Must-Have Monday #42!

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

This week we have EIGHT new SFF releases of note, with stories about superheroes and cryptozoologists and tea-monks galore!

Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge, Jeremy Tiang
Representation: Chinese MC and cast
Published on: 13th July 2021

In the fictional Chinese town of Yong’an, human beings live alongside spirits and monsters, some of which are almost indistinguishable from people. Told in the form of a bestiary, each chapter of Strange Beasts introduces us to a new creature – from the Sacrificial Beasts, who can’t seem to stop dying, to the Besotted Beasts, an artificial breed engineered by scientists to be as loveable as possible. The narrator, an amateur cryptozoologist, is on a mission to track down each breed in turn, but in the process discovers that she might not be as human as she thought.

I think this might have been available in the UK a while ago, but this week it’s finally coming to the states! I am so in love with the idea of an amateur cryptozoologist documenting strange beasties. Everything about this premise just ticks all my boxes. Strange Beasts of China is also a novel in translation – it was originally written in, you’ll never guess, Chinese – so I’m excited to read it for that reason too. I don’t read a lot of translated fiction, and I think I ought to read more!

Flash Fire (The Extraordinaries, #2) by T.J. Klune
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Gay MC with ADHD, M/M, secondary F/F
Published on: 13th July 2021

Flash Fire is the explosive sequel to The Extraordinaries by USA Today bestselling author TJ Klune!

Nick landed himself the superhero boyfriend of his dreams, but with new heroes arriving in Nova City it’s up to Nick and his friends to determine who is virtuous and who is villainous. Which is a lot to handle for a guy who just wants to finish his self-insert bakery AU fanfic.

The first book in this series, The Extraordinaries, was one of my most enjoyed reads of last year, and I can’t wait to dive back in to the story of these fabulous characters and their ridiculous antics!

Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices by Swapna Krishna, Jenn Northington, Alexander Chee, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Sive Doyle, Maria Dahvana Headley, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Daniel M. Lavery, Ken Liu, Sarah MacLean, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Jessica Plummer, Anthony Rapp, Waubgeshig Rice, Alex Segura, Nisi Shawl, S. Zainab Williams
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Various queer characters, various POC characters
Published on: 13th July 2021

Featuring stories by a bestselling, cross-genre assortment of the most exciting writers working today, an anthology of gender-bent, race-bent, LGBTQIA+, and inclusive retellings from the vast lore surrounding King Arthur, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table.

Here you'll find the Lady of the Lake reimagined as an albino Ugandan sorceress and the Lady of Shalott as a wealthy, isolated woman in futuristic Mexico City; you'll see Excalibur rediscovered as a baseball bat that grants a washed-up minor leaguer a fresh shot at glory and as a lost ceremonial drum that returns to a young First Nations boy the power and the dignity of his people. There are stories set in Gilded Age Chicago, '80s New York, twenty-first century Singapore, and space; there are lesbian lady knights, Arthur and Merlin reborn in the modern era for a second chance at saving the world and falling in love--even a coffee shop AU.

Brave, bold, and groundbreaking, the stories in Sword Stone Table will bring fresh life to beloved myths and give long-time fans a chance to finally see themselves in their favorite legends.

I’m not gonna lie, I’m intensely interested in an Arthurian Coffee Shop AU! Who wouldn’t be?!

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: Black gay MC
Published on: 13th July 2021

Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this YA horror where survival is not a guarantee.

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people.

But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win.

This sounds genuinely disturbing – racism, homophobia, and school shooters?! – but even though I am officially a horror wimp, I really want to give it a go. That’s one hell of a morbidly intriguing premise!

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1) by Becky Chambers
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Agender MC, queernorm world
Published on: 13th July 2021

Hugo Award-winner Becky Chambers's delightful new series gives us hope for the future.

It's been centuries since the robots of Earth gained self-awareness and laid down their tools.Centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again.Centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.

One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of "what do people need?" is answered.

But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.

They're going to need to ask it a lot.

Becky Chambers' new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?

