13 Best Diverse Books with Magical Competitions to Read

Are you a fan of magical competitions? Fantasy contests? Here is my list of diverse books with magical competitions! The amount to which the competition is center to plot varies among all of them. You will find some of these books where the competition is the center of the entire book and a few where there is a competition on the side.

If you have any additional recommendations for this list, Iโ€™m happy to add them (at some point) to this list. I love magical competitions, so my to-read list grew so much while making this. Please enjoy!

Diverse Books with Magical Competitions

The Scarlet Alchemist by Kylie Lee Baker

A Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Zilan dreams of being a royal alchemist, but instead she's stuck in her small town practicing illegal magic: raising the dead. When she finally gets a chance to complete her imperial exams, she realizes that being a royal alchemist is very different than what she dreamed of.

๐Ÿ“– Couldn't Put It Down ๐Ÿ‘พ Monsters ๐Ÿ‘‘ Non-European Royalty ๐Ÿช„ Unique Magic

Why pick up this book? Kylie Lee Baker writes historical fantasy stories with biracial protagonists. They’re always feminist and have a delightful eat the rich energy. She has a BA in creative writing and Spanish from Emory University and is pursuing a master of library and information science degree at Simmons University.

A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy

A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy

As Rival Heirs of Myre, Eva and Isadore must face one another to the death for the Ivory Throne on Evaโ€™s seventeenth nameday, but when an assassin is sent to take her life, Eva realizes how much more is at stake in the Queendom than the fate of Rival Heirs.

๐Ÿ“š First in Series ๐Ÿ”ฎ Magic ๐Ÿ† Strong Female Leads ๐Ÿ‘‘ Non-European Royalty

Why pick up this book? A River of Royal Blood is an enthralling debut set in a lush North African inspired fantasy world that subtly but powerfully challenges our notions of power, history, and identity. Amanda Joy studied English and psychology at the University of Missouri and earned her MFA in Writing for Children at the New School. A River of Royal Blood has received a starred review by Booklist, and shining reviews by Natasha Ngan (NYT bestselling author), Dhonielle Clayton (NYT bestselling author), Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly.

Spark to Shadow by Atima Kim

Spark to Shadow by Atima Kim

Bookish Brews review of Spark to Shadow

Fangโ€™s responsibility is to be the first to unite the coven clans to usher in a new era of witches. This dragon riding warrior must choose a suiter in a bachelorette style competition, but the coven she is meant to unite with has secrets she wasnโ€™t meant to find out.

๐Ÿ‘‘ Non-European Royalty ๐Ÿ’ž Young Love ๐Ÿ† Strong Female Lead ๐ŸŒ East Asian Rep

Why pick up this book?

Spark to Shadow is a beautifully and unapologetically Thailand inspired fantasy world. It has dragons, magic, matriarchy and sex-positivity. Atima Kim writes Thailand inspired books in hopes that her son will grow in a world where more people in fiction will look like him. Something she didnโ€™t have growing up, and something so many of us can relate to.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Under the Emperorโ€™s rule, defiance is met with death. Laia and Elias, both enslaved in different ways by the empire, only want to be free. They soon learn that their destinies are intertwined and their choices will determine the future of the empire.

๐Ÿ’ฅ Dramatic Ending ๐Ÿ’˜ Forbidden Love ๐Ÿ“š First in Series ๐Ÿ‘๏ธ Multiple POV

Why pick up this book? Youโ€™ve probably heard of this one. This book was one of Times Magazineโ€™s 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time, it was an instant NYT bestseller, Amazonโ€™s Best Young Adult Book of 2015, Peopleโ€™s Choice Award winner for Favorite Fantasy, itโ€™s received shining reviews by The Washington post, Public Radio International, the Huffington Post, and the New York Times Book Review. Sabaa Tahir is a Pakistani American whose books have sold more than a million copies worldwide.

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Pitched as Project Runway meets Mulan, this book follows Maia, a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of the imperial tailor and must complete an impossible task to sew three magic dresses from the sun, moon, and the stars.

๐Ÿ’ž Young Love โœจ Asian Fairytale ๐Ÿ† Strong Female Lead ๐Ÿƒ Easy Reading

Why pick up this book? Spin the Dawn has received critical acclaim from NPR, The Washington Post, and Tamora Pierce (#1 NYT bestselling author). Elizabeth Lim is also a New York Times bestseller, and a USA Today bestseller. She grew up in Northern California and Tokyo. She is also a film and video game composer, and has a doctorate in music composition. She has an AB in music from Harvard and a secondary in East Asian Studies. Her novels have been translated into over a dozen languages.

