King of the Rising by Kacen CallenderThe setting: the islands of Hans Lollik, a Caribbean-inspired archipelago colonized by the white Scandinavian-esque Fjern, whose wealth and power depend on the continued enslavement of the Black islanders.
The protagonist: Løren Jannik, a formerly enslaved young man determined to use his kraft (magic) to liberate his people.
What sets it apart: This thought-provoking sequel to The Queen of the Conquered eschews a straightforward narrative of good triumphing over evil in favor of a nuanced examination of colonial systems of oppression.
Ready Player Two by Ernest ClineWhat it is: the long-awaited sequel to Ready Player One, as steeped in geek lore and 1980s pop culture nostalgia as its predecessor.
The situation: After winning the treasure hunt that his hero, eccentric tech titan James Halliday, hid in the virtual world of OASIS, Wade Watts now holds the keys to the kingdom -- and is about to embark on another quest that will reveal more of Halliday's secrets.
Reviewers say: Fans of the first book "will enjoy revisiting old friends and meeting new ones" (Booklist).
Nophek Gloss by Essa HansenWhat happens: After his planet is destroyed, vengeance-obsessed asexual teenager Caiden finds sanctuary aboard a sentient spaceship and learns about the multiverse from its crew of human and xenid (alien) Passengers.
What does the title mean? In the world of the Graven series, "nophek gloss" is a valuable animal-derived substance that powers spaceships.
For fans of: the sentient ships of Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy, the found families of Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series, the motley crew of TV's Firefly, and the expansive world-building of Mass Effect.
Crosshairs by Catherine HernandezIn a world... where environmental disaster presents a white supremacist regime of "True Canadians" with a useful pretext for sending "Others" to labor camps, Jamaican Filipino drag artist Kay becomes a fugitive before joining the resistance alongside newfound allies.
Is it for you? With its detailed depictions of state-sanctioned violence against Black, Indigenous, LGBTQIA, and disabled people, this dystopian novel presents a bleak and unflinching look at oppression.
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen ChoWhat happens: After bandits cause Guet Imm to lose her job at a coffeehouse, the nun-turned-waitress decides to join their crew, and discovers that there's more to her new companions than meets the eye.
Why you might like it: This lyrical wuxia-inspired novella by the author of the Sorcerer Royal series boasts a likable queer cast, a layered plot, and a humorous yet moving depiction of a chosen family in wartime.
You might also like: S.L. Huang's Burning Roses or Nghi Vo's The Empress of Salt and Fortune.
Witchmark by C.L. PolkStarring: former army officer Dr. Miles Singer, who's hiding from his powerful family while concealing his magical powers from society; and Tristan Hunter, the mysterious gentleman who convinces Miles to join his investigation into baffling crimes involving veterans.
Book buzz: In addition to winning the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, this debut was also a finalist for the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, and the Lammy Award.
Series alert: Set in a world reminiscent of Edwardian England, Witchmark is the opening installment of the Kingston Cycle, followed by Stormsong and the forthcoming Soulstar.
The Sol Majestic by Ferrett SteinmetzStarring: itinerant teen philosopher Kenna, whose answer to the question "Why do you love food?" wins him a life-changing free dinner at The Sol Majestic, the galaxy's most renowned restaurant.
What happens: Kenna bonds with the staff, falls in love with a cute boy, escapes his parents' toxic belief system, and confronts a deep moral quandary while working to save the place he's come to call home.
Read it for: a heartwarming coming-of-age story, the diverse members of Kenna's found family, and mouthwatering descriptions of food.
The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan MarescaWhat it is: a fast-paced fantasy heist novel set in the world of author Marshall Ryan Maresca's Maradaine series.
Starring: brothers Asti and Verci Rynax, a pair of retired con artists forced to resume their criminal careers after a fire destroys their (legitimate) business.
For fans of: Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards novels or Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows.
Chilling Effect by Valerie ValdesWhat it's about: Captain Eva Innocente of La Sirena Negra and her crew must take on dangerous secret missions to raise the ransom money to save Eva's sister, Mari, from crime syndicate The Fridge.
For fans of: the appealing characters in Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet; the spacefaring capers of Mike Brooks' Keiko novels.
Series alert: Chilling Effect is the 1st in the same-named series, followed by Prime Deceptions.
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