Must-Have Monday #186

Posted 13th May 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.

ELEVEN books this week!

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

Road to Ruin (Magebike Courier, #1) by Hana Lee
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: East Asian-coded cast, bi/pansexual MC, MC with dyslexia, bi/pansexual MC
Published on: 14th May 2024

An electrifying, gritty fantasy from debut author Hana Lee that takes a royal messenger on a high-speed chase across a climate-ravaged wasteland, featuring motorcycles, monsters, and magic.

Jin-Lu has the most dangerous job in the wasteland. She’s a magebike courier, one of the few who venture outside the domed cities on motorcycles powered by magic. Every day, she braves the wasteland’s dangers—deadly storms, roving marauders, and territorial beasts—to deliver her wares.

Her most valuable cargo? A prince’s love letters addressed to Yi-Nereen, a princess desperate to escape the clutches of her abusive family and soon-to-be husband. Jin, desperately in love with both her and the prince, can’t refuse Yi-Nereen’s plea for help. The two of them flee across the wastes, pursued by Yi-Nereen’s furious father, her scheming betrothed, and a bounty hunter with mysterious powers.

A storm to end all storms is brewing and dark secrets about the heritability of magic are coming to light. Jin’s heart has led her into peril before, but this time she may not find her way back.

A post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure, with dinosaurs, magic motorbikes, and a romance-by-letters between a prince and princess and the courier who delivers said letters back and forth, this is going to be a lot of fun for the right reader. It didn’t quite work for me, but I think it’s objectively great, and if the blurb grabs your attention you should definitely give it a go!

You can read an excerpt here, and my review here!

The Garden of Delights by Amal Singh
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Representation: Desi-coded setting and cast
Published on: 14th May 2024

Amal Singh is an engaging and motivated writer from Mumbai, India, with a long list of short story credits in Clarkesworld, F&SF, Apex, Fantasy and many others.

In the city of Sirvassa, where petals are currency and flowers are magic, the Caretaker tends to the Garden of Delights. He imparts temporary magical abilities to the citizens of Sirvassa, while battling a curse of eternal old age. No Delight could uplift his curse, and so he must seek out a mythical figure. A god. When a Delight allows a young girl an ability to change reality, the Caretaker believes he’s at the end of his search. But soon a magical rot takes root in his Garden, and the Caretaker must join forces with the girl and stop it from spreading. Even as he battles a different rot that plagues Sirvassa, he learns that Delights are always a precursor to Sorrows.

This is a truly beautiful book, set in a world that is rich and complicated and feels so unique. I don’t know if I’ll finish it, but that’s only because I’m having my weird problem again where the prose sounds ‘out of tune’ to me – something I’ve never been able to explain, and never seen another reviewer discussing. Since this is something that doesn’t seem to affect anyone else, and because I really do think Garden of Delights is objectively amazing, I hope tonnes of people read it and love it as it deserves to be loved.

My Darling Dreadful Thing by Johanna van Veen
Genres: Adult, Horror, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MC
Published on: 14th May 2024

In a world where the dead can wake and walk among us, what is truly real?

Roos Beckman has a spirit companion only she can see. Ruth—strange, corpse-like, and dead for centuries—is the only good thing in Roos’ life, which is filled with sordid backroom séances organized by her mother. That is, until wealthy young widow Agnes Knoop attends one of these séances and asks Roos to come live with her at the crumbling estate she inherited upon the death of her husband. The manor is unsettling, but the attraction between Roos and Agnes is palpable. So how does someone end up dead?

Roos is caught red-handed, but she claims a spirit is the culprit. Doctor Montague, a psychologist tasked with finding out whether Roos can be considered mentally fit to stand trial, suspects she’s created an elaborate fantasy to protect her from what really happened. But Roos knows spirits are real; she's loved one of them. She'll have to prove her innocence and her sanity, or lose everything.

WELL. This sounds terrifying. But despite being a horror wimp, I’m absolutely going to have to give it a go. I mean!!! *gestures wildly at the blurb*

When Among Crows by Veronica Roth
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: M/M
Published on: 14th May 2024

Step into a city where monsters feast on human emotions, knights split their souls to make their weapons, and witches always take more than they give.

Pain is Dymitr’s calling. To slay the monsters he’s been raised to kill, he had to split his soul in half to make a sword from his own spine. Every time he draws it, he gets blood on his hands.

Pain is Ala’s inheritance. When her mother died, a family curse to witness horrors committed by the Holy Order was passed onto her. The curse will claim her life, as it did her mother’s, unless she can find a cure.

One fateful night in Chicago, Dymitr comes to Ala with a bargain: her help in finding the legendary witch Baba Jaga in exchange for an enchanted flower that just might cure her. Desperate, and unaware of what Dymitr really is, Ala agrees.

