The State of SFF – February 2022

Well if this wasn’t the longest January of my life. It’s been super quiet on the blog because I have Life Stuff (TM) going on at the moment, I was sick for a week, and I haven’t been reading that much. But I hope to get back on track in February, finally catch up on some reviews and finish all those books I started in January.

Quickie News

  • One of my all-time favorite YA book series that I devoured several times as a kid is getting a reprint. Both Everworld and Remnants (co-written by Katherine A. Applegate and Michael Grant) are getting new covers and will be available as e-books as well as in print. I have my old paperback editions of the 12 Everworld books at home but I really hope this reaches a new generation of readers who want to discover the amazing worlds created by these writers.

Hugo Nominations Are Open

It’s a special year what with the Hugo Award ceremony having happened only a couple of months ago, but it’s true. The time has already arrived to nominate for the 2022 Hugo Awards. In the members/registration area of the Chicon 8 website, you can now enter up to five works or people that were your favorites of 2021. So get nominating, people!

Now I debate every year on whether to publish my nominating ballot or not and I never end up doing it, but here are some of my top books from 2021 which I will nominate in their respective categories. I might add more, I might leave some off if I discover new favorites, but I’m fairly certain that these will all make my ballot

The nominating stage is usually the one with the least participation, so if you nominate, your voice could really make the difference between your favorite book making it onto the final ballot or not. Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t read ALL THE BOOKS of 2021 (none of us have). If you have a supporting or attending membership to Chicon 8 or if you have a membership to last year’s WorldCon Discon III, and you’ve loved at least one work published in 2021, go ahead and nominate it. You’re a fan, too, and your voice counts. You just have to make it heard!


Exciting February Publications

I’m really glad publishing slows down in December and we have a bit of time to catch up on all those books we bought throughout the year.

RACHEL HARTMAN – IN THE SERPENT’S WAKE (February 1st)

I adored Tess of the Road, even without having read the Seraphina duology before (which reminds me I should get on with that!). So I am super excited about the sequel ot Tess and what Rachel Hartman has in store for us this time.

MIND OF THE WORLD,
OPEN YOUR EYES.

At the bottom of the world lies a Serpent, the last of its kind.
Finding the Serpent will change lives.

Tess is a girl on a mission to save a friend.
Spira is a dragon seeking a new identity.
Marga is a woman staking her claim on a man’s world.
Jacomo is a priest searching for his soul.

There are those who would give their lives to keep it hidden.
And those who would destroy it.

But the only people who will truly find the Serpent are those who have awakened to the world around them—with eyes open to the wondrous, the terrible, and the just

They must work together to survive the treacherous journey. But with each sibling harboring secrets and their own agendas, the very thing that brought them together could tear apart their family–and their world–for good. 


REBECCA ROSS – A RIVER ENCHANTED (February 3rd)

I have never read this author but I also couln’t ignore this book. It just speaks to me. I like the cover, I like “capricious spirits” and “bards” and childhood enemies that have to work together.

Enchantments run deep on the magical Isle of Cadence: gossip is carried by the wind, plaid shawls can be as strong as armour, and the smallest cut of a knife can instil fathomless fear. The capricious spirits that live there find mirth in the lives of the humans who call the land home, but that mischief turns to malevolence as girls begin to go missing.

Adaira, heiress of the east, knows the spirits only answer to a bard’s music, enticing them to return the missing girls. But there’s only one bard capable of drawing the spirits forth by song: her childhood enemy Jack Tamerlaine.

He hasn’t stepped foot on Cadence in ten long years, content to study music at the mainland university, but as Jack and Adaira reluctantly work together it becomes apparent the trouble with the spirits is far more sinister than first thought and an older, darker secret lurks beneath the surface, threatening to undo them all.


