Must-Have Monday #169

Posted 15th January 2024 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.

TWELVE books this week! I think the publishing year is properly getting started now!

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

All the Hidden Paths (The Tithenai Chronicles, #2) by Foz Meadows
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Brown mlm MCs, M/M, major mute character, brown queernorm culture, multiple minor nonbinary characters
Published on: 15th January 2024

The follow-up to Foz Meadows's A Strange and Stubborn Endurance , a sultry political & romantic fantasy exploring gender, sexuality, identity, and self-worth.

With the plot against them foiled and the city of Qi-Katai in safe hands, Velasin and Caethari have begun to test the waters of their relationship. But the wider political ramifications of their marriage are still playing out across two nations, and all too soon, they’re summoned north to Tithena’s capital city, Qi-Xihan, to present themselves to its monarch.

With Caethari newly invested as his grandmother’s heir and Velasin’s old ghosts gnawing at his heels, what little peace they’ve managed to find is swiftly put to the test. Cae’s recent losses have left him racked with grief and guilt, while Vel struggles with the disconnect between instincts that have kept him safe in secrecy and what an open life requires of him now.

Pursued by unknown assailants and with Qi-Xihan’s court factions jockeying for power, Vel and Cae must use all the skills at their disposal to not only survive, but thrive – because there’s more than one way to end an alliance, and more than one person who wants to see them fail.

This was published in the US at the end of last year, but today is the UK release! I absolutely adored it – it even made my Best SFF of 2023 list! – and I can’t recommend it strongly enough. I think it’s even better than book one!

Emily Wilde's Map of the Otherlands (Emily Wilde, #2) by Heather Fawcett
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Published on: 16th January 2024

When mysterious faeries from other realms appear at her university, curmudgeonly professor Emily Wilde must uncover their secrets before it’s too late in this heartwarming, enchanting second installment of the Emily Wilde series. 

Emily Wilde is a genius scholar of faerie folklore—she just wrote the world’s first comprehensive of encylopaedia of faeries. She’s learned many of the secrets of the Hidden Folk on her adventures . . . and also from her fellow scholar and former rival, Wendell Bambleby. 

Because Bambleby is more than infuriatingly charming. He’s an exiled faerie king on the run from his murderous mother, and in search of a door back to his realm. So despite Emily’s feelings for Bambleby, she’s not ready to accept his proposal of marriage. Loving one of the Fair Folk comes with secrets and danger. 

And she also has a new project to focus a map of the realms of faerie. While she is preparing her research, Bambleby lands her in trouble yet again, when assassins sent by Bambleby’s mother invade Cambridge. Now Bambleby and Emily are on another adventure, this time to the picturesque Austrian Alps, where Emily believes they may find the door to Bambley’s realm, and the key to freeing him from his family’s dark plans. 

But with new relationships for the prickly Emily to navigate and dangerous Folk lurking in every forest and hollow, Emily must unravel the mysterious workings of faerie doors, and of her own heart.

If you enjoyed the first book in this series, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries (you can read my review here) then you’re DEFINITELY going to have fun with this sequel! If anything, I think I enjoyed Maps of the Otherlands even more than Encyclopaedia, because we don’t have the horribly icy setting of book one! (I’m really not a fan of icy settings…)

And if you HAVEN’T gotten in on this series yet, now’s a great time to start! Seriously, the hype for these books is entirely justified.

My review!

Beautyland by Marie-Helene Bertino
Genres: Sci Fi
Published on: 16th January 2024

At the moment when Voyager 1 is launched into space carrying its famous golden record, a baby of unusual perception is born to a single mother in Philadelphia. Adina Giorno is tiny and jaundiced, but reaches for warmth and light. As a child, she recognizes that she is different; she also possesses knowledge of a faraway planet. The arrival of a fax machine enables her to contact her extraterrestrial relatives, beings who have sent her to report on the oddities of earthlings.

For years, as she moves through the world and makes a life for herself among humans, she dispatches transmissions on the terrors and surprising joys of their existence. But at a precarious moment, a beloved friend urges Adina to share her messages with the world. Is there a chance she is not alone?

A blazing novel of startling originality about the fragility and resilience of life in our universe, Marie-Helene Bertino’s Beautyland is a remarkable evocation of feeling in exile at home and introduces a gentle, unforgettable alien for our times.

Probably more literary than outright sci fi, but I’m still in love with this premise. Using a fax machine to talk to your home planet! And the idea of a kind of…swap? An alien baby for the Voyager 11 golden record? Really excited for this one!

Triangulum by Subodhana Wijeyeratne
Genres: Sci Fi
Representation: (Probably?) Desi cast
Published on: 16th January 2024

The fate of humanity hangs in the balance while the Gods play.

