10 Short Reads Sure To Delight

Posted 6th February 2024 by Sia in Recommendations, Top Ten Tuesdays / 0 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!

This week’s prompt is all about short books, quick reads; the prompt came from Jennifer @ FunkNFiction.com and Angela over @ Reading Frenzy!

I have not included Nghi Vo’s Singing Hills series of novellas, because hopefully it does not need saying at this point that you should absolutely read those. Nor did I feature the Penric and Desdemona series from Lois McMaster Bujold, for the same reason – it’s a Hugo-nominated series, so you’re more likely to know it already, and you definitely need to read it!

Instead, I’ve gathered together a few other novellas etc that are a bit less well-known, but deserve just as much love!

In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Nonbinary MCs, East Asian-coded cast, sapphic MCs

In the Watchful City explores borders, power, diaspora, and transformation in an Asian-inspired mosaic novella that melds the futurism of Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station with the magical wonder of Catherynne M. Valente’s Palimpsest.

The city of Ora uses a complex living network called the Gleaming to surveil its inhabitants and maintain harmony. Anima is one of the cloistered extrasensory humans tasked with watching over Ora's citizens. Although ær world is restricted to what æ can see and experience through the Gleaming, Anima takes pride and comfort in keeping Ora safe from all harm.

All that changes when a mysterious visitor enters the city carrying a cabinet of curiosities from around the world, with a story attached to each item. As Anima’s world expands beyond the borders of Ora to places—and possibilities—æ never before imagined to exist, æ finds ærself asking a question that throws into doubt ær entire purpose: What good is a city if it can’t protect its people?

Probably the strangest entry on this list, but also one of the most unique and beautiful. In the Watchful City is a golden casket full of jewels – not a short story collection in the usual sense, but a collection of stories being told to a nonbinary city-guardian, who looks after ae’s city, in part, by possessing the birds and animals in it as needed. And the stories? Describing them at all would be spoiling them, but I do want to give a head’s up that they deal with some dark topics – one includes what’s basically Chinese foot-binding, for example. But that doesn’t make it any less a masterpiece. Seriously, I need more people to know about this book!!!

My review!

Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Secondary trans character, minor nonbinary character

In Desdemona and the Deep, the spoiled daughter of a rich mining family must retrieve the tithe of men her father promised to the world below. On the surface, her world is rife with industrial pollution that ruins the health of poor factory workers while the idle rich indulge themselves in unheard-of luxury. Below are goblins, mysterious kingdoms, and an entirely different hierarchy.

Another breathtakingly beautiful novella, and one which makes an excellent introduction to Cooney’s work if you haven’t encountered it before! Desdemona herself is an amazing main character (‘heroine’ may be pushing it), arch and proud and the kind of glamorous that only comes from being born with a golden spoon in your mouth. She’s a glorious gilded brat, in other words… But proves herself to be significantly more than that by going down to the world of the fae to rescue…well, you’ll see! Cooney’s prose is utterly decadent, with so much incredible imagery, and characters you’ll find yourself in love with. Plus, it has one of my favourite endings ever!

To Add Drunkenness To Thirst by T.J. Land
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: M/M

Father Bryson has been trying to drive a stake through Anstice’s vampiric heart for ten wonderfully entertaining years.

Never before has a slayer pursued him with such passion and fervor; it’s enough to make any undead dandy swoon.

But lately, Anstice has noticed that his nemesis is behaving… strangely.


How about anime-levels of ridiculous-but-epic fights, cults, and legit enemies-to-lovers, with the best vampire/vampire-hunter combo I’ve ever read??? This is hilarious, badass, and surprisingly cute at times; the characters manage to be delightfully over-the-top and yet, very genuine at the same time. A SUPER fun, fast read!

Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Representation: Biracial Native-American MC

From New York Times bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente comes a brilliant reinvention of one the best known fairy tales of all time. In the novella Six-Gun Snow White, Valente transports the title’s heroine to a masterfully evoked Old West where Coyote is just as likely to be found as the seven dwarves.

A plain-spoken, appealing narrator relates the history of her parents—a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. With her mother’s death in childbirth, so begins a heroine’s tale equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, readers will be enchanted by this story at once familiar and entirely new.

Anything by Catherynne Valente is guaranteed gold, but this is probably my favourite of her novellas – you’ve definitely not seen Snow White like this before! Just – everything about this is impossible to predict and subversive and twisty, the ways Valente transforms and reinvents the familiar beats of the fairytale into something entirely her own – it’s the embodiment of *chef’s kiss*!

Exodus 20:3 by Freydís Moon
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Queer trans Latine/Latinx MC

Religious eroticism and queer emancipation meet in a claustrophobic monster-romance about divinity, sexuality, and freedom.

When Diego López is guilted by his mother into taking a low-key construction job in New Mexico, he doesn’t expect to be the only helping hand at Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. But the church is abandoned, decrepit, and off the beaten path, and the only other person for miles is its handsome caretaker, Ariel Azevedo.

Together, Diego and Ariel refurbish the old church, sharing stories of their heritage, experiences, and desires. But as the long days turn into longer nights, Diego begins to see past Ariel’s human mirage and finds himself falling into lust—and maybe something else—with one of God’s first creations.

