If you missed my July wrap-up post where I introduced this series, well, surprise! You may have heard of the mass abuse and harassment revelations in the SFF community over the past few months, from very well-known and very well protected cishet male authors. I’ve already pretty much given up reading books by cishet men, particularly in SFF where there is such a history of misogyny, racism, homophobia and abuse. So I decided now would be a great time to celebrate the lesser-heard voices in the community, namely from marginalised authors of colour, authors in the LGBTIQA+ community, or from disabled or neurodivergent authors. So for the next 5 weeks, I will be posting a list every Thursday celebrating 5 different segments of the SFF community: adult fantasy, adult sci-fi, horror (combined adult + YA), YA fantasy, and YA sci-fi.
This series also seems rather timely (completely a coincidence) after the absolute disaster of the Hugo Awards last weekend, where some old white men decided to be horrifically rude and racist, spending the whole evening praising racist old white dudes from years ago instead of pronouncing the names of the winners and nominees (aka their fucking job) correctly.
So, I hope you can find some new authors to support in the coming weeks, because there are so many amazing stories and world out there that aren’t written by a cishet racist white guy. I’ve tried to keep the descriptions short and sweet otherwise this would have gotten completely out of control and everyone would still be reading next week when my next post comes.
How could I start this list with anyone other than the powerhouse SFF author that is N.K Jemisin? She’s one of my favourite authors, her worldbuilding is almost unparalleled in the genre. Her major series include:
Try this series if you like your magic with a side of romance and want to see a more human side to all-powerful gods!
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.
If you like geology, are fascinated by volcanos and earthquakes and like your fantasy heavy on the science, this is for you! This is the start to one of my alltime favourite series, it’s pretty much the best worldbuilding hands down, any fantasy book ever.
This is the way the world ends. Again.
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
The start to Jemisin’s newest series, this contemporary fantasy is set in New York, where six people wake up with the soul of the city inside them.
Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city in the first book of a stunning new series by Hugo award-winning and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.
Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five.
But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.
Jade City trilogy by Fonda Lee
Fonda Lee’s Jade City trilogy is for those who like very character driven fantasies that focus on family relationships. And also big magic rocks. And gang wars.
JADE CITY is a gripping Godfather-esque saga of intergenerational blood feuds, vicious politics, magic, and kungfu.
The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities.
The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.
When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself.
The Poppy War trilogy by R.F Kuang
My absolute favourite grimdark fantasy – check out recent Hugo winner R.F Kuang if you want an Asian-inspired fantasy series that will DESTROY YOU.
When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.
But surprises aren’t always good.
Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.
For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .
Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.
The City of Brass trilogy by S.A Chakraborty
This is a series so soul-destroying that it took me almost a year to pick up The Kingdom of Copper after how much CoB hurt me, and I still haven’t been able to work up the courage to read EoG. In addition to PAIN, this book has an incredible Middle-East inspired world, and a hugely detailed political history!
Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.
But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.
In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.
After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Check out Priory if you want to challenge your biases in the genre, with this feminist powerhouse of a fantasy novel. Also one of the best f/f relationships in fantasy!
A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
The Unspoken Name by A.K Larkwood
Sapphic orcs. That’s all I have to say right? If you need more, this also has necromancy, powerful gods, portal travel and a fantastic blend of fantasy magic and science fiction technology.
What if you knew how and when you will die?
Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.
But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.
But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
If you like your reads on the shorter side, check out this super fun novella about queer librarin spies on horseback killing fascists in a dystopian US!
In Upright Women Wanted, award-winning author Sarah Gailey reinvents the pulp Western with an explicitly antifascist, near-future story of queer identity.
“That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”
Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her–a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.
The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
Calling all ex-HP fans who want to support a nonbinary author instead of giving their money to transphobic authors! Check out this murder mystery at a private magic school!
Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life. She has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.
But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune
This is quite possibly my favourite book with the found family trope, it’s so queer and so happy and joyful and just makes for such a comforting read!
A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.
Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.
When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.
But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.
An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.
Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender
Check out Callender’s adult debut if you want a Caribbean inspired world where a young ruler wants revenge on the royals who destroyed her family.
An ambitious young woman with the power to control minds seeks vengeance against the royals who murdered her family, in a Caribbean-inspired fantasy world embattled by colonial oppression.
