The State of SFF – June 2022

Welcome to June and a catch-up State of SFF!

Due to pregancy stuff (buying things for the baby, doctor’s appointments, and so on), I was too preoccupied to keep up with reading or revieweing or even posting anything at all. The good news is that everything is perfectly fine, we’re all healthy and happy, and we now know that our little baby is a boy. 🙂

As you can imagine, reading and blogging have simply not been my highest priority, but I hope to catch up on all those unwritten reviews and new TBR additions soon. “News” this months may be a little older as I’ve collected things that interested me from both April and May.

Quickie News

  • The Locus Award Finalists are out! The list isn’t surprising but it has all the most talked about and well liked books from 2021. I find it notable that Naomi Novik’s novel The Last Graduate is not listed as YA but as Fantasy Novel (as well it should be). You can find all the finalists here.

  • And so is the shortlist for the Nommo Awards. Here we see familiar names such as Tade Thompson, Nnedi Okorafor, and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, but also newer ones with books still on my TBR (looking especially hard at you, T.L. Huchu’s Library of the Dead!). The list is well worth checking out if you’re looking for interesting books to read.

  • In sadder news, Award-winning author Patricia McKillip died in early May. I have only read one of her books so far (The Forgotten Beasts of Eld), but it was a deeply touching one that made me look forward to exploring the rest of her work all the more.


The Nebula Award Winners Have Been Announced

Congratulations to all the finalists and of course the winners!

Best Novel went to P. Djèlí Clark for his novel A Master of Djinn and although it’s not my favorite work of his, I am thrilled that Clark won the Nebula. I hope he writes many more novels and novellas, whether they are set in his alternate version of Cairo or elsewhere. Congratulations!

Best Novella was a happy surprise in that a Neon Hemlock book won rather than a Tordotcom or Uncanny finalists (I love both of them dearly but variety is important!). Premee Mohamed’s And What Can We Offer You Tonight took home the award.

The Andre Norton Award for YA/Middle Grade Fiction went to Darcie Little Badger’s A Snake Falls to Earth which is also nominated for a Hugo (and I have yet to read it).

Best Novelette went to Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki for O2 Arena, and Best Short Story was taken by Sarah Pinsker for “Where Oaken Hearts do Gather”, another Hugo finalists that I haven’t read yet but am incredibly excited for. Ekpeki’s acceptance speech came last during the ceremony, due to connection issues (live from Nigeria), but otherwise, the ceremony went smoothly without any real technical mishaps.
And for another completely virtual event, it was quite lovely. Connie Willis is a treasure, with or without a live audience, and Neil Gaiman’s appearances were stellar as well.

You can find the list of all finalists and winners here.


Nimona is coming to Netflix

I picked up the Graphic Novel by ND Stevenson years ago but didn’t expect to fall in love with it as hard as I did. The story of a teenage shapeshifter who desperately wants to become a villain’s sidekick offers some twists and turns that make it not just funny, but heartwarming and even romantic. After some delays and ultimately a cancellation by Disney, Netflix is now taking on the job and bringing us the animated movie version of the beloved comic.

The movie is set to release in 2023, so we have some time to wait yet. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all be collectively excited, right?


The Mythopoeic Award Finalists 2022 Are Out (link opens PDF)

Of particular interest to me, because I just like this award, are the finalists for the 2022 Mythopoeic Award. Among them, you will recognize Hugo/Nebula/Locus finalists (or winners) but there’s also always some titles that other awards have overlooked or that simply do something particularly interesting with fairy tales, mythology, magical realism, and that kind of subgenre.

  • Katherine Addison – The Witness for the Dead (Tor, 2021)
  • Ryka Aoki – Light from Uncommon Stars (Tor Books, 2021)
  • P. Djèlí Clark – A Master of Djinn (Tordotcom, 2021)
  • Susanna Clarke – Piranesi (Bloomsbury, 2020)
  • Garth Nix – Terciel and Elinor (Katherine Tegen Books, 2021)
  • Jo Walton – Or What You Will (Tor 2020)

Congratulations to the finalists. I’m particularly happy to see Piranesi on here and I am now highyl interested in Jo Walton’s Or What You Will.


Books From the Future (or: Feed Your Wishlist)

It’s great to know what books we can buy very soon (like the ones in the section below) but I also find it really nice to have something to look forward to that’s still far in the future. Such as these three books I’ve chosen for this month’s section of “I’ll be giddily awaiting you for about a year and staring at your covers longingly until then”:

  • T. J. Klune is bringing us In the Lives of Puppets, a Pinocchio inspired and probably heartwarming tale that I cannot miss. Set to come out at in March 2023. Sidenote: I love the covers for his books so much!
  • Margaret Owen revealed the cover for Painted Devils, the May 2023 sequel to her amazing Little Thieves. I cannot get over how good that book was and how perfectly the cover for the new one fits the series (the author does them herself, as well as the inside illustrations so I shouldn’t be surprised).
  • Lastly, Kelly Barnhill’s The Crane Husband was announced and it not only sounds up my alley but also has a lovely cover to offer. A gender-flipped fairy tale with a recommendation from Cat Valente is an auto-buy if I’ve ever seen one. We’ll have to wait for February 2023, though.

Exciting June Publications

I’m a little said I missed the May edition fo this blog feature, so I’ll just casually drop some titles you may have missed last month: Maggie Stiefvater’s Bravely, Holly Black’s adult debut Book of Night, Nghi Vo’s Siren Queen, Guy Gavriel Kay’s All the Seas of the World,

J. M. MIRO – ORDINARY MONSTERS (June 7th)

“Labyrinthine” is a buzzword I just can’t resist. Add to that orphans, gaslit streets of London, crime, and superpowers, and I’m all yours.

A STUNNING NEW WORK OF HISTORICAL FANTASY, J. M. MIRO’S ORDINARY MONSTERS INTRODUCES READERS TO THE DARK, LABYRINTHINE WORLD OF THE TALENTS

England, 1882. In Victorian London, two children with mysterious powers are hunted by a figure of darkness—a man made of smoke.

Sixteen-year-old Charlie Ovid, despite a brutal childhood in Mississippi, doesn’t have a scar on him. His body heals itself, whether he wants it to or not. Marlowe, a foundling from a railway freight car, shines with a strange bluish light. He can melt or mend flesh. When a jaded female detective is recruited to escort them to safety, all three begin a journey into the nature of difference, and belonging, and the shadowy edges of the monstrous.

What follows is a story of wonder and betrayal, from the gaslit streets of London, and the wooden theatres of Meiji-era Tokyo, to an eerie estate outside Edinburgh where other children with gifts – the Talents – have been gathered. There, the world of the dead and the world of the living threaten to collide. And as secrets within the Institute unfurl, Marlowe, Charlie and the rest of the Talents will discover the truth about their abilities, and the nature of what is stalking them: that the worst monsters sometimes come bearing the sweetest gifts.

Riveting in its scope, exquisitely written, Ordinary Monsters presents a catastrophic vision of the Victorian world—and of the gifted, broken children who must save it.


ROSE SZABO – WE ALL FALL DOWN (June 7th)

I’m approachign this one with caution as early reviews had a lot to say about the representation of the Black character in this story. But I’m also still interested enough to want ot make up my own mind.

The first book in a dark fantasy YA duology by Rose Szabo, the author of What Big Teeth, about the power and danger of stories and the untold costs of keeping magic alive, perfect for fans of Aiden Thomas and Marie Rutkoski.

In River City, where magic used to thrive and is now fading, the witches who once ruled the city along with their powerful King have become all but obsolete. The city’s crumbling government is now controlled primarily by the new university and teaching hospital, which has grown to take over half of the city.

Moving between the decaying Old City and the ruthless New, four young queer people struggle with the daily hazards of life—work, school, dodging ruthless cops and unscrupulous scientists—not realizing that they have been selected to play in an age-old drama that revives the flow of magic through their world. When a mysterious death rocks their fragile peace, the four are brought into each other’s orbits as they uncover a deeper magical conspiracy.

Devastating, gorgeous, and utterly unique, We All Fall Down examines the complex network of pain created by power differentials, even between people who love each other—and how it is possible to be queer and turn out just fine.


KATHERINE ADDISON – THE GRIEF OF STONES (June 14th)

More Goblin Emperor world is always a win. In this case, we get a direct sequel to Witness for the Dead which follows Celehar. I love this world and its characters, so this is a must-buy.

In The Grief of Stones, Katherine Addison returns to the world of The Goblin Emperor with a direct sequel to The Witness For The Dead

Celehar’s life as the Witness for the Dead of Amalo grows less isolated as his circle of friends grows larger. He has been given an apprentice to teach, and he has stumbled over a scandal of the city—the foundling girls. Orphans with no family to claim them and no funds to buy an apprenticeship. Foundling boys go to the Prelacies; foundling girls are sold into service, or worse.

At once touching and shattering, Celehar’s witnessing for one of these girls will lead him into the depths of his own losses. The love of his friends will lead him out again.


ALIX E. HARROW – A MIRROR MENDED (June 14th)

Look, until Harrow somehow writes a truly terrible book, I’ll be reading all her stuff. Her fractured fairy tales are especially nice. Bite-sized twists on the stories I’ve loved since childhood with social commentary and lots of references. I guess you have to like that sort of thing but if you do you’ll be very happy with this series. ETA: Aaaand I just got an ARC of this which I will be devouring during my holiday in Southern Italy. 🙂

A Mirror Mended is the next installment in USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow’s Fractured Fables series.

Zinnia Gray, professional fairy-tale fixer and lapsed Sleeping Beauty, is over rescuing snoring princesses. Once you’ve rescued a dozen damsels and burned fifty spindles, once you’ve gotten drunk with twenty good fairies and made out with one too many members of the royal family, you start to wish some of these girls would just get a grip and try solving their own narrative issues.

Just when Zinnia’s beginning to think she can’t handle one more princess, she glances into a mirror and sees another face looking back at her: the shockingly gorgeous face of evil, asking for her help. Because there’s more than one person trapped in a story they didn’t choose. Snow White’s Evil Queen has found out how her story ends, and she’s desperate for a better ending. She wants Zinnia to help her before it’s too late for everyone. Will Zinnia accept the Queen’s poisonous request and save them both from the hot-iron shoes that wait for them, or will she try another path?


A. G. SLATTER – THE PATH OF THORNS (June 14th)

Angela Slatter’s spiritual successor to All the Murmuring Bones (which, btw, you should all check out and here’s why) is another tale with gothic vibes. It sounds like part Jane Eyre, part Jekyll and Hyde, part fairy tale and if that doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what to say.

Alone in the world, Asher Todd travels to the remote estate of Morwood Grange to become governess to three small children. Her sole possessions comprise a sea chest and a large carpet bag she hangs onto for dear life. She finds a fine old home, its inhabitants proud of their lineage and impeccable reputation, and a small village nearby. It seems an untroubled existence, yet there are portraits missing from the walls, locked rooms, and names excised from the family tree inscribed in the bible. In short order, the children adore her, she becomes indispensible to their father Luther in his laboratory, and her potions are able to restore the sight of granddame Leonora. Soon Asher fits in as if she’s always been there, but there are creatures that stalk the woods at night, spectres haunt the halls, and Asher is not as much a stranger to the Morwoods as it might at first appear.


AVA REID – JUNIPER & THORN (June 21st)

I enjoyed Reid’s debut novel, even though it had its flaws, but it also offered enough really good stuff for me to look forward to her newest book. Fairy tales, pitched as “for fans of Cat Valente” (we’ll see… we’ll see), and gothic horror all sounds excellent.

From highly acclaimed bestselling author Ava Reid comes a gothic horror retelling of The Juniper Tree, set in another time and place within the world of The Wolf and the Woodsman, where a young witch seeks to discover her identity and escape the domination of her wizard father, perfect for fans of Shirley Jackson and Catherynne M. Valente.

A gruesome curse. A city in upheaval. A monster with unquenchable appetites.

Marlinchen and her two sisters live with their wizard father in a city shifting from magic to industry. As Oblya’s last true witches, she and her sisters are little more than a tourist trap as they treat their clients with archaic remedies and beguile them with nostalgic charm. Marlinchen spends her days divining secrets in exchange for rubles and trying to placate her tyrannical, xenophobic father, who keeps his daughters sequestered from the outside world. But at night, Marlinchen and her sisters sneak out to enjoy the city’s amenities and revel in its thrills, particularly the recently established ballet theater, where Marlinchen meets a dancer who quickly captures her heart.

As Marlinchen’s late-night trysts grow more fervent and frequent, so does the threat of her father’s rage and magic. And while Oblya flourishes with culture and bustles with enterprise, a monster lurks in its midst, borne of intolerance and resentment and suffused with old-world power. Caught between history and progress and blood and desire, Marlinchen must draw upon her own magic to keep her city safe and find her place within it.


SAARA EL-ARIFI – THE FINAL STRIFE (June 23rd)

This was on my wishlist before that cover was revealed, but I’ll be honest, this cover would have been enough for me to want that book. The story doesn’t sound all that original but it has a trial of combat and skill and I always enjoy reading about competitions of some kind, especially when in a fantasy seetting.

In the first book of a visionary African and Arabian-inspired fantasy trilogy, three women band together against a cruel Empire that divides people by blood.

Red is the blood of the elite, of magic, of control.

Blue is the blood of the poor, of workers, of the resistance.

Clear is the blood of the servants, of the crushed, of the invisible.

Sylah dreams of days growing up in the resistance, being told she would spark a revolution that would free the Empire from the red-blooded ruling classes’ tyranny. That spark was extinguished the day she watched her family murdered before her eyes.

Anoor has been told she’s nothing, no one, a disappointment by the only person who matters: her mother, the most powerful ruler in the Empire. But dust always rises in a storm.

Hassa moves through the world unseen by upper classes, so she knows what it means to be invisible. But invisibility has its uses: It can hide the most dangerous of secrets, secrets that can reignite a revolution.

As the Empire begins a set of trials of combat and skill designed to find its new leaders, the stage is set for blood to flow, power to shift, and cities to burn.


SAM J. MILLER – BOYS, BEASTS & MEN (June 14th)

I have an ARC of this, teehee. Sam J. Miller always comes up with the most interesting characters and ideas that are somehow unlike anything I’ve read before. So I can’t wait to dive into a whole collection of his short stories.

In Nebula Award-winning author Sam J. Miller’s devastating debut short-fiction collection, featuring an introduction by Amal El-Mohtar, queer infatuation, inevitable heartbreak, and brutal revenge seamlessly intertwine. Whether innocent, guilty, or not even human, the boys, beasts, and men roaming through Miller’s gorgeously crafted worlds can destroy readers, yet leave them wanting more.

“Miller’s sheer talent shines through in abundance . . . Boys, Beasts & Men is an outrageous journey which skillfully blends genres and will haunt you with its original, poetic voices as much as its victims, villains, and treasure trove of leading actors.”

Grimdark Magazine

Despite his ability to control the ambient digital cloud, a foster teen falls for a clever con-man. Luring bullies to a quarry, a boy takes clearly enumerated revenge through unnatural powers of suggestion. In the aftermath of a shapeshifting alien invasion, a survivor fears that he brought something out of the Arctic to infect the rest of the world. A rebellious group of queer artists create a new identity that transcends even the anonymity of death.

Sam J. Miller (Blackfish City, The Art of Starving) shows his savage wit, unrelenting candor, and lush imagery in this essential career retrospective collection, taking his place alongside legends of the short-fiction form such as Carmen Maria Machado, Carson McCullers, and Jeff VanderMeer.


