Truthwitch Susan Dennard could teach a masterclass on #worldbuilding. She is also a pro at portraying deeply caring, totally platonic relationships that show friendship can be treated with as much love as a romantic relationship.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms There is a reason N.K. Jemisin is a history-making, three-time Hugo Award-winning author (though for a different series, just read them all). In the words of Lin Manuel Miranda, she “builds palaces out of paragraphs.” There is no way you can come away from reading her works without feeling inspired.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns Not many books explore antiheroines, but this one does it with such skill that you are both disgusted at what the main character does while rooting for her to succeed.
The Belles Dhonielle Clayton is a queen of world building. She creates such lush settings. You could feel it in her contemporary novels, but it becomes even more apparent in her fantasy.
A Darker Shade of Magic Lila Bard is another antiheroine and I love her to bits. Victoria Schwab is able to build three very distinctive worlds in this series and a magic system that is unbelievable.
Americanah Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie uses this book as a discourse on being an African in America, which is very different from being African American. The #symbolism (that crosses the #diaspora) of hair weaved (pun intended) throughout the story shows how you can subtly give a powerful message to your readers.
The Black God’s Drums I can’t write short stories, but I would love to try my hand at novellas. Clark managed a complex, engaging plot in a short amount of space. His characters, including the city of New Orleans, jump off the page.
American Street Ibi Zoboi drags the reader into the world of Detroit from an immigrant’s point of view. The use of Papa Legba will have you questioning what is real and what isn’t, which, to me, is a perfect example of what magical realism should be.
Six of Crows There is much that can be said about Leigh Bardugo’s writing. But I want to highlight the use of an ensemble cast that plays off of each other in such ways that keeps the reader guessing and builds the other characters at the same time. This duology is also another great example of powerful platonic relationships. Not to mention an excellent heist story.