The Bitch Queen returns in The Ikessar Falcon, the action-packed sequel to K. S. Villoso’s acclaimed fantasy debut, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro.
Abandoned by her people, Queen Talyien’s quest takes a turn for the worse as she stumbles upon a plot deeper and more sinister than she could have ever imagined, one that will displace her king and see her son dead. The road home beckons, strewn with a tangled web of deceit and unimaginable horrors – creatures from the dark, mad dragons and men with hearts hungry for power.
To save her land, Talyien must confront the myth others have built around her: Warlord Yeshin’s daughter, symbol of peace, warrior and queen and everything she could never be.
The price for failure is steep. Her friends are few. And a nation carved by a murderer can only be destined for war.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED. This book is full of pain and I’m just jotting down all my thoughts immediately after finishing so prepare for a review which is basically just me screaming OH MY GOD the whole time. I love adult fantasy for many reasons, but there’s a few authors who I adore for one very simple reason: when you think everything is absolutely rock bottom for the characters you love, shit gets even worse. K. S. Villoso is one of those authors who does so exceptionally well that almost constantly throughout this book I was like okay this is it, we’re on the up, come on Talyien, I’m rooting for you! And a page later shit goes to absolute fuck. And I fucking love it.
The Ikessar Falcon is book 2 in the series that started with the incredible The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, which follows the Bitch Queen Talyien as she hunts down her husband who walked out of her life 5 years ago. We left Talyien in Zirano, where her husband Raayel had vowed to kill her son if he proved he wasn’t his. He has gone off to hunt down mages to assist him and Talyien is hot on his trail.
The Ikessar Falcon is one of those absolute masterpieces of fantasy, where the ridiculously tense and fast paced plot is just as brilliant as the deeply flawed characters keeping you hooked to the book. The four key players rile me so passionately whether I hate them or love them.
Talyien is just as powerful a character as we met in the first book, but in this sequel, she’s getting desperate. She is such a driven character, who makes deeply hurtful and flawed decisions in the path to save her son. There are moments I wanted to scream at her, dark moments where her actions got so low it’s so hard to stay on her side. But this is a desperate woman, one who will stop at anything to save her son who she loves more than anything in the world and even in her darkest hours, I still can’t help but admire her and the strength she has to do what’s needed, no matter the cost. (And fuck me, the cost is great).
Khine continues to be the most refreshing beacon of light in this book. In the midst of so much pain and darkenss, Khine shines with such hope and joy and love and his relationship with Talyien continues to be one of my favourite parts of this series.
Raayel continues to be on my list of most hated book characters, such is the fury he fills me with due to his hypocrisy. And I hated myself to see that I was kinda sorta maybe growing to like him by the end of this book. We get to spend a lot more time with him in this book, and so we see more of his motivations as well as see Talyien deal with her feelings and their history.
And Agos!! The new addition to my most hated book characters! I so adore books that can rile me up with such love and such hate towards the characters, because it shows me how exceptional that book truly is to cause such uncontrollable passion in me. Alongside Raayel, we also spent lot more time with Agos, we see the deep possessiveness he has of Talyien, the dark cloak of anger he wears and all of that dark violence and love comes to such an incredible climax at the end of the book.
Alongside the characters, we have a whole host of new elements to The Ikessar Falcon to intice us in. We spent a lot more time exploring the agan, with lots of new magical creature and creations for Talyien to run into. The highlight of these for me were the majestic, ferocious dragons who we meet. But I also loved just spending some more time around mages, finding out more about how the agan works. I really loved the blood magic element of this book, which we got more of at the start of the book. It was so dark and caused so much heartbreak. And it was so early in the book!! I was in awe at how Villoso has no fears about fucking up these characters, about putting them through hell and when they think they’re finally free, shit gets even worse. I was so shocked at some of the events in the first section of the book because so rarely do you see events THIS traumatic so early in a book. And as much pain as this causes me, I just absolutely love when authors don’t hold back and are willing to do the absolute worst to their characters.
Another, slightly more random thing I really noticed in this sequel was the fooooooood. I don’t know if I just missed it all in the first book or if it was genuinely more prominent in this one, but oh my god?! All of the food descriptions were incredible?! I was salivating the whole way through. I could not stop imagining this food, it just sounded so unbelievably delicious.
As you can probably tell, I adored this sequel! I love Villoso’s ability to completely destroy characters (and readers). I love that she isn’t afraid to play with pain, to make her characters really suffer, to take us to that edge of wow actually maybe these people that I love aren’t going to win. I love her way of writing such morally grey characters who fill you with either such love or hate (or both, hello Talyien from 80% through the book!!!) The Ikessar Falcon completely fulfilled all I hoped for and SO MUCH more. It also got me out of a reading slump so THANK YOU.
House Rules: Do your own dishes Knock before entering the bathroom Never look up your roommate online
The Wheatons are infamous among the east coast elite for their lack of impulse control, except for their daughter Clara. She’s the consummate socialite: over-achieving, well-mannered, predictable. But every Wheaton has their weakness. When Clara’s childhood crush invites her to move cross-country, the offer is too much to resist. Unfortunately, it’s also too good to be true.
After a bait-and-switch, Clara finds herself sharing a lease with a charming stranger. Josh might be a bit too perceptive—not to mention handsome—for comfort, but there’s a good chance he and Clara could have survived sharing a summer sublet if she hadn’t looked him up on the Internet…
Once she learns how Josh has made a name for himself, Clara realizes living with him might make her the Wheaton’s most scandalous story yet. His professional prowess inspires her to take tackling the stigma against female desire into her own hands. They may not agree on much, but Josh and Clara both believe women deserve better sex. What they decide to do about it will change both of their lives, and if they’re lucky, they’ll help everyone else get lucky too.
This was my most anticipated romance of the year and it was everything I wanted it to be! I’m not a huge romance reader so I don’t really know how this compares to others in the genre, but I personally loved it! It has some of the best sex scenes I’ve read, the two characters are adorable, and it’s all about overturning the porn industry to focus on female pleasure!
Let’s start with the characters, I love romances with complete opposites because it always results in hilarious moments and we definitely had that here! Clara is a button-uped rich kid from Greenwich who hasn’t ever stepped a toe out of line, but who moves across the country to chase a childhood crush when she realises she could walk out of the life she was living and nothing would happen. But when she gets across the country, the man she crushes on says he’s going on tour with his band, leaving her alone in the flat with none other than popular porn star, Josh Darling. Josh Darling is confident and sexy and so freaking adorable it hurts and Clara knows he’ll never ever fall for someone like her. But then they get drunk and decide it’s time to topple a porn empire by making their own platform that focuses on partner intimacy and female pleasure. These two humans are just so so different and yet so so perfect together. Josh brings out all of Clara’s confidence and helps her see beyond her self doubt and she does the same for him. They both make each other into these powerhouse individuals who are going to fight for what they want. And what they want is to say fuck you to an exploitative porn corporation.
I loved how sweet and innocent Clara is. I could relate so much to her, she’s so full of self doubt and this horrible self esteem thinking she could never be attractive to someone like Josh. She’s so focused on never letting her family down that she forgets how to live which is just so sad. But Josh comes into her life and helps her get out of her shell and find freedom and joy in life.
And omg THE SEX. HOLY SHIT IT’S HOT. It’s so good, Danan is definitely now one of my favourite sex writers. Every scene was just so different but so powerful and fun. I loved reading from Josh’s POV because he is just so blown away by Clara and it was just so lovely to compare that to Clara’s POV who is so shy and self-hating and all I wanted to do was scream at her to look at this man drooling over her?!?
I also really loved the huge focus on the autonomy of sex workers. It’s a book which explores the exploitative nature of some aspects of the porn industry, but alongside this critique, also places emphasis on the autonomy and choice of sex workers and those in the industry which isn’t usually seen when discussing adult entertainment. It also places so much importance on female pleasure, partner intimacy and sex education. It’s just wonderfully sex positive and I loved reading about this!
This book was everything I wanted. I needed something fun and lighthearted and this is definitely that, Clara and Josh are so incredibly adorable together. It’s so so sexy, but alongside this fun, lighthearted romance is a great exploration of sex work, both the exploitative nature of the industry at times but alongside a positive and empowering portrayal of sex workers.
Goodreads blurb: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.
Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit for providing me an advanced copy of The Bone Shard Daughter in exchange for an honest review.
Welcome to your new favourite fantasy world! The Bone Shard Daughter is a slowburn fantasy with such an interesting world (where islands move and sink!), a very fun magic system (using shards of people’s skulls!) and has a cast of brilliant characters (MEPHI, MY SWEET BABY ANGEL!)
From the blurb, I went into The Bone Shard Daughter expecting a story of power and privilege as daughter of the emperor Lin tried to take the throne from the father. And we do get that. But what was unexpected was this whole host of other POVs that made this world even better than I anticipated! It did through me off a bit at the start as I’d gone in with such different expectations to what we got, but I really loved these other characters by the end of the book. We follow five main POVs throughout:
Lin, the daughter of the emperor who recovered from a serious illness five years ago, but lost all the memories of her childhood. Her father now pits her against foster brother Bayan as the two compete to see who can learn most about bone shard magic and be named their father’s heir.
