I’m writing this in early April, to be published in late April. If I’m right (and depressingly enough, I probably will be), most of us will still be quarantine, or at least should be. I’ve already seen a dozen people online asking for book recommendations, so I thought I’d throw in my two cents.
As usual, every BitchShelf recommendation has minority representation and is a fantastic story. I have cherry-picked the longer books and series from my collection for the purposes of this article, so it’ll hopefully take a few days for you to get through them. Links go to my more in-depth reviews.
The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
These are monster books, over a thousand pages each. It’s kind of like Game of Thrones, in that there’s a million things going on plus a global threat, and it’s currently unfinished. Unlike Game of Thrones, we have a solid release date for the next book (November 17th). The magic system is insane, the battles are intense, and the characters are fully fleshed out and complicated–even the paragons.
It’s also not grimdark, even though it still has darker moments and wrestles with larger issues. So it doesn’t feel like your faith in humanity is being shredded with every page. Well, more than it already is.
Everything by Rick Riordan.
No, really. EVERYTHING. Start with the Percy Jackson series, work your way through Heroes of Olympus, and then Trials of Apollo. The last one is currently incomplete, as the final Trials of Apollo book comes out in September 2020. These are YA books about modern-day Greek and Roman gods, and they are hilarious while also going into really deep issues of family and morality. There’s also a Norse god trilogy called The Magnus Chase trilogy. What’s really fun is that, as the series progresses, you can see Riordan get better at writing and more inclusive, going from disabilities to women to people of color to same-sex relationships to genderfluid transgender. And these are all major characters, not sidelined tokens.
On top of that, the author started an imprint series within Disney Publishing called Rick Riordan Presents. He finds YA authors who have similar books as his and sponsors them: Indian gods in the modern day, Mesopotamian gods, African American folktales…that’s enough to keep you going until we get a proper apocalypse.
Throne of Glass series by Sara J. Maas
This is a seven-book YA epic fantasy series full of plot twists, war, and romance. If I go into too much detail, it’ll be spoiled, and I’m trying to avoid going to reviewer hell, so this will be brief.
I’ve complained about the convoluted romantic subplots and lack of death in later books in this column, but it’s still a great read. A young assassin with a very complicated past winds up in the service of an evil tyrant and has to figure out how to overthrow him. Every woman is either an assassin, a warrior, and/or has magic. The villains are the absolute scum of the earth, and when they go down it is beautiful.
The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky
Rick Riordan did a funny YA trilogy about modern-day Norse gods. Jordanna Max Brodsky wrote a historical fantasy book about Norse and Inuit gods, and put it in the adult grimdark section.
The main character–a transgender Inuit shaman–ends up going to Norway in the Viking era and has to stop them from invading, and deal with the Inuit gods who are split on whether to help her or kill her.
The biggest theme is sexual assault. The main character is a survivor of assault, while one of the other major characters is a former Viking–re: assaulter–who goes through a redemption arc. There are a few other trigger warnings to consider: violence, character death, animal death, religious persecution, transphobia, sexism, etc. But don’t worry: there is a happy ending, I swear.
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
Another fantasy book dealing with sexual assault! Hooray!
Who Fears Death is about a post-apocalyptic Africa, centered around a woman who is the product of rape, and as a result has both severe anger issues and magical powers. The first half of the book is her growing up and figuring out her powers, the second half is her going after her father.
The worldbuilding is amazing, all the characters are complicated and fleshed out, and the story is one big engaging read. More bittersweet ending than happy ending, but in a grimdark story that’s usually the best you can hope for.
The Guns Above and By Fire Above by Robyn Bennis
Airships! Platonic male-female friendships! Dismantling the patriarchy with epic battles and snippy sarcasm!
The Guns Above is a steampunk story about the first woman captain of an airship. She has to deal with a spy in her crew, several higher-ups who are waiting for her to fail, and of course a war.
What makes this series unique from other steampunk is that Bennis, as a scientist, really digs into how exactly airship battles would play out. She goes into the technicalities of operating an airship, all the dangers and pitfalls, and makes it interesting. So there’s a lot of, “We’re trying to get to this place for a mission, but if we don’t fix this technical problem on the way then we’re all dead because this thing is full of helium.”
It’s a serious story full of characters who are sarcastic, hilarious bitches. You just can’t beat it.
Tell us your favorite reads for quarantine so we can add to our TBR piles!