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SF/F RECOMMENDATIONS: 12 Books Forged In Fire


Photo by Angela Cronin

Since the beginning of time and spanning nearly all reaches of folklore, the element of fire has represented ardency and intent. There are often contradictory correspondences: filth and purification; Heaven and Hell; destruction and new beginnings.


Those born under the Fire signs of the Zodiac—Aries, Leo (it's Leo season, can you tell?), and Sagittarius—might not generally be the first to come to mind when you think of a calm reader perched in the nook of a library. However, this doesn't mean they don't read; as always, there's something for everyone. Drawn by intense themes of enchantment, philosophy, adventure, tragedy, and rip-roaring humor, these signs and those who resonate with the element of fire are voracious and insatiable readers with the right books in their hands.


We've compiled a list of TWELVE SF/F novels laced with the resurrection and mysticism of fire:


The Girls of Paper and Fire, by Natasha Ngan

Photo Courtesy of Jimmy Patterson Books

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It's the highest honor they could hope for...and the most demeaning. This year, there's a ninth. And instead of paper, she's made of fire.


In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it's Lei they're after -- the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king's interest.


Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king's consort. There, she does the unthinkable -- she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world's entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she's willing to go for justice and revenge.


Collateral Damage, by Taylor Simonds

Photo Courtesy of The Parliament Press

Power. Courage. Invincibility. The marks of a true hero.


Meg Sawyer has none of these things.


Meg has never stopped a moving bus with her bare hands, been bitten by a radioactive insect, or done anything moderately resembling saving the world. She doesn't have to. She's a background citizen, a nobody, one of the swarms of faceless civilians of Lunar City--where genetically enhanced superhumans straight out of the comics have thwarted evil for years.


For as long as the Supers have existed, Meg has had one goal: to not become a casualty in their near-daily battles for justice. And for the last seventeen years, she's managed to do just that. Sure, her minimum-wage job at the local coffee shop isn’t great, she can’t even leave her apartment without loading herself up with protective gear, and her car was just hijacked to throw at a supervillain (again), but she’s not dead yet.


But when Meg accidentally finds one of the city's perfect, invincible protectors murdered under extremely suspicious circumstances, her whole “innocent bystander” strategy falls apart. After being coerced by his determined girlfriend into a mission to help prevent the deaths of the remaining Supers, Meg finds herself forced into the foreground of a story she never wanted to be part of—one that challenges everything she thought she knew about both her city and herself.


Sons of Fire, by Tracy Auerbach

Photo Courtesy of The Parliament Press

When Keegan’s father, the Demon King of Fire, attempted to produce an heir, a surge of light energy interrupted the process. One tiny piece of the newly forming demon broke off. That piece is Keegan. For years, he has attempted to lay low, watching from the shadows while his monstrous brother Aidan, the true Prince of Fire, is groomed for the throne.


Keegan’s shaky status quo is shattered when one of his father’s power-plays goes horribly wrong. He is cast to Earth and forced to work with a suddenly powerless Aidan. The two brothers must cooperate to complete an impossible task and avoid being cast forever into the abyss. As if having to spend time with his beastly other half wasn’t bad enough, Keegan must adapt to living on Earth, wielding his new human vessel, and dealing with his demonic appetite without harming the human creatures for whom he has always cared.


As Keegan and Aidan work to save themselves, questions arise. What exactly was the King of Fire up to, that sparked their Master’s interest enough to cast them from the Demon Realm? Can Aidan be trusted in his new human form, complete with emotions, or is he the same unfeeling creature he’s always been? And why are so many demons suddenly invested in the outcome of the brothers’ trial? The only thing Keegan knows for certain is that whether he succeeds or fails at the task, the consequences for the Demon Realm and for Earth itself will be catastrophic.


Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi

Photo Courtesy of Henry Holt Company

They killed my mother.

They took our magic.

They tried to bury us.


Now we rise.


Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.


But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.


Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.


Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.


Double-Crossing the Bridge, by Sarah Sover

Photo Courtesy of The Parliament Press

Rent in New Metta is through the cavern ceiling. When Granu barely survives her first gig teaching students who attempt to fillet her for lunch, the baby-eating troll ends up unemployed and facing eviction. Granu's only prospect for income is grueling work in the tar pits. That is, until her playboy best friend devises a perfect, if suicidal, scheme—a heist!


The Covered Bridge, the largest source of income for the city, has New Metta well under hoof. In a week, TCB Corporation pulls in enough cash to buy a small country. It's the ideal target, but security is top-notch. Granu needs three things to survive this heist: a crew of specialists, impenetrable sun protection, and gallons of grog.


There’s just one thing Granu doesn’t plan for—those damn meddling billy goats.




Order of Dust, by Nicholas J. Evans

Releasing October 20th, 2020 with The Parliament Press

PREORDER NOW


Jackson Crowe is dead.


Or, at least he was. After his death, he awoke in the North-Lane and found himself at the crossroads of life and the beyond. The higher beings gave him a choice: move on, through the North-Lane and into the universe for your next chapter. Or, return to earth and claim revenge. Now, Jackson is known as the Order of Dust, with the task of hunting the ones who take possession over human bodies and return them to the higher beings. Jackson, both grizzled and pained, looks to find who took his life, and the life of his love. To do this he will need his two pistols; one for humans, and one for demons.



Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

Photo Courtesy of Penguin Books

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned--from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.


Enter Mia Warren--an enigmatic artist and single mother--who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.


When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.


Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood--and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.


The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True, by Sean Gibson

Photo Courtesy of The Parliament Press

Releasing December 12th with The Parliament Press

PREORDER NOW


Sure, you think you know the story of the fearsome red dragon, Dragonia. How it terrorized the village of Skendrick until a brave band of heroes answered the noble villagers' call for aid. How nothing could stop those courageous souls from facing down the dragon. How they emerged victorious and laden with treasure.


But, even in a world filled with epic adventures and tales of derring-do, where dragons, goblins, and unlicensed prestidigitators run amok, legendary heroes don't always know what they're doing. Sometimes they're clueless. Sometimes beleaguered townsfolk are more hapless than helpless. And orcs? They're not always assholes, and sometimes they don't actually want to eat your children.


Heloise the Bard, Erithea's most renowned storyteller (at least, to hear her tell it), is here to set the record straight. See, it turns out adventuring isn't easy, and true heroism is as rare as an articulate villager.


Having spent decades propagating this particular myth (which, incidentally, she wrote), she's finally able to tell the real story—for which she just so happened to have a front-row seat.


Welcome to Erithea. I hope you brought a change of undergarments—things are going to get messy.


Infinity Son, by Adam Silvera

Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.


Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.


Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.


Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.


Shadowed by Despair (Laith, #3), by Candace Robinson

Photo Courtesy of The Parliament Press

Perin expected eternal darkness after his death, yet the land of Laith has other plans for him. Snapped awake with a desperate hunger for flesh, he fights the urge to feed, knowing that once he gives in to temptation, there is no turning back.


Tavarra’s deepest desire was always to be human. When she received her one true wish, the journey had already claimed those she cared about. Alone, she fights through each day, forgetting how to truly live.


To strip away his new curse, Perin needs to retrieve an enchanted liquid and bring it back to the Stone of Desire. Despite his unpredictability, and him being the monster this time, Tavarra chooses to help. Tied by fate and loneliness, they must cross the sea into a deadly part of Laith and find the solution before Perin’s hunger overtakes him.



Disenchanted, by Brianna Sugalski

Photo Courtesy of The Parliament Press and Gabriella Bujdoso

A Breton princess at the peak of the French Renaissance, Lilac lives prisoner in her parents' castle after a wicked secret is revealed on the eve of her tenth birthday soirée. Years later, her coronation ceremony looms, and between the riotous townsfolk and scheming nobleman bent on snatching the throne, Lilac prepares for the worst... Until a mysterious letter arrives from The Witch of Lupine Grotto, detailing a curious offer to cure her darkness forever.


Lilac begrudgingly trades her coronet for a cloak and ventures into the forest Brocéliande in pursuit of the impious enchantress at the edge of town. With only the protection of an inherited dagger—and unsolicited help of the sardonic stranger who inserts himself on her quest—she must traverse Brocèliande and return in time to claim her rightful position as sovereign monarch.


This is the story of a cursed princess,

A crestfallen killer,

The town that wants them to burn,

And the witch that can save them both.


Ember In the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.


Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.


It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.


But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.


There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.










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