Book Review – Empire of Light by Alex Harrow

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Damian Nettoyer is the Empire’s go-to gun. He kills whoever they want him to kill. In exchange, he and his rag-tag gang of crooks get to live, and Damian’s psychokinetic partner and lover, Aris, isn’t issued a one-way ticket to an Empire-sanctioned lobotomy.

Then Damian’s latest mark, a suave revolutionary named Raeyn, kicks his ass and demands his help. The first item on the new agenda: take out Damian’s old boss—or Raeyn will take out Damian’s crew.

To protect his friends and save his own skin, Damian teams up with Raeyn to make his revolution work. As the revolution gains traction, Damian gets way too close to Raeyn, torn between the need to shoot him one moment and kiss him the next. But Aris slips further away from Damian, and as Aris’ control over his powers crumbles, the Watch catches on.

With the Empire, Damian had two policies: shoot first and don’t ask questions. But to save the guy he loves, he’ll set the world on fire. 

Review:

So a while back on Twitter there was #ReviewPit where authors and reviewers could connect and I jumped at the chance to read this because it is absolutely full of Queer characters, also there’s a cat. Unfortunately I was just not a big fan of the book itself which meant I put off writing the review as it’s always difficult when you didn’t enjoy it. Now, I didn’t enjoy it due to my own personal preferences which does make this much easier as it is still a good book, just not one that I’d particularly enjoy.

Let’s start off with the writing. The writing is the reason I kept reading and finished this book because it’s just delightful. Some of the descriptions used are brilliant and I love the authors use of language. Sure, I may not have cared much about what I was reading, but I still enjoyed reading it.

For the plot itself, I won’t say too much as the synopsis covers it pretty well, however it is very fast paced. At times I wished it would slow down a bit – particularly the scenes with the side characters as I’d really have liked more screen time for them as I didn’t feel I really got to know any of them that well. I did enjoy the plot and certainly didn’t expect everything that happened so it’s always nice to be surprised.

One of the reasons I didn’t enjoy this book that much is that honestly, I wasn’t a big fan of Damian or Aris. I liked Raeyn which did help a bit but it’s hard to enjoy a book when you don’t like the main character. There was also a lot of explicit scenes with Damian which although they were very well written (and there are trigger warnings at the start too), I did not enjoy. Of course, I imagine most people have no issue with sex scenes and indeed some people would probably love it for those scenes so if that’s what you’re looking for then this is definitely an excellent choice. There’s also a love triangle in the book and no matter how well written, I just do not enjoy love triangles.

The setting was very interesting but sadly we don’t get to see nearly as much of the worldbuilding as I’d like – which is another reason why I personally didn’t enjoy the book as much as that’s my favourite part of SFF books. The glimpses we got were super interesting though, and I was very interested in learning more about the Voyance and how it worked.

Overall though, despite not appealing to my personal tastes this was a very good book and I would highly recommend it to anybody looking for some steamy Queer Sci-Fi.

Book Review – The Pride of Chanur by C.J. Cherryh

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Goodreads Synopsis:

No one at Meetpoint Station had ever seen a creature like the Outsider. Naked-hided, blunt toothed and blunt-fingered, Tully was the sole surviving member of his company — a communicative, spacefaring species hitherto unknown — and he was a prisoner of his discoverer/ captors the sadistic, treacherous kif, until his escape onto the hani ship The Pride of Chanur.

Little did he know when he threw himself upon the mercy of The Pride and her crew that he put the entire hani species in jeopardy and imperiled the peace of the Compact itself. For the information this fugitive held could be the ruin or glory of any of the species at Meetpoint Station.

Review:

C.J. Cherryh had been recommended a lot recently on /r/Fantasy and so I decided to give some of her books a shot this year. I ended up picking the Chanur series simply because somebody said it was essentially “space cats” which really isn’t that far off.

Firstly, this story is your classic “first contact with aliens” except for the fact that the alien encountered, Tully, is the human which is a nice twist because all of the existing species in the novel are all very different from humans and so we’re seeing it from their point of view.

The worldbuilding in this is absolutely brilliant and so I’m definitely going to read more of her books in future as I absolutely adore it. So much detail has gone into everything and I particularly love the attention paid to linguistics in this book (I love languages) as it even mentions how the “hani language” spoken is that of the family that had first contact with the rest of the species of aliens (who together are known as “The Compact”). At one point in a later book, to ensure they aren’t understood, some of the characters speak a different Hani language and I appreciated this so much as so often aliens in books just have one single language and unless they’re hive-minds then that just isn’t very realistic.

