My Thoughts on the Hugo Finalists 2021

It is time for excitement, for making reading lists, for having opinions. Because DisCon III announced the Hugo Award finalists on April 13th and

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE FINALISTS!

I’ll do this the same way I did it last year. I’ll go through the categories one by one, see how many books I’ve already read and what I think about the finalists. I will – again – leave out the categories about which I have little to say and/or which I don’t plan to vote in (like Best Editor, Long Form) or which don’t really fit this blog (the Dramatic Presentation categories).

Warning: This is going to be a long post. Feel free to skip ahead to a certain category or to my general thoughts at the very end.


BEST NOVEL (3/6)

  • Martha Wells – Network Effect
  • N. K. Jemisin – The City We Became
  • Susanna Clarke – Piranesi
  • Tamsyn Muir – Harrow the Ninth
  • Mary Robinette Kowal – The Relentless Moon
  • Rebecca Roanhorse – Black Sun

Network Effect and The City We Became were both books I nominated for obvious reasons. I left out Piranesi because, well, I knew it didn’t need my help and I had some other, less buzzy books I wanted to support (Micaiah Jonson’s The Space Between Worlds ended up on my ballot for example – Johnson is an Astounding finalists so that makes me happy). And as much as I loved Clarke’s newest book, I don’t feel it’s a Hugo novel. It feels more like a World Fantasy or Mythopoeic Award kind of book, you know?

I look forward to finally continuing Mary Robinette Kowal’s excellent Lady Astronaut series and I knew – I just knew – that my fellow Hugo nominators would make me read the entire Locked Tomb series simply by nominating it. I was one of the very few people who didn’t find much to like in Gideon the Ninth but I’m willing to give Harrow a try. Although from what people have been saying it’s even more bonkers than the first so I don’t have high hopes that I will like it. But hey, I’m open for it. Maybe this time, aesthetics and cool names will be enough to entertain me.

I’m surprised that Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia didn’t make it. It was on my nominations ballot and there was a lot of hype surrounding that book. The author beats her own marketing drum hard all year round and it’s impossible to miss this book’s gorgeous cover. I was so sure she would make it onto the final ballot. Then again, horror books have a hard time at the Hugo Awards, so I guess I should have known better.
I also expected Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future to be on here because Robinson is an old Hugo darling and always ends up as a finalist. To me, he is one of the authors the older Hugo voter generation nominates simply because he has written something – which doesn’t mean he isn’t deserving! I haven’t yet read any of his works so I wouldn’t know but I dislike authors being nominated rather than books and that seems to happen a lot. I guess times have changed a little and I can’t say I’m too upset. 🙂


BEST NOVELLA (4/6)

  • P. Djèlí Clark – Ring Shout
  • Sarah Gailey – Upright Women Wanted
  • Nghi Vo – The Empress of Salt and Fortune
  • Tochi Onyebuchi – Riot Baby
  • Nino Cipri – Finna
  • Seanan McGuire – Come Tumbling Down

Ah, the inevitable Seanan McGuire and her Wayward Children series. Look, I’ll be the first to admit that last year’s novella was actually very good but that doesn’t change the fact that, overall, she just shouldn’t be a finalist every year simply for having lots of fans. Not EVERY SINGLE ONE of her books is award-worthy. That’s not me being mean to her in particular, that goes for every author, even someone like N. K. Jemisin. But you can be sure, if McGuire has written something (and she’s always written something) it will end up on the Hugo ballot wherever it fits, taking a potential spot from a debut or underrated or marginalised author.
I’ll read Come Tumbling Down and I hope it’s another good one, but can we please all admit someday that apparently, she just doesn’t write Hugo Award novels/novellas? She has won once for the first Wayward Children novella and then nothing ever again. And it’s really not for lack of chances as you’ll see when we meet her again further down the ballot, not once, but twice, because of course.

I wasn’t a big fan of Upright Women Wanted, and Riot Baby surprisingly fell flat for me. I loved the message of both these novellas but they lacked story/plot and didn’t hit me emotionally the way they promised. I think that’s mostly me, though, not the quality of the work. Gailey and Onyebuchi are both authors whose other work I adore!
(This is a good example of how not to nominate authors simply because I like them but to nominate based on the quality of their eligible work. I would gladly throw Hugos at Gailey and Onyebuchi (figuratively speaking) but these particular books weren’t for me so I didn’t nominate them. It’s really not that hard…)

Ring Shout is a different story. I nominated it because that novella did everything right and completely blew me away. With two novellas still to read, I am fairly certain it will remain on the top of my ballot. The Empress of Salt and Fortune was also excellent, although very different in tone. So far, these are my top two. I’m going to check out Finna and the McGuire, mull things over a bit and then decide on my final ranking.

Generally, I’m very sad that the entire ballot is made up of Tordotcom novellas. I love Tordotcom as much as the next guy but it wouldn’t hurt to have more variety on the ballot. And because I am one of the culprits who only nominated stuff from Tordotcom, I know that I myself should do better as well.
So, here’s my appeal to other publishers: Please step up your game and promote your novellas the way you do novels if you want them to reach a wide reader base. Dear old-timey magazines: It’s 2021 so get with the times and make sure your online presence is inviting. Then people will come and read your stuff and, if it’s good (which I suspect it is), they will nominated it for awards.


BEST SERIES (5/6)

Boy, am I glad it’s a Toby Daye year, not an InCryptid year! I’m only two books into the series (14 novels published so far, plus a ton of shorter stuff) but I genuinely liked both. I didn’t consider them award-worthy, because they are fun and have interesting characters but tons of books have that. For a Hugo Award, there should be a little more. I’m hoping to catch up a LOT on this series because people say it gets better and better and I’m curious to see if I hit the point where I go “oh, I get it now” and where I think the series as a whole should get a Hugo Award. Either way, this is one Seanan McGuire series I enjoy and would continue even without the bi-yearly nomination.

If you think it’s clear that Murderbot will win, wait a second. Yes, it’s universally beloved and it totally deserves an award. BUT. The series is still ongoing which means it has a chance of being nominated again and then winning, whereas The Daevabad Trilogy and the Poppy War series are finished. If we want to honor them with a Hugo, now is the time! That said, I also totally think Murderbot will take home the award.

I loved City of Brass and just started Kingdom of Copper which is also very good so far. I love how much more depth and politics the first book offered than I had expected. I also admit to shipping a certain couple and I’m curious to see where that goes. The question I’m going to ask with all the finalists here is whether the series as a whole is more than the sum of its parts – if it makes a difference whether you’ve just sampled the world and story or actually followed through until the end.
The Poppy War is a tough one, in every way. I loved the first book, as much as you can love something that so utterly depresses you. I want to finish the trilogy but knowing a little of what’s ahead (pain, tears, death,…) it’s difficult to get in the right mood. I will absolutely read the other two books before the voting period ends but I need to pick them up between some super happy stuff!
I enjoyed The Calcuating Stars a lot and it earned its Hugo Award two years ago. With the third in the series/universe being up for a Best Novel Hugo again, I’m even more excited to continue. Although I’ve mixed things up in the past – with Becky Chambers’ books for example – I will go in publication order here and read The Fated Sky before I dive into The Relentless Moon.
The only series I haven’t even started yet is Scalzi’s Interdependency. I heard great things about the first book and… not so great ones about the last book. Scalzi is a strange one for me. I am a huge fan of him as a person and his online writings. I haven’t been such a fan of his fiction which makes me all the more curious to see what this sci-fi trilogy is like. My fingers crossed but I’m keeping expectations low.


BEST GRAPHIC STORY (0/6)

  • Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans – DIE, Volume 2: Split the Party
  • Seanan McGuire, Takeshi Miyazawa, Rosie Kämpe – Ghost-Spider vol. 1: Dog Days Are Over
  • G. Willow Wilson, Christian Ward – Invisible Kingdom, vol 2: Edge of Everything
  • Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda – Monstress, vol. 5: Warchild
  • Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora – Once & Future vol. 1: The King Is Undead
  • Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy, John Jennings- Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

Okay, okay. There’s nothing too surprising on this ballot but I’m looking forward to all of those, even the – who would have expected this nomination?! – Seanan McGuire comic. (Can you tell I’m a little bitter when it comes to her? Cause I am definitely a little bitter and will tell you more at the bottom of this page.)
Although I have technically read zero out of these finalists, I have read the first volume(s) of 3/6 of them.

Monstress is on the ballot yet again and while I’ve never fallen head over heels for this series, I find it beautifully drawn, I like the story, and I don’t begrudge it its success. It just doesn’t get me emotionally for some reason but I’ll gladly read the latest instalment when and if it’s included in the Hugo Voters Packet. Last year’s packet was amazing so I’m all caught up on the series except for this newest volume.

I am thrilled that G. Willow Wilson’s Invisible Kingdom vol 2 is on here because I read volume 1 a few months ago and immediately put the second part on my wishlist. I haven’t gotten to it yet but I’m cackling in anticipation! This is such a cool world with original characters.
Last year, Die vol. 1 was nominated and I found it pretty good, very dark, but also a bit too much of a set-up volume to really grip me. Again, this is a universe and an idea I’ll happily explore further and Kieron Gillen is someone I’ve come to trust.
Gillen is nominated a second time, for the first volume in a new series, Once & Future, which seems to be a dark contemporary spin on the King Arthur legend. I have no idea what to expect but I’m here for it. King Arthur seems to be cool again, he also shows up in the Lodestar category.
I also can’t wait to see what the Graphic Novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower will be like. It hasn’t been that long since I read the book so it’s all still fresh in my mind and I know there are things in that book that I do not want to see… I’m intrigued to read the graphic novel and see how things are depicted but at least I know the story is good.
And last but not least, Seanan McGuire has written a Gwen Stacy comic titled Ghost-Spider. I am always up for some Spider Gwen, although reviews of this one are pretty middling. Also, it appears this “volume 1” is set after two volumes of Spider Gwen, the second of which is called Ghost-Spider Vol. 2? I haven’t made sense of it it yet and need to do more research but I am properly confused.


LODESTAR (3/6)

  • Jordan Ifueko – Raybearer
  • Tracy Deonn – Legendborn
  • Naomi Novik – A Deadly Education
  • Darcie Little Badger – Elatsoe
  • T. Kingfisher – A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking
  • Aiden Thomas – Cemetery Boys

Aaaaaaaah, this is such an exciting ballot! With the exception of Naomi Novik’s book – more on that later – I love how diverse and different all these books are.

Obviously, my beloved Raybearer is on here. I am so hyped for its sequel (and duology ender) so maybe I’ll give this a re-read before voting is over. I haven’t heard many people talk about this book so I am doubly glad enough people read and liked and nominated it. Because now even more people will read it and get to know Sunshine Girl and this beautiful found family!
I just read Legendborn and enjoyed it quite a bit. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the way the King Arthur legend was used, but as a story of its own about a secret society at college, it worked fine. Its strengths were definitely the themes of dealing with loss and grief, racism and finding a place to belong. So I’m happy to see it nominated but for now, it feels like a middle of the ballot kind of book.

I have so much excitement for Elatsoe – it has a ghost dog, apparently! – as well as Cemetery Boys – a trans, Latinx protagonist is something new for me and I love reading different perspectives from my own. And T. Kingfisher is just T. Kingfisher. I can’t wait to meet her latest pragmatic protagonist and the shenanigans they get into. Maybe I should read this after one of the R.F. Kuang books…

Now, about A Deadly Education. We’re talking arbitrary frontiers here, like what even is the line between YA and adult fiction? Most of these lines are drawn by publishers and/or book sellers who put the book in a category and that’s what we sticks. I could be wrong (I can’t find the interview I remember reading) but didn’t Naomi Novik herself make clear that this is not YA? Like how dare we assume that just because a book is written by a woman and takes place at a magic school with teenage protagonists, it’s automatically YA? And I agree, that assumption is stupid and we should all be better than that. But then, when it gets nominated for an award, it’s suddenly okay again that the book is considered YA? That leaves a bad taste in my mouth, to say it mildly.
I was one of the people who enjoyed this book – although I still can’t quite tell you why, it has so many problems – but I find the author’s behaviour a little strange. Add to that the fact that Novik is well established and beloved in the SFF community and doesn’t really need an awards boost. If you look at the other authors, they are all either new or not well know or not the big bestselling types and can each benefit greatly from being nominated. If Novik had declined the nomination (based on the fact that she doesn’t consider her book YA and it thus doesn’t fit the category), who would have gotten the last finalist spot? Guess we’ll have to wait until December to find out.


ASTOUNDING AWARD (2/6)

So that’s where those other buzzy books went. 🙂
The Unspoken Namen by A. K. Larkwood has been popping up here and there over the course of the last year. I haven’t read it yet but I’m glad to pick it up for Award reading. The same goes for The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons and the rest of the series – the speed with which these books are being published is stunning. I don’t know if it was the Game of Thrones-y style of the covers that kept me from picking them up so far or something else. But I look forward to checking it out.

The two authors I’ve read are Micaiah Johnson – I nominated her myself – and Emily Tesh. Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds was excellent and I even nominated it for Best Novel as well. I read the first of Tesh’s novellas, Silver in the Wood which was good, but didn’t stick in my memory for very long. I’ll read the second one, Drowned Country, but unless it has more memorably characters or a more exciting plot, I can’t say anything much nicer than that Tesh is a competent writer.

I am most excited about Simon Jimenez‘ novel The Vanished Birds. This feels like such a quietly buzzy book. I kept coming across it, in more literary circles as well as genre spaces, but the reactions to this book were overwhelmingly positive. So I cannot wait!
Lindsay Ellis wasn’t on my radar at all, although I have seen Axiom’s End floating around. Whisleblower/first contact/conspiracy story sounds intriguing, especially because it’s not my usual cup of tea.


BEST FANCAST (5/6)

  • Be the Serpent
  • The Coode Street Podcast
  • The Skiffy and Fanty Show
  • Worldbuilding for Masochists
  • Kalanadi
  • Claire Rousseau’s YouTube channel

Here’s another category that gives me OPINIONS. Or, to say it better, that makes me feel like a bit of a fool.

Last year, I was so excited that a BookTuber was nominated, and even one that I knew and liked. Claire Rousseau used to do these Genrewise SFF News videos that summed up what’s going on in the field really well. She has a nice D&D based TBR game going with herself, and I liked her reviews, even when we didn’t agree. So I felt she totally deserved her nomination (last year). But in 2020, she has barely uploaded any videos – which I absolutely don’t mean to sound reproachful. It’s a pandemic and holy shit, we all understand when you have other things on your mind than creating content. But if you don’t create anything, should you be nominated for an award? Like, for what? For having made some videos for the first few months of the year and then just stopped? I follow Claire’s channel and I get notified when she uploads new stuff. She was completely off my radar for the second half of 2020 because there was simply nothing there. Her channel literally shows you the newest video (one day ago) and the video before (7 months ago). Again, I’m not saying Claire has any obligation to produce videos but I do believe that we should award fancasters who actually, you know, fancast.
Her channel will probably be at the bottom of my ballot because I’ve already seen all her 2020 videos and they will have a hard time keeping up with what the other finalists have to offer. But I’m glad she plans to re-launch her channel and I’ll happily nominate her next year if she makes great videos again in 2021.