The distant future. Humanity is ruled by the godlike Dawn and her Triangulan allies. Her Golden Swarm keeps the garden world of Prithvi safe. Her nephew’s Red Fleet secures the rest of the Nine Worlds. In the depths of the system, her regents—the Charioteer of Daitya, and the Huntress of Himenduh—bolster her authority with their own fleets, their own armies, and their own power. So it has been for three thousand years.

But, of course, nothing lasts forever.

On Daitya, a refugee family arrives from Prithvi. A mother sells her daughter into slavery. A princess seeks forbidden knowledge. Their lives could not be more different, but their stories are intertwined. They will meet in the belly of the juggernaut Skо̄lex—a vast, living starship (vimana). They will witness the fall of kingdoms and the destruction of fleets and the toppling of the old order. They will participate first-hand in the confrontation, millennia in the making, between the Dawn and her long-estranged sister, the Night, who has traveled a million light years to right an ancient wrong.

They will discover that not all is as it seems. The Triangulans are not gods. The Dawn is not just. And above all, the future—their future, humanity’s future, the future of the Nine Worlds of Surya—is nothing like what they thought it would be.

Welcome to the battlefield of gods and humans. Welcome to the Nine Worlds of Surya.

Well, this cover is plenty scary, but the blurb sounds pretty cool? Apparently this is bio-punk, which I’m guessing explains the ship-monster on the cover – tech fused or mixed into biology? I haven’t seen that very often!

I found this on the book’s Big River page, which makes for a much clearer description;

Triangulum describes humanity’s revolt against a cadre of alien immortals, bio-mechanical beings with a technology indistinguishable from magic.  It is a story of the far future but also the distant past—needing to be worshiped as gods, the aliens have adopted humanity’s oldest cosmologies—the Sanskrit-language Vedas—so that they can appear to us as devas, asuras, maruts.  The seamless amalgams of past/future, animal/machine, and magic/technology give Subodhana Wijeyeratne’s novel a hallucinogenic vividness and clarity, and a sense of one thing constantly becoming something else, the transformations of the characters against a background as immutable as stars.”

Paul Park, author of Soldiers of Paradise and Sugar Rain

That? That is a book I absolutely HAVE to read. Gimme!

The Storm Gathers (Stormfall) by Maelan Holladay
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 16th January 2024

One day, my dear daughter, you will destroy the world.

After being forced from her home five years ago, Alana Zaya has finally been given the opportunity to return and claim her rightful place on the Okaron throne. When her voyage is waylaid by pirates, she soon finds herself stranded at sea, surrounded by strangers harboring dark secrets. But hers are perhaps the darkest of all.

Across the world, Rae Toma is a warrior who can't walk away from a fight. After years of using her skills to rebel against the regime that trained her, her treachery is revealed, forcing her to flee into the Shatter—a maze of islands that no one has ever returned from.

There, she finds Nur Del Sue, a Stormwitch on a mission to prove herself in a world determined to ignore her.

Forced from their homes, can these characters survive long enough to uncover the deadly mysteries at the heart of their world?

From a scary cover to a beautiful one – check out that dragon! From the early reviews it sounds like this is packed with very badass ladies, which is promising! And the blurb seems to be promising either strong femme-friendship vibes or possible sapphic-ness – and either would be great!

The Parliament by Aimee Pokwatka
Genres: Fantasy, Horror
Published on: 16th January 2024

The Birds meets The Princess Bride in this tale of friendship, responsibility, and the primal force of nature.

“Murder owls are extreme,” Jude said. “What’s more extreme than murder owls?”

Madeleine Purdy is stuck in her home town library.

When tens of thousands of owls descend on the building, rending and tearing at anyone foolish enough to step outside, Mad is tasked with keeping her students safe, and distracted, while they seek a solution to their dilemma.

Perhaps they’ll find the inspiration they seek in her favorite childhood book, The Silent Queen ….

With food and fresh water in low supply, the denizens of the library will have to find a way out, and soon, but the owls don’t seem to be in a hurry to leave…

The Parliament is a story of grief and missed opportunities, but also of courage and hope.

And of extremely sharp beaks.

I am choosing to believe that Parliament has much more to it than is described in the blurb, because I’m not getting Princess Bride vibes from it, nor do I see anything to be super excited about. But there’s been a fair bit of hype, so I’m willing to accept that I might be missing something. I at least want to take a peek at it!

So Let Them Burn (The Divine Traitors #1) by Kamilah Cole
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Jamaican-coded setting & cast, asexual MC, sapphic MC
Published on: 16th January 2024

Whip-smart and immersive, this Jamaican-inspired fantasy follows a gods-blessed heroine who’s forced to choose between saving her sister or protecting her homeland.   