Sigourney Rose is the only surviving daughter of a noble lineage on the islands of Hans Lollik. When she was a child, her family was murdered by the islands’ colonizers, who have massacred and enslaved generations of her people—and now, Sigourney is ready to exact her revenge.
When the childless king of the islands declares that he will choose his successor from amongst eligible noble families, Sigourney uses her ability to read and control minds to manipulate her way onto the royal island and into the ranks of the ruling colonizers. But when she arrives, prepared to fight for control of all the islands, Sigourney finds herself the target of a dangerous, unknown magic.
Someone is killing off the ruling families to clear a path to the throne. As the bodies pile up and all eyes regard her with suspicion, Sigourney must find allies among her prey and the murderer among her peers… lest she become the next victim.
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
This fantasy is literally based on the dreams of enslaved gods?! How fucking cool does that sound?! It’s also a world inspired by Mughal India! I’ve also heard AMAZING things about a very wonderful slowburn romance.
A nobleman’s daughter with magic in her blood. An empire built on the dreams of enslaved gods. Empire of Sand is Tasha Suri’s captivating, Mughal India-inspired debut fantasy.
The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.
When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.
Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance…
Everfair by Nisi Shawl
Everfair is a fantasy novel that spans a massive 30 years of time, for those who love lots of history and politics in their fantasy, or for those who love steampunk! Everfair is an alternate history of the Belgian colonisation of the Congo if the native population had had steam power.
An alternate history / historical fantasy / steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo, from noted short story writer Nisi Shawl.
Everfair is a wonderful Neo-Victorian alternate history novel that explores the question of what might have come of Belgium’s disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier. Fabian Socialists from Great Britian join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo’s “owner,” King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated.
Shawl’s speculative masterpiece manages to turn one of the worst human rights disasters on record into a marvelous and exciting exploration of the possibilities inherent in a turn of history. Everfair is told from a multiplicity of voices: Africans, Europeans, East Asians, and African Americans in complex relationships with one another, in a compelling range of voices that have historically been silenced. Everfair is not only a beautiful book but an educational and inspiring one that will give the reader new insight into an often ignored period of history.
The Library of the Unwritten by A.J Hackwith
This is one of my absolute favourite fantasy novels, it is SO MUCH FUN. It’s set in a library in hell, where all the unwritten manuscripts are stored. When a character escapes, the librarain must hunt them down but ends up in the middle of a war between heaven and hell!
In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren’t finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.
Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing—a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.
But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell … and Earth.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Whilst more famous for her YA, Bardugo’s adult debut is a dark academia fantasy set at Yale University, full of ghosts, ritual magic, a murder mystery and blood magic!
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K. Villoso
One of my favourite books of the year so far, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro has one of the BEST female characters in all fantasy, yes I said it, ALL HAIL THE BITCH QUEEN. This is full of twists and turns, political intrique and a rather large dash of BETRAYAL!
A queen of a divided land must unite her people, even if they hate her, even if it means stopping a ruin that she helped create. A debut epic fantasy from an exciting new voice.
“I murdered a man and made my husband leave the night before they crowned me.”
Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-yaro, Queen Talyien was the shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves that nearly tore her nation apart. Her upcoming marriage to the son of her father’s rival heralds peaceful days to come.
But his sudden departure before their reign begins fractures the kingdom beyond repair.
Years later, Talyien receives a message, urging her to attend a meeting across the sea. It’s meant to be an effort at reconciliation, but an assassination attempt leaves the queen stranded and desperate to survive in a dangerous land. With no idea who she can trust, she’s on her own as she struggles to fight her way home.
The Book of M by Peng Shepherd
This is a wonderful dystopian fantasy with one of my favourite endings of all time. In The Book of M, people’s shadows start disappearing. But with their shadows goes their memories, and in its place, a strange new power.
Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.
One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.
Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.
Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.
As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.
Witchmark by C.L Polk
Witchmark is one of the books that got me back into reading after a long spell without being very involved in the community. That’s how powerful it is! It’s set in a world inspired by Edwardian England, is so, so magical, and has a really sweet romance. I was just so happy reading this book.
C. L. Polk arrives on the scene with Witchmark, a stunning, addictive fantasy that combines intrigue, magic, betrayal, and romance.
In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.
Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family’s interest or to be committed to a witches’ asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans’ hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.
When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.
The Order of Pure Moon Reflected in Water by by Zen Cho
This is a wonderful novella combining wuxia and a story about spirituality and identity, all wrapped in one of my absolute favourite tropes: found family!
