Welcome to the third year of monthly hype posts! As a reminder, check out the massive all-encompassing 2022 post HERE – we’re going to try and not repeat books except to point you towards reviews we’ve written to try and give as many books the space to be featured, especially early in the year. From there, I’d like to mention Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan, which I’ve reviewed over on Grimdark Magazine – check out the full review here. But without further ado, this is what the team is excited for in January.
Kat: Rhonda Parrish is the undisputed Queen of Canadian Speculative Fiction Anthologies, and on January 11th, she will be releasing the third installment in her Punked Up Fairy Tales series Trenchcoats, Towers, and Trolls. With this series, we’ve already seen retellings in the diesel/decopunk and steampunk/gaslap styles, and now with this new anthology, we’ll be introduced to a collection of cyberpunk-inspired fairy tales – both original stories and new spins on familiar favorites. Parrish is adept at curating themed anthologies, and I have no doubt this installment will provide a variety of cyberpunk tales that will engage any fan of the subgenre. You can pre-order Kindle or Paperback copies of this anthology from Amazon.
Fab: Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz has an incredibly stunning cover. It got my attention just based on that already – out on January 18th, this is the story of Hazel, who wants to become a doctor more than anything else in a time when women aren’t allowed to attend university. But she manages to convince a renowned professor to break the rules if she can pass an anatomy exam beforehand. So it’s a good thing she’s just met Jack, a resurrection man, one who digs up corpses to sell… But Jack has his own problems: there are strange men hanging around the cemeteries, and his friends are disapearing off the streets. Set in the early 19th century in Edinburgh, the story promises murder, bodies acquired both legally and illegally and of course mystery and tension in spades. Pre-order a copy from Book Depository here.
Fab: The Red Palace by June Hur, out on the 25th, is another very intriguing historical novel. Set in eighteenth century Korea, Hyeon is an illegitimate daughter with few options traditionally open to her. But she has persevered and crafted herself a place as a palace nurse – until she is thrown into the world of palace intrigue and politics when there is a string of murders and her best friend and mentor is accused of being the culprit. To save her mentor, Hyeon has to work fast and diligently to find the true murderer, and it looks like it may be someone very powerful indeed… This sounds brilliant and like a book that will keep me up reading late into the night – while showing me a world I don’t know much about. I can’t wait to learn more about Korean historical culture and dive into Hyeon’s story. Pre-order this via Book Depository here.
Fab: I’m a sucker for a good YA fantasy that I can get stuck into and read obsessively. And Echoes and Empires by Morgan Rhodes, out on the 4th of January sounds like it fits that bill perfectly. Just read this tagline: “A snarky seventeen-year-old must team up with an enigmatic criminal to cure herself of dangerous forbidden magic” – that sounds brilliant and addictive. It’ll probably not be the deepest of books but I don’t need it to be. I just want to be entertained and have an evening well spent with a fun book. Josslyn gets accidentally involved with dangerous magic – which may cost her her head in more than one way – and is desperate to rid herself of it as soon as possible. And the only person who seems to be able to help her is the wanted criminal Jericho Nox, who is as infuriating as he is handsome… Pre-order this one from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that books by neurodivergent authors, and especially ones featuring neurodivergent characters are very dear to my heart. So I was thrilled when I was offered a copy of Frankie’s World by Aoife Dooley for review – this middle grade graphic novel features an autistic main character who is trying to figure out why she isn’t quite like the other kids in her class, all the while trying to track down her dad with her friends.
Many thanks to Scholastic for sending me a review copy, all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 06/01/2022
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Twelve-year-old Frankie knows she’s not like anyone else in her class: she’s different, but she can’t quite figure out why. Is it the new freckle on her nose, or the fact she’s small for her age? Or that she has to go to the hospital sometimes? Everyone else seems to think she’s weird too, and they make fun of her at school. Frankie’s dad left when she was a baby – maybe he was different too? It would explain why she always feels like an alien. So she and her best friend, Sam, embark on a mission to track him down. (from Scholastic)
OPINIONS: Frankie’s World is a delightful middle grade graphic novel about the titular character’s journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance in two-tone shades of orange and blue. It is the sort of book I would recommend both to children struggling with fitting in, with finding their place in the world, but also to those who do tend to fit into the mold of social acceptance, who could perhaps do with a bit of understanding for those who don’t. Aoife Dooley tells Frankie’s story with compassion, influenced by her own experiences of growing up autistic and not knowing it until adulthood.
But this is also a story of family and of friendship. A central theme is that Frankie has never met her dad – while she has a wonderful stepfather, she is of course morbidly curious about her ‘real’ dad (who she suspects may be an alien, as he must be odd to have fathered her). With her best friend, Sam, and her new friend Rebecca, Frankie goes on a hunt – and does eventually track him down, to get some unexpected answers. The friendships between Frankie, Sam and Rebecca are lovely to see, and while all three girls are disabled in different ways, the story doesn’t show them to be limited in what they can achieve or want, which I really appreciated. Frankie’s World is just a really uplifting story about the value of acceptance, family and friendship, and one that I think is valuable for so many young readers.
I think having it in graphic novel format is particularly effective as it makes the story even more approachable for children who may be reluctant readers, who may struggle with focus (which is an issue for some neurodivergent children especially) or just appreciate the added visual element. All in all, this is a fabulous book that I highly recommend to anyone, and hope many families, libraries and schools pick up a copy as soon as it is out.
And another (manic) Monday! I started working as a bookseller last week and things have been just a tad insane since then. But one of the many things I love about my job is that most of us spend our lunch breaks reading in companionable silence in the staff room. So thanks to the publicists for sending me eARCs of these titles via NetGalley, and as usual, all opinions are my own.
The Revelry by Katherine Webber is a UKYA contemporary fantasy out from Walker Books in February. It is set in a small town, where each year, a so-called Revelry takes place – a party in the woods, shrouded in mystery and legend. Bitsy and her friend Amy sneak in, and after the party, Bitsy’s life starts to unravel through bad luck while Amy rides a wave of good fortune. So Bitsy starts to convince herself that they are bound together through a curse only she can break. There are some really good ideas in there, especially around the mystery of the Revelry and the history of it, and the way it has impacted the society in their small town, but I felt like these aspects ultimately ended up not being given enough space in the story. Most of the plot revolved around a constant circle of Bitsy having a spell of bad luck while things went well for Amy, Bitsy getting upset, the girls fighting and soon making up again because they have been best friends forever. And then the same thing again. So while the concept was really interesting, the execution wasn’t for me.
Goblin King by Kara Barbieri is the follow-up to her debut, White Stag. It follows Janneke’s story after the events of the first book, because as we all know, just because the big fight is won doesn’t mean the war itself is over. These books are very loosely inspired by Norse mythology, though it’s more of a vague setting and references to beliefs and concepts rather than heavy-handed cultural influence. I really enjoyed reading this one, even if it has been rather too long since I read the first book and I definitely ended up missing out on quite a bit of the nuance just because I didn’t remember many of the details from the last arc. But this crossover fantasy series – I’d say it’s probably closer to new adult than proper YA – is a lot of fun and has some great characters. I loved how mature Janneke and Soren’s relationship is, and how they actually talk through issues (persistent problems that can easily be solved by communicating are one of my pet peeves). This series is more on the romantic end, but if you like that and epic-ish fantasy, it might be a good one to check out!
I loved The Gifts That Bind Us by Caroline O’Donoghue. This is the second book in her tarot-inspired contemporary fantasy series, and I think it’s one of the most thoughtful, mature YA fantasies out there. It is more focused on the implications of events, on mental trauma and small-scale relationships and impacts rather than sweeping plots and fast-paced adventures, which is a welcome change and makes this stand out in the market. I think I liked this one even more than the first book as it delved deeper into trauma and consequences, and really dared to lean into slower pacing – but no less tense story-telling. The gang from the first book is back here, Maeve, Roe, Fiona and Lily, but we meet a host of new characters too, both positive and negative, all of them nuanced and complex. And it’s lovely to get books set in small-town Ireland rather than US or UK as is far more common. A wonderful YA series that I’d highly recommend!
I was a massive fan of Gabriela Houston’s adult debut, The Second Bell, which was released earlier in 2021, so of course I could not resist the opportunity to review her children’s debut, The Wind Child as well. And damn, this is a great book. When I started it, I was just going to read a couple of chapters as a taster, but I raced through it, blundering my way through the London Tube system, kindle in hand, non-stop reading. Get on the Gabriela Houston train, friends. And if you have kids distracting you from reading, either get this one to share with them, or to distract them while you go off to read The Second Bell, whichever option you prefer.
Many thanks to UCLan Publishing for sending me an eARC via NetGalley, all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 03/02/2022
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: No human has ever returned from Navia, the Slavic afterlife. But twelve-year-old Mara is not entirely human. She is the granddaughter of Stribog, the god of winter winds and she’s determined to bring her beloved father back from the dead. Though powerless, Mara and her best friend Torniv, the bear-shifter, set out on an epic journey to defy the gods and rescue her father. On their epic journey they will bargain with forest lords, free goddesses from enchantments, sail the stormy seas in a ship made of gold and dodge the cooking pot of the villainous Baba Latingorka. Little do the intrepid duo know of the terrible forces they have set in motion, for the world is full of darkness and Mara will have to rely on her wits to survive. (from UCLan Publishing)
OPINIONS: This is such an entirely wonderful book. Not only is it an immersive story full of great characters, but I learned a lot about Slavic mythology along the way – and I love learning new things. This is a rather short middle grade fantasy adventure, which makes it perfect for young readers, and especially reluctant readers as well. It is addictive – I got stuck into it so much that I could not stop reading until I was done, which for me, is one of the crucial elements of a great children’s book. I found this to be an uncontested five star read – the only thing I could imagine being improved about it is to add some interior illustrations, which is more of a publishing thing rather than a criticism of the book itself, added value, not something that detracts from it now.