The hani are the main species that we see as they’re the main characters and as mentioned, they’re pretty much space cats. They are essentially humanoid lions and their culture is very similar to that of lions where it’s the women who go off and are traders and explorers while the men stay at home.

The plot of the story revolves around protecting this stray human that has wandered onto their ship and ends up dealing with a lot of political intrigue. The plot isn’t the fastest or most exciting so if you’re looking for a fun space adventure, this isn’t it but it is a richly rewarding book so I still strongly recommend it.

As I’ve not read any of her other books, I can’t say whether this is the best series to begin with but if you enjoy strong worldbuilding and lots of politics then I strongly recommend it. I’m now onto the fourth book and should complete the entire series soon!

Also as a final note, the covers for these books are absolutely fantastic.  The cover for the second book is probably going to end up as one of my favourite covers of the year because it’s just that brilliant.

Book Review – Protector by Larry Niven

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Phssthpok the Pak had been travelling for most of his 32,000 years – his mission, to save, develop, and protect the group of Pak breeders sent out into space some 2 1/2 million years before…

Brennan was a Belter, the product of a fiercely independent, somewhat anarchic society living in, on, and around an outer asteroid belt. The Belters were rebels, one and all, and Brennan was a smuggler. The Belt worlds had been tracking the Pak ship for days – Brennan figured to meet that ship first…

He was never seen again – at least not in the form of Homo sapiens.

Review:

It’s another book with an awful yet fantastic cover! This has been on my TBR list for quite a while and wasn’t too long so was a perfect pick after reading some longer books.

The synopsis does a pretty good job of summarising the beginning of the story and really, what happens after that is spoilers so I’m not going to say much more about it, other than I highly enjoyed the plot.

The worldbuilding was very interesting and I loved learning about the Pak society and evolution along with the way Protectors work. I was less of a fan of the society on the earth side of things, and the few women present were very flat and one-dimensional and mostly just there for sex (hurrah for classic sci-fi…)

Despite being such a great story, this isn’t a very long book and is able to be finished quite quickly but at no point did it ever feel rushed which I really enjoyed. The pacing works really well and I can see why this author is so popular.

If you’re looking for some classic sci-fi then I would recommend this as it’s a good story and it’s not that long either! That and if you love ugly covers like me, then it’s great for your collection!

Book Review – Grass by Sheri S. Tepper

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Book Review:

Generations ago, humans fled to the cosmic anomaly known as Grass. But before humanity arrived, another species had already claimed Grass for its own. It too had developed a culture…… 

Now a deadly plague is spreading across the stars, leaving no planet untouched, save for Grass. But the secret of the planet’s immunity hides a truth so shattering it could mean the end of life itself.

Review:

I decided I wanted to read more female authors this month and so this looked like a perfect choice. I bought this book a while ago purely because of the name (well that and because I was looking through SF Classics which is how I found it) and reading this book really makes you want to sit outside surrounded by grass. Well, it does for a bit anyway until you learn more about what lives in the grass!

I absolutely loved this book, it took me a little while to get into it but it’s one that the more you learn, the more you want to know and I absolutely loved reading about this planet. Grass is incredibly interesting in a range of ways and I loved learning more about life on it. There are a group of noble families (Bons) who live on various estates out in the Grass who go on regular hunts during Spring and Autumn. The book starts off with one of those and at first, it sounds relatively like a regular hunt with mounts, hounds and foxes but you slowly discover that just because they share the same name as creatures from Earth, doesn’t mean they are the same.

The main plot follows the fact that plague is spreading across all colonised planets yet does not appear to be present on Grass so they send some ambassadors to investigate this further. The wife of the ambassador, Marjorie, is by far one of my favourite characters and we follow her for most of the book as she learns more about the society on Grass and uncovers the secrets.

The book is rather slow paced, which I really liked as it slowly showed us more about the world and it was only at the end when things really started to speed up but I never felt like the book was dragging and I was always eagerly looking forward to the next new piece of information we found out.

If you’re looking for more Sci-Fi by female authors then I’d definitely recommend this. I’d also recommend it in general if you’re wanting to read some classic Sci-Fi as I really enjoyed it and definitely see myself reading more by her in the future.

Book Review – Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In the near future, disease will be a condition of the past. Most genetic defects will be removed at birth; the remaining during infancy. Unfortunately, there will be a generation left behind. For members of that missed generation, small advances will be made. Through various programs, they will be taught to get along in the world despite their differences. They will be made active and contributing members of society. But they will never be normal.

