Labyrinth Road Acquires YA Fantasy Trilogy from Playwright LaDarrion Williams Following Viral Twitter Pitch
Labyrinth Road, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, has acquired a new contemporary YA fantasy trilogy by playwright, filmmaker, and screenwriter LaDarrion Williams, it was announced today by Liesa Abrams, VP & Editor-in-Chief. Pitched by the debut author in a viral tweet as “What if Harry Potter went to a HBCU in the South?” the first title in the series, BLOOD AT THE ROOT, is slated for publication in 2024. Abrams acquired North American rights for three books in a competitive auction from Pete Knapp at Park & Fine Literary, and will edit the project.
“Black boys like me don’t have magic powers. At least, that’s what I believed growing up.” So begins BLOOD AT THE ROOT, the action-packed story of a Black teen who must choose to embrace his long-lost family’s legacy—and the love, warmth, secrets, and power that come with it. Years after his mother’s mysterious disappearance on the same night his own magical abilities manifested, seventeen-year-old Malik Baron arrives at Caiman University, a magical HBCU in the South. There, he has a chance to learn about his heritage, his powers . . . and maybe the truth about his mother. A contemporary fantasy perfect for fans of Legendborn, the story blends Haitian history and New Orleans culture with a modern, HBCU-inspired setting.
The series was inspired by Williams’s love of fantasy and his desire to see more characters like himself in fantasy narratives. A Black boy from the South is the book’s hero, , reflecting the type of story he wanted to see as a teen, set where he grew up. In addition to the novel, LaDarrion also developed the concept into a short film of the same name, currently available for streaming on YouTube.
“It’s been so wild to see all of the early excitement about Blood at the Root on Twitter and TikTok as I’ve chronicled my journey writing it over the last three years. I know how much a story like this would’ve meant to me as a kid, and it’s clear from people’s responses and messages online that there is still a great need and hunger for books featuring Black boys stepping into their power. I’m grateful to be able to partner with Liesa Abrams, Labyrinth Road, and the Random House Children’s Books team to bring this book into the world, and to have this opportunity to introduce readers to Malik, his story of resilience, and the magical world of Caiman University.”
“Malik’s voice grabbed me from the very first page, with its authentic mixture of vulnerability and strength in a teen who has faced unimaginable loss,” says Abrams. “LaDarrion seamlessly weaves Malik’s urgent personal stakes into an epic, thrilling magic school story, striking the exact balance of emotion and adventure that defines a Labyrinth Road book. Likewise, as an imprint looking to broaden the canvas of who can see themselves in this genre, we are so excited to be the publishing home for this series that centers a Black male character and contemporary American Black culture within a YA fantasy.”
LaDarrion Williams is a Los Angeles–based playwright, filmmaker, author, and screenwriter whose goal is to cultivate a new era of Black fantasy, providing space and agency for Black characters and stories in a fresh and fantastical way. He has written numerous award-winning and critically acclaimed plays, including Katrina, Black Creek Risin’, Coco Queens, and Boulevard of Bold Dreams, which premiered at TimeLine Theatre in Chicago in January 2023 and Greater Boston Stage Company in March 2023. LaDarrion is a resident playwright/co-creator of The Black Creators Collective, where his play UMOJA made its West Coast premiere in January 2022, and produced North Hollywood’s first Black playwrights festival at the Waco Theater Center. Serving as a writer-producer, LaDarrion has curated three short films on YouTube, including Blood at the Root. He is on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok at @ItsLaDarrion.