Happy bookmail day! Here’s what came in recently. Thanks to the publishers who sent advanced reader copies.
Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Zelda Knight — Tordotcom; November 15, 2022
From award-winning editorial team Sheree Renée Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, and Zelda Knight comes an anthology of thirty-two original stories showcasing the breadth of fantasy and science fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora.
A group of cabinet ministers query a supercomputer containing the minds of the country’s ancestors. A child robot on a dying planet uncovers signs of fragile new life. A descendent of a rain goddess inherits her grandmother’s ability to change her appearance–and perhaps the world.
Created in the legacy of the seminal, award-winning anthology series Dark Matter, Africa Risen celebrates the vibrancy, diversity, and reach of African and Afro-Diasporic SFF and reaffirms that Africa is not rising–it’s already here.
Baffling: Year One edited by dave ring, Craig L. Gidney, Gabriella Etoniru — Neon Hemlock Press; August 2022
This anthology includes a year of “speculative flash fiction with a queer bent” from Baffling Magazine, as well as editorials from the three editors.
Stories from:Esther Alter, Bendi Barrett, Jen Brown, Jacob Budenz, Christopher Caldwell, Nino Cipri, Dare Segun Falowo, Tessa Fisher, Maxwell I. Gold, Rien Gray, Jewelle Gomez, S.M. Hallow, J. Kosakowski, M. L. Krishnan, Brent Lambert, AZ Louise, Jennifer Mace, Avra Margariti, Mari Ness, Hailey Piper, Brian Rappatta, Jae Steinbacher, Susan Taitel, Izzy Wasserstein, Rem Wigmore, A.B. Young.
Cover by Molk Tae
Chaos & Flame by Tessa Gratton, Justina Ireland (Chaos & Flame #1) — Razorbill; March 28, 2023
Darling Seabreak cannot remember anything before the murder of her family at the hands of House Dragon, but she knows she owes her life to both the power of her Chaos Boon and House Kraken for liberating her from the sewers where she spent her childhood. So when her adoptive Kraken father is captured in battle, Darling vows to save him–even if that means killing each and every last member of House Dragon.
Talon Goldhoard has always been a dutiful War Prince for House Dragon, bravely leading the elite troops of his brother, the High Prince Regent. But lately his brother’s erratic rule threatens to undo a hundred years of House Dragon’s hard work, and factions are turning to Talon to unseat him. Talon resists, until he’s ambushed by a fierce girl who looks exactly like the one his brother has painted obsessively, repeatedly, for years, and Talon knows she’s the key to everything.
Together, Darling and Talon must navigate the treacherous waters of House politics, caught up in the complicated game the High Prince Regent is playing against everyone. The unlikeliest of allies, they’ll have to stop fighting each other long enough to learn to fight together in order to survive the fiery prophecies and ancient blood magic threatening to devastate their entire world.
Grave Things Like Love by Sara Bennett Wealer — Delacorte Press; October 11, 2022
Elaine’s home is a bit . . . different. It’s a funeral home that has been in her family since the 1800s–and it’s why everyone calls her Funeral Girl. And even though she’s lived there her whole life, there are still secrets to be found.
When Xander, a cute new boy with a penchant for ghost hunting, arrives in town, Elaine feels an instant spark. His daring and spontaneous ways help her go from Funeral Girl to Fun Girl. Then there’s Miles, Elaine’s oldest friend, who she’s starting to see in a completely new light.
After Xander convinces her to stage a seance one night, Elaine discovers that her home might be haunted by a kindred spirit–the daughter of the funeral home’s original owner. But who wants to be haunted by the dead when there are boys to spend time with? After all, you only live once.
House of Yesterday by Deeba Zargarpur — Farrar, Straus and Giroux; November 29, 2022
Taking inspiration from the author’s own Afghan-Uzbek heritage, this contemporary YA debut is a breathtaking journey into the grief that lingers through generations of immigrant families, and what it means to confront the ghosts of your past.