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

A group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

โœ’๏ธ Debut Author ๐Ÿ’ซ Atmospheric ๐Ÿ’€ Dark Content ๐Ÿ”ฎ Magic

Why pick up this book? Where Dreams Descend has received a starred review from Kirkus, and wonderful reviews from Claire Legrand, New York Times bestselling author of Furyborn, and Sara Raasch, New York Times bestselling author of the Snow Like Ash trilogy. It has also been featured on Book Riot, Popsugar, Bustle, Business Insider, Buzzfeed, and many more!

Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

Sheetal has always felt a pull to the stars, but when the pull becomes too strong, she accidentally burns her father. The only way to heal him is ascending to the sky, but it turns out that her star family has summoned her for a reason.

โœ’๏ธ Debut Author ๐Ÿ”ฎ Magic โœ‚ Retelling ๐Ÿ›• Hindu Mythology

Why pick up this book? This beautiful debut novel is full of celestial intrigue. It blends Neil Gaimanโ€™s Stardust beautifullly with Hindu mythology in a wonderful contemporary YA fantasy. Star Daughter was a Nebula Award finalist and has received shining reviews by authors such as Holly Black, New York Times bestselling author of the Folk of Air series.

A Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

A Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

At only seventeen, Maya unexpectedly is thrown into marriage and becomes queen of Akaran. The only problem is that she is cursed with a promise of death and destruction. Who can she trust when she suspects her life is in danger?

๐Ÿ”ฎ Magic ๐Ÿ‘‘ Non-European Royalty ๐Ÿ’ž Young Love โœ‚ Retelling

Why pick up this book? A Star-Touched Queen was an instant New York Times bestseller. It is rich and vibrant, and full of Indian folklore and mythology. Roshani Chokshiโ€™s works have been nominated for the locus and nebula award, and have frequently appeared on the Best of the Year lists from Barnes and Noble, Forbnes, Buzzfeed and more. Her works have also recently been optioned for film by Paramount Pictures.

A Song of Wraith and Ruin by Roseanna A. Brown

A Song of Wraith and Ruin by Roseanna A. Brown

Malik makes a fatal deal to kill Karina in return for his abducted sister. In order to get close to her, Malik rigs his way into the Solstasia competition, but Karina has deadly aspirations of her own for whoever wins the competition.

๐Ÿ’˜ Enemies to Lovers โœ’๏ธ Debut Author ๐ŸŒ African Mythology ๐ŸŽค Own Voices

Why pick up this book? This is the first in a new fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore. It was an instant New York Times bestseller. Roseanna A. Brown was born in Kumasi, Ghana, and now lives in Maryland. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelorโ€™s in Journalism. Her Journalism has been featured by Voice of America. She has worked as an editorial intern at Entangled Publishing and was a Pitch Wars mentee and mentor.

The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala

The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala

Esha is on a mission to take down General Hotha. Kunal, the generalโ€™s son, longs to join the outside world. When Esha and Kunalโ€™s paths cross, they both think theyโ€™re calling the shots, but they soon find out they arenโ€™t the only players in this game.

๐Ÿ’˜ Enemies to Lovers ๐Ÿ“š First in Series ๐ŸŽฒ Plot Twists ๐Ÿ›• Hindu Mythology

Why pick up this book? The Tiger at Midnight is inspired by the stories told my Swatiโ€™s grandparents every time she went to India to visit them. They told stories from their Hindu mythology, full of honorable warriors, strong queens, star crossed romances, and epic battles. This book is a homage to those tales full of magic and Indian history. This book was on Book Riot and Barnes & Nobles most anticipated lists.

Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

The Alexandrian Society are the foremost secret society of magical academicians in the world. Every decade six uniquely talented magicians are considered for initiation, but only five will be initiated. Meet the latest six.

๐Ÿซ Dark Academia ๐Ÿณ๏ธโ€๐ŸŒˆ Queer Cast ๐Ÿค” Thought Provoking ๐Ÿ’ซ Atmospheric

Why pick up this book? Alexene Farol Follmuth (Olivie Blake) loves writing books that revolve around the collective experience, what it means to be human, and the deep complexities of life and love. She has been published as the featured fiction contributor for Witch Way Magazine, and the writer for the self-published graphic series Alpha.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

After her mother dies, Bree wants nothing to do with her family memories, so she accepts a high school in college program at UNC Chapel hill. Which seems perfect until she sees a magical attack her first night on campus.

๐Ÿฉบ Well Researched ๐Ÿค” Thought Provoking ๐Ÿ† Strong Female Lead ๐ŸŽค Own Voices

Why pick up this book? This book is incredible, you can readย my full review here. Legendborn was an instant New York Times bestseller, it is the winner of the Coretta Scott King โ€“ John Steptoe for New Talent Author Award. Itโ€™s a finalist for the Hugo, Locus and IGNYTE awards, LA Times Book Prize 2020, Goodreads Choice award 2020 and more.

