Hey everyone !!!! I’m so excited to finally write a post which is not a review/ weekly update/tag. I sometimes feel like my blog is so boring because I hardly write anything else except these three types of posts. But what can I say.. I’m not that creative a person and I don’t get too many new ideas.
However, after contemplating for two years whether I should or shouldn’t, I have finally decided to participate in 2022 r/Fantasy Bingo. It just felt like a board which I should be able to finish and I also found enough recommendations to choose from. So, I thought I should continue on with that process, write down my own recommendations for anyone else who is participating and probably figure out what I plan to read at the same time.
And now it’s time to get started. Buckle up because this is going be very long……
This is the bingo board this year and I feel like it’s all relatively easy prompts. And that’s probably why I am even giving it a try. Now let me talk about all my recs for these prompts and what I think I will read. At the time of writing this post, I’ve actually finishing reading books for 3 of them, so I will include them as well.
First Row Across
A Book from r/Fantasy’s Top LGBTQIA list. HARD MODE: Received 10 votes or less
You can find the list of the books here.
First let me talk about the non Hard mode books I love – This is How You Lose the Time War is one of the most exquisitely written romance I have ever read. Every line in it feels like a poem, I know it’s not an easy binge read, but it’s totally worth it. Moving on from a sapphic one to a gay romance, The Song of Achilles is the next obvious choice. The love and yearning in it is just perfect and I can still remember how much I sobbed towards the end of it.
Six of Crows is definitely a very popular choice and you can’t go wrong with it. The Priory of the Orange Tree is a cool and expansive standalone with some very memorable characters and dragons. The Tensorate series of novellas explores gender identity in a way I’ve never seen before and the writing is very impressive as well.
Now for Hard Mode recommendations – A Taste of Honey is a novella that I can’t talk about much but it has the most evocative writing ever and definitely something that’ll make you cry. To be Taught, If Fortunate was the first Becky Chambers book I read and I loved it for the ideas it explored and the love for science and exploration I found in it.
Captive Prince trilogy is one of my all time favorites but I am not sure if it’s a recommendation for everyone – the first book has all kinds of trigger warnings but if you can get through that, books 2 and 3 are just wow and this trilogy has one of my most favorite couples ever.
I wish more Aliette de Bodard books were in the list, but the only one is In the Vanisher’s Palace and if you are looking for a sapphic Beauty and the Beast retelling with dragons, do give this a try. Founders trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett is also on the list and while I’ve only read Foundryside, I will heartily recommend it to anyone because it has my favorite magic system.
My TBR: I have many choices of course. Non Hard Mode are A Memory Called Empire, Ninefox Gambit, Two Serpents Rise, The Left Hand of Darkness.
Hard Mode possibilities are Witchmark, A Charm of Magpies, The Books of Raksura.
Weird Ecology. HARD MODE: Not written by Jeff VanderMeer or China Miéville.
I am not 100% sure if all the books I recommend here will totally fit the prompt but I think we all can figure it out. My top and obvious rec is The Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin. It’s the perfect fit for the prompt as well as the Hard mode and it’s spectacular, so you should read it even if you are not participating in the Bingo. The Bone Shard Daughter might qualify if you consider it’s world full of migrating islands as weird ecology. The Never Tilting World and it’s sequel by Rin Chupeco are another good series to try because this is a world where the planet has stopped moving, so half the planet is extremely hot and the other is extremely cold, with significant weather events happening all the time. Also, I feel The Jasmine Throne would work because there is a kind of disease(rot) in the woods and it’s a part of the magic system.
My TBR: The Bone Ships is definitely one that is being highly recommended. I also might go for the sequels of my recommendations, The Oleander Sword or The Bone Shard Emperor. And another fascinating option is Children of Time. And of course The Books of the Raksura (you’re gonna see this many time throughout this post). Also The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps because it’s high time I read another Kai Ashante Wilson book.
Two or More authors. HARD MODE: Three or more authors.
