Spring is finally here (even if it’s been unseasonably chilly where we are over the past few weeks). But despite this ill-timed cold snap, you can definitely still see the promise of summer in the not-too-far-away distance, as readers everywhere turn their thoughts to afternoons curled under trees, collapsed poolside, or whatever your particular favorite flavor of outdoor book time happens to look like.
Thankfully, a positive glut of great stories are headed our way over the next month—honestly over the next few months, so watch this space!—so you’re almost certain to find something new on the shelves that’s worth your time. This May, our list includes the long-awaited adult fantasy debut from a popular YA author, several highly-anticipated sequels, new books from proven favorites, and an exciting debut inspired by the Thousand and One Nights. Go forth, and enjoy the adventures.
Book of Night by Holly Black
Release Date: May 3 from Tor Books
Why You’ll Love It: The adult fantasy debut from mega-popular YA author Holly Black, Book of Night trades in her traditional Fae-focused fairytale feel for a darker urban contemporary setting. Featuring a unique form of shadow magic and a world-weary heroine trying to change her ways, it’s a book that feels deeply unlike her previous work—but that’s precisely what makes it so exciting.
Publisher’s Description: In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.
Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.
Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry
Release Date: May 10 from St. Martin’s Griffin
Why You’ll Love It: A delightfully bizarre cast of characters populates this dark fantasy from critically acclaimed author Jonathan Maberry. Palace guard Kagen Vale is devastated when the entire imperial family of the Silver Empire is killed under his watch. Determined to claim vengeance on the usurper Witch-King who perpetrated the crime, Kagen embarks on a quest to retrieve a fabled artifact, in a world populated by familiar faces from European folklore and Lovecraftian-style monsters.
Publisher’s Description: Kagen Vale is the trusted and feared captain of the palace guard, charged with protecting the royal children of the Silver Empire. But one night, Kagen is drugged and the entire imperial family is killed, leaving the empire in ruins.
Haunted and broken, Kagen is abandoned by his gods and damned forever. He becomes a wanderer, trying to take down as many of these enemies as possible while plotting to assassinate the usurper-the deadly Witch-king of Hakkia. While all around him magic-long banished from the world—returns in strange and terrifying ways.
To find the royal children and exact his vengeance, Kagen must venture into strange lands, battle bizarre and terrifying creatures, and gather allies for a suicide mission into the heart of the Witch-king’s empire.
An Unreliable Magic by Rin Chupeco
Release Date: May 3 from Sourcebooks Fire
Why You’ll Love It: This long-awaited sequel to Wicked as You Wish doubles down on what made that installment so appealing: A charming, effortlessly diverse lead ensemble, lots of folklore references, and a much more lighthearted tone than her previous (excellent but much darker) Bone Witch trilogy.
Publisher’s Description: Tala, Alex, and the rest of their friends are safe for now, but know the Snow Queen is still out there. They have to be prepared for when she eventually attacks—and all decide to do so in their own way.
When Ryker comes out of the woodwork, showing himself when he starts attacking American detention facilities and freeing refugees. And the Nameless Sword, a legendary weapon that according to Avalon legend, will make its wielder the most powerful warrior of their time turns up with her name on it, Tala’s life gets messier…But when the Snow Queen arrives with an unlikely ally, the group will have to work together.
Siren Queen by Nghi Vo
Release Date: May 10 from Tordotcom
Why You’ll Love It: From Nghi Vo, the author of 2021’s magical Gatsby retelling The Chosen and the Beautiful, Siren Queen comes a dark and fantastical 1930s Hollywood where studios control their stairs through dark rituals and blood magic. Chinese American Luli Wi is desperate to become a star and she’s willing to do whatever it takes for her big break—even if it means becoming a monster in the process.
Publisher’s Description: “No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid.
But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes—even if that means becoming the monster herself.
The Ghosts of Rose Hill by R.M. Romero
Release Date: May 10 from Peachtree Teen
Why You’ll Love It: Magical realism meets romance in this prose verse tale inspired by its author’s experiences restoring Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe. The Ghosts of Rose Hill is truly like nothing else hitting shelves this month, with its heartfelt coming-of-age tale that wrestles with ghosts both figurative and very literal.
