2022 Recommended SFF List



(I'm going to attempt to keep up with my magazine subscriptions this year, as otherwise they pile up in their folder until December comes and I'm panicking trying to read all of them. That's no way to appreciate a good story.)


Babel, or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution, R.F. Kuang (5 of 5 stars, full review here). (This is the best book I have read so far this year. It's an alternate history and an unflinching look at colonialism, British/European exploitation of other countries, racism and sexism. The author is well known for her grim, brutal stories, and this carries on that tradition; but if you can handle it, it's fantastic.)

Locklands, Robert Jackson Bennett (5 of 5 stars, full review here). (This is an epic thrill ride that wraps up one of the best series I've read in recent years. There are universe-level stakes and incredible battles, but the characters are not neglected; the fate of the two protagonists made the room get very dusty at the book's climax.)

Nettle & Bone, T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon) (5 of 5 stars, full review here). (I am a great fan of this author, and this is one of her best. She takes the fairy tale and some of the tropes found therein and turns them inside out, with flawed, realistic, relatable characters who fight and stumble and muddle through and get things done. This book also boasts a bone dog and a demon-possessed chicken.)

Eyes of the Void, Adrian Tchaikovsky (5 of 5 stars, full review here). (This second book in the Final Architecture series answers some questions and spawns others, and ups the stakes, as the middle book in a trilogy should do. What it doesn't do is drag, as so many middle volumes also do, and the Story So Far prologue before the narrative starts brings us quickly up to date. Thank you to whoever provided that.)

To Each This World, Julie E. Czerneda (5 of 5 stars, full review here). (I actually read this book in January 2023, but as it was published last year I'm including it here. I've been a fan of the author for a long time, but I think this tale of humans rescue people from other colony worlds in the face of a mysterious threat, and dealing with a capricious alien species to do so, is one of her best.)

A Strange and Stubborn Endurance, Foz Meadows (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (You would have to enjoy court intrigue and a slow burn romance to like this book, but I thought it was delightful.)

Braking Day, Adam Oyebanji (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (This is a fine debut novel that takes the trope of the generation ship and puts a unique spin on it. It’s fast-paced but has a lot of interesting layers, from the culture of the ships to the clash between the different ships’ societies, that makes for a fascinating stew.)

The Mountain in the Sea, Ray Nayler (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (This is a fascinating story of first contact, alien intelligence, the definitions of consciousness, culture and language--and octopuses.)

A Half-Built Garden, Ruthanna Emrys (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (This is a deep, thoughtful first contact story that's very different. If you like your SF full of meaty philosophical discussions and efforts to share and understand, look no further than this book.)

Mickey 7, Edward Ashton (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (I called this Andy Weir-lite, but I also think it could be known as "Andy Weir done better." This book has a hard science edge but avoids Weir's downfall of stalling the story in the scientific minutiae. It's a lean, fast-paced machine that nevertheless deals with issues of survival and identity.)

The Kaiju Preservation Society, John Scalzi (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (This book is classic Scalzi: fast, breezy, snarky and fun. What sets this one apart for me is the interesting world and ecology of the kaiju.)

Last Exit, Max Gladstone (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (This book's ending didn't quite stick the landing for me, but the journey getting there was so good I'm tempted to overlook it. It's a science fantasy/horror mashup about the multiverse, alternate worlds, and Lovecraftian-style horrors, with six deep character studies and a stark examination of loss, pain, guilt and determination to right a long-ago wrong, whatever the cost.)

Sweep of Stars, Maurice Broaddus (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (This is a solar-system-spanning space opera centered on African culture, mythology and experience that challenges the boundaries of the genre.)

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, Silvia Moreno Garcia (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (This is an updating of H.G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau set in Mexico, and adding the titular daughter to the proceedings. It's very Gothic and atmospheric, with lush prose and deliberate pacing that builds to a satisfying ending.)

The World We Make, N.K. Jemisin (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (This isn't as good as the first book in the series--it's too compressed and feels a bit rushed at the end--but even a lesser Jemisin is better than most.)

