Must-Have Monday #129

Posted 20th March 2023 by Sia in Must-Have Mondays / 0 Comments

NINE new releases to pay attention to this week!

(Books are listed in order of pub date, then Adult SFF, Adult Other, YA SFF, YA Other, MG SFF.)

The Bear & the Rose by Erin K. Larson-Burnett
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: F/F
Published on: 20th March 2023

"For a story which is hypnotically ethereal, hauntingly beautiful, rich in characters, devastatingly sapphic, and wrought with an underlying sadness, without a doubt, this is for you. It's written in a sense of timeliness in a relatable arc of how we are crafted by our pasts, in control of our presents, but all inspired by a hopeful future." - T.M. Ghent, author of Lume

"This book felt like a fresh take on familiar stories and tropes. There's a metaphysical and visionary thread woven throughout ... The prose is very lyrical, creating an immersive atmosphere, and the plot resisted prediction at multiple turns." - Capes, author of West of Jaws

Springtide ushers in a season of bloom and fertility in Hazelfeur, but it also heralds the season of the bear - Artio's season, one which she rules over with relentless vengeance.

I've heard old tales of the goddess, tales from when she was green to motherhood, young and tender and forgiving, but it is hard to imagine such a thing when my knowledge of her is shrouded in red. She wishes to make the people of Hazelfeur suffer, and her army of bears, material and spectral, make ever-nearer attacks on our village.

This coming spring, I fear death.

Springtide has sprung, and the bear goddess Artio has awakened. For Rhoswen, sole Bearslayer of Hazelfeur, this means a season of overwhelm as vicious bears wreak violence upon her village. With one death too many and an insufferable anxiety haunting her, she sets out to liberate her people from Artio's bearspawn for good, even though to end the goddess's reign would mean to leave her without purpose.

In her search for the vengeful Artio, Rhoswen stumbles upon an enchanting forest maiden with secrets in her eyes and mysteries in her veins, a beauty which suddenly and unexpectedly captivates the Bearslayer beyond reason. Then she discovers the maiden is bound to Artio's forest and longs desperately for freedom, and Rhoswen's resolution hardens with passion.

She will unfetter Hazelfeur, and she will free her enchantress.

For fans of Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy) and Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver, The Bear & the Rose is a tale told in lush prose which readers will find brimming with folklore, adventure, and a sweet sapphic romance.

I’m not quite sure what to expect here, but it looks very promising indeed! I always get excited at promises of beautiful prose!

A Rival Most Vial: Potioneering for Love and Profit by R.K. Ashwick
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: M/M
Published on: 20th March 2023

Two potion shops, one heated rivalry…until hate bubbles over into something else.
Any adventurer worth their sword knows about Ambrose Beake. The proud, quiet half-elf sells the best, and only, potions in the city—until a handsome new shopkeeper named Eli opens another potion shop across the street, throwing Ambrose’s peace and ledgers far off balance.

Within weeks, they’re locked in a war of price tags and products—Ambrose’s expertise against Eli’s effortless charm. Toil leads to trouble, the safety gloves come off, and right as their rivalry reaches a boiling point…

The mayor commissions them to brew a potion together.

The task is as complex as it is lucrative, pushing both men to the limits of their abilities and patience. Yet as the fires burn and cauldrons bubble…they find a different sort of chemistry brewing.

This very much seems set up to be very fun, and I like the idea of characters who are potions-makers – I don’t think that’s a magical talent/skill I’ve seen featured often!

The Lies of the Ajungo (Forever Desert, #1) by Moses Ose Utomi
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: African-coded cast and setting
Published on: 21st March 2023

Moses Ose Utomi's debut novella, The Lies of the Ajungo, follows one boy’s epic quest to bring water back to his city and save his mother’s life. Prepare to enter the Forever Desert.

A Library Journal Best Book of the Month!

They say there is no water in the City of Lies.
They say there are no heroes in the City of Lies.
They say there are no friends beyond the City of Lies.
But would you believe what they say in the City of Lies?