Publisher’s Description: Sent to stay with her aunt in Prague and witness the humble life of an artist, Ilana Lopez—a biracial Jewish girl—finds herself torn between her dream of becoming a violinist and her immigrant parents’ desire for her to pursue a more stable career.
When she discovers a forgotten Jewish cemetery behind her aunt’s cottage, she meets the ghost of a kindhearted boy named Benjamin, who died over a century ago. As Ilana restores Benjamin’s grave, he introduces her to the enchanted side of Prague, where ghosts walk the streets and their kisses have warmth.
But Benjamin isn’t the only one interested in Ilana. Rudolph Wassermann, a man with no shadow, has become fascinated with her and the music she plays. He offers to share his magic, so Ilana can be with Benjamin and pursue her passion for violin. But after Ilana discovers the truth about Wassermann and how Benjamin became bound to the city, she resolves to save the boy she loves, even if it means losing him—forever.
The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah
Release Date: May 17 from Orbit
Why You’ll Love It: A richly imagined fantasy debut inspired by the stories of One Thousand and One Nights, The Stardust Thief chronicles a seemingly familiar story about the ancient struggle between humans and jinn. Although several recent fantasy epics have touched on various aspects of this mythical conflict in recent years. (S.A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad trilogy, Tarereh Mafi’s This Woven Kingdom), Abdullah’s novel very firmly charts its own path.
Publisher’s Description: Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn.
With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.
A Cruel and Fated Light by Ashley Shuttleworth
Release Date: May 24 from Margaret K. McElderry Books
Why You’ll Love It: The second installment in Ashley Shuttleworth’s Hollow Star Saga, A Cruel and Fated Light mixes a murder mystery with complex faerie politics and a predominantly queer, effortlessly diverse cast of multidimensional leads. Full of exiled immortals and treacherous fae the story intermingles past history with present-day problems, resulting in a fast-paced propulsive tale that’s as much about emotional healing as it is about stopping the story’s deliciously campy villain.
Publisher’s Description: After thwarting the man behind the gruesome ironborn murders—and breaking several fae laws to do so—all Arlo wants is a quiet summer. As the deity of luck’s Hollow Star, capable of bringing about endless possibilities, this shouldn’t be too much to ask, right?
But someone is still trying to summon the mythical Seven Deadly Sins. All signs point to immortal meddling, and if this is the gods’ attempt at returning to the Mortal Realm, it’s Arlo they’re going to use to do it.
When Queen Riadne offers to host Arlo at the Seelie Summer palace, she jumps at the chance. She’ll get to see more of Vehan and Aurelian and perhaps even work out her complicated feelings for the gorgeous ex-Fury, Nausicaä. But no one trusts the infamous Queen of Light, even as Arlo wonders if she’s just been greatly misunderstood.
With the Summer Solstice quickly approaching, everyone expects Riadne to finally challenge the High King for his crown. And as Arlo struggles to get control of her powers and take charge of her destiny, she’ll soon be faced with a choice that won’t only change the fate of the Mortal Realm forever but could condemn it to a cruelty the likes of which the Courts have never known.
The Merciless Ones by Namina Forma
Release Date: May 31 from Delacorte Press
Why You’ll Love It: The second installment in Namina Forma’s West African-inspired fantasy series, this follow-up to The Gilded Ones doubles down on what made its predecessor so good: The rich, thoroughly lived-in world building full of details that are so unlike almost everything else in this genre space.
Publisher’s Description: It’s been six months since Deka has freed the goddesses and discovered who she really is. There are now wars waging across the kingdom. Otereans now think jatu are traitors to the nation. Deka is called a monster.
But the real battle has only just begun and Deka must lead the charge. Deka is tasked with freeing the rest of the goddesses. Only as she begins to free them, she begins to see a strange symbol everywhere in places of worship and worn on armor. There’s something unnatural about that symbol; just looking at it makes Deka lose her senses. Even worse, it seems to repel her powers. She can’t command or communicate with the new deathshrieks. In fact, she can’t even understand them when they speak.
Deka knows freeing the goddesses is just the beginning. She can tell whatever dark force out is powerful and there is something sinister out there threatening the kingdom connected to that symbol—something merciless—that her army will need to stop before humanity crumbles. But Deka’s powers are only getting stronger…and her strongest weapon could be herself.
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.