A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin

A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin

After Ning accidentally kills her mother by unknowingly brewing poison tea, the same tea threatens to take her sister as well. Her only chance is a competition to find the kingdomโ€™s greatest shennong-shi, masters of the magical art of tea making.

๐Ÿ—ณ๏ธ Court Politics ๐Ÿ‘‘ Non-European Royalty ๐Ÿƒ Easy Reading ๐ŸŒ Asian Rep

Why pick up this book?ย A number one New York Times bestseller, A Magic Steeped in Poison is full of Chinese legends, Song Dynasty vibes, and Taiwanese tea. Judy I. Lin is a Taiwanese Canadian author and this book is a tribute for her love of HK Wuxia movies. This is her debut novel.

Support Bookish Brews

Bookish Brews is a literature website that exclusively works with writers, creatives, and people from systematically marginalized communities with a focus on the global majority. If you appreciate what we do here, please consider stopping by ourย Support Page.ย 


Decolonize Your Bookshelf With Me

Hi! I’m Amanda. Bookish Brews started as a personal project to decolonize my bookshelf turned into a passion for diverse stories. Once I realized how much we can grow personally from stories by people with different experiences than our own, I realized how much they impact our world. But I also know that growth from stories does not happen without intentionality. Bookish Brews is dedicated to building meaningful conversations about how stories by diverse voices can change our lives, our culture, and our world.

"Let's change the system via the lens of compelling fiction."

Let's Be Friends


  1. I didn’t know I needed this list, but I did. The only one I’ve read on this list is A Song of Wraiths and Ruin but I’m reading my ARC of Spark to Shadow now!

    1. OMG YOU GOT AN ARC OF SPARK TO SHADOW?? It’s one of my favorite reads of the year I’m excited you’re reading it!!! Thanks Brooke ๐Ÿฅฐ๐Ÿฅฐ

      1. YES A BLOG TOUR!! Oh I’m so glad you enjoyed it!! Strong female leads are one of my favorite types of characters. <3

      2. UGH I’m so happy it is getting a blog tour that’s incredible ๐Ÿ˜ญ can’t wait to see your stop!!!!

  2. amazing list! so many really good books.

    1. Thanks Chelsea!!! Hope you found something new ๐Ÿ˜„

  3. I love this list!!! Thank you for sharing it!

    1. Thank you!!! I’m so glad you enjoyed it ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope you found something exciting for you ๐Ÿ˜„โค

  4. So glad you included tiger at midnight on your list!!!! I love this list and omg ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿคง y r ur posts soo pretty all the time? ๐Ÿคงโค๏ธ

    1. Have you read it!? It looks so good!!!! and stop omg you’re gonna make me emotional thank you ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ You’re so sweet!!!!

      1. Yesss!! I have! And I plan to read the rest of the trilogy as well!!! Being a hindu, I find it sooo relatable. It was really interesting to see this take on Hindu mythology and then morphing it with the fantasy genre. Not gonna lie, it was a very bold move on the author’s part. In fact publishers rejected her scripts soo many times and she published it herself. And ahh I do love your posts soo much!! I end up saving half of them ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜… โค๏ธ

      2. Aaaaah, that makes me so happy that I included it then! I love that it was so relatable for you, and how much you loved it. Now I really need to read it! Thanks for sharing love ๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿฅฐ

  5. Thanks for the book recommendations ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Aww I hope you found something exciting for you ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Amazing list, Amanda! A Song of Wraith and Ruin and Spin the Dawn are both on my TBR, they look so interesting! And I loved Legendborn and An Ember in the Ashes.

    1. Legendborn is SO GOOD! Spin the Dawn I loved also its so sweet!! I haven’t read the sequel yet, though! I hope you like whichever ones you end up picking up Ritz, thank you ๐Ÿฅฐ๐Ÿฅฐ๐Ÿฅฐ

  7. Ahh I love this list!! I can’t believe I’ve read none of these books yet even though they’re all on my TBR! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh really!!! Wow more reason to pick one of these up, I suppose ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ Thank youuu ๐Ÿฅฐ๐Ÿฅฐ

  8. Veronica @ Little Corner Reads

    Ooh I’ve been excited for A Magic Steeped in Poison since the cover reveal, but I didn’t realize it features a magical competition?! ๐Ÿ˜

    1. YEA! I hadn’t either! Gauri at abookandchai.wordpress.com told me! The cover is BEAUTIFUL, I can’t stop staring, no wonder it’s been on your TBR ๐Ÿ˜

  9. I found so many books to add to my tbr!!! Awesome post!

    1. Oh yay! That’s so good, I’m so happy to hear that! ๐Ÿฅฐ

  10. I love this list! I didn’t realise I never knew I needed a list of diverse books with magical competitions until now! Thank you for this perfection!!!

