2020 Recommended SF/F List

By JJ: This thread is for posts about 2020-published works, which people have read and recommend to other Filers.

There will be no tallying of recommendations done in this thread; its purpose is to provide a source of recommendations for people who want to find something to read which will be eligible for the Hugos or other awards (Nebula, Locus, Asimov’s, etc.) next year.

If you’re recommending for an award other than / in addition to the Hugo Awards which has different categories than the Hugos (such as Locus Awards’ First Novel), then be sure to specify the award and category.

You don’t have to stop recommending works in Pixel Scrolls, please don’t! But it would be nice if you also post here, to capture the information for other readers.

The Suggested Format for posts is:

  • Title, Author, Published by / Published in (Anthology, Collection, Website, or Magazine + Issue)
  • Hugo or other Award Category: (Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Related Work, Graphic Novel, Lodestar, Astounding, etc)
  • link (if available to read/view online)
  • optional “Brief, spoiler-free description of story premise:”
  • “What I liked / didn’t like about it:”
  • (Please rot-13 any spoilers.)

There is a permalink to this thread in the blog header.

109 thoughts on “2020 Recommended SF/F List

  1. Novella: “Chisel and Chime” by Alex Irvine, in the Jan/Feb issue of F&SF
    Melandra has received the greatest honor possible for an artist: she’s been commissioned to carve a statue of the Imperator. But there’s a catch: the artist chosen for this honor is expected to die when the work is complete. Melandra has resigned herself to this fate, until a story told by her guard gives her the idea for a daring plan.

    I loved the setting, and the story does a great job of setting up the similarities between Melandra and her guard, despite their vastly different backgrounds. The part of the story taking place in the present day is fairly slow-paced, but the vivid descriptions and growing rapport between the main characters made it engaging to read nevertheless. All of this made me want to read more stories set in this world.

  2. City of Stone and Silence by Django Wexler

    Novel (YA, second in a series)

    While Isoka fights to save her shipmates in a mysterious, ancient city, Tori finds herself in the middle of a insurrection.

    This book is a welcome improvement over the first one in the series, thanks to the introduction of Tori as a point of view character. The story, unusually for this author, still dips into cliche a little too often (there is a thin line between “playing with well-used tropes” and “being a well-used trope” and sometimes this book ends up on the wrong side of it). However, I’m also finding the unfolding narrative interesting, and I’m happy to follow these characters to wherever they end up next.

  3. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Season 5

    TV show
    Long form (full season)
    Short form (Episode 5, “Save the Cat”)

    Are you watching this show? You should be watching this show.

    Seriously, watch this show.

  4. +1 to She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

    I liked the previous 4 seasons, but Season 5 really brought it on home. I think it’s because the storyline took a more adult turn. Also, Entrapta was just delightful.

  5. Novel: Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett
    This is the second book in the Founders trilogy. The stakes are substantially higher than in the first book, and there are a couple of shocking reveals near the end. The main characters were great as always, although I was a little disappointed that more wasn’t done with Polina. I got a little teary-eyed when Befb fnpevsvprq uvzfrys. This is going to be a really difficult one to top.

  6. Short Form: Motherland: Fort Salem – “Bellweather Season”

    Do not sleep on this show, or dismiss it as a piece of YA fluff, or army propaganda. It’s a female-driven alternate history spectacle with genuinely compelling, political worldbuilding and finely-tuned characters tossed with whip fast-paced storytelling; in a broader sense, it’s an in-depth look at the unique challenges a matriarchal society based around supernatural powers would face.

    This episode is a high point, especially in its examination of the relationship between Abigail and her mother. A great first season but this is the best single episode.

  7. Short Form: What We Do In the Shadows – “Colin’s Promotion”

    The more I watch and think about this episode the more it feels like an actual contender. Beyond its comedy – one of the funniest shows currently on TV, in my estimation – this episode is also a canny piece of worldbuilding and storytelling. The show has a novel bit of vampire mythos in the “energy vampire,” a vampire that gains essence by boring people. Resident energy vampire Colin Robinson, despite his predilection for intentionally getting on people’s nerves, gets revealed here to be a very lonely and bitter man who yearns for friendship despite himself, so of course when he gets a level of power he goes crazy with it. This is a series best so far and it’s one I’m heavily considering.

