Must-Have Monday #49!

Posted 30th August 2021 by Sia in Must-Have Mondays / 0 Comments

This week there are EIGHT new SFF releases for me to showcase, ranging from Greek myths to magical cities and even some martial arts!

In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy
Representation: Asian-coded cast, Nonbinary MCs who use neopronouns, disabled trans PoV character, sapphic PoV character, F/F or wlw
Published on: 31st August 2021

In the Watchful City explores borders, power, diaspora, and transformation in an Asian-inspired mosaic novella that melds the futurism of Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station with the magical wonder of Catherynne M. Valente’s Palimpsest.

The city of Ora uses a complex living network called the Gleaming to surveil its inhabitants and maintain harmony. Anima is one of the cloistered extrasensory humans tasked with watching over Ora's citizens. Although ær world is restricted to what æ can see and experience through the Gleaming, Anima takes pride and comfort in keeping Ora safe from all harm.

All that changes when a mysterious visitor enters the city carrying a cabinet of curiosities from around the world, with a story attached to each item. As Anima’s world expands beyond the borders of Ora to places—and possibilities—æ never before imagined to exist, æ finds ærself asking a question that throws into doubt ær entire purpose: What good is a city if it can’t protect its people?

I got to read this early, and it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve read in years. Definitely one of the best of 2021 – possibly even of the new decade. It’s gorgeous and strange and utterly wonderful. You can read my review here, or you can skip it, but either way In The Watchful City is genuinely a must-read.

The Boy with Fire (The Ravence Trilogy #1) by Aparna Verma
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Representation: Desi-coded cast
Published on: 31st August 2021

Dune meets The Poppy War in Aparna Verma’s The Boy with Fire, a glorious yet brutal tour-de-force debut that grapples with the power and manipulation of myth in an Indian-inspired epic fantasy.

Yassen Knight was the Arohassin’s most notorious assassin until a horrible accident. Now, he’s on the run from the authorities and his former employer. But when Yassen seeks refuge with an old friend, he’s offered an irresistible deal: defend the heir of Ravence from the Arohassin, and earn his freedom.

Elena Ravence prepares to ascend the throne. Trained since birth in statecraft, warfare, and the desert ways, Elena knows she is ready. She only lacks one thing: the ability to hold Fire. With the coronation only weeks away, she must learn quickly or lose her kingdom.

Leo Ravence is not ready to give up the crown. There’s still too much work to be done, too many battles to be won. But when an ancient prophecy threatens to undo his lifetime of work, Leo wages war on the heavens themselves to protect his legacy.

The first of The Ravence Trilogy, The Boy with Fire is the tale of a world teetering on the edge of war and prophecy, of fate and betrayal, of man’s irrevocable greed for power — and the sacrifices that must come with it.

Dune meets Poppy War is not my idea of a good time…but x meets y pitches are almost always completely wrong, and I want to give this one a shot – especially because, despite the use of the word ‘boy’ in the title, the author has made it very clear that this is not YA. (I haven’t been doing well with YA lately and I’m wary of it.) The early reviews have been really promising, and after The Jasmine Throne earlier this year I really want more adult Desi fantasy!

Forestborn (Forestborn, #1) by Elayne Audrey Becker
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Queernorm world, M/M or mlm
Published on: 31st August 2021

A young, orphaned shapeshifter in a world that fears magic must risk everything if she hopes to save her only friend in Elayne Audrey Becker's Forestborn, first in a new fantasy series with a timeless feel.


Rora is a shifter, as magical as all those born in the wilderness—and as feared. She uses her abilities to spy for the king, traveling under different guises and listening for signs of trouble.

When a magical illness surfaces across the kingdom, Rora uncovers a devastating truth: Finley, the young prince and her best friend, has caught it, too. His only hope is stardust, the rarest of magical elements, found deep in the wilderness where Rora grew up—and to which she swore never to return.

But for her only friend, Rora will face her past and brave the dark, magical wood, journeying with her brother and the obstinate, older prince who insists on coming. Together, they must survive sentient forests and creatures unknown, battling an ever-changing landscape while escaping human pursuers who want them dead. With illness gripping the kingdom and war on the horizon, Finley’s is not the only life that hangs in the balance.

Stories about shapeshifters always card my attention – even moreso when they have a queernorm setting. The early reviews have been positive, so I’m hopeful!

The Phoenix Feather: Fledglings by Sherwood Smith
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 31st August 2021

In the grand tradition of martial arts fantasy tales, Fledglings begins twenty-five years ago, when a pair of lovers ran for their lives from an angry prince. They washed up on an island where they adopted new identities–and found themselves blessed by an omen promising great things, a single golden phoenix feather.

Their eldest child, a natural martial artist like his father, seems destined for those great things. The second son, an artist and a dreamer, has no desire for greatness–he wants to be left alone to paint. And the youngest, a daughter, used to wearing her brothers’ castoffs and trotting at their heels, is the least promising, always scamping her studies in favor of sword lessons and play.

All three vowed to keep their parents’ dangerous secret. But in this first volume, the family learns that sometimes children must follow their own paths . . .