Short Story 

"Lily, the Immortal," Kylie Lee Baker, Uncanny Magazine January/February 2022. (This is the quiet, thoughtful story of the forgotten girlfriend of a YouTube makeup vlogging queen whose channel and image is bought up by a corporation that resurrects her. This is a meditation on death and immortality, and the protagonist's powerful reason to reject the latter.)

"The Cure for Loneliness," M. Shaw, Apex Magazine January-February 2022. (This story is equal parts humor and horror, very much set in our time of pandemic and isolation. The author weaves the very real-world idea of a fungus that takes over ant brains, plants that are taking over the protagonist's apartment, an evolving philodendron that got its start after being stuck in a jar of pickle juice instead of water, and at the very end, the "bright people," angels or aliens that use the protagonist's mutated plants to break into our world. The story swings towards horror at the end, similar to the fungus-zombie movie The Girl With All the Gifts.

"No One at the Wild Dock," Gu Shi, translated by S. Qiouyi Li, Clarkesworld Magazine January 2022. (This is an entertaining treatise on AI learning with a stinger of horror at the end. No, not like Skynet deciding to kill humanity off--humanity does that all on their own, the collateral damage of building a self-aware AI. The final line is chilling.)

"The Book of the Blacksmiths," Martin Cahill, Fireside Magazine February 2022. (This is the story of a short-lived clone army working in a Dyson sphere to reignite a star, and the protagonist, One Thousand and Sixteen, attempting to put together the story of his people and why they're doing this. For some reason there's no link to the story on the website.) (Edit: Link up now.)

"The Last Passenger," Melissa Mead, Daily Science Fiction 2/25/22. (This is a lovely story of Charon's sentient skiff, made all the more poignant by the author's recent passing.)

"You Can Have the Ground, My Love," Carlie St. George, and "The Invisible Man: The Fire This Time," Maurice Broaddus, both from the anthology Classic Monsters Unleashed, edited by James Aquilone. (This Kickstarted anthology is a gorgeous book, but unfortunately most of the stories are average. These two, the former a feminist take on the Bride of Frankenstein and the latter giving the Invisible Man trope a racial twist, are the best.)

"The Apples," Mari Ness, Daily Science Fiction 4/4/22. (This flash story of what happens after the queen in Sleeping Beauty dies carries a creepy, stark reminder that sometimes evil doesn't die with the people who started it.)

"Gentle Dragon Fires," T.K. Rex and Lezlie Kinyon, Strange Horizons January 2022. (This has surprising layers to it, themes of identity, environmentalism and cultural erasure, wrapped into an absorbing story.)

"To Live and Die in Dixieland," Russell Nichols, Apex Magazine March-April 2022. (This is a raw, primal scream of a story, about a VR simulation where slavery is reversed and black people are the masters, built to let white people "experience the unspeakable horrors of America's racist history." It's powerful, unsettling and deeply uncomfortable, as it was intended to be.)

"The First Promise We Break," Risa Wolf, Apex Magazine March-April 2022. (This is a fresh take on the story of Beauty and the Beast, mixed with Greek gods.)

"Intimacies," Filip Hadjar Drnovsek Zorko, Strange Horizons February 2022. (This is a quiet, thoughtful story about a seahorse/merman and their take on childbearing, sex and gender, contrasted with the human one.)

"The Dragon Project," Naomi Kritzer, Clarkesworld Magazine March 2022. (This whimsical story of a bioengineer who designs 3D-printed dragons and the consequences thereof is utterly delightful.)

"Rain of Days," Ray Nayler, Clarkesworld Magazine March 2022. (This author hasn't been publishing very long, but his command of his craft is like a seasoned pro. This is a quiet, deep, layered story about death and loss and memories.)

"An Urge To Create Honey," Martin Cahill, Clarkesworld Magazine April 2022. (This is the second story by this author on my list, and I think it's the stronger of the two. [If he ever publishes a book, I'm going to be all over it.] It's the tale of a hivemind of space bees and the human they rescued and transformed.)

