content by

Feliza Casano

Destiny and Choices: Julie Dao’s Rise of the Empress Duology

In Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, the beautiful but poor Xifeng has been raised her entire life to believe she’s destined for greatness as the Empress of Feng Lu. For a woman not born into nobility, that dream seems nearly beyond reach. When a chance arises to go to the capital, Xifeng seizes it, armed with her beauty and dark magic learned from her aunt. As she learns to navigate the pit of vipers that is the imperial court, Xifeng is faced with choices that can lead to her destiny—if she’s willing to pay the price.

To talk about book two of this duology, I’ll be discussing the ending of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, so stop here if you’re looking to avoid spoilers!

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A Specialty in Transformation: Marina and Sergey Dyachenko’s Vita Nostra

Sasha Samokhina has always been an average sort of girl, if a bit overly studious—at least, that’s what she always thought before meeting the strange and imperious Farit Kozhennikov while on vacation with her mother. The bizarre tasks Kozhennikov sets her to as she goes through her final year of high school leave her with a pile of strange gold coins, used to pay for her entrance to a college she’s never heard of and has no desire to attend. But Kozhennikov gives her no choice but to attend the Institute of Special Technologies, where the lessons in Specialty are at first completely incomprehensible and the students’ transgressions and failures are punished by harm to their families. Yet Sasha continues to push forward in her studies… and soon she finds herself transformed as she discovers the truth of the “Special Technologies” she’s studying so fervently.

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Hell Is Other People: Books and Anime That’ll Make You Want To Die Alone

There’s nothing like cuddling up on a dark October night with a creepy horror novel—or hunkering down to watch a scary anime. In this season of terror, we’ve got four pairs of horror books and anime to check out, from favorites to stories you shouldn’t miss.

With horror fiction and horror anime both being such incredibly in-depth areas, we’ve narrowed it down to pairings of stories that focus on people and the relationships between them. While many of the stories possess paranormal elements, the real terror lies not in the monster you’ve barricaded out, but the person you’re locked inside with.

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The Power of Language: The Black Khan by Ausma Zehanat Khan

The One granted the world the gift of the Claim, holy words used to summon magic. Arian is one of those who can wield it: the daughter of linguists raised in a scriptorium, her entire life has been dedicated to the Claim. In fact, Arian has been one of the Companions of Hira—a group of women who study and use the Claim—since she was a child. But across Khorasan, a man known as the One-Eyed Prophet has led the rising Talisman group in a campaign to dominate civilization, subjugating the women of Khorasan and destroying libraries and knowledge in the process. The Companions seek to overthrow the Talisman—but they need a text called the Bloodprint first.

Spoilers for The Bloodprint, book one of the Khorasan Archives, follow!

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Romance vs Ethics: Warcross and Wildcard by Marie Lu

As a longtime fan of Marie Lu—I bought her debut novel Legend on the day it released—I was excited and intrigued by the concept of Warcross, the first novel in this duology. It focuses on Emika Chen’s selection for and participation in the Warcross Championships, an international esports tournament for a game that sounds like a more technologically-advanced version of Overwatch. Yet Warcross, for its focus on innovative technology, was itself not very innovative at all, containing a lot of predictable elements ranging from the romance to the “plot twists” at the end.

With the release of Wildcard, I was interested to see the direction Emika’s story would take, and in many ways, Wildcard is a much better book, though it lacks the action-packed virtual reality sequences that make Warcross fun. Wildcard focuses much more on intrigue, taking Emika and the other members of the Phoenix Riders team on investigations and into thrillingly dangerous situations.

Spoilers for Warcross and Wildcard follow!

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Read This, Watch That: Pairing “School Story” SFF Books and Anime

As a long-time fan of both speculative fiction and anime, one common thread I’ve noticed in both media is the enduring presence of The School Story. Plenty of fantasy readers make their grand entrance to the genre via a school fantasy story; for teens, who spend more time at school than at home, what other setting could tie the fantastic world to mundane reality?

Here are four anime to watch based on the book series you love—or, if you came here looking for books, four book series to read based on your favorite anime!

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Sisterhood at Sea: Natalie C. Parker’s Seafire

Caledonia Styx’s ship, the Mors Navis, is one of the only ships that still sails free from the rule of bloodthirsty warlord Aric Athair and his army of Bullets, who brutalize the coastal settlements and seabound communities alike. The Bullets are not to be trusted: after all, it was a Bullet boy claiming to seek a place on the Mors Navis who talked Caledonia into revealing the Mors Navis’s location, resulting in the death of every person in the crew save Caledonia and her best friend, Pisces, who were ashore on a supply run.

Four years later, Caledonia and Pisces have rebuilt the Mors Navis and recruited a new crew entirely made up of women and girls who have lost their own families and homes to Athair’s raids. The women of the Mors Navis are determined to chip away at Athair’s empire, even if that means taking his navy down ship by ship. But when Pisces brings aboard a runaway Bullet who says he wants to defect, the secret Caledonia’s been keeping for four years threatens to come to light, reopening old wounds and endangering the new family she and Pisces have built.

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