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More Favorites Reads of 2022: Reflections of a World Fantasy Judge

A stack of speculative fiction books published in 2022, against a backdrop of bookshelves.

I’m honored to have served as one of the World Fantasy Award judges this year, considering works of horror and fantasy originally published in 2022. It was an incredible experience, and I’m truly grateful to all my fellow judges, all the authors, publishers, and editors who sent work out way, the World Fantasy Award board members, and all the members of the World Fantasy Convention(s) who voted for their favorites this year. It was a lot of work, but absolutely worthwhile in terms of putting work on my radar that I’d missed, and giving me an opportunity to catch up on things I’d meant to read but hadn’t gotten around to yet. If you ever have the opportunity to be a judge, and you have the bandwidth to do so, I highly recommend it!

This year’s ballot was recently released. Congratulations to all the finalists! At the risk of repeating myself – thank you again to everyone who sent work our way to consider. I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to read your work, and I’m even delighted that you made our job so incredibly hard!

There was so much phenomenal art, fiction, and non-fiction published last year. We could have easily filled a finalist ballot twice as long, or even longer. To that end, I wanted to highlight some additional personal favorite reads from 2022 that I came across during the judging process, including some that did make the final ballot. They are all amazing as far as I’m concerned, and I would love for people to read them! These recommendations are on top of the favorite short stories, novels and novellas, anthologies and collections, and novelettes that I already posted about at the end of last year and the beginning of this year.

Ready? In no particular order, here we go!


Breakable Things by Cassandra Khaw

This collection has received a good deal of buzz this year, including winning the Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Collection, and the buzz is well-deserved. The collection is full of dark, gorgeous writing, and a perfect opportunity to get a sense of Khaw’s voice if you haven’t read their work before.

A Study in Ugliness & Outras Historias by H. Pueyo

An incredibly dark and occasionally downright brutal collection. The stories aren’t always an easy read, but I found all of them worthwhile, even when they hurt. As an extra bonus, each story is offered in both English and Portuguese. One of the standouts for me was “Rabbit’s Foot”, exploring friendship turned vicious, what it means to belong, and the pressure to go along and not make trouble in order to be considered “one of the good ones”. It’s terrifying and rings terrifyingly true.

How to See Ghosts and Other Figments by Orrin Grey

I’m absolutely a sucker for tales of old Hollywood, classic movie monsters, uncanny video games, and stories that explore the eerie possibilities of other artistic mediums like music, painting, poetry, and so on. Grey hits a lot of my fictional favorites in this collection, and overall the collection is full of pleasingly weird and uneasy tales.

The Black Maybe by Attila Veres (Translated by Luca Karafiath)

Attila Veres is a Hungarian author who hadn’t previously be on my radar, and now absolutely will be going forward. This collection was a finalist for the Stoker Award this year, and with good cause. The stories tend to the surreal, with hints of cosmic horror. A particular favorite of mine was “The Time Remaining”, about a child’s toy that becomes inextricably linked with their grandmother’s death, effectively blending a building horror with an exploration of loss and guilt.

Song of the Mango and Other New Myths by Vida Cruz-Borja

This is a lovely collection by an author whose work I enjoy, giving me a chance to revisit stories and discover new ones. Many of Cruz-Borja’s stories have a fairy-tale like feel, blending elements of mythology and fantasy into the real world. In an overall strong collection, two stories that stood out to me in particular were “Blushing Blue”, where two sisters use tattoo magic to try to bring back their dead mother, and “Ink: A Love Story”, a meta fictional piece about two writers trying to write their perfect partner into existence, with quite dark and unsettling undertones.

All Our Hearts Are Ghosts by Peter Atkins

An overall strong collection, with stories ranging from weird noir, to a quiet and touching story about a ghost who doesn’t yet realize she’s a ghost, and everything in between. Definitely worth checking out.


The Bruising of Qilwa by Naseem Jamnia

I’d heard so many good things about this novella, and it did not disappoint. The voice is fantastic, and the worldbuilding intricate and incredibly well done. There’s a satisfying mystery at the heart of the story, which blends perfectly with the fantastical elements and the system of magic. The characters are complex and nuanced, and they have beautifully complicated relationships with each other. The story also provides a thoughtful exploration of gender, different experiences of euphoria/dysphoria, different experiences of what it means to be an immigrant, what it means to belong to a culture, systems of power, and the way violence and oppression can be passed on. Overall, a really lovely and worthwhile read.

