Maya C. James Reviews Walking on Cowrie Shells by Nana Nkweti

Walking on Cowrie Shells, Nana Nkweti (Gray­wolf Press 978-1-644-45054-3, $16.00, 200pp, tp) June 2021.

Nana Nkweti offers ten heart-warming and heart-wrenching stories that span genre, time, and species in her debut collection Walking on Cowrie Shells. From literary realism and romance, to speculative fiction and mystery, Nkweti tackles themes of familial and cultural expectations, all with effortless style and detail.

Nkweti’s writing style is a mixture of sobering ...Read More

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Maya C. James Reviews Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian

Half Sick of Shadows, Laura Sebastian (Ace 978-0-593-200513, $27.00, 448pp, hc) July 2021.

Elaine is surrounded by heroes, and she knows how each of them will fall: Morgana the sorcer­ess, Lancelot the knight, Gwen the queen, and Arthur the king; all powerful pieces on a chess board waiting to be toppled by their own doing. Despite her great power of Sight, there is nothing Elaine can do but gaze ...Read More

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Maya C. James Reviews The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

The Jasmine Throne, Tasha Suri (Orbit 978-0-316-53851-0, $16.99, 576 pp, tp) June 2021.

If you’ve heard The Jasmine Throne de­scribed as ‘‘morally grey lesbians setting an empire ablaze,’’ then you already understand the first reason to pick up the first book of the Burning Kingdoms trilogy. Told through sev­eral characters, The Jasmine Throne is an epic Indian-inspired fantasy centering love, thorny relationships, and an empire’s stranglehold on generations.

There ...Read More

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Maya C. James Reviews Home Is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo

Home Is Not a Country, Safia Elhillo (Make Me a World/ Random House Children’s 978-0-593-17705-1, $17.99, 224pp, hc) March 2021. Cover by Shaylin Wallace.

“What if?” is the question that guides Nima’s journey across time and borders. What if her mother had stayed in Sudan, rather than living in a country where their language is feared and hated? What if Nima was a graceful girl, who spoke Arabic gracefully ...Read More

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Maya C. James Reviews What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

What Big Teeth, Rose Szabo (Farrar, Straus, Gi­roux Books for Young Readers 978-0374314309, 400 pp, $18.99, tp) February 2021. Cover by Aurora Parlagreco.

Eleanor Zarrin’s family is a weird and violent bunch. They read fortunes in the guts of birds, go running in the woods just for the hell of it, and also don’t have any table manners, among other quirks. But, they’re the only people that Eleanor can ...Read More

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Maya C. James Reviews The Tangleroot Palace by Marjorie Liu

The Tangleroot Palace, Marjorie Liu (Tachyon 978-161696-352-1, $16.95, 256 pp, tp) June 2021. Cover by Sana Takeda.

Dangerous women and magic lurk in Marjorie Liu’s The Tangleroot Palace, a collection of short fiction that spans a variety of subgenres. In these imagined worlds, the bones of the innocent bring liberation to fledg­ling witches, crystal skulls power war machines, and the Amish lead post-apocalyptic villages through nights of terror ...Read More

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Maya C. James Reviews Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Firebreak, Nicole Kornher-Stace (Saga 978-1-9821-4274-2, $26.99, 416pp, hc) May 2021.

Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Firebreak has the kind of dead-end future that hits a little too close to home – people working numerous part-time jobs to eke out a living, sharing an overpriced, shitty apartment with numerous roommates, and barely surviving under an evil megacorporation that gives out company credits instead of a living wage. The same company, by the way, ...Read More

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Maya C. James Reviews Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Son of the Storm, Suyi Davies Okungbowa (Orbit US 9780316428941, $14.49, 480pp, tp) May 2021.

Note: Son of the Storm refers to very light-skinned Africans (i.e. “high yellow”) as “yellowskin.” It refers to people with albinism and not people of Asian descent (all characters are of African descent in this novel).

Forbidden knowledge, half-truths, and a woman with magic that is not supposed to ex­ist. Son of the Storm ...Read More

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Maya C. James Reviews Prayer for the Living by Ben Okri

Prayer for the Living, Ben Okri (Head of Zeus 978-1789544596, £14.99, 240pp, hc) October 2019. (Akashic Books 978-1-61775-863-8, 216pp, hc) February 2021.

Ben Okri’s Prayer for the Living offers a simple suggestion at the beginning: read slowly. This is sage advice – if you pick through his words too quickly, you might miss a fateful turn within a story or a sentence that will steal your soul away. Reading ...Read More

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Maya C. James Reviews The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

The Gilded Ones, Namina Forna (Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House 978-1-984-84869-7, $18.99, 432pp, hc) February 2021.

If you are in search of a feminist, epic fantasy filled with formidable girls healing from their trauma, killing monsters in the style of 300, and discovering their inner power despite the patriarchy, you may want to start with The Gilded Ones.

All 16-year-old Deka wants is acceptance from her village, even ...Read More

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Maya C. James Reviews The Unbroken by C.L. Clark

The Unbroken, C.L. Clark (Orbit 978-0316542753, $16.99, 544pp, tp) March 2021.

C.L. Clark’s debut novel The Unbroken is a military political fantasy teeming with sapphic romance, treacherous espionage, and violent-but-necessary revolution. Situated in a setting reminiscent of North Africa, Clark pens a precise and horrifying tale of the Ballad­aire Empire’s cruel domination over the Qazāl people. Readers follow Touraine’s journey from an obedient lieutenant to a revolutionary of her ...Read More

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Maya C. James Reviews Honeycomb by Joanne M. Harris

Honeycomb, Joanne M. Harris (Saga 978-1-534-43305-8, 28.00, 432pp, hc) May 2021. Cover by Charles Vess.

Like most remarkable stories, Honeycomb begins with a dream.

But in this universe of sadistic kings, wounded creatures, and wise honeybees, even a dream is more elusive than one might think. In “Nectar”, the origin story of Honeycomb, the Dream is a river that runs through the Nine Worlds, reflecting the hearts and ...Read More

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Maya C. James and Gary K. Wolfe Review Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow

Attack Surface, Cory Doctorow (Tor 978-1-250-75753-1, $26.99, 384pp, hc) October 2020.

Privacy is a luxury in Cory Doctorow’s Attack Surface, a political technothriller that follows the questionable choices of former spy, gov­ernment operative, and traitor, Masha Maximow, as she builds cyberweapons for authoritarian govern­ments, greedy cyber firms, and progressive activists alike. Taking place a few years after the events of Little Brother and Homeland, this standalone novel ...Read More

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Maya C. James and Rich Horton Review Entanglements, Edited by Sheila Williams

Entanglements: Tomorrow’s Lovers, Fami­lies, and Friends, Sheila Williams, ed. (MIT Press 978-0-26253-925-8, 240pp, $19.95, tp) September 2020.

Artificial intelligence, genome tampering (eugenics), sex bots, and other forms of technology descend upon the middle class in Entanglements, an anthology from Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s. Originally launched in 2011 by MIT Technology Review, Twelve Tomorrows is an annual anthology se­ries that explores the role of technology in near and ...Read More

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MAYA JAMES

MAYA C. JAMES is a graduate of the Lannan Fellows Program at Georgetown University, and full-time student at Harvard Divinity School. Her work has appeared in Star*Line, Strange Horizons, FIYAH, Soar: For Harriet, and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center Blog, among others. She was recently long listed for the Stockholm Writers Festival First Pages Prize (2019), and featured on a feminist speculative poetry panel at the 2019 CD Wright Women Writer’s ...Read More

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