Must-Have Monday #30!

Posted 12th April 2021 by Sia in Must-Have Mondays / 0 Comments

There’s EIGHT new releases-of-interest this week, featuring so many of my favourite things – unique worldbuilding, trans princesses, aliens, and even a F/F Sleeping Beauty!

The Helm of Midnight (The Five Penalties, #1) by Marina J. Lostetter
Genres: Secondary World Fantasy
Representation: MC of colour, queernorm world, minor nonbinary characters
Published on: 13th April 2021
ISBN: 1250757053

A legendary serial killer stalks the streets of a fantastical city in The Helm of Midnight, the stunning first novel in a new trilogy from acclaimed author Marina Lostetter.In a daring and deadly heist, thieves have made away with an artifact of terrible power--the death mask of Louis Charbon. Made by a master craftsman, it is imbued with the spirit of a monster from history, a serial murderer who terrorized the city with a series of gruesome murders.

Now Charbon is loose once more, killing from beyond the grave. But these murders are different from before, not simply random but the work of a deliberate mind probing for answers to a sinister question.

It is up to Krona Hirvath and her fellow Regulators to enter the mind of madness to stop this insatiable killer while facing the terrible truths left in his wake.

I got to read an arc of this one, and can promise that it’s absolutely bloody brilliant. You can read my full review over here, but the short version is that Lostetter has created a beautifully strange and unique world, and set a story in it that is far more about gods and monsters than it is about a mask.

Gifting Fire (Stealing Thunder, #2) by Alina Boyden
Genres: Queer Protagonists, High Fantasy
Representation: Cast of colour, hijra/trans woman MC, major multiple hijra secondary characters
Published on: 13th April 2021
ISBN: 1984805487

The battle has been won, but the war is just beginning.

Although at long last Razia Khan has found peace with herself and love with her prince, Arjun, her trials are far from over. In order to save her prince and his city from certain destruction, Razia made a deal with the devil--her father, the Sultan of Nizam. Now the bill has come due.

Razia must secure the province of Zindh, a land surrounded by enemies, and loyal to a rebel queen who has survived her father's purge. But when her old tormentor Prince Karim invades her new home and forces her into a marriage alliance, Razia finds herself trapped in the women's quarters of a foreign palace, with her beloved Prince Arjun exiled from her side.

Now, in order to free herself, and her province, from Karim's clutches, she must call upon all of her training as a royal princess, a cunning courtesan, and a daring thief to summon new allies and old friends for a battle that will decide her fate, and the fate of an empire.

Gifting Fire is the sequel to last year’s Stealing Thunder, and my review will be going up tomorrow on release day! You absolutely cannot start this book before reading book one, but this is a lush, beautiful duology set in a fantasy-India, featuring a hijra (trans woman) main character and enormous feathered dragon-creatures that determine the fates of kingdoms – I can’t recommend it enough! And if you have read Stealing Thunder, then I’m delighted to be able to tell you that Gifting Fire is even better!

Malice by Heather Walter
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Fantasy
Representation: F/F or wlw
Published on: 13th April 2021
ISBN: 1529101271

The princess isn't supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of Sleeping Beauty, true love is more complicated than a simple fairy tale. Perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Holly Black.

"Malice is the dark and wicked heart of a fairytale carved into a book. This story is beautiful, vicious magic." Tasha Suri, author of Empire of Sand

"A truly original and clever retelling of a classic that had me racing to the end - you'll never look at Sleeping Beauty the same again." S.A. Chakraborty, author of City of Brass

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who cursed a line of princesses to die, and could only be broken by true love's kiss. You've heard this before, haven't you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one actually cares about what happens to our princesses. I thought I didn't care, either. Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to the throne. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn't bothered that I am the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating - and she can't stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it's what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again. Because we all know how this story ends, don't we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I-

I am the villain.

"The story grows deliciously darker at every turn . . . Fairy tale lovers of all ages will be thrilled' Publishers Weekly, starred review

Queer Sleeping Beauty, anyone??? I mean, seriously, do you really need to hear anything else???

The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner
Genres: Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Jewish cast, F/F or wlw
Published on: 13th April 2021
ISBN: 031648346X

An evocative combination of fantasy, history, and Jewish folklore, The Light of the Midnight Stars is fairytale-inspired novel from the author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood.

Deep in the Hungarian woods, the sacred magic of King Solomon lives on in his descendants. Gathering under the midnight stars, they pray, sing and perform small miracles - and none are more gifted than the great Rabbi Isaac and his three daughters. Each one is blessed with a unique talent - whether it be coaxing plants to grow, or predicting the future by reading the path of the stars.

When a fateful decision to help an outsider ends in an accusation of witchcraft, fire blazes through their village. Rabbi Isaac and his family are forced to flee, to abandon their magic and settle into a new way of life. But a dark fog is making its way across Europe and will, in the end, reach even those who thought they could run from it. Each of the sisters will have to make a choice - and change the future of their family forever.

For more from Rena Rossner, check out The Sisters of the Winter Wood.

This sounds like it’s going to be absolutely breathtaking, incorporating so much folklore that people like me typically never come across – and there’s a girl who falls in love with a star! I’m really excited for this one and can’t wait to finally get to read it!

Victories Greater Than Death (Universal Expansion #1) by Charlie Jane Anders
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Bisexual MC, minor nonbinary characters, secondary PoC characters
Published on: 13th April 2021
ISBN: 1250317312

A thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war with international bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders at the helm in her YA debut—think Star Wars meets Doctor Who, and buckle your seatbelts.

