It’s time to vote on the Hugo finalists again, which means I have a lot of material to read and watch this month since voting ends June 30. A majority of the movies and TV series are available for free streaming if you have an Amazon Prime membership. If you don’t have a membership and are thinking about it, click here to find out more. All images link to the corresponding DVD or eBook in the Amazon store except the TV series, which I wound up linking to the Prime streaming page.
All the nominated works are listed below, but since I’m filling out the reviews as I go, they’ll jump around a bit. The order is in no way representative of how I’m going to vote.
Quick links to categories I cover:Best Dramatic Presentation – Long (Movies)
Best Dramatic Presentation – Short (TV Episodes)
Best Short Story
Best Graphic Story
Lodestar Award for Young Adult
Best Dramatic Presentation – Long (Movies)
A Quiet Place
Aliens invade Earth. They are blind but they have great ear organs. This movie is about a family trying to survive.
The good: I really enjoyed the acting, which is good because there’s not a lot of spoken dialog. The background music does a good job of driving the tension and there are plenty of tense moments when a person accidentally makes a sound and the aliens come running.
The not so good: You have to swallow a whole lot of disbelief to get past the premise. There are so many plot holes you could drive a semi through them. I kept eye rolling throughout the movie which took away from the otherwise good quality of the drama going on. Even once you get past the premise, it relies on plot holes to create the scary scenarios. One even vanished once it served its purpose and I’m like what happened to that?
Summary: If you can park your brain somewhere else, this is a good popcorn flick. But don’t let common sense take a peek.
The Black Panther
When young King T’Challa is drawn into conflict with an old foe that puts his homeland Wakanda and the entire world at risk, he must release Black Panther’s full power to save them.
The great: Shuri stole the movie for me. She’s an awesome female version of Bond’s Q with a whole lot of kick ass and intelligence. Shuri for queen instead of that bro of hers! I’m totally a fan girl!
The good: I really liked T’Challa’s character arc as he went from not wanting the throne to accepting it and going full blown panther to save his people. I loved the costumes and rituals. It’s always a pleasure to see other cultures and they went full out in making Wakanda feel real. And what about the women of Wakana? Holy cow! As a woman, I really appreciate the strong women in this film. They totally rocked it! I also loved Killmonger as a ‘villain’ because we got to see where he’s coming from and empathize with him. So many times films resort to the cartoon cutout. Not this guy!
The not so good: I think the whole ‘let this stranger have a chance even though I know it’s bad for Wakanda’ was a weak plot device. I would have much rather seen Killmonger win the right to combat by gaining more support over time instead of relying on a reluctant to be king T’Challa to say ok, sure, let’s do this. It felt like male ego/pride got in the way of a king’s first duty to protect his people. It also diminished Killmonger’s role in the film as a very charismatic leader with his own vision of the future and an uncanny ability to sway people to see his way of thinking. I was also disappointed with the trial by combat to become king. Protector, I could understand, but not for king where you’d want the best leader, who may not necessarily be the best at personal combat. However, I don’t read comics, so I might be missing something here. If you can accept these two points, the rest of the plot is pretty solid.
This is one of the strongest entries in my opinion and will be hard to beat.
As a side note: If you enjoy comics and Shuri, then check out the Shuri comic series written by Nnedi Okorafor and other authors.
Sorry to Bother You
An outrageously surreal look at capitalism, corporate greed, and fractured workplace dynamics. In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, California, struggling telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) discovers a magical key to professional success, which propels him into a macabre universe.
The good: I thought this was an odd choice to be in the Hugo nominations at first, thinking it was only a satire about the workplace. It started off normal enough. Cassius needs a job and over the top lies in his telemarketing job interview. In pure satire fashion, the boss calls him on the lying but is impressed because it’s exactly the spark he’s looking for in an employee. At this point there still wasn’t any scifi or fantasy, but I was enjoying the story. Aha, I thought when they showed him literally dropping in on people during calls. Perhaps this was fantasy. But nope, turns out it’s science fiction, which we don’t find out until after he gets promoted. Then it gets super wacky, but in a fun way. I was really impressed at how it touched on racism, police brutality, corporate greed, and how people can change when money is involved, but remained witty and funny. It makes you think. I definitely liked it.
The not so good: It is a slow builder, so you have to give it time to unfurl. But I think it’s well worth the time to watch.
Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse
When Brooklyn teen Miles Morales gets bit by a radioactive spider, he has to find his inner hero to save his city and his newfound Spidey friends from Kingpin’s multidimensional portal generator.
The good: This story was awesome. I loved the kid. He’s having a hard time with his new school, struggling to fit in, does awkward teen stuff, gets some girl ‘advice’ from his uncle and is very hilariously bad at implementing it. Then he gets bit by a spider and has to deal with the weird in that. So far, it’s a fairly typical Spider-Man origin story. But when a multidimensional portal brings many different Spider-people together, it gets really fun. A very original plot, super entertaining, all the while sending the positive message that anyone can be a hero or a Spider-Man, even brown skinned people, Asian people, or girls. I was thoroughly entertained throughout the story and even shed a tear at times when it got serious.