News from the blog

April was all about the Orilium Spring Equinox which means I readathon-ed myself successfully through the month and even managed to post a few reviews on time. More are to come soon!
May was less productive, blog-wise, and I mostly read non-fiction about breastfeeding and raising a child and such. Excellent books, but not exactly fitting for this blog. Thus the hiatus.

What I read last month(s):

I also read some novelettes and short stories but I won’t review them in detail so they don’t get their own seperate posts. I do talk about them briefly in my Orilium Readathon Wrap-Up.

Currently reading:

  • C.S.C. Cooney – Saint Death’s Daughter (ARC)
  • Sarah Gailey – Just Like Home (ARC)
  • C. L. Polk – Stormsong

I basically dropped everything in favor of my readathon book picks so now it’s time to catch up on those half-read books I’ve been dragging along. And I have a new Cat Valente middle grade adventure waiting here for me, so that will probably make an appearance soon as well.

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

Additional Thoughts on the 2022 Hugo Award Finalists

I was pretty damn excited about this year’s Hugo finalists and so, of course, I had to get my initial reaction out there as fast as possible. Now that I’ve had some time to think about certain aspects of the ballot, read other people’s reactions, and do a bit more research on those Best Series candidates, I have additional thoughts. I didn’t want to add them to my existing post because that beast is already way too long, but I do want to throw this out there anyway.

Works I Missed Among the Finalists

The finalists are really nothing to complain about and because of that, I didn’t even think about some of the works I nominated which didn’t make it. I am mostly happy about the finalists this year but I do want to mention a few books I think would have been equally as deserving.

Sarah Gailey’s The Echo Wife was one of my top reads of 2021 and Gailey is not unpopular with Hugo voters. I would be surprised if they didn’t show up on the longlist!
I believe (honestly can’t remember right now) that I also nominated A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske, plus Freya Marske for the Astounding Award, because that book surprised me in all the best ways. It is more of a romance than a fantasy – although there’s plenty of magic in it – so I’m not very surprised it didn’t make Best Novel but I also think I wasn’t alone in nominating it and the series as well as the author might make an appearance on future ballots with one of the sequels.
Noor by Nnedi Okorafor came out in November and there wasn’t a lot of buzz surrounding that book. What little I heard from other people led me to believe that most of them weren’t as impressed as I was. But I don’t care, I adored that short novel.

For the Lodestar I would have loved, loved, loved to see Little Thieves by Margaret Owen among the finalists, but that book came out rather late in 2021 (October) so it makes sense that, even though it’s well liked, not enough people read it before the nomination period was over. And Owen isn’t exactly a household name for the Hugos like, say, Charlie Jane Anders.
Another YA book I would have loved to be a finalist is The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He. I think it garnered a lot of cover love when it came out but I guess many of the people who read and loved it aren’t Hugo voters. Joan He is one of the most exciting YA authors I’ve discovered in recent years so I hope she keeps up the brilliant work and if so, I’ll keep nominating her.

What I found a little surprising – although good surprising – was that it wasn’t Catherynne M. Valente’s Comfort Me With Apples that became a finalist but rather The Past is Red. Don’t get me wrong, I loved them both, but I much preferred The Past is Red. But from what I saw on the interwebs, I felt that more people flocked to her wonderfully creepy novella about the perfect neighborhood rather than her futuristic post-climate apocalypse one. I fully expect to see Apples on the nominations list, and not too far underneath the cutoff point. September will tell.

About the Best Novella category

In all my joy about Cat Valente’s brilliant novella being on this list, I missed that the entire category is dominated by Tordotcom yet again. And I also have to be honest with myself and admit that I am once more part of that problem. I nominated three novellas, all from Tordotcom, all on the final ballot.

It’s still quite rare that other publishers put out novellas, at least in the quality and quantity that the people at Tordotcom do. You’ll get a prequel novella to a successful YA trilogy or series every once in a while but I don’t think those are the usual Hugo candidates.

There are great publishers, like Subterranean Press, who sometimes do novellas, but their limited releases make it hard for a big enough audience to consume what they publish and thus for enough people to nominate it for a Hugo. I remember Tamsyn Muir published a fairy tale novella a few years ago and one would think that during the height of the Gideon the Ninth hype, she would have had an easy time getting nominated for Best Novella as well. But the overlap in Subterranean readers and Hugo voters seems to be just a bit smaller.

In my search for other publishers, I came across Neon Hemlock Press. Two of their 2021 novellas are nominated for a Nebula Award, so I am now vowing to read at least one of their novella publications of 2022 in order to make my own pool for nominating next year a little bit bigger. And if I pick a good book, I can just throw in a second one. 🙂

About that Naomi Novik Lodestar nomination (again!?)

When I wrote my initial reaction to the finalists, I must have been in a particularly gracious mood, giving Novik the benefit of the (still very much existing) doubt and just accepting that the Scholomance series is, apparently, YA. But the more I think about it, the more my original anger at last year’s finalist, A Deadly Education, and Novik’s handling of these nominations is coming back.

But before I start ranting, what we must all remember is that YA is not tangible, not objective, not something that can be classified easily. That’s why we keep returning to the same stupid discussions over and over again. A young protagonist doesn’t guarantee a book is YA (see The Poppy War), a school setting doesn’t mean it’s automatically YA (see Ninth House), even coming of age as a theme doesn’t mean it’s YA (see Mexican Gothic). So there is no real right or wrong when it comes to what falls under the mantle of YA fiction. With some books, you just know, with others, you rely on the only information you have which is one or more of the following:

  • the author says it’s YA
  • the publisher says it’s YA
  • booksellser and libraries say it’s YA
  • the marketing campaign tells us it’s YA
  • the book isn’t an Alex Award nominee

Here is the definition of books eligible for the Alex Award:

The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. The winning titles are selected from the previous year’s publishing. 

Alex Award

Naomi Novik accepted the nomination for that award in 2021 and, by doing so, classified her book as written for adults. If it weren’t, she couldn’t have, in good conscience, accepted the Alex Award nomination, right? Right!
So what other info do we have that helps us classify whether A Deadly Education and the entire Scholomance series is YA or not?

  • To repeat the most important point: Naomi Novik, the author herself, agreed that it’s an adult novel by accepting an award nomination for adult novels
  • The publisher, Del Rey, marketed this series as adult from the very start
  • Booksellers list it as adult Fantasy/Horror/Genre Fiction
    • To be fair, the one single mention of “Childrens & YA” I have found was for the German edition of the audiobook, so German publishers are going a different way, it seems.

Okay, so even though this research isn’t super scientific and the results are not 100% conclusive, it still paints a rather clear picture of the Scholomance Trilogy having been written and intended for adults. The fact that they can be enjoyed by younger readers is meaningless when it comes to the Lodestar Award. The Lord of the Rings is also read and loved by teenagers all over the world, but that doesn’t make it a YA book by any means!

The Lodestar Award is meant specifically for Young Adult SFF books. Not adult books that young people enjoy, not non-SFF books that mention a UFO sighting once, not novelettes, not TV shows. It’s really very simple. If all things point to a book being YA and enough people nominate it, it should become a finalist. If people nominated a book that doesn’t qualify, it should not become a finalist. Would a YA movie have made the ballot if it had gotten enough votes? I should hope not! So why does an adult novel?

The problem, in my opinion, is threefold.

Number one: Nominators seem to be confused or not to care whether it’s YA or not. As a quick Google search will tell you, it was never meant to be YA but, having read the first book, I can see where the confusion comes from. It ticks a lot of the usual YA boxes. So I’ll assume most people nominated in good faith and chose the category they thought the book belonged in.

Number two: The Hugo administrators, both for 2021 and 2022, did not disqualify a book that was nominated in the wrong category. Please, future Hugo administrations, do better! Mistakes can happen and that’s okay, but making the same mistake a previous administration has already made is embarrassing. Doing it three times in a row is just incompetent.
Disqualify works if they are in the wrong category and – because the fans’ votes should still count, obviously! – count them in the correct category. So The Last Gradute should have its nominations transferred to the Best Novel category and if it manages to get among the top six choices, then it’s a well-deserved finalist in that category.

Number three: The failsafe for the previous two problems, and an option any author can take any time should they deem it advisable, is the fact that you do not have to accept a nomination. You can decline, for whatever reason. Many authors and creators do so after winning an award, recusing themselves in order to let other people shine next year (I don’t think anybody ever thought that this wasn’t a classy move). Others decline their earned spot on the finalist ballot for various reasons (Terry Pratchett said that he really doesn’t need a Hugo, he’s quite famous enough and wanted someone else to have a chance (man, I miss that man!). Ann Leckie declined for The Raven Tower after having garnered tons of nominations for her Imperial Radch books.)
Naomi Novik, now two years in a row, actively accepted nominations for the Lodestar award. Let’s not forget, she also accepted the Alex Award nomination last year. So no matter how you turn it, she is trying to have it both ways and wants to maximize her chances of winning an award, any award.
And even if she can’t bring herself to decline a nomination meant for other works, she should at least have the decency to clarify whether this series she’s writing is YA or adult. Her utter silence on the topic since ever last year’s nomination and the controversy that came with it has been pretty telling.

Look, none of us can see inside Naomi Novik’s head or heart, so we’ll never know her true reasons. But her behaviour does paint a certain picture and it is not exactly flattering. I have copious amounts of love for her novels Uprooted and Spinning Silver but my respect for her as a person has shrunk significantly since last year. This year just makes things worse. It’s no longer just in bad taste, it appears desperate and ruthless.

A fair and gracious person would have declined either the nomination for the Alex Award or the one for the Lodestar. Novik wanted to have both, no matter that her book is taking up a spot on the ballot meant for a qualified work of fiction.
Last year, it was Sarah Gailey‘s actual, meant-for-younger-audiences YA debut, When We Were Magic about queer teenage witches. I wonder whose book it will turn out to be this year? A newer, more unknow author whose career could change entirely due to a Lodestar nomination? A BIPOC author? We’ll find out in September but I fully expect to be outraged.

About the Charles Stross Best Series Finalist

I was super confused when I saw a series name I had never even heard of on the final ballot. Charlie Stross is a name I’m familiar with, I read his novella Equoid years ago and found it delightfully creepy. Never got into the Laundry Files, though. But his nomination for Best Series still came out of nowhere for me when I googled it, and now, after some additional research, I realize why.

The Hugo administration was a bit unclear when it comes to the exact series title. Because the series Merchant Princes (Goodreads) actually contains only six works, the latest of which came out in 2010.

I should have realized I was missing something when there was no recent work listed in that series. What is, in fact, nominated this year, is the Merchant Princes Universe (Goodreads) which contains the above mentioned series as well as a newer series, called Empire Games.

Once you’ve found the right series, familiar looking covers start popping up and the nomination doesn’t feel quite so out of the blue as it did. The newer sub-series which qualified the larger fictional universe, contains only three novels (so far):

Judging only from the covers, I’d say this will be quite different in setting from the older Merchant Princes series. I am a little bit torn on where to start reading the series now. As I doubt I’ll make it through all nine (!) volumes, I’ll probably go only with the newer trilogy because (a) fewer books to read and (b) I get the stuff that made people nominate the series, not books from almost 20 years ago. I also think my chances of liking this series/universe are much higher if I stick to the newer ones.

I still find it a very strange choice as there was very little buzz around these books in the last years and Stross is much more well-known for his Laundry Files series. It could either be his fans doing a Seanan McGuire (nominating whatever is eligible by their favorite author) or this series really is a hidden gem that deserves more recognition. I am curious and will, of course, report back once I’ve read the first, or technically seventh, book.

My Thoughts on the Hugo Award Finalists 2022

One of the best surprises is when the Hugo Award Finalists are announced much earlier than expected. It’s true, book people of the world, ChiCon have announced the finalists today and that means it’s time to share first impressions.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE FINALISTS!

Same procedure as every 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 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 (5/6)

Five out of six is crazy! Then again, I felt that last year was filled with a lot of very, very good books but almost no standout ones that everyone could get on board with and cheer for. None of these finalists are surprising, as they were all talked about and praised quite a lot, but I also don’t have an immediate winner in mind, despite having read almost all of them already.

I have been looking forward to She Who Became the Sun since it came out and I even own a stunning hardback edition. Don’t know why I haven’t read it yet but I have high hopes. Maybe this is the one that will make me go “Here’s my winner!”

As for the others, my favorite was probably Becky Chambers final Wayfarers novel The Galaxy and the Ground Within (review coming on Monday) because it’s just what I had hoped for, the audiobook version was absolutely wonderful yet again, and there’s just something about Chambers’ writing and characters that works for me.
A close second was a surprise for me because it’s Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. I was expecting a bit of lighthearted, sciency fun. A space adventure with a dash of saving the world and great humor. And I got that, but I also got so much more. Granted, I listened to this book during the phase of my pregnancy when it was hardest to concentrate, so I think the audiobook narrator Ray Porter deserves extra praise. But the way the book kept my attention and made me feel for the characters was impressive to say the least.

Now I’d like to see P. Djèlí Clark’s career keep soaring the way it is and I did have fun with A Master of Djinn but I also preferred his shorter works. The novel, while great for many reasons, was lacking in other areas. The murder mystery part of the story fell flat for me, but I did continue to love the world building which was begun in Clark’s short story and novellas set in the same world. I also adored some of the character interactions. So it wasn’t love at first read, but I also wouldn’t begrudge this book a Hugo win.

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine had the tough job of following a big favorite of mine and Hugo Best Novel winner in its own right, A Memory Called Empire. I loved many things about this book and I thought Martine did a great job pushing her story further and giving her characters a satisfying plotline while also introducing new ones. But – as unfair as that may be – the novelty of said world is gone and so I didn’t quite love the book as much as its predecessor. I was also under the impression that it’s the middle book of a planned trilogy but I guess that’s wrong and the duology is finished.

Lastly, Light of Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki was another wonderful, not-a-boring-moment science-fantasy novel that stood out mostly for its characters, not so much for its science fictional ideas. It’s wacky and fun and deep, it asks important questions, and it puts a trans character center stage, describes lovely queer relationships, and it’s also a love letter to music! I really have no complaints about this book other than that it didn’t focus all that much on SFF world building/magic system things but rather on characters. That’s not a bad thing at all, but when having to decide between several excellent books, it’s one aspect I’m taking into consideration.


BEST NOVELLA (3/6)

Well look at that, all three of my nominations made the final ballot! I am so proud. Mostly, I am overjoyed that Cat Valente’s beautiful, heartbreaking, eye-opening, lovely novella The Past is Red made it! Although I will read the other finalists, I doubt any of them is going to touch me the way this little book has. Honestly, I still pick up my copy and stroke the cover from time to time, thinking back lovingly to the moments spent with Tetley in Gargabetown. It may be short but this story packs a punch.

Seanan McGuire is back again with her latest Wayward Children novella, Across the Green Grass Fields. I’m not surprised because McGuire getting nominated is just a thing that happens, but I am a little surprised because even fans of the series said that they found this to be a particularly weak instalment and many people didn’t like it, despite being big McGuire fans. So I’ll go into this with very low expectations and hope it will be a happy surprise like the fourth volume in that rather middling series.

Becky Chambers’ A Psalm for the Wild-Built was just what I expected but also quite different. It was quieter and had less plot than I had anticipated, but that doesn’t mean I liked it any less. I felt so damn understood and I loved the philosophical questions the story posed. It wasn’t as much of an emotional gut punch as the Valente, but I’m glad it made the final ballot (I nominated it, after all).