In the City of Lies, they cut out your tongue when you turn thirteen, to appease the terrifying Ajungo Empire and make sure it continues sending water. Tutu will be thirteen in three days, but his parched mother won’t last that long. So Tutu goes to his oba and makes a deal: she provides water for his mother, and in exchange he will travel out into the desert and bring back water for the city. Thus begins Tutu’s quest for the salvation of his mother, his city, and himself.

The Lies of the Ajungo opens the curtains on a tremendous world, and begins the epic fable of the Forever Desert. With every word, Moses Ose Utomi weaves magic.

There’s been a lot of hype for Ajungo and I’m excited to give it a try – apparently it’s written in a style reminiscent of fables or oral storytelling!

Flux by Jinwoo Chong
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Biracial Asian-American bisexual MC
Published on: 21st March 2023

A blazingly original and stylish debut novel about a young man whose reality unravels when he suspects his employers have inadvertently discovered time travel and are covering up a string of violent crimes.

Combining elements of neo-noir, speculative fiction, and '80s detective shows, FLUX is a haunting and sometimes shocking exploration of the cyclical nature of grief, of moving past trauma, and of the pervasive nature of whiteness within the development of Asian identity in America.

In FLUX, a brilliant debut in the vein of William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Ling Ma’s Severance, Jinwoo Chong introduces us to three characters —Bo, Brandon and Blue— who are tortured by these questions as their lives spin out of control.

* After 8-year-old Bo loses his mother in a tragic accident, his white father, attempting to hold their lives together, begins to gradually retreat from the family.
* 28-year-old Brandon loses his job at a legacy magazine publisher and is offered a new position. Confused to find himself in an apartment he does not recognize, and an office he sometimes cannot remember leaving, he comes to suspect that something far more sinister is happening behind the walls.
* 48-year-old Blue participates in a television exposé of Flux, a failed bioelectric tech startup whose fraudulent activity eventually claimed the lives of three people and nearly killed him. Blue, who can only speak with the aid of cybernetic implants, stalks his old manager while holding his estranged family at arms-length.

Intertwined with the saga of a once-iconic '80s detective show, Raider, whose star has fallen after decades of concealed abuse, the lives of Bo, Brandon and Blue intersect with each other, to the extent that it becomes clear that their lives are more interconnected and interdependent than the reader could have ever imagined.

Can we ever really change the past, or the future? What truth do we owe our families? What truth do we owe ourselves?

Flux sounds pretty odd, but I’ve seen a bunch of praise-filled early reviews, so I may take a peek at the first few chapters to see if I want to give it a try.

Infamous by Lex Croucher
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Published on: 21st March 2023

22-year-old aspiring writer Edith 'Eddie' Miller and her best friend Rose have always done everything together-climbing trees, throwing grapes at boys, sneaking bottles of wine, practicing kissing . . .

But following their debutante ball Rose is suddenly talking about marriage, and Eddie is horrified.

When Eddie meets charming, renowned poet Nash Nicholson, he invites her to his crumbling Gothic estate in the countryside. The entourage of eccentric artists indulging in pure hedonism is exactly what Eddie needs in order to forget Rose and finish her novel.

But Eddie might discover the world of famous literary icons isn't all poems and pleasure . . .

I think this might have been published in the UK last year, but this week it makes it to the US! A lot of readers whose taste I trust have enjoyed this immensely, so I’ll be giving it a go.

Lucha of the Night Forest by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Latina sapphic MC, F/F
Published on: 21st March 2023

An edge-of-your-seat fantasy about a girl who will do anything to protect her sister--even if it means striking a dangerous bargain. Dark forces, forgotten magic, and a heart-stopping queer romance make this young adult novel a must-read.

A scorned god.
A mysterious acolyte.
A forgetting drug.
A dangerous forest.
One girl caught between the freedom she always wanted and a sister she can't bear to leave behind.

Under the cover of the Night Forest, will Lucha be able to step into her own power...or will she be consumed by it?

This gorgeous and fast-paced fantasy novel from acclaimed author Tehlor Kay Mejia is brimming with adventure, peril, romance, and family bonds--and asks what it means for a teen girl to become fully herself.