Radcliffe Hall by Miyuki Jane Pinckard

This novella was published in Uncanny Magazine, and is free to read online. It’s got some wonderfully Gothic vibes, set in a boarding school whose grounds are being haunted by a former student who died under mysterious circumstances. The main character is recruited into a society with a deep interest in Spiritualism, and soon discovers both the society’s racist undertones and their nefarious motives. The characters are wonderful and the relationships between them well-done. It’s fast-paced and even at novella-length, it reads quickly and smoothly online.

Kid Wolf and Kraken Boy by Sam J. Miller

I always love Sam J. Miller’s work, and this was no exception. Set in 1920s New York in the world of boxing, with a healthy dose of tattoo magic, double and triple-crosses in the criminal underground, and a very sweet love story to boot. Its delightfully queer and sets up a lovely alternate world build on hope and marginalized people dismantling capitalism and fascism.

The Dirty Golden Yellow House by Debbie Urbanski

This one might fall under the category of novelette, depending on who’s asking, but either way, it’s free to read online at Lightspeed Magazine and worth your time, though it is a dark read dealing with difficult subject matter. The main character turns to the supernatural in order to cope the abuse and marital rape, which no one seems willing to believe that she’s experiencing. A painful look at power dynamics and the limited options available to people in abusive relationships, exploring what constitutes “love” and “need” and who is expected to give way in a relationship despite their own feelings.

And Then I Woke Up by Malcolm Devlin

A smoothly-written and dark novella that explores the power of stories to shape reality, while also playing with the idea of unreliable narrators. The story can be read as a unique twist on the zombie trope, a pandemic story, a political metaphor, or all of the above, as a plague of violence sweeps the nation and people are locked away for their own good until they recover from their beliefs.

Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse

A novella with distinct weird west vibes that also explores classism in a town below a hill where the remains of a dead god are mined and those with fallen blood are shunned. Fantastic worldbuilding and great characters, who are faced with complex choices, while they also work to solve the novella’s central murder mystery.

Of Charms, Ghosts, and Grievances by Aliette de Bodard

This novella is set in the world of the author’s Dominion of the Fallen series, but the story stands well on its own. Thuan, a dragon prince, and his fallen angel husband, are caught up in a mystery when they discover the ghost of a child haunting a temple. They don’t exactly see eye to eye when it comes to the dead, especially those who can only survive by feeding off the living, and solving the mystery tests their relationship, while also putting them, their friends, and their family in danger. Gorgeous worldbuilding, fantastic characters, and evocative writing – definitely worth the read even if this is your first time encountering the author’s Dominion of the Fallen world.


The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield

A gorgeously-written and richly-detailed alternate history, set in 1760s Europe, focused primarily on two of the daughters of the Hapsburg emperor, whose lives are ruled by their mother’s expectations of them – that they marry kings and strengthen their family’s position. Charlotte and Antoine (known as Marie Antoinette in France) came into possession of an embroidered book of spells as young girls, and have secretly been using magic ever since to better their lives and subtly influence the course of history. Heartfield does wonderful things with the idea of “small” magics that effect big changes, showing the subtle ways women of the time might exercise power and control, while also doing a wonderful job with the impossible situation the sisters are put in, their complex relationships, and the choices they must make with limited information and opportunity. With all the history, magic, complex politics, and the deeply human characters, even at 600+ pages, the story never bogs down. The novel feels truly epic, and I could have happily kept reading when I reached the end.

The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings

The Ballad of Perilous Graves is set in an alternate New Orleans, full of music, magic, living songs, ghosts, zombies, super-powered children, and walking graffiti. (So possibly actually New Orleans and not alternate at all, if you know where to look, but I digress.) This is a fantastic novel in all senses of the word, bursting with energy, and taking unexpected twists and turns. The titular Perilous Graves, along with his sister Brendy, and their neighbor, Peaches, is caught up in a mystery/adventure/life-threatening quest, when someone begins kidnapping famous songs and taking them out of the world. An unexpected family legacy is revealed, spirits are consulted and confronted, and reality turns out to be not at all what any of them believed. I remain in awe of how much Jennings fit into one book, and how it all works perfectly together to form a rich, swirling, mosaic tapestry to snap the reader up and carry them along – just like a proper New Orleans parade.