"A Monster in the Shape of a Boy," Hannah Yang, Apex Magazine May-June 2022. (This story is very short--not quite 1700 words--but it packs a helluva punch. One of the beauties of it is its ambiguous ending. I think it asks the question, "Just who is the monster here?" but another reader could take away an equally valid question. Go read it and see what question you come up with.)

"The Fruit of the Princess Tree," Sage Tyrtle, Apex Magazine May-June 2022. (This is a fairy tale gone very wrong, with princesses growing in cages on the princess tree, and the princes who come pick them--or not, and they die at the end of the season. Until one princess decides to change all that.)

"Company Town," Aimee Ogden, Clarkesworld Magazine June 2022. (This is a horrific and original combination of sword-and-sorcery, a hero's journey, and a future South American River company town.)

"Marsbodies," Adele Gardner, Clarkesworld Magazine June 2022. (Ordinarily, you'd think manned missions to Mars have been done to death--until you read something like this.)

"In Pictures of Gunmetal Gray," Wendy Nikel, Daily Science Fiction 7/21/22. (This is a haunting story of a court reporter and what they are actually sketching in the courtroom.)

"Schlafstunde," Lavie Tadhar, Apex Magazine July-August 2022. (This is a Jewish cyberpunk story, about battle dolls and hive minds and not escaping one's fate.)

"Susurrus and Sapling," Jamie Lackey, Daily Science Fiction 9/22/22. (This is a sad, lovely story about a dying sapient tree, which as the author's note explains, came out of their grandmother's Alzheimer's diagnosis.)

"Ten Steps for Effective Mold Removal," Derrick Boden, Apex Magazine September-October 2022. (This is a creeping horror of an invasive mold story told through internet product reviews.)

"Coming Through In Waves," Samantha Murray, Strange Horizons April 2022. (This is a lovely, beautifully written story of a daughter with a mother slowly succumbing to dementia, and how that ties in with aliens aboard the International Space Station.)

"The Slow Deaths of Automobiles," Fiona Moore, Clarkesworld Magazine September 2022. (This is ostensibly about a trying to rebuild an aging sentient car with enough compatible modern parts to keep her going, but it's also about growing up, finding one's own way, and recognizing when relationships formed when one is younger have come to their natural end.)

"Border Run," Octavia Cade, Clarkesworld Magazine September 2022. (This post-climate-change story about the inhabitants of New Zealand--here the native name, Aotearoa, is used--and some evidently genetically engineered mermaids trying to protect the world's last marine reserve, and the journalist embedded aboard one of their ships, is quietly harrowing but also hopeful.)

"Rondo for Strings and Lasergun," Jared Oliver Adams, Clarkesworld Magazine October 2022. (I'm amazed that this story is only 1200 words. This tale of a cello prodigy and how her music ends up defeating an alien invasion does not have one word wasted, and has a depth of worldbuilding and characterization that's sometimes lacking in stories a lot longer than this.)

"Calf Cleaving in the Benthic Black," Isabel J. Kim, Clarkesworld Magazine November 2022. (I could be flippant and call this story a "whalefall in space," but it's so much more than that. It's about recognizing the humanity of another person and trying to help them, even when the system is stacked against them.)

"At the Lighthouse Out By the Othersea," Juliet Kemp, Uncanny Magazine July/August 2022. (This is a quiet, beautiful story about exploring a wormhole where otherspace is visible, and managing your expectations of what other people want from you as well as yourself.)

"Folk Hero Motifs in Tales Told By the Dead," KT Bryski, Strange Horizons October 2022. (This title is absolutely accurate as to what this story is, but it doesn't express the underlying emotions: the need for stories, the stagnation expressed by the protagonist, the universal truths found within lies. It's all wrapped up in some lovely, lyrical prose.)

"Born From the Drowning Forest," James Rowland, Strange Horizons October 2022. (This is a gentle tale of climate change--which sounds like an oxymoron, but it's true--and meeting someone from an alternate world who could have been your daughter, had things gone just a little differently.)


"The Dominion of Leviathan," Manish Melwani, Tor.com 4/13/22. (Building off the Greek legend of Prometheus, this far-future tale tells of a humble Ceres librarian's fight against a god-tyrant.)

