10 Books I’d Want On a Desert Island

Posted 27th July 2021 by Sia in Top Ten Tuesdays / 2 Comments


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Check out upcoming Top Ten themes on Jana’s blog!

Today’s prompt was Books I’d Want With Me While Stranded On a Deserted Island. Back in May I made a similar list of 8 books for Imyril’s spin on Desert Island Discs – but now I get to pick 10! And although it’s only been a few months, I find that the books I’d like on a desert island have changed a little bit.

The Hands of the Emperor by Victoria Goddard
Genres: Fantasy, Secondary World Fantasy

An impulsive word can start a war.A timely word can stop one.A simple act of friendship can change the course of history.

Cliopher Mdang is the personal secretary of the Last Emperor of Astandalas, the Lord of Rising Stars, the Lord Magus of Zunidh, the Sun-on-Earth, the god.He has spent more time with the Emperor of Astandalas than any other person.He has never once touched his lord.He has never called him by name.He has never initiated a conversation.

One day Cliopher invites the Sun-on-Earth home to the proverbially remote Vangavaye-ve for a holiday.

The mere invitation could have seen Cliopher executed for blasphemy.The acceptance upends the world.

I just finished this 1000 page tome, and it is so exquisitely, heart-warmingly beautiful that I immediately want to reread it. Plus, I’m sure whatever desert island scenario I might hypothetically end up in couldn’t possibly be worse than Kip’s desert island scenario, so as well as being an eternal source of joy, it would also help me keep my hopes up for rescue!

Resurrections (Rhapsody of Blood, #3) by Roz Kaveney
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MCs, MC of colour, F/F or wlw, assorted queer secondary characters

The worst days of their lives...

Mara, immortal huntress of murderous gods, has told Aleister Crowley many stories. Now he persuades her to tell the stories she does not want to tell-of Josh and Judas, the charming clever boys she and her sister/lover Sof protected and taught in Alexandria, and of Hypatia, Sof's last incarnation before madness took her. Mara cannot save everyone and these are the tales of her worst failures...

Emma is in danger. Lucifer has carried her beloved Caroline off to Hell and Jehovah wants Emma dead and his servant. She and her mysterious employer Josette journey to Hell to rescue Caroline, but what they have to deal with there is beyond Emma's ready wit and Josette's powers of intrigue...

The third volume of Roz Kaveney's four-part novel of the fantastic, Rhapsody of Blood, Resurrections is her darkest and most daring book yet.

I love, love, love this series…which makes me so scared (if scared is the right word) to read this next book. So I would like it with me on my desert island, please, because then I’d have no choice but to finally get to it!

The Midnight Girls by Alicia Jasinska
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: F/F or wlw
Published on: 7th December 2021

The Wicked Deep meets House of Salt and Sorrows in this new standalone YA fantasy set in a snow-cloaked kingdom where witches are burned, and two enchantresses secretly compete for the heart of a prince, only to discover that they might be falling for each other.

It's Karnawał season in the snow-cloaked Kingdom of Lechija, and from now until midnight when the church bells ring an end to Devil's Tuesday time will be marked with wintry balls and glittery disguises, cavalcades of nightly torch-lit "kuligi" sleigh-parties.

Unbeknownst to the oblivious merrymakers, two monsters join the fun, descending upon the royal city of Warszów in the guise of two innocent girls. Newfound friends and polar opposites, Zosia and Marynka seem destined to have a friendship that's stronger even than magic. But that's put to the test when they realize they both have their sights set on Lechija's pure-hearted prince. A pure heart contains immeasurable power and Marynka plans to bring the prince's back to her grandmother in order to prove herself. While Zosia is determined to take his heart and its power for her own.

When neither will sacrifice their ambitions for the other, the festivities spiral into a wild contest with both girls vying to keep the hapless prince out of the other's wicked grasp. But this isn't some remote forest village, where a hint of stray magic might go unnoticed, Warszów is the icy capital of a kingdom that enjoys watching monsters burn, and if Zosia and Marynka's innocent disguises continue to slip, their escalating rivalry might cost them not just the love they might have for each other, but both their lives.

This is cheating, but pfft; I have an advanced reader’s copy of this one, and I would like to take it with me, please! Jasinska’s previous book, The Dark Tide, was so utterly breathtaking I’m sort of intimidated to approach her sophomore novel. Again, I feel like a desert island would force me to sit down and read it, which I would appreciate! (Even if I might not appreciate, you know, the rest of the stuck-on-a-desert-island situation…)

City of Refuge (Maya Greenwood, #3) by Starhawk
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy
Representation: Queer cast of colour, queernorm world

Every city needs three things: a plaza, a hearth, and a sacred tree...

In the violent, desperate world of 2048, eco-catastrophes and societal breakdown have left the country splintered. Yet amidst the ruins stands a green and flourishing city where four things are sacred—Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. When the ruthless Stewards of the Southlands invade, the people of Califia defeat them using nonviolence and magic. But they’ll be back, unless the northerners can liberate the Southlands first.