The World We Make by N.K. Jemisin

This is the sequel/conclusion to the story started in The City We Became, so it doesn’t stand alone, but both novels are absolutely worth reading. The boroughs of New York, recently awoken living embodiments of their neighborhoods, along with the avatar of New York as a whole, pick up their fight against an incursion of Lovecraftian cosmic horror. The speculative fiction element works perfectly alongside a story about both overt and subtle racism, city politics, fighting for your neighborhood, and the people who truly have your back. The characters are wonderful, and their relationships and lives are made more complex this time around. The creepy white tendrils of cosmic horror remain effective, and it’s fun getting to see even more of the city-avatars from around the world as they’re inevitably drawn into the fight.

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

I’ll admit that this one took me a little while to get into, but it did end up hooking me with its gorgeous, lush descriptions, and the way new facets of the characters were revealed over the course of the novel. The story centers on a merchant-thief, travelling with her djinn bodyguard, and a prince who is tired of his life confined to the royal palace and wants to see the world. They both get caught up in a search for a dangerous and coveted magical relic, uncertain who can be trusted, and trying desperately to keep the artifact out of the wrong hands. The novel is beautifully-written, and I appreciate the way the characters are deepened, interconnected histories are revealed, and the truth about the powerful relics is uncovered, over the course of the story. This is the first book of a trilogy, and I look forward to reading the rest.

To Catch a Moon by Rym Kechacha

This novel took me by surprise, not being on my radar at all, and having no idea what to expect when I picked it up. What I found was a series of lovely, interwoven stories, moving fluidly through time, nesting one inside the other, and creating a wonderfully elaborate mythology, while also telling a satisfying tale. The framing narrative starts with a painter who accidentally create an entire world, and the bulk of the novel tells the epic story of that world, the flow of its history and the interconnected lives of its characters. It’s hard to describe properly, but it’s truly beautifully-written, and well worth a read.

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

Pretty much anything by T. Kingfisher is worth the read in my opinion. Nettle & Bone nods to several fairy tales without being a direct adaptation of any particular fairy tale. It’s dark and it’s bloody. There is a series of seemingly impossible tasks that need to be undertaken, including weaving a cloak of nettles and building a dog out of bones. There are fairy godmothers – fearful and powerful creatures whose blessings (or curses, depending on your perspective) can shape the fate of an entire realm. The prose is lush and the characters are wonderful, and overall its a quick and highly-satisfying read.

Wrath Goddess Sing by Maya Deane

This is another novel that wasn’t on my radar and took me pleasantly by surprise. An alternate telling of the Iliad and the battle of Troy, centered on Achilles, a trans woman imbued with the power of the gods, who becomes a battleground in an of herself as divine influences seek to sway her to their cause. The descriptions of battle are sharp, the writing gorgeous, and the characters are wonderfully-drawn. It feels simultaneously epic and intimate, like reading a secret, hidden history of what really went down in the Trojan War.

Passerthrough by Peter Rock

Yet another novel that wasn’t on my radar, which pleasantly surprised me. This probably isn’t the book for people who like concrete answers, or narratives that wrap everything up at the end. Uneasiness is the name of the game here, with readers thrown directly into a highly uncertain situation, as Benjamin tries to piece together his memories of his daughter’s mysterious disappearance 25 years ago. Helen was gone for a full week, reappearing several miles away from the campsite where she vanished, with no explanation, displaying behavior at the time that might almost be called possession. It’s very possible that Helen touched another world when she vanished, and it’s also possible that her disappearance was Benjamin’s fault. The whole novel has a surreal and uncanny feel about it, evoking real-life stories of unexplained disappearances, particularly those blamed on faeries. It’s a quick read, and worth the time for fans of the strange, unexplained, and unsettling.