This year, Claire isn’t the only BookTuber on the Hugo ballot this year. Rachel from Kalanadi, a wonderfully calm and thoughtful person, has been making videos consistently for years. I also follow her (although I didn’t nominate her, I instead nominated The Fancy Hat Lady Reads, another BookTuber) and I especially like her long-term projects of reading certain award winners – she did the Tiptree a while back, she’s reading through the SF Masterworks, but she’s also very self-aware and checks in on her goals and reading stats. As with any reviewer, we don’t always agree, but I appreciate her reviews and the way she talks about books. I would definitely be happy to see her take home a Hugo Award.

Now to the podcasts. I like The Coode Street Podcast and its two incredibly well-read hosts, which I say every year. 🙂 I sometimes love, sometimes don’t like Skiffy and Fanty, also like every year. I have to listen to Be the Serpent more to make up my mind properly. And I don’t know Worldbuilding for Masochists at all, so this is exciting. I love discovering new things through the Hugo ballot and this is one of the few that’s actually completely new to me.

I will admit to a general bias on my part towards the BookTubers. This category has been going to podcasts for so long that I feel it’s time for a change. Having two BookTube finalists on the ballot is already a win but unless Be the Serpent or Worldbuilding absolutely blow me away, Kalanadi will be my first choice for this award.


GENERAL THOUGHTS

In general, there is nothing overly surprising on this year’s ballot. In the Best Novel category, so many potential great books could have made it, it was really just a matter of who was nominating this year and what their personal favorites were. Some years, you just know one or two of the most hyped books, the ones everyone was talking about. But 2020, we were all talking about many buzzy books that we loved.

The one thing that I did notice last year, and in part with the Hugo finalists, is the blurry distinction between YA and adult novels. The Bone Shard Daughter, for example was very well received but was it YA or adult? I think it’s sold as adult but the marketing campaign gave it YA vibes, if you know what I mean. Maybe that kept people from nominating it or maybe some nominated it as Best Novel, others as a Lodestar? I’ll be interested to see the final stats in December.

The Best Related Work category is interesting this year. I don’t have enough to say about it to warrant its own section in this (huge) post, but it’s cool that a convention is nominated – although I have no idea how I, as a non-attendee, am supposed to judge that – as well as the ConZealand Fringe, a sort of side event alongside regular WorldCon which can be watched on YouTube. Add the obligatory ranty blog post and one actual non-fiction book and you have a pretty diverse category.

My (yearly) Seanan McGuire rant:

I’m so tired of having to read so much Seanan McGuire every year. You guys, I know I can sound mean when I talk about her, but I’m really just tired. It’s like this war inside me where, on the one hand, I want to give all nominated books a chance and vote fairly for what I thought was best, but on the other hand, I spend my precious time reading her books when I could be reading a debut author, a marginalised author, an underrated author, or even re-reading an old favorite.
It’s getting to the point where I want to just not read her work, no matter the book – just the way she gets nominated every year, no matter the book. And if I don’t read it, I won’t vote for it. If her fans can convince themselves that every single of her works deserves an award, then I can convince myself of the opposite. The truth is probably somewhere in between but I guess we’ll never know because people aren’t always fair and authors aren’t always gracious.

Seanan McGuire is by far not the only author who has lots of Hugo nominations but only a single (or even no) win. The difference is that she writes so damn much that she takes up space in at least two categories every year. If she wrote a novel, a novella, and an instalment in a series, you can be damn sure she will be on the ballot in all three categories. If she really were that much of a literary genius, shouldn’t she be swimming in Nebula Awards? World Fantasy? Mythopoeic? I mean, those are the ones that get judged by other authors, by her peers. Interestingly, she was only nominated and won once for Every Heart a Doorway which is also her sole Hugo win (except for fancast but she was part of a larger group there).
I know nothing I say here will sway the hardcore McGuire fans. And look, I’m glad she has so many fans and I’m glad they love her work that much. Finding a favorite author is a great thing, especially when that author churns out a ton of content every year.
But if you count together all the spots taken up by McGuire works in the last few years, spots which eventually all ended up not winning – the potential other books for those spots could have given at least 10 other authors a hands up in the industry, a chance for a career, a chance to build their own fan base just like the one McGuire has. Simply not accepting a nomination – at least in one of the three/four/five categories – has apparently never crossed McGuire’s mind. After being told by the voters that her work is not deserving of a Hugo this many years in a row, maybe giving someone else a chance is a viable option?

This year, I will read all her nominated works again because I would feel like a quitter otherwise and they all sound interesting. But next year, I will definitely skip InCryptid – the first one is a book I’d be ashamed to have published – and only pick and choose the rest. Depending on this year’s Wayward Children novella, I may or may not read next year’s. And if you think these won’t make the ballot next year, don’t make me laugh. If it has the name Seanan McGuire on it, it will be on the ballot…

So now that’s out of the way again, I have decided to focus on the postives. There are so many books, graphic novels, and series I look forward to discovering or continuing this year. I hope this ballot will push me towards my goal of finally finishing up some series I’ve started and show me some new authors and creators I can follow in the future.

What do you think about the finalists? Did your nominees make it? Am I too touchy about Seanan McGuire? 🙂 Are you going to read the finalists and if yes, are you voting?

The State of SFF – April 2021

I had hoped I could tell you of my vaccination experience by now but, alas, the only thing the Austrian government is really good at this year is creating scandals to distract from the other scandals they’re responsible for… We’re vaccinating much too slowly and the people being vaccinated aren’t always the ones who are supposed to come first. So I do what I’ve done for the last few months: I wait patiently while some rich dudes with connections get vaccinated before those who need it the most. Because the world is a shitty place…

Anyway, on to happier topics!

Quickie News

  • The Hugo Award nomination period has officiall ended and the finalists will be announced on April 13th. I hope you saved your ballot in time. We don’t have much longer to wait to for the finalists and I am so excited to catch up the 2020 releases I missed.
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  • Outlander, the Starz TV show based on Diana Gabaldon’s books, will get a seventh season! I should read the third book sometime and/or continue season four of the show… 
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  • N. K. Jemisin’s The Inheritance Trilogy has been optioned for series development with Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s studio producing. Now we know that “optioned” doesn’t say much, but if we actually get a TV show with Yeine and Nahadoth, there will be many happy squees.
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  • There will be a new illustrated edition of The Lord of the Rings featureing J.R.R. Tolkien’s own illustrations. The shiny-looking hardback (or deluxe slipcase if you’d like to splurge) are set to come out in October. Now I’m a sensible person who understands that two editions of LOTR is enough to have and I really, really don’t need another one.

The Nebula Award Finalists are here!

The Nebula Award Finalists 2021 have been announced and they look EXCELLENT! As we know, there is usually a big overlap between Nebula and Hugo finalists but 2020 was such a great year for SFF publications that I wonder if there might be more different works on the two ballots this year. We’ll see, but either way, I am excited and will do my best to catch up on the Nebula finalists I haven’t read yet. Also: Congratulations to all the finalists!

The Nebula finalists are:

  • Susanna Clarke – Piranesi
  • N. K. Jemisin – The City We Became
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Mexican Gothic
  • C. L. Polk – The Midnight Bargain
  • Rebecca Roanhorse – Black Sun
  • Martha Wells – Network Effect

I’ve read four out of six and the two remaining ones have been on my TBR since they came out. And they’re both books that I’ve been super excited about. If you’re interested in my thoughts about the books I have read, my reviews for Piranesi, The City We Became, Mexican Gothic, and Network Effect can all be found on the blog. Spoiler for my Hugo nominations: all but one of these made my ballot. 😉

I’ve heard nothing but great things about Black Sun and while there hasn’t been as much buzz around The Midnight Bargain, what I have read was also very positive. I’m looking forward to both, especially since Polk’s book has been recommended as “Bridgerton with magic” and I am very much in the mood for that.

And because I’m equally excited about them, here are the Andre Norton Finalists for Best YA Fantasy and Science Fiction. My favorite YA novel of 2020, Raybearer, is on here. Yay!

  • Jordan Ifueko – Raybearer
  • Darcie Little Badger – Elatsoe
  • Shveta Thakrar – Star Daughter
  • Jenn Reese – A Game of Fox and Squirrells
  • T. Kingfisher – A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking

If Raybearer wins, I’ll be happy without having read any of the other finalists, because that book was so so good! Then again, I have adored everything T. Kingfisher has written, so Defensive Baking may be another favorite. And Elatsoe has been on my TBR for a while. It keeps looking at me and tempting me with its promise of GHOST DOGS! Star Daughter is also sitting on my shelf with gorgeous gold-sprayed edges. So, in short, I am looking forward to reading all of them.
The only book I hadn’t heard of before is A Game of Fox & Squirrels. But I believe Jenn Reese has been a Norton finalists before, so maybe I should check out her books.

Exciting April Publications

I’ve been reading very slowly so far in 2021 and that’s not good, considering the staggering amount of interesting books being published each month. April is no different, what with not one, but two sequels from well-beloved series coming up. And of course new books by well-known authors, plus some books by debut writers or at least new-to-me authors. 

HELEN OYEYEMI – PEACES (April 6th)

I adore Helen Oyeyemi, even if some of her books go right over my head and I’m not at all sure if I understand all she wants to tell me. This sounds like it’s going to make absolutely no sense at all but since it’s written by Oyeyemi, I’ll bet that it’s a beautiful kind of non-sense. Plus, there’s a pet mongoose.

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The prize-winning, bestselling author of GingerbreadBoy, Snow, Bird; and What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours returns with a vivid and inventive new novel about a couple forever changed by an unusual train voyage.

When Otto and Xavier Shin declare their love, an aunt gifts them a trip on a sleeper train to mark their new commitment–and to get them out of her house. Setting off with their pet mongoose, Otto and Xavier arrive at their sleepy local train station, but quickly deduce that The Lucky Day is no ordinary locomotive. Their trip on this former tea-smuggling train has been curated beyond their wildest imaginations, complete with mysterious and welcoming touches, like ingredients for their favorite breakfast. They seem to be the only people onboard, until Otto discovers a secretive woman who issues a surprising message. As further clues and questions pile up, and the trip upends everything they thought they knew, Otto and Xavier begin to see connections to their own pasts, connections that now bind them together.


KRYSTAL SUTHERLAND – HOUSE OF HOLLOW (April 6th)

I’ll admit I discovered this book because of its stunning cover, but then I read the synopsis and had to put it on my wishlist. Dark fairytale, three sisters disappeared and came back without any memories. Now strange things happen around them? I sense fairies and underworlds and a dark, nature-y curse of sorts? I am definitely intrigued.

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A dark, twisty modern fairytale where three sisters discover they are not exactly all that they seem and evil things really do go bump in the night.

Iris Hollow and her two older sisters are unquestionably strange. Ever since they disappeared on a suburban street in Scotland as children only to return a month a later with no memory of what happened to them, odd, eerie occurrences seem to follow in their wake. And they’re changing. First, their dark hair turned white. Then, their blue eyes slowly turned black. They have insatiable appetites yet never gain weight. People find them disturbingly intoxicating, unbearably beautiful, and inexplicably dangerous.

But now, ten years later, seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow is doing all she can to fit in and graduate high school on time–something her two famously glamourous globe-trotting older sisters, Grey and Vivi, never managed to do. But when Grey goes missing without a trace, leaving behind bizarre clues as to what might have happened, Iris and Vivi are left to trace her last few days. They aren’t the only ones looking for her though. As they brush against the supernatural they realize that the story they’ve been told about their past is unraveling and the world that returned them seemingly unharmed ten years ago, might just be calling them home.


CHARLIE JANE ANDERS – VICTORIES GREATER THAN DEATH (April 13th)

I love Charlie Jane Anders’ writing, so of course I want to see what her YA debut is like. Her adult books were both thought-provoking and lyrical, with complex characters and filled with big ideas. This book sounds much more lighthearted and fun but I’ll take lighthearted and fun written by Anders any day.

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A thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war with international bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders at the helm in her YA debut—think Star Wars meets Doctor Who, and buckle your seatbelts.

Tina has always known her destiny is outside the norm—after all, she is the human clone of the most brilliant alien commander in all the galaxies (even if the rest of the world is still deciding whether aliens exist). But she is tired of waiting for her life to begin.

And then it does—and maybe Tina should have been more prepared. At least she has a crew around her that she can trust—and her best friend at her side. Now, they just have to save the world.

From internationally bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders (All the Birds in the Sky) comes a thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war—Anders’s long-awaited YA debut.


RENA ROSSNER – THE LIGHT OF THE MIDNIGHT STARS (April 13th)

Aaaaah, look at that pretty cover! That’s basically the evolution of me buying a book. Shiny cover – great synopsis with a few buzz words – book purchase. Jewish folklore is pretty new to me, so I’m excited to dive into that, fairy tale vibes are totally my thing, and the Hungarian woods setting speaks to me because, well, Hungary is right next to my home country and that makes me feel like whatever fairy tale will happen in this book could be happening not that far from where I am.

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An evocative combination of fantasy, history, and Jewish folklore, The Light of the Midnight Stars is fairytale-inspired novel from the author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood.

Deep in the Hungarian woods, the sacred magic of King Solomon lives on in his descendants. Gathering under the midnight stars, they pray, sing and perform small miracles – and none are more gifted than the great Rabbi Isaac and his three daughters. Each one is blessed with a unique talent – whether it be coaxing plants to grow, or predicting the future by reading the path of the stars.

When a fateful decision to help an outsider ends in an accusation of witchcraft, fire blazes through their village. Rabbi Isaac and his family are forced to flee, to abandon their magic and settle into a new way of life. But a dark fog is making its way across Europe and will, in the end, reach even those who thought they could run from it. Each of the sisters will have to make a choice – and change the future of their family forever.

For more from Rena Rossner, check out The Sisters of the Winter Wood.


ALEXANDRA OVERY – THESE FEATHERED FLAMES (April 20th)

Russian folktales, twins, and queer characters – count me in. This is part one in at least a duology, so if I do read this, it’s yet another commitment to at least give the series a shot. But I honestly don’t think I’ll be able to resist if the fairy tale mood strikes me.

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A queer retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale

When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.


CIANNON SMART – WITCHES STEEPED IN GOLD (April 20th)

This cover has been going around since last year and I think many people are looking forward to this Jamaican-inspired witchy read. It does sound great but I want to keep my expectations rather low so the reading experience isn’t ruined by the internet’s tendency to overhype books with pretty covers.

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Divided by their order. United by their vengeance.

Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance.

Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.

Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But power is intoxicating, revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths they will go to win this game.

This Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy has the twisted cat-and-mouse of Killing Eve with the richly imagined fantasy world of Furyborn and Ember in the Ashes.


ASHAYE BROWN – DREAM COUNTRY (April 27th)

Sibling rivalry between gods sounds awesome! Add to that a murder mystery and meddling humans and you can just call the book Dina bait.

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A sibling rivalry to fuel your worst nightmares.

The dysfunctional triplet gods of Sleep, Dreams and Nightmares are kept separate by the deadly Gates of Horn and Ivory. Only one fact keeps them tightly bound: each of them is a suspect in their mother’s murder. Their knife-edge feud worsens when a mortal enters the world with astounding abilities that threaten to change the game for them all.

In this thrilling young adult fantasy, Ashaye Brown brings to life a visionary world infused with Kenyan, Brazilian, Caribbean, and Grecian cultural references. A story like no other with stakes as high as they come.


