Must-Have Monday #156

Posted 2nd October 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.

October goes HARD; we have THIRTEEN books to be excited for this week!

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

A Necessary Chaos by Brent Lambert
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Black queer MCs
Published on: 3rd October 2023

In a world of magical empires and the anarchists that would tear them down, A Necessary Chaos follows two mages, Althus and Vade, each assigned to spy on the other by opposing sides. But when they both catch feelings, what happens when they’re commanded to kill their target? They must each decide if they'll follow orders or find a way to make their romance thrive beyond the lies.


“A Necessary Chaos is a modern epic of enemies-pretending-to-be-lovers with horrifically awesome magic and immaculate vibes. This Is How You Lose The Time War meets Rage Against the Machine.”
—Kate Elliott, author of Unconquerable Sun and The Servant Mage

“A Necessary Chaos is the gay ‘spy versus spy’ story that I’ve been waiting for. Short and sharp, this is a powerful jab of a novella: it’ll leave you dazed and dizzy and a little bit in love.”
—C.L. Clark, author of The Unbroken and The Faithless

“Horny and heartbreaking, exhilarating and emotional, A Necessary Chaos is jam-packed with brilliant worldbuilding and stunning character work—heralding the arrival of a major new talent on the SF/F/H scene.”
—Sam J. Miller, author of Blackfish City and Boys, Beasts and Men

“Proudly anti-imperialist and unapologetically queer, A Necessary Chaos is a sensual action-packed fantasy that doesn’t shy away from feelings. Amor vincit omnia—even empires.”
—Francesca Tacchi, author of Let the Mountains Be My Grave

“I couldn’t put A Necessary Chaos down. There’s sexiness, romance, action and intrigue; every page brings more surprises. A very fun read.”
—Eboni Dunbar, author of Stone and Steel

A Necessary Chaos has been pushed back and back and back, but I THINK we’re finally getting it this week!!! You can currently order a paperback from the publisher’s website, and hopefully it will show up in paper and digital formats in all the usual places soon!

Starling House by Alix E. Harrow
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
Published on: 3rd October 2023

A contemporary gothic fairy tale about a small town haunted by the history it can't quite seem to bury and the canny, clever young woman who finds herself drawn to the house that sits at the crossroads of it all.

Starling House is odd and ugly and fully of secrets, just like its heir. Opal knows better than to mess with haunted houses or brooding men, but it might be a chance to get her brother out of Eden, and it feels dangerously like something she's never had: a home.

But she isn't the only one interested in the house, or the horrors and wonders that lie beneath it. If Opal wants a home, she'll have to fight for it. She'll have to dig up her family's dark past and let herself dream of a brighter future. She'll have to go down, down into Underland, and claw her way back to the light.

Starling House is the sweeping, romantic new novel from New York Times bestseller and Hugo Award-winner Alix E. Harrow.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January and The Once and Future Witches are two of my favourite books of all time, so of course I’m excited for Harrow’s newest novel! It sounds very different from her previous stuff, but I loved the sneak peek we got a little while ago, so I’m not worried. JUST GIVE IT TO ME ALREADY!

Pluralities by Avi Silver
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy, Speculative Fiction
Representation: Nonbinary MC, trans bestie, nonbinary spaceship
Published on: 3rd October 2023

"Wait—rewind. I was still a girl back then, before the universes converged."

Guided by premonitions and a fateful car ride, a burned-out retail worker stumbles into the grand exit from womanhood. Meanwhile, in a galaxy not so far away, an alien prince goes rogue with his sentient spaceship, seeking purpose in the great glimmering void. As the two of them come together in a fusion of mind and body, they must reckon with the identities that have been assigned to them.

Tender and daring, Pluralities, or is a slipstream-meets-space-adventure story honouring the long and turbulent journey into gender euphoria.

“Years into my own journey, this story was especially meaningful to me. I love that the narrative is filled with queer love, friendship, and euphoria. This novella doesn’t shy away from challenging questions about the intersection of feminism and trans identity, and it doesn’t offer glib answers, but faces those questions head-on. I found the read experience-broadening, and hope this book finds the audience it deserves.” — José Pablo Iriarte, Hugo and Nebula Finalist

This is a very soft, sweet book – not exactly cosy, but very much like wrapping a big fluffy blanket around your brain. If you’re looking for plot or action, this probably isn’t for you, but if you want a warm bath of gender euphoria and sentient spaceships, then Pluralities is it!

My review!

