Must-Have Monday #176

Posted 4th March 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.

EIGHT books this week!

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

The Truth of the Aleke (Forever Desert, #2) by Moses Ose Utomi
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: African-inspired cast and setting
Published on: 5th March 2024

Moses Ose Utomi returns to his Forever Desert series with The Truth of the Aleke, continuing his epic fable about truth, falsehood, and the shackles of history.

The Aleke is cruel. The Aleke is clever. The Aleke is coming.

500 years after the events of The Lies of the Ajungo, the City of Truth stands as is the last remaining free city of the Forever Desert. A bastion of freedom and peace, the city has successfully weathered the near-constant attacks from the Cult of Tutu, who have besieged it for three centuries, attempting to destroy its warriors and subjugate its people.

17-year-old Osi is a Junior Peacekeeper in the City. When the mysterious leader of the Cult, known only as the Aleke, commits a massacre in the capitol and steals the sacred God's Eyes, Osi steps forward to valiantly defend his home. For his bravery he is tasked with a tremendous responsibility—destroy the Cult of Tutu, bring back the God's Eyes, and discover the truth of the Aleke.

I loved the first book in this trilogy – and had no idea book 2 was going to take place 500 years later until I was putting this post together! That makes me a whole new level of curious about what the book’s going to be like!

Saint, Sorrow, Sinner (The Gideon Testaments, #3) by Freydís Moon
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Autistic sapphic MC, trans Latine/Latinx love interest
Published on: 5th March 2024

An exploration of religious mythos, Brujería, and spiritual ascension…

Sophia De’voreaux never expected to escape Haven, but after a bloody confrontation in the Gideon Preserve, she finds herself under the protection of a rogue witch, her menacing guard, and their cautious friends.

Crumbling beneath an onslaught of ancient power, Sophia must put her reservations aside, because the Breath of Judas is no ordinary relic, and trusting the strange, dysfunctional group might be her only chance at ridding her body of its dangerous magic.

Before it’s too late.

Guided by Colin, Bishop, Tehlor, and Lincoln, Sophia leaves Colorado, seeking help from a mysterious mystic, Juniper Castle, and enters a race against time, chasing salvation, redemption, and a second chance at freedom.

IT’S THE FINALE OF THE GIDEON TESTAMENTS!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! Early reviews for this have been majorly positive (no surprise) but I did see a recommendation that you reread the earlier books before diving into this one, just to have all the details fresh. I think I’ll do that!

Saints and Monsters by Ellen McGinty
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Disabled MC
Published on: 5th March 2024

With her crooked spine and reckless heart, Princess Meera always knew she wasn't meant to become queen of Ezo. But when her sister, the rightful heir, is cursed on the eve of her coronation, Meera must defend her kingdom from ruthless invaders by taking the throne. Yet, while some countries have simple coronations, in Ezo . . .

The princess must first claim a sea dragon.

Only the dragon is vicious, perfect, and whole-everything Meera is not. And if the dragon doesn't deem her worthy, it will devour her. Turning to the Saints for help, she doesn't anticipate that her actions will transform the dragon into a mortal, or that she'll steal his heart . . . literally.

Now, as two hearts beat inside Meera's chest, she's reminded that her life is entwined with a dragon, who despises her weaknesses. Despite their differences, they must work together to reverse the curse and save the kingdom before more is lost than their stolen hearts.

A disabled princess who literally steals a dragon heart??? HERE FOR IT!

Chicano Frankenstein by Daniel A. Olivas
Genres: Speculative Fiction
Representation: Latine/Latinx love interest
Published on: 5th March 2024

A modern retelling of the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley classic that addresses issues of belonging and assimilation

An unnamed paralegal, brought back to life through a controversial process, maneuvers through a near-future world that both needs and resents him. As the United States president spouts anti-reanimation rhetoric and giant pharmaceutical companies rake in profits, the man falls in love with lawyer Faustina Godínez. His world expands as he meets her network of family and friends, setting him on a course to discover his first-life history, which the reanimation process erased. With elements of science fiction, horror, political satire and romance, Chicano Frankenstein confronts our nation’s bigotries and the question of what it truly means to be human.

The early reviews I’ve seen for this have been full of praise, and obviously that blurb has me curious. It doesn’t seem to be a Frankenstein retelling (thank the gods), more using the idea of reanimation as a way to examine racism/xenophobia. I’m intrigued!

Thirst by Marina Yuszczuk, Heather Cleary
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: F/F
Published on: 5th March 2024

Across two different time periods, two women confront fear, loneliness, mortality, and a haunting yearning that will not let them rest. A breakout, genre-blurring novel from one of the most exciting new voices of Latin America’s feminist Gothic.