"My Future Self, Refused," Adam-Troy Castro, Lightspeed Magazine August 2022. (A heartbreaking, gorgeous, ultimately hopeful story based on real events in the author's life.)

"Carapace," David Goodman, Clarkesworld Magazine July 2022.  (I can see where this was probably inspired by Martha Wells' Murderbot, but it's still its own thing. It's the story of an awakened artificial intelligence in the middle of a war, and a human giving it a choice.)

"The Strange Girl," Xiu Xinyu, translated by Emily Jin, Clarkesworld Magazine July 2022. (This is SF, but its central premise borders on horror. The slow creeping reveal of what is really going on here is masterfully handled.)

"The Lonely Time Traveler of Kentish Town," Nadia Afifi, Clarkesworld Magazine November 2022. (This unique take on time travel also deals with family histories and secrets, and how the echo of those secrets down the years affect us.)


Where the Drowned Girls Go, Seanan McGuire (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (This is volume #7 of the Wayward Children series, but it can be read and understood even if you haven't read any of the previous volumes. These stories of children who don't fit in and find Doors leading to alternate worlds are a combination of updated fairy tales with teeth and commentary on the unrealistic expectations society and/or parents place on many children, especially girls.)

Servant Mage, Kate Elliott (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (This novella packs a large amount of worldbuilding in only 164 pages, and has an interesting exploration of power, privilege and revolution.) 

"Bishop's Opening," R.S.A. Garcia, Clarkesworld Magazine January 2022. (This is an adventure story of a polyamorous family of deep-space haulers pitted against a society rather like the Mob or Yakuza in space, save that they name themselves after chess pieces and play the so-called Great Game.)

"Kora Is Life," David D. Levine, Clarkesworld Magazine May 2022. (This is the story of an alien motorized hang-gliding race, and the first human to participate in it. It has nail-biting action scenes and a fascinating exploration of the alien culture.)

A Mirror Mended, Alix E. Harrow (5 of 5 stars, full review here). (This second volume of the Fractured Fables series takes a swerve from Sleeping Beauty into the rather darker fairy tale of Snow White, and Zinnia has to face her life and the effects of her universe-hopping. This is as beautifully written as the first, but is more melancholy and bittersweet.)

"Live Update," Lettie Prell, Clarkesworld Magazine September 2022. (Virtual reality and uploading human consciousness is becoming something of a cliche, so it takes an outstanding story with these themes for me to recommend it. This is one such story.)

Even Though I Knew the End, C.L. Polk (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (This Christian-themed urban fantasy with angels and demons, and a private investigator trying to reclaim her soul, has some lovely worldbuilding and characterization.)

Dramatic Presentation Short

The Expanse, Amazon Prime, Season 6 Ep 5, "Why We Fight." (This show is ending, dammit, but this penultimate episode slowed down and concentrated on the characters and their motivations--not only for this final season, but the show as a whole. Cara Gee, as Camina Drummer, and Shohreh Agdashloo, as Chrisjen Avasarala, are outstanding.)

The Expanse, Amazon Prime, Season 6 Ep 6, "Babylon's Ashes." (And now it's over, but it went out with a bang, with a hair-raising action, a magnificent comeuppance for the villain, and a lovely final scene with Holden and Naomi that summed up the entire series.)

The Book of Boba Fett, Disney Plus, Season 1 Episode 5, "Return of the Mandalorian." (Unfortunately, this stealth episode of The Mandalorian overshadowed Boba in his own show. If I was Temuera Morrison I would complain. Bryce Dallas Howard also did a bang-up job directing.)

Star Trek: Prodigy, Paramount Plus, Season 1 Episodes 9 & 10, "A Moral Star" Parts 1 and 2. (This animated show is fun for the kids and also has solid character development and action scenes for the adults.)

