Must-Have Monday #139

Posted 29th May 2023 by Sia in Must-Have Mondays / 0 Comments

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.

ELEVEN books to be excited about this week – including a very queer start to Pride Month!

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

Witch King by Martha Wells
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Brown cast, secondary F/F
Published on: 30th May 2023

A story of power and friendship, of trust and betrayal, and of the families we choose.

"I didn't know you were a... demon."
"You idiot. I'm the demon."
Kai's having a long day in Martha Wells' Witch King....

After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well.

But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place? What has changed in the world since his assassination? And why does the Rising World Coalition appear to be growing in influence?

Kai will need to pull his allies close and draw on all his pain magic if he is to answer even the least of these questions.

He’s not going to like the answers.

Listen: Murderbot is amazing, Murderbot is the best bot, not least because it finally got Wells some (only some, she deserves STILL MORE) of the attention she deserves – but yes, I’ll admit it, I’ve been pining for Martha Wells’ incredible, unique take on fantasy for a while now. I missed it!

Well, Witch King was worth the wait. This is a beautiful, very unconventional take on epic fantasy that I really cannot recommend strongly enough and could not have delighted me more. If it’s not on all the Best of the Year lists come December, I will riot!

My review!

Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Bisexual biracial/latina MC, F/F, bisexual MC
Published on: 30th May 2023

In this spellbinding debut novel, two estranged half-sisters tasked with guarding their family's library of magical books must work together to unravel a deadly secret at the heart of their collection--a tale of familial loyalty and betrayal, and the pursuit of magic and power.

For generations, the Kalotay family has guarded a collection of ancient and rare books. Books that let a person walk through walls or manipulate the elements--books of magic that half-sisters Joanna and Esther have been raised to revere and protect.

All magic comes with a price, though, and for years the sisters have been separated. Esther has fled to a remote base in Antarctica to escape the fate that killed her own mother, and Joanna's isolated herself in their family home in Vermont, devoting her life to the study of these cherished volumes. But after their father dies suddenly while reading a book Joanna has never seen before, the sisters must reunite to preserve their family legacy. In the process, they'll uncover a world of magic far bigger and more dangerous than they ever imagined, and all the secrets their parents kept hidden; secrets that span centuries, continents, and even other libraries . . .

In the great tradition of Ninth House, The Magicians, and Practical Magic, this is a suspenseful and richly atmospheric novel that draws readers into a vast world filled with mystery and magic, romance, and intrigue--and marks the debut of an extraordinary new voice in speculative fiction.

It’s been a while since a book took me by surprise as much as Ink Blood Sister Scribe did; not only was it not what I was expecting (in the best way!) the twists and turns kept me guessing right up to the final pages. I most ardently approve!

My review!

Uranians: Stories by Theodore McCombs
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Queer MCs
Published on: 30th May 2023

At the end of the Victorian era, a handful of public intellectuals advocated for tolerance of the “Uranian”—a man who loved other men. Some went so far as to propose that these “intermediate sexes” might, in fact, constitute a totally different species, even serve as intrepid guides in our march toward an uncertain future.

The five speculative stories in Theodore McCombs’s kaleidoscopic collection span several possible worlds, teasing the boundaries between coexisting realities and taking up the question of queer difference from one surprising vantage after another. In “Toward a Theory of Alternative Lifestyles,” a heartbroken gay man waits in line at an exclusive Berlin rave promising visions of parallel lives across the multiverse. In “Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women,” at the turn of an alternate 20th century, a policeman’s wife feels that if you want an execution done right, you just have to do it yourself. And in the operatic novella “Uranians,” an expedition of queer artists, scientists, and one trans priest embark on a lifelong interplanetary voyage that requires them to renegotiate their connections to a remote and hostile Earth, while keeping their ship’s biome—and each other—alive.

Each story unfolds with the depth and complexity of an entire universe; each is inhabited by characters learning to divest from a society that has marked and rejected them. Discerning which dreams of Western civilization to hold fast to and which to leave behind, these outsiders set their gazes on new horizons and prepare for the changes to come. Arch but tender, clear-eyed and compassionate, Uranians brilliantly illustrates the vital role that queerness plays in every possible version of our world.

Well, this sounds odd as heck, but odd usually works for me, and Theodore McCombs comes highly recommended. Will definitely be taking a peek at this one!

Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea by Rita Chang-Eppig
Representation: Chinese cast, major queer characters
Published on: 30th May 2023

For readers of Outlawed, Piranesi, and The Night Tiger, a riveting, roaring adventure novel about a legendary Chinese pirate queen, her fight to save her fleet from the forces allied against them, and the dangerous price of power.

