Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction for December 2021

December 2021 brought a plethora of great short science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories to my inbox. Judging by the stories that ended up on my spotlight this month, I went on an environmental disasters kick. From fussy lake gods to exploitative space station dwellers, from technology-infused religious beliefs to robots repopulating the planet, with a few creepy houses to spice things up.

Plus! Four extra stories from a few publications whose summer and fall issues I missed when they were initially released.

Read the rest of this spotlight at Tor.com.

Review: “Redemptor” by Jordan Ifueko

Release Date: August 17, 2021
Series: Raybearer #2
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Description

For the first time, an Empress Redemptor sits on Aritsar’s throne. To appease the sinister spirits of the dead, Tarisai must now anoint a council of her own, coming into her full power as a Raybearer. She must then descend into the Underworld, a sacrifice to end all future atrocities.

Tarisai is determined to survive. Or at least, that’s what she tells her increasingly distant circle of friends. Months into her shaky reign as empress, child spirits haunt her, demanding that she pay for past sins of the empire.

With the lives of her loved ones on the line, assassination attempts from unknown quarters, and a handsome new stranger she can’t quite trust . . . Tarisai fears the pressure may consume her. But in this finale to the Raybearer duology, Tarisai must learn whether to die for justice . . . or to live for it.

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Best Young Adult Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror of 2021

With more than 300 young adult speculative fiction novels and graphic novels traditionally published in 2021, putting together a Best Of list is a massive undertaking. After weeks of hemming and hawing, adding and subtracting, making decisions and changing my mind, here is a big batch of 35 titles. “Best” is, of course, a totally subjective concept, but these are the science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels that I think absolutely nailed how much young adult fiction can change, inspire, teach, and reflect its readers…

Read the rest of this spotlight at Tor.com.

Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction for November 2021

November is a weird month. The beautiful fall colors of October are gone, but the crisp bite of December has yet to arrive. Things are coming due and end of year lists are being made, as if there isn’t a whole other month left. November is an inhale, a hesitation, a glitch in the timestream. So here are my ten favorite speculative fiction stories from that strange eleventh hour pause…

Read the rest of this spotlight at Tor.com.

A Fresh Take on Old Tropes: Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier

Release Date: November 9, 2021
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Description

Before an ambush by enemy soldiers, Lord Cassia was an engineer’s apprentice on a mission entrusted by the king. But when plague sweeps over the land, leaving countless dead and devastating the kingdom, even Cas’ title cannot save him from a rotting prison cell and a merciless sickness.

Three years later, Cas wants only to return to his home in the mountains and forget past horrors. But home is not what he remembers. His castle has become a refuge for the royal court. And they have brought their enemies with them.

When an assassin targets those closest to the queen, Cas is drawn into a search for a killer… one that leads him to form an unexpected bond with a brilliant young historian named Lena. Cas and Lena soon realize that who is behind the attacks is far less important than why. They must look to the past, following the trail of a terrible secret—one that could threaten the kingdom’s newfound peace and plunge it back into war.

Continue reading “A Fresh Take on Old Tropes: Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier”

Review: “Briar Girls” by Rebecca Kim Wells

Release Date: November 16, 2021
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Description

Lena has a secret: the touch of her skin can kill. Cursed by a witch before she was born, Lena has always lived in fear and isolation. But after a devastating mistake, she and her father are forced to flee to a village near the Silence, a mysterious forest with a reputation for luring people into the trees, never to be seen again…​

Until the night an enigmatic girl stumbles out of the Silence and into Lena’s sheltered world. Miranda comes from the Gather, a city in the forest brimming with magic. She is on a quest to wake a sleeping princess believed to hold the key to liberating the Gather from its tyrannical ruler—and she offers Lena a bargain. If Lena assists her on her journey, Miranda will help her break the curse.

Mesmerized by Miranda and her promise of a new life, Lena jumps at the chance. But the deeper into the Silence she goes, the more she suspects she’s been lied to—about her family’s history, her curse, and her future. As the shadows close in, Lena must choose who to trust and decide whether it’s more important to have freedom…or power.

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Feature: “Perceiver” by E. C. Fuller

Release Date: August 31, 2021
Series: The Perceiver Trilogy
Publisher: self-published
Genre: Young adult, Fantasy

Description

Moving to a new town was not on Hattie’s to-do list for the summer.

Her arrival in Applewood brings nothing but strange things to her doorstep. A bendable boy guards an abandoned orchard. A cactus gives her a bullet. A monster made of oil stalks those around her.

And nobody can see them but her.

When traveling consultants show up on her doorstep, a chance encounter with the boy named Jack forces them to confront the monsters and their intertwined fates. Worse yet, the lives of the people she loves now hang by a thread.

When her world collides with another, Hattie must make a choice: save herself or save her parents.

Tsava awaits.

Continue reading “Feature: “Perceiver” by E. C. Fuller”