MARLON JAMES – MOON WITCH, SPIDER KING (February 15th)

It’s the 7th Wayward Children novella and this time, we’re going to focus on Cora, the character I like the very least out of everyone who has appeared in this series. I hope her story gets resolved in this one and we won’t have to read about her anymore after this. If it were for me, I wouldn’t read this book at all, but I’m sure it will be nominated for a Hugo next year because it’s by Seanan McGuire…

In Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Sogolon the Moon Witch proved a worthy adversary to Tracker as they clashed across a mythical African landscape in search of a mysterious boy who disappeared. In Moon Witch, Spider King, Sogolon takes center stage and gives her own account of what happened to the boy, and how she plotted and fought, triumphed and failed as she looked for him. It’s also the story of a century-long feud—seen through the eyes of a 177-year-old witch—that Sogolon had with the Aesi, chancellor to the king. It is said that Aesi works so closely with the king that together they are like the eight limbs of one spider. Aesi’s power is considerable—and deadly. It takes brains and courage to challenge him, which Sogolon does for reasons of her own.

Both a brilliant narrative device—seeing the story told in Black Leopard, Red Wolf from the perspective of an adversary and a woman—as well as a fascinating battle between different versions of empire, Moon Witch, Spider King delves into Sogolon’s world as she fights to tell her own story. Part adventure tale, part chronicle of an indomitable woman who bows to no man, it is a fascinating novel that explores power, personality, and the places where they overlap.


AKWEAKE EMEZI – BITTER (February 15th)

Reading Pet was quite the experience and a book unlike any I had read before. Now Akweake Emezi is coming out with a prequel about the prior generation and I cannot wait to see what this mostly utopian world was like before.

Bitter is thrilled to have been chosen to attend Eucalyptus, a special school where she can focus on her painting surrounded by other creative teens. But outside this haven, the streets are filled with protests against the deep injustices that grip the town of Lucille. Bitter’s instinct is to stay safe within the walls of Eucalyptus . . . but her friends aren’t willing to settle for a world that the adults say is “just the way things are.

Pulled between old friendships, her creative passion, and a new romance, Bitter isn’t sure where she belongs – in the art studio or in the streets. And if she does find a way to help the revolution while being true to who she is, she must also ask: at what cost? 


MAX GLADSTONE – LAST EXIT (February 22nd)

Yet another new release that reminds me just how far behind I am on some older fantasy series. I really enjoyed Max Gladstone’s Three Parts Dead but never continued the series. Shame on me, but I still want this new book of his.

Ten years ago, Zelda led a band of merry adventurers whose knacks let them travel to alternate realities and battle the black rot that threatened to unmake each world. Zelda was the warrior; Ish could locate people anywhere; Ramon always knew what path to take; Sarah could turn catastrophe aside. Keeping them all connected: Sal, Zelda’s lover and the group’s heart.

Until their final, failed mission, when Sal was lost. When they all fell apart.

Ten years on, Ish, Ramon, and Sarah are happy and successful. Zelda is alone, always traveling, destroying rot throughout the US.

When it boils through the crack in the Liberty Bell, the rot gives Zelda proof that Sal is alive, trapped somewhere in the alts.

Zelda’s getting the band back together—plus Sal’s young cousin June, who has a knack none of them have ever seen before.

As relationships rekindle, the friends begin to believe they can find Sal and heal all the worlds. It’s not going to be easy, but they’ve faced worse before.

But things have changed, out there in the alts. And in everyone’s hearts.

Fresh from winning the Hugo and Nebula Awards, Max Gladstone weaves elements of American myth–the muscle car, the open road, the white-hatted cowboy–into a deeply emotional tale where his characters must find their own truths if they are to survive


G: R: MACALLISTER – SCORPICA (February 22nd)

I don’t know, this just sounded cool.

A centuries-long peace is shattered in a matriarchal society when a decade passes without a single girl being born in this sweeping epic fantasy that’s perfect for fans of Robin Hobb and Circe.

Five hundred years of peace between queendoms shatters when girls inexplicably stop being born. As the Drought of Girls stretches across a generation, it sets off a cascade of political and personal consequences across all five queendoms of the known world, throwing long-standing alliances into disarray as each queendom begins to turn on each other—and new threats to each nation rise from within.

Uniting the stories of women from across the queendoms, this propulsive, gripping epic fantasy follows a warrior queen who must rise from childbirth bed to fight for her life and her throne, a healer in hiding desperate to protect the secret of her daughter’s explosive power, a queen whose desperation to retain control leads her to risk using the darkest magic, a near-immortal sorcerer demigod powerful enough to remake the world for her own ends—and the generation of lastborn girls, the ones born just before the Drought, who must bear the hopes and traditions of their nations if the queendoms are to survive


CLAIRE LEGRAND – EXTASIA (February 22nd)

Claire Legrand is an author I have been meaning to read more because her Sawkill Girls was different (and better) than I had expected. Epic fantasy trilogies and fairy tale retellings on my TBR aside, this new book looks wonderfully creepy and I want it.