The Dead Take the A Train (Carrion City, #1) by Cassandra Khaw, Richard Kadrey
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Horror, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Queer MC
Published on: 3rd October 2023

Bestselling authors Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey have teamed up to deliver a dark new story with magic, monsters, and mayhem, perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Joe Hill.

Julie Crews is a coked-up, burnt-out thirty-something who packs a lot of magic into her small body. She’s been trying to establish herself in the NYC magic scene, and she’ll work the most gruesome gigs to claw her way to the top.

Julie is desperate for a quick career boost to break the dead-end grind, but her pleas draw the attention of an eldritch god who is hungry for revenge. Her power grab sets off a deadly chain of events that puts her closest friends – and the entire world – directly in the path of annihilation.

The first explosive adventure in the Carrion City Duology, The Dead Take the A Train fuses Khaw’s cosmic horror and Kadrey’s gritty fantasy into a full-throttle thrill ride straight into New York’s magical underbelly.

Is this going to give me nightmares??? Probably. Will it be worth it??? Almost certainly. Khaw can do no wrong in my eyes; I’ve just got to remember to read this on an empty stomach.

You can read an excerpt from chapter one here!

Knock Knock, Open Wide by Neil Sharpson
Genres: Horror, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MC
Published on: 3rd October 2023

Knock Knock, Open Wide
weaves horror and Celtic myth into a terrifying, heartbreaking supernatural tale of fractured family bonds, the secrets we carry, and the veiled forces that guide Irish life.

Driving home late one night, Etain Larkin finds a corpse on a pitch-black country road deep in the Irish countryside. She takes the corpse to a remote farmhouse. So begins a night of unspeakable horror that will take her to the very brink of sanity.

She will never speak of it again.

Two decades later, Betty Fitzpatrick, newly arrived at college in Dublin, has already fallen in love with the drama society, and the beautiful but troubled Ashling Mallen. As their relationship blossoms, Ashling goes to great lengths to keep Betty away from her family, especially her alcoholic mother, Etain.

As their relationship blossoms, Betty learns her lover's terrifying family history, and Ashling's secret obsession. Ashling has become convinced that the horrors inflicted on her family are connected to a seemingly innocent children's TV show. Everyone in Ireland watched this show in their youth, but Ash soon discovers that no one remembers it quite the same way. And only Ashling seems to remember its star: a small black goat puppet who lives in a box and only comes out if you don’t behave. They say he’s never come out.

Almost never.

When the door between the known and unknown opens, it can never close again.

The blurb tells me almost nothing…and I find myself maddeningly obsessed anyway. I don’t know whether it’s the cover or what, but SOMEthing about this book has me itching to pounce, and I tend to follow my instincts when it comes to books. If I end up regretting it, well, you’ll probably get to hear about it.

The Jinn-Bot of Shantiport by Samit Basu
Genres: Sci Fi
Representation: East Asian-coded cast & setting
Published on: 3rd October 2023

Shantiport was supposed to be a gateway to the stars. But the city is sinking, and its colonist rulers aren’t helping anyone but themselves.
Lina, a daughter of failed revolutionaries, has no desire to escape Shantiport. She loves her city and would do anything to save its people. This is, in fact, the plan for her life, made before she was even born.

Her brother, Bador, is a small monkey bot with a big attitude and bigger ambitions. He wants a chance to leave this dead-end planet and explore the universe on his own terms. But that would mean abandoning the family he loves―even if they do take him for granted.

When Shantiport's resident tech billionaire coerces Lina into retrieving a powerful artifact rumored to be able to reshape reality, forces from before their time begin coalescing around the siblings. And when you throw in a piece of sentient, off-world tech with the ability to grant three wishes into the mix… None of the city's powers will know what hit them.

I’ve seen this described as Aladdin, but sci-fi, and that’s TRUE, but there’s also a lot more intrigue going on, on multiple levels. And even more fizzy, delightful FUN – I’m reading this now and adoring it, and every review I’ve seen has nothing but praise for every aspect of it. I suspect this’ll be on a lot of best-of-the-year lists!

The Hurricane Wars (The Hurricane Wars #1) by Thea Guanzon
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 3rd October 2023

The heart is a battlefield.

All Talasyn has ever known is the Hurricane Wars. Growing up an orphan in a nation under siege by the ruthless Night Emperor, Talasyn has found her family among the soldiers who fight for freedom. But she is hiding a deadly secret: light magic courses through her veins, a blazing power believed to have been wiped out years ago that can cut through the Night Empire's shadows.