This is frankly very easy for me to recommend because I love anthologies and they count. So, you can choose from translated Chinese SFF collections like Broken Stars or The Way Spring Arrives, a YA anthology exploring the Black experience like A Phoenix First Must Burn or the absolutely wonderful collection of Asian myth and legends retellings, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings. And all these anthologies qualify for Hard mode. Or you can go for an obvious duo author choice like This is How You Lose the Time War or Mask of Mirrors (this I DNFd but may try another day).
My TBR: The other Ken Liu translated anthology Invisible Planets has been on my TBR for a long while. I also own a few other anthologies which I haven’t picked up yet like Octavia’s Brood and New Suns.
Historical SFF. HARD MODE: Not based in Britain or Ireland.
The first one that comes to mind is obviously my favorite book of 2021, She Who Became the Sun, a genderbent reimagining of the rise of Ming dynasty. It’s the absolute perfect for this prompt and also the Hard mode. You also have These Violent Delights duology which is set during 1920s Shanghai and interestingly explores the political situation of the time, as well as being a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. The Gilded Wolves series is also set during late 19th century Europe and you can totally give it a try if you like heists or puzzle solving. A Master of Djinn is set in 1912 in an alternate Egypt and is one of the most fun historical mystery/fantasy books I’ve read in a while.
My TBR: I would be most happy if we get a sequel of SWBTS this year and I can read it for this prompt. Another possibility is A Charm of Magpies which I already mentioned above. Chloe Gong’s next, Foul Lady Fortune should also work. Also, I have an arc of The Monsters We Defy which is set in 1925 Washington D.C, so definitely works for the Hard mode and I think that would probably end up being my choice.
Set in Space. HARD MODE: Characters are not originally from Earth. It is acceptable for the characters to be descendants of Earthlings as long as they are not themselves from Earth.
This is actually the first prompt I finished, so I will mention it first – Stars and Bones by Gareth L. Powell. I usually love the characters in books but in this case, it’s definitely the setting which is spectacular. The book itself may not be a favorite but I still want to read the sequel because I wanna see this setting explored more. And this one also qualifies for Hard mode.
To Be Taught, If Fortunate is here again and I think it qualifies, but I can’t exactly remember how much of the book is set in space. But not the hard mode option though. Similarly, the first book in the Binti trilogy also works for the normal mode. Apparently not Ancillary Justice, but Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy qualify (hard mode) because they are set mostly on a space station. As far as I can recollect, Network Effect from the Murderbot diaries should also qualify for the hard mode, and this one comes highly recommended from me. And this is one prompt where I feel many Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya universe novellas will work but I can’t figure out which ones take place not on a planet. I’m definitely sure The Tea Master and the Detective, as well as The Citadel of Weeping Pearls are good choices for hard mode but some others may also qualify.
Second Row Across
Standalone. HARD MODE: Not on r/Fantasy’s Favorite Standalones List.
This one took a while for me to figure out because most of the fan favorites are on this list. But I did manage to come up with some recent releases which work for Hard mode. Some of the obvious choices from the list are This is How We Lose the Time War, The Priory of the Orange Tree, To be Taught, If Fortunate, The Song of Achilles, Circe and Kindred.
Now if I go for Hard mode, a recent one I read is Firebreak which is an interesting one, especially if you are into VR and gaming and also has an aroace main character whom I loved. How High We Go in the Dark is a post pandemic/post apocalyptic mosaic sci-fi novel and while it’s not for everyone, I thought the way the author explored death and grief and humanity was very thought provoking.
A Thousand Steps Into Night is a Japanese mythology inspired quest fantasy and it was a delightful and fun experience. On the other hand, The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is a Korean folktale inspired YA fantasy novel and it’s one of my favorites of 2022 – all round great characters, beautiful writing, cool setting and awesome found family vibes. Greek mythology retellings which work would be Ariadne by Jennifer Saint or another favorite of mine, A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes.
Allison Saft’s standalones are pretty interesting and I particularly loved the gothic enemies to lovers romance in Down Comes the Night. You can also go for my my most recent favorite, Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree which is slice of life, fluffy fantasy at it’s best.
My TBR: I have quite a few standalones on my arcs list, so I can choose between A City Inside by Samit Basu or A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows. Another one which has been on my radar but I’ve been unsure of is The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina.
Anti-Hero. HARD MODE: A YA Book with an anti-hero.
