Black Wolves by Kate Elliott. ★★★★
Trigger Warning: Rape
This may be my favorite read yet from Kate Elliott, and I have the feeling that this trilogy will become one of my all time epic fantasy series. If non-Western epic fantasy with loads of ladies who do things sounds like something you’d like, then you need to read Black Wolves.
The first hundred pages of Black Wolves introduce many of the central characters, but everything then changes after a forty-four year time skip. King Anjihosh saved the Hundred from demons and conquered it in the process. The story starts with Kellas, a captain of the Black Wolves, the king’s elite unit of soldiers and spies. The king’s son, Atani, learns of a family secret and soon after disappears. Kellas is tasked with his retrieval. The first section ends soon after. In the time skip, Atani both became king and was murdered on one fateful night still shrouded in questions and mysteries. Now Atani’s son is king, and he fears that no one around him can be trusted. His aunt Dannarah enlists a now elderly Kellas to return to safeguard her nephew and his kingdom.
The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig. ★★★
This YA time traveling book is the sequel to The Girl from Everywhere, and I suggest the series be read in order. While I find the time traveling method quite novel, reading The Ship Beyond Time made me realize I wasn’t caring about the characters enough to want to continue with this series.
Nyx has finally taken the helm, directing her family’s ship through the tides of history. She’s thrilled… until she learns what fate awaits her. She’s destined to suffer the same fate has her father, losing the one she loves. Is it possible to change time itself? A mysterious stranger claims he knows the secret of it, and he requests Nyx’s presence at a mythical island where nothing is as it seems.
Snake Eyes by Hilary Monahan. ★★★1/2
Trigger warning: Sexual assault, violence
Snake Eyes is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. There’s no way I’m ever forgetting it.
Tanis Barlas is the daughter of the Lamia, a monstrous snake woman from Greek mythology who cares little for her human daughters. Yet she retains a tight control over all her offspring, and Tanis is forced to every month find a man for her mother to mate with and then devour. The only thing making her life bearable is her human girlfriend, Naree. But then two events change Tanis’s life forever. Her mother’s ancient enemies, the Gorgons, arrive in Florida hunting them, and Naree becomes pregnant. With Naree in danger, Tanis will do whatever she must to keep her lover safe.
Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly. ★★★★
The best comparison I can make for Amberlough is that it’s a cross of Orwell’s 1984 and Kushner’s Swordspoint. It’s fantasy without magic, set in a world based on Weimar Berlin and experiencing the rise of fascism. Oh, and the three central characters are a gay spy, his smuggler lover, and a stripper who acts as his beard. Amberlough is both dark and somehow delightful.
Amberlough City is a corrupt but cultured city, the bustling heart of Gedda. But the One State Party (“Ospies”) want to unite Gedda’s four provinces into one centralized, socially conservative nation, and they are making increasing strides in shaping Gedda to their vision. Cyril DePaul is a spy who’s masters are growing concerned with the Ospies’s rise, but when Cyril’s cover is blown, he makes the decision to work with the Ospies for his own survival and that of his lover, smuggler Aristide Makricosta. Into this delicate dance of politics and survival, Aristide brings Cordelia Lehane, a dancer and drug dealer who works alongside him at the Bumble Bee club. As their way of life is threatened, these three will have to decide what they are willing to do to ensure their own survival and at what costs.
Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker. ★★★★
Phantom Pains is the sequel to Mishell Baker’s phenomenal debut, Borderline, which dealt with issues of disability and mental health as well as being a really fun urban fantasy novel. While it would be possible to read Phantom Pains on its own, I recommend reading the books in order. Spoilers for Borderline will be included in the rest of this review.
Fourth months ago, Millie left the Arcadia Project to work for Inaya West and her new studio. She’s finally gotten around to trying to clean up magical residue from Stage 13 with her old boss Caryl, when she sees the ghost of Teo. Except, ghosts don’t exist and that shouldn’t be possible. To make matters worse, a Project agent is murdered and Caryl is accused. If she wants to save Caryl, Millie will have to take it upon herself to investigate.
Resistance: A Novel of Aerdh by B.R. Sanders. ★★★1/2
In short, Resistance is about a bisexual elf and her girlfriend overthrowing the government. Now there’s an elevator pitch that grabs my attention!
Last year I read and loved Ariah by B.R. Sanders, so I decided to check out more books by the author. Resistance is their debut novel, which is set in the same world as Ariah. I had fun with it, but it never struck me the way Ariah did.
Shandolin is an elf in a city ruled by Qin. Although the majority of the city’s population is elfin, the vampire-like Qin retain tight control over the city. Shandolin is a rebel who runs an underground revolutionary press. She and her friends have managed to stay out of reach of the Qin… until Shadolin (Doe) finds one of her friends murdered in the street. The Qin have hired assassins to take out Doe and other elves who are resisting their rule. Luckily, Doe has the help of her friends and her girlfriend, Rivna, who is herself an assassin. The only way that they’ll ever be able to live openly again is if they organize the city to destroy the Qin’s strangle hold on power.
All Good Things by Emma Newman. ★★★★
All Good Things is the fifth and final book in Emma Newman’s Split Worlds urban fantasy series. You absolutely must read the series in order! Seriously, you will be totally confused if you pick up this book without the context of the previous books. If you’re unfamiliar with the series but fae and feuding families sounds like something you’d be into, go check out Between Two Thorns. Oh, and avoid the rest of this review because this late in the series there’s literally no way I can avoid spoilers for Between Two Thorns.