Tina has always known her destiny is outside the norm—after all, she is the human clone of the most brilliant alien commander in all the galaxies (even if the rest of the world is still deciding whether aliens exist). But she is tired of waiting for her life to begin.

And then it does—and maybe Tina should have been more prepared. At least she has a crew around her that she can trust—and her best friend at her side. Now, they just have to save the world.

From internationally bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders (All the Birds in the Sky) comes a thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war—Anders’s long-awaited YA debut.

Fans of Anders should be warned that Victories is very different from her previous novels in tone – it’s a first-person YA that feels YA – but it has a brilliantly diverse cast and some quiet but fantastic worldbuilding (the variety of the aliens!!! the technology!!! the space uniforms!!!) I feel that as long as you go in knowing this is YA, and don’t expect it to be like All the Birds in the Sky or City in the Middle of the Night, you’ll really enjoy it.

Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalola
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Cast of colour, queerness
Published on: 13th April 2021
ISBN: 006307849X

A high-born Nigerian goddess, who has been beaten down and unappreciated by her gregarious lover, longs to be truly seen.

A young businesswoman attempts a great leap in her company, and an even greater one in her love life.

A powerful Ghanaian spokeswoman is forced to decide whether she should uphold her family’s politics or be true to her heart.

In her debut collection, internationally acclaimed writer Bolu Babalola retells the most beautiful love stories from history and mythology with incredible new detail and vivacity. Focusing on the magical folktales of West Africa, Babalola also reimagines Greek myths, ancient legends from the Middle East, and stories from long-erased places.

With an eye towards decolonizing tropes inherent in our favorite tales of love, Babalola has created captivating stories that traverse across perspectives, continents, and genres.

I featured this book in a Must-Have Monday way back, but I have to include it again now it’s being released in the US!

The Worldbreaker Saga by Kameron Hurley
Genres: Epic Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Queernorm world, multiple nonbinary characters, polyamory/group-marriage, F/F
Published on: 13th April 2021
ISBN: 9780857669155

For the first time, all three volumes of Kameron Hurley’s epic fantasy masterwork collected in a single eBook omnibus, with a new introduction and epilogue.

The Mirror Empire: When a shadowy force threatens their world, an orphan blood mage, novice fighter, and illegitimate ruler must unite fractured nations – and confront their own darker natures.

Empire Ascendant: In this devastating sequel to The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley transports us back to a land of blood mages and sentient plants, dark magic, and warfare on a scale that spans worlds.

The Broken Heavens: With more refugees from ravaged lands passing through the soft seams between worlds every day, time is running out for the Tai Mora and the last of the Dhai. Only one ruler, one nation, one world can survive. Who will be saved, and who will be sacrificed, when the heavens finally break?

The Worldbreaker Saga made my Best of the Decade list back at the end of 2019 – and now it’s being released as an ebook omnibus, with a new introduction and epilogue!!! You can nab it here from the publisher, Angry Robot, and you really should, because these are some of the most original, brilliantly strange, queer as fuck epic fantasy books I have ever read, with magic drawn from satellites and parallel universes and very scary trees! And did I mention that they’re some of the best books of the decade???

We Are Watching Eliza Bright by A.E. Osworth
Published on: 13th April 2021
ISBN: 1538717638

Eliza Bright was living the dream as an elite video game coder at Fancy Dog Games when her private life suddenly became public. But is Eliza Bright a brilliant, self-taught coder bravely calling out the toxic masculinity and chauvinism that pervades her workplace and industry? Or, is Eliza Bright a woman who needs to be destroyed to protect "the sanctity of gaming culture"? It depends on who you ask...
When Eliza reports an incident of workplace harassment that is quickly dismissed, she's forced to take her frustrations to a journalist who blasts her story across the Internet. She's fired and doxed, and becomes a rallying figure for women across America. But she's also enraged the beast that is male gamers on 4Chan and Reddit, whose collective, unreliable voice narrates our story. Soon Eliza is in the cross-hairs of the gaming community, threatened and stalked as they monitor her every move online and across New York City.
As the violent power of an angry male collective descends upon everyone in Eliza's life, it becomes increasingly difficult to know who to trust, even when she's eventually taken in and protected by an under-the-radar Collective known as the Sixsterhood. The violence moves from cyberspace to the real world, as a vicious male super-fan known only as The Ghost is determined to exact his revenge on behalf of men everywhere. We watch alongside the Sixsterhood and subreddit incels as this dramatic cat-and-mouse game plays out to reach its violent and inevitable conclusion.
This is an extraordinary, unputdownable novel that explores the dark recesses of the Internet and male rage, and the fragile line between the online world and real life. It's a thrilling story of female resilience and survival, packed with a powerful feminist message.

Strictly speaking this isn’t SFF, but it pinged on my radar anyway, especially because it’s supposed to be structured in the form of blog posts and emails and so on, rather than being traditional prose. It’s also written by a trans journalist who covered the #Gamergate that is the obvious inspiration for the novel, and that feels like an important perspective on the whole thing. I’m a bit wary that it’s going to be too dark for me to handle at the moment, but it sounds intensely interesting and I really want to give it a try.

That’s it! Have I missed anything coming out this week? Will you be reading any of these? Let me know!

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