The first one which instantly came to mind is Iron Widow. Wu Zetain is the most memorable anti-hero and it’s hard mode too. Similarly, These Violent Delights and Six of Crows should also work for Hard mode because they have morally gray characters. The Cruel Prince isn’t a favorite of mine but it’s definitely a perfect fit for Hard mode.
I definitely have more recommendations for the normal mode. One obvious one is She Who Became the Sun. The Poppy War trilogy works perfectly because Rin is the best example of anti-hero. I don’t know about Master of Sorrows, but Master Artificer almost feels like an anti-hero’s descent into darkness. The Echo Wife is a fascinating sci-fi novel featuring cloning as it’s central theme which has an awesome anti-hero character. V. E. Schwab’s Villains duology is another good choice for this prompt.
My TBR: I don’t think the Iron Widow sequel will release in time for me to read it for this prompt but I hope it does. Another possible choice is Foul Lady Fortune which is a spin off of These Violent Delights but I’m not 100% sure. If I’m not going for the Hard mode, then I guess it’ll be the SWBTS sequel. I’ve also heard the main character in Violet Made of Thorns is a bit of an anti-hero and it’s YA, so that should be another interesting choice.
Book Club OR Readalong Book. HARD MODE: Must read a current selection of either a book club or readalong and participate in the discussion.
You can actually find all the past books which were part of a Book Club or Readalong here.
Some of my favorites which have been a part of this club are the brilliant first book of the Divine Cities trilogy, City of Stairs; N. K. Jemisin’s most acclaimed The Fifth Season; the inventive Craft Sequence beginner Three Parts Dead; my favorite Six of Crows; the very intense mafia style fantasy Jade City; the absolutely wonderful All Systems Red which started all of our love for Murderbot; and the most unforgettable The Poppy War. There are many more actually, but you can find at the link above.
My TBR: Because I want to hit the Hard mode, I am gonna try to read this month’s choice for the New Voices book club, Machinehood by S. B. Divya. But if you want to checkout all the active book clubs and their current book picks, check here. But if I am not going for the Hard mode, I have options like The Grace of Kings, Children of Time, Ninefox Gambit, The Goblin Emperor, Parable of the Sower etc.
Cool Weapon. HARD MODE: Weapon has a unique name. Examples: Excalibur from Arthurian legend, Dragnipur in Malazan, Sting in Lord of the Rings, etc.
To be honest, I don’t have a good enough memory remember any cool magical weapons with names among all the books I’ve read. Ring Shout has a weapon that the main character uses to fight, but I dont think it has a name, so it should work for normal mode. Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian and Spear by Nicola Griffith should both for Hard mode because they are Arthurian retellings and feature Excalibur and more. The Aru Shah series by Roshani Chokshi also works for Hard mode because both Aru and Mini have amazing named weapons. And ofcourse how could I forget MXTX’s Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation (or MDZS) which is one of my all time favorites and every spiritual weapon in it has a name.
My TBR: My most obvious choice is to pick up the finale of the Aru Shah series, Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality. Some other recommendations I’ve seen while browsing reddit are The Ruin of Kings, the Cradle series by Will Wight, the Stormlight Archive, and Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. I could also ofcourse read the second volume of MDZS after it’s release this summer.
Revolutions and Rebellions. HARD MODE: Revolution/Rebellion is the main focus of the plot.
The First Sister and The Second Rebel by Linden A. Lewis are perfect for this prompt, though I think the second one works better for the Hard mode. My favorite She Who Became the Sun makes another appearence here and it’s whole premise is based on a revolution. Frankly the whole sapphic trifecta of 2021 is sapphics and rebellions, so you can also go for The Unbroken and The Jasmine Throne. Daughter of the Moon Goddess also works though the rebellion mostly happens in the background; you can decide for yourself if it works for Hard mode. Someone on reddit asked if one person trying to murder the emperor like figure count and if it does, then Ancillary Justice totally works. The Poppy War trilogy works though I feel The Dragon Republic and The Burning God are the perfect choices for both normal and hard modes. Fever King and Electric Heir by Victoria Lee feature amazing dystopian revolutions. Notes from the Burning Age by Claire North is also a good Hard mode choice but it wasn’t exactly a favorite of mine, but mayve it can be yours. And how can I forget the fierce Iron Widow where Zetian is launching her own rebellion. The Bone Shard Daughter is another one where you have both small and big rebellions featured throughout.
