RaveBooklistThe Brides of Maracoor once again shows Maguire’s rich, mesmerizing world building, full of small, frustrating human absurdities—from the silliness of government norms to the small betrayals within a family. It also shows off his gift for crafting compelling characters—Helia, the eldest bride, is a fascinating matriarch, and Lucikles is a relatable man just trying to do his job without alienating or losing his family. It’s an intriguing, witty start to a fantastical proposed trilogy.
Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson
RaveBooklistThe footnotes are a brilliant touch: they expose the ways that society has been irreparably changed, as the writers cannot understand Miri’s emotion, often editing down her most painful moments \'for clarity.\' They frame Miri as an unreliable conspiracy theorist, yet the reader can see a different story unfold. It is a thought-provoking, haunting story about the sacrifices a society is willing to make to ensure its survival.
Charlie Jane Anders
RaveBooklistReaders will fall in love with its zany, dark weirdness ... Stories touch on found family and queerness, on the ominous horrors of being pursued or policed, and on gentrification and finding the places where you belong, however weird they may be. Anders is an author who finds an exciting, riotous joy in invention, and that passion breaks through into each and every story.
PositiveBooklistThis grim novel of revenge has an ironic tone with the surreal touch of a fever dream—the narration dives into the far future, or adopts the point of view of the mules carrying the party’s supplies. McLean’s novel is equal parts absurd and bleak, a startling story about survival, violence, and the thin divisions between animal and human, perfect for fans of dark, gritty Westerns.
Charlie Jane Anders
PositiveBooklistAnders gifts readers with digestible and motivating writing advice dipped in a satisfying coating of snark. Using her own life and writing career as inspiration, Anders cuts through preconceived notions of what it is to be a writer, dismissing dichotomies and spilling truths about imposter syndrome ... Through her encouraging counsel and intriguing questions, she encourages writers to keep writing and continue telling stories, brainstorming, daydreaming, listening, and to have faith in their own abilities and their heart. Anders gives both new and experienced writers questions, exercises, and encouragement that will spark ideas and keep them motivated to continue their work.
RaveBooklistThis warm, hopeful novel features this entertaining tangle of women all trying to find their true place in a difficult world. Katrina’s passion and hard-working determination drive the novel; she stuns Satomi with her intuitive, self-taught playing of video-game-inspired pieces even as she deals with the effects of trauma from the domestic, verbal, and sexual abuse she’s endured. Aoki’s novel is an exciting, wild web of an adventure, a unputdownable book about music, found family, and identity. Diving into the tough subjects, Aoki’s book emerges with a joyful, queer, radical ballad of a story that will appeal to fans of TJ Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea (2020).
RaveBooklistMultiple viewpoints and protagonists are easy enough to juggle while being compelling, and the inclusion of asexual, trans, and other non-conforming identities and relationships adds a rich layer of truth and reality to the text. This novel is built out of the shadows in the corner of a dark room, out of disembodied voices and meta-universes, out of blood, conspiracy, and mind control. Readers will itch for the next book in the Saga.
RaveBooklist... an epic tale of the power of desire, the role of free will in deciding a person’s fate, and the twisting machinations of power. Zhu is a powerful queer anti-hero, her means sometimes questionable, her desire overflowing. The side characters in her story and the plots and betrayals that swirl around the book’s events are themselves intensely compelling, but it is Zhu’s strength of will and passion that give this novel its spark.
Suyi Davies Okungbowa
PositiveBooklistThe pacing of Okungbowa’s novel can be shaky, the narrative slowing much more than it has to. But Son of the Storm has a strong core in its vivid world building of ibor, magic, and folkloric creatures. Most of all, the story is powered forward through Esheme, Danso’s intended, a calculating, cold woman with a fierce thirst for power, and her meteoric rise that begins when she discovers the secrets of ibor.
PositiveBooklist... atmospheric and creepy, and as needy, nostalgic Freya is pulled deeper and deeper into its shadows, the reader’s worry for her grows—and, with it, the novel’s suspense. Freya is haunted by words she wishes she could take back, the sister she lost, the love that never was, the hopes for the future that she couldn’t attain; all of these materialize in the deep shadows and shifting portrait-eyes of Byrne Hall. Brooks has crafted a slow-simmering, psychological, gothic novel about grief and longing.
