Must-Have Monday #73

Posted 14th February 2022 by Sia in Must-Have Mondays / 0 Comments

Brace your budgets, because there are THIRTEEN new SFF releases this week – and a bunch of them are from my Unmissable list! Mythopoeic fantasy about artists and the Fae, magical doors to mysterious places, Deaf princesses who are also witches, and embroidered spellbooks are just a few of them!

Dark Breakers by C.S.E. Cooney, Sharon Shinn, Brett Massé
Genres: Fantasy, Secondary World Fantasy
Published on: 15th February 2022


A young human painter and an ageless gentry queen fall in love over spilled wine—at the risk of his life and her immortality. Pulled into the Veil Between Worlds, two feuding neighbors (and a living statue) get swept up in a brutal war of succession. An investigative reporter infiltrates the Seafall City Laundries to write the exposé of a lifetime, and uncovers secrets she never believed possible. Returning to an oak grove to scatter her husband’s ashes, an elderly widow meets an otherworldly friend, who offers her a momentous choice. Two gentry queens of the Valwode plot to hijack a human rocketship and steal the moon out of the sky.

DARK BREAKERS gathers three new and two previously uncollected tales from World Fantasy Award-winning writer C. S. E. Cooney that expand on the thrice-enfolded worlds first introduced in her Locus and World Fantasy award-nominated novella DESDEMONA AND THE DEEP. In her introduction to DARK BREAKERS, Crawford Award-winning author Sharon Shinn advises those who pick up this book to “settle in for a fantastical read” full of “vivid world-building, with layer upon layer of detail; prose so dense and gorgeous you can scoop up the words like handfuls of jewels; a mischievous sense of humor; and a warm and hopeful heart.”

This book is so beyond perfect that I had to invent a new word to describe it. (Although really it’s a word for all Cooney’s writing, across all her work, but Dark Breakers prompted its invention.) The prose is beyond compare, and the stories mix breathtaking otherworldliness with passages that will have you laughing out loud, if not cackling outright. It’s rich and delicious and poignant and FUN.

I can’t recommend it enough, but I did try and review it, if you still need convincing.

Unravel by Amelia Loken
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Deaf MC
Published on: 15th February 2022

Sixteen-year-old Marguerite knows her uncle doesn’t like her. True, she’s in line for the throne before him and he contends she’s too deaf to rule, but she’s known since he broke her hand to keep her from using sign language. Now, as the kingdom’s Bishop-Princep, Uncle Reichard has declared war on magic and Marguerite must hide the fact that she’s a witch.

While witnessing her first witch trial, Marguerite rescues a child from death with the help of a handsome, itinerant acrobat, Tys. Marguerite flees, hiding in the neighboring empire where magical gifts can flourish. Before her training is complete, war threatens. She returns home, only to witness her uncle seizing the throne. He isolates and imprisons her. Marguerite’s love for her people drives her to continue defying him. But to challenge him means she’ll have to rely on her homemade invisibility cloak, questionable allies, and Tys, the one boy she never should have trusted.

I’m not actually sure I’ve ever read a book with a Deaf protagonist before – books with Deaf characters in the main cast, or as secondaries, or love interests, sure, but not as protagonists. So it’s about time! (For me, and the publishing industry!) I am already massively invested in Marguerite – you can’t get me into momma bear!mode faster than by giving a minor an abusive guardian – and I’m really curious to see how her disability is handled in a fantasy setting. Especially if she can’t sign! (Although I’m hoping that her uncle didn’t hurt her so badly she was left permanently unable to sign, the blurb can be read either way…)

Also, bonus points for acrobat love interests. I don’t know why, but the idea of that makes me laugh.

Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi
Representation: Black MC
Published on: 15th February 2022

From National Book Award finalist Akwaeke Emezi comes a companion novel to the critically acclaimed PET that explores both the importance and cost of social revolution--and how youth lead the way.

After a childhood in foster care, Bitter is thrilled to have been chosen to attend Eucalyptus, a special school where she can focus on her painting surrounded by other creative teens. But outside this haven, the streets are filled with protests against the deep injustices that grip the city of Lucille.

Bitter's instinct is to stay safe within the walls of Eucalyptus . . . but her friends aren't willing to settle for a world that's so far away from what they deserve. Pulled between old friendships, her artistic passion, and a new romance, Bitter isn't sure where she belongs--in the studio or in the streets. And if she does find a way to help the revolution while being true to who she is, she must also ask: at what cost?

