P. Djèlí Clark has packed more soul into Ring Shout’s scant page count than seems possible, and I would have read a thousand pages more. A heart-wrenching examination of hatred as a consumptive force and a skin-crawlingly creepy tale of extraplanar abominations all in one, I’ve never read anything quite like it. This novella will break your heart, but in the best possible way. I just adore this book.
When I was a young teenage girl, it started to occur to me that the world is not a very nice place for girls. That made me angry; it still does. Now imagine that you could take that anger, channel it into a giant mech, and literally crush the patriarchy. That’s Iron Widow. A blend between Pacific Rim and The Handmaid’s Tale, Iron Widow is like nothing I’ve ever read. Please don’t be misled by the premise – this is not a silly book. It’s an unflinching examination of how patriarchal society chews through girls and boys alike, an unapologetic font of feminist rage, and an absolute force of nature. I am frothing at the mouth waiting to see what Xiran Jay Zhao writes next.
This book is so good I want to shout its praises from the top of a mountain. An alternate-history fantasy retelling of the rise of the Ming Dynasty, She Who Became the Sun follows a peasant girl Zhu, told from an early age that her destiny is to become nothing. When her father and brother are killed in a bandit raid, Zhu takes on her brother’s identity and his place in a Buddhist monastery, determined also to claim his fate and circumvent her own. The antagonist, a eunuch forced into the service of the family that mutilated him, becomes obsessed with humiliating and destroying Zhu when the two meet on the battlefield. Though they know very little about each other, the two are united by an undeniable commonality: they are both others, square pegs in a society built on round holes, struggling to create their own purpose in a world that otherwise spurns their very existences. It’s complicated, queer, heart-breaking in parts, and one of the finest books I’ve read in a long time.
N. K. Jemisin is a force of nature. She’s the first person in history to win a Hugo award for three consecutive novels, three consecutive years, for all three entries in this series. It didn’t take me more than a couple chapters to see why. There’s just something about Jemisin’s writing that defies description, something powerful and evocative and beautiful, even when it’s tearing your heart to ribbons. Though broadly a work of post-apocalyptic fantasy, the themes explored in this series have never felt more culturally relevant. The Fifth Season hit me like an earthquake, and I’ll be feeling its aftershocks for a very long time.
There are several exciting blurbs on Gideon the Ninth's dust jacket, including the promise of "lesbian necromancers in space," which got me to read it. I went in hoping for something fun, but with fairly low expectations. Friends, that was a mistake. This book is fun, but don’t assume for a second that makes it shallow. Every element of world building, from the mythology of the Nine Houses to the rules that govern their macabre magic, is totally unique. The action is tense, the dialogue is sharp, the puns are, well…present. And, as promised, it is queer as heck. Read Gideon the Ninth, come back for Harrow the Ninth once you’re finished, and join me in the agonizing wait for part 3.
Originally sold as a trilogy of novellas, Binti’s story is finally together in one volume. And what a story it is. Broadly an Afrofuturist tale about one girl’s journey to the intergalactic academy to which she was accepted, Binti is also a tale about survival, and the will to rebuild yourself after you feel you’ve been broken. While Okorafor’s universe, filled with living starships and exotic aliens, is captivating and unique, Binti’s continuing struggle with identity and anxiety are intimate and grounded, creating a world in which humans and giant jellyfish-folk all feel equally alive. Okorafor is one of my favorite living authors, and I love Binti with all my heart.
This was the first Discworld book I read, and it's still my favorite. This retelling of the Pied Piper story from the perspective of a cat-turned-con-man has some familiar names and places to those familiar with the Disc, but it's a fully standalone novel in its own right. It's one of those rare laugh-out-loud funny books, but it also has the kind of heart and depth that always calls me back for a reread. Don't let its middlegrade/YA classification fool you; this is one of Pratchett's finest.
