Read an eARC from NetGalley Content warning: gun violence, ritualistic sacrifice, implied and period-appropriate homophobia
All magical detective Helen Brandt wants is to live out her days in peace Edith Jarosky. But her time is running out and an opportunity comes to get her soul back in exchange for solving a serial murder. With mischievous devils and devious angels, this Chicago fantasy noir has great worldbuilding and intricate character development.
Read a NetGalley eARC Trigger/Content warning: serial murder, dead family, stalking, spiritual abuse, ritual torture (aftermath)
Ro is a struggling writer with a couple of stories and a group of friends who seemed to have come together randomly at a diner during Christmas. They meet for several Christmases more, and each one seems to end worse than the one that came before as the past haunts them.
More creepy than scary, with people proving to be the real horror with folkloric elements woven throughout that makes the reader wonder if there’s sinister spirits afoot or if people are just like that.
Read a physical ARC from the publisher Trigger/Content warning: death of a parent, fantasy violence, misogyny, discussions of infertility
Peretur grew up in a cave with her mom, Elen, without a name until she sees a band of knights and decides to go to Cair Leon where her destiny lies. There’s the lady of the lake, the sword in the stone, and the holy grail, remixed together in a swoony tale that fully honors its origins.
Romantic in a way only medieval romance can be, I really loved this exploration of the quest, the relationship between the chosen one and her mystical mother, and, ultimately, how much this story loves the women found within its pages.
It’s another post-apocalypse in Appalachia, but this one has to do with a war long thought over against an AI named Athena Parthenus. Decades go by, and the main character, Marcia, is about to retire until she’s reinstated for one more mission to investigate an automaton that’s reawakened.
The world-building is really cool in this one. There’s a band of Owl and Crow resistance groups who cosplay as their respective birds, and it’s interesting to see the different community dynamics of the few remaining human enclaves. There several different types of robots, and it’s not entirely clear if all the people aren’t some kind of cyborg as well. The writing is clear and crisp, and it’s easy to keep all the different factions clear.
It’s a bit on the nose in its exploration of the collapse of an empire and the cycles of violence that come with it, citing examples of Greek and Roman history in casual dialogue. But for a small vignette of a greater world, it simply deepens the worldbuilding.
Due to the brevity of the work, the character development loses a bit of its depth. That being said, it’s rad to have a genre work about a reckoning with past and present while AI have different agendas with regards to where the world goes next.
Read an eARC from NetGalley Content warning: Homophobia, anti-Asian racism, murder, sexism, violence
In an magical alternate history of old Hollywood, magic is very real and the studio heads are literal monsters. All Luli Wei is to be a star, under three conditions: no maids, no funny accidents, and no fainting, in order to carve out her own career. She will stop at nothing to get the recognition she thinks she deserves, no matter the cost.
A world of magic and fey wrapped up in the glamour of the 1920’s, an immersive, sensual experience that’s equal parts dark and fabulous.
Read an eARC from NetGalley Content warning: murder, gore, blood
There’s an emerging subgenre in 2022 where a mysterious contagion makes people fly into a rage. While this is part of the premise of this novella, And Then I Woke Up examines the aftermath and the power of narrative when it comes to trauma. A cure isn’t as simple as dealing with It also looks at the power of narrative as it relates to violence and justification.
Deeply introspective with flashbacks to all the trappings of a zombie apocalypse, this is one of the saddest horror stories I’ve ever read.
Read an eARC from the editor Content warning: body horror, gore, blood, child sexual abuse (~75% mark), arson, medical experimentation, dysphoria, harm against animals
Gothic horror is great. Gothic horror that’s disguising a science fiction horror? Even better. A physician goes to replace a colleague far in the north in a frozen chateau occupied by a baron, his son, his wife, and their twins. As the doctor from the Institute investigates the cause of death, secrets begin to unravel that can easily spell humanity’s decline.
With dense, precise language weaving a tale of discovery and self-discovery, definitely a must-read for fans of Caitlin Starling in search of more claustrophobic settings and morally gray characters.
Read an ARC from NetGalley Content warning: fatshaming, fatphobia, bullying
Cora’s door led to a world of Drowned Gods and mermaids. She returns to Eleanor West’s school still haunted by her experience and requests a transfer to the cruel Whitehorn Institute, where normalcy via suppression and repression is the rule of those halls. I found this entry much darker than those that came before it in ways that are less fantastical than eeriness of the worlds behind the doors.
Read an ARC from the publisher Content warning: chronic illness, rape (implied, not depicted)
Zinnia Gray has a chronic illness which will claim her life before she turns twenty-two. Charm, her best friend, throws a Sleeping Beauty-themed birthday party that accidentally causes a dimensional rift which sends Zinnia to the world of another Sleeping Beauty, Primrose. The two embark on a quest to wrench agency and salvation from their own crappy happy-ever-afters, while encountering a multi-verse of other Beauties.
This book is incredibly sad. There are constant reminders of Zinnia’s countdown, and the relationship between her and Charm is filled with so much angst. The love between them is firmly founded by their friendship, and strengthened by everything that unspools in these brief pages.
It’s wonderfully feminist in the way that the girls want to work together to save each other from their own crappy fates. The hope also comes from a place tinged with a wish these girls didn’t have to be strong in the ways that they are. It balances out the fairy tale fun of the story such that it works, with the constant emotive tension. The bit where they meet the Maleficent character is absolutely heart-breaking, and I’m not going to spoil it here. It just works.
It’s not my lane to speak to, but I do want to highlight that there is a bit of magical cure in which the havoc wreaked on Zinnia’s body is reversed at the end of the adventure, though the illness itself remains. If this is a trope you’d rather avoid, I’m not sure how much the series will work to subvert it, so that’s to be determined.
The Tensorate quartet are sweeping fantasies with ambitious characters, high stakes, intricate politics, epic sequences, and a rad blend of technology and magic. The omnibus comes out today, and you can read the full series from start to finish in one package. To celebrate, I’m excited to host author Neon Yang to talk about writing process and what they’re working on next.