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Bethany is a longtime fantasy reader and writer who joined the Odyssey in the fall of 2020. She graduated as a Frances Perkins Scholar at Mount Holyoke College in 2022, which makes being part of the Mount Holyoke shop team extra rewarding! She now oversees our marketing and the Mount Holyoke Campus Store.
She loves science fiction with deeply felt humanity, fantasy with real world questions, and non-fiction about rebuilding the world around us. Her particular interest is YA fantasy, but has a lot of manga, cute middle grade, and historical fiction under her belt. Her all-time favorite series include The Queen's Thief, The Murderbot Diaries, The Imperial Radch, and The Craft Sequence.
A rollicking woman-led Sinbad type adventure on glittering, lethal seas.
Amina al-Sarafi left her beloved ship for many good reasons. She’s pulled out of retirement not because those reasons are gone, but because one of her biggest regrets has come knocking. The chance at fabulous wealth (which was missing from her sudden flight to the hinterlands) doesn’t hurt. Amina’s swagger and cynicism captured my heart, while her regrets and maturity made this feel more weighty as a fabulous adventure.
Chakraborty’s skill at turning the screws of stakes and evoking marvelous but dangerous worlds clinch this as a new favorite.
A precise knife-stroke of a book, keen-edged in both personal and world-wide stakes.
A return home for Tara Abernathy when her father dies is both an inexorable reckoning with her past and the beginning of small-town apocalypse. This first volume in a new trilogy returns to a beloved protagonist of The Craft Sequence while welcoming to a new reader. Gladstone weaves together a fresh introduction to the complexities of the Craft’s contract-based magic (which I honestly needed) and threads left from the previous series.
A sharp first installment in what promises to be a graceful finale.
This gorgeous and gritty graphic novel follows a young teen determined to make more of her life by joining the military of the empire, while being a member of an oppressed minority people within its bounds. Her endeavors to rise and gain citizenship clash with the realization that they are being used in war against their own--something she and her squire comrades all have to work through. Sensitively depicting the conflicted feelings of being part of a broken system and how hard it is to break cycles, this historic fantasy troubles the glory of war and portrays the difficulties of choosing what's right without flinching.
These interlinked novellas set down in a Confucian-coded empire where manipulating nature's energy is the craft of the elite. A classic revolution storyline is made fresh by a culture where gender is chosen upon coming of age, the world is shaped by magic as the privilege of the elite, and narrators that are as dynamic as they are flawed.The twin children of an empress and their partners end up as a guerrilla warrior, a broken prophet, a monastic rebel, and desperado spy. And they are part of her undoing.Each novella feels grounded and intense while overall making up a mythic story of an empire making its own undoing. For fans of Max Gladstone, Ken Liu, and Ann Leckie.
The most cottage-core of far-future SF, this book builds a world where ecological restoration is the norm but humans are still asking if they are enough.Dex has been part of a monastic order in a city they love, but they need a change. So they set out into the world with a motorized cart to do tea service, a dream of hearing long-lost crickets held deeply private. When their sojourns bring them to encounter one of the long-emancipated robots living in the woods, they have a chance to be part of bridging an old rift that while peaceful is a gap in their world. In this cozy but heartfelt book, mutual aid is the norm, and industrialization has been set aside, making it a gentle future to be immersed in.
Sibling Dex and Mosscap the robot are on their pilgrimage, with Mosscap tasked by its kind to ask people what they need. This cultural contact is full of a lot of joy, but Mosscap is discovering that maybe its question isn't one there needs to be an answer to, and Dex is realizing their own need to be useful counters the beliefs they think they hold.I love that this series is committed to being low-stakes, letting characters safely explore questions, and showing restoration as a process.
This is a warm yet brutal installment that yet again flips the paradigm set up by previous novels in the series. Nona lives in a city at war with the necromantic empire that is consuming the universe, and also battling itself. In a city of resettled folks, her newness to being a person doesn't stand out too much, but her little family are waiting for her to be someone else. I fell in love with Nona, charmingly in love with the world while aware she's a ticking bomb. This book showed a different angle of Muir's world, and deepened the stakes of the series at large.
I have been devouring all of T. Kingfisher's work, and this book combines her dark fantasy milieu beautifully with a mythic quest. One fueled by a rage that cuts to the quick--against violence protected by patriarchy and power-mongering. The heroine is princess happy to be relegated to a convent if not actually a nun, but she can no longer accept the destruction of her sisters to protect her nation. To find the kind of power that can free someone from the clutches of a violent king, she needs to enlist the help of allies like a grave-keeping witch with a demon hen, a soldier rescued from the Goblin Market, and her own seemingly hapless fairy godmother.
All the elements of a classic fairy tale with moments of horror (both physical and existential) and a deeply felt core, this is Kingfisher at her best.
Nora knows her tropes—it’s what makes her a great literary agent. When she’s dumped for the fourth time for the small-town girl her boyfriend is going to join in the small-town business, she knows her role: the heartless, ambitious city woman. And she has no interest in changing that.
