Alex Brown Reviews How to Succeed in Witchcraft by Aislinn Brophy

How to Succeed in Witchcraft, Aislinn Brophy (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 978-0-59335-452-0, $18.99, 416pp, hc) September 2022.

Shayna is a junior at the prestigious T.K. Anderson Magical Magnet School in Aislinn Brophy’s debut novel, How to Succeed in Witchcraft. For years she’s been neck and neck with Ana Álvarez, her academic nemesis, but this time she’s determined to come out on top. The Brockton Scholarship is her ticket to

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Alex Brown Reviews The Bruising of Qilwa by Naseem Jamnia

The Bruising of Qilwa, Naseem Jamnia (Tachyon 978-1-61696-378-1, $15.95. 192pp, pb) August 2022.

With Naseem Jamnia’s debut novella, The Bruising of Qilwa, we get blood magic, dark secrets, political upheaval, body dysmorphia, and imperial oppression as much as we get queer love, true friendship, and self-acceptance.

Firuz-e Jafari, introduced as they-Firuz, works blood magic in their homeland of Dilmun. When a plague sweeps through the land, they and ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro

Ordinary Monsters, J.M. Miro (Flatiron 978-1-25083-366-2, $28.99. 660pp, hc) June 2022.

In a freight train boxcar, a runaway servant dis­covers a glowing baby in the arms of his dead wetnurse. In a dusty theater in Meiji-era Japan, a girl tries to save her monstrous little sister. In a fetid jail cell in Mississippi, a Black teen is tortured by racist townsfolk. In a dank alleyway in Vienna, a boy ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews The Loophole by Naz Kutub

The Loophole, Naz Kutub (Bloomsbury 978-1-54760-917-8, $24.99, 336pp, hc) June 2022.

Debut author Naz Kutub’s The Loophole may be light on fantasy, but is nevertheless well worth the time for fans of young-adult fantasy fiction. Split between a present-day gay teenager on a quest to find his missing ex, scenes of said teen lovers during their high school romance, and an ancient story about two lovers separated by magic ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews The Fae Keeper by H.E. Edgmon

The Fae Keeper, H.E. Edgmon (Inkyard 978-1-33542-591-1, $18.99. 432pp, hc) June 2022.

H.E. Edgmon’s The Fae Keeper, the se­quel to last year’s excellent young-adult fantasy The Witch King, is more vi­cious than its predecessor, taking the premise of oppressed witches fighting back against their fae oppressors and cranking it up to eleven.

This second book opens a couple weeks after the events of the first. Wyatt and ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan

An Arrow to the Moon, Emily X.R. Pan (Little, Brown 978-0-31646-405-5, $18.99, 400pp, hc) April 2022.

Emily X.R. Pan’s debut, The Astonishing Color of After, was a heart-wrenching young-adult novel about a teenager realizing her parents are as flawed and emotional as she is. Her sophomore novel, An Arrow to the Moon, treads similar territory but with the added inspirations of Romeo & Juliet and the Chinese ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews In the Serpent’s Wake by Rachel Hartman

In the Serpent’s Wake, Rachel Hartman (Ran­dom House 978-1-10193-132-5, $18.99, 512pp, hc) February 2022.

I didn’t plan to fall in love with Rachel Hart­man’s Tess of the Road. I went in expecting a light fantasy quest with dragons and ended up with a powerful coming-of-age story about trauma and finding your place in the world. Four years later, we are finally gifted with the sequel, In the Serpent’s ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews This Wicked Fate by Kalynn Bayron

This Wicked Fate, Kalynn Bayron (Bloomsbury YA 978-1-54760-920-8, $18.99, 320pp, hc) August 2022.

Kalynn Bayron concludes her riveting This Poison Heart duology with This Wicked Fate. Briseis Greene begins the novel still reeling from the revelation that her family is descended from Greek gods. She is desperate to save her mother from her untimely death. With her family and friends at her back (and with her god-given gifts ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews The Lost Dreamer by Lizz Huerta

The Lost Dreamer, Lizz Huerta (Farrar, Straus, Giroux 978-1-25075-485-1, $18.99, 384pp, hc) March 2022.

Short fiction writer Lizz Huerta makes her young-adult novel debut with the sumptuous The Lost Dreamer. The first book in a planned duology, it tells the story of two young women in a fantasy world inspired by ancient Mesoamerica.

In the city of Alcanzeh live the Dreamers, women who can enter the Dream realm ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse

Fevered Star, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga 978-1-53443-773-9, $27.99, 400pp, hc) April 2022.

Fevered Star picks up almost immediately after the end of Black Sun, the first book in Rebecca Roanhorse’s Between the Earth and Sky series. The city of Tova is in turmoil, the sun is locked in a perpetual eclipse, and the clans across the Meridian are hastily forming alliances in preparation for all-out war. Old scores are ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe, ed.