Jovis, a burly smuggler desperate to find his wife who disappeared seven years ago. Helping children escape the tithing festival, where they give away part of their skull bone to the emperor for his bone magic constructs, he runs into Mephi, a bedraggled looking kitten who just so turns out to be something else entirely.
Phalue, the daughter of a governor on one of the islands around the Empire, whose long term partner Ramani has wound up involved with the Shardless Few, a group who want to take down the Empire.
Ramani herself, who has to grapple with her love for a woman in a position in power who doesn’t seem to understand the depths of suffering in the lower classes.
And then there’s Sand, an outsider point of view at the far reaches of the Empire, who falls out of a mango tree and realises something odd about her island.
I had times when each of these POVs were my favourite, so it’s difficult to say who I liked best. Though I’m certainly not complaining, as big multi-POV fantasies like this one often suffer from a ‘this other character has a much more interesting POV and I don’t care about the rest at all.’ The Bone Shard Daughter was not like that. At the start, I found myself dying to know more about Lin, as she started her discovery and exploration of this very cool magic system that allowed bone shards to be created in constructs to protect the Empire. But then I was blown away and drawn into this mystery on Sand’s island, longing to know more about what the fuck was happening. Then Ramani and Phalue, this amazing f/f relationship who love each other but are struggling to resolve their morality and positions. But by the end, I think I was most in love with Jovis (which actually very much surprised me, because he starts out very rude and gruff and a unwilling to help, and almost left poor little Mephi in the sea). But by the end I cherished the strong love that had developed between Jovis and his magical animal companion Mephi, I adored the way his love for his wife drove his actions so much, the beauty of his emotion and heart break clear on every page. So there really wasn’t a single POV I wasn’t interested in and didn’t want to know more about!
The magic system is definitely one of the coolest in any book I’ve read this year. Parts of people’s SKULLS are used to power constructs to defend the empire? And citizens are forced to give their bones? But it means if your shard is in use, at some point you will grow suddenly weak and sick and no longer be able to function. This system made for such an interesting power dynamic, one that could really explore the experiences between the nobility and the working class. This was particularly apparent with Lin and Phalue, who had to challenge themselves and their role in power, and see how far they were willing to go to. For Lin especially, as a wielder of bone shard magic, the magic she must learn to use to win over her father, she was faced with the knowledge that by using these shards and using the working class as a stepping stone to power, she wasn’t really any different to her awful father. Her journey and development as she had to come to terms with this was one of my favourite parts of the book.
As much as I loved the magic system, the reason I didn’t give this a full five stars is also the magic system. There seemed to be some inconsistencies and I was rather confused about how this magic that took time and patience to wield could somehow be instantaneously used in the middle of battle? The battle scenes used this magic in a way that seemed to ignore time? As this was an ARC, I’m hoping this might be improved by the final book, but I was very confused about how a magic that requires time to actually work was suddenly either being used immediately in the heat of battle (and thus made no sense with the rest of the book), or the opponent’s simply sat around waiting for you to complete it before attacking (which makes equally little sense). It brought me right out of the story which was really disappointing because I’d been loving every minute until then.
But overall, I was really impressed with The Bone Shard Daughter! It has one of my favourite ensemble casts, each of their POVs were so interesting in their own ways, and this world, with islands that can move and sink and magic that is wielded with people’s skulls, made for a very exciting fantasy debut! And of course I will devour the sequel whenever it releases.
Goodreads blurb:Wind: To match one’s body with one’s heart Sand: To take the bearer where they wish Song: In praise of the goddess Bird Bone: To move unheard in the night
The Surun’ do not speak of the master weaver, Benesret, who creates the cloth of bone for assassins in the Great Burri Desert. But Uiziya now seeks her aunt Benesret in order to learn the final weave, although the price for knowledge may be far too dear to pay.
Among the Khana, women travel in caravans to trade, while men remain in the inner quarter as scholars. A nameless man struggles to embody Khana masculinity, after many years of performing the life of a woman, trader, wife, and grandmother.
As the past catches up to the nameless man, he must choose between the life he dreamed of and Uiziya, and Uiziya must discover how to challenge a tyrant, and weave from deaths that matter.
Set in R. B. Lemberg’s beloved Birdverse, The Four Profound Weaves hearkens to Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. In this breathtaking debut, Lemberg offers a timeless chronicle of claiming one’s identity in a hostile world.
I’ve been having such a good year for novellas, I haven’t read a single bad one and this was no different! Queer novellas are pretty much the only thing giving me life right now.
The Four Profound Weaves is a novella set within R.B Lemberg’s Birdverse series. It follows a nameless man who has recently transitioned, as he searches for a name; and his friend, a weaver, who is searching for her Aunt so she can be taught how to weave from death, the last of the four profound Weaves.
As a newcomer to this series, I won’t lie, I did find the first half quite confusing. There is so much history, mythology and worldbuilding that needed to be crammed into such a small novella and I think I probably would’ve benefited by reading some of the Birdverse series prior to jumping straight into this, just so I had a better understanding of this world. But by the second half, I felt much more comfortable in the world and really enjoyed this!
My absolute favourite thing about this novella is the magic system. Interesting magic systems are of one the best parts of reading fantasy because they’re all so unique, and the fact this one was all about weaving was so cool?? I need more crafts and magic in my life! Weaving magic can be created through four elements: wind, for change; sand, for wanderlust; song, for hope; bones, for death. The way these magics influenced the story and world were so interesting. I found the carpets of change, made from wind, particularly amazing: that these carpets are used by individuals who wish to change their bodies to match their identities is just so cool?!
Which leads me to my second favourite thing about this novella, the exploration of gender, expression and identity. God I really just fucking love books that have magic systems that allow for trans and nonbinary individuals. We have evolved past the need for binary magic systems!! I loved how the nameless man explored his new identity but in a way that took into account the fact he’d lived life as a woman for 60 years? The way he embraced the fact he was a man but also that he’d been raised to trade and explore the world, which would usually be a woman’s role. It was so great to see that acknowledged? That yes he was a man, but you don’t just lose everything that made you who you are for the last 40 years after transitioning?
This was a really great novella. Given the subject matter, there is a great deal of transphobia, dead-naming and misgendering so do be aware of that going in. But I’m definitely very interested in reading more of Lemberg’s work set in the Birdverse!
It’s week 4, the penultimate week of my SFF extravaganza and we’re talking all about adult science fiction! I have been having such a good year for scifi and I’m so excited to share some of my favourite books of the year as well as ones I’m looking forward to reading!
As always, if you’d like to find out more about this blog series, please see below! And do check out the other weeks of this series, where I’ve covered adult fantasy, YA fantasy and horror!
Why I’m doing this
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 recent Hugo Awards, 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.
If you’re interested, do check out the other posts in this series!
We’re starting with one of my favourite science fiction novels of all time! Do You Dream of Terra-Two is set in a world where the passion and enthusiasm in the 1960s space race continued. Now, a group of teens are getting ready to travel to a new planet, Terra-Two, to set the planet up for colonisation. The teens have been training all their lives for this voyage, but obviously, things don’t go exactly to plan…
When an Earth-like planet is discovered, a team of six teens, along with three veteran astronauts, embark on a twenty-year trip to set up a planet for human colonization—but find that space is more deadly than they ever could have imagined.
Have you ever hoped you could leave everything behind? Have you ever dreamt of a better world? Can a dream sustain a lifetime?
A century ago, an astronomer discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star. She predicted that one day humans would travel there to build a utopia. Today, ten astronauts are leaving everything behind to find it. Four are veterans of the twentieth century’s space-race.
And six are teenagers who’ve trained for this mission most of their lives.
It will take the team twenty-three years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years locked in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong.
The one and only Gideon the Ninth has been one of the most talked about scifi debuts of the past year. These lesbian necromancers in space are full of humour, science and a side of murder mystery.
The Emperor needs necromancers.
The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.
Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
A pansexual, female, sorceress Homes and a trans Watsom, set in space? Say no more, take my money!
In this charming, witty, and weird fantasy novel, Alexis Hall pays homage to Sherlock Holmes with a new twist on those renowned characters.
Upon returning to the city of Khelathra-Ven after five years fighting a war in another universe, Captain John Wyndham finds himself looking for somewhere to live, and expediency forces him to take lodgings at 221b Martyrs Walk. His new housemate is Ms. Shaharazad Haas, a consulting sorceress of mercurial temperament and dark reputation.
When Ms. Haas is enlisted to solve a case of blackmail against one of her former lovers, Miss Eirene Viola, Captain Wyndham finds himself drawn into a mystery that leads him from the salons of the literary set to the drowned back-alleys of Ven and even to a prison cell in lost Carcosa. Along the way he is beset by criminals, menaced by pirates, molested by vampires, almost devoured by mad gods, and called upon to punch a shark.
But the further the companions go in pursuit of the elusive blackmailer, the more impossible the case appears. Then again, in Khelathra-Ven reality is flexible, and the impossible is Ms. Haas’ stock-in-trade.