The not so good: The only bad part was it ended! No, seriously, I didn’t see any weaknesses at all in plot or character development. They even gave a brief glimpse into Kingpin’s personal pain and why he’s doing what he’s doing. Just an overall awesome movie. I laughed a lot in this one and it left me feeling all good and cheerful.
A biologist and former soldier (Natalie Portman) must lead a mission into a mysterious quarantine zone known as The Shimmer, a beautiful but deadly world of mutated landscapes and creatures that threatens all life on Earth. Also starring Oscar Isaac.
The good: I liked it overall. The premise was reasonable and the science made sense. It gave off a weird, creepy, horror vibe and presented an interesting alien encounter with something definitely not human and beyond our full comprehension. As the characters progress into the Shimmer, they begin to feel the effects which manifested in bizarre ways. I liked the ending and was left speculating about the future.
The not so good: This appears to be the most polarizing of the movies nominated based on the reviews. People either enjoyed it or thought it was a waste of time. It jumped around between different timelines, showing the lead’s future debriefing/interrogation, and also flashed back into her past memories. If you like a more linear story, this might not be your thing, after all, there was already a plethora of weird going on. Though while there was weird, the visuals didn’t get as weird as I would have preferred. They simply put a few flowering plants here and there. It felt underwhelming compared to other recent alien films. Also, there wasn’t any character development. This was strictly a science fiction mystery adventure thriller.
Avengers: Infinity War
As the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle, a new danger has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos. A despot of intergalactic infamy, his goal is to collect all six Infinity Stones, artifacts of unimaginable power, and use them to inflict his twisted will on all of reality. Everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment – the fate of Earth and existence itself has never been more uncertain.
The Hugo is going to make me watch this finally. Yep, I’ve been avoiding this one. After all, if I don’t watch it, nobody dies, right?
The good: I loved the glimpse into why Thanos felt so strongly about doing what he’s doing. Bad guys are always better if you can half believe in what they are doing. The special effects are stellar, as usual, and they covered several different worlds and some pretty bad arse fights.
The not so good: This really needs the next movie to feel complete, since it ends on one heck of a cliffhanger. It’s the Empire Strikes Back of the Avengers series. Also, while I enjoyed some of the character interactions, the ones between my two favorite characters, Tony Stark and Dr. Strange, felt forced in order to make the final choice more dramatic. And while it’s great seeing all the Avengers in one movie, it diluted each person’s moment to where I didn’t feel much of anything when it all went south, except for Spiderman. The first movie made me sob because of one single unexpected death. This one went too far the other way and I was left feeling like it wasn’t real and would be reversed in the next movie. So just meh. 🙁
That’s the end of my brief movie reviews. I must say, it will be tough to figure out what order to put them in when voting because each entry is pretty decent. I love that we are getting such solid science fiction and fantasy movies.
Best Dramatic Presentation – Short (TV Episodes)
Doctor Who: “Rosa”
Montgomery, Alabama. 1955. The Doctor and her friends find themselves in the Deep South of America. As they encounter a seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks, they begin to wonder: is someone attempting to change history?
The good: They finally tackle a more realistic treatment of minorities traveling with the Doctor. Always before it was rather a light touch. Perhaps Martha had to clean floors and endure a couple of comments, but this was more in your face about how this period would feel. I liked seeing more about Rosa Parks and enjoyed the dilemma in the end. I was left feeling very good about this episode and its impact.
The not so good: I didn’t really find anything wanting. I thought this was one of the most solid episodes of the season.
Doctor Who: “Demons of the Punjab”
India, 1947. The Doctor and her friends arrive in the Punjab, as the country is being torn apart. While Yaz attempts to discover her grandmother’s hidden history, the Doctor discovers demons haunting the land. Who are they and what do they want?
The good: I never studied this event in history, so it was interesting to learn about. Also, as you might expect, this is loaded with emotion and mystery. Who are these ‘demons’ and what do they want? I think this is the strongest episode of the season, even better than “Rosa”, and I was left very satisfied after watching it.
The not so good: You might want to bring tissues!
The Good Place: “Jeremy Bearimy”
The group explores the three main branches of ethical thought.
I really enjoyed the first two seasons of The Good Place and it’s certainly no hardship to binge watch this season to get to the Hugo finalists! The show is coming to an end after another season which is sad because I really love it, but good because it will end on its own terms before turning stale like so many series do.
The good: I laughed when I found out what the title, “Jeremy Bearimy” means. I’m still giggling. The group gets a bit stressed out which always leads to humorous antics and maybe some eye candy. And I love the ‘OOPS’ look on peoples’ faces at the end. LOL!
The not so good: My autoplay didn’t take me to the next episode which is the only reason why I’m writing this review before chain watching the rest. There hasn’t been a not so good element to any of these episodes so far.
The Good Place: “Janet(s)”
With Janet’s help, Michael hatches a plan.
The title makes me giggle with anticipation to see what that’s all about…
The good: Hilarity ensues as Janet comes up with an idea to save the team that involves going into her void. Things are really heating up in the season as the team discovers trouble and tries to fix it while being fugitives with demons on their tails. The highlight was seeing all the Janets. A great bit of acting and definitely a fun episode.
The not so good: Realizing that the end of the awesome season is coming and not wanting it to end and only having one more season left to go. In other words, there was nothing bad about this episode!