The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez

I can truly say that I’ve never read a novel structured in quite this way before, but it absolutely works. The point of view flows seamlessly from character to character throughout this dense, epic secondary world fantasy. The story moves backward and forward through time, with a framing narrative of a character recalling the stories their grandmother told them about the Old Country, a realm of gods, magic, warriors, and horrors. The focus dips in and out of the narrative within the narrative, with the worlds overlapping occasionally and informing each other. There are interjections throughout both narratives that function almost like a Greek chorus, giving an alternate perspective on events as they occur. It could be distracting, but it absolutely works, creating a story that is rich, layered, detailed, and breathtaking. My description likely isn’t doing it justice. Just go read it. It’s dark and lush and queer and beautiful and I’m in awe of how the whole thing comes together.

Saint Death’s Daughter by C.S.E. Cooney

Speaking of dark and lush and queer and beautiful, Saint Death’s Daughter by C.S.E. Cooney is all of those as well. Lainie Stones is a necromancer from a line of executioners and torturers who happens to be deathly allergic to violence, which is highly inconvenient given her heritage and line of work. She also happens to be favored by the goddess of Death, and sought after by the Blackbird Bride and all her wizards, making violence hard to avoid as she seeks to protect herself and her family. The worldbuilding is gorgeous and intricate, and reading the novel is like eating a sumptuous dessert. Saint Death’s Herald, the sequel, was just announced, and I absolutely can’t wait to read it!

Spear by Nicola Griffith

This is a quick read, but a very worthwhile one, as Griffith spins a fresh take on Arthurian legend, centered on Peretur (Percival), a young woman raised alone in a cave by her mother who eventually ventures out to seek her fortune in Caer Leon and the service of King Artos. It’s a wonderful queer reimagining that like Wrath Goddess Sing feels like reading a true secret history of well-known stories. As an extra bonus, it’s also gorgeously illustrated by Rovina Cai whose work is always stunning.

So there you have my further recommendations and favorite reads from 2022. And these books only represent a fraction of the incredible volume of work published last year, so much of which is fun and amazing and delightful and absolutely worth your time to read.

One thing that going through the judging process for the World Fantasy Awards really drove home for me is how much deserving work is out there in a given year, and how hard it is to select just five finalists in each category. As I said at the top of the post, there are so many works worthy of recognition, and even with everything we did get to consider for the awards, there’s also work out there that we didn’t see. So if you’re an author/publisher/editor, make sure your work gets in front of award judges whenever possible, and if you’re a reader, keeping shouting out the works you love. Only a select few things can make the final ballot for any given award in any given year, but there are countless other amazing works to read out there that deserve attention!

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Favorite Novels and Novellas of 2022

Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste Cover Art

The year is winding down, and those who participate in such things are starting to think about the works they plan to nominate for various awards. While I’m still (always) frantically trying to catch up on reading, below and in no particular order, are my favorite novels and novellas from 2022. I may make updates as I continue to read, but in the meantime, hopefully this might help readers (and folks who nominate for awards) find something new to love.


Reluctant Immortals by Gwendoyln Kiste

A wonderful reclaiming of classic Gothic heroines Lucy Westerna, Bertha Rochester, and Jane Eyre, set against the backdrop of the Summer of Love in San Francisco. Kiste takes these imperiled women, acknowledges their trauma and pain, and asks what comes next. Horrible things were done to them in their past lives, but Lucy, Bee, and Jane refuse to let the abusive men in their lives define them. Reluctant Immortals is a lovely exploration of friendship, the nature of monstrousness, and what it means to choose kindness over violence.

The Path of Thorns by A.G. Slatter

An intricately-constructed Gothic fairy tale that unfolds new layers with every turn of the page. New takes on the tropes of Gothic literature seem to be in lately, and I am digging it. A lonely manner, family secrets, a supernatural threat, a complicated romance – the Path of Thorns has it all, and is a thoroughly enjoyable dark and twisty read.

Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

An isolated lodge, brutal winter storms, uncanny birds, and a deeply haunted mountain. Thomas Olde Heuvelt brilliantly infuses elements of cosmic and folk horror into the story of a man whose boyfriend survives a climbing accident on a forbidden peak and returns to that peak with him to help him heal. Far beyond physical injuries and psychological trauma, it seems increasingly likely that something supernatural has a hold of his boyfriend, and they struggle to unravel the mystery before it destroys them both.