Struggling to deal with the pain of her parents’ impending divorce, fifteen-year-old Sara is facing a world of unknowns and uncertainties. Unfortunately, the one person she could always lean on when things got hard, her beloved Bibi Jan, has become a mere echo of the grandmother she once was. And so Sara retreats into the family business, hoping a summer working on her mom’s latest home renovation project will provide a distraction from her fracturing world.
But the house holds more than plaster and stone. It holds secrets that have her clinging desperately to the memories of her old life. Secrets that only her Bibi Jan could have untangled. Secrets Sara is powerless to ignore as the dark truths of her family’s history rise in ghostly apparitions — and with it, the realization that as much as she wants to hold onto her old life, nothing will ever be the same.
Told in lush, sweeping prose, this story of secrets, summer, and family sacrifice will chill you to the bone as the house that wraps Sara in warmth of her past becomes the one thing she cannot escape…
Kalyna the Soothsayer by Elijah Kinch Spector — Erewhon; October 4, 2022
A plucky, sardonic con artist must “prophesize” her way out of peril– discovering along the way that power and politics are nothing more than the stories sold as truth.
Kalyna’s family has the Gift: the ability to see the future. For generations, they traveled the four kingdoms of the Tetrarchia selling their services as soothsayers. Every child of their family is born with this Gift–everyone except Kalyna.
So far, Kalyna has used informants and trickery to falsify prophecies for coin, scrounging together a living for her deteriorating father and cruel grandmother. But Kalyna’s reputation for prophecy precedes her, and poverty turns to danger when she is pressed into service by the spymaster to Rotfelsen.
Kalyna is to use her “Gift” to uncover threats against Rotfelsen’s king, her family held hostage to ensure her good behavior. But politics are devious; the king’s enemies abound, and Kalyna’s skills for investigation and deception are tested to the limit. Worse, the conspiracy she uncovers points to a larger threat, not only to Rotfelsen but to the Tetrarchia itself.
Kalyna is determined to protect her family and newfound friends, but as she is drawn deeper into palace intrigue, she can no longer tell if her manipulations are helping prevent the Tetrarchia’s destruction–or if her lies will bring about its prophesized downfall.
Live Your Best Lie by Jessie Weaver — Melissa de la Cruz Studio; January 24, 2023
Sometimes the prettiest Instagram feeds mask the darkest, and bloodiest, secrets.
Social media influencer Summer Cartwright leads a very charmed life: millions of followers, the hottest designer and vintage clothes at her fingertips, a newly minted book deal, the coolest friends, and, until recently, the hottest boyfriend at her über-elite prep school. Every moment of her life has been carefully planned and cultivated to complement her “imperfectly perfect” social media persona. She is truly #LivingHerBestLife.
But when Summer goes missing during her annual Halloween party and then an unscheduled post appears on her feed stating that she’ll be dead within the next five minutes, those closest to Summer know something isn’t quite right–or on-brand. Grace, Summer’s camera-shy best friend; Adam, Summer’s gamer ex-boyfriend; Laney, Summer’s moody camp roommate; and Cora, an influencer wannabe, all decide to investigate. And when they come upon Summer’s lifeless body, they soon realize that no filter is strong enough to mask the lies we tell ourselves.
Told in multiple POVs interspersed with social media posts and flashbacks, Live Your Best Lie has twists and turns that will keep readers turning the page and no one will be able to guess the ending.
A Ruinous Fate by Kaylie Smith (Heartless Fates #1) — Disney-Hyperion; January 3, 2023
Fate does not choose the weak. Fate chooses the ready.
Calliope Rosewood is a witch with a long streak of bad luck. Like all witches in Illustros, her fate is directly tied to Witch’s Dice–powerful artifacts that have blessed her kind with limitless magic but also set them on a path toward destruction. Cursed with unspeakable powers that terrify even the most dangerous witches and fae, Calla deserted her coven four years ago and has been in hiding with her two best friends since. But Calla is also hiding a grave secret: She is only three Rolls away from becoming the last Blood Warrior and starting the Fates’ War that will decimate her people and eradicate their magic.
