30 Days of Pride: Science fiction & fantasy

Hi everyone,

I’d like to start again by directing you to the Black Lives matter carrd to continue efforts to sign petitions and donate money to support protestors. If you’re Australian, we have a number of protests this weekend in state capitals across the country, to lend our voices and support to Bla(c)k Australians, so please check out if you have any near you! For fellow Melbournians, event info can be found here.

Today’s post is pretty much just a list of my favourite books. Science fiction, fantasy, horror and all that comes under the SFF heading are by far my favourite genres and I read so much of it, so today’s list of ‘queer speculative fiction’ ended up basically just being a list of all my favourite books. I hope you find a few books at least to add to your TBR!

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree is the only book on today’s list that I haven’t read yet (although at time of posting, I’m 300 pages in!), and that’s because I couldn’t talk about queer speculative fiction without mentioning the powerhouse that is Priory. Priory is a hefty, high fantasy involving dragons, assassins and queens. As word of the Nameless One’s return takes root, Queen Sabran the Ninth, unwed and with no heir, must birth a daughter. Assassins circle around her whilst her lady-in-waiting, Ead, works to protect the queen by using forbidden magic. Not only that, the world has zero homophobia AND has an f/f relationship. A slow burn, epic fantasy at its best, The Priory of the Orange Tree is not to be missed.

The Fever King by Victoria Lee

A surprise to none to see this title on my favourite queer speculative fiction, as The Fever King is my favourite book. Alongside the sequel, The Electric Heir, this series blew me away unlike any other. Set in a dystopian universe where the world has been ravaged by a virus, those who survive have magic. In Carolinia, Noam, a technopath, is trained by none other than Calix Leher, ex-King of Carolinia. Alongside a group of trainees, Noam vows to take down the current regime who terrorise the refugee and immigrant population in Carolinia. This is a series about trauma, how to survive, and finding the strength to fight back against abuse by the powerful. You can read my full reviews here for The Fever King and The Electric Heir.

The Fifth Season by N.K Jemisin

The Fifth Season is the first book in one of my favourite fantasy trilogies. If you haven’t heard of N.K Jemisin, firstly, maybe think about correcting that, because her work is outstanding. The worldbuilding, the plot, the sheer geological magnitude of it all, makes The Fifth Season the powerhouse of SFF that it is. I’m very close to rereading this whole trilogy so maybe at some point this month I’m going to end up saying ‘fuck it’ to all my other books and reread this trilogy. This is a story with several POVs, set in a world with dangerous and regular seismac events. It follows several Orogenes, individuals who can control thermal energy and help with the aforementioned terrible seismic events. We have: Essun, told in second person POV, a woman who’s trying to track down her daughter and husband (who just killed her son). Demaya, a young girl who grew up in an abusive household and has been given to the Fulcrum, to train her Orogene powers. And Syenite, who is an adult in the Fulcrum and has been asked to have a child with one of the most powerful Orogene. This book is just full of twists and turns and is one of the most clever and wellcrafted novels I’ve ever read.

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J Hackwith

The Library of the Unwritten is one of the most fun fantasy novels I’ve ever read. Hell’s Library is the place where all unwritten manuscripts are housed. But sometimes the books come alive. When a character goes missing from one of the books, Claire, the Head Librarian, must track down the character on Earth but somehow ends up in the midst of a battle between Heaven and Hell as each searches for the Devil’s Bible. This book is an absolute riot of fun, full of snark and sass and with the first on-page pansexual rep I’ve ever read! You can read a full review here.

The Unpoken Name by A.K Larkwood

One of my more recent favourites, I read The Unspoken Name earlier this year. This is an expansive and detailed slow burn portal fantasy about an orc named Csorwe. She is destined to be sacrificied to her god on her fourteenth birthday. Instead, on the day of her death, she runs away with a wizard who trains her up to be his sword. She must then embark on a quest to find an ancient artifact holding powerful knowledge. This has a huge number of my favourite things in fantasies: necromancers, powerful god magic, wizards, all powerful women losing complete control, different worlds and peoples. It’s a huge story, and I absolutely loved it. You can read my full review here.