Similarly, Alix E. Harrow’s A Spindle Splintered was just my jam even though I think it’s not in the same league as my other two nominations. This was more of a fun exploration of fairy tales, a feminist kick in the trope-butt, a book that made me giggle at all its references. It has an emotional core and its premise isn’t funny at all, but I think despite Harrow being a Hugo favorite, she will have a hard time winning this category.

I generally like Aliette de Bodard and Fireheart Tiger has been on my TBR for a while. Adrian Tchaikovsky is an author I keep wanting to try but I haven’t found a good (read: non-threatening because 7-book epic saga) entry point yet. This Elder Race novella looks like my perfect opportunity.


BEST NOVELETTE (1/6)

There’s almost nothing new to see here. All of the finalist authors are well-established Hugo contenders, with the exception of Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, who is a Nommo and Otherwise winner and a Nebula finalist but hasn’t been on the Hugo ballot so far. I look forward to his novelette. In with the new stuff!

Obviously, I am thrilled to see Cat Valente‘s novelette on here. Her take on Orpheus and Eurydice and what comes after the aventure we all know felt like a slap in the face, but what a beautiful, gorgeously written slap it was.

As for the others, I look forward to reading all of them. Most of the authors I’ve read and liked before so I’m sure I’ll enjoy this category. Also, Uncanny magazine has such pretty covers. I could stare at them for hours.


BEST SHORT STORY (1/6)

It is not the Valente story that I’ve read but “Mr. Death” by Alix Harrow! I rarely read short fiction and I pretty much never actively look up short stories. I lean more toward novels and novellas, but this I couldn’t miss after reading Andreas’ review. I thought I knew where this story was going when I really didn’t, and then my heart got wrenched and my eyes somehow went glassy and the short story landed on my nomination ballot…

A Cat Valente short story is always a good thing, especially since I totally missed that she published one. Many heaps of shame upon my head but also yay for something to really, really look forward to. (Narrator voice: Later that day…) I have read the story now and, damn, it’s atmospheric and gut-punchy, alright. But! I didn’t love it as much as “Mr. Death”.

There’s a short story that has been entirely published on Twitter on here which is about as 2020ies as things can get. I have no idea what the story is about but I am intrigued. Also, more Uncanny Magazine. They’re just really good.


BEST SERIES (3ish/6)

  • Fonda Lee – The Geen Bone Saga
  • C. L. Polk – The Kingston ycle
  • Seanan McGuire – Wayward Children
  • Charles Stross – Merchant Princes
    • The Family Trade
    • The Hidden FAmily
    • The Clan Corporate
    • The Merchant’s War
    • The Revolution Business
    • The Trade of Queens
  • Ada Palmer – Terra Ignota
    • Too Like the Lightning
    • Seven Surrenders
    • The Will to Battle
    • Perhaps the Stars
  • T. Kingfisher – The World of the White Rat
    • Clocktaur War
      • Clockwork Boys
      • The Wonder Engine
    • Swordheart
    • The Saint of Steel
      • Paladin’s Grace
      • Paladin’s Strength
      • Paladin’s Hope

I was afraid last year that InCryptid would be back in 2022, so I am now counting myself lucky that it was McGuire’s Wayward Children series that once again made the ballot. I have to read the latest book for the Novella category anyway, so I’m glad I can get away with that one short book. That’s a definite win. I already know that series will at best make the middle of my ballot because, overall, I don’t find it partiularly strong, but we’ll see how I like this latest addition.

Why I haven’t already devoured Jade Legacy is anyone’s guess. Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga is one of those series that have made a real impact on SFF by doing something fresh and new even though she may be playing with well-known tropes and ideas. It doesn’t hurt that her writing is just brilliant. So yeah, can’t wait to finish the series and see if the Kaul family gets out of this mafia-esque clan war unscathed.

The Kingston Cycle by C.L. Polk started out very nicely with Witchmark. Unfortunately, I never continued the series (because I suck) but I very much look foward to reading the other stories set in that universe. I also like that this is more of a charming kind of story, very different in tone and setting from the other finalists.

Although my first thought upon looking up The World of the White Rat by the inimitable T. Kingfisher was “holy shit, this is a lot” I am super excited about this finalist. I mean, it’s not like all of these books aren’t on my TBR anyway, it’s just that this particular world has several series set in it and I’m not quite sure where to start. I suppose I’ll let my mood decide. There’s Steampunk, fantasy romance (yay), and there’s a standalone that sounds hilarious.

I am also happy that I will finally have to read Terra Ignota by Ada Palmer. I’ve had my eye on that series for ages but somehow it always slipped through the cracks. If this year is anything like last year, I am in for happy surprises and great new series discoveries.

The wild card on the ballot is Charles Stross’ Marchant Princes. I had honestly never even heard of this series before (Stross is more famous for his Laundry Files, I guess) and it sounds like a strange amalgamation of rather old-timey tropes. Modern woman, portal fantasy, scheming rival clans, knights on horseback… there seems to be a bit of everything here and it could go either way. I’ll be honest and say the covers aren’t encouraging, but I will definitely give it a try. It wouldn’t be the first time my fellow Hugo nominators lead me to discover unexpected favorites.


BEST GRAPHIC STORY (0.5/6)

  • Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans – DIE, vol. 4: Bleed
  • N. K. Jemisin, Jamal Campbell – Far Sector
  • Rachel Smythe – Lore Olympus, vol. 1
  • Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda – Monstress, vol. 6: The Vow
  • Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, Tamra Bonvillain – Once & Future vol. 3: The Parliament of Magpies
  • Tom King, Mitch Gerads, Evan “Doc” Shaner – Strange Adventures

Well, as per usual, I haven’t caught up on most of the series that are perennial Hugo favorites but I look forward to it. I have read some of Lore Olympus online (as this started as a webcomic before it was published traditionally) and I found it cute and all but I wasn’t hooked enough to continue. Maybe it was also reading on my phone that turned me off… We’ll see how I like it when I read it on the iPad.

DIE vol. 4, Once & Future vol. 3, and Monstress vol. 6 are all continuations of series that have previously been nominated. Some of them I find more promising than others but what’s interesting here is the speed with which Kieron Gillen seems to put out his work. Last year, we got volume 1 of Once & Future and volume 2 of DIE, this year we’ve “skipped” a volume each. I hope the missing volumes are included in the voter packet so we can form an opinion on the series as a whole so far as well as the latest instalment. I will also do a re-read of the first volumes because my bain is useless and remembers almost nothing.

Seeing N. K. Jemisin on a Hugo finalist list is no surprise, although I previously knew nothing about this comic Far Sector. It’s apparently a Green Lantern story and the synopsis honestly doesn’t sound that great to me. But it’s Jemisin, so I’m sure she turned a small idea into something amazing.

Strange Adventure seems to be a reinvention of old-timey pulpy superhero science fiction and I’m keeping an open mind. I guess I’ll end up either loving or hating it. If it’s funny and I like the art, yay. If the content reads like it’s from the 50ies, I will have to pass.


LODESTAR (1/6)

  • Jordan Ifueko – Redemptor
  • Naomi Kritzer – Chaos on CatNet
  • Xiran Jay Zaho – Iron Widow
  • Charlie Jane Anders – Victories Greater Than Death
  • Darcie Little Badger – A Snake Falls to Earth
  • Naomi Novik – The Last Graduate

Looks like we have a lot of sequels on our hands, as well as some returning Hugo or Lodestar finalist authors. The exception – and the book I’m most excited for – is Xiran Jay Zhao’s Iron Widow. As with many other finalists this year, I’ve owned the book for quite some time. It’s the actual reading that seems to take me forever. 🙂

I very much look forward to the second Naomi Kritzer book, Chaos on CatNet as the first one totally unexpectedly stole my heart! Darcie Little Badger’s A Snake Falls to Earth looks very pretty but sounds like it’s mostly a repeat of the themes and structure we got in Elatsoe which I liked fine, but which read much, much younger than I was led to believe from the synopsis and marketing. But I’m curious to see how the author has grown and developed and what this new story has to offer.

Apparently, Naomi Novik is writing YA after all. And there I was, thinking all those articles did her wrong, automatically classifying a work by a female fantasy writer as YA just because it happens to have a school setting. I am still not convinced this was meant to be YA, but it looks like declining an awards nomination is just a bit too hard – but okay, if this is how it is, I hope the author doesn’t complain when people call her books YA. You can’t have it both ways. I am not un-excited to read The Last Graduate but it will have to up the game in comparison to A Deadly Education.

Reading Charlie Jane Anders is always intriguing and her first foray into YA has me positively giddy with excitement. Victories Greater Than Death also got optioned for a TV series, so that makes me expect quite a bit of action and a compelling plot. Anders always has great ideas, diverse characters, and complicated world building. I cannot wait!

The one book I have read (and nominated) is Jordan Ifueko’s Redemptor. I didn’t love it quite as much as Raybearer but it was a fantastic ending to a duology, it wrapped the story up neatly, raised the stakes, offered some great twists, and I adored its complex romantic as well as found family relationships. It’s too early to say where it will land on my ballot, though. The competition is stiff!


ASTOUNDING AWARD (3/6)

I nominated Micaiah Johnson, just like last year, because The Space Between Worlds is one hell of a debut and makes me highly anticipate the author’s next work. (I also nominated Freya Marske who may not have been eligible due to some shorter work published earlier? Anyway, she’s great, just had to meantion this here!)

Everina Maxwell‘s debut was fun and well written but didn’t leave too much of an impression on me. I’m happy to see the author nominated and I’ll be on the lokout for her next work but it wasn’t an instant author crush for me.

Shelley Parker-Chan and Xiran Jay Zhao are nominated in two categories each, one Best Novel/Lodestar, the other the Astounding Award. So they both made quite an impact, it seems, which only makes me more excited to read their novels. Again, I find it very nice that I can cover several categories with a single book. Gives me more of a chance to catch up on those Best Series!

A.K. Larkwood is back from last year. I still haven’t read The Unspoken Name but I hope to get to it this year. By now, the second book in that series is also out.
Tracy Deonn‘s sequel to Legendborn only comes out in November which is too late for reading it within the voting period. But I’ve read and enjoyed her first book and will rank her in this list as best as I can.


GENERAL THOUGHTS

Most of the categories are not surprising at all. There’s plenty of Hugo favorites, either authors who have been nominated or won before, or direct sequels to works that have been finalists.

Obviously, my biggest joy is seeing Catherynne M. Valente in three categories! My favorite of last year, The Past is Red, wasn’t all that surprising because lots of people liked it. But I didn’t expect her novelette “L’Esprit de L’Escalier” to make it (even though I nominated it because, obviously, it’s brilliant) and then to see her nominated for Best Short Story as well. Can you see me jumping up and down like a crazy person? Because I totally am.

I’m so, so happy that T. Kingfisher is becoming a Hugo fixture. I’ve been reading her indie works for years but seeing how fandom has caught on and is appreciating her genius is just wonderful. Plus, her acceptance speeches are THE BEST! I also hope this makes it easier for her to keep writing and publishing because I selfishly just want more T. Kingfisher books!

My Seanan McGuire rant is cancelled this year. Really, I’m fine with it. I don’t think this year’s novella contender will be good but hey, at least it’s only one novella and a short story. And I have loved some of McGuire’s short stories so there’s that.

Only a handful of works came out of left field for me and they are, first of all, the Charles Stross series that I’d never even heard mentioned before and, secondly, the Strange Adventures comic. Then again, I’m not as in the loop about graphic novels and comics as other people so that may just be my fault.

What do you think about the finalists? Did your nominees make it? Are you going to read the finalists and if yes, are you voting?

The State of SFF – April 2022

Welcome back, everyone. 🙂
I was too scared to make any promises last time, but it seems like I’m back in a somewhat regular blogging schedule. My reading is more or less normal again, I have a much easier time concentrating, and my pregnancy is going well. Also, I’m starting to feel more and more like a unicorn for not having had Covid yet. Even many of my friends who have been vaccinated three times are catching it (which may have to do with our government being absolute idiots and opening everything up and dropping all sorts of measures during a time with the highest, record-breaking incident numbers since the pandemic started… oh well).

I hope you are all doing well, that all your loved ones are safe and healthy, and that your reading is giving you nothing but joy.

Quickie News

  • The Hugo Award Finalists will be announced on April 7th which is very soon and thus all the more exciting. Get your TBRs ready, make sure to get plenty of rest and fluids, and then we can start reading our way through those finalists like the crazy book people we are.
  • Tor.com have graciously collected the information Brandon Sanderson has shared about his four secret novels that managed to break all Kickstarter records. Soif you want a quick overview about what these are all about, go check out the article.
  • Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronciles are being adapted as an animated film. I’ve been hoping for a movie or TV version of this guilty pleasure of mine, fairy tale retellings set in the future, with a sci-fi twist and lots of adorable romance. But I think I’m even more excited to find out it’s going to be animated. This opens up a whole new world for visuals.

Orilium Readathon

Last month, we got a week-long Orilium Gear-Up Readathon, this month, it’s the big one! G from the YouTube channel Book Roast has outdone herself. If you’re in the mood for a month-long readathon that feels like the character creation part of a video game at the same time as going to magic school, then this is for you. Naturally, I already signed up and have my TBR sort of planned out.

The rules may be many and intricate but G is known for keeping it all super low pressure. You can adapt and change the prompts and rules however you see fit. This is meant to be fun for everyone and the community is one of the most welcoming, kind ones I’ve met on the interwebs. Seriously, come play with us! We’d love to have you.


A Word about Subscription Box Special Editions and Entitled Customers

You may or may not know about book subscription boxes, a service you may subscribe to and which sends you a box with a mystery new publication plus some mechandise or useful items every month. There are plenty of them, for different genres, age gropus, and tastes and usually with different options such as “book only” or “full box” etc.

In recent years, these boxes have tried to set each other apart buy customizing their editions of a given book to be extra special. That menas sprayed edges, embossing on the hardcover, exclusive art for the endpapers or the reverse of the jacket, you get the idea. Sometimes, that also means a book will be signed by the author. Sometimes it won’t.

Now the box I subscribe to – Illumicrate – has sent out a book in March without an author signature and they’ve just announced their May book (Holly Black’s Book of Night) also won’t be signed. I know, what’s the big deal, right? Well, if you ask me, no deal at all. If you go to the comment section of their announcment however, you’ll see a whole bunch of people actually complaining and demanding to know if this is “a new trend” and how dare Illumicrate not have a signed copy for every single customer when Waterstones and other chain bookstores have them on offer?

This is just one example (and a more reasonable one) of those complaints. The comments are filled with way harsher words and that simply baffles me.

Those people, should they stumble across my blog, I would remind of the following things:

  • You didn’t sign up for a subscription box that offers signed copies guaranteed.
  • Authors are humans! Maybe if Holly Black has already signed thousands of books, she didn’t want to sign another thousand? Maybe she physically can’t? Maybe she has a deal with her publishers that grants certain stores exclusive rights to signed editions? Maybe she has better things to do, such as, I don’t know, write her next book?
  • Think about the supply chain. There may not have been time for signed editions. Books have to be printed and shipped and, in case you forgot, we’re still in a pandemic with an added war in Europe and the world is not exactly running smoothly.
  • If you’re so desperate for a signed edition, skip this month’s subscription and order a sigend edition!
    It’s not like it’s signed to you personally so what’s the big deal if you have to get it from somewhere other than your subscription box?
  • The Illumicrate team are humans as well. It’s their decision what extras to feature on any given book, it’s their work that makes all this possible. If you don’t like their work, unsubscribe. there is literally a waitlist full of people who’d be more than happy about those unsigned editions.
  • You can give feedback without sounding like an entitled brat.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk. That needed to be said or I would have exploded.


