At once steeped in richly-conjured West African myths and landscapes, and a page-turning thriller with real-life resonance (courtesy of its unforgettable protagonist), Yaba Badoe’s Lionheart Girl is a wonder of YA fiction. This is magic realism at its most powerful, exploring as it does universal themes of family bonds, fleeing and finding your way, through language that’s brilliantly enmeshed with its setting and subjects: “my heart, big as a lake in the wet season, shrivels to a slick of water in the dry.” Sheba was born into a family of witches, to a line of powerful women who can shapeshift, whose touch can uncover people’s deepest desires and fears. The story begins with Sheba fleeing her village to find her father, spurred by “the fizz in my fingers whenever I touched Ma’s hair”. In time, Sheba’s overbearing mother reveals, “We royal women are special. Our blood is enriched by generations of ritual and magic. Magic flows through us”. And so Sheba unknots her own powers, and secrets of her past, in a tale that rails against convention while feeling utterly timeless.