RaveBooklist... a razor-sharp psychological thriller ... twisting thought experiment about both the creation and the humanity of clones. Evelyn is a fascinating character, a brutal, practical scientist who often grates at the reader with her stubborn refusals to apologize ... a slow burn, but the emotional intensity simmering under Evelyn’s skin and the revelations that spin out of the plot are well worth the investment. Gailey’s expertise with suspense and their success in presenting the reader with impossible choices about the ethics of cloning, biological programming and editing, and of Evelyn’s specific, difficult situation, will leave the reader thinking about the novel long after the final page.
E. Lily Yu
RaveBooklistYu’s debut is rooted in Firuzeh’s fervent desire for stability and in her mother’s rich emotional center. Yu occasionally dives into a peripheral character’s perspective—the English tutor teaching Atay and Abay, a guard working at the refugee camp—giving a grounding vividness to the story of the Daizangi family’s quest for home that is both vast and intensely intimate. Yu’s writing is poetic, the lines of her dialogue strumming into one another, mirroring the way that Firuzeh’s stories begin to blend reality and folklore—as Firuzeh crafts tales to make sense of her reality, and as the incomprehensible tragedies around her morph into imaginary friends that Firuzeh and Nour can’t seem to shake. On Fragile Waves is a lyrical fabulist novel that will enchant readers of both literary fiction and fantasy.
PositiveBooklist... vivid ... The heart of Chen’s latest lies in Zoe’s stubborn, impulsive attitude, and Jamie’s practical, grounded approach. Their richly developed characters and the inner workings of their friendship root the action as the plot dives and twists. Chen’s novels always put character first, and We Could Be Heroes is no different, inspiring fierce loyalty to both protagonists as they run spy operations into a mad scientist’s lab, encounter blue electric men, and try to keep each other alive while figuring out their origins. The growth of these flawed but relatable super-people power this fast read.
PositiveBooklistThis is a lovely slow draw in the world of the Old West, a story about the people who don’t belong, portraying a realistic, close-minded world that only accepts women willing to fit into a specific mold ... It’s exciting to read a Western tale that features such a range of women and queer characters ... North’s new book is perfect for fans of Sarah Gailey’s Upright Women Wanted (2020).
Christiane Vadnais, Trans. by Pablo Strauss
PositiveBooklist... a lush, haunting book of climate fiction ... Vadnais’s prose is unsettling, imbued with a weighty, wet sensuality and an encroachment of life that is both frightening and strangely seductive in a Kafka-esque world of dread and bodily transformation. Survival and contagion swirl around each other in deadly battle as Vadnais’s characters rebel, fight, or give into the bitter, primitive hunger that threatens to swallow their world whole.
RaveBooklistThis rich, intensely suspenseful thriller begins with the murder of Maria Koponen, a woman who happens to be married to the author of a series of books about witches and inquisitors ... Seeck’s debut is dark and intricate—the moments of revelation are as vividly cinematic and impactful every time. Seeck has an uncanny ability to unspool reveals at just the right pace to get the reader’s heart pounding as they make the connection at the same moment as the detective on page. His expertise with pacing, his careful plotting, and his choice to use short, quick chapters all combine to create a vivid, robust thriller.
emily m. danforth
RaveBooklist... at once a sexy, funny, and spooky tale ... Plain Bad Heroines is visually luscious, from the buzz and sting of yellow-jackets and the sheen of black Oxford apples to the strange skim of black algae on water ... Dark, affectionate, creepy, this is a new classic in queer fantasy ... a suspenseful rush that will leave the reader flipping furiously to the end.
PositiveBooklistThe setting of the novel is richly written, populated by the Canadian Métis community and their legends of the Rogarou, a werewolf-like creature that haunts the woods and preys on the misbehaved. Dimaline’s writing is sharp and quick, and as the novel develops, teeth and bone and horror begin to lurk at the edges of the story, and while some plot twists are jarring, the book moves rapidly towards its finish. Dimaline’s weaponization of her female protagonists’ sexuality can be excessive, and the two female main characters, Joan and romantic rival Cecile, are often preoccupied with their jealousy and blind dislike of each other. That said, Joan’s stubborn determination, and her nephew Zeus’s loyalty, bring a strong emotional core to the book, which is supported by their loyal but volatile family.