Prince Alaric, the emperor's only son and heir, has been forged into a weapon by his father. Tasked with obliterating any threats to the Night Empire's rule with the strength of his armies and mighty Shadow magic, Alaric has never been bested. That is until he sees Talasyn burning brightly on the battlefield with the magic that killed his grandfather, turned his father into a monster, and ignited the Hurricane Wars. In a clash of light and dark, their powers merge and create a force the likes of which has never been seen.

Talasyn and Alaric both know this war can only end with them. But a greater threat is coming, and the strange new magic they can create together could be the only way to overcome it. Thrust into an uneasily alliance, they will confront the secrets at the heart of the war and find, in each other, a searing passion--one that could save their world...or destroy it.

An exquisite fantasy brimming with unforgettable characters, sizzling enemies-to-lovers romance, and richly drawn worlds, The Hurricane Wars marks the breathtaking debut of an extraordinary new writer.

There’s been a great deal of hype for this one (and two stunning covers) but the reviews are extremely mixed. Sources I trust have led me to believe this probably isn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be for you!

(I will, however, bite anyone who sneers at it for having started out as fanfic. I don’t care whether it did or not; if it did, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and if you disagree, feel free to take your opinions elsewhere.)

Bloom by Delilah S. Dawson
Genres: Horror, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MCs
Published on: 3rd October 2023

A sweet sapphic romance takes a deadly dark turn in this sharp-as-a-knife novella from the New York Times bestselling author.

Rosemary meets Ash at the farmers’ market. Ash—precise, pretty, and practically perfect—sells bars of soap in delicate pastel colors, sprinkle-spackled cupcakes stacked on scalloped stands, beeswax candles, jelly jars of honey, and glossy green plants. Ro has never felt this way about another woman; with Ash, she wants to be her and have her in equal measure. But as her obsession with Ash consumes her, she may find she’s not the one doing the devouring…

Very lush sapphic creepiness??? Yes PLEASE. Honestly, the excerpt was just the icing on the cake; I am so sold.

Menewood (The Hild Sequence, #2) by Nicola Griffith
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: Bi/pansexual MC
Published on: 3rd October 2023

In the much anticipated sequel to Hild, Nicola Griffith's Menewoodtransports readers back to seventh-century Britain, a land of rival kings and religions poised for epochal change.

Hild is no longer the bright child who made a place in Edwin Overking's court with her seemingly supernatural insight. She is eighteen, honed and tested, the formidable Lady of Elmet, now building her personal stronghold in the valley of Menewood.

But Edwin needs his most trusted advisor. Old alliances are fraying. Younger rivals are snapping at his heels. War is brewing--bitter war, winter war. Not knowing who to trust he becomes volatile and unpredictable. Hild begins to understand the true extent of the chaos ahead, and now she must navigate the turbulence and fight to protect both the kingdom and her own people.

Hild will face the losses and devastation of total war, and then she must find a new strength, the implacable determination to forge a radically different path for herself and her people. In the valley, her last redoubt, her community slowly takes root. She trains herself and her unexpected allies in new ways of thinking as she prepares for one last wager: risking all on a single throw for a better future...

In the last decade,
has become a beloved classic of epic storytelling. Menewood picks up where that journey left off, and exceeds it in every way.

The sequel to the breathtakingly beautiful Hild is here!!! Imo speculative history counts as speculative fiction, and honestly, this reads like lush fantasy full of intrigue of all kinds – but you definitely can’t jump in without reading the first book. But that’s okay, because the first book is, as I said, breathtakingly beautiful and you’ll have a wonderful time with it! And if you have read Hild already – BRACE YOURSELVES, THIS IS GOING TO BE EPIC!

The Scarlet Alchemist (The Scarlet Alchemist, #1) by Kylie Lee Baker
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Representation: Biracial Chinese MC, Chinese cast & setting
Published on: 3rd October 2023

Zilan dreams of becoming a royal alchemist, of providing for her family by making alchemical gold and gems for the wealthy to eat in order to stay young forever. But for now, she’s trapped in her impoverished village in southern China, practicing an illegal form of alchemy to keep food on the table—resurrecting the dead, for a price.

When Zilan finally has the chance to complete her imperial exams, she ventures to the capital to compete against the best alchemists in the country in tasks she’ll be lucky to survive, let alone pass. On top of that, her reputation for raising the dead has followed her to the capital, and the Crown Prince himself seeks out her help, suspecting a coming assassination attempt.

The more Zilan succeeds in her alchemy, the more she gets caught in the dangerous political games of the royal family. There are monsters lurking within the palace walls, and it’s only a matter of time before they—and secrets of Zilan’s past—catch up with her.

I’ve heard nothing but adoration for Scarlet Alchemist from all corners – apparently it’s especially recommended for fans of books like Iron Widow, and not-nice heroines in general. Which: GIMME!

Curious Tides (Drowned Gods, #1) by Pascale Lacelle
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
Published on: 3rd October 2023

Ninth House meets A Deadly Education in this gorgeous dark academia fantasy following a teen mage who must unravel the truth behind the secret society that may have been involved in her classmates’ deaths.

Emory might be a student at the prestigious Aldryn College for Lunar Magics, but her healing abilities have always been mediocre at best—until a treacherous night in the Dovermere sea caves leaves a group of her classmates dead and her as the only survivor. Now Emory is plagued by strange, impossible powers that no healer should possess.

Powers that would ruin her life if the wrong person were to discover them.

To gain control of these new abilities, Emory enlists the help of the school’s most reclusive student, Baz—a boy already well-versed in the deadly nature of darker magic, whose sister happened to be one of the drowned students and Emory’s best friend. Determined to find the truth behind the drownings and the cult-like secret society she’s convinced her classmates were involved in, Emory is faced with even more questions when the supposedly drowned students start washing ashore— alive —only for them each immediately to die horrible, magical deaths.

And Emory is not the only one seeking answers. When her new magic captures the society’s attention, she finds herself drawn into their world of privilege and power, all while wondering if the truth she’s searching for might lead her right back to Dovermere…to face the fate she was never meant to escape.

I really enjoyed Lacelle’s writing style in the prequel novella, Uncharted Dreams (although it looks like I forgot to mark it read on Goodreads, damn it) so I’ll definitely be picking up Curious Tides. I don’t know how much I care about secret societies, but I’m a sucker for gorgeous prose!

Beholder by Ryan La Sala
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Horror, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Queer MC
Published on: 3rd October 2023

From Ryan La Sala, author of the tantalizingly twisted The Honeys and riotously imaginative Reverie, comes a chilling new contemporary fable about art, aesthetic obsession, and the gaze that peers back at us from behind our reflections.

Athanasios “Athan” Bakirtzis hasn’t had an easy life. Orphaned by a fire at a young age, he’s had to rely on his charm, his under-the-table job as an art handler, and the generosity of family friends to care for his ailing Yiayia, his grandmother.

But Athan also has a secret: a hereditary power that allows him to rewind the reflection in any mirror, peering into its recent past. Superstitious Yiayia calls the family ability a curse, and has long warned him never to use it. For Athan, who’s survived this long by keeping to the realm of the real, this is a perfectly agreeable arrangement.

Until the night of the party. After being invited to a penthouse soiree for New York’s art elite, Athan breaks his grandmother’s rule during a trip to the bathroom, turning back his reflection for just a moment. Then he hears a slam against the bathroom door, followed by a scream. Athan peers outside, only to be pushed back in by a boy his age. The boy gravely tells him not to open the door, then closes Athan in.

Before Athan can process what’s happening, more screams follow, and the party descends into chaos. When he finally emerges, he discovers a massacre where the victims appear to have arranged themselves into a disturbingly elegant sculpture—and Athan's mysterious savior is nowhere to be found.

Something evil is compelling people to destructive acts, a presence that’s been hiding behind Athan’s reflection his whole life, watching and biding its time. Soon, he’s swept up in a supernatural conspiracy that spans New York, of occult high societies and deadly eldritch designs. If beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, what can it do to us once it’s inside?

Being able to rewind mirrors is a magical ability I haven’t seen before, and honestly, all of this sounds great to me. Plus Reverie, La Sala’s debut, knocked my socks off, so I’m only too happy to pounce on another of his books!

An Inheritance of Magic by Benedict Jacka
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 5th October 2023

The super-rich control everything—including magic—in this thrilling and brilliant, contemporary fantasy from the author of the Alex Verus novels.

The wealthy seem to exist in a different, glittering world from the rest of us. Almost as if by... magic.

Stephen Oakwood is a young man on the edge of this hidden world. He has talent and potential, but turning that potential into magical power takes money, opportunity, and training. All Stephen has is a minimum wage job and a cat. 

But when a chance encounter with a member of House Ashford gets him noticed by the wrong people, Stephen is thrown in the deep end. For centuries, the vast corporations and aristocratic Houses of the magical world have grown impossibly rich and influential by hoarding their knowledge. To survive, Stephen will have to take his talent and build it up into something greater—for only then can he beat them at their own game.

I believe this is releasing in the US next week, but it’s being published in the UK this Thursday! Classism + magic is one of my favourite combos, so yes, I am VERY interested in this one. It’ll be my first time reading Benedict Jacka!

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


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