I have heard SO MUCH about Kameron Hurley but finally picked up a copy of one of her novels very recently (my cat gave it to me for mother’s day, what a lovely kitten he is). This one is all about a sapce war where soldiers are broken down into light to get them to Mars but shit goes wrong.
From the Hugo Award–winning author of The Stars Are Legion comes a brand-new science fiction thriller about a futuristic war during which soldiers are broken down into light in order to get them to the front lines on Mars.
They said the war would turn us into light. I wanted to be counted among the heroes who gave us this better world.
The Light Brigade: it’s what soldiers fighting the war against Mars call the ones who come back…different. Grunts in the corporate corps get busted down into light to travel to and from interplanetary battlefronts. Everyone is changed by what the corps must do in order to break them down into light. Those who survive learn to stick to the mission brief—no matter what actually happens during combat.
Dietz, a fresh recruit in the infantry, begins to experience combat drops that don’t sync up with the platoon’s. And Dietz’s bad drops tell a story of the war that’s not at all what the corporate brass want the soldiers to think is going on.
Is Dietz really experiencing the war differently, or is it combat madness? Trying to untangle memory from mission brief and survive with sanity intact, Dietz is ready to become a hero—or maybe a villain; in war it’s hard to tell the difference.
A worthy successor to classic stories like Downbelow Station, Starship Troopers, and The Forever War, The Light Brigade is award-winning author Kameron Hurley’s gritty time-bending take on the future of war.
If there’s any book you read on this list, READ THIS ONE!!! This is one of my favourite books of the year so far, it absolutely blew me away! It’s a new take on the parallel universe trope, but in The Space Between Worlds, you can only travel to parallel Earths if the parallel you is dead. Cara is dead on a lot of Earths so makes for the perfect traveller. This book is just so full of plot twists (oh my god, literally 9% in and this book just completely surprises you). It’s amazing. Please read it.
An outsider who can travel between worlds discovers a secret that threatens her new home and her fragile place in it, in a stunning sci-fi debut that’s both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging.
Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.
On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.
But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.
We’re in the midst of an amazing month for queer scifi, with The Space Between Worlds, The First Sister and Seven Devils (which I mention next) all releasing this month! The First Sister follows three different characters on opposite sides of a space war. I really liked this one, it’s very character driven and First Sister is just amazing. She can’t talk so her POV is very introspective and it’s all about her coming to realise the power she has and owning and using it which is pretty much the best thing ever.
First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is so much harder to do when you’re falling in love.
Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus, but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito’s own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.
And the third of the queer August adult scifi releases! What a month! This one follows a whopping 7 POVs, and is all about a group of resistance fighters rebelling against a corrupt empire.
This first book in a feminist space opera duology follows seven resistance fighters who will free the galaxy from the ruthless Tholosian Empire — or die trying.
When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray.
Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated.
When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings.
Together, these women possess the knowledge and capabilities to bring the empire to its knees. But the clock is ticking: the new heir to the empire plans to disrupt a peace summit with the only remaining alien empire, ensuring the empire’s continued expansion. If they can find a way to stop him, they will save the galaxy. If they can’t, millions may die.
Claire G. Coleman is one of the most exciting writers in Australia right now. This indigenous writer’s debut novel Terra Nullius was longlisted for the Stella Award and offers an exploration of the brutality of Australia’s colonial history through the eyes of a future colonisation.
Jacky was running. There was no thought in his head, only an intense drive to run. There was no sense he was getting anywhere, no plan, no destination, no future. All he had was a sense of what was behind, what he was running from. Jacky was running.
The Natives of the Colony are restless. The Settlers are eager to have a nation of peace, and to bring the savages into line. Families are torn apart, reeducation is enforced. This rich land will provide for all.
This is not Australia as we know it. This is not the Australia of our history.
Claire G. Coleman’s second novel is set during an intergalatic war, with lots of piloting spacecraft! I haven’t read this one yet (I reserved it at the library and then the libraries closed again before I could pick it up, DEVASTATED) but I’ve read reviews and apparently it’s best to go into this one knowing as little as possible because Coleman is a writer of excellent twists…
Shane Daniels and Romany Zetz have been drawn into a war that is not their own. Lives will be destroyed, families will be torn apart. Trust will be broken.
When the war is over, some will return to a changed world. Will they discover that glory is a lie?
Claire G. Coleman’s new novel takes us to a familiar world to ask what we have learned from the past. The Old Lie might not be quite what you expect.
The Outside brings a very interesting twist to speculative ‘god’ fiction. Instead of the more fantasy style gods, in this book we have AI Gods who rule the galaxy. So when a scientist accidentally destoys a space station, killing everyone on board, the AI gods aren’t exactly pleased. Also this book has ownvoices autism rep which is amazing!!
Autistic scientist Yasira Shien has developed a radical new energy drive that could change the future of humanity. But when she activates it, reality warps, destroying the space station and everyone aboard. The AI Gods who rule the galaxy declare her work heretical, and Yasira is abducted by their agents. Instead of simply executing her, they offer mercy – if she’ll help them hunt down a bigger target: her own mysterious, vanished mentor. With her homeworld’s fate in the balance, Yasira must choose who to trust: the gods and their ruthless post-human angels, or the rebel scientist whose unorthodox mathematics could turn her world inside out.
Queer novellas are killing it this year and The Seep was one of my first reads of the year! (And also, I think it was actually my first ever novella read too??) The Seep is all about an untraditional alien invasion. The Seep got into the waterways of humanity and from there into their minds. Humanity now lives in this kind of utopian society where The Seep grants them whatever they can wish for. Including wishing to be turned back into a baby, which is what Trina’s partner does.
A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porter’s fresh, pointed debut is perfect for fans of Jeff VanderMeer and Carmen Maria Machado.
Trina Goldberg-Oneka is a fifty-year-old trans woman whose life is irreversibly altered in the wake of a gentle—but nonetheless world-changing—invasion by an alien entity called The Seep. Through The Seep, everything is connected. Capitalism falls, hierarchies and barriers are broken down; if something can be imagined, it is possible.
Trina and her wife, Deeba, live blissfully under The Seep’s utopian influence—until Deeba begins to imagine what it might be like to be reborn as a baby, which will give her the chance at an even better life. Using Seeptech to make this dream a reality, Deeba moves on to a new existence, leaving Trina devastated.
Heartbroken and deep into an alcoholic binge, Trina follows a lost boy she encounters, embarking on an unexpected quest. In her attempt to save him from The Seep, she will confront not only one of its most avid devotees, but the terrifying void that Deeba has left behind. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on.
Another novella, this one set in parallel universe IKEAs! When a customer falls through a portal to another dimension, two employees need to go hunt them down through parallel IKEAs. This book was honestly SO. MUCH. FUN.
When an elderly customer at a big box furniture store slips through a portal to another dimension, it’s up to two minimum-wage employees to track her across the multiverse and protect their company’s bottom line. Multi-dimensional swashbuckling would be hard enough, but our two unfortunate souls broke up a week ago.
Can friendship blossom from the ashes of a relationship? In infinite dimensions, all things are possible.
Rivers Solomon is the author of fantasy novella The Deep, which was absolutely amazing and so I’m sure their novel will be just as good. An Unkindness of Ghosts is set of a spacecraft travelling to the “promised land”. The autopsy of the sovereign reveals a link between hid death and the suicide of Aster’s mother years ago, so now she must find out more about her mother’s past to find a way off the ship.
Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, as they accuse, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the cookfire.
Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.
When the autopsy of Matilda‘s sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother’s suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother’s footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she’s willing to fight for it.
This is one of the most unique science fiction novels I’ve ever read (and it also very recently won a Hugo for Best Novel!) It’s this weird mesh of murder mystery, science fiction and a love letter to poetry. It sounds odd, but Martine wove such an intricate and introspective beauty of a novel.
Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.
Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret—one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life—or rescue it from annihilation.
Another novella, another Hugo award winning book! This is How You Lose the Time War is probably one of the most wellknown sapphic scifis right now. It tells the story of two agents on opposite sides of a time war who begin writing letters to each other across time.
Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.
Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war.
This book just sounds heartbreaking in all the best ways. A woman who is out of place and outside time? Just imagine how lonely that would be? And then she finds a child who falls from the sky who doesn’t speak, and they find a home in each other. Ohmygod I can just feel the tears already.
A mysterious child lands in the care of a solitary woman, changing both of their lives forever in this captivating debut of connection across space and time.
“This is when your life begins.”
Nia Imani is a woman out of place and outside of time. Decades of travel through the stars are condensed into mere months for her, though the years continue to march steadily onward for everyone she has ever known. Her friends and lovers have aged past her; all she has left is work. Alone and adrift, she lives only for the next paycheck, until the day she meets a mysterious boy, fallen from the sky.
A boy, broken by his past.
The scarred child does not speak, his only form of communication the beautiful and haunting music he plays on an old wooden flute. Captured by his songs and their strange, immediate connection, Nia decides to take the boy in. And over years of starlit travel, these two outsiders discover in each other the things they lack. For him, a home, a place of love and safety. For her, an anchor to the world outside of herself.