This timely and riveting novel--a companion to the National Book Award finalist Pet--explores the power of youth, protest, and art.

Bitter should need no introduction – it’s the prequel to Emezi’s amazing book Pet from a few years ago! But if you DO need an intro: Pet was the story of an incredible young girl named Jam; Bitter is about – well, Bitter, Jam’s mother. Jam grew up in a seriously impressive utopia; my guess is that this book is going to revolve around the fight that led to the creation of that utopia. And possibly the magic we saw in Bitter’s paintings in Pet… Either way, I can’t wait to read it!

Aurelius (to be called) Magnus by Victoria Goddard
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 16th February 2022

Aurelius Magnus has not yet been stolen by the Sun and Moon.

He has not yet led the Empire of Astandalas into what will later be hailed as a golden age, nor met the man whose friendship and loyalty will be celebrated in legend for two thousand years.

He has not yet even earned the epithet “Magnus”.

He is only Aurelius, twenty-one years old and already six years an emperor. War is all he has ever known.

A new Victoria Goddard novella!!! And about one of the most interesting historical figures in the Nine Worlds! GIMME!

If you haven’t read any of Goddard’s Nine Worlds books yet, I doubt this is the best place to start – it’s now the first chronologically in the timeline, but knowing how much impact Magnus has as a historical figure in later books makes diving into this Tale much more exciting!

Age of Ash (Kithamar, #1) by Daniel Abraham
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Representation: Sapphic MC
Published on: 15th February 2022

New York Times
bestselling and critically acclaimed author Daniel Abraham, co-author of The Expanse, comes a monumental epic fantasy trilogy that unfolds within the walls of a single great city, over the course of one tumultuous year, where every story matters, and the fate of the city is woven from them all.

“An atmospheric and fascinating tapestry, woven with skill and patience.” –Joe Abercrombie, New York Times bestselling author of A Little Hatred
Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories unfold.

This is Alys's.

When her brother is murdered, a petty thief from the slums of Longhill sets out to discover who killed him and why.  But the more she discovers about him, the more she learns about herself, and the truths she finds are more dangerous than knives. 

Swept up in an intrigue as deep as the roots of Kithamar, where the secrets of the lowest born can sometimes topple thrones, the story Alys chooses will have the power to change everything.

Age of Ash marks the return of Daniel Abraham to writing fantasy, after years as co-author of the sci-fi Expanse series! It’s not very like either of his previous fantasy series – it’s quieter, more zoomed-in and taking place on a much smaller scale than any of his earlier books. But it’s still intense and intricate and brilliant; I absolutely loved it, and I already can’t wait for book two!

The Magic Between by Stephanie Hoyt
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Bisexual MC, bisexual MC, M/M, secondary F/F
Published on: 15th February 2022

The official release of The Magic Between includes an updated prologue not found in advanced copies.

In a world where everyone has magic coursing through them, legend says magic itself craves a mate. Legend says those with opposite magics have the greatest chance of forming the unbreakable Bond it desires.

A.B. Cerise is an obsessive compulsive pop star with the ability to turn invisible. He’s an out bisexual with absolutely no belief in Bonds. He has a love-bruised heart, thinks dating in the spotlight is a hassle at best and a nightmare at worst, and has no intention of going through it all over again.

Matthew Hellman-Levoie is the NHL’s number one goalie prospect, the youngest in a hockey dynasty, and one of the rare few who can see the unseeable. He’s a straight man who wears his heart on his sleeve, has grown up searching for a Bond, and dreams of finding the love of his life.

Legend never said anything about what to do when sparks fly between two people opposite in more ways than just magic.

I could not have loved this more; you can read my review over here! The Magic Between became one of my favourites of 2022 before 2022 even started; it’s full of big glittery Feels and a very sweet romance, expertly balancing fluffiness with depth while managing to feel utterly indulgent the whole way through!

The Thousand Eyes (The Serpent Gates, #2) by A.K. Larkwood
Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: F/F, achillean MC
Published on: 15th February 2022

The sequel to A. K. Larkwood's stunning debut fantasy, The Unspoken Name. The Thousand Eyes continues The Serpent Gates series—perfect for fans of Jenn Lyons, Joe Abercrombie, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

Just when they thought they were out...

Two years after defying the wizard Belthandros Sethennai and escaping into the great unknown, Csorwe and Shuthmili have made a new life for themselves, hunting for secrets among the ruins of an ancient snake empire.