Moon Knight, Disney Plus, Season 1, episodes 1 and 2, "The Goldfish Problem" and "Summon the Suit." (Now that the series is finished, it would be worth a Dramatic Presentation Long nomination in its entirety, were it not for its unfortunate succumbing to the usual Marvel CGI pow-pow syndrome in its finale. Although one of the best scenes in the entire series, Marc Spector refusing the peace and quiet of the Egyptian afterlife and going back for Steven, also occurred in the finale. Also, May Calamawy kicked all sorts of ass, and pulled off a golden-winged Egyptian superhero better than Wonder Woman herself [certainly better than Wonder Woman 1984]. So for individual episodes, episode 4, "The Tomb," and episode 5, "Asylum," are outstanding. Especially the latter, where Oscar Isaac turns in a tour de force performance.)

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Paramount Plus, Season 1 Ep 1, "Strange New Worlds."; Ep 2, "Children of the Comet"; Ep 4, "Memento Mori"; Ep 5, "Spock Amok."; and Ep 10, "A Quality of Mercy."  (Season 1 has been very good, with a slight dip in quality in the second half. That said, if I had to pick one, I would go with "Memento Mori," a nail-biter of an encounter with the Gorn.)

Stranger Things, Netflix, Season 4 Episode 4, "Dear Billy." (I'm working my way through the fourth season of Stranger Things; it's taking a bit longer as the episodes are more than an hour each. That said, the reported $30 million per episode was well spent on this one. It kept me on the edge of my seat, and the rest of the season is going to have to be hella good to top it.) (Well, the finale, "The Piggyback," was good--Eddie playing Metallica's "Master of Puppets" in the Upside Down to lure out the demobats is one of the most genuinely batshit crazy and affecting scenes I've seen in a long time--but I still think "Dear Billy" has the edge.)

What We Do In the Shadows, FX/Hulu, Season 4 Ep 3, "The Grand Opening." ; ep 7, "Pine Barrens," and ep 8, "Go Flip Yourself." (Season 4 of this show has shaken things up quite a bit, what with Original Colin Robinson dying and Baby Colin Robinson emerging from his corpse, to be adopted by Laszlo; Nandor stumbling across a Djinn and wishing to bring back all 37 of his previously deceased spouses so he can marry again; and Nadja opening a vampire club. Episode 4 combines all of those storylines to hilarious effect. Ep 7 has Laszlo and Nandor going on a boys' hunting trip, meeting the Jersey Devil, and subduing it with a Bon Jovi song [presumably Bruce Springsteen would have been too embarrassed], while ep 8 presents an episode of the fake home makeover show Laszlo has been watching all season, the titular "Go Flip Yourself," as it redoes the vampires' mansion.)

For All Mankind, Apple Plus, Season 3 Episode 5, "Seven Minutes of Terror." (I'm a bit late jumping on this bandwagon, but a free trial subscription to Apple Plus has caught me up. So far, I think the best episode has been the Season 2 finale, "The Grey," but this episode showing the NASA/Helios missions reaching Mars is right up there.)

Star Trek: Lower Decks, Paramount Plus, Season 3 Ep 5, "Reflections,"  and Ep 6, "Hear All, Trust Nothing." (After a few lackluster episodes to open the season, "Reflections" returns to the season to form. We find out quite a bit about Rutherford, Boimler and Mariner work the "Starfleet recruiting booth," Boimler blows his stack while Mariner hangs on to hers, and at the end, Mariner sees a possible alternative to Starfleet. Everything hangs together in this one and advances the characters, and it's good to see. "Hear All, Trust Nothing" takes the Cerritos to Deep Space Nine, where we catch up with Kira and Quark.) 

House of the Dragon, HBO Max, Season 1, Ep 7, "Driftmark," and ep 9, "The Green Council." (I'm liking House of the Dragon better than Amazon's Rings of Power, and the supremely dysfunctional and fascinating Targaryen family is a big reason why. [Also, Dragon has better, well, dragons, as "Driftmark's" extended flight aboard the gigantic Vhagar shows off very well.] "Driftmark" throws down an extended scene that is purely the majority of the cast confronting one another, and one character we think is killed is shown to be alive at the end. In "The Green Council," on the other hand, the King finally dies, and House Targaryen promptly goes to hell. We spend an hour with fascinating political maneuvering, with Queen Alicent trying to thread the needle of getting her son crowned King and her childhood friend's life spared, all the while being forced to come to terms with what she has done in service of every man around her while denying herself. It's a bravura performance by Olivia Cooke. And the final draconic scene is amazing.)