The Expanse: “Abaddon’s Gate”
Holden and his allies must stop Ashford and his team from destroying the Ring, and perhaps all of humanity.
I remember last Hugo when I said I’d just watch a few episodes of The Expanse before jumping to the Hugo nomination. That led to a psychotic bing-fest where I barely ate as I clicked the next episode greedily, like a druggie needing their next fix. The writing on this series is very excellent and the way they leave you burning with intense need for the next episode is something else.
I haven’t watched this season yet, and I’m very glad they are all released so I can binge watch, because trying to wait a week between these would probably kill me!
A visually stunning story of a young woman named Jane 57821, who is living in a totalitarian near-future society where citizens are referred to as “computers”. A timely and poignant Emotion Picture, Dirty Computer explores humanity and what truly happens to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness when mind and machines merge, and when the government chooses fear over freedom.
The good: Janelle Monáe, who also starred in Hidden Figures, has a good voice and tells a very interesting post-apocalyptic story by tying several music videos together showing how the establishment is trying to erase the identity of people who don’t conform to what’s ‘normal’. This is a very poignant commentary on today’s political environment and I laughed at one jab in particular relating to ‘grabbing’. I found the story interesting, the songs good, and the video visually pleasing. I happen to enjoy music set to story, like Queensrÿche’s “Operation: Mindcrime” or Metallica’s “Through the Never” and while this isn’t the music I typically listen to, I still enjoyed it.
The not so good: Well, if you aren’t expecting music videos, you may not enjoy this. If you don’t like pop music with some rap sprinkled here and there, you might not like this. If you turn off the movie at what you think is the ending, you might miss the real ending and be left unsatisfied. 😉
If I thought the movies would be hard to arrange in an order, these are worse. Each has something I really enjoyed and each deserves to win.
Best Series – TBD
The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older
It’s been twenty years and two election cycles since Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, pioneered the switch from warring nation-states to global micro-democracy. The corporate coalition party Heritage has won the last two elections. With another election on the horizon, the Supermajority is in tight contention, and everything’s on the line.
With power comes corruption. For Ken, this is his chance to do right by the idealistic Policy1st party and get a steady job in the big leagues. For Domaine, the election represents another staging ground in his ongoing struggle against the pax democratica. For Mishima, a dangerous Information operative, the whole situation is a puzzle: how do you keep the wheels running on the biggest political experiment of all time, when so many have so much to gain?
The not so good:
The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross
From Book 1: The first novel in Hugo Award-winning author Charles Stross’s witty Laundry Files series.
Bob Howard is a low-level techie working for a super-secret government agency. While his colleagues are out saving the world, Bob’s under a desk restoring lost data. His world was dull and safe – but then he went and got Noticed.
Now, Bob is up to his neck in spycraft, parallel universes, dimension-hopping terrorists, monstrous elder gods and the end of the world. Only one thing is certain: it will take more than a full system reboot to sort this mess out . . .
Machineries of Empire, by Yoon Ha Lee
From Book 1: NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHOR – WINNER OF THE 2016 LOCUS AWARD – NOMINATED FOR THE HUGO, NEBULA AND ARTHUR C. CLARKE AWARDS.
When Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for her unconventional tactics, Kel Command gives her a chance to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles from the heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake: if the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.
Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress. The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own.
As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao – because she might be his next victim.
The October Daye Series, by Seanan McGuire
From Book 1: New York Times-bestselling October Daye faerie series • Hugo Award-winning author Seanan McGuire • “Top of my urban-paranormal series list!” —Felicia Day
The world of Faerie never disappeared; it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie’s survival—but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born.
Outsiders from birth, these half-human, half-fae children spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October “Toby” Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas…
The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery…before the curse catches up with her.
The Universe of Xuya, by Aliette de Bodard
Xuya is a series of novellas and short stories set in a timeline where Asia became dominant, and where the space age has Confucian galactic empires of Vietnamese and Chinese inspiration: scholars administrate planets, and sentient spaceships are part of familial lineages.
Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers
From Book 1:
The acclaimed modern science fiction masterpiece, included on Library Journal’s Best SFF of 2016, the Barnes & Nobles Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog Best Books of 2015, the Tor.com Best Books of 2015, Reader’s Choice, as well as nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Kitschie, and the Bailey’s Women’s Prize.
Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.
Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.
Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.
The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal
On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.
Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.
Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.
The good: This story was flat out awesome. It reminded me of Hidden Figures since it’s set just prior to that time and involves the women computers used to send astronauts into space. The lead lady is one of those amazing computers who is the first to realize that the meteorite strike is an extinction level event. This story is about her rising above the sexism of the time and her own fear of public speaking to become the first lady astronaut.
The not so good: It ended! Seriously, this was a page turner and I’m just happy there are more books in the series. I’ve already bought the next book and plan on inhaling it as soon as I’m done publishing Summoner 2!
Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers
Return to the sprawling universe of the Galactic Commons, as humans, artificial intelligence, aliens, and some beings yet undiscovered explore what it means to be a community in this exciting third adventure in the acclaimed and multi-award-nominated science fiction Wayfarers series, brimming with heartwarming characters and dazzling space adventure.
Hundreds of years ago, the last humans on Earth boarded the Exodus Fleet in search of a new home among the stars. After centuries spent wandering empty space, their descendants were eventually accepted by the well-established species that govern the Milky Way.