Zen Cho returns with a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.
A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.
In the Vanisher’s Palace by Aliette de Bodard
Beauty and the Beast retelling? Sapphic Beauty and the Beast retelling? Dark sapphic Beauty and the Beast retelling? Dark sapphic Beauty and the Beast retelling where the beast is a MOTHERFUCKING DRAGON?! Sign me up.
In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land…
A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.
A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.
When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.
But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…
Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Set in New York City during WW2, this is a magical exploration of The Underground Railroad with assassins, lots of crime and magic compared to The Night Circus!
The dangerous magic of The Night Circus meets the powerful historical exploration of The Underground Railroad in this timely and unsettling novel, set against the darkly glamorous backdrop of New York City at the dawn of WWII.
Amidst the whir of city life, a girl from Harlem is drawn into the glittering underworld of Manhattan, where she’s hired to use her knives to strike fear amongst its most dangerous denizens.
But the ghosts from her past are always by her side—and history has appeared on her doorstep to threaten the people she loves most.
Can one woman ever sacrifice enough to save an entire community?
Trouble the Saints is a dazzling, daring novel—a magical love story, a compelling chronicle of interracial tension, and an altogether brilliant and deeply American saga.
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
Another novella, The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a book with a TALKING ANIMAL and thus it should immediately be added to your TBRs. It’s also the story of a empress from the eyes of her handmaiden years after a coup exiled her.
With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a tightly and lushly written narrative about empire, storytelling, and the anger of women.
A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi is fast becoming one of my favourite authors (and you’ll see their YA fantasy when I post that list next week!) Freshwater is not your usual fantasy novel, and that’s what makes it so special: Emezi intended this as an autobiography and memoir. It’s told from the perspective of Ogbanje, spirits who are trapped inside the protagonist’s body.
An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.” Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.
Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves–now protective, now hedonistic–move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.
Narrated by the various selves within Ada and based in the author’s realities, Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.
Where Oblivion Lies by T. Frohock
Angels and demons, a supernatural war, and set in 1932 France and Spain! This is the first full book after a series of three novellas, but you don’t have to read those before jumping straight into this one!
A lyrical historical fantasy adventure, set in 1932 Spain and Germany, that brings to life the world of the novellas collected in Los Nefilim: Spanish Nephilim battling daimons in a supernatural war to save humankind.
Born of daimon and angel, Diago Alvarez is a being unlike all others. The embodiment of dark and light, he has witnessed the good and the horror of this world and those beyond. In the supernatural war between angels and daimons that will determine humankind’s future, Diago has chosen Los Nefilim, the sons and daughters of angels who possess the power to harness music and light.
As the forces of evil gather, Diago must locate the Key, the special chord that will unite the nefilim’s voices, giving them the power to avert the coming civil war between the Republicans and Franco’s Nationalists. Finding the Key will save Spain from plunging into darkness.
And for Diago, it will resurrect the anguish caused by a tragedy he experienced in a past life.
But someone—or something—is determined to stop Diago in his quest and will use his history to destroy him and the nefilim. Hearing his stolen Stradivarius played through the night, Diago is tormented by nightmares about his past life. Each incarnation strengthens the ties shared by the nefilim, whether those bonds are of love or hate . . . or even betrayal.
To retrieve the violin, Diago must journey into enemy territory . . . and face an old nemesis and a fallen angel bent on revenge.
The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Neon Yang
This is one of my very recent new favourites!! This is the first in a series of four novellas, and ohmygosh it’s SO good. It’s got the best worldbuilding of any novella I’ve read, has a brilliant exploration of gender which I really want to exist in the real world.
The Black Tides of Heaven is one of a pair of standalone introductions to JY Yang’s Tensorate Series. For more of the story you can read its twin novella The Red Threads of Fortune.
Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.
A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates is extremely well known for his memoir Between the World and Me. But he’s also got as fantastic backlist of speculative fiction, including BLACK PANTHER novels and The Water Dancer. The Water Dancer follows a young slave gifted with a mysterious power as he tries to escape.
Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her — but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.
So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Silva Moreno-Garcia is the genius who can write in so many different genres and author of one of my favourite books of the year, Mexican Gothic. But Gods of Jade and Shadow is her adult fantasy debut! Set during the Jazz Age and inspired by Mexican folklore, Gods of Jade and Shadow follks a young woman who accidentally sets free the Mayan god of death.