My TBR: I haven’t yet read my arc of The Bladed Faith by David Dalglish but that seems like a good Hard mode choice. I can ofcourse go for The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri or The Lost Hero by Linden A. Lewis when they release. The Bone Shard Emperor is another sequel I need to get to. And how can I not mention Babel by R. F. Kaung whose longish title itself mentions a Translator’s revolution.
Third Row Across
Name in the Title. HARD MODE: The title has the character’s first and last name. Example: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.
I think I have many this year. The first one is the Aru Shah series because it also works for the Hard mode, and similarly you can also go for the Percy Jackson series (though I haven’t read them). You can also go for Greek mythology retellings like The Song of Achilles and Circe by Madeline Miller and Ariadne by Jennifer Saint. I don’t know if they’ll work for Hard mode because I don’t know if these characters have a first name/last name structure. Binti trilogy also works but I don’t remember what her full name is. Nimona is a fun graphic novel featuring superheroes and it’s a good choice for normal mode as well.
My TBR: I have so many I can read. Kaikeyi and Elektra both work if I am in the mood for retellings. Similarly, Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality works perfectly for Hard mode. I am also very excited for Xiran Jay Zhao’s MG debut Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor. Another standalone which I can give a try is The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina. And happen to have an arc called The Immortal King Rao which I think might work for the hard mode as well.
Author Uses Initials. HARD MODE: Initials are a pseudonym and not from the author’s actual name. Examples: T. Kingfisher or K. J. Parker.
Just presence of an initial works, so let me start with some of my recent favorites. I just finished reading A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin and I adored it. Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher is a super fun slow burn romance but with lots of violence and it’s also a good Hard mode choice. A Dowry of Blood by S. T. Gibson is a super alluring vampire story and it will mesmerise you. The First Sister and The Second Rebel also work for normal mode. I actually don’t know if C. S. Pacat is the author’s original name or pseudonymn but atleast her brilliant Captive Prince trilogy or the interesting YA fantasy Dark Rise will work for normal mode. Another normal mode choice is the very beautifully written debut from last year The Councillor by E. J. Beaton which I can’t stop talking about. And how can I forget any of R. F. Kuang’s books – especially the Poppy War trilogy. But coming back to Hard mode again, I can’t recommend enough A Master of Djinn, Ring Shout or The Black God’s Drums by P. Djeli Clark – his writing and world building will blow your mind and you can’t miss it.
My TBR: The obvious hard mode choice is either the next books in the Paladin series by T. Kingfisher or her standalone series Nettle and Bone. Another debut I am looking forward to is The First Binding by R.R. Virdi but I don’t think it works for the hard mode. Also R. F. Kuang’s Babel is a perfect normal mode choice. One book I DNFd but may give another try is Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick which works for hard mode.
Published in 2022. HARD MODE: It’s also a debut novel–as in it’s the author’s first published novel.
I have quite a few of this year’s debut releases I can recommend for Hard mode. First is the one I have actually finished for this prompt, A Magic Steeped in Poison which is wonderfully written and has a host of superb characters. In a very similar vein, Daughter of the Moon Goddess is also a lovely story, with it’s inside matching it’s super beautiful cover. The Ivory Key is another fun desi inspired fantasy which is full of complicated sibling dynamics, secret societies and lots of puzzle solving. Another recent favorite is The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah, a 1001 Nights retelling which is vivid and vibrant and so so evocative. And how can I forget Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree which is the fluffiest fantasy I’ve read in a while and you should pick it up if you want something to make you happy.
There are also many other debuts which are yet to release or ones I haven’t gotten to yet like The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi, This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede, Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen, Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye and Rebel Skies by Ann Sei Lin.
Urban Fantasy. HARD MODE: Book has an LGBTQ+ POV character.