Witchmark by C. Polk

Witchmark is one of the most magical books I’ve ever read! Set in a world similar to Edwardian England, Miles is a doctor, using his healing magic to treat soldiers with PTSD after a world war. But his past is bound to catch up with him: Miles ran away to war to escape his noble family, where he would be enslaved to provide his sister with a source of power for her magic. When a fatally poisoned patient reveals Miles magic to a handsome stranger, Miles must investigate the murder, with the help of a handsome stranger, all while trying to stay free from his family’s influence. There is a really sweet romance in this, as well as lots of action, and a fascinating world that reimagines an Edwardian England with magic.

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Now onto The Scary One on this post. The Luminous Dead is a terrifying horror sci-fi about being trapped in a caving system and trying to make it out alive. Told in only one setting, and with just two characters, The Luminous Dead is absolutely remarkable for such a small cast and setting. I thought it might get a little repetitive given the small setting, but it really doesn’t. It is a terrifying descent to madness, psychological horror at its best, as you never know if the main character is experiencing reality or hallucination. You can check out my full review here.

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

I absolutely adored this YA fantasy when I read it last year, and I really need to read the sequel! This is a book set in Medio, an island world where women are trained to be Primera (wives to help running the household) or Segunda (wives to have the kids). Dani and Carmen are rivals at the prestigious school and have been chosen to marry the same man. So of course they go and fall in love with each other instead of their husband. But Dani has a secret. When she was young, her parents forged papers and snuck her across the border wall into Medio. When she is asked to spy on her husband for a resistance group, Dani needs to decide whether to keep the privilege her parents sacrifice gave her, or to fight for a free Medio for all. It’s such a relevant book, the similarity to the US/Mexico border is undeniable. This is a book about resistance and fighting for what’s right, and is definitely one I wish more people were reading because it is fantastic. You can read my full review here.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Erin Morgenstern is well known for her beautiful, artistic, poetic style of writing. The Starless Sea is no different to her debut, The Night Circus, in this regard. The Starless Sea follows Zachary, after he picks up a library book and finds himself in the story. Except the book has missing pages so he doesn’t know how his story is going to finish. As he tries to track down the origins of the book, he crosses paths with Dorian, a storyteller Zachary is immediately drawn to, and Mirabel, a door maker. And if you believe enough, if you long enough for something, then Mirabel’s doors might just lead somewhere. (The somewhere being a magical library). At it’s heart, The Starless Sea is a book about readers and their longing to escape reality. You can read my full review here.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

A Memory Called Empire is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read, and certainly the most unique science-fiction novel I’ve read. It’s a genre-blending novel crossing hard sci-fi, murder mystery, political thriller and a English Literature thesis on poetry. A Memory Called Empire follows Mahit, an ambassador to a small mining station. She is called to the Texicalaan Empire when her predecessor is murdered. As she tries to discover who killed her predecessor, she is embrolied in complex political battlefield. The writing style of this novel could be difficult to get into – as I mentioned above, it’s almost like a thesis on poetry as in Texicalaan, the language is poetry. Alongside the memory melding technology (whereby Mahit’s predecesor’s memories and voice are embedded in her mind), this makes for a complex, unique book, but one that is absolutely outstanding. You cna read my full review here.

