Aliette de Bodard
She is probably my favorite author I discovered this year. I mean, between short stories, novellas and novels, in 2018 I read at least ten of her books.
- My favorite thing she has written is the Dominion of the Fallen series, a very diverse fantasy series following the aftermath of a magical war in Paris, and it involves humans, fallen angels and Vietnamese shapeshifting dragons. It’s very queer (especially book two, but there’s already an f/f couple in book one) and just as underrated.
- I also really loved her short novel In the Vanishers’ Palace, a post-colonial f/f retelling of Beauty and the Beast with an all-Vietnamese cast, in which the beast is a shapeshifting dragon. This book has the best romance and setting ever, please read it
- She has also written a lot of short stories, novelettes and novellas, many of them in the Xuya universe (basically a Vietnamese space empire). My favorite of those is The Tea Master and the Detective, a genderbent Sherlock Holmes retelling in which Watson is a sentient spaceship. I love this universe so much.
This year, I’m looking forward to the third book of the Dominion of the Fallen series, The House of Sundering Flames, and maybe I’ll also get to the first trilogy she has written, Obsidian and Blood (inspired by Aztec mythology).
Ann Leckie is a well-known SFF author I hadn’t read anything from until this year, and now I can say that her books deserve all the hype and awards they got.
- This year, The Raven Tower will come out, and let’s say that I already can’t wait. It’s supposedly a fantasy book about godhood featuring trans characters. I love this concept.
- She became one of my favorite authors this year because of her novel Ancillary Justice, which has one of the most imaginative takes on AIs I’ve ever read, a space empire unlike any other, and a complex exploration of class privilege. I like it enough that I’m making my dad read it and maybe he’s liking it too? (Slow reader.)
- She also wrote the standalone space comedy of manners Provenance, which I didn’t love as much as Ancillary Justice, but its commentary on symbols, cultural identity and legacies was wonderful.
If “weird” is one of your buzzwords, you should definitely try Nicky Drayden’s works. She writes really unique, sometimes over-the-top African SFF – and I promise, if you read one of he books, you won’t forget it.
- Her debut, The Prey of Gods, is a sci-fantasy novel following a series of increasingly unusual events in an already… peculiar futuristic version of South Africa. This novel features weird hybrids, including whippet/iguana and rhionhawks (rhino + lion + hawk) combinations, implied (not shown) crab/porpoise drug-induced sex, virus-carried superpowers, a ten-year-old mass murderous goddes, an adult goddes who is worse, a religious AI uprising, and possibly an apocalypse.
- I liked her second novel, Temper, even more. This time, the story is mostly on the fantasy side, but it doesn’t lack interesting technology. Do you want to read about a society in which everyone has a twin with whom they split vices and virtues, there are three genders assigned at birth, demons can possess you, and magical schools have flying librarians? Read Temper. It’s a very fun, wild ride full of twists you won’t see coming and kind-of-terrible characters who will grow on you.
- This year, her third novel Escaping Exodus comes out! I’m not sure what kind of weird things it will feature this time, but it should be a sci-fantasy story about biological generational spaceships, and as The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley showed me, there’s always so much space for weird and gory things in this kind of books.
I love when I think I don’t like a genre and then an author proves me wrong. Amelinda Bérubé has been this for me with YA horror, just like Cassandra Khaw was for its adult counterpart in 2017.
- Her debut, The Dark Beneath the Ice, is a chilling horror story about what may or may not be a haunting, featuring a wholesome f/f romance and anxiety representation – the anxiety representation that has been the closest to my own experiences. Probably the most relatable book I’ve ever read, because this books gets what it means to live while trying to disappear. Very creepy by YA standard, but it never leaned into the creepy elements for pure shock value, which is the perfect balance.
- This year, her new horror book Here There Are Monsters will come out, and it’s supposedly a story about sisterhood, monsters and disappearances. I’m sure that even if it doesn’t end up being as personal as her debut, it will have a clever set-up, creepy content and great themes anyway.
You know when you read a book and think “this has so much heart“? As in, the author clearly cares about what she’s writing and the books deals with heavy topics and gives you a lot of feelings? That’s how Rebecca Barrow’s books seem to be and it’s always great when I find new contemporary authors I like.
- I read her second novel This Is What It Feels Like, a story about recovery from the point of view of three girls who were once friends as they reconnect through music. It talks about mental illness, teenage motherhood and toxic relationships, and does so without sounding like a cautionary tale. It reminded me of both the more popular books Far From the Tree and The Beauty that Remains, while being its own novel. If you liked them, try this too! It’s such a beautiful story.
- I still have to read her debut You Don’t Know Me But I Know You, which also deals with a teen pregnancy, and now I definitely want to.
She is one of the first new authors I found in 2018! And I fell in love with her writing immediately. I hope she writes more novels in the future.
- Her only novel so far is Under the Pendulum Sun, a twisted Gothic tale about Victorian missionaries in fairyland. It has one of the weirdest, creepiest worlds I’ve ever read about, and I know I will never forget its pendulum sun and fish moon. Or those fairies. Also, its religious themes were interesting.
- She also wrote my favorite story in the Not So Stories anthology (short stories in response to Kipling’s Just So Stories), How the Tree of Wishes Gained its Carapace of Plastic, a heartbreaking short about Hong Kong and its history of colonization.
P. Djèlí Clark
A short fiction favorite of 2018. I love finding new authors I like in this format, as it’s very difficult to get right and doesn’t get a lot of hype either.
- The first thing I’ve read by him was The Black God’s Drums, an alt-history steampunk novella inspired by Caribbean mythology. I loved almost everything about it, especially the characters and the atmosphere
- Then I read his Egyptian steampunk-like paranormal murder mystery A Dead Djinn In Cairo, possibly the short story with the best worldbuilding and atmosphere I’ve ever read.
- And this year a novella set in the same world will come out! I can’t wait for The Haunting of Tram Car 015.
YA contemporary romance has always been a hit-or-miss genre for me, and I’m so glad that this year I found a new favorite author in it.
- I still need to read I Believe a Thing Called Love, a romance which seems like the perfect summer read.
- The Way You Make Me Feel was one of the best contemporary books I’ve ever read and my favorite “fun” contemporary of 2018. It had everything I want from the genre, from atmosphere to a memorable main character, from developed friendships to a sweet romance and parents that have a relevant role in the main character’s life. Also, those food descriptions!
- In 2019, Somewhere We Only Know will come out, and it’s being described as a K-pop romance – which is already a premise that could be really fun, but since it’s written by Maurene Goo, I’m sure I’m going to like it.
What I said before about authors proving me wrong also counts for Elizabeth Acevedo and poetry! I thought I didn’t like it at all, and then I read The Poet X.
- Her debut The Poet X is a beautiful story about a Dominican-American girl and her struggles with sexuality, women’s role in her religion, and self-image, told as a poetry diary. I flew through it and loved most of the poems in it.
- This year, With the Fire on High will come out, and it should be a story about a teen mother who loves cooking, and I’m sure it’s going to be amazing.
Nova Ren Suma
Nova Ren Suma has been writing YA books since 2009, but I tried one of her books only in 2018 – and now I’m far more interested in her backlist than I was before, because she writes the kind of weird YA I’m always looking for.
- The only novel I’ve read by her so far is A Room Away From the Wolves, a very unusual and atmospheric paranormal story set in New York following a Jewish bisexual abuse survivor. The plot was somewhat confusing, but I will never forget the imagery here.
- Of her backlist titles, The Walls Around Us is the one that sounds the most interesting to me. I haven’t heard much about it but I’ve been told that it’s the same kind of weird as A Room Away From the Wolves, which is what I want.
Have you discovered any new favorite authors in 2018?