Must-Have Monday is a feature highlighting which of the coming week’s new releases I’m excited for. It is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all books being published that week; only those I’m interested in out of those I’m aware of! The focus is diverse SFF, but other genres sneak in occasionally too.
We have EIGHT marvellous books to feature this week!
(Books are listed in order of pub date, then Adult SFF, Adult Other, YA SFF, YA Other, MG SFF.)
Representation: Queernorm world
Published on: 9th May 2023
“Written with searing intensity, this story of the redemptive power of love amid the shambles of war and the re-emergence of ancient powers builds to a white-knuckle climax.”
The war is over, all but the cleanup. And the emotional recovery, with its scars both visible and invisible. Liere Fer Eider learns on the run how to become a queen, while Andri adjusts to life this side of the law. Senrid, in devastated Marloven Hess, has to straight-arm a rage-filled populace into peace. While on a faraway mountain Detlev at last oversees the rebuilding of his school for training re-emerging psychic powers after four millennia.
A few years pass, and everything seems to be settling into the new norm--until Liere wakes from a drugged sleep to an enemy who offers an impossible choice.
This epic fantasy follows on from The Norsunder War
I’m lagging behind with this series – now that she’s self-publishing Smith has been releasing her Sartorios-deles books too quickly for me to keep up! – but I CANNOT TELL YOU what a joy it was to realise that the Norsunder War story-arc is not the end of this verse! I adore this world so much; I never want to leave it!
Also, after the very meh covers of the last few books, I am delighted and intrigued by this stunning cover. Why the change? I don’t know, but I’m betting it reflects a change in tone after the war books…
Genres: Science Fantasy
Representation: Minor coded-asexual rep
Published on: 9th May 2023
A boy has lived his whole life trapped within a vast library, older than empires and larger than cities.
A girl has spent hers in a tiny settlement out on the Dust where nightmares stalk and no one goes.
The world has never even noticed them. That's about to change.
Their stories spiral around each other, across worlds and time. This is a tale of truth and lies and hearts, and the blurring of one into another. A journey on which knowledge erodes certainty, and on which, though the pen may be mightier than the sword, blood will be spilled and cities burned.
I just finished reading this last night and. WOW. Mind blown. I have a sneaking suspicion that Lawrence has been building up to – or maybe setting the stage for? – this book for his entire authorial career. And it paid off.
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi, Historical Fantasy
Representation: Sapphic MC, F/F
Published on: 4th May 2023
'Compelling and utterly absorbing ... an artfully crafted debut that echoes the dark essence of Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN while maintaining a fascinating originality all of its own' Susan Stokes-Chapman, author of PANDORA
'A gripping Gothic tale of grief and ambition, passion and intrigue' Jess Kidd, author of THE NIGHT SHIP
Mary is the great-niece of Victor Frankenstein. She knows her great uncle disappeared in mysterious circumstances in the Arctic but she doesn't know why or how...
The 1850s is a time of discovery and London is ablaze with the latest scientific theories and debates, especially when a spectacular new exhibition of dinosaur sculptures opens at the Crystal Palace. Mary, with a sharp mind and a sharper tongue, is keen to make her name in this world of science, alongside her geologist husband Henry, but without wealth and connections, their options are limited.
But when Mary discovers some old family papers that allude to the shocking truth behind her great-uncle's past, she thinks she may have found the key to securing their future... Their quest takes them to the wilds of Scotland, to Henry's intriguing but reclusive sister Maisie, and to a deadly chase with a rival who is out to steal their secret...
'A wonderful book; dark, passionate, multi-layered' Joanne Harris, author of CHOCOLAT & THE STRAWBERRY THIEF
'Exquisitely written... a story worthy of Mary Shelley' Sean Lusk, author of THE SECOND SIGHT OF ZACHARY CLOUDESLEY
'Sumptuously gothic, this atmospheric debut left me reeling' C.J. COOKE, author of THE LIGHTHOUSE WITCHES'
I’m not a particular fan of the English classics, but sometimes their retellings rock, and as a kind of sequel/spin-off from Frankenstein, McGill’s debut looks like it’s going to! I have high hopes.
You can read an excerpt here!
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Trans MC
Published on: 9th May 2023
An edgy, queer cyberpunk detective mystery by an exciting new trans voice from New Zealand.
Someone wants trans girl hacker-for-hire Kiera Umehara in prison or dead—but for what? Failing to fix their smart toilet?
It’s 2032 and we live in the worst cyberpunk future. Kiera is gigging her ass off to keep the lights on, but her polycule’s social score is so dismal they’re about to lose their crib. That’s why she's out here chasing cheaters with Angel Herrera, a luddite P.I. who thinks this is The Big Sleep. Then the latest job cuts too deep—hired to locate Herrera’s ex-best friend (who’s also Kiera’s pro bono attorney), they find him murdered instead. Their only lead: a stick of Nag Champa incense dropped at the scene.
Next thing Kiera knows, her new crush turns up missing—sans a hand (the real one, not the cybernetic), and there’s the familiar stink of sandalwood across the apartment. Two crimes, two sticks of incense, Kiera framed for both. She told Herrera to lose her number, but now the old man might be her only way out of this bullshit...
A fast-talker with a heart of gold, Bang Bang Bodhisattva is both an odd-couple buddy comedy that never knows when to shut up and an exploration of finding yourself and your people in an ever-mutable world.
I’m not usually interested in murder mysteries, but the premise for this one is bemusingly weird, and it’s garnered a lot of praise from readers and writers I usually trust. Definitely going on the tbr!