When Shek Yeung sees a Portuguese sailor slay her husband, a feared pirate, she knows she must act swiftly or die. Instead of mourning, Shek Yeung launches a new plan: immediately marrying her husband's second-in-command, and agreeing to bear him a son and heir, in order to retain power over her half of the fleet.

But as Shek Yeung vies for control over the army she knows she was born to lead, larger threats loom. The Chinese Emperor has charged a brutal, crafty nobleman with ridding the South China Seas of pirates, and the Europeans-tired of losing ships, men, and money to Shek Yeung's alliance-have new plans for the area. Even worse, Shek Yeung's cutthroat retributions create problems all their own. As Shek Yeung navigates new motherhood and the crises of leadership, she must decide how long she is willing to fight, and at what price, or risk losing her fleet, her new family, and even her life.

A book of salt and grit, blood and sweat, Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea is an unmissable portrait of a woman who leads with the courage and ruthlessness of our darkest and most beloved heroes.

I’ve been getting conflicting info as to whether this is fantasy or not, but even if it’s pure historical fiction, I’m still dying to read it! Shek Yeung is a figure I know just enough about to know I VERY MUCH want to devour a novel all about her!

Big Gay Wedding by Byron Lane
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: M/M
Published on: 30th May 2023

An unashamedly proud, loud, and hilarious novel about a small town that’s forever changed by a big gay wedding, perfect for fans of Red, White & Royal Blue and The Guncle

Two grooms. One mother of a problem.

Barnett Durang has a secret. No, not that secret. His widowed mother has known he was gay for years thanks to an unfortunate internet search history when Barnett was in high school.

The secret is Barnett is getting married. At his mother’s farm. In their small Louisiana town. She just doesn’t know it yet.

It’ll be an intimate affair. Just two hundred or so of the most fabulous folks Barnett is shipping in from the “heathen coasts,” as Mom likes to call it.

It’s no secret that the wedding will be the biggest, gayest event in town’s history, but what no one in town can predict is that after the whirlwind, glitter-filled week, nothing will ever be the same. Big Gay Wedding is an uplifting book about the power of family and the unconditional love of a mother for her son.

You’re all invited to the biggest, gayest wedding of the year. RSVP as fabulous, thank you very much.

This has been hyped all over the place, and I’m a little hesitant that it might be the wrong kind of sweet for me, but I’m very happy to take the chance and give it a go!

The Alchemy of Moonlight by David Ferraro
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Gay MC
Published on: 30th May 2023

When Emile’s aunt declares he must marry or be disowned for being gay—he runs away to hide as a servant in Count Montoni’s mansion. In their service, Emile tends to the family who all suffer a strange affliction on the full moon. And after overhearing suspicious family arguments, he finds a body on the estate, drawing the attention of a handsome doctor as well as the count’s charismatic nephew, Henri.

Before Emile can sort out his affections or unravel the growing Montoni family mystery, his identity is revealed and his aunt comes to collect him.

When she arrives, Count Montoni forces everyone to depart to the remote Udolpho Castle—where there are no witnesses and no chance for escape. There, Emile realizes that he will have to risk his life to find the love he deserves—and survive the Montoni family.

I know very little about this one – I can’t even remember how it made it onto my radar – but let’s be real, that cover has me sold! Do want to reiterate that it’s YA, though, so anyone else interested goes in with the right expectations.

Shanghai Immortal by A.Y. Chao
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
Representation: Chinese cast and setting
Published on: 1st June 2023

This richly told adult fantasy debut teems with Chinese deities and demons cavorting in jazz age Shanghai.

Pawned by her mother to the King of Hell as a child, Lady Jing is half-vampire, half-hulijing fox-spirit and all sasshole. As the King’s ward, she has spent the past ninety years running errands, dodging the taunts of the spiteful hulijing courtiers, and trying to control her explosive temper – with varying levels of success.

So when Jing overhears the courtiers plotting to steal a priceless dragon pearl from the King, she seizes her chance to expose them, once and for all.

With the help of a gentle mortal tasked with setting up the Central Bank of Hell, Jing embarks on a wild chase for intel, first through Hell and then mortal Shanghai. But when her hijinks put the mortal in danger, she must decide which is more important: avenging her loss of face, or letting go of her half-empty approach to life for a chance to experience tenderness – and maybe even love.

I do not recall ever seeing the term ‘sasshole’ before, but I immediately know that I will love any character who fits that label. Every part of this sounds like so much fun!

Stronger Still by D.N. Bryn
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Brown queer MC, M/M
Published on: 1st June 2023

Rubem has become the voice of the auroras—of their rage, at least.

Between his threats and Tavish’s diplomacy, most of the world is finally listening. But pockets of denial linger, including the Findlays’ old trading partner, the self-governing city of Venalt. While Venalt was once a thriving metropolis of watery channels and garden balconies, now its dying aurora is the only thing holding back the sea monsters that threaten to sink the city.