The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.
The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.
Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.
In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.
The Perfect Assassin by K.A Doore
Nothing makes me happier than queer assassins so it should be no surprise to see this book here! I feel like nothing else I say will ever have the power that QUEER ASSASSINS GO READ THIS BOOK has.
A novice assassin is on the hunt for someone killing their own in K. A. Doore’s The Perfect Assassin, a breakout high fantasy beginning the Chronicles of Ghadid series.
Divine justice is written in blood.
Or so Amastan has been taught. As a new assassin in the Basbowen family, he’s already having second thoughts about taking a life. A scarcity of contracts ends up being just what he needs.
Until, unexpectedly, Amastan finds the body of a very important drum chief. Until, impossibly, Basbowen’s finest start showing up dead, with their murderous jaan running wild in the dusty streets of Ghadid. Until, inevitably, Amastan is ordered to solve these murders, before the family gets blamed.
Every life has its price, but when the tables are turned, Amastan must find this perfect assassin or be their next target.
A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland
Alexandra Rowland game us fanfic style tags for this book so I’m just going to put those here and let you run to read this one: “snarky little shit, old man shaking his fist at a cloud, bitchy first person narrator extravagantly editorializes for 140k words, teenage cinnamon roll too good for this world too pure, awesome WOC lawyer, found families, identity shit, name shit, creepy magic, more badass ladies than you can shake a stick at, women allowed to be assholes, a spectrum of female competence, narrative acrobatics, fucky shadow gods, nested stories, gay characters, bi characters, ace character, pregnancy mentions, gore mentions, minor character death, economics, propaganda, grouchy people pretending they don’t care except they care a LOT, teenage cinnamon roll openly cares about everyone, no fridging, no bury your gays, fuck entirely off with your stupid fantasy homophobia, people are queer and literally NOBODY cares and i don’t explain it, intergenerational friendships”.
In a bleak, far-northern land, a wandering storyteller is arrested on charges of witchcraft. Though Chant protests his innocence, he is condemned not only as a witch, but a spy. His only chance to save himself rests with the skills he has honed for decades – tell a good story, catch and hold their attention, or die.
But the attention he catches is that of the five elected rulers of the country, and Chant finds himself caught in a tangled, corrupt political game which began long before he ever arrived here. As he’s snatched from one Queen’s grasp to another’s, he realizes that he could either be a pawn for one of them… or a player in his own right. After all, he knows better than anyone how powerful the right story can be: Powerful enough to save a life, certainly. Perhaps even powerful enough to bring a nation to its knees.
Sorceror to the Crown by Zen Cho
This fun and whimsical historical fantasy follows high society England and a Sorcerer Royal who has to go the border with Fairyland to find out why England’s magical stocks have dried up.
Magic and mayhem collide with the British elite in this whimsical and sparkling debut.
At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up.
But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…
The Sword of Kaigen by M.L Wang
Military fantasy is a genre I don’t read much of, but between The Poppy War and The Sword of Kaigen, this genre is getting so bloody good! In the Kusanagi Peninsula, the greatest warriers of Kaigen are born and trained, warriors who can raise the sea and wield swords of ice (yes that is very cool). The Sword of Kaigen follows a family, mother, father and son, who must do all they can to defend their empire.
A mother struggling to repress her violent past,
A son struggling to grasp his violent future,
A father blind to the danger that threatens them all.
When the winds of war reach their peninsula, will the Matsuda family have the strength to defend their empire? Or will they tear each other apart before the true enemies even reach their shores?
High on a mountainside at the edge of the Kaigenese Empire live the most powerful warriors in the world, superhumans capable of raising the sea and wielding blades of ice. For hundreds of years, the fighters of the Kusanagi Peninsula have held the Empire’s enemies at bay, earning their frozen spit of land the name ‘The Sword of Kaigen.’
Born into Kusanagi’s legendary Matsuda family, fourteen-year-old Mamoru has always known his purpose: to master his family’s fighting techniques and defend his homeland. But when an outsider arrives and pulls back the curtain on Kaigen’s alleged age of peace, Mamoru realizes that he might not have much time to become the fighter he was bred to be. Worse, the empire he was bred to defend may stand on a foundation of lies.