The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer, Janelle Monáe, ed. (Harp­erVoyager 978-0-06307-087-5, $28.99, 336pp, hc) April 2022.

Celebrity writing projects can be an iffy prospect. Writing is a particular craft, one that doesn’t necessarily translate from act­ing or songwriting, and the results can sometimes feel less like an act of creativity and more like a vanity project. That is absolutely not the case with Janelle Monáe’s The ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews Fire Becomes Her by Rosiee Thor

Fire Becomes Her, Rosiee Thor (Scholastic 978-1-33867-911-3, $18.99, 368pp, hc) Febru­ary 2022.

In Rosiee Thor’s Fire Becomes Her, Candesce, a nation similar to the United States in the 1920s, is on the cusp of an historic presidential election. Gwendolyn Brooks, a former entertainer, is chal­lenging Senator Holt, an excessively wealthy man everyone believes is a shoe-in. When she was a child, Ingrid Ellis’s father was thrown in jail ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews Trouble the Waters by Sheree Renée Thomas, Pan Morigan, & Troy L. Wiggins, eds.

Trouble the Waters, Sheree Renée Thomas, Pan Morigan & Troy L. Wiggins, eds. (Rosarium 978-0-99870-596-5, $19.95, 300pp, tp) November 2020. (Third Man Books 978-1-73484-227-2, $17.95, 404pp, tp) January 2022.

In Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue, editors Sheree Renée Thomas, Pan Morigan & Troy L. Wiggins pull together 33 stories and poems from a staggering array of creative voices. Longtime read­ers of short speculative fiction will ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews Reclaim the Stars by Zoraida Córdova, ed.

Reclaim the Stars, Zoraida Córdova, ed. (Wednesday Books 978-1-250-79063-7, $19.99, 432pp, hc) February 2022.

Anthologies are as risky for readers as they are exciting. On one hand, the reader gets to not only indulge in authors whose work they already like but also gets to explore voices they’ve never heard before. On the other hand, the quality of the stories can fluctuate, and there is often at least one ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews The Kindred by Alechia Dow

The Kindred, Alechia Dow (Inkyard Press 978-1-33541-861-6, $18.99, 400pp, hc) January 2022.

I’ve been on a bit of a science fiction kick lately. Lots of spaceships, aliens, climate crises, and dystopian futures in my to-read queue. So far, my favorite book of the bunch is Alechia Dow’s The Kindred. This young-adult novel is set in the same world as her debut The Sound of Stars, about a ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger

A Snake Falls to Earth, Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido 978-1-64614-092-3, $18.99, 384pp, hc) November 2021. Cover by Mia Ohki.

I’ve seen Darcie Little Badger’s A Snake Falls to Earth described as young-adult fantasy and young-adult science fiction, but it’s re­ally young-adult Indigenous futurism. The term was coined by Grace L. Dillon, an Anishinaabe professor and author. In her book Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction ...Read More

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The Year in Review 2021 by Alex Brown

For me, 2021 was a year of increasing challenges. Just when it seemed like things might be looking up, something awful would jump out of the shadows and bring it all back down again. Fiction, especially of the romance and speculative genres, helped me keep my head above water even during the worst of it.

Let’s start off with my favorite adult spec fic books. C.L. Polk closed out their ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen

Skin of the Sea, Natasha Bowen (Random House 978-0-59312-094-1, $18.99, 336pp, hc) November 2021. Cover by Jeff Manning.

Blending “The Little Mermaid”, West African culture and spiritual traditions, and real history from the 15th century, Skin of the Sea by debut novelist Natasha Bowen is a striking young adult historical fantasy. The only downside to reading this book now is that you’ll have to wait until next year for ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews Journey to the Heart of the Abyss by London Shah

Journey to the Heart of the Abyss, London Shah (Little, Brown 978-0-75955-507-5, $18.99, 384pp, hc) November 2021.

Journey to the Heart of the Abyss, the second book in London Shah’s Light the Abyss duology, begins 80 years in the future, when the world is covered in water. In the mid-21st century, an asteroid slammed into the planet, turning the surface into a toxic morass of violent storms, ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko

Redemptor, Jordan Ifueko (Abrams 978-1-419-73984-2, 336pp, $18.99, hc) August 2021.

At 11 years old, she was Tarisai of Swana, a lonely girl who was desperate to be loved. Now at 17, she is Tarisai Idajo, Empress Redemptor, the ruler who was never supposed to exist. Tarisai was raised in a secret estate, cut off from the world by her enigmatic and largely absent mother, a woman known only as ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson

White Smoke, Tiffany D. Jackson (Katherine Tegen Books 978-0063029095, $18.99, 384pp, hc) September 2021.