In the mood for something as steamy as it is gorgeous? Exodus 20:3 is a romance like nothing else I’ve ever seen, between a brown trans sex worker and the #biblicallyaccurate angel who shows him he’s still full of grace. It’s sexy, it’s beautiful, it’s anti-ICE, and Moon’s take on angels here is sublime. A++!

Sing for the Coming of the Longest Night by Katherine Fabian, Iona Datt Sharma
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Polyamory

The world you know is underneath the substance of another, with cracks in the firmament that let the light of its magic in...

Layla and Nat have nothing in common but their boyfriend – enigmatic, brilliant Meraud – and their deep mutual dislike. But when Meraud disappears after an ambitious magical experiment goes wrong, they may be the only ones who can follow the trail of cryptic clues that will bring him safely home.

To return Meraud to this world, the two of them will confront every obstacle: the magic of the wild unknowable, a friendly vicar who's only concerned for their spiritual wellbeing, and even the Thames Water helpline. All of which would be doable, if only they didn’t have to do it together.

But the winter solstice is fast approaching – and once the year turns, Meraud will be lost forever. In this joyously queer novella, Nat and Layla must find a way to overcome their differences before it’s too late.

What’s better than a throuple? Two metamours who don’t especially get along having to team up to rescue their boyfriend from magical shenanigans! It’s been a while since I read this one, but despite my calling the events ‘shenanigans’, I don’t remember it as silly and giggly – the magic is the real, deep deal, and the stakes are very high. It went straight onto my favourites shelf when I first read it, and I’ve adored it on every reread. I still pounce on everything either of these authors publish!

If Found, Return to Hell by Em X. Liu
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Nonbinary Chinese MC

Being an intern at One Wizard sounds magical on the page, but in practice mostly means getting yelled at by senior mages and angry clients alike. And so, after receiving a frantic call from a young man who’s awoken to a talisman on his bedroom wall—and no memory of how it got there—Journeyman Wen jumps at the chance to escape call-center duty and actually help someone for once.

But the case ends up being more complicated than Wen could ever have anticipated. The client has been possessed by a demon prince from Hell, and he’s not interested in leaving.

The title of this one’s a bit of a joke, since this novella features demons from the traditional Chinese hells – and a main character who works in Customer Support, which is definitely hellish, as anyone who’s ever worked it knows full well! This is a lot of fun and surprisingly sweet, with some seriously adorable moments (THE SCENE WITH THE VACUUM CLEANER, OMG). It’s also a great example of second-person perspective being used REALLY WELL, so if you’ve never tried anything written in second-person before, now’s your chance!

Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison
Genres: Fantasy

From the dark ages to modern times, from the dragons of medieval forests to Constantinople, this is a fantastic and philosophical fairy-tale journey that will appeal to fans of Harry Potter, Diana Wynne Jones, and T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone.

Strictly speaking, this might be a short novel rather than a novella? I’m never sure when a book’s too long to be a novelIa…either way, Travel Light is a very quick read, with a really wonderful fairytale-feel, and a story that wanders wide and deep without ever feeling either too heavy or too shallow. Our MC is raised first by bears, then by dragons! Don’t tell me you don’t want to read a story like that!

The Fox's Tower and Other Tales: A Collection of Magical Short Stories by Yoon Ha Lee
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Queer MCs

Science-minded fox spirits, tiger wives, books that can be read by anyone but their owner—these and more appear in Yoon Ha Lee's flash fairy tales. Previously available online, they have now been collected in this volume along with four new stories and an introduction by the author.

I have recced this before and I’ll rec it again: Lee writes the most exquisite micro-fiction, magical in theme and trope and prose. Foxes falling in love with astrologers; carousel-horse foals; twin witches, mechanical dragons, and Empty Books (note the capitals)! Micro-fiction means each story takes, at most, a few minutes to read, and each one of the stories in this collection is enchanting. So this is the perfect book for when you only have a few moments!

So You Want to be a Robot and Other Stories by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Queer MCs

Step one: forget the convention and disregard the binary. Gender? Sexuality? Old words unsuited for new consciousness. The twenty-one stories in this book challenge the imagination as only acclaimed author A. Merc Rustad can. Pages of robots and AIs constructing lives and exploring "humanity"; wasted worlds with monstrous cityhearts; assassins and the perils of enchanted labyrinths; and always the raw truths of love, loss, and devotion.

Step two: read these science-fiction and fantasy tales as if they are the only stories you will discover on your bookshelf this day.

Step three: dare to feel.

This is another utterly magical collection of short stories – and the ones in So You Want To Be a Robot are short stories, not micro-fictions. They will take longer to read than the stories in Fox’s Tower! But they are very, very worth it – every single story in this book took my breath away, made my heart ache, hurt with how perfect they are. The very first story is about a young person who travels through their wardrobe to another world…and what happens when the portal stops working. I sobbed the first time I read it, okay? Happy tears! But it’s such a balm to everyone who’s still soul-bruised by the Narnia series. And every story hits that hard, all while being so unspeakably beautiful. Wolfmoor’s MIND, my gods, I am in awe of their imagination. Just. So much yes!

Share your own favourite short reads in the comments!

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