Call of the Bone Ships by RJ Barker – A Lush, Nautical Epic Fantasy

The stakes have been raised, and the winds are changing. Joron will find himself flensed to the bone, losing everything he holds dear. He will be hammered and tempered into steel before he can live out his destiny… or reject it entirely and shape a different future from what has been foretold.

Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst

As an introduction to Sarah Beth Durst’s works, you can’t go wrong with Race the Sands. This stand-alone epic fantasy adventure features hair-raising monster racing, an older woman as a protagonist, and found family elements all set against a backdrop filled with intense political machinations.

The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes

The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes is hands-down the most imaginative, fresh, and kind book I’ve read this year. It is absolutely unlike anything else I’ve read, combining the innocence and creativity of a middle grade novel with the darkness and trauma of adult fantasy. At a glance, that makes it tempting to label this book as YA or middle grade, but upon reading it, that’s clearly not the case. It deals with loss of innocence, growing up, trauma, PTSD, identity, and abuse in a way that is both genuinely kind and genuinely heartbreaking.

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

The Only Harmless Great Thing is a story of cancer, a story of martyrdom, a story of stories. It’s about love of community, love of family, and righteous anger at those who would destroy those two precious things. It’s the story of a dying woman and the elephant who tried to stop humanity from killing one another for profit. It’s beauty in prose and pain.

The Red-Stained Wings by Elizabeth Bear

The Red-Stained Wings is a delightful follow-up to Elizabeth Bear’s The Stone in the Skull. While my one complaint from the previous book still stands (LET ME SEE THE GAGE FIGHT dangit!), I was enthralled by the new events and plot points introduced in The Red-Stained Wings. Bear’s prose and worldbuilding is stellar as always, and it’s a joy to see characters you’ve been following for 500-odd pages across two books meet up and finally interact.

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

R. F. Kuang nails not one, but two sub-genres in The Poppy War. I was drawn in by the initial magic/military school premise, a trope I’m quite fond of, and was impressed by the explosive and action-packed second half. Although the start-up may be slow by some standards, the latter half of the book is a sprint!

The Undefeated by Una McCormack

The Undefeated is a novel that fails to live up to an interesting premise. I was excited to read about a “warrior of words” and “no holds barred” journalist – the blurb mentions front-line war zones, courageous exposés on corruption, scandal, et cetera. I came in expecting a thrilling space opera with excitement and action.

The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear

The plot and all of its twists and turns is carried lightly atop Bear’s prose.  She is not, however, pretentious in her word-weaving – far from it! I was taken by both her ability to create a glistening, crystalline scene that seemed to hold me hostage as well as her ability to drop me back down to earth with surprising grace and humor. I laughed aloud at several lines, and grinned at the wry comments sprinkled throughout the novel.