When her sister books them a trip to do the small town escape and even creates a to-do list drawn from their favorite rom-coms she goes along with it because she knows her sister needs a break. Running into her editor nemesis is a shock, as is their chemistry, but she still loves New York City and her life there. So why is it bothering her so much that she’s a shark, and she can’t visualize a happy ending for herself?
Loved this for its equal emphasis on family relationships (a staple of Henry's work) and truly funny banter between characters. Also, saving the indie bookstore!
This charming graphic novel tackles some heavy issues with a delicate, artful touch. Jade's about to go to a long-anticipated art camp to work on her portfolio when her best friend harms herself, leaving her with incredibly conflicted feelings about going. Even when she can enjoy it, she doesn't have the usual support to deal with her anxiety about her future as an artist.
I'm really interested in creativity and mental health (and how those things meet) so I followed Jade's process of grief and growth avidly. I loved that her romance at the camp was one that both built her up and caused more questioning. The beautiful art of this graphic novel works perfectly with the text and artists that are front-and-center, and the conversations the characters have are thought-provoking while feeling real. Fantastic read.
When we last left our hero, she was taking up the eternal mantle of a Lyctor—at the cost of someone dear to her. This book opens in a countdown to apocalypse, and while it’s picking up soon after the last book, nothing seems quite right. In fact…Harrow doesn’t seem to remember what readers do at all. But does that matter when she needs to keep God (King Undying) and herself alive? This would be going better if only she wasn't allergic to her sword and stuck with her least favorite fellow necromancer as her only ally.
This book has all the eclectic chemistry of delicious tropes, intense stakes, and unexpected pop culture references of Gideon while feeling like a whole new rocket-ride.
This book is an exuberant mix of dark fantasy, space opera, and meme culture. (I promise it works beautifully.) In a planet-devouring empire founded on necromancy, Gideon is a foundling of one of the weirdest necromantic houses of them all—and she can’t wait to get out and go to the warfront with her two-handed sword. Her chance comes in the shape of attending her lifelong necromancer nemesis in what swiftly turns into an elimination game between the houses competing to become next-level necromancers to the Necrolord Prime. It does *not* go well.
Gritty, gory, and packed with irreverent internet quips, this book is a favorite of sword lesbians and extremely online goths everywhere for a reason.
A perfect successor to Witness for the Dead, this book picked up themes from the previous book while delivering another twisting mystery. The rich complexity of the city and the deeply real-feeling people in it are only improved by a return. The sense that Thara Celehar has much healing left to do himself and much left to offer this place, even if just by making sure the dead's story does not go untold, is what propelled me rapidly through the slim book despite the darker notes of its story.
As a Witness for the Dead, Celehar has the ability to be inside a person’s viewpoint from the moments of their death—a gift that is called upon to settle disputes of will, questions families didn’t ask when the person was still alive, and so on. Sometimes it tells how a person was murdered. When Celehar is called upon to find out who a dead young woman is so she can be buried respectfully the search takes him into an opera company, gambling houses, and teahouses of a colorful, complex city. And his own ambiguous status with the powers of that city complicate everything along the way.
This follow-up to The Goblin Emperor stands alone while taking up the beautifully detailed world where airships and burial practices to prevent ghouls from rising exist beside each other. A gripping mystery launching what is going to be a fantastic series grappling with power, calling, and grief. If you’ve ever said you want more high fantasy of the common folk or a gaslamp fantasy procedural, this is one to check out.
This a glittering and vicious fantasy trilogy masterfully set in a world of Djinn set against an invaded Cairo. Nahri was abandoned as a child, making a living with her odd healing powers. When she fakes a ritual that summons a very real djinn warrior, he is not happy to be awake--but also realizes she belongs to a different world, the one he once was part of.
Daevabad is the protected center of djinn life, but the differing clans and marginalized part-djinn population are by no means safe with each other in that city. Nahri, as descendent of long lost healers, is caught up in power struggles and her own conflicting dreams.
This series will wrench your heart time and again but in the end transform that to joy. A great read if you like rogue vs. paladin frenemies, richly imagined magical worlds, and seemingly impossible political and personal snarls hammered into gold.
In this luminous debut, celestial courts and messy coming of age twine together in a duality of harmony and discordance. Sheetal is the daughter of a star, but feels very human: trying to escape the scrutiny of strict aunts and navigate her father's grief with her mother gone. But the star side of her is breaking through and it's getting too hard to hide--especially when she doesn't exactly know what is happening.
When her ignorance of her own power goes deeply wrong, she seeks help from the heavenly side of her family. The opulent heavenly realm glitters--and reminds her of all that's been withheld from her. She's thrust into a contest where mortals compete, inspired by stars--and realizes that something is at stake for the whole mortal world in the competition. Sheetal has to figure out how to defy powerful immortals and still obtain the favor she desperately needs.
This quest is driven by a keen mix of guilt and love. Her need to discover her potential while integrating both sides of her identity is also intensely relatable. How do you choose to belong to both and see both the wonder as well as the flaws in homes that seem set against each other?
