Ro’s Reading List: 3 Must-Read 2023 SF/F Books (Part 1)
My TBR pile is out of control in the best of ways. I've had more time to read this year, but less time to review and share the gems hiding among the stacks littering my living room. Thus is born a new segment: Ro's Reading List. Where I'll highlight some of the books I've read recently that you're going to want to add to your TBR list.
Top Three Recommendations:
The Faithless by C. L. Clark
Snapshot Review: If you've listened to the podcast before, then you already know I was all-in with C. L. Clark's Magic of the Lost trilogy before I hit the midway point of The Unbroken. The second installment, The Faithless, is here with more political intrigue, power struggles, and tumultuous relationships.
Clark works all their strengths infusing this often brutal and gritty story with a simmering tension. The drama and angst between characters unravels in a painstakingly built world. Luca's locked in a battle to regain control of Balladaire from her increasingly reprehensible uncle Duke Nicolas Ancier who refuses to relinquish his regency in favor of her rule. And now Touraine must reckon with both her intense feelings for Luca and her complicated relationship with the empire that stole her youth and her freedom in order to protect the gains made by the revolution in Qazāl by being Luca's ally in truth, and in-person. Clark turns down the volume on the action to make room for deadly court intrigue. But this stellar follow-up offers enough murderous plotting and complicated heated relationship drama to be worth every single word put to page.
The Faithless' a harrowing stone cold groove written by someone unafraid to drag you through your feelings, challenges your belief systems, and leave you with (problematic) favs. Nothing should be taken for granted, especially not victory in love, or war. Set aside some time. You're not going to want to put this one down once you start. 10/10 absolutely *recommend.
Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker
Snapshot Review: Terry J Benton-Walker's Blood Debts builds exactly the right tale of generational magic (and curses) set in a New Orleans you need.
Sixteen year old twins Clement and Cristina Trudeau, heirs of a powerful magical legacy, are in mourning for their father and caring for their sick mother. On the anniversary of the greatest magical massacre that saw their family thrown from power, the twins discover that their mother isn't sick, she's cursed. If they're to save their family and avoid another massacre, this estranged duo will have to rebuild their trust that's been lost with the swiftness. Benton-Walker's New Orleans lives and breaths with fierce relevance.
The Trudeau's intensely personal battle happens against a backdrop rife with political artifice and dangerous societal divides as unsettled gods and the undead lurk in the shadows. Debts' shifting points of view add narrative insight with a deeply relatable edge and a side of tension. The character development keeps pace with the deepening drama offered with witty dialogue rife with biting one-liners. The allegory's unapologetic and the cliffhangers stress-inducing. So go on ahead and put in a pre-order for the sequel, Blood Justice now.
If contemporary fantasy is your bag, then Blood Debts' blood-soaked tale of family drama steeped dangerous magic and life-altering generational trauma is absolutely it. *8/10 would recommend.
The Blighted Stars by Megan E. O'Keefe
Snapshot Review: The Blighted Stars brings together Naira Sharp, a genetically enhanced spy intent on bringing down a wealthy corporate family by any means necessary and Tarquin Mercator, the wayward scion of said family pulled back into the fold and tasked with proving the safety of their mining processes.
What do you get when you blend an enemies-to-lovers and stranded on a planet full-throttle mystery in space together? A space opera built on sharp prose, stellar characters, and a finely-tuned dystopian hellscape. The Blighted Stars is a creepy, relatable, and incredibly immersive journey with exciting reveals and harrowing choices. And, if you don't like romance in your space opera to leave you properly conflicted, what are you even doing?
O'Keefe's The Blighted Stars collides at the intersection of science-fiction and horror with such vicious brilliance it's a gamechanger for genre-bending. *9/10 you damn right I *recommend.
Side-note: If you haven't read Megan E. O'Keefe's The Protectorate trilogy, go on ahead and throw Velocity Weapon onto your reading list because its the space opera you need to fill that hole left by The Expanse series...and then some.
Short on time (or attention span)? Get into these novellas:
2023 is the place where time went sideways. These three novellas are wildly engaging and unique tone and fantastical tales. These authors are masters at rich worldbuilding and heart-stopping narratives.
The Keeper's Six by Kate Elliott
The action-packed The Keeper’s Six centers a bad-ass, spell-slinging mother on a world-hopping mission to rescue her kidnapped son from a dragon lord with everything to lose.
Untethered Sky by Fonda Lee
The Untethered Sky is a pulse-pounding fable about obsession (and revenge) at all costs. It's a standalone story about girl who strives to become part of the elite team of trainers who fly legendary rocs to battle the monsters who destroyed her family.
Empire of the Feast by Bendi Barrett
A reincarnated emperor must navigate a perilous world without the memories of his past lives. He'll need to bring his fractured court together all while maintaining the erotic rituals that keep an eldritch horror at bay.
July Books On My Radar:
*I received an advance reader copy of The Faithless and The Blighted Stars in exchange for an honest review. I also purchased special edition finished copies of both books because they're just that good. You can purchase any of these books by clicking on the image for a link to the Bookshop - these are affiliate links.
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