Must-Have Monday #88

Posted 6th June 2022 by Sia in Must-Have Mondays / 0 Comments

Story-wise, we have trans woman Achilles, monster-boys, and futuristic Indigenous American stories – and covers-wise, there are so many breathtaking ones that I had to show them in (almost-)full size! This week is just packed full of awesome!

Wrath Goddess Sing by Maya Deane
Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Bisexual trans MC, F/F, secondary trans characters
PoV: Third-person, past tense
Published on: 7th June 2022
Goodreads

Drawing on ancient texts and modern archeology to reveal the trans woman’s story hidden underneath the well-known myths of The Iliad, Maya Deane’s Wrath Goddess Sing weaves a compelling, pitilessly beautiful vision of Achilles’ vanished world, perfect for fans of Song of Achilles and the Inheritance trilogy.

The gods wanted blood. She fought for love.

Achilles has fled her home and her vicious Myrmidon clan to live as a woman with the kallai, the transgender priestesses of Great Mother Aphrodite. When Odysseus comes to recruit the “prince” Achilles for a war against the Hittites, she prepares to die rather than fight as a man. However, her divine mother, Athena, intervenes, transforming her body into the woman’s body she always longed for, and promises her everything: glory, power, fame, victory in war, and, most importantly, a child born of her own body. Reunited with her beloved cousin, Patroklos, and his brilliant wife, the sorceress Meryapi, Achilles sets out to war with a vengeance.

But the gods—a dysfunctional family of abusive immortals that have glutted on human sacrifices for centuries—have woven ancient schemes more blood-soaked and nightmarish than Achilles can imagine. At the center of it all is the cruel, immortal Helen, who sees Achilles as a worthy enemy after millennia of ennui and emptiness. In love with her newfound nemesis, Helen sets out to destroy everything and everyone Achilles cherishes, seeking a battle to the death.

An innovative spin on a familiar tale, this is the Trojan War unlike anything ever told, and an Achilles whose vulnerability is revealed by the people she chooses to fight…and chooses to trust.

This isn’t just one of the best books of the year, but one of the best ever. It’s not like any other retelling out there, and whether you’re familiar with the Iliad or not, it will enchant, surprise, and move you.

My review!

Buffalo Is the New Buffalo by Chelsea Vowel
Genres: Sci Fi
Representation: Metis MCs
Published on: 7th June 2022
Goodreads

Powerful stories of "Metis futurism" that envision a world without violence, capitalism, or colonization.

"Education is the new buffalo" is a metaphor widely used among Indigenous peoples in Canada to signify the importance of education to their survival and ability to support themselves, as once Plains nations supported themselves as buffalo peoples. The assumption is that many of the pre-Contact ways of living are forever gone, so adaptation is necessary. But Chelsea Vowel asks, "Instead of accepting that the buffalo, and our ancestral ways, will never come back, what if we simply ensure that they do?"

Inspired by classic and contemporary speculative fiction, Buffalo Is the New Buffalo explores science fiction tropes through a Metis lens: a Two-Spirit rougarou (shapeshifter) in the nineteenth century tries to solve a murder in her community and joins the nehiyaw-pwat (Iron Confederacy) in order to successfully stop Canadian colonial expansion into the West. A Metis man is gored by a radioactive bison, gaining super strength, but losing the ability to be remembered by anyone not related to him by blood. Nanites babble to babies in Cree, virtual reality teaches transformation, foxes take human form and wreak havoc on hearts, buffalo roam free, and beings grapple with the thorny problem of healing from colonialism.

Indigenous futurisms seek to discover the impact of colonization, remove its psychological baggage, and recover ancestral traditions. These eight short stories of "Metis futurism" explore Indigenous existence and resistance through the specific lens of being Metis. Expansive and eye-opening, Buffalo Is the New Buffalo rewrites our shared history in provocative and exciting ways.

This sounds unbelievably amazing! Definitely one of the releases I’m most excited about this week!

Hell Followed with Us by Andrew Joseph White
Genres: Horror, Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Gay trans MC, gay autistic love interest, QPOC secondary cast
PoV: First-person, present-tense
Published on: 7th June 2022
Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old trans boy Benji is on the run from the cult that raised him—the fundamentalist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population. Desperately, he searches for a place where the cult can’t get their hands on him, or more importantly, on the bioweapon they infected him with.