After her public collapse and a stint in rehab, Marigold, a Black high school track star, is finally getting a second chance. When her artist mom gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a residency that comes with a free house, Mari, her mother, brother, step-father, and step-sister move from coastal California to a rundown Midwestern town. ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews Bacchanal by Veronica G. Henry

Bacchanal, Veronica G. Henry (47North 978-1542027816, $24.95, 352pp, hc) June 2021.

In her debut historical fantasy novel Bacchanal, Veronica G. Henry takes readers on a tour of the Depression-era American south and southwest. In Louisiana, lonely Eliza Meeks encounters the mostly all-Black carnival as it comes to her town. With no prospects, no family, and no money, joining the carnival may be her only chance at independence. Clay, ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews Short Fiction: Anathema, Baffling, Clarkesworld, Dark Matter, Fireside, Fiyah Spring, Strange Horizons, and

Anathema 5/21 Baffling 7/21 Clarkesworld 4/21 Dark Matter 1-2/21 Fireside 7/21 Fiyah Spring ’21 Strange Horizons 7/19/21 3/3/21

One of the best parts about being a reviewer is that I get to read a lot of short speculative fiction every month from a lot of different publications. Happily for me and other lovers of short SFF/H, Locus is letting me put all that reading to even more good use ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

This Poison Heart, Kalynn Bayron (Bloomsbury 978-1547603909, 384pp, $18.99, hc) June 2021.

Briseis Greene has a thing for plants. Liter­ally. Ever since she was little, Bri has had the inexplicable ability to make plants grow. Plants react to her emotions and often bend toward her as if she were a walking, talking ray of sunshine. Her adoptive mothers, Thandie and Angie, don’t quite know what to do with her. ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur

Folklorn, Angela Mi Young Hur (Erewhon 978-1645660163, $26.95, 416pp, hc) April 2021.

It’s rare that I finish a book and find myself at a loss as to how to review it, but here we are with Angela Mi Young Hur’s sophomore novel Folk­lorn. Ostensibly, it is a novel about the daughter of immigrants trying to solve the mystery of what happened to her sister, but it is so ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon

The Witch King, H.E. Edgmon (Inkyard 978-1-335-21279-5, $18/99, 432pp, hc) June 2021.

Wyatt Croft is angry. Born a witch in the king­dom of Asalin, a magical realm hidden inside our own, Wyatt was raised at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Witches are the “corrupted” and “abnormal” children of the fae. Where the fae can do big, powerful nature magic, witchcraft must be taught and controlled. His whole life ...Read More

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Liz Bourke and Alex Brown Review She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

She Who Became the Sun, Shelley Parker-Chan (Tor 978-1-250-62180-1, $27.99, 416pp, hc) July 2021. Cover by JungShan.

She Who Became the Sun is Shelley Parker-Chan’s debut novel, and it is an astounding first effort. It sets itself in China in the middle of the 14th century, in the failing years of the Yuan dynasty (the empire of the successors to the khan­ate inherited by Möngke Khan, Genghis Khan’s grandson). ...Read More

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Alex Brown and Colleen Mondor Review Written in Starlight by Isabel Ibañez

Written in Starlight, Isabel Ibañez (Page Street 978-1645671329, $18.99, 368pp, hc) January 2021.

Written in Starlight begins not long after the chaotic events of Woven in Moonlight, the first book in Isabel Ibañez’s young-adult fantasy duology. Ximena, the fake condesa, and Princess Tamaya remain in the capital as Catalina, the actual condesa, is banished to the jungle where she is expected to die. All Catalina has ever ...Read More

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2020 by Alex Brown

2020 has been a hellish year for so many reasons, but one of the few bright spots has been the mass of absolutely incredible fiction that managed to get published. Usually I’m able to read a good chunk of new books, particularly young-adult speculative fiction, but what with – waves hands dramatically – everything, my reading this year took a sharp left into romance fiction. It’s become my main reading ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga 978-1-534-43767-8, $27.99, 464pp, hc) October 2020. Cover by John Picacio.

“Today he would become a god. His mother had told him so.” Rebecca Roanhorse kicks off her latest novel, Black Sun, with an opening line that hits hard, then rolls into one of the best first chapters I’ve read in a very long time. After I finished it, I had to set the ...Read More

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ALEX BROWN is a queer Black librarian and writer. They have written two books on the history of Napa County, California’s marginalized communities. They write about adult and young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror as well as BIPOC history and librarianship. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and access set the foundation of all their work. Alex lives in Southern California with their pet rats and ever-increasing piles of books. ...Read More

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