This Is How by Marie Brennan

This Is How is a contemplation on the fall from grace, the tragedies of untimely death, the horror of abuse, and the road to redemption. Valravns are created through a tragedy that is not in any way their fault. A child dies because others did not care for them. The raven does as ravens do – it feeds. Neither of these two parties are responsible for this. They are innocents. Yet, a monster is nevertheless created by the lack of care on the part of others. This mirrors the cycles of abuse that we see in families; although children aren’t at fault because their parents abused them, a new monster may well be created as the child continues the cycle of abuse once they become adults as well. The abused become abusers. Where valravns are concerned, the killed become the killers. 

Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Archivist Wasp is a strange blend of post-apocalyptic dystopia, ghost hunting, and metaphysical descent into the underworld. My response on completing it can be summarized as “very weird, very good.” Although intriguing, philosophical YA is nothing new, Archivist Wasp takes this to a new level. Nicole Kornher-Stace crafts a world predicated not only on life and death, but also on the interconnectedness of life and our inability to define ourselves without using others as points of reference. None of us live in a vacuum, and the only way to grow and maintain our sense of self is through those we care for.

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H. G. Parry

Fans of low fantasy with mundane, yet endearing, characters will find much to love in H. G. Parry’s The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep. I’ll confess, I was very slightly dubious when I encountered this book’s premise. It felt a little cheesy to me. However, when I saw the names who were endorsing it, I couldn’t resist prodding Orbit for a review copy. Alix E. Harrow loved it? So did Matthew Ward? Okay, I was in. And I didn’t regret it one little bit. This book has the one thing I love most in my books: absolutely wonderful characters. The characters took a book that would have been merely good, and made it into something loveable and joyous. I felt that same spark of joy that I encountered when I read The Ten Thousand Doors for the first time. 

Prosper’s Demon by K. J. Parker

Prosper’s Demon is an absolutely stellar example of KJ Parker’s signature wit. As always, Parker’s protagonist is more than a bit of an asshole, but you have to love the wry, humorous prose he’s couched in. This would be a great entry point for someone new to Parker’s short fiction, given how thoroughly it epitomizes the tone and characters he’s known for. Although this novella shares a universe with My Beautiful Life, they are both stand-alone and independent of one another.

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

My reaction on finishing Riot Baby can be summed up with two simple words: Holy shit. This is a novella that I will have to reread at some point. Riot Baby is a humbling, visceral collage of two lives and the system that exists to crush them at every turn. It is a battle cry, a scream, and a sob for the black community. When people talk about #OwnVoices, this is what they mean. 

Black Flowers Blossom by Vina Jie-Min Prasad

If you ever wanted a love story across multiple reincarnations between an occult detective and a demon, well, here you have it folks. This is a beautifully realized, off-beat love story between two people with quite unusual tastes. As they connect and reconnect across their lives, their love grows ever deeper and ever stronger – two halves of the same rather unusual whole. 

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

When I began reading The Vanished Birds, I was unsure what to expect. The blurb didn’t prepare me for the book’s content, and hardly brushed the primary themes. Jimenez explores not just the idea of a found family, but, more importantly, discusses the ways we can be driven to hurt those we love. He has written a severe, yet tasteful, critique of the idea that the ends can ever justify the means. 

Exploring Trauma Through Speculative Fiction

When I was a freshman in high school, my Honors English teacher had a poster on her wall above the whiteboard. It was a faded yellow, with a plain, sans serif, black font. Arial, possibly, though I couldn’t say it for certain. It had been printed on a standard printer and then clumsily laminated, likely in that very building.

The Shadow Saint by Gareth Hanrahan

The Shadow Saint is a devastatingly brilliant new installment in the Black Iron Legacy series by Gareth Hanrahan. Although the initial book, The Gutter Prayer, had a few weaknesses in the character development department, these were beautifully resolved and a complete nonissue in this sequel. Eladora is the primary focus of this novel, with Cari as a side character. Several new characters are also introduced: Alic, the spy, and Terevant, a man of Haith. As the Godswar closes in on Guerdon, the goals and aims of these three will align in unexpected ways. Fans of the worldbuilding from the previous novel won’t be disappointed; the expanded scope brings in a great deal of new information and helps fill in the cracks from the previous book.