MARTHA WELLS – FUGITIVE TELEMETRY (April 27th)

Everyone’s favorite Murderbot is back with a new novella and I don’t think I’ll need to say anything more than that. If you haven’t read Murderbot yet, go get yourself a copy of All Systems Red and join us fans of this lovable killing machine who doesn’t want emotions but sometimes (okay, quite often) has one. Let’s all look forward to another Murderbot story together.

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No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!


NAOMI KRITZER – CHAOS ON CATNET (April 27th)

Catfishing on CatNet was a surprising delight. I didn’t expect to fall in love with that book so much but it was exactly as heartwarming as you’d expect, but also super exciting and myserious. I look forward to returning to CatNet and the adorable cast of this book, especially a certain AI character…

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In this follow-up to the award-winning near future YA thriller Catfishing on CatNet, It takes an AI to catch an AI…

When a mysterious entity starts hacking into social networks and chat rooms to instigate paranoia and violence in the real world, it’s up to Steph and her new friend, Nell, to find a way to stop it—with the help of their benevolent AI friend, CheshireCat.


NEWS FROM THE BLOG

My year didn’t start great but February was already much kinder, reading-wise. I did get sick and had to stay home from work… well, I work from home anyway, but you know, stay at home without working, for over a week. That gave me plenty of time to read and even though I often didn’t know what I was in the mood for, I ended up with some good books.

What I read:

  • Joe Abercrombie – Last Argument of Kings
    fantastic three-dimensional characters – epic battle scenes – fitting grimdark ending – twists not all that surprising
  • Terry Pratchett – Small Gods
    funny – heartwarming – religion on Discworld – made me laugh out loud and cry – book hangover
  • Octavia E. Butler – Parable of the Talents
    devestating yet hopeful – brilliant characters – epic but somehow still character-focused
  • Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs – Neverwhere (BBC audio)
    was a re-listen – amazing actors – great adaptation – atmospheric and exciting – a movie in your brain
  • Arkady Martine – A Memory Called Empire
    cool world-building – not as good as the first book – great characters and exploration of culture/identity
  • Vonda N. McIntyre – Dreamsnake
    strange but gripping – post-apocalyptic – LGBTQIA+ themes – kept me up late reading

Currently reading:

  • John Crowley – Little, Big
  • J. K. Rowling – Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal

Yeah, yeah, so Little, Big is becoming the book that won’t disappear from the currently reading pile. In addition to that slow burn, I’ve added another one that’s taking me a while (although not as long as I had feared). I’m reading the first Harry Potter book in Spanish in the hopes of shoving a bit of vocabulary into my brain before – hopefully – going on a trip to Barcelona. I doubt that “wand” and “cauldron” will be massively helpful but hey, I’m getting a feel for the language again and having fun at the same time.

In April I’m participating in a readathon so I hope that helps me finally catch up on my reading goals a bit. I have some great books picked out but I suspect the Hugo finalists will make me change all my plans.

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

The State of SFF – March 2021

2021 is moving along FAST and although I’m still waiting for my Covid vaccine (late March/early April sounds realistic at this point), at least SFF publishing is running smoothly again and promises many great books to come out this month.
The land of TV and movies isn’t sleeping either and awards season is getting started as well.

Quickie News

  • The Mythopoeic Award winners have been announced and congratulations are in order. Theodora Goss won the Adult Literature prize for Snow White Learns Witchcraft. The children’s prize went to Yoon Ha Lee for Dragon Pearl.
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  • Hafzah Faisal’s novel We Hunt the Flame (the first in a duology) has been optioned for TV. I have yet to read the book but an Arabian-inspired fantasy book by an Author of Color getting an adaptation is definitely exciting. I’m so tired of remakes of the same old stuff when there are so many new and fresh stories out there.
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  • Namina Forna’s The Gilded Ones, a book that just came out, will be turned into a movie. I’ve had an ARC of this book for months but as I’ve heard some very negative things, I’m putting off reading it. Depending on how long I can drag that out, the movie might be done before I ever read the book…
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  • Gina Carano will no longer be in The Mandalorian because of harmful statements made online. Unfortunately, she has promoted not wearing masks and lied about the US presidential election, among other things. At this point, I still get a little sad when people subscribe to conspiracy theories or post racist shit, but I’ve reached a level of tiredness that prevents me from the outrage I probably should be feeling. Someone was racist/anti-science/hateful/wrong on the internet? Must be Tuesday.
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It’s Time for Hugo Award Nominations!

If you’re a member of this year’s WorldCon or were a member of last year’s WorldCon, congratulations! You can nominated works for the Hugo Awards. And the time to start is now. You can nominate whatever works you liked the best and then come back later and add new ones or swap out others. The nomination period will be open until Marth 19th.

I had a super hard time this year because, for the first time ever, I wanted to nominated more novels than is possible. In other categories I’m relying heavily on my fellow SFF fans to pick the best of last year. I haven’t read many short stories or graphic novels but I’m sure the shortlist will lead me to all the good stuff I’ve missed.

Also, here’s a reminder that Best Fancast is not only for podcasts but also works for other formats such as Youtube videos. I’ve nominated three podcasts and two Youtube channels this year and I hope that others are also trying to open up the category and include a wider variety of fancasts.


Baen’s Bar controversy

I initially had this in the quickie news but, like many things that start small, this has grown a bit too large to talk about it in just a sentence or two.
It all began with Jason Sanford’s report about Baen’s Bar – an online forum for authors by the publisher Baen. From what I’ve learned so far, people on the Baen’s Bar forum talked about the political climate in the US and some comments went beyond just expressing one’s opinion, but actively incited or approved of violence.  File 770 has a good post here that rounds up comments and reactions. Wherever you may fall on the political spectrum and whatever you think about this particular report-turned-discussion-about-free-speech-versus-promoting-violence, I urge you to read more than the pieces I’m linking to here, and to make up your own mind.

In the last few weeks, things have escalated more and more. After being made aware of the accusations, Toni Weisskopf, editor and publisher of Baen Books, temporarily closed the forum and promised to investigate. She was supposed to be Guest of Honor at this year’s WorldCon but has since been uninvited. She is still welcome to attend the convention, of course, just not as Guest of Honor. Obviously, this has made some people upset, among them Larry Correia (remember, the original Sad Puppies guy).
Larry Correia reacted, as he usually does, with an overly dramatic post about cancel culture and how “The Left” is evil and simply can’t appreciate one of the greatest women in publishing. I don’t think very highly of Correia (I have no interest in his books, I disagree with him politically, and I think the way he writes his blog posts only tries to additionally divide an already divided society when we should all be doing the opposite) but I think it’s important to listen to different opinions.

I have no idea how much further this topic will go until this post goes up but I will finally finish reading Sanford’s report in its entirety and then see if anything can be learned of this latest SFF drama…


Shadow and Bone Trailer

Sorry for another Shadow and Bone update but the first proper trailer has arrived and it is making everyone EXCITED! Holy shit, the Shadow Fold looks good!

And the characters are perfect! Even though you see many of the them for just a second or two, you can tell how well they are cast. Inej has amazing “I’ll kill you with one of my 100 knives” energy, Genya looks stunning, the Darkling is gorgeous and villainous-looking as he should be – that character is made of bad boy vibes – and both Kaz and Jesper are just like I imagined them. Alina also seems to be perfect. Her bewildered look in the few scenes we see in the trailer is exactly right. The only one I personally pictured differently was Mal, but hey, I’m not complaining. 🙂

Shadow and Bone“: Erster Trailer zur Fantasyserie im Grishaverse enthüllt – fernsehserien.de

SHADOW AND BONE Trailer Introduces a Dangerous, Beautiful and Magical World

Netflix Drops First 'Shadow and Bone' Teaser Trailer

So yeah, I’m just as excited as the rest of the internet and can’t wait for April 23rd when the show finally arrives. Even if you haven’t set an alert on Netflix yet, I don’t think anyone will miss the release day of this. Now we only have to hope it’s as good as the trailer looks.

Exciting March Publications

February was a good month for SFF publications, so March stood up tall, fixed its crown and is striding along confidently, showing us that it can do even better! At this point, my TBR is so ridiculously high that adding ten-ish more books in March won’t make much of a difference anyway.

ARKADY MARTINE – A DESOLATION CALLED PEACE

Probably many people’s most anticipated release of the entire year, the sequel to the Hugo-winning and absolutely brilliant A Memory Called Empire is finally coming! I’ve been missing Mahit and Three Seagrass and I cannot wait to find out how this story continues. Political intrigue, cultural nuance, great characters, and – so Twitter tells me – a SPACE KITTEN!

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An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options.

In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity.

Whether they succeed or fail could change the fate of Teixcalaan forever.


C. L. CLARK – THE UNBROKEN

The book with the magnificent biceps on it doesn’t just look good, it also sounds fantastic and I have been looking forward to it for quite some time. A princess and a soldier reluctantly working together in a North-African inspired setting, plus assassins, epic stakes, and maybe a bit of romance? Yes, please.

54467051Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.

Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.

Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.


KAZUO ISHIGURO – KLARA AND THE SUN

I adored both books by Ishigoro that I’ve read and I really like that a Nobel Prize-winning author decided to write more science fiction. Clearly, the wider world is accepting that the genre has way more to offer than spaceships and aliens (not that those aren’t great).

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Klara and the Sun is a magnificent new novel from the Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro–author of Never Let Me Go and the Booker Prize-winning The Remains of the Day.

Klara and the Sun, the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.

Klara and the Sun is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: what does it mean to love?


A. G. SLATTER – ALL THE MURMURING BONES

Angela Slatter, writing as A. G. Slatter here, is a hugely talented Australian author who isn’t nearly known well enough. Her short story collections Sourdough and The Bitterwood Bible gave me All The Feels and I’ve been a diehard fan of hers ever since. This new fairy tale-esque book sounds amazing and I can’t wait to let Slatter break my heart again.

55302933. sy475 For fans of Naomi Novik and Katharine Arden, a dark gothic fairy tale from award-winning author Angela Slatter.

‘Harrowing and beautiful, this is the grim, fairy-tale gothic you’ve been waiting for’
CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN, New York Times bestselling author of Ararat

Long ago Miren O’Malley’s family prospered due to a deal struck with the mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren’s grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren’s freedom.

A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them.


LEIGH BARDUGO – RULE OF WOLVES

The Nikolai Duology comes to an end with this gorgeous-looking book. I liked King of Scars well enough but didn’t love it. Of course I’ll read the series conclusion but I hope it steps up its game a little.

36307674. sy475 The wolves are circling and a young king will face his greatest challenge in the explosive finale of the instant #1 New York Times-bestselling King of Scars Duology.

The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible.

The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.

The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.

King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.


AIDEN THOMAS – LOST IN THE NEVER WOODS

From the author of Cemetery Boys (which I haven’t read yet… can you tell my TBR is gigantic?) comes a fairy tale retelling of sorts that pushes all my buttons. Okay, just two of them, but they are big buttons. It’s a Peter Pan retelling and it has a gorgeous cover. Look at the silhouette the trees are making – it’s two faces! And the colors are so pretteeeeh!

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When children go missing, people want answers. When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.

It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.

Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.


ANNA-MARIE MCLEMORE – THE MIRROR SEASON

March really likes me, I think. Another (probably loose) retelling of a fairy tale, The Snow Queen, with a very pretty cover indeed. I’ve been buying all of McLemore’s books but – you guessed it – I haven’t read any of them yet. This should really be a priority in 2021.
The Mirror Season sounds like it has so much to offer. A girl and boy dealing with trauma and grief, magical pan dulce, disappearing trees. I may just make this my first McLemore book.

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When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly-magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season

Graciela Cristales’ whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.

But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.


GABRIELA HOUSTON – THE SECOND BELL

If, like me, you sometimes read fantasy novels and think that the monster’s point of view would be much more interesting than the hero’s POV, then this could be the book for you. The protagonist is a striga, a person with two hearts who is considered a demon, and the story seems to deal with a mother-daughter relationship.

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In a world which believes her to be a monster, a young striga fights to harness the power of her second heart, while her mother sacrifices everything to stop her…

In an isolated mountain community, sometimes a child is born with two hearts. This child is called a striga and is considered a demon who must be abandoned on the edge of the forest. The child’s mother must then decide to leave with her infant, or stay and try to forget.

Nineteen year-old striga, Salka, and her mother, Miriat, made the choice to leave and live a life of deprivation and squalor in an isolated village. The striga tribe share the human belief that to follow the impulses of their other hearts is dangerous, inviting unspoken horrors and bringing ruin onto them all.

Salka, a headstrong and independent young woman, finds herself in a life threatening situation that forces her to explore the depths of her true nature and test the bonds between mother and child…


KATE HOPE DAY – IN THE QUICK

I’ve only recently stumbled across this book (yet another cool cover!) and if it keeps what the blurb promises, this will be great! Bonding over scientific work, a mystery in space that needs to be solved, and two difficult characters who have to work together.

54072857A young, ambitious female astronaut’s life is upended by a fiery love affair that threatens the rescue of a lost crew in this brilliantly imagined novel in the tradition of Station Eleven and The Martian.

June is a brilliant but difficult girl with a gift for mechanical invention, who leaves home to begin a grueling astronaut training program. Six years later, she has gained a coveted post as an engineer on a space station, but is haunted by the mystery of Inquiry, a revolutionary spacecraft powered by her beloved late uncle’s fuel cells. The spacecraft went missing when June was twelve years old, and while the rest of the world has forgotten them, June alone has evidence that makes her believe the crew is still alive.

She seeks out James, her uncle’s former protégée, also brilliant, also difficult, who has been trying to discover why Inquiry’s fuel cells failed. James and June forge an intense intellectual bond that becomes an electric attraction. But the love that develops between them as they work to solve the fuel cell’s fatal flaw threatens to destroy everything they’ve worked so hard to create–and any chance of bringing the Inquiry crew home alive.

Equal parts gripping narrative of scientific discovery and charged love story, In the Quick is an exploration of the strengths and limits of human ability in the face of hardship and the costs of human ingenuity. At its beating heart are June and James, whose love for each other is eclipsed only by their drive to conquer the challenges of space travel.


News from the blog

My year didn’t start great but February was already much kinder, reading-wise. I did get sick and had to stay home from work… well, I work from home anyway, but you know, stay at home without working, for over a week. That gave me plenty of time to read and even though I often didn’t know what I was in the mood for, I ended up with some good books.

What I read:

  • Everina Maxwell – Winter’s Orbit
    fun romance in space – intriguing world building – slow middle part
  • Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs – The Sandman (Audible)
    great voice acting – works surprisingly well on audio – cool world and cool stories
  • Star Wars – From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back
    anthology of 40 stories – some great, some not so much – nice for fans and to discover new authors
  • Andrea Stewart – The Bone Shard Daughter
    fast-paced – cool world building – complex characters – leaves you eager for the next part
  • Susan Cooper – The Dark is Rising
    disappointing – weak main character – hardly any plot – no conflict, no drive – nice writing
  • Nnedi Okorafor – Remote Control
    highly interesting world building – great writing – plot a bit unfocused/unsure what it wants to achieve
  • Tasha Suri – Empire of Sand 
    great world building – intricate characters – weaker middle-part – makes me want to read the companion novel NOW

Currently reading:

  • John Crowley – Little, Big
  • Joe Abercrombie – Last Argument of Kings

I’m still reading Little, Big and I’m still enjoying it. It is not a riveting read, there is very little plot to speak of and so my other books often take precedence. But none of them reach Crowley when it comes to atmosphere or pure strangeness.
I’ve also finally decided to finish the First Law Trilogy. I had forgotten how much I liked Abercrombie’s writing and how fast I can read his books. 670 pages doesn’t sound so intimidating when they’re flying by. Unless he messed up completely on the ending, you can expect a very positive review soon. Also, Glokta is the best!