Star Wars: Andor, Disney Plus, Season 1 Ep 5, "The Axe Forgets."  Ep 9, "Nobody's Listening." Ep 10, "One Way Out,"  and Ep 12, "Rix Road." (Now that the season has concluded, I can unequivocally say that this is the best live-action Star Wars series Disney has produced--yes, even better than The Mandalorian. I think that has to do with its gritty, lived-in take on the Star Wars universe, and also with the fact that so far there's nary a Jedi or a Skywalker to be found. In "The Axe Forgets," we slow down and really dig into the characters. "Nobody's Listening" and "No Way Out" feature an increasingly bleak situation and excellent performances from Diego Luna and Andy Serkis. "Rix Road" ends with Cassian presenting himself to Luthen Rael to join the Rebellion, and also features a bang-up speech by Fiona Shaw's Maarva Andor. The writing on this show is excellent. I think Episode 10, "One Way Out," gets the edge as the best episode of the season, not only because of Andy Serkis but because the two best soliloquies of the series are contained therein.)

Dramatic Presentation Long

Everything Everywhere All At Once, directed by Dan Kwan/Daniel Scheinert. (This is the story of a Chinese woman, Evelyn Wang, played by Michelle Yeoh, who journeys across the multiverse after she discovers she is the one who is destined to stop a "black hole bagel" constructed by an alternate villainous version of her daughter Joy. The premise is gonzo, but the execution is brilliant, because the story is firmly grounded in Evelyn's relationships with her father, husband and daughter. This movie explores themes of reflection and regret, and the roads not taken. Michelle Yeoh is great, and the fanny pack fight scene had my fanny-pack-wearing heart stand up and cheer.)

Prey, directed by Dan Trachtenburg, Hulu. (This updates and expands on the Predator franchise by doing a prequel three hundred years ago, set in the Comanche nation with a young girl, Naru, battling the first Predator to arrive on Earth. The film is gorgeous; I wish it could have had a theatrical release. The best part was Naru listening, observing, and out-thinking the Predator, using its own tech to defeat it.)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, directed by Ryan Coogler. (This movie, and Marvel, was in an impossible situation following Chadwick Boseman's death. I think they did about as well with this follow-up story as could be expected, turning it into a meditation on grief, rage and loss. One thing Ryan Coogler does exceptionally well is craft villains. Namor is just as good in this film as the original's Erik Killmonger, with some real issues and points to make. I don't know if he's a "villain" so much as an antagonist and antihero, with a background of trying to save his Aztec/Mesoamerican people from colonization. Unlike Killmonger, Namor doesn't die at the end and it would be cool to get a movie exploring him and his people, but I don't think we're going to.)

Vesper, directed by Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper, Amazon Prime. (This is a beautifully shot, brooding, atmospheric tale of a post ecological collapse, when people living inside huge domed cities control the food supply and trade their genetically manipulated seeds for the blood of those outside the domes. [That didn't make a whole lot of sense--why would the Citadel dwellers even need the outsiders' blood? Don't think about that too much.] Our titular heroine is a young teenage biohacker trying to keep her paralyzed father alive, who becomes entangled with two people fleeing one of the Citadels.)

The Sandman, Season 1, Netflix. (Neil Gaiman's legendary comics run has finally been adapted, and it's terrific.  I think this should be on all the awards ballots, but if you want to talk individual episodes, episode 6, "The Sound of Her Wings," and episode 4, "A Hope in Hell," are the highlights.)

Severance, Season 1, Apple TV. (This intensely claustrophobic sci-fi mystery and meditation on identity and what constitutes a person builds to a masterful finale in Episode 9, "The We We Are," which is one of the best things I watched this year.)