But that was long ago. Today, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, the birthplace of many, yet a place few outsiders have ever visited. While the Exodans take great pride in their original community and traditions, their culture has been influenced by others beyond their bulkheads. As many Exodans leave for alien cities or terrestrial colonies, those who remain are left to ponder their own lives and futures: What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination? Why remain in space when there are habitable worlds available to live? What is the price of sustaining their carefully balanced way of life—and is it worth saving at all?
A young apprentice, a lifelong spacer with young children, a planet-raised traveler, an alien academic, a caretaker for the dead, and an Archivist whose mission is to ensure no one’s story is forgotten, wrestle with these profound universal questions. The answers may seem small on the galactic scale, but to these individuals, it could mean everything.
The good: It’s very evident that the author spent a lot of time thinking about how human culture and religion would shift as they live generation after generation on a fleet of spaceships. This is probably the most comprehensive and well thought out world building of that aspect I’ve ever read.
The not so good: This reads like literary fiction where there’s no real action, just slices of different people’s lives as they live on the Fleet or wish to get off it, explore a few planets, and realize Fleet isn’t as bad as they thought. It’s greatly detailed but I found it boring. Your mileage may vary.
Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee
THE STUNNING CONCLUSION TO THE MIND-BENDING SERIES.
DEATH AND NEW BEGINNINGS
Shuos Jedao is awake…. and nothing is as he remembers. In his mind he’s a teenager, a cadet—a nobody. But he finds himself in the body of an old man, a general controlling the elite forces of the hexarchate, and the most feared—and reviled—man in the galaxy.
Jedao carries orders from Hexarch Nirai Kujen to re-conquer the fractured pieces of the hexarchate on his behalf. But he has no memory of ever being a soldier, let alone a general, and the Kel soldiers under his command hate him for a massacre he can’t remember committing.
Kujen’s friendliness can’t hide the fact that he’s a tyrant. And what’s worse, Jedao and Kujen are being hunted by an enemy who knows more about Jedao and his crimes than he does himself…
The good: This premise is almost what I did with Radcliff, so how can I not love the story idea?
The not so good: You’ll probably need to read the previous books to get the full enjoyment out of this one. That’s not really a hardship since those books are really good too.
Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets the joy and glamour of Eurovision in bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente’s science fiction spectacle, where sentient races compete for glory in a galactic musical contest…and the stakes are as high as the fate of planet Earth.
A century ago, the Sentience Wars tore the galaxy apart and nearly ended the entire concept of intelligent space-faring life. In the aftermath, a curious tradition was invented—something to cheer up everyone who was left and bring the shattered worlds together in the spirit of peace, unity, and understanding.
Once every cycle, the great galactic civilizations gather for the Metagalactic Grand Prix—part gladiatorial contest, part beauty pageant, part concert extravaganza, and part continuation of the wars of the past. Species far and wide compete in feats of song, dance and/or whatever facsimile of these can be performed by various creatures who may or may not possess, in the traditional sense, feet, mouths, larynxes, or faces. And if a new species should wish to be counted among the high and the mighty, if a new planet has produced some savage group of animals, machines, or algae that claim to be, against all odds, sentient? Well, then they will have to compete. And if they fail? Sudden extermination for their entire species.
This year, though, humankind has discovered the enormous universe. And while they expected to discover a grand drama of diplomacy, gunships, wormholes, and stoic councils of aliens, they have instead found glitter, lipstick, and electric guitars. Mankind will not get to fight for its destiny—they must sing.
Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes have been chosen to represent their planet on the greatest stage in the galaxy. And the fate of Earth lies in their ability to rock.
The good: It’s got a kind of snarky humor vibe going on.
The not so good: The author tosses out scientific terms faster than you can say OMG! The sentences ramble on in stream of consciousness attempts at humor that set the eyeballs to glazing over. There’s some funny bits, but it was a struggle to keep reading and I realized this wasn’t my thing even though I loved The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik
With the Nebula Award–winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik opened a brilliant new chapter in an already acclaimed career, delving into the magic of fairy tales to craft a love story that was both timeless and utterly of the now. Spinning Silver draws readers deeper into this glittering realm of fantasy, where the boundary between wonder and terror is thinner than a breath, and safety can be stolen as quickly as a kiss.
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty—until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold. When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk—grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh—Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. She will face an impossible challenge and, along with two unlikely allies, uncover a secret that threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike.
The good: I have read and enjoyed other books by Naomi Novik and was expecting to enjoy this one. I was wrong, though other people enjoyed it based on the reviews.
The not so good: I found the story emotionless, dull, and boring.
Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse
While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.
Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last best hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine.
Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters, and battling dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
As Maggie discovers the truth behind the killings, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive.
Welcome to the Sixth World.
The good: This story has a lot of Native American flavor and is set on a reservation in a post-climate apocalypse. It has really good imagery and the opening scene is really gripping. I liked the main character and her struggles to accept who she is.
The not so good: Nothing stands out as not good.
Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells
Artificial Condition is the follow-up to Martha Wells’s Hugo, Nebula, Alex, and Locus Award-winning, New York Times bestselling All Systems Red
It has a dark past—one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself “Murderbot”. But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more.
Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don’t want to know what the “A” stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue.
What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks…
The good: This vaguely reminded me of Anne Leckie’s books which I also enjoyed. I really liked both main characters – the Murderbot and the ship AI. They worked well together as they sought out what really happened. The story kept me turning the pages to see what happened next.
The not so good: One part of the puzzle is revealed but more remain. Good thing there are more books because I bought them to read!
Beneath the Sugar Sky, by Seanan McGuire
A stand-alone fantasy tale from Seanan McGuire’s Alex-award winning Wayward Children series, which began in the Alex, Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Award-winning, World Fantasy Award finalist, Tiptree Honor List Every Heart a Doorway
Beneath the Sugar Sky, the third book in McGuire’s Wayward Children series, returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children in a standalone contemporary fantasy for fans of all ages. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world.
When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.)
If she can’t find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests…
A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do.
Warning: May contain nuts.
The good: This is an interesting take on portal fantasy. An entire school of kids had once been in other worlds but got tossed back to Earth and now they are waiting until the portal opens again so they can go where they feel is home. I really liked how they worked together to figure out how to restore Rini’s mom so she can exist and defeat the evil queen who has taken over the throne in her land.
The not so good: It’s a pretty solid story and you don’t need to read the others in the series to fully enjoy it.
Binti: The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor
The concluding part of the highly-acclaimed science fiction trilogy that began with Nnedi Okorafor’s Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning BINTI.
Binti has returned to her home planet, believing that the violence of the Meduse has been left behind. Unfortunately, although her people are peaceful on the whole, the same cannot be said for the Khoush, who fan the flames of their ancient rivalry with the Meduse.
Far from her village when the conflicts start, Binti hurries home, but anger and resentment has already claimed the lives of many close to her.
Once again it is up to Binti, and her intriguing new friend Mwinyi, to intervene–though the elders of her people do not entirely trust her motives–and try to prevent a war that could wipe out her people, once and for all.
Don’t miss this essential concluding volume in the Binti trilogy.
The good: I really enjoyed all the other Binti books, so I was expecting to fully enjoy this one. And it does have many good bits. You will need to read the previous books since this one starts off where the last one left off – not in a good place.
The not so good: Unfortunately, there are two things I take issue with. First, she succeeds and then fails right after. Second, the whole puzzle about the orb thingy she plays around with is a complete anticlimax. This didn’t feel like a concluding trilogy at all and was less than what I expected based on how awesome the first two books were.
The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark
Rising science fiction and fantasy star P. Djèlí Clark brings an alternate New Orleans of orisha, airships, and adventure to life in his immersive debut novella The Black God’s Drums.
Alex Award Winner!
In an alternate New Orleans caught in the tangle of the American Civil War, the wall-scaling girl named Creeper yearns to escape the streets for the air–in particular, by earning a spot on-board the airship Midnight Robber. Creeper plans to earn Captain Ann-Marie’s trust with information she discovers about a Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.
But Creeper also has a secret herself: Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, speaks inside her head, and may have her own ulterior motivations.
Soon, Creeper, Oya, and the crew of the Midnight Robber are pulled into a perilous mission aimed to stop the Black God’s Drums from being unleashed and wiping out the entirety of New Orleans.
The good: I enjoyed the story. It’s an alternate timeline steampunk with gods and goddesses tossed in. The world building was detailed and interesting and the language the characters use are street slang-y without being hard to comprehend.
The not so good: I yearned for a different ending for the main character. Maybe in a few years!
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson
Experience this far-reaching, mind-bending science fiction adventure that uses time travel to merge climate fiction with historical fantasy. From Nebula Award winning author Kelly Robson
Discover a shifting history of adventure as humanity clashes over whether to repair their ruined planet or luxuriate in a less tainted past.
In 2267, Earth has just begun to recover from worldwide ecological disasters. Minh is part of the generation that first moved back up to the surface of the Earth from the underground hells, to reclaim humanity’s ancestral habitat. She’s spent her entire life restoring river ecosystems, but lately the kind of long-term restoration projects Minh works on have been stalled due to the invention of time travel. When she gets the opportunity take a team to 2000 BC to survey the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, she jumps at the chance to uncover the secrets of the shadowy think tank that controls time travel technology.
The good: There is some interesting in-depth world building hidden away if you can tease it out based on the non-descriptive words tossed out. The story idea is interesting but confusing. Basically, they go back into the past which creates a new timeline, they rob it of treasures or resources, and when they leave, that timeline vanishes. So instead of investing money in the present, all the banks are busy investing in these past time resource skimming ventures.
The not so good: Unless you enjoy reading about writing up grant proposals, this story is going to be super boring. I wound up skipping chapters just to read the chapter header bits about what was going on with the natives because that was more interesting than what the main character was doing. The present protagonists don’t meet up with the natives in the past until near the end of the book. And the end was OMG I can’t believe you just did that!
The Tea Monster and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard
Aliette de Bodard brings us a new novella set in the award-winning, critically acclaimed Xuya universe!
Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appearance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood.
A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her.