Genres: Fantasy, Portal Fantasy
Published on: 9th May 2023
March's End is a multi-generational portal fantasy of strange magics, epic warfare, and deadly intrigue, in which the personality conflicts and toxic struggles of the Harrow family are reflected in the fantasy world they've sworn to protect.
The Harrows are a typical suburban family who, since time immemorial, have borne a sacred and terrible charge. In the daylight they are teachers, doctors, bartenders and vagrants, but at night they are the rulers and protectors of the March, a fantastical secondary world populated with animate antiquated toys and sentient lichen, a panorama of the impossible where cities are carried on the backs of giant snails, and thunderstorms can be subdued with song.
But beneath this dreamlike exterior lie dark secrets, and for generation after generation the Harrows have defended the March from the perils that wait outside its borders – when they are not consumed in their own bitter internecine quarrels.
In the modern day the Harrow clan are composed of Sophia, the High Queen of the March, a brilliant, calculating matriarch, and her three children – noble Constance, visionary, rebellious Mary Ann, and clever, amoral Will. Moving back and forth between their youth, adolescence, and adulthood, we watch as this family fractures, then reconciles in the face of a conflict endangering not only the existence of the March, but of the ‘real world’ itself.
THE MARCH’S END is a book about growing up, in which the familial struggles of the Harrows are threaded through the mythic history of the fantastical land they protect. It is a story of failure and redemption, in which the power of love is tested against forces that seek to break it, and the necessity of each generation to recreate itself is asserted.
I’m always on the lookout for Portal Fantasies that deal with the portal-ing better than Lewis did (not a high bar), and I’m cautiously intrigued by March’s End. Between the fact that it’s written by Polansky, and what I’ve seen of early reviews, it’s obviously going to be a bit dark and grim, but I still plan on giving it a go!
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Bi/pansexual Native American MC, Native American secondary cast, secondary autistic character, Black sapphic love interest, Native American love interest
Published on: 9th May 2023
A young Indigenous woman enters a colonizer-run dragon academy—and quickly finds herself at odds with the “approved” way of doing things—in the first book of this brilliant new fantasy series.
The remote island of Masquapaug has not seen a dragon in many generations—until fifteen-year-old Anequs finds a dragon’s egg and bonds with its hatchling. Her people are delighted, for all remember the tales of the days when dragons lived among them and danced away the storms of autumn, enabling the people to thrive. To them, Anequs is revered as Nampeshiweisit—a person in a unique relationship with a dragon.
Unfortunately for Anequs, the Anglish conquerors of her land have different opinions. They have a very specific idea of how a dragon should be raised, and who should be doing the raising—and Anequs does not meet any of their requirements. Only with great reluctance do they allow Anequs to enroll in a proper Anglish dragon school on the mainland. If she cannot succeed there, her dragon will be killed.
For a girl with no formal schooling, a non-Anglish upbringing, and a very different understanding of the history of her land, challenges abound—both socially and academically. But Anequs is smart, determined, and resolved to learn what she needs to help her dragon, even if it means teaching herself. The one thing she refuses to do, however, is become the meek Anglish miss that everyone expects.
Anequs and her dragon may be coming of age, but they’re also coming to power, and that brings an important realization: the world needs changing—and they might just be the ones to do it.
THIS. THIS. THIS. If you only buy one of the books on this week’s list, make sure it’s this one!!! A queer, polyamorous Native American dragon-rider is sent to a dragoneering academy run by colonisers. This is a book that will challenge you, delight you, and make you FEEL all-the-things, with a heroine (and dragon!) to die for. I cannot tell you how in love I am with To Shape a Dragon’s Breath – I may perish of pining for the sequel!
Genres: Sci Fi
Published on: 11th May 2023
Balanced on a thin wire between horror and steampunk, Van Essler’s debut novel is an acrobatic performance at the darkest of circuses. Lenora Leahill has recently inherited her father’s estate and is ready to take her place in the enlightened Age of Awareness where books can be instantly consumed as injections using an Aqua Peritia cuff. She has grand plans for securing her legacy, but navigating these new responsibilities alone is not easy, especially when it’s impossible to see clearly under the city’s ashfall.
When an old colleague of her father’s demands fulfillment of a promise Lenora knows nothing about, she discovers this new Age of Awareness is haunted by a dark history. Lenora must wade through the shadows of the past and gain her footing in the present if she has any hope of a future—unless death or madness finds her first.
Vial Thoughts sounds so utterly bizarre that I had to include it on this week’s list. I’ve been able to find out almost nothing about it beyond the official blurb, but that alone has me intensely curious. Reading books via INJECTION??? I’ve got to know more.
Genres: Speculative Fiction
Representation: Hispanic MC, major character with selective mutism, secondary M/M
Published on: 11th May 2023
Set in a world where words appear physically when people speak, AWAY WITH WORDS explores the importance of communication and being there for those we love.
Gala and her dad, Jordi, have just moved from home in Cataluña to a town in Scotland, to live with Jordi’s boyfriend Ryan. Gala doesn’t speak much English, and feels lost, lonely and unable to be her usual funny self. Until she befriends Natalie, a girl with selective mutism. The two girls find their own ways to communicate, which includes collecting other people's discarded words. They use the words to write anonymous supportive poems for their classmates, but then someone begins leaving nasty messages using the same method – and the girls are blamed. Gala has finally started adapting to her new life in Scotland and is determined to find the culprit. Can she and Natalie show the school who they really are?
This is a MG read with a beautifully unique premise – early reviews have mentioned things like having to floss your teeth to get rid of unspoken words, and janitors working after hours to sweep up all the words from a schoolday’s worth of chatter! I want to check out Away With Words (and what a cool title!) for that alone, but the story it self also sounds really sweet.
Will you be reading any of these? Let me know!