But when cornered by monsters born from the destruction, Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, affectionately known as the ALC. The ALC’s leader, Nick, is gorgeous, autistic, and a deadly shot, and he knows Benji’s darkest secret: the cult’s bioweapon is mutating him into a monster deadly enough to wipe humanity from the earth once and for all.

Still, Nick offers Benji shelter among his ragtag group of queer teens, as long as Benji can control the monster and use its power to defend the ALC. Eager to belong, Benji accepts Nick’s terms…until he discovers the ALC’s mysterious leader has a hidden agenda, and more than a few secrets of his own.

This is a war-cry of a book, one that reclaims the concept of monstrousness and revels in it. I want to give a copy to every queer teen in the world – and a lot of the adults too.

My review.

Out There: Into the Queer New Yonder by Saundra Mitchell, Kayla Ancrum, K. Ancrum, Kalynn Bayron, Z Brewer, Mason Deaver, Alechia Dow, Z.R. Ellor, Leah Johnson, Naomi Kanakia, Claire Kann, Rahul Kanakia, Alex London, Jim McCarthy, Abdi Nazemian, Emma K. Ohland, Adam Sass, Nita Tyndall
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Queer MCs
Published on: 7th June 2022
Goodreads

Into the queer new yonder!

To conclude the trio of anthologies that started with critically acclaimed All Out and Out Now, Out There features seventeen original short stories set in the future from fantastic queer YA authors.

Explore new and familiar worlds where the human consciousness can be uploaded into a body on Mars…an alien helps a girl decide if she should tell her best friend how she feels…two teens get stuck in a time loop at a space station…people are forced to travel to the past or the future to escape the dying planet…only a nonbinary person can translate the binary code of a machine that predicts the future…everyone in the world vanishes except for two teen girls who are in love.

This essential and beautifully written collection immerses and surprises with each turn of the page.

The previous anthologies in this series have been great, so I’m assuming this one will be too!

The City Inside by Samit Basu
Genres: Sci Fi
Representation: Desi MCs and cast
Published on: 7th June 2022
Goodreads

“They'd known the end times were coming but hadn’t known they’d be multiple choice.”
Joey is a Reality Controller in near-future Delhi. Her job is to supervise the multimedia multi-reality livestreams of Indi, one of South Asia’s fastest rising online celebrities—who also happens to be her college ex. Joey’s job gives her considerable culture power, but she’s too caught up in day-to-day crisis handling to see this, or to figure out what she wants from her life.

Rudra is a recluse estranged from his wealthy and powerful family, now living in an impoverished immigrant neighborhood. When his father’s death pulls him back into his family’s orbit, an impulsive job offer from Joey becomes his only escape from the life he never wanted.

But as Joey and Rudra become enmeshed in multiple conspiracies, their lives start to spin out of control—complicated by dysfunctional relationships, corporate loyalty, and the never-ending pressures of surveillance capitalism. When a bigger picture begins to unfold, they must each decide how to do the right thing in a world where simply maintaining the status quo feels like an accomplishment. Ultimately, resistance will not—cannot—take the same shape for these two very different people.

I’m not at all sure what to expect of The City Inside, but I’m intrigued. Definitely going on the tbr list!

Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Representation: Black MC
PoV: Third-person, past-tense
Published on: 7th June 2022
Goodreads

A stunning new work of historical fantasy, J. M. Miro's Ordinary Monsters introduces readers to the dark, labyrinthe world of The Talents

England, 1882. In Victorian London, two children with mysterious powers are hunted by a figure of darkness —a man made of smoke.

Sixteen-year-old Charlie Ovid, despite a lifetime of brutality, doesn't have a scar on him. His body heals itself, whether he wants it to or not. Marlowe, a foundling from a railway freight car, shines with a strange bluish light. He can melt or mend flesh. When two grizzled detectives are recruited to escort them north to safety, they are forced to confront the nature of difference, and belonging, and the shadowy edges of the monstrous.