After a betrayal from her ex leads her one step closer to fulfilling that age-old prophecy, Calla is desperate to do whatever it takes to reset her fate . . . even if that means journeying into the deadly Neverending Forest with said ex and his enigmatic older brother to find the one being who can help her forge her own path. As Calla ventures farther into the enchanted woods, she finds her heart torn between her past desires and alluring new possibilities. But she soon learns that choosing your own destiny may come with dire consequences.
Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow — Disney-Hyperion; January 31, 2023
Simon O’Keeffe’s biggest claim to fame should be the time his dad accidentally gave a squirrel a holy sacrament. Or maybe the alpaca disaster that went viral on YouTube. But the story the whole world wants to tell about Simon is the one he’d do anything to forget: the story in which he’s the only kid in his class who survived a school shooting.
Two years after the infamous event, twelve-year-old Simon and his family move to the National Quiet Zone–the only place in America where the internet is banned. Instead of talking about Simon, the astronomers who flock to the area are busy listening for signs of life in space. And when Simon makes a friend who’s determined to give the scientists what they’re looking for, he’ll finally have the chance to spin a new story for the world to tell.
From award-winning author Erin Bow, Simon Sort of Says is a breathtaking testament to the lasting echoes of trauma, the redemptive power of humor, and the courage it takes to move forward without forgetting the past.
Snowstorm & Overgrowth by Claudie Arseneault — self-published; October 9, 2022
A pair of singers redefine their queerplatonic partnership through a unique concert. Alexis Le Trotteur, local MagSkater star, must represent his backwater planet in the Great Intergalactic MagSkate Championship. A young mother visits her friend’s grave in a blooming cemetery for the first time in years. Resistance organizes against a food corporate giant in near-future Québec City.
Through eight solarpunk and fantasy short stories, Claudie Arseneault revisits local myths and invented legends, explores aromanticism and asexuality, and prods at the soft edges of grief.
Split Scream: Volume Two by Cynthia Gómez, M. Lopes da Silva — Alexander Ebenstein; November 15, 2022
Dread Stone Press presents SPLIT SCREAM, a new Horror Novelette Double Feature. This is Volume Two. Grab some popcorn, turn the lights low, and don’t be afraid to scream.
“The Shivering World” – Cynthia Gómez: Nayeli’s brilliance should be enough to outshine the darkness she longs to leave behind, but she fears she’ll never get further than what her unstable mother can provide: a futon in a garage. She’s determined to transfer to a good college and get out, but the men in her life-a violent neighbor, a greedy landlord, her mother’s predatory boyfriend-stand in her way. Only once she encounters the supernatural, a being she suspects to be La Llorona herself, does Nayeli begin to truly see the power she is capable of. But at what cost? “The Shivering World” is a Faustian bargain in a place of poverty and gentrification, where supernatural terrors meet the horrors of escaping to a new life.
“What Ate the Angels” – M. Lopes da Silva: Non-binary ASMR artist November discovers the sound of a giant heartbeat beneath Los Angeles, which only they seem to hear. When their vore-loving partner Heather, a City Hall archivist, grows ill and can’t get the healthcare she needs, they believe they will find a solution through the thrum. November journeys underground, through abandoned Prohibition-era tunnels, to the den of a creature born from the fabric of the city itself: oil, bones, chemicals-and souls. “What Ate the Angels” is queer body horror full of dread and pulpy, throbbing filth.
The Sunrisers by Robyn Singer — Cinnabar Moth Publishing; November 1, 2022
After years of adventures, professional thief and amateur noodle critic Yael is invited to join The Order of the Banshee, a collection of the greatest female thieves in the universe, despite being decades younger than any of them.
Yael’s childhood best friend, Molina, has lived the opposite life: a stern and serious member of The Sunrisers, the universe’s premiere peacekeeping organization, she’s just been promoted to Captain, serving under her father. Her first assignment of her new command: Bring down The Order of the Banshee.
Yael and Molina now find themselves on opposite sides of a conflict neither of them will escape unscathed. The love they have for each other is the same as when they were young, but either their personal values or their love will break.