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

The State of SFF – February 2021

Ah, 2021. We had such high hopes for you. Of course we all knew, the pandemic wouldn’t suddenly go away but progress has been… let’s say sluggish, at least in my country. Well, at least my grandfather has been vaccinated already and the rest of my family is waiting their turn, doing the same stuff we’ve been doing for the last 10 months. Working from home whenever possible, wearing masks, barely going outside. At least there are books, right?

Quickie News

  • The Dunk and Egg novella prequels to A Song of Ice and Fire are in early development at HBO. I personally look forward to this much more than any other spinoffs because these novellas are really good and a fun, lighter addition to the world of Westeros.
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  • Author Storm Constantine has passed away. She is best-known for her Wraeththu Chronicles, which begin with The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit.
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  • Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow might be coming to FX. I’ve just recently read this book and it ripped my heart out. So I’m very much rooting for an adaptation, especially one written by Queen’s Gambit showrunner Scott Frank!

Wheel of Time Concept art revealed

This reminds me that I should maybe finally start reading The Wheel of Time, something I’ve been planning to do for ever and somehow never managed. If you’ve somehow missed the news, Amazon is developing The Wheel of Time as a TV show and fans are rightfully excited.
Now, some concept art has been revealed that evokes the exact epic fantasy feelings I have been hoping for. Although I haven’t yet read the series, I am super excited for the TV version. Now somebody please kick my ass into gear and make me read The Eye of the World.

The Wheel of Time Preview Honors "The Eye of the World" Anniversary

Shadow and Bone (Netflix) first look

Shadow and Bone First Look Photos and Characters Posters Released by NetflixWe’ve got a first look at what the Grishaverse Netflix show will be like. So far, character posters and some stills have been revealed and no matter if you’re part of the Grisha fandom or not, you have to admit that the costumes look fantastic!

I can’t wait for April 23rd (my Netflix reminder has been set for weeks) to discover how the cast will tackle their roles as well as how the two storylines of the Grisha Trilogy and the Six of Crows duology will be intertwined. Maybe they’ll do a Witcher and simply mix scenes set in different time periods, having the audience figure it all out. Or maybe they changed the plot so characters who never meet in the books do so in the show? I have no idea but I am excited!

jaspar, inej, and kaz draped in shadows

Exciting February Publications

You guys, February is going to be awesome! There’s a good mix of authors I already know and new-to-me authors but all of them have books coming out that tickle my interest. Also, this month’s covers are pretty stunning, don’t you think?

EVERINA MAXWELL – WINTER’S ORBIT

I am beyond excited for this space opera romance where a prince has to marry a guy to save the world (I guess) and then they fall in love. Marketing promises a trope-feast of the best kind and I cannot wait. Also, this is the UK cover because I like it more than the US version.

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Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.


T. L. HUCHU – THE LIBRARY OF THE DEAD

Edinburgh, ghosts, and a cynical teen. Need I say more?

52205603. sy475 Sixth Sense meets Stranger Things in T. L. Huchu’s The Library of the Dead, a sharp contemporary fantasy following a precocious and cynical teen as she explores the shadowy magical underside of modern Edinburgh.

WHEN GHOSTS TALK SHE WILL LISTEN

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker – and they sure do love to talk. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to those they left behind. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and strength. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will rock her world.

Ropa will dice with death as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. And although underground Edinburgh hides a wealth of dark secrets, she also discovers an occult library, a magical mentor and some unexpected allies.

Yet as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?


GENEVIEVE GORNICHEC – THE WITCH’S HEART

A witch falls in love with Loki and that’s really all I need to know. But this also has a more literary feel to it, so maybe we’ll get a Norse mythology version of what Madeline Miller does with Greek myths?

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When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods in this moving, subversive debut novel that reimagines Norse mythology.

Angrboda’s story begins where most witches’ tales end: with a burning. A punishment from Odin for refusing to provide him with knowledge of the future, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the farthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be Loki, and her initial distrust of him transforms into a deep and abiding love.

Their union produces three unusual children, each with a secret destiny, who Angrboda is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin’s all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.

With help from the fierce huntress Skadi, with whom she shares a growing bond, Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family…or rise to remake their future. From the most ancient of tales this novel forges a story of love, loss, and hope for the modern age.


NAMINA FORNA – THE GILDED ONES

I’ve had an ARC of this book for months which means I’ve been excited for just as long. As with a lot of YA books, I feel an underlying dread that it could be the same cheap old story in new clothing, but I am quite hopeful that this will turn out to be great. That cover is definitely a stunner!

40024121. sy475 Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.


ALIETTE DE BODARD – FIREHEART TIGER

You can’t really go wrong with Aliette de Bodard but when you mention The Goblin Emperor and Howl’s Moving Castle in the blurb, just go ahead and take my money.

53317495. sy475 Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns with a powerful romantic fantasy that reads like The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a pre-colonial Vietnamese-esque world.

Fire burns bright and has a long memory….

Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to the powerful faraway country of Ephteria as a child. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, haunted not only by memories of her first romance, but by worrying magical echoes of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.

Thanh’s new role as a diplomat places her once again in the path of her first love, the powerful and magnetic Eldris of Ephteria, who knows exactly what she wants: romance from Thanh and much more from Thanh’s home. Eldris won’t take no for an answer, on either front. But the fire that burned down one palace is tempting Thanh with the possibility of making her own dangerous decisions.

Can Thanh find the freedom to shape her country’s fate—and her own?


SARAH GAILEY – THE ECHO WIFE

I love Sarah Gailey’s writing so much! They come up with new and interesting ideas, not least of them a husband cheating on his wife… with herself. I can’t wait to see how Gailey tackles clones and murder and whatever else they’ve put into this book. This is one of my most anticipated releases of the year.

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“When they said all happy families are alike, I don’t think this is what they meant…”

Evelyn Caldwell’s husband Nathan has been having an affair — with Evelyn Caldwell. Or, to be exact, with a genetically cloned replica.

After a morning that begins with a confrontation and ends with Nathan’s body bleeding out on the kitchen floor, the two Caldwell wives will have to think fast—before sharing everything includes sharing a jail cell.

The Echo Wife is a non-stop thrill ride of lies, betrayal, and identity, perfect for fans of Big Little Lies and Killing Eve.


BECKY CHAMBERS – THE GALAXY AND THE GROUND WITHIN

February is good to us! Becky Chambers brings us a new Wayfarers novel so our need for cozy space opera, diverse characters, and a plot that doesn’t rely on action or blood and murder will be filled. Plus, the trope of being stuck in a place with complete strangers that you slowly get to know better totally works for me.

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With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.

At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.

When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.


NICOLE LESPERANCE – THE WIDE STARLIGHT

This is my February wild card. I have no idea whether this book will be as great as I hope but magical Northern Lights, a mysteriously disappearing mother, and a journey through a Northern setting sounds too good to miss.

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The Hazel Wood meets The Astonishing Color of After in this dreamy, atmospheric novel that follows sixteen-year-old Eli as she tries to remember what truly happened the night her mother disappeared off a glacier in Norway under the Northern Lights.

Never whistle at the Northern Lights, the story goes, or they’ll sweep down from the sky and carry you away.
Sixteen-year-old Eline Davis knows it’s true. She was there ten years ago, on a frozen fjord in Svalbard, Norway, the night her mother whistled at the lights and then vanished.

Now Eli lives an ordinary life with her dad on Cape Cod. But when the Northern Lights are visible over the Cape for just one night, she can’t resist the possibility of seeing her mother again. So she whistles—and it works. Her mother appears, with snowy hair, frosty fingertips and a hazy story of where she’s been all these years. And she doesn’t return alone.

Along with Eli’s mother’s reappearance come strange, impossible things. Narwhals swimming in Cape Cod Bay, meteorites landing in Eli’s yard, and three shadowy princesses with ominous messages. It’s all too much, too fast, and Eli pushes her mother away. She disappears again—but this time, she leaves behind a note that will send Eli on a journey across continents, to the northern tip of the world:

Find me where I left you.


News from the blog

January was not great. It wasn’t terrible either, but unfortunately I picked up some books that I had high expectations for and that I ended up disliking. On the other hand, I finished a trilogy, re-read an old favorite (still good) and liked one book more than I had expected.

What I read in January:

  • Stina Leicht – Persephone Station
    unfocused – bland characters – terrible dialogue – cool ideas
  • Alechia Dow – The Sound of Stars
    cheesy romance – half-assed world building – repetitive plot
  • Various Authors – Faraway
    great twists on fairy tales – sometimes dark – good writing – Soman Chainani rocks!
  • Naomi Novik – A Deadly Education
    slow start  – cool monsters – lots of open questions – shouldn’t have liked it but somehow did
  • Holly Black – How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories
    nice little addition to the Folk of the Air Trilogy – not groundbreaking but good – lovely illustrations
  • Marissa Meyer – Supernova
    epic ending to the trilogy – loooong middle part – not my favorite but liked it
  • Michael Ende – The Neverending Story (re-read)
    fantastic ideas – writing style felt kind of distant – still great after all these years

Currently reading:

  • Neil Gaiman – Sandman (full cast audiobook) (re-read)
  • John Crowley – Little, Big
  • Various Authors – From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Nnedi Okorafor – Remote Control

I have two current reads that I consider longer projects. The Star Wars anthology is a chonker of a book and I’m not reading it all in one go. A few stories here or there is working well for me. That’s particularly nice when I’ve had an exhausting day and just feel like reading a few pages of something. And thanks to the anthology I’ve already discovered some authors that I want to read more of.
Little, Big on the other hand is taking me longer because it’s the kind of book you need to savor. It’s not about the plot so much as about discovering what the hell is going on and just enjoying the ride. And let’s not forget the language is beautiful and sometimes makes me linger and just admire how well Crowley can string a sentence together.

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

The State of SFF – January 2021

Happy New Year everyone!
I hope you’ve all had a good time during the holidays, surrounded by family (as much as possible, at least) and celebrated New Year’s responsibly. The shitshow that was 2020 is finally over and although that doesn’t mean we’re suddenly past the pandemic, there is hope on the horizon.

Quickie News

  • The 2021 WorldCon – DisCon III – might be held in December instead of August due to the pandemic. DisCon sent out a poll to all its members to see which date participants prefer. In December, the convention could most likely be an in-person event while August is anyone’s guess.
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  • Another piece of Hugo Awards news: In 2021, there will be a Best Video Game category. It’s a one time thing but when a WorldCon’s new category is well received, it might just stick around.
  • The Goodreads Choice Awards have been announced and the winners are… let’s say predictable. The authors with the most (or most active on Goodreads) fans have won. This is just my personal opinion but by no stretch of the imagination can I believe that Sarah J. Maas wrote a better novel than N. K. Jemisin, Susanna Clarke, Brandon Sanderson, R. F. Kuang, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Naomi Novik… But I do want to say congratulations to Silvia Moreno Garcia who won Best Horror for her excellent novel Mexican Gothic.

mythopoeic award finalists announced

The Mythopoeic Awards are not as well known as the Hugos or Nebulas but I am a huge fan of their finalists and winners. The 2020 finalists have been announced and they look great! P. Djèlí Clark alongside Theodora Goss and Alix E. Harrow, plus Jo Walton and G. Willow Wilson… what more can you want, really? I’ve only read Yoon Ha Lee in the Children’s Literature category but I’m excited to check out the other finalists. Look at those adorable covers!

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature

  • P. Djèlí Clark, The Haunting of Tram Car 015 (Tor.com, 2019)
  • Theodora Goss, Snow White Learns Witchcraft (Mythic Delirium Books, 2019)
  • Alix E. Harrow, The Ten Thousand Doors of January (Redhook, 2019)
  • Jo Walton, Lent: A Novel of Many Returns (Tor Books, 2019)
  • G. Willow Wilson, The Bird King (Grove Press, 2019)

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature

  • Erin Entrada Kelly, Lalani of the Distant Sea (Green Willow Books, 2019)
  • Yoon Ha Lee, Dragon Pearl (Rick Riordan Presents, 2019)
  • Hilary McKay, The Time of Green Magic (Macmillan, 2019)
  • Suzanne Nelson, A Tale Magnolius (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019)
  • Anne Ursu, The Lost Girl (Walden Pond Press, 2019)

Shadow and Bone (the TV Show) is coming in April

I am so excited!!! I haven’t even been a Grisha fan for that long but all the cast pictures and this teaser trailer took me right back into that universe and reminded me how much I was enjoying Alina’s story. I cannot wait to see how the Netflix show will combine the storylines from the original Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology, but I’m very pleased with the casting and the sinister, dramatic look of the trailer. There will be eight episodes, the first of which is appropriately called  “A Searing Burst of Light”.

Shadow and Bone (TV Series 2021– ) - IMDb


Exciting January Publications

STINA LEICHT – PERSEPHONE STATION

I only have unread books by Stina Leicht but they all sound amazing. This new one doesn’t only sound cool, it also has a stunning cover that I need to get my hands on. Shady bars on backwater planets? Criminals with a heart of gold? Sign me up!

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Hugo award–nominated author Stina Leicht has created a take on space opera for fans of The Mandalorian and Cowboy Bebop in this high-stakes adventure.

Persephone Station, a seemingly backwater planet that has largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation as the planet has a few secrets the corporation tenaciously wants to exploit.

Rosie – owner of Monk’s Bar, in the corporate town of West Brynner, caters to wannabe criminals and rich Earther tourists, of a sort, at the front bar. However, exactly two types of people drank at Monk’s back bar: members of a rather exclusive criminal class and those who sought to employ them.

Angel – ex-marine and head of a semi-organized band of beneficent criminals, wayward assassins, and washed up mercenaries with a penchant for doing the honorable thing is asked to perform a job for Rosie. What this job reveals will effect Persephone and put Angel and her squad up against an army. Despite the odds, they are rearing for a fight with the Serrao-Orlov Corporation. For Angel, she knows that once honor is lost, there is no regaining it. That doesn’t mean she can’t damned well try


M. A. CARRICK – THE MASK OF MIRRORS

Con artists, intrigues among noble houses, feuding aristocrats, and magic. It’s not like these things haven’t been there before, but I quite enjoy all of these tropes. Someone sneaking their way into a noble house sounds like there will be a lot of “will she be found out” moments and those always work very well on me. 🙂

Nightmares are creeping through the city of dreams…

Renata Viraudax is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadezra — the city of dreams — with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house and secure her fortune and her sister’s future.

But as she’s drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as corrupt magic begins to weave its way through Nadezra, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled — with Ren at their heart.

Darkly magical and intricately imagined, The Mask of Mirrors is the unmissable start to the Rook & Rose trilogy, a rich and dazzling fantasy adventure in which a con artist, a vigilante, and a crime lord must unite to save their city.


JOANNA RUTH MEYER – INTO THE HEARTLESS WOOD

I adored Meyer’s retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon – Echo North. If you haven’t read it, do so! There’s such a great twist and a magical library!!! So of course I’m going to read her newest fairy tale-esque book.

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Epic, heartbreaking, and darkly atmospheric, Into the Heartless Wood is the story of impossible love between a monstrous tree siren and a boy who lives at the edge of her wood.