Lou Arrendale is a member of that lost generation, born at the wrong time to reap the awards of medical science. Part of a small group of high-functioning autistic adults, he has a steady job with a pharmaceutical company, a car, friends, and a passion for fencing. Aside from his annual visits to his counselor, he lives a low-key, independent life. He has learned to shake hands and make eye contact. He has taught himself to use “please” and “thank you” and other conventions of conversation because he knows it makes others comfortable. He does his best to be as normal as possible and not to draw attention to himself. 
But then his quiet life comes under attack. It starts with an experimental treatment that will reverse the effects of autism in adults. With this treatment Lou would think and act and be just like everyone else. But if he was suddenly free of autism, would he still be himself? Would he still love the same classical music–with its complications and resolutions? Would he still see the same colors and patterns in the world–shades and hues that others cannot see? Most importantly, would he still love Marjory, a woman who may never be able to reciprocate his feelings?Would it be easier for her to return the love of a “normal”?
There are intense pressures coming from the world around him–including an angry supervisor who wants to cut costs by sacrificing the supports necessary to employ autistic workers. Perhaps even more disturbing are the barrage of questions within himself. For Lou must decide if he should submit to a surgery that might completely change the way he views the world . . . and the very essence of who he is.
Thoughtful, provocative, poignant, unforgettable, The Speed of Dark is a gripping exploration into the mind of an autistic person as he struggles with profound questions of humanity and matters of the heart.

Review:

So I really loved The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon and so figured reading a Sci-Fi book by her would be a perfect choice. I was a bit hesitant about it as there are a lot of issues regarding whether or not autism is something that should be cured but I feel that this book was able to handle the topic quite well and indeed the choice of whether or not to get the “new surgery” was all up to the individual characters which ties in with what I personally believe (which I’m not going to get into in a book review, but my views are essentially that it should be up to the individual)

Lou is a fantastic character and I absolutely adore him. The way his mind thinks, the way he reacts to stressful situations and the way he interacts is all really well portrayed. It’s very clear that a lot of research has gone into this and I love that all of the characters are also all very individual representing the range of ways that autism presents itself in people.

Unlike most of his group at work, Lou spends a lot more time with neurotypical individuals and again his interactions with them are brilliantly done and I really enjoyed how accepting his fencing group are. Through interaction with them, Lou is able to learn a lot about social cues and grow as a person but still struggles from time to time with understanding concepts like unspoken rules (or things that contradict what he’s learnt)

Overall, this book takes us on a journey focusing on Lou as he grows and develops as a person all while portraying a realistic and powerful view of an autistic man. This is something I never expected to see in a book and I’m already planning on giving this to several autistic friends of mine because the representation just made me so happy and I know they’ll love it too.

I highly, highly recommend this book. Elizabeth Moon is a fantastic writer and this is definitely a book worth reading!

Book Review – Armada by Ernest Cline

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Goodreads Synopsis:

It’s just another day of high school for Zack Lightman. He’s daydreaming through another boring math class, with just one more month to go until graduation and freedom—if he can make it that long without getting suspended again.

Then he glances out his classroom window and spots the flying saucer.

At first, Zack thinks he’s going crazy.

A minute later, he’s sure of it. Because the UFO he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

But what Zack’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

Yet even as he and his new comrades scramble to prepare for the alien onslaught, Zack can’t help thinking of all the science-fiction books, TV shows, and movies he grew up reading and watching, and wonder: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little too… familiar? 

Armada is at once a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien-invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with author Ernest Cline’s trademark pop-culture savvy.

Review:

So, I loved Ready Player One and had high hopes for this, but when it came out it was getting quite a lot of negative reviews and so I just kinda forgot about it until now. My copy is a rather large hardback and was taking up too much space on my TBR shelf so figured may as well read it now!

The book wasn’t that bad. I can definitely understand a lot of the negative reviews and for me it definitely just didn’t feel right and fell flat a lot of the time with the references. It really does feel like he was trying to much to emulate what made Ready Player One so great and well, that never goes that well.

The plot wasn’t that bad, I actually rather enjoyed it if not for the fact that I wasn’t a huge fan of most of the characters as I feel they just weren’t that developed. The worst part for me was Zack’s “relationship”. We see all his interactions with this girl and honestly even with the world potentially ending, it was just not realistic at all and read a lot like just fulfilling a fantasy of “getting the hot girl who is good at video games”.