One of the things I loved most about The Wind Child is the emotional impact the story had on me. Mara sets out on this grand adventure to try and achieve the impossible, to try and get her recently deceased father back from the afterlife. The ending of the story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming and is the best possible way the book could have resolved. It had me crying in the best possible way (though that may have been connected to reading a dead parent book around the ten year anniversary of my mum’s passing as well, making me more emotionally susceptible to the topic).
Mara and her friend Torniv are fantastic characters. They are not all-powerful, but they are stubborn and they don’t accept no for an answer, and they are determined to succeed. It was a joy to follow them on part of their story, and I wish that we got to spend more time with them. I loved The Wind Child just as much as Gabriela’s adult debut, The Second Bell, and if you have a child in your life, I highly recommend you get them a copy, and either read it with them, or let them read it while you read Gabriela’s other book. She truly is a writer to look out for, and one that I think will go far.
Stephanie Garber has been one of the most popular YA authors of recent years since she exploded onto the scene with her Caraval series. Once Upon A Broken Heart follows up on that trilogy, but at the same time stands on its own. It is the first in a new series, but features some characters that will be familiar to readers of the earlier books, while the plot itself goes in a completely new direction. The cover is also absolutely stunning (which, to be fair, is part of the reason I was so excited to dive back into the world).
Many thanks to Kate at Hodder for sending me an eARC via NetGalley, all opinions are my own as usual.
RELEASE DATE: 30/09/2021
STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: For as long as she can remember, Evangeline Fox has believed in happily ever after. Until she learns that the love of her life is about to marry another, and her dreams are shattered.
Desperate to stop the wedding, and heal her wounded heart, Evangeline strikes a deal with the charismatic, but wicked, Prince of Hearts. In exchange for his help, he asks for three kisses, to be given at the time and place of his choosing.
But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that bargaining with an immortal is a dangerous game – and that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she pledged. He has plans for Evangeline, plans that will either end in the greatest happily ever after, or the most exquisite tragedy… (from Hodder)
OPINIONS: I should probably preface this by saying that I’m not exactly the target audience for this – I’m more of a person who tends to get sucked in by books that are a bit more off the beaten path and a tad less commercially oriented. That said, Once Upon A Broken Heart does hit upon a lot of the popular trends at the moment and it makes a lot of sense that this, and Garber’s other books are as popular as they are. You have the aspirational heroines, who aren’t as well-defined as to not let readers self-insert, you have dark and broody love interests with a villainous streak and you have twists and turns, romance and betrayal.
But while it is a fun and entertaining read, it never properly absorbed me. Part of it may be down to formatting issues that the eARC had (the story is interspersed with newspaper articles, and those ended up very messy, with scattered text), which will be fixed in final copies, though I don’t think that it is only that. I guess it may also be that I am just not as taken in by either of the men in Evangeline’s life – they’re just not all that swoon-worthy to me, tbh, one is bland and doesn’t really have a discernible personality, and the other is a manipulator with a track-record of being a bad person? And Evangeline herself is kind of a damsel in distress type character throughout the story, constantly relying on everyone else to sort things out for her and going ‘woe is me’. Somehow I think I may be slightly saltier about this book than I thought before I started writing this review… It’s not like it’s a bad book, but I think ultimately, it’s not one for me. And that’s ok. It’s a book aimed at a different type of reader and I really should learn not to always get sucked in by pretty covers when I kind of know that I won’t love the story from the start.
There are so many brilliant books out in 2022 – it was tough to choose what to include, and this list is in no way comprehensive. There are bound to be a ton of books that we missed despite our best efforts (I especially have been working on this almost daily for close to two months – and if you know of a book that really should be on here, do give us a shout and we’ll consider adding it!) – and do remember that we’ll continue to post monthly hype posts into next year too. For easy access, you can see those books that are available on Bookshop in a handy list here (also contains some earlier volumes in series that are mentioned in this post to tide you over while waiting). And now, enjoy the UTTER DESTRUCTION OF YOUR TBR.
Fab: The Bone Spindle by Leslie Vedder, out on January 11th, is pitched as Sleeping Beauty meets Indiana Jones, and damn, that’s a tempting pitch. From the blurb: “Filore, a treasure hunter with a knack for riddles, is busy running from her own deadly curse, when she pricks her finger on a spindle. Bound to the sleeping prince Briar Rose with the spindle’s magic – and chosen as the only person who can wake him – Fi is stuck with the prince’s ghost until she can break his ancient curse and save his kingdom. She’s going to need a partner. A warrior huntswoman with an axe to grind (literally), Shane couldn’t care less about curses and ancient texts. But instead of riches, the two girls find trouble.” Sounds like a great sapphic YA fantasy. And not long to wait – pre-order your copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: In 2021, H.M. Long debuted with Hall of Smoke, a Viking inspired fantasy which I thought was a really great debut and did some very interesting things around gods and their roles in the lives of mortals. With Eangi Hessa, Long created a wonderfully flawed leading character, and I can’t wait to read more of her adventures in the sequel. Temple of No God is out on January 18th and follows Hessa as she has to keep up the tentative peace she brokered at the end of the first book and face new threats. These are great books for anyone who likes historical fantasy, Grimdark, and Vikings. Pre-order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link)
Fab: Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli promises to be a wonderful, lyrical story reminiscent of fairy tales. Out on January 18th, this is the story of Emeline, who has always been pursued by the mysterious forest of Edgewood. And now her grandfather has gone missing, almost without a trace. So she finally gives in to the call of the forest and finds herself dealing with the fabled Wood King. Not only does the blurb sound enchanting, the cover is absolutely stunning too. Yes, I want Emeline’s dress, complete with live flowers. Pre-order Edgewood from Book Depository here.
Fab: My favourite books to write about here are ones that I know I have already acquired for myself. Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan is one of those – while it’s not out until January 20th, I have already managed to sneak an eARC and to read and review it! Check out my review over at Grimdark Magazine here. This debut fantasy is inspired by the legend of the Chinese Moon Goddess, Chang’e and is the first in a duology. It’s lyrical, magical and exactly the kind of thing that I will fall in love with. Xingyin grew up hidden away on the moon, but as her magical powers begin to bloom she is forced to flee and is plunged into perilous adventures. Pre-order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: Gabriela Houston’s The Second Bell was one of my favourite debuts of 2021. Atmospheric, haunting and a compelling story about a mother and her child in a fantastical world inspired by Eastern European mythology. So I’m very excited for her first children’s book, which is coming out on February 3rd. The Wind Child tells the story of Mara, the granddaughter of Stribog, the god of winter winds, who is determined to get her beloved father back from Navia, the Slavic afterlife. There’s just one problem: no one has ever returned from Navia. Together with her best friend Torniv, a bear-shifter, she sets out on an epic adventure. I read this last week, and it is as brilliant as it sounds – review will be up soon but rest assured that it comes with the highest of recommendations. Pre-order your own copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: I’m glad I waited with posting this list, because Elle McNicoll’s Like A Charm was only announced YESTERDAY! Her third book – and first fantasy novel – will be out on the third of February and I could not be more excited. I loved both A Kind of Spark and Show Us Who You Are and I can’t wait to meet Ramya, the dyspraxic heroine of Like A Charm. From the blurb: “Edinburgh is a city filled with magical creatures. No one can see them… until Ramya Knox. As she is pulled into her family’s world of secrets and spells, Ramya sets out to discover the truth behind the Hidden Folk with only three words of warning from her grandfather: Beware the Sirens. Plunged into an adventure that will change everything, Ramya is about to learn that there is more to her powers than she ever imagined.” Purely delightful! You can pre-order Like A Charm via Waterstones here.
Fab: Rebecca Ross has been enchanting YA readers for a while, and now she has her sights set on the adult audience with A River Enchanted, out on February 3rd (15th in the US). It has two gorgeous covers in the UK and the US, but I think I slightly prefer the US one (which is the one you see here) because of it’s medieval vibes. The story is set on the Isle of Cadence, haunted by spirits who find mischief in playing with the inhabitants’ lives. They can only be controlled through a bard’s song, so as girls go missing, Adaira, heiress of the East has to band together with the last bard capable of the feat: Jack Tamerlaine, her childhood enemy. A story of working together despite the odds, of darker secrets lurking below the surface and uncanny happenings. And perhaps even an enemies-to-lovers trope if I’m a lucky Fab? Pre-order A River Enchanted from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Anna: Academic and speculative fiction author Adam Roberts has a knack for imagining alternative realities that seem almost plausible. This one features a ‘smart’ device (that is part-social media platform, part-body modification, part-cult experience), sentient robots, and malevolent AIs. Split across multiple timeframes, the blurb promises The This will ask tough questions about our dependence on technology. I’ve had the pleasure of being taught by Roberts as an undergraduate, have followed his writing since then, and can attest that his books always elicit a strong response (probably in the form of me yelling at my kindle). Out in the UK and US February 3rd. Pre-order via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: Witches are my kryptonite. Especially witches in exciting middle grade fantasy adventures. So of course I’m hyped for The Witch, The Sword, and the Cursed Knights by Alexandria Rogers, out on February 8th. Twelve-year-old Ellie tries to eschew her hated witch heritage by joining the Fairy Godmother Academy. But instead she is drafted to the dreaded Arthurian Round Table, a draft which she can only get out of by saving a lost cause. This throws her together with Caedmon, a boy from Wisconsin who doesn’t believe magic is real, and they both have to accept their lives and destinies in order to survive and save their worlds. Pre-order this one from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Anna: I am here for occult libraries! From the adventures of Thursday Next to the Clayr’s Library in Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series, quiet stacks and dusty tomes have been my jam. And A. J. Hackwith’s The Library of the Unwritten unites my love of libraries with my second favourite setting – Hell! The third instalment of the series, The God of Lost Words follows Claire, a former librarian, and her allies’ quest to rescue the Library of the Unwritten, a place where stories unfinished by their authors go, from the infernal general Malphas. And that may just require destroying the library first. I look forward to diving back into Hackwith’s imaginative world and reuniting with the characters on February 8th. Pre-order The God of Lost Words here, and catch up with books one and two, The Library of the Unwritten and The Archive of the Forgotten here and here via Bookshop (affiliate links).