Faron Vincent can channel the power of the gods. Five years ago, she used her divine magic to liberate her island from its enemies, the dragon-riding Langley Empire. But now, at seventeen, Faron is all powered up with no wars to fight. She’s a legend to her people and a nuisance to her neighbors.  

When she’s forced to attend an international peace summit, Faron expects that she will perform tricks like a trained pet and then go home. She doesn’t expect her older sister, Elara, forming an unprecedented bond with an enemy dragon—or the gods claiming the only way to break that bond is to kill her sister.  

As Faron’s desperation to find another solution takes her down a dark path, and Elara discovers the shocking secrets at the heart of the Langley Empire, both must make difficult choices that will shape each other’s lives, as well as the fate of their world.

I didn’t get along with this one, but I appear to be very much in the minority, so if you are not as stupidly nitpicky as myself, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy it.

A Drop of Venom by Sajni Patel
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Desi cast and setting
Published on: 16th January 2024

Circe goes YA in this unapologetically feminist retelling of the Medusa myth steeped in Indian mythology, a YA epic fantasy addition to the Rick Riordan Presents imprint.

All monsters and heroes have beginnings. This is mine.

Sixteen-year-old Manisha is no stranger to monsters—she’s been running from them for years, from beasts who roam the jungle to the King’s army, who forced her people, the naga, to scatter to the ends of the earth. You might think that the kingdom’s famed holy temples atop the floating mountains, where Manisha is now a priestess, would be safe—but you would be wrong.

Seventeen-year-old Pratyush is a famed slayer of monsters, one of the King’s most prized warriors and a frequent visitor to the floating temples. For every monster the slayer kills, years are added to his life. You might think such a powerful warrior could do whatever he wants, but true power lies with the King. Tired after years of fighting, Pratyush wants nothing more than a peaceful, respectable life.

When Pratyush and Manisha meet, each sees in the other the possibility to chart a new path. Unfortunately, the kingdom’s powerful have other plans. A temple visitor sexually assaults Manisha and pushes her off the mountain into a pit of vipers. A month later, the King sends Pratyush off to kill one last monster (a powerful nagin who has been turning men to stone) before he’ll consider granting his freedom.

Except Manisha doesn’t die, despite the hundreds of snake bites covering her body and the venom running through her veins. She rises from the pit more powerful than ever before, with heightened senses, armor-like skin, and blood that can turn people to stone. And Pratyush doesn’t know it, but the “monster” he’s been sent to kill is none other than the girl he wants to marry.

Alternating between Manisha’s and Pratyush’s perspectives, Sajni Patel weaves together lush language, high stakes, and page-turning suspense, demanding an answer to the question “What does it truly mean to be a monster?”

A Desi Medusa is such a great idea! I wish we could cut out the rape part of the story, but as long as Patel handles it well…rape/SA survivors deserve rep too. And nagin!Manisha sounds EPIC! I so love powerful monster girls!

Beasts of War by Ayana Gray
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: African-coded cast and setting
Published on: 16th January 2024

In this epic conclusion to her New York Times bestselling series, Ayana Gray delivers a heart-pounding fantasy adventure filled with mythos, monsters, and mortal heroes who are astoundingly human.

Once a prisoner to Fedu, the vengeful god of death, Koffi has regained her freedom, but she is far from safe. Fedu will stop at nothing to hunt her down and use her power to decimate the mortal world. Koffi knows when Fedu will during the next Bonding, a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event. To survive, Koffi will have to find powerful new allies quickly, and convince them to help her in the terrible battle to come.   

Once a warrior-turned-runaway, Ekon has carved out a new life for himself outside Lkossa, but the shadows of his past still haunt him. Now, alongside unexpected friends, Ekon tries to focus on getting Koffi to the Kusonga Plains before the next Bonding. If he fails, Koffi will be consumed, either by her own dangerous power, or the terrible fate Ekon is doing everything he can to prevent. Ekon devotes himself to protecting Koffi, but the lingering threats from his own past are more urgent than he knows.

As Koffi and Ekon race to the Kusonga Plains—and try to garner the help of Eshōza’s ancient gods along the way—they must face a slew of dangerous beasts old and new. In the end, destiny may unite Koffi and Ekon for the last time—or tear them apart for good.

It’s the conclusion to the Beasts of Prey trilogy!!! You no longer have ANY excuse not to pounce on this series; if you’ve been waiting till all the books are out (and for the record, it’s really bad for the authors when you do that, unless you’re buying each book as it’s released and just waiting fill the series is done to read them) now is the time!!!

Escaping Mr. Rochester by L.L. McKinney
Representation: Black sapphic MCs, F/F
Published on: 16th January 2024

In this fresh reimagining of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel, Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason must save each other from the horrifying machinations of Mr. Rochester.