Exciting April Publications

A new Cat Valente, hooray, and a new C.S.E. Cooney (which I’m already reading), yay, and one of my most highly anticipated debuts, and it’s all happening in April!

EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL – SEA OF TRANQUILITY (April 5th)

It’s a new book from Emily St. John Mandel, the author who ripped our hearts out and filled us up with hope with her wonderful Station Eleven. I have yet to read her last novel, The Glass Hotel, but that doesn’t mean I can’t look forward to this one.

The award-winning, best-selling author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel returns with a novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal–an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.


GRACE D. LI – PORTRAIT OF A THIEF (April 5th)

One of my most highly anticipated debuts of the year and not just because it’s about thieves and has a gorgeous cover. Okay, maybe mostly because it’s about thieves and has a gorgeous cover. But also Harvard seniors (I’m a sucker for reading about academia), a diverse cast, and themes of colonialism. Gimme!

Ocean’s Eleven meets The Farewell in Portrait of a Thief, a lush, lyrical heist novel inspired by the true story of Chinese art vanishing from Western museums; about diaspora, the colonization of art, and the complexity of the Chinese American identity.

History is told by the conquerors. Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of war, of conquest, of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now.

Will Chen plans to steal them back.

A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son who has always been his parents’ American Dream. But when a mysterious Chinese benefactor reaches out with an impossible—and illegal—job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago.

His crew is every heist archetype one can imag­ine—or at least, the closest he can get. A con artist: Irene Chen, a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with steady hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering major who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down.

Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars—and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted at­tempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.

Equal parts beautiful, thoughtful, and thrilling, Portrait of a Thief is a cultural heist and an examination of Chinese American identity, as well as a necessary cri­tique of the lingering effects of colonialism.


EMILY J. TAYLOR – HOTEL MAGNIFIQUE (April 5th)

This book’s synopsis has a few anti-buzz words for me, as I thought both Caraval and The Night Circus were books with pretty settings and little substance. I will definitely wait for reviews before I get this book but I’ll remain cautiously interested.

For fans of Caraval and The Night Circus, this decadent and darkly enchanting YA fantasy, set against the backdrop of a Belle Époque-inspired hotel, follows seventeen-year-old Jani as she uncovers the deeply disturbing secrets of the legendary Hotel Magnifique.

All her life, Jani has dreamed of Elsewhere. Just barely scraping by with her job at a tannery, she’s resigned to a dreary life in the port town of Durc, caring for her younger sister Zosa. That is, until the Hotel Magnifique comes to town.

The hotel is legendary not only for its whimsical enchantments, but also for its ability to travel—appearing in a different destination every morning. While Jani and Zosa can’t afford the exorbitant costs of a guest’s stay, they can interview to join the staff, and are soon whisked away on the greatest adventure of their lives. But once inside, Jani quickly discovers their contracts are unbreakable and that beneath the marvelous glamour, the hotel is hiding dangerous secrets.

With the vexingly handsome doorman Bel as her only ally, Jani embarks on a mission to unravel the mystery of the magic at the heart of the hotel and free Zosa—and the other staff—from the cruelty of the ruthless maître d’hôtel. To succeed, she’ll have to risk everything she loves, but failure would mean a fate far worse than never returning home.


RORY POWERS – IN A GARDEN BURNING GOLD (April 5th)

Rory Powers must be a favorite of the cover gods because, damn! Also magical twins defending themselves and their siblings against their crazy father, mythology, and lots of backstabbing. Teehee.

Twins imbued with incredible magic and near-immortality will do anything to keep their family safe—even if it tears the siblings apart—in the first book of a mythic epic fantasy from the New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls.

Rhea and her twin brother, Lexos, have spent an eternity helping their father rule their small, unstable country, using their control over the seasons, tides, and stars to keep the people in line. For a hundred years, they’ve been each other’s only ally, defending each other and their younger siblings against their father’s increasingly unpredictable anger.

Now, with an independence movement gaining ground and their father’s rule weakening, the twins must take matters into their own hands to keep their family—and their entire world—from crashing down around them. But other nations are jockeying for power, ready to cross and double cross, and if Rhea and Lexos aren’t careful, they’ll end up facing each other across the battlefield.


CHRIS PANATIER – STRINGERS (April 12th)

Comparisons to Hitchhiker’s Guide are always a daring choice, but they also always work on me. So here I am, wanting desperately to get my hands on this very green book.

“Where Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy recommended towels, this slapstick and semisweet space opera sends its Earthlings out among the aliens armed only with a jar of pickles…Readers are in for a treat.” — Publishers Weekly in a starred review

“Panatier combines humor, action, and a memorable cast of characters to deliver a read perfect for fans of Becky Chambers who appreciate a good fart joke and fans of Douglas Adams interested in considering serious moral quandaries in between chuckles.” — ALA Booklist

Knowledge can get you killed. Especially if you have no idea what it means.

Ben is NOT a genius, but he can spout facts about animals and wristwatches with the best of experts. He just can’t explain how he knows any of it.

He also knows about the Chime. What it is or why it’s important he couldn’t say. But this knowledge is about to get him in a whole heap of trouble.

After he and his best friend Patton are abducted by a trash-talking, flesh-construct alien bounty hunter, Ben finds out just how much he is worth… and how dangerous he can be. Hopefully Patton and a stubborn jar of pickles will be enough to help him through. Because being able to describe the mating habits of Brazilian bark lice isn’t going to save them.


C.S.E. COONEY – SAINT DEATH’S DAUGHTER (April 12th)

I am reading this already because lukcy me got an e-ARC. Cooney stole my heart with her collection Bone Swans (seriously, go read it if you want a treat) so her first big novel was something I wouldn’t miss for the world. It’s as if Gideon the Ninth got hit across the head with a cheerfulness hammer, blasted with a highly creative mythology gun, and then soaked a few hours in poetic language stew. I’m loving it so far!

Fun, froofy and glorious: a coming-of-age story in a new trilogy from World Fantasy Award-winning author C.S.E. Cooney.

Nothing complicates life like Death.

Lanie Stones, the daughter of the Royal Assassin and Chief Executioner of Liriat, has never led a normal life. Born with a gift for necromancy and a literal allergy to violence, she was raised in isolation in the family’s crumbling mansion by her oldest friend, the ancient revenant Goody Graves.

When her parents are murdered, it falls on Lanie and her cheerfully psychotic sister Nita to settle their extensive debts or lose their ancestral home—and Goody with it. Appeals to Liriat’s ruler to protect them fall on indifferent ears… until she, too, is murdered, throwing the nation’s future into doubt.

Hunted by Liriat’s enemies, hounded by her family’s creditors and terrorised by the ghost of her great-grandfather, Lanie will need more than luck to get through the next few months—but when the goddess of Death is on your side, anything is possible.


EMILY X.R. PAN – AN ARROW TO TH EMOON (April 12th)

Keeping with the Asian mythology trend of 2022, we get this Romeo and Juliet version but with interesting-sounding twists. The supernatural wind definitely caught my eye as did the contemporary setting. (The pretty cover doesn’t hurt either.)

Romeo and Juliet meets Chinese mythology in this magical novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Astonishing Color of After.

In Fairbridge, a series of bizarre phenomena brings together a pair of star-crossed lovers from rival families.

Hunter Yee has perfect aim with a bow and arrow, but all else in his life veers wrong. He’s sick of being haunted by his family’s past mistakes. The only things keeping him from running away are his little brother, a supernatural wind, and the bewitching girl at his new school.

Luna Chang dreads the future. It’s the last year of high school, and her parents’ expectations are stifling. When she begins to break the rules, she finds her life upended by the strange new boy in her class, the arrival of unearthly fireflies, and an ominous crack spreading across the town.

As Hunter and Luna navigate their families’ enmity and secrets, everything around them begins to fall apart. All they can depend on is their love…but time is running out, and fate will have its way.


REBECCA ROANHORSE – FEVERED STAR (April 19th)

Finally we get the continuation of the series that started with the well-written but very non-standalone Black Sun to see where the tales of Serapio, Xiala, and Naranpa will take us.

Return to The Meridian with New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Roanhorse’s sequel to the most critically hailed epic fantasy of 2020 Black Sun—finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Lambda, and Locus awards.

There are no tides more treacherous than those of the heart. —Teek saying

The great city of Tova is shattered. The sun is held within the smothering grip of the Crow God’s eclipse, but a comet that marks the death of a ruler and heralds the rise of a new order is imminent.

The Meridian: a land where magic has been codified and the worship of gods suppressed. How do you live when legends come to life, and the faith you had is rewarded?

As sea captain Xiala is swept up in the chaos and currents of change, she finds an unexpected ally in the former Priest of Knives. For the Clan Matriarchs of Tova, tense alliances form as far-flung enemies gather and the war in the heavens is reflected upon the earth.

And for Serapio and Naranpa, both now living avatars, the struggle for free will and personhood in the face of destiny rages. How will Serapio stay human when he is steeped in prophecy and surrounded by those who desire only his power? Is there a future for Naranpa in a transformed Tova without her total destruction?

Welcome back to the fantasy series of the decade in Fevered Star—book two of Between Earth and Sky.


NICOLA GRIFFITH – SPEAR (April 19th)

I swear, Hild has been on my TBR for way too long yet I keep not picking it up. Maybe with this novella, I’ll finally get the push to dive into Nicola Griffith’s work.

The girl knows she has a destiny before she even knows her name. She grows up in the wild, in a cave with her mother, but visions of a faraway lake come to her on the spring breeze, and when she hears a traveler speak of Artos, king of Caer Leon, she knows that her future lies at his court.

And so, brimming with magic and eager to test her strength, she breaks her covenant with her mother and, with a broken hunting spear and mended armour, rides on a bony gelding to Caer Leon. On her adventures she will meet great knights and steal the hearts of beautiful women. She will fight warriors and sorcerers. And she will find her love, and the lake, and her fate.


ADRIENNE TOOLEY – SOFI AND THE BONE SONG (April 19th)

I love when fantasy involves music as a central element and the idea of the super diligent student up against what appears to be a natural (no lessons, just pure talent) appeals to me.

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In this gorgeous, queer standalone fantasy, a young musician sets out to expose her rival for illegal use of magic only to discover the deception goes deeper than she could have imagined—perfect for fans of An Enchantment of Ravens!

Music runs in Sofi’s blood.

Her father is a Musik, one of only five musicians in the country licensed to compose and perform original songs. In the kingdom of Aell, where winter is endless and magic is accessible to all, there are strict anti-magic laws ensuring music remains the last untouched art.

Sofi has spent her entire life training to inherit her father’s title. But on the day of the auditions, she is presented with unexpected competition in the form of Lara, a girl who has never before played the lute. Yet somehow, to Sofi’s horror, Lara puts on a performance that thoroughly enchants the judges.

Almost like magic.

The same day Lara wins the title of Musik, Sofi’s father dies, and a grieving Sofi sets out to prove Lara is using illegal magic in her performances. But the more time she spends with Lara, the more Sofi begins to doubt everything she knows about her family, her music, and the girl she thought was her enemy.

As Sofi works to reclaim her rightful place as a Musik, she is forced to face the dark secrets of her past and the magic she was trained to avoid—all while trying not to fall for the girl who stole her future.


CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE – OSMO UNKNOWN AND THE EIGHTPENNY WOODS (April 26th)

AAAAAAAAAAH a new middle grade adventure by my favoritest of authors and it has a PANGIRLIN in it. That’s right, pan-girl-in. My heart! Plus, this is Valente’s underworld novel for kids so I just know there’s going to be lots of nods to mythology and folklore in it as well as adorable characters.

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A fantasy following a boy journeying away from the only home he’s ever known and into the magical realm of the dead in order to fulfill a bargain for his people.

Osmo Unknown hungers for the world beyond his small town. With the life that Littlebridge society has planned for him, the only taste Osmo will ever get are his visits to the edge of the Fourpenny Woods where his mother hunts. Until the unthinkable happens: his mother accidentally kills a Quidnunk, a fearsome and intelligent creature that lives deep in the forest.

None of this should have anything to do with poor Osmo, except that a strange treaty was once formed between the Quidnunx and the people of Littlebridge to ensure that neither group would harm the other. Now that a Quidnunk is dead, as the firstborn child of the hunter who killed her, Osmo must embark on a quest to find the Eightpenny Woods—the mysterious kingdom where all wild forest creatures go when they die—and make amends.

Accompanied by a very rude half-badger, half-wombat named Bonk and an antisocial pangolin girl called Never, it will take all of Osmo’s bravery and cleverness to survive the magic of the Eightpenny Woods to save his town…and make it out alive.


VAISHNAVI PATEL – KAIKEYI (April 26th)

To be honest, most of the description for this sounds like rather generic women’s uprising fare. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just like my fantasy to offer more layers. So it’s the “evil from childhood stories” that drew me in after all and makes me want to give this Ramayana retelling a go.

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“Patel’s mesmerizing debut shines a brilliant light on the vilified queen from the Ramayana….This easily earns its place on shelves alongside Madeline Miller’s Circe.” –Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.”

So begins Kaikeyi’s story. The only daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, she is raised on tales about the might and benevolence of the gods: how they churned the vast ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, how they vanquish evil and ensure the land of Bharat prospers, and how they offer powerful boons to the devout and the wise. Yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, listens as her own worth is reduced to how great a marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear.

Desperate for some measure of independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With this power, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her.

But as the evil from her childhood stories threatens the cosmic order, the path she has forged clashes with the destiny the gods have chosen for her family. And Kaikeyi must decide if resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak—and what legacy she intends to leave behind.

A stunning debut from a powerful new voice, Kaikeyi is a tale of fate, family, courage, and heartbreak—of an extraordinary woman determined to leave her mark in a world where gods and men dictate the shape of things to come.


T. KINGFISHER – NETTLE AND BONE (April 26th)

Not only are we getting a new Cat Valente adventure in April, we’ll also get a T. Kingfisher fairy tale-esque novel about sisters and witches and impossible tasks. The fact that they want to kill the prince makes this 100% cooler, and I just know I will fall in love with the demon-possessed chicken.

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A dark and compelling fantasy about sisterhood, impossible tasks and the price of power, from award-winning author T. Kingfisher

After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra―the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter―has finally realized that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself.

Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince―if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.

On her quest, Marra is joined by the gravewitch, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last.


FONDA LEE – THE JADE SETTER OF JANLOON (April 30th)

The crowning finale of April is a new (if shorter) work in the mind-blowing Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee. If you want the limited hardback edition, go to Subterranean Press now. These usually sell out quickly! I’ll stick with the e-book but I cannot wait to see what this prequel novella has in store for us.

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THE JADE SETTER OF JANLOON is a standalone novella in The Green Bone Saga. It takes place two years before the events of Jade City, and it will be coming out from Subterranean Press in early 2022, in beautiful limited edition hardback and ebook.


News from the blog

I am back in the game. It wasn’t a record-breaking month, especially considering that I picked a few shorter books to read, but I am okay with it.

What I read last month:

I am so glad I finally started the Divine Cities trilogy because now I know why everyone says it’s so good. Because it is! I’m afraid my brain wasn’t all that fair to Tasha Suri’s book but then I had fun with two shorter instalments by authors I like, and I tried a new book (first adult after only YA) by a new-to-me author that left me underwhelmed.

Currently reading:

  • C.S.C. Cooney – Saint Death’s Daughter (ARC)
  • Robert Jordan – The Dragon Reborn
  • Ann Leckie – Ancillary Sword
  • V.E. Schwab – Gallant
  • Jessica Townsend – Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow

Yeah, yeah, so my Wheel of Time read-through isn’t exactly going smoothly. I do read a chapter every once in a while but then I’m reminded that the book is treating me like I’m a little stupid, with its many repetitions (what is up with the braid tugging?!), its rather one-minded female characters (who gets to marry Rand, my ass, don’t you have bigger problems?), and its long-winded explanations of things that have been made perfectly clear already. But I still kind of want to know where it’s all going, so I will read on. Just very, very slowly.

