Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Sept 29

Happy Friday, rebels and revenants! Today I’ve got two series you need to read immediately — the Revolution books and the Tensorate novellas, adaptation news about Annihilation and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, additional magical pets, and more.

FirebloodThis newsletter is sponsored by Elly Blake’s Fireblood, published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

In this action-packed sequel to the New York Times bestselling Frostblood, Ruby must choose between her fiery homeland and the icy king who loves her.

Did you watch the Annihilation trailer? Do you have feelings? I have feelings. Conflicted feelings! It looks like they nailed the visuals of Area X, but they also whitewashed the lead character.

Ariel Gore proposes a magical feminism reading list, and I appreciate it. Isabel Allende, Jewel Parker Rhodes, Jeanette Winterson, Louise Erdrich — lots of heavy hitters are featured, but there were several I hadn’t heard of. TBR: check.

More magical pets! Here are Syfy’s top 25 choices of magical creatures. This list does not contain Sabriel‘s Mogget and is therefore invalid. (Jokes! Well, half-jokes.)

Sabrina the Teenage Witch is getting a reboot, and people have demands. I am not a reader of the Archie comics and I didn’t watch the TV show growing up (I KNOW, blasphemy, don’t @ me) but I am still intrigued.

I love this piece by Deji Bryce Olukotun about Tron, digital rights activism, and science fictional thinking.

You can do some good with your sf/f dollars: Fireside Fiction has set up a Hurricane Relief Bookstore, with 100% of profits going to relief efforts for the Caribbean, Houston, and Florida.

And onto our reviews! A trilogy and a duology of novellas; sorry not sorry to your TBR.

Revolution series: Gemsigns, Binary, and Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter

cover of Gemsigns by Stephanie SaulterThe Revolution trilogy by Stephanie Saulter is one of my favorite sci-fi series that no one else I know has read. Set in a future where humanity has survived a plague event through genetic engineering, only to then go on to use that technology to create specialized workers, these books are deeply concerned with how we imagine and define humanity and personhood.

In Gemsigns, we’re introduced to this possible future through a “norm” scientist, a leader of the “gem” (or extremely genetically modified) population, and a ruthless corporate executive. Legislation is on the table that will literally decide whether or not the gems count as people, so the stakes are incredibly high. Corporations stand to lose out on profits if their previously-unregulated and unorganized workers get full rights; the general population is torn between their fears of the abilities of the gems and sympathy for their ill treatment; and there are godgangs on the rise terrorizing the gem population — consider this your warning for scenes including graphic violence.

It would be a spoiler to give you any details about Binary and Regeneration, but I can tell you that while the stakes change, new characters are added to the mix, and new aspects of the world and the science are revealed, the books never stray from these central questions. How do we deal with fear of the unknown? How do we empathize with those who are different from us? What does it mean to be a person, and who gets to decide? The Revolution are thoughtful as well as action-packed, and I can’t wait to hear what you think about them.

Tensorate series: The Black Tides of Heaven #1 and The Red Threads of Fortune #2 by JY Yang

cover of The Black Tides of Heaven by JY YangI am SO EXCITED that these novellas are finally available! Ever since reading them a few months ago, I’ve been counting down the days til I could review them here.

Following the adventures of twins Akeha and Mokoya, children of the ruthless and conniving Protector, the books introduce us to a world where magic and steam technology mix. Mokoya was born with prophetic gifts but, like Cassandra of Troy, she finds that they don’t make her life any better. Akeha, always in her shadow, finds that he has to develop his own ways to see the world. The Black Tides follows them as children and then Akeha’s entrance into political rebellion, while The Red Threads follows Mokoya in adulthood after a terrible accident kills her young daughter.

cover of Red Threads of Fortune by JY YangThis world is beautifully imagined and rendered, and Yang has a gift for playing with known elements in new and unexpected ways. For instance, gravity is relative to geography, and naga and dinosaurs exist side by side. This world is also inclusive: gender is selected at a certain age, sexuality is fluid and wide-ranging, and the society and religion, and the term “silkpunk” definitely implies. Yang has described them as “Dragon Age meets Jurassic World meets Star Wars meets Mad Max” in an interview, and I can definitely get behind that. Are you convinced yet??

Nota bene to file under “tech world problems”: those of us who use the platform Slack on a regular basis will have to take a moment to reshape our brains, as that is word for the source of magic in this world.

And that’s it for today! If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda.


Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Sept 22

Happy Friday, astronauts and alchemists! This week’s reviews include Null States and Jane, Unlimited, and we’ve got some noteworthy SF/F YA, mind control, music, and more.

Retrograde by Peter CawdronThis week’s newsletter is sponsored by Retrograde by Peter Cawdron.

The international team at the Mars Endeavour colony is prepared for every eventuality except one—what happens when disaster strikes Earth?

Mankind has long dreamed of reaching out to live on other planets, and with the establishment of the Mars Endeavour colony, that dream has become reality. The fledgling colony consists of 120 scientists, astronauts, medical staff, and engineers. Buried deep underground, they’re protected from the harsh radiation that sterilizes the surface of the planet. The colony is prepared for every eventuality except one—what happens when disaster strikes Earth?

You might have heard us gushing on SFF Yeah about Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death getting an HBO adaptation, and there’s now a writer attached to the project: Selwyn Seyfu Hinds. He doesn’t have a lot of writing credits screen-wise, but he’s worked in comics and authored and co-authored a couple books (including one called Gunshots In My Cook-Up: Bits and Bites from a Hip-Hop Caribbean Life, which I now need to get my hands on).

For your Fall TBR, Unbound Worlds has a list of 12 SFF YA titles to watch out for, several of which are on the stack next to my desk. So much to read!

The ultimate bad hair day is when your hair is SUPERNATURAL AND MAYBE ALSO EVIL. Which is what these books all have in common. Note to self, stop complaining about fly-aways.

Mind control: not so sci-fi anymore. (Although note to this guy: “making phonetic sounds” with your hands is called sign language.)