P. Djèlí Clark is out-of-control good. This is his first novel (set in the same universe as novella The Haunting of Tram Car 015 and short story A Dead Djinn in Cairo) and once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. Set in an alternate history steampunk Cairo in 1912, the world is still adjusting to the arrival of powerful magical creatures caused by a madman/sorcerer/genius/prophet punching a hole in the wall between worlds. Now, someone claiming to be that very same figure has arrived, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake, and it is up to Agents Fatma and Hadia of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities to put an end to it. Both a biting examination of the lingering impact of colonialism and a genuinely fun supernatural mystery, plus a compelling WLW romance as the cherry on top, I adored every page of this.
If you’re tired of the usual fantasy fare, V. E. Schwabb’s got you. Her fiction is imaginative and heartfelt, without ever falling back on the same handful of tropes we’ve all seen a thousand times before. Parallel dimensions, queer romance, swashbuckling adventures, and a magical Olympic-style tournament all await in the current trilogy, and I can’t even guess what we’ll see in the fourth novel currently in the works. Do yourself a favor and pick up A Darker Shade of Magic, the first book in this series, and prepare to fall in love.
A beautiful story about two lost and lonely queer kids who, against all odds, find one another; the sort of story I wish I could have read when I was a lost and lonely queer kid. The world Tokuda-Hall has built in her debut novel is familiar in its trappings, with colonialism colliding with piracy in a war to claim trade routes and pillage resources. But everything else, from the mermaids to the magic, feels utterly fresh and unique. "Genderqueer swashbuckling romance" was enough to pique my interest, but the quick pace and compelling characters kept me engaged from the first page to the last.
Murderbot is quickly becoming one of my favorite fictional people. It started as a corporate security droid, a piece of equipment rented out to expeditions on distant worlds to keep tabs on teams of researchers and mercenaries. But after hacking its own mainframe, Murderbot now longs for a simple life where it can watch soap operas in peace. The series is charming and funny, full of colorful bots and humans alike, packed with plenty of action. But these novellas shine in their small moments of humanity, often from inhuman parties. Short, sweet, and exceptional.
Some of my earliest and fondest memories of childhood are those special days when I got a new Redwall book. These books taught me to savor moments of peace, to appreciate a good meal with good company, and to never raise a paw in anger - only to fight the fights that really matter. With animated adaptations of books one and two (Redwall and Mossflower) in the works by Patrick McHale, the genius behind Over the Garden Wall, now is a perfect time to visit (or revisit) the old Abbey.
I knew the second I picked up Beetle & the Hollowbones that I was going to fall in love. A lot of graphic novels have tried to capture that sweet-but-spooky Halloween aesthetic, but Aliza Layne absolutely nails it. At its core, it's a story about growing up, about the way friendships change over time, and about finding and treasuring your own identity. But what shines the most are the characters, a unique cast of strange and wonderful people of all shapes, sizes, and consistencies. Perfect for kids and grown-ups alike who are still figuring out who they are.
Empress of Salt and Fortune is complicated and nonlinear, told from two points of view, a nonbinary scribe named Chih and a handmaiden of the former Empress named Rabbit. The Empress and Rabbit had been cloistered in a magically hidden lakeside estate, little more than a glorified prison for women who had outlived their usefulness – but as Chih unwinds Rabbit’s tale, it transforms from a story of loneliness and marginalization to one of triumph. I chewed through this little book in a single sitting, but it has lived large in my thoughts ever since.
My heart ached for these bots in a way that most writers can't make my feel for actual humans. Often moving and surprisingly funny, this book has it all: existential dread about what happens when we finally shut down for good; Mad Max style junker battles in the desert; plus a red, white, and blue death bot named Murka with guns for hands named 'Liberty' and 'Freedom.' Read this book.
(Please note: This book cannot be returned.)
I identify as queer and nonbinary, and I would not recommend a book with a Catholic slant lightly. But Lina Rather’s tale of a convent of Catholic nuns in space not only has a joyful lesbian romance with no judgment attached, but also an incredible story about living your faith versus submitting to authority. ‘Nuns in space’ was odd enough to turn my head, but Rather’s exceptional storytelling in short-format fiction has me hooked on this series.