My e-ARC of C.S.E. Cooney’s first full-length novel is brilliant and wonderfully weird and very intriguing. I have no idea what direction the story will take me in and that is just how I like it. The Raadchai mood has left me a little but I am still on the Ancillary books. And the Orilium readathon gave me the push to pick up two middle grade books. Both the Schwab and the Townsend are quite fun so far.

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

The State of SFF – March 2022 (+ Some Life News)

It’s been super quiet here but there is a reason for that and now I can finally let you all know. I haven’t been blogging (or reading, to be honest) much because something else has taken up all my time and brain space. I am pregnant! 🙂

As you can imagine, this meant a lot of doctor’s appointments, organizational things to take care of and just wrapping my head around this new situation. I have read a whopping one, that’s right, ONE book in February and I haven’t written any of the reviews I wanted to. Oh yeah, and this post is also a week late. I can’t promise that I’ll be more active from now on as I don’t now how I’ll feel in the upcoming months, how much I can concentrate on reading or how much time I’ll have for this blog. I definitely hope to post more frequently again but we’ll just have to take things as they come.

Quickie News

  • The Sword and Laser Podcast are doing March Madness in March in order to pick the April book club read. I missed the fist round of votes but you can still participate until a winner has been chosen. This year’s choices are excellent and I’ve read many of them already.
  • Brandon Sanderson almost broke Kickstarter. Well, not really, but he did break Kickstarter records. Like most funded project ever, most money raised in 24 hours and (I’m making this one up) craziest author dude who secretly writes four novels in between writing 1200 page chunksters in his ongoing series. He’s a machine.

Orilium Mini-Readathon (March 14th-March 20th)

Maybe some of youe are in a slump and need a little motivation, or maybe you’ve participated in last year’s pre-readathon and want to continue building your character. Either way, G from The Book Roast has you covered with the Orilium Gear-Up Readathon.

Here’s my sign-up post including the prompts I’ve chosen and some potential books to fit them. If you’re an Archivist like me, we may have picked the same prompts.


Exciting March Publications

I am so behind already and it’s only March. But the publishing world doesn’t sleep and neither do their art departments. Looking at some of those covers, I am getting more and more impressed with what SFF has to offer us. Let’s hope the stories are as great as their wrapping.

SARAH TOLMIE – ALL THE HORSES OF ICELAND (March 1st)

I am pretty sure this will be a book I either adore 100% or hate with a passion. I don’t know why but I just can’t see myself feeling anything in between.

A hypnotic historical fantasy with gorgeous and unusual literary prose, from the captivating author of The Fourth Island.

Everyone knows of the horses of Iceland, wild, and small, and free, but few have heard their story. Sarah Tolmie’s All the Horses of Iceland weaves their mystical origin into a saga for the modern age. Filled with the magic and darkened whispers of a people on the cusp of major cultural change, All the Horses of Iceland tells the tale of a Norse trader on the Silk Road and the ghostly magic that followed him home to the land of fire, stone, and ice. His search for riches will take him from Helmgard, through Khazaria, to the steppes of Mongolia, where he will barter for horses and return with much, much more.

All the Horses of Iceland is a delve into the secret, imagined history of Iceland’s unusual horses, brought to life by an expert storyteller.


TRACI CHEE – A THOUSAND STEPS INTO NIGHT (March 1st)

What a gorgeous cover! Also Japanese-influenced fantasy, gods, monsters, and humans co-existing, plus a curse to break sounds like a perfect recipe for a fun adventure.

From New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist, Traci Chee, comes a Japanese-influenced fantasy brimming with demons, adventure, and plans gone awry.

In the realm of Awara, where gods, monsters, and humans exist side by side, Miuko is an ordinary girl resigned to a safe, if uneventful, existence as an innkeeper’s daughter. But when Miuko is cursed and begins to transform into a demon with a deadly touch, she embarks on a quest to reverse the curse and return to her normal life. Aided by a thieving magpie spirit and continuously thwarted by a demon prince, Miuko must outfox tricksters, escape demon hunters, and negotiate with feral gods if she wants to make it home again. But with her transformation comes power and freedom she never even dreamed of, and she’ll have to decide if saving her soul is worth trying to cram herself back into an ordinary life that no longer fits her… and perhaps never did.


LIZ HUERTA – THE LOST DREAMER (March 1st)

This just sounds amazing and I love that it’s inspired by ancient Mesoamerica. I don’t think I’ve read a fantasy like that before.

A stunning YA fantasy inspired by ancient Mesoamerica, this gripping debut introduces us to a lineage of seers defiantly resisting the shifting patriarchal state that would see them destroyed—perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi and Sabaa Tahir.

Indir is a Dreamer, descended from a long line of seers; able to see beyond reality, she carries the rare gift of Dreaming truth. But when the beloved king dies, his son has no respect for this time-honored tradition. King Alcan wants an opportunity to bring the Dreamers to a permanent end—an opportunity Indir will give him if he discovers the two secrets she is struggling to keep. As violent change shakes Indir’s world to its core, she is forced to make an impossible choice: fight for her home or fight to survive.

Saya is a seer, but not a Dreamer—she has never been formally trained. Her mother exploits her daughter’s gift, passing it off as her own as they travel from village to village, never staying in one place too long. Almost as if they’re running from something. Almost as if they’re being hunted. When Saya loses the necklace she’s worn since birth, she discovers that seeing isn’t her only gift—and begins to suspect that everything she knows about her life has been a carefully-constructed lie. As she comes to distrust the only family she’s ever known, Saya will do what she’s never done before, go where she’s never been, and risk it all in the search of answers.

With a detailed, supernaturally-charged setting and topical themes of patriarchal power and female strength, The Lost Dreamer brings an ancient world to life, mirroring the challenges of our modern one.


V.E. SCHWAB – GALLANT (March 1st)

I am on the fence about this one. I know it’s an unpopular opoinion but I think Schwab is vastly overrated. I adored A Darker Shade of Magic but since then, nohting she’s written has been able to reach that same level of quality again. This newest book is supposed to be a middle grade novel, so maybe it will work better for me. The idea sounds fantastic and the covers (UK and US) are brilliant.

Everything casts a shadow. Even the world we live in. And as with every shadow, there is a place where it must touch. A seam, where the shadow meets its source.

Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home—to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home, it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.

Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant—but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.

Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him?


ALLISON SAFT – A FAR WILDER MAGIC (March 8th)

This will either end up as a new favorite of mine or it will go the way that Hannah Whitten’s For the Wolf did (here’s my very ranty review). But I am going to stay optimistic because I really want to end up loving this book. A couple that’s forced to work together, a world that sounds atmospheric, and a very lovely cover – it would be a shame if this doesn’t deliver what it promises.

When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. If Margaret wins the hunt, it may finally bring her mother home. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist.

Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist–yet. Fired from every apprenticeship he’s landed, his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret and her bloodhound Trouble. Margaret begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.

Although they make an unlikely team, Wes is in awe of the girl who has endured alone on the outskirts of a town that doesn’t want her, in this creaking house of ghosts and sorrow. And even though Wes disrupts every aspect of her life, Margaret is drawn to him. He, too, knows what it’s like to be an outsider. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt – if they survive that long.

In A Far Wilder Magic, Allison Saft has written an achingly tender love story set against a deadly hunt in an atmospheric, rich fantasy world that will sweep you away.


DEBORAH FALAYE – BLOOD SCION(March 8th)

It was the comparison to Daughter of Smoke and Bone that did it for me, honestly. Yoruba mythology is also a big plus but that combined with Laini Taylor-esque writing or world building – how could I say no?

A young girl with forbidden powers must free her people from oppression in this richly layered epic fantasy from debut author Deborah Falaye, inspired by Yoruba-Nigerian mythology and perfect for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and An Ember in the Ashes.

This is what they deserve.

They wanted me to be a monster.

I will be the worst monster they ever created.

Fifteen-year-old Sloane can incinerate an enemy at will—she is a Scion, a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods.

Under the Lucis’ brutal rule, her identity means her death if her powers are discovered. But when she is forcibly conscripted into the Lucis army on her fifteenth birthday, Sloane sees a new opportunity: to overcome the bloody challenges of Lucis training, and destroy them from within.

Sloane rises through the ranks and gains strength but, in doing so, risks something greater: losing herself entirely, and becoming the very monster that she ahbors.

Following one girl’s journey of magic, injustice, power, and revenge, this deeply felt and emotionally charged debut from Deborah Falaye, inspired by Yoruba-Nigerian mythology, is a magnetic combination of A Song of Wraiths and Ruin and Daughter of Smoke and Bone that will utterly thrill and capture readers.


JOHN SCALZI – THE KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY (March 15th)

Okay, so John Scalzi has won me over with his Interdependency Trilogy and now he’s written about Kaijus in a parallel world during the Covid pandemic. I mean, what’s not to look ofrward to?

The Kaiju Preservation Society is John Scalzi’s first standalone adventure since the conclusion of his New York Times bestselling Interdependency trilogy.

When COVID-19 sweeps through New York City, Jamie Gray is stuck as a dead-end driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who works at what he calls “an animal rights organization.” Tom’s team needs a last-minute grunt to handle things on their next field visit. Jamie, eager to do anything, immediately signs on.

What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm and human-free world. They’re the universe’s largest and most dangerous panda and they’re in trouble.

It’s not just the Kaiju Preservation Society that’s found its way to the alternate world. Others have, too–and their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die.


PENG SHEPHERD – THE CARTOGRAPHERS (March 22nd)

I’ve never read Peng Shepherd but this sounds like a magical mystery involving disappearing maps, and the cover gives me slight literary fiction vibes. I am definitely intrigued.

What is the purpose of a map?

Nell Young’s whole life and greatest passion is cartography. Her father, Dr. Daniel Young, is a legend in the field, and Nell’s personal hero. But she hasn’t seen or spoken to him ever since he cruelly fired her and destroyed her reputation after an argument over an old, cheap gas station highway map.

But when Dr. Young is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library, with the very same seemingly worthless map hidden in his desk, Nell can’t resist investigating. To her surprise, she soon discovers that the map is incredibly valuable, and also exceedingly rare. In fact, she may now have the only copy left in existence… because a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every last one—along with anyone who gets in the way.

But why?

To answer that question, Nell embarks on a dangerous journey to reveal a dark family secret, and discover the true power that lies in maps…


SARA A. MUELLER – THE BONE ORCHARD (March 22nd)

Did someone say bone trees? This has been on my wishlist for very long and it is still one of the most highly anticipated books on my list. I love everything about it!

Charm is a witch, and she is alone. The last of a line of conquered necromantic workers, now confined within the yard of regrown bone trees at Orchard House, and the secrets of their marrow.

Charm is a prisoner, and a survivor. Charm tends the trees and their clattering fruit for the sake of her children, painstakingly grown and regrown with its fruit: Shame, Justice, Desire, Pride, and Pain.

Charm is a whore, and a madam. The wealthy and powerful of Borenguard come to her house to buy time with the girls who aren’t real.

Except on Tuesdays, which is when the Emperor himself lays claim to his mistress, Charm herself.

now—Charm is also the only person who can keep an empire together, as the Emperor summons her to his deathbed, and charges her with choosing which of his awful, faithless sons will carry on the empire—by discovering which one is responsible for his own murder.

If she does this last thing, she will finally have what has been denied her since the fall of Inshil—her freedom. But she will also be betraying the ghosts past and present that live on within her heart.

Charm must choose. Her dead Emperor’s will or the whispers of her own ghosts. Justice for the empire or her own revenge.


MARION DEEDS- COMEUPPANCE SERVED COLD (March 22nd)

A 1920s Urban-ish fantasy novella sound like a mash-up that we at least have to try.

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Seattle, 1929—a bitterly divided city overflowing with wealth, violence, and magic.

A respected magus and city leader intent on criminalizing Seattle’s most vulnerable magickers hires a young woman as a lady’s companion to curb his rebellious daughter’s outrageous behavior.

The widowed owner of a speakeasy encounters an opportunity to make her husband’s murderer pay while she tries to keep her shapeshifter brother safe.

A notorious thief slips into the city to complete a delicate and dangerous job that will leave chaos in its wake.

One thing is for certain—comeuppance, eventually, waits for everyone.


TARA SIM – THE SCITY OF DUSK (March 22nd)

Bones and necromancy are definitely a trend this year, not only on covers but in stories as well. Now that I’m also a Locked Tomb fan, I will gladly jump on the bone train and swee what publishing has to offer.

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Set in a gorgeous world of bone and shadow magic, of vengeful gods and defiant chosen ones, The City of Dusk is the first in a dark epic fantasy trilogy that follows the four heirs of four noble houses—each gifted with a divine power—as they form a tenuous alliance to keep their kingdom from descending into a realm-shattering war.

The Four Realms—Life, Death, Light, and Darkness—all converge on the city of dusk. For each realm there is a god, and for each god there is an heir.

But the gods have withdrawn their favor from the once vibrant and thriving city. And without it, all the realms are dying.

Unwilling to stand by and watch the destruction, the four heirs—Risha, a necromancer struggling to keep the peace; Angelica, an elementalist with her eyes set on the throne; Taesia, a shadow-wielding rogue with rebellion in her heart; and Nik, a soldier who struggles to see the light— will sacrifice everything to save the city.

But their defiance will cost them dearly.


JUDY I. LIN – A MAGIC STEEPED IN POISON (March 29th)

Honestly, the part of the synopsis where the protagonist accidentally poisoned her mother and then also apparently is about to poison her sister makes her sound a tad supid but I supposed there’s more to it than that. And I just love reading about competitions, whether they are about battle skills or tea-making.

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Judy I. Lin’s sweeping debut A Magic Steeped in Poison, first in a duology, is sure to enchant fans of Adrienne Young and Leigh Bardugo.

I used to look at my hands with pride. Now all I can think is, “These are the hands that buried my mother.”

For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu.

When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shennong-shi—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life.

But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger.


News from the blog

As I mentioned I have only finished one book in February but at least ist was agood one.

What I read last month:

I really enjoyed this Andy Weir book, especially because it kept me guessing until the very end.

Currently reading:

  • Robert Jordan – The Dragon Reborn
  • Robert Jackson Bennett – City of Stairs
  • Ann Leckie – Ancillary Sword
  • Tasha Suri – The Jasmine Throne

Yup, I’m still reading mostly the same books I was reading in January. I have almost finished The Jasmine Throne (liked it but not as much as I had expected) and I’m also getting to the end of City of Stairs (liking it even more than expected) and the others are just lying there, sad that I haven’t continued reading them.

I hope to finally finish those reviews I started writing a month ago, read a couple of books in March, and of course participate in the Orilium readathon.

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

The State of SFF – February 2022

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

Quickie News

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

Hugo Nominations Are Open

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

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

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


Exciting February Publications

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

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

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

MIND OF THE WORLD,
OPEN YOUR EYES.

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

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

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

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

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


REBECCA ROSS – A RIVER ENCHANTED (February 3rd)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


AKWEAKE EMEZI – BITTER (February 15th)

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

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

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


MAX GLADSTONE – LAST EXIT (February 22nd)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

I don’t know, this just sounded cool.

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

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

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


CLAIRE LEGRAND – EXTASIA (February 22nd)

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

Her name is unimportant.

