Must-Have Monday #91

Posted 27th June 2022 by Sia in Must-Have Mondays / 0 Comments

Fourteen new books to pounce on this week, ranging from cosplay to unicorns and ghost-seers!

The Clockwork Empire by Lucas J.W. Johnson
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Assorted queer and disabled MCs
Published on: 28th June 2022

It is the height of the industrial revolution, and the Roman Empire has stood for thousands of years. Airborne fortresses and mechanically remade soldiers guard against threats outside the empire's vast borders-even as it rots from the inside.

As an ambitious senator rises to power, and a mysterious agent plots the downfall of the gods, a motley crew of exiles assembles to stop the rising fascism of the state: an excommunicated Praetorian Guard, her remade muscle, a spy, a pilot, an ex-slave, and a noble boy disgraced, experimented on, and remade with a clockwork heart.

But smashing an authoritarian state is no simple fistfight in a taverna. Nor can one easily repair a machine that has been rusting for so long. As oppression takes hold across the Empire, the crew must find each other, find their fire, and find the agent known only as Servius-before he leads the world to destruction.

I only discovered The Clockwork Empire last-minute, but it immediately became a must-have – for one thing, I found out about it in Sarah Gailey’s newsletter, which is an endorsement that has me very interested right away. But then – found-family queers fighting fascism? Disabled rep? All The Clockwork??? Um, yes PLEASE??? (Plus, that cover is so pretty I had to include it in a larger size than usual – just look at it!)

You can read the prologue here!

Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances (Dragons and Blades, #2) by Aliette de Bodard
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Queer Vietnamese MC, M/M
Published on: 28th June 2022

From the author of the critically acclaimed Dominion of the Fallen trilogy comes a sparkling new romantic adventure full of kissing, sarcasm and stabbing.

It was supposed to be a holiday, with nothing more challenging than babysitting, navigating familial politics and arguing about the proper way to brew tea.

But when dragon prince Thuan and his ruthless husband Asmodeus find a corpse in a ruined shrine and a hungry ghost who is the only witness to the crime, their holiday goes from restful to high-pressure. Someone is trying to silence the ghost and everyone involved. Asmodeus wants revenge for the murder; Thuan would like everyone, including Asmodeus, to stay alive.

Chased by bloodthirsty paper charms and struggling to protect their family, Thuan and Asmodeus are going to need all the allies they can—and, as the cracks in their relationship widen, they'll have to face the scariest challenge of all: how to bring together their two vastly different ideas of their future...

A heartwarming standalone book set in a world of dark intrigue.

A Note on Chronology
Spinning off from the Dominion of the Fallen series, which features political intrigue in Gothic devastated Paris, this book stands alone, but chronologically follows Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders. It’s High Gothic meets C-drama in a Vietnamese inspired world—perfect for fans of Mo Xiang Tong Xiu's Heaven Official's Blessing, KJ Charles, and Roshani Chokshi’s The Gilded Wolves.

This is the second book in Bodard’s Dragons and Blades series, a spin-off/sequel to the Dominion of the Fallen series! You don’t need to have read the Dominion books to enjoy these, but I do strongly recommend reading Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders (book one of this series) first!

An Accident of Stars (Manifold Worlds #1) by Foz Meadows
Genres: Fantasy, Portal Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MC, Black asexual aromantic MC, MC with vitiligo, secondary trans characters, group marriage, matriarchy, queernorm world
Published on: 28th June 2022

When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena--a magical realm on the brink of civil war. It's there that her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled, runaway consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, and chief among them is the Vex'Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest.

Pursued by Leoden and aided by the Shavaktiin--a secretive order of storytellers and mystics--the rebels flee to Veksh, a neighboring matriarchy ruled by the fearsome Council of Queens. Saffron is out of her world and out of her depth, but the further she travels, the more she finds herself bound to her friends with ties of blood and magic.

Can one girl--and an accidental worldwalker at that--really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she die trying?

This is a reissue of Meadows’ amazing portal fantasy An Accident of Stars, which is one of my all-time favourite books! An amazing portal fantasy where the secondary world is just beautifully done, and everything is so very queer and Other and wonderful. (By which I do not mean it’s a utopia, just that the worldbuilding is A++!) High fantasy politics! Religiously significant group marriage! Alien beasties people ride instead of horses! And absolutely no safety wheels – this is very much a book where adventures come with costs and the dangers are very real.

