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Maya Gittelman

Mythmaking and Brilliant, Defiant Hope: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

Addie had only ever wanted to be free. 

Born in 1691, in a small village in France, she was never meant to chart her own course. She was to be a wife and mother, all her curiosities hewn away until she was only a core, and even that wasn’t to be her own.

She hadn’t meant to pray to the old gods after dark.

But he is the only one who answered.

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We Are the Stories We Tell One Another: Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro

Here, as the world ends and dies and ends again, Mark Oshiro brings forth a daybreak of brilliant, hard-won hope. 

In Each of Us a Desert, Oshiro moves away from the contemporary settings of their powerhouse debut, Anger Is a Gift. This is a propulsive fantasy novel, set in a vast desert and las aldeas that dot its expanse. Though they shift genres, Oshiro’s ability to blend beauty with brutality, to build love alongside grief, is as vividly drawn here as in their first book. They re-establish themselves as one of the most daring, purposeful, masterful authors writing today.

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Change Is Not Collapse: Alex London’s Gold Wings Rising

Which came first, the falcon or the egg?

It doesn’t matter in the end. They will keep creating each other until they go extinctor they evolve into something new. 

Gold Wings Rising wraps up Alex London’s intense, evocative Skybound Saga with a deeply satisfying conclusion that both builds on the established world and subverts its very foundations. Brutal, evocative, and brimming with heart and hope, Gold Wings Rising is a triumph of a final installment.

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Love and Justice in T.J. Klune’s The Extraordinaries

So many queer readers cleave to superhero stories because we know what it’s like to live a secret identity. We live within the dissonance between what the world wants from us and who we wish we could be. We know what it is to be caught between what is expected and what is inextricable from our deepest selves, and to have our most unique powers be the most isolating force in our lives–with the potential to cost us everything and everyone we love most. 

In T.J. Klune’s The Extraordinaries, queer superpowers don’t have to be a metaphor anymore. Klune gives us an entirely queer central cast, with no homophobia save for a few awkward comments from a generally well-meaning father. Here, queer love and desire gets to breathe on the page. Klune not only explores teen queerness in its most awkward, nerdy, fanfic-inspired throes, but interrogates the queer celebrity infatuation, the crush on the hot popular kid—the dissonance between idolization and authentic, genuine attraction. And from it comes a queer romance that’s as tender as it is magic.

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The Smart, Specific Magic of Zen Cho’s The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water

There beyond the edges of the battlefield, there across a landscape of ruin and history in the making, of high stakes and hard choices, there is a coffeehouse. There is a motley, tight-knit crew of bandits, and here they meet a waitress who was a nun once, and from there, nothing will be quite as it seems.

Zen Cho’s novella The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water is a small-scale story on the crest of an enormous wave of war. The fight bleeds in in unexpected places. Cho crafts a different sort of intimacy within the story: we as readers don’t get very close to any one character, and so we can’t necessarily trust any of their perspectives. In this way, it feels almost like we’re one of their crew along for the journey, unearthing the rules of the world and their relationships from each of them in turn.

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Three Filipinx Authors Rocking Epic Fantasy

Today’s Filipinx genre fiction writers are crafting some of the most groundbreaking, immersive, anti-colonialist fantasy novels out here. Their protagonists unleash demons, raise the dead, save the world, and figure out how to rebuild it. Filipinx voices belong in the speculative imagination, and these authors take us there. With middle-grade mythic adventure, young adult historical decadence, adult epic, and so much magic in between—if you haven’t already fallen in love with all of these titles, you’ll want to add these authors to your TBR immediately.

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Memory and Mythmaking: Queer Archive in Nghi Vo’s The Empress of Salt and Fortune

History is written by the victors, and here in The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo brings a reckoning to the patriarchal architects of myth and power. Vo’s debut novella is slim but epic, spare yet breathtakingly evocative. It’s sharp as a needle and just as capable of weaving an entire tapestry of narrative—or undoing the carefully crafted fabric of a lie.