Paper Girls, Season 1, Amazon Prime. (This is one of the better time travel stories I've seen, and the reasons why are its restrained special effects and its focus on the characters.)

Fan Writer

Doris V. Sutherland has been writing insightful analyses of SFF and comics for some time, and I'd love to see her work recognized more this year. 

I'm going to keep banging Stitch's drum, and the work she does spotlighting racism in fandom, until more people notice her, dammit. 

Related Work

Blood, Sweat and Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road, Kyle Buchanan (5 of 5 stars, full review here) (This is the incredible oral history of a modern action-movie masterpiece. It's a wonder the film was made at all, never mind turning out to be as good as it is.)

Nightmare Fuel: The Science of Horror Films, Nina Nesseth (4 of 5 stars, full review here) (This book delves into exactly what its title suggests, and if you don’t think “science” can comfortably co-exist with “horror film,” the author will prove you wrong. Really fascinating insights into how and why humans fear the things we do.)

Graphic Novel

Once & Future, Vol. 4: Monarchies in the U.K., Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, Tamra Bonvillain, Boom! Studios (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (This is the ongoing saga of a very bloody and nasty version of Faerie, where stories come to life and chomp your head off and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are undead monsters.) 


Nnedi Okorafor, The Nsibidi Scripts: 3rd book, Akata Woman (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (I don't know if this will count as the best YA book I read this year; it was very good, but it wasn't quite knock-my-socks-off amazing. However, I do think the series as a whole is more than the sum of its parts.)

Robert Jackson Bennett, the Founders Trilogy: 3rd book, Locklands (see review above). (I raved about the author's Divine Cities trilogy a few years back. This series is just as good if not better.)

Seanan McGuire, October Daye: 16th (!) book, Be the Serpent (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (Few series of any kind last this long, much less urban fantasy, which has pretty much had its day. But McGuire is managing to keep this series exciting and fresh, and this book shakes up the plot and world with some of her best twists yet.)

Naomi Novik, The Scholomance: The Golden Enclaves, 3rd book (review below). (This book, and the entire series, is darker than you would suspect going in. This third volume, especially, has a Le Guin-"Omelas" vibe expertly woven through it.)

Patricia Briggs, Mercy Thompson: 13th book, Soul Taken (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (This year's entry in the series is not as good as some, but this is another case where the worldbuilding and characterization over thirteen books adds up to a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.)

Rosaria Munda, The Aurelian Cycle: Furysong, 3rd book (review below). 

Jennifer Roberson, Tiger and Del: Sword-Bearer, 8th book (review here). (This series has been going since 1986 [!] and features two of the richest, most well-developed characters in fantasy.)

Lodestar (Not-A-Hugo) (for Young Adult/Middle Grade)

Furysong, Rosaria Munda (5 of 5 stars, full review here). (The final book in the Aurelian Cycle series, described by the author as "Plato's Republic with dragons," brings everything to a satisfying and emotional conclusion.)

Bloodmarked, Tracy Deonn (5 of 5 stars, full review here). (This second book of the Legendborn Cycle deepens the worldbuilding and characterization, and does an excellent job of writing a version of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table that is updated for a contemporary audience.)

Hell Followed With Us, Andrew Joseph White (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (It's best to know something about this book before going in: this is a religious apocalypse with a weaponized virus that is full of gore and body horror. If you can handle that, it has a lot to say about cults, identity, and acceptance.)

Master of Iron, Tricia Levenseller (5 of 5 stars, full review here). (The only knock against this book might be that it's the second of a duology, but the author provides a fairly fast recap of previous events. The characterization, pacing and plotting is ramped up in this book, with the characters particularly well drawn. The protagonist has severe anxiety disorder and her condition is respectfully handled.)

The Golden Enclaves, Naomi Novik (4 of 5 stars, full review here). (This is the third in the Scholomance series, which is best described as "Harry Potter's Hogwarts turned inside out and into a horror story," and unfortunately this book won't make any sense unless you've read the first two. Don't let that stop you. There are several well-planned revelations in this book that brings everything on home, and the series wraps up in a very satisfying manner.)

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