For both of them, a family.
But Nia is not the only one who wants the boy. The past hungers for him, and when it catches up, it threatens to tear this makeshift family apart.
Another epic scifi from Yoon Ha Lee, this one about a captain who must redeem herself from disgrace by recapturing a fortress that has been captured by heretics by working with an undead tactician who has never lost a battle but who has massacred his own army before.
The first installment of the trilogy, Ninefox Gambit, centers on disgraced captain Kel Cheris, who must recapture the formidable Fortress of Scattered Needles in order to redeem herself in front of the Hexarchate.
To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.
Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.
Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.
The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim.
This scifi series is amazing but I feel like I never hear anyone talk about it?! Emma Newman writes some really excellent mental health rep across the series. Planetfall is the first of a four part series (though you do not need to read the books chonologically). In this one, we follow a new colony when they receive a visitor who looks strangely like their missing leader.
From the award-nominated author Emma Newman, comes a novel of how one secret withheld to protect humanity’s future might be its undoing…
Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.
More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.
Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.
The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…
Before Mars is the third book in the Planetfall series, and my personal favourite! This is more like a psychological thriller and is set on Mars where an artist has been paid a lot to create art by a very wealthy capitalist. But when she gets there, she finds a note in her own handwriting warning her off the psychologist at the colony. Before Mars also has some excellent postpartum depression rep which I don’t think I’ve ever read before in scifi.
After months of travel, Anna Kubrin finally arrives on Mars for her new job as a geologist and de facto artist-in-residence. Already she feels like she is losing the connection with her husband and baby at home on Earth–and she’ll be on Mars for over a year. Throwing herself into her work, she tries her best to fit in with the team.
But in her new room on the base, Anna finds a mysterious note written in her own handwriting, warning her not to trust the colony psychologist. A note she can’t remember writing. She unpacks her wedding ring, only to find it has been replaced by a fake.
Finding a footprint in a place the colony AI claims has never been visited by humans, Anna begins to suspect that her assignment isn’t as simple as she was led to believe. Is she caught up in an elaborate corporate conspiracy, or is she actually losing her mind? Regardless of what horrors she might discover, or what they might do to her sanity, Anna has find the truth before her own mind destroys her.
If romance is more your thing, then definitely check out this scifi romance! Two clashing civilisations must find a way to work together to save a vanishing race.
A proud and reserved alien society finds its homeland destroyed in an unprovoked act of aggression, and the survivors have no choice but to reach out to the indigenous humanoids of their adopted world, to whom they are distantly related. They wish to preserve their cherished way of life but come to discover that in order to preserve their culture, they may have to change it forever.
Now a man and a woman from these two clashing societies must work together to save this vanishing race—and end up uncovering ancient mysteries with far-reaching ramifications. As their mission hangs in the balance, this unlikely team—one cool and cerebral, the other fiery and impulsive—just may find in each other their own destinies . . . and a force that transcends all.
This scifi follow a group of women who steal a spaceship on its way to a explore a new planet fit for human habitation. But when they take control of the ship, they start to realise that maybe Earth is more doomed than they thought.
The Earth is in environmental collapse. The future of humanity hangs in the balance. But a team of women are preparing to save it. Even if they’ll need to steal a spaceship to do it.
Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation.
The team is humanity’s last hope for survival, and Valerie has gathered the best women for the mission: an ace pilot who is one of the only astronauts ever to have gone to Mars; a brilliant engineer tasked with keeping the ship fully operational; and an experienced doctor to keep the crew alive. And then there’s Naomi Lovelace, Valerie’s surrogate daughter and the ship’s botanist, who has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity to step out of Valerie’s shadow and make a difference.
The problem is that they’re not the authorized crew, even if Valerie was the one to fully plan the voyage. When their mission is stolen from them, they steal the ship bound for the new planet.
But when things start going wrong on board, Naomi begins to suspect that someone is concealing a terrible secret — and realizes time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared…
Goldilocks is a bold and thought-provoking new thriller for readers of The Martian and The Handmaid’s Tale.
A Beginning at the End is set six years after a global pandemic wiped out most of the world population so perhaps not the best book to read if you’re very anxious about the current situation… It’s set in post-apocalyptic San Francisco, and follows four people in the wake of another outbreak.
How do you start over after the end of the world?
Six years after a global pandemic wiped out most of the planet’s population, the survivors are rebuilding the country, split between self-governing cities, hippie communes and wasteland gangs.
In postapocalyptic San Francisco, former pop star Moira has created a new identity to finally escape her past—until her domineering father launches a sweeping public search to track her down. Desperate for a fresh start herself, jaded event planner Krista navigates the world on behalf of those too traumatized to go outside, determined to help everyone move on—even if they don’t want to. Rob survived the catastrophe with his daughter, Sunny, but lost his wife. When strict government rules threaten to separate parent and child, Rob needs to prove himself worthy in the city’s eyes by connecting with people again.
Krista, Moira, Rob and Sunny are brought together by circumstance, and their lives begin to twine together. But when reports of another outbreak throw the fragile society into panic, the friends are forced to finally face everything that came before—and everything they still stand to lose.
Because sometimes having one person is enough to keep the world going.
This is a take on the first contact trope! Set in 2007, a leak reveals the US government has engaged in first contact with an alien species. And turns out they’ve been on Earth for decades…
Truth is a human right.
It’s fall 2007. A well-timed leak has revealed that the US government might have engaged in first contact. Cora Sabino is doing everything she can to avoid the whole mess, since the force driving the controversy is her whistleblower father. Even though Cora hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government—and with him in hiding, that attention is on her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him—until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades.
Realizing the extent to which both she and the public have been lied to, she sets out to gather as much information as she can, and finds that the best way for her to uncover the truth is not as a whistleblower, but as an intermediary. The alien presence has been completely uncommunicative until she convinces one of them that she can act as their interpreter, becoming the first and only human vessel of communication. Their otherworldly connection will change everything she thought she knew about being human—and could unleash a force more sinister than she ever imagined.
This military science fiction follows a team looking forward to redeeming themselves at the annual Boarding Games but a new personnel change messes everything up.
The rollicking first entry in a unique science fiction series that introduces the Near-Earth Orbital Guard—NeoG—a military force patrolling and protecting space inspired by the real-life mission of the U.S. Coast Guard.
For the past year, their close loss in the annual Boarding Games has haunted Interceptor Team: Zuma’s Ghost. With this year’s competition looming, they’re looking forward to some payback—until an unexpected personnel change leaves them reeling. Their best swordsman has been transferred, and a new lieutenant has been assigned in his place.
Maxine Carmichael is trying to carve a place in the world on her own—away from the pressure and influence of her powerful family. The last thing she wants is to cause trouble at her command on Jupiter Station. With her new team in turmoil, Max must overcome her self-doubt and win their trust if she’s going to succeed. Failing is not an option—and would only prove her parents right.
But Max and the team must learn to work together quickly. A routine mission to retrieve a missing ship has suddenly turned dangerous, and now their lives are on the line. Someone is targeting members of Zuma’s Ghost, a mysterious opponent willing to kill to safeguard a secret that could shake society to its core . . . a secret that could lead to their deaths and kill thousands more unless Max and her new team stop them.
Rescue those in danger, find the bad guys, win the Games. It’s all in a day’s work at the NeoG.
This book is absolutely incredible and has one of the best endings I’ve ever read. PREPARE YOUR HEART. In The Book of M, people start losing their shadows, and with it, their memories. But when they lose them, they gain 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.
This is definitely one of the coolest premises on this list: it’s set on a city sized starship which which has been carved up in the inside of a spacefaring beast!! So fucked up.
Escaping Exodus is a story of a young woman named Seske Kaleigh, heir to the command of a biological, city-size starship carved up from the insides of a spacefaring beast. Her clan has just now culled their latest ship and the workers are busy stripping down the bonework for building materials, rerouting the circulatory system for mass transit, and preparing the cavernous creature for the onslaught of the general populous still in stasis. It’s all a part of the cycle her clan had instituted centuries ago—excavate the new beast, expand into its barely-living carcass, extinguish its resources over the course of a decade, then escape in a highly coordinated exodus back into stasis until they cull the next beast from the diminishing herd.
And of course there wouldn’t be much of a story if things didn’t go terribly, terribly wrong.
From Annalee Newitz, founding editor of io9, comes a story of time travel, murder, and the lengths we’ll go to protect the ones we love.
1992: After a confrontation at a riot grrl concert, seventeen-year-old Beth finds herself in a car with her friend’s abusive boyfriend dead in the backseat, agreeing to help her friends hide the body. This murder sets Beth and her friends on a path of escalating violence and vengeance as they realize many other young women in the world need protecting too.
2022: Determined to use time travel to create a safer future, Tess has dedicated her life to visiting key moments in history and fighting for change. But rewriting the timeline isn’t as simple as editing one person or event. And just when Tess believes she’s found a way to make an edit that actually sticks, she encounters a group of dangerous travelers bent on stopping her at any cost.
