2022 is on the horizon and with the new year comes new books to get excited about! I already have over 30 books on my TBR but I narrowed down 10 books releasing in 2022 that I’m most excited about. Looking for new books to add to your reading list? There’s a fairytale-esque fantasy inspired by East Asian folklore, a thrilling art heist novel, a dark contemporary fantasy with secret societies, and so much more. See you in 2022!
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is a Spirited Away-esque retelling of the Korean folklore, “The Tale of Shim Cheong”. A girl finds herself in the spirit realm after sacrificing herself to the sea and sets out to wake the Sea God with a motley crew of demons, lesser gods, and spirits. I love all Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli films and Spirited Away is one of my favorites, so this sounds like the book of my dreams. It also gives me Bride of the Water God vibes, a manhwa I absolutely adored when I was younger. Don’t get me started on the sheer beauty of the cover!
Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.
Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.
Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.
But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li
Ocean’s Eleven meets The Farewell in this Asian American heist novel inspired by the true story of Chinese art vanishing from Western museums. It’s about ambitious college students reclaiming stolen art, Chinese American diaspora, and the colonization of art. The book isn’t even out yet but consider it a successful heist in stealing my heart.
History is told by the conquerors. Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of war, of conquest, of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now.
Will Chen plans to steal them back.
A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son that has always been his parents’ American Dream. But when a shadowy Chinese corporation reaches out with an impossible—and illegal—job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago.
His crew is every heist archetype one can imagine—or at least, the closest he can get. A conman: Irene Chen, Will’s sister and a public policy major at Duke, who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with steady hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering student who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down.
Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars—and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted attempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.
Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen
A morally gray witch, a cursed prince, and a prophecy that will ignite their destinies. I’m a big fan of love/hate relationships; it’s one of my favorite fictional romance dynamics. The author describes this as a “fairytale romance for people who would consider literal murder before considering they might have feelings.” I’m sold. Not to mention it’s a fairytale-inspired dark fantasy with an Asian anti-heroine!
Violet is a prophet and a liar, influencing the royal court with her cleverly phrased—and not always true—divinations. Honesty is for suckers, like the oh-so-not charming Prince Cyrus, who plans to strip Violet of her official role once he’s crowned at the end of the summer—unless Violet does something about it.
But when the king asks her to falsely prophesy Cyrus’s love story for an upcoming ball, Violet awakens a dreaded curse, one that will end in either damnation or salvation for the kingdom—all depending on the prince’s choice of future bride. Violet faces her own choice: Seize an opportunity to gain control of her own destiny, no matter the cost, or give in to the ill-fated attraction that’s growing between her and Cyrus.
Violet’s wits may protect her in the cutthroat court, but they can’t change her fate. And as the boundary between hatred and love grows ever thinner with the prince, Violet must untangle a wicked web of deceit in order to save herself and the kingdom—or doom them all.
A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy Lin
It was love at first sight. I’m absolutely the kind of person that judges a book by the cover (don’t we all to some extent?), and I can’t wait to read this Chinese mythology-inspired story about a girl who competes in a cutthroat magical tea-brewing competition. MAGICAL TEA-BREWING COMPETITION!
I used to look at my hands with pride. Now all I can think is, “These are the hands that buried my mother.”
For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu.
When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shennong-shi—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life.
But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger.
A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee
A Japanese-influenced fantasy about a girl who embarks on a quest to reverse the curse that is turning her into a demon. My brain immediately thought of Nezuko from Demon Slayer, except instead of having a brother to help her, our heroine is aided by a thieving magpie spirit! I can’t wait to see how Miuko will “outfox tricksters, escape demon hunters, and negotiate with feral gods” on her adventures.
In the realm of Awara, where gods, monsters, and humans exist side by side, Miuko is an ordinary girl resigned to a safe, if uneventful, existence as an innkeeper’s daughter. But when Miuko is cursed and begins to transform into a demon with a deadly touch, she embarks on a quest to reverse the curse and return to her normal life. Aided by a thieving magpie spirit and continuously thwarted by a demon prince, Miuko must outfox tricksters, escape demon hunters, and negotiate with feral gods if she wants to make it home again. But with her transformation comes power and freedom she never even dreamed of, and she’ll have to decide if saving her soul is worth trying to cram herself back into an ordinary life that no longer fits her… and perhaps never did.
Strike the Zither by Joan He
A random fact about me that no one asked for: I grew up playing Dynasty Warriors, a game franchise based on the Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It covers the history of the late Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period; part history, part myth, part legend. I was obsessed with the encyclopedia of the game, which detailed important figures and battles during the turbulent warring era. Why does this matter? Strike the Zither is a reimagining of that Chinese epic featuring a genderbent Zhuge Liang, the greatest military strategist of the time period! Plus rivals to lovers and backstabbing! I’m counting down the days.
A reimagining of the Chinese military epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms, in which a strategist must help her warlordess to victory against the rival kingdoms to the north and the south while overcoming her fate as written by the gods.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan
I was so lucky to be able to read an ARC of this (thank you Harper Voyager!), and let me tell you this book is as stunning as its cover–in fact, it’s one of my top 5 reads this year. The worldbuilding is lush and magical, the writing is exquisite, and the fairytale-esque atmosphere will sweep you away. Daughter of the Moon Goddess reimagines the legend of the Chinese moon goddess, but focuses on her daughter. She embarks on a dangerous quest that pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm to free her exiled mother. It’s such a romantic fantasy with adventure and immortals and magic. Fantasy lovers, add this book to your reading list!
Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.
Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.
To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.
Book of Night by Holly Black
I love Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince, so when I found out she had an adult debut releasing in 2022 I was elated! This modern dark fantasy has shadow magic and secret societies “in the same vein as Ninth House and The Night Circus” (two of my favorite books). Magical realism meets dark academia. This book lives in my head rent free.
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.
Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong
If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang
Elite boarding school? Teaming up with academic rivals? Scandals and secrets? Invisibility powers? Everything about this sounds so fun–YA contemporary with a touch of magical realism. I’m especially looking forward to the exploration of class and privilege, and hoping that there’s a rivals to lovers romance.
This debut YA novel follows a Chinese American teenage girl, who, upon discovering that she can no longer afford tuition at her elite Beijing boarding school, teams up with her academic rival and monetizes her strange new invisibility powers by discovering and selling her wealthy classmates’ most scandalous secrets.
Babel, or The Necessity of Violence by R.F. Kuang
It’s no secret that R.F. Kuang is one of my favorite authors after The Poppy War series completely and utterly destroyed me. Her next masterpiece is a dark academia set in 1930s Oxford and I am here for it. There’s nothing else I need to know. I’m ready for the reinvention of dark academia as we know it.
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?