What follows is a journey from the gaslit streets of London, to an eerie estate outside Edinburgh, where other children with gifts—the Talents—have been gathered. Here, the world of the dead and the world of the living threaten to collide. And as secrets within the Institute unfurl, Marlowe, Charlie and the rest of the Talents will discover the truth about their abilities, and the nature of the force that is stalking them: that the worst monsters sometimes come bearing the sweetest gifts.

With lush prose, mesmerizing world-building, and a gripping plot, Ordinary Monsters presents a catastophic vision of the Victorian world—and of the gifted, broken children who must save it.

I ended up not finishing Ordinary Monsters, but not because it’s a bad book! I was in the wrong headspace for it at the time, and I intend to give it another go later. I very much recommend it for fans of historical fantasy!

Game of Strength and Storm by Rachel Menard
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Brown MC, sapphic MC
Published on: 7th June 2022
Goodreads

Victory is the only option.
Once a year, the Olympian Empresses grant the wishes of ten people selected by a lottery—for a price. Seventeen-year-old Gen, a former circus performer, wants the freedom of her father, who was sentenced to life in prison for murders she knows he didn’t commit. Castor plans to carry the island Arcadia into the future in place of her brother, Pollux, but only after the Empresses force a change in her island’s archaic laws that requires a male heir.
To get what they want, Gen and Castor must race to complete the better half of ten nearly impossible labors. They have to catch the fastest ship in the sea, slay the immortal Hydra, defeat a gangster called the Boar, and capture the flesh-eating Mares, among other deadly tasks.
Gen has her magic, her ability to speak to animals, her inhuman strength—and the help of Pollux, who’s been secretly pining for her for years. But Castor has her own gifts: the power of the storms, along with endless coin. Only one can win. The other walks away with nothing—if she walks away at all.

This is a YA retelling – or complete reimagining – of the Labors of Hercules, with one extremely stunning cover! I’m intrigued by how many early reviews have disliked Castor for being ruthless and cruel, which is a character type I’ve been pining for lately, so I’ll probably be giving this a go.

The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley by Sean Lusk
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 9th June 2022
Goodreads

In 1754, renowned maker of clocks and automata Abel Cloudesley must raise his new-born son Zachary when his wife dies in childbirth.

Growing up amongst the cogs and springs of his father's workshop, Zachary is intensely curious, ferociously intelligent, unwittingly funny and always honest - perhaps too honest. But when a fateful accident leaves six-year-old Zachary nearly blinded, Abel is convinced that the safest place for his son is in the care of his eccentric Aunt Frances and her menagerie of weird and wonderful animals.

So when a precarious job in Constantinople is offered to him, Abel has no reason to say no. A job presented to him by a politician with dubious intentions, Abel leaves his son, his workshop and London behind. The decision will change the course of his life forever.

Since his accident, Zachary is plagued by visions that reveal the hearts and minds of those around him. A gift at times and a curse at others, it is nonetheless these visions that will help him complete a journey that he was always destined to make - to travel across Europe to Constantinople and find out what happened to his father all those years ago.

With a Dickensian cast of characters that are brilliantly bonkers one moment and poignant the next, Sean Lusk's debut will take readers on an immersive journey into the wonders of the world of Zachary Cloudesley.

Whitfield is one of my favorite authors, and it’s criminal that more people don’t know about her! Her previous books were jaw-dropping reimaginings of werewolves and mermaids respectively, and I can’t wait to see her take on the Fae!!!

New Life in Autumn (Autumn #2) by Michael G. Williams
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Gay MC
PoV: First-person, past-tense
Published on: 9th June 2022
Goodreads

"I would have finished New Life in Autumn in a single session if life hadn't kept interfering; it's that gripping. Valerius Bakhoum, with his anger, his kindness, his determination to see justice done, and the way he staggers back to his feet every time he's knocked down, is a protagonist to take to your heart. I'm already looking forward to seeing where his next case takes him." - K.V. Johansen, author of Blackdog

RETURN TO THE MEAN STREETS OF AUTUMN

Valerius Bakhoum is dead and buried.

Too bad he’s still flat broke and behind on the rent.

Unsure what to do with himself—and of who he is—Valerius resumes his career as a detective by taking up the oldest case in his files: where do the children go?

