Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman. ★★★★
Brother’s Ruin is the first in a planned series of historical fantasy novellas.
Charlotte Gunn is the daughter of a lower middle income family in 1850 England. Her father barely scrapes by as an illustrator, but Charlotte has her own secret artistic career that she’s using to help her older brother pay for engineering school. Then disaster strikes – Charlotte finds out that her father is in debt and doesn’t have the money to pay and is facing debtor’s prison or worse.
In addition to her own career as an illustrator, Charlotte has another secret – she has significant magical abilities.
Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks. ★★★
Centuries ago, wars ruined the earth, destroying cities and wrecking the environment. But humanity remains as people struggle to survive in the harsh world that remains. But an ancient and powerful war machine, Lotus Blue, has awaken in the desert, and what’s left of the world may be at risk.
Lotus Blue has a variety of POV characters, but the protagonist is clearly Star, who has far more sections than anyone else. Star and her sister Nene live and travel with a caravan of traders, heading up and down the Sand Road. But unfolding events have a cataclysmic effect upon the caravan, drawing Star into the quest to stop Lotus Blue.
Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron. ★★★★
Island of Exiles is a survival focused YA fantasy novel that may appeal to fans of The Hunger Games.
The desert island of Shiara is a harsh world where allegiance to the clan means all. Khya, a young warrior, has ambitions to the council that helps the immortal elders rule the clan. Only one thing can rival Khya’s loyalty to the clan… her loyalty to her younger brother. So when her brother is endangered, Khya faces a choice that will reshape everything she knows about her world.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg. ★★★★★
In The One Hundred Nights of Hero, Isabel Greenberg returns to the fantastical universe she created in her first graphic novel, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. However, The One Hundred Nights of Hero involves all new characters and stands completely alone. The two graphic novels can be read in any order.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero opens with a bet between two men. One complains that he can never find a woman who meets his criteria, the most important of which is that she will be chaste and loyal. His friend disagrees. He knows exactly such a woman – his wife Cherry. And so the bet is formed. The husband will leave for one hundred nights, giving his friend the opportunity to try and seduce Cherry. And if seduction fails, he may very well turn to more brutal methods.
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.
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages. ★★★ 1/2
Trigger warning: Suicide
Passing Strange is an enchanting tale of queer women and their love in 1940 San Francisco.
This novella begins in the modern day, with an elderly woman named Helen retrieving a piece of artwork she had secreted away in an abandoned building. We soon find that the drawing is the almost legendary final piece of the famed pulp artist Haskel. But what’s the story behind this artwork? The narrative then skips back to the year 1940 and a circle of friends revolving around the lesbian club Mona.
Iron Cast by Destiny Soria. ★★★★1/2
I loved this book a lot more than I ever could have predicted. If you have any interest at all in a YA historical fantasy with a focus on female friendship, you should read this book.
Ada Navarra and Corinne Wells are best of friends who preform together at the Cast Iron nightclub in Boston, the year of 1919. But their performance is no usual routine, for Ada and Corinne are hemopaths – people who’s afflicted blood gives them magical abilities based on the arts. Ada can affect people’s emotions with her music and Corinne can use her poetry recital to craft illusions. But it’s not easy to be a hemopath in Boston of 1919. Performances have been outlawed and while the club still performs illegally, Ada and Corinne have been running cons to make ends meet. At the beginning of Iron Cast, Ada has been captured and imprisoned in one of the institutions designed to be the “humane” solution for the hemopath “problem.” But that’s only the start of the pair’s trouble.