Urban fantasy is not a subgenre I go for much but I am sure I do have some recommendations, so let me try. The first one that comes to mind is obviously Jade City which is the perfect example of a secondary world urban fantasy and it also has a gay POV character. The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin should be another interesting choice though I can’t remember if it works for the hard mode. This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron is another super fun YA urban fantasy which works very well for hard mode. The Divine Cities trilogy is another brilliant urban fantasy series with some of my favorite world building ever, but I don’t think it has POV characters who are LGBTQ+. A Master of Djinn is another wonderful hard mode choice with it’s cool alternate history Egypt and and fascinating mysteries. Black Water Sister by Zen Cho is a hilarious and contemplative urban fantasy with a lesbian main character and you should totally check it out for some grandma and ghostly shenanighans. Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon should also work as a queer speculative urban fantasy and while it’s very vivid and evocative, I am not sure if it’ll be for everyone. I totally forgot about it but just remembered, the absolute classic that is Kindred by Octavia Butler. And of course, the Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman is also a fun and adventurous urban fantasy but doesn’t work for hard mode.
My TBR: I know I didn’t mention in the recs above, but one choice for me to read is Aru Shah’s finale though I can’t for the life of me remember if anyone is queer in it. Similarly with Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor – I’ll have to read to know if it fits the hard mode. I could ofcourse go for either Jade War or wait for the release of This Wicked Fate, both for the hard mode. Kuang’s Babel is another book I will read but whether it satisfies the hard mode is a question. I’m sure the second book in Craft Sequence Two Serpents Rise works for normal mode but don’t know about hard mode.
Set in Africa. HARD MODE: Author is of African heritage.
The first recommendation of mine would ofcourse be A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli Clark. The second and third books in the Binti trilogy will work because they have parts set in Africa. Within These Wicked Walls is an Ethiopian Jane Eyre retelling and just perfect for hard mode. If African inspired epic fantasy settings qualify, then there are many other hard mode recommendations like The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter which blew me away with it’s intensity and exploration of the horrors of war and revenge; Raybearer duology by Jordan Ifueko which has some amazing world building and even better found family. The Unbroken by C. L. Clark is another perfect hard mode choice with it’s unflinching look at the horrors of colonialism. Namina Forna’s debut The Gilded Ones is a Sierra Leone’s history inspired fantasy and is definitely impressive with it’s characterizations.
My TBR: Namina Forna’s sophomore novel The Merciless Ones is on my TBR. Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa is one I’ve been wanting to read for a long while. Another upcoming debut I am excited for is The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi. Blood Scion is a recent release which I am also looking forward to picking up soon. And if I am going for some backlist, I can checkout The Dreamblood duology by N. K. Jemesin.
Fourth Row Across
Non-Human Protagonist. HARD MODE: Non-humanoid protagonist. No elves, angels, dwarves, hobbits, or humanoid aliens.
Murderbot Diaries is a natural first recommendation from me but I am not sure if our favorite main character is a non-humanoid protagonist. A perfect hard mode rec is Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree and I can’t tell you all enough to pick up this adorable book. The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood would also work for hard mode and it has some very interesting world building.
My TBR: The Goblin Emperor seems like a good choice. Another one is the highly recommended Children of Time. And one series I’ve seen everyone talking about for multiple prompts is The Books of the Raksura.
Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey. HARD MODE: No time travel. Book involves something off about time that’s not necessarily time travel. Example: In The Chronicles of Narnia, time moves at a different speed in Narnia than in the real world.
I have very few recommendations for this and I am gonna have think to remember them. One that comes to mind is A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow which features travel through the multiverse which affects how the time passes, something just like in Narnia. If I think of normal mode, then Kindred by Octavia Butler is a classic time travel recommendation. And a more recent one with the most exquisite time travel tale would be This is How You Lose the Time War. It’s been a long time since I’ve read this book but The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fjorde is a very fun bookish adventure novel and might work for hard mode.
My TBR: I actually don’t think I have any hard mode books on my TBR. But among time travel books I’m interested in, some are – Licanius trilogy by James Islington, Someone in Time anthology, The Sorceror of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson, One Arm Shorter than the Other by Gigi Ganguly, The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons, Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky, The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz and maybe Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel.
Five SFF Short Stories. HARD MODE: Read an entire SFF anthology or collection.