Genre up your Friday playlist: here are 13 songs that reference sf/f! Now you know: Iron Maiden are Dune fans, and Chance the Rapper loves Harry Potter.

For our reviews this week, we’ve got policy-punk sci-fi and a multi-verse adventure that otherwise refuses to be categorized.

Null States (Centenal Cycle #2) by Malka Older 

cover of Null States by Malka OlderI didn’t know what to expect out of this sequel for Infomocracy, so it was easy to be surprised. In this case, the surprise was a good one!

It’s been almost two years since the election debacle, and Information mostly has things settled. But what should be a simple assignment in shepherding a government into micro-democracy puts one of our characters, Roz, squarely in the middle of an assassination and strange local tensions, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Mishima is back (#TeamMishima!), and she’s just as kick-ass as ever. With major governments threatening to secede from the system, she has to go undercover to find out how serious these threats are. There are several other POV characters as well and they’re great, but Roz and Mishima absolutely steal the show.

Older has pulled off an excellent Book Two. Not only does it build on the events of the first, but it adds nuance and asks further questions about the world in which our characters live, questions that readers might already have been asking themselves. What does it look like when a country doesn’t participate in micro-democracy? How does war work? But it never feels like a thought exercise or an infodump; the dangers, consequences, and emotions surrounding these questions are present, real, and compelling. It also really showcases Older’s own knowledge; she worked in Darfur in humanitarian aid, and that experience alongside her research into multi-government disaster response is put to good use. All that being said, I would highly discourage picking this up without having read Infomocracy first — the grounding is essential, and you won’t have half as much fun following the characters. On the other hand, I hope this recap sells you on the series. For my money, the Centenal Cycle is one of the smartest and most interesting new sci-fi series on the scene.

Jane, Unlimited by Kristen Cashore

cover of Jane, Unlimited by Kristin CashoreAsk three readers about this novel, and you’ll get five different answers as to what kind of a book it is and what it’s about. (I speak from actual experience on this, and it was one of the most entertaining and surprising book-related group-texts of my life.) But perhaps that’s not a surprise, given that it’s a genre-jumping, multi-verse exploring work.

Our titular heroine Jane is a college drop-out grieving the recent death of her aunt, adrift in life, until she runs into her former tutor Kiran. Kiran’s family is rich, has their own island mansion, and is planning a gala, and Jane is invited along. Since she has pretty much nothing else going for her, she heads to the island — and that’s where the hijinks ensue.

It starts out feeling like a Gothic novel — unpleasant servants, careless and oddball rich people, an orphan making her way through high society, things and people going bump in the night. And then you get about 100 pages in and things take a very sharp turn, and continue taking them for the rest of the book. Some chapters double down on the horror; others are more light-hearted; some are decidedly more fantasy; still others call to mind spy thrillers and Bond movies. There is a lot going on, is what I’m saying.

I’m a huge fan of Cashore’s Graceling series, and this is nothing like those. Not in style, not in structure, not in content. If what you’re looking for is more of that, I suggest you recalibrate your expectations. I also highly recommend you pick this up. This is a book that truly feels as though it has something for every reader in it, and is a TON of fun to talk about — once the other people have read it. Until then, I will continue waving my hands around and yelling, “Read this!”

And that’s a wrap! If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda.

Never give up, never surrender,

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Sep 15

Happy Friday, friends! This week I’m reviewing Warcross and Midnight Crossing and talking about our newest podcast, awkward robots, Star Wars-inspired corn mazes, and more.

This newsletter is sponsored by The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein.

The Punch Escrow by Tal M KleinAnointed the must-read sci-fi thriller of the summer by Barnes & Noble, The Punch Escrow is a genre-busting debut—part hard sci-fi thriller, part love story, and part high stakes adventure through a world where teleportation is the norm. After he’s accidentally duplicated while teleporting, Joel Byram must outrun the most powerful corporation on the planet and find a way back to his wife in a world that now has two of him.

The Punch Escrow is currently in development for film at Lionsgate. Paperback and ebook copies are available wherever books are sold.

In the first episode of our newest podcast Recommended, Robin Sloan puts forth a case for the actual Great American Novel, and it’s a science fiction title! Find out what he picked right here.

Syfy Wire is doing a series of “best of” lists for its anniversary, and this one of 25 creators of color that changed SF/F as a genre is excellent and useful. Not only does it include the usual suspects (Octavia Butler! Hayao Miyazaki!), but it has a few that might not be on your radar.

Who doesn’t love awkward robots? And has a review of two new titles that focus on said socially-impaired androids, Martha Wells’ All Systems Red and Annalee Newitz’s Autonomous.

What might a queer family in space look like? One Rioter talks about how the SFF of her adolescence gave her room to imagine beyond a mom, a dad, and 2.5 kids.

For fellow Trekkies who have lost track: Here’s a video discussing the timeline of Star Trek: Discovery, based on current canon (who knows what the show will change).

Today in whimsy news: someone made a Princess Leia corn maze!

Would you enjoy some cheap ebooks? I thought you might. The Real and the Unreal by Ursula Le Guin, which collects some of her best short stories, is only $2.99 this month. Also on deep discount ($0.99) are the first three installments in Sergei Lukyanenko’s Night Watch series: Night Watch, Day Watch, and Twilight Watch. I can verify that that is a solid price for a lot of very INTENSELY BANANAPANTS Russian sci-fi!

And now, onto our reviews, which have nothing in common with each other aside from the word “cross.”

Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross by Marie LuI devoured this novel in one Sunday afternoon, friends. Cover to cover with barely a break!

It kicks off with 18-year-old hacker and bounty hunter Emika Chen, who’s tailing a gambler. She’s about to get evicted from her crappy NYC studio apartment (which she already shares with a roommate), she’s got no friends, no family, no money, and very little hope. When her bounty gets taken out from under her, she figures that’s it; with her criminal record, her job prospects are severely limited. Then she “accidentally” hacks into the biggest virtual reality game in the world during its annual Opening Ceremonies — the accident is that she gets caught doing it. The next thing she knows she’s flying to Tokyo to meet with the game’s billionaire creator and tech genius, and everything in her life changes. But life definitely isn’t easier, and Chen finds herself neck-deep in a plot that includes corporate espionage, hacking, the Dark Web, and family secrets.

