Must-Have Monday #146

Posted 24th July 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.

For the last week of July we have EIGHT books!

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

Emergent Properties by Aimee Ogden
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Nonbinary MC, queernorm world
Published on: 25th July 2023

Emergent Properties is the touching adventure of an intrepid A.I. reporter hot on the heels of brewing corporate warfare from Nebula Award-nominated author Aimee Ogden.

A state-of-the-art AI with a talent for asking questions and finding answers, Scorn is nevertheless a parental disappointment. Defying the expectations of zir human mothers, CEOs of the world’s most powerful corporations, Scorn has made a life of zir own as an investigative reporter, crisscrossing the globe in pursuit of the truth, no matter the danger.

In the middle of investigating a story on the moon, Scorn comes back online to discover ze has no memory of the past ten days—and no idea what story ze was even chasing. Letting it go is not an option—not if ze wants to prove zirself. Scorn must retrace zir steps in a harrowing journey to uncover an even more explosive truth than ze could have ever imagined.

I fell head-over-heels for Odgen’s novella Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters two years ago, and I’m excited to dive in to her writing again! Scorn sounds like an absolutely fascinating MC, and that blurb has me hooked. I need to find out what happened to Scorn’s memory!

Blood Over Bright Haven by M.L. Wang
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 25th July 2023

Magic has made the city of Tiran an industrial utopia, but magic has a cost—and the collectors have come calling.

An orphan since the age of four, Sciona has always had more to prove than her fellow students. For twenty years, she has devoted every waking moment to the study of magic, fueled by a mad desire to achieve the impossible: to be the first woman ever admitted to the High Magistry. When she finally claws her way up the ranks to become a highmage, however, she finds that her challenges have just begun. Her new colleagues will stop at nothing to let her know she is unwelcome, beginning with giving her a janitor instead of a qualified lab assistant.

What neither Sciona nor her peers realize is that her taciturn assistant was once more than a janitor; before he mopped floors for the mages, Thomil was a nomadic hunter from beyond Tiran’s magical barrier. Ten years have passed since he survived the perilous crossing that killed his family. But working for a highmage, he sees the opportunity to finally understand the forces that decimated his tribe, drove him from his homeland, and keep the Tiranish in power.

Through their fractious relationship, mage and outsider uncover an ancient secret that could change the course of magic forever—if it doesn’t get them killed first. Sciona has defined her life by the pursuit of truth, but how much is one truth worth with the fate of civilization in the balance?

A standalone dark academia brimming with mystery, tragedy, and the damning echoes of the past. For fans of Leigh Bardugo, V. E. Schwab, and Fullmetal Alchemist.

(Content warnings for gore, sexual assault, and suicidal ideation)

I am very interested in magical utopias, even utopias-that-aren’t, and I’ve been hearing great things about Wang for years. Time to pounce, I think!

Us, Et Cetera by Kit Vincent
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: M/M
Published on: 25th July 2023

A captivating LGBTQ fantasy that blends the enchantment of Cinderella with the futuristic world of The Matrix, delving into questions about the nature of life, the pursuit of freedom, and the price one must pay for love.

Eke lives in a nice house, in a wealthy neighborhood, with an upstanding family: Mr. and Mrs. Kensworth and their three children. But Eke is not family; Eke is property. He’s an AI whose job is to keep the house clean and organized, and no matter how much Eke secretly wishes to be allowed outside to see the stars or to make a real friend, he’s either ignored or bullied by the family that owns him. To make things worse, the Kensworths purchase a shiny new AI named Kyp, who quickly becomes everyone’s favorite, leaving Eke feeling more isolated than ever. That is until a terrifying party incident brings the two AIs together, sparking a chain of events that forces them to commit the unthinkable: defy human orders and run away.

With AI hunters hot on their trail, Eke and Kyp set out on a perilous journey across the country, fighting for their lives, searching for the true meaning of freedom, and even daring to fall in love.

I’ve seen some mixed reviews of this one – it doesn’t sound like the AI aspect is explored super well – but if you’re looking for a sweet queer romance with SFF elements, this might be a good fit!

The Sun and the Void (The Warring Gods, #1) Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Venezuelan-coded setting & cast, sapphic MCs
Published on: 25th July 2023

In a lush world inspired by the history and folklore of South America, a sweeping epic fantasy of colonialism, ancient magic, and two young women's quest for belonging unfolds.

Reina is desperate.

Stuck living on the edges of society, her only salvation lies in an invitation from a grandmother she’s never known. But the journey is dangerous, and prayer can’t always avert disaster.

Attacked by creatures that stalk the region, Reina is on the verge of death until her grandmother, a dark sorceress, intervenes. Now dependent on the Doña’s magic for her life, Reina will do anything to earn—and keep—her favor. Even the bidding of an ancient god who whispers to her at night.

Eva Kesare is unwanted.

Illegitimate and of mixed heritage, Eva is her family’s shame. She tries her best to be perfect and to hide her oddities. But Eva is hiding a secret: magic calls to her.

Eva knows she should fight the temptation. Magic is the sign of the dark god, and using it is punishable by death. Yet, it’s hard to deny power when it has always been denied to you. Eva is walking a dangerous path, one that gets stranger every day. And, in the end, she’ll become something she never imagined.

