River of Teeth by Sarah Gaiely. ★★★★
River of Teeth is more awesomeness than I thought could ever be packed into one novella. This little book is sheer fun!
I’ve been wanting to read this novella ever since I saw Sarah Gailey’s tweets about the history behind it. Basically, in 1909, America was facing two problems: a meat shortage and invasive plants in the Mississippi. Well, one U.S. congressman had a bright idea. We could import hippos to live in the Mississippi. They’d eat the invasive plants and provide a source of meat. Brilliant, right? The rest of Congress certainly thought so. The motion failed by only one vote. Presumably because someone finally pointed out that hippos are the most dangerous African mega-fauna. But if the vote had gone another way, what would America have been like? River of Teeth is a story of the American Hippo, although set earlier than the real world history that inspired it.
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.
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.
Shattered Minds by Laura Lam. ★★★★
Shattered Minds is a near future, science fiction thriller set in the same world as Laura Lam’s False Hearts. However, it’s a completely separate story with its own plot and cast of characters. The two books can be read in any order.
Carina’s mind is unraveling. Once a talented neuroscientist, she’s now a drug addict who struggles to contain her cravings to kill with the immersive reality drug “Zeal.” Then when she’s under she sees something that’s not one of her own fantasies – it’s a message sent beyond the grave by a former colleague, Mark, warning her that Sudice Inc. and her old boss are killing innocent victims in their quest to shape an individual’s personality… and Carina herself was one of the test subjects and had her memory of it stolen. To aid her, Mark put her in touch with a group of hackers determined to bring down Sudice. He also locked dangerous information within Carina’s brain. Can she recover Mark’s messages and help bring down Sudice? And can she control her addiction and dangerous urges?
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.
Despite the fact that I have a page on this blog dedicated to SFF books with LGBTQIAP+ protagonists, I figured it might be helpful to make a shorter list of queer SFF books for pride month. If you’re looking for a more expansive list or a particular identity, I direct you to the aforementioned page. This list will just be my current top ten favorite queer SFF stories, not listed in any order since narrowing it down to ten is hard enough. Let’s get started!
Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee. ★★★★
Last year, I read and loved Ninefox Gambit, a stunning military space opera. This year, I had the pleasure of reading the sequel, Raven Stratagem, and may have loved it even more than the first book. I highly encourage you to read these books, but they need to be read in order. If you haven’t read Ninefox Gambit, you may want to skip the rest of this review, since I’ll be mentioning spoilers from the first book.
General Kel Khiruev is leading a fleet to stop the advance of a neighboring enemy, the Hafn, when she loses control of her own fleet to Shuos Jedao. She and all of her officers are frozen, unable to resist due to programmed obedience to authority… except for Lieutenant Colonel Kel Brezan, who suddenly discovers he’s a crashhawk. Can either of them trust Jedao? And if not, is either capable of regaining control of the fleet?