Sci-fi and fantasy readings on the beach

This historical fantasy set in the Victorian era combines terrible penny vibes with classic fantasy tropes. Some children are born with talents, rare magical abilities to manipulate their bodies. Charlie Ovid can heal himself, child Marlowe emits an unearthly glow, Komako can control dust, and Ribs can turn invisible. All four are taken to Cairndale, a school for talented children like them. However, a darkness follows them, a former student determined to take Marlowe away with undead monsters at his disposal, and he’s not the only one who takes too much interest in the bright boy. Meanwhile, the barrier between the world of the dead and the world of the living breaks down. Despite the high-stakes plot and action-packed scenes, the character development and backstory advance the novel’s sometimes meandering but always intriguing plot. I listened to this sprawling game in audio, narrated by Ben Onwukwe, and it completely transported me to the world. Although this is the first book in a planned trilogy, it has a satisfying ending.

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These eight short stories about Métis futurism defy genre by blending past, present and future to create liberating possibilities for Métis and Indigenous futures where Indigenous peoples feature heavily. In one story, nanite technology allows a queer Indigenous couple to ensure that their child’s first language is Cree. In another, a mixed-race man becomes invisible after being run over by a radioactive bison, and he uses this ability to become a superhero. In several stories, virtual realities offer Indigenous characters the opportunity to embody animals. Throughout all of the stories, Vowel provides extensive footnotes that connect the content to reality, reminding readers that although fictional, these stories are very much rooted in the Indigenous present. It also provides a fascinating introduction to his work and to Métis futurism. It is a must for news readers.

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Miller’s fantasy and science fiction short stories have won and been nominated for numerous awards, despite being her first collection of short stories. The collection opens with an allosaurus making a sudden appearance in a small town and a child learning to see its mother differently in its wake. “Ghosts of Home” takes place during the housing crisis of 2008, when the spirits that haunt homes feel lonely after the owners leave. Many stories embrace homosexuality, such as “The Heat of Us: Notes Towards an Oral History”, an alternate history of the Stonewall Riots where the supernatural weaves its way through homosexuals fighting back against police brutality. These 14 brilliant, character-driven short stories are perfectly crafted, subtly altering reality using SFF elements while managing to fully explore the repercussions of that action with the conciseness required of a short story.

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The sorrow of stones by Katherine Addison (Tor Books; June 14)

Addison continues the story of Thara Celehar in this second book in the Graveyards of Amalo series and the third in the same world as The Goblin Emperor. In this second book, Celehar is presented with several murders to solve while training a new witness to the dead, the widowed Velhiro Tomasaran, who discovers her ability to speak to the dead upon the death of her husband. While investigating the death of a high-ranking Amalo woman, Celehar uncovers a child sex abuse conspiracy involving found girls. However, by helping the girls, he risks losing the most important ability he possesses: his ability to listen to the dead. Despite the high-stakes plot, these short but immersive fantasy crime novels are pleasantly calm and upbeat. The audiobook narrated by Liam Gerrard perfectly captures Celehar’s voice. Whereas The sorrow of stones can be read on its own, I recommend reading The witness of the dead first.

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juniper and thorn by Ava Reid (Harper Voyager; June 21)

This captivating and atmospheric dark fantasy unflinchingly explores the ominous roots of classic fairy tales. Marlinchen and her three sisters are the last real witches. Marlinechen, the youngest and most powerful of the three, can read people’s secrets with just a touch, while her other sisters can glimpse the future and create healing potions. Their cursed wizard father praises their magic while keeping them separate and ignorant to the world outside their home. However, the two older sisters often go out at night. The novel opens with Marlinchen’s first night sneaking around with her sisters. They attend a ballet where Marlinchen immediately becomes fascinated by the male lead. As Marlinchen continues to escape at night to search for the ballet, her father becomes increasingly tyrannical. Meanwhile, everyone in town is whispering about a monster on the loose and its ruthless murders.

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The final fight by Saara El-Arifi (Del Rey; June 21)

El-Arifi unveils a complex and brutal magical world where those born with red blood enslave those born with blue or light blood in this first book of an epic fantasy trilogy of African and Arabian inspiration. The rebels raised the red-blooded Sylah to become a red-blooded traitor and end their tyranny. However, after her family is murdered, she becomes addicted to drugs and instead fights in illicit skating rinks and yearns for the next high. When her brother—who she thought was murdered along with the rest of the family—reappears, he breaks her drug fog, though she no longer wants to be the hero she was raised to be. Meanwhile, Anoor – the daughter of the Empire’s most powerful ruler – is a constant disappointment to her mother. Despite being relentlessly belittled, she quietly rebels against the injustices of the Empire. Hassa, who is light blooded, had her tongue and hands removed as a child, as all light bloods do. She serves as a servant, invisible to influential Red Bloods, and perfectly placed to gather all the secrets necessary for a rebellion. Together, these three women take the Empire by storm in this rich first fantasy.

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