Jade City by Fonda Lee

I read Jade City, and it’s sequel Jade War, at the start of the year and adored them! I cannot wait for the finale. These are huge, epic political fantasies, set on an Asian inspired island nation called Kekon, where jade is mined and can give individuals magic abilities. It follows the Kaul family, who are one of two major clans in the capital city. This follows their battles with the opposing Ayt clan to win control of the city, and is an epic tale of politics, family and honour.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

The only YA on this list, and it’s a good one! Wilder Girls was the first horror novel I’ve read (I used to be a real horror wimp), and this book really pushed me to expand my reading and I’m so glad I did, because some of my favourite books in the past year have been horror. Wilder Girls opens in the midst of a virus outbreak, at a quarantined school. The virus has mutated in the girls, causing deformations in the girls and death in the teachers. When Hetty’s best friend goes missing, she ventures outside the quarantine into the dark and haunting woods, where creatures and reality is twisted from the virus, to find her. A disturbing start to my journey into horror! You can read my full review here.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

If The Library of the Unwritten is the most fun fantasy novel I’ve read, then The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is the most fun sci-fi I’ve ever read. This book follows the spaceship Wayfarer, a tunnelling ship which travels space and ‘punches’ holes to create tunnels for other ships to travel along. It’s set in the future, after humans have had to leave Earth and take to the skies. As they travelled across the universe to find a place to live, they met other species living in the universe, joining the Galactic Commons. The Wayfarer crew is therefore filled with different, unique alien species, similar to TV series like Star Trek. The characters really shine in this book, from Ashby, the human captain, to Rosemary, the young, inexperienced clerk escaping from her past on Mars, to Corbin, the grumpy and kind-of-a-jerk human who ended up being one of my favourites, to Sissix, an Aandrisk, a reptilian-like species with different social language compared to the humans. This book is just an absolute joy to read! You can read my full review here.

The City We Became by N.K Jemisin

I only finished this book on Sunday so hastily added it to the list before posting because it is a masterpiece. The City We Became is Jemisin’s newest book, released earlier this year. In this world, cities can become alive when they develop a particualrly unique culture and reach a great size. But the act of their awakening is destructive and dangerous to other parallel worlds around them. New York has just awakened, but because of the size and uniqueness of each of the boroughs, six people (five for each of the boroughts, and one for New York itself) have awoken and been tasked with fighting of The Enemy who is trying to kill the city. It’s a complex book and idea to get your head around (which is probably why I’ve done such a terrible job at explaining it). Just know this book is incredible, it is so alive and real, I feel like I know New York even though I’ve only ever spent 5 days there. It also doesn’t shy away from talking about race, racism, and expertly entwines discussions of racism and microaggressions into a powerful fight to save the city. I’ll be posting a full review of this book tomorrow so check back in to find out more about it.

Have you read any of these? What’s your favourite queer SFF book? I am always looking for new ones to add to my TBR!

Book review: Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford

Title: Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford

Publisher: Black Swan (Penguin Random House)

Publication date: 5 March 2020

Genre: Fantasy | Fabulism | Adult

Page extent: 208 pages


A haunted, surreal debut novel about an otherworldly young woman, her father, and her lover that culminates in a shocking moment of betrayal—one that upends our understanding of power, predation, and agency.

Ada and her father, touched by the power to heal illness, live on the edge of a village where they help sick locals—or “Cures”—by cracking open their damaged bodies or temporarily burying them in the reviving, dangerous Ground nearby. Ada, a being both more and less than human, is mostly uninterested in the Cures, until she meets a man named Samson. When they strike up an affair, to the displeasure of her father and Samson’s widowed, pregnant sister, Ada is torn between her old way of life and new possibilities with her lover—and eventually comes to a decision that will forever change Samson, the town, and the Ground itself.

Follow Me to Ground is fascinating and frightening, urgent and propulsive. In Ada, award-winning author Sue Rainsford has created an utterly bewitching heroine, one who challenges conventional ideas of womanhood and the secrets of the body. Slim but authoritative, Follow Me to Ground lingers long after its final page, pulling the reader into a dream between fairytale and nightmare, desire and delusion, folktale and warning.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Well. I really don’t know what I just read?! Sitting here, contemplating life, and this book, I think it’s the oddest, strangest book I’ve ever read. And I’m not sure I liked it. But it was beautiful. But strange. And I’m a confused mess who doesn’t know what just happened?