Fab: Give a Fab a speculative YA anthology with a host of diverse authors and they will be very happy. Reclaim the Stars, edited by Zoraida Córdova and out on February 15th is exactly that kind of book. The anthology features seventeen stories about space in all shapes and forms written by authors of Latin American descent. From the blurb: “Reclaim the Stars is a collection of bestselling and acclaimed YA authors that take the Latin American diaspora to places fantastical and out of this world. From princesses warring in space, to the all too-near devastation of climate change, to haunting ghost stories in Argentina, and mermaids off the coast of the Caribbean. This is science fiction and fantasy that breaks borders and realms, and proves that stories are truly universal.” If that doesn’t tempt you, I don’t know how to get you reading… Pre-order a copy from Book Depository here.
Fab: I have been excited for The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield since I met the author in early 2020 at my last pre-covid book event and heard her talking about it. On February 17th, it will finally be available to the public (though I do have an eARC and will hopefully be able to provide you lovely readers with a review before then, even if I’m very sad that I don’t have one of the lovely gold-foiled physical ARCs). This is a story of two sisters, of magic, of spells that end up leading to a rivalry that will affect all of Europe because of who they are: Marie Antoinette and her sister Charlotte. I love historical witchy books, so I’m sure this will be right up my alley. Pre-order this from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: This is the rarest of occurrences: A book on a yearly preview that I’ve not only read but reviewed already. Only a Monster by Vanessa Len is out on February 22nd, and you can find my full review here. This is a deliciously addictive YA fantasy set in London (which is always a bit of a plus in my book) playing with some interesting questions around morality. The magic in this book has Joan, the main character, and her family of so-called monsters able to steal life time from humans in order to travel across time. But there is a hero created to stop them all… I thoroughly enjoyed this one and highly recommend it. It’s fantastic escapism and exactly what I want from my YA (I just wish it was a little queerer, but you can’t always have everything). Pre-order it via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Sun: Vampires and archives. Literally, the only way this book could be more enticing for me is if it came with a bowl of noodles. Dead Collections by Isaac Fellman is out 22nd February. From the blurb: When archivist Sol meets Elsie, the larger than life widow of a moderately famous television writer who’s come to donate her wife’s papers, there’s an instant spark. But Sol has a secret: he suffers from an illness called vampirism, and hides from the sun by living in his basement office. On their way to falling in love, the two traverse grief, delve into the Internet fandom they once unknowingly shared, and navigate the realities of transphobia and the stigmas of carrying the “vampire disease.” Then, when strange things start happening at the collection, Sol must embrace even more of the unknown to save himself and his job. This sounds like it bounces through several genres in the best kind of way and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out. You can pre-order this one from Amazon here.
Fab: If you’ve ever spoken about books with me at any length, I’ve probably talked your ear off about medieval retellings. Especially the need for more diversity, because the middle ages were not this white and homogenous period as is often said. So you bet I’m very excited about Aminah Mae Safi’s Travelers Along the Way, which is part of the Remixed Classics series and out on the 1st of March. And no, we’re not talking about the fact that basically every single title in that series appears on this list. Nope. Anyway, this remix takes the classic story of Robin Hood and sets it in the Holy Land instead of the forest of Sherwood and centres two Muslim girls who, together with their band of misfit traveling companions, get swept up in the Third Crusade and the fight for Jerusalem. I have been reading this one on my way to work these last few days and it’s as good as it sounds – review to come soon and highly recommended. Pre-order this from Book Depository here.
Fab: Hi it’s me, the resident V.E. Schwab fangirl. I pretty much love everything she writes, so I’m extremely hyped for Gallant, which is a standalone out on the 1st of March. Both the US and UK versions are gorgeous, but I’m partial to the Titan cover, which is the one you see here. This is pitched as The Secret Garden meets Stardust, and is the story of sixteen year old Olivia Prior, an orphan who does not have a voice. Raised in a boarding school, she is summoned to a mysterious estate by an estranged uncle. Only, when she gets there, he has died, and she is set very odd rules and things aren’t quite what she expected… I love me a gothic mystery and you bet that I’ve already started begging for an ARC. Pre-order your own copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: The Book of Living Secrets by Madeleine Roux was actually on my most anticipated list for 2021 already as its release date was pushed. It is now coming out on March 1st. This falls into one of my favourite tropes, stories about books. Adelle and Connie are best friends – and no matter how different they may be, they share a love for the novel Moira. So when they are offered an opportunity to travel inside the book, they can’t resist. Except, once there, the story isn’t quite as they remember it, and they have to rely on their wits if they want to make it out alive as their dream turns into a nightmare. This sounds like such fun – and an exploration of a daydream most of us readers will have had many times over. I for one am not sure how long I’d make it in some of my favourite books… Pre-order this from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: Out on March 3rd, Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments is the second book in T.L. Huchu’s Edinburgh Nights series. I really enjoyed The Library of the Dead, the first book, which came out in spring 2021 (see my review here), so I’m really excited to see where the story takes Ropa next. This is a really interesting fantasy series aimed at a crossover audience, blending an Edinburgh setting with Zimbabwean magic. This second book sees Ropa investigate a mysterious illness at a hospital for magical ailments, and leads her to one of the oldest schools for magic in Scotland (which still doesn’t accept female students…). I’m sure this too will be brilliant! Order a copy of The Library of the Dead to keep yourself occupied here, and pre-order Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments here (affiliate links).
Fab: Basically every Anna-Marie McLemore book I have read has been a five-star read. So it’s no wonder that they are featured twice on this list. First up is Lakelore, out on March 8th. This pretty much promises to be their queerest book yet, which, knowing their work, means a lot. It features two non-binary protagonists – something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. From the blurb: “Everyone who lives near the lake knows the stories about the world underneath it, an ethereal landscape rumored to be half-air, half-water. But Bastián Silvano and Lore Garcia are the only ones who’ve been there. Bastián grew up both above the lake and in the otherworldly space beneath it. Lore’s only seen the world under the lake once, but that one encounter changed their life and their fate.” But then the boundaries between the worlds start to blur, and the two have to start trusting each other and talking to the other, something they haven’t done in years. I’m already prepared for gorgeous writing and to get my heart broken. Pre-order this one from Book Depository here.
Fab: Look at how gorgeous the cover for A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft is. This story of alchemists and the hunt for a mythical creature is also out on the 8th of March. This promises to be a dark and haunting story of outcasts, unlikely love and magic that takes over the protagonists lives. I love that so many of these stories are set in atmospheric forests, which is probably my favourite fantasy setting of them all. 2022 is spoiling me so damn much. You can pre-order this one from Book Depository here.
Fab: One For All by Lillie Lainoff is also being released on March 8th. This is a genderbent retelling of The Three Musketeers with a disabled protagonist, and damn do I need this in my life. Tania’s chronic illness is based on the author’s own experience with POTS, and it is probably the first book to ever feature a protagonist with this illness – and especially one that has her be a sword-fighter. While these experiences are very different from the chronic issues I face in my own life I think a lot of the broader experiences will resonate with me and so I can’t wait to read about a heroine who kicks ass while dealing with a lot of shit from her own body, never mind the people around her. Pre-order a copy from Book Depository here.
Fab: If there’s one form of art that I’ve always loved, it’s maps. Growing up as the daughter of a geographer, questions such as “where is this place?” were often greeted with “go get an atlas and look it up”, so I learned how to read maps very early on, and they have a comforting familiarity as well as remind me of my mum. So I’m very intrigued by The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd, out on March 15th. This is described as a highly imaginative thriller about a young woman who discovers that a strange map in her deceased father’s belongings holds an incredible, deadly secret—one that will lead her on an extraordinary adventure and to the truth about her family’s dark history. A love letter to maps, family secrets AND V.E. Schwab comps? Count me in. Pre-order this via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: Apart from books, the other thing I love more than anything is tea. (and cats, but that’s not relevant right now) A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin combines the two things masterfully. Out on March 22nd, this YA fantasy features a magical tea making competition, and so is best enjoyed along with a cup of your favourite brew. It is the first in a duology, and you don’t even have to wait long for book two – A Venom Dark and Sweet is out in August already! Backstabbing, deceit and poison tea, as well as a competition element, this sounds like a wonderful Asian-set story. Pre-order it from Book Depository here.