My guess is that with all the hype around A Strange and Stubborn Endurance, someone realised it would be smart to draw attention to Meadows’ other books. That being said, I would like to have strong words with whoever decided to replace the stunning Julie Dillon cover of the first edition with this generic monstrosity. Blegh!

Drunk on All Your Strange New Words by Eddie Robson
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Sapphic MC
Published on: 28th June 2022

A locked room mystery in a near future world of politics and alien diplomacy.

Lydia works as translator for the Logi cultural attaché to Earth. They work well together, even if the act of translating his thoughts into English makes her somewhat wobbly on her feet. She's not the agency's best translator, but what else is she going to do? She has no qualifications, and no discernible talent in any other field.

So when tragedy strikes, and Lydia finds herself at the center of an intergalactic incident, her future employment prospects look dire--that is, if she can keep herself out of jail!

But Lydia soon discovers that help can appear from the most unexpected source...

There have been conflicting opinions on this one in my corner of the blogosphere – the reviewers I trust are split about 50/50 on whether this is marvellous or meh, so clearly I’ll have the read it and find out for myself!

Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald
Genres: Fantasy, Secondary World Fantasy
Representation: Bisexual MC, minor gay character, sapphic love interest
Published on: 28th June 2022

Those who see the dead soon join them.

From the author of the critically-acclaimed Blackwing trilogy comes Ed McDonald's Daughter of Redwinter, the first of a brilliant fantasy series about how one choice can change a universe.

Raine can see--and more importantly, speak--to the dead. It's a wretched gift with a death sentence that has her doing many dubious things to save her skin. Seeking refuge with a deluded cult is her latest bad, survival-related decision. But her rare act of kindness--rescuing an injured woman in the snow--is even worse.

Because the woman has escaped from Redwinter, the fortress-monastery of the Draoihn, warrior magicians who answer to no king and who will stop at nothing to retrieve what she's stolen. A battle, a betrayal, and a horrific revelation forces Raine to enter Redwinter. It becomes clear that her ability might save an entire nation.

Pity she might have to die for that to happen...

Daughter of Redwinter surprised me in all the best ways and is officially on my best-of-2022 list! A very unique heroine and a story that refused to do anything I expected: I loved it!

The Origin of Storms (Lotus Kingdoms, #3) by Elizabeth Bear
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Representation: Third-sex/trans MC, disabled MC, South Asian-coded setting and cast
Published on: 28th June 2022

Hugo Award-winning author Elizabeth Bear returns to conclude her acclaimed epic fantasy trilogy of the Lotus Kingdoms which began with The Stone in the Skull and The Red-Stained Wings, bringing it all to brings a surprising, satisfying climax.

The Lotus Kingdoms are at war, with four claimants to the sorcerous throne of the Alchemical Emperor, fielding three armies between them. Alliances are made, and broken, many times over—but in the end, only one can sit on the throne. And that one must have not only the power, but the rightful claim.

The finale of the Lotus Kingdoms trilogy! This is my favourite world of Bear’s, and although I found the climax of this last book a bit disappointing, fans of the series definitelyneed to know how it all wraps up!

The Path of Thorns by A.G. Slatter
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 28th June 2022

A gorgeous dark gothic fairy tale from award-winning author Angela Slatter. Should delight readers of Naomi Novik and Erin Morgenstern.

Asher Todd comes to live with the mysterious Morwood family as a governess to their children. Asher knows little about being a governess but she is skilled in botany and herbcraft, and perhaps more than that. And she has secrets of her own, dark and terrible - and Morwood is a house that eats secrets. With a monstrous revenge in mind, Asher plans to make it choke. However, she becomes fond of her charges, of the people of the Tarn, and she begins to wonder if she will be able to execute her plan - and who will suffer most if she does. But as the ghosts of her past become harder to control, Asher realises she has no choice.

Dark magic, retribution and twisted family secrets combine to weave a bewitching and beautifully written gothic fairy tale.