Ada and her father are healers – they have spent their lives healing Cures (humans). They can stick their hands inside of bodies, and sing to extract sickness. In extra special cases, they bury Cures in the tumultuous Ground outside, to await healing. One day, Ada cures a man named Samson, who sparks a fire inside her and they begin an affair. But Ada’s father disapproves and so begins a downfall of events.

This book is weird. There is no other word for it. Fabulism at it’s very strangest, this world doesn’t explain its creation or existence. Instead, the beauty and poetry lies in the prose. There is a very lyrical quality to the reading, and an ease which meant I flew through the book. Rainsford’s writing plays very much with the female body and form, and at times felt very much like it was mocking the way men so often write women. The body horror aspect is always one I appreciate, and was definitely a strength of this book (I did try to read this over lunch one day and managed about two pages before I had to give up due to the strength of the body horror writing).

However, as beautiful as the prose often was, I think the oddness was perhaps too odd for me. I still don’t really know what happened, and I prefer my world’s with a bit more explanation or comprehension about why and how. I also unfortunately think the ARC eBook had some formatting issues which enhanced my struggle and confusion. I suspect this might make for a more interesting and impactful read in the final print format where the formatting will look as designed.

So ultimately, whilst I appreciate the beautiful writing, this book wasn’t for me.

SPOOKTOBER: My favourite creepy books

Hi everyone!

I’ve been a little slow on the blog recently because I’ve recently added a million things to my already hectic life…including writing a novel! This year I am going to be doing NaNoWriMo and starting writing a book! My angsty bisexual pirate fantasy is going to be taking up a lot of my time, and so for the month of November I will be going on a semi blog hiatus, to concentrate on writing as close to 50,000 words as possible!

So to celebrate my renewed desire to write my novel, I decided to tag along for the last week of Blogtober, with 7 spooky (mostly) posts for you! Today we’re starting with my favourite creepy books…

Wilder Girls – Rory Power

This was definitely going to be top of this list, as one of the creepiest books I’ve read all year! Wilder Girls is a psychological horror, with deadly forests, a virus outbreak, and shockingly distubring body horror. I always find myself loving virus outbreak books and I think it’s because they’re always so realistic – it could literally happen to us tomorrow. And so I always find these books even more creepy because its so easy to imagine it happening in real life. Full review here!

Other Words for Smoke – Sarah Maria Griffin

Other Words for Smoke is just as creepy but in a very different way to Wilder Girls. The setting is really what makes this book so creepy to me – set in a small Irish town, there is such a sense of disturbing fairytale in the prose. The way Sweet James can control and twist the minds of those around them just adds to this creepy atmosphere. Full review here!

Missing, Presumed Dead – Emma Berquist

Missing, Presumed Dead was a book that really surprised me this year! It had such an interesting premise, but I didn’t expect to be quite so blown away by this book as I was. IT IS AMAZING! It is so dark (way way more dark than I thought it would be!), so gritty, and there is such a haunting depiction of how magic could impact mental health, it’s just stunning. Also it has terrifying revenge driven ghosts – definitely fits my favourite creepy books… Full review here!

The Grace Year – Kim Liggett

This book only released a few weeks ago, and brings its own unique perspective to feminist dystopia, in the style of books like The Handmaids Tale, or The Natural Way of Things. Set in another creepy forest, where masked killers wait to pick off girls if they escape, a group of girls must live out a year. The insidious way the girls slowly turn on each other is just incredible, and perfectly matches the creepy atmosphere of the forest. Full review here!

Sealed – Naomi Booth

This was probably one of first body horror reads and it is TERRIFYING!! Rumours of an epidemic have started to appear, one in which skin seals over holes…like your mouth….nose….eyes…. This book is so atmospheric, the fear of the main character is so evident on every page as she tries to escape the epidemic. She’s also pregnant which gives everything such a different take as she tries to survive motherhood, and dreams of her baby being sealed inside her. It’s just horrifying and terrifying and so so creepy.