Throughout his own youth on the streets of Autumn, last of the Great Flying Cities, Valerius knew his fellow runaways disappeared from back alleys and other hiding places more than anyone realized. Street kids even had a myth to explain it: the Gotchas, who steal urchins away in the night.

With nothing but time on his hands, Valerius dives in head-first to settle the question once and for all and runs smack into a more pressing mystery: who killed one of Valerius’ former lovers?

And do they know Valerius is still alive?

Stalk the shadows of Autumn’s hidden places by Valerius Bakhoum’s side as he shines a light on secrets both sacred and profane, ones with shockingly personal connections to who he was—and who he might become.

New Life in Autumn is the sequel to the Manly Wade Wellman Award-winning A Fall in Autumn.

This is the sequel to A Fall in Autumn (which I reviewed in brief here) and you definitely shouldn’t start with New Life! But if you like the sound of queer far-future noir, with interesting and excellent worldbuilding, then you should definitely give this series a go.

Odder Still by D.N. Bryn
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Brown queer MC, M/M
Published on: 9th June 2022
Goodreads

Rubem of No-Man’s Land was content keeping to his wine, his pets, and his extensive collection of fishnets.

But since a sentient, fuel-producing parasite bonded to his brainstem, every morally-depraved scientist and hardcore rebel for a hundred miles wants to ruthlessly dissect him. The parasite itself is no better, influencing his emotions and sassing him with his own memories as it slowly takes over his body.

The only person offering Rubem help is Tavish K. Findlay, a dashing and manipulative philanthropist whose mother’s fuel company monopolizes their corrupt underwater city with an iron claw. She desperately wants to tear Rubem apart for the parasite before those who oppose her can do the same. Her son is irresistibly charismatic though, and after a lifetime of being kicked out and disavowed, Rubem is desperate to believe in the friendship Tavish offers.

With revolutionary plots and political schemes tangling his every choice, Rubem must soon decide whether or not to trust Tavish in his fight against the parasite’s growing control.

Odder Still is a M/M fantasy novel with a class-crossing slow burn romance, murderous intrigue, and a Marvel’s Venom-style parasite-human friendship in an underwater steampunk city. This book exist in the wider These Treacherous Tides universe, coming chronologically after Once Stolen, but it is the first book in the No-Man's Lander series and is an easy entry point into the world. Each No-Man's Lander book has a romantically fulfilling ending and a final HEA, with steamy thoughts and foreplay but no explicit sex. (For more information on reading order, please visit D.N. Bryn's website.)

Content warnings include alcohol consumption and animal death.

This was pitched to me as a canonically queer Venom with an underwater, steampunk selkie city, so hell yes I’m going to be reading it!

The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley by Sean Lusk
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 9th June 2022
Goodreads

In 1754, renowned maker of clocks and automata Abel Cloudesley must raise his new-born son Zachary when his wife dies in childbirth.

Growing up amongst the cogs and springs of his father's workshop, Zachary is intensely curious, ferociously intelligent, unwittingly funny and always honest - perhaps too honest. But when a fateful accident leaves six-year-old Zachary nearly blinded, Abel is convinced that the safest place for his son is in the care of his eccentric Aunt Frances and her menagerie of weird and wonderful animals.

So when a precarious job in Constantinople is offered to him, Abel has no reason to say no. A job presented to him by a politician with dubious intentions, Abel leaves his son, his workshop and London behind. The decision will change the course of his life forever.

Since his accident, Zachary is plagued by visions that reveal the hearts and minds of those around him. A gift at times and a curse at others, it is nonetheless these visions that will help him complete a journey that he was always destined to make - to travel across Europe to Constantinople and find out what happened to his father all those years ago.

With a Dickensian cast of characters that are brilliantly bonkers one moment and poignant the next, Sean Lusk's debut will take readers on an immersive journey into the wonders of the world of Zachary Cloudesley.

This is another one where I was seduced by the cover – can you blame me?! The story itself sounds interesting – I love historical SFF that involves a lot of travel – and I’ve been assured it’s a fair bit less dense than Dickens, for all that it’s being described as Dickensian. Fingers crossed!

Will you be reading any of these? Let me know!

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