But they only have one day before the flower dies . . . and Ala's hopes of breaking the curse along with it.

Not gonna lie, I was not expecting to ever include Veronica Roth in one of these posts, but by all accounts When Among Crows is extremely impressive – many reviewers I trust have loved it – and it’s also queer? All right, I’m here for it! (And because it’s not obvious – this is a novella, not a novel.)

Starfire by Naomi Hughes
Genres: Science Fantasy, YA
Published on: 14th May 2024

In a world where dragons hatch from stars, Peregrine Kent would give anything to see the sky.

It’s an impossible dream. The Barrier surrounding his planet makes sure of that. Everyone else might feel safe, but the flat white sky just makes Per feels trapped. His OCD has been getting worse each day; if he could only be out among the stars, though, he would finally feel free.

His dream seems impossible…until the day a real live star dragon tears a hole in the sky, setting off a worldwide panic. With the help of a homemade submarine and its surly—and distractingly handsome—captain, Per sets off on a quest to escape the confines of his world and his own anxiety. But what he discovers instead is a devastating truth that will change everything he thought he knew about dragons, his planet, and himself.

‘In a world where dragons hatch from stars’ was all I needed to hear. Sia is SOLD!

The Dangerous Ones by Lauren Blackwood
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, YA
Representation: Black MC
Protagonist Age: 16ish
Published on: 14th May 2024

A romantic historical fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Blackwood, set in the American Civil War with vampires and people with demigod-like abilities.

1863, Pennsylvania

War doesn’t scare Jerusalem—she’s a Saint. Thanks to powerful demigod-style reflexes, endurance, and strength, she’s fearless. And ever since the Confederates declared civil war, partnering with the vampires who benefitted off slavery, she and her battalion of Saints are essential to the Union army.

Jerusalem herself had been enslaved by a vampire, escaping North only after her family was murdered. She knows the enemy better, hates the enemy more than anyone in her battalion, and has been using it to her advantage since she joined the war a year ago. More than anything she wants revenge, but if she can help Black people gain freedom and equality without having to steal it for themselves like she had to, then all the better.

But she never expects to have to team up with a vampire to do it. Alexei is one of those handsome, arrogant Ancient Vampires. But he’s on the Union’s side, and in the year they've known each other, has never done anything but prove he’s on hers.

Together, they set out to change the course of the war and take down the vampire who destroyed everyone Jerusalem loved. But for her, it’s about more than justice.
It's about killing a god.

Black Saints taking names and kicking ass? Againt the Confederates?! This has the potential to be very cool indeed, sounds like!

Flyboy by Kasey LeBlanc
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists, YA
Representation: Trans MC
Protagonist Age: 16ish

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets the speculative twists of The Night Circus in this standout debut YA novel, about a boy who visits the magic-filled circus of his dreams each night in order to escape his daily reality where his trans identity remains a secret.

After an incident at his school leaves closeted trans teenager Asher Sullivan needing stitches, his mother betrays him in the worst possible way—she sends him to Catholic school for his senior year. Now he has to contend with hideous plaid skirts, cranky nuns, and #bathroomJesus.

Nighttime brings an escape for Asher when he dreams of the Midnight Circus—the one place where he is seen for the boy he truly is. Too bad it exists only in his sleep. Or at least, that’s what he believes, until the day his annoyingly attractive trapeze rival, Apollo, walks out of his dreams and into his classroom. On the heels of this realization that the magical circus might be real, Asher also learns that his time there is limited.

In his desperation to hang onto the one place he feels at home, Asher sets both worlds on a collision course that could destroy all the relationships he cares about most. Now he must decide how far he’ll go to preserve the magical circus, even if it means facing his biggest challenge yet—coming out.

As a general rule I avoid coming-out stories, but this one is all mixed up with magic and a Night Circus-esque dreamland, so I am making an exception. Here’s hoping it lives up to that beautiful cover!

It Waits in the Forest by Sarah Dass
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Horror, YA
Representation: Caribbean cast and setting
Protagonist Age: 16ish
Published on: 14th May 2024

Unlike the other residents of the small Caribbean Island of St. Virgil, Selina DaSilva does not believe in magic. With a logical mind and a knack for botany, Selina used to dream of leaving the island to study Pharmacology—until a vicious, unsolved attack left her father dead and her mother in a coma.

Now her guilt over her mother’s condition keeps her tethered to the island, relegated to conning gullible tourists with useless talismans and phony protection rituals. But when one of those tourists ends up at the center of a string of strange murders, the truth that Selina has been denying can no longer be there is evil lurking in the forests that surround St. Virgil. Another thing that can’t be avoided? Selina’s ex-boyfriend Gabriel, newly employed at the local newspaper and eager to put his investigative skills to use.

