The Lighthouse Duet takes an entire book for the main plot to start, but once it gets there, it’s absolutely incredible. The protagonist is Valen, a “cartographer” with a tormented past who ends up at an abbey in training to be a monk. Most of the first book is almost slice-of-life at this abbey, before the real adventure begins. Once it does, though, you’re in for an incredible epic that you won’t want to put down.
The Darkness Outside Us from its cover looks like a young adult romance set in space. And indeed it is set in space, its protagonists are young adults, and it does have a fairly significant romance subplot. But do not think for a minute that this incredible novel is anything other than a science fiction thriller/mystery written for adults with all of the what-if? philosophical questioning requisite of any classic you can think of.
The book is a mixed bag; its format and bold worldbuilding choices make quite a statement, but at the same time, it falls short in a lot of areas. As is often the case with mixed-timeline, mixed-point-of-view plots, when you take a step back, you realize that almost nothing actually happened in the story; it’s relying on the whole being significantly greater than the sum of its parts. But in this case, the individual stories are so simplistic, and particularly the Maya past one, that I’m not sure the novel quite managed to achieve that greater whole.
The Atlas Six follows six medeians who become candidates to join The Alexandrian Society, a secretive and extremely exclusive organization that invites only the best of the best to join its ranks. After a year of study, five of these six will become members of the Society. The novel focuses on their year of study and the competition that this exclusivity creates among the group as they fight not to be that sixth person, creating alliances and picking sides, taking advantage of the Society’s resources, and attempting to manipulate each other - while at the same time being brilliant medeians experimenting with and studying magic.
Fid’s Crusade is the story of genius supervillain Doctor Fid in his quest to, er, save the world. Because the superheroes make terrible role models. And also one of them caused the death of his baby brother, and he needs revenge. It’s at times funny, at times heartbreaking, and at times adorable. It begins as a criticism of celebrity worship culture, turns into a mystery, a found family, and a pretty traditional save-the-world story. Which is to say, it meanders quite a bit before we get to a clear, established goal.
Legendborn tries to do a few too many things at the same time, and as a result is a bit messy and inconsistent when it could have been great. Bree Matthews is a gifted high-school student who gets accepted to an “Early College” program at UNC Chapel Hill along with her best friend Alice. She’s excited to attend, but everything changes when her mom dies in a car accident the day after she receives her acceptance. When she arrives at UNC, she’s dealing with her grief, being a Black girl in a mostly white campus - and a secret society of demon hunters called the Legendborn.
Red Dust has a great premise that it ultimately fails to live up to. Set roughly fifty years after first contact, the novel follows positronic robot police officer (pozzie) Raymond Chandler (yes, named after that Raymond Chandler) in his attempt to hunt down escaped criminal Makrow 34. Chandler teams up with another convict, Vasily Fernández, chosen because he shares the same psychic (Psy) abilities as Makrow 34: the Gaussical ability to manipulate the probability of nearby events to occur.
Disfigured is an engaging look at the topic of disability in fairy tales. Why do so many fairy tales deal with disability? Why do the happy endings insist that being able-bodied is a requirement for a happy ending? Through the lens of the social model of disability as well as that of an author seeing her life as a story, Amanda asks why characters in fairy tales must behave certain ways, and explains the damaging consequences stories can have on real people as they shape our real expectations.
Fine Structure is one of those books that you read once, then you either read again two or three more times, this time taking notes, or you immediately google “Fine Structure explanation” and read the results of other people doing the same. I’ll save you that googling part for the second option and link the FAQ (yes, the author has an FAQ page). It does, at least, make a lot more sense than Primer.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book or series so filled with compassion for a protagonist as The Economy of Blessings. Charlotte Kersten’s Iraluri starts out in what’s clearly (to the reader, to any outside observer) an abusive marriage, but Iraluri doesn’t know it; not only does her husband keep her from realizing it, but also the oppressive classist and colonialist society that she lives in keeps her from realizing it. But Kersten is here to help Iraluri heal, and while the Economy of Blessings trilogy is one of the most emotionally raw series I’ve ever read, and full of painful scenes and has a bunch of content warnings, it’s also incredibly beautiful, and you can tell Iraluri’s journey is facilitated not just by her in-universe support system but also boundless love and care from the other side of the fourth wall.