Hello and Happy TTT! Now, my blog theme being what it is, I couldn’t not pick birds for this particular freebie, and I hope you find many marvelous tales from among this flock to enjoy. (And if you did birds too, we have to be friends now. No exceptions.)
1. A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee
Starting us off is this delightful Japanese-influenced fantasy from Traci Chee, complete with wildly inventive worldbuilding, actual footnotes, and absolute shenanigans. The bird in question on this cover is the helpful but slightly mischievous magpie spirit Geiki, who accompanies the main character, Miuko, on a quest to undo her demonic curse. This book is fun all around, but Geiki and his antics often steal the show. (Reviewed here.)
2. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
As we’ll soon discover, YA fantasy is very fond of corvids. The Raven Boys is the first of a contemporary fantasy quartet starring the non-psychic daughter of a very psychic family, and a prep school boy’s relentless search for a legendary dead king. The Raven Boys’ title is actually referring to the aforementioned prep school’s uniform crest, but fear not! I’m two books in and I can guarantee at least one actual raven so far. (Her name is Chainsaw and I would die for her.) (Reviewed here.)
3. Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
Following Strange the Dreamer in a stunning fantasy duology about dream magic, an ancient library, and a fabled lost city, Muse of Nightmares is some of the most ambitious fantasy I’ve ever read. Having finished it months ago, the specific relevance of the hawk on the cover escapes me, but, barring my lapse of memory, I cannot recommend these books to fantasy fans enough. If you have a taste for stunning visuals, rich worldbuilding informed by an imaginative past, or gossamer-fine prose, the Strange the Dreamer duology is likely to prove two new favorites.
4. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan
In Emily X. R. Pan’s dreamlike debut novel, Leigh, a young artist who just lost her mother to suicide, awakens to an impossible truth: her mom has transformed into a bird. In the pages of this fabulist novel, we see contemporary life with a touch of the paranormal, as red crane feathers and ghosts punctuate a steady, heartfelt portrait of grief, with what’s “real” and not ultimately left up to the reader. The marvelous details, along with a gorgeous emphasis on visual art, make this an excellent pick for fantasy and contemporary fans alike.
5. The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen
This work of YA fantasy takes the bird symbolism up a notch: in the land of Sabor, the social castes bear avian names and their associated magics. The royalty are called phoenixes, the gentry swans and other classically ‘noble’ birds, and crows, a persecuted caste of mercy-killers tasked with containing a perpetual plague, are at the very bottom. As you might expect, The Merciful Crow and its sequel, The Faithless Hawk, have an absolute field day with motifs, but they’re also distinctively thoughtful deconstructions of class hierarchies, and, every now and then, laugh-out-loud funny, too.
6. Spinning Starlight by R. C. Lewis
Speaking of swans, this sci-fi retelling of the fairy tale “The Wild Swans” bears a swan of circuitry on its cover in homage to its source material. It’s set in a futuristic solar system where portal travel puts all the planets at everyone’s fingertips…and conceals a deadly secret. Our lead, the tech heiress (and tech-challenged) Liddi Jantzen, has to rescue her brothers from certain death in the void between these very portals, unravel a conspiracy in her family company, and, in keeping with the original tale, can’t use her voice to do either. The book has some misses, but if you love a sci-fi fairy tale in step with The Lunar Chronicles, this one is worth a sojourn into the backlist. (Reviewed here.)
7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Without a spot for the Mockingjay, this list would be woefully incomplete. Set in a post-disaster North America by the name of Panem, The Hunger Games follows a working-class girl who finds herself in a tournament held by the government every year, in which kids are forced to fight each other to death until only one victor remains. The Mockingjay, a relic of genetically-engineered warfare, becomes a heavy symbol of resistance later in the series, and, due at least in part to the covers, it absolutely plastered pop culture when this series’ popularity was in its heyday.
8. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
A magical heist full of clever schemes, marvelously-executed twists, and a cast of rogues you can’t help but adore, Six of Crows has also made its cover bird very popular. Bardugo uses the crow as a symbol to moving effect––drawing out the contradictions in her lovably ruthless characters as holders of deep grudges and even deeper loyalties. And, not to join the chorus or anything––but you’re going to love this book and you simply have to read it.
9. Hilda and the Bird Parade by Luke Pearson
The Hilda series of graphic novels was recently adapted into a lovely Netflix series, but the books are more than set for a charm of their own. This third volume follows Hilda in an excursion through the city of Trolberg, set against an annual night parade in tribute to a legendary raven. Like the other volumes, it’s full of whimsy and catnip to anyone who loves folktale in their fantasy.
10. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Hobbit has been published in plenty of editions whose covers have not even a whisper of a bird, but my copy has eagles in the sky of its panorama, so I’m counting it. Eagles play a brief surprise-rescue role in one of the early chapters and are only tangentially related to the chase-out-the-dragon main plot, but I’m always happy to see a bird of prey gracing the pages of a fantasy adventure, and I can’t wait to see where I’ll meet them next.
Thank you so much for reading! As always, I’d love to hear any and all of your thoughts in the comments––any I missed?