Fab: I’ve really enjoyed much of Tara Sim’s YA work, so I’m intrigued to see where her adult fantasy takes us. The City of Dusk is out on March 22nd and billed as having bone and shadow magic, vengeful gods and a set of chosen ones who aren’t happy about their status. There are four gods, and four heirs to the gods, and their realms converge in the City of Dusk. But now, the gods have withdrawn their favour, and the realms are dying – except that the heirs won’t let that happen if they have anything to say about it. This sounds like a fun epic fantasy on the darker side of things! Pre-order this from Book Depositoy here.
Fab: The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller has one of the most gorgeous covers of 2022. And it comes out on March 22nd, the day before my birthday, so I think someone should order this for me as a birthday present. Because this isn’t only pretty but it also sounds awesome and features a witch – a necromancer to be precise. Charm is the last in her line of necromantic practicioners, and she is both a whore and the Emperor’s concubine. And now she’s been summoned to his deathbed to solve his impending murder (which he believes was committed by one of his sons, and thus affects the future of the entire empire). Sounds like a brilliant book! Pre-order from Book Depository here.
Fab: Until the Last of Me by Sylvain Neuvel is the second book in his Take Them to the Stars series. Following up on 2021’s A History of What Comes Next, this continues Mia’s story as she strives to make space travel happen for humanity. I absolutely loved the first book – I had an audio-arc and liked it so much I got myself a Goldsboro edition – so I’m very hyped for this second installment to come out on March 29th. These books are smart, tongue-in-cheek and just plain brilliant. Highly recommended if you like space and intelligent, high-concept fiction. Pre-order via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: There are few covers that scream Fab as much as Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May, out on March 31st (so basically a birthday present for me). Just look at this occult historical beauty. This is a sapphic witchy book which you all know is my exact favourite thing so I’m expecting this to be a 5 star read. I have also already begged the publicist for an ARC so hopefully you’ll get a review soon-ish. This is set in a Great Gatsby-esque world of opulence, but instead of silly men being content in their mediocrity, this features beautiful women, wicked blood bargains and enigmatic witches. Absolute Fabnip. Pre-order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: Out on April 12th, Emily X.R. Pan’s An Arrow to the Moon is pitched as Romeo and Juliet meets Houyi & Chang’e from Chinese Mythology. So another fairy tale atmosphere story that will steal my heart. I adored Emily’s debut, The Astonishing Color of After, which was haunting and lyrical and I did not expect to fall for as hard as I did, so I fully expect to love this one too, especially as this is much more my genre. It sounds like a sweet contemporary fantasy about Hunter and Luna, two teens who are utterly different, and find their lives upended as they fall in love – with a heavy dose of secrets and magic. And just look at this amazing cover. Pre-order this one via Book Depository here.
Fab: Give me a cover this gorgeous and tell me that the book’s comps are Gideon the Ninth and The Ten Thousand Doors of January and damn, if that’s not a book I’ll be all over. Saint Death’s Daughter by C.S.E. Cooney is out on April 12th, and I can’t wait to dive into my ARC soon. Just read this blurb: “To be born into a family of royal assassins pretty much guarantees that your life is going to be… rather unusual. Especially if, like Miscellaneous “Lanie” Stones, you also have a vicious allergy to all forms of violence and bloodshed, and an uncanny affinity for bringing the dead back to life. To make matters worse, family debt looms – a debt that will have to be paid sooner rather than later if Lanie and her sister are to retain ownership of the ancestral seat, Stones Manor. Lanie finds herself courted and threatened by powerful parties who would love to use her worryingly intimate relationship with the goddess of death for their own nefarious ends. But the goddess has other plans…” You can get your very own copy via Book Depository here.
Fab: Another queer fantasy YA thriller for me to get excited over. I am easy to please, if you haven’t noticed yet. Out on April 12th, The Drowning Summer by Christine Lynn Herman is about three murdered teens, six years ago – a time known as the drowning summer – and two girls tangled up in the mystery of it all. Evelyn’s father was accused of the murders, the charges only dropped because she summoned a spirit to clear his name. But that doesn’t mean that the community trusts them. And while Mina’s family has worked as mediums for generations, she’s been shut out of the family business. When a summoning goes very wrong, the two girls have to work together to figure out how to fix things and find out what happened six years ago… Pre-order this one via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: Spear by Nicola Griffith isn’t out until April 19th but I’ve already managed to get my hands on a copy and it’s probably the best novella I’ve read all year. This is pretty much the well-researched diverse queer Arthurian story of my dreams. You can check out my full review on Grimdark Magazine here, but rest assured that this is a book I wholeheartedly recommend. Peretur, a young woman , ends up at the Arthurian court, where she is mistaken for a man and ends up involved in the quest for the Grail… And do I even need to mention that the book is illustrated by Rovina Cai? An adult book illustrated on the inside?! Pre-order this from Book Depository here.
Fab: I adored Jennifer Saint’s debut, Ariadne, in 2021 (see my review here), and thought that cover was absolutely stunning. But her sophomore novel, Elektra, is even more beautiful. Out on April 22nd, this tells the story of three women: Elektra, her mother Clytemnestra and the woman cursed to prophecy the brutal events to befall them all, Cassandra. I look forward to reading another nuanced reworking of Greek mythology, focusing on the perspectives of the often passive women. This is sure to be a great read, and if you haven’t read Ariadne yet, I recommend you get a copy of that while you wait for Elektra to be released. You can order a copy of Ariadne here and Elektra here via Bookshop (affiliate links).
Fab: T. Kingfisher has a tendency to write comfort reads. And Nettle and Bone, out on April 26th sounds like it will fit that bill perfectly. Growing up under an abusive prince, Marra has realised that no one will save her and her sisters if she doesn’t do it herself. Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill the 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… This, like many of Kingfisher’s stories is one of a motley crew, an itinerant quest and humour. Oh, and there’s a chicken possessed by a demon, which might be a selling point too. You can order this one from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: Unicorns have been pink, fluffy and cute for far too long. So, I’m thrilled for Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman, out on April 28th. This middle grade fantasy debut presents unicorns as deadly beasts – more akin to dragons than innocent creatures. Skandar has always wanted to become a unicorn rider. And how, he’s finally getting ready to take his Hatchery Exam. But when his exam is stopped and a thief steals the most powerful unicorn out there, Skandar realises that becoming a rider is far more dangerous than he expected. In typical middle grade fashion, he is drawn into epic battles, big time magic and adventures bigger than expected. This sounds like a hoot, and I’ll be reading this as soon as I can. Pre-order it from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: So Xiran Jay Zhao convinced me that they can write pretty damn well with their #1 NYT Bestselling debut Iron Widow. Which means that I’m now going to devour anything they write – especially if it sounds as tempting as Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor. Out on May 3rd, this is a Percy Jackson-style middle grade fantasy adventure based on Chinese mythology. Zack is very surprised when he learns that he’s supposed to host the spirit of the First Emperor of China to help seal the Underworld, and when the possession goes wrong, and the Emperor accidentally possesses Zack’s AR gaming headset, all hell breaks loose. This leads to a merry chase through China, to save both the world and his mum. FUN! Pre-order this from Book Depository here.
Out on May 3rd, When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill features a world in which thousands of women have spontaneously transformed into dragons. Set in an alternate version of the 1950s, in which the Mass Dragoning of 1955 has taken place – an event which caused women, seemingly chosen at random, to transform into dragons, complete with talons, wings and fire-breathing abilities. And, they are never spoken of again. This is the world Alex Green grows up in and has to make sense of. A world in which women are kept small, where they disappear, where there is a desperate need for answers but the questions aren’t asked. This sounds brilliant and unique and I need it. Pre-order a copy via Book Depository here.
Fab: Holly Black is a huge name in YA, and on May 3rd, she’s set to take the adult fantasy world by storm with Book of Night. This is the story of Charlie Hall, who lives in a world where shadows can be altered – for entertainment, cosmetic preferences, but also power. They can be used to manipulate emotions. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own. And Charlie’s a con-artist trying to survive and make a life in this world while working as a bartender. I love the concept of the shadow magic, and am really looking forward to seeing how Holly Black’s writing transitions to the adult market. Pre-order this one via Book Depository here.
Fab: Miss the comfort of Harry Potter from your childhood but not the transphobia and lack of diversity? Dhonielle Clayton’s got you covered. Her first middle grade, The Marvellers is being published on May 3rd and features a global magic school in the sky and a black girl protagonist. Just read this description of the school from the blurb: “Marvellers from all around the world come together to practice their cultural arts like brewing Indian spice elixirs, practicing Caribbean steel drum hypnosis, and bartering with fussy Irish faeries.” This sounds like an amazing place and I am so looking forward to diving into this world of international magic, drawing on such a variety of heritage. Add in main character Ella having to prove herself as the first Conjurer to attend the school and all sorts of weird things going on and you’ve got a great sounding book right there! Pre-order via Book Depository here.
Fab: Out on May 3rd, Tori Bovalino’s Not Good For Maidens is a retelling of Christina Rosetti’s “Goblin Market”. The blurb sounds so delicious: “Lou never believed in superstitions or magic–until her teenage aunt Neela is kidnapped to the goblin market. The market is a place Lou has only read about–twisted streets, offerings of sweet fruits and incredible jewels. Everything–from the food and wares, to the goblins themselves–is a haunting temptation for any human who manages to find their way in. Determined to save Neela, Lou learns songs and spells and tricks that will help her navigate this dangerous world and slip past a goblin’s defenses–but she only has three days to find Neela before the market disappears and her aunt becomes one of them forever. If she isn’t careful, the market might just end up claiming her too.” I can’t put it better than that – sounds like a wonderful twisty story to curl up with. You can pre-order a copy via Book Depository here.
