BGC Recommends: Black Magical Reads
Black Wizard History Month may be a celebration of the Black magical people in the Harry Potter universe, but there are plenty of stories written by and about Black magical protagonists. If you’re looking for books about Black kids living in magical worlds and/or with magic of their own, check out this shortlist of recommendations pulled together by the BGC team!
The Belles, Dhonielle Clayton
The Belles is a fantasy story that follows Camellia Beauregard, a Belle — one of few who control beauty in the world of Orleans. In her quest to become the favorite of the royal family, Camille learns that for all of its obsession with beauty, Orleans has a sinister underside that threatens not only her but the people she loves. This book interrogates the concept of what is beautiful, who gets to decide beauty, and who gets to control beauty, with an original magic system set among a lush and descriptive backdrop.
The Legacy of Orïsha series, Tomi Adeyemi
The Legacy of Orïsha series follows diviner Zélie Adebola on a journey to restore peace and liberate the maji of Orïsha after a chance encounter with a mysterious runaway, who turns out to be Amari, the princess of Orïsha. In their quest to restore balance in the world and exact justice, Zélie instead throws the very structures of magic and identity into chaos. The first two books in the series, Children of Blood and Bone and Children of Virtue and Vengeance, inspect systems of oppression outside of a western colonial lens, the dangers and pitfalls of power, and the importance of cultural knowledge all while celebrating the beauty and power of Blackness.
A Phoenix First Must Burn, Patrice Caldwell, et al.
Looking for a bunch of Black Girl Magic in one concentrated dose? That’s exactly what you find in this anthology of 16 fictional stories by as many Black authors. From the vampire/Hollywood star Black girl romance you didn’t know you needed (“The Actress” by Danielle Paige) to an over-qualified magic apprentice conversing with mermaids (“Melie” by Justina Ireland), your magical wish is this book’s command. Super powers? (“All the Time in the World” by Charlotte Nicole Davis) ✅ Neuro-atypical loner meets mysterious — and magical — queer romance? (“Letting the Right One In” by Patrice Caldwell) ✅ Magical elder hidden in plain sight? (“Tender-Headed” by Danny Lore) ✅✅
Are you a Phoenix yet?
A Blade So Black, L.L. McKinney
Often called Alice in Wonderland meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, A Blade so Black follows Alice as she fights monsters between Wonderland and Atlanta, juggling school with training in magic weapons and psycho killer queens. The story includes the very real threat of police violence in the real world, and how that affects people, especially Black mothers who don’t know their daughters have magic powers to defeat evil. There are great twists on Alice in Wonderland characters (Addison Hatta, get it?) and the cover is gorgeous.
How Long ’til Black Future Month?, N.K. Jemisin
There are many stories of magic and science-fiction in this short story collection by N.K. Jemisin, but some favorites with magical characters include: “Red Dirt Witch,” which features a battle between an older Black magic practitioner and a white fae who comes after her kids in the Jim Crow South. “The City Born Great” — a sort of prequel short to Jemisin’s upcoming novel, The City We Became — stars a homeless queer Black man who must fight a being older than anything (Cthulhu-style, and which may be the cause of gentrification) and reclaim New York City for it’s more marginalized inhabitants. “L’Alchemista” is about a Black chef who is visited by a strange visitor who leaves her some curious ingredients and challenges her to make what he says. The whole collection is great, and even the sci-fi stories have Jemisin’s particular magical talent of fantastic writing.
Daughters of Nri, Remi K. Amayo
Twin sisters separated at birth can be pretty cliché, but Daughters of Nri takes this trope and makes it passion. In this story, Naala and Sinai begin on completely different paths — Naala, to become wife of her village chief’s son and Sinai, keeping her head down in the palace courtier system to avoid bullies. Through some pretty lethal stakes (loved ones murdered by a tyrannical leader) and challenges (powers manifesting for the first time) we see each girl using her haters as motivators to a satisfying victory in the end of the book. Almost too satisfying… Suffice to say this is a series to keep an eye on.
A River of Royal Blood, Amanda Joy
While the title alone could win an award for its drama, A River of Royal Blood aptly describes the protagonist’s, Eva, magical ability and the blood letting it requires as well as some major plot points in the book. As a princess and younger sister of a land where only one princess can survive to adulthood, Eva is already short of luck. Add in her mother’s preference for her older sister based on bias against her blood magic abilities alone, and Eva is almost a guaranteed failure. Luckily, she befriends some boss magical Black fae and others who help her stand a fighting chance. Come for the drama, stay for the multi-magical species historical mystery that unfolds.