The Natural Way of Things – Charlotte Wood

I mentioned this book above, and like The Grace Year, its another take on that feminist dystopia story, with themes very similar to The Handmaid’s Tale. Set in Australia, a group of women wake up drugged and trapped in the middle of the Australian outback. There they are watched over by three captors, and made to work, and slowly try to discover why they’re there… Again it’s the setting which really makes this so creepy – the Australian outback can be such a terrifying place, as it is for these women, and the emptiness and lonliness of this setting is so fantastic.

All the Things We Never Said – Yasmin Rahman

To turn this list on its head, I’m ending with this brilliant book I read very recently. The creepy, horror aspect doesn’t come from the setting – instead it’s from the terrifying plot. Mehreen, Cara and Olivia want to die. But they need someone’s help to do it. So they join a suicide pact website, which matches you with partners to commit suicide Mehreen, Cara and Olivia are matched, but as they become friends, they begin to regret their decision. But, the website is deadly, and doesn’t want to let them go…. This book was so fantastic, so gutwrenchingly, heartbreakingly emotional and personal. It’s so scary and just a beautiful story. Though, as a note of warning, I wouldn’t advise reading this when going through a rough mental health patch (which is what I did – and I strongly regret it). Absolutely brilliant book – but keep yourselves safe and well first!

That’s it for today’s Spooktober! Check back in tomorrow for another post!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Book review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Title: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Publication date: 9 July 2019

Genre: Horror | Young adult

Page extent: 353 pages

Goodreads blurb: It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.


Well that was as creepy and haunting as every single book review told me it would be! I’m not usually one for horror, but I really liked this – it was a very beautiful, picturesque horror…if that makes any sense at all?! And I can absolutely never resist media about viruses. 

Wilder Girls is set at an all girl’s school on Raxter Island, where everyone has been quarantined after becoming sick with a virus they call the Tox. 18 months after the first infection, Byatt, Hetty’s best friend, has gone missing so Hetty vows to break the quarantine to find her, in the end discovering so much more about the virus and what’s happening on the outside than she imagined possible.

First off: what a setting! The mysterious Raxter and the enchanting yet deadly forest surrounding it is just stunning and sets such a creepy tone for the whole novel. There was such a sense of fear every moment we spent in the forest, and in the unknown of what now lived there. 

The premise of Wilder Girls is so immediately interesting: at 18 months into the virus outbreak, we don’t know what the girls have lived through, and we find out in glimpses – an eye fused shut, scales on a hand, a second spine. The progression of our insight into how this virus has affected the girls and teachers through this chilling body horror is just phenomenal. There are so many brutally horrific descriptions – which I really think enhances the realness of it all, as it feels as deadly as if it’s happening in real life. And I think that’s why I particularly love torturing myself with virus-style forms of media, because there is such a constant fear of ‘this could actually happen right now’ that just terrifies me. And I think Wilder Girls really nails this fear!! 

I thought all three of our MCs were brilliant in their depictions – all fully flawed and so powerfully human in their portrayal. Hetty, the POV we read from for the majority of the book, fiercely loyal and loving and unwilling to back down to save those she loves – even if it comes at the cost of everyone else. Byatt, who’s POV intersperses Hetty’s in a dream-like haze, who loves testing people and pushing the boundaries of what she can do, with horrific consequences. And finally Reese, who keeps her emotions bound up so tightly to keep from falling apart. These three are fighters and fight to be together till the end. 

Which brings me to the ending. I did feel like I’m missing something. I wanted another 30 pages to finish everything off, it was all extremely sudden and hugely open and I really wish we’d had even a tiny bit more. 

But all in all, minus the ending, Wilder Girls is a great horror novel – it’s a psychologically horrific take on three young girls and their fight to stay alive.

Paws out,
Rach + Draco