Every year thousands of our readers vote for their favorite books of the year in the She Reads Awards. Find out more about the books that were nominated and see which book was voted the Best Fantasy & Magical Realism of 2022.
The winner of the Best Fantasy & Magical Realism of 2022 is . . .
Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen
Mallow Island is right off the coast of South Carolina and full of quirks and secrets. The Dellawisp is a beautiful condominium in the shape of a horseshoe, named after the birds that live nearby. Zoey heads there to claim her deceased mother’s apartment and ends up getting to know some of her mysterious neighbors, as well as three ghosts. Each character in this novel has a story and is yearning for something in their lives. This whimsical tale is full of love, grief, and the strength of found family.
The nominees for Best Fantasy & Magical Realism of 2022 are:
A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross
When young girls start vanishing from Cadence, Jack Tamerlaine is summoned back to the isle for the first time in 10 years to help find them. Riddled with enchantments, Cadence is home to unpredictable spirits that control the elements and find amusement in the land’s human inhabitants. Adaira, heiress of the East, knows that the spirits only respond to a bard’s music, and hopes that Jack can compel them to return the missing girls by song. Despite being childhood rivals, Jack and Adaira must work together to uncover the secrets and sinister truths of their land.
Babel by R.F. Kuang
Oxford University is the seat of knowledge in 1828. Its center for translation, known as Babel, is empowered by magic practices that allow practitioners to glean meaning that often gets lost in translation between languages. This power grants Britain an advantage over colonial territories and allows it to further its imperialism. When Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, enrolls at Babel, he begins to uncover just how influential this magic is to Britain’s status as a world power. When Britain begins a conflict with China over resources, Robin must decide which side to fight for.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan
Xingyin has spent her whole life hidden from the Celestial Emperor, who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic is detected, she’s forced to leave her home and her mother behind. Disguising herself, she makes her way to the enigmatic Celestial Kingdom, where she seizes an opportunity to train alongside the Crown Prince, with whom she forms an undeniable connection. Desperate to save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a journey full of legendary creatures, perilous enemies, treachery, and dark magic, until she is forced to strike a dangerous deal with the Celestial Emperor himself – a deal that puts everything she loves at risk.
Fairy Tale by Stephen King
Charlie Reade seems like a completely normal high school kid. But after his mom was killed in a hit-and-run when he was ten, his dad turned to drinking to deal with the grief, and Charlie had to learn to take care of himself. At seventeen, Charlie meets Howard Bowditch, a recluse, and his dog, Radar. Charlie starts working for Mr. Bowditch and falls in love with Radar. He never pays much attention to the locked shed in the backyard that emits strange noises. When Bowditch dies, he leaves a cassette tape for Charlie, explaining that inside the shed, there’s a portal to another world. A hero and his dog must lead the battle in this war between good and evil.
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
Kaikeyi is the queen in Ramayana, the ancient Hindu epic that is one of the largest ancient texts in world literature. This book reimagines her life as a young woman trying to make her way in a male and god-dominated world. As she grows from an underrated princess to a fierce diplomat and revered queen, her relationship with her family suffers. Eventually, she is forced to choose between following her own path or the path selected for her.
Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young
When all of the trees on Saiorse Island change color overnight, Emery Blackwood knows something is coming. For the first time in fourteen years, August Salt has returned. Emery thought August was the love of her life until he was accused of murdering her best friend, Lily, and her world was turned upside down. Now he’s back to bury his mother’s ashes and must face the people that turned their backs on him the night Lily was discovered in the woods. As August and Emery grapple with the emotional scars they left on one another, secrets and betrayals come to light in Saiorse, threatening to reveal what really happened the night Lily died.
The Change by Kirsten Miller
In a novel that is the lovechild of Big Little Lies, The Craft, and Law & Order: SVU, The Change by Kirsten Miller is a story you’ll not only get lost in, but never want to end. Nessa, Harriett and Jo are three very different women with one thing in common: midlife changes that bring them together to investigate the murder of a teenage girl that points to signs of a serial killer. Testing their strength, bodies, and power, Nessa, Harriett, and Jo will stop at nothing to get to the truth when law enforcement fails.
The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez
In an adventure story unlike any other, a god who has been locked away for centuries breaks free from her prison and is determined save the people who have become oppressed in her absence. Jun and Keema, both outcasts, embrace their destiny when they agree to help the god find a way to take down the dangerous and unjust regime that is clinging to power. Together they embark on a pilgrimage that will challenge each of them in unimaginable ways.
The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah
Loulie al-Nazari, also known as the Midnight Merchant, deals in illegal magic with the help of her jinn bodyguard. When she rescues a meek prince, his father blackmails her into finding a magical lamp that has the power to save the barren land – but only if all jinn are sacrificed in the process. With her life on the line, Loulie begins her quest with the sultan’s eldest son and her bodyguard to find the missing artifact. On their journey, they must face ghouls, an angry jinn queen, a killer from Loulie’s past, their own hidden secrets, and the dark truth that everything is not what it seems.
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
Mika Moon has gotten used to hiding her magic and keeping her head down. The last thing she wants is to expose herself as one of the few witches in Britain. The one indulgence she allows herself is an online account where she makes videos “pretending” to be a witch, thinking no one will believe it to be true. But when an invitation arrives begging her to visit the remote Nowhere House and teach three young witches how to control their magic, Mika can’t resist. There she meets a colorful cast of characters, including a handsome librarian who is fiercely protective of the children. And who sees Mika as a threat. As she discovers a sense of belonging, dangers unrelated to magic loom insidiously close, and Mika must decide whether the family she found is worth risking everything for.
The World We Make by N. K. Jemisin
This epic fantasy is full of culture, identity, magic and myths as the Great Cities Duology comes to a conclusion. Every great city has a human avatar that personifies the city’s heart and uses its magic. New York has six. Brooklyn, Manny, Bronca, Venezia, Padmini and Neek held off the Woman in White’s invasion, but the strange Enemy is posing a new threat. There’s also a new candidate for mayor that preaches gentrification and xenophobia. To defeat him and the Enemy, the avatars will have to join forces with the other Great Cities of the world.