I’m a bit hesitant about the martial arts aspect, but the day has yet to come when I pass up a new Sherwood Smith book!

Punderworld, Volume 1 by Linda Šejić
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 31st August 2021

Hades and Persephone's love-struck misadventures.

The classic tale of Greek mythology, but 100% more awkwardly relatable. Hades is the officious, antisocial ruler of the Underworld; Persephone, daughter of Demeter, is an earth goddess of growth and renewal - they've been crushing on each other for the past two centuries. But when a festival (and a little liquid courage) present an opportunity to put an end to their olympian will-they-won't-they, a meddlesome pantheon and several titanic misassumptions threaten to give every god in the sky the wrong impression... and leave their romance dead before it can bloom.

Graphic novel? Comic? I’m not sure what the difference is, but I know I’ve loved the bits of Punderworld I’ve seen on Sejic’s tumblr and really want to read more!

Walk Between Worlds by Samara Breger
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MC, F/F or wlw
Published on: 31st August 2021

Sergeant Major Scratch Keyes of the King’s Guard is having a bad day.

On what should be the biggest night of her life, everything suddenly goes horribly wrong. First, her king denies her the promotion she rightfully earned, as well as the knighthood that goes along with it. And then, when Scratch is wallowing somewhere near the fetid rock bottom, she and her best friend, the flamboyant and carefree Sergeant James Ursus, are arrested for orchestrating the abduction of Princess Frances and sentenced to death. On the whole, things could be better.

Luckily, help comes in the form of the mysterious Shae siblings―Shovel and Umbrella―who inform the doomed pair that the issue of the missing Princess is far more complicated than it appears. After a daring escape, the four embark on an ill-advised rescue mission through a forest filled with beasts, bandits, and mysterious fair folk, bringing nothing with them but a kitchen knife and the vague outline of a plan. Their destination is the Between, a sacred and shadowy fae-guarded place that promises to deliver Scratch and James to the princess―if they manage to survive.

But Scratch didn’t rise above her humble childhood in the Royal City slums by accepting things at face value. It’s clear that the enigmatic Shaes are hiding something, but what do they know? Who are they working with? And why, in the name of all that is holy, can’t Scratch stop staring at Brella’s beautiful face?

Samara Breger’s debut novel, Walk Between Worlds is a romantic queer fantasy adventure that will make you laugh even as it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Breger’s writing has been described as lyrical, there’s a feel-good romance, it’s queer, and the reviews I’ve read have been full of praise for the worldbuilding – so basically, this sounds pretty perfect??? Especially since it’s apparently also very funny. Sounds like exactly the kind of book I’ve been craving lately!

Lips Like Ice by Peggy Barnett
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy
Representation: Bisexual Black MC, alien gender system
Published on: 1st September 2021

He calls himself the Prince. He is humanoid but not human—fascinating, sensual, at the cusp of maturity, and accustomed to getting what he wants. And Lydia has awoken in his world with no memory of her life before to find that she has been given to him: as a pet, a plaything, and, if he so desires, a lover.

As Lydia comes to realize that the Prince is as much a prisoner to his culture's ways as she is, her resentment slowly unfurls into pity, curiosity, and a deeply unpredictable and confusing lust. She wants him too, on her own terms. But in a world fraught with hidden dangers, her terms are not open for discussion, not when their thirst for one another could doom them both.

In a court where monarchs are obeyed and sexual hierarchies are strict, one wrong move could end the Prince for ever... and what would happen to Lydia then?

This is a new edition of a book I’ve loved for a long time, and I’ll be cross-posting my old review of it here to the blog soon. Unless the new edition has been drastically rewritten, this is dark and complicated and doesn’t pretend that it’s not – issues of consent and personhood and Stockholm Syndrome aren’t glossed over or ignored. It’s a hard book to read, and I think some readers will want to skip it, but I do recommend it if you want dark and complicated.

The Flames of Albiyon by Jean Menzies
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: F/F or wlw
Published on: 2nd September 2021

A century since the monarchy was overthrown, the country of Albiyon has become a haven for its citizens, the young scholar Adairia included. Raised within the Albiyan university’s walls she has dedicated her life to the pursuit of knowledge. Preferring to hole up in the library than seek adventure elsewhere, she has grown accustomed to her comfortable routine… until the day everything changes. When she unwittingly awakens a sleeping dragon’s egg, Adairia is thrust into unfamiliar territory. Never having dreamed of dragons she is forced to seek out guidance from the exhilarating Isla, last direct descendent of the royal family and companion to a century-old dragon. Together they must navigate the surprises to come; for beyond the prospect of a new-born dragon Albiyon is about to face a dangerous conspiracy that threatens the peace of their realm.

Flames of Albiyon is a story of friendship, love, and acceptance that celebrates queer identity.

This sounds super sweet and feel-good and I continue to adore that very whimsical-feeling cover. I’m looking forward to curling up with it and a mug of hot chocolate – it seems like it’s likely to be a hot chocolate book.

That’s all I’ve got for this week! Will you be reading any of these? Let me know!


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