Tess and Beth’s lives intertwine as war breaks out across the timeline–a war that threatens to destroy time travel and leave only a small group of elites with the power to shape the past, present, and future. Against the vast and intricate forces of history and humanity, is it possible for a single person’s actions to echo throughout the timeline?
I had never heard of decopunk until I heard of this book and I so intrigued! This decopunk spaceopera follows the daughter of a Gothic romance film director who starts making documentaries and travelling through space to film them.
Radiance is a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood—and solar system—very different from our own, from the phenomenal talent behind the New York Times bestselling The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
Severin Unck’s father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father’s films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.
But her latest film, which investigates the disappearance of a diving colony on a watery Venus populated by island-sized alien creatures, will be her last. Though her crew limps home to earth and her story is preserved by the colony’s last survivor, Severin will never return.
Aesthetically recalling A Trip to the Moon and House of Leaves, and told using techniques from reality TV, classic film, gossip magazines, and meta-fictional narrative, Radiance is a solar system-spanning story of love, exploration, family, loss, quantum physics, and silent film.
This slowburn scifi follows a group of Martian kids sent to Earth as delegates and are now caught between their two worlds.
A century after the Martian war of independence, a group of kids are sent to Earth as delegates from Mars, but when they return home, they are caught between the two worlds, unable to reconcile the beauty and culture of Mars with their experiences on Earth in this spellbinding novel from Hugo Award–winning author Hao Jingfang.
In 2096, the war of independence erupts when a colony of people living on Mars rebel against Earth’s rule. The war results in two different and mutually incompatible worlds. In 2196, one hundred years later, Earth and Mars attempt to initiate a dialogue, hoping a reconciliation is on the horizon. Representing Mars, a group of young delegates are sent to Earth to study the history and culture of the rival planet, all while teaching others about life on Mars.
Narrated from two perspectives: Luo Ying, an eighteen-year-old girl from Mars who has spent the past five years on Earth, and Ignacio, a filmmaker in his late twenties from Earth on a job to document the delegates from Mars. Both Luo and Ignacio are trapped between worlds, with critics all around, and always under suspicion, searching for where they truly belong.
Onto a novella, Riot Baby is a story of the Black American experience in a global dystopia and follows two siblings with extraordinary power and what happens when one is arrested for being Black in America.
Rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.
Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella—through visits both mundane and supernatural—tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down.
First of all, did you know that S.L Huang is the first professional female armorer in Hollywood? How fucking cool is that?! I’m very excited for her fantasy novella, Burning Roses, releasing soon, but she also has a scifi thriller series baout a mathematical genius mercenary.
A blockbuster, near-future science fiction thriller, S.L. Huang’s Zero Sum Game introduces a math-genius mercenary who finds herself being manipulated by someone possessing unimaginable power…..
Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight, and she’ll take any job for the right price.
As far as Cas knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower…until she discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.
Cas should run, like she usually does, but for once she’s involved. There’s only one problem…
She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.
This steampunk science fantasy is set in a Victorian styled book, has blood magic (my favourite type of magic!), a murder mystery and a gravedigger who’s framed for the murder of one of his cadavers.
With a murderer on the loose, it’s up to an enlightened bodysnatcher and a rebellious princess to save the city, in this wonderfully inventive Victorian-tinged fantasy noir.
“Man of Science” Roger Weathersby scrapes out a risky living digging up corpses for medical schools. When he’s framed for the murder of one of his cadavers, he’s forced to trust in the superstitions he’s always rejected: his former friend, princess Sibylla, offers to commute Roger’s execution in a blood magic ritual which will bind him to her forever. With little choice, he finds himself indentured to Sibylla and propelled into an investigation. There’s a murderer loose in the city of Caligo, and the duo must navigate science and sorcery, palace intrigue and dank boneyards to catch the butcher before the killings tear their whole country apart.
Another plague novel (who knew how many plague novels there were until we were like…in a plague?!) In this one, a fever decimated the population and made childbirth deadly for mother and infant. Now a midwife walks the world trying to find a new place, hiding from the clans of men who seek to control.
When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead.
In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population—killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant—the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power—and the strong who possess it.
A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men’s clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she’ll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence.
After all, if humanity is to be reborn, someone must be its guide.
Another plague novel, but this one comes with a very interesting twist: it’s set in a world with parthenogenic women (that is, can reproduce asexually – i.e. without sexual reproduction). Kirilow is a doctor whose partner is a starfish who can regenerate limbs and organs to give to her sisters. But a flu infects the community, killing the starfish and putting the whole community at risk.
In this visionary novel by Larissa Lai–her first in sixteen years–a community of parthenogenic women, sent into exile by the male-dominated Salt Water City, goes to war against disease, technology, and powerful men that threaten them with extinction.
Kirilow is a doctor apprentice whose lover Peristrophe is a “starfish,” a woman who can regenerate her own limbs and organs, which she uses to help her clone sisters whose organs are failing. When a denizen from Salt Water City suffering from a mysterious flu comes into their midst, Peristrophe becomes infected and dies, prompting Kirilow to travel to Salt Water City, where the flu is now a pandemic, to find a new starfish who will help save her sisters. There, Kirilow meets Kora, a girl-woman desperate to save her family from the epidemic. Kora has everything Kirilow is looking for, except the will to abandon her own family. But before Kirilow can convince her, both are kidnapped by a group of powerful men to serve as test subjects for a new technology that can cure the mind of the body.
Bold, beautiful, and wildly imaginative, The Tiger Flu is at once a female hero’s saga, a cyberpunk thriller, and a convention-breaking cautionary tale–a striking metaphor for our complicated times.
The Lesson is apparently one of the first scifi novels set in the Virgin Islands which is very cool. What’s even cooler is that the people of the Virgin Islands have been living with an alien race for five years!
THE LESSON explores the nature of belief, the impact of colonialism, and asks how far are we willing to go for progress? Breaking ground as one of the first science fiction novels set in the Virgin Islands, THE LESSON is not only a thought-provoking literary work, delving deeply into allegorical themes of colonialism, but also vividly draws the community of Charlotte Amalie, wherefrom the author hails.
An alien ship rests over Water Island. For five years the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands have lived with the Ynaa, a race of super-advanced aliens on a research mission they will not fully disclose. They are benevolent in many ways but meet any act of aggression with disproportional wrath. This has led to a strained relationship between the Ynaa and the local Virgin Islanders and a peace that cannot last. A year after the death of a young boy at the hands of an Ynaa, three families find themselves at the center of the inevitable conflict, witness and victim to events that will touch everyone and teach a terrible lesson.
This just sounds so so cool. Humanity is holding on to life by the skin of its teeth: the last vestiges are living on a colonised planet called January where half the planet is frozen in darkness and the other half wrecked with endless sun. The last of humanity lives in two cities in the temperate zone in the middle of the planet. When a student is exiled into the frozen darkness, she survives with the help of a creature from beneath the ice. How cool?!
Would you give up everything to change the world?
Humanity clings to life on January–a colonized planet divided between permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other.
Two cities, built long ago in the meager temperate zone, serve as the last bastions of civilization–but life inside them is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.
Sophie, a young student from the wrong side of Xiosphant city, is exiled into the dark after being part of a failed revolution. But she survives–with the help of a mysterious savior from beneath the ice.
Burdened with a dangerous, painful secret, Sophie and her ragtag group of exiles face the ultimate challenge–and they are running out of time.
The author describes this as “Queerness with a chance of explosions” which sounds amazing and also there’s a cat!!!
Damian Nettoyer is the Empire’s go-to gun. He kills whoever they want him to kill. In exchange, he and his rag-tag gang of crooks get to live, and Damian’s psychokinetic partner and lover, Aris, isn’t issued a one-way ticket to an Empire-sanctioned lobotomy.
Then Damian’s latest mark, a suave revolutionary named Raeyn, kicks his ass and demands his help. The first item on the new agenda: take out Damian’s old boss—or Raeyn will take out Damian’s crew.
To protect his friends and save his own skin, Damian teams up with Raeyn to make his revolution work. As the revolution gains traction, Damian gets way too close to Raeyn, torn between the need to shoot him one moment and kiss him the next. But Aris slips further away from Damian, and as Aris’ control over his powers crumbles, the Watch catches on.
With the Empire, Damian had two policies: shoot first and don’t ask questions. But to save the guy he loves, he’ll set the world on fire.
This scifi has a treasure hunter who fakes salvage legends to sell them on, but now has managed to find a mega powerful destructive warship.
Boots Elsworth was a famous treasure hunter in another life, but now she’s washed up. She makes her meager living faking salvage legends and selling them to the highest bidder, but this time she might have stumbled on something real–the story of the Harrow, a famous warship, capable of untold destruction.
Nilah Brio is the top driver in the Pan Galactic Racing Federation and the darling of the racing world–until she witnesses the murder of a fellow racer. Framed for the murder and on the hunt to clear her name, Nilah only has one lead: the killer also hunts a woman named Boots.
On the wrong side of the law, the two women board a smuggler’s ship that will take them on a quest for fame, for riches, and for justice.
