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Monk and Robot stories by Becky Chambers
One of the gentlest journeys of “what is my purpose?” I’ve ever read, set in a post-apocalyptic world that actually learned from its mistakes and built a really beautiful, sustainable society. “Hopepunk” is an apt description.
Tess / Seraphina duologies by Rachel Hartman
- Seraphina & Shadow Scale
- Tess of the Road & In the Serpent’s Wake
Tess of the Road is one of my favorites of all time. It handles topics of misogyny, abuse, religious oppression, sexuality/gender, and coming-of-age themes with more gentleness and healing than I’ve ever experienced in YA-ish fantasy. (Plus, plenty of awe and adventure and struggling to do right when you don’t know what right is.) Book two (Serpent’s Wake) also deals with facing past traumas (CW: this includes a former abuser), colonialism, privilege, allyship, chronic illness, and more on religion and gender identity.
While Tess follows the Seraphina duology, it contains only minor spoilers and focuses on a different character (Tess is Seraphina’s half-sister).
The Locked Tomb series by Tamsyn Muir
- Gideon the Ninth
- Harrow the Ninth
- Nona the Ninth
- Alecto the Ninth (coming soon)
This is often touted as “lesbian necromancers in space” but it’s also horror, mystery/a whodunnit, 18 layers of queer space Greek mythology and Catholicism and memes. And yes, it’s queer as hell. Muir is an absolute master at slyly revealing intricate worldbuilding through highly unreliable narrators. So far, each book has a completely different tone to match how its protagonist experiences the world.
The Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin
- The Fifth Season
- The Obelisk Gate
- The Stone Sky
Jemisin was the first author (and Black woman) to receive a Hugo for all three books in a trilogy. The Fifth Season in particular changed the fantasy experience for me altogether. It’s challenging, it’s gripping, and it’s incredible.
The Grishaverse series by Leigh Bardugo
The first trilogy is a “chosen one” YA series in a rich world with an interesting magic system, and the two following duologies are even better (Crows centers a heist with a lovable cast of cunning young rogues and Scars continues the tale with more political intrigue). There’s one season of Shadow & Bone on Netflix, which brings in characters from Six of Crows early but otherwise stays fairly true to the series with a great cast.
Little Thieves duology by Margaret Owen
Folklore-inspired “con the rich/take down the patriarchy” plot with disaster gays and demisexual representation! I also love Owen’s debut duology, The Merciful Crow and The Faithless Hawk.
The Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix
I own extremely battered paperbacks, ebooks, and the audiobooks of this trilogy (Tim Curry narrates!). It’s about “anti-necromancy” adventures in a magical world that borders a pretty ordinary “modern” one, leading to interesting politics and dangers. There are cool ideas of death and the afterlife, plus a sarcastic talking cat (and later a delightful talking dog as well, whom my own dog is named for). Many years later, Nix returned to the world and added a few prequels and short stories.
The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
A series of novellas (and later a novel or two) beginning with All Systems Red that follow self-dubbed Murderbot, an AI who hacked its government control module so it could stop following terrible orders and instead watch its soap operas in peace… unless it accidentally makes some friends in real life along the way.