Ultimately, I think this book really suffers due to the fact that it’s always going to be compared to Ready Player One which does the same thing as this book, but better and since this book doesn’t have anything outstanding to draw you in, there’s really not that much in it to recommend it to readers other than those that just want to read more of the authors work and enjoy spotting as many references as they can (I must admit, I certainly got more in this one than in Ready Player One as my knowledge of movies is incredibly bad)

Overall, this is not a bad book but it’s not one I’d recommend. I’d instead always recommend Ready Player One and say only read this if you really, really want to read more by the same author as I don’t feel I’d have missed much by not reading it but since I already owned it, I figured may as well give it a go.

Book Review – A Story of the Days to Come by H.G. Wells

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The novella depicts two lovers in a dystopian London of the 22nd century. They explore the implications of excessive urbanization, class warfare, & advances in the technology of medicine, communication, transportation & agriculture. Like “When the Sleeper Wakes”, published in the same year, the stories extrapolate the trends Wells observed in nineteenth-century Victorian London two hundred years into the future.
London of the early 22nd century is over 30 million people in population, with the lower classes living in subterranean dwellings, the middle & upper classes living in skyscrapers & largely communal accommodations. Moving walkways interconnect the city, with fast air-travel & superhighways available between cities. The countryside is largely abandoned.
Many aspects of the world of these two stories will be instantly familiar to readers of the more popular Isaac Asimov’s Robot series written 50 years later. Altho no apparent citation exists crediting Wells’ world as the source for the Asimov stories’ settings & culture, the parallels between the two are striking.

Review:

It’s Sci-Fi month and H.G. Wells is finally in the public domain so of course I had to read something by him. I chose this book because I have a physical copy of it and so it means I can make a nice stack at the end of the month. This also just looked really interesting too as it’s always fun to see how people imagine the future.

The book follows a young couple who start off wealthy but end up losing all their money and so this conveniently allows us to see life in the different classes of society. Wells has taken “upper” and “lower” class and made them literal where the lower classes literally live below and work below those of the upper classes.

There isn’t much of a plot to the story, it’s mostly just following the two characters throughout their life and they’re used as a means of showing off the worldbuilding that Wells has done and well, that is what we’re here for. I won’t mention much else of what he imagines as it’s really fun to just read through and see his vision of the future.

If you’re looking for something short and enjoy reading what people thought the future would be like, then I’d definitely recommend this. However, although I enjoyed this I definitely enjoy his other work more so I’d only suggest this to those who already enjoy his work as otherwise there are much better books you can start off with.

Book Review – The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In 2019, humanity finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post picks up exquisite singing from the planet Rakhat. While the U.N. debates possible contact missions, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an 8-person expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question what it means to be human.

Review:

So this is another book I read as part of #RRSciFiMonth over on Twitter and I’m super glad I’m taking part in it as I’ve read some fantastic books. This was recommended to me quite a while ago by a friend and although I bought it straight away, it just kinda sat on my TBR shelf until I decided that I needed to read some Sci-Fi by women as my reading list is pretty male-dominated.

This book is absolutely stunning and is incredibly well written. I didn’t want to finish it because I was enjoying the journey so much.

The story of this is split into two sections – one is focusing on the recent return of Father Sandoz from Rakhat where he is the sole survivor, while the other focuses on the discovery and journey to Rakhat. As the Jesuits on Earth slowly discover what happened to Father Sandoz, we too slowly discover what happened through the flashbacks to those times. The two tales are woven together brilliantly although of course I was always looking forward to returning to the sections on Rakhat.

I was a bit cautious of the fact that most of the characters are Jesuits as I didn’t want it to be too focused on religion, however although it plays a major role for some of the characters, there are also non-religious crew aboard along with my favourite character, Sofia, who is Jewish. They work really well together and I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions between them all.

Worldbuilding is one of the things I love most about books and books set on alien planets are always full of rich opportunities to exercise this and this book it fantastically. All the different aspects such as culture, evolution, language have been looked at in great detail. Father Sandoz is a linguist and so we get a deeper than usual look at the languages and how they influence thought on Rakhat.

I definitely feel that this is going to be one of my top picks of what I’ve read at the end of Sci Fi Month and I definitely encourage everybody to read it. It’s a truly stunning novel and as soon as the month finishes, I’m giving my copy away to a friend so they can enjoy it too!

