Our Friend is Here: Black History Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond during the month of February, where Black authors are invited to celebrate being Black and Black books! Find the introduction post for Black History Month here.
In case you’re new to the Pond’s book recommendation posts, the recommendation posts are brought to you by Varian, the Pond’s very own Toadshifter who is knowledgeable in all kinds of magic! One of Varian’s ambitions is to get better at sewing, hence why whenever Varian has come up with their latest costume, they will always recommend a few books that inspired them!
Can you believe that February and Black History Month are almost over? Though we don’t have that many days left in February, I do, however, have a selection of incredible SFF books I’d like to recommend to you for Black History Month at the Pond.
But first, a quick recap: we had a spectacular week at Black History Month at the Pond this week. Skye and I interviewed Celeste Harte, who talked about her debut and indie publishing; Skye and Alexis Henderson worked together on a Pond-cation worldbuilding post that explored the village of Bethel; I interviewed Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé and we talked about her stunning debut and dark academia; and Chrystal D. Giles also visited for an interview and talked about Take Back the Block and activism!
In our first week, we recommended 16 Black contemporary books and just last week, we recommended 20 Black queer books. Today though, we’re recommending Black science-fiction and fantasy books where Black people are the heroes and the forces behind the story. Spotlighting Black science-fiction and fantasy only feels apt, as I know many people will be celebrating Octavia Butler, a visionary and author of speculative fiction, on the anniversary of her passing. So, I hope today’s stories can act as a homage to Octavia Butler, whose work inspired many.
A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.
Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.
If you want a book that’s incredibly fun, with a wonderful Black teen at the forefront kicking monster butt while also juggling everything that comes with being a teenager, then you’ll love A Blade So Black.
- Follows Alice, a Black teen who is a Dreamwalker – a human who slays wicked beings from Wonderland who feeds on negative emotions.
- It’s not only about Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, but it’s also about being a teen and the responsibility of being a hero whilst also being a daughter, a student, a friend, and… just a teen. And it’s fantastic.
- It also has wonderful characters, a developed and interesting close friendship between two girls, and a complex mother-daughter relationship.
A Phoenix First Must Burn by Patrice Cardwell
Sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic.
Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them.
There are two indicators of me loving a book: (1) I either read it incredibly fast, devouring it to see what happens next, or (2) I read it so slowly to savour the storytelling that I probably spend a few weeks reading it. The latter is me with A Phoenix First Must Burn.
- Those of you who have read this already will know, but the title of this book, A Phoenix First Must Burn, is a homage to Octavia Butlet’s quote, “In order to rise from its own ashes, a phoenix first must burn.” This is a science-fiction/fantasy anthology full of life, healing, and celebration of Blackness and storytelling.
- From stories about an alien invasion in which time and space play a pivotal role, to a girl who is a descendant of powerful water beings, A Phoenix First Must Burn offers an array of stories that will pull readers in.
A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy
Sixteen-year-old Eva is a princess, born with the magick of marrow and blood–a dark and terrible magick that hasn’t been seen for generations in the vibrant but fractured country of Myre. Its last known practitioner was Queen Raina, who toppled the native khimaer royalty and massacred thousands, including her own sister, eight generations ago, thus beginning the Rival Heir tradition. Living in Raina’s long and dark shadow, Eva must now face her older sister, Isa, in a battle to the death if she hopes to ascend to the Ivory Throne–because in the Queendom of Myre only the strongest, most ruthless rulers survive.
When Eva is attacked by an assassin just weeks before the battle with her sister, she discovers there is more to the attempt on her life than meets the eye–and it isn’t just her sister who wants to see her dead. As tensions escalate, Eva is forced to turn to a fey instructor of mythic proportions and a mysterious and handsome khimaer prince for help in growing her magick into something to fear. Because despite the love she still has for her sister, Eva will have to choose: Isa’s death or her own..
Love a story with a complex magic system, a bitter and fraught rivalry between two sisters, and themes of oppression and subjugation, then pay attention: you might love A River of Royal Blood.
