Why do I bring this up today? Oh, no reason. Definitely not because one of the world’s most (formerly) beloved fantasy authors outed herself definitively as a transphobe, sharing boilerplate trans-exclusionary talking points that are pretty easily debunked.
But, like, just in case you wanted to read some fantasy during these weird times but didn’t want to turn toward your old comfort food for, I dunno, whatever reason, here are a handful of suggestions that might be interesting to you.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Dragons; adventurers; shapeshifting; cute illustrations. Noelle Stevenson’s breakout graphic novel is one of the most fun, vibrant fantasy stories you’re going to find. If you happened to dig She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, on which Stevenson served as showrunner, you might have some idea of the narrative sensibilities you’re getting into here. When Nimona and Lord Ballister Blackheart gear up for some major bad shenanigans, things do not go as planned. Feelings, character growth, and high fantasy action ensue.
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Yeah, okay, this one might be cheating. After all, Charlie Jane worked at io9 for years, and her voice is a big part of what made this website what it is. But that doesn’t change the fact that she’s also a fantastic fiction writer; All the Birds in the Sky won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 2017 and is a Hugo finalist, telling the story of an ancient society of witches and a tech startup going to war with reality itself on the line. Throw in some star-crossed lovers and deep insight into both science and magic, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Magic for Liars: A Novel by Sarah Gailey
If you are feeling a gap in your life where a book about a magic academy should be, check out Magic for Liars. A Locus Award finalist for best first novel, Sarah Gailey’s debut is a blend of modern fantasy and big noire sensibilities. It follows Ivy Gamble, a private investigator, who is forced to reunite with her sister, who teaches at the Osthorne Academy for Young Mages, in order to solve a case. How will she handle her messy feelings toward her sister, and toward magic itself? Featuring enough precocious magical teenagers to satisfy and overwhelm anyone, and a sharp sense of worldbuilding, Gailey’s book is one worth checking out.
The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Neon Yang
A Finalist for Best Novella at the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, the first book in the Tensorate Series is a banger. Meet Mokoya and Akeha, twins and the children of the Protector, and who now find themselves and their mystic abilities at the certain of a growing rebellion. After growing up in the Grand Monastery, Akeha leaves the Tensorate to join the Machinists, putting a rift between the twins as the world pushes inexorably toward war. The next book in the series, The Red Threads of Fortune, is a twin to this book, with The Descent of Monsters serving as a follow-up to them both.
Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callendar
The ruling families are getting killed off; bodies are starting to pile up. And for Sigourney Rose, the only survivor of a family massacred by colonizers, it’s only one more complication. Now, she has to deal with getting revenge while also surviving the turmoil, struggling to correctly identify friends and enemies as the royal society of the Hans Lollik islands falls apart with bloody drama. This one is intense, and compelling, a big, messy story about revenge, magic, and colonialism. Good stuff indeed.
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