Must-Have Monday #149

Posted 14th August 2023 by Sia in Must-Have Mondays / 2 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.

FIVE books this week!

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

Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 15th August 2023

From USA Today bestselling author T. Kingfisher, Thornhedge is the tale of a kind-hearted, toad-shaped heroine, a gentle knight, and a mission gone completely sideways.

*A very special hardcover edition, featuring foil stamp on the casing and custom endpapers illustrated by the author.*

There's a princess trapped in a tower. This isn't her story.

Meet Toadling. On the day of her birth, she was stolen from her family by the fairies, but she grew up safe and loved in the warm waters of faerieland. Once an adult though, the fae ask a favor of return to the human world and offer a blessing of protection to a newborn child. Simple, right?

But nothing with fairies is ever simple.

Centuries later, a knight approaches a towering wall of brambles, where the thorns are as thick as your arm and as sharp as swords. He's heard there's a curse here that needs breaking, but it's a curse Toadling will do anything to uphold…

"The way Thornhedge turns all the fairy tales inside out is a sharp-edged delight."―Katherine Addison, author of The Goblin Emperor

First up is, obviously, the newest book from T Kingfisher! The day I don’t pounce on a new release from her is the day I’ve been replaced by a body snatcher. And I have a special fondness for Kingfisher’s retellings – if you haven’t yet, you NEED to read The Raven and the Reindeer! – so I’m extra excited to see her take on Sleeping Beauty!

(Also, which of the covers do you prefer – the US on the left, or the UK on the right??? I’m leaning towards the US one…)

Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas
Genres: Horror
Representation: Mexican cast and setting
Published on: 15th August 2023

Vampires and vaqueros face off on the Texas-Mexico border in this supernatural western from the author of The Hacienda.

As the daughter of a rancher in 1840s Mexico, Nena knows a thing or two about monsters—her home has long been threatened by tensions with Anglo settlers from the north. But something more sinister lurks near the ranch at night, something that drains men of their blood and leaves them for dead.

Something that once attacked Nena nine years ago.

Believing Nena dead, Néstor has been on the run from his grief ever since, moving from ranch to ranch working as a vaquero. But no amount of drink can dispel the night terrors of sharp teeth; no woman can erase his childhood sweetheart from his mind.

When the United States attacks Mexico in 1846, the two are brought abruptly together on the road to war: Nena as a curandera, a healer striving to prove her worth to her father so that he does not marry her off to a stranger, and Néstor as a member of the auxiliary cavalry of ranchers and vaqueros. But the shock of their reunion—and Nena’s rage at Néstor for seemingly abandoning her long ago—is quickly overshadowed by the appearance of a nightmare made flesh.

And unless Nena and Néstor work through their past and face the future together, neither will survive to see the dawn.

I couldn’t care less about the romantic plotline, but vampires in this kind of setting? Particularly horror-vampires, not sexy ones? I am massively intrigued!

Bride of the Tornado by James Kennedy
Genres: Horror, Speculative Fiction
Published on: 15th August 2023

A young woman's secretive midwestern town is engulfed by a mysterious plague of tornadoes every generation–and she must escape it before it claims her.

Stephen King’s The Mist meets David Lynch’s Twin Peaks in this inventive, mind-bending horror-thriller.

In a small town tucked away in the midwestern corn fields, the adults whisper about Tornado Day. Our narrator, a high school sophomore, has never heard this phrase but she soon discovers its terrible meaning: a plague of sentient tornadoes is coming to destroy them.

The only thing that stands between the town and total annihilation is a teen boy known as the tornado killer. Drawn to this enigmatic boy, our narrator senses an unnatural connection between them. But the adults are hiding a secret about the origins of the tornadoes and the true nature of the tornado killer—and our narrator must escape before the primeval power that binds them all comes to claim her.

Audaciously conceived and steeped in existential dread, this genre-defying novel reveals the mythbound madness at the heart of American life.

Sentient tornadoes??? Yep, you have my attention – that is simply too strange a premise not to check out!

Gimmicks and Glamour by Lauren Melissa Ellzey
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Biracial bisexual MC, F/F
Published on: 15th August 2023

Ashly Harris has a secret she’s been keeping all her life.

To everyone else she’s just a seventeen-year-old party girl and problem senior at Hackley High School. She has always felt alone, and not just because she’s biracial and openly bisexual. Ashly sees faeries all around her, all the time. She has learned to hide her Sight, but that doesn’t change the fact that she is constantly taking the blame for the havoc that the faeries wreak. The only person who knows about Ashly’s ability is her eccentric, yet level-headed best friend, Caris, who might be playing along while also playing with Ashly’s feelings.

As Ashly speeds toward graduation with few future prospects on the horizon, she must protect the classmates she claims to hate from an evil that no one else sees.

This is an accessible story with an interesting premise: The fantasy metaphor for Ashly’s adolescent alienation and despair works well and livens up the plot, especially when a revelation draws Ashly into the throes of a faerie war as well as a rewarding queer romance. A relatable fantasy weaving in real-life issues." - Kirkus Review

It’s always an odd moment when you come across a YA that you wish you could send back in time to your teenage self! I’d quite like to read Gimmicks and Glamour and Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely back to back and compare them – that could be a fun essay to write… (Yes, I am a nerd who actually likes writing essays.)

Red Dust, White Snow by Pan Huiting
Genres: Sci Fi
Representation: Chinese cast and setting
Published on: 17th August 2023

Who is to say dreams are insubstantial when whole lives can be lived in their pursuit? When an office worker receives a mysterious device promising to transport her to a parallel universe, she assumes it is just another marketing stunt. That night, she visits a fantastical place in her dreams; on waking she returns to her normal life, only to return to the same dream the following night. At first she finds the ongoing dreams bizarre, but the more time she spends in the dream world, the less she wants to wake up. Yet as her fantasy begins to encroach on her waking life, dream and reality collide with drastic consequences. With sharp insight, wry humor and Black Mirror-esque themes, Red Dust, White Snow highlights the blurring of reality and fantasy in our increasingly virtual world.

The premise here sounds like Black Mirror crossed with Catherynne Valente’s Palimpsest, and is therefore something I simply must read. It’s not clear from the blurb, but a few reviews have mentioned the setting is a kind of futuristic dystopia? So bear that in mind if you give it a go too!

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


2 responses to “Must-Have Monday #149

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.