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

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

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

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


VANESSA LEN – ONLY A MONSTER (February 22nd)

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

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

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

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

. . . she is not the hero.


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

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

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

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

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

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


News from the blog

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

What I read last month:

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

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

Currently reading:

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

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

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

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

The State of SFF – January 2022

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all celebrated safely and responsibly with people you love and are ready for a new year, full of fresh new SFF books, reading challenges, book awards, and readathons.

Quickie News

  • Anne Rice, the author of Interview With a Vampire, among many others, has died at the age of 80.
  • I think a collective cheer went through all sorts of readers when we found out that Madeline Miller, writer of the amazing Song of Achilles and Circe is writing a Persephone story Bring it on! I cannot wait to see this tale unfold in Miller’s capable hands.

The Hugo Award Winners Have Been Announced

Congratulations to the amazing winners (and the other finalists). There were a few surprises and a few, let’s say, rather obvious wins, but I for one am happy about each and every one of them even if my beloved Poppy War and Raybearer didn’t take home a Hugo. Here are some of the e winners. For all the categories as well as detailed voting and nominating statistics, go here.

  • Best Novel: Martha Wells – Network Effect
  • Best Novella: Nghi Vo – The Empress of Salt and Fortune
  • Best Novelette: Sarah Pinsker – Two Truths and a Lie
  • Best Short Story: T. Kingfisher – “Metal Like Blood in the Dark”
  • Best Professional Artist: Rovina Cai
  • Best Series: The Murderbot Diaries
  • Best Graphic Story: Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy – Parable of the Sower
  • Best Related Work: Maria Dahvana Headley – Beowulf: A New Translation
  • Lodestar for Best YA Fiction: T. Kingfisher – A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking

I am also super happy that nerds of a feather and The Coode Street Podcast finally won a Hugo. I’ve been nominating and voting for them for years and they were clearly very happy and gracious winners.

This also marked the first year with a Video Game category and, to my boyfriend’s delight, Hades won the inaugural Hugo award.


Reading Challenges for 2022

If, like me, you just can’t start a new year without at least one year-long reading challenge, here are a few that sound interesting to me and that might tickle you as well:

2022 Adult SFF Backlist Books Challenge

The title tells you what this is all about, but there are also 12 handy prompts – one for each month – plus some recommendations for books that fit each prompt. The prompts are pretty vague (like “Winter” or “Fire”) so you can make most books fit somehow.

Beat the Backlist 2022

It’s back! I did this challenge last year and had fun with it, but it was both a little overwheliming (52 prompts!) and didn’t have enough pressure for me. I know that sounds weird but I never claimed to be normal, so…

Worlds Without End Roll Your Own Reading Challenge

For everyone who wants to create their own challenge or join a bunch of mini-challenges (such as myself), there’s always Worlds Without End. AS I’m writin ghis, it’s still 2021 but you can create your own challenges with your own set of rules, track your books easily and join challenges other users have created. I usually do the LGBTQIA+ challenge, the Authors of Color challenge, the Read the Sequel cahllenge, and the Women of Genre Fiction challenge. You can set the amount of books you want to read for each of these yourself, so it’s not as much reading as it may sound. 🙂


Exciting January Publications

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

AKSHAYA RAMAN – THE IVORY KEY (January 4th)

I am cautiously excited about this debut, part one of a duology based on Indian myths. The cover is certainly stunning.

Magic, a prized resource, is the only thing between peace and war. When magic runs out, four estranged royal siblings must find a new source before their country is swallowed by invading forces. The first in an Indian-inspired duology.

Vira is desperate to get out of her mother’s shadow and establish her legacy as a revered queen of Ashoka. But with the country’s only quarry running out of magic–a precious resource that has kept Ashoka safe from conflict–she can barely protect her citizens from the looming threat of war. And if her enemies discover this, they’ll stop at nothing to seize the last of the magic.

Vira’s only hope is to find a mysterious object of legend: the Ivory Key, rumored to unlock a new source of magic. But in order to infiltrate enemy territory and retrieve it, she must reunite with her siblings, torn apart by the different paths their lives have taken. Each of them has something to gain from finding the Ivory Key–and even more to lose if they fail. Ronak plans to sell it to the highest bidder in exchange for escape from his impending political marriage. Kaleb, falsely accused of assassinating the former maharani needs it to clear his name. And Riya, a runaway who cut all family ties, wants the Key to prove her loyalty to the rebels who want to strip the nobility of its power.

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


YOON HA LEE – TIGER HONOR (January 4th)

So, Dragon Pearl is no longer quite a standalone Middle Grade space adventure as it will get a companion novel/sequel in 2022. I liked but didn’t love the first book and, honestly, the plot of this new one sounds almost exactly the same, so I may just skip it. Or at least wait to see what other people say about it.

Sebin, a young tiger spirit from the Juhwang Clan, wants nothing more than to join the Thousand World Space Forces and, like their Uncle Hwan, captain a battle cruiser someday. But when Sebin’s acceptance letter finally arrives, it’s accompanied by the shocking news that Hwan has been declared a traitor. Apparently, the captain abandoned his duty to steal a magical artifact, the Dragon Pearl, and his whereabouts are still unknown. Sebin hopes to help clear their hero’s name and restore honour to the clan.

Nothing goes according to plan, however. As soon as Sebin arrives for orientation, they are met by a special investigator named Yi and his assistant, a girl named Min. Yi informs Sebin that they must immediately report to the ship Haetae and await further instructions. Sebin finds this highly unusual, but soon all protocol is forgotten when there’s an explosion on the ship, the crew is knocked out, and the communication system goes down. It’s up to Sebin, three other cadets, and Yi and Min to determine who is sabotaging the battlecruiser. When Sebin is suddenly accused of collaborating with the enemy, the cadet realizes that Min is the most dangerous foe of all…


SEANAN MCGUIRE – WHERE THE DROWNED GIRLS GO (January 4th)

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

Welcome to the Whitethorn Institute. The first step is always admitting you need help, and you’ve already taken that step by requesting a transfer into our company.

There is another school for children who fall through doors and fall back out again.
It isn’t as friendly as Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
And it isn’t as safe.

When Eleanor West decided to open her school, her sanctuary, her Home for Wayward Children, she knew from the beginning that there would be children she couldn’t save; when Cora decides she needs a different direction, a different fate, a different prophecy, Miss West reluctantly agrees to transfer her to the other school, where things are run very differently by Whitethorn, the Headmaster.

She will soon discover that not all doors are welcoming…


SUE LYNN TAN – DAUGHTER OF THE MOON GODDESS (January 11th)

There are several books inspired by the story of the moon goddess coming out next year. This one happens to have two gorgeous covers, both the US and UK version, and I want to read it very much.

A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm.

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.

Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.

To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting, romantic duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic—where love vies with honor, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.


SCOTTO MOORE – BATTLE OF THE LINGUIST MAGES (January 11th)

This sounds like something I should absolutely love but for some reason, I worry that I might just as likely end up hating this book. It’s just a feeling but I very much hope that this will end up being my jam. Linguistics and magic and a VR game named “Sparkle Dungeon” – how can I resist?

In modern day Los Angeles, a shadowy faction led by the Governor of California develops the arcane art of combat linguistics, planting the seeds of a future totalitarian empire in Scotto Moore’s Battle of the Linguist Mages.

Isobel is the Queen of the medieval rave-themed VR game Sparkle Dungeon. Her prowess in the game makes her an ideal candidate to learn the secrets of “power morphemes”—unnaturally dense units of meaning that warp perception when skilfully pronounced.

But Isobel’s reputation makes her the target of a strange resistance movement led by spellcasting anarchists, who may be the only thing stopping the cabal from toppling California over the edge of a terrible transformation, with forty million lives at stake.

Time is short for Isobel to level up and choose a side—because the cabal has attracted much bigger and weirder enemies than the anarchist resistance, emerging from dark and vicious dimensions of reality and heading straight for planet Earth!


KATE ELLIOT – SERVANT MAGE (January 18th)

I’ve only read one Kate Elliot book a long time ago and somehow, I feel like I should remedy that. Maybe with this slim novella from Tor.com?

Fellion is a Lamplighter, able to provide illumination through magic. A group of rebel Monarchists free her from indentured servitude and take her on a journey to rescue trapped compatriots from an underground complex of mines.

Along the way they get caught up in a conspiracy to kill the latest royal child and wipe out the Monarchist movement for good.

But Fellion has more than just her Lamplighting skills up her sleeve…

In Kate Elliott’s Servant Mage, a lowly fire mage finds herself entangled in an empire-spanning conspiracy on her way to discovering her true power.


NNEDI OKORAFOR – AKATA WOMAN (January 18th)

This is my most anticipated release of January! I have read one Akata book, listened to the other and I’m very much thinking about re-listening to both books before diving in to this third volume in the Nsibidi Scripts series. I have adored almost everything Okorafor has written and I have a particularly soft spot in my heart for this series.

From the moment Sunny Nwazue discovered she had magic flowing in her blood, she sought to understand and control her powers. Throughout her adventures in Akata Witch and Akata Warrior, she had to navigate the balance between nearly everything in her life–America and Nigeria, the “normal” world and the one infused with juju, human and spirit, good daughter and powerful Leopard Person.

Now, those hard lessons and abilities are put to the test in a quest so dangerous and fantastical, it would be madness to go…but deadly not to. With the help of her friends, Sunny embarks on a mission to find a precious object hidden deep in a magical realm. Defeating the guardians of the prize will take more from Sunny than she has to give, and triumph will mean she will be forever changed.


TOCHI ONYEBUCHI – GOLIATH (January 25th)

Tochi Onyebuchi is an author to watch so I am watching and by watching I mean buying all his books as they come out. This one sounds like the depressing-but-with-a-sliver-of-hope kind of story that I like.

In the 2050s, Earth has begun to empty. Those with the means and the privilege have departed the great cities of the United States for the more comfortable confines of space colonies. Those left behind salvage what they can from the collapsing infrastructure. As they eke out an existence, their neighborhoods are being cannibalized. Brick by brick, their houses are sent to the colonies, what was once a home now a quaint reminder for the colonists of the world that they wrecked.

A primal biblical epic flung into the future, Goliath weaves together disparate narratives—a space-dweller looking at New Haven, Connecticut as a chance to reconnect with his spiraling lover; a group of laborers attempting to renew the promises of Earth’s crumbling cities; a journalist attempting to capture the violence of the streets; a marshal trying to solve a kidnapping—into a richly urgent mosaic about race, class, gentrification, and who is allowed to be the hero of any history.


News from the blog

My December was filled with comfort reads, catching up on new releases and finishing some big books that had accompanied me for a while. Until, at the end, Christmas celebrations, seeing family and friends and all that took over and I didn’t read much at all. And that’s okay.

My last Reading the Hugos post went live in December and that concludes this year’s Hugo reading project. I may be crazy but I’m already looking forward to doing it all over again this year. And if you’re still building your TBR for 2022, my very long list of expected publications is there to inspire you and make your wallet weep.
Also, check out my favorites of the year. Hugo nominating season is coming up again (wink wink, nudge nudge).

What I read last month:

This isn’t much but it was a pretty good month overall. I’m still not quite finished with The Burning God (I’m scared of the ending!!!) and The Wheel of Time continues to be my ever-so-slowly-moving companion. After having watched Season 1 of the TV show, it becomes all the more obvious how much better one could have told that story. Jordan went the most predictable and sometimes even boring route. But I’m going to keep reading to see if sparks will fly between me and these books eventually.

Currently reading:

  • Robert Jordan – The Dragon Reborn
  • R. F. Kuang – The Burning God
  • C. S. E. Cooney – Dark Breakers
  • Ryka Aoki – Light From Uncommon Stars

I’m just finishing one of my two C.S.E. Cooney ARCs and I can already recommend this one for fans of artists and faeries and beautiful prose. I’m listening to Light From Uncomon Stars, a pretty bonkers book that shouldn’t work but somehow does, and the rest is me not wanting to finish because then it will be over (Burning God) and not particularly wanting to continue because it takes ages for something to happen (Dragon Reborn).

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

The 2021 Hugo Award Winners (And My Thoughts On Them)

The 2021 Hugo Award winners have been announced and there is reason to cheer! I actually managed to watch the livestream which was pushed back from 2am my timezone to 3am my timezone and thus took a lot of willpower on my part! My alarm went off and I had a very serious debate inside of my head on whether to get up and do this thing or just check out who won the next day on Twitter. I’m glad I decided to watch it live, because the ceremony was very nice and you kind of had to be there for the slime mould alone (more on that later). It didn’t all go without technical whoopsies but overall it was quite well done and inclusive.

For all the winners, nomination and voting details go here.

So, on to the winners of my favorite categories, my hopes and predictions and what I think about who ended up with a rocket trophy. Before diving into it, let me say that I am filled with joy, I don’t begrudge anyone their win, I think every winner was absolutely worthy (even if they were not my personal top choice) and that this was a great Hugo Awards year!


BEST NOVEL + BEST SERIES

I’m grouping these two because they both went to Martha Wells for Network Effect and the Murderbot Diaries respectively. Congratulations!

I adore Murderbot and I am thrilled that it took home an award. Would I have preferred these two awards went to two different works? Yes. Do I understand why Muderbot was such a success last year? Also yes. During a time when we were all dealing with negative feelings, with fear and anxiety, with grief and loss, with isolation and self-centered people, it comes as no surprise that a book and series about an AI with anxiety and social awakwardness that is as heartwarming as it is exciting has touched so many of our hearts. So I am more than happy that Muderbot was recognized in this way, even though I really wanted Best Series to go to The Poppy War which cannot be nominated again (the trilogy being finished), unlike the Murderbot Diaries. But as I will be forever grateful for Murderbot and its adventures, I congratulate Martha Wells. Her acceptance speech was particularly moving and I hope this acclaim convinces her to keep writing and make even more great art.


BEST NOVELLA

Hooray, my second favorite novella has won! Congratulations to Nghi Vo and The Empress of Salt and Fortune.

I was hoping so very hard Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark would win because that book was such a great ride with layers upon layers, but Vo’s book was a close second for me and I appreciate what it does in terms of storytelling. I am very happy that Vo won and I hope this finally gives me the push to read something else by this new and exciting author. What surprised me about this category’s final tally was that Riot Baby ended up in last place. That novella didn’t work for me but it seemed to be everyone else’s darling so I expected it to come in as a close second. Apparently, that impression was far off because, well, the votes don’t lie.


BEST VIDEO GAME

This new category gives me lots of joy. Not only did I (and my partner) discover two games through it that we otherwise wouldn’t have tried, but we ended up loving them so much that they got my top two votes. Congratulations to Hades for winning the inaugural Best Video Game Hugo Award!

I expected either Hades of Animal Cossing to win, the first because it is crazy beloved among all sorts of fans, the second because it was everyone’s go-to feelgood game when the pandemic really hit and we all needed something to pick us up and give us hope. I didn’t see my boyfriend much once he started playing Hades but that was okay because I was playing Spiritfarer on the PS4 at the same time. I admit I was unsure about this category but I thought it was handled very well (what with getting a code to try some of the finalist games as part of the voter packet) and being able to play most of them enough to rank them. We’ll see what Best Video Game brings in the future, but for now I am glad we have this category and I am super happy Hades was the first to win it.


LODESTAR + BEST SHORT STORY

I’m grouping these two again because they were won by the same author who proved yet again that she is a pure delight and makes any awards ceremony better simply by being there. Congratulations to T. Kingfisher for A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking and “Metal Like Blood in the Dark”.

