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Maya Gittelman

The Luminous Hope of Zoraida Córdova’s The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina

Protect your magic.

Zoraida Córdova’s adult debut The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is a mesmeric, intricate offering, alive with power and brimming with light. Here, choices and magic follow a bloodline through generations. In the wake of the death of their enigmatic matriarch, the Montoyas unearth long-buried secrets that have shaped each of their lives.

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S. Qiouyi Lu’s In the Watchful City: A Dazzling, Nonbinary Mosaic of Story, Surveillance, and Self

S. Qiouyi Lu’s richly imagined debut novella In The Watchful City sings an intricate symphony, brimming with cleverness and ache. 

The city of Ora is in a state of chosen exile, freed from the clutches of the Skyland empire. In the wake of its collective trauma, Ora surveils its people and its visitors through nodes, extrasensory humans who can navigate the complex interconnected network called the Gleaming. Anima is one of the innermost nodes, and with this power comes the ability to borrow the bodies of living creatures and control them. Æ believes in Ora’s governance, and ær position as peacekeeper. But when a mysterious stranger with a qíjìtáng full of curious items crosses the border without Anima’s notice, the way æ see ær world will never be the same.

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Sapphic Dystopian Excellence in Zoe Hana Mikuta’s Gearbreakers

In a brutal world falling to the tyrannical rule of a militarized state power, two furious girls risk everything to fight back. When their very different paths cross, they may find in each other the one thing they didn’t know they’ve been missing. Zoe Hana Mikuta infuses an intense sci-fi adventure with heart, hard choices, and found family in her debut novel Gearbreakers. 

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The Brilliant, Sublime Ache of The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Joan He’s The Ones We’re Meant to Find is sci-fi dystopian at its best: sharp, devastating, and brimming with invigorating questions about what it means to be human on this earth we continue to ravage.

The novel follows two sisters, the Mizuharas, in alternating chapters that shift between timelines. We follow Cee through an intimate first-person present, where she’s been marooned on a deserted island for three years, colorblind and without memories, with only a friendly, rudimentary bot for company. We come to know Kasey at a more distant third-person past POV, as she navigates her sister’s recent disappearance at sea. Kay is a sixteen-year-old genius, brilliant but disconnected from her peers, the flux of emotions evading her. She, like all inhabitants of earth’s eco-cities, wears an Intraface, tech embedded in her brain that can record memories, provide conversational aid through Silvertongue, and display one’s rank. Admission to the eco-cities is dependent on a rank-based system, purportedly for the good of the remaining humans, in order to best allocate and preserve the planet’s waning resources. When Kasey disappears, Cee maneuvers her way into her sister’s abandoned Intraface to search for answers.

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The Dazzling Queer Delight of Charlie Jane Anders’ Victories Greater Than Death

For everyone who is or was a queer kid dreaming of a destiny in the stars, a place more welcoming and wondrous than here—this book is for you. 

In award-winning SFF writer Charlie Jane Anders’ YA debut, Tina Mains has always been destined for Victories Greater Than Death. Though she’s spent her seventeen years living like a fairly average white girl earthling, she’s actually a secret clone of the late Captain Argentian, a celebrated alien hero. She’s been living in wait for the sparkling beacon in her chest to call upon her to join the Royal Fleet and save the worlds. 

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The Sapphic Witchy Slowburn of Adrienne Tooley’s Sweet & Bitter Magic

Adrienne Tooley’s debut fantasy Sweet & Bitter Magic is a sapphic, quiet slowburn fairytale between two girls with complicated relationships to magic, themselves, and each other. 

Tamsin had been the most powerful young witch in Within, the witches’ land—unlike her twin, Marlena, who only ever wanted to leave Within, to explore the world and its potential. But as different as they were, Tamsin would have done anything for her sister.

And when Marlena’s life is in danger, she does. 

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The Looming Horror and Magic of What It Is To Be Alive: Isabel Yap’s Never Have I Ever

There are worlds within the cutthroat music of Isabel Yap’s debut short story collection Never Have I Ever, and they are wondrous and vicious and true. Yap’s work spans the speculative, weaving fantasy, horror, and sci-fi and wielding each with deft expertise. Here, Filipino folklore breathes through the cruelties and magic of the contemporary, infused with history and legend. Each story is a cleverly crafted gem, resonant and surprising and deeply profound. The collection as a whole establishes Yap firmly as one of the sharpest masters of the form.

As a Fil-Am reader, I found so much of myself in these stories. That specific cadence and tension of family, the rich folklore of my childhood that I so rarely see represented or imagined in contemporary American writing. Whether Yap’s writing about a diaspora experience or a story rooted in Manila, that sense of place and complex identity is drawn so vividly. She carves out details clever and true. 

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Natalie C. Parker’s Stormbreak Is a Vindicating, Epic Finale to the Seafire Trilogy

“This fight didn’t end with Aric and it certainly won’t end with Lir. Not if your goal isn’t the person but the system they’ve created.”

Caledonia Styx and her crew fought valiantly against the cruel Bullet warlord, Aric Athair. But his death did not put an end to the vicious system of addiction and power that governs the Bullet Seas. Fiveson Lir rises to further Aric’s reign of terror, and Caledonia holds a specific rage for him. This is the boy who once destroyed her family, who taught her to distrust all Bullets. This is the boy her own brother, Donnally, was given no choice but to follow, when his world was wrenched from him. This is the boy Donnally now calls his brother. 

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The Love You Can Trust: Sapphic Longing and Reclamation in Fireheart Tiger

As the jaws of a colonizing power tighten around the throat of her homeland Bình Hải, Thanh must navigate the course of her nation’s future, and her own. She’s in a challenging position—the quiet, contemplative youngest child of the empress, not as much overt use to her family or Bình Hải as her powerful sisters. Her mother had sent her to the Ephterian court when she was a child. Thanh had been a guest, and her mother had expected her to return with insights into Ephteria’s customs and intentions, in order to prove herself worthy and protect Bình Hải from their encroaching claim.

But the only real connection Thanh forged during her years in Ephteria is one she cannot confess to her mother. Two years since her return, and she’s still haunted by the ghost of Princess Eldris’ touch. Something stranger, too, remains of her time in the capital Yosolis—the little fires Thanh seems to carry with her. In a deadly, mysterious calamity, the palace burned one night. Thanh made it out alive, no thanks to Eldris, only the company of an enigmatic serving girl at her side. Now it’s as if she can’t escape that night. The fires are small enough still to go unnoticed, burning only pinches of tea leaves, or the hairs of calligraphy brushes, but Thanh can’t control the flames, and she doesn’t know how long she can keep them secret.

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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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