Must-Have Monday #153

Posted 11th September 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.

SIXTEEN books this week!

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

Cursebreakers by Madeleine Nakamura
Genres: Fantasy, Secondary World Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Queer MC with bipolar disorder
Published on: 12th September 2023

Adrien Desfourneaux, professor of magic, must survive his own failing mental health and a tenuous partnership with a dangerous ally in order to save the city of Astrum from a spreading curse.

Adrien Desfourneaux, professor of magic and disgraced ex-physician, has discovered a conspiracy. Someone is inflicting magical comas on the inhabitants of the massive city of Astrum, and no one knows how or why. Caught between a faction of scheming magical academics and an explosive schism in the ranks of Astrum’s power-hungry military, Adrien is swallowed by the growing chaos. Alongside Gennady, an unruly, damaged young soldier, and Malise, a brilliant healer and Adrien’s best friend, Adrien searches for a way to stop the spreading curse before the city implodes. He must survive his own bipolar disorder, his self-destructive tendencies, and his entanglement with the man who doesn’t love him back.

I have been WILD to get my hands on Cursebreakers since I first heard about it, and I’m vibrating with excitement at having just one more day to wait! AHHHHHH SIA NEEDS!!!

Mammoths at the Gates (The Singing Hills Cycle, #4) by Nghi Vo
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Nonbinary MC, East Asian-coded cast & setting
Published on: 12th September 2023

The Hugo and Crawford Award-Winning Series!

The wandering Cleric Chih returns home to the Singing Hills Abbey for the first time in almost three years, to be met with both joy and sorrow. Their mentor, Cleric Thien, has died, and rests among the archivists and storytellers of the storied abbey. But not everyone is prepared to leave them to their rest.

Because Cleric Thien was once the patriarch of Coh clan of Northern Bell Pass--and now their granddaughters have arrived on the backs of royal mammoths, demanding their grandfather’s body for burial. Chih must somehow balance honoring their mentor’s chosen life while keeping the sisters from the north from storming the gates and destroying the history the clerics have worked so hard to preserve.

But as Chih and their neixin Almost Brilliant navigate the looming crisis, Myriad Virtues, Cleric Thien’s own beloved hoopoe companion, grieves her loss as only a being with perfect memory can, and her sorrow may be more powerful than anyone could anticipate. . .

The novellas of The Singing Hills Cycle are linked by the cleric Chih, but may be read in any order, with each story serving as an entrypoint.

Nghi Vo probably needs no introduction! I have yet to encounter a book of hers that I did not ADORE, and the Singing Hills series has had a special place in my heart since book one. (What can I say, I vibe with the story-collecting nonbinary monk!)

The Free People's Village by Sim Kern
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Published on: 12th September 2023

In an alternate 2020 timeline, Al Gore won the 2000 election and declared a War on Climate Change rather than a War on Terror. For twenty years, Democrats have controlled all three branches of government, enacting carbon-cutting schemes that never made it to a vote in our world. Green infrastructure projects have transformed U.S. cities into lush paradises (for the wealthy, white neighborhoods, at least), and the Bureau of Carbon Regulation levies carbon taxes on every financial transaction.

English teacher by day, Maddie Ryan spends her nights and weekends as the rhythm guitarist of Bunny Bloodlust, a queer punk band living in a warehouse-turned-venue called "The Lab" in Houston's Eighth Ward. When Maddie learns that the Eighth Ward is to be sacrificed for a new electromagnetic hyperway out to the wealthy, white suburbs, she joins "Save the Eighth," a Black-led organizing movement fighting for the neighborhood. At first, she's only focused on keeping her band together and getting closer to Red, their reckless and enigmatic lead guitarist. But working with Save the Eighth forces Maddie to reckon with the harm she has already done to the neighborhood—both as a resident of the gentrifying Lab and as a white teacher in a predominantly Black school.

