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Sci-fi and Fantasy Book Gifts for Adult Readers

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There are such amazing books in science fiction and fantasy these days a reader could get lost wandering the aisles of the bookstore trying to figure out what to try next. If you’re anything like me, wandering aimlessly online to find a book at the library or at Amazon is a lot worse. These days, though our library does a good job of sharing books I haven’t heard of before, even they can’t afford to share a wide enough swath to satisfy my itch for reading so I also rely a lot on recommendations from friends.
I’ve heard people say that we’re entering a new golden age of fantasy. The line-up of talented authors and their incredible stories supports that claim admirably. Come discover a new author or title, or an old classic if you’re new to sci-fi or fantasy.

Epic Sci-fi and Fantasy Book Gifts for Adults Readers

Nnedi Okarofor’s Akata Witch

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American-born Sunny moves with her family to Nigeria where she discovers there’s a world of magic parallel to the world we live in, and together with her friends, learns to harness her newfound abilities to complete a destiny that was begun by her predecessors. Read it twice to soak up the world.

JY Yang’s The Black Tides of Heaven

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Twins, Mokoya and Akeha, are born into world divided between The Machinists and The Tensors, and must find a way to have the courage of their conscience without destroying their twin bond.

N.K. Jemison’s The Fifth Season

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A shaken world, a murdered son, a missing daughter. This story is masterful, complex, gripping. Set aside a solid half day to read this from start to finish because you won’t want to put it down for anything.

Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin’s The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories

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This is a compilation of short stories from a collection of deeply talented authors: Nnedi Okorafor, Neil Gaiman, Helene Wecker, Amal El-Mohtar, Catherine King, Claire North, E.J. Swift, Hermes (trans. Robin Moger), Jamal Mahjoub, James Smythe, J.Y. Yang, Kamila Shamsie, Kirsty Logan, K.J. Parker, Kuzhali Manickavel, Maria Dahvana Headley, Monica Byrne, Saad Hossein, Sami Shah, Sophia Al-Maria and Usman Malik. Don’t miss it.

Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone

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An epic fantasy, The Children of Blood and Bone follows two sets of siblings as they embark on a journey seeking power, and finding friendship, betrayal, love, and violence along the way.

Liu Cixin and Ken Liu’s The Three-Body Problem

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This is the first time Liu Cixin’s work has been translated to English and it was well worth the wait.

Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives

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Jessamy’s family requires her to be a proper upper-class Patron, but her heart yearns to run The Fives. Doing so in secret, she makes friends but quickly finds her risks put the lives of her mother and sisters in peril. In the author’s words: This trilogy includes a revolution against a racist violent authoritarian colonialist monarchy, if that interests you. Also a serious girl athlete. And sisters. And parents who are alive and figure in the story in important ways.

John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency)

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You know that a book is engaging when you get to the end of it and curse because it’s the first of a new series so you have to wait a long while to find out what happens next. It’s important to read these first books so that the authors can write the next ones, though!

Seanan McGuire’s Discount Armageddon: Book One of InCryptid

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The only reason I wouldn’t recommend picking this book up immediately is … well actually, I don’t have a reason. A family of cryptozoologists who act as a buffer between humans and the magical creatures living in secret around us – this is a little like the premise of Grimm (which I enjoyed but it had glaring flaws) only incredibly well executed.

Eric Flint’s 1632 (Ring of Fire Series)

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I started this historical fantasy series several years ago and I keep coming back to it several times a year. The whole series is definitely worth reading.

Cass Morris’s From Unseen Fire

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Cass’s debut novel is an epic historical fantasy in the world of Aven, an alternate Ancient Rome built on elemental magic.

Myke Cole’s The Armored Saint (The Sacred Throne series)

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In this world of magic and war-machines, wizards are outlawed, and the Order slaughters anyone it must to ensure that no wizards live to work magic which could open a portal to hell. A young Heloise stands up against them, putting herself, her family, and her village at risk.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Beguilement (The Sharing Knife, Book 1)

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“You can’t go home again” is borne out in this four part trilogy about a young farm girl who meets an adventurer. Together they weather prejudice and magic, duties, and disparate cultures.