Healer Madrone struggles to repair the wounds of war and deprivation. Soldier/defector River leads an Army of Liberation to the south. Bird, musician turned guerrilla, longs to return to the fight, but now he’s pledged to deeper powers. How can they build a new world when people are so deeply wounded by the old?

Madrone has a dream... Build a city of refuge in the heartland of the enemy.

The first book to be on both lists, City of Refuge is one I’d want on a desert island because a) it’s a great big huge book, which seems like the best kind to have if you won’t be getting new ones for a while, and b) maybe on a desert island I could actually sit down and read it! I so desperately want to, but I have such intense feelings about this series I’m having trouble actually opening the book.

First, Become Ashes by K.M. Szpara
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: Gay MCs, nonbinary secondary character

The Fellowship raised Lark to kill monsters.His partner betrayed them to the Feds.But Lark knows his magic is real, and he'll do anything to complete his quest.

K. M. Szpara follows Docile, one of the most anticipated science fiction novels of 2020, with First, Become Ashes, a fantastic standalone adventure that blends pain and pleasure and will make readers question what is real, and what is magical.

Lark spent the first twenty-four years, nine months, and three days of his life training for a righteous quest: to rid the world of monsters. Alongside his partner Kane, he wore the cage and endured the scourge in order to develop his innate magic. He never thought that when Kane left, he'd next see him in the company of FBI agents and a SWAT team. He never dreamed that the leader of the Fellowship of the Anointed would be brought up on charges of abuse and assault.

He never expected the government would tell him that the monsters aren't real--that there is no magic, and all the pain was for nothing.

Lark isn't ready to give up. He is determined to fulfill his quest, to defeat the monsters he was promised. Along the way he will grapple with the past, confront love, and discover his long-buried truth.

This is another one I’ve been struggling to read – not because of the book itself, just because my brain gets weird with books I’m really really looking forward to. Perhaps on a desert island, I could figure out how to focus.

Kushiel’s Legacy: (Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, Kushiel's Avatar) by Jacqueline Carey
Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Bisexual MC, queernorm world

This discounted ebundle includes: Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen, Kushiel’s Avatar

The first trilogy in Jacqueline Carey's sprawling—and darkly sensual—New York Times bestselling series.
The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassed beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt. Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a tale of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies.

Kushiel’s Dart
— Phèdre nó Delaunay is sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with a very special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Kushiel’s Chosen
— The hands of the gods weigh heavily upon Phèdre's brow, and they are not finished with her. While the young queen who sits upon the throne is well loved by the people, there are those who believe another should wear the crown...

Kushiel’s Avatar
— Phèdre and Joscelin journey on a dangerous path that will carry them to fabled courts and splendid vistas, to distant lands where madness reigns and souls are currency, and down a fabled river to a land forgotten by most of the world. And to a power so mighty that none dare speak its name.

I said it in May and I’m saying it now: if I ever want to go on a long trip and I don’t choose Kushiel’s Legacy as one of my books??? Check me for demonic possession, because it ain’t me.

In the Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales, #1) by Catherynne M. Valente, Michael Wm. Kaluta
Genres: Fantasy

A Book of Wonders for Grown-Up Readers

Every once in a great while a book comes along that reminds us of the magic spell that stories can cast over us to dazzle, entertain, and enlighten. Welcome to the Arabian Nights for our time a lush and fantastical epic guaranteed to spirit you away from the very first page.

Secreted away in a garden, a lonely girl spins stories to warm a curious prince: peculiar feats and unspeakable fates that loop through each other and back again to meet in the tapestry of her voice. Inked on her eyelids, each twisting, tattooed tale is a piece in the puzzle of the girl's own hidden history.

And what tales she tells! Tales of shape-shifting witches and wild horsewomen, heron kings and beast princesses, snake gods, dog monks, and living stars each story more strange and fantastic than the one that came before. From ill-tempered mermaid to fastidious Beast, nothing is ever quite what it seems in these ever-shifting tales even, and especially, their teller.

Adorned with illustrations by the legendary Michael Kaluta, Valente's enchanting lyrical fantasy offers a breathtaking reinvention of the untold myths and dark fairy tales that shape our dreams. And just when you think you've come to the end, you realize the adventure has only begun.

As in May, I’m more than willing to use up two spots on Catherynne Valente’s Orphan Tales.

Lovequake by T.J. Land
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Black pansexual MC, trans Deaf love interest, Black secondary characters, M/M or mlm, secondary F/F or wlw, minor asexual aromantic character

No one knows what to make of Sunday.

He’s handsome. He’s stylish. He’s got endless amounts of cash that he splashes around like water.