Her name is unimportant.

All you must know is that today she will become one of the four saints of Haven. The elders will mark her and place the red hood on her head. With her sisters, she will stand against the evil power that lives beneath the black mountain—an evil which has already killed nine of her village’s men.

She will tell no one of the white-eyed beasts that follow her. Or the faceless gray women tall as houses. Or the girls she saw kissing in the elm grove.

Today she will be a saint of Haven. She will rid her family of her mother’s shame at last and save her people from destruction. She is not afraid. Are you?

This searing and lyrically written novel by the critically acclaimed author of Sawkill Girls beckons readers to follow its fierce heroine into a world filled with secrets and blood—where the truth is buried in lies and a devastating power waits, seething, for someone brave enough to use it.


VANESSA LEN – ONLY A MONSTER (February 22nd)

I have one of these books most months, where I’m not sure if I’m just falling for the hype again or if I am truly excited about it. This could be the exact kind of tropey book I hate or it could turn out to be just my jam. I’ll follow my own advice and wait for reviews by trusted people before I pounce on it.

It should have been the perfect summer. Sent to stay with her late mother’s eccentric family in London, sixteen-year-old Joan is determined to enjoy herself. She loves her nerdy job at the historic Holland House, and when her super cute co-worker Nick asks her on a date, it feels like everything is falling into place.

But she soon learns the truth. Her family aren’t just eccentric: they’re monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers. And Nick isn’t just a cute boy: he’s a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to bring them down.

As she battles Nick, Joan is forced to work with the beautiful and ruthless Aaron Oliver, heir to a monster family that hates her own. She’ll have to embrace her own monstrousness if she is to save herself, and her family. Because in this story . . .

. . . she is not the hero.


AXIE OH – THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH THE SEA (February 22nd)

2022 is bringing us quite a few retellings of Asian myths and folklore and I am here for it. This not only looks stunning, it also mentions so many cool things in the synopsis that I’m sure I will like it.

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking… 


News from the blog

I was sick in January, so even though I didn’t work for a week, I also didn’t have much brain power for reading, let alone posting anything here on the blog. It was only a regular cold, but as happens so often in life, when something unexpected happens, something else tends to follow. I don’t want to go into any details (and it’s nothing bad!) but there’s just a lot of stuff I have to do at the moment. Organizing things, making plans, coordinating with others, plus regular fulltime work. So it’s just a lot right now and unfortunately, my reading and blogging has suffered because of that.

What I read last month:

  • Ryka Aoki – Light From Uncommon Stars (7.5/10)
  • R. F. Kuang – The Burning God (8.5/10)
  • C. S. E. Cooney – Dark Breakers (7.5/10) (review to come in February)
  • Katherine Arden – Dead Voices (7.5/10)
  • Ann Leckie – Ancillary Justice (re-read) (8/10)
  • Tade Thompson – Far From the Light of Heaven (7/10)

I finished The Burning God and it destroyed me just as expected. As ratings go, January was absolutely brilliant! The books I read were vastly different but all of them were really good, so I can’t complain.

Currently reading:

  • Robert Jordan – The Dragon Reborn
  • Robert Jackson Bennett – City of Stairs
  • Ann Leckie – Ancillary Sword
  • Andy Weir – Project Hail Mary

Can you tell what I’m doing? I felt this strange motivational push at the beginning of the year to finally finish some book series I had started ages ago, so I did a re-read of Ancillary Justice and jumped right into the next book. I’m also finally reading City of Stairs, also with explicit plans to continue the trilogy right away. Wheel of Time is still there, although at this point, I can’t overlook the constant “braid tugging” and the very sluggish pace. I hope this picks up speed and the writing matures a little over the next few books. Maybe it was a mistake to watch the TV show as well… the characters are just soooo much more fleshed-out and believable in the show.

But for now, I hope to finish a book at all and also manage to write a review or two in the next weeks.

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

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