As they dig deep into the victim’s past, The Shadow’s Child realises that the investigation points to Long Chau’s own murky past—and, ultimately, to the dark and unbearable void that lies between the stars…
The good: I definitely liked this story. The ship AI has issues with Deep Space – rather a problem since ships are supposed to go there to transport goods. The drug addict needs a new blend in order to go into Deep Space to investigate a murder. They work well together and the story moves along. Definitely a page turner.
The not so good: I felt a bit sad at the ending, however I’ll definitely read more of this series.
“If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again” by Zen Cho
A hapless imugi is determined to attain the form of a full-fledged dragon and gain entry to the gates of heaven. For a long time, things don’t go well. Then, it meets a girl.
The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog presents an original short story by Campbell Award-nominated author Zen Cho.
This is a free story, just follow the image link.
The good: I thought this story was really cute. It’s about an imugi who tries to ascend to heaven to become a full blown dragon. It attempts this multiple times, but each time it’s spotted by pesky humans who have populated everywhere such that it’s impossible to hide from them. Apparently a successful ascension has to be done without witnesses. It also doesn’t help when the humans point to it and say, “Look, an imugi!” Talk about a confidence stripper. The last time it tried ascending, a girl was staring out over a cliff contemplating her sucky life. She had a momentary thought of jumping off the cliff, but then she saw the imugi rising – considered a sign of good luck – as she took a selfie. Seeing it helped her turn her whole life around. The imugi, on the other hand, failed yet again to ascend and set out to murder the girl in revenge. But he discovers her reading about galactic evolution and other books that he considered all part of ‘the way’ and if he could learn from her, maybe he could finally ascend properly. So begins a story between the imugi and the woman. The ending is one of those sad+happy satisfying ones.
The not so good: There wasn’t really anything not so good about this story. It felt very complete despite being a novelette.
“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly
A young food taster to the Traitor King must make a difficult choice in this story of pastries, magic, and revenge. The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections is a Tor.com Original from fantasy author Tina Connolly.
The good: This reminded me vaguely of Water for Chocolate. In that movie, the woman making the meals put her emotions in the food which she then shared with her family. This story takes that a step further. The baker deliberately concocts magical recipes to evoke memories. Unfortunately, he got too well known and the evil duke seized him. Then the story takes a darker turn and becomes a tale of delicious revenge! I really loved the ending.
The not so good: It’s not a complete surprise how this will end. However, the path leading there is quite enjoyable, so I didn’t mind.
“Nine Last Days on Planet Earth” by Daryl Gregory
When the seeds rained down from deep space, it may have been the first stage of an alien invasion–or something else entirely. How much time do we have left, and do we even understand what timescale to use? As a slow apocalypse blooms across the Earth, planets and plants, animals and microbes, all live and die and evolve at different scales. Is one human life long enough to unravel the mystery?
Nine Last Days on Planet Earth is a Tor.com Original from the award-winning science fiction author Daryl Gregory.
The good: This was an interesting idea about what would happen if alien spores took hold on Earth. We already have plenty of non-native species running amok as people transplant their seeds or animal pets and let them escape into areas with no natural predators to keep them in check. This takes that to a whole new level with our entire survival threatened by these plants.
The not so good: I was never sure how the title came about. Maybe there were nine snippets of time? It didn’t feel like nine last days on Earth to me. Shrug. Also, some things were glossed over, like an important death that was just casually mentioned and the whole climate change related theme. For something that started out strong as a warning about what we are doing to our own planet, that aspect fizzled out. I thought the ending wrapped up a bit too quickly. This story really needed to be longer.
The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander
The Only Harmless Great Thing is a heart-wrenching alternative history by Brooke Bolander that imagines an intersection between the Radium Girls and noble, sentient elephants.
In the early years of the 20th century, a group of female factory workers in Newark, New Jersey slowly died of radiation poisoning. Around the same time, an Indian elephant was deliberately put to death by electricity in Coney Island.
These are the facts.
Now these two tragedies are intertwined in a dark alternate history of rage, radioactivity, and injustice crying out to be righted. Prepare yourself for a wrenching journey that crosses eras, chronicling histories of cruelty both grand and petty in search of meaning and justice.
The good: This reminded me of my story about Biting Shadow where the point of view of the animal is distinctly not human and flavored with that animal’s world perception. It was very well done. The other thing that really stood out was the short word choices used to color the prose. I love Janny Wurts’ writing because she’s awesome at this and it was very fun seeing another author doing that as well. The ending felt very appropriate and satisfying.
The not so good: There’s a lot of backstory that is missing with this one. You have irradiated elephants and a situation, but no real clue as to what happened to set this all up. I would have preferred a longer story to make it more complete. Sometimes shorter stories can get away with cutting out stuff. That didn’t work well in this one for me.
“The Thing About Ghost Stories” by Naomi Kritzer
Naomi Kritzer delves into what ghost stories mean to her.
This is another free story, just click the link to read it.
The good: There are some interesting ghost stories revealed in this ‘article’, and the author’s own encounter is pretty cool.
The not so good: This is an article on ghost stories rather than an actual story. While the author’s own ghost story is mixed in with the tales of others, it still felt like it belonged in the related works section and not in the novelette section of the nominations.
“When We Were Starless” by Simone Heller
Simone Heller wrote this for Clarkesworld and you can read it for free by clicking on the image link.