Misaki told herself that she left the passions of her youth behind when she married into the Matsuda house. Determined to be a good housewife and mother, she hid away her sword, along with everything from her days as a fighter in a faraway country. But with her growing son asking questions about the outside world, the threat of an impending invasion looming across the sea, and her frigid husband grating on her nerves, Misaki finds the fighter in her clawing its way back to the surface.
David Mogo Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
This is described as “Nigerian God-Punk” which sounds like the most epic description for a book ever?! This follows a young Godhunter who must team up with the sister of a god he captured after a wizard wrecks havoc on Lagos.
Nigerian God-Punk – a powerful and atmospheric urban fantasy set in Lagos.
Since the Orisha War that rained thousands of deities down on the streets of Lagos, David Mogo, demigod, scours Eko’s dank underbelly for a living wage as a freelance Godhunter. Despite pulling his biggest feat yet by capturing a high god for a renowned Eko wizard, David knows his job’s bad luck. He’s proved right when the wizard conjures a legion of Taboos—feral godling-child hybrids—to seize Lagos for himself. To fix his mistake and keep Lagos standing, David teams up with his foster wizard, the high god’s twin sister and a speech-impaired Muslim teenage girl to defeat the wizard.
Peter Darling by Austin Chant
PETER PAN x CAPTAIN HOOD RETELLING *pterodactyl screech* Okay yes this book excites me, it is the enemies to lovers I have always wanted. 10 years after leaving Neverland to grow up and resigning himself to a life as Wendy Darling, Peter returns to Neverland when he finds his identity has only strengthened as he grew up. And suddenly his arch nemesis is looking pretty sexy. YES FUCKING PLEASE.
Ten years ago, Peter Pan left Neverland to grow up, leaving behind his adolescent dreams of boyhood and resigning himself to life as Wendy Darling. Growing up, however, has only made him realize how inescapable his identity as a man is.
But when he returns to Neverland, everything has changed: the Lost Boys have become men, and the war games they once played are now real and deadly. Even more shocking is the attraction Peter never knew he could feel for his old rival, Captain Hook—and the realization that he no longer knows which of them is the real villain.
The Deep by Rivers Solomon
The Deep is another brilliant novella (we are having such a great time for novellas right now!!) The Deep is about the water breathing descendants of African slaves who were thrown overboard. They have evolved to have one member of their society carry all their memories, due to the horror of their past. The Deep follows this history carrier, Yetu, who has been greatly harmed by this role and tries to escape.
The water-breathing descendants of African slave women tossed overboard have built their own underwater society—and must reclaim the memories of their past to shape their future in this brilliantly imaginative novella inspired by the Hugo Award nominated song “The Deep” from Daveed Diggs’ rap group Clipping.
Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.
Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.
Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.
Inspired by a song produced by the rap group Clipping for the This American Life episode “We Are In The Future,” The Deep is vividly original and uniquely affecting.
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
In a world where most people have died due to flooding from a mass climate apocalypse, gods and monsters walk the land. Trail of Lightning follows Dinétah (formerly Navajo reservation) monster hunter, Maggie, who has to hunt down the truth behind the disappearance of a young girl.
While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.
Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.
Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.
Welcome to the Sixth World.
The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
Here they be motherfucking dragons.
Game of Thrones meets Gladiator in this debut epic fantasy about a world caught in an eternal war, and the young man who will become his people’s only hope for survival.
The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable fight for almost two hundred years. Their society has been built around war and only war. The lucky ones are born gifted. One in every two thousand women has the power to call down dragons. One in every hundred men is able to magically transform himself into a bigger, stronger, faster killing machine.
Everyone else is fodder, destined to fight and die in the endless war. Young, gift-less Tau knows all this, but he has a plan of escape. He’s going to get himself injured, get out early, and settle down to marriage, children, and land. Only, he doesn’t get the chance. Those closest to him are brutally murdered, and his grief swiftly turns to anger. Fixated on revenge, Tau dedicates himself to an unthinkable path. He’ll become the greatest swordsman to ever live, a man willing to die a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill the three who betrayed him.
Borderline by Mishell Baker
I really wish we saw more mental health in a fantasy setting, like we get in Borderline! In Borderline, Millie has borderline personality disorder (ownvoices!), and lost her legs and career in a suicide attempt. She is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star, but ends up potentially sparking a war with the fae.
A year ago Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.
For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star, who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.