The forest is a dangerous place, where siren song lures men and women to their deaths. For centuries, a witch has harvested souls to feed the heartless tree, using its power to grow her domain.

When Owen Merrick is lured into the witch’s wood, one of her tree-siren daughters, Seren, saves his life instead of ending it. Every night, he climbs over the garden wall to see her, and every night her longing to become human deepens. But a shift in the stars foretells a dangerous curse, and Seren’s quest to become human will lead them into an ancient war raging between the witch and the king who is trying to stop her.


NNEDI OKORAFOR – REMOTE CONTROL

Nnedi Okorafor is always a win and she gets better with every book. This novella has been on my radar ever since it was announced and I cannot wait to meet Sankofa and her FOX COMPANION!

34215764. sy475 The new book by Nebula and Hugo Award-winner, Nnedi Okorafor.

“She’s the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Beware of her. Mind her. Death guards her like one of its own.”

The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From hereon in she would be known as Sankofa­­–a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.

Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks–alone, except for her fox companion–searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.

But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion?


S. T. GIBSON – A DOWRY OF BLOOD

This would not be the kind of book I usually  go for, but the author described it on Twitter something like this:

  • sapphic yearning at the opera
  • bi rep for days
  • obsessive love
  • tangled polyamorous relationships
  • kisses in cathedrals
  • gothic abandoned chateaus
  • eating abusive men

Of course now I am intrigued. I also realized I have one of Gibson’s books on my TBR (Robber Girl) but haven’t read it yet. It’s a fairytale retelling so this appears to be an author just to my liking.

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.


KRISTEN CASHORE – WINTERKEEP

I’m a little behind on the Graceling series (I’ve read the first two books, Graceling even several times) but that doesn’t stop my excitement for this fourth instalment in the series. I also quite love the new covers. This publication might just be the nudge I needed to finally pick up Bitterblue.

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The highly anticipated next book in the New York Times bestselling, award-winning Graceling Realm series, which has sold 1.3 million copies.

Four years after Bitterblue left off, a new land has been discovered to the east: Torla; and the closest nation to Monsea is Winterkeep. Winterkeep is a land of miracles, a democratic republic run by people who like each other, where people speak to telepathic sea creatures, adopt telepathic foxes as pets, and fly across the sky in ships attached to balloons.

But when Bitterblue’s envoys to Winterkeep drown under suspicious circumstances, she and Giddon and her half sister, Hava, set off to discover the truth–putting both Bitterblue’s life and Giddon’s heart to the test when Bitterbue is kidnapped. Giddon believes she has drowned, leaving him and Hava to solve the mystery of what’s wrong in Winterkeep.

Lovisa Cavenda is the teenage daughter of a powerful Scholar and Industrialist (the opposing governing parties) with a fire inside her that is always hungry, always just nearly about to make something happen. She is the key to everything, but only if she can figure out what’s going on before anyone else, and only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.


MOLLY RINGLE – LAVA RED FEATHER BLUE

Sleeping Beauty but Beauty is a prince instead of a princess – hell yes! The synopsis of this book alone has so many things that make me curious. I don’t think I’ve read Molly Ringle before but I definitely will when this book comes out.

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Awakening the handsome prince is supposed to end the fairy tale, not begin it. But the Highvalley witches have rarely done things the way they’re supposed to. On the north Pacific island of Eidolonia, hidden from the world by enchantments, Prince Larkin has lain in a magical sleep since 1799 as one side of a truce between humans and fae. That is, until Merrick Highvalley, a modern-day witch, discovers an old box of magic charms and cryptic notes hidden inside a garden statue.

Experimenting with the charms, Merrick finds himself inside the bower where Larkin lies, and accidentally awakens him. Worse still, releasing Larkin from the spell also releases Ula Kana, a faery bent on eradicating humans from the island. With the truce collapsing and hostilities escalating throughout the country, Merrick and Larkin form an unlikely alliance and become even unlikelier heroes as they flee into the perilous fae realm on a quest to stop Ula Kana and restore harmony to their island.


News from the blog

December was wonderfully quiet. I picked up some comfort reads or authors that I knew wouldn’t let me down, I caught up some more on my reading goals and I am altogether pleased with my December books. Even if I’m one of the very few people who didn’t like Schwab’s latest novel…

What I read in December:

  • V. E. Schwab – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
    cool concept – fell flat for me – one-dimensional characters – white-centric – romance-focused
  • Laini Taylor – Muse of Nightmares
    gorgeous prose – amazing ending – twists – brilliant villains
  • Matt Ruff – Lovecraft Country
    racism in the 1950s – anthology-like novel – great historical fiction, not so great fantasy
  • Octavia E. Butler – Parable of the Sower
    depressing – post-apocalyptic – brilliant writing – really  sad but also hopeful
  • N. K. Jemisin – The Stone Sky
    great series-ender – fantastic writing – exploring racism through fantasy – also just plain great fantasy
  • Karen M. McManus – The Cousins
    family mystery – nice and easy to read teen thriller – characters a bit bland – great twists
  • Frances Hardinge – Cuckoo Song
    trademark weird and original – brilliant character dynamics – magical world beside ours – good ending

Wrap-ups and end-of-the-year posts:

Currently reading:

  • Michael Ende – The Neverending Story (re-read)
  • Marissa Meyer – Supernova

It’s unusual for me to only read two books at the same time and even more unusual to make one of those books a re-read but I saw my old copy of Die Unendliche Geschichte on the shelf and just felt like going back to Fantasia/Fantastica – it’s called Phantásien in German which is simply the word “fantasies” with the emphasis on a different syllable. I keep thinking what a tough job it must have been for the translator not just because of made up words that simply don’t translate easily but also because each chapter starts with a different letter of the alphabet (so the chapter illustrations make sense). If I didn’t have such an aversion to some of my favorite characters having different names (Fuchur is Falkor), maybe I would actually read the translation one day. Oh well, not this time I guess.

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

The State of SFF – December 2020

December is here and we got the first snow of the season today! 🙂
For those of you celebrating, Christmas is just around the corner and buying presents is more difficult than ever. I only have a few things picked out so far and with the world still gripped by the pandemic, random shopping sprees aren’t exactly a good idea. So I’ll be doing a lot of online shopping and hope that postal workers get a nice bonus for all the extra work they’ll be doing this year.

Quickie News

  • The Goodreads Choice Awards happened again, and it appears whoever adds the first batch of nominees is aware that these are by no means an award for the best books of the year. As several books were nominated that hadn’t even come out yet, it’s more obvious than ever that these awards are simply a measure of which authors have the widest reach and the biggest fanbase. Voting is now over and we’ll soon know who won this pretty useless popularity contest that, for some reason, I follow every year even though I have a super low opinion of it…line
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  • Season 2 of The Witcher has paused filming due to several crewmembers being tested positive for Covid-19. I hope everyone has recovered by now and is doing well! We’ll get the second season when we get it. After all, there are worse things than looking forward to Henry Cavill saying “Hmm” a lot.
  • Nalo Hopkinson was named a SFWA Grand Master and I couldn’t be more thrilled. CONGRATULATIONS!!! Check out her books if you haven’t and dive into her amazing worlds, inspired by Caribbean myth, featuring brilliant protagonists of Color, and telling innovative SF stories.
  • The NPR Book Concierge for 2020 is online. Go forth and use it and may your TBRs grow by about 300 books (as mine did).

Terry Pratchett’s Amazing Maurice will be an animated movie

Okay, I’m a little biased here because The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is one of my favorite Discworld novels – one which stands quite well on its own, so if you haven’t read Discworld, you can totally start with this YA entry!
Narrativia, the late Sir Terry’s production company, announced that The Amazing Maurice will be a Sky Original movie, starring Hugh Laurie, Emilia Clarke, David Thewlis, Himesh Patel, Gemma Arterton and Hugh Bonneville. HOW COOL IS THAT?

Now, I’m not at all sure about the cat in this promotional picture (the face looks eerily human), but I honestly don’t care much about the way the movie will look. If it brings me a fraction of the joy and entertainment the book did, then it will be a great movie indeed. Now all we have to do is wait until 2022. But then, we’re all pretty good at waiting by now, aren’t we.

The Sword & Laser Podcast Pick for December

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler: 9781609807191 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

I am a longtime listener of the Sword & Laser podcast and whenever I feel like it, I read along with their monthly book picks. The book for December is none other than Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, a book that was on my “last books to read this year list” anyway, so I’ll be following the discussion on Goodreads.
If you also want to read more (or your first) Octavia Butler novel, this is a great way to do it. Tom and Veronica usually kick off the book discussion spoiler-free and then discuss the ending in a second episode. Our favorite mispronouncing host Veronica won’t be there for a while because she is having a baby, but Tom promised some amazing co-hosts and I can’t wait to hear what they think about this book.

Exciting December Publications

KACEN CALLENDER – KING OF THE RISING

The sequel to the World Fantasy Award winning Queen of the Conquered is coming! I can’t say that the first book was a happy read because it deals with very dark themes and complex, multi-faceted characters, but it was a damn good book. Naturally, I’ll be reading the sequel which follows my favorite character from the first book.

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The second novel in the Islands of Blood and Storm series set in a Caribbean-inspired fantasy world embattled by colonial oppression—perfect for fans of R.F. Kuang and Tasha Suri.

A revolution has swept through the islands of Hans Lollik and former slave Loren Jannik has been chosen to lead the survivors in a bid to free the islands forever. But the rebels are running out of food, weapons and options. And as the Fjern inch closer to reclaiming Hans Lollik with every battle, Loren is faced with a choice that could shift the course of the revolution in their favor-or doom it to failure.


SAM J. MILLER – THE BLADE BETWEEN

This took me very much by surprise. I only found out this book was coming out a few weeks ago but anything by Sam J. Miller automatically lands on my wishlist. I have loved The Art of Starving, as well as Blackfish City and Destroy All Monsters, so I’m sure I will enjoy this one too. Even though it sounds like the fantasy elements are more subtle.

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From Nebula Award winner Sam J. Miller comes a frightening and uncanny ghost story about a rapidly changing city in upstate New York and the mysterious forces that threaten it.

Ronan Szepessy promised himself he’d never return to Hudson. The sleepy upstate town was no place for a restless gay photographer. But his father is ill and New York City’s distractions have become too much for him. He hopes that a quick visit will help him recharge.

Ronan reconnects with two friends from high school: Dom, his first love, and Dom’s wife, Attalah. The three former misfits mourn what their town has become—overrun by gentrifiers and corporate interests. With friends and neighbors getting evicted en masse and a mayoral election coming up, Ronan and Attalah craft a plan to rattle the newcomers and expose their true motives. But in doing so, they unleash something far more mysterious and uncontainable.

Hudson has a rich, proud history and, it turns out, the real estate developers aren’t the only forces threatening its well-being: the spirits undergirding this once-thriving industrial town are enraged. Ronan’s hijinks have overlapped with a bubbling up of hate and violence among friends and neighbors, and everything is spiraling out of control. Ronan must summon the very best of himself to shed his own demons and save the city he once loathed.


NGHI VO – WHEN THE TIGER CAME DOWN THE MOUNTAIN

If you haven’t read the beautiful and highly original novella The Empress of Salt and Fortune, then do yourself a favor and go pick it up. And then join me in waiting for this sequel/companion novella which looks to also delve into history and the question of who gets to tell it.

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“Dangerous, subtle, unexpected and familiar, angry and ferocious and hopeful. . . . The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a remarkable accomplishment of storytelling.”—NPR

The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover—a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty—and discover how truth can survive becoming history.

Nghi Vo returns to the empire of Ahn and The Singing Hills Cycle in this mesmerizing, lush standalone follow-up to The Empress of Salt and Fortune


RAINBOW ROWELL – THE PRINCE AND THE TROLL

This represents an entire little series by Amazon publishing which takes fairy tales and spins them around – you all know that this kind of bait always works on me. Fairy tales retold are my Kryptonite. The five books/stories (?) in the Faraway series are definitely on my radar, especially The Cleaners by Ken Liu!

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A charming everyman and a mysterious something-under-the-bridge cross paths in a short fairy tale by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park and the Simon Snow series.

It’s fate when a man accidentally drops his phone off the bridge. It’s fortune when it’s retrieved by a friendly shape sloshing in the muck underneath. From that day forward, as they share a coffee every morning, an unlikely friendship blooms. Considering the reality for the man above, where life seems perfect, and that of the sharp-witted creature below, how forever after can a happy ending be?


DIANA PINGUICHA – A CURSE OF ROSES

I am a bit unsure about this one. It sounds very good. An #ownvoices story set in Portugal during a famine with a princess whose magical powers are anything but helpful and a forbidden lesbian romance. I should jump on that. But for some reason, I fear that the plot is already spelled out in the synopsis. You know, like when a movie shows you all the cool bits in the trailer and then there’s very little left when you watch the whole thing. I may be totally wrong here, it’s just a feeling I have. I’ll wait for the first reviews and then decide whether to read it myself.

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With just one touch, bread turns into roses. With just one bite, cheese turns into lilies.
There’s a famine plaguing the land, and Princess Yzabel is wasting food simply by trying to eat. Before she can even swallow, her magic—her curse—has turned her meal into a bouquet. She’s on the verge of starving, which only reminds her that the people of Portugal have been enduring the same pain.
If only it were possible to reverse her magic. Then she could turn flowers…into food.
Fatyan, a beautiful Enchanted Moura, is the only one who can help. But she is trapped by magical binds. She can teach Yzabel how to control her curse—if Yzabel sets her free with a kiss.
As the King of Portugal’s betrothed, Yzabel would be committing treason, but what good is a king if his country has starved to death?
With just one kiss, Fatyan is set free. And with just one kiss, Yzabel is yearning for more.
She’d sought out Fatyan to help her save the people. Now, loving her could mean Yzabel’s destruction.
Based on Portuguese legend, this #OwnVoices historical fantasy is an epic tale of mystery, magic, and making the impossible choice between love and duty…


SABAA TAHIR – A SKY BEYOND THE STORM

I still haven’t caught up on this series (I’ve read the first two books) and I’m honestly not sure if I will. The second book was pretty disappointing, compared to the emotional thrill ride that was An Ember in the Ashes. But for those of you following the series, the long-awaited finale is finally arriving. (Also, I didn’t read the synopsis below for fear of spoilers. Depending on where you are in the series, you may want to skipt it too 🙂 )

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Prepare for the jaw-dropping finale of Sabaa Tahir’s beloved New York Times bestselling An Ember in the Ashes fantasy series, and discover: Who will survive the storm?

Picking up just a few months after A Reaper at the Gates left off…

The long-imprisoned jinn are on the attack, wreaking bloody havoc in villages and cities alike. But for the Nightbringer, vengeance on his human foes is just the beginning.
At his side, Commandant Keris Veturia declares herself Empress, and calls for the heads of any and all who defy her rule. At the top of the list? The Blood Shrike and her remaining family.

Laia of Serra, now allied with the Blood Shrike, struggles to recover from the loss of the two people most important to her. Determined to stop the approaching apocalypse, she throws herself into the destruction of the Nightbringer. In the process, she awakens an ancient power that could lead her to victory–or to an unimaginable doom.
And deep in the Waiting Place, the Soul Catcher seeks only to forget the life–and love–he left behind. Yet doing so means ignoring the trail of murder left by the Nightbringer and his jinn. To uphold his oath and protect the human world from the supernatural, the Soul Catcher must look beyond the borders of his own land. He must take on a mission that could save–or destroy–all that he knows.