- Set in a North-African world, this story follows Eva, a princess gifted with magick of bone and marrow, who is set to duel her sister to the death over the throne and their Queendom.
- I love the idea of two Black princesses who are complex, powerful, and possess really fascinating and compelling motivations – the fact that they are set to kill each other, but may not want to.
- If you love stories where you can feel like you can get lost in its world, then I can guarantee that this book has worldbuilding rich with lore, magic, and history.
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.
But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.
One day if I ever have the time, I will re-read A Song Below Water and review this book, because this is a compelling and fascinating book about oppression, stereotypes, and sisterly bonds.
- Set in a world where magical beings exist alongside humans, this story follows Effie, a Black girl haunted by a mysterious past, and Tavia, a Black siren who hides her magical identity.
- As a whole, this book was a fantastic metaphor about misogynoir; how Black women are silenced and are punished for speaking up (alluding to the ‘consequences’ of Tavia using her siren call). The story also explores the intersections of race and sexism with a focus on how the system hurts Black women.
- The sisterly relationship between Effie and Tavia was gorgeous. It’s so good to see two Black women who love each other unconditionally, who would protect each other no matter what, and would go to the ends of the earth for each other.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.
But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.
When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?
With A Psalm of Storms and Silence on the way soon, now is a good time to read A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, a stunning debut and young adult fantasy.
- Follows Karina, crown princess and sole heir to the throne of Ziran, and Malik, a refugee entrapped by a wicked being and forced to assassinate Karina – or forfeit his little sister’s life.Set in a town of Lucille, where ‘angels’ (good and righteous people) have eliminated all ‘monsters’ (bad people) from the town.
- The worldbuilding in this was beautiful. So beautifully described and vividly imagined and I was immersed immediately. I loved the magic system, how we only see a glimpse of it, and that the events of the book lay foundations for an even more devastatingly magical sequel.
- The tension and high-stakes in this book was sublime. The dynamic between Karina and Malik was so taut, so juicy, and the build-up was so good.
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
Quinton Peters was the golden boy of the Rosewood low-income housing projects, receiving full scholarship offers to two different Ivy League schools. When he mysteriously goes missing, his little sister, 13-year-old Amari Peters, can’t understand why it’s not a bigger deal. Why isn’t his story all over the news? And why do the police automatically assume he was into something illegal?
Then Amari discovers a ticking briefcase in her brother’s old closet. A briefcase meant for her eyes only. There was far more to Quinton, it seems, than she ever knew. He’s left her a nomination for a summer tryout at the secretive Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. Amari is certain the answer to finding out what happened to him lies somewhere inside, if only she can get her head around the idea of mermaids, dwarves, yetis and magicians all being real things, something she has to instantly confront when she is given a weredragon as a roommate.
Amari must compete against some of the nation’s wealthiest kids—who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives and are able to easily answer questions like which two Great Beasts reside in the Atlantic Ocean and how old is Merlin? Just getting around the Bureau is a lesson alone for Amari with signs like ‘Department of Hidden Places this way, or is it?’ If that all wasn’t enough, every Bureau trainee has a talent enhanced to supernatural levels to help them do their jobs – but Amari is given an illegal ability. As if she needed something else to make her stand out.
I’ve talked about this book so many times and I am delighted to talk about it once more! This book absolutely has the potential to be the next big kids series of the decade – and with a movie on the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if this book takes the world by storm.
- Follows Amari, a young Black girl who gets swept into a hidden magical world when she receives a briefcase from her missing brother – and she gets nominated to be a trainee at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs.
- I loved how imaginative and creative and visual this book was. This was the sort of book that ignites your imagination and love for reading – and I can absolutely seeing this book being the book that gets young people into reading.
- I just loved that this was a magical school but mixed with elements of Men in Black. I loved the references to other magical works and mythologies and has paranormal elements too.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.
Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.
If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.
