Must-Have Monday #161

Posted 6th November 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.

THIRTEEN books this week!

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

The Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle: Vol. 1: A True and Exact Accounting of the History of Turtle Island by Kent Monkman, Gisele Gordon
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists, Speculative Fiction
Representation: Queer Cree MC
Published on: 7th November 2023

From global art superstar Kent Monkman and his long-time collaborator Gisèle Gordon, a transformational work of true stories and imagined history that will remake readers’ understanding of the land called North America.

For decades, the singular and provocative paintings by Cree artist Kent Monkman have featured a recurring character—an alter ego of sorts, a shape-shifting, time-travelling elemental being named Miss Chief Eagle Testickle. Though we have glimpsed her across the years in films and on countless canvases, it is finally time to hear her story, in her own words. And, in doing so, to hear the whole history of Turtle Island anew. The Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle: A True and Exact Accounting of the History of Turtle Island is a genre-demolishing work of genius, the imagined history of a legendary figure through which profound truths emerge—a deeply Cree and gloriously queer understanding of our shared world, its past, its present, and its possibilities.

Volume One, which covers the period from the creation of the universe to the confederation of Canada, follows Miss Chief as she moves through time, from a complex lived experience of Cree cosmology to the arrival of European settlers, many of whom will be familiar to students of history. An open-hearted being, she tries to live among those settlers, and guide them to a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of all beings and the world itself. As their numbers grow, though, so does conflict, and Miss Chief begins to understand that the challenges posed by the hordes of newly arrived Europeans will mean ever greater danger for her, her people, and, by extension, all of the world she cherishes.

Blending history, fiction, and memoir in bold new ways, The Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle are unlike anything published before. And intheir power to reshape our shared understanding, they promise to changethe way we see everything that lies ahead.

I feel like maybe I’ve come across some of these paintings before, but I had no idea Miss Chief was a recurring character, or what her story was – and it sounds like SUCH an incredible story! Having read the first few pages, I am already head-over-heels in love with it; I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t end up on my best of the year list!

We Are the Crisis (Convergence Saga #2) by Cadwell Turnbull
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: BIPOC cast, Black asexual MC, Black bi/pansexual MC, Puerto Rican bi/pansexual MC, M/F/F polyamory, nonbinary characters
Published on: 7th November 2023

In We Are the Crisis—the second book in the Convergence Saga from award-winning author Cadwell Turnbull—humans and monsters come into conflict in a magical and dangerous world as civil rights collide with preternatural forces.

In this highly anticipated sequel, set a few years after No Gods, No Monsters, humanity continues to grapple with the revelation that supernatural beings exist. A werewolf pack investigates the strange disappearances of former members and ends up unraveling a greater conspiracy, while back on St. Thomas, a hurricane approaches and a political debate over monster’s rights ignites tensions in the local community.

Meanwhile, New Era—a pro-monster activist group—works to build a network between monsters and humans, but their mission is threatened by hate crimes perpetrated by a human-supremacist group known as the Black Hand. And beneath it all two ancient orders escalate their conflict, revealing dangerous secrets about the gods and the very origins of magic in the universe.

Told backward and forward in time as events escalate and unravel, We Are the Crisis is a brilliant contemporary fantasy that takes readers on an immersive and thrilling journey.

The sequel to the mind-warping No Gods No Monsters! I am happily in the middle of this right now, and I thought I’d be bothered by the timeskip (I usually don’t enjoy timeskips this big) but no, it’s perfect, and I’m loving every second of it!

A Power Unbound (The Last Binding, #3) by Freya Marske
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: M/M, queer cast, secondary F/F
Published on: 7th November 2023

A Power Unbound
is the final entry in Freya Marske’s beloved, award-winning Last Binding trilogy, the queer historical fantasy series that began with A Marvellous Light.

Jack Alston, Lord Hawthorn, would love a nice, safe, comfortable life. After the death of his twin sister, he thought he was done with magic for good. But with the threat of a dangerous ritual hanging over every magician in Britain, he’s drawn reluctantly back into that world.

Now Jack is living in a bizarre puzzle-box of a magical London townhouse, helping an unlikely group of friends track down the final piece of the Last Contract before their enemies can do the same. And to make matters worse, they need the help of writer and thief Alan Ross.

Cagey and argumentative, Alan is only in this for the money. The aristocratic Lord Hawthorn, with all his unearned power, is everything that Alan hates. And unfortunately, Alan happens to be everything that Jack wants in one gorgeous, infuriating package.

When a plot to seize unimaginable power comes to a head at Cheetham Hall—Jack’s ancestral family estate, a land so old and bound in oaths that it’s grown a personality as prickly as its owner—Jack, Alan and their allies will become entangled in a night of champagne, secrets, and bloody sacrifice . . . and the foundations of magic in Britain will be torn up by the roots before the end.

The finale to Marske’s The Last Binding trilogy! Again, I’m reading an early copy of this at the moment, and so far, it’s proving my favourite of all three books! I adore these characters, Marske’s prose is, as usual, compulsively readable, and this is officially the kinkiest instalment of the trilogy. (I do not disapprove at all.)

Power to Yield and Other Stories by Bogi Takács, Ada Hoffmann
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Nonbinary and nuerodivergent MCs
Published on: 7th November 2023


Power to Yield is a collection of speculative tales exploring gender identity, neurodivergence, and religion from author Bogi Takács, who deftly blends sci-fi, fantasy, and weird fiction.

An AI child discovers Jewish mysticism. A student can give no more blood to their semi-sentient apartment and plans their escape. A candidate is rigorously evaluated for their ability to be a liaison to alien newcomers. A young magician gains perspective from her time as a plant. A neurodivergent woman tries to survive on a planetoid where thoughts shape reality . . .

​These are stories about the depth and breadth of the human condition—and beyond—identifying future possibilities of conflict and cooperation, identity and community.


“A seamless juxtaposition of intricate truths and bold fictions, these stories mesmerize.” (Nicky Drayden, author of Escaping Exodus and The Prey of Gods)

“It’s rare to find an author that truly deepens the speculative genre and human experience simultaneously but Takács is clearly one of them. E deftly unravels our preconceived notions of the self, society, culture, desire, power and the other and re-braids them in new insightful ways in each story. As you move through each richly-crafted story, you are challenged and transformed whether you realize it or not. This intimate yet expansive collection is not one to miss.” (Sloane Leong, author of Prism Stalker, Graveneye, and A Map to the Sun)

“Bogi Takács’s stories never fail to awe with their breadth and depth of thought, precise prose, and fascinating characters. In Power to Yield and Other Stories, Takács reveals emself to be a masterful gardener, cultivating these tales of science and magic, of immigrants and exiles, of deep loss and abiding hope. Whether you’re new to eir work or know it well, this collection will welcome you, for it is expertly tended and blooming with glorious sights, its roots stretching across cultures, bodies, worlds, and ages.” (Izzy Wasserstein, author of All the Hometowns You Can’t Stay Away From)

“[“Power to Yield”] is a fascinating take on aspects of power, history, personal obsession, and sadism, the latter all taking place within an asexual framework that removes those questions from their normal sexual-overtone-laden context.” (Karen Burnham, Locus Magazine)

“[“Power to Yield”] is laced with pain and with the fractured lines of a people stitched together from trauma and systemic abuse, who come together out of necessity and the need for freedom to make something powerful and beautiful. [...] And it’s a lovely, rending read that I definitely recommend people check out immediately!” (Charles Payseur, Quick Sip Reviews)

Ada Hoffman, one of my fave sci-fantasy authors, has written the foreword for this collection, which is enough all by itself for me to pounce on it! I’m so glad she mentioned it in her newsletter, because this sounds so up my alley; nuerodivergence and Gender Things and spec fic + religion! Yessssssss, Sia wants!!!

Valid: Dystopian Autofiction by Chris Bergeron, Natalia Hero
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Trans MC
Published on: 7th November 2023

A gender-bending speculative look at a dark future, Valid shares the story of one trans woman leading a revolution.

This is a mutiny.

If our mutiny is to succeed, I must name things well, without diversion. Lacking this, you will not deviate from your certainties.

Here it I am trans.

As in transgression. I have broken genres. I have removed myself from the rules.

I am trans.

As in translation. I have dragged the elements that make up my person from one state to another. My geometry is variable.

And tonight, I am a revolution.

/ code red… fetch-query protocol enabled… transmission failed… standby/

Set in a disturbingly transfigured Montreal in the year 2050, Valid is a monologue delivered over the span of eight hours by Christelle, a seventy-year-old trans woman forced to live as a man in order to survive. Speaking to her captor, an ever–more powerful AI, she turns the tables and mounts her own revolution by showing her truest self. Part autofiction, part dystopic speculation on an all-too-possible future characterized by corporate power, ecological collapse, and political havoc, Valid is an ambitious work that is as much philosophical as it is confessional.

I think this was originally written-and-published in French? It sounds very powerful, but also quite grim; I’m definitely nabbing a copy, but it may linger on my tbr for a while until I’m in the right headspace for it.

The Princess of Thornwood Drive by Khalia Moreau
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
Representation: Biracial Afro-Caribbean MCs
Published on: 7th November 2023

Two sisters are trapped on opposite sides of reality in this entrancing and deeply moving debut novel that weaves together a contemporary narrative with a parallel fantasy world.  

One year ago, a tragic car accident killed 22-year-old Laine’s parents and left her 18-year-old sister, Alyssa, paralyzed and nonverbal. Now—instead of studying animal nutrition or competing as one of the few equestrians of color—Laine is struggling with predatory banks, unscrupulous health care organizations, and rude customers at the coffee shop where she works. That’s why when Lake Forest Adult Day Center offers to take care of Alyssa, free of charge, Laine is relieved.

Alyssa isn't relieved, though. After all, in her mind, there was never a car accident. Instead, she and her parents—the king and queen of Mirendal—were attacked one year ago in the forest, her parents kidnapped while she was cursed, and now must spend her days in Lake Forest's Home for Changels—a temple caring for mortals such as herself. Perhaps there, she could meet other changels who show her how to embrace her new life.

However, there is a dark prince at Lake Forest, one who has taken a peculiar interest in not only Alyssa but her sister as well. And while Laine struggles to make ends meet on an everyday basis, Alyssa finds herself leading a battle that threatens to destroy not only her and her sister but their entire kingdom.

This one did not work for me, but not because it’s a bad book; we just didn’t mesh. I think readers who are looking for strong character voices and less complicated fantasy elements could really enjoy this. I didn’t read far enough into this to find out if the sister’s magical worldview is a delusion or not, so be braced for either to be true!

The King-Killing Queen (Old World Tales Book 1) by Shawn Speakman
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Published on: 7th November 2023

In this first book of a new trilogy author Anna Smith Spark calls “a dark love letter to high fantasy,” a woman discovers her unknown past carries with it a terrible future.

When Alafair Goode lay wounded during his quest to destroy Mordreadth the Great Darkness, a witch magicked and saved the future High King’s life to fulfill his destiny. Thereafter, all born to his line also cannot die, to be only undone by natural death.

Decades later, Sylvie Raventress is the devoted apprentice to the Master Historian stepbrother of the High King. It is a life of scholarly pursuit and privilege where one day she will take her instructor’s place and write her own histories. But beside Alafair’s deathbed, Sylvie and his scions learn a surprising truth—she is no orphan but is his named heir. Worse, when he dies, the witch’s curse is no more, leaving all of them suddenly mortal and vulnerable.

With her siblings loathing Sylvie’s selection and vying for her throne, she must rely on a Fae guide, a disgraced former First Knight, and a cantankerous light-weaver to restore the fracturing kingdom and become High Queen. And yet the thing none of them know is destiny has its own part to play too.

For the witch saved Alafair Goode for her own reasons…

Set 400 years before the events of The Dark Thorn, The King-Killing Queen is a perfect place for new and established Speakman readers.

I freely admit that this is not the kind of book thatr would usually catch my eye – but I do love the idea of a queen killing kings, and, even more importantly, I happen to know a unicorn appears in this book somewhere. That’s enough for me to be willing to give it a go.

The Manor House Governess by C.A. Castle
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: Nonbinary/genderqueer MC
Published on: 7th November 2023

This spirited debut pays homage to the British classics—with a genderfluid protagonist and 21st-century twist—perfect for fans of Emily M. Danforth and Andrew Sean Greer.

Set against the rarefied backdrop of high society, this one-of-a-kind, queer novel features 5 stunning illustrations of modern-day Cambridge.

Orphaned young and raised with chilly indifference at an all-boys boarding school, Brontë Ellis has grown up stifled by rigid rules and social “norms,” forbidden from expressing his gender identity. His beloved novels and period films lend an escape, until a position as a live-in tutor provides him with a chance to leave St. Mary’s behind.

Greenwood Manor is the kind of elegant country house Bron has only read about, and amid lavish parties and cricket matches the Edwards family welcomes him into the household with true warmth. Mr. Edwards and the young Ada, Bron’s pupil, accept without question that Bron’s gender presentation is not traditionally masculine. Only Darcy, the eldest son, seems uncomfortable with Bron—the two of them couldn’t be more opposite.

When a tragic fire blazes through the estate’s idyllic peace, Bron begins to sense dark secrets smoldering beneath Greenwood Manor’s surface. Channeling the heroines of his cherished paperbacks, he begins to sift through the wreckage. Soon, he’s not sure what to believe, especially with his increasing attraction to Darcy clouding his vision.

Drawing energy and inspiration from Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, E.M. Forster, and more, while bowing to popular fiction such as Plain Bad Heroines and Red, White, and Royal Blue, The Manor House Governess is a smart, sublimely charming novel destined to become a modern classic.

It’s not super clear from the blurb, but this has a modern setting, not a historical one – those looking for the queer Jane Eyre would be better off finding a copy of Gaywyck. But knowing it’s contemporary going in, it still sounds interesting enough to check out.

Just a Little Snack: An Afro-Gothic Short Story Collection by Yah Yah Scholfield
Genres: Horror
Representation: Black MCs
Published on: 8th November 2023

A pregnant woman is devoured by an unsettling hunger. A man is buried alive, punished for a crime that is none. A boy goes missing, and he returns, changed.

In this collection of nine disturbing horror stories, the author of On Sundays, She Picked Flowers explores themes of disconcerting appetites of body and mind, of decay and the restless dead. Yah Yah Scholfield skillfully engages with Southern Gothic and Afro-Gothic traditions to create unsettling tales about nature, religion, and the body.

Afro-Gothic is not a genre I’ve heard of before, but a shallow dive down the internet rabbit hole has me VERY curious. The early reviews seem a bit divided on whether these stories are actually scary, but since I tend to do better with less-horrifying horror, that might be a good thing for me!

DallerGut Dream Department Store: The Joyfully Magical Korean Bestseller by Mi-ye Lee
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
Representation: Korean cast
Published on: 9th November 2023


In a mysterious town that lies hidden in our collective subconscious, there's a quaint little store where all kinds of dreams are sold . . .

Day and night, visitors both human and animal from all over the world shuffle in sleepily in their pyjamas, lining up to purchase their latest adventure. Each floor in the department store sells a special kind of dream, including nostalgic dreams about your childhood, trips you've taken, and delicious food you've eaten, as well as nightmares and more mysterious dreams.

In Dallergut Dream Department Store we meet Penny an enthusiastic new-hire; Dallergut, the flamboyant owner of the department store; Agnap Coco, producer of special dreams; Vigo Myers, an employee in the mystery department as well as the cast of curious, funny and strange clientele that regularly visit the store. When one of the most coveted and expensive dreams gets stolen during Penny's first week, we follow along with her as she tries to uncover the workings of this wonderfully whimsical world.

A captivating story that will leave a lingering magical feeling in readers' minds, this is the first book in a best-selling duology for anyone exhausted from the reality of their daily life.

I’m so excited for this one! I think this week is only the UK release, and it’ll be out in the US next year; regardless, you can be sure I’ll be getting my hands on it! I love everything about this sweet, whimsical premise; it sounds like exactly what I’ve been craving lately.

Bird Life: a novel by Anna Smaill
Genres: Speculative Fiction
Representation: Japanese MC
Published on: 9th November 2023

The second novel by Booker Prize-longlisted author Anna Smaill. A lyrical and ambitious exploration of madness and what it is like to experience the world differently.

In Ueno Park, Tokyo, as workers and tourists gather for lunch, the pollen blows, a fountain erupts, pigeons scatter, and two women meet, changing the course of one another’s lives.

Dinah has come to Japan from New Zealand to teach English and grieve the death of her brother, Michael, a troubled genius who was able to channel his problems into music as a classical pianist—until he wasn’t. In the seemingly empty, eerie apartment block where Dinah has been housed, she sees Michael everywhere, even as she feels his absence sharply.

Yasuko is polished, precise, and keenly observant—of her students and colleagues at the language school, and of the natural world. When she was thirteen, animals began to speak to her, to tell her things she did not always want to hear. She has suppressed these powers for many years, but sometimes she allows them to resurface, to the dismay of her adult son, Jun. One day, she returns home, and Jun has gone. Even her special gifts cannot bring him back.

As these two women deal with their individual traumas, they form an unlikely friendship in which each will help the other to see a different possible world, as Smaill teases out the tension between our internal and external lives and asks what we lose by having to choose between them.

I unabashedly adored Smaill’s incredible debut Chimes, which you absolutely must read if you have not (a world where music is everything, memories can’t be trusted, with a soft queer love story). Bird Life doesn’t grab me the way the premise of Chimes did, but based on how excellent her debut was I am very willing to give Smaill the chance to enchant me with Bird Life, too.

Sisters of Sword and Shadow by Laura Bates
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 9th November 2023

What if the Knights of the Round Table had been women?

This afternoon Cass's older sister will be married. Soon she will be too. Gone will be days of running through fields and feeling the earth between her toes. So when a beautiful leather-clad woman rides up and offers to take her away, Cass doesn't hesitate to join her.

Cass is introduced to the Sisterhood of Silk Knights - a group of women training to fight and working to right the wrongs of men. Cass is drawn into a world of ancient feuds, glorious battles, and deadly intrigue, where soon discovers she holds a power that could change the destiny of her sisterhood.

'An interesting thing happens, when a man is defeated in combat by a woman. He tells nobody.'

I’m a little wary of women vs the patriarchy fantasy these days, and some of the early reviews have me concerned its approach to feminism is going to be super simplistic…but I still want to pick it up and give it a try, just in case it turns out to be wonderful! It’s also supposed to be queer somehow, although I wasn’t able to confirm that or get any details on what form that queerness would take.

Evil Men by T.J. Land
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: M/M
Published on: 10th November 2023

Skitter is a thief in search of a challenge.

Some would say that his life is challenging enough, having been born poor and rebellious of spirit, and never having grown beyond four feet tall. And perhaps they’d be right – except that the love of his life just left him and if he doesn’t find a sufficiently deranged trial to sink his teeth into, despair will consume him utterly.

So he’s going to rob a dragon.


TJ Land is the author of Lovequake, one of my all-time favourite books, and I’ve been stalking their publications ever since. You’d better BELIEVE I’m going all-in on one of their books that is, you know, one of their books + dragons!!! ALL THE YES PLEASE!

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


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