News from the blog

In November, I was preoccupied with things other than reading. The month began with a terrorist attack on my city, Vienna (my family and friends weren’t hurt). Then the US presidential elections happened so that was a week spent reading mostly news articles and Twitter but definitely no SFF books.
But I did find my way back into a reading routine and simply let my mood guide me to the next book. And my mood did a pretty good job!

What I read in October:

  • Diana Wynne Jones – Castle in the Air
    charming – uplifting – feel good – lovely characters
  • John Lewis – March 1-3
    eye-opening – chilling – hopeful – important
  • Robin Hobb – Fool’s Fate
    trilogy ending! – heartbreaking as always – brilliant characters
  • Alix E. Harrow – The Once and Future Witches
    starts slowly/shallow – gains speed and depth – hits you in the feels by the end
  • Mary Doria Russell – The Sparrow
    heartbreaking first contact – bad stuff happens to good people – found family – new favorite
  • Linden A. Lewis – The First Sister
    great world building – three POVs – nonbinary character – amazing twists at the end
  • Tochi Onyebuchi – Riot Baby
    sadly underwhelming – snippets of a story – focus on issues rather than characters/world-building

Currently reading:

  • V. E. Schwab – The Invisible Life of Addie Larue
  • Laini Taylor – Muse of Nightmares

I’ve done pretty well with all my yearly reading goals, but I’ll use the month of December to catch up on whatever I feel I’m behind on. So many new publications that sound amazing are still unread on my Kobo, I have a ton of books by Black authors and Authors of Color, my fairy tale retellings are multiplying, and there are still so many unfinished book series on my shelves.

So I’ll tackle some of those to be ready for next year, new reading challenges, and many new publications.

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

The State of SFF – November 2020

I can’t believe it’s already November! This year, man. It has lasted at least two decades and at the same time, it feels like it was only last month that the world went into (first) lockdown…

It’s important to remember the good things though, especially in trying times, so let’s all look forward to great new releases together, and see what’s happening in the world of SFF awards and adaptations. 

Quickie News

  • The inaugural IGNYTE Awards have been announced. Congratulations to Silvia Moreno Garcia who won Best Adult Novel for Gods of Jade and Shadow as well as all the other winners! I’m a little sad that The Deep didn’t win Best Novella but the entire list of nominees and winners is a great source for recommendations!
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  • Also, the World Fantasy Awards have been announced. Best Novel went to Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender (my review). Congratulations for a well-deserved win! I’ll be reading the other nominees as well because it’s a great ballot altogether.
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  • In case you missed it: my very favorite author of all time, Catherynne M. Valente, has been performing her duology The Orphan’s Tales on Instagram/Youtube as a sort of treat during the pandemic. 1000 pages later, it’s all done and I wasn’t the only one who got emotional. Start with Night One here. After the reading, she always answers audience questions so it’s well worth watching even if you’re already familiar with the books.

Time’s 100 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time

Look, any Best Of list will always have entries that we agree or disagree on and that’s fine. But TIME published a list of the 100 Best Fantasy Novels of all Time and it’s… somewhat strange and inconsistent. A panel of judges, consisting of amazing fantasy writers, was put together to create this list from pre-selected nominees and while I may not agree with some of their choices, there are a few things that just don’t make sense about this list.

The Lord of the Rings was put onto this list as three volumes. Sure, it was originally published that way, but Tolkien himself wanted people to know that it was one book. Why use three spots on this list of 100 when one would work just as well, especially when it’s for a book that doesn’t exactly need a signal boost. Those two other spots could have been used to showcase more of what fantasy has to offer! The Once and Future King on the other hand was placed as a single book although it actually consists of several bound-up volumes…
The other odd thing is that several instalments from the same series are on this list  – for multiple series. I’m not saying that the first book is always the strongest in a series (in many cases it isn’t) but again, it feels like a waste of precious slots on this list to put both of Tomi Adeyemi’s books and two Harry Potter volumes on this list. Why not let one volume (doesn’t have to be the first) represent the series?
Which leads to the third problem I have with the list. Almost every one of the judges has at least one, usually more, of their own books on the list. Now, from what I gathered, they couldn’t vote for their own books but of course the other panelists wouldn’t leave off their colleague’s works. That would just be rude. Which would also still be fine if this didn’t pretend to be a list of the BEST fantasy novels of all time but rather a somewhat random recommendation list.
And that “of all time” thing is also misleading because the list may have some classic entries but it leans heavily on recent publications. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of most of those, especially because recent times have highlighted more diverse voices than we used to get in the 20th century but I don’t think this list does what it sets out to do. Where’s Robin Hobb and Octavia Butler? Where’s Joe Abercrombie and Gene Wolfe? Where’s Gormenghast and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell? China Miéville, anyone? Patricia McKillip? And I’m sure there are many more I’m forgetting at the moment that should be on a list of the BEST fantasy novels (a list which would be much longer than 100 entries, by the way).

As happy as I am to see more diverse voices on a big list of recommendations, I don’t really see the purpose of this particular list. If it’s supposed to show the most important and influential books of the genre, I’m afraid it left too many big ones out. If it wants to recommend diverse voices, it wasted a lot of space by using two books from the same series when that second spot could have gone to another author/book that deserves to be more well-known. I see it mostly as a list where the panelists recommended each other’s books and added a few classics and big recent publications. To what purpose? I don’t know.

Dune to release in October 2021

I’m sure many of you are just as excited for the new Dune adaptation by Denis Villeneuve as I am and while we thought we only had to wait until December to see it, its release date has now been pushed back to October 2021.
I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the book (mostly because I didn’t like the writing style) but it is without a doubt an important work of science fiction with many great ideas and space politics. And the trailer looked absolutely brilliant, so even though we now have to wait almost another year, I’ll be looking forward to seeing it in a theater.

Get Another Look at Zendaya's Dune Character in New Photo – /Film

Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland Retelling

Come Away - Wikipedia

I stumbled across this trailer for the upcoming movie Come Away and it looks so good that I have to share it with you guys. Peter and Alice are siblings who couldn’t be more different. Peter doesn’t want to grow up while Alice can’t grow up fast enough.
This looks to be a sort of prequel to Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland and while it first appears to take place firmly in the real world, the trailer does promise a bit of magic. Will it be the kind of magic we know from Pan’s Labyrinth or a more obvious sort? I don’t know but I’m definitely excited to find out!

 

Clear your Sh*t Readathon

It so happens that I stumbled across a readathon that runs November through December and is meant to help us clear our shelves of all the books we already own. You know… to make space for all the new ones we’re inevitably going to buy next year.

The Clear Ur Shit Readathon is hosted by Mouse Reads and her helper, the Narrator. 🙂
There are quests and character cards, there will be boss battles (!) and there’s a list of prompts. I’m especially taken with the assortment of weapons that can be used during the readathon:

I have no shortage of books on my TBR and they need to be read but I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll join. But if this sounds like something you might like you can get all the info, prompts, graphics and what have you on the readathon’s blog page.

Exciting NovemberPublications

JAIDA JONES & DANIELLE BENNETT – MASTER OF ONE

This sadly underknown author duo has produced one of my favorite fantasy of manners with their novel Havemercy. It looks like it’s about mechanical dragons, but it’s really about complicated relationships, a beautiful gay romance, and amazing characters. I’m expecting nothing less from their new novel. It’s about fae!!!

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Sinister sorcery. Gallows humor. A queer romance so glorious it could be right out of fae legend itself. Master of One is a fantasy unlike any other.

Rags is a thief—an excellent one. He’s stolen into noble’s coffers, picked soldier’s pockets, and even liberated a ring or two off the fingers of passersby. Until he’s caught by the Queensguard and forced to find an ancient fae relic for a sadistic royal sorcerer.

But Rags could never have guessed this “relic” would actually be a fae himself—a distractingly handsome, annoyingly perfect, ancient fae prince called Shining Talon. Good thing Rags can think on his toes, because things just get stranger from there…

With the heist and intrigue of Six of Crows and the dark fairy tale feel of The Cruel Prince, this young adult fantasy debut will have readers rooting for a pair of reluctant heroes as they take on a world-ending fae prophecy, a malicious royal plot, and, most dangerously of all, their feelings for each other.


FROM A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

I haven’t read the first Star Wars anthology but Catherynne M. Valente is in this one and it’s themed after the best Star Wars movie, so of course I need it!

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From a Certain Point of View strikes back! Celebrate the legacy of the groundbreaking Star Wars sequel with this exciting reimagining of the timeless film.

On May 21, 1980, Star Wars became a true saga with the release of The Empire Strikes Back. In honor of the fortieth anniversary, forty storytellers recreate an iconic scene from The Empire Strikes Back, through the eyes of a supporting character, from heroes and villains to droids and creatures. From a Certain Point of View features contributions by bestselling authors and trendsetting artists.


R. F. KUANG – THE BURNING GOD

Nobody needs me to remind them that this book is coming out. The internet is aflame with early rave reviews, people posting sob emojis and making gorgeous fanart. I have yet to read the second book in this trilogy but that doesn’t mean I can’t be excited for this final volume already.

45857086. sy475 The exciting end to The Poppy War trilogy, R. F. Kuang’s acclaimed, award-winning epic fantasy that combines the history of twentieth-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating, enthralling effect.

After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead.

Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation.

Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it?


TOCHI ONYEBUCHI – REBEL SISTERS

The second War Girls novel is coming out! I only read the first book (War Girls) recently and while it was really tough to read, it was also an excellent novel about child soldiers, civil war, sisterhood and survival. I look forward to continuing the series.

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In the epic, action-packed sequel to the brilliant novel War Girls, the battles are over, but the fight for justice has just begun.

It’s been five years since the Biafran War ended. Ify is now nineteen and living where she’s always dreamed–the Space Colonies. She is a respected, high-ranking medical officer and has dedicated her life to helping refugees like herself rebuild in the Colonies.

Back in the still devastated Nigeria, Uzo, a young synth, is helping an aid worker, Xifeng, recover images and details of the war held in the technology of destroyed androids. Uzo, Xifeng, and the rest of their team are working to preserve memories of the many lives lost, despite the government’s best efforts to eradicate any signs that the war ever happened.

Though they are working toward common goals of helping those who suffered, Ify and Uzo are worlds apart. But when a mysterious virus breaks out among the children in the Space Colonies, their paths collide. Ify makes it her mission to figure out what’s causing the deadly disease. And doing so means going back to the corrupt homeland she thought she’d left behind forever.


HOLLY BLACK – HOW THE KING OF ELFHAME LEARNED TO HATE STORIES

I am an unabashed fan of Holly Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy (especially The Wicked King) so there’s no question whether I’ll read this sequel. And it’s illustrated!

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An illustrated addition to the New York Times bestselling Folk of Air trilogy, that started with The Cruel Prince, from award-winning author Holly Black.
An irresistible return to the captivating world of Elfhame.
Once upon a time, there was a boy with a wicked tongue.

Before he was a cruel prince or a wicked king, he was a faerie child with a heart of stone. #1 New York Times bestselling author, Holly Black reveals a deeper look into the dramatic life of Elfhame’s enigmatic high king, Cardan. This tale includes delicious details of life before The Cruel Prince, an adventure beyond The Queen of Nothing, and familiar moments from The Folk of the Air trilogy, told wholly from Cardan’s perspective.

This new installment in the Folk of the Air series is a return to the heart-racing romance, danger, humor, and drama that enchanted readers everywhere. Each chapter is paired with lavish and luminous full-color art, making this the perfect collector’s item to be enjoyed by both new audiences and old.


JULIA EMBER – RUINSONG

This is the November book I’m unsure about. I’ve read one book by Ember (The Seafarer’s Kiss) and it was okay but the more I think about it, the more flaws I discover. However, LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy and musical magic sounds too good to miss, so I’ll probably give it a try.

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In Julia Ember’s dark and lush LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy Ruinsong, two young women from rival factions must work together to reunite their country, as they wrestle with their feelings for each other.

Her voice was her prison…
Now it’s her weapon.

In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence has been forced to torture her country’s disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen’s bidding.

But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself.


BRANDON SANDERSON – RHYTHM O WAR

Here it is. The Big One. It needs neither introduction nor description. I mean… it’s the next Stormlight Archive book.

17250966. sy475 After forming a coalition of human resistance against the enemy invasion, Dalinar Kholin and his Knights Radiant have spent a year fighting a protracted, brutal war. Neither side has gained an advantage.

Now, as new technological discoveries begin to change the face of the war, the enemy prepares a bold and dangerous operation. The arms race that follows will challenge the very core of the Radiant ideals, and potentially reveal the secrets of the ancient tower that was once the heart of their strength.

At the same time that Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with his changing role within the Knights Radiant, his Windrunners face their own problem: As more and more deadly enemy Fused awaken to wage war, no more honorspren are willing to bond with humans to increase the number of Radiants. Adolin and Shallan must lead the coalition’s envoy to the honorspren stronghold of Lasting Integrity and either convince the spren to join the cause against the evil god Odium, or personally face the storm of failure. 


MARISSA MEYER – INSTANT KARMA

I’m cheating a bit here because this isn’t standard SFF, it’s a contemporary romance with a slight fantastical twist. And it’s written by Marissa Meyer whose Lunar Chronicles are a favorite guilty pleasure of mine. So although it doesn’t really sound like something I would normally read, I’ll probably cave and pick it up when I need something to get me in a good mood.

53568395. sx318 In this young adult contemporary romance, a girl is suddenly gifted with the ability to cast instant karma on those around her—both good and bad.

Chronic overachiever Prudence Daniels is always quick to cast judgment on the lazy, rude, and arrogant residents of her coastal town. Her dreams of karmic justice are fulfilled when, after a night out with her friends, she wakes up with the sudden ability to cast instant karma on those around her. Pru giddily makes use of the power, punishing everyone from public vandals to karaoke hecklers, but there is one person on whom her powers consistently backfire: Quint Erickson, her slacker of a lab partner and all-around mortal enemy. Soon, Pru begins to uncover truths about Quint, her peers, and even herself that reveal how thin the line is between virtue and vanity, generosity and greed . . . love and hate.


News from the blog

October has been good to me, reading-wise. I picked up some spooky books for the season, I finally read Dracula, and I caught up on some new publications. 2020 is one hell of a year for many reasons – most of them bad – but one of the good ones is that SFF publishing is on fire! All the 2020 publications I read in October were standout books that I’ll happily recommend. For my thoughts on each book, there’s a review hidden under the link.

What I read in October:

  • Susanna Clarke – Network Effect
    Murderbot – friendship – sci-fi thriller – emotions – perfect ending
  • Susanna Clarke – Piranesi
    eerie – atmospheric – riddle – twist
  • Bram Stoker – Dracula
    epistolary – journal entries – spooky – a bit too long
  • Evan Winter – The Rage of Dragons
    good beginning – repetitive – battles upon battles – revenge story  – no depth – no women
  • Alexis Henderson – The Year of the Witching
    atmospheric – dark and spooky – great protagonist – lots of blood – witchy mythology
  • P. Djèlí Clark – Ring Shout
    mindblowingly good – monster hunting – racism – dealing with grief – perfect pacing
  • Raymond E. Feist – Magician
    80ies tropey fantasy – comfortingly predictable – pacing issues – almost no female characters
  • Rivers Solomon – An Unkindness of Ghosts
    generation ship – class differences – great, diverse cast – amazingly written – new favorite
  • Leigh Bardugo – The Lives of Saints
    nice addition to the Grishaverse – stories not that special – very pretty illustrations
  • Andrzej Sapkowski – Blood of Elves
    quick read – complicated characters – mostly introductions – doesn’t stand on its own

Currently reading:

  • Diana Wynne Jones – Castle in the Air
  • Alix E. Harrow – The Once and Future Witches
  • Robin Hobb – Fool’s Fate

For November, I’ve decided to take it easy and just mood read. My current reads are all very promising and – as far as I can tell – will end up getting pretty high ratings. I guess The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue will make it onto my November TBR (reviews have been overwhelmingly positive so far) and I’m glad I finally picked up the last book in the Tawny Man Trilogy, so I can return to Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings and catch up on those last seven books…

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

The State of SFF – October 2020

Aaaaand it’s time again for another State of SFF.
There are more adaptation news, some updates about awards, a surprise book by Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal, and of course new releases to look forward to.