I will probably just repeat all the anthologies I mentioned for the multiple authors prompt. Chinese SFF collections like Broken Stars or The Way Spring Arrives or Sinopticon, a YA anthology exploring the Black experience like A Phoenix First Must Burn or the absolutely wonderful collection of Asian myth and legends retellings, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings. Ofcourse you can also go for single author collections like Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories or The Hidden Girl and Other Stories and Ted Chaing’s Exhalation. AI 2041 by Kai-Fu Lee and Chen Qiufan is another unique collection of essay on technology and sci-fi stories and I think it’ll be an interested read for anyone who loves both.
My TBR: Invisible Planets by Ken Liu is a top choice to read, or Stories Of Your Life by Ted Chiang. I also own two volumes of Gollancz’s South Asian SFF short story collections, so I can go for any of them.
Features Mental Health. HARD MODE: Not The Stormlight Archive or any books in the linked list.
There are quite a few books which feature characters dealing with PTSD and some of my favorites are the beatifully romantic and angsty Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell, the delicate and magical story of found family in Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki, and the very fascinating Sherlock Holmes plus space opera combo in The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard. It’s been a while since I’ve read Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan but I think it has PTSD representation as well. Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovasky has a very sensitive representation of depression that I found relatable. The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang has some intense representation of PTSD and depression and addiction. I think Murderbot Diaries should also count for some very relatable rep of depression and social anxiety. Another favorite of last year, A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers felt like it was written just for me in the way it represented my mental health issues. And ofcourse all of these work for hard mode.
My TBR: The Books of the Raksura makes an appearance again. I’ve also heard Witchmark has some good PTSD rep. I am also looking forward to A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland which I know has anxiety rep. A couple others which I may checkout are Dragon Mage by M. L. Spencer and Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.
Self-Published OR Indie Publisher. HARD MODE: Self-published and has fewer than 100 ratings on Goodreads, OR an indie publisher that has done an AMA with r/Fantasy.
I wont deny that I am more biased towards trad pubbed books and have only recently started checking out more Self published novels. So, I will try to recommend from my very limited repertoire. First thing that comes to mind are the very popular The Fall and Of Blood and Fire by Ryan Cahill. Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree is self published for now but it just got picked up by Orbit Books for publication, so I don’t know if it’ll work. Any of the English translations of MXTX like Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation would work because Seven Seas is an indie publisher.
My TBR: Heaven Official’s Blessing by MXTX is definitely high on my TBR. I also wanna read Of Darkness and Light by Ryan Cahill, Never Die by Rob J. Hayes and Cradle by Will Wight.
Fifth Row Across
Award Finalist, But Not Won. HARD MODE: Neither Hugo-nominated nor Nebula-nominated (check this list for ineligible novels and novellas).
This is one prompt I am most intimidated by. There are too many awards and I don’t know how to find books which was nominated for some obscure one but never won, especially from among my existing TBR. I would definitely love any recommendations you all give me.
One reddit user made this doc which has a lot of recommendations for hard mode, so I’m using that to choose some of my recommendations and TBR.
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett is definitely a favorite, and if you are a programmer who loves fantasy, you should give it a try. The Ghost Bride is a very fascinating historical fantasy featuring the land of the dead and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before. In the Vanisher’s Palace is a slow burn f/f Beauty and the Beast retelling featuring dragons. Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko is one of my all time favorite YA fantasies and has the best found family ever. The Priory of the Orange Tree may be a chonk but it’s definitely worth the effort for it’s cool world and interesting characters. The Bone Shard Daughter is another favorite of mine which has a whole host of lovely characters, an interesting magic system and my darling Mephi. From what I understood from the list, the first three books of the Tensorate series will work for hard mode and if you really want a unique fantasy experience, you should give them a try. And The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories collection by Ken Liu will make you cry but you’ll feel glad you read it.
My TBR: I only found three books in the above list which seemed like ones I might want to read – The City of Brass, Sorcerer to the Crown and The Tombs of Atuan.
BIPOC Author. HARD MODE: A book written by an Indigenous author. Check out this list of Indigenous SFF books to get you started.