PositiveBooklistThis collection spans many genres, and holds stunning tales that are realistic, autobiographical, science fictional, or fantastical. L’Engle’s stories are softly tragic with sparkles of hope and a sincere faith, told in a simple and earnest voice. ... These newly discovered stories, written in the 1940s and 50s, will spark the interest of the approximately one bazillion fans of L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.
Katie M. Flynn
RaveBooklistIn a dystopian California paralyzed by quarantine...readers watch characters struggle with fascinating questions of loss and memory. What does it mean to be alive—to be human, to be real? And what is the cost of remembering what it was like to die? Flynn tells an emotive, mesmerizing speculative story in her excellent debut.
RaveBooklistThis novella tells an epic story through small moments and intricate details, and its world-building is done with care, from the codes hidden in fortunes and linguistics to the folktales mentioned in passing in Rabbit’s story. In-yo is a transfixing figure, and Rabbit is a moody, fascinating character in her own right. Vo’s debut has it all: from sapphic love to cruel betrayals; from political intrigue to lakes that glow red to ghosts that continue to walk old paths. Despite its length, The Empress of Salt and Fortune will appeal to all fans of epic fantasy, and readers will be excited to read whatever Vo comes up with next.
Tina May Hall
RaveBooklistHall has written a lovely, lush, surrealist book set in a cold, snowy village in a world where environmental collapse is beginning ... The book is atmospheric, compelling, and beautiful, infused with gentle, earthy fantasy and a soft push into the future, drawing deeply on the gothic genre. Hall’s book is poetic and ghostly, haunting the reader with its intriguing story and its evocative imagery of ice.
RaveBooklist...strange, provocative ... In Verge, characters find their meaning and faith in their own bodies, grounded in physicality and anatomy, pain and desire. These stories are daring, provoking, and incendiary.
Jessi Jezewska Stevens
PositiveBooklistPercy is a quirky and vivid narrator who feels an immense anxiety and malaise in the face of the ‘nebula’ growing inside her ... Stevens’ debut is a compelling and visually rich novel that explores alienation in all its forms. The book’s poetic language and realistically absurd characters will keep readers intrigued until the final page.
RaveBooklist... rooted in deep, realistic human emotion ... the best kind of dystopian novel: one rooted deeply in the hearts of its characters and emphasizing hope and connection over fear. Chen has a true gift for making the biggest of worlds center around the most complex workings of the heart, and his newest is compelling, realistic, and impossible to put down.
A. J. Hackwith
PositiveBooklist... an engaging fantasy ... Hackwith writes a fast-paced, suspenseful story set in an intriguing world where storytellers can duel with words and souls are not what they seem. Bookworms will love the creative spin of a library system rooted in imagination, of interworld book loans flying out to places like Valhalla, and of characters rising off the pages. Readers will eagerly await the sequel.
RaveBooklistPinsker’s first novel...is a riveting and plausible look into what our world could be if we become consumed with fear and dependent on social media. It is also a love letter to live music and underground shows, imagining futuristic musical innovations and the punk rebel scene that could emerge in response to a closed-off world. Pinsker tells her story through the eyes of two complex queer women who ground this fascinating, emotional narrative.
PositiveBooklist... brings together an exciting table of contents that features many of the best speculative fiction and surrealist authors of the moment ... These 14 intelligent and complex stories hold both hopes and fears for our future, presenting poignant and fascinating tales of what we should consider as we alter our world.
RaveBooklistNewitz’s carefully built narrative of time travel and conflict is rooted in the drive and joys of intersectional feminism, sex positivity, and acceptance ... This riot of a book will have readers delighting both in the thrilling battle over timelines in an intricate, alternative world and in the joys of inclusive feminist solidarity.
PositiveBooklist... haunting ... Rainsford fills her book with an artful, disconcerting prose that never quite allows the reader full access, bringing the surrealist, haunting dread to life and artfully mirroring the mixed feelings of the local Cures who both trust Ada and fear the legends about her. With an evocative novel bending fantasy into a universe of subtle horror and bodies cracking open to be healed, Rainsford pulls the reader into a frightening, tangible world of monstrosity, humanity, and healing.
