Fantasy and Science Fiction
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Race the Sands by Sarah Beth DurstThe premise: Humans reincarnated as monstrous kehoks must win a race across the deserts of Becar to free their condemned souls.
Starring: Tamra, a down-on-her-luck trainer in dire need of a victory, and Raia, an equally desperate novice rider who forms a unique bond with her racer, a highly intelligent and lethal kehok known as the Black Lion.
Read it for: Detailed world-building, strong female characters, and layers of political intrigue wrapped around a moving underdog story.
Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang; translated by Ken LiuMars, 2196: The young adults of the Mercury Group struggle to readjust to life on the red planet after spending five years on Earth as part of a cultural exchange program.
About the author: Hao Jingfang is the first Chinese woman to win a Hugo (for her novella Folding Beijing).
For fans of: The interpersonal dynamics of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy.
Chosen Ones by Veronica RothWhat it's about: A decade after five Chicago teens defeated the Dark One and saved the world, these former "Chosen Ones" are struggling, individually and collectively, with fame and trauma.
Reviewers say: This latest novel by the author of the Divergent series is a "thoughtful, well-crafted twist on a genre staple" (Publishers Weekly).
Want a taste? "Something bobs to the surface next to me. It looks like a piece of plastic at first, but when I pick it up, it’s soft and slippery. I scream, dropping it when I realize it’s skin."
The Last Emperox by John ScalziWhat it is: The conclusion to the Interdependency trilogy, which began with The Collapsing Empire and The Consuming Fire.
What happens: Emperox Grayland II fends off usurpers while her lover, Lord Marce Claremont, works to prevent the collapse of the Flow, the mode of interstellar travel on which their society depends.
Reviewers say: This fast-moving political space opera is "punchy, plausible, and bittersweet; studded with zingers until the very last line" (Kirkus Reviews).
Bonds of Brassby Emily SkrutskieAn impossible situation: Umber Imperial Academy cadet Ettain Nassun discovers that Gal Veres -- his best friend, roommate, and secret crush -- is also the incognito heir to the throne.
Divided loyalties: Ettain was a citizen of Archon before the Umber Empire conquered his homeworld and left him an orphan.
For fans of: Rhoda Belleza's Empress of a Thousand Skies series.
The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa GrattonWhat it is: An epic fantasy novel inspired by Shakespeare's King Lear, starring three princesses who vie for control of their father's island kingdom as he succumbs to obsession.
Introducing: A trio of complex heroines: bellicose Gaela, sly Regan, and star priestess Elia.
Series alert: Standalone sequel Lady Hotspur, a gender-swapped take on Henry IV, Part 1, is set in the same world, albeit centuries later.
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValleWhat it's about: In 1920s Harlem, a young African American con artist named Charles Thomas Tester struggles to make ends meet for himself and his dying father while treading on the borders of an occult realm.
What sets it apart: This atmospheric retelling of H.P. Lovecraft's short story "The Horror at Red Hook" cleverly deconstructs the racism of its source material by putting a black man front and center.
Book buzz: A Bram Stoker Award finalist, The Ballad of Black Tom also won a Shirley Jackson Award and a British Fantasy Award.
Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette WintersonWhat it is: A postmodern retelling of Frankenstein.
How it unfolds: The narrative shifts between 1816, when Mary Shelley composes her novel, and the near-future, when transgender doctor Ry Shelley embarks on a (somewhat exploitative) relationship with transhumanist scientist Victor Stein.
Reviewers say: "An unholy amalgamation of scholarship and comedy” (Washington Post).
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