But there’s something just a little bit wrong about the way he talks – like he’s never had a conversation before – and the way he walks – like he expects walls to simply get out of his way. Though his hair and beard are immaculately groomed, he never brushes the former or trims the latter. And he talks to the sky.

All of which are very solid, sensible reasons for Zip Fletcher, cheerfully rude Welsh sex worker, not to develop a crush on him.

Zip is, however, not a sensible man.

LOVEQUAKE is an M/M + F/F romantic scifi adventure set against the backdrop of a quintillion-year-old cosmic war.

Lovequake is one of my all-time faves, and I’ve been dying to reread it, both because it is THE MOST FUN, and also because hopefully, I’ll be able to write a review for it after a second go-around. (The first time it just melted my brain with awesome and I had no cognitive abilities left to write reviews, okay???) So it would make for pretty perfect desert island reading: a perfect opportunity to reread, and a book that will definitely keep my mood up while I await rescue!

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway
Genres: Sci Fi

From the widely acclaimed author of The Gone-Away World and Tigerman, comes a virtuosic new novel set in a near-future, high-tech surveillance state, that is equal parts dark comedy, gripping detective story, and mind-bending philosophical puzzle.

In the world of Gnomon, citizens are constantly observed and democracy has reached a pinnacle of ‘transparency.’ Every action is seen, every word is recorded, and the System has access to its citizens’ thoughts and memories–all in the name of providing the safest society in history.

When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies in government custody, it marks the first time a citizen has been killed during an interrogation. The System doesn’t make mistakes, but something isn’t right about the circumstances surrounding Hunter’s death. Mielikki Neith, a trusted state inspector and a true believer in the System, is assigned to find out what went wrong. Immersing herself in neural recordings of the interrogation, what she finds isn’t Hunter but rather a panorama of characters within Hunter’s psyche: a lovelorn financier in Athens who has a mystical experience with a shark; a brilliant alchemist in ancient Carthage confronting the unexpected outcome of her invention; an expat Ethiopian painter in London designing a controversial new video game, and a sociopathic disembodied intelligence from the distant future.

Embedded in the memories of these impossible lives lies a code which Neith must decipher to find out what Hunter is hiding. In the static between these stories, Neith begins to catch glimpses of the real Diana Hunter–and, alarmingly, of herself. The staggering consequences of what she finds will reverberate throughout the world.

A dazzling, panoramic achievement, and Nick Harkaway’s most brilliant work to date, Gnomon is peerless and profound, captivating and irreverent, as it pierces through strata of reality and consciousness, and illuminates how to set a mind free. It is a truly accomplished novel from a mind possessing a matchless wit infused with a deep humanity.

I am very unclear on what Gnomon is really about, but it sounded interesting enough for it to go on my r/Fantasy bingo card for 2021, and I would appreciate a big chunk of uninterrupted time to get acquainted with it.

The Broken Crown (The Sun Sword, #1) by Michelle West
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Representation: Cast of colour

The first novel of the acclaimed Sun Sword series introduces readers to a war-torn world of noble houses divided and demon lords unleashed...

Tor Leonne—the heart of the Dominion of Annagar, where the games of state are about to become a matter of life and death—and where those who seek to seize the crown will be forced to league with a treacherously cunning ally....

Tor Leonne, ancestral seat of power, where Serra Diora Maria di’Marano—the most sought-after beauty in the land, a woman betrayed by all she holds dear—may strike the first blow to change the future of the Dominion and Empire alike....

Averalaan Aramarelas—that most ancient of civilized cities, the home of the Essalieyan Imperial court, has long been a center of magics both dark and bright. And though the Empire won its last war with the Dominion, and survived a devastating, magic-fueled battle with a far deadlier foe, both those victories were not without their cost....

But now the realm is on the brink of a far greater confrontation, faced with an unholy alliance that could spell the end of freedom for all mortalkind.

It is my dream to someday write a great big sprawling epic fantasy series – but the problem is that I don’t like most epic fantasy. (Well…that’s why I want to write my own, isn’t it?) I’ve been deliberately reading epic fantasy that is not written by cishet white guys, and found it tends to be much more to my tastes. The Sun Sword series (saga? Chronicles??? It’s so long!) is next on my list, and I think a desert island would give me plenty of time to get into The Broken Crown properly.

That’s my 10! What books would YOU want on a desert island???


2 responses to “10 Books I’d Want On a Desert Island

  1. Great list! The Hands of the Emperor sounds so interesting – definitely one I need to try – and I like the sound of The Midnight Girls, too. One of these days I need to get to the Kushiel books!

    • Thanks! The Hands of the Emperor is literally flawless in every way, you MUST give it a go!

      Same with the Kushiel books, but they do go to some darker places so I understand they’re not for everyone. Or that some times might be the wrong time to pick them up – you know how a book can be too rough when you’re feeling raw, and you come back to it months or a year later and it’s perfect??? I can see that happening with Kushiel a lot. But I still recommend them!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.