I had the pleasure of hearing Kingfisher’s acceptance speech in Helsinki in 2017 which was about whale fall. This time, she stayed true to herself and didn’t talk about the book and short story that won either, but rather about slime mould. Yes, that’s right! Everyone who attended or watched the Hugo Awards ceremony online now has some impressive knowlegde about this intriguing organism called slime mould and it makes me love T. Kingfisher all the more. Hers was my favorite short story so I have no complaints there. I did very much want Raybearer to win the Lodestar, especially because Defensive Baking has already won some other awards, but again – it’s understandable that many of us ranked this book high enough to win when sourdough starters gained interest during lockdown, when reading about a decent person trying to do the right thing even when it is hard and winning against the odds – when this book was just pure comfort during a dark time.

My beloved Raybearer sadly came in last and even though Jordan Ifueko will probably never read this, I want her to know that her books are among my favorites and have touched me deeply and given me so much hope during this terrible time.

Both surprising and a little disheartening is the fact that A Deadly Education came in second when it shouldn’t even have been in this category in the first place. It also received some nominations in the Best Novel category, but not nearly enough to make the final ballot. Let me reiterate: I really enjoyed this book! But I sincerely hope that, in the future, authors have the decency to refuse a nomination when it is in the wrong category. You can’t have it both ways. Either write YA and accept the unfortunate stigma that still comes with that (which, btw, we should really work on getting rid of) or write for adults but then remain unable to win awards for YA fiction.
If Naomi Novik had done that, a book that was actually written and published as a YA novel would have made the ballot, and that is When We Were Magic by the amazing Sarah Gailey. Now I adored that book but also find it quite problematic in some ways, but at least it is and always was meant for young readers and thus would have fit perfectly into this category.

The boundaries between YA and adult are blurry and arbitrary, I know. But we do need some kind of boundary to set this category apart from others. I hope that this kind of mishap will stay in the past, that readers and nominators and Hugo Awards administrators will learn from our/their mistakes and make sure this category honors the books and people it was meant to.


BEST GRAPHIC STORY

This was both a surprise and not a surprise at all. The winner of this category is Parable of the Sower, the Graphic Novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s novel by Damian Duffy with art by John Jennings. Congratulations!

Again, my number two spot has taken home the Hugo Award and I am both happy and positively surprised. On the one hand, it is a feat to win against an instalment of Marjorie Lu’s Monstress in any given year, on the other, the events of the past years have drawn more attention to Octavia E. Butler’s amazing body of work. This Graphic Novel adaptation is incredibly well done and it likely helped how pescient Butler’s story is. So considering all that, it isn’t surprising that this book won.
But what is surprising is that it differs so very much from other winners in tone. Where we went with hopeful, heartwarming, feelgood things in many categories, here we embraced the dystopian setting and chose a story that is gruesome and tough to read and where not very many good things happen to good people. But there is that tiny glimmer of hope and sometimes, that’s all it takes.


BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

Yay, this Hugo Award went to the inimitable Rovina Cai and her stunningly beautiful art! Congratulations!

I don’t begrudge John Picacio his 386 Hugo Awards, but it has been getting rather boring, watching him win this category over and over again. You’d get the impression there are no other artists out there who do anything worth mentioning when, in fact, the very opposite is the case. I would have been happy with either Rovina Cai, Tommy Arnold, or Galen Dara winning this year, but Rovina Cai’s art has been more present, at least in my reading (chaper art for Elatsoe, covers for various books I bought, and so on) and I am overjoyed to see her win this one. Her art is beautiful, instantly recognizable and enriches any book that features it.


About Seanan McGuire’s many Hugo nominations

  • In Best Novella, she had the most 1st place votes but ended up in third place overall.
  • In Best Series, she had the second most 1st place votes (which were just a little over half of what Murderbot got so it was not a close race) and ended up in third place overall.
  • In Best Graphic Story, she had the most 1st place votes (albeit only 18 more than Parable of the Sower) and ended up in second place overall.

So the tradition of the past years seems to continue. McGuire has a loyal fan base that will always get her easily onto the final ballot and will just as loyally vote for her as their number one spot, but when all ballots are counted and all voices are heard, her work remains middle-of-the-ballot.

Maybe when the October Daye series ends in a few years, this will give readers a push to finally give the series a Hugo Award or maybe the sequel to her highly successful Middlegame will blow us all away and garner her another Best Novel nomination? Either way, I am sure we will keep seeing McGuire on the ballot in whichever category she has published things. My only hope is that some of those things will grab me enough to vote for them as my 1st choice as well. The McGuire burnout is already knocking on my doors…


Overall, this was a spectacular year of Hugo Awards and I can look back on the SFF works published in 2020 with a big happy smile. My own personal hopes weren’t met perfectly, but enough of my favorites or second-favorites won that I feel joyful, and the favorite works that didn’t win are by authors who are still writing and creating and publishing, so I have high hopes for the future – go Rebecca Kuang, go Jordan Ifueko, go P. Djèlí Clark, I believe in you!
Now, it’s time to catch up on some 2021 publications so we can do this all over next year. I’ll see you then. 🙂

The State of SFF – December 2021

The end of the year approaches and that means, for the very first time, it’s Hugo Awards season in winter.

Some quick life news because Covid is hitting hard again this winter (mostly unvaccinated folks), I got my booster shot and my partner is getting his in early December. Austria is currently dealing with the most cases per capita in the world, hospitals are starting triage because there is no more space for all the patients and even fucking cancer operations had to be postponed to accomodate unvaccinated Covid-patients. 😦

If you’re reading this and haven’t been vaccinated yet, please, please do so. Nobody is going to be angry with you for changing your mind, nobody is going to look down on you! Please make sure to protect yourself and others from this deadly disease and, by extension, from dying from other, preventable causes. (/end covid talk)

Quickie News

  • The second season of The Witcher is coming to Netflix on December 17th and I’m preparing all the coins to toss at my TV.
  • Holy shit, episode 4 of The Wheel of Time kicked ass! This isn’t news, I just needed to express my love for the episode somewhere. Goosebumps, I tell you.
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles are being adapted by Disney+ so we have yet another SFF series to look forward to. Bring them on, I say!
  • And there is talk that Amazon wants to make a Mass Effect TV show. If that happens, it will be a while, what with the Wheel of Time ongoing and Lord of the Rings coming next year. But it’s always good to have something to look forward to.

The World Fantasy Awards Have Been Announced

I am so happy that Alaya Dawn Johnson has won the award for Best Novel! Congratulations to all the winners in the various categories. Here are some of them:

  • Best Novel: Alaya Dawn Johnson – Trouble the Saints
  • Best Novella: Tochi Onyebuchi – Riot Baby
  • Best Short Fiction: Celeste Rita Baker – “Glass Bottle Dancer”
  • Best Artist: Rovina Cai
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm and Howard Waldrop

I have read quite a few Robin Hobb books and she remains one of my favorite fantasy authors to this day so I’m thrilled her work was honored this way. I have enjoyed Rovina Cai‘s covers and illustrations whenever I came across them (and I adore her style), I read Riot Baby and I have read Alaya Dawn Johnson before, although Trouble the Saints is still on my TBR. In fact, it’s on my still-to-read-in-2021 list. I had planned to read it during the Magical Readathon but you know how these things go. Now I’m all the more excited to dive into the book!


The Hugo Awards Ceremony Is Coming

I think this might be the most exciting year of Hugo Awards for me ever. Not only did I vote (again) but my favorite categories are particularly strong this year. It’s almost a guarantee that I’ll be happy with the winners because all of the finalists are so good! Additionally, with the Hugos having been pushed to December instead of August, there was a lot more time to read all those finalists.

It’s all going to happen on December 18th, at 8pm EST (that’s 2am for me) and if there is a livestream I will watch it as it happens and cheer on my favorites with as much enthusiasn as I can muster at that time of night.

It may not be the same as being in the same room with the finalists but, hey, at least I can wear pyjamas and nobody will judge me for it. 🙂


NaNoWriMo Is Over, Long Live NaNoWriMo

You guys, I did it! I participated in NaNoWriMo. Sat down on November 1st with a blank page and an equally blank mind and just started writing whatever the hell came to my mind. What I ended up with is an absolute mess with no structure, barely any plot, and a lot of notes to “add this later” but I have to admit, the experience was fun!

Don’t expect the Next Great Novel (or indeed any novel) from me, but despite it being super annoying at times, this experience was also quite rewarding. And who knows, maybe when I come back to this jumble of words I’ve created, I’ll actually be able to add a plot and then it might just grow up to be a proper book.


Exciting December Publications

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

KEN LIU – THE VEILED THRONE (December 7th)

Lalala, I’m not reading the synopsis because this is book 3 in the Dandelion Dynasty series by Ken Liu and I haven’t even started reading that one yet. But fans can rejoce, because this book is about 1000 pages thick.

With the invasion of Dara complete, and the Wall of Storms breached, the world has opened to new possibilities for the gods and peoples of both empires as the sweeping saga of the award-winning Dandelion Dynasty continues in this third book of the “magnificent fantasy epic” (NPR).

Princess Théra, once known as Empress Üna of Dara, entrusted the throne to her younger brother in order to journey to Ukyu-Gondé to war with the Lyucu. She has crossed the fabled Wall of Storms with a fleet of advanced warships and ten thousand people. Beset by adversity, Théra and her most trusted companions attempt to overcome every challenge by doing the most interesting thing. But is not letting the past dictate the present always possible or even desirable?

In Dara, the Lyucu leadership as well as the surviving Dandelion Court bristle with rivalries as currents of power surge and ebb and perspectives spin and shift. Here, parents and children, teachers and students, Empress and Pékyu, all nurture the seeds of plans that will take years to bloom. Will tradition yield to new justifications for power?

Everywhere, the spirit of innovation dances like dandelion seeds on the wind, and the commoners, the forgotten, the ignored begin to engineer new solutions for a new age.

Ken Liu returns to the series that draws from a tradition of the great epics of our history from the Aeneid to the Romance on the Three Kingdoms and builds a new tale unsurpassed in its scope and ambition


FEMI FADUGBA – THE UPPER WORLD (December 7th)

I stumbled across this striking cover, read the description and am now intrigued. Time travel, hard sci-fi and lots of physics? Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Plus, a Netflix adaptation already appears to be in the works.

If you had the chance to change your future, would you take it?

Perfect for fans of Neal Shusterman and Jason Reynolds, this powerhouse, mind-bending YA debut follows two teens, a generation apart, whose fates collide across time–and outside of it.

Today

During arguably the worst week of Esso’s life, an accident knocks him into an incredible world–a place beyond space or time, where he can see glimpses of the past and future. But if what he sees there is true, he might not have much longer to live, unless he can use his new gift to change the course of history.

Tomorrow

Rhia’s past is filled with questions, none of which she expects a new physics tutor to answer. But Dr. Esso’s not here to help Rhia. He’s here because he needs her help–to unravel a tragedy that happened fifteen years ago. One that holds the key not only to Rhia’s past, but to a future worth fighting for.

Soon to be a major Netflix movie starring Oscar-nominated Daniel Kaluuya!


M. A. CARRICK – THE LIAR’S KNOT (December 9th)

Another sequel to a book I haen’t read yet but am super excited for. I am determined to read The Mask of Mirrors, the first book in the Rook & Rose series, next year. It sounds like excellent fun.

Trust is the thread that binds us . . . and the rope that hangs us.

In Nadezra, peace is as tenuous as a single thread. The ruthless House Indestor has been destroyed, but darkness still weaves through the city’s filthy back alleys and jewel-bright gardens, seen by those who know where to look.

Derossi Vargo has always known. He has sacrificed more than anyone imagines to carve himself a position of power among the nobility, hiding a will of steel behind a velvet smile. He’ll be damned if he lets anyone threaten what he’s built.

Grey Serrado knows all too well. Bent under the yoke of too many burdens, he fights to protect the city’s most vulnerable. Sooner or later, that fight will demand more than he can give.

And Ren, daughter of no clan, knows best of all. Caught in a knot of lies, torn between her heritage and her aristocratic masquerade, she relies on her gift for reading pattern to survive. And it shows her the web of corruption that traps her city.

But all three have yet to discover just how far that web stretches. And in the end, it will take more than knives to cut themselves free…


BRANDON SANDERSON and JANCI PATTERSON – EVERSHORE (December 28th)

This is the third of Sanderson’s Skyward novellas which he co-wrote with Janci Patterson. The first two are supposed to be read before and this third one after Cytonic, the third full novel in Sanderson’s YA series. I’m saving them all up and shall read them in the author’s suggested order but probably only next year.

From #1 bestselling author Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson comes the final of three Skyward series novellas, each told from the perspective of a different member of the team back on Detritus. Listen to Jorgen’s story along with Cytonic.

With the government of Detritus in disarray because of Superiority treachery, and with Spensa still away on her mission in the Nowhere, Jorgen must work together with the alien Alanik to pick up the pieces. They intercept a strange transmission from the planet Evershore and its Kitsen inhabitants, who say they have some of Jorgen’s people and want to return them—but can the Kitsen be trusted? And can Jorgen learn to master his increasingly erratic cytonic powers before they spiral out of control and destroy all hope of forming an alliance against the Superiority?


News from the blog

I was so productive in November! Seriously, I have to pat myself on the back here because usually, when I start a project or set myself a goal, I tend to aim too high, lose steam and eventually it all just fizzles out. Not so this November. I participated in NaNoWriMo and actually sat down to write on most days, I continued my running training which means going for a run 3-4 times a week, regardless of the weather and my mood (spoiler: my mood always imrpoves dramatically after I went for a run). I got my Covid booster and a flu shot. And I kept reading through my planned TBR, albeit a bit more slowly than I had hoped.
As for this blog, thank the blogging gods for pre-scheduled posts because that’s the one aspect where I didn’t do much. But with my ARC reviews and Reading the Hugos posts already planned, I hope you didn’t notice my absence. You can find those here:

I’ll post one more Reading the Hugos post in December (Best Series is coming!) but then I’m calling it quits for the year. I had planned to read the Astounding finalists as well but I just don’t have the energy anymore. I’d like to spend the rest of the year reading without pressure, picking up whatever I feel like without thinking about awards or lists. And then in January, I can go into full list-making mode with fresh energy and motivation.

What I read last month:

I read a lot of BIG books in November and for a while it felt like I didn’t get on with my TBR at all. If you have only books between 600 and 1200 pages each on your currently reading pile, progress can feel slow and motivation can droop a bit. Especially when the latest Stormlight book doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

Currently reading:

  • Brandon Sanderson – Rhythm of War
  • R. F. Kuang – The Burning God
  • Robert Jordan – The Dragon Reborn
  • Margaret Owen – Little Thieves
  • Maggie Stiefvater – The Scorpio Races (re-read)

The big books won’t leave me alone, it appears. I’m getting close to the end of Rhythm of War and while it’s good (it’s Sanderson, after all), I’m nowhere near as into it as I was with the first Stormlight books. I’m drawing out The Burning God because I know it will break my heart and I’m scared.
The third Wheel of Time book offers an interesting start but my motivation mostly stems from the TV show and the way it depicts the characters much more interestingly. I’m still planning to continue reading the books.
Margaret Owen’s Little Thieves is the slightly less big (still 500+ pages) balm that my soul was yearning for. It’s fun and quirky, the protagonist is morally gray but sympathetic and the world feels rich and original without losing its fairy tale inspiration. A third of the way through, I am loving it!
Another comfort read, or in this case, comfort listen, is Maggie Stiefvater’s Scorpio Races which I’ve been wanting to revisit ever since I read it a few years ago. It’s wonderful to be back with those killer horses on the island of Thisby.

