Hello, lovely friends! I hope the year has been kind to you so far, that it has brought you new beginnings and warmth and excitement. Welcome to our little blanket fort of books to come!
Today, Sprout and I are delighted to talk to you about our five most anticipated reads for the year! It was really, really hard whittling this list down to just five books (how blessed we are this year to bear witness to so many incredible diverse releases, honestly!), but we tried our best! Most of this list is diverse fantasy, because we wouldn’t be us anymore if we weren’t forever-smitten with magic, but we also tried to pick different types of fantasy to diversify the selection pool a little. Here you’ll find golden blood and poisonous curses, haunted manors and bright-eyed witches.
This year our reading goals are pretty simple: just 35 (diverse) books, and as many ownvoices-authored ones as we can manage. Hopefully once college ends, I’ll be able to dedicate more time to consistent reading and maybe one day hit that sweet, sweet 50-books-per-year goal, but this will have to be a little stepping stone for now! Whatever your goals for the year are, know that we’re ardently cheering you on as well.
Alright, we’ve kept you here in the intro long enough, onwards we forge (in chronological order)!
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a tightly and lushly written narrative about empire, storytelling, and the anger of women.
A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.
First up on the list, we have what is looking to be a truly stellar debut novella from Nghi Vo! From the acquirement announcement, this book promises haunted lakes, clerics, fortune tellers and fox girls—and if you know me, you’ll know that I am always down for lushly imagined Asian fantasies. TOR publishes some truly excellent short fiction, so I am beyond excited to add this to my list for the year! I think it’ll be a great help for if I run into any reading slumps too.
Releases on March 24. Add this book to Goodreads!
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
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.
As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.
Soraya 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.
Sapphic fantasies are honestly my entire bread and butter, so imagine my delight when early reviews of this book came out praising it for being an enthralling Persian-influenced bisexual fairytale. To say that I was immediately sold would be an understatement. The premise sounds so, so intriguing, and the fact that this releases so close to my own birthday means that I can treat myself to this book and my wallet can be none the wiser (that’s clearly how it works, right?). I cannot wait for this!
Releases on May 12. Add this book to Goodreads!
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.
But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.
Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.
Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.
I first came across this book during its cover reveal back in November, and I still stand by every single word of my first impression of it. The women in the universe of The Gilded Ones bleed gold—an in-universe metaphor for the commodification of women, and this alone has me hook, line and sinker. I am so eagerly anticipating this debut, and I look forward to the discussions that the story and its allegories will inspire in the community!
Releases on May 26. Add this book to Goodreads!
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find — her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough, smart, and has an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
One of my arguably most important discoveries in 2019 was that I have, apparently, a very soft spot for gothic fiction, especially when written by marginalised authors. This book’s spot on the list arrives on the heels of this revelation. And boy, does it look enticing already. You can read an excerpt of the brilliant first chapter here, and join me in awaiting what looks to be a spoopy, decadent release by a very acclaimed author this year!
Releases on June 30. Add this book to Goodreads!
Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julia Abe
Eva Evergreen is determined to earn the rank of Novice Witch before she turns thirteen years old. If she doesn’t, she’ll lose her magic forever. For most young witches and wizards, it’s a simple enough test:
ONE: Help your town, do good all around.
TWO: Live there for one moon, don’t leave too soon.
THREE: Fly home by broomstick, the easiest of tricks.
The only problem? Eva only has a pinch of magic. She summons heads of cabbage instead of flowers and gets a sunburn instead of calling down rain. And to add insult to injury, whenever she overuses her magic, she falls asleep.
When she lands on the tranquil coastal town of Auteri, the residents expect a powerful witch, not a semi-magical girl. So Eva comes up with a plan: set up a magical repair shop to aid Auteri and prove she’s worthy. She may have more blood than magic, but her “semi-magical fixes” repair the lives of the townspeople in ways they never could have imagined. Only, Eva’s bit of magic may not be enough when the biggest magical storm in history threatens the town she’s grown to love. Eva must conjure up all of the magic, bravery, and cleverness she can muster or Auteri and her dreams of becoming a witch will wash away with the storm.
And at last we return to the world of witches, wholesome stories, and magic! I’ve been excited for Eva Evergreen ever since I first laid eyes on its absolutely breathtaking illustrated cover, and doubly even more so now that CW has read it and loved it too. The revival of witchy stories lately in queer and diverse formats is truly one of the best things to have happened to the publishing industry in recent years. August can’t arrive any sooner!
Releases on August 4. Add this book to Goodreads!
A few honorable mentions
And before we round off the post, this section is a tiny dedication to all the sequels I’m anxiously awaiting in 2020! I didn’t include these in the list because I wanted to focus on new series and standalones, but also wanted to highlight a few stories we already know and love by heart too!
- We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia [Out Feb. 25]
- Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim [Out Jul. 07]
- Iron Heart by Nina Varela [Out Sept. 08]
Thank you for reading, friends! Stay awhile before you go, and let’s discuss:
- Have you read any of the books in the list? Should we be screaming about them or should we (very sadly) tamper our expectations? Or are you glowing with excitement for them too?
- What are your reading goals and aspirations for 2020? What do you hope to find in your books this year? Found family, queer romance, intergalactic mysteries? I’d love to know!