The Gilda Stories by Jewelle L. Gómez
BLACK LESBIAN MOTHERFUCKING VAMPIRES?! Yes, this queer classic brings vampires to 1800s America, following Gilda for 200 years as she escapes slavery and is turned into a vampire.
The winner of two Lambda Literary Awards (fiction and science fiction) The Gilda Stories is a very American odyssey. Escaping from slavery in the 1850s Gilda’s longing for kinship and community grows over two hundred years. Her induction into a family of benevolent vampires takes her on an adventurous and dangerous journey full of loud laughter and subtle terror.
The Midnight Bargain by C.L Polk
From the author of one of my favourite fantasies, Witchmark, comes The Midnight Bargain a world where female sorceresses have their magic bound by a collar when they marry, to protect unborn children. Beatrice wants nothing more than to become a Magus like men do, but her family is relying on her to get a good marriage to rescue them for crippling debt. Enter a two siblings who will make Beatrice’s decision even more difficult. (Release date: October 13)
Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.
In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.
The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?
Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark
This dark horror-fantasy novella brings a supernatural twist to the Klu Klux Klan. D.W Griffith is a sorcerer who used The Birth of Nations as a spell to draw upon the darkest thoughts of Americans and unleash hell on the nation. Enter a monster fighter with a magic sword, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter. (Release date: October 13)
Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns with Ring Shout, a dark fantasy historical novella that gives a supernatural twist to the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror.
D. W. Griffith is a sorcerer, and The Birth of a Nation is a spell that drew upon the darkest thoughts and wishes from the heart of America. Now, rising in power and prominence, the Klan has a plot to unleash Hell on Earth.
Luckily, Maryse Boudreaux has a magic sword and a head full of tales. When she’s not running bootleg whiskey through Prohibition Georgia, she’s fighting monsters she calls “Ku Kluxes.” She’s damn good at it, too. But to confront this ongoing evil, she must journey between worlds to face nightmares made flesh–and her own demons. Together with a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter, Maryse sets out to save a world from the hate that would consume it.
Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston
Coming at the start of September is Master of Poisons, and okay I don’t actually know much about this one, but it’s queer and it has poisons and thus I am sold. What more could you possibly want? (Release date: September 8)
The world is changing. Poison desert eats good farmland. Once-sweet water turns foul. The wind blows sand and sadness across the Empire. To get caught in a storm is death. To live and do nothing is death. There is magic in the world, but good conjure is hard to find.
Djola, righthand man and spymaster of the lord of the Arkhysian Empire, is desperately trying to save his adopted homeland, even in exile.
Awa, a young woman training to be a powerful griot, tests the limits of her knowledge and comes into her own in a world of sorcery, floating cities, kindly beasts, and uncertain men.
Awash in the rhythms of folklore and storytelling and rich with Hairston’s characteristic lush prose, Master of Poisons is epic fantasy that will leave you aching for the world it burns into being.
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
Award winning author of the Trail of Lightning series, Rebecca Roanhorse, is back with the start to a new trilogy, set in pre-Columbian America with lots of political intrigue and celestial prophecies! (Release date: October 13)
From the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Resistance Reborn comes the first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.
A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun
In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.
Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.
Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.
The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
I just finished my ARC of this yesterday and all I can say is YOU’RE IN FOR A TREAT! This is a world with moving islands, where chips of citizens skull bone are used to create great constructs to protect the empire. But most importantly, there is a fucking adorable talking animal called Mephi and I LOVE THEM. (Release date: September 10)
In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne. The Bone Shard Daughter marks the debut of a major new voice in epic fantasy.
The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.
Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.
Burning Roses by S.L Huang
This September, S.L Huang is bringing a new novella combining Chinese and Western fairytales. In Burning Roses, Hou Yi the Archer and Red Riding Hood team up to stop sunbirds from destroying the countryside. (Release date: September 29)
When Rosa (aka Red Riding Hood) and Hou Yi the Archer join forces to stop the deadly sunbirds from ravaging the countryside, their quest will take the two women, now blessed and burdened with the hindsight of middle age, into a reckoning of sacrifices made and mistakes mourned, of choices and family and the quest for immortality.
Burning Roses, a gorgeous fairy tale of love and family, of demons and lost gods, arrives in 2020.
Bestiary by K-Ming Cha
Another one for the fantasy readers who also love a bit of litetary fiction, Bestiary follows three generations of Taiwanese American women who are haunted by myths from their homeland. (Release date: September 8)
Three generations of Taiwanese American women are haunted by the myths of their homeland in this spellbinding, visceral debut about one family’s queer desires, violent impulses, and buried secrets.
One evening, Mother tells Daughter a story about a tiger spirit who lived in a woman’s body. She was called Hu Gu Po, and she hungered to eat children, especially their toes. Soon afterwards, Daughter awakes with a tiger tail. And more mysterious events follow: Holes in the backyard spit up letters penned by her grandmother; a visiting aunt arrives with snakes in her belly; a brother tests the possibility of flight. All the while, Daughter is falling for Ben, a neighborhood girl with strange powers of her own. As the two young lovers translate the grandmother’s letters, Daughter begins to understand that each woman in her family embodies a myth–and that she will have to bring her family’s secrets to light in order to change their destiny.
With a poetic voice of crackling electricity, K-Ming Chang is an explosive young writer who combines the wit and fabulism of Helen Oyeyemi with the subversive storytelling of Maxine Hong Kingston. Tracing one family’s history from Taiwan to America, from Arkansas to California, Bestiary is a novel of migration, queer lineages, and girlhood.
Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
Here they be more motherfucking dragons! In Phoenix Extravagant, Gyen is hired to paint the magical sigils that power the automaton soldiers. But when the discover the source of the magical pigments, they are pissed and so steal the big motherfucking dragon automaton. (Release date: October 20)
Dragons. Art. Revolution.
Gyen Jebi isn’t a fighter or a subversive. They just want to paint.
One day they’re jobless and desperate; the next, Jebi finds themself recruited by the Ministry of Armor to paint the mystical sigils that animate the occupying government’s automaton soldiers.
But when Jebi discovers the depths of the Razanei government’s horrifying crimes—and the awful source of the magical pigments they use—they find they can no longer stay out of politics.
What they can do is steal Arazi, the ministry’s mighty dragon automaton, and find a way to fight…
The Unbroken by C.L. Clark
Sadly we have to wait until 2021 for this baby, but it’s going to be so good when it finally releases! C.L. Clark describes this as “it’s gay. Real gay.” But also it’s a North-African inspired political fantasy with lots of assassinations and espionage! (Release date: March 23)
In a political fantasy unlike any other, debut author C. L. Clark spins an epic tale of rebellion, espionage, and military might on the far outreaches of a crumbling desert empire.
Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.
Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.
Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.
First, Become Ashes by K.M Sparza
I don’t even really know how to describe this one. It sounds like a psychological twist of a novel, exploring pain and pleasure, abuse, cults, and monsters? (Release date: April 6)
The Fellowship raised Lark to kill monsters.
His partner betrayed them to the Feds.
But Lark knows his magic is real, and he’ll do anything to complete his quest.
K. M. Szpara follows Docile, one of the most anticipated science fiction novels of 2020, with First, Become Ashes, a fantastic standalone adventure that blends pain and pleasure and will make readers question what is real, and what is magical.
Lark spent the first twenty-four years, nine months, and three days of his life training for a righteous quest: to rid the world of monsters. Alongside his partner Kane, he wore the cage and endured the scourge in order to develop his innate magic. He never thought that when Kane left, he’d next see him in the company of FBI agents and a SWAT team. He never dreamed that the leader of the Fellowship of the Anointed would be brought up on charges of abuse and assault.
He never expected the government would tell him that the monsters aren’t real–that there is no magic, and all the pain was for nothing.
Lark isn’t ready to give up. He is determined to fulfill his quest, to defeat the monsters he was promised. Along the way he will grapple with the past, confront love, and discover his long-buried truth.
The Conductors by Nicole Glover
The Conductors follows Hetty, a conductor on the Underground Railroad who uses magic to help get people North and solves murders and just sounds like the most badass person ever. (Release date: April 13)
A compelling debut by a new voice in fantasy fiction, The Conductors features the magic and mystery of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files written with the sensibility and historical setting of Octavia Butler’s Kindred: Introducing Hetty Rhodes, a magic-user and former conductor on the Underground Railroad who now solves crimes in post–Civil War Philadelphia.
As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Hetty Rhodes helped usher dozens of people north with her wits and magic. Now that the Civil War is over, Hetty and her husband Benjy have settled in Philadelphia, solving murders and mysteries that the white authorities won’t touch. When they find one of their friends slain in an alley, Hetty and Benjy bury the body and set off to find answers. But the secrets and intricate lies of the elites of Black Philadelphia only serve to dredge up more questions. To solve this mystery, they will have to face ugly truths all around them, including the ones about each other.