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

The State of SFF – November 2021

It’s a slow news month and that can sometimes be a good thing. What little news and happenings I’ve gathered here can all be summarized as positive things. Whether it’s the long-awaited return of a super cool comic book series, a sci-fi book adaptation, or new releases, I wanted to focus on the good stuff this month.

Quickie News

  • Saga is back! The acclaimed comic book series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples went on hiatus a few years ago but will be returning in January 2022.
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  • There will be an online event featuring Catherynne M. Valente and Alix E. Harrow. Tor-rific tales is free to attend but you have to register. As this is part of Glasgow 2024, it’s almost happening in my time zone (1 hour difference is ok). Needless to say, I’ll be there.
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  • Who wants more literary awards? We do! Enter the Ursula K. LeGuin Prize for Fiction which will be awarded for the very first time in October 2022. Among the judges are Becky Chambers and David Mitchell.

German broadcaster ZDF is adapting Der Schwarm by Frank Schätzing

Der Schwarm (The Swarm) by Frank Schätzing is a very successful German science fiction book from 2004. When it came out, everybody was talking about it, people were joking about its “beach read qualities” because it’s about ocean life fighting back or at least having been changed by humanity’s carelessness with the planet. So maybe don’t read it while on the beach. 🙂

Now ZDF is going to adapt the 1000 pages chonker into a TV show, but in English and as an international cooperation!

“Mir war wichtig, dass wir den »Schwarm« nicht einfach verfilmen, sondern modernisieren. Eine Interpretation für kommende Tage, die das Leben, die Ängste und Hoffnungen junger Generationen in den Mittelpunkt stellt.”

[It was important to me not only to adapt The Swarm but to modernize it. An interpretation for the days to come, putting the lives, fears, and hopes of younger generations center stage.]

Frank Schätzing, author and executive producer

I am very curious to see this adaptation. And maybe this will be the necessary kick in my butt to finally read the book!


November Readathons

If you’re looking for an end-of-the-year boost to your reading or need to catch up on some reading goals, here are a few readathons happening in November that sound really fun:

Artwork by Liu Zishan from 123RF.com
Quote from Babylon’s Ashes by James S A Corey

Although I am in the mood for a readathon, I think I’ll take it easy in November. There are still a few Hugo finalists to read, I have a couple of 2022 e-ARCs that I’m excited for and what little is left of the year I will spend mostly mood-reading.


And of course NaNoWriMo

At this point, I’m sure most everybody knows about National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short, which encourages aspiring writers to build a new habit. The goal is preset at 50000 words but really, it’s about getting used to writing every day, some days more, other days less, but keeping at it.

I have never participated before (I did sign up several times but never started, you konw, writing) and I’m not sure if I’ll do it this year, but it sounds like so much fun. There are pep talks by famous authors, groups and buddies you can go to for encouragement, and all sorts of badges to earn. I just might try it this time. How about you? Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? Was it rewarding? Would you recommend it?


Exciting November Publications

November 2021 has a lot to offer. Continuations or, in the case of the Expanse and the Green Bone Saga, even the finale to beloved series, new things from well-known authors, and a few shiny books that could end up as brand new favorites. Based on the two books I have already had the pleasure of reading, I’m calling November an excellent month for SFF publications!

MARISSA MEYER – GILDED (November 2nd)

Meyer’s fairy tale retellings with a sci-fi twist are one of my guilty reading pleasures and I will not stay away from this upcoming one that takes Rumpelstiltskin as its inspiration.

Long ago cursed by the god of lies, a poor miller’s daughter has developed a talent for spinning stories that are fantastical and spellbinding and entirely untrue.

Or so everyone believes.

When one of Serilda’s outlandish tales draws the attention of the sinister Erlking and his undead hunters, she finds herself swept away into a grim world where ghouls and phantoms prowl the earth and hollow-eyed ravens track her every move. The king orders Serilda to complete the impossible task of spinning straw into gold, or be killed for telling falsehoods. In her desperation, Serilda unwittingly summons a mysterious boy to her aid. He agrees to help her… for a price. Love isn’t meant to be part of the bargain.

Soon Serilda realizes that there is more than one secret hidden in the castle walls, including an ancient curse that must be broken if she hopes to end the tyranny of the king and his wild hunt forever.


LAURA E. WEYMOUTH – A RUSH OF WINGS (November 2nd)

And there are more fairy tale retellings. This one is a take on the six swans set in Scotland.

Rowenna Winthrop has always known there’s magic within her. But though she hears voices on the wind and possesses unusual talents, her mother Mairead believes Rowenna lacks discipline, and refuses to teach her the craft that keeps their Scottish village safe. When Mairead dies a sinister death, it seems Rowenna’s one chance to grow into her power has passed. Then, on a fateful, storm-tossed night, Rowenna rescues a handsome stranger named Gawen from a shipwreck, and her mother miraculously returns from the dead. Or so it appears.

This resurrected Mairead is nothing like the old one: to hide her new and monstrous nature, she turns Rowenna’s brothers and Gawen into swans and robs Rowenna of her voice. Forced to flee, Rowenna travels to the city of Inverness to find a way to break the curse. But monsters take many forms, and in Inverness Rowenna is soon caught in a web of strangers who want to use her raw magic for their own gain. If she wishes to save herself and the people she loves most, Rowenna will have to take her fate into her own hands, and unlock the power that has evaded her for so long.


FREYA MARSKE – A MARVELLOUS LIGHT (November 2nd)

This is one of the books I’ve been looking forward to the longest. Anything that’s described as “meets Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” has my attention, if you then add what sounds like a delightfully charming gay romance and a fantasy of manners setting, I will bite.
I like the intricate flower dsign on the cover, although the colors are a bit much if you ask me.

Red White & Royal Blue meets Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in debut author Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light, featuring an Edwardian England full of magic, contracts, and conspiracies.

Robin Blyth has more than enough bother in his life. He’s struggling to be a good older brother, a responsible employer, and the harried baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents’ excesses. When an administrative mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the unextraordinary reality he’s always known.

Now Robin must contend with the beauty and danger of magic, an excruciating deadly curse, and the alarming visions of the future that come with it—not to mention Edwin Courcey, his cold and prickly counterpart in the magical bureaucracy, who clearly wishes Robin were anyone and anywhere else.

Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and the mystery of what happened to him reveals unsettling truths about the very oldest stories they’ve been told about the land they live on and what binds it. Thrown together and facing unexpected dangers, Robin and Edwin discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles—and a secret that more than one person has already died to keep.


NNEDI OKORAFOR – NOOR (November 9th)

I read an e-ARC of this and it’s one of my favorite books of the year. Nnedi Okorafor has been writing quality SFF for years now and with every new book of hers, it’s like entering a new world. You never know which direction she will take, you just know it will be one hell of a ride. Pre-ordering this is highly recommended! Also that cover is like holding pure sunshine in your hands.

From Africanfuturist luminary Okorafor comes a new science fiction novel of intense action and thoughtful rumination on biotechnology, destiny, and humanity in a near-future Nigeria.

Anwuli Okwudili prefers to be called AO. To her, these initials have always stood for Artificial Organism. AO has never really felt…natural, and that’s putting it lightly. Her parents spent most of the days before she was born praying for her peaceful passing because even in-utero she was wrong. But she lived. Then came the car accident years later that disabled her even further. Yet instead of viewing her strange body the way the world views it, as freakish, unnatural, even the work of the devil, AO embraces all that she is: A woman with a ton of major and necessary body augmentations. And then one day she goes to her local market and everything goes wrong.

Once on the run, she meets a Fulani herdsman named DNA and the race against time across the deserts of Northern Nigeria begins. In a world where all things are streamed, everyone is watching the reckoning of the murderess and the terrorist and the saga of the wicked woman and mad man unfold. This fast-paced, relentless journey of tribe, destiny, body, and the wonderland of technology revels in the fact that the future sometimes isn’t so predictable. Expect the unaccepted.


CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE – COMFORT ME WITH APPLES (November 9th)

I read this book back in spring and, to nobody’s surprise, really loved it. It’s an eerie sort of tale, perfect for October (publication was pushed back) and for gulping up in one sitting. Beware of spoilers, though. Best don’t read anything about the book, just pick up the book and discover it for yourself.

Sophia was made for him. Her perfect husband. She can feel it in her bones. He is perfect. Their home together in Arcadia Gardens is perfect. Everything is perfect.

It’s just that he’s away so much. So often. He works so hard. She misses him. And he misses her. He says he does, so it must be true. He is the perfect husband and everything is perfect.

But sometimes Sophia wonders about things. Strange things. Dark things. The look on her husband’s face when he comes back from a long business trip. The questions he will not answer. The locked basement she is never allowed to enter. And whenever she asks the neighbors, they can’t quite meet her gaze…

But everything is perfect. Isn’t it?


NATASHA BOWEN – SKIN OF THE SEA (November 9th)

Hello, even more fairy tale retellings! Come to me, don’t be shy. Give me all the Black mermaids who collect souls you can find. This sounds like so much more than just the Little Mermaid and the beautiful cover doesn’t hurt either.

An unforgettable fantasy debut inspired by West African mythology, this is Children of Blood and Bone meets The Little Mermaid, in which a mermaid takes on the gods themselves.

A way to survive.
A way to serve.
A way to save.

Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata–a mermaid–collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home.

But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi does the unthinkable–she saves his life, going against an ancient decree. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy it.

To protect the other Mami Wata, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But something is amiss. There’s the boy she rescued, who knows more than he should. And something is shadowing Simi, something that would rather see her fail. . . .

Danger lurks at every turn, and as Simi draws closer, she must brave vengeful gods, treacherous lands, and legendary creatures. Because if she doesn’t, then she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.


ANDREA STEWART – THE BONE SHARD EMPEROR (November 11th)

YES, more Bone Shard universe! If you haven’t read The Bone Shard Daughter go pick it up and meet Mephi, the cutest animal companion ever. Also, great worldbuilding, intriguing characters, and a super cool magic system.

The Bone Shard Emperor is the unmissable sequel to The Bone Shard Daughter, one of the biggest fantasy debuts of 2020 – a captivating tale of magic, revolution and mystery, where a young woman’s sense of identity will make or break an empire.

The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.

Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the northeast of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force.

Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga – the powerful magicians of legend – have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin needs their help to defeat the rebels and restore order.

But can she trust them?


JAMES S. A COREY – LEVIATHAN FALLS (November 16th)

I have no idea what the synopsis below says as I’ve only read the first book in the Expanse series and I plan to finish it someday. But I still want to mention this publication because it marks the end of the series. This is it, guys. The last one.

The Laconian Empire has fallen, setting the thirteen hundred solar systems free from the rule of Winston Duarte. But the ancient enemy that killed the gate builders is awake, and the war against our universe has begun again.

In the dead system of Adro, Elvi Okoye leads a desperate scientific mission to understand what the gate builders were and what destroyed them, even if it means compromising herself and the half-alien children who bear the weight of her investigation. Through the wide-flung systems of humanity, Colonel Aliana Tanaka hunts for Duarte’s missing daughter. . . and the shattered emperor himself. And on the Rocinante, James Holden and his crew struggle to build a future for humanity out of the shards and ruins of all that has come before.

As nearly unimaginable forces prepare to annihilate all human life, Holden and a group of unlikely allies discover a last, desperate chance to unite all of humanity, with the promise of a vast galactic civilization free from wars, factions, lies, and secrets if they win.

But the price of victory may be worse than the cost of defeat.


BRANDON SANDERSON – CYTONIC (November 23rd)

I’m honestly thinking about doing a Skyward re-read but since this year was already my Stormlight Archive re-read that would be a bit much. I will probably end up saving up this third instalment, the three companion novellas that came/are coming out this year and then doing a full re-read next year.

Spensa’s life as a Defiant Defense Force pilot has been far from ordinary. She proved herself one of the best starfighters in the human enclave of Detritus and she saved her people from extermination at the hands of the Krell—the enigmatic alien species that has been holding them captive for decades. What’s more, she traveled light-years from home as an undercover spy to infiltrate the Superiority, where she learned of the galaxy beyond her small, desolate planet home.

Now, the Superiority—the governing galactic alliance bent on dominating all human life—has started a galaxy-wide war. And Spensa’s seen the weapons they plan to use to end it: the Delvers. Ancient, mysterious alien forces that can wipe out entire planetary systems in an instant. Spensa knows that no matter how many pilots the DDF has, there is no defeating this predator.

Except that Spensa is Cytonic. She faced down a Delver and saw something eerily familiar about it. And maybe, if she’s able to figure out what she is, she could be more than just another pilot in this unfolding war. She could save the galaxy.

The only way she can discover what she really is, though, is to leave behind all she knows and enter the Nowhere. A place from which few ever return.

To have courage means facing fear. And this mission is terrifying.


FONDA LEE – JADE LEGACY (November 30th)

It’s finally coming, the last book in the Green Bone Saga!!! And yes I did order those special editions from Illumicrate, I’m an adult woman and I can spend all my money on books if I like. But with or without special editions, shiny covers, and author signature, I cannot wait to see how this brilliant trilogy ends.

Jade, the mysterious and magical substance once exclusive to the Green Bone warriors of Kekon, is now known and coveted throughout the world. Everyone wants access to the supernatural abilities it provides, from traditional forces such as governments, mercenaries, and criminal kingpins, to modern players, including doctors, athletes, and movie studios. As the struggle over the control of jade grows ever larger and more deadly, the Kaul family, and the ancient ways of the Kekonese Green Bones, will never be the same.

The Kauls have been battered by war and tragedy. They are plagued by resentments and old wounds as their adversaries are on the ascent and their country is riven by dangerous factions and foreign interference that could destroy the Green Bone way of life altogether. As a new generation arises, the clan’s growing empire is in danger of coming apart.

The clan must discern allies from enemies, set aside aside bloody rivalries, and make terrible sacrifices… but even the unbreakable bonds of blood and loyalty may not be enough to ensure the survival of the Green Bone clans and the nation they are sworn to protect.


News from the blog

I had plans for October. Some of them I followed, others… not so much. I did continue some of my longer projects of the year (The Wheel of Time and The Stormlight Archive), plus I read a few NetGalley ARCs and some more Hugo finalists. But I also picked up books just because I felt like it. Here are my thoughts on the first three Hugo categories:

My Reading the Hugos series will continue throughout November and maybe into December, depending on how fast I am with the Best Series category and if I manage to throw in a couple of Astounding finalists last minute. Best Series is going very well so far and I can feel a surge of ambition coming on to race through the Astounding finalists as well. Wish me luck.

What I read:

It was a fairly good month, in terms of quality, with one infuriatingly bad book among them, but also with one brilliantly shining gem and one re-read that I liked even better the second time around. My Best Series Hugo Award ballot is becoming tougher and tougher to rank the more finalists I read but I guess there are worse problems to have than “I liked all of these, thanks”.

Currently reading:

  • Brandon Sanderson – Rhythm of War
  • Robert Jordan – The Great Hunt
  • R. F. Kuang – The Dragon Republic

The fourth Stormlight book is both a surprisingly fast read (considering it’s 1200 pages) and the slowest instalment so far. I don’t feel a huge urge to return to the book but when I do continue reading, the pages fly by pretty fast. I can’t quite say the same of The Wheel of Time because, due to its age and trope-heaviness, it’s simply not as exciting and I don’t pick it up as often. But the second book definitely shows some real potential in terms of world building. As for characterization and foreshadowing… we can work on that. Jordan is not exactly subtle, let me put it that way. But I’m still intrigued enough to want to continue the series.
And Rebecca Kuang is the one who stole all my attention. Damn, the Poppy War series is good!

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