway. Even the wealthy Regals who live on the planet of Corion are afraid of me.
But everything changes when I meet Vesper Quill. I might be a powerful psion with telepathic, telekinetic, and other abilities, but Vesper sees far too many of my secrets.
Thanks to an arcane, unwanted quirk of psionic magic, the two of us are forced to work together to unravel a dangerous conspiracy and outwit the dangerous enemies who want to bend us to their will.
Release Date: September 27 from Del Ray Books
Why You’ll Love It: The Golden Enclaves is the highly anticipated final installment in Naomi Novik’s throughly satisfying Scholomance series, set in a magical boarding school full of deadly monsters that like to occasionally drop from the air ducts to eat the students there. The story features a difficult, often outright unlikeable heroine who is constantly being tempted to the dark side, plenty of thorny moral questions, and an incredibly charming central almost but not quitee romance that feels truly original in this particular corner of the fantasy space. I realize I’m being extremely vague here but this series is so utterly delightful and full of genuine surprises that it’s worth it to not spoil the twists for anyone.
Publisher’s Description: Almost singlehandedly—although backed by an increasingly large cadre of genuine friends—El has changed the nature of the Scholomance forever. But now that she is back in the real world, how will the lessons she learned inside the school apply? Will her grandmother’s prophecy come true? Will she really spell the doom of all the enclaves forever?
As the quest to save her one true love ramps up, however, El is about to learn the most significant lesson of all—the dire truth on which the enclaves and the whole stability of the magical world are founded. And being El, she is not likely to let it lie…
Release Date: September 27 from Delacorte Press
Why You’ll Love It: Adrienne Young’s YA fiction is known for its detailed worldbuilding and fierce heroines. Spells for Forgetting is her adult debut and introduces Emery Blackwood, whose dreams of escaping the remote shores of Saoirse Island are shattered when her best friend is found murdered and the love of her life is accused of the crime. Full of witchy vibes, inexplicable magical happenings that portend bad tidings, and a magical love story in every sense of the word, this one does not disappoint.
Publisher’s Description: Emery Blackwood’s life changed forever the night her best friend was found dead and the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her. Years later, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence on the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings.
But when the island, rooted in folklore and magic, begins to show signs of strange happenings, Emery knows that something is coming. The morning she wakes to find that every single tree on Saoirse has turned color in a single night, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that the town has tried desperately to forget.
August knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night everything changed. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from his past that has never healed—Emery.
The town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises spanning generations threaten to reveal the truth behind Lily’s mysterious death once and for all.
Release Date: September 27 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: The highly anticipated conclusion to Kerri Manicalco’s mega-popular Kingdom of the Wicked series picks up where Kingdom of the Cursed left off, as Emilia struggles to understand how her presumed dead twin sister could possibly stil be alive as her relationship with Wrath becomes even more complicated as they play a high stakes game of deception in a rival demon court. (I’m being so vague here on purpose, but fans of this series will doubtless be eager to see how the story concludes without spoilers.)
Publisher’s Description: Emilia is reeling from the shocking discovery that her twin sister, Vittoria, is alive. But before she faces the demons of her past, Emilia yearns to claim her king, the seductive Prince of Wrath, in the flesh. Emilia doesn’t simply desire his body, she wants his heart and soul—but that’s something the enigmatic demon can’t promise her.
When a high-ranking member of House Greed is assassinated, Emilia and Wrath are drawn to the rival demon court. Damning evidence points to Vittoria as the murderer and she’s quickly declared an enemy of the Seven Circles. Despite her betrayal, Emilia will do anything to solve this new mystery and find out who her sister really is.
Together Emilia and Wrath play a sin-fueled game of deception as they work to stop the unrest that’s brewing between witches, demons, shape-shifters and the most treacherous foes of all: the Feared.
Emilia was warned that when it came to the Wicked nothing was as it seemed. But, have the true villains been much closer all along? When the truth is finally revealed, it just might end up costing Emilia her heart.
Release Date: September 27 from Orbit
Why You’ll Love It: A spooky, lush, and occaionslly overstuffed Gothic fantasy, One Dark Window has everything from monsters and witchy tarot-style magic to steamy romance. The story’s many moving pieces—from Elspeth Spindle’s slow descent into madness thanks to the being called Nightmare that lives in her head to the overly complicated lore surrounding the Providence Cards that power magic in this world—are messy and can occasionally be difficult to keep up with, but Gillig executes familiar fantasy romance tropes with flair. (Broody dark haired love interest? Found family bonding? Fake dating? Let’s go.)
Publisher’s Description: Elspeth Spindle needs more than luck to stay safe in the eerie, mist-locked kingdom of Blunder—she needs a monster. She calls him the Nightmare, an ancient, mercurial spirit trapped in her head. He protects her. He keeps her secrets.
But nothing comes for free, especially magic.
When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, her life takes a drastic turn. Thrust into a world of shadow and deception, she joins a dangerous quest to cure Blunder from the dark magic infecting it. And the highwayman? He just so happens to be the King’s nephew, Captain of the most dangerous men in Blunder…and guilty of high treason.
Together they must gather twelve Providence Cards—the keys to the cure. But as the stakes heighten and their undeniable attraction intensifies, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly taking over her mind. And she might not be able to stop him.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.