It is the twilight of Europe’s bloody bacchanals, of murder and feasting without end. In the nineteenth century, a vampire arrives from Europe to the coast of Buenos Aires and, for the second time in her life, watches as villages transform into a cosmopolitan city, one that will soon be ravaged by yellow fever. She must adapt, intermingle with humans, and be discreet.

In present-day Buenos Aires, a woman finds herself at an impasse as she grapples with her mother's terminal illness and her own relationship with motherhood. When she first encounters the vampire in a cemetery, something ignites within the two women—and they cross a threshold from which there’s no turning back.

With echoes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and written in the vein of feminist Gothic writers like Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, and Carmen Maria Machado, Thirst plays with the boundaries of genre while exploring the limits of female agency, the consuming power of desire, and the fragile vitality of even the most immortal of creatures.

This sounds like one of those stories where dual-timelines are a very good thing – and I’m also hopeful for a properly dark vampire MC. Although we’ll see if I can actually handle that, instead of wimping out!

What Monstrous Gods by Rosamund Hodge
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 5th March 2024

Centuries ago, the heretic sorcerer Ruven raised a deadly briar around Runakhia's palace, casting the royal family into an enchanted sleep - and silencing the kingdom's gods.

Born with a miraculous gift, Lia's destiny is to kill Ruven and wake the royals. But when she succeeds, she finds her duty is not yet complete, for now she must marry into the royal family and forge a pact with a god - or die.

To make matters even worse, Ruven's spirit is haunting her.

As discord grows between the old and new guards, the queen sends Lia and Prince Araunn, her betrothed, on a pilgrimage to awaken the gods. But the old gods are more dangerous than Lia ever knew - and Ruven may offer her only hope of survival.

As the two work together, Lia learns that they're more alike than she expected. And with tensions rising, Lia must choose between what she was raised to believe and what she knows is right - and between the prince she is bound to by duty...and the boy she killed.

I loved Cruel Beauty when I was a teenager, and I was looking forward to What Monstrous Gods for YEARS. But then I forgot about it? And then I was reminded! Sleeping Beauty isn’t a story I care about, or its retellings, but pacts with gods and evil sorcerers??? THAT sounds much more my thing!

Sona and the Golden Beasts by Rajani LaRocca
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 5th March 2024

From Newbery Honor and Walter Award–winning author Rajani LaRocca comes a gripping middle grade fantasy perfect for fans of The Serpent’s Secret and The Last Mapmaker.

Though music is outlawed in the land of Devia, Sona hears it everywhere. Sona is a Malech, a member of the ruling class that conquered Devia centuries ago. Malechs forbade music to prevent the native Devans from using their magic, and Sona hides her abilities lest they put her in danger. Then Sona discovers an orphaned wolf pup. She believes the pup, with its golden ears, might be related to one of the five sacred beasts of Devia, and she vows to keep it safe. That means bringing the pup in tow when Sona embarks on a perilous quest, along with a Devan boy, to secure the nectar of life for a loved one who has fallen gravely ill. On the journey, as Sona uncovers secrets about the Malechian empire and her own identity, she realizes that the fate of the sacred beasts, and the future of Devia, just might come down to her.

This captivating fantasy novel by award-winning author Rajani LaRocca will sweep readers into Sona’s quest across the land of Devia as she grapples with the lasting impact of colonial rule and learns to fight for what she knows is right. 

This was apparently inspired by the author’s thoughts and feelings on British colonialism in India – and from what early readers have said, she’s managed that theme beautifully while also writing a completely magical story! I don’t read a lot of MG, but I’m dying to read this one!

The Dancing Bears: Queer Fables for the End Times by Rob Costello
Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Queer MCs
Published on: 8th March 2024

A lost boy under the spell of a seductive killer suffers the sting of betrayal while on the hunt for fresh blood. A misanthrope obsessed with death carries on a torrid affair with the malevolent spirit haunting the house in his favorite novel. The dead son of an abusive horror novelist returns from the grave to tell his father what really happened the night he died. An ex-child star desperate for a comeback meets a sinister stranger who reveals the terrible price of attaining his heart’s desire. A headstrong girl determined to seduce her ex-boyfriend discovers what being trapped in the closet really means.

The Dancing Bears: Queer Fables for the End Times showcases eleven darkly speculative tales of the queer and uncanny. With eight previously published and three brand new stories, this debut collection features young queer characters grappling with love and desire in a heartless world hurtling toward the abyss.

‘Queer fables for the end times’??? Yeah, I’m sold. That’s all I need to hear. I’m good. Gimme!

(This originally appeared in last week’s post, but the pub date got pushed back last minute.)

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


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