This Hugo-award winning scifi is set in a near future dystopia where public gatherings are illegal and so concerts are now impossible, except for those willing to break the law. After many terror attacks and virus oubreaks, public gatherings are now illegal and a former musiciam performs illegal concerts to fans.
In this captivating science fiction novel from an award-winning author, public gatherings are illegal making concerts impossible, except for those willing to break the law for the love of music, and for one chance at human connection.
In the Before, when the government didn’t prohibit large public gatherings, Luce Cannon was on top of the world. One of her songs had just taken off and she was on her way to becoming a star. Now, in the After, terror attacks and deadly viruses have led the government to ban concerts, and Luce’s connection to the world–her music, her purpose–is closed off forever. She does what she has to do: she performs in illegal concerts to a small but passionate community, always evading the law.
Rosemary Laws barely remembers the Before times. She spends her days in Hoodspace, helping customers order all of their goods online for drone delivery–no physical contact with humans needed. By lucky chance, she finds a new job and a new calling: discover amazing musicians and bring their concerts to everyone via virtual reality. The only catch is that she’ll have to do something she’s never done before and go out in public. Find the illegal concerts and bring musicians into the limelight they deserve. But when she sees how the world could actually be, that won’t be enough.
Red, White & Royal Blue in SPACE?! Yes please. (Release date: 21 February 2021)
Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.
While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.
But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.
A spaceship romance. Yes a romance with a literal sentient spaceship! This sounds so amazing. (Release date: October 2021)
Vân is a scholar from a poor background, eking out a living in the orbitals of the Scattered Pearls Belt as a tutor to a rich family, while hiding the illegal artificial mem-implant she manufactured as a student. Sunless Woods is a mindship—and not just any mindship, but a notorious thief and a master of disguise. She’s come to the Belt to retire, but is drawn to Vân’s resolute integrity.
When a mysterious corpse is found in the quarters of Vân’s student, Vân and Sunless Woods find themselves following a trail of greed and murder that will lead them from teahouses and ascetic havens to the wreck of a mindship–and to the devastating secrets they’ve kept from each other.
I am so incredibly excited for this book about a group of queer performers fighting back against a fascist regime. (Release date: 8 December 2020).
The author of the acclaimed novel Scarborough weaves an unforgettable and timely dystopian account of a near-future when a queer Black performer and his allies join forces against an oppressive regime that is rounding up those deemed “Other” in concentration camps.
In a terrifyingly familiar near-future, with massive floods that lead to rampant homelessness and devastation, a government-sanctioned regime called the Boots seizes the opportunity to force communities of colour, the disabled and the LGBTQ2S into labour camps in the city of Toronto.
In the shadows, a new hero emerges. After his livelihood and the love of his life are taken away, Kay joins the resistance alongside Bahadur, a transmasculine refugee, and Firuzeh, a headstrong social worker. Guiding them in the use of weapons and close-quarters combat is Beck, a rogue army officer who helps them plan an uprising at a major internationally televised event.
With her signature prose, described by Booklist as “raw yet beautiful, disturbing yet hopeful,” Catherine Hernandez creates a vision of the future that is all the more terrifying because it is very possible. A cautionary tale filled with fierce and vibrant characters, Crosshairs explores the universal desire to thrive, to love and to be loved as your true self.
This book was very recently announced and it sounds AMAZING. One of my most antipated books of 2021? I THINK SO! It has a pansexual supervillain and a superhero teaming up and being friends! And they’ve lost all their memories! (Release date: 26 January 2021)
An emotional adventure about two misfits who have extraordinary powers, but have forgotten who they were before. The vigilante and the villain must team up to stop a mad scientist who threatens the city, while trying to figure out who they really are.
Jamie woke up two years ago in an empty apartment with no memory and only a few clues to who he might be, and also with the power to read other people’s memories. In the meantime, he’s become the Mind Robber, holding up banks for quick cash. Similarly, Zoe is searching for her past, and using her new extraordinary abilities of speed and strength…to deliver fast food. And occasionally beat up bad guys, if she feels like it.
When the two meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize they are each other’s best chance at discovering what happened to them. The quest will take them deep into a medical conspiracy that is threatening to spill out and wreak havoc on their city, and maybe the country. As the two get past their respective barriers, they’ll realize that their friendship is the thing that gives them the greatest power.
Anything that has comps to Black Mirror and The Handmaid’s Tale is going to be so fucked up and amazing. Dark Lullaby is all about a mother trying to keep her family together in a world where parenting is strictly monitored. (Release date: 9 February 2021)
For fans of Black Mirror and The Handmaid’s Tale, in Dark Lullaby a mother desperately tries to keep her family together in a society where parenting standards are strictly monitored.
When Kit decides to have a child, she thinks she’s prepared. She knows how demanding Induction is. She’s seen children Extracted. But in a society where parenting is strictly monitored under the watchful gaze of OSIP (The Office of Standards in Parenting), she is forced to ask herself how far she will go to keep her family together.
This near future has sentient artifical intelligence and humanity who are dependent on pills to keep them alive but also allow them to compete with AI in the competitive gig economy. But now several terrorist attacks have targeted pill funders and demand pill production stop. (Release date: 2 March 2021)
From the Hugo Award nominee S.B. Divya, Zero Dark Thirty meets The Social Network in this science fiction thriller about artificial intelligence, sentience, and labor rights in a near future dominated by the gig economy.
Welga Ramirez, executive bodyguard and ex-special forces, is about to retire early when her client is killed in front of her. It’s 2095 and people don’t usually die from violence. Humanity is entirely dependent on pills that not only help them stay alive, but allow them to compete with artificial intelligence in an increasingly competitive gig economy. Daily doses protect against designer diseases, flow enhances focus, zips and buffs enhance physical strength and speed, and juvers speed the healing process.
All that changes when Welga’s client is killed by The Machinehood, a new and mysterious terrorist group that has simultaneously attacked several major pill funders. The Machinehood operatives seem to be part human, part machine, something the world has never seen. They issue an ultimatum: stop all pill production in one week.
Global panic ensues as pill production slows and many become ill. Thousands destroy their bots in fear of a strong AI takeover. But the US government believes the Machinehood is a cover for an old enemy. One that Welga is uniquely qualified to fight.
Welga, determined to take down the Machinehood, is pulled back into intelligence work by the government that betrayed her. But who are the Machinehood and what do they really want?
A thrilling and thought-provoking novel that asks: if we won’t see machines as human, will we instead see humans as machines?
YESSSSS Rivers Solomon has another book coming!! And it’s gothic!! And it tackles the history of racism in America!! (Release date: 2021)
A genre-bending work of gothic fiction that wrestles with the tangled history of racism in America and the marginalization of society’s undesirables, about a Black woman with albinism, the mother of infant twins, who is hunted after escaping a religious compound, then discovers that her body is metamorphosing and that she is developing extra-sensory powers.
I for one am very intrigued as to what a “Hell-danmed” violin legend means. (Release date: 2021)
Cornell University MFA graduate, poet, professor, and performer Ryka Aoki’s LIGHT FROM UNCOMMON STARS, about three women trying to escape their pasts — a Hell-damned violin legend and teacher, a young transgender runaway and aspiring musician, and a spaceship captain fleeing a faraway war — who find each other, and unexpected magic, in California’s San Gabriel Valley, to Lindsey Hall at Tor, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, by Meredith Kaffel Simonoff at DeFiore and Company (world English).
And that’s it for another week! Have you read any of these books? What’s your favourite scifi novel? Let me know in the comments! And join me next week for the final week, where I’ll be looking at all the diverse young adult science fiction we have!
Goodreads blurb: A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself in this stunning, feminist fantasy debut.
In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.
But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.
Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.
Welcome to spooksville, population one coven of terrifying witches threatening to destroy a community of sexist menfolk! The Year of the Witching was one of my most anticipated books of the year, promising all of the dark, spooky, filled with blood and gore magic that I desired, and it definitely lived up to my expectations! Combining the kind of puritan society seen in The Handmaid’s Tale, with the dark blood magic seen in horror brings a wonderful (and very dark) witchy book to our shelves. Like seriously. It’s so fucking witchy.
The Year of the Witching is set in Bethel, a small community barred to outsiders. There, they are led by the church of The Father, with a Prophet and his apostles who look after their Bethelen flock. But all is not well: in this society, women are treated as cattle, carved with a symbol of marriage on their foreheads, Outsiders who skirt the borders of Bethel are treated with disgust and disdain, and Immanuelle, who’s mother attempted to kill the Prophet himself, is desperately trying to live a life without sin to avoid others claiming she’s a witch thanks to her mother’s blood. But then Immanuelle ends up in the dangerous woods by accident, where she sees some strange witches cavorting together and now four plagues have come upon the town and Immanuelle will do everything in her power to stop it.
The list of things I loved about this book is huge so let’s just dive straight in because this review is likely going to be biiiiiiig.
Oh my god the witches!! They were just amazing. I loved everything to do with them, from Lilith with her stag head, to the sigils used to carve curses, to the extracts from Immanuelle’s mother’s diary. The four witches are just thrillingy creepy. Can you actually imagine how terrifying a female body with the skull of a stag would be?! The way the other witches are described is just as terrifying: each of them are quite clearly dead, bodies brokenly moving and twitching, eyes dead and staring, I thought they were expertly detailed to be as scary as possible.