For the normal mode, you can actually browse my blog or goodreads and you will find many many books. Just for starters, lets go for some of my top favorites – She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan, The Jasmine Throne/ Realms of Ash/Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri, The Unbroken by C. L. Clark, A Master of Djinn and Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark, A Spark of White Fire trilogy by Sangu Mandanna, A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin, Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan, The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad, The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah, The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh……
The only hard mode rec I can think of is Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse and I know I should read more.
My TBR: And naturally, the hard mode book I might read is Fevered Star because I already have the arc. Other than that, I have many normal mode books on my TBR like The City of Dusk by Tara Sim, The City Inside by Samit Basu, The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu and many more.
Shapeshifters. HARD MODE: Most prominent shifter is not a wolf/dog shifter. For instance, werewolves can exist but can’t be the most notable shifter characters/main characters.
I was really contemplating substituting this prompt for something else because shifter books are not something I read. I don’t even remember something I’ve read something in the recent times which had shapeshifters in the traditional sense. But I just finished The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah and it has a non-POV main character who is capable of transformation and I am so glad I got this prompt out of the way already.
As for any other recommendations, I am not sure if the antagonist alien (probably) in Stars and Bones by Gareth L. Powell qualifies as a shapeshiter but I feel they do. And both these books work for hard mode.
And the one recommendation I kept seeing all across reddit was The Books of the Raksura. It’s really THE most popular bingo rec this year.
No Ifs, Ands, or Buts. HARD MODE: Title is three words or more.
This is not too hard because most single word title books will quality. Greek mythology retellings like Circe by Madeline Miller and Ariadne by Jennifer Saint work. Nophek Gloss and Azura Ghost by Essa Hansen are the most imaginative scifi I’ve read in recent times and work well for normal mode. Black Water Sister by Zen Cho is a super entertaining and funny hard mode recommendation. These Violent Delights duology is also a well written and highly intense hard mode choice. I think all of the Murderbot Diaries books qualify for normal mode and the first one for hard mode. Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard may be a short novella but it packs a punch and has subtle commentary on imperialism as well as toxic relationships. Jade City is another fan favorite which is perfect for normal mode. Captive Prince trilogy also is a good choice for normal mode but as always, do checkout the trigger warnings.
My TBR: For single word titles, I am most excited to read both Kaikeyi and Elektra, as well as Shorefall and Locklands. I also hopefully will get to Fevered Star soon. I can also always pick up Jade War and Jade Legacy. For hard mode, I am eagerly waiting to read Wrath Goddess Sing. Another book which I recently added to my TBR is Drunk On All Your Strange New Words. And how can I forget Heaven Official’s Blessing by MXTX. Also, This Wicked Fate is a sequel I am very excited for.
Family Matters. HARD MODE: Features at least three generations in a single family.
I feel like MDZS should qualify for normal mode because it has so many familial relationships and most of them have some kind of tension. Jade City is another fantasy series which has a deep focus on family and as far as I remember, it’ll work for hard mode. The Fifth Season is essentially the story of a mother and daughter, so it works well for normal mode. Sorrowland is also a good one because it’s another mother-children tale in times of adversity. Black Water Sister can also technically pass for hard mode if you would consider one generation to be a significant ghostly presence.
My TBR: Jade War is an easy choice and I think it will qualify for hard mode too. The Sword of Kaigen is another one which will work and I’ve been putting it off for a long while. The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina is another hard mode choice which is full of many many family members. There are also normal mode choices like The Wolf Of Oren-Yaro, Witchmark and The City of Dusk.
And I am DONE..!!! It took me two days to write this post but it was all worth it. I think I’ve done a good enough job and I hope you all enjoy reading this one. I probably must have repeated a lot of recommendations but my memory isn’t too good these days and I can only mention those which I remember clearly. And if you are someone who is also participating in the r/Fantasy bingo, do share your TBR links with me so that I can check it out. Also, all of you are welcome to give me any recommendations which you think I will love. Looking forward to chatting with you all in the comment section below…
I might take your recommendation for The Bone Shard Daughter for the weird ecology square because I didn’t have a book for that yet and I own it 🙂 Great list, lots of books I haven’t read yet hehe.
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I hope you enjoy it Tessa !! And thanks for checking out my post 😊😊