Unicorns in space, twins with powers, and a woman who can move through mirrors are among the characters inhabiting a wide range of excellent sci-fi and fantasy reads this month. Below are our 5 top picks, but click through the link at near the bottom of the page to see all our editors’ favorites.
So set up your hammock or stake out your favorite corner of the park, brew some iced tea, and crack open a book. Your imagination will thank you.
Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
One of the things I appreciate most about Seanan McGuire’s stories is that she Has Ideas, and those ideas are rarely regurgitated in slightly different form from book to book. Plus, she crafts characters like she loves them, warts and all. Middlegame ambitiously pulls together alchemy, twins with spooky powers, and a villain who is playing a truly long game, and its atmospheric edge is as sharp as a scalpel. There’s a lot packed into this book, and readers who particularly enjoy immersive, twisty tales will find this book is exactly their jam.
We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya) by Hafsah Faizal
“People lived because she killed. People died because he lived” says the cover copy for this book, and that alone sucked me in. (The cover is gorgeous, too.) Zafira disguises herself as a man in order to hunt in the forbidden enchanted forest, and to feed her people. Nasir is a prince and an assassin whose soul has been almost wholly corrupted by his father’s bloody power plays. It took me a while longer than I expected to get into this YA fantasy, but once the hunter’s and the assassin’s courses were set to collide, the pace picked up. Shame, heroism, ambition, and duty twist together until they are nearly inseparable in this complex journey of two people seeking a better life for themselves and their people, even if it means bringing back magic to make that happen.
Five Unicorn Flush (The Reason) by TJ Berry
Berry’s follow-up to Space Unicorn Blues is just as zany and inexplicably touching as her first novel. The galaxy’s magical creatures have been whisked away and hidden from humanity, who earlier treated them like criminals, or slaves, or slaving criminals. Without the Bala to serve them—and, importantly, without unicorn horn to fuel their faster-than-light engines—humanity is swirling down the drain fast. But some of the Bala don’t love their new home world, and it’s only a matter of time before the secret location is revealed. Half-unicorn Gary and his former nemesis Captain Jenny again form the core of this SF space opera fueled as much by humor as by heart.
A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
Readers of Kay know to expect a richly detailed story with fascinating, flawed characters, and he delivers on expectations once again with A Brightness Long Ago. An assassination of a noble (who richly deserves it) threatens to tip the balance of power among a group of provinces in which peace is already fragile. The fates of a healer with a past, a commoner raised up to be a courtier to the powerful, and a first-time killer interweave in unexpected ways as skirmishes blossom and war looms.
The Missing of Clairdelune: Book Two of The Mirror Visitor Quartet by Christelle Dabos
The Amazon editors picked Dabos’ A Winter’s Promise as the best fantasy book of 2018. Combining the intricate world-building of Harry Potter with the dark trickeries of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, A Winter’s Promise unceremoniously thrust young museum curator Ophelia into the deadly politics of the magical families of the icy Pole when she became affianced to Thorn, the Pole’s most disliked noble. Dabos’ sequel (translated, like the first, from French into English) picks up with Ophelia again stepping into jeopardy when she gains the attention of Farouk, the capricious and all-powerful Spirit of the Pole. On top of that, people start disappearing from Clairdelune, including one noble who is among Ophelia’s very small group of allies, forcing her to rely more and more on her closed-off fiancé, Thorn. This book meanders more than I liked, but the ending is ferocious and well worth the journey. As I flipped the final page, I wished I’d retained more of my high school French so I could jump right into reading book three.
To see all our picks for May, visit the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Month.
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