The Hacienda by Isabel Canas

Another take on classical Gothic tropes, this time set against the backdrop of an isolated ranch in Mexico. Beatriz moves into her new husband’s house and sets about trying to fix it up and make it a home. Something malignant seems bent on keeping her from getting comfortable, but luckily, unlike many Gothic heroines, she has allies willing to help her get to the bottom of the potential haunting. Lovely and atmospheric, with a wonderful slow-burning romance added in to the supernatural mix.

Siren Queen by Nghi Vo

The glamour of old Hollywood meets the glamour of faerie, two beautiful and glimmering existences that seethe with darkness below the surface. Luli Wei stumbles into movies almost accidentally, but once she sees the potential, she’s determined to become a star on her own terms – not an easy feat for a Chinese American girl with limited and often racist roles being the only things available to her. There are avenues to power however, for those willing to make dangerous deals and terrible sacrifices. This is a lush and gorgeous novel full of queer romance, complicated family relationships, and wonderful characters faced with impossible choices.

Base Notes by Lara Elena Donnelly

Like Siren Queen, Base Notes is another lush and gorgeous novel full of queer romance, complicated relationships, and wonderful characters facing impossible choices. But rather than old Hollywood and faerie glamour, Donnelly gives us a chilly basement where the protagonist, Vic, brings the bodies of the people they’ve murdered in order to decant memories from their corpses and create exquisite, one-of-a-kind perfumes. Base Notes is equal parts beautiful and brutal, and absolutely immersive and absorbing. It’s a serial killer story, but also a story about economic inequality, access to resources and power, and even hope, friendship, and love.

The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay

Like many of Tremblay’s novels, the Pallbearers Club is rife with unreliable narrators and unreliable narratives. It might be a story about a man whose life has been irrevocably intertwined with that of a 200-year old vampire, or it might be a story about two lonely, awkward people finding kindred spirits in each other and navigating a fraught, off-and-on friendship spanning nearly thirty years of their lives. Or it might be both, or neither, or something far more complicated. Either way, it’s a delightful look at the way memory and narrative are constructed, and the lies we tell ourselves and others in order to survive, presented as a memoir manuscript littered with interjections and snarky asides from the main character’s maybe-possibly-a-vampire-best-friend.

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

A reimagining of the classic story of Doctor Moreau, focused on his daughter Carlotta, who is growing up on an isolated estate on the Yucatan peninsula with only her father’s hybrid creations as companions. Moreau is struggling with his research and desperately trying to convince his patron to continue funding his work. Meanwhile his patron’s son has designs on taking over the property, which would spell doom for the secret existence of the hybrids. Carlotta fights to save herself, her friends, and her home, while being pulled between between multiple conflicting loyalties. Gorgeous, smooth writing and a wonderful voice that made the story feel like a seamless fit with Wells’ original, while also being wholly fresh and new.

All the White Spaces by Ally Wilkes

Like Echo, All the White Spaces brings hints of cosmic horror to the story of characters trying to survive vicious storms in an already brutal and unforgiving wintery setting. A group of shipwrecked Antarctic explorers take shelter in a mysteriously abandoned outpost after their ship burns. The story focuses on Jonathan, who stows away on the expedition as a way of honors his older brothers’ dream of exploring the Antarctic after they are killed in the war. All the men on the expedition have brought their own ghosts with them into the cold and the dark, each of them harrowed and haunted in different ways, leading to rising tension among the surviving crew as well as rising paranoia, which feels increasingly justified as it appears they are being stalked by something unnatural. Queer, full of breathtaking prose and complex characters, deeply eerie, and just a fantastic read all around.

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey

A slick and fast-paced novel about complicated family relationships dialed up to eleven. Vera’s dying mother calls her home for the first time in many years, forcing Vera to confront uncomfortable memories about her serial killer father and examine the nature of love and evil. Added to the mix is a man staying in her mother’s guest house, bent on making art out of Vera’s history and trauma, and the possibility that she is being haunted. Sharply-written and a wonderful exploration of monstrousness and monstrous love.