Fab: Probably my number one comfort book of 2021 was One Last Stop. So I’m extremely excited for more sapphic Casey McQuiston. I Kissed Shara Wheeler is coming on May 3rd and not a day too soon – I can’t wait to binge it as soon as it’s out. From the blurb, this sounds like Shara is an absolute disaster bi which I thoroughly identify with – and she’s gone missing. And the girl and guys she’s made out with have to find her. I’m not sure whether this is more rom-com or actually has a supernatural twist like One Last Stop, but either way, I’m here for it and it sounds heartwarming and hilarious. Pre-order this via Book Depository here.
Fab: I’ve wanted to read one of Ryan La Sala’s books for ages – and while they all sound like a hoot, The Honeys is the most me of them so far. Out on May 3rd, this features Mars, a genderfluid protagonist, which I’m especially excited to read about. It is also a dark academia book, so double excitement. Mars has always been the lesser twin. But when his sister dies, he attends her prestigious school in her stead, and gets involved with her group of friends, called the Honeys, equally beautiful and terrifying. And Mars is convinced that they have something to do with his sister’s death… Pre-order The Honeys from Book Depository here.
Fab: Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire is the follow-up to the fantastic Middlegame. This one is out on May 3rd and features a new cast of characters. This follows Melanie, who has a tragic destiny, and Harry, who doesn’t want to believe in destiny because that would mean accepting losing the person who lights up his life. So of course they are excited when a new road presents itself… But if you’ve read Middlegame, you already know about the weird things that come with walking down that particular road. I’m excited to dive back into that world. Pre-order this one from Book Depository here.
Fab: My first history obsession as a kid was with Pompeii, and a few years ago I got to actually fulfill my dream of visiting the site. So it’s no wonder that I loved Elodie Harper’s The Wolf Den (see my review here) – and got to see it used to tick off another bucket list dream, when the publisher used my review as part of the endorsements printed in the paperback edition. Of course I can’t wait to see where the story goes in The House With the Golden Door, out on May 12th. The first book follows Amara as she fights her way out of being a slave in Pompeii’s brothel, the Lupinar, and the second continues her story as she adjusts to life with a benefactor that she might not know as well as she thought she did. These books are written with compassion and a healthy dose of modern feminism and evaluate what it means to belong to oneself. If you haven’t read book one yet, you can get a copy here, and pre-order a copy of The House with the Golden Door from Bookshop here (affiliate links).
Fab: The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah is out on May 17th and is inspired by One Thousand and One Nights. The story is about Loulie, the Midnight Merchant, a criminal, who steals and sells magic – illegal magic – with the help of her jinn bodyguard. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an artefact that has powers to benefit the land… but destroy all living jinn. But of course, Loulie is in a position where she doesn’t have choice, and so a magical adventure begins. It sounds amazing, and perfect for fans of S.A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad series. Pre-order The Stardust Thief from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: Another for the queer YA brigade, Rose Szabo’s sophomore novel, We All Fall Down, out on June 7th, is about the complex networks of power and the pain that they create. From the blurb: “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.” Colour me intrigued. Pre-order a copy from Book Depository here.
Fab: If I had to pick some top books from my list of most anticipated, Wrath Goddess Sing by Maya Deane would be on it. Out on June 7th, this is an #ownvoices trans reworking of the Iliad. Achilles famously hides among women in the original tale, and I’ve always found that episode in the epic very interesting. And reading the blurb for this, I think that there is a very interesting story here – it will probably be one that will cause a bit of an uproar, but one that will make me fall in love. Just read this excerpt from the blurb: “Achilles has fled her home and her vicious Myrmidon clan to live as a woman with the kallai, the transgender priestesses of Great Mother Aphrodite. When Odysseus comes to recruit the “prince” Achilles for a war against the Hittites, she prepares to die rather than fight as a man. However, her divine mother, Athena, intervenes, transforming her body into the woman’s body she always longed for, and promises her everything: glory, power, fame, victory in war, and, most importantly, a child born of her own body. Reunited with her beloved cousin, Patroklos, and his brilliant wife, the sorceress Meryapi, Achilles sets out to war with a vengeance.” Squabbling gods, trans heroes for the ages – and far less toxic masculinity? I kind of suspect that this may join my all-time favourite books. Oh, and should I mention that it has Helen in an active role engineering her fortune rather than a passive damsel waiting to be fought over? Pre-order this from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: Juniper & Thorn by Ava Reid is out on June 7th, and set in the same world as their debut, The Wolf and the Woodsman, which I loved. While the two books share a secondary world, they are set in different times and places within that realm, so they are both standalones. This is a gothic horror retelling of The Juniper Tree – and I love both the genre and retellings so this will be right up my street. It tells the story of a young witch who seeks to discover her identity and to escape the domination of her wizard father during a period of shift from magic to industry. Marlinchen and her sisters are some of the last true witches – really, little more than a tourist trap – but at night they sneak out to revel in the city’s thrills, where Marlinchen meets a dancer who captures her heart. As things grow ever more fervent, a monster lurks in its midst, and Marlinchen, caught between history and progress, tradition and desire, must draw on her magic to keep the city safe and find her own place. Sounds brilliant, and I have high hopes. You can pre-order this via Book Depository here.
Fab: Out on June 14th, Valiant Ladies by Melissa Grey is a YA historical fiction novel based on real seventeenth century teens called the Valiant Ladies of Potosì. “By day Eustaquia “Kiki” de Sonza and Ana Lezama de Urinza are proper young seventeenth century ladies. But when night falls, they trade in their silks and lace for swords and muskets, venturing out into the vibrant, bustling, crime-ridden streets of Potosí, in the Spanish Empire’s Viceroyalty of Peru. They pass their time fighting, gambling, and falling desperately in love with one another.” Queer girls spending their nights fighting with swords and pretending to be proper ladies by day? YES PLEASE. Also, why have I not read like a million stories about these girls before? I can’t wait. Pre-order Valiant Ladies from Book Depository here.
Fab: I am very excited for The Midnighters by Hana Tooke. I loved her debut, The Unadoptables, which was everything I love in middle grade, so this will be great too. Out on June 23rd, this is the story of Ema, a girl who grows up in a family of scientists. There isn’t much space there for superstition or omens, though they seem to follow her wherever she goes – and it doesn’t help that she seems able to predict things before they happen… When Ema is sent to stay with a mysterious uncle in Prague, she fears she’s lost any chance to ever fit in, but she meets Silvie, and makes a friend to go on secret midnight adventures with. But then Silvie goes missing, and it’s up to Ema to find her. Pre-order this one via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: Another author on the list of Remixed Classics is Tasha Suri with What Souls Are Made Of. Out on the 5th of July, this reworks Wuthering Heights, a classic I’ve always had very mixed feelings about, so I’m very excited to see what she does with it. This Heathcliff is the son of an Indian sailor, flung into an alien life in the Yorkshire moors where he doesn’t fit. Catherine is the odd younger child, a daughter with a mother nobody talks about. She knows she must mold herself into a version that suits society even if it breaks her. The two find solace in each other and their occasional flights into the moor – and the shared half-remembered language of their unknown parents. But as in the original story, their relationship faces challenges and obstacles, and starts unraveling. I am very curious to read this version and think it sounds brilliant. Pre-order What Souls Are Made Of from Book Depository here.
Fab: I don’t think Alix E. Harrow could write a book that I don’t want to read any of these days. I recently listened to her recent novella A Spindle Splintered, and A Mirror Mended is the follow up to that. It continues Zinnia Grey’s story after she has mostly broken her own curse and started out as a professional fairy-tale fixer. And now Snow White’s evil queen wants her help to prevent her dastardly fate… This slim volume is out on June 14th, and packs a punch. Not only do these books retell fairy-tales, but they analyse them at the same time and involve a lot of meta-discussion. So, perfect for nerd me! Catch up with A Spindle Splintered here, and pre-order A Mirror Mended here.
Fab: Wake the Bones by Elizabeth Kilcoyne is giving me massive Southern Gothic vibes. Out on July 12th, this is a YA horror novel about Laurel Early, who wants nothing more than a quiet life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist after dropping out of college. But the farm has come to life, the pile of bones in front of her walked away and a devil from her past come calling. This sounds like a book that lives of its uncanny vibes and I’m all here for it. If the cover’s anything to go by in terms of atmosphere, this is going to be a brilliant read, perfect for those long summer evenings, where we all need a chill to cool us down… Pre-order this one via Book Depository here.
Fab: I’ve been excited for Silk Fire by Zabé Ellor, out on July 5th, for quite a while. But now that the gorgeous cover has been revealed too, I’m even more hyped. It features dragons, courtesans, queers and magic. So pretty much all the Fab-catnip. Read (part of) the blurb and join me in excitement: “Elite courtesan Koré knew that meddling in politics could end badly, particularly when trying to sabotage his aristocratic father’s campaign for high office before it destroys the city loves. And when a chance encounter with a dying god imbues him with magic-breathing powers, it gets worse: he suddenly becomes a commodity, one the political establishment will do anything to control.” Pre-order Silk Fire from Book Depository here.
