The Root by Na’amen Gobert Tilahun. ★★★1/2
The Root is an intriguing blend of urban and portal fantasy with a wonderfully diverse cast.
Erik’s a former teen star living in San Francisco. He thought his life was complicated enough, but now he’s finding out that he’s Blooded – descended from gods and gifted with powers he doesn’t understand. He also finds himself in the middle of a secret battle, between Blooded and a government organization kidnapping them and trading them off to an alternate dimension.
Lil’s an apprentice archivist in said alternate dimension, where humans are subservient to demonic beings. Yet a strange and powerful darkness is taking over her city, and the rulers are turning to the human archivists to look for answers. Lil’s life will soon become a tightrope walk between her demonic rulers and her power hungry fellow archivists.
Fire Boy by Sami Shah. ★★★
Wahid thinks he’s just a normal teenager growing up in Karachi, Pakistan. He attends school, plays Dungeons and Dragons with his friends, and crushes on a cute girl in his class. He has no idea that he’s the son of a djinn.
Everything changes for Wahid when two djinn attack a car he’s driving. His best friend is killed, and the girl he likes soul is stolen. In his quest to find the djinn who did this, Wahid becomes immersed in the supernatural side of Karachi.
The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. ★★★1/2
The Girl from Everywhere contains one of the most original time travel methods I’ve ever seen. More than that, it’s simply a beautiful book.
Nix has grown up on her father’s ship, traveling from one place and time to another. Their travel depends on hand drawn maps from the original time period, each of which can only be used once. Her father wants nothing more than to find a map which can take him back to 1868 Honolulu and Nix’s mother before she dies in childbirth. He wants to save her and rewrite history… even if it means rewriting Nix. What will happen to her if her father get’s his heart’s desire?
The Voices of Martyrs by Maurice Broaddus. ★★★1/2
In these stories, Maurice Broaddus speaks with the voices of martyrs – past, present, and future. The anthology is divided accordingly into these sections. All or almost all of these stories involve some fantasy or science fiction element. Personally, I found I liked the future stories the best.
The collection begins with “Warrior of the Sunrise Rite of Passage,” the tale of a woman warrior in a long ago Africa, battling strange and ferocious monsters. From there, the collection moves to areas of the past that are more easily pinpointed in history books. “Rite of Passage” tells of the Atlantic Slave Trade. In “Ah Been Buked,” a young woman survives slavery in the American South. “A Solider’s Story” is narrated by a vampire who witnesses the unspeakable destruction of a town’s black community. And in “Shadow Boxing” an up and coming boxer fights against segregation. I’m not one hundred percent sure if “Rite of Passage” and “Shadow Boxing” had speculative elements, but they’re the outliers in that regard.
Long Hidden edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older. ★★★ 1/2
Long Hidden is a speculative fiction anthology focusing on the those marginalized by history – people of color, queer people, disabled people, women, ect. The stories are set in different periods and locals throughout Earth’s history, and all of them involve some fantastical element.
Long Hidden was of fairly average quality when it came to short story collections. There’s a number of stories I liked, a lot that left me cold, and a few that I struggled with. I doubt it will take long for me to forget the vast majority of the stories in Long Hidden. The one exception is my favorite story of the collection, Ken Liu’s “Knotting Grass, Holding Ring,” a dark tale of two women struggling to survive as their city is invaded. For all its brutality, “Knotting Grass, Holding Ring” also managed to create some beauty.
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. ★★★★
Certain Dark Things is a gritty, fresh take on vampires set in an alternate version of Mexico City.
Domingo is a homeless seventeen year old who makes a living collecting garbage off the streets of Mexico City. But then he meets Atl, a young vampire on the run. Her clan of Aztec descended vampires was obliterated by another vampire clan who was muscling in on their drug trade. Mexico City, a “vampire free” sanctuary, looked like somewhere she could lose her pursuit, but now she’s risking both rival vampires and the gangs and police of Mexico City.
The Blazing Star by Imani Josey. ★★
By the end, reading The Blazing Star was painful. If I weren’t intending to review this one, there is no way I would have finished. I was seriously considering quitting when I only had twenty percent of the book left.
Portia White has always dwelt in the shadow of her genius twin sister, Alex, and a rift is starting to grow between them. Then Portia picks up an ancient Egyptian artifact and is transported back into the past, her sister and another girl unwittingly brought along with her. In ancient Egypt, Portia will find her own chance to shine, discover that magic is real, and maybe even heal the wound between her and her sister.