Ghosts, Rivals, Pirates, Friends: 9 Recent SFF Books Starring Sisters

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who are the most fantastic sisters of them all? Snow White often appears in stories all her own, but let’s not forget about her sister Rose Red. The three Fates are sisters; in a departure from Frank L. Baum’s original stories, Wicked imagined Oz’s wicked witches as sisters; Cinderella, famously, had some rather troublesome stepsisters to contend with. A year ago, Lee Kelly gave us a list of five books with unforgettable sisters—but since then, sisters have been cropping up at the center of stories more often than you might expect. Here are nine current and upcoming takes on sisterly love—and a bit of sisterly rivalry.


Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

roses-and-rotIn Howard’s version of Tam Lin, Imogen and her sister Marin are both accepted to a fancy artist’s residency—Imogen as a writer, and Marin as a dancer. Only the most talented artists are selected to spend time at Melete, but it’s not just about their talent. It’s about the needs of the Fair Folk, whose appreciation of art goes beyond the norm. Howard spins out Imogen and Marin’s complicated connection, their history with their wicked mother, and each of the sisters’ relationship to her own art in a lyrical tale about what matters most, and what can be sacrificed.

Read an excerpt from Roses and Rot.


Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuireBeing a ghost is a complicated thing in McGuire’s latest novella. Every person gets a certain amount of time, whether living or dead, and Jenna hadn’t used hers up when she died. Her sister Patty, on the other hand, is truly gone. Jenna can steal time from the living, but she feels she owes something back, so she volunteers at a suicide prevention hotline in New York. She wants to move on, but in the meantime, she saves cats, has an excellent ghost landlady, and is, somewhat reluctantly, friendly with a witch or two. The city, in McGuire’s story, is full of ghosts—until it’s not. When almost all the city’s ghosts go missing, Jenna is drawn back to her small hometown—where she and her sister are both buried, and where an old theater hides a dark magic.

Read an excerpt from Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day.


False Hearts by Laura Lam

false-hearts-coverRaised in a closed commune with no access to technology, twins Taema and Tila were conjoined until the age of 16, when their failing, shared heart required medical intervention. Now, in their mid-20s, Tila is under suspicion of murder—a crime possibly involving a peculiar narcotic. In near-future San Francisco, a drug called Verve lets people experience violent desires in a dark dreamscape. When the cops offer a deal, Taema must assume her sister’s identity and try to root out information on the city’s drug cartel. But even two sisters who were as close as they once were can have secrets from each other.

Read an excerpt from False Hearts.


Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

ThreeDarkCrownsOn the magical island kingdom of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born into each generation. One of them will be queen—but only one of them. Once Mirabella, Katharine, and Arsinoe turn 16, they must turn their magic on each other. Each has been trained in her natural skill: Mirabella’s an elemental, Katharine a poisoner, and Arsinoe a naturalist. Poisoners have reigned supreme for decades, but will that continue? And do these sisters even want to fight? Three Dark Crowns kicks off Blake’s new series, so it’s a safe bet this one doesn’t end with a coronation ceremony. Not just yet.

Read Alex Brown’s review of Three Dark Crowns.


Caraval by Stephanie Garber (available January 31st)

Caraval by Stephanie GarberIn this much-lauded debut, Scarlett and her sister Tella have never been off their small island home. But not for lack of trying: for years, Scarlett has written to Legend, who runs a yearly immersive adventure/performance called Caraval. When her invitation finally arrives, the timing couldn’t be worse: Scarlett’s father has arranged for her to be married. But Tella finds a way to get Scarlett to the show—which is much more than she bargained for. Legend steals Tella away, making her the prize for Caraval’s winner. Whether it’s all a game or not, Scarlett has to win her sister back.


Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza (available February 7th)

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda BellezaAfter her entire family—including her sister Joss—died in a suspicious accident, Crown Princess Rhiannon (known as Rhee) grew up in exile while a corrupt government ruled in her place. Now 18, she’s ready to claim her birthright when she is attacked. (Being space royalty sounds really difficult.) When a former war refugee turned reality star is framed for Rhee’s apparent murder, he too is drawn into the political quagmire. We don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s safe to say that Rhee’s relationship with her sister is more than a little important in her fight to stay alive.


Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones (available February 7th)

Wintersong by S. Jae-JonesWould you trade your sister for a romance with the Goblin King? What if the Goblin King was as handsome and mercurial as David Bowie in Labyrinth? Talented 18-year-old composer Liesl is close with both her siblings, her beautiful sister Kathe and her musician brother Josef. She’s grown up on tales of the Goblin King; they’ve inspired some of her best work (not that her father would notice; he only pays attention to Josef’s talents). But when goblins steal Kathe away, Liesl ventures Underground to rescue her sister. The Goblin King is unpredictable, but even he is subject to old laws and the passage of time. Atmospheric and romantic, Wintersong is more about Liesel and the Goblin King than it is about Liesl and Kathe, but it’s sisterly love that sets the plot in motion.


Revenger by Alastair Reynolds (available February 28th)

Revenger-by-Alastair-Reynolds-UKSpace! Pirate! Sisters! Ok, there’s more to Reynolds’ latest (currently available in the UK, though the US has a bit longer to wait) than just that delightful hook. Adrana and Fura Ness have signed on with Captain Rackamore, who plies his trade with integrity—it’s just that his trade is hunting out tiny, hidden planets and pillaging them for old technology and forgotten treasures. When the Ness sisters join up, it’s to save their family from bankruptcy. But Rackamore, like all good pirates, has enemies, and working for him might be a little more dangerous than the sisters expected. With a title like that, things surely don’t go entirely as planned?

Read Niall Alexander’s review of Revenger.


Star’s End by Cassandra Rose Clarke (available March 21st)

Star's End by Cassandra Rose ClarkeEsme Coromina’s father is dying. The patriarch of a small planet system that he’s grown into a corporate empire, Phillip Coromina wishes to see all of his children again before he dies—but Esme knows her three half sisters won’t want to see him. Esme’s been raised to take over the family business, the Four Sisters, but some years ago, she uncovered its shadier side. She hasn’t spoken to her sisters in ages, and isn’t even sure she wants to do as her father asks.  In two timelines—one in the present, one that moves forward through the past—Clarke spins out a family space-saga that promises complicated relationships, big secrets, and galactic drama.


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