Don't let the size scare you - this book is worth the read. An epic fantasy if there ever was one, this standalone tome follows characters from two sides of a divided world. In the West, there's Tané, a dragon rider, and a (somewhat) peaceful coexistence with dragons. In the East is Queen Sabran and a people who are terrified of dragons. Sabran is protected by Ead, a member of her ladies but also so much more. It is believed that Sabran's ability to have a daughter is the only thing protecting the world from chaos. However, when Sabran's position is called into question as dragons begin to rise, everything that kept the East stable begins to collapse. It's a slow burn book, but a good one, with incredible world building. Reading this book is like watching the pieces of a chess match, and the payoff is everything.
It's hard to be a fantasy reader and not hear the name Sarah J Maas (SJM for short). Everyone has an opinion and they're all different. Let me try and add my voice to the cacophony. This first series by SJM (started when she was just 16 years old and inspired by Cinderella) is what I consider my Harry Potter. Book one in this seven book series follows an assassin, Celaena Sardothien, in a competition to become the King's Champion. She has no love for the king - just wants her freedom after a year of slavery. In order to win she must beat twenty-three others in a series of deadly trials. However, not long after they start, champions start dropping dead, forcing Celaena to start confronting her complicated past. If there's one thing SJM does well, it's characters. Celaena is her at her best. I'm a sucker for the OG covers, but all these years later I still think these books are worth the read (and they just get bigger and better). If there's any SJM book to pick up, it's this one.
A King Arthur retelling but with roots in Black American history, this book follows 16 year old Bree as she begins a residential high school program in the months after her mom dies. Her first night on campus, she witnesses a magical attack and is protected by the Legendborn, a group of students hunting down demons. Through this, Bree realizes that the Legendborn are somehow connected to her mother's death and decides to infiltrate them. This may be a retelling, but it is not a story you've read before. With real characters, complex, timely themes, and a twist that makes everything come together, this book lingers long after the last page.
Pick. This. Up. This is the Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, except instead of Evelyn Hugo, it's Kitty Karr. And instead of seven (iykyk) marriages, the focus is racial passing. Kitty Karr, like Hugo, was a 50s mega star. Similarly, this book is split between past and present. The past is Kitty's. The present is Elise, Kitty's neighbor and a celebrity in her own right, after Kitty dies. Kitty leaves her entire fortune to Elise and her sisters, and it's unclear why. This book explores the hidden connections between people, how we protect each other, and is great for anyone missing Evelyn Hugo and 50s Hollywood glamour.