PositiveBooklistMorgenstern’s new fantasy epic is a puzzlebox of a book, full of meta-narratives and small folkloric tales that will delight readers ... Morgenstern...uses poetic, honey-like prose to tell a story that plays with the very concept of what we expect and want from our stories; she also asks questions about accessibility, and what it truly means to guard something as precious as the library. She trusts her readers to follow along and speculate, wonder, and make leaps themselves as she dives into tales of pirates, book burnings, and men lost in time, giving the book a mythic quality that will stick with readers long after they put it down.
Peg Alford Pursell
PositiveBooklistPursell’s surreal stories together form a familiar picture of a world full of love and yearning, parents and children, lovers and their broken hearts, human contradictions, loneliness, longings, and failures to connect.
Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
RaveBooklistWhat unfolds is a twisting, sapphic time travel fantasy love story that never stops surprising: El-Mohtar and Gladstone have written the ultimate in enemies-to-lovers romance, but with an intricate layer of lush, uncanny descriptions of the fantastic strands the agents are shifting; not to mention a careful net of time travel and parallel universes. This suspenseful novel is a superb realization of a difficult concept bulging with details: a time travel rival-secret-agent epistolary romance interspersed with descriptions of fascinating secret missions. Readers will reach the end and want to turn back to the start.
Suzette Haden Elgin
RaveBooklistThe book is expansive, exposing the reader to the institutional and familial sexism that infects this world; but it is also focused, rooted in the private rebellions and inner fury of women ... This carefully crafted, fascinating dystopia is a call to action even decades later, and highlights the importance of language and its uses in politics of power.
PositiveBooklistLord has pulled together a strange, surrealist novel for those who don’t mind wading into a fantasy world and letting themselves be pulled along by the tide. This book, inspired by the inscrutability of angels and by Caribbean storytelling, dips in and out of myth, of branching possible futures, and of spirit worlds, leaving the reader constantly questioning what is real. Unraveling is twisting and fantastic; readers will contemplate the nature of memory as they dive into the tale, rooting for Miranda to make it through and succeed, even as the story approaches a climax impossible to see coming.
PositiveBooklistWilk’s first novel is a strange, vivid thought experiment ... Anja’s quiet, shy analysis turns a critical eye to our future, asking daring questions of how the desire to change the world for the better could instead turn on it a new kind of toxicity. Wilk makes the reader ponder how relying on corporations to invest in art and sustainability could put us on a perilous path. In Anja’s world, artists are corporate entities, and the drive toward sustainability gentrifies communities. Oval is a book of plot twists and turns that roots itself in Anja’s relatable, practical soul and scientific passion for inquiry.
PositiveBooklistThis novel is an unexpected delight that grows steadily more compelling as its pages fly by. Waldherr plays with gothic tropes, from the plot devices of misty moors, unexpected fires, and uncovered letters to the gendered conventions of tragic romance. The novel builds into a surrealist, haunting tale of suspense where every prediction turns out to be merely a step toward a bigger reveal.
PositiveBooklist\"The obnoxious antics of artificial intelligence OWEN, who finds both children and seniors suspicious, and who spends much of his time figuring out how to replicate the sensation of becoming drunk, contrast brilliantly against the serious Henry, a man with few friends and a love of trains and transit, whose main personality trait is dedication to his work. Fried’s skill at making their friendship so dynamic, mismatched, and often ridiculous is what makes this novel so effective—OWEN and Henry’s quest to defeat an evil genius becomes a touching and funny caper that keeps the reader intrigued through the final pages. Meanwhile, in the background floats a quiet debate about the modern city. Fried gestures to city-planning thinkers such as Ebenezer Howard and Jane Jacobs, revealing his careful research and thought into the ways that targeted infrastructure and funding can encourage neglect and gentrification.\
MixedBooklistParts of the story remain overly attached to classic versions of this tale: the Beast’s despondency often comes off as emotionally manipulative, and the end-goal for all of the women in the novel is portrayed as marriage. But Shallcross does well to use the magic mirror as a device giving the reader a window into the social world of Isabeau’s family; unlike in the original tale, Isabeau’s sisters redeem themselves, becoming contented, hard-working women. Isabeau and her two sisters provide the emotional core of Shallcross’ retelling, and the emotion-rich romances and family relationships of this book are what keep it so compelling.
PositiveBooklistStirring ... dedicates detail and precision to the vagaries and paradoxes of time travel, without sacrificing its vital emotional core ... Chen carefully balances heart, humor, and precise world building to bring alive an emotional and genre-bending story that will please fans of Doctor Who.