Axie Oh’s Rebel Seoul

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Imagine being a teenager, abandoned by your father, growing up in a world that’s pulled itself into a collection of militaristic city-states after a global war. Lee Jaewon is that teen in Neo Seoul, recruited to a prestigious weapons development project, who has to decide who he is and what he stands for. Korean drama meets Pacific Rim in Dystopia.

Catherynne M. Valente’s Six-Gun Snow White

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A Native American twist on the classic Snow White tale set in the American West.

Naomi Novik’s Uprooted

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I got to know Naomi’s writing through her well known Temeraire series, but I particularly loved this completely unrelated novel that draws on the fairy tales of old and builds a world full of wizardry, magic, mystery, risks and consequences.

Kat Howard’s An Unkindness of Magicians

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Magic exists and controls everything. Kat Howard’s powerful protagonist isn’t interested in saving the system that’s slowly fading.

Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown

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We meet the Sorceror Royal of Regency England at a particularly bad time for the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers. Zacharias Wythe is in a tough position. He needs to find out why England has been losing magic for years, while his colleagues resent him, and he may have to further break social conventions in order to save Britain.

Cassandra Khaw’s Food of the Gods (Gods and Monsters)

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Cassandra Khaw is amazing at fantastical stories and this book is no exception. A sorcerer chef cooking human flesh for ghouls, and administrator for the Ten Chinese Hells, our protagonist needs to muster the wit and luck to safely navigate a war between the gods.

Tade Thompson’s Rosewater (The Wormwood Trilogy)

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I’ve read about people trapped in a dome, but Rosewood is a town that rises up around an alien dome, and you have to know that this doesn’t bode well for anyone. (But you still want to read it. Obviously.)

The great thing about the huge, almost intimidating, number of books available is that there truly is something for everyone.

Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning

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In this post-apocalyptic world, monsters, gods and heroes live among humans. Maggie’s job is to hunt the monsters and has to work with an unusual medicine man to track a particularly horrific monster. She has to face down more than just a monster – she has to face her past.

Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper

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This may be billed as a young adult book, don’t let that get in the way of enjoying a fantastic story. Meet Sierra Santiago, artist and teen, who has to unravel the mystery of shadowshaping and find out who is trying to kill all the shadowshapers.

Kate Elliot’s Cold Magic (The Spiritwalker Trilogy)

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Kate speaks nothing but truth when she informs us this is “the Afro-Celtic post-Roman alt-history fantasy with Phoenician spies, well-dressed men, lawyer dinosaurs, sisterhood & revolution you’ve been waiting for. Bonus: no Northern European colonialism in this early 19th century world because no Germanic-descent nations.” She’s not wrong but would it be wrong of me to say that this series is out of this world?

Wesley Chu’s Time Salvager

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Up for a time travel adventure? Hop on board with James Griffin-Mars, a chronman of dystopic Earth, who travels through time to recover treasures without breaking any of the unbreakable rules of time travel. Naturally, one of those rules is broken.

N.K. Jemisin’s The Inheritance Trilogy

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Yeine Darr, protector of her father’s clan, is summoned to her grandfather’s domain for reasons unknown to her. She finds that she’s to compete for the privilege of becoming heiress to the throne Sci-fi and Fantasy Book Gifts for Adult Readers Part 3of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. This isn’t a summons she can ignore, lest her home clan suffer the consequences.

Ken Liu, The Grace of Kings

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In an unlikely team-up, our protagonists Kuni Garu the bandit, and Mata Zynu the son of the former duke become friends fighting side by side in an uprising against the emperor, then end up on opposing sides of the revolution.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion

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A much older and worn out Cazaril limps back to the household he once called home and served as a page in hopes of securing some kind of employment. He’s given a far grander role than he hoped for, tutor to the heir’s sister, and finds himself embroiled in royal intrigues and a far darker curse than he could have imagined.

