Few authors have the guts to write something that is wildly, fantastically strange and dead serious at the same time. Peng Shepherd has the guts, and her novel The Book of M is a stunner. Technically audacious, plotted with clear eyes, and emotionally searing, this sci-fi epic is a new classic. From an emotional standpoint, this one was personally difficult for me to get through. (If you’ve ever been close to someone who has suffered from debilitating memory loss, there are many tough moments to swallow.) But that doesn’t make the book any less brilliant.
No Gods, No Monsters is surprising, wild, and multifaceted. Cadwell Turnbull shows off his significant writing chops while wielding an interconnected multiplicity of plotlines in this thoughtful urban fantasy. The narration is complex–not only do we have several different time periods and character groups, but the veiled identity of our first person narrator slips in an out of the reader’s consciousness like a spell. Considering the world Turnbull has built, the disorientation feels incredibly fitting. It’s a book to tilt you out of what you thought you knew.
I really enjoy Kay as a storyteller, and he’s my husband’s favorite author, so we like to bond over reading his books together. While my soulmate was happy to give this beast five enthusiastic teary-eyed stars, I had a harder time stepping over the flaws in the execution of the whole, while still deeply enjoying certain sections. One of the things that likely contributed to this (which I didn’t realize until about the middle of the book), was that this title is a “GGK Avengers” of sorts, where we see returning characters, battle references, and cultural traditions that are pulled from other Kay worlds in previous books that I haven’t read. So… I believe that this novel is meant to be a crowd-pleaser for loyal Kay fans while also being readable as a standalone. For me, it was too many characters, too many gratuitous concubines, and too chaotic of a perspective-shifting situation. That said, I absolutely loved Folco and would gladly read an entire book of his adventures. And of course, as in every Kay book, the high quality banter at court was 100% on point. I will also always be thankful for this book as it kept me company in the airport during a long, looooong delay. 🙂
Becky Chambers brings us a beautiful, gentle little book in A Psalm for the Wild-Built. The novel envisions a lovely future where human beings have figured it all out and sentient robots are living in their own natural utopia. The descriptions are gorgeous and the book provides a nurturing space for all of us who need to take a moment to remember who we are and why we’re here. It’s a fun solarpunk meditation walk, filled with humor, contemplation, and the earnest hijinks of a delightful robot named Mosscap. Also, this book will really, really make you want to have some good tea and to upgrade your bedroom linens and pillows.
Sidenote: As someone who has also read The Wild Robot, I strongly feel that Mosscap and Roz are related.
Rebecca Roanhorse brings us a gorgeously drawn fantasy world inspired by the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas in Black Sun. Everything from clothing to languages to rituals pulls from Roanhorse’s deep study of these cultures, woven together with a healthy dose of new magic. Exploring this part of the world and time in history from an epic fantasy angle is incredibly refreshing and satisfying. I want to walk around in the world of the book–it’s a powerhouse of sensory description, absolutely begging for a film adaptation. Xiala was my favorite character, and anyone who knows me and also reads this book will understand that she’s an obvious choice.
Reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is like savoring a hot cup of tea, sip by sip, in a hypnotic state. It’s just such a pretty experience. For me, the plot was almost secondary to my enjoyment of how this novel works as a love letter to art and to New York City. As Addie travels throughout the world and into and out of so many experiences, I felt like I was traveling, too–something we’ve all been missing during the pandemic. There are so many lush moments where food, destinations, performances, and people create a moment, and that’s what this story is… a collection of moments, and an assertion that all of them matter. Just beautiful.
Ann Leckie is not afraid to really push narrative point of view beyond the expected, and that’s what I respect most about this dark fantasy. The story itself is nothing new–how many times have we seen kingdoms at war, leaders vying for power, and a simple farmboy swept up in it all? (Also, big Hamlet vibes.) But the relative familiarity of the plot is not where the secrets lie, because the story itself is told from a perspective that we don’t expect, and sometimes that we don’t even know is there. This book reimagines storytelling in a new way, and I enjoyed that. My favorite character wasn’t even close to human.
All the adventure and suspense of the high fantasy genre, swirling with Black power, magic, and rage. Tomi Adeyemi uses her book to address racism, oppression, and police brutality through the lens of an alternative ancient Nigeria where magic and might are currencies of power. A necessary YA parable for our times, with gorgeous imagery and memorable characters. Can’t wait for the film!
Such good writing, in such a dumb story. Like many others, I bought this book out of love and the trust that the same storyteller who wrote The Last Unicorn could do no wrong. My trust was well-placed in some aspects–great characterization of the main figures in the book, sumptuous descriptions that struck all the right tones for the enchanting Seattle area, and an interesting sense of trying to figure out what joy means for a person aging past their middle years. Unfortunately, the magical bits are lackluster, predictable, and at times just kind of nutty, and not in a good way. Greek mythology retold–it’s been done better.
This novella is filled with old magic and new. Sometimes it is so enjoyable to reach for a story that is quietly lush, immersive, and simple, and that is what Emily Tesh delivers here. A beautiful fantasy tale (with queer characters!) that feels as weathered and inviting as an old leather-bound tome.