    The Midnight Gospel – “Mouse of Silver”

    Despite being animated, this is a less funny affair. Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward’s psychedelic science-fantasy adaptation of Duncan Trussell’s podcast struggled a bit to build narratives out of the interview clips it cobbled together but got better as it went along, culminating in this finale based around Trussel’s interview with his dying mother (Deneen Fendig). Some of the most stunning, genuinely haunting television thus far this year.

  8. +1 to @Kyra’s recommendation of The Mermaid, The Witch, and The Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall. The most YA thing about it is two main characters; there is a huge amount of backstory, politics, and not a little cruelty and evil packed into one book, along with casual breaking of gender boundaries that would infuriate a slice of readers if they were willing to even start a story with two young women as leads. Sometimes bits stick out awkwardly, but to me the book as a whole hung together convincingly. People who think Hardinge is too harsh won’t like this; I would not give this to random young readers, but for some it will resonate.

  9. Novella: Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

    This is the latest installment in the Wayward Children series. Jack returns to the school in urgent need of help, and several characters we’ve met in previous books return to the Moors with her. I really enjoyed the previous book featuring Jack (Down Among the Sticks and Bones), so it was great to see her again. Christopher and Cora from Beneath the Sugar Sky are here too, as well as two characters from the very first book. The story explores the Moors a little further, as the group has to seek out aid from a faction that was only briefly mentioned in Sticks and Bones. There’s also a pretty strong trans-positive message here, since Jack experiences dysphoria when Wvyy sbepvoyl obql-fjvgpurf jvgu ure, naq zbfg bs gur bgure punenpgref dhvpxyl haqrefgnaq jul fur’f fb qvfgerffrq. Wvyy’f obql znl or irel fvzvyne gb uref, ohg vg’f abg uref, naq vg’f gnxra nf n tvira gung gur fbyhgvba vf sbe ure gb trg ure cebcre obql onpx, abg whfg gb “nqwhfg gb gur obql lbh unir.”

  10. Race the Sands, by Sarah Beth Durst

    Novel

    In kehok racing, if you forget you’re riding on the back of a monster, you die. Tamra and Raia will work harder than they ever thought possible to win the deadly Becaran Races — and in the process, discover an astonishing secret.

    I liked this book in spite of some flaws that might have kneecapped another novel — the mysteries are pretty easy to figure out, and both main characters are introduced with actions that are, all told, pretty dumb. The fact that the book is able to overcome these problems is a tribute to the skill of the author, who is able to get past those issues and weave a compelling story which mixes action with a nice dash of ethical debate.

  11. Alma Alexander’s “The Second Star” has just been released and had a rather explosive debut — online, of course, since bookstores are suddenly, and I fervently hope temporarily, difficult gathering place in the days of the virus.

    It’s been hailed as a ‘page-turning science fiction psychological thriller’. That’s true enough, but it’s much more than that. It asks the big questions about life, the universe and everything — including who or what God is, and what it means to be human. It’s also a roaring adventure story that takes several unexpected twists. I see at the author’s website that it’s been recommended by Matt Ruff, one of my favorite authors.

  12. @JJ: Thanks. Le Sigh.

    I’m woefully behind on reading; sorry I don’t have a rec to make here! ;-(

  13. Kendall, I’m quite happy to have the recommendation posted, I just like to have transparency.

    I bought and read Alexander’s 2015 time-travel mystery set at an SFF convention, Abducticon, and really enjoyed it. I will probably buy and read The Second Star, too.

  14. Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

    Novel (YA)

    There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story. She thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

    In far too many books, the protagonist makes mistake after frustrating mistake, driving the reader to distraction over how idiotic they’re being. Much rarer is the book where the protagonist makes mistake after frustrating mistake and the reader thinks, “Yeah … that’s probably what I would have done, too.” This is one of the latter books, keeping you on the side of a flawed heroine even when you want to shout at her. It’s a tough trick to pull off, but this book does so admirably. Highly recommended.

  15. Some folks may enjoy Scarlett Odyssey by C.T. Rwizi; published by 47 North (Amazon). About the only flaw that I can see is that it is clearly the first book of a series. Otherwise, highly inventive world-building with a variety of perspectives. The story is set in an African-esque environment. The ubiquitous farm-boy/prince is ignorant of the fact that his sorcerer-mother has purposefully groomed him to be something more than a farm-boy/prince. He steps out in the world to figure out what that “something more” might be. Lots of magic. Lots of very grimdark elements.

    Very enjoyable.

    Regards,
    Dann
    They say marriages are made in Heaven. But so is thunder and lightning. – Clint Eastwood

  16. @Dann665: Thanks for mentioning that; it’s on my list to check out, so it’s good to see recs for it. 🙂

  17. @Kendall

    This was more of the enjoyable books that I have read this year. It is a wonderful example of bi-level writing. You could just read it for the tale and have a great time. You could also read and be thinking about some of the subtextual narrative and also have a great time.

    I just wish that the author had made the first book to be a complete story rather than something that is obviously part of a larger arc.

    This was a “free” book for Amazon Prime members over the last couple of months. Members can get a free book every month from a selection of about half a dozen books. There’s usually a genre title at least every other month. I just wish I had been able to get to it sooner so that more people could have gotten that Meredith Moment level of pricing.

    Regards,
    Dann
    A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. – Thomas Jefferson

  18. Marvel’s Jessica Jones: Playing with Fire
    https://www.serialbox.com/serials/jessica-jones

    Best Novel?

    Haven’t completed this yet, but the format this is being presented in is extremely fascinating to me. Like an online version of the roots of the novel as a serialized story. The first chapter (episode?) is available for free.

  19. I don’t know if you’ve listened to the audio on that one, but as an idea you might consider DP-long form. That’s the category I chose to nominate Orphan Black: The Next Chapter from Serial Box in this year. The story was really good, but I really loved the narration by Tatiana Maslany.

  20. Okay, now I’m starting on my 2020 TBR pile.

    Best Short Story

    (All of these are from the excellent anthology Made To Order: Robots and Revolution, edited by Jonathan Strahan. Almost all of these stories ranged from good to very good, and even the one I didn’t care for I could see a lot of people loving. If there was a Best Anthology Hugo, I’d nominate this in a hot minute.)

    “Test 4 Echo,” Peter Watts. This has Watts’ trademark hard science, a sympathetic central character, and a bleak, depressing ending. The ending is a little more bleak and depressing than usual, even for him.

    “Bigger Fish,” Sarah Pinsker. This has a (slightly abrupt) twist ending that is a very literal, very robotic and more than a little frightening–once you think about it–interpretation of Asimov’s First Law.

    “Dancing With Death,” John Chu. This author is clearly a figure skating fan, which tickled me to no end, combining robots with ice dancing (as well as a minor Chinese god).

    “Chiaroscuro in Red,” Suzanne Palmer. One of the longer stories in the book (in fact, I think it might qualify as a novelette, although I don’t have an ebook to check the word count), this is a down to earth, Everyman sort of tale about a college kid whose parents buy him an aging factory robot, and he ends up rescuing said robot.

    “A Glossary of Radicalization,” Brooke Bolander. The final story in the book, this has Bolander’s trademark gritty setting and seething rage.

  21. Best Novel: The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty
    Best Series: The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty

    The Empire of Gold is the final book in Chakraborty’s Daevabad Trilogy, in which apprentice apothecarist Nahri discovers that she’s the last heir of a family of djinn with healing magic. She gets caught up in the deadly politics of the djinn city of Daevabad. As Empire starts, an ancient conflict has been reignited, and Nahri finds herself caught between her family and her friends, and between two men she loves. It’s also a particularly timely story, with its strong theme that healing the wounds of the past is important and difficult work.

  22. No Man’s Land, by A. J. Fitzwater

    Novella

    Dorothea ‘Tea’ Gray joins the Land Service and is sent to work on a remote farm, one of many young women left to fill the empty shoes left by fathers and brothers serving in the Second World War. But Tea finds more than hard work and hot sun in the dusty North Otago nowhere—she finds a magic inside herself she never could have imagined.

    An evocative novella with poetic prose. I appreciated the intriguing characters, the magical story, and the look at a slice of New Zealand history.

  23. Lodestar

    A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon)

    I was just so-so about Kingfisher’s nominee for the Lodestar this year, Minor Mage, but she’s at the top of her game with this one. This whimsical, funny and fairly dark story about Mona the Bread Wizard and her two familiars, Bob the carnivorous sourdough starter and the dancing gingerbread man, was a delight from beginning to end.