With an excellent and highly inclusive cast of characters — LGBTQ, disabled, and POC characters all show up on the page — Warcross gives us a page-turning first installment in a new series from YA powerhouse Marie Lu, who already has two other series under her belt. I deeply appreciated that in this first book, there’s enough resolution to satisfy as well as a cliffhanger that will have you counting down the days to Book 2. Fun, smart, and fast — let me know when the video game companion is in production! (Surely someone will do one? Surely??)

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine HarrisI didn’t pick this up until I had already watched the pilot for Midnight, Texas (which is indeed delightful magical trash), but now I’m glad I did! This is, believe it or not, my first Charlaine Harris, and it won’t be my last.

Set in a tiny, dusty town called Midnight in (you guessed it) Texas, the book starts off with internet psychic Manfred Bernardo (yes, that really is his name). He’s just moved to the area, purportedly to find somewhere quiet where he can do his work and not be disturbed. He’s an actual psychic as well as a con artist, but that’s fine — Midnight is already populated by quite a few supernatural beings. We meet Lemuel, a vampire, and Fiji, a witch, almost immediately and they’re just the most obviously paranormal of the other residents. A local woman turns up murdered and there are few leads, so Manfred ends up trying to help out the investigation.

With a few clear exceptions, the first book and the pilot stick pretty close together, which means I’m already getting them mixed up in my head. What really struck me about Midnight Crossroad is that it’s a timelier plot than I was looking for; the story revolves around the actions of a group of white supremacists, and the residents of Midnight are battling more than just things that go bump in the night. It’s not particularly deep, but it does incorporate a wide range of characters and it moves quickly. If you’re looking for a fantasy escape, this one is a quick read but one with more weight than you might expect.

And that’s a wrap! If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda.

Long days and pleasant nights,

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Sept 8

Happy Friday, warlocks and mecha warriors! This week we’re talking about genre-defiers Three Moments of an Explosion and Brown Girl in the Ring, plus witchy reads, a writing contest, dystopian fashion, and more.

cover of The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J WalkerThis newsletter is sponsored by The End Of The World Running Club by Adrian Walker.

#1 International Bestseller!

When the world ends and you find yourself stranded on the wrong side of the country, every second counts. No one knows this more than Edgar Hill: over five hundred miles of devastated wasteland stretch between him and his family. To get back to them, he must push himself to the very limit—or risk losing them forever.

His best option is to run. But what if his best isn’t good enough? A powerful postapocalyptic thriller, The End of the World Running Club is an otherworldly yet extremely human story of hope, love, and the endurance of both body and spirit.

Fall is a great time to get witchy, and Sharifah has some books that can help with that. I’d like to cosign Basic Witches, which is not at all the book I thought it was going to be, in a really delightful way.

Calling all writers: here is a short story contest! io9 and the Economic Security Project want you to write a story about the economics of the future, the prize is $12,000, and the deadline is November 1.

In NK Jemisin’s latest NY Times column she drops some love for JY Yang’s Tensorate novellas (which I also love!) alongside reviews of Provenance, Monstress Volume 2, and The Twilight Pariah.

For when real life isn’t twisted enough (lulz), have some more dark, grown-up fairytales.

In the discussion of Terry Pratchett’s last wishes, I’m firmly Team Steamroller. If you want to debate the pros and cons, Unbound Worlds has a post for that.

In the terrible, awful, no good very bad future, what will we wear? During their dystopian week, Vulture talked to the costume designers who brought dystopian fiction and fashion to the screen.

When reality and sci-fi collide, you get things like an International Space Station patch designed by LucasFilm, featuring our favorite sassy droids!

Today in reviews we have a short story collection and a near-future tale that both cross genre lines.

Three Moments of an Explosion by China Miéville

paperback cover of Three Moments of an Explosion by China MievilleIf you’ve never read China Miéville, I like this a lot as a starting point. You could begin with Perdido Street Station (his excellent alternate-world dark fantasy), or The City and the City (his excellently weird murder mystery), or Embassytown (his excellent aliens-meet-humans sci-fi novel), if you were feeling in a specific mood. I wrote a whole post about where to start with his novels back in 2013. But Three Moments of an Explosion will give you horror, fantasy, and speculative fiction all in one gloriously varied package.

It’s a short story collection without a thematic through-line — each piece stands solidly on its own. There are assassins and therapists; vampires and film directors; floating icebergs and doctors working on dark experiments; lake monsters and monsters that only exist in the mind. Miéville plays with narrative structure, with character, with the conventions of science fiction and fantasy, and warps them in a way that has become his signature. If that sounds like a lot for one collection, that’s because it’s a collection with 28 stories — plenty of room to play! Three Moments of an Explosion is a chance to dip in and out of the mind and work of one of SF/F’s prominent writers, and then go forth into his novels armed and ready for the strange and complicated delights to come.

Already read Miéville but haven’t gotten to this one yet? Let this be your reminder not to wait any longer!

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

cover of Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo HopkinsonI’ve read Nalo Hopkinson before, but it was only this past week that I read her debut novel Brown Girl in the Ring. Let me assure you that it reads like the work of an author who knows their voice, knows their craft, and has been working for years. In a word, it’s stunning.

Set in a near-future Toronto in which the city has been abandoned by the wealthy and privileged for the suburbs, it follows the exploits of a family of women struggling on many levels. Ti-Jeanne has left her addict boyfriend Tony, given birth to her first child, and is torn between the love she still feels for Tony and the need to make a life that’s as safe as possible for her son. Her grandmother, Mami Gros-Jeanne, is trying to get Ti-Jeanne to be her apprentice and learn the medicine and magical lore that is her birthright, with little success. The aforementioned Tony thinks that if he does one last job for the local crime boss Rudy, he can buy his way out into a better life and take Ti-Jeanne with him. And Rudy — well, Rudy wants power and control, forever, and doesn’t care what he has to do to get it. And then the gods get involved…

Blending very real politics politics and drama with Afro-Caribbean mythology, Hopkinson tells a story that’s dark and violent, but ultimately hopeful. It’s also a whopper of a page-turner; I picked it up on a whim and then could not put it down. If you’re looking for a read-alike for American Gods, this belongs on your shelf. If you’re looking for #ownvoices stories, this belongs on your shelf. If you’re looking for a warped mirror held up to society, this belongs on your shelf. If you’re looking for stellar writing and distinct voices, this belongs on your shelf. Basically: this belongs on your shelf.

And that’s a wrap! If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda.

I’ll be back!,

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Sept 1

Happy Friday, ghouls and galactic invaders! Today we’re talking Persona and Cast in Shadow, plus A Discovery of Witches casting, fantasy paraphernalia, and more.

Sponsored by All Rights Reserved, the chilling new YA science fiction story from Gregory Scott Katsoulis. Check out the video trailer here!

All Rights ReservedFrom the moment she turns fifteen, Speth Jime must pay for every word she speaks. She knows the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words she’s unable to afford.

But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she discovers she has no way to speak out without sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than say anything at all, she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again.

Speth’s unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

Do you need more stories for your ears? Here’s a very solid list of 13 sci-fi/fantasy audiobooks (including many you’ll recognize as Book Riot favorites).

Genre fiction is full of magical pets, and Yaika has a few favorites in particular from the comics world. (Lying Cat!)

What beer would you pair with Octavia Butler’s Dawn? Alex has thoughts on this and several other excellent sf/f book and brew pairings.

In TV news, the adaptation of Discovery of Witches has cast its leads! Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey) will play vampire hero Matthew Clairmont, and Teresa Palmer (who I’m not familiar with) will play Diana Bishop. The show starts filming this fall, so there’s a good while to wait yet to see how well they pull it off.

And in the most meta adaptation news of ever, there will soon be Galaxy Quest: The TV Show. By Grabthar’s Hammer, I have so many questions. Is the plot the “actors” remaking the “TV show”? Will Tony Shalhoub be back? Please excuse me while I take a moment to salute Alan Rickman.

And finally: do you need a Westeros beer-cap map? Or a Narnia infinity scarf? Or any number of other fantasy-maps-inspired items?!

Today’s reviews include a near-future political thriller and a fantasy procedural, because what’s not to love about genre mash-ups?

Persona by Genevieve Valentine

cover of Persona by Genevieve ValentineIf you crossed America’s Next Top Model with the United Nations, you’d get something like the International Assembly. Delegates called Faces, selected based on their general attractiveness and media appeal, appear to be ambassadors for their country and the wheelers and dealers of international policy. In reality, it’s their handlers who pull the strings and dictate, well, everything. What legislation get passed, what they wear, who they have relationships with — you name it, it’s supervised by the people behind the scenes. Our heroine Suyana is the Face for the United Amazonia Rainforest Confederation, and someone is trying to murder her.

Part near-future meditation on paparazzi and politics and part thriller, Persona reads a bit like a fever-dream in some parts. As Suyana struggles to figure out who she can trust and why she’s being targeted, we also start to understand that she’s far more than a clothes-horse and pretty face, and that she might be behind a conspiracy of her own. The timeline flashes back and forth between her present, on the run, and the events that led her to that present. It’s fast-paced, well-plotted, and the world-building is twisted just enough from our actual world to be eerie as well as familiar. Bonus: the sequel, Icon, is now out in paperback! Further bonus: if the Next Top Model, clothes-horse part of that particularly speaks to you, Valentine does amazing red carpet recaps on her blog.

Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara

cover of Cast in Shadow by Michelle SagaraWe talked a bit about urban fantasy in a previous newsletter, and it reminded me that Cast In Shadow is an alternate-world urban fantasy, which is an interesting piece of overlap to contemplate.

Kaylin is part of the police force, or Hawks, of the city of Elantra. She grew up rough (VERY rough), fled from her past, and changed her name, and while her manners and attitude aren’t much, she’s made a name and a place for herself. Her major worries are hiding her magical abilities from people who don’t need to know about them (so, basically, everyone) and trying to be on time for her shift, until a string of child-murders in her old neighborhood come to light. The method and MO are the same as murders that went unsolved when she was young, and now she has to figure out who is doing it — and what it has to do with her.

The world-building of Elantra is intricate and many-layered. There are actual hawk-people, dragon-people, and lion-people in addition to human-people; there are competing organizations; there are political machinations afoot. And then there are Kaylin’s own twisted history and complicated personal relationships, past and current. It’s a lot to take in, but Sagara juggles it well — and this is just the first in a 10+ book series, with the 13th book due out in January of 2018. If you’re looking to dive into a new fantasy series with a cranky, lovable, frequently violent heroine and a whole lot of details to get lost in, you’ll want to give this one a whirl.

That’s a wrap: Happy reading! If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda.

May the Force be with you,

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Aug 25

Happy Friday, cyborgs and centaurs! I’m writing this a week in advance as I prepare to go on a 10-day family vacation, so instead of news we’re focusing on reading lists! Today we’ve got a pair of teenage superheroes courtesy of Dreadnought and The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, mythological reads, Italian speculative fiction, and more.

cover of The Dire King by William RitterThis newsletter is sponsored by The Dire King by William Ritter.

In the epic conclusion to the bestselling Jackaby series, the Sherlockian detective of the supernatural and his indispensable assistant, Abigail Rook, face off against their most dangerous, bone-chilling foe ever. calls the series “fast-paced and full of intrigue.” The Dire King is filled with everything fans could hope for: new mythical creatures, page-turning action, surprising plot twists, romance, and an apocalyptic battle that will determine the fate of the world.

While you’re waiting for American Gods to come back, here are some other books based on gods and mythology to keep you occupied. I am delighted to cosign Hot as Hades, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Servant of the Underworld, and The Song of Achilles. (The others I just haven’t read yet — must get on that.)

For the internationally inclined, here’s some speculative fiction translated from Italian. 13th century Sardinia plus demons? DO WANT!

Also international: here’s a list of dystopias from around the world. I’ve read and loved both LoveStar and The Queue, if you’re looking for a starting point!

Why don’t fantasy characters ever get divorced? I hadn’t considered this question until I read this piece (which is odd when you consider that I myself am divorced). It’s a valid point — if we can have grimdark and fantasy noir, can’t we also bust up the “one true love” and “happily ever after” tropes?

We all need a LEGO BB-8.

How about some ebook deals?
– Go old-school: Hercules My Shipmate by Robert Graves, his magical retelling of the story of Jason and the Argonauts, is $1.99.
– Remember Silvia Moreno-Garcia, of “The Craft meets Mexico City meets the 80s” ? She’s got a vampire novel called Certain Dark Things and it’s on sale for $2.99!
– Finally ready to dive into Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy? Six of Crows is $2.99.

Since picking up Miles Morales I’ve been on a teen superhero kick, so that’s what you’re getting today. Sorry not sorry!

Dreadnought (Nemesis #1) by April Daniels

dreadnought by april daniels coverI picked up Dreadnought because of the blurb on the front cover, which reads:

“I didn’t know how much I needed this brave, thrilling book until it rocked my world. Dreadnought is the superhero adventure we all need right now.”―Charlie Jane Anders, author of All the Birds in the Sky

Having blazed through it in a day and a half, I could not agree more. Dreadnought is the hopeful, funny, sharp, insightful, occasionally devastating superhero story I didn’t know I needed.

Teenager Danny Tozer is hiding behind a mall, painting her toenails, when a superhero crash-lands and dies next to her. She’s hiding because no one can know she’s painting his toenails, and she’s painting her toenails because it’s the only way to express the truth: that Danny is a girl trapped in a male body. As the dying superhero’s mantle is passed on, it remakes Danny’s body. Along with super strength and super speed, Danny also is now finally, visibly, a young woman. It’s everything she’s been dreaming of! She wants nothing more than to use her powers for good and have everyone see her for who she really is.

But that’s not as easy as it should be. Her parents, particularly her emotionally abusive father, are not on board. The superhero organization in town turn out to be a bunch of jerks. Danny’s best friend does not deal with her transition well, to put it mildly. She doesn’t know how to handle her super powers or the varied and conflicting expectations of those who know she has them. And, of course, there’s a cyborg supervillain on the loose.

The action sequences are great; the emotional sequences are even better; the characters climbed right into my heart and brain. And the second book is out! Sovereign, here I come.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by FC Yee

epic crush of genie lo coverMeet Genie Lo. She’s a Type A, hard-working high school student with her eye on the prize: a scholarship to a Top Tier college, then a job with lots of money. She’s got an admissions counselor, her extra curriculars, and a plan, and nothing is going to stand in her way. Except, of course, for this new guy who shows up, claims to be the reincarnation of the Monkey King from Chinese mythology, and tries to convince her that she has to help him fight demons.

This book is incredible amounts of fun. Genie’s a great protagonist, and her journey from disbelief and anger at this intrusion into her life into acceptance of her situation and her powers works on multiple levels. The demon battles are satisfying and well-paced, and Genie’s emotional struggles are believable and appropriately complex. Sun Wukong, the Monkey King and Genie’s irritating-but-also-attractive new crush, brings a trickster sense of humor leavened with the occasional gravitas one might expect from an ancient reincarnated being. Genie’s friends and family add depth both to her character and to the plot itself.

How many ways can I convince you to pick up this book? If you’re looking for great Asian-American representation in YA: pick it up. If you’re looking for an action-packed summer read with a no-nonsense heroine: pick it up. If you’re looking for a mythologically-inspired fantasy story: pick it up. If you’re looking for a reluctantly-romantic love story: pick it up! Seriously, pick it up.

And that’s my story for the day! If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda.

May the odds be ever in your favor,

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Aug 18

Happy Friday! I hope you have all crushed this past week’s enemies and driven them before you. Today we’re talking about Trish Trash and The Stone Sky, plus the 2017 Hugo winners, Octavia Butler adaptation news, and more.

cover of In Other Lands by Sarah Rees BrennanThis newsletter is sponsored by In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan.

Elliot is smart, just a tiny bit obnoxious (he is thirteen years old), and perhaps not the best person to cross into the Borderlands where there are elves, harpies, and — best of all as far as he’s concerned — mermaids. In Other Lands is an exhilarating a novel about surviving four years in the most unusual of schools, about friendship, falling in love, diplomacy, and finding your own place in the world — even if it means giving up your phone.

The 2017 Hugo Award winners have been announced! Congratulations to all the winners; obviously I am particularly thrilled about NK Jemisin, not only because she has now won it twice but also because TNT IS ADAPTING The Fifth Season!, excuse me while I run around screaming about my feelings!!!!!!

Also! Ava DuVernay is adapting Octavia Butler’s Dawn (Xenogenesis 1) and it is an actual dream come true. Given how excellent DuVernay’s work has been in the past and how great the trailer for A Wrinkle in Time looks, I am over the moon. Sometimes we can have nice things!

Forget passing the NEWTs at Hogwarts, can you pass a quiz about the NEWTs? I could not. No seriously, I only got two right.

Do you need more supernatural teenagers in your reading? This list of 100 inclusive YA SFF books is for you, then. Shout-out to Dreadnought by April Daniels, which you will be hearing more about next week!

Do you need more Game of Thrones chatter and analysis in your life? Vulture has a list of five podcasts that can help with that. My own vote has to go to A Storm of Spoilers, based entirely on name.

How about some ebook deals? This month there are a few that are perfect for completing your series collections, and each is less than $3!
– Lives of Tao series by Wesley Chu: Deaths of Tao (#2) and The Rebirths of Tao (#3)
– Worldbreaker Saga by Kameron Hurley: Empire Ascendant (#2)

For today’s reviews, we’ve got roller derby in space and earth magic!

Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Jessica Abel

Please meet one of my favorite graphic novel series of the past trish trash volume 1 coveryear — which felt inevitable once I heard the “rollerderby on Mars” pitch. You might know Abel from her previous work (La Perdida, Out on the Wire, Life Sucks, to name just a few) but this is her first foray into outer space, and it’s worth joining her for the journey.

Trish lives on Mars with her aunt and uncle, helping out on their farm. She’s great at fixing things but her real dream is to become a hoverderby star, and when tryouts for the local team are held she thinks she’s that much closer. Too young to make the team, she takes an internship instead — much to her family’s dismay. Juggling school and work on the farm is hard enough, and then one day she discovers a wounded native Martian (largely considered mythical to the human inhabitants) and accidentally saves its life.

trish trash volume 2 coverAbel is tackling a lot in Trish Trash. The settlers of Mars are almost all indebted to the company that funded the initial exploration and settlement, and there are serious water shortages and little hope of a solution. Poverty and labor camps are widespread. Add to that the displaced native Martians, and you’ve got a lot of layers beneath the hoverderby track. But Abel manages the balance well. Rather than have characters infodump in conversation, each novel includes backmatter that lays out the history of Mars and its complicated present situation. And Trish and her friends and family bring all the hijinks and personality you could want. I’ll be keeping an eye out for Volume 3!

The Stone Sky by NK Jemisin (Broken Earth #3)

stone sky by NK Jemisin coverConsidering that The Obelisk Gate (Broken Earth #2) just won the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novel, likely no one is surprised that I’m recommending The Stone Sky. Hot off the presses and newly released as of this past Tuesday, it’s the jaw-dropping conclusion (literally, my jaw dropped) to the Broken Earth series and it’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a third installment.

Mild spoilers for the series follow, so if you want zero plot discussion just go ahead and get yourself all three books and start reading!

The Obelisk Gate left Nassun and Essun finally aware of each other’s location and powers, but many miles apart. The stone eater factions have revealed their goals, and now the fate of the world is hanging in the balance. While The Stone Sky takes us forward to the moment of truth, it also takes us back in time and reveals more history of the Guardians, the obelisks, and the sundering of the Moon. If you’ve been wanting a deeper look at the history of this world, you will be delighted; Jemisin balances the plotline that began in The Fifth Season with a new past narrative that is just as compelling as any other thread we’ve had throughout the series — and there have been many. The conclusion had me white-knuckling my way through the final chapters, and devestated that the story has come to an end.

I’ll be rereading the whole series before long; for those of you who may have read The Obelisk Gate a while back I do recommend a reread. Jemisin does a solid job of providing context where she can without bogging down the narrative, but there were moments where I had to pause to try to remember certain previous characters and plot points. After all, it’s not as though a reread is a hardship. Jemisin’s best, most complex series to date, Broken Earth has reached the top five in my personal list of favorite series, and it will take a hell of a lot to dethrone it.

That’s it for this week! If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda.

Your fellow booknerd,

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Aug 11

Happy Friday, slayers and spacefarers! Today we’re talking about the Mercy Thompson series and Miles Morales, plus action heroines, kids fantasy books, space colonization, and more.

Vanguard by Ann AguirreThis post is sponsored by Vanguard by Ann Aguirre.

Ann Aguirre’s bestselling Razorland saga continues with Vanguard!

Adventures almost never go according to plan, and when Tegan understands what her heart truly wants, it might change her life forever. . . .

We have an amazing new shirt celebrating four bad-ass ladies of science fiction and fantasy, and you could win one! That giveaway closes this Sunday, 8/13, so get clicking.

It’s not looking good for our future on Europa: icy planets like it might skip a habitable period altogether, even if there is increased heat available from their suns. Back to the space-colonization drawing board…

Vulture has declared the 11 most influential action heroines; how do we feel about this list? I can’t quite decide — it does have Ripley from Alien and Letty from The Fast and Furious, but where is Leia the Huttslayer?

In adaptation news, China Mieville’s The City and the City is coming to TV! BBC Two has adapted it into a four-part drama. I don’t know how to feel about David Morrissey as Borlú, but I am all about Mandheep Dillon for Corwi. Also, I need to reread it immediately.

Last week on SFF Yeah we talked about middle-grade fantasy and sci-fi, and this week has provided a 100 Best Middle-Grade Fantasy Books post as the perfect follow-up.

And of course, some whimsy: Powerpuff/Avengers mash-up perfection!

In today’s reviews, we’ve got urban fantasy and a superhero novel (which, come to think of it, is not that far from urban fantasy).

The Mercy Thompson series: Moon Called, Blood Bound, and Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

cover of moon called by patricia briggsWhile I’m not a regular reader of urban fantasy, I am a diehard fan of a few series in particular. Kate Daniels what what! And there’s no way I can stop reading the Dresden Files now that we’re so close to the end. So it was with surprise I found I had been missing out on a great one: the Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs. Thanks to the Insiders Forum, I have been shown the error of my ways.

Mercy Thompson is an auto mechanic with her own small shop, her ex-boss is some kind of gremlin, her neighbor is the Alpha of the local werewolf pack, one of her clients is a vampire, and she herself is a walker — she can turn into a coyote basically whenever she wants. Supernaturals represent! Humanity is only marginally aware of them, of course; while the Fae have gone public, werewolves and vampires are still undercover, and Mercy herself isn’t eager to share her magical nature with anyone, be it local law enforcement or other beings. She’s led a pretty low-key life since she left her adopted werewolf family, and she’s trying to keep it that way. (Good luck with that, Mercy.)

cover of blood bound by patricia briggsWhat immediately sets Mercy apart from many other UF hero/ines is her lack of grumpiness. I love me a good cranky protagonist, but it’s nice to have a change of pace from time to time. She’s pragmatic; she’s tough without being isolated or prickly; she’s got friends and, while family is complicated for her, she’s built her own found family. She’s stubborn and independent, but knows when to back off and when to rely on others for help. She’s got even got a sense of humor! If you can’t tell, I adore her.

cover of iron kissed by patricia briggsMoon Called is, as you might guess from the title, focused on werewolves; Blood Bound deals with vampires, and Iron Kissed with the Fae. While I could have used a heads-up about the rape sequence in Iron Kissed (consider yourselves warned!), on the whole I have enjoyed the Hel out of these books. The supporting characters are multidimensional, diverse, and important to the plot development; the ethnic representation is handled respectfully in as far as I am able to judge; and Mercy is the kick-ass heroine of my heart. While her path grows increasingly dark from book to book, and her life becomes more and more complex, she retains her spirit, her sense of humor, and her immense compassion and humanity. I just picked up Book 4 from the library, and look forward to continuing on.

Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds

cover of miles morales by jason reynoldsFor the record, I have never read a Miles Morales comic and am not a Spider-Man fan in general. The odds of me watching a Spider-Man movie or read a Spidey comic are very low. (Although I will admit that Tom Holland’s turn in Civil War made that fight scene an all-time favorite.) So why did I pick up this novel? Because I’ve read Jason Reynolds before, and was curious to see what this award-winning YA writer would do with a licensed character.

The answer is, what he does best! Miles, his family, and his friends are amazing: they are complicated, messy, real characters. Basically any chapter in which two people were having a real conversation was immediately my favorite scene, whether it was Miles and his parents, barbershop banter, roommate hijinks with Ganke, awkward flirting — it’s all there on the page, and all fantastic. Miles’s doubts and fears about his own role and abilities as a superhero feel genuine, and I would have loved to see this thread developed even further! Reynolds also takes a hard look at systemic racism, the prison industrial complex, and its affect on young people of color, which is not something you see every day (any day??) in comics.

If Miles Morales has a flaw it’s that Reynolds is new to writing about superheroes, and the action sequences show it. But for me, the characters were well worth the read.

And that’s all she wrote! If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations (including the occasional book club question!) you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda.

Live long and prosper,

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Aug 4

Greetings, Earthlings and visitors from other realms. This week we’re talking Want and Labyrinth Lost, plus adaptation news, a bunch of themed reading lists, and more.

cover of The Dark Net by Benjamin PercyThis newsletter is sponsored by The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy.

The Dark Net is real. An anonymous and often criminal arena that exists in the secret far reaches of the Web. And now an ancient darkness is gathering there as well. This force is threatening to spread virally into the real world unless it can be stopped by members of a ragtag crew. Set in present-day Portland, The Dark Net is a cracked-mirror version of the digital nightmare we already live in, a timely and wildly imaginative techno-thriller about the evil that lurks in real and virtual spaces, and the power of a united few to fight back.

Important adaptation news: The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle is in development! It also just won Best Novella in the Shirley Jackson Awards, so there is no time like the present to read it.

What can corporations learn from sci-fi? There’s a whole company dedicated to the answer, “A lot actually.”  (I’ll be over here cackling about the kangaroo thing.)

Do you love Jane Austen and also love magic? Here are four fantasy novels that might be just what you’re looking for. Definitely read the comments (SHOCKING, I know) as there are lots of great additional sections there!

It turns out author Martha Wells loves a good magic/science combo as much as I do, and has written a list of eight books that do it well (and ditch most of the tropes!). Hardest of cosigns on JY Yang’s Tensorate books, GO PREORDER NOW.

Got a short attention span, a limited amount of reading time, or just really love short stories? Here are an actual hundred SF/F short story collections, including both single-author and multi-author collections.

I am generally restrained in the face of enamel pins, but these Harry Potter ones are VERY TEMPTING. (Luna’s glasses! Felix felicis!)

And now, on to our reviews: a quest in the future, and a quest that is out of this world.

Want by Cindy Pon

cover of Want by Cindy PonIn the Taiwan of Want‘s future, air pollution has gotten so bad that the wealthiest members of society go outside only in suits that filter their air, connect them to the network, regulate their temperature, and any other bells and whistles they can think up. For the rest of society, life expectancy is down to 40 and disease is rampant, and blue skies are just a story from the past. There are people trying to change things, but they’re up against corporate money — and corporate violence.

When his best friend’s mother is murdered for working to get environmental legislation passed, Zhou and his friends hatch a plan to take down Jin Corp, the sole maker of suits and the force behind her death. To take them down, someone will have to go undercover. From life as a mei (or have-not), Zhou will have to learn how to walk, talk, and act like a rich boy to infiltrate high society and get the access they need to execute their plan. If only he wasn’t falling for their primary target, Daiyu, daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO…

I was prepared to love this book, having read Cindy Pon before. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much! From simple, classic premises — star-crossed lovers, a grim ecological future — Pon creates a vibrant story with depth and heart. Zhou and his friends feel more mature than their years, having grown up too quickly in trying circumstances. The rich kids Zhou befriends as he goes undercover are more than just cardboard cut-outs of privilege (although some of them are as bad as you’d expect). And Daiyu is far from just another pretty girl. By taking the tropes of near-future YA and tweaking them in her own way, Pon has delivered a book I would recommend to every and any person looking for a good story, a realistic future scenario, and a touch of hope.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

paperback edition of Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida CordovaThis is the underworld quest I didn’t know I was craving, and it’s newly out in paperback. Let the reading and rejoicing begin!

Labyrinth Lost follows the adventures of Alex, for whom magic is both everyday and hugely unwanted. Her family, who live in Brooklyn, are part of a magical community and her Deathday Celebration, when she is supposed to come fully into her magic, is approaching. But magic has brought her nothing but pain and terror, and all she wants is to get rid of it. So she decides to do her own spell — a spell to take away her magic.

Of course it backfires, and instead sends her entire family into Los Lagos, an in-between world full of supernatural creatures and terrors. Now she has to use her largely untested magic to try to defeat an enemy who has been plotting for generations. And while she finds some help along the way, nothing is what it seems.

Córdova has created a fully realized magical system and realm in this first installation of the Brooklyn Brujas series. Reminding me at various moments of The Princess Bride, The Odyssey, Alice in Wonderland, and other portal fantasies, it is ultimately all her own. If you’re ready to visit a new world and cheer on a heroine who has a lot to learn, but isn’t afraid to try, then you’re ready for Labyrinth Lost. Join me in waiting for the next installment! (Not out until April 2018, WOE IS US.)


That’s a wrap: Happy reading! If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the new SFF Yeah! podcast.

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Jul 28

Happy Friday, friends. We made it through another week; let us give thanks and be merry! Today we’re talking about The Water Knife and the Graceling Realm series, plus awards news, GRRM, a slew of TV adaptations, and more.

cover of Genius The GameThis newsletter is sponsored by Genius: The Game by Leopoldo Gout.

Trust no one. Every camera is an eye. Every microphone an ear. Find me and we can stop him together.
In Genius: The Game, an action-packed novel by Leopoldo Gout, three brilliant teens from around the world use their knowledge of hacking, engineering, espionage, and activism in a race to save the world.

The World Fantasy Awards nominees have been announced! Borderline and Obelisk Gate continue to make the awards rounds, A Taste of Honey is up for Long Fiction (by which I believe they mean novellas), The Paper Menagerie is up for Collection, and I am just delighted.

Speaking of awards, for those of you who want to catch up with nominees here are 100 shortlisted genre titles, ranging from YA to mystery to speculative fiction. I’ve read 38 of the 100 — not too shabby. So many more to go…

One more in award news: Underground Railroad has won the Arthur C. Clarke Award!

Westeros is coming. But not The Winds of Winter, at least not for a while yet. George R.R. Martin announced that there’s likely to be a Westeros book in 2018, part of his very own GRRMarillion (LOL).

There’s lots of TV adaptation news (thanks, SDCC!):

Are you caught up with The Magicians? If not do not click this link, major spoilers for S2! If you are, click away and enjoy the interview with Stella Maeve, Jason Ralph, and Olivia Dudley.

– Do you need more supernatural hijinks on your TV? Enter Midnight, Texas. I am hooked after the pilot; there was a nice balance of solid acting and production value (they really went for it with those corpses) with the hokiness and RED LIGHT OF DOOOOOM, etc., that I would expect from the concept.

– I managed to forget that the Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency show exists, but it is real and Season 2 is coming.

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut might be coming to TV, courtesy of Dan Harmon (??!?!??!!). Harmon plus Vonnegut actually sounds kind of perfect, and I will be keeping an eye this!

– And I’m sure you’ve already seen the Wrinkle in Time trailer but just in case you haven’t, or you want to watch it for the 4,000th time, here it is.

And for your Friday whimsy: Gucci put together a Star Trek-inspired campaign. Bedazzled fanny packs of the future!

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

cover of The Water KnifeSet in a possibly-not-that-distant future, The Water Knife takes place in and around Phoenix, AZ as the city crumbles due to lack of (you guessed it) water. While some are lucky enough to live in “arcs” complete with AC, state of the art water recycling, and all the comforts you could want, most are stuck waiting around Red Cross water pumps, recycling their own urine, and trying to avoid the gangs patrolling the neighborhoods. You might not expect a book that hinges on water rights to be as grim, violent, and fast-paced as The Water Knife is; you would be mistaken.

Did I mention this book is grim and violent? Characters get shot, tortured, coerced into sex, betrayed, you name it, and often a combination thereof. Lucy, a journalist who can’t bring herself to leave the struggling city, is finding out what her dark side looks like. Maria, a young woman trying to find her way from one pitfall to the next, and who experiences some of the most brutal violence in the book, reveals a pragmatic streak that turns the plot in new directions more than once. Angel, a scarred man who does wetwork (sorry) of various sorts for the woman running Vegas, turns out to be one of the most surprising characters in the book. Bacigalupi has been called a grimdark writer, and the shoe fits — which is why the moments of light and hope in this book are so potent.

The Water Knife is blood-soaked, but it’s also a meditation on the power of community. I was fascinated by the tech, much of which is already out there albeit in slightly different form. Having lived in Arizona, California, and Colorado, the geography was familiar enough to make me nostalgic. And his vision of the way society has shifted feels prescient in the way that the best sci-fi does. If you’re looking for another perspective on the potentially horrible future of the United States (because when aren’t we), pick it up.

The Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore

Kristin Cashore has a new book coming out this fall (Jane Unlimited, September 19 2017), which reminded me that I want to remind you all of just how good this series is! On the surface, it looks like your standard “swords and powers” YA fantasy, but it digs deeper than you might think.

cover of GracelingGraceling is our introduction to the Seven Kingdoms and to Katsa, a young woman with a Grace (or special power) for violence. Pressed into service as an enforcer by the king of the Middluns, she’s spent most of her life believing that all she can do is hurt people. But she’s started to reclaim her power, working with a secret council running underground rescue missions. Then she meets a Graced fighter who interferes with one of her missions; Po has the gall to be interesting and attractive as well as a skilled fighter, one who can match her. As we start to see the political workings of the Seven Kingdoms, we also see Katsa find her way to a life that offers more than just violence.

cover of FireFire, the second book published, is technically a prequel. I can’t describe the plot much without major spoilers for Graceling, but that’s fine because there’s so much more. Our main character Fire is literally the most beautiful woman in the world — which brings her nothing but misery and injury. In the hands of a less skilled writer this would be nothing but one cliché after another, but Cashore creates a woman who is isolated, dangerous, and striving to understand what it means to be something other than what people label her. This is the book in the series I reread the most, and it hits me in the feelings every time.

cover of BitterblueBitterblue is the most politically agile and complex of the three, following a young queen as she attempts to bring her country back from the destruction wrought by her father. Unlike Katsa and Fire, her journey to understanding is about her world rather than just herself. What lies do we tell ourselves, and why do we tell them? Can the truth actually set us free? What do you do when reconciliation is impossible? These are huge questions, and Cashore follows them into dark and difficult places.

If you need a series that’s solid distraction with romance, action, adventure, and a big beating heart, add this to your summer stack.

Happy reading! If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the new SFF Yeah! podcast.