Most of us tend to think of the dog days of summer as a slow time of year when almost nothing happens. It’s the month when we’re all counting down the days until the oppressive heat dissipates, school starts back up again, and Fall arrives, with its crisp breezes, pumpkin spice lattes, and the promise of spooky season just around the corner. But this August is one book fans will definitely want to savor.
A true embarrassment of riches for fantasy fans and the first month of several to close out the year when we are being gifted with a pile of exceptional stories, this August is, to put it mildly, ridiculous in terms of the scope and quality of its releases. From new stories from favorite authors to highly anticipated sequels, creative folklore retellings to dense high fantasy doorstoppers, there’s an incredible variety of titles, heroes, and subgenres to choose from.
Here are our favorite August fantasy releases.
A Broken Blade by Melissa Blair
Release Date: August 2 from Union Square & Co.
Why You’ll Love It: If you pay any attention to BookTok or Book Twitter, you’ve probably heard of Melissa Blair, whose self-published Halfing Saga became something of a sensation on social media. The author sent the book—published anonymously—to 25 BookTok influencers, who fell in love with the story, as well as the mystery behind who wrote it. Thanks to this popularity, Blair’s lush fantasy of Elves, Dark Fae, and rebellion is getting a traditional publishing push and seems set to snap up a whole bunch of new fans in the process.
Publisher’s Description: Keera is a killer. As the King’s Blade, she is the most talented spy in the kingdom. And the king’s favored assassin. When a mysterious figure moves against the Crown, Keera is called upon to hunt down the so-called Shadow.
She tracks her target into the magical lands of the Fae, but Faeland is not what it seems . . . and neither is the Shadow. Keera is shocked by what she learns, and can’t help but wonder who her enemy truly is: the King that destroyed her people or the Shadow that threatens the peace?
As she searches for answers, Keera is haunted by a promise she made long ago, one that will test her in every way. To keep her word, Keera must not only save herself, but an entire kingdom.
The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean
Release Date: August 2 from Tor Books
Why You’ll Love It: A story where a secret group of humanoid beings eat books to survive—and specific genres have distinct flavors and they remember all the information they consume? Sign me up, this 100% is what fantasy is supposed to be.
Publisher’s Description: Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.
Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairytales and cautionary stories.
But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.
The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope
Release Date: August 9 from Redhook
Why You’ll Love It: A fast-paced historical fantasy that weaves together African American folk magic and history set in an alternate version of 1925 America, The Monsters We Defy is a charming tale of a ragtag magical crew of misfits who come together steal an ancient ring from the wealthiest woman in Washington, D.C. Come for the spirit-filled mystery that unfolds, stay for the adorable found family at the story’s center.
Publisher’s Description: Clara Johnson talks to spirits, a gift that saved her during her darkest moments in a Washington D. C. jail. Now a curse that’s left her indebted to the cunning spirit world. So, when the Empress, the powerful spirit who holds her debt, offers her an opportunity to gain her freedom, a desperate Clara seizes the chance. The task: steal a magical ring from the wealthiest woman in the District.
Clara can’t pull off this daring heist alone. She’ll need help from an unlikely team, from a jazz musician capable of hypnotizing with a melody to an aging vaudeville actor who can change his face, to pull off the impossible. But as they encounter increasingly difficult obstacles, a dangerous spirit interferes at every turn. Conflict in the spirit world is leaking into the human one and along D.C’.s legendary Black Broadway, a mystery unfolds—one that not only has repercussions for Clara but all of the city’s residents.
The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri
Release Date: August 16 from Orbit
Why You’ll Love It: The highly anticipated second installment in Tasha Suri’s Burning Kingdoms trilogy, The Oleander Sword takes all the political intrigue and romantic longing you loved about The Jasmine Throne and turns it up a notch, as would-be Parijatdvipan empress Malina goes to war in an attempt to claim her throne and Ahiranyan Elder Priya works to understand the source and purpose of her magic, which only seems to be increasing in scope. Thanks to Suri’s meticulously detailed worldbuilding work in the previous novel, the stakes and scope of Oleander Sword fairly burst off the page, as tyrannical Emperor Chandra schemes to defeat his sister, a strange magical rot continues to creep across the land, and magical beings known as yaksa walk the earth once more. A stunner, and precisely the sort of middle book of a trilogy that will leave you desperate for the finale.