Slatter and…werewolves??? YOU HAVE MY ATTENTION SIR!

Locklands (The Founders Trilogy, #3) by Robert Jackson Bennett
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MC, F/F
Published on: 28th June 2022

Sancia, Clef, and Berenice have gone up against plenty of long odds in the past. But the war they’re fighting now is one even they can’t win.

This time, they’re not facing robber-baron elites, or even an immortal hierophant, but an entity whose intelligence is spread over half the globe—a ghost in the machine that uses the magic of scriving to possess and control not just objects, but human minds.
To fight it, they’ve used scriving technology to transform themselves and their allies into an army—a society—that’s like nothing humanity has seen before. With its strength at their backs, they’ve freed a handful of their enemy’s hosts from servitude, even brought down some of its fearsome, reality-altering dreadnaughts. Yet despite their efforts, their enemy marches on—implacable. Unstoppable.

Now, as their opponent closes in on its true prize—an ancient doorway, long buried, that leads to the chambers at the center of creation itself—Sancia and her friends glimpse a chance at reaching it first, and with it, a last desperate opportunity to stop this unbeatable foe. But to do so, they’ll have to unlock the centuries-old mystery of scriving’s origins, embark on a desperate mission into the heart of their enemy’s power, and pull off the most daring heist they’ve ever attempted.

And as if that weren’t enough, their adversary might just have a spy in their ranks—and a last trick up its sleeve.

A god wages war—using all of humanity as its pawns—in the unforgettable conclusion to the Founders trilogy.

Another finale, Locklands wraps up Bennett’s fascinating Founders trilogy! If you haven’t checked these books out yet, now you have no excuse!

X by Davey Davis
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Speculative Fiction
Representation: Nonbinary MC
Published on: 28th June 2022

The world is ending, and down-and-out sadist Lee spends their days working for a big corporation and their nights wandering the streets of Brooklyn listening to true crime podcasts. But everything changes when Lee is dragged to a warehouse party by their best friend, where they find themself in the clutches of the seductive and bloodthirsty X. When Lee seeks her out again, she’s nowhere to be found.

Amid the steady constriction of civil rights and the purging of migrants and refugees, the U.S. government has recently begun encouraging the semi-voluntary “exporting” of undesirable citizens—the radicalized, the dissident, and the ungovernable. Word has it that X may be among those leaving. If Lee doesn’t track her down soon, she may be gone forever.

Early reviews have been full of praise for X, but I confess I’m probably not going to read it right away – I’m not even a little bit in the mood for dystopias right now. It does sound fascinating, though.

Like Silk Breathing by Camille Duplessis
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: M/M
Published on: 28th June 2022

When Tom Apollyon returns to Cromer to help oversee his uncle's pub, it's a difficult adjustment. Overwhelmed by his born ability to sense auras, Tom relies on constant drinking and drifting to function normally. Coming back is too much to handle and one night, he decides to end it all. He just doesn't expect to encounter a bewitching stranger when he tries.

While on an annual seaside holiday with his lover, Theo Harper takes a solitary evening stroll near the water. He thinks it's just the thing a landlocked selkie needs, yet instead of being soothed, he stops a troubled man from drowning. The earnest good deed sparks a romance that makes Tom and Theo hope for a happier, gentler life together.
While both need to decide to trust themselves and each other, they're not daunted until an alarming problem presents itself. Theo's skin - which can definitely be used to capture or kill him, to Tom's horror - has gone missing.

To build the future they want, they have to get the skin back...

Selkies! :DDD You can get me to read just about anything if you put selkies in it, and this sounds like a very sweet historical fantasy romance. Will definitely be checking it out!

Our Crooked Hearts: A Novel by Melissa Albert
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
Published on: 28th June 2022

The NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of THE HAZEL WOOD returns with a darkly gripping, contemporary fantasy novel full of secrets, lies, mystery, and witchcraft

The suburbs, right now . . .Ivy’s summer break kicks off with an accident, a punishment, and a mystery: a stranger whose appearance in the middle of the road, in the middle of the night, heralds a string of increasingly unsettling events. As the days pass, Ivy grapples with eerie offerings, corroded memories, and a burning question: What if there's more to her mother than meets the eye?