When police respond to Save the Eighth protests with violence, the Lab becomes the epicenter of “The Free People’s Village”—an occupation that promises to be the birthplace of an anti-capitalist revolution. As the movement spreads across the U.S., Maddie dreams of a queer, liberated future with Red. But the Village is beset on all sides—by infighting, police brutality, corporate-owned media, and rising ecofascism. Maddie’s found family is increasingly at risk from state violence, and she must decide if she’s willing to sacrifice everything in pursuit of justice.

Yeahhhhhhh, this sounds awesome. I may need to be in the right headspace to tackle it, but I am MASSIVELY looking forward to it!

Godkiller by Hannah Kaner
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Bi/pansexual MC, secondary F/F, queernorm setting
Published on: 12th September 2023

“Godkiller will have you in its grasp from the first pages. . . An extraordinary journey.” — Samantha Shannon, New York Times bestselling author of The Priory of the Orange Tree

"Beautifully imagined and intensely felt . . . Godkiller is a bone-rattling fantasy thriller that flies by in a breathtaking rush." — Joe Hill, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Locke & Key

Enter a land of gods and monsters, soldiers and mercenaries, secrets and wishes—the explosive #1 internationally bestselling fantasy debut in a new trilogy for fans of The Witcher and Gideon the Ninth

Gods are forbidden in the kingdom of Middren. Formed by human desires and fed by their worship, there are countless gods in the world—but after a great war, the new king outlawed them and now pays “godkillers” to destroy any who try to rise from the shadows.

As a child, Kissen saw her family murdered by a fire god. Now, she makes a living killing them and enjoys it. But all this changes when Kissen is tasked with helping a young noble girl with a god problem. The child’s soul is bonded to a tiny god of white lies, and Kissen can’t kill it without ending the girl’s life too.

Joined by a disillusioned knight on a secret quest, the unlikely group must travel to the ruined city of Blenraden, where the last of the wild gods reside, to each beg a favor. Pursued by assassins and demons, and in the midst of burgeoning civil war, they will all face a reckoning. Something is rotting at the heart of their world, and they are the only ones who can stop it.

"Epic and intimate, tender and sharp, Godkiller is a triumph of storytelling." — Hannah Whitten, New York Times bestselling author of For the Wolf

Godkiller was released in the UK back in January, where it received a LOT of love – and absolutely deserved it. This is another of my favourites of the year – I could have written an ESSAY on the very first line alone!

The Death I Gave Him by Em X. Liu
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Published on: 12th September 2023

A lyrical, queer sci-fi retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet as a locked-room thriller

Hayden Lichfield’s life is ripped apart when he finds his father murdered in their lab, and the camera logs erased. The killer can only have been after one thing: the Sisyphus Formula the two of them developed together, which might one day reverse death itself. Hoping to lure the killer into the open, Hayden steals the research. In the process, he uncovers a recording his father made in the days before his death, and a dying wish: Avenge me…

With the lab on lockdown, Hayden is trapped with four other people—his uncle Charles, lab technician Gabriel Rasmussen, research intern Felicia Xia and their head of security, Felicia’s father Paul—one of whom must be the killer. His only sure ally is the lab’s resident artificial intelligence, Horatio, who has been his dear friend and companion since its creation. With his world collapsing, Hayden must navigate the building’s secrets, uncover his father’s lies, and push the boundaries of sanity in the pursuit of revenge.

I adored Liu’s debut novella If Found Return to Hell, and have heard nothing but good things about their first novel! Although I really couldn’t care less about Shakespeare, I’ve had some very good times with SFF retellings of Hamlet specifically, so my hopes are high!

A Market of Dreams and Destiny by Trip Galey
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: M/M, secondary nonbinary character, secondary brown character
Published on: 12th September 2023

Enter the bazaar of the bizarre where fate and fortunes are for sale in this high-stakes magical adventure across a London not quite like our own, perfect for fans of Neverwhere and The Night Circus.

Below Covent Garden lies the Untermarkt, where anything and everything has a price: a lover’s first blush, a month of honesty, a wisp of fortune. As a child, Deri was sold to one of the Market’s most powerful merchants. Now, after years of watchful servitude, Deri finally spots a chance to buy not only his freedom but also his place amongst the Market’s elite when he stumbles into the path of a runaway princess desperate to sell her royal destiny.

But news of the missing princess and her wayward destiny spreads. Royal enforcers and Master Merchants alike are after it. Outmanoeuvring them all would all be hard enough had Deri not just also met the love of his life, a young man called Owain, whose employers are using the Market for their own nefarious schemes.

Deri soon finds that the price of selling the royal destiny, making a name for himself, and saving the man he loves is dear. The cost of it all might just change the destiny of London forever.

Galey has created one of my favourite magical markets EVER, the kind where you can buy intangible, impossible things like promises and gossip – and, of course, dreams and destinies. I didn’t quite click with the writing style, but I still think this is an objectively excellent book, whose worldbuilding and magic absolutely delighted me. And I’m pretty sure most readers are going to be head-over-heels for the mcs!

Talonsister by Jen Williams
Genres: Fantasy, Secondary World Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Achillean MC
Published on: 12th September 2023

Uncover a magical past that refuses to be forgotten in a world of mythical creatures and ruthless religion in this brand-new duology from the multi-award winning author of The Ninth Rain, perfect for fans of John Gwynne and Andrea Stewart.

Leven has no memory of her life before she was a soldier. The process of turning her into a Herald – a magical killing machine – was traumatic enough that it wiped her mind clean. Now, with the war won and the Imperium satisfied, she finds herself unemployed and facing a bleak future. Her fellow Heralds are disappearing, and her own mind seems to be coming apart at the seams. Strange visions, memories she shouldn’t have, are resurfacing, and none of them make any sense. They show her Brittletain, the ancient and mysterious island that the Imperium was never able to tame. Leven resolves to go to this place of magic and warring queens, with the hope of finding who she really is.

Envoy Kaeto has done a number of important little jobs for the Imperium, most of them nasty, all of them in the shadows. His newest assignment is to escort the bone-crafter Gynid Tyleigh as she travels across the Imperium – as the woman responsible for creating the Heralds, his employers owe her a great deal. But Tyleigh’s ambition alarms even Kaeto, and her conviction that she has found a new source of Titan bones, buried deep in the earth, could lead to another, even bloodier war.

Ynis was raised by the griffins, and has never seen another human face. She lives wild, as they do, eating her meat raw and flying with her talon-sister, T’rook. The griffins fiercely protect their isolation – the piles of skulls that litter the mountains of Brittletain are testament to that – but the magic they guard will always make them a target for the greed of men. By choosing not to kill Ynis when she was just a baby, the griffins may have doomed themselves – because the girl’s past is coming for her, and it carries a lethal blade.

Williams is a fantasy master, and Talonsister continues her streak of epically awesome novels. I think I was in just the wrong headspace when I picked this up – I had to put it aside, but I fully intend to come back and give it another go, because it is seriously fabulous. Warriors given wings and impossible strength by the bones of (sentient D:) magical creatures! A wildwood queendom ruled by a fantasy-version of Boudica, with forests patrolled by horned wood-walkers! An empire of stars! GRIFFINS! If this isn’t a hit the system is rigged, okay?

A Sword of Bronze and Ashes by Anna Smith Spark
Genres: Fantasy, Horror
Published on: 12th September 2023

Readers of Shauna Lawless and Thilde Kold Holdt will love this Celtic-inflected adventure by critically acclaimed, grimdark epic fantasy novelist, Anna Smith Spark.

A Sword of Bronze and Ashes combines the fierce beauty of Celtic myth with grimdark battle violence. It's a lyrical, folk horror high fantasy.

Kanda has a good life until shadows from her past return threatening everything she loves. And Kanda, like any parent, has things in her past she does not want her children to know. Red war is pursued by an ancient evil, Kanda must call upon all her strength to protect her family. But how can she keep her children safe, if they want to stand as warriors beside her when the light fades and darkness rises?

FLAME TREE PRESS is the imprint of long-standing independent Flame Tree Publishing, dedicated to full-length original fiction in the horror and suspense, science fiction & fantasy, and crime / mystery / thriller categories. The list brings together fantastic new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices. Learn more about Flame Tree Press at and connect on social media @FlameTreePress

Okay, we all know I SUCK at reading grimdark. So I probably won’t manage to read this. But I really want to give it a try anyway; I’m fascinated by mothers in fantasy – we see them so rarely! – and this premise intrigues me as much as it alarms me. I just need a running start…

The Collector by Laura Kat Young
Genres: Sci Fi
Published on: 12th September 2023

A frightening dystopian horror novel where grief is forbidden and purged from the mind – a nightmarish mix of 1984 and Never Let Me Go

The Bureau has your best interests in mind

Some people kill themselves first. Dev is the Collector of the month. His job is to record memories of grief for the Bureau’s catalogue before the person is Reset. After all, sorrow is unproductive, inefficient. 

But after Dev records the memory donations, he returns home and secretly preserves them for himself in a notebook, kept hidden behind a wall in his tiny apartment. But the Bureau is always watching. And Dev’s small transgression leads to a terrible betrayal from which there is no way back.

I’m not gonna lie, I can see the appeal of a world without grief. But this is a dystopian novel, not a utopian one, so clearly it’s more nightmarish than not… I’m intrigued.

This Spells Disaster by Tori Anne Martin
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: F/F
Published on: 12th September 2023

Fake dating gets a magical twist in this enchanting queer romantic comedy where a witch worries that the real feelings brewing between her and her crush were sparked by an accidental love potion, and the only way out of the disastrous spell is a healthy dose of the truth--drink up, witches.

Potion maker and self-proclaimed "messy witch" Morgan Greenwood is sure she was hexed at birth. Not only did she drunkenly offer to fake date the woman of her dreams during the biennial New England Witches' festival, but Rory Sandler, spellcasting champion and brilliant elemental witch--for reasons known only to the Goddess--accepted. It's like every good luck spell Morgan ever cast came through at once, and it doesn't take a crystal ball to predict this charade will end with a broken heart.

Or is the magic between them real? As Morgan and Rory prepare to fool everyone at the festival, their relationship starts to feel a whole lot less fake--right until Morgan realizes she might have screwed up the common relaxation potion she made for Rory and given her a love potion instead, breaking one of the most sacred Witch Council Laws.

To fulfill her promise to Rory, Morgan must somehow keep playing pretend while under the watchful eyes of Rory's family and legion of fans. But to break the love potion, she'll also have to prove how incompatible she and Rory really are. For a screwup like her, ruining their relationship should be easy--except every day, Morgan is becoming more bewitched by Rory herself.

This sounds like lovely, fluffy fun! I’m a sucker for witchy romances with punny titles, so yes, this is going on my tbr for sure, for the next time I need something heartwarming.

Say I Boo by Morgan Spellman
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MC, brown sapphic love interest, F/F
Published on: 12th September 2023

Preventing a Murder is hard-especially when all the suspects are dead.

When whimsical stage magician, Abby Spector, finds herself snowbound in a mysterious mansion days before her friend's wedding, she uncovers a vengeful spirit's deadly agenda. Armed with her quick wit and tools from a former paranormal investigator, Abby must navigate a web of ghostly suspects and cryptic clues.

Alongside her eccentric allies, she embarks on an enchanting journey brimming with supernatural suspense, whodunit intrigue, and a budding sapphic romance. As Abby bridges the gap between the living and the spectral, she unravels deep secrets that lie within the haunted estate.

With the wedding approaching, Abby must face her tragic past and unite old friends in a race against time to identify and vanquish the correct ghost before the big day. Can they put their differences aside to prevent a murder from beyond the grave?

Prepare to be enchanted by this delightful lighthearted mystery, featuring a queer sleuth and her lovable nerdy sidekicks. Say I Boo is perfect for fans of Psych, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Scooby-Doo.

More puns! I’m being spoiled. Say I Boo sounds like another very cute queer, witchy romance, and by all accounts the MC is kind of adorable – I saw one review mentioning that she mixes up long words, like erroneous and erogenous – and I have been promised that there are even more puns inside the book, not just on the cover!

Monstrous by Jessica Lewis
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Horror, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Black sapphic MC
Published on: 12th September 2023

Forced to spend her summer in her aunt's strange small town, a teen girl discovers dark secrets hidden in the woods. From the author of Bad Witch Burning comes another pulse-pounding novel perfect for fans of Supernatural and Lovecraft Country.
Don't go outside past dark. Come straight home after church. And above all—never, ever, go into Red Wood.

These are the rules Latavia’s aunt tells her as soon as she arrives in Sanctum, Alabama for the summer. Weird, but Latavia isn’t here to solve any scary small town mysteries; she’s here for six weeks and six weeks only, and then she’s off to college and won’t look back. Still, Sanctum has its perks—mainly, the cute girl who works at the local ice cream shop.

But Latavia can’t ignore how strange her aunt’s tiny town is. The residents are suspicious of her and at times hostile, and it’s clear she’s some kind of outsider. That’s proven when Latavia is dragged out of her house in the dead of night, into the forbidden Red Wood, and presented as a human sacrifice to an ancient monster.

Latavia won’t be eaten without a fight. She’ll do whatever she has to do to survive—even if that includes making a deal with the monster, endangering her crush and family, and even risk turning into a monster herself.

I am ALL FOR girls making deals with monsters, especially if it involves becoming a monster themselves. MORE MONSTROUS GIRLS, YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU!

A Hundred Vicious Turns (The Broken Tower, #1) by Lee Paige O'Brien
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Nonbinary MC, major trans character
Published on: 12th September 2023

The heir to an arcane bloodline must outwit their ambitious rival to stop a ruthless magical adversary in a YA fantasy debut perfect for fans of A Lesson in Vengeance and Hell Followed With Us   

Rat Evans, nonbinary heir to one of the oldest magical bloodlines in New York, doesn’t cast spells anymore. For as long as Rat can remember, they’ve been surrounded by doorways no one else sees and corridors that aren’t on any map. Then one day, they opened a passage and found a broken tower in a field of weeds—and something followed them back.  

When Rat is accepted into Bellamy Arts, all they want is a place to hide and to make sure they never open another passageway again. But when the only other person who knows what really happened last year—Harker Blakely, the dangerously gifted trans boy who used to be Rat’s closest friend—turns up on campus, Rat begins to realize that Bellamy Arts might not be as safe as they’d thought. And the tower might not be through with them yet.  

Soon, Rat finds themself caught in a web of secrets and long-buried magic, with their friend-turned-enemy at their throat. But the closer they come to uncovering the truth about the tower, the further they’re drawn toward the unsettling powers that threaten to swallow them whole.

This book didn’t quite work for me, but if you go into it NOT expecting a Magic School story – despite the setting – you might have a better time with it?

Goddess Crown by Shade Lapite
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Black MC
Published on: 12th September 2023

In this thrilling Afro-fantasy, the first set in the lush, opulent kingdom of Galla, a girl raised in secret must leave her sheltered rural home for the subtle dangers of the royal court, where she becomes caught up in deadly power struggles and romantic intrigue.

Kalothia has grown up in the shadows of her kingdom, hidden away in the forested East after her parents were outed as enemies of the king. Raised in a woodland idyll by a few kindly adult caretakers, Kalothia can hunt and fish and fend for herself but knows little of the outside world. When assassins attack her home on her sixteenth birthday, she must flee to the king's court in the West--a beautiful but lethal nest of poison, plots, and danger, overseen by an entrenched patriarchy. Guided by the Goddess herself, can Kalothia navigate this most worldly of places to find her own role? What if she must choose between her country and her heart? Excitement, romance, and a charismatic heroine shine in this first book set in the unforgettable kingdom of Galla.

I’ve been very tired of awesome girls vs the patriarchy stories for a while, but I might have to make an exception for Goddess Crown – I want to know about Kalothia’s goddess, especially since it kind of sounds like the aforementioned patriarchy might not survive the encounter intact!

The Meadows by Stephanie Oakes
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Sapphic MC
Published on: 12th September 2023

"A story of pain, injustice, love, resistance, and hope, this glorious book will lodge inside you and make you feel everything.” —Helena Fox, award-winning author of How It Feels to Float

A queer, YA Handmaid’s Tale meets Never Let Me Go about a dystopian society bent on relentless conformity, and the struggle of one girl to save herself and those she loves from a life of lies

Everyone hopes for a letter—to attend the Estuary, the Glades, the Meadows. These are the special places where only the best and brightest go to burn even brighter.

When Eleanor is accepted at the Meadows, it means escape from her hardscrabble life by the sea, in a country ravaged by climate disaster. But despite its luminous facilities, endless fields, and pretty things, the Meadows keeps dark secrets: its purpose is to reform students, to condition them against their attractions, to show them that one way of life is the only way to survive. And maybe Eleanor would believe them, except then she meets Rose.

Four years later, Eleanor and her friends seem free of the Meadows, changed but not as they’d hoped. Eleanor is an adjudicator, her job to ensure her former classmates don’t stray from the lives they’ve been trained to live. But Eleanor can’t escape her past . . . or thoughts of the girl she once loved. As secrets unfurl, Eleanor must wage a dangerous battle for her own identity and the truth of what happened to the girl she lost, knowing, if she’s not careful, Rose’s fate could be her own.

A raw and timely masterwork of speculative fiction, The Meadows will sink its roots into you. This is a novel for our times and for always—not to be missed.

"Evocative prose and worldbuilding shot through with equal parts melancholy and hope"PW (starred review)

“Timely and gripping, [with] a new revelation always around the corner”Kirkus Reviews

"Atmospheric and unsettling . . . Belongs in every collection" —Natalie C. Parker, author of the Seafire series

“Extraordinary” —Helena Fox, author of How It Feels to Float

There’s been so much love for this one that I definitely need to give it a try – although I still recommend The Women Could Fly for anyone looking for a queer Handmaid’s Tale!

Captive (Invictus #1) by Rachel Neumeier
Genres: Sci Fi
Published on: 15th September 2023

Every soldier knows there are endless ways to die.Every Ubezhishche soldier knows there are far worse fates than death.

Sevastien one zero two four, S line third modification, has survived the destruction of his own ship and an enemy station. But he was rescued by the wrong side -- by Nalyn Ila, captain of the Elysian destroyer Invictus. Now he's facing a difficult problem: How to persuade Captain Ila and her people that he is not an enemy combatant. That if there was an act of war, it was committed by her people, not his own.

Sevastien is almost certain he was an innocent bystander of disaster ... unless his own people set him up, aiming to get him aboard Invictus for reasons he can't yet understand. Maybe they did. It's just the kind of thing Ubezhishche Command might do.

Nalyn Ila is almost certain Sevastien is an enemy agent, placed aboard her ship by Ubezhishche Command. But no one, not her own people nor the enemy nor Sevastien himself, can possibly guess what use she might actually have for an Ubezhishche soldier. Even if he actually is an innocent bystander, she may be able to use him in her private long-laid plans. And if he's actually an enemy agent ... that might be even better.

Neumeier’s enchanted me with her fantasy books over and over, so it only seems fair to give her a chance to wow me with sci fi, too!

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


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