Fab: Tentatively scheduled for July 7th, Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson’s debut The Principle of Moments is going to be your next book obsession. Think V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series, but queerer, meets space opera and a fantastic heroine. This is the current blurb: “Asha Akindele lives in a future gripped by oppression, just one more human forced to assemble weapons for a war they’ll never win. Then she discovers she has a sister imprisoned by Emperor Thracin and is forced to make a choice: remain a slave, or escape and risk everything. With the help of time-traveller Obi, who just wants to return to London, 1811, and his almost-boyfriend Prince George, Asha must travel through the stars to save a sister she’s never met – and in doing so save worlds.” I can promise you that it’s absolutely brilliant and I cannot wait to see the finished product. A must to pre-order, which you can do here via Bookshop (affiliate link).
Fab: Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin is another one of those books that have been on my radar for far too long, and are finally coming out in 2022. This Filipino-inspired fantasy is being released on July 19th. This is a story of two girls from opposing cultures who fall in love and have to save their worlds while doing so. Also, they’re warriors. While this doesn’t sound like the most inventive YA fantasy ever, the Filipino setting is what makes this one stand out. And let’s be honest, I’ll always be here for sapphic YA fantasy. Pre-order this one from Book Depository here.
Fab: Dark academia and vampires sound like your jam? Then you should check out Youngblood by Sasha Laurens, out on July 19th. This is set at an elite vampires-only boarding school (it reminds me of the mountains of trashy early 2010s YA I read in the best possible way) – but it’s queer, and addresses class issues, and oh, the vampires have to drink synthetic blood because the humans have spread a virus that is toxic to vampires. The blurb hints at an enemies-to-lovers arc (my fave trope) and a lot of intrigue and dramaaaaa. Sounds like such fun. Pre-order a copy from Book Depository here.
Fab: Her Majesty’s Royal Coven is Juno Dawson’s adult debut, out from Harper Voyager on July 21st. It features a secret government agency of witches founded by Queen Elizabeth I. But when the genocide of all witches is prophecied, all hell breaks loose… Knowing Juno Dawson’s work, this will be queer as fuck and extremely political, and tackle some heavy themes in interesting ways. I can’t wait to see what she does for a more mature audience, and I was sold at queer witchy book already (yes, I’m a simple Fab). You can already pre-order copies of this beauty from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: Queer witchy books are my brand. So I’d be remiss if I didn’t add The Witchery by S. Isabelle to this list. Out on July 26th, this promises to be a great YA fantasy about a town of witches, and the tensions between humans, witches and wolves. There’s a witch academy, some morally g(r)ay witches and curses that come with huge costs to break. Sounds like perfect escapism for the summer holidays and I am very excited to dive in. It reminds me a bit of Sarah Gailey’s When We Were Magic crossed with Zoraida Córdova’s Brooklyn Brujas, which I both enjoyed a lot. Pre-order a copy from Book Depository here.
Fab: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn is one of my favourite YA novels of all time – I loved it so much I wrote half my MA dissertation on it. I am incredibly thrilled that its sequel, Bloodmarked, is finally coming out on July 26th. And just look at the stunning cover featuring Bree and broody boy Selwyn Kane (and Excalibur!). I can’t wait to see where the story takes these characters after THAT ending. I think this series is probably the single most creative take on the Arthurian tales that is currently available, with a healthy pinch of Rick Riordan’s modern approach to mythology, a big dose of Black girl magic and a dash of the best portrayal of grief I’ve ever seen. This book resonated with me on so many levels, and I have extremely high expectations of the sequel. Get yourself Legendborn here, and pre-order Bloodmarked here.
Fab: The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne does one of my favourite things: it takes a known story, here that of Rapunzel, and retells it from a different perspective. This centres Haelwise, the witch of the tower of Gothel, the villain of the fairy tale, and tells the story from her perspective. And to me, witches and villains often have the more interesting stories to tell… So obviously I can’t wait for this to come out on July 28th (it’s a wonder writing this post isn’t sending me on a huge pre-order spree, I think it’s merely me being broke already that’s saving my bank account…). Pre-order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: Out on August 11th, The Monsters We Defy by L. Penelope is further proof of the amazing streak the team at Orbit is on. It doesn’t have a cover yet, but I imagine it’ll be as stunning on the outside as the description is. This is a historical fantasy set in the Washington, DC of 1925, where a woman able to communicate with spirits has to assemble a ragtag crew to pull of a daring heist. Weaving together African American folk magic, history and romance, this sounds like a huge hit. A malevolent entity has started praying on Negro residents, and Clara Johnson is determined to figure out how to help her community. In the process, a powerful spirit tasks her to steal an ancient magical ring straight from the finger of a wealthy socialite. This leads Clara to meet Israel Lee, a supernaturally enhanced jazz musician, also trying to steal the same ring – and the two decide to band together to pull of this feat, and start building a crew… It sounds so fun, and set in a wonderful, rich world full of stunning imagery. Pre-order this from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: One of the greatest hits of 2021 was the Sapphic Trifecta. And with The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri, out on the 18th of August, the first sequel (complete with stunning cover) has been announced. This is the follow-up to The Jasmine Throne, which blew my mind earlier this year (see my review here), and continues the story of my favourite messy sapphics, Priya and Malini. This extract from the blurb shows how much Tasha will be stomping on my heart again: “Their chosen paths once pulled them apart. But Malini and Priya’s hearts remain as entwined as their destinies, and they soon realize they must come together again if they wish to save their kingdom from those who would rather see it burn—no matter what it will cost them.” And masochist as I am, I can’t wait. Of course, there’s also lots of magic, prophecy and intrigue, but MALINI AND PRIYA. If you haven’t read book one yet, I suggest you get yourself a copy here while you wait, and pre-order The Oleander Sword here (affiliate links).
Fab: Another example of how a pretty cover gets a Fab to read books. Belladonna by Adalyn Grace is out on August 23rd and was on my TBR before I’d even read the blurb. But that doesn’t mean that the blurb isn’t just as seductive. This is the story of a girl who has to tangle with Death to solve a murder – Signa has been raised by a series of guardians more interested in her wealth than her well-being, all of whom have perished in unfortunate circumstances (A Series of Unfortunate Events vibes, anyone?). And now she’s with her last set of living relatives. And she’s figured out that the mother of the family was poisoned rather than died of an illness and time is running out to save the daughter, which means she has to ally with Death himself to figure out what is going on… Sounds fun and entertaining, the kind of dark YA I love. Pre-order this one from Book Depository here.
Fab: R.F. Kuang came onto the scene with her Poppy War trilogy. And now she’s back with a very different sort of book. Babel, or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translator’s Revolution is out on August 23rd and sounds absolutely amazing. This is a dark academia set in the early-ish nineteenth century, around Robin Swift, adopted from his native Canton to London, where he is trained in languages dead and alive in preparation to when he will one day join Oxford’s famous institute for translation, known as Babel – which is not only a brilliant academic institution, but a magical one. From the blurb: “Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?” It sounds like this really asks a lot of interesting questions and I am very excited to read this, combining so many of my interests. Alas, no pre-order links just yet, but keep an eye out!
Fab: Out on August 25th, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen doesn’t have a cover yet, but it has comps – and those alone got me interested. The publisher pitches this as The Princess Bride meets The House in the Cerulean Sea and if that’s not a brilliant combo in terms of vibes, I don’t know what is. It’s also got an extensive synopsis: Hart, demigod and marshal, patrolling wastelands to ensure they are clear of reanimated corpses – giving him far too much time to think about things he’d rather not think about meets Mercy, undertaker single-handedly running Birdsall & Son – despite very clearly not being a son – and having quite the opposite problem, trying to keep all those plates spinning. They bicker – but they both might have a point. And so Hart sends an anonymous letter addressed to “A Friend” via animal messenger… and to his surprise, he gets a response. If only he knew he was actually corresponding with Mercy. It sounds delightful and I can’t wait. Pre-order a copy via Bookshop here.
Fab: Sometimes all I need to know about a book is the title, and the rest is optional extras. The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean is one of those – because how could I possibly resist a title like that. It’s not out until September 1st, but my need to devour it is strong already. Just read the blurb: “Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries. Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairytales and cautionary stories. But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.” AMAZING. Pre-order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: Self-Made Boys by Anna Marie McLemore, their second entry on this list, may not have a cover yet, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less excited for it to come out on the 6th of September. This too is part of the Remixed Classics series – a reworking of The Great Gatsby, but make it trans. This Nick is Nicolás Caraveo, a trans boy from Minnesota, who wants to establish himself in New York as a young professional, not only for his own benefit but to help his whole family. He rents a place to stay from his cousin Daisy, who has erased any trace of her Latina heritage and passes as white. Through her, he meets the mysterious Jay Gatsby, who throws extravagant parties at his castle-like mansion – largely to impress Daisy – and as Nick is pulled into Jay’s orbit, he finds out that Jay too is trans, and falls hard for this version of the American dream. I’m not the biggest fan of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, but I am a massive McLemore fan and I tend to love everything they write, while also having a soft spot for very queer YA, so I expect to fall as hard for Self-Made Boys as Nick does for Jay. Pre-order this from Book Depository here.
Fab: Out on September 13th, Alexandra Overy’s The Gingerbread Witch doesn’t have a cover yet, but it nevertheless sounds delightful. This is a YA fantasy heavily influenced by fairy-tale worlds, in which young Maud has grown up in a gingerbread house, desiring nothing more than to become a witch like Mother Agatha. But like all of Agatha’s creations, she will turn back into gingerbread if anything happens to Agatha. And, after a terrible fight, Maud storms off, and when she returns, she learns that Hansel and Gretel, a pair of witch hunters, have pushed Agatha into the cottage’s oven… So it is up to Maud to find a way to save herself and the other gingerbread creations from turning back into inanimate objects – a quest far from easy, especially with witch hunters on her trail… It sounds so fun and I can totally see myself reading this while munching on a ton of gingerbread… (yes, I’m a terrible person!) Pre-order this from Book Depository here.