The city, back then . . .Dana has always been perceptive. And the summer she turns sixteen, with the help of her best friend and an ambitious older girl, her gifts bloom into a heady fling with the supernatural. As the trio’s aspirations darken, they find themselves speeding toward a violent breaking point.

Years after it began, Ivy and Dana's shared story will come down to a reckoning among a daughter, a mother, and the dark forces they never should’ve messed with.

I really enjoyed Albert’s The Hazel Wood, and although Our Crooked Hearts sounds very different, it sounds very different in excellent ways! Mother/daughter relationships are FraughtTM for me, but I fell so in love with the excerpt published on Paste that I really can’t wait to start reading this. Eee!

Cosplay: A History: The Builders, Fans, and Makers Who Bring Your Favorite Stories to Life by Andrew Liptak
Published on: 28th June 2022

A history of the colorful and complex kingdom of cosplay and fandom fashion by Andrew Liptak, journalist, historian, and member of the legendary fan-based Star Wars organization the 501st Legion.

In recent years, cosplay—the practice of dressing up in costume as a character—has exploded, becoming a mainstream cultural phenomenon. But what are the circumstances that made its rise possible?

Andrew Liptak—a member of the legendary 501st Legion, an international fan-based organization dedicated to the dark side of Star Wars—delves into the origins and culture of cosplay to answer this question. Cosplay: A History looks at the practice’s ever-growing fandom and conventions, its roots in 15th-century costuming, the relationship between franchises and the cosplayers they inspire, and the technology that brings even the most intricate details in these costumes to life.

Cosplay veterans and newcomers alike will find much to relish in this rich and comprehensive history.

Non-fic, but how could I not include a book about the history of cosplay?! I have been promised many glossy photographs and I am excited!!!

Fate in Suspension (Horn & Haven #1) by Archer Kay Leah
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Gay MC, pansexual MC, M/M
Published on: 30th June 2022

Quiet. That's how he likes life, no drama to clean up...

Tai Xen-Vorsy leads a straightforward life: work, time at the local clubs where shapeshifters like him can play without fear, and the comforts of home with a cat that's more than half attitude. After breaking up with his last submissive, he's even taking a break from Dom duties.

Meeting Gates changes everything, and when Tai's childhood home is destroyed, his simple life goes up in flames.

The Callensdale haven was his refuge as an orphan, a hideaway that saved his life. Now it's time to return the favour. Bringing in the Fluff Brigade Brotherhood would make all the difference... if he could just get them back together. Tai won't give up—he's not that kind of unicorn. But can he reunite the brotherhood and keep his new relationship with Gates kindled at the same time?

The darkness is dragging him into the shadows, one case at a time...

Helping others is all Gates Colfaethe wants to do, being mostly unicorn shifter with a splash of Faerie. But years as an agent on trafficking cases leave him fearing just how far he'll lose himself in the job before he burns out completely.

A random hookup with Tai might be the very change he needs. A new Dom means new rules and the chance to create safe distance from work—until his worlds collide in a twist Gates should leave well enough alone. What he knows is bad enough, but running headlong into danger could kill him.

Horn & Haven is an MM+ romance series featuring a found family of unicorn shifters brought together by tragic circumstances. Friends out to save a magical world in trouble. Family fighting to protect those they love. Lovers falling for the kinkiest unicorns this side of their universe... Welcome to the Fluff Brigade Brotherhood.

Don’t judge me; it’s basically impossible to find books about unicorns, so yes, when one appears I jump on it! Even if it’s outside my usual comfort-zone. Maybe that’ll be a good thing!

The rule is: if it has unicorns, I’ll take it!

Queer Square Mile: Queer Short Stories from Wales by Kirsti Bohata, Mihangel Morgan, Huw Osborne
Representation: Queer MCs
Published on: 30th June 2022

This ground-breaking volume makes visible a long and diverse tradition of queer writing from Wales. Spanning genres from ghost stories and science fiction to industrial literature and surrealist modernism, these are stories of love, loss, and transformation.

I featured Queer Square Mile last year when it was released in the UK, but this week it comes out in the US! About time!

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


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