Along for the ride is Tal Charossa, determined to leave the humiliation and heartbreak of his hometown far behind him, even if it means enduring the company of his old rival and her insufferable girlfriend.

All three of them would be quite happy never to see Sethennai again. But when a routine expedition goes off the rails and a terrifying imperial relic awakens, they find that a common enemy may be all it takes to bring them back into his orbit.

"I cannot recommend this series enough." -- Tamsyn Muir, New York Times bestselling author of Gideon the Ninth

I have very little idea what to expect of The Thousand Eyes – I definitely thought The Unspoken Name was going to be a standalone! – but I’m delighted to be getting to meet all these characters again! Also, we have been promised a ‘dirtbag chosen one’ and also at least one character growing an exoskeleton, and I am capital-h Here for both!

Reclaim the Stars: 17 Tales Across Realms & Space by Zoraida Córdova, Vita Ayala, David Bowles, J.C. Cervantes, Sara Faring, Romina Garber, Isabel Ibañez, Anna-Marie McLemore, Yamile Saied Méndez, Nina Moreno, Circe Moskowitz, Maya Motayne, Linda Raquel Nieves Pérez, Daniel José Older, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Lilliam Rivera
Genres: Fantasy, Sci Fi
Representation: Latinx/Latine MCs
Published on: 15th February 2022

Seventeen fantasy and science fiction short stories from leading voices in the Latin American diaspora!

Reclaim the Stars is a collection of bestselling and acclaimed YA authors that take the Latin American diaspora to places fantastical and out of this world. From princesses warring in space, to the all too-near devastation of climate change, to haunting ghost stories in Argentina, and mermaids off the coast of the Caribbean. This is science fiction and fantasy that breaks borders and realms, and proves that stories are truly universal.

Authors include Daniel José Older, Yamile Saied Méndez, Anna-Marie McLemore, Mark Oshiro, Romina Garber, David Bowles, Lilliam Rivera, Claribel Ortega, Isabel Ibañez, Sara Faring, Maya Motayne, Nina Moreno, Vita Ayala, J.C. Cervantes, Circe Moskowitz, Linda Nieves Pérez, and Zoraida Córdova.

SFF by Latine/Latinx authors, taking their heritage to every corner of the SFF sphere! With a truly STELLAR author line-up (and no, I will not be apologising for the pun – is it even a pun, when it’s a perfectly accurate adjective???) I AM EXCITED!

The Boy with a Bird in His Chest by Emme Lund
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Magical Realism
Representation: Gay MC
Published on: 15th February 2022

Though Owen Tanner has never met anyone else who has a chatty bird in their chest, medical forums would call him a Terror. From the moment Gail emerged between Owen’s ribs, his mother knew that she had to hide him away from the world. After a decade spent in hiding, Owen takes a brazen trip outdoors in the middle of a forest fire, and his life is upended forever.

Suddenly, Owen is forced to flee the home that had once felt so confining and hide in plain sight with his uncle and cousin in Washington. There, he feels the joy of finding a family among friends; of sharing the bird in his chest and being embraced fully; of falling in love and feeling the devastating heartbreak of rejection before finding a spark of happiness in the most unexpected place; of living his truth regardless of how hard the thieves of joy may try to tear him down. But the threat of the Army of Acronyms is a constant, looming presence, making Owen wonder if he’ll ever find a way out of the cycle of fear.

A heartbreaking yet hopeful novel about the things that make us unique and lovable, The Boy with a Bird in His Chest grapples with the fear, depression, and feelings of isolation that come with believing that we will never be loved, let alone accepted, for who we truly are, and learning to live fully and openly regardless.

I don’t dip my toes into magical realism too often, but I’m intensely curious about this one. Plus, the premise reminds me of Maria Dahvana Headley’s Magonia, another book about people with birds in their chests – and that was utterly wonderful!

Where I Can't Follow by Ashley Blooms
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 15th February 2022

Walk through the door and leave all your problems behind…but you don’t know what’s on the other side. And once you leave, you’ll never come back. Will you go through?

Maren Walker told herself she wouldn’t need to sell pills for long, that it was only means to an end. But that end seems to be stretching as far away as the other side of Blackdamp County, Kentucky. There’s always another bill for Granny’s doctor, another problem with the car, another reason she’s getting nowhere.