Fab: There is exactly one reason why I am the Twitter-obsessed weirdo I am today. And that is Susan Dennard and The Luminaries. This YA fantasy, out in October, doesn’t have a proper title yet (The Luminaries is the series title rather than the book itself), but it originally started life as a choose-your-own adventure thread on Twitter in 2019. Susan had us hooked for almost six months, following along the adventures of Winnie Wednesday, Ugh-Jay and co – and trust me when I say the hivemind was VERY STUPID. I can’t wait to see where the actually-well-written version of the story goes (check out the current version of the first chapter here), given that I’ve been a DenNerd since day 1 – I’ve read everything Susan’s published and loved it, and she’s also one of the loveliest humans I’ve ever met. If you haven’t been obsessed with The Luminaries since the beginning, this is an exciting contemporary fantasy about monster-hunting families named after the days of the week, and a story full of magic, mystery and secrecy. I NEEDS IT. Alas, no pre-order links just yet, but keep an eye out!
Fab: One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig isn’t out until October 18th, but damn, if that cover and description isn’t tempting! Just looking at this image is making me think that this story is going to be dark and gloomy and atmospheric as anything and I am so excited for those vibes. Elspeth Spindle needs a monster to stay safe – one she calls the Nightmare. But magic comes with a price, and the Nightmare is slowly taking over her mind. Together with a mysterious highwayman, who happens to be the King’s nephew, she tries to keep control of her own mind, and cure the evil befalling their kingdom… Pre-order this one via Book Depository here.
Fab: Sir Callie and the Champion of Helston by Esme Symes-Smith isn’t out until November, so it doesn’t have a cover or exact date yet – nor any pre-order links for that matter. But this is the middle grade book of my dreams. 12-year-old Callie is non-binary, and they’re ready to smash gender rules in order to become a knight. As their dad – an ex-hero – is summon to the royal capital of Helston to train a hopeless prince, you better believe that Callie seizes that opportunity to become an official knight-in-training. But, Helston is full of people who believe only boys can be knights, and magic is for girls, so Callie and their friends will have to go and fight some bigotry before they can deal with the bigger threats. SO MUCH YES PLEASE.
Fab: It feels like this list contains far too few graphic novels, but The Marble Queen by Anna Kopp and illustrator Gabrielle Kari is here to change that. Not out until November 22nd, this doesn’t have an official cover yet, so we have to make do with the placeholder. It is a sapphic YA graphic novel with sword fighting, political intrigue and magic – so all the good things. Princess Amelia’s kingdom is in shambles, and so when she receives an offer of marriage from the royalty of the mysterious country of Iliad, she says yes without much thought. Unexpectedly, she soon finds out that her betrothed is the newly crowned Queen Salira – a situation that awakens unknown feelings in Amelia… The story also deals with anxiety, so it sounds pretty damn perfect. Alas, no pre-order links yet, but keep an eye out!
Fab: Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is still shrouded in mystery. It is announced for Fall 2022, but there is no synopsis yet, nor any pre-order links that I could find. This is the third book in Muir’s Locked Tomb series, which was only recently announced – it was originally planned to be a trilogy and now expanded into a four-book-series. I loved both Gideon and Harrow, so I can’t wait to dive back into the world of the disaster lesbian necromancers. And I’m just as excited to see Tommy Arnold’s cover art, because those covers are just glorious works of art.
Fab: We don’t have an exact date or a cover for Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk, just a vague Fall 2022 indication from the publisher. But a) Polk’s work is always fantastic (I’ve been shouting about The Midnight Bargain especially to everyone who might listen, and I highly recommend you get yourself a copy of that one here to tide you over) and b) the blurb sounds brilliant and so it deserves to be hyped far in advance. Even Though I Knew the End is a historical urban fantasy set in early twentieth century Chicago – an exiled augur who sold her soul to save her brother’s life is offered one last job before facing eternity in hell… To sweeten the deal, the client offers her the one perk she can’t resist: the chance to grow old with the woman she loves. To do so, she just has to track down the White City Vampire, a notorious serial killer. In three days. Easy peasy. This sounds absolutely brilliant and I know I’ll love it – keep an eye out!
Welcome to a true team effort! Three out of four members of Team LD have banded together to bring you today’s blog tour for Once Upon A Winter from Macfarlane Lantern Publishing! Add it to your Goodreads here, and then see what we have to say about the stories here!
RELEASE DATE: 23/11/2021
SUMMARY: Once upon a time stories travelled from place to place on the tongues of merchants and thieves and kings alike. Under the blanket of night they were exchanged between children, and passed on to their children, and their children after them. Details were altered from one generation to the next until thousands of tales existed where once there were few.
In the spirit of these age-old stories comes Once Upon a Winter, a seasonal anthology of folk and fairy tales from 17 authors across the globe. It covers the Gothic, the romantic, the whimsical, the frightening and everything in-between, and features both intriguing twists on classic tales and exciting original stories. (from Macfarlane Lantern Publishing)
Fab: The Biting Cold by Josie Jaffrey
While this isn’t my favourite story in terms of content – it is ultimately rather bleak and I prefer my stories a bit more whimsical – I was very impressed with the writing. This story of survival against all odds – and not only human survival – is told in close second person present, which I found an unusual choice but one that worked very well, drawing the reader into the story and its world.
The Match Girl by Rebecca F. Kenney
I absolutely loved “The Match Girl” by Rebecca F. Kenney – this is a reworking of the tale of the little girl selling matches, freezing to death, but with a magical, and may I say demonic twist. It is delightful and wonderful and heartwarming, giving her the ending that she deserves.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Bharat Krishnan
This story is about the Bale Na, an Indian witch who comes at Christmas and is somewhat of a vengeful spirit. I loved learning about her, but I struggled with the framing of the story. It is set in a small-town US community, and there is a big focus on the HOA making the Indian family’s life difficult because of their different traditions around Christmas, and the story is told through the perspective of the twelve-year-old white friend of the family’s son, who is frankly, growing up into a racist. And that is just not really something I enjoy reading about.
A Pea Ever After by Adie Hart
“A Pea Ever After” is probably my favourite story of my batch. It is just wonderful. And it made me cry. It takes so many ideas from traditional fairy tales and rewrites them into a fun, modern story about a witch who accidentally gets taken into a competition for a prince’s hand – which definitely doesn’t go how the fairy godmother orchestrating it expects it to. There are several tender romances blossoming – with, and without, the prince in question, and a new subject for the fairy godmother to focus on. It is well-written, and I wish there was so much more of it.
The Snowdrop by H. L. Macfarlane
While this was an adorable story about a boy who met a tiny girl living in a snowdrop flower, it ultimately felt a bit too simple – it was very predictable and it had more of an air of a children’s story, which to me caused a bit of a disconnect with the other stories in the anthology. I liked it, but I just couldn’t get over my feeling that it didn’t quite fit in.
Silverfoot’s Edge by Ella Holmes
This is a cute little story, although it felt a bit non-descript – I think I might have been a bit biased after “A Pea Ever After”. I really liked the setting in the Silverfoot forest, and the flowery writing – one to sink into again on another day I think!
Anna: The Storm Hags by Caroline Logan
The Snow Hags are a refreshing take on the fantasy saviour narrative, concluding that though kingdoms fall, people stay, and that’s what really matters. Having said that, I’ve struggled with this one. The hags themselves are wonderfully evocative of Hecate, the three-in-one goddess of the crossroads, but the short format makes it difficult to root for the protagonist who loses her loved one but then is able to get him back in fairly short order. I’ll leave it up for other readers’ judgement.
The Boggart of Boggart Hole Clough by Jake Curran-Pipe
I’m not one for horror, but The Boggart of Boggart Hole Clough is gripping, like the hands of the creature itself. The story follows Jordan through a brief but maddening encounter with a boggart, or, perhaps, the consequences of his own actions. Fear, guilt, and resentment are all mixed into one milk-curdling concoction. Curran-Pipe has excellent command of the local colloquialisms to give the story a sense of rootedness.
Around the Hawthorne Tree by Jenna Smithwick
Now, this is a story to be told by the fire, when the year draws to a close and people tell fortunes for the one ahead. A sweet tale about promises fulfilled and fair rewards, featuring folk magic, helpful robins and the Fae. The first person narrative lends itself to the storyteller essence of the protagonist, who outwits the faeries and faces her own doubts to bring hope to an overwintering village.
The Best Girl this Side of Winter by Laila Amado
Now, this is the embodiment of how you wish it felt going on holiday in winter, when every little thing is suffused with magic and that faint scent of mulling spice. And even as the magic gains a sinister edge, it loses none of its allure. Weda, a school-girl preoccupied with being popular among her peers, is sent to spend the winter holidays in a distant town of Wintervale, and discovers a role much more precious than that of ‘Best Girl’.
The Snow Trolls by S. Markem
‘In fact, one might say that life was pretty dull for an average faerie’ – this story begins much like it intends to carry on, with a whimsical levity that distinguishes the protagonists by the colour of their boots and declares winter the invention of a bored king. Compared to ‘The Biting Cold’ and ‘The Match Girl’ which open this anthology, this tale is certainly on the lighthearted side, and provides a wonderful counterpoint to the more serious stories that suround it.