This is another I’ve been seeing a lot of love for, and I still have fond memories of Mejia’s debut, so this will probably end up on my ereader!

The Moonlight Blade by Tessa Barbosa
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Filipino-coded cast and setting
Published on: 21st March 2023

I promised my mother I would never come to Bato-Ko…and yet here I am.

Narra Jal is one of the cursed, cast aside her whole life, considered unlucky. But with her mother’s life on the line, she will return to the city where she was born to face the trials: a grueling, bloodthirsty series of challenges designed to weed out the weak, the greedy, and the foolish. Trials to select the next ruler of Tigang.

Narra has nothing. No weapons. No training. No magic. No real chance of leaving with her life. Just her fierce grit and a refusal to accept the destiny she’s been handed. Even the intense, dark-eyed Guardian she feels a strangely electric connection with cannot help her. Narra is on her own. But she’ll show everyone what the unlucky can do.

Let the bloodbath begin.

I’d love to read more Filipino fantasy, and this sounds pretty great??? Gotta admit I’m always ready to see vicious girls taking bloody vengeance!

The Witch and the Vampire by Francesca Flores
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: F/F
Published on: 21st March 2023

Francesca Flores's The Witch and the Vampire is a queer Rapunzel retelling where a witch and a vampire who trust no one but themselves must journey together through a cursed forest with danger at every turn.

Ava and Kaye used to be best friends. Until one night two years ago, vampires broke through the magical barrier protecting their town, and in the ensuing attack, Kaye’s mother was killed, and Ava was turned into a vampire. Since then, Ava has been trapped in her house. Her mother Eugenia needs her: Ava still has her witch powers, and Eugenia must take them in order to hide that she's a vampire as well. Desperate to escape her confinement and stop her mother's plans to destroy the town, Ava must break out, flee to the forest, and seek help from the vampires who live there. When there is another attack, she sees her opportunity and escapes.

Kaye, now at the end of her training as a Flame witch, is ready to fulfill her duty of killing any vampires that threaten the town, including Ava. On the night that Ava escapes, Kaye follows her and convinces her to travel together into the forest, while secretly planning to turn her in. Ava agrees, hoping to rekindle their old friendship, and the romantic feelings she'd started to have for Kaye before that terrible night.

But with monstrous trees that devour humans whole, vampires who attack from above, and Ava’s stepfather tracking her, the woods are full of danger. As they travel deeper into the forest, Kaye questions everything she thought she knew. The two are each other's greatest threat—and also their only hope, if they want to make it through the forest unscathed.

I’ve heard mixed reviews of this one – some readers I know loved it, others DNF-ed it – but I’m planning on checking it out and deciding for myself!

The Whole World Tinder (Flint and Tinder #3) by Gregory Ashe
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Published on: 24th March 2023

Jim’s birthday is coming up, and Emmett is determined to make it a good one. Scratch that. A perfect one. Sure, that means spending money he doesn’t have. Sure, that means trying to keep secrets, which Jim is irritatingly good at ferreting out. It even means playing nice when his parents attempt a reconciliation, no matter how much he wants to tell them to screw off. But he can do that—all of it—for Jim.

When Emmett’s parents ask him to befriend a girl who survived a terrible car crash, Emmett can connect the dots: his father’s political aspirations; the daughter of a freshman senator; and Emmett, the boy with scars. To keep the peace, he agrees. But when he and Jim arrive at the remote cabin, everything goes wrong. An attack by the Solar Court ends with the senator’s wife and daughter being kidnapped—and with Jim and Emmett on the run.

As someone tries to draw a net tight around Jim and Emmett, the two men must race to save the kidnapped girl and her mother. Their search takes them into the path of private security forces, the unnatural creatures known as wanderers, and—most dangerous of all—monsters from their past. And if they’re too late, they’ll watch the whole world burn.








I mean, it’s not completely the last – next week we’re getting a collection of shorts set after the trilogy – but still. !!!

I have to admit, I hope this is not the last series Ashe writes in this setting. But if it is, I’m sure it’ll be a worthy ending to it!

Will you be reading any of these? Let me know!


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