I got to review this one early, and it is sweet and soft, but brace yourself for Meaning of Life type questions. At least you’ll get to ponder them alongside reading about lovely tea-monks!

Three Seeking Stars (Sãoni Cycle, #2) by Avi Silver
Representation: Original gender system, genderfluid, nonbinary
Published on: 13th July 2021

Sohmeng Minhal is going to fix the world.

With her home still in jeopardy, she doesn’t have much choice. What she does have is Ahnschen, an endearing prince of the dangerous empire that is disrupting the sãoni migration route. If she can convince Hei to trust him long enough to safely return him to his people, Sohmeng might just have a chance of restoring balance to Eiji. That is, until an unexpected piece of her past emerges from the jungle and challenges everything she is trying to achieve.

Now, the future of Eiji rests in Ahn’s hands—but does he have the courage to face the harm inflicted by his people? Determined to do right by the beloved friend who died on his sword, it will take a lot of unlearning to prove to Eiji—and to Hei—that he can, in fact, be good.

In the second chapter of the Sãoni Cycle, Sohmeng, Hei, and Ahn must reconcile their places in the human and natural worlds, all while navigating their complicated feelings about one another.

PLEASE do not jump into Three Seeking Stars before reading the first book in the series, Two Dark Moons – but I have to highly recommend this series; I am just so in love with the worldbuilding, and the main character is just wonderful. It’s also hella queer, and there are giant lizards. WIN!

The Fallen (The Outside, #2) by Ada Hoffmann
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Sapphic autistic MC, sapphic MC, F/F or wlw, secondary nonbinary characters, genderfluid POV character, pansexual POV character
Published on: 13th July 2021

The laws of physics acting on the planet of Jai have been forever upended; its surface completed altered, and its inhabitants permanently changed. The artificially intelligent Gods that ruled the galaxy, fearing heresy and chaos, have become the planet’s jailers. Tiv Hunt once trusted these Gods absolutely, but now her world has changed and her allegiance has shifted.

Now Tiv spends her days helping the last remaining survivors of Jai. Everyone is fighting for their freedom against unthinkable odds, and they call out for drastic action from their saviour, Yasira. But she has become deeply ill, debilitated by her Outside exposure, and she struggles to keep breathing let alone lead a revolution.

Hunted by the Gods, and Akavi, the disgraced angel, Yasira and Tiv them must delve further than ever before into the maddening mysteries of their fractured planet in order to save – or perhaps destroy – their fading world.

This is the sequel to the incredible 2019 sci-fi The Outside, and while you definitely need to read that first, I can confirm that this second installment is also freaking excellent! This series is what you want if you’ve been looking for unique worldbuilding, great autism and queer rep, and a very different kind of hero.

The Splinter King (The God-King Chronicles, #2) by Mike Brooks
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Epic Fantasy
Representation: Nonbinary MCs, Gay MC, queernorm world
Published on: 15th July 2021


Darel, dragon knight and the new leader of Black Keep, must travel to the palace of the God-King to beg for the lives of his people. But in the capital of Narida, Marin and his warrior husband will be drawn into a palace coup, and Princess Tila will resort to murder to keep her hold on power.

In the far reaches of the kingdom an heir in exile is hunted by assassins, rumours of a rival God-King abound, and daemonic forces from across the seas draw ever nearer...

A saga of truly epic proportions, The Splinter King is the captivating sequel to Mike Brooks' The Black Coast. A spectacular adventure featuring a large cast of dragon riders, royalty, knights and deities, this new series is an unmissable treat for any fantasy reader.

Americans need to wait a few more months, but for those in the UK the sequel to Black Coast is out this week! Black Coast is already on my best-of-the-year list; I can’t believe we get to have a sequel in the same year as book one! We’re being spoiled. This is a series with feathered dragons, different kinds of normalised queerness, a very compelling cast, and something epic building up in the background like a tidal wave. I suspect some of it’s going to come crashing down in this book!

That’s all I’ve got for this week! Did I miss any new releases I should know about? Will you be reading any of these? Let me know!

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