Quickie News

  • The inaugural IGNYTE Awards are being announced on the weekend of the convention, that is October 17th-18th. Mark your calendars!
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  • Also, the World Fantasy Awards will be announced at the World Fantasy Convention which runs from October 29th through November 1st. I have read three out of the five nominees for Best Novel and can tell you it’s a super exciting ballot!
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  • The winners of the Dragon Awards have been announced and the award for Best SF Novel and Best Fantasy novel respectively went to John Scalzi for The Last Emperox and Erin Morgenstern for The Starless Sea. The Best Horror Novel award went to T. Kingfisher for The Twisted Ones. Find the other winners behind the link.
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  • The Arthur C. Clarke Award went to Namwali Serpell for her novel The Old Drift. It sounds really good and the book beat a tough competetion, so I’ll definitely check it out.
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  • Author Terry Goodkind (1948-2020), most well known for his long-running Sword of Truth series, passed away in late September.  I still haven’t read any of his books although Wizard’s First Rule has been on my shelves for ages.

The Mandalorian Season 2

I don’t know about you but I could definitely use some more Baby Yoda in my life. Thankfully, the second season of The Mandalorian is coming very soon.

It will be available on Disney+ on October 30th and, from what I’ve found on the interwebz, this season will be all about the search for “the Child’s” homeworld. I honestly don’t care, as long as there’s Baby Yoda, great music and costumes, and those lovely little emotional moments that made season 1 such a feel-good show. This is the way!

Adaptation News

The Test by Sylvain NeuvelThe Test, a science fiction novella by Sylvain Neuvel will be adapted into a movie, starring John Boyega. It is the story of an immigrant taking a citizenship test and, from what I’ve heard, there will be some sort of twist at the end. Comparisons with Black Mirror come up a lot as well.

I haven’t read this Booktube SFF Award finalist yet, mostly because I’ve heard mixed things. Negative reviews come especially from reviewers who are immigrants themselves or who have taken a citizenship test. I may still pick up the book but I’ll definitely keep those reviewers’ opinions in the back of my mind.

SURPRISE BOOK FROM BRANDON SANDERSON AND MARY ROBINETTE KOWAL

Brandon Sanderson may just be the hardest working author in SFF. This guy juggles projects like none other, writing multiple series for various audiences, and somehow managing to publish at least one book a year. Even more impressive, therefore, that he teamed up with Mary Robinette Kowal (winner of the Hugo Award for the amazing The Calculating Stars) and produced an audio original science fiction story called The Original.

I will definitely get myself a copy and report backt to you but one entire Audible credit for a 3.5 hour audiobook seems a bit steep. So I’ll wait until this is more reasonably priced, especially since we’re talking about Sanderson here and I’m fully expecting this to turn into a series at some point.

Exciting October Publications

T. KINGFISHER – THE HOLLOW PLACES

I’m not a big horror reader, but I do love everything T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon) writes. Her horror novel The Twisted Ones (here’s my review) made me scared of my own apartment (well, the shadows moving in it… I swear they moved by themselves!), and that’s what all the best horror novels should do. This follow-up is high on my to-read list.

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Pray they are hungry.

Kara finds the words in the mysterious bunker that she’s discovered behind a hole in the wall of her uncle’s house. Freshly divorced and living back at home, Kara now becomes obsessed with these cryptic words and starts exploring this peculiar area—only to discover that it holds portals to countless alternate realities. But these places are haunted by creatures that seem to hear thoughts…and the more one fears them, the stronger they become.

With her distinctive “delightfully fresh and subversive” (SF Bluestocking) prose and the strange, sinister wonder found in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s LabyrinthThe Hollow Places is another compelling and white-knuckled horror novel that you won’t be able to put down.


V. E. Schwab – THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE

I had this on last month’s expected publications but as it’s 2020 and nothing is certain, it got pushed back. I’m still hesitant about this book but that doesn’t mean I can’t look forward to it with all you Schwab fans. 🙂

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A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.


REBECCA ROANHORSE – BLACK SUN

I liked Rebecca Roanhorse’s Urban Fantasy debut novel well enough, although I didn’t think it was all that original (my review). BUT! She brings something new to the SFF table in that she writes fantasy inspired by Native myths and culture and I’m here for that. Plus, look at this cover! How could we resist?

50892360. sy475 A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade


ALIX E. HARROW – THE ONCE AND FUTURE WITCHES

Suffragist witches. Do you need more? Okay, fine. It’s Alix E. Harrow who completely captured my heart with her Hugo-winning short story and made quite an impact with last year’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January (my review).  I don’t even care that January didn’t work for me so well, I will read whatever Harrow writes because she is one hell of a talent!

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In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.


C. L. POLK – THE MIDNIGHT BARGAIN

It’s the author of the Kingston Cycle, everyone! I only read the first book so far (my review) but it was so charming that I’m definitely picking up Polk’s newest novel.

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Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?


YOON HA LEE – PHOENIX EXTRAVAGANT

Yoon Ha Lee does amazing things with science fiction. His Machineries of Empire trilogy kept blowing my mind over and over again (my review) and I don’t even really care what his next book is about. Look at that dragon on the cover, read that tagline, and tell me you don’t need this book!

52758604

Dragons. Art. Revolution.

Gyen Jebi isn’t a fighter or a subversive. They just want to paint.

One day they’re jobless and desperate; the next, Jebi finds themself recruited by the Ministry of Armor to paint the mystical sigils that animate the occupying government’s automaton soldiers.

But when Jebi discovers the depths of the Razanei government’s horrifying crimes—and the awful source of the magical pigments they use—they find they can no longer stay out of politics.

What they can do is steal Arazi, the ministry’s mighty dragon automaton, and find a way to fight…


SARAH TOLMIE – THE FOURTH ISLAND
illustrated by Rovina Cai

This is my only anticipated publication where I don’t know the author but it sounds too good to miss. Secret islands that can only be accessed in moments of despair? Okay, I’m in. The book also seems like it has lyrical writing, and I’m always a fan of illustrations. So… no idea if it’s any good, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

49247276Dark, mournful, and beautiful, Sarah Tolmie’s The Fourth Island is a moving and unforgettable story of life and death on the hidden Irish island of Inis Caillte.

Huddled in the sea off the coast of Ireland is a fourth Aran Island, a secret island peopled by the lost, findable only in moments of despair. Whether drowned at sea, trampled by the counter-reformation, or exiled for clinging to the dead, no outsiders reach the island without giving in to dark emotion.

Time and again, The Fourth Island weaves a hypnotic pattern with its prose, presaging doom before walking back through the sweet and sour moments of lives not yet lost. It beautifully melds the certainty of loss with the joys of living, drawing readers under like the tide.


ASHLEY POSTON – AMONG THE BEASTS AND BRIARS

I’ve only read Poston’s contemporary romance novel Geekerella but it was such delightful fun that I’ve been wanting to pick up her other books ever since. This appears to be her first secondary world fantasy novel and the fairy tale vibes are strong.

38880861. sy475 Cerys is safe in the kingdom of Aloriya.

Here there are no droughts, disease, or famine, and peace is everlasting. It has been this way for hundreds of years, since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest that borders the kingdom. But as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew dark, cursed, and forbidden. Cerys knows this all too well: when she was young, she barely escaped as the woods killed her friends and her mother. Now Cerys carries a small bit of the curse—the magic—in her blood, a reminder of the day she lost everything. The most danger she faces now, as a gardener’s daughter, is the annoying fox who stalks the royal gardens and won’t leave her alone.

As a new queen is crowned, however, things long hidden in the woods descend on the kingdom itself. Cerys is forced on the run, her only companions the small fox from the garden, a strange and powerful bear, and the magic in her veins. It’s up to her to find the legendary Lady of the Wilds and beg for a way to save her home. But the road is darker and more dangerous than she knows, and as secrets from the past are uncovered amid the teeth and roots of the forest, it’s going to take everything she has just to survive.


News from the blog

I thought I’d take this opportunity to add a sort of monthly wrap-up to my blog. I’m not a huge fan of proper wrap-up posts, especially if I’ve written a full review for all the books anyway. But a quick overview doesn’t hurt, right?

What I read in September:

  • Jessica Townsend – Wundersmith
    cute – fun – friendship – magic
  • Mishell Baker – Impostor Syndrome
    complicated characters – diversity front and center – heists in Fairyland
  • Jordan Ifueko – Raybearer
    found family – plot twists – complex relationships – POC cast
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Mexican Gothic
    creepy – atmospheric – character growth – dark secrets
  • Octavia E. Butler – Kindred
    slavery – multi-layered characters – moral questions – perseverance
  • Micaiah Johnson – The Space Between Worlds
    questions of identity – many twists – Mad Max: Fury Road vibes – LGBTQIA+
  • Maria Dahvana Headly – Beowulf: A New Translation
    very readable – big tough men slaying “monsters” – rhymes occasionally

September was such a good reading month. I only read seriously good books, ranging from 4- to 5-star ratings on Ye Olde Goodreads.

Currently reading:

  • Evan Winter – The Rage of Dragons (okay but not worth the hype so far)
  • Martha Wells – Network Effect (Murderbot is the BEST)

This brings us to the end of this month’s State of SFF. For November, there won’t be many anticipated publications, but among the ones we get, there are some reaaaaally big ones.

I’ll be using October to pick up a few spooky reads. Maybe I’ll finally tackle Dracula… I have a 2020 witchy release on my TBR, as well as a Middle Grade horror novel by Katherine Arden that may make it into my reading queue during the next few weeks. I’ll let you know next time.

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

 

The State of SFF – September 2020

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another State of SFF. This time, I’ll look at what happened in August, new and old awards, a September readathon, TV adaptation news, and of course new releases for the month of September. I hope you’re all safe and healthy!

The inaugural IGNYTE Awards

FIYAHCon is hosting its inaugural IGNYTE Awards and I am so excited! Look at that ballot.

I am so happy that both Pet and War Girls made it onto the YA shortlist and I hope that The Deep by Rivers Solomon wins Best Novella. I am also glad that Fonda Lee’s amazing Jade War is getting some well-deserved recognition. Plus, you know, all the other amazing finalists.

You can still vote until September 11th, so go to the link above and follow the voting process. Give your favorites a vote and then let’s all be excited together for the announcement of the winners.

The Dragon Awards Shortlist

I, like many others, was very surprised to see this year’s Dragon Award finalists. I haven’t been following these awards very closely in the last few years because the finalists weren’t the type of books I enjoy. The morose baby canines had decided that the Dragons were their awards where their kind of fiction could shine and that’s totally okay. I’m following enough SFF awards as it is and I have no problem with certain awards going to works that don’t personally appeal to me.

Except this year’s ballot looks a lot like other SFF awards ballots. It has works that showed up on Best of the Year lists or were generally buzzed about a lot and that’s quite a departure from previous Dragon Awards.

Although The Ten Thousand Doors of January is wrongly classified as science fiction (it’s a portal fantasy… there’s really not much wiggle room there), this list looks pretty awesome! I’m especially happy to see Fonda Lee and Leigh Bardugo on this ballot as well as Tade Thompson, although I haven’t yet read the third entry in his Wormwood Trilogy.

It does make me wonder, however, what prompted this development. As we don’t know how many people nominate or vote in the Dragon Awards, we can only make assumptions and educated guesses. Technically, anyone with an e-mail address can participate in the voting process and the Puppies have praised the Dragons for being the One True Fan Award where the great masses give prizes to actually beloved works of fiction. I guess the masses have really good taste.

readathon – SOS: Space opera September

Thomas from SFF180 is hosting this month-long readathon that’s all about Space Operas. The definition is used very loosely and I think as long as your book is set (predominantly) in space or involves a space ship, you’re good to go. There’s also a Goodreads group for the readathon if you’re looking for recommendations or discussions.

SFF180 Readathon 🚀 SPACE OPERA SEPTEMBER - YouTube

There are a few challenges to fulfill which help you collect points towards your intergalactic career. You start out as a Space Cadet and can then go on to become a Space Admiral or, if you choose the rebel track, a Space Pirate. That sounds like so much fun and I’d love to participate, but for me, September will be all about 2020 releases. Maybe I’ll manage a couple of books for this readathon, though…

I also want to recommend Thomas’ Youtube channel in general. His reviews are always insightful and in-depth and even though we don’t agree on everything, I appreciate his opinion on SFF books.

Adaptation News

Jade City by Fonda Lee is coming to TV! Yes, this month’s State of SFF is filled with great Fonda Lee news. If you haven’t yet read the brilliant Jade City and its follow-up Jade War, I can only envy you for still having that story ahead of you. If you like mafia movies and magic, complex characters and family dynamics, great fight scenes and political intrigue, then these books are for you.

I cannot wait to see how the Greenbone Saga will translate to TV but I am expecting epic battles and great character actors. I have no idea if I can even access Peacock, the streaming service that is producing the series, but I certainly hope that I can buy the first season once it’s out.

Author event got Zoom-bombed

Behold What Has Arrived. 'Raybearer' by Jordan Ifueko Is Now Available! –  Nerds and Beyond

In utterly depressing news, a virtual author event with Black writers Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles) and debut author Jordan Ifueko (Raybearer) was zoom-bombed by racist scum. The two writers were called the n-word repeatedly and Salsa music was played in the background, making it impossible for the authors to be heard.

All I can say to that is, please, if you’re hosting an online meeting or event of any kind, make sure the participants are safe from attacks! You don’t even have to be particularly tech-savvy to figure out how to protect your online event and especially your guests from harm.

In moments like these, I always think about what I personally can do to help these authors. It may not be much but I bought the audiobook version of Raybearer and am absolutely loving it! So consider Jordan Ifueko’s book a recommendation and maybe go out and buy your own copy. My review will be up soon-ish but I can already tell you there will be some gushing.

Exciting September Publications

SUSANNA CLARKE – PIRANESI

It is a rare book that can keep me not only interested but completely riveted for over 1000 pages. Susanna Clarke wrote such a book – Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Although this is not a sequel, it is her follow-up novel and probably my most anticipated release for the second half of 2020.

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Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.


ANDREA STEWART – THE BONE SHARD DAUGHTER

I’m looking at this book with mixed feelings. The early reviews were so overwhelmingly positive that they make me a little suspicious. The premise sounds brilliant and I’m sure if it’s executed well I will love the story. But pre-publication hype makes things just a bit more difficult for me. Expectations are unusually high, so if the book is only good, I am bound to be disappointed. Which won’t keep me from picking it up, of course.

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In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne. The Bone Shard Daughter marks the debut of a major new voice in epic fantasy.