Publisher’s Description: The prophecy of the nameless god—the words that declared Malini the rightful empress of Parijatdvipa—has proven a blessing and curse. She is determined to claim the throne that fate offered her. But even with the strength of the rage in her heart and the army of loyal men by her side, deposing her brother is going to be a brutal and bloody fight.
The power of the deathless waters flows through Priya’s blood. Thrice born priestess, Elder of Ahiranya, Priya’s dream is to see her country rid of the rot that plagues it: both Parijatdvipa’s poisonous rule, and the blooming sickness that is slowly spreading through all living things. But she doesn’t yet understand the truth of the magic she carries.
Their chosen paths once pulled them apart. But Malini and Priya’s souls remain as entwined as their destinies. And they soon realize that coming together is the only way to save their kingdom from those who would rather see it burn—even if it will cost them.
The First Binding by R.R. Virdi
Release Date: August 16 from Tor Books
Why You’ll Love It: An Asian-inspired epic fantasy with a rich mythology and a difficult hero at its center, The First Binding is an ode to the power of storytelling, mythmaking, and the way legends evolve over time. The plot follows Ari, the most famous storyteller along the Golden Road, as he tells his life story to a singer named Eloine, and the book deftly weaves two narratives of past and present alongside each other, interspersed with beautiful, and occasionally heartbreaking stories from folklore.
Publisher’s Description: All legends are born of truths. And just as much lies. These are mine. Judge me for what you will. But you will hear my story first.
I buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow. Then I killed their god. I’ve stolen old magics and been cursed for it. I started a war with those that walked before mankind and lost the princess I loved, and wanted to save. I’ve called lightning and bound fire. I am legend. And I am a monster.
My name is Ari. And this is the story of how I let loose the first evil.
The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Release Date: August 16 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: Set in the same world as The Bone Houses, but featuring an entirely new cast of characters, The Drowned Woods follows the story of the last living water diviner who becomes involved in a complicated heist plan in a desperate attempt to secure her freedom. Shot through with elements of Welsh folklore, it’s a slow-moving, intricate tale with well-developed characters that explores surprisingly timely themes of power and accountability.
Publisher’s Desrioption: Once upon a time, the kingdoms of Wales were rife with magic and conflict, and eighteen-year-old Mererid “Mer” is well-acquainted with both. She is the last living water diviner and has spent years running from the prince who bound her into his service. Under the prince’s orders, she located the wells of his enemies, and he poisoned them without her knowledge, causing hundreds of deaths. After discovering what he had done, Mer went to great lengths to disappear from his reach. Then Mer’s old handler returns with a proposition: use her powers to bring down the very prince that abused them both.
The best way to do that is to destroy the magical well that keeps the prince’s lands safe. With a motley crew of allies, including a fae-cursed young man, the lady of thieves, and a corgi that may or may not be a spy, Mer may finally be able to steal precious freedom and peace for herself. After all, a person with a knife is one thing… but a person with a cause can topple kingdoms.
Babel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators Revolution by R.F. Kuang
Release Date: August 23 from Harper Voyager
Why You’ll Love It: A massive dark academia standalone that wrestles with the literal power of language and the evils of imperialism, Babel is truly like nothing else you’ll read this month. (Or possibly this year.) Those who have read author R.F. Kuang’s Poppy War trilogy won’t be surprised at this story’s willingess to wrestle with difficult concepts and unlikable characters, and its deep dive into linguistics and etymology is deeply fascinating. A slow burn, slow moving tale, this one will take you a while, but the journey is half the fun.
Publisher’s Description: Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.
1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation—also known as Babel.
Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.
Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?
Lightlark by Alex Aster
Release Date: August 23 from Amulet Books
Why You’ll Love It: Plenty of reviewers will inevitably liken this book to previous YA titles like The Hunger Games or Divergent, and they aren’t entirely wrong to do so. After all, the story’s premise—that every hundred years a group of rulers must essentially fight to the death in a magical competition to try and break the curse that is killing their kingdoms—feels pretty familiar. But Alex Aster’s Lightlark takes this formula and runs with it, crafting an addictive, propulsive story with great characters and a ton of fun, if occasionally predictable, twists. (Spoiler alert: I accidentally stayed up until 2 am one night finishing this, so consider this fair warning is all I’m saying.)