    1. Awww thank you so much, you’re so sweet! ๐Ÿฅบ Magical competitions are SO FUN! I hope you found some books to add to your TBR ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿฅฐ

  11. Magical competitions are one of my favorite fantasy tropes ever! I’ve read some of the books on this list but quite a few are new to me – definitely adding them to my TBR!

    1. Aaah me too! Thank you!!! I’m so glad you could find something new ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿฅฐ

  12. amanda, i love this list so much ahh i see an ember in the ashes, definitely agreed the quartet masters dramatic endings which are just brilliant (but not that great for my fragile heart ๐Ÿ˜…), and don’t even get me started on the slow burn romance ๐Ÿ˜Œ… i really enjoyed spin the dawn and legendborn too, and am looking to pick up a song of wraiths and ruin the own voices + enemies to lovers has intrigued me… thank you for the lovely recs! โค

    1. Ahahah I’m so glad you agree!!! Spin the Dawn is so sweet I loved it! I’m reading more Elizabeth Lim now too!!! And Legendborn is incredible. Thanks for the support!!! ๐Ÿฅบโค I’m so glad you found something!!! ๐Ÿฅฐ

  13. I love this so much!! I’m definitely checking out all of these! I also plan on reading Spin the Dawn soon, and your post has hyped me up so much more! And An Ember in the Ashes is a brilliant series!

    1. Thanks Rania!!! Aaaah I’m so glad you’re going to read Spin the Dawn! It’s definitely a cute and fun one! And An Ember in the Ashes looks SO GOOD I really want to read it after making this list! ๐Ÿ˜„โค

    1. Aww thank you!!! ๐Ÿฅบ๐Ÿฅฐ

  14. amanda!! i LOVE LOVE LOVE this list omg!! ๐Ÿ’– legendborn was such a fun read, and i can’t wait to get to my ARC for spark to shadow! an ember in the ashes has also been on my tbr forEVER, and the cover for a magic steeped in poison is gorgeous! ๐Ÿ˜โœจ

    1. OMG thanks Ahaana!!!! I love your support ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ Please yell at me on discord about Spark to Shadow I really liked it!!! โคโค Also yes I totally added a Magic steeped in poison bc of the cover ๐Ÿ˜… But it sounds similar to Spin the Dawn which I also loved!!! ๐Ÿ˜„

  15. […] Amanda @ Bookish Brews created a book list featuring diverse books with magical competitions. […]

  16. WORDS CANT DESCRIBE HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS LIST! as a non-fantasy reader, this is sooo helpful!

    1. Omg Saniya that is so great to hear, I’m so happy this was helpful to you!!!! ๐Ÿฅฐ๐Ÿฅฐ

  17. […] @ Bookish Brews creates a list of diverse books with magical competitions. It’s such a great […]

  18. […] @ Bookish Brews put together a list of diverse books with magical competitions to check […]

  19. Yes ๐Ÿ‘ So excited to get to Spin the Dawn ๐Ÿ’ซ

    1. YAAY! I hope you love it! I thought Spin the Dawn was SO cute. โœจ

  20. Cool collection! Some of these are on my reading list already, but this is my first time learning about Spark to Shadow and A Magic Steeped in Poison. Hmm, I was just reading about Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim. No magical contests that I’m aware of, but it does feature Arabian-inspired tea magic. Maybe I should start a special tea list. ๐Ÿ˜Š

  21. This is a fantastic list Amanda! I love lists and you picked some very good books. I see Atlas Six too! OMG! โค

    1. Aaaah, thanks so much!!! ๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’• Have you read it!? it looks so good ๐Ÿ˜ญ

  22. [โ€ฆ] Amanda gives us a list of diverse books with magical competitions! ๐Ÿงš๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ [โ€ฆ]

  23. this post has so many good recs, a few of which iโ€™ve already read and loved, so i look forward to checking out the rest!!

    1. Awww thank you so much! I hope you enjoy the new ones that you found ๐Ÿ’•

  24. […] also still obsessing over this post: Book List: Diverse Books with Magical Competitions, because I adore magical competitions. I just want to read all of the books (that I haven’t […]

  25. Legendborn and Ember in the Ashes are AMAZING. Just added a bunch of books to my tbr list thank you!

    1. Aaaah YES Legendborn was incredible!!! I’m so glad I could help! ๐Ÿฅฐ๐Ÿฅฐ

  26. I loved this list and got so many new recs! A lot of these are now on my tbr and I am so looking forward to reading them!!

    1. I’m so glad you found some books to add to your tbr! I hope you enjoy them! Thanks for reading ๐Ÿ’•

  27. […] Amanda @ Bookish Brews lists out diverse books with magical competitions […]

Chat with us over coffee

Bookish Brews Behind the Scenes

Get more diverse book recommendations, thoughts on literature, publishing, life, and the world. Most importantly, the intersection of it all.

Plus, an inside look at all things Bookish Brews.

Still not convinced? Read the archives.