Peter Tieryas, Mecha Samurai Empire

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In this world, the US never dropped the two bombs and Germany and Japan won World War 2, making the US part of Japan’s Empire. Makoto Fujimoto and his awful grades are aiming for the Berkeley Military Academy’s mecha pilot training program but ends up fighting to survive when he washes out of the exam.

Nnedi Okarofor’s Binti

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Binti leaves her family to travel to Oomza University alone, as the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at the prestigious institution, and runs into trouble of galactic proportions. Nnedi told me that this book was intended to be called “Bint” which is for “girl” in a few languages but she had to change it to Binti because of the myognistic and racist usage of the word in other places.

Sam Sykes’s The City Stained Red (Bring Down Heaven series)

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The band of adventurers from the Aeons’ Gate series are retiring from adventuring. They show up at the city of Cier’Djaal, to collect their final bounty but as ever, things don’t go as planned.

Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon: A Novel of Temeraire

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Dragons are an absolute staple of the fantasy genre, and Novik’s historical fantasy reimagines what would have happened in well known wars if dragons existed in Europe many years ago.

Maurice Broaddus, The Voices of Martyrs

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An anthology of short stories, this collection remembers the voices of martyrs in history – the history long forgotten, the history we’re creating now, and the history to be created in the far future.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140

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A 2018 Hugo Award nominee for best novel, New York 2140 imagines a drowned city, but the fight for life is still going strong in an apartment building in Madison Square.

Tobias Buckell, Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse

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This collection of short stories covers a vastness of post-apocalptic stories, with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse serving as appropriate guides through the titular Wastelands.

Ann Leckie’s Provenance

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A 2018 Hugo Award nominee and Locus Award nominee, Provenance returns to the world Ann Leckie created for the Imperial Radch trilogy. Ingray embarks on a risky venture to free a thief of priceless artifacts from a prison planet to regain those stolen artifacts. An interstellar conflict centered on her home planet complicates matters.

André M. Carrington, Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction

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Carrington examines the relationships between race and genre in this analysis of science fiction, a popular and marginalized genre, and brings forth a new understanding of blackness in this area of literature.

Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber

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Tan-Tan enjoys the revelry of festival time until her father’s crime drags her into the New Half-Way Tree world where monsters are real and she must save herself by becoming the Robber Queen.

Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles

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This dark fantasy takes us into Camellia Beauregard’s world of Orleans where Belles control beauty. She aspires to rise to the top and discovers there are layers in her world that make her ability to make a mirage of beauty both more powerful and more dangerous than she ever realized.

S.L. Huang’s Zero Sum Game

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Math genius Cas Russell takes on any kind of fight, for a price, until she runs into someone with a power that she should run from as fast as she can. Except she can’t.

Fonda Lee’s Jade City

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The first in an epic trilogy, Fonda Lee’s Jade City is undergoing a sea change after the war ends. Coveted jade, previously used for protecting the island, becomes readily accessible to anyone who uses a new powerful drug causing tensions to erupt.

Sci-fi and Fantasy Book Gifts for Adult Readers Part 3

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honor

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The first of the Vorkosigian saga, according to the publication order, this novel introduces us to Cordelia Naismith and her crew when they’re attacked by a renegade group and taken prisoner by Aral Vorkosigan. The commander of the ship was targeted in a mutiny, and the two of them work together for time, finding themselves more and more entwined.

P. Djèlí Clark’s The Black God’s Drums

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In this alternate history, New Orleans is in danger of being destroyed by a Haitian scientist and his weapon called The Black God’s Drums. Creeper, just trying to escape the streets, finds herself pulled into a mission to save New Orleans

Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars

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A meteorite strikes Earth and forces humans to run to space for survival, not for discovery. Elma York, a thoroughly competent pilot and mathematician, joins the efforts to get us off-planet and wonders why, with so many highly competent and skilled women working on this effort, they’re precluded from going into space?

Kai Ashante Wilson’s A Taste of Honey

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While the emperor and his delegation of diplomats and gods are negotiating at Olorum for trade routes, public services, and arcane aid, Aqib finds himself falling in love with a handsome Dalucan soldier. Can their whirlwind romance blossom and survive in a world that thoroughly disapproves of them?