Publisher’s Description: Welcome to the Centennial. Every 100 years, the island of Lightlark appears to host the Centennial, a deadly game that only the rulers of six realms are invited to play. The invitation is a summons—a call to embrace victory and ruin, baubles and blood. The Centennial offers the six rulers one final chance to break the curses that have plagued their realms for centuries. Each ruler has something to hide. Each realm’s curse is uniquely wicked. To destroy the curses, one ruler must die.
Isla Crown is the young ruler of Wildling—a realm of temptresses cursed to kill anyone they fall in love with. They are feared and despised and are counting on Isla to end their suffering by succeeding at the Centennial.
To survive, Isla must lie, cheat, and betray…even as love complicates everything
The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen
Release Date: August 23 from Orbit
Why You’ll Love It: The adult debut from The Bird and the Blade author Megan Bannen, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is a fizzy fantasy rom-com that mixes macabre whimsy with a good old-fashioned enemies-to-lovers story. The story of a lonely demigod, a cranky undertaker, and the anonymous letters they end up sending to one another, this one will steal your heart??
Publisher’s Description: Hart is a marshal, tasked with patrolling the strange and magical wilds of Tanria. It’s an unforgiving job, and Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder his loneliness.
Mercy never has a moment to herself. She’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son Undertakers afloat in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest.
After yet another exasperating run-in with Mercy, Hart finds himself penning a letter addressed simply to “A Friend”. Much to his surprise, an anonymous letter comes back in return, and a tentative friendship is born.
If only Hart knew he’s been baring his soul to the person who infuriates him most – Mercy. As the dangers from Tanria grow closer, so do the unlikely correspondents. But can their blossoming romance survive the fated discovery that their pen pals are their worst nightmares – each other?
The Dragon’s Promise by Elizabeth Lim
Release Date: August 30 from Knopf Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: The highly anticipated conclusion to Elizabeth Lim’s Six Crimson Cranes duology is full of political intrigue and adventure, as Princess Shiori journeys to the kingdom of the dragons to fulfill a deathbed promise and return a magical pearl to its rightful owner. The story’s effortlessly incorporation of East Asian legends and folklore, along with its strong themes of family both born and chosen helps this fantasy stand out from the pack.
Publisher’s Description: Princess Shiori made a deathbed promise to return the dragon’s pearl to its rightful owner, but keeping that promise is more dangerous than she ever imagined.
She must journey to the kingdom of dragons, navigate political intrigue among humans and dragons alike, fend off thieves who covet the pearl for themselves and will go to any lengths to get it, all while cultivating the appearance of a perfect princess to dissuade those who would see her burned at the stake for the magic that runs in her blood.
The pearl itself is no ordinary cargo; it thrums with malevolent power, jumping to Shiori’s aid one minute, and betraying her the next—threatening to shatter her family and sever the thread of fate that binds her to her true love, Takkan. It will take every ounce of strength Shiori can muster to defend the life and the love she’s fought so hard to win.
The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez
Release Date: August 30 from Del Ray Books
Why You’ll Love It: A dense, layered fantasy about a dying goddess who enlists the aid of two young warriors to kill her tyrannical children and save their kingdom, The Spear Cuts Through Water is a groundbreaking story that is part prose, part poem, and thoroughly magical throughout. Its complex worldbuilding and seemingly constantly shifting perspective—the story fluidly moves through first, second, and third person, as well as backward and forward in time—means that some readers will find this a difficult narrative to connect with, but there are rich rewards for those that stick with it.
Publisher’s Description: The people suffer under the centuries-long rule of the Moon Throne. The royal family—the despotic emperor and his monstrous sons, the Three Terrors—hold the countryside in their choking grip. They bleed the land and oppress the citizens with the frightful powers they inherited from the god locked under their palace.
But that god cannot be contained forever.
With the aid of Jun, a guard broken by his guilt-stricken past, and Keema, an outcast fighting for his future, the god escapes from her royal captivity and flees from her own children, the triplet Terrors who would drag her back to her unholy prison. And so it is that she embarks with her young companions on a five-day pilgrimage in search of freedom—and a way to end the Moon Throne forever. The journey ahead will be more dangerous than any of them could have imagined.
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.