As Rubem navigates Venalt’s stubborn government factions and apocalyptic prophecies, he discovers that someone in power wants the city destroyed—and they’re willing to kill its aurora protector to see their plans through. Rubem is quickly becoming all that stands in their way, but he seems always one step behind and never quite strong enough.

And like the world’s auroras, he’s growing weaker by the day…

Join Rubem and Tavish for another adventure of mystery, murder, and monsters, in a Venetian-inspired city where the Findlay family lingers on in well-buried secrets. While many These Treacherous Tides books can be read as standalones, the No-Man’s Lander series is best enjoyed chronologically.

The sequel to last year’s Odder Still has me pretty damn intrigued, but I still need to read the first book! Must get on that…

Bored Gay Werewolf by Tony Santorella
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Gay MC
Published on: 1st June 2023

Brian, an aimless slacker, works doubles at his shift job, forgets to clean his room and lays about with his friends Nik and Darby. He's been struggling to manage his transition to adulthood almost as much as his monthly transitions to a werewolf. Really, he is not great at the whole werewolf thing, and his recent murderous slip-ups have caught the attention of Tyler, a Millennial were-mentor determined to take the mythological world by storm. Tyler has got a plan, and weirdly his self-help punditry actually encourages Brian to shape up and to stop accidently marking out guys who ghosted him on Grindr as potential monthly victims. But as Brian gets closer to Tyler's pack, and alienated from Nik and Darby, he realises that Tyler's expansion plans are much more nefarious than a little lupine enlightenment...

This sounds utterly ridiculous, but in a great way! Definitely going to have to pick it up!

Divinity 36 by Gail Carriger
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Queer MC, M/M, nonbinary rep
Published on: 1st June 2023

The aliens are coming for us and they want our voices.

New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger brings you a gloriously warm and unique scifi about the power of art, celebrity, and found family.

Phex is a barista on a forgotten moon. Which is fine – he likes being ignored and he’s good at making drinks. Until one day an alien hears him singing and recruits him to become a god. Now Phex is thrust headfirst into the galaxy’s most cutthroat entertainment industry, where music is visible, the price of fame can kill, and the only friends he has want to be worshiped.

Welcome to the divinity. Where there is no difference between celebrity and religion, love and belief, acolyte and alien. Where the right kind of obsession can drive a person crazy or turn them divine.

I shrieked a bit when I found out about this – I adored The Fifth Gender (it was one of the first books I ever reviewed here!) and if I understand correctly, Divinity 36 has the same setting/is from the same universe??? Honestly, even if it isn’t, this still sounds fantastic – the whole concept of celebrity and religion being indistinguishable is one I’m excited to see explored. GIMME!

Paragon Seven by Phoenix Ning
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Chinese ace lesbian MC, latina lesbian MC, Black trans lesbian MC, Black gay MC, Chinese ace gay MC, Bi Korean MC, latina pan MC
Published on: 1st June 2023

The gritty setting and angsty sapphic relationship of ARCANE meets the ensemble cast and discussions of power in THE ATLAS SIX where seven queer people of color with superpowers work together to overthrow an oligarchy in a federation of four sectors.

Twenty-two-year-old Mu Lanying is one kill shy from graduating as Skyleen Military Academy’s next valedictorian. After that, she will be crowned as the Laurel Scholar in a private ceremony held in the Chancellor’s Office. Within the Office lies a restricted archive that holds the truth to her mother’s death—an enigma that has haunted her for the past six years. But when Lanying is tasked with executing a revolutionary called Marigold, she fails the mission.

Twenty-four-year-old Lee Chaewon is no stranger to threats. In the past seven years, she had been a triple threat in the entertainment industry and a threat to the Skyleen Administration as a member of the insurgent quartet called Blossom Four. But now, the only threat haunting her is the lack of funds needed to treat her older sister’s terminal illness. When Marigold offers to cover the remaining cost of her sister’s chemotherapy in exchange for a favor, Chaewon takes the money and agrees to assassinate the upcoming Laurel Scholar.

During the Academy’s Commencement Parade, Lanying gains access to the restricted archive where she learns that her mother was executed for posing as the Chancellor’s mistress while spying on his inner circle. On top of that, her mother had passed on classified information to a network of rebels including Chaewon’s father, and the Administration is still hunting for surviving insurgents. When Chaewon fails to assassinate Lanying, the former learns that her father had also died under the Chancellor’s order. Enraged, the pair set out to locate surviving rebels in hopes of recovering the information that is worth killing for. The girls eventually find themselves leading a coup d’etat with five other people that will either end in bloodshed or usher in a new age.

This sounds extremely cool, though I’m a bit surprised by a seven-member cast – that’s a lot of main characters to juggle!

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


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