In this game of cat and mouse, both women must use all their wits and tricks to stay ahead of their new enemy. Will order triumph, or will chaos? No matter what, Yael and Molina will both lose.
Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse — Saga Press; November 15, 2022
Celeste, a card sharp with a need for justice, takes on the role of advocatus diaboli, to defend her sister Mariel, accused of murdering a Virtue, a member of the ruling class of this mining town, in a new world of dark fantasy from the New York Times bestselling author of Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse.
The year is 1883 and the mining town of Goetia is booming as prospectors from near and far come to mine the powerful new element Divinity from the high mountains of Colorado with the help of the pariahs of society known as the Fallen. The Fallen are the descendants of demonkind living amongst the Virtues, the winners in an ancient war, with the descendants of both sides choosing to live alongside Abaddon’s mountain in this tale of the mythological West from the bestselling mastermind Rebecca Roanhorse.
We’re Here: The Best Queer Speculative Fiction 2021 edited by L.D. Lewis, Charles Payseur — Neon Hemlock Press; September 27, 2022
This second volume in Neon Hemlock’s yearly series celebrating the wonder and breadth of queer speculative fiction contains stories of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and many spaces in between. Edited by LD Lewis and series editor Charles Payseur.
Enjoy stories from C.L. Clark, H. Pueyo, Aliette de Bodard, Watson Neith, Sam J. Miller, Laurel Beckley, Alexandra Seidel, LA Knight, Bogi Takács, Fargo Tbakhi, Ann LeBlanc, Cheri Kamei, Sharang Biswas, Jen Brown & Shingai Njeri Kagunda.
We’re in This Together: A Young Readers Edition of We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders by Linda Sarsour — Salaam Reads; November 29, 2022
You can count on me, your Palestinian Muslim sister, to keep her voice loud, keep her feet on the streets, and keep my head held high because I am not afraid.
On January 17, 2017, Linda Sarsour stood in the National Mall to deliver a speech that would go down in history. A crowd of over 470,000 people gathered in Washington, DC, to advocate for legislation, policy, and the protection of women’s rights–with Linda, a Muslim American activist from Brooklyn, leading the charge, unapologetic and unafraid.
In this middle grade edition of We Are Not Here to be Bystanders, Linda shares the memories that shaped her into the activist she is today, and how these pivotal moments in her life led her to being an organizer in one of the largest single-day protests in US history. From the Brooklyn bodega her father owned to the streets of Washington, DC, Linda’s story as a daughter of Palestinian immigrants is a moving portrayal of what it means to find your voice in your youth and use it for the good of others as an adult.
The Wicked Ones by Robin Benway (The Dark Ascension Series) — Disney Press; January 10, 2023
Blood is blood…and one way or another, we all bleed.
Drizella and Anastasia only know one thing for certain: they will never end up like their mother, Lady Tremaine. When their father left them as young girls, he took what was left of their family’s fortune and their mother’s dignity with him. A few years and one deceased stepfather later, the only version of Lady Tremaine that Drizella and Anastasia know is a bitter and cruel head of house. Anastasia and Drizella have promised themselves–and each other–that they’ll be different. They’ll find love, see the world, and never let their hearts go cold.
But both sisters are all too aware of what it can mean when cast into disfavor with their mother, and fueled by Lady Tremaine’s tendencies to pit the daughters against one another, Drizella and Anastasia are locked into a complicated waltz of tenuous sisterhood. On the cusp of the royal debut party–their one chance to impress the Prince and live up to their mother’s expectations–the sisters at last get a glimpse of what life could be like outside of Lady Tremaine’s intentions: Drizella discovering a love of science and Anastasia sparking a secret romance. But never underestimate the power a mother whose greatest talents lie in manipulation, and the sisters may learn that even the cruelest of hearts can spill blood.
This first book in the new Disney Villains Dark Ascension series by National Book Award-winning author Robin Benway explores the complex sibling rivalry between the two wicked stepsisters from Cinderella that turned them into the characters we know today.