Lord of the Forest by Katherine Shaw
I’m delighted that I’m finishing with this tale. As an avid fan of anything horned, hooves, or claiming the title of Lord of the Forest, I was immediately taken by this story of Anca’s encounter with a Leshii, a guardian of the wild. It is a powerful rendition of a simple message – that there is wonder and abundance in the natural world, if only we stop fearing it long enough to see it. I genuinely teared up at the end.
Sun: Queen of the Snows by Joyce Reynolds-Ward
This is a very ambitious story that ultimately fell a little flat for me as it tries to cover a lot in a relatively small amount of words. The Queen of the Snows is attempting to bring together her court in response to a request for help and faces an unexpected obstacle. There are lots of references to lore and names and the story switches between the modern world and a more archaic traditional fantasy before coming back again. It does however feel very wintery especially since the weapons have names like Icestar and Iceshatter.
Long Meg and the Sorcerer’s Stones by M. J. Weatherall
Having spent a fair bit of time near the Rollright Stones and learning about their legend I really enjoyed this story about how a coven of witches are anchored to a stone circle and why. Although they’re called the Sorcerer’s stones, he’s just a bit part with the focus being on Long Meg and the narrator of the story and it’s just a satisfying story that embodies both winter and folklore easily.
The Frost of Mercy by A. J. Van Belle
This is a story about two dryads that are the last of their family, and grove. One is getting sicker and the other, rather than having to watch her die and be the last watcher seeks out an alternative. I really liked this one. The contrast be between the acceptance of Forsythia and the frustration and fight of Azure is really well written and the ending manages to honour both.
Wintercast by R. A. Gerritse
This is an interesting take on the “spark” of inspiration and whether following your dream or what you believe to be your purpose is always the right course of action. Many of us feel like if we just keep pushing despite not getting results it doesn’t mean it’s not right, just that we have to try harder. This story is a nice antidote to this message and balances the story lore with the message effectively.
You Can’t See Me by Kate Longstone
You Can’t See Me is a very sweet tale of a little girl that rescues a snow pixie. While it has some of the same elements of The Snowdrop the underlying feeling is different This story is one of friendship and accidental coincidences, of how brief meetings can have long-lasting effects. Additionally like others in this anthology, it shows how a tiny spark can create a lifelong interest in and desire to conserve and protect nature.
I absolutely loved Year of the Reaper – in fact, I started reading the eARC and clicked with it so much I immediately begged for a physical copy. So I’m thrilled to share my stop on the Hodderscape blog tour today. This is a delightful medieval-inspired fantasy that values learning and cleverness, so totally up my street.
Many thanks to Ollie at Hodder for sending me a review copy and inviting me on the blog tour. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 09/11/2021
STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Three years ago, Lord Cassia disappeared in the midst of war, on a mission entrusted to him by the king. Since then, a devastating plague has swept the land, leaving countless dead and the kingdom forever altered.
Having survived a rotting prison cell and a merciless illness, Cas, now eighteen, wants only to return to his home in the mountains and forget past horrors. But home is not what he remembers. His castle has become a refuge for the royal court. And they have brought their enemies with them.
When an assassin targets those closest to the queen, Cas is drawn into a search for a killer… one that leads him to form an unexpected bond with a brilliant young historian named Lena. Cas and Lena soon realize that who is behind the attacks is far less important than why. They must look to the past, following the trail of a terrible secret – one that could threaten the kingdom’s newfound peace and plunge it back into war. (From Hodder)
OPINIONS: Year of the Reaper is a wonderful and compelling YA/crossover fantasy. It is one of those books that you simply can’t put down once you’re immersed in them – though I should add that it is set in the context of a Black Death-like plague, so it might be triggering for some to read in the current climate. At its centre is the recent political marriage between two countries that have historically been at odds – and Cas returns home from captivity to find his king married to a princess from the country that abducted him, his brother installed close to the couple and somehow, ends up rescuing the couple’s newborn – and thus also finds himself in a place of honour as he tries to navigate this new situation, the return to normal life and the threat to all of them.
And then there is Lena. A woman after my own heart. The king’s sister, but more interested in writing the country’s history in her grandfather’s footsteps. She is strong-willed, does not really conform to any sort of mold that may be expected from a woman of her status and yes, I may have been slightly in love with her. As you can tell, The Year of the Reaper has wonderful characters – not just Cas and Lena, but the whole cast is nuanced and they really explore what is right and wrong in difficult situations.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but this is really one of the most fun YA books I’ve read this year. It’s clever and it respects all of its characters – there is no reduction to stereotypes found anywhere here, which is wonderful to see. And no damsels in distress. This is one that I will keep recommending to people. Add Year of the Reaper to your Goodreads here, and order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Welcome back to another week of Monday Minis, full of supernatural creatures – vampires, ghosts and monkey kings. Many thanks to the respective publicists for sending me (e)ARCs of these titles – all opinions are my own as always.
I loved The Coldest Touch by Isabel Sterling. This is the exact kind of contemporary YA fantasy that I will just devour like a vampire devours fresh blood – fitting, because this is a vampire book. But this aint Twilight. It is a fast-paced story about humanity, family and friendship, and also a tender love story between two girls, one of whom first needs to realise that she might not be quite as straight as she thought she was. Big yay for bi rights! It isn’t high literature, but it is incredibly compelling, with complex characters and an interesting magic system. While this is a standalone as far as I can tell, it could also work as the opener of a series, and I could totally see this being turned into an epic TV show too. Think The CW, but smarter. And more charming. I kind of want to reread it already.
Ghostcloud by Michael Mann is a middle grade adventure set in a futuristic London, one where children are forced to work in factories that are more reminiscent of the nineteenth century than the future. Luke and his friends are shoveling coal under a bombed Battersea Power Station, when he meets Alma, a ghost-girl and learns that he himself is a half-ghost. With the help of Alma, he finds out about the evil plans of overseer Tabatha, and that they may all be in far bigger danger than the mundane risks of hard labour. It’s fun, it’s fast-paced, and I really liked Alma especially. I did feel like the concept was really cool and quite unique, but the writing didn’t completely convince me, and I felt like the characters were a bit flat. It’s a solid story, not an exceptional one, and thus probably not one I’d go out of my way to shill to people. And I slightly hate myself for this, because the cover and the inside illustration/decoration is absolutely gorgeous and I am a very simple Fab, and I like pretty shinies!
Monkey Around by Jadie Jang is unfortunately a book I didn’t get along with at all. I realised very early on that this was likely going to be a DNF for me, but I still kept trying and made it around 100 pages in before capitulating. In terms of content, it is certainly an interesting one, blending South East Asian mythology with contemporary urban fantasy, set in San Francisco. But the voice is one that annoyed me – it is the kind of artificial humour and overt comedy that grates on me in any sort of context. Asking around in my group of friends and especially reviewers, this one has been a bit of a hit or miss, so if the idea of a modern Monkey King who doesn’t know what she’s doing intrigues you, do have a read of the blurb and see if that tone works for you – it is a good indication of the tone throughout the book. And if you’re looking for a more detailed and positive take on this, have a look at this review from Womble at Run Along the Shelves.
Addictive stories are always a goodie in my book – and The Offset is certainly that. It has an extremely hooky concept, and asks some really interesting moral questions.
Many thanks to the lovely Caroline at Angry Robot for sending an ARC – all opinions are my own as usual.
RELEASE DATE: 14/09/2021
STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶
SUMMARY: In a dying world, the Offset ceremony has been introduced to counteract and discourage procreation. It is a rule that is simultaneously accepted, celebrated and abhorred. But in this world, survival demands sacrifice so for every birth, there must be a death.
Professor Jac Boltanski is leading Project Salix, a ground-breaking new mission to save the world by replanting radioactive Greenland with genetically-modified willow trees. But things aren’t working out and there are discrepancies in the data. Has someone intervened to sabotage her life’s work? In the meantime, her daughter Miri, an anti-natalist, has run away from home. Days before their Offset ceremony where one of her mothers must be sentenced to death, she is brought back against her will following a run-in with the law. Which parent will Miri pick to die: the one she loves, or the one she hates who is working to save the world? (from Angry Robot)
OPINIONS: So this has an incredibly compelling hook – on your eighteenth birthday, you have to choose one of your parents to die to offset your carbon dioxide output as the levels have risen to an unsustainable niveau. And Miri is about to turn eighteen. Her choice is more difficult than most – she has two mothers, and while she is quite clear on what her heart tells her to do, one of her mothers is a scientist working to save all of humanity – and in a crucial position to do so. Unfortunately, this is also the mother Miri’s never gotten along with. So, yeah. It’s an interesting story – though one led more by teen angst than I had expected, to be honest.
However, the concept was what I liked best about this book. I felt like especially the ending was ultimately very unsatisfying in terms of answering my questions, and much of the plot hinged on the characters not communicating or communicating very badly, and that is something that I tend to find very frustrating. There are some major moments where the story could have gone in a very different direction if the characters would have just TALKED TO EACH OTHER, and where it felt to me at least, it would have been natural to communicate better.
So while I was sucked into the world of The Offset, I also left it feeling very frustrated. This has left me feeling very ambivalent about it as a whole – it does bring up interesting questions, especially in terms of how humanity will persevere when our natural resources become finite, but also it feels like it didn’t really live up to the potential it had by letting its characters remain rather stereotypical archetypes and not moving out of the expected path. I don’t think I was ever truly surprised by the book, and I wish I was. Really ended up being a proper three star read for me.