Book Review – Accessing the Future: A Disability-Themed Anthology of Speculative Fiction

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The fifteen authors and nine artists in this volume bring us beautiful, speculative stories of disability and mental illness in the future. Teeming with space pirates, battle robots, interstellar travel and genetically engineered creatures, every story and image is a quality, crafted work of science fiction in its own right, as thrilling and fascinating as it is worthy and important. These are stories about people with disabilities in all of their complexity and diversity, that scream with passion and intensity. These are stories that refuse to go gently.

Review:

So this is the third book I’ve read so far for Sci-Fi month over on Twitter but I’ve decided to review it first just because it’s so fantastic. I bought this a while ago on Amazon when I had some money left on a gift card then forgot about it for a while until this month. I’ve been trying to focus on reducing my physical TBR pile for Sci-Fi month (especially as then I can take a photo at the end of them all in a nice stack) but I just had to make an exception for this as it sounded fantastic.

Before we even get to the stories, there is a fantastic introduction which discusses the fact that not only does this attempt to represent a diverse range of disabilities, but it wants to ensure the people portrayed are equally as diverse, acknowledging that a lot of disability awareness focuses on straight white people. I was very impressed with that and glad to know they were making a conscious effort to be as inclusive as possible.

The range of disabilities represented is very interesting ranging from physical to mental, including even discussing how many disabilities are due to culture and so one story is focused on imagining what a future would be like where grief is considered a disability. I won’t say too much about the stories themselves but there is a fantastic range and I really enjoyed them all. It’s hard to pick a favourite since all the characters are brilliant and well portrayed.

Along with short stories, there are also several pieces of artwork. Each piece of artwork is followed by a description of the image for those who are unable to see it, which I was particularly pleased to see in a collection focused on disabilities. Unfortunately, there is not an audiobook version yet but I hope there will be one eventually to make it even more accessible. Even though my sight is fine, there were details mentioned in the descriptions that I hadn’t noticed which helped enrich my enjoyment of the art. My favourite piece of artwork though is definitely the cover, which was one of the reasons I bought the book in the first place.

I highly, highly recommend this collection. It’s incredibly diverse and full of great sci-fi. I’ve already got several friends to buy it just because I’ve been gushing about it so much and if it was possible to gift Kindle books in the UK, I’d definitely have bought it for several more.

12 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books by Black Women

In honour of Black History month, I’ve put together this list of 12 Sci-Fi or Fantasy books by Black Women that all sound excellent. I’ve stuck to just one book per author, but plenty of them have tons more that you should check out too. I’ve not read any of these yet, but they all had good reviews and have been added to my own TBR list.


The Books

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Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

The rich and privileged have fled the city, barricaded it behind roadblocks, and left it to crumble. The inner city has had to rediscover old ways-farming, barter, herb lore. But now the monied need a harvest of bodies, and so they prey upon the helpless of the streets. With nowhere to turn, a young woman must open herself to ancient truths, eternal powers, and the tragic mystery surrounding her mother and grandmother.

She must bargain with gods, and give birth to new legends.

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The Switch II: Clockwork by Valjeanne Jeffers

Includes the Switch and The Switch II: Clockwork. Look for The Switch in the groundbreaking anthology: Steamfunk!

“As she looked on, the target unzipped his jumpsuit and pushed it down. His blond companion sauntered over to his desk, and slipped off her pants. She straddled him, curling an arm about his neck. With her other hand she unzipped her tunic to bare her plump breasts. Moans of pleasure filled Z100’s apartment.

Z100 watched them, arousal spreading down her pelvis. She cut the tape off, got up and poured herself another glass of wine. She’d planted the tiny cameras in the men’s offices. They were later retrieved by spies posing as under dweller janitors.”

York is a city of contradictions. Women are hard-pressed for lovers, because lovemaking can be dangerous. The upper city is powered by computers, the underground by steam. And the wealthy don’t work for a living, underdwellers do it for them.

But certain underdwellers have a big problem with this arrangement. And so does the time keeper.

Welcome to the Revolution…

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My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due

When Jessica marries David, he is everything she wants in a family man: brilliant, attentive, ever youthful. Yet she still feels something about him is just out of reach. Soon, as people close to Jessica begin to meet violent, mysterious deaths, David makes an unimaginable confession: More than 400 years ago, he and other members of an Ethiopian sect traded their humanity so they would never die, a secret he must protect at any cost. Now, his immortal brethren have decided David must return and leave his family in Miami. Instead, David vows to invoke a forbidden ritual to keep Jessica and his daughter with him forever. Harrowing, engrossing and skillfully rendered, My Soul to Keep traps Jessica between the desperation of immortals who want to rob her of her life and a husband who wants to rob her of her soul. With deft plotting and an unforgettable climax, this tour de force reminiscent of early Anne Rice will win Due a new legion of fans.

