Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Order [book in series=yearoffirstbook.book# (eg 2014.01), stand-alone or one-author collection=3333.pubyear, multi-author anthology=5555.pubyear, SFM/MM=5000, interview=1111]: 2020.01


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Legendborn: There’s much to like in this debut

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn (2020), the first book in her LEGENDBORN CYCLE, wasn’t on my radar until I saw it on the Locus Awards finalists list for Best Young Adult novel. I grabbed the audiobook and one of the YAs that lives in my house (Tali, my 18-year-old daughter) and we listened to Legendborn together as we worked a jigsaw puzzle. We agreed to give Legendborn a rating of 3.5 which is quite a bit lower than the book currently rates at both Amazon and GoodReads,


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The Extraordinaries: Superheroes and extraordinary friendships

The Extraordinaries by TJ Klume

TJ Klune’s 2020 novel The Extraordinaries is only the second-best YA/superhero/coming of age/Spiderman movie parody/neurodivergent/ queer rom-com I’ve read this year. I’ll explain at the end of the review why it only came in second.

Nicholas Bell is sixteen, gay and out to his father, friends and school. Nick lives with ADHD. His mother was killed a few years ago, and he and his cop dad share a loving but uneasy relationship. Nick’s life is further complicated by his crush on one of the two of Nova City’s superpowered,


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The Unspoken Name: An interesting mix of fantasy and science fiction

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

The Unspoken Name
(2020) is the first in A.K. Larkwood’s SERPENT’S GATE series, and it’s an intriguing opener that creates a fascinating world and introduces more than a few interesting characters, though the book had a few pacing issues and overall didn’t quite fulfill I’d say its full potential. That said, having read book two, I can say that those issues disappear in the sequel, so readers should feel fine jumping in and knowing the journey is worth it.


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The Bone Shard Daughter: A fast-paced, enticing adventure

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard Daughter (2020) by Andrea Stewart is a fast-paced, enticing read, with an attractive world and a magical system that grabs the imagination with both hands and doesn’t let it go.

Stewart’s debut is the first book of a series, THE DROWNING EMPIRE. In an archipelago empire, the imperial Sukai dynasty defeated the powerful Alanga, who ruled it. The current emperor, Shiyen, uses bone shard magic to protect his citizens from the possible return of the Alanga.


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Black Sun: A strong start to a new series

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Rebecca Roanhorse’s Black Sun (2020) introduces a new series set in an ancient Mesoamerica that is a mix of partly-familiar cultures and original fantasy elements, creating a heady brew that rolls along smoothly even as it moves back and forth in time and amongst a quartet of POVs.

Those POVs belong to:

  • Naranapa: the young Sun Priest based in the holy city of Tova, head of the religious order that has kept peace for three centuries.

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Unconquerable Sun: Needs more context

Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott

Unconquerable Sun (2020) is the latest YA novel from Kate Elliott, the first novel in THE SUN CHRONICLES, and is nominated for a 2021 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction novel. The conceit is that Elliott has gender-flipped the historical narrative of Alexander the Great, adding a space opera setting full of galaxy-spanning politics and military battles, along with the complications created by unimaginably wealthy and privileged people.

Unfortunately, this one was not a success for me.


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Raybearer: Deserves its accolades

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Tarisai, who has the magical gift of being able to perceive the memories of objects and people, has always lived a sheltered life in her mother’s large house. She rarely sees her mysterious mother and is taken care of by unfriendly servants and tutors who are rigorously educating her for some unknown task. Lonely, Tarisai longs for companionship, travel, freedom, and a sense of purpose.

When she is 11 years old, without any explanation, Tarisai’s mother sends her to the capital to compete to be one of the crown prince’s 11 counselors.


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A Deadly Education: Fantastic originality

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

I honestly had a very hard time with the beginning of Naomi Novik’s newest novel, A Deadly Education (2020). But based on my experience with her prior work, I kept going and though I don’t think this novel nears the strength of ones like Spinning Silver or Uprooted, I was happy I did.

El (short for Galadriel) Higgins is a student at the Scholomance,


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Finna: It’s a LitenVärld after all

Finna by Nino Cipri

If you’ve ever gotten frustrated wandering through the endless maze of rooms that is IKEA, it’s not hard to imagine that there are hidden passages that lead, not to a secret shortcut to an exit, but to another world entirely. Nino Cipri’s Nebula Award-nominated novella Finna (2020) takes that concept and adds to it a timely set of social concerns, ranging from gender identity to the evils of capitalism generally and low-wage retail jobs in particular.

Ava is a sales associate at LitenVärld (Swedish for “small world”),


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The Wolf of Oren-Yaro: An indomitable queen fights for her throne

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso

I judged this book by its cover and steered clear of it for more than a year, until by a strange, convoluted road I ended up reading it.

The cover of 2020’s The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, written by K.S. Villoso, is beautiful, featuring a gorgeous woman in profile, wearing body-hugging leather armor, with a sword over one shoulder and a decorative cut on one perfect cheekbone. This, combined with the blurb from a well-known fantasy writer and the back cover-copy which starts,


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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