She dreams of walking through her little door to leave it all behind. The doors have appeared to the people in her mountain town for as long as anyone can remember, though no one knows where they lead. All anyone knows is that if you go, you’ll never come back.

Maren’s mother left through her door when Maren was nine, and her shadow has followed Maren ever since. When she faces the possibility of escaping her struggles for good, Maren must choose just what kind of future she wants to build.

From critically acclaimed author Ashley Blooms, Where I Can't Follow explores the forces that hold people in place, and how they adapt, survive, and struggle to love a place that doesn’t always love them back.

I just said I rarely read magical realism…and yet I have two on my list this week! But I just can’t resist – I’m utterly enchanted by the idea of these doors, and I need to know all about them!

Errant, Volume One (Errant #1) by L.K. Fleet, K.R. Collins, Felicia Davin, Valentine Wheeler
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: F/F
Published on: 15th February 2022

Aspen Silverglade used to be a force for good, but now she’s just a sword for hire. On the run from the people she once trusted most, she needs to keep her head down and keep moving.

But old habits are hard to quit. One night in a tavern, Aspen tries to save a woman from some unwanted attention. The woman, Charm Linville, is in the middle of a subtle and delicate act of thievery, and she does not appreciate Aspen blundering in.

The disastrous and public rescue-gone-wrong makes the townspeople think Aspen and Charm are a couple. This mistake sets Aspen’s bloodthirsty betrayers on Charm’s trail, tying the two of them together.

Even if Aspen can’t run from her past any longer, Charm shouldn’t have to suffer. Despite Aspen’s determination to work alone, Charm insists on helping—and she has a past of her own. The two of them don’t care for each other’s methods, but as they journey through the villages and wildernesses of Falland, solving problems and meeting magical friends and foes, Aspen and Charm grudgingly come to care for each other. Can these two guarded, stubborn women admit their feelings, or will Aspen’s enemies kill them first?

Errant, Volume One is the first volume in a series of novellas. It contains two novellas, intended to be read in sequence, and is approximately 52,000 words total.

L.K. Fleet is the penname of several very cool authors collaborating to write what sounds like wonderfully escapist queer fantasy! Hijinks and misunderstandings and queer ladies good with sharp things??? I fully plan on curling up somewhere comfy to indulge in this one!

Three Left Turns to Nowhere by Jeffrey Ricker, J. Marshall Freeman
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: Queer MCs
Published on: 15th February 2022

Three strangers heading to a convention in Toronto are stranded in rural Ontario, where a small town with a subtle kind of magic leads each to discover what he’s been searching for.

Ed Sinclair and his friends get stuck in Hopewell after their car breaks down. It’s snark at first sight when he meets local mechanic Lyn, but while they’re getting under each other’s skin, the town might show them a way into one another's hearts.

Rome Epstein is out and proud and clueless about love. He’s hosting a giant scavenger hunt at the convention, but ends up in Hopewell. When the town starts leaving him clues for its own scavenger hunt, he discovers a boy who could be the prize he’s been searching for.

Fielding Roy has a gift for seeing the past. His trip to reunite with friends hits an unexpected stop in Hopewell, but a long-lost love letter and two local boys give him a chance to do more than watch the past. This time, Fielding might be able to fix the present.

I only found out that this is actually fantasy at the very last moment – I kept seeing it described as contemporary fiction! But nope, there are in fact supernatural elements, which puts it squarely in my sights! Three novellas by three different authors, the stories taking place in the same place simultaneously, each with a queer lead. It sounds slow and dreamy and low-stakes, which sounds wonderful.

The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Published on: 17th February 2022

‘Power is not something you are given. Power is something you take. When you are a woman, it is a little more difficult, that’s all.’

1768. Charlotte arrives in Naples to marry a man she has never met. Two years later, her sister Antoine is sent to France to marry another stranger. In the mirrored corridors of Versailles, they rename her Marie Antoinette.

But the sisters are not powerless. When they were only children, Charlotte and Antoine discovered a book of spells – spells that seem to work, with dark and unpredictable consequences.

In a world of vicious court politics, of discovery and dizzying change, Charlotte and Antoine use their secret skills to redefine their lives, becoming the most influential women of the age.

But every spell requires a sacrifice. As love between the sisters turns to rivalry, they will send Europe spiralling into revolution.

I perked up the moment I heard the premise of Embroidered Book, but I slammed the preorder button after reading the publisher’s excerpt! I’ve been making grabby hands at this one ever since – GIMME!

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


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