Happy Friday, friends! Today we’ve got reviews of Future Home of the Living God and Jade City, plus a Slytherin reading list, more LOTR news, cozy fantasy, and more.
This newsletter is sponsored by Renegades by Marissa Meyer.
The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone . . . except the villains they once overthrew.
Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to the villains who have the power to end them both.
First! You have until November 26th to enter our giveaway for a $500 gift card to the bookstore of your choice. May the odds be ever in your favor.
Some of my best friends are Slytherins! (Actually true.) For all you green-and-black-identifying folks, here’s a reading list.
That rumored Lord Of The Rings TV adaptation? It’s real, and they’ve established that they’re going to be pulling from previously unadapted stories. I am sure somewhere there is already a betting pool about exactly which material they’ll be drawing from; my money’s on Beren and Lúthien.
Need some magic and some romance in your YA? This post has got you covered.
I am not currently watching Dirk Gently or The Tick, but I deeply appreciated this piece on what they’re doing right with mentally ill heroes.
Need more super in your heroes? Here are some suggestions for those of us who are looking around for more caped adventures while we wait for Thor: Ragnarok to make it to streaming.
Cozy up with some cozy fantasy! These books are exactly what I want to be reading this winter.
Today’s reviews include a terrifying possible future and magic-using, warring gangs!
Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
This book was the one that convinced me I did, in fact, have to write this post about parenting in sci-fi/fantasy, because boy did we have a lot of it this year! And while Erdrich is not generally considered a genre writer, Future Home can be considered nothing else.
Cedar Songmaker is pregnant and on her way to meet her biological family for the first time, to find out about potential genetic issues. In the meantime, the world is falling apart around her. All around North America, children are born who appear to be genetic throwbacks to pre-Homo sapiens: different brain structures, impaired speech and social abilities, different physiology, you name it. The reasons are unclear, and lots of theories ranging from plausible to completely wack-a-doodle are offered throughout the book. Cedar is fully aware of what could happen with her baby, but also fully invested in her pregnancy. Her adoptive white parents and her Native biological family have very different responses to her state, and then of course there’s the part where the world is going mad. Pseudo-religious ad-hoc governments are rounding up pregnant women, racial tensions are rising to the surface, and oh yeah, there might be a pteranodon in the backyard? Cedar ends up on the run and on a journey that is as horrifying as it is gripping.
I’m a huge fan of Erdrich’s work, and am so excited to see her playing in the speculative fiction sandbox. If you love near-future stories, particularly ones that focus on changes to the environment and how that affects humanity, get this one post-haste. If you’re looking for a super-scientifically plausible story, give this one a pass; same for if you’re trying to get or are currently pregnant, unless you have a very strong stomach and are resistant to disaster scenarios.
Jade City by Fonda Lee
I have been telling everyone that Jade City is an Asian The Godfather plus magic, and I stand by it. Centered around an escalating feud between two gang families in the island nation of Kekon, it’s the first installment in a trilogy that is off to a page-turning, action-packed start.
Kekon is the only source of “bioreactive” jade, a stone that grants the right wearer supernatural abilities. Only some people can harness the powers of jade, and the Green Bone warriors that do are feared, respected, and unofficially run the country. The grown Kaul siblings are each doing their best to make a life — Hilo and Lan as the newest leaders of the family and operation, and Shae as a person an entirely separate from her family’s activities. But when the other major clan starts pushing into the Kaul’s territory, Lan’s negotiating skill and level head might not be enough to keep the peace. In the meantime, other nations around the world are developing drugs to help them create their own jade-sensitive warriors. Can peace be maintained, and at what cost? It’s not just the fate of the clans that rides on the outcome — it’s the fate of the jade trade and the country itself.
Lee has created a rich second world that feels familiar enough to be comprehensible, but different enough to house its magical system — she wrote about the process here. The family interactions are complex and emotionally resonant; the fights are well-paced and gorily entertaining; in short, Jade City delivers on its promises. And the ending! Just enough resolution to keep me from throwing the book across the room, just enough questions unanswered to have me eagerly awaiting the next installment.
And that’s a wrap! You can find all of the books recommended in this newsletter on a handy Goodreads shelf. If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda.
Your fellow booknerd,