Sundial by Catronia Ward

2022 was a year of novels that pair well with each other, tackling similar themes, and feeling like they’re in direct conversation. Sundial, like Just Like Home, features a woman coping with traumatic past, peeling back the layers of her complicated relationship with her family. Rob brings her troubled daughter to the remote desert compound known as Sundial, where she and her sister spent their childhoods alongside their father and stepmother’s strange experiments and an ever-revolving group of grad students who oftentimes felt like devotees of a cult. Rob lost her sister Jack, and there are things about their relationship and their shared past she doesn’t want to admit even to herself, but which she’ll have to face if she has any chance of saving her daughter. Again, like Gailey, Ward does a wonderful job of exploring monstrousness and love and the intersection between the two, while also exploring the nature of evil and repeating cycles of violence.

The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

Kowal takes the spirit and vibe of the Thin Man movies and brings them to a cruise ship journeying through space. Tesla Crane, heiress and engineering genius, is traveling incognito with her new husband, formerly a detective who is now trying to simply enjoy life as a regular citizen. Their honeymoon is rudely interrupted by a murder, leaving Tess frantically trying to clear her husband’s name when he is accused by virtue of being the one to discover the body. As if that weren’t bad enough, people keep turning up dead around them, and almost everyone Tess talks to seems to be keeping secrets. Kowal brings together romance, witty banter, danger, mystery, a wonderful setting and wonderful characters, including Gimlet the very best and most adorable service dog ever, and as an extra bonus, offers up cocktail recipes at the start of every chapter.

Saturnalia by Stephanie Feldman

Magic, secret societies, an alt-future Philadelphia in the grip of environmental collapse, and a decadent mid-winter festival where fortunes are poised to be made and broken. Nina used to be a member of the exclusive Saturn Club, now she’s barely making rent, telling fortunes and tending to other people’s properties. When the person she considers to be her last friend and ally offers her a ridiculous sum of money to steal a mysterious box from the Saturn Club, she feels as though she can’t pass up the opportunity. But what was meant to be a simple job turns immediately complicated, bringing up painful memories from her past, as she’s stalked across the city by something supernatural, leaving her uncertain of who she can trust and running for her life. Feldman does an excellent job of exploring the dynamics of power and the cost of magic in a tense novel that also serves as a love letter to Philadelphia.


The House of Drought by Dennis Mombauer

A deeply atmospheric novella following various characters, in various times, as they encounter and inhabit an eerie house in a field in Sri Lanka. There’s a claustrophobic sense of being watched by something beyond the fields, and something inside the house as well, which contains more depths and dimensions than its architecture suggests. Mombauer creatures an effective dream/nightmare-like feel as the story moves in time. It’s a satisfying haunted house story that also blends in elements of myth, history, and examines the horrors of colonialism and humanity’s impact on the environment.

Helpmeet by Naben Ruthnum

Another deeply atmospheric novella, with an effectively claustrophobic and oppressive setting. A woman is trapped in a decaying house with her decaying husband, pieces of him literally falling off as a strange sickness devours him. The set up feels classically Gothic, as does the voice – a wife bound to her husband by a sense of duty, facing horrors as a result of her husband’s actions. The story smoothly shifts to introduce elements of cosmic horror, making what follows far weirder than expected in the best of ways.

The Talosite by Rebecca Campbell

An effective blend of body horror and alternate history, which like Ruthnum’s novella gets increasingly weird in the best of ways as it progresses. A young scientist following in her father’s footsteps stitches together horrors from the bodies of fallen soldiers, sending them back out onto the battlefields of WWI. Campbell captures the perfect voice and tone for the novella, making it feel both like a classic sci-fi horror in the vein of Frankenstein, but also making it feel unique and fresh as well. A highly effective look at obsession, the idea of science gone too far, and the horrors of war.

Uncommon Charm by Emily Bergslien and Kat Weaver

An utterly charming (pardon the pun) novella about magic, ghosts, and deeply buried family secrets. Julia’s cousin Simon comes to stay in her home and be trained in magic by her mother. On the surface, the tone is light, full of snappