The State of SFF – October 2021

Spooky time is here! And with October comes a lot of adaptation news, some super shiny editions of previously published books, a lot of publications to look forward to, and of course more SFF awards.

Quickie News

  • The Sal and Gabi books by Carlos Hernandez are getting a TV adaptation which is being developed by Eva Longoria. I’ve only read the first book (it was super adorable!) but I can’t wait to see this crazy adventure translate into a visual medium. It will be so much fun.
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  • Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko is being adapted for Netflix and I CAN’T STOP SMILING! I don’t know if you’ve heard me mention that duology once or twice (or a hundred times) but I am beyond happy that it’s getting an adaptation and if they do it right, it will look so stunning.
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  • Illumicrate is trying to take all my money recently. I already splurged on special editions of Raybearer and Redemptor, but I am also totally going to buy these exclusive naked hardbacks of the Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee with new and shiny covers. I mean, how could I not?
  • Sadly, that means that I won’t be buying these equally stunning editions of Circe and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller even though I really, really want to. But at least I can share them with you and we can all suffer together. Or, if you have enough disposable income, go treat yourself and get them all. (I’m not getting paid by Illumicrate, I don’t have a partnership with them (I wish), I’m just a huge fan of their special editions.)

The IGNYTE Award Winners Have Been Announced

With a shortlist this great, it was a foregone conclusion that the winners would make us all cheer. So huge congratulations to all the IGNYTE winners. Check out the full list of categories and winners behind the link in the title. Here are the ones that I found most interesting:

  • Best Novel: Rebecca Roanhorse – Black Sun
  • Best Novella: Tochi Onyebuchi – Riot Baby
  • Best YA: Tracy Deonn – Legendborn
  • Best MG: Claribel A. Ortega – Ghost Squad
  • Best Novelette: Aliette de Bodard – The Inaccessibility of Heaven

My favorite YA novel didn’t win (again!) but I still have hopes for the Hugo Award ceremony where my precious Raybearer might get a Lodestar award. That said, I really enjoyed Legendborn and am super happy that it got the award. Tochi Onyebuchi’s win makes me particularly happy, even though Riot Baby isn’t my favorite work of his. But he is without a doubt one of the most exciting new writers in SFF and I hope he’ll give us many more novels, novellas, and stories in the coming years.


C.S.E. Cooney brings us new Hopepunk with Dark Breakers

Mythic Delirium, the publisher behind the amazeballs collection Bone Swans, is making me very happy with this latest announcement. C.S.E. Cooney, poet extraordinaire and writer of words both pretty and dark, is giving us a new collection, consisting of two previously published but uncollected tales plus a bunch of new stuff. Needless to say, I’ve already pre-ordered my hardback copy. It will have illustrations as well. 🙂

“Welcome to a Gilded Era like you’ve never before known and will never be able to forget. C. S. E. Cooney’s DARK BREAKERS will transfix and transform you, and, should you chance upon its characters in a glittering hallway, you had best be wearing your fanciest moonlight, and be ready to dance. If Titania herself were to commission a book, it would be this one.”

—Fran Wilde, two-time Nebula Award-winning author of UPDRAFT and RIVERLAND

A young human painter and an ageless gentry queen fall in love over spilled wine—at the risk of his life and her immortality. Pulled into the Veil Between Worlds, two feuding neighbors (and a living statue) get swept up in a brutal war of succession. An investigative reporter infiltrates the Seafall City Laundries to write the exposé of a lifetime, and uncovers secrets she never believed possible. Returning to an oak grove to scatter her husband’s ashes, an elderly widow meets an otherworldly friend, who offers her a momentous choice. Two gentry queens of the Valwode plot to hijack a human rocketship and steal the moon out of the sky.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction by Sharon Shinn
  • The Breaker Queen
  • The Two Paupers
  • Salissay’s Laundries
  • Longergreen
  • Susurra to the Moon

Exciting October Publications

October is looking good with a nice mix of new books by established authors as well as some debuts that people already can’t stop talking about. I’m still awed by the pile we got in September and October isn’t going to help our TBRs shrink either.

ALIX E. HARROW – A SPINDLE SPLINTERED (October 5th)

Harrow is one of those authors whose books I would buy blindly. In this case, however, could there be a more enticing description than “let’s spiderverse a fairy tale”?!

It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.
Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.


JENNIFER MARIE BRISSETT – DESTROYER OF LIGHT (October 12th)

Perseophone, science fiction, Afro-futuristic. That is all.

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The Matrix meets an Afro-futuristic retelling of Persephone set in a science fiction underworld of aliens, refugees, and genetic engineering in Jennifer Marie Brissett’s Destroyer of Light.

Having destroyed Earth, the alien conquerors resettle the remains of humanity on the planet of Eleusis. In the three habitable areas of the planet–Day, Dusk, and Night–the haves and have nots, criminals and dissidents, and former alien conquerors irrevocably bind three stories:

*A violent warlord abducts a young girl from the agrarian outskirts of Dusk leaving her mother searching and grieving.
*Genetically modified twin brothers desperately search for the lost son of a human/alien couple in a criminal underground trafficking children for unknown purposes.
*A young woman with inhuman powers rises through the insurgent ranks of soldiers in the borderlands of Night.

Their stories skate across years, building to a single confrontation when the fate of all—human and alien—balances upon a knife’s-edge.

Warning: This book is designed for audiences 18+ due to scenes of physical and sexual violence, and themes that some may find disturbing.


DONNA BARBA HIGUERA – THE LAST CUENTISTA (October 12th)

I like storytellers as characters and this one is the last who remembers Earth. This could either be a lazy YA dystopia or a brilliant examination of what makes us humans (spoiler: stories are a big part of humanity). I’m more than willing to try and see for myself.

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Había una vez . . .

There lived a girl named Petra Peña, who wanted nothing more than to be a storyteller, like her abuelita.

But Petra’s world is ending. Earth has been destroyed by a comet, and only a few hundred scientists and their children – among them Petra and her family – have been chosen to journey to a new planet. They are the ones who must carry on the human race.

Hundreds of years later, Petra wakes to this new planet – and the discovery that she is the only person who remembers Earth. A sinister Collective has taken over the ship during its journey, bent on erasing the sins of humanity’s past. They have systematically purged the memories of all aboard – or purged them altogether.

Petra alone now carries the stories of our past, and with them, any hope for our future. Can she make them live again?

Pura Belpré Honor-winning author Donna Barba Higuera presents us with a brilliant journey through the stars, to the very heart of what makes us human.


JUNE C.L. TAN – JADE FIRE GOLD (October 12th)

There has been a lot of buzz surrounding this book and I will be honest. I got swept up in it. The story sounds super cool and while I don’t like the US cover, the UK version (below) is very pretty.

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Her destiny. His revenge.
In an empire on the brink of war . . .

Ahn is no one, with no past and no family.
Altan is a lost heir, his future stolen away as a child.

When they meet, Altan sees in Ahn a path to reclaiming the throne. Ahn sees a way to finally unlock her past and understand her lethal magical abilities.
But they may have to pay a far deadlier price than either could have imagined.

Girls of Paper and Fire meets A Song of Wraiths and Ruin in June CL Tan’s stunning debut, where ferocious action, shadowy intrigue, rich magic, and a captivating slow-burn romance collide.


K. EASON – NIGHTWATCH ON THE HINTERLANDS (October 19th)

To my shame, I haven’t read the Rory Thorne books yet but this one caught my eye anyway. Standalones are always welcome, especially when

Set in the universe of Rory Thorne, this new standalone sci-fi mystery follows an unlikely duo who must discover the motive behind an unusual murder.

THE TEMPLAR: When Lieutenant Iari hears screams in the night, she expects to interrupt a robbery or break up a fight. Instead she discovers a murder with an impossible suspect: a riev, one of the battle-mecha decommissioned after the end of the last conflict, repurposed for manual labor. Riev don’t kill people. And yet, clearly, one has. Iari sets out to find it.

THE SPY: Officially, Gaer is an ambassador from the vakari. Unofficially, he’s also a spy, sending information back to his government, unfiltered by diplomatic channels. Unlike Iari, Gaer isn’t so sure the riev’s behavior is just a malfunction, since the riev were created using an unstable mixture of alchemy and arithmancy.

As Gaer and Iari search for the truth, they discover that the murderous riev is just a weapon in the hands of a wielder with wider ambitions than homicide–including releasing horrors not seen since the war, that make a rampaging riev seem insignificant…


ZIN E. ROCKLYN – FLOWERS FOR THE SEA (October 19th)

If the cover hadn’t caught my attention, the comparisons would have. Everything about this novella sounds fantastic and I’m always on the lookout for new favorite authors. Gothic fantasy, creepiness, and similar to Octavia Butler gives me high hopes.

Flowers for the Sea is a dark, dazzling debut novella that reads like Rosemary’s Baby by way of Octavia E. Butler.

We are a people who do not forget.

Survivors from a flooded kingdom struggle alone on an ark. Resources are scant, and ravenous beasts circle. Their fangs are sharp.

Among the refugees is Iraxi: ostracized, despised, and a commoner who refused a prince, she’s pregnant with a child that might be more than human. Her fate may be darker and more powerful than she can imagine.

Zin E. Rocklyn’s extraordinary debut is a lush, gothic fantasy about the prices we pay and the vengeance we seek.


MARGARET OWEN – LITTLE THIEVES (October 19th)

Start the synopsis with Once Upon a Time and you have my attention. Move on to tell me that the protagonist is the goddaughter of Death and Fortune, and you have my excitement. Add a cool, somewhat creepy cover featuring three women and you have my money. See, it’s really not that hard.

Once upon a time, there was a horrible girl…

Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself.

The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed.

Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.

Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow series, crafts a delightfully irreverent retelling of “The Goose Girl” about stolen lives, thorny truths, and the wicked girls at the heart of both.


LAUREN BLACKWOOD – WITHIN THESE WICKED WALLS (October 19th)

A Jane Eyre retelling will always get me interested, but Jane Eyre with an exorcist twist and Ethiopian-inspired fantasy setting, I simply can’t ignore. I want this now!

What the heart desires, the house destroys…

Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, Andromeda quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, but leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option. Evil may roam the castle’s halls, but so does a burning desire.

Kiersten White meets Tomi Adeyemi in this Ethiopian-inspired debut fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre.


STADE THOMPSON – FAR FROM THE LIGHT OF HEAVEN (October 26th)

I still have one book to read in the Wormwood trilogy by Tade Thompson but I knew right after Rosewater that this was an authorI wanted to follow. I like a good mystery on a space ship and I cannot wait to see what cool and new ideas Thompson has come up with this time.

The colony ship Ragtime docks in the Lagos system, having traveled light-years from home to bring thousands of sleeping souls to safety among the stars.

Some of the sleepers, however, will never wake – and a profound and sinister mystery unfolds aboard the gigantic vessel as its skeleton crew make decisions that will have repercussions for the entire system – from the scheming politicians of Lagos station to the colony of Nightshade and the poisoned planet of Bloodroot, poised for a civil war.


News from the blog

I did alright in September. The Magical Readathon helped me find a nice balance between older stuff I’ve been meaning to read, books I have to read for the Hugos, and new publications I’m excited about. Here is how the readathon went for me:

In October, I’ll start posting my Reading the Hugos posts about this year’s finalists. We’ll kick this little blog post series off with Best Short Story on October 15th and after that, I’ll be looking at a different category every Friday and telling you what my voting ballot looks like (at least at that moment in time). I made it through quite a few categories this year and with the prolonged reading time, I might still manage to squeeze in one more.

What I read:

  • Mary Robinette Kowal – The Relentless Moon (8.25/10) (review to come on Monday)
    took me a while to get into – but then I was ALL IN – Kowal does hard sci-fi with diverse characters best – my second favorite of the series – also, that ending!
  • Tori Bovalino – The Devil Makes Three (5.5/10)
    intersting YA characters – nice romance – terribel fantasy world building – uneven pacing – cheesy ending
  • Jordan Ifueko – Redemptor (7.75/10)
    lovely found family – great writing and characters – too much plot for the page count – pacing varies – excellent themes (mental health, sexuality, family, belonging)
  • Sarah Gailey – The Echo Wife (8/10)
    get away with murder (with your clone) – excellent characters, themes, and writing – exciting thriller – plot twists that aren’t cheap – didn’t like the protagonist much but loved the book more for that
  • Katherine Arden – Small Spaces (7/10)
    wonderful middle grade horror book – diverse loveable characters – very cool backstory – mild creepiness – super quick read
  • Linden A. Lewis – The Second Rebel (6.75/10)
    cool plot – great ideas – confusing names and places – too many plot strings, not enough time for fleshing out world/characters/etc.
  • Colson Whitehead – The Underground Railroad (7.5/10)
    tough to read – excellently written – gets very cruel and dark – conveys utter despair but with a glimpse of hope

Currently reading:

  • Robert Jordan – The Great Hunt
  • Nicole Kornher-Stace – Firebreak

I didn’t manage to finish the second Wheel of Time book in September but I do enjoy it much more than the first. The Lord of the Rings copy vibe is gone and it’s finally time for Jordan’s own ideas. Characters, world building, politics and devious machinations – everything is so much more interesting than in Eye of the World. I’ve only read a third, but so far I’m having fun and I can even see myself turning into a proper fan if the next books hold up.
Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace was like love at first sight. I can’t even tell you what exactly it is that I like so much but I simply cannot keep my hands (or rather my ears, because audiobook) off this book!

G’s Magical Readathon gave me a much needed push but, as with most readathons, I’m glad that I can now go back to a more relaxed type of reading. I still have a lot of books to go for the Hugo Awards and a whole bunch of 2021 publications to catch up on. But then October is also spooky month and I want to read something dark and creepy, maybe something witchy or about a haunted house? We’ll see.

Until next month: Stay safe, stay kind, and keep reading. 🙂

3 thoughts on “The State of SFF – October 2021

  1. Sheri Dye says:

    There are so many amazing books here! I’ll have to bookmark this.. there are a lot here that I’m really intrigued by. ‘The Last Cuentista’ sounds so good! My poor Tbr.
    Fantastic post, Dina!

    Liked by 1 person

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