Desperate to put an end to the killings and claim justice for Selina’s family, these two former lovers race to find answers. But evil bides its time. And as long-buried feelings and long-hidden secrets about Selina’s family’s past begin to reveal themselves, only one answer remains—and it waits in the forest.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a ‘sceptic forced to acknowledge magic exists’ story, but that seems to be what this one is. And that’s always kinda fun! Plus, Caribbean folklore? Um, yes please?

The Witches of Silverlake Volume One by Simon Curtis, Stephanie Son
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, YA
Representation: Queer MCs, queer Black MC, trans Desi MC, bisexual Mexican-Puertorican MC, fat white protagonist, gay Black secondary character
Protagonist Age: 16ish
Published on: 14th May 2024

It's always tough being the new kid in the coven.

Elliot has had a rough year. His dad died, he had to move across the country, and now he’s about to start high school at LA’s prestigious Saint John the Baptist Academy, where his mom has accepted the position of Vice Principal. He’s quickly taken in by the school’s outcasts: the scholarship kids; the queer kids; and the ones who just don’t really fit in with the glossy trust fund babies of SJTBA. They immediately let him in on their little secret…they are witches. Elliot joins them in their world among the crystal stores and occult shops of Silverlake, but just as he feels he has finally found a sense of family with his new coven, a full moon initiation ceremony goes awry and unleashes a demon with a thirst for SJTBA student and faculty blood, whose gruesome killing spree reveals that forces much bigger and darker than their worst nightmares have had their sights set on Elliot all along…

With the fun and games of playing with crystals and candles over, the coven now realize that magic is powerful, real, and that it might be more dangerous than they’d ever imagined.

I also don’t read comics/graphic novels that often, but this one looks and sounds awesome, and I’ve been excited for it ever since it was announced!

Kavithri by Aman J. Bedi
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Representation: South Asian-coded cast and setting
Published on: 16th May 2024

An action-packed and empowering South Asian fantasy epic that fans of Jade City will love. An underdog story like no other - Kavithri will remind you of fantasy heroes like Arya Stark, Gideon the Ninth and Kaladin Stormblessed.

Meet Kavithri. Outcast. Underdog. Survivor.
Kavi is a Taemu. Her people, once feared berserkers and the spearhead of a continent-spanning invasion, are the dregs of Raayan society. Their spirits crushed. Their swords broken. Their history erased.

But Kavi has a dream and a plan. She will do whatever it takes to earn a place at the secretive mage academy, face the Jinn within its walls, and gain the power to rise above her station and drag her people out of the darkness.

Except power and knowledge come at a cost, and the world no longer needs a Taemu who can fight. So they will break her. Beat her down to her knees. And make her bleed.
But if blood is what they want, Kavi will give them blood. She will give them violence. She will show them a berserker's fury.

And she will make them remember her name.

Kavithri releases in the UK this week, BUT, US readers will also be able to buy the ebook come Thursday – even if it’ll be a few more months before the hardback is published. There’s been a LOT of hype for this one, and I am cautiously intrigued…

You can read an excerpt here!

A Bone in His Teeth by Kellen Graves
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Trans MC
Published on: 17th May 2024

When a fall from the mast leaves Alba Marsh unable to sail, he finally has the chance to run away from his family debts in search of a better life. He hopes to reunite with his mother, Edythe, where they always promised to meet if things went awry, but finding the small, secluded, secretive town of Moon Harbor proves a greater challenge than Alba ever expected. Worse, upon arriving, no one seems to know anyone by the name Edythe Marsh at all.

Taking a job as the local lighthouse keeper while waiting for her to come, Alba attempts to find peace in his stolen freedom--but the sea has other plans. First come the shadows, then the voices, then watery trails left on the floor while he sleeps. He's inundated with erotic dreams of sirens calling out to him, and distant singing haunts his waking hours, all while the townspeople claim to hear nothing.

After a debtor catches up with him and he's forced to dispose of their body in the harbor, Alba is interrupted by Eridanys, the last merrow of Moon Harbor, who curses him from leaving until he can find out what happened to the other merrow that once filled those waters. Eridanys' demands, both mental and physical, are exhausting and endless--but as their relationship deepens, and Moon Harbor’s long-kept secrets are butterflied open to see, it becomes clear they may both be prey to the town in ways neither of them ever anticipated.

A BONE IN HIS TEETH is an adult, queer, trans/M dark fantasy/romance with horror elements. Coming May 17, 2024.

One of the prompts for this year’s Book Bingo over on r/Fantasy is to choose a book based solely on its cover, without looking at the blurb. This is my pick, and I suspect you can see why.

Will you be reading any of these? Did I miss any releases you think I should know about? Let me know!


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