Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. ★★★★
There are two things I really love: fantasy settings and heist stories. So when it comes to fantasy heist stories, I’m obviously primed to enjoy them. And wow, has this series been great.
Crooked Kingdom is the sequel to Six of Crows, which you absolutely must read first. There’s really no way for me to avoid spoilers for the first book if I’m going to talk about the plot of this one, so be forewarned. If you aren’t familiar with the series, but a YA fantasy heist story sounds like it’d be your thing, go read Six of Crows.
Ariah by B. R. Sanders. ★★★★1/2
Ariah is a fantasy bildungsroman, the coming of age story of a young elf in a predominately human city. It’s intensely character focused and uses it’s fantasy setting to address issues of gender and sexuality. It’s a story about home, love, identity, and family, and I’m not sure my review will be able to do this book justice.
The story opens with Ariah arriving in the big city to live with a mentor, Dirva, and learn how to control his magical powers. Ariah is a mimic, which means he can learn languages easily and mimic other people’s voices, and more importantly a shaper, which means he has the ability to sense other people’s emotions. However, Ariah often gets lost in other peoples feelings, losing any sense of himself or what he wants.
An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows. ★★★★
An Accident of Stars is a queer feminist portal fantasy told from the point of views of four female characters. Saffron is a high school student in Australia who follows a strange woman through a portal and enters another world, Kena. While born on earth, Gwen has been traveling to Kena for over thirty years and considers it home. She even became involved in local politics and made an unwise choice in supporting a man called Leoden in his bid for the throne. Now Gwen and her allies are hunted by him, including Zech, the adopted granddaughter of an exiled matriarch, and Viya, Leoden’s runaway consort.
An Accident of Stars hits a lot of high points for me. For one, it has a greater focus on the relationships between female characters than almost any fantasy novel I’ve seen. I particularly loved the mentor/student relationship between Gwen and Saffron. While the official blurb frames Saffron as the protagonist, I think that’s belittling the role played by the other POV characters. Saffron serves as a clear reader insert but all four women have their own story lines and no one receives the clear majority of page time.
The Devourers by Indra Das. ★★★★
Trigger warning: rape
The task of reviewing The Devourers is daunting. It’s a more literary novel than most of the SFF stories I review here, and it’s a very complex novel. It’s a story that deserves essays and thematic analysis more than a relatively brief, mostly spoiler-free review. The Devourers was not an easy book to read. There’s violence and brutality, and a large part of the story revolves around rape. About a fourth of the way through I thought about quitting. However, I’m very glad I didn’t.
In Kolkata, India the narrator, Alok, encounters a man who claims to be half-werewolf. Alok ends up agreeing to transcribe a series of texts for the mysterious stranger. From those texts come the story of man eating shapeshifters in seventeenth century Mughal India.
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard. ★★★1/2
While there were elements of The House of Shattered Wings that I enjoyed, it never fully worked for me. I never felt much of a connection to any of the characters, and the plot wasn’t compelling enough to make up for that absence.
House Silverspires is on the decline. Like all of Europe’s houses, it was brought to the brink of ruin by the war. Although it survived, it is now missing it’s leader, the oldest fallen angel of all, Morningstar. Now, Silverspires is threatened by a dark and shadowy magic, and it’s members are being killed, Fallen and mortal alike.
The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells. ★★★★
The Edge of Worlds is the fourth book in Martha Well’s amazingly inventive Raksura series, which starts with The Cloud Roads. This is a world without humans, and most of the cast are scaled shape shifters. I would suggest starting from the beginning of the series, to get better handle on the wide number of characters making an appearance in The Edge of Worlds.
The story opens with everyone in Indigo Cloud sharing a dream of the Fell attacking the court. When a sky-ship of strange groundlings arrive, looking for raksura to accompany them to an ancient city, the court realizes that this may be the key to preventing the danger foreseen by the dream.
The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. ★★★★1/2
I was incredibly excited for the release of The Raven King, the fourth and last book in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle (starts with The Raven Boys). I had so many questions for this book. Basically, I was hyped. While it may have been impossible for any book to live up to that level of excitement, I did find The Raven King to be overall satisfying. Also, I know that I’ll be needing to reread it and the entire series at some point in the not too distant future. Aside from Discworld, this has been my favorite book series. And now it’s finally over.