And the four plagues these witches brought were so much fucking fun!! (Yes I realise I’m saying four world destroying plagues were FUN but that is why we read HORROR). These plagues were just so dark and creepy, water turning to blood, the blight making people smash their own heads against walls?! But it was so interesting to explore how these plagues actually impacted the day to day lives of people. Usually we see the world sort of stop and everyone panics (which, to be fair, does seem to be the way humans would react given *gestures to coronavirus*) But I liked that this book took a different approach, here we saw everyone needing to get on with life and do their best – it explored what actually would happen if all the water turned to blood. From the crops failing, to animals dying of thirst, to stored reservoirs of water, to using the rain, I just found it really interesting to explore how people were getting on with life in a plague as opposed to seeing the usual sense of despair and panic.
The history and worldbuilding is so detailed and in-depth and just absolutely fascinating. I really love books about puritanical societies that actually delve into how the society got there and why they act the way they do. I find it fascinating to explore how humans can come to do such terrible things, what actually takes a society from what we know to something so much worse, it’s why I love books that explore villainy. And The Year of the Witching gave us so much backstory to Bethel, how it came to be, the religion that started the war between the witches and Bethel. I adore SFF books with religion, and I loved it even more than usual in The Year of the Witching. Like all books about puritanical societies, plagues, end of the world dystopias, they feel particularly scary in the current world climate. The essence of misogyny that runs deep through Bethel’s community, the way the community targets women and girls and uses them to give themselves power is just terrifyingly good. That sliver of pure evil throughout just fills me with so much rage and anger, and I love books that just overtake my emotions like that.
The unexpected romance
Ezra and Immanuelle?! I didn’t expect there to be a hint of romance in the book but it was so lovely and unexpected. I loved that they were both such loyal friends first and foremost, before romance. Their loyalty and strength is really magical to read about. Every time they’re on page together there is such a beautiful sense of friendship before anything. It’s like these two teens are faced with such evil and horrors in the rest of their lives but then with each other they just have this sweetness and innocence which I loved.
I really liked Immanuelle’s close relationship to her family, particularly the love she and her grandfather have. He doesn’t spend much time on page, but I really felt every moment he was because there is so much emotion in his pages. I very much appreciated the importance put on familial love in this book. Despite the flaws of Immanuelle’s family (hi Martha and your punishment), they still have so much love and support for each other? Martha and Anna and Abram clearly have so much love for their children. It would have been so easy to turn Immanuelle’s family against her, for them to be as evil at heart at The Prophet and his apostles, but they had such strength and love for each other that was really nice to see in this very dark book. Even when looking at the other families, there is such a strong connection beween Ezra and his mother Esther, between Leah and her unborn child, between Vera and Sage. It brought a lightness and comfort to a very dark book.
Please note, the following paragraph has some spoilers for the ending so skip ahead to past the nachos if you don’t want to know about it! I wanted to talk about the ending because it’s the reason I didn’t give this a full five stars.
However, I actually think it could’ve been a touch more dark. I KNOW, I’m the worst. It just felt a little incomplete, like we were just waiting for Immanuelle to say fuck this shit and blast everyone. And I think it would have been really interesting to see her descent into darkness. It’s a book about overthrowing a society and building from the ground up. Except for a person who spends the whole book wanting to change things, when she gets the chance, she says nah actually I’ll let the Prophet remain in charge and keep carving girls thanks? The ending (the epilogue in particular where it talks about what has actually happened since the events of the book), just felt a bit like a different story. I wanted dark Immanuelle. And if she wasn’t willing to be dark, I at least wanted her to overthrow the society and make some change. What was the point of everything then?
Okay spoilers over.
Please don’t take that to mean I don’t love it! Because I really enjoyed this book. I had an absolute ball reading it, it’s by far the most engaged I’ve felt in a book in a little while. The worldbuilding and religion was so interesting and detailed and I loved exploring these four very dead, creepy witches!
Goodreads blurb:First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is so much harder to do when you’re falling in love.
Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus, but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito’s own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.
Phheewww I’m on a roll of incredible sci-fi right now, and The First Sister was no exception. This is a dark and epic tale of war across the solar system, following three main protagonists on opposite sides of the war as they try to fight for control over their own bodies.
The First Sister is a story of bodily autonomy, or rather, the story of what happens when bodily autonomy is removed, when people have no control over what happens to them and what happens when they fight back. We follow three individuals on opposite sides of the war:
First Sister: a priestess of the Sisterhood serving on the Juno, a warship. As a priestess, she is there to provide distraction to the soldiers, be that hearing their confessions or providing them with sex to prevent distraction whilst they do their duties. Her voice was taken from her as a child, to prevent her ever spilling the secrets of the captain of her ship. When the Juno gets a new Captain, war hero Saito Ren, First Sister is asked to gain her trust and spy on her for the Sisterhood, who thinks she is a traitor.
Lito sol Lucius: on the opposite side of the war from First Sister is Lito, a duelist who has recently recovered from wounds gained in the fall of Ceres, and for which he is blamed. He is ordered to return to Ceres, kill the Mother, the head of the Sisterhood, and kill his traitorous ex-partner, Hiro, who assisted in the fall of Ceres.
Hiro: for Hiro’s POV, we get short clips from a recorded message they sent to Lito, explaining how they betrayed their Empire. For as they explain at the start of the recording, they are most definitely guilty and they betrayed the Icaari.
These three each follow very different, exciting plots that all combine in one last final showdown on Ceres. Whilst each of these POVs were interesting on their own, I was particularly in love with that of First Sister. There is something so incredibly powerful about this POV from a person who cannot speak, so dialogue instantly becomes not a tool that the author can use. And I just loved the more introspective nature of First Sisters POV that therefore happened. Forced into the Sisterhood, her POV provides lots of insight into this religious powerhouse and the dark insides of the religion. So seeing her grow to become a person who gains control over her body after all these years in service to the awful Sisterhood was so powerful.
I did love her POV a lot more than Lito’s. I thought his a little detached and I found it more difficult to get attached to him as a character, which is why this book didn’t get a full 5 stars. But then comparing that to Hiro, who despite having the smallest part, just small extracts from their recordings, got so much personality through. I loved them. The way the Icaari have destroyed Hiro’s bodily autonomy is truly horrific, it’s so shocking and so disgusting and I was blown away when we first read what has happened to them. This is a world with such horrors in it, where a few powerful individuals hold the power and control over millions, where the lives of the many are used and discarded as a tool for the few powerful people. But it’s also a story about those who refuse to be used, who refuse to let the powerful discard them like nothing, and what happens when those few individuals decide to fight back. And it’s spectacular.
As a short side note, Lewis is another author going onto my list of authors who write epic battle scenes. This is something I struggle with as a writer so I’m always hugely impressed when authors can do it so well. These battles were so fun and filled with really badass technology, and this lightened the load of a book discussing some really dark issues surrounding bodily autonomy.
The world was just as diverse as I’d hoped, pretty much everyone is queer. Between nonbinary Hiro, Saito Ren and First Sister’s relationship, we’re full of diverse queer characters. I really loved the soft slow development of the relationship between Ren and First Sister. I just love SFF books that also have brilliantly queer romances that impact the story, so this was just perfect.
Also kudos to Lewis because there were so many twists at the end and I guessed NONE OF THEM. It was such a moment of shock and disbelief and omg OF COURSE this all makes sense I love it?!?
It’s hard to talk too much about this book without giving spoilers, so all I’ll say is I really liked this one. There’s a lot going on, and a lot of difficult issues being discussed, but this is paired with lots of epic battles and some very cool tech, so it pretty much combines the best two things about SciFi!
Goodreads blurb: A multiverse-hopping outsider discovers a secret that threatens her home world and her fragile place in it–a stunning sci-fi debut that’s both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging.
CARA IS DEAD ON THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FOUR WORLDS.
The multiverse business is booming, but there’s just one catch: no one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive.
Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying–from diseases, from turf wars, from vendettas they couldn’t outrun.
But on this earth, Cara’s survived. And she’s reaping the benefits, thanks to the well-heeled Wiley City scientists who ID’d her as an outlier and plucked her from the dirt. Now she’s got a new job collecting offworld data, a path to citizenship, and a near-perfect Wiley City accent. Now she can pretend she’s always lived in the city she grew up staring at from the outside, even if she feels like a fraud on either side of its walls.
But when one of her eight remaining doppelgangers dies under mysterious circumstances, Cara is plunged into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined–and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.
Well this book was fucking excellent. Like, really fucking excellent. I think it might be my favourite sci fi. Ever. God, it was so good. From the plot twists 9% in that continued all the way through, to the deep social commentary on issues from gun violence to class to climate change, the exploration of trauma and survival, The Space Between Worlds managed to bring together so many different issues into one perfect sapphic scifi that’ll I’ll be thinking about for pretty much the next five years.