The good: Here is another story with an animal-like perspective that was very well fleshed out for a novelette. This is basically a post-apocalyptic science fiction story of an avian (or lizard?) race inhabiting a planet that at one point had advanced tech but tragedy happened and now they’ve developed superstitions and rituals around removing ‘ghosts’ of the past. In this story, the lead character, a ghost hunter, encounters an unusual ghost that might change the course of their society if they can overcome their superstitions. This was a solid story – great world building, great character development, and a great ending.
The not so good: I would love to have a sequel or even a prequel about this world. Or even other books by this author, but I didn’t see anything in English other than another short story about another race of sentient creatures in another Clarkesworld issue. Waah!
Best Short Story
The good news is that all of these are available to read for free. I’ve linked each title to the magazine page with the story. Enjoy!
“The Court Magician” by Sarah Pinkser
This is a tale about the price of power and the consequences. Usually magic doesn’t have quite such dire consequences. But since this power can do anything, the price is woah! Just how far will the new guy go before he calls it quits?
“The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society” by T. Kingfisher
This is a rather funny story about a group of faerie guys pining away (no, we aren’t!) over a woman who took them out for a spin and dumped them for a regular ‘nobody’. It’s particularly vexing to them since fairies are supposed to be irresistible, but somehow she resisted them.
“The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by P. Djèlí Clark
This was written like a documentary where each tooth’s history was told first, and then the effect it had on George Washington when he wore it. It’s a fun what if type of story with a bit of the paranormal tossed in. What’s even more interesting (or rather creepy) is that apparently there’s a historical record of him having owned nine teeth from slaves:
Excerpt from LiveScience article: By the time of his death, Washington had 317 living slaves, according to historians at Mount Vernon. In May 1784, he certainly purchased teeth (nine of them) from some of his slaves. A notation in his ledger book on the “credit” side says “By Cash pd Negroes for 9 Teeth on Acct of Dr. Lemoire.”
“STET” by Sarah Gailey
First of all, STET is a proofreading term where the author tells the editor to let the author’s take stand. This is written as a scientific article about car AI, which is rather timely given the current push for automated cars. And like all good science fiction, it pushes the boundary of what could happen if AI wasn’t a human’s friend! You can see the author writing the article and the editor’s notes in the margins and then the author’s increasingly agitated responses. It’s quite clever and unique.
“The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat” by Brooke Bolander
This was an awesome story told from the point of view of a raptor about a human prince who goes into their forest and doesn’t act normal (like he doesn’t run away). Thinking conspiracy, the youngest sets forth to figure things out. Very awesome ending!
“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow
This is another great story that would probably resonate with most people who had angsty high school years. The librarian is a witch with the ability to know what books each person needs when they come in. But when a young kid comes in needing something from the forbidden section, she has to abide by the witchy rules that keeps those books locked up. Or does she…
Best Graphic Story
Abbott by Saladin Ahmed, Sami Kivela, & Jason Wordie
Hugo Award-nominated novelist Saladin Ahmed (Black Bolt) and artist Sami Kivelä (Beautiful Canvas) present one woman’s search for the truth that destroyed her family. Hard-nosed, chain-smoking tabloid reporter Elena Abbott investigates a series of grisly crimes that the police have ignored. Crimes she knows to be the work of dark occult forces. Forces that took her husband from her. Forces she has sworn to destroy. Collects the entire 5-issue series.
The good: This one took me completely by surprise. It’s an urban fantasy set in 70s Detroit with a female black reporter who finds out she’s the lightbringer. And though she doesn’t believe in that mystical junk, she begins seeing an evil that wants her dead. She’ll have to solve the murder case in order to save herself. I think anyone who is a fan of the older Dresden Files will enjoy this story. It’s self-contained so you don’t have to have read previous issues to understand what’s going on.
The not so good: I didn’t find any weaknesses with this one.
Black Panther: Long Live the King (Issues 1-3) by Nnedi Okorafor, Aaron Covington, Andre Lima Araujo, Mario Del Pennino, and Tana Ford
Heavy is the head that wears the crown. As the Black Panther and an Avenger, T’Challa has had to save the world time and again — but those duties pale in comparison to his responsibilities as king of Wakanda. Now, as the nation rebuilds in the wake of revolution, T’Challa finds his people besieged by a massive monster tearing through the country, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake!
The good: What’s not to love about another trip to Wakanda? The artwork really does a great job of bringing the place to life. Each story was an interesting look at life in Wakanda. Two were about T’Challa, and provided some interesting flashbacks to when he was a kid. One was about another person I’d never heard of before (I don’t read the comics). All three were interesting and self-contained, so you don’t need to read other volumes to fully enjoy these.
The not so good: With three separate stories in one, it lacked the depth of the other, longer works.
Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
(Blurb for Monstress: Book One) A teenage girl struggles to overcome the trauma of war in an alternate, matriarchal 1900s Asia that’s brimming with arcane dangers. This task is made all the more difficult by her mysterious psychic link to an eldritch monster of tremendous power—a connection that will transform them both, and place them in the crosshairs of both human and otherworldly powers.
The good: This is the second time I’ve read an issue submitted for Hugo nomination and I enjoyed both so much I broke down and bought the first book which is a collection of episodes 1 – 18. I really like the story and the artwork.