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.
Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.


NAOMI NOVIK – A DEADLY EDUCATION

I think we can all agree that an updated, adult version of the Magic School trope is in order. That someone of Naomi Novik’s skill has taken it on just makes things more exciting. I cannot wait to discover this school where you either graduate or die. Give it to me, now!

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Lesson One of the Scholomance
Learning has never been this deadly

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.


V. E. SCHWAB – THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE

Here’s my unpopular opinion: I think Schwab is completely overhyped. I like her ideas and some of her books well enough but I don’t believe she is the literary superstar that others see in her. But her newest novel sounds so good that I won’t be able to resist. And there’s always the chance that she has grown as an author and will sweep me off my feet with this book.

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A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.


S. L. HUANG – BURNING ROSES

“As The Last I May Know” just won a deserved Hugo Award for Best Short Story and Huang also ripped my heart out once before with her fairy tale retelling of The Little Mermaid. So of course, I look forward to turning into a sobbing ball of emotions again.

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A gorgeous fairy tale of love and family, of demons and lost gods, for fans of Zen Cho and JY Yang.

When Rosa (aka Red Riding Hood) and Hou Yi the Archer join forces to stop the deadly sunbirds from ravaging the countryside, their quest will take the two women, now blessed and burdened with the hindsight of middle age, into a reckoning of sacrifices made and mistakes mourned, of choices and family and the quest for immortality.
Burning Roses, a gorgeous fairy tale of love and family, of demons and lost gods, arrives in 2020.


JESSICA TOWNSEND – HOLLOWPOX

For the Middle Grade readers among you, here’s a treat. The final instalment of the Nevermoor Trilogy is coming out and I for one can’t wait to see where Morrigan Crow’s story goes next. These books are lovely, heartwarming, quirky, and inventive, and they’re just what I need when I’m feeling a little down.

53152954. sx318 sy475 Strange things are happening in Nevermoor…

Morrigan Crow faces her most dangerous challenge yet in her latest Wundrous adventure. The highly anticipated third book in the award-winning Nevermoor series from one of Australia’s bestselling and most loved authors.

Morrigan Crow and her friends have survived their first year as proud scholars of the elite Wundrous Society, helped bring down the nefarious Ghastly Market, and proven themselves loyal to Unit 919. Now Morrigan faces a new, exciting challenge: to master the mysterious Wretched Arts of the Accomplished Wundersmith, and control the power that threatens to consume her.

But a strange and frightening illness has taken hold of Nevermoor, turning infected Wunimals into mindless, vicious unnimals on the hunt. As victims of the Hollowpox multiply, panic spreads. And with the city she loves in a state of fear, Morrigan quickly realises it’s up to her to find a cure for the Hollowpox, even if it will put her – and everyone in Nevermoor – in more danger than she ever imagined.


R. B. LEMBERG – THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES

I don’t know anything about this author but this sounds super intriguing. Comparisons to The Left Hand of Darkness are probably exaggerated but I’m willing to give it a try.

51600161Wind: To match one’s body with one’s heart
Sand: To take the bearer where they wish
Song: In praise of the goddess Bird
Bone: To move unheard in the night

The Surun’ do not speak of the master weaver, Benesret, who creates the cloth of bone for assassins in the Great Burri Desert. But Uiziya now seeks her aunt Benesret in order to learn the final weave, although the price for knowledge may be far too dear to pay.
Among the Khana, women travel in caravans to trade, while men remain in the inner quarter as scholars. A nameless man struggles to embody Khana masculinity, after many years of performing the life of a woman, trader, wife, and grandmother.
As the past catches up to the nameless man, he must choose between the life he dreamed of and Uiziya, and Uiziya must discover how to challenge a tyrant, and weave from deaths that matter.

Set in R. B. Lemberg’s beloved Birdverse, The Four Profound Weaves hearkens to Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. In this breathtaking debut, Lemberg offers a timeless chronicle of claiming one’s identity in a hostile world.


TESSA GRATTON – NIGHT SHINE

A girl called Nothing and a Sorceress Who Eats Girls is really all I need to know to want this book. Tessa Gratton impressed me with The Queens of Innis Lear and while I really don’t like the cover for her new book, I will definitely check it out.

51000875. sy475 How can you live without your heart?

In the vast palace of the empress lives an orphan girl called Nothing. She slips within the shadows of the Court, unseen except by the Great Demon of the palace and her true friend, Prince Kirin, heir to the throne. When Kirin is kidnapped, only Nothing and the prince’s bodyguard suspect that Kirin may have been taken by the Sorceress Who Eats Girls, a powerful woman who has plagued the land for decades. The sorceress has never bothered with boys before, but Nothing has uncovered many secrets in her sixteen years in the palace, including a few about the prince.

As the empress’s army searches fruitlessly, Nothing

and the bodyguard set out on a rescue mission, through demon-filled rain forests and past crossroads guarded by spirits. Their journey takes them to the gates of the Fifth Mountain, where the sorceress wields her power. There, Nothing will discover that all magic is a bargain, and she may be more powerful than she ever imagined. But the price the Sorceress demands for Kirin may very well cost Nothing her heart


And that’s it for this month’s State of SFF. Make sure to vote in the IGNYTE Awards if you’ve read the nominated works and want to push your favorites. Add all the interesting sounding books to your wishlists and, most important of all, stay kind and stay safe.

The State of SFF – August 2020

I’ve been thinking of starting a new little series on this blog about what’s going on in the SFF world. While I do participate in the occasional tag or readathon, it’s still mostly book reviews (which is how I like it) but as I don’t only love books but also the SFF community, I think it’s time to add a little something to make this blog more interesting.

The reason I haven’t shared my opinions on current events in SFF is usually because there are other people out there who write about these things way more eloquently than I ever could. They are the bloggers I appreciate the most, and although I don’t think I’ll ever be as good as them, the time has arrived for me to at least give it a shot. I have no plan what to cover in these posts and I’ll be learning as I go along. 🙂

Awards News

The Hugo Awards 2020 have been announced and I am so thrilled for the winners! Congratulations to all you wonderful people, and congratulations also to the non-winning finalists. This has been an amazing year of Hugo finalists, so even if you didn’t win, you can be damn proud of your work! I am especially happy that my own favorite A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine took home the Best Novel Hugo.

As for the ceremony… let’s just say there were problems. George R.R. Martin served as toastmaster and – since WorldCon went virtual due to Covid-19 – we got to see his pre-recorded introductions to each Hugo category and then cut to the live feed of him reading out the winner. These pre-recorded videos ran rather long and the stories GRRM had to tell about WorldCon and the Hugos were all about The Olden Days. He mentioned John W. Campbell several times, hitting us over the head with how he was “the greatest”, but not a word was said about the (formerly) John W. Campbell Award now being called the Astounding Award because Campbell was a known fascist and racist. George only had nice things to say about those old white guys, and literally nothing to say about any of the new talent being honored during the Hugo Awards. The mispronunciation of names and misgendering of finalists added to the general air of disrespect.
Now I don’t think George meant to be actively harmful when he recorded his bits with the frequent hat changes, but as toastmaster, you should take the time to look around and see what the field is like these days. And the very least you can do is show respect for the hard-working people who are nominated for one of the biggest awards in the genre.

For a more eloquent (and rightfully enraged) take, go read Natalie Luhr’s post George R. R. Martin Can Fuck Off Into the Sun.

The Trouble with NetGalley

Look, I love NetGalley. It’s a great service that helps connect reviewers and publishers and I’m all for it. But it has its issues. Recently, an audiobook feature was introduced (YAY!) and I was all aflame and requested a book I’d been excited for. And then I got approved despite my 71% feedack ratio!

Here’s the problem though. In order to listen to NetGalley audiobooks, you need the NetGalleyShelf App – so far, so okay – but that app is not available in my country! I don’t live in fucking Antarctica, I live in Vienna, Austria, which is right there in the middle of Europe. I have contacted the NetGalley support and asked them to either give me another way to listen to the approved audiobook or unapprove me, so someone else can get a chance to listen. I’ll let you know how things go. I’m not even mad, I’m mostly just sad that they throw out a feature which clearly hasn’t been thought through well enough and now an e-copy of Raybearer is just sitting there on my shelf and I can’t listen to it.

Special Edition Illumicrate

I’ve never subscribed to Illumicrate although I’m thinking of starting a subscription with them because their book choices are really up my alley.  But what I’m most excited for is their tenth anniversary special edition box for Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I treated myself to this box and I cannot wait to see the book and whatever extras come with it.

Look at this gorgeous hardback. It will be signed and come with all sorts of goodies, but I am most excited about these covers!

Illumicrate Collections: Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Illumicrate

Exciting August Publications

Now let’s move to some more happy news, the books coming out in August that I’m most excited for! There are a lot of book birthdays this month and all of these sound fantastic. Now all I have to do is catch up on the publications from the first half of 2020…

LINDEN A. LEWIS – THE FIRST SISTER

This sounds amazing and that cover is stunning! A woman with no name, falling in love with the person she’s supposed to be spying on? Secrets within secrets, a war, a Sisterhood… just reading the blurb, I have so many questions, which makes me super excited for this book.

52378525First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is so much harder to do when you’re falling in love.
Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus, but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito’s own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.


MICAIAH JOHNSON – THE SPACE BETWEEN WORLDS

This is one of the very interesting YA titles coming out in August. Parallel worlds exist but you can only travel to those worlds where your counterpart is dead. What a cool premise, especially when there are plot twists. And I am expecting plot twists!

48848254An outsider who can travel between worlds discovers a secret that threatens her new home and her fragile place in it, in a stunning sci-fi debut that’s both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging.
Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.
On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.
But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.


SHVETA THAKRAR – STAR DAUGHTER

All I needed to know was “the daughter of a star and a mortal”. Add comparisons to Neil Gaiman and Laini Taylor, and you got me. The gorgeous cover is just an added bonus at this point.

52781202. sy475 This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy.
The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.
Sheetal’s quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family’s champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens–and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.
Brimming with celestial intrigue, this sparkling YA debut is perfect for fans of Roshani Chokshi and Laini Taylor.


ROMINA GARBER – LOBIZONA

I have been so excited for this for so long. Mixing immigrant experiences with myth and magic sounds just up my alley. That’s what fantasy is all about. Reflecting our own world back at us through a magical lens.

Some people ARE illegal.52751602. sx318 sy475
Lobizonas do NOT exist.
Both of these statements are false.
Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.
Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.
Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past—a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.
As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.


ALICIA JASINSKA – THE DARK TIDE

Another one that’s been on my wishlist forever. The buzzword here was St. Walpurga’s Eve and the fact that the yearly sacrifice is a boy instead of the stereotypical girl. I’m honestly not sure if this will turn out as good as I hope but I’m willing to give it a shot.

52411049. sx318 sy475 The Wicked Deepmeets A Curse So Dark and Lonely in this gripping, dark fairy-tale fantasy about two girls who must choose between saving themselves, each other, or their sinking island city.
Every year on St. Walpurga’s Eve, Caldella’s Witch Queen lures a boy back to her palace. An innocent life to be sacrificed on the full moon to keep the island city from sinking.
Lina Kirk is convinced her brother is going to be taken this year. To save him, she enlists the help of Thomas Lin, the boy she secretly loves, and the only person to ever escape from the palace. But they draw the queen’s attention, and Thomas is chosen as the sacrifice.
Queen Eva watched her sister die to save the boy she loved. Now as queen, she won’t make the same mistake. She’s willing to sacrifice anyone if it means saving herself and her city.
When Lina offers herself to the queen in exchange for Thomas’s freedom, the two girls await the full moon together. But Lina is not at all what Eva expected, and the queen is nothing like Lina envisioned. Against their will, they find themselves falling for each other. As water floods Caldella’s streets and the dark tide demands its sacrifice, they must choose who to save: themselves, each other, or the island city relying on them both.


NNEDI OKORAFOR – IKENGA

Nnedi Okorafor has written a Middle Grad novel!!! Look, I don’t need much more than Okorafor’s name on a book in order to buy it, but – as usual with her fiction – this also happens to sound fantastic. The Akata books are some of my favorite YA novels, so I can’t wait to find out what this book for younger readers will be like.

48998055Nnedi Okorafor’s first novel for middle grade readers introduces a boy who can access super powers with the help of the magical Ikenga.
Nnamdi’s father was a good chief of police, perhaps the best Kalaria had ever had. He was determined to root out the criminals that had invaded the town. But then he was murdered, and most people believed the Chief of Chiefs, most powerful of the criminals, was responsible. Nnamdi has vowed to avenge his father, but he wonders what a twelve-year-old boy can do. Until a mysterious nighttime meeting, the gift of a magical object that enables super powers, and a charge to use those powers for good changes his life forever. How can he fulfill his mission? How will he learn to control his newfound powers?
Award-winning Nnedi Okorafor, acclaimed for her Akata novels, introduces a new and engaging hero in her first novel for middle grade readers set against a richly textured background of contemporary Nigeria.


JORDAN IFUEKO – RAYBEARER

This is the book I got on NetGalley (cross your fingers for me that I can still listen to that audiobook somehow) and that should tell you how excited I am for it. Everything about this sounds great. A bond closer than blood, a mission to destroy the one you love, a new Black author for me to discover? Yes, please, give it to me.

49655321. sx318 sy475 Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?
Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood.
That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?


LAURA LAM & ELIZABETH MAY – SEVEN DEVILS

I didn’t much like the only Laura Lam book I have read so far, but this sounds too good to pass up. Fighting an empire, a ragtag crew of women, deadly missions – it has all the ingredients for a fun space opera and I will definitely see if it delivers.

38822981This first book in a feminist space opera duology follows seven resistance fighters who will free the galaxy from the ruthless Tholosian Empire — or die trying.
When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray.
Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated.
When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings.
Together, these women possess the knowledge and capabilities to bring the empire to its knees. But the clock is ticking: the new heir to the empire plans to disrupt a peace summit with the only remaining alien empire, ensuring the empire’s continued expansion. If they can find a way to stop him, they will save the galaxy. If they can’t, millions may die.


challenges, readathons, Podcasts, and current reads

The Sword and Laser Podcast is reading Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett this month, a book I’ve had on my TBR for a long, long time. I’ve just started it and I can already tell I’m going to love it. By the very first line of chapter 2, I knew this was my kind of book. It messes with your mind and it sets up a puzzle right from the start. And I like me some puzzles.

I’m participating in the Series Crackdown‘s tenth anniversary readathon throughout the month of August and I’ve just finished my first book. Check out all the info and my TBR here.

My next read will be Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender because it ticks several of the boxes I’m in the mood for. It’s a book by a new-to-me Black author (one of my reading challenges this year), it is a finalist for the World Fantasy Award (which I love), and it fits into one of the Series Crackdown readathon prompts. I’m also reading Tehanu by Ursula K. LeGuin because it’s short and it’s the one Earthsea novel I’ve been most excited for.

The state of the state of SFF

I hope to do posts like this once a month, although I can’t guarantee that it will always be posted around the same time of the month. This is my first foray into doing something other than reviews or tags and I still have a lot to learn – both in terms of content as well as formatting and organizing these posts. But I like the opportunity to briefly weigh in on the topics that are talked about in the SFF world or things that are going on in my reading life. I hope you get something out of this (even if it’s only a rapidly growing TBR due to the new publications) and if my motivation doesn’t fail me, you’ll see another State of SFF post in September.