The Space Between Worlds is set on an Earth which has discovered multiverse travel. But there’s a catch: you can only visit a parallel universe if the parallel you is already dead. Traversers, those who have died on other worlds, are hired to travel across the multiverse to get information. Cara is one of these traversers. But when one of the parallel Cara’s is killed in mysterious circumstances, Cara is drawn into a plot that endangers the entire multiverse.
It’s difficult to put into words how much I loved this book. I was hooked completely from the very first page. We’re drawn into this incredibly detailed world, and Johnson has done such an epic job of the worldbuilding. There’s an enclosed, rich city, protected from the harsh weather outside and a Mad Max style desert, where the poorer individuals live overruled by a self-styled emperor. We’re thrust into this world that has been ravaged by climate change, and it felt like a bleak look into our future, so realistic and well detailed was this world. The Space Between Worlds subtly explores issues like climate change in a way that isn’t in your face or preachy – it’s anything but that. In fact, on the surface, there is no blatant discussion of issues like climate change or gun violence. But Johnson has woven these concepts throughout in subtle descriptions of the world: from the way people get around with tarps to protect from the sun, to the stark absence of guns at all, to the descriptions of acid in the air, Johnson weaves social commentary into the story with such a powerful impact.
But what’s most powerful is the depiction of trauma, domestic abuse, and an individual who has survived but is still deeply affected and damaged by what she’s been through. The way Cara is written is just phenomenal. She is such a brilliant, morally grey character. I longed for her to find her safety as much as I longed for her to get her revenge. I won’t say too much about her (spoilers…) but it breaks my heart to see how wrecked and lonely she is and then to see her grow and survive what she’s been through and learn how to use what she’s been through against her enemies, it’s so fucking perfect. Also she’s bi/pan and my heart is just singing to see a bi/pan character get a story this epic.
The romance made my heart hurt (ofc). To see Dell and Cara constantly come close and drift apart, to see how their misunderstandings tear them apart when all I wanted to scream was PLEASE BE HAPPY TOGETHER was just 😭😭😭😭
To conclude: I have so many thoughts about this book. It left me with that feeling that really good books often do, the feeling like I got run over by a car, or that a hole was punched through my chest, that emotional ‘god I can’t quite believe I read this’ level of awe. I can’t wait to see what Johnson does next.
Goodreads blurb: 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.
Content warnings for gore, murder, self-harm, blood, child rape, sexual assault, suicide, drugs and drug use.
Let me preface this review by saying this was my very first Leigh Bardugo book and I cannot believe how long it has taken me to read one of her books? I’ve heard so much about this author and so I went in expecting something outstanding. I enjoyed Ninth House. It’s full of the delicious vibe associated with dark academia, has an edge of horror but also the cosiness of a murder mystery at times. However, I do think this book suffered due to the fact I read it immediately after finishing The Space Between Worlds.
Although a sci-fi, The Space Between Worlds also uses speculative fiction as a device to explore trauma, survival and privilege. And The Space Between Worlds does it so fucking well. Expertly so. And so whilst I see Bardugo’s attempts to tackle issues of class and privilege, I don’t think she managed quite as well as Johnson. I think on any other day, I probably wouldn’t have noticed quite as large a disparity, but purely due to the fact I had literally just read a book that did this particular thing so particularly well, Ninth House suffered in comparison to it.
Ninth House follows Alex Stern, a young woman who can see Grays (ghosts). After she awakens in hospital after a horrific crime, she is offered a position at Yale University, to join Lethe, one of Nine magical secret societies. Lethe are the shepherds, the guardians of magic who prevent the other societies from doing harm. It’s told in two POVs, Alex in the present, investigating a murder on campus, and Darlington, Alex’s tutor from Lethe, whose POV is in the past following Alex when she first joined Yale.
Ninth House is many things: dark academia, murder mystery, horror. I think Bardugo does a great job of combining these elements to make a transfixing atmosphere. I found the history of the secret societies absolutely fascinating, and some of the best parts of this novel fell in these more magical scenes, where Alex and Darlington were interacting with the secret societies in their rituals. From the blood magic to the prognostication, as gorey as they were at times, I was so enthralled by them. During some of the more mundane sections of the plot outside of the secret societies, and particularly nearer the end of the novel, I did feel it began to drag a little. Nearer the end it also felt a little repetitive in the constant cycle of: Alex almost dies, but she doesn’t. Then she almost dies again, but she doesn’t. How many times can someone crack their skull and still not die?!
I did love Alex as a character. I’m on a roll of books with impressively written, exceedingly morally grey, complex female characters, from Priory to The Space Between Worlds to this! I need more characters like this in my life. I loved Alex’s progression from the start of the novel where she’s hiding who she really is as she tries to fit into Yale, but over the course of the book the darkness and violence and anger in her is slowly revealed, please give me more of this vibe in SFF!!! Darlington was also an absolute gem and as I’m sure many others also feel, I wish we’d seen more of him! He felt like such a kind character, full of naive dreams about goodness and being a knight to protect others. I can’t wait for the second novel in this series to get more of him and more of his lightness playing off of Alex’s dark badassness.
Bardugo uses Yale and the secret societies as a way to comment on power and privilege and the way men have used these both to enforce their will on others, as well as to tackle the very current topic of university rape culture. I don’t think Bardugo does this badly, not at all. But I was missing that little extra spark of magic that The Space Between Worlds had. Ninth House tries to explore trauma, some of which is did well: I thought the way it explored how victims are often not believed through the use of perpetrators that no one can see was well done. This was explored both in flashbacks and in the present, when a police officer threatens to expose a video that shows Alex being attacked (by a ghost that no one can see) to discredit her. But I think outside of this example, Ninth House could have gone much further than just a few flashbacks exploring Alex’s past life. And as I said above, I think Ninth House did suffer a bit purely because I read these two books directly after each other and thus could really clearly see the differences in the handling of social commentary and trauma.
All in all, I’m glad I finally read my first Bardugo! Although I had a few issues, I did enjoy this book, the vibe was everything I love about dark academia and the secret societies and the ritualistic magic system were fascinating! I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel.
Goodreads blurb:An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic artistocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .
From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico—“fans of classic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca are in for a suspenseful treat” (PopSugar).
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
Mexican Gothic is the kind of book that will haunt you for years to come. It’s the kind of book that will make you yearn for a feeling like that again. It is dark, it is twisted and it is so entralling and bewitching that it is hard to put into words. It’s the book I will spend all year thrusting desperately into people’s hands while screaming READ IT. It’s a book I wish I could read for the first time again, because the horror and shock and awe was captivating.
So what’s it all about? Noemí receives a frantic and odd letter from her cousin, Catalina, full of frantic pleas to help her as she thinks her husband is trying to poison her. In a bid to find out exactly what the fuck is going on Noemí travels to High Place, the mysterious mansion where Catalina now lives with her husband and his odd, dysfunctional family. In this damp and mould covered house, Noemí is met with fierce disapproval and downright hatred from all except one, Francis, who she enlists in her attempts to work out what’s going on.
And boy, it’s a fucking ride. This book is so delightfully twisted and creepy. At first glance, this evokes the feelings of classic gothic novels: the fog, the house, the wilderness encroaching on the humanity and living. But Moreno-Garcia has brought an entirely modern twist to the genre, blending elements of the supernatural with science and academia, creating a book that is both a love story to classic gothic and embraces modern dark academia. In daylight, it is a gothic mystery, but at night, through Noemí’s disturbing and dark dreams, we see the other side of this novel. Moreno-Garcia’s language is stunningly horrific and distburbing – at many points it makes you sick to the stomach, and you dare not turn your eyes away from the page so desperate to see what the everloving fuck is happening.
And let’s talk about Noemí herself! Some books you read just the first few pages and know it’s going to be bloody excellent. Mexican Gothic was one of those for me. And it’s usually down to the ease and strength of the character voice. Noemí really shone in this novel. Her voice was so clear and immediately engrossing: she is both capable and independent, flirty and kind. And we see this strong, capable woman descend into horrors across the book and it is the strength of Noemí’s voice at the start which makes me care so much for her and be so passionate and mad as this house destroys such a wonderful character.
The other characters we meet are:
Virgil: the new husband to Noemí’s cousin, cold and calculating and cruel, with a vicious grasp on Noemí, able to spark deep rage and passion in her
Florence: an Aunt who runs the household, even more unfeeling than Virgil, strict beyond measure and deeply unkind
Howard: the patriarch of the family, slowly dying and around whom all revolve in this household
Catalina: Noemí’s cousin who frantically wrote a letter to save herself, and seems constantly seesawing between peaceful and well, and utterly mad
Francis: the one individual in the house who dares to be kind to Noemí, sweet and unsure but ruled with an iron fist by Howard, Florence, and Virgil.
These characters revolve around each other in an uneasy fashion, lies around every corner and horrors hiding in the dark, mould invested mansion of High Place. Mexican Gothic is a twisted, fucked up book that will surprise you at every turn. It combines all my favourite elements of gothic suspense but brings the genre into the modern age with glimpses of horror and dark academia. It is the book I am going to gift to pretty much everyone I know because I adored this so much. It gave me disturbing dreams, my heart raced as I read, and I never wanted to stop reading it.