Octavia Butler’s Dawn (Xenogenesis, Bk. 1)

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The first of a three part series: After Lilith Iyapo loses her family to atomic fire that consumes Earth, she wakes hundreds of years later in the spacecraft of her saviors, the Oankali. They saved the last of humanity and will help resettle the planet but only by genetically merging with their hosts. Humans will no longer be entirely human.

Aliette de Bodard’s Servant of the Underworld

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The High Priest must investigate the disappearance of a Priestess, by all appearances her murder, but the involvement of his estranged sibling complicates what should be a routine matter. Worse, the further he digs, the more he’s mired in the politics.

Jeannie Lin’s Gunpowder Alchemy

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All Jin Soling is trying to do is keep her family together. Her father was executed by the Emperor for losing Britain’s steam engines, her mother is addicted to opium, and her younger brother may be sent to the factories. She has to sell off her family’s possessions which, unfortunately, draws imperial attention back in her direction.

Jeannette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun

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A friend recommended this to me because it’s “so weird and thus great”. I had to check it out: Victorian missionaries, Arcadia, the land of the fae, and the Queen of the Fae in hot pursuit. What more could one possibly ask for?

Malinda Lo’s Huntress

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Two young girls are sent on a quest to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen, to restore the balance in nature. Their natures, magic and earth, are opposite but as they battle through to their destination, they pull together and learn to love.

Sabrina Vourvoulias’s The Ways of Walls and Words

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One young girl incarcerated by the Inquisition, another young girl practicing her mother’s magic in secret from the authorities. Together, through shared prayers and other small comforts, they grow in friendship.

Isabel Yap’s Hurricane Heels

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Five best friends, five objects of power. The goddess grants Alex, Ria, Aiko, Natalie, and Selena meet at summer camp and come away warriors. But how long can they keep fighting and can they stay friends if they stop?

Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Agents of Dreamland

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In this Lovecraftian horror novella, Signalman, a government special agent, and the government seek help in dealing with disturbing events. Then APL loses contact with the interplanetary probe and something outside Pluto’s orbit makes contact. Will they be able to save humanity?

Justina Ireland’s Promise of Shadows

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Zephyr Mourning prefers to have the most unusual thing about her to be her name but being half-god tends to get in the way of a normal human life.

Greg van Eekhout’s California Bones

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Daniel was raised by his magician father in a world where magic is stored in bones. He grows up to become a petty thief, and when he tries to leave the life of crime, his uncle pulls him back in.

Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s Winterglass

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Sirapirat is not unlike a Narnian land, conquered by the Winter Queen and remade into a land of frost and snow. But the Winter Queen seeks more than just the land, she seeks power, in the form of a shattered mirror, which are borne by denizens of the land.

Destiny Soria’s Iron Cast Kindle Edition

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Ada Navarra and Corinne Wells are “blood-afflicted”, able to create illusions, in a time and place when using these skills is illegal. They work together to cast illusions on the stage of the Cast Iron club by night, run cons on the wealthy of the city by day, and run into a whole lot of trouble after a job goes haywire.

Leigh Bardugo’s The Shadow and Bone Trilogy: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising

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Alina Starkov is a soldier until she discovers, under attack, that she holds magical powers. She’s sent to train with the magical military elite and falls into the plans of their leader, the Darkling, who has plans to use her and her powers.

Charlie N. Holmberg’s The Paper Magician

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We meet a heartbroken Ceony Twill when she’s sent to apprentice herself to a paper magician, though she yearned to practice metal magic. Her new teacher is kind and more talented than she expected, and she thrives under his tutelage until he’s attacked by a practitioner of dark magic.

Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire

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After a thousand years of slavery for the Skaa, a half-Skaa named Kelsier discovers he possesses the powers of a Mistborn. Hope reborn, he recruits a crew to target the Lord Ruler for a massive theft, and also for unseating him from the throne.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s The Beautiful Ones

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Called “a sweeping fantasy of manners set in a world inspired by the belle époque”, we find Antonina Beaulieu entering her first Grand Season where she will look for a suitable husband. Her powers, however, make her a target for more than just malicious gossips.