Jane has no interest in a husband. Eager to make her own way in the world, she accepts the governess position at Thornfield Hall. Though her new employer, Edward Rochester, has a charming air—not to mention a handsome face—Jane discovers that his smile can sharpen in an instant. Plagued by Edward’s mercurial mood and the strange wails that echo through the corridors, she grows suspicious of the secrets hidden within Thornfield Hall—unaware of the true horrors lurking above her very head.

On the topmost floor, Bertha is trapped in more ways than one. After her whirlwind marriage to Edward turned into a nightmare, he locked her away as revenge for withholding her inheritance. Now his patience grows thin in the face of Bertha’s resilience and Jane’s persistent questions, and both young women are in more danger than they realize. When their only chance at safety—and perhaps something more—is in each other’s arms, can they find and keep one another safe before Edward’s dark machinations close in around them?

I unabashedly LOATHED Jane Eyre – and Rochester in particular, how does anyone find him an attractive hero??? – when we had to read it for school, and this is EXACTLY what I would have wanted instead! McKinney isn’t the first author to interpret Bertha as a woman of colour, but I don’t recall seeing a retelling with a BIPOC Jane before, and I suspect they’ll both be much happier with each other than they ever could have been with that asshole Rochester!

The Principle of Moments (Order of Legends, #1) by Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy
Representation: Black MC, Black gay MC
Published on: 18th January 2024

Unmissable for fans of the spacefaring found family of Becky Chambers, the alternate London of V. E. Schwab, and the virtuosic climate-craft of N. K. Jemisin.

A century-spanning space fantasy novel that will take you on a whirlwind adventure, from a Regency Era love affair between a time-traveller and the prince waiting for him in the past, to a rescue mission in the 60th century, where a girl desperately races against time as she searches for the sister the emperor stole.

6066: In Emperor Thracin’s brave new galaxy, humans are not citizens. Instead, they are indentured labourers, working to repay the debt they unwittingly incurred when they settled on Gahraan - a desert planet already owned by the emperor himself. Asha Akindele knows she’s just another voiceless cog working the assembly lines that fuel his vast imperial war machine. Her only rebellion: studying stolen aeronautics manuals in the dead of night. But then a cloaked stranger arrives to deliver an impossible message, and her life changes in an instant.

1812: Obi Amadi is done with time-travelling. Never mind the fact he doesn’t know how to cure himself of the temporal sickness he caught whilst anchoring his soul to Regency London, the one that unmakes him further with every jump. Or if the prince he loves will ever love him back. Or why his father disappeared. He is done. Until he hears about the ghost of a girl in the British Museum. A girl from another time.

When Obi’s path tangles with Asha’s and a prophecy awakens in the cold darkness of space, they must voyage through the stars, racing against time, tyranny, and the legacy of three heroes from an ancient religion who may be awakening, reincarnated in ways beyond comprehension.

What can I even say??? I’VE BEEN WAITING TO READ THIS BOOK SINCE 2020 AND MY EXCITEMENT HAS ONLY GROWN THE CLOSER RELEASE DAY HAS COME!!! Which means at this point I’m vibrating with EEEEEEEE Feels so hard I can barely type. IT’S ALMOST HERE, FOLX, WE ARE SO SO CLOSE!!!

Many Drops Make a Stream by Adrian Harley
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: F/F, brown sapphic love interest
Published on: 20th December 2024

A memory-stealing cult.
The ever-watchful City of Eyes.
Making small talk.
Join Droplet as she faces all these horrors and more…

Vigilante shapeshifter Droplet has trained her entire life to take down those with more power than scruples, but she still makes mistakes. When a rescue mission goes wrong, a memory-stealing cult of blood mages escapes with kidnapped captives in tow. To save them, Droplet reluctantly teams up with the outgoing, tenacious Azera. Droplet knows better than to trust a human—she made that mistake once, and that person's betrayal scattered her community across the known world—and she can tell Azera is hiding secrets behind her sunny smile. But if they can’t learn to work together, even Droplet’s own memories could be lost.

I heard about Many Drops Make a Stream at the last second, through luck, but I’m glad I did! I love stories about shapeshifters – ones who can take many forms, preferably, not just human+1 animal – and this one sounds really fun! Especially with the second bit of the blurb, which can be found on the publisher’s site;

Many Drops Make a Stream, Adrian Harley’s debut novel, is the stand-alone first book in a series of related fantasy-mystery-heists featuring the shapeshifter Droplet and the friends and found family who work alongside her to fight the corrupt powers-that-be. Many Drops Make a Stream is rated general (adult) audiences and features shapeshifting shenanigans, a nascent f/f quarrelers-to-lovers pre-relationship, a wonderful extended cast of family and pseudo-family, necromancy and blood magic and spellwork (oh my!), and one (1) very angry goose.


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


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