What an absolutely amazing month in the SF&F world! It’s impossible for me to read every new book that comes out, alas, but of the ones I did manage to sneak in this month we had two major stand outs.
Among Others by Jo Walton was my favorite this month, a desperately beautiful slice of life tale about learning to live after tragedy. Jo Walton is an author who has been on my TBR for ages, and I’ve been kicking myself over how long I’ve waited to read. This book resonated with me in the best possible way.
Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender also deserves a shout-out. While this book wasn’t cozy or comfy, it was important. We need more diverse voices in SF&F who have the necessary cultural background to tell stories about their experiences – and not necessarily negative experiences, though this book is decidedly dark. Earlier last month, Kacen wrote an article for Publishers Weekly: We Need Diverse Editors, which I highly recommend. If you’d like to chat with them about their books, the publishing industry, or life in general, Kacen will be hosting an AMA on Reddit’s r/Fantasy board on December 12th.
The Fantasy Inn, one of my favorite speculative fiction blogs, also went ahead and created a new, public Discord group for fans of SF&F to come hang out and chat books. It’s a great group, and I would love to see you all there! I go by eriophora, so come say hi! I promise I don’t bite (although my cats might). You can usually find me chatting about my cats, books, or Stardew Valley – or, y’know, just cracking lame jokes like the tasteless heathen I am. Link to the server is below.
We’d love for there to be more open and inclusive places to talk fantasy.— The Fantasy Inn (@TheFantasyInn) November 27, 2019
So we decided to make one!
Come and join us in The Fantasy Inn chat server: https://t.co/niKCHriNfm
There were two books that I unfortunately didn’t manage to read this month but would nevertheless highly recommend:
Sooner or later I’ll get around to them – December is usually a bit slower for releases, so it may be a good time to snag a few volumes off the ever-growing TBR!
In addition to all the above, I have an exciting announcement: I’m slowly opening up slots for guest reviews and potentially long-term co-bloggers. Black Forest Basilisks is growing, and I’d love to have a few folks on board to help grow it with me! We had our very first guest post this month, featuring@captainthumbs‘ thoughts on Luanne G. Smith’s The Vine Witch. While an official co-blogger / guest post application is still forthcoming, anyone interested in writing with me is welcome use my Contact Me form to reach out and provide examples of your reviews in the meantime. Although science fiction and fantasy are my focuses, I would love to include more horror, urban fantasy, or paranormal romance on a regular schedule! All speculative fiction is more than welcome here. Other genres such as romance or general fiction are also accepted, albeit on a much more limited basis.
Thanks for reading, all, and please consider following me on Twitter or Goodreads! Twitter features my
asshole adorable and sweet cats, Evil and Ninja. Trust me, you never realized how badly you needed a q-tip obsessed cat in your life prior to meeting Evil. She only bites my books sometimes. Ninja, naturally, is just a sweetheart.
Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender – FULL REVIEW
Queen of the Conquered forces an uncomfortable and often alarming perspective onto the reader, casting them in the role of both the oppressor and the oppressed with masterful control. Callender has added a work of incredible cultural depth and import to the SFF canon. Put simply, this is required reading for anyone with even a speck of interest in the complex social and racial issues that remain ingrained within our society.
The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North – FULL REVIEW
The Pursuit of William Abbey is a fundamentally human book. It takes a slice of history and examines it through a lens of personal truths: the politicians who think themselves the epitome of righteousness, the priests who come closer to god even as they dehumanize anyone with different skin tones. These appear as true to these people, even if they are not perhaps objectively so. This is a study in morality and in the flawed ways we see ourselves. This is not a quick, easy weekend read… but it’s one that is gorgeous and rewarding. Dense, but delightful.
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal – FULL REVIEW
The Calculating Stars was simply brilliant. I loved it. It’s taken me quite a while to write this review, in part because this was such a comfort read – one that I didn’t want to follow up with a review that would make it feel more like “work.” This books is filled with tragedy, heartbreak, unfairness, and discrimination; yet, for all that, it’s also filled with hope, optimism, and accomplishment.
The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith – FULL REVIEW
Thank you to @captainthumbs for writing this guest review!
The Vine Witch is steeped in the soil of the Chanceaux Valley, an area made famous for its wine. It seeks to transport you and all of your senses such that you feel the grapes, the vines, smell the rich scent of soil, and the fragrance of the aging barrels tucked away in the ancient wine cellars. The novel takes place during the turn of the century just as the automobile & airplanes have become established into public knowledge, giving the novel a wonderful sense of the old coming into first contact with the new more modern ways of doing things. Wine making acts as a bridge between the two – it’s a tradition that spans generations, even as it finds itself in a new, more modern era.
The Last Sun by KD Edwards – FULL REVIEW
The Last Sun is absolutely perfect for anyone who wants a quick-paced read filled with lovable characters. The world is beautifully realized, combining aspects of modern human living with the magic of the Tarot arcana. The wonderful Sharade over at The Fantasy Inn first put this book on my radar, and I have to say: she knows what she’s on about. I had such a good time with this book! Highly recommended to fans of Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir or the Cradle series by Will Wight, The Last Sun is filled with lovable, snarky characters.
My Beautiful Life by KJ Parker – FULL REVIEW
My Beautiful Life plays with structure and characters in a way that seems to be slightly divorced from its intended audience. When taken as a writing study, it’s actually quite interesting – how might an author bring about a story wherein the end is revealed at the beginning? Unfortunately, writing studies typically aren’t being published en masse. They’re just studies, meant to hone writing skills. Although this novella nails the tone and characters it seeks to portray, it was very difficult to connect with the story as a reader.
Among Others by Jo Walton – FULL REVIEW
Among Others is a love letter to books and reading. It’s about the sheer joy and validation in finding people who are like you. Jo Walton thrills in the connectedness of the human experience, finding magic within the threads that bind us all together. This is a cozy, warm tale about finding your home after tragedy. It is not the trip to Mordor; it is the Scouring of the Shire. The Chosen Ones have already won, and the world is saved… so now, it’s time to live.
Jo Walton’s writing is slow, meandering, and filled with love.
Gabby is near death when Bay snatches her from the sea. She’s sunburnt, starving, and has nowhere to go. This story hints at her circumstances, capturing a small slice of what our future might hold. It is often hopeful and optimistic, despite the dire circumstances. Although there is much to mourn and many communities which have become toxic and insular, others have simply moved forward to develop a new life.
Told in Harrow’s always stunning prose, Do Not Look Back, My Lion tells a heart-wrenching tale of love and sacrifice. She uses gender, title, and reader expectation to create a society that’s both foreign and familiar. Husband has become a role divorced from gender, even as wife has remained a status limited to women. Women are not only the givers of life, but also the takers. Harrow explores motherhood, matriarchy, and gender through the lens of disability and nonconformity.
In the midst of an intergalactic war, one family has been torn asunder by disease. Their oldest daughter, Vim fights in the war as a soldier, while their youngest daughter, Carrie, The Lie, remained behind and became infected. The family regularly video chats with Vi, talking about the daily goings on and how they’re all doing. They hide the worst from Vi, knowing that it would only hurt her to know how bad things have become back home. It’s a series of white lies that become truth in the hearts of everyone involved.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Are you looking forward to any of the next month’s line-up in particular?
Let me know in the comments below!