In this vibrant and original novel, Nicole Glover joins a roster of contemporary writers within fantasy, such as Victor LaValle and Zen Cho, who use speculative fiction to delve into important historical and cultural threads.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
An f/f adult fantasy trilogy from one of the best writers in the genre, yes fucking please. The Jasmine Throne is inspired by India’s history and follows a captive princess and her maidservant WHOMST I ASSUME FALL IN LOVE. But also like, deal with magic and things too. (Release date: April 29)
Author of Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne, beginning a new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, in which a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess’s traitor brother.
Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.
Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.
But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
I think this could be sitting at spot number 1 as my most anticipated book of 2021. It’s pitched as Mulan x The Song of Achilles which is pretty much the most exciting pitch I’ve ever heard. (Release date: Spring 2021)
China, 1345. After her family’s death, an iron-willed peasant girl steals her brother’s identity and fate of greatness in order to survive. Defying the bounds of gender with cunning and ingenuity, her ambition takes her from monk to leader of the rebellion against China’s Mongol rulers. But her rise brings her face to face with the empire’s most feared general: a eunuch as trapped by his gender as she is free of hers. Pitched as “Mulan meets The Song of Achilles,” She Who Became the Sun is a bold reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty that raises provocative questions about gender, fate, and individual power. This lush debut heralds an amazing new literary voice for fans of Game of Thrones and the Chinese classic The Romance of the Three Kingdoms who are looking for the next epic adventure.
Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard
“A post-colonial Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle, where a young woman discovers her power lies not in her inheritance or her allies, but in her own sense of self-worth and the unexpected love of a powerful fire elemental.” SAY WHAT NOW?! (Release date: February 9)
‘A post-colonial Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle, where a young woman discovers her power lies not in her inheritance or her allies, but in her own sense of self-worth and the unexpected love of a powerful fire elemental.’
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
This queer historial fantasy combines magical bureaucracy, Edwardian England, murder mystery and a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles. (Release date: 2021)
Robin Blyth has more than enough bother in his life. He’s struggling to be a good older brother, a responsible employer, and the harried baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents’ excesses. When an administrative mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the unextraordinary reality he’s always known.
Now Robin must contend with the beauty and danger of magic, an excruciating deadly curse, and the alarming visions of the future that come with it—not to mention Edwin Courcey, his cold and prickly counterpart in the magical bureaucracy, who clearly wishes Robin were anyone and anywhere else.
Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and the mystery of what happened to him reveals unsettling truths about the very oldest stories they’ve been told about the land they live on and what binds it. Thrown together and facing unexpected dangers, Robin and Edwin discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles—and a secret that more than one person has already died to keep.
A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark
Set in the same world as Clark’s novella A Dead Djinn in Cairo comes a full length novel following Fatma el-Sha’arawi as she takes on a murder mystery case at the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities! (Release date: 2021)
Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie. After preventing the destruction of the universe last summer, Agent Fatma’s one of the Ministry’s top agents.
So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, Al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world forty years before when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, but had been missing since. This murderer, however, is also claiming to be Al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions against supernatural beings and humans alike. Moreover, his dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo and quickly earn him followers by the hundreds.
With her Ministry colleagues, a new partner who’s tougher than she looks, and a mysterious person from her past with powers granted by the goddess Sekhmet, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this Al-Jahiz imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems…
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
This is pitched as a magical The Great Gatsby by way of The Night Circus, told through the eyes of a queer, Asian immigrant and this does sound amazing. (Release date: 2021)
Immigrant. Socialite. Magician.
Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.
But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.
Nghi Vo’s debut novel reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice.
The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu
ZIMBABWEAN MAGIC WITH SCOTTISH WIT AND PRAGMATISM!
Sixth Sense meets Stranger Things in T. L. Huchu’s The Library of the Dead, a sharp contemporary fantasy following a precocious and cynical teen as she explores the shadowy magical underside of modern Edinburgh.
When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?
When ghosts talk, she will listen…
Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children—leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.
She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down.
OH MY GOD I have finally reached the end. This took far longer than I anticipated. Only 4 weeks to go I guess?! Did you spot any favourites in here? Or did you find any you’d now love to read? Let me know in the comments!