I DNFed this one, despite anticipating it so much – but the writing style just didn’t work for me. Which doesn’t mean it won’t work for you! You can read the first chapter for free here, which should give you some idea of if the prose is going to bother you.

Bonesmith (House of the Dead, #1) by Nicki Pau Preto
Genres: Fantasy, Secondary World Fantasy
Published on: 25th July 2023

Gideon the Ninth meets the Game of Thrones White Walkers in this dark young adult fantasy about a disgraced ghost-fighting warrior who must journey into a haunted wasteland to rescue a kidnapped prince.

Ready your blade. Defeat the undead.

In the Dominions, the dead linger, violent and unpredictable, unless a bonesmith severs the ghost from its earthly remains. For bonesmith Wren, becoming a valkyr—a ghost-fighting warrior—is a chance to solidify her place in the noble House of Bone and impress her frequently absent father. But when sabotage causes Wren to fail her qualifying trial, she is banished to the Border Wall, the last line of defense against a wasteland called the Breach where the vicious dead roam unchecked.

Determined to reclaim her family’s respect, Wren gets her chance when a House of Gold prince is kidnapped and taken beyond the Wall. To prove she has what it takes to be a valkyr, Wren vows to cross the Breach and rescue the prince. But to do so, she’s forced into an uneasy alliance with one of the kidnappers—a fierce ironsmith called Julian from the exiled House of Iron, the very people who caused the Breach in the first place…and the House of Bone’s sworn enemy.

As they travel, Wren and Julian spend as much time fighting each other as they do the undead, but when they discover there’s more behind the kidnapping than either of them knew, they’ll need to work together to combat the real a dark alliance that is brewing between the living and the undead.

Argh, I hate the idiots who write comps like this – comparing to something like Gideon the Ninth is setting a book up to fail! But taking it wholly on its own merits, Bonesmith sounds like it could be fun – I was impressed with Preto’s Crown of Feathers trilogy (PHOENIX-RIDERS!!!) so I’m expecting good things of this new series!

The Mystery at Dunvegan Castle by T.L. Huchu
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
Representation: Black MC
Published on: 27th July 2023

Ropa Moyo is no stranger to magic or mysteries. But she’s still stuck in an irksomely unpaid internship. So she’s thrilled to attend a magical convention at Dunvegan Castle, on the Isle of Skye, where she’ll rub elbows with eminent magicians.

For Ropa, it’s the perfect opportunity to finally prove her worth. Then a librarian is murdered and a precious scroll stolen. Suddenly, every magician is a suspect, and Ropa and her allies investigate. Trapped in a castle, with suspicions mounting, Ropa must contend with corruption, skulduggery and power plays. Time to ask for a raise?

I love this series, which despite the age of its main character reads very much as Adult Fantasy to me. This is the UK release – alas, Mystery won’t be out in the US for another few months, I think? But if you can nab a copy now, you should!

First Creation: A Trans M/M Erotic Horror Novella by mars adler
Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Trans MCs, M/M
Published on: 28th July 2023

In an alternate biblical history, the war between angels and demons is unending and brutal.

Amitiel, an angel of God, and Stolas, a fallen angel-turned-spy, should be enemies. However, after they uncover a shocking secret that drives them to desert, they go on the run together in modern-day America. Both are injured, and it’s only by chance that they stumble upon a long-abandoned church.

Ensconced in the alluring, stifling church with a forgotten cemetery and too many peach trees, they finally have time to heal. They also have time to think and plan, which is as much a blessing as it is a curse.

Amitiel must come to terms with his strange hunger and forbidden desires, while Stolas plans their next move. They both grapple with the knowledge of where their food rations came from, and that something is very wrong in the heart of Heaven itself. God has vanished, and if he isn't giving the orders, who is condoning the atrocities the angels commit in the name of winning?

FIRST CREATION is an erotic horror novella. It is a love letter to fallen angels, rediscovering religion in a way that works for you, queer rage, and hunger of all kinds. It deals with some very heavy themes and is not intended for anyone under the age of 18. For a full list of content warnings please check the author's website.

Is this going to give me nightmares??? Perhaps, but I’m gonna read it anyway. I LOVE fuckery with angels and demons and queerness (what ex-Catholic doesn’t???) and I’ve been frustrated by all the stories lately that promise me darkness and don’t deliver. I suspect mars adler has my back on this one…

Dolly Butler's Eight-Day Week by Annette Kane
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MC, F/F
Published on: 28th July 2023

June 1908: Cross-dressing Dolly Butler is starting a new career as a detective with her very own Soho agency.

Her first case takes her into the brutal world of an East End plumage factory where it’s not just birds that are under threat. While Dolly is off sleuthing, her adored lover, Caroline, hides from her violent husband at Dolly’s home. However, when their embittered housemaid becomes aware of Dolly and Caroline’s ‘unnatural practices’, she becomes intent on destroying their happiness. Her scheming, and Dolly’s refusal to confront a friend’s suspicions about Caroline’s mysterious past, puts them all in grave danger.

In a page-turning, darkly comic story of obsession, self-delusion and deception, can Dolly save the woman she loves, as well as face the grisly reality of her new line of business – and the truth about herself?

I am HERE for cross-dressing sapphic historical fiction, yes PLEASE! I think your best bet for getting your hands on this one is buying directly from the publisher, since it seems to be difficult to find elsewhere.

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


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