The not so good: I don’t tend to read many graphic novels or comics because my old age eyes hate trying to read the finer print. Kindles and Kindle for PC only expand so much.
Paper Girls, Vol. 4 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
The mind-bending, time-warping adventure from BRIAN K. VAUGHAN & CLIFF CHIANG continues as intrepid newspaper deliverer Tiffany is launched from the prehistoric past into the year 2000! In this harrowing version of our past, Y2K was even more of a cataclysm than experts feared, and the only person who can save the future is a 12-year-old girl from 1988. Collects PAPER GIRLS #16-20
The good: What’s not to love about time traveling kids dodging giant invisible Transformers-sized robots blasting another group of invisible rebel robots? One girl sees them, nobody else does, but can they use one to escape to their correct time?
The not so good: I’d love to read this from the beginning because there’s a lot going on between the two factions in the robots at war and then the kids. It sounds like a great adventure.
Saga, Vol. 9 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Get ready for the most shocking, most impactful SAGA storyline yet, an action-packed adventure about fake news and genuine terror. Collects SAGA #49-54
The good: I always enjoy the Saga artwork.
The not so good: The story was comprised of many separate things going on and unlike the Hugo submission last year, I couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on with this installment. Also, there was way too much sex going on and not enough story telling for my tastes.
On a Sunbeam, by Tille Walden
Two timelines. Second chances. One love.
A ragtag crew travels to the deepest reaches of space, rebuilding beautiful, broken structures to piece the past together.
Two girls meet in boarding school and fall deeply in love—only to learn the pain of loss.
You can read it online at http://www.onasunbeam.com/ or you can purchase it on Amazon by following the image link. I’m not sure if the free link will persist past July.
The good: As a visual, fish spaceships are rather cool looking and an interesting concept. Also, the artist colored the past and present timelines differently to add a helpful hint as to what’s going on when, in addition to the headers – a nice touch given the graphical medium.
The not so good: My mind kept wondering how fish spaceships were constructed instead of focusing on the story. I also think I’m probably a bit too old for the story since I found it rather boring, especially when it focused on the boarding school past. I looked at a few reviews and some people really love it, others don’t, so your mileage may vary.
Lodestar Award for Young Adult
Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.
The good: This book was awesome. It starts off with the lead character getting into trouble because she wanted to defend her teacher even though she’s got the white hair of a maji and needs to keep a very low profile. Then we see more people getting the squeeze as the king presses anyone who associates with maji with enough taxes to force them to go into slavery. This is getting personal! Then she’s being chased. The story never lets up the pace which makes for a real page turner. I liked the main character and cared about her. I also liked one of the ‘antagonists’ and his struggle seemed very real given his upbringing. I’ve preordered the next book because wow, I need it!
The not so good: While the ending resolves the main story arc, it does leave a few bits up in the air and the fate of someone isn’t explicitly laid out. I definitely want to read the next book but it won’t be out until December. Waah!
The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton
Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.
But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orleans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land.
But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.
With the future of Orleans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.
The good: It’s a pretty detailed world with an interesting magic that brings beauty to the normally grey people. I was definitely left intrigued by the world and the story idea.
The not so good: Unfortunately, I didn’t get this book in the Hugo packet and I wasn’t sure I wanted to buy it based on the sample. It looks interesting, but is it worth the money? On the fence about it. Perhaps later when I’ve got more time to read I’ll revisit this one.
Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman
In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons can be whomever they choose. Tess is none of these things. Tess is. . . different. She speaks out of turn, has wild ideas, and can’t seem to keep out of trouble. Then Tess goes too far. What she’s done is so disgraceful, she can’t even allow herself to think of it. Unfortunately, the past cannot be ignored. So Tess’s family decide the only path for her is a nunnery.
But on the day she is to join the nuns, Tess chooses a different path for herself. She cuts her hair, pulls on her boots, and sets out on a journey. She’s not running away, she’s running towards something. What that something is, she doesn’t know. Tess just knows that the open road is a map to somewhere else–a life where she might belong.
The good: Tess lives in a stereotypical women have their place world but she’s unwilling to suffer that fate. Instead, she does her own thing.
The not so good: Sometimes I’m not in the mood for misogynistic societies since they seem to be commonly done, but at least the heroine isn’t suffering that for very long.
Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland
Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.
In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.
But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.
But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.
But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies.
And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.
The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black
Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
The Invasion, by Peadar O’Guilin
After so much danger, Nessa and Anto can finally dream of a happy life. But the terrible attack on their school has created a witch-hunt for traitors — boys and girls who survived the Call only by making deals with the enemy. To the authorities, Nessa’s guilt is obvious. Her punishment is to be sent back to the nightmare of the Grey Land for the rest of her life. The Sídhe are waiting, and they have a very special fate planned for her.
Meanwhile, with the help of a real traitor, the enemy come pouring into Ireland at the head of a terrifying army. Every human they capture becomes a weapon. Anto and the last students of his old school must find a way to strike a blow at the invaders before they lose their lives, or even worse, their minds. But with every moment Anto is confronted with more evidence of Nessa’s guilt.
For Nessa, the thought of seeing Anto again is the only thing keeping her alive. But if she escapes, and if she can find him, surely he is duty-bound to kill her…
NOTE: this is book 2 in the series