In the end, Sheetal must trust her loved ones (friends and family) while still holding to her own convictions. Her future between these two communities isn't sewn up neatly, but she has come into her own. I loved the way Thakrar portrayed Sheetal's ambivalence and longing for both of her worlds, and the course that brought her to deeper friendship and community with those she loved.
Kiera is an honors student by day and a gamer by night. She might get drawn into frustrating debates with friends about who gets to wear dreads, while her bestie and boyfriend dislike each other but she's keeping things in balance. Then her beloved game Slay gets linked with a crime, and her safe space for being Black in her own way is now a source of deep conflict. Because Kiera is hiding this from everyone: she's the creator of Slay.
This book lets Kiera and her community be complex and have differing opinions on what the right way to live is. The stakes get higher and higher not just for Kiera's game but for her own safety and sense of self, and I love that she both fights for herself and leans on those who love her. The rich depiction of the VR world she's created and the sense of belonging she finds there was one of the high points of this story. But so was the way the teens in it had strong, intelligent positions that sometimes clashed.
A book with a nuanced depiction of community, virtual and in-person, with thought-provoking discussions between teens that felt genuine, I recommend this to anyone who wants to get lost in a virtual world but also bring themselves into it and still be accepted.
In this sassy romance, Eve is on the run from another business venture she's bailing on after a seemingly good launch, and not sure why. When she runs into a B&B owner (literally, in her car) she finds a new use of her multiple talents running it for him. But while he has a lot to learn about living a little, he's also helping her learn something about herself. With two neurodivergent protagonists and hilarious opposites-attract dynamics, this book includes unexpected slash fanfiction references, discovering self-love as well as romance, and a warm cast of characters (including the heroines of two previous Talia Hibbert books I also loved!)
This novella feels like the book variant of a cheeky historical fantasy drama, where nuns get to be both mystical masters of martial arts AND hilariously cunning. Deeply satisfying as a classic fantasy adventure story in a historic Malay setting, this short book has bandits, tragic pasts, relics of deities, and a sweet (though low-key) queer romance.
I particularly loved that the dialogue felt snappy and modern but drew from a different dialect of English. This novella is for fans of Ann Leckie who want something a little more funny, fans of Asian dramas that want a slight deeper immersion, and fans of fantasy looking for something with a unique kick.
An incredibly effective colonial power, the Raadch calls itself “civilization” and enforces its view in military domination. And Breq (part AI, part human remains) is determined to destroy the ruler of this massive empire, a near impossible task when its clones carry out its will all over the empire. Breq's dangerous knowledge of this ruler and a misstep made hundreds of years ago is all that can make it work--and what also makes Breq a fugitive.
This is the kind of thought-provoking science fiction that does something no other genre can by bending expectations of gender, loyalty, and humanity.
King returns with her signature blend of meticulously drawn historic moment, compelling mystery, and my personal favorite detective couple. As you might expect of a mystery set in the region of Transylvania, there is a question of vampires--and bathing in the blood of virgins. This question is tied, however, to bigger political questions when Queen Marie of Romania is the apparent target of gossip-mongering.
In this installment, Russell and Holmes collaborate more than they've been able to in recent times to sort out motives and machinations in a complex and changing world. Satisfyingly, they unravel more than just who is behind the main plot, and enable others they encounter to move forward free of some of their burdens--another thing I deeply love about how King writes her people and how her Holmes and Russell live in their world.
This memoir is addressed not to the world at large but to an audience of one. Laymon shares the pain of growing up Black and big to his mother—both a source of love and pain herself.
He doesn't shy, in this raw and poetic account from implicating himself in other peoples’ pain. Who is blameless in a cycle of abuse? What does writing to and for your own people mean? Laymon invites us to listen in on this riveting conversation with his past, his mother, and himself.
What's better than a fantasy quest book? This seemingly straight-forward story of retrieving a legendary relic from a temple is told by a charmingly dishonest thief. The unreliable narrator pulls of the heist of this narrative, flipping ideas of identity, loyalty, and exactly what a thief is. Despite some anachronisms, set in a non-generic Mediterranean historical setting, this classic starts a twisty and richly layered series of 6 books concluding in The Return of the Thief.
Rich with amazing one-liners, sucker-punch losses, and moments of holy glee--a fitting masterwork ending to The Queen's Thief saga. This series conclusion ties together the threads of the previous books, deepening their significance, and answering questions that originated as early as the first book. Deftly weaving both relational and plot threads, this book doesn't shy from the costs of war or of rulership, and still brings us to a place of satisfaction with the characters we've come to care about so much.
This bite-size novella is a rollicking planet exploration adventure narrated by a sarcastic, anxious "security unit" that calls itself Murderbot in the privacy of its own mind. Murderbot has freed itself from the controlling software of its company, and is using this freedom to binge-watch television when its not doing it's job (and sometimes during.)When its latest group of clients is endangered, it has to risk exposure as a rogue robot to save their lives. Even worse, they want to treat it like a person and talk about its feelings... An anti-capitalist SF book that melds zippy tropes with well-considered questions of agency and personhood, this series is one of my comfort rereads on repeat.