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The Electric Heir: Queer Healing and Power in Victoria Lee’s Feverwake Series

In The Electric Heir, the striking, cathartic conclusion to the Feverwake duology, magic isn’t a straightforward experience, and neither is the process of healing. Victoria Lee weaves together a compelling, terrifyingly plausible landscape of revolution with an intricate and original system of magic, but the heart of the two novels centers on an intimate, well-wrought investigation of power and abuse.

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Magic, Rebellion, and Queer Chosen Family: M.K. England’s Spellhacker Will Steal Your Heart

A clever, engaging magic system! Talented young folks waging a futuristic heist against a powerful, corrupt organization! Fast-paced, high-stakes adventure! There’s a lot to love about M. K. England’s epic new novel Spellhacker, but the throughline at its core is the tenderly rendered queer chosen family of the main cast.

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Harbinger of Hope: A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen

The world is ending, but we already knew that. For many of us, the apocalypse has come already, in the shapes of imperialism, white supremacy, unaffordable healthcare, and anthropocene-induced climate catastrophe. For everyone else, it’s not a matter of if, but when. So it’s fitting that SFF is picking up post-post-apocalypse—less interested in the panicked chaos of the end of the world (we’ve got the news for that), and more focused on the challenging process of rebuilding. What comes after? What happens to the survivors? What will we bring with us into the future?

Mike Chen’s A Beginning At the End takes place six years after a devastating flu pandemic killed 70% of the human population. With the quarantines lifted, survivors tentatively try to cobble together a semblance of normalcy, though they collectively suffer from PASD: post-apocalyptic stress disorder, a combination of survivor’s guilt, PTSD, displacement, and profound grief.

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Reimagined Rulers, Lady Princes, and Queer Knights: Tessa Gratton’s Lady Hotspur

“Hal was not yet a prince when she fell in love with Lady Hotspur, but she would be within the hour.”

So begins Tessa Gratton’s latest masterpiece, unapologetically queer and brimming with vicious promise. Lady Hotspur is a companion novel to The Queens of Innis Lear, but it picks up generations later and stands alone. To call it a reimagining of part one of Shakespeare’s Henry IV is only part of its breadth—it functions in conversation, investigating war, love, and trauma, and Gratton’s deliberate genderfuckery and queerness deepens the project. The result is an epic, compulsively readable triumph that is not only an immersive addition to the canon of historical action adventure fantasy, but a reclamation of the genre and the history, a restoration: a revolution in and of itself.

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A Clash of Love and Magic: Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao

There is so much to love in every Julie C. Dao novel: the gorgeous worldbuilding, the atmospheric fantasy, the high-stakes plot — but my favorite element will always be her unapologetically complex characters. While Dao uses fairytale as her launchpad in the Feng Lu novels, her characters are consciously crafted as anything but archetypal. The immersive, lovely Song of the Crimson Flower revisits favorite characters from Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix while centering on a new, compelling cast.

Song of the Crimson Flower is set eight years after Phoenix leaves off. It continues the narrative of the world of Feng Lu, now prospering under the rule of Empress Jade, though the dark, entwining threats of black spice and bloodpox cast a rising shadow on her kingdom. Crimson Flower can be read and loved as a standalone, or prior to reading the Rise of the Empress books. However, as a reader who adores Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and its sequel, it was deeply fulfilling to return to Feng Lu and revisit the characters I love, exploring their roles in the next phase of their world.

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The Dark, Soulwalking Fantasy of Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland

What shape does a soul take? For some, they are flourishing gardens. Others have tidy houses — and there are some whose souls are terrifying dungeons. This is called the “soul home,” or nehym. The state of a nehym reflects the person, and everything of that person is embodied in their soul…so what does it mean that Kamai doesn’t have a nehym of her own? And that in every soul, she sees a closed black door her mother warns her never to open? Thankfully, at least, these are secrets to bury, not stigmas to bear, as only a precious few have the goddess-gifted ability to soulwalk, Kamai and her mother included. This means that her mother, Marin, makes an excellent spy. She and her ersatz husband Hallan end up embroiled with an organization called the Twilight Guild. Kamai believed that her mother and Hallan pretended at marriage to mask their true occupations as pleasure artists, but discovers another layer of intrigue—their pleasure artistry serves as the perfect mask for soulwalking, in which the subject needs to be asleep.

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