Anyone who’s been reading along with some of the most popular YA series would be overjoyed to find one of these titles in their stockings. Just make sure they’re all caught up on the previous volumes first!
The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black
Devoted fans of Holly Black’s bestselling Folk of the Air series have been buzzing with nervous energy over what will become of frenemies Jude and Cardan. Rest assured, Black doesn’t disappoint with The Queen of Nothing.
Jude and her twin sister, Taryn, are humans who have been raised in the faerie kingdom of Elfhame. Although humans are often victims of faerie cruelty, Jude has been trained as a warrior. But after treating King Cardan like a pawn in a game of political chess, Jude has been exiled to the human realm, where she works dangerous jobs for faeries—until Taryn shows up, seeking Jude’s help. Jude risks her life as she pits herself against old friends and new enemies, including her stepfather, who has his eyes on the crown. But survival in the faerie court is fraught with political gambles, disloyal spies and impending war, not to mention confusion about where Jude stands with Cardan. When a curse threatens the kingdom, Jude is forced to make a heartbreaking choice.
Black’s writing flows like honey as she injects intoxicating chemistry into romantic tropes. Jude is clever, cunning and empowered, while Cardan is deliciously flawed and imbued with Black’s biting wit. The Queen of Nothing is a satisfying, if bittersweet, conclusion to this successful trilogy.
The Toll by Neal Shusterman
In his Arc of a Scythe trilogy, National Book Award winner Neal Shusterman has created a futuristic world as complex and ambiguous as our own. Tackling morality, ethics, life and death, Shusterman’s work is hefty—the entire trilogy clocks in at around 1,500 pages—but ultimately it’s a masterpiece of allegory and plot twists that transcends genre and age.
In a post-mortal age, an omniscient supercomputer called the Thunderhead has relieved the world of disease, violence and destruction. Humans now live for centuries, creating a problem the Thunderhead cannot address: death. In order to control population growth, some humans are drafted as “scythes” and tasked with murdering citizens efficiently and compassionately. Unfortunately, not every scythe abides by the commandments, and Scythe Goddard’s corruption is undoing all of the Thunderhead’s progress. But Goddard comes up against formidable opponents, including Citra and Rowan, two teens determined to destroy Goddard and his new order, and the Toll, a religious figurehead who can speak to the Thunderhead. When Goddard’s ambitions result in large-scale tragedy, the Thunderhead accelerates its plans for humanity’s survival. But a supercomputer and three humans may be no match for one man intent on bringing the world to its knees. The Toll culminates with star-crossed lovers Citra and Rowan deciding whether to make the ultimate sacrifice for each other. After all, what good is immortality without someone by your side to share it? Gift The Toll to any ardent reader, whether they’re 18 or 80.
Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater
Readers have eagerly awaited Call Down the Hawk, the first book in bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater’s (Shiver, All the Crooked Saints) spinoff trilogy starring the Raven Cycle’s beloved Ronan Lynch. Ronan, who can manifest objects from his dreams into reality, is struggling to adapt to life after high school. His boyfriend, Adam, is away at college, leaving Ronan bored and purposeless. He’s able to keep his dreams under control as long as he stays close to home, but the longer he goes without dreaming, the more disastrous the outcomes. No one understands this better than Hennessy, a thief and con artist who never learned to control her dreams; consequently, they’re slowly killing her.
Hennessy has a doppelgänger, Jordan, who works as an art forger and whose path intersects with Declan, Ronan’s straight-laced older brother. Declan has spent his whole life lying to protect his family from a covert sect who believe killing dreamers will avert an apocalypse—and Ronan and Hennessy are their next targets.
Call Down the Hawk represents a tonal shift from its predecessors. It feels darker and headier as Stiefvater stretches the confines of her magical constructs and raises the stakes beyond the Raven Boys’ old prep school. This change feels organic to the narrative; as the characters mature and graduate, so must the story. But loyal readers needn’t fear. Beloved characters from earlier books make a few cameos, Adam and Ronan’s relationship has plenty of romantic breathing room, and Stiefvater’s lyrical writing style is a gift in itself. Readers new to the story should start with The Raven Boys, but everyone else will want this on their bookshelf, dog-eared, until the next book in the series arrives.