I read this book four years ago now (four!) and remember this novella very fondly. If you love the sound of Black science-fiction, then you may love Binti.
- The world that Okorafor has built was imaginative, immense, and awe-inspiring. Readers will be pulled into this world and be utterly immersed in its fantastic imagery and discourse.
- I loved how themes of culture, faith, and family combined with futurism and science-fiction. Binti was a fantastic protagonist, an anchor and the thread between all elements of the story.
- I also really enjoyed the themes of colonisation and how Binti subverts our expectations of how the story will unfold. In particular, I appreciated – and was in awe – at how this story centers empathy.
Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury
After years of waiting for her Calling—a trial every witch must pass in order to come into their powers—the one thing Voya Thomas didn’t expect was to fail. When Voya’s ancestor gives her an unprecedented second chance to complete her Calling, she agrees—and then is horrified when her task is to kill her first love. And this time, failure means every Thomas witch will be stripped of their magic.
Voya is determined to save her family’s magic no matter the cost. The problem is, Voya has never been in love, so for her to succeed, she’ll first have to find the perfect guy—and fast. Fortunately, a genetic matchmaking program has just hit the market. Her plan is to join the program, fall in love, and complete her task before the deadline. What she doesn’t count on is being paired with the infuriating Luc—how can she fall in love with a guy who seemingly wants nothing to do with her?
With mounting pressure from her family, Voya is caught between her morality and her duty to her bloodline. If she wants to save their heritage and Luc, she’ll have to find something her ancestor wants more than blood. And in witchcraft, blood is everything.
This book hasn’t released yet and I haven’t read it yet (it releases June 2021!) but I want to include this because I’m really looking forward to this book. I mean, read the premise: a girl who has find a ‘first love’ to then save her family’s magic, but may fall in love with said person? Sign me up immediately.
Dread Nation by Justine Ireland
Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.
But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.
My copy of this arrived from the library! I remember my ‘zombie phase’, but I got sick of the narratives where only white people survived the zombie apocalypse. So, I have a feeling that Dread Nation will reinvigorate my love for zombie stories and how the rise of the dead shaped the past.
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?
Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?
Raybearer is the kind of the book that I will scream about and yell at everyone to read until he day I die. If you want to read a stunning and – in my eyes – flawless story, then you absolutely need this book in your life. Immediately.
- Follows Tarisai, a girl who wants nothing more than the love and warmth of family. When her mother, known as ‘The Lady’, sends her to compete with other children to become part of the Crown Prince’s Council, she also sends her on a mission to kill him.
- The storytelling is phenomenal; the pacing is one of the best I’ve read in a long time, and the way Ifueko weaves all these plot points to come together in a powerful and immaculate way – I was rendered speechless.
- The worldbuilding was sublime. The world felt so immense, never underdeveloped nor ‘too mysterious to make up for depth’ and the magic – called ‘hollows’ – was amazing.
Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi
Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella—through visits both mundane and supernatural—tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down.
Wow, what a novella. This story pulls absolutely no punches, is unhindered and unflinching in how it examines systemic anti-Blackness, and somehow finds hope in the darkest of places.
- Follows Ella and Kev, two Black siblings with gifts of superpowers. But this isn’t a book about superpowers; it’s a book about being Black in America and these kids’ lives, very real experiences that Black people live today.
- The prose in this is just… remarkable. Piercing, incisive, and just so evocative. I felt rage when reading, felt grief, but also felt those glimmers of hope in the story as well. I don’t want to spoil the story too much – it’s best going in without knowing a thing that happens.
Root Magic by Eden Royce
It’s 1963, and things are changing for Jezebel Turner. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away. The local police deputy won’t stop harassing her family. With school integration arriving in South Carolina, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, are about to begin the school year with a bunch of new kids. But the biggest change comes when Jez and Jay turn eleven—and their uncle, Doc, tells them he’s going train them in rootwork.
Jez and Jay have always been fascinated by the African American folk magic that has been the legacy of her family for generations—especially the curious potions and powders Doc and Gran would make for the people on their island. But Jez soon finds out that her family’s true power goes far beyond small charms and elixirs…and not a moment too soon. Because when evil both natural and supernatural comes to show itself in town, it’s going to take every bit of the magic she has inside her to see her through.
I love stories inspired by folklore, so I definitely felt compelled to include Root Magic, a gorgeous historical middle-grade story about a special kind of folk magic that runs through two Black twin’s family. I love historical stories – more so if they blend folklore and magic in it, so I cannot wait to read this.
Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
A young scholar’s ambition threatens to reshape an empire determined to retain its might in this epic tale of violent conquest, buried histories, and forbidden magic.
In the thriving city of Bassa, Danso is a clever but disillusioned scholar who longs for a life beyond the rigid family and political obligations expected of the city’s elite. A way out presents itself when Lilong, a skin-changing warrior, shows up wounded in his barn. She comes from the Nameless Islands–which, according to Bassa lore, don’t exist–and neither should the mythical magic of ibor she wields. Now swept into a conspiracy far beyond his understanding, Danso will have to set out on a journey that reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore.
This book hasn’t released yet – it comes out in May 2021 – but I wanted to make sure that this book was in your to-read lists, because it’s a book I am highly anticipating. (I also love the gorgeous and striking cover.) The pitch alone should hook you in – and I cannot wait to discover the city of Bassa and the Nameless Islands and its magic.
The Black Veins by Ashia Monet
In a world where magic thrives in secret city corners, a group of magicians embark on a road trip—and it’s the “no-love-interest”, found family adventure you’ve been searching for.
Sixteen-year-old Blythe is one of seven Guardians: magicians powerful enough to cause worldwide panic with a snap of their fingers. But Blythe spends her days pouring latte art at her family’s coffee shop, so why should she care about having apocalyptic abilities?
She’s given a reason when magician anarchists crash into said coffee shop and kidnap her family.
Heartbroken but determined, Blythe knows she can’t save them alone. A war is brewing between two magician governments and tensions are too high. So, she packs up her family’s bright yellow Volkswagen, puts on a playlist, and embarks on a road trip across the United States to enlist the help of six strangers whose abilities are unparalleled—the other Guardians.
Do you love urban fantasy? And do you love found family, where the family are a group of magical being who have absolute and incredible power? And do you love a roadtrip where friendship and fighting for who you love is at the center? Then you’ll love The Black Veins.
- Follows Blythe, a Black teen who is also one of seven Guardians, the most powerful magicians in the world — except she just wants to be with her family, make coffee at her parents’ cafe, and just… be a teen.
- This story is full of magic, adventures, friendships, no romance arcs, and just teens being teens while also trying to save their families and the world.
- The characters in this story are amazing; their character developments are brilliant and organic, and you’ll love the banter that feels authentic and meaningful.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
This is the way the world ends. Again.
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
I read this book on a plane, friends. A plane, where I get nauseated as heck and would beg for the sweet relief of passing out. I don’t know what compelled me to bring The Fifth Season with me on the plane, but I can tell you: nauseated or not, I don’t remember, I read The Fifth Season on the plane, utterly glued to the story and unable to look away.
- The Fifth Season is high fantasy at its finest – immersive, rich in its history and world, complex and rich with its unique history, cultures, structures, and institutions.
- The story follows three characters and their perspectives: Damaya, a young girl taken to train as an ‘orogene’ (or people who ca manipulate thermal and kinetic energy); Syenite, a young woman who goes on a mission with a ‘ten-ringer’ orogene and discovers a secret; and Essun, a mother in a quest of revenge after her husband murders their son and kidnaps their daughter.
- It is also immaculately told; interweaving different stories, slowly unveiling truths and revelations, and how the story pushes the boundaries of science-fiction/fantasy will blow you away.
The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi
A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.
When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.
Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?
If you love the idea of a Middle-Eastern inspired middle-grade adventure that blends steampunk with Jumanji, then I think you will be delighted that The Gauntlet is such a book.
- This is the perfect story if you want to be entertained and excited from start to finish. Readers will love how this story and the mechanical board game of The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand will ignites imagination
- The characters are incredible, their growth in the story and how the game tests their mettle, leading them to utitlise their strengths to beat it, is so affirming and a delight to read.
The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis
Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst
THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS
The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls–they know their luck is anything but. Sold to a “welcome house” as children and branded with cursed markings. Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.
When Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta’s most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.
It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.
Here’s a genre you might be looking more of: a western fantasy adventure. I adored this book and am very much looking forward to the long-awaited sequel, The Sisters of Reckoning.
- Follows Aster, a ‘Good Luck Girl’, or girls branded and sold to ‘welcome houses’ to serve as either housemaids or, prostitutes, when they are older. When her little sister accidentally kills a man, she and four other girls escape the welcome house in search of the fabled ‘Lady Ghost’ who can remove their brands so they can be free.
- The worldbuilding is a mix of fantastical and western vibes, and it works amazingly. There’s an overtone of fear as the girls try to escape – as danger lurks at every corner and every new town – and I felt that so distinctly while reading.
- The relationships in this were wonderful. I loved every single girl by the end of the book and I thought their character developments and how the adventure and challenges bring them together and push them apart – especially Aster and Violet, who were fantastic characters.
The Unbroken by C.L. Clark
Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.
Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.
Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.
Another book that hasn’t quite released yet – releases March 2021; not too long now! – but I want to put on your radars because I’m so excited for this. A North-African inspired political fantasy that’s also sapphic, about a princess and a solider! I want this book so desperately.
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia
Seventh-grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s journal. Tristan chases after it — is that a doll? — and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree.
In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American gods John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?
If you love the Rick Riordan Presents series – a series celebrating stories inspired by mythology from around the world, written by ownvoices authors, then I think you’ll love Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky! Inspired by West-African folklore and African-American legends, this is also a story about grappling with grief, Black masculinity, and an awesome adventure.
Wings of Ebony by J.Elle
“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.
Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.
Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.
I’ve yet to pick this up, but after the wonderful author interview that I did with the author of Wings of Ebony, J.Elle, I’m definitely excited to read this! With its huge emphasis on family, sisterhood, and identity, I can tell that I am going to love and enjoy Wings of Ebony.
Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart
Divided by their order. United by their vengeance.
Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance.
Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.
Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But power is intoxicating, revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths they will go to win this game.
This Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy has the twisted cat-and-mouse of Killing Eve with the richly imagined fantasy world of Furyborn and Ember in the Ashes.
I’m also thrilled to include Witches Steeped in Gold to this list, as this releases very soon – April 2021! After having the pleasure to interview Ciannon about her debut, I’m buzzing to read this book and I cannot wait to see the fraught and tense allyship between two enemies.
SFF Black Books We’ve Recommended Before – But Want to Recommend Again!
- Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson – adult m/m fantasy between an distant royal and a soldier
- The Deep by Rivers Solomon – adult fantasy about mer-people based on African folklore of pregnant slave women thrown overboard who gave birth to mer-people
- Pet by Akwaeke Emezi – young adult about a trans teen living in a world without monsters – until a monster named Pet appears, searching for a monster
- Legendborn by Tracey Deonn – young adult contemporary fantasy inspired by the Arthurian legend
- Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron – young adult f/f retelling and reimagining of Cinderella
- Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson – young adult m/m romance about time travel with science-fiction elements
- The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow – young adult science-fiction about an alien invasion and how art can save the world
- An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon – adult queer science-fiction about individuals living on a massive spacecraft carrying the remnants of the human race
Found a book that you want to buy?
Awesome! Thanks to Victoria Lee for this wonderful resource of Black-owned indie bookstores in the US and this list of Black-owned indie bookshops in the UK, you can now purchase these books from this list of Black-owned indie bookshops: