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As this is December, the most final of months in the year, I’m doing a quick roundup of books I enjoyed in 2022. It just so happens I didn’t read much this year. Probably because I spent more time writing and editing, but also because I tended to DNF books more often than be swept away by them. A handful of books did grip my imagination and demand reading in one day, though, and all of those appear here.
So here we go!
The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novak
The Golden Enclaves wraps up the Scholomance trilogy, which follows El, destined to become a dark enchantress and fighting that prophecy every step of the way. She and her fellow students must survive a magical school built to protect wizard children who are not powerful enough to protect themselves from mals, magic-hungry monsters who find wizard children tasty and easy meals. Only, the school’s defenses are weak, so the high schoolers must both ace exam papers and get good grades surviving random mal attacks within a school whose logic often bends reality.
I’ve adored this series since the first book. Give me an angry, mouthy, heart-of-gold protagonist any day. The Golden Enclaves so neatly builds on details cleverly woven into the first and second books. After her triumph and incredible loss in the second book, I thought she couldn’t ascend any higher, but the playing field moves from an isolated school to the whole world, amping up the stakes. And the risks.
Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree
In a first in my reading experience, Legends & Lattes delivers an unusual genre: cozy fantasy. A former orc barbarian mercenary hangs up her battle axe to open an unheard-of restaurant called a café, where she starts by serving coffee, a drink only gnomes are aware of. Through making connections with people she clocks as a perfect fit into her personal vision, Viv gathers a circle of friends around her to help fulfill her dreams as she, in turn, fulfills theirs.
I did review Legends & Lattes this year, so you can read my post about the book here. I will add that I thoroughly enjoyed the unusual genre and would not mind more of this as a subgenre of fantasy in the future.
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Two agents on opposing sides of a time war begin exchanging notes with each other, having become impressed with each other as foes. They must not be caught, so their notes appear in such complex and unusual ways that only they would recognize the promise of a missive from the other. They must not get caught by their superiors. But eventually, they come to care more about each other than any war, risking exposure just to keep the other safe.
This book? Made me ugly cry. I did not expect that from such a slender little sci-fi. I only picked up This is How You Lose the Time War because I’d seen it on a Choice Awards list and had nothing else to read. Boy, was I surprised.
Book of Night by Holly Black
A con artist raised to steal and beguile gets caught up in the shadow magic trade of stealing magical books for other shadow magic practitioners. Those who work in shadow magic can manipulate their own shadows to do their bidding. Others with quickened shadows can pay these people a lot of money to do the work for them. But while Charlie has tried to break free of the work, she gets pulled back in when her boyfriend winds up in the thick of a string of mysterious murders. There’s one book that everyone wants above all, and it’s up to Charlie to find it if she hopes to save her boyfriend.
I bought Book of Night because the book was by Holly Black and started reading without knowing a single plot detail because, again, the book was by Holly Black. I found the shadow magic aspect a refreshing and limiting take on a magic system. From the beginning, I would have described it as how society might have changed if Peter Pan’s untethered shadow could happen to anyone.
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
In a classic Cinderella story, a half-royal disgrace to the imperial family comes into emperorship so suddenly that he has no time to prepare for taking on his leadership duties. Maia must assume the throne with no allies, no advisors, and no knowledge of courtly politics or etiquette. And even as he learns to run a kingdom, he must also uncover who murdered his father and half-brothers before he’s assassinated next.
Love me a fish-out-of-water story, and The Goblin Emperor has that motif in spades. While I initially put this book back after reading the first page (in favor of reading A Deadly Education, the first in the Scholomance trilogy, in fact), once I picked it up for the second time, I couldn’t stop until I reached the end. I enjoyed how Maia brings a particular brand of gentleness and compassion to his rule that he may never have found if raised within the court.
I plan to review all or most of these books at some point, but I hope my little teasers in this roundup will give you a good starting point for reading in 2023. Happy new year and stay hopeful, friends.
Thanks for reading!
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Little Blue Marble 2022: Warmer Worlds
Featuring “I Hope This Email Does Not Find You!”
The last eight years have been the warmest on record.
Little Blue Marble‘s anthology of speculative climate fiction and poetry from an international slate of authors mourns and hopes in equal measure for the fate of our world and its ecosystems.
May these visions of the future inspire collective action before climate chaos becomes irreversible.
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