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Mindscape by Andrea Hairston

MINDSCAPE takes us to a future in which the world itself has been literally divided by the Barrier, a phenomenon that will not be ignored. For 115 years this extraterrestrial, epidimensional entity has divided the earth into warring zones. Although a treaty to end the interzonal wars has been hammered out, power-hungry politicians, gangsters, and spiritual fundamentalists are determined to thwart it. Celestina, the treaty’s architect, is assassinated, and her protegee, Elleni, a talented renegade and one of the few able to negotiate the Barrier, takes up her mantle. Now Elleni and a motley crew of allies risk their lives to make the treaty work. Can they repair their fractured world before the Barrier devours them completely?

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The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.

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Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.

Told from multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.

‘There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.’

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Everfair by Nisi Shawl

An alternate history / historical fantasy / steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo, from noted short story writer Nisi Shawl.

Everfair is a wonderful Neo-Victorian alternate history novel that explores the question of what might have come of Belgium’s disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier. Fabian Socialists from Great Britian join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo’s “owner,” King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated.

Shawl’s speculative masterpiece manages to turn one of the worst human rights disasters on record into a marvelous and exciting exploration of the possibilities inherent in a turn of history. Everfair is told from a multiplicity of voices: Africans, Europeans, East Asians, and African Americans in complex relationships with one another, in a compelling range of voices that have historically been silenced. Everfair is not only a beautiful book but an educational and inspiring one that will give the reader new insight into an often ignored period of history.

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Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.

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A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

Jevick, the pepper merchant’s son, has been raised on stories of Olondria, a distant land where books are as common as they are rare in his home. When his father dies and Jevick takes his place on the yearly selling trip to Olondria, Jevick’s life is as close to perfect as he can imagine. But just as he revels in Olondria’s Rabelaisian Feast of Birds, he is pulled drastically off course and becomes haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl.

In desperation, Jevick seeks the aid of Olondrian priests and quickly becomes a pawn in the struggle between the empire’s two most powerful cults. Yet even as the country shimmers on the cusp of war, he must face his ghost and learn her story before he has any chance of becoming free by setting her free: an ordeal that challenges his understanding of art and life, home and exile, and the limits of that seductive necromancy, reading.

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Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

A tale of adventure, magic, and the power of the human spirit. Paama’s husband is a fool and a glutton. Bad enough that he followed her to her parents’ home in the village of Makendha—now he’s disgraced himself by murdering livestock and stealing corn. When Paama leaves him for good, she attracts the attention of the undying ones—the djombi— who present her with a gift: the Chaos Stick, which allows her to manipulate the subtle forces of the world. Unfortunately, a wrathful djombi with indigo skin believes this power should be his and his alone.

A contemporary fairy tale that is inspired in part by a Senegalese folk tale.

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Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Emily Bird was raised not to ask questions. She has perfect hair, the perfect boyfriend, and a perfect Ivy-League future. But a chance meeting with Roosevelt David, a homeland security agent, at a party for Washington DC’s elite leads to Bird waking up in a hospital, days later, with no memory of the end of the night.

Meanwhile, the world has fallen apart: A deadly flu virus is sweeping the nation, forcing quarantines, curfews, even martial law. And Roosevelt is certain that Bird knows something. Something about the virus–something about her parents’ top secret scientific work–something she shouldn’t know.

The only one Bird can trust is Coffee, a quiet, outsider genius who deals drugs to their classmates and is a firm believer in conspiracy theories. And he believes in Bird. But as Bird and Coffee dig deeper into what really happened that night, Bird finds that she might know more than she remembers. And what she knows could unleash the biggest government scandal in US history.

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Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope

Enter an alternate 1920’s world of magic and adventure in this gripping, new adult, fantasy romance…

Orphaned and alone, Jasminda is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her magical abilities are feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive – an injured spy who steals her heart.

Jack’s mission behind enemy lines nearly cost him his life but he is saved by the healing power of a mysterious young woman. Together they embark on a perilous journey straight into the heart of a centuries-old conflict.

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation.

The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.


All covers and descriptions are taken from Goodreads

Have you read any of these? Are there any authors you feel I’ve left out? Let me know in the comments!