  24. The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

    Best Novel and Series (Hugo Awards)

    Socks completely knocked off. I didn’t want to put it down. I loved The Calculating Stars and this one is right up there with it. Maybe even higher. I think this has something for everyone – plenty of great character work, with a tense story.

  25. When We Were Magic, Sarah Gailey

    Lodestar

    Alexis has a problem: the guy she almost-randomly picked to have her first sex with is messily dead, in his bedroom. Fortunately, it’s an after-prom party and she’s part of a group of six very assorted magic-able high-school seniors, all on-site. Unfortunately, they’re figuring magic out as they go (although one of them is documenting as much as she can), and many of their uses of magic are teen-expectable (makeup experiments, making things grow) — they’ve never considered how to dispose of a body, let alone how to do so while keeping up obligations. (They’re close enough to graduation that classes are sometimes ditchable, but athletics, job, family, … are not.) And if that weren’t enough she’s trying to get up the nerve to explain being deeply-in-something with another of the group (and not the one who may change pronouns after leaving for college).
    I’ve been reading lots of grumbles here recently about teenish angst in Gideon the Ninth, but ISTM that Gailey avoids falling over that edge; the pack has a genuine problem (even if some of the outside issues are ~”white-people problems” despite the mix of colors in the group) that they work out how to cope with, not without costs. (V’z abg pregnva gur pbfgf onynapr gur qrngu, ohg V’z abg fher gurl qba’g — rirelbar raqf hc ybfvat fbzrguvat ol orpbzvat ~pbzcyvpvg; V xrcg rkcrpgvat gung gur gvgyr jbhyq cebqhpr n Jvgpurf bs Rnfgjvpx-fglyr raqvat, ohg gurl zbfgyl xrrc gurve cbjref naq rira fgergpu n ovg.) I wondered a bit about the apparent lack of intolerance for such a mixed group (including a currently-transvestite) in an unnamed state (far from New York), non-desert but warm enough to be unpleasant in ~May and on the edge of the hanging-moss zone, but I don’t know how varied ordinary life is (as opposed to newsworthy events) in that area.

    Colleen Mondor’s Locus review is a bit more coherent than the above, and covers different aspects.

  26. Sea Change by Nancy Kress, Tachyon Press
    Novella

    In this almost-too-short thriller, Kress tackles two of the most controversial scientific topics around: climate change and GMOs. The former is decimating the world’s food supplies, while the latter have been banned globally following a deadly corporate cock-up that killed a lot of children. Our protagonist is a woman who works as a courier for an underground group of scientists who are still actively working on GMOs they believe the world needs. I thought it was both a fascinating and nuanced look at some complex topics, and a pretty good story. I might have wished for a little more character growth, but there was decent character depth for such a short work, so I can’t complain too much.

  27. Best Novelette: “My Sister’s Wings Are Red” by Christine Tayler, in Beneath Ceaseless Skies

    Olive’s sister is about to hatch from her pupa, and her wings are red, which signifies that she will be the colony’s next queen. Olive is immensely jealous until she discovers what being queen actually entails.

    Tayler does a great job of planting hints about what’s going on throughout the story, so that the reader can gradually piece things together. Olive is a very relatable character, and Priscilla was likeable as well. Most importantly, there’s a strong emotional core to this story. The jealousy Olive feels for her sister, her respect for Priscilla, Priscilla’s exasperation with her young charges, all come through very well–as do the horror, determination, love, and defiance of the story’s climax.

  28. I’m going to do it. I’m going to rec an artist here, though this seems to be for works to read/watch. Apologies if I’m too out of it to remember if there’s an artist rec post [for 2020]!

    Ben Zweifel
    Three of his works on covers this year are the covers of the Ardor Benn trilogy, one a re-release of the book with new art and the other two on the sequels, which are coming out later this year. (The books are by Tyler Whitesides, BTW.)

    I don’t know which items on his web site are from 2020, but those three are 2020 qualifying works, methinks. I like the covers a lot and he has some other very cool work on his web site.

  29. Infinity Train (Book Three – Cult of the Conductor) (Long Form).

    HBO Max and its contents are a mystery box, but it’s worth it to get a hold of this show. Just stunning work in the entirety of its third season. Simon and Grace, two characters who were one-off villains in the previous season, act as the main characters here, around which the show builds a haunting story on how our trauma shapes us, our actions, our relationships – and who decides to heal.

    Whatever your opinion on animation, don’t let that deter you; this is a sci-fi/fantasy story that’s almost disarming how adult it is, in its characters and in its themes. And while I cannot believe such a beautiful show is on the cusp of cancellation, its anthology format at the very least makes this season a complete story. Watching previous seasons isn’t a requirement here.

    It’s going on my ballot for Long Form. 2020’s been a dry spell for movies (not the fault of the movies) and this is one of the best stories I’ve seen this year.

  30. Best Novel: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

    This is the first book in a new series inspired by the indigenous societies of Mesoamerica. The world Roanhorse has built is complex, with different factions and detailed social structures. I liked all three of the main characters, and I felt like the book has a lot to say about the difficulties of enacting social reform and addressing historical injustice.

  31. Snapdragon by Kat Leyh, publ: First Second/Roaring Book Press
    Best Graphic Story (Hugo Awards)

    Snapdragon is a young girl who doesn’t seem to fit in with the other kids. One day her dog goes missing and Snap decides to confront the witch living in the woods, rumored to catch and eat pets. Turns out Jacks isn’t a witch but takes in wounded animals. When Jacks helps Snap take care of some orphaned animals, Snap begins to suspect maybe magic is real and Jacks knows more than she’s telling.

    I really liked Snap – she’s grumpy, enthusiastic and is willing to take on any injustice she comes across. It kinda has the same vibe as Mooncakes, a Hugo Award Best Graphic Story finalist last year.

  32. Three Days Till EOC by Abhimanyu Sukhdial, publ: Children’s Art Foundation-Stone Soup, Inc.
    Best Novelette (Hugo Awards: 7,500-17,500 words); The Lodestar Award for Best YA Book

    It is the year 2100: the ice sheets have melted, the Earth has passed its last cataclysmic tipping point, and now there are only three days till EOC: the End of Civilization. Climate scientist Graham Alison, one of the last 1,000 humans left on the planet, is racing against the odds to save the world before the last rescue shuttle leaves for the Mars colonies. Will he manage to persuade the leaders of the past to change their behavior so that the present can be different? Or will it be precious networks of family relationships across time and space that actually save humanity?

    Three Days Till EOC won Stone Soup Magazine’s international book contest in a competitive field of young writers. It is a gripping, timely and thrilling read from start to finish.

  33. From Clarkesworld Magazine:

    Best Novelette

    “Monster,” Naomi Kritzer

    This is the somewhat disturbing exploration of what turns a person into a monster, in the form of the protagonist Cecily Grantz and her high school friend Andrew. Andrew is a typical 80’s nerd, misunderstood by his parents and picked on by his classmates, who begins to show a bent towards vicious revenge to anyone who wrongs him. He uses Cecily’s gene-editing research to create a serum that gives people inhuman speed and strength–killing many of his test subjects along the way. After Andrew flees the US, Cecily hunts him down in China and takes care of him in a powerful plot twist, raising the question of–as much as we’re not meant to sympathize with Andrew–just who is the monster here.

    “The Amusement Dark,” Mike Buckley

    This story is the star of this issue. As you read it, you might wonder why it’s called “The Amusement Dark” instead of “The Amusement Park.” That question is answered within the story itself, as this setting is pretty bleak. It’s interesting in that it’s set after the AI (here called “First Ones”) revolution, when humanity has been thoroughly defeated and nothing the characters do is going to change that. But as the main character puts it: “There’s no stupid. There’s no impossible. There’s just the darkness and what we’ll do with it.” This tiny unexpected ray of hope in the story’s final paragraphs makes for a memorable ending.

    Best Short Story

    “The Last To Die,” Rita Chang-Eppig

    In a future where consciousness can be digitized and people’s minds transferred to cyborg bodies, the last generation of aging humans who refuse the procedure are exiled to islands around the world, both so they can be protected from the dangers of the outside world and shuffled out of sight of the “deathless.” On one of these islands, a glass cyborg woman named Beth and her adopted son Max, someone on the autism spectrum (not specified in the story, but that’s what it sounded like) who cannot undergo the cyberizing procedure, arrive to shake up the island’s inhabitants and grapple with the nature of immortality, aging, and stagnation.

    “The AI That Looked At the Sun,” Filip Hajdar Drnovsek Zorko

    An inventive tale of a machine (or subroutine, I suppose) sentience on the Daedalus solar monitoring station with one overwhelming desire: to use the available equipment–in this case, an EVA suit–to see the sun.

    “The Ancestral Temple in a Box,” Chen Qiufan, translated by Emily Jin

    Sonny Huang arrives at his dying father’s bedside to be given the titular “ancestral temple,” a virtual reality simulation of his clan’s history and traditions. There’s a lot more to it than this stark description, of course: the traditions of Sonny’s ancestors to make beautiful gold-lacquered wood carvings, which workers Sonny wants to replace with robots; Sonny’s realizing that those same carvings constitute the historical narrative of his people; and in the end, Sonny’s creating a carving utilizing both machines and humans, a beautiful hybrid piece of art that tells the story of his people, the Teochew. (The afterward to this story talks about the real-life Teochew people of China, and the gold-lacquered wood carvings that are their traditional art.) I really liked this.

    “The Whale Fall At the End of the Universe,” Cameron Van Sant

    This is a cute, if slight, tale about a far far future and space whales scavenging a corpse the size of a city and falling in love.

  34. Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

    Star Trek: Lower Decks, Season 1 ep 8, “Veritas,” CBS All Access

    I’ve been watching this, but so far it’s been pretty uneven. This episode, though, pulls it all together, taking the ST trope of “humanity on trial” and turning it inside out. Most of the jokes are on target, and a character who has been a bit neglected so far gets to be a badass.

    Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

    The Umbrella Academy, Season 2, Netflix

    Some may hesitate at this, because Season 2 takes place directly after the events of season 1. There are enough flashbacks and exposition of what happened before (due to one of the main characters having amnesia as a result), that I think this can be enjoyed and understood without having watched season 1. What I liked about this season is that each one of our time-traveling, extremely dysfunctional superhero siblings are given their own significant storylines and nice character development. Ellen Page, Aiden Gallagher and Justin H. Min are outstanding, and whoever compiled the soundtrack is a genius.

  35. I was very pleasantly surprised by The Umbrella Academy season 2. Season 1 was pretty good, but season 2 really took things to the next level, especially (but not only) with the character development. It definitely exceeded my expectations.

  36. Harrow the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir

    Novel (2nd in a trilogy)

    Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

    This was a wild ride. Strap yourself in and be prepared to spend a lot of time screaming, “WHAT IS HAPPENING?” (you will), with the reassurance that things will all be explained in the end (they mostly will be; they will be enough). If the book has a flaw, it’s that when things finally are revealed, it bogs down a little — there’s a LOT going on here, frankly, and it takes a while to unspool. But other than that, roll with it as the book tosses you through mayhem, murder, madness, monsters, mounds and mounds of metacarpals, and a few gloriously bad puns.

  37. A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, by T. Kingfisher

    Novel (YA)

    Mona’s life is turned upside down when she finds a dead body on the bakery floor. An assassin is stalking the streets of Mona’s city, preying on magic folk, and it appears that Mona is his next target. And in an embattled city suddenly bereft of wizards, the assassin may be the least of Mona’s worries.

    In spite of the title, don’t go in expecting this one to be too cute; while it still includes T. Kingfisher’s usual humor and wit, it also contains some dark layers. In particular, it probes at the disquieting implications of the fact, often unnoted in YA (and in real life, for that matter) that if you need a hero, it means something has gone seriously wrong, and if your hero is a teenage girl, then every adult around has completely dropped the ball.

  38. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

    Novel (YA)

    At Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted, failure means certain death. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere.

    I liked this book even though it had some definite flaws. Parts of the premise seem pretty dubious. (In over 100 years, no one has come up with a better system than this? Maybe even just one with some adults around?) And there were a couple of times when the exposition overwhelmed the narrative. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it; I suspect whether or not you like this book depends entirely on how much you appreciate the adolescent rage-battery that is the main character. I liked her a lot, and that was enough to carry the book for me.

  39. @Kyra, I just finished A Deadly Education and I think my socks are still in orbit. Unless some truly amazing works cross my path in the next couple of months to bump it off, it’ll be on my Hugo nomination ballot.

  40. Especially considering it’s a book where I had real problems with some parts, it has had real staying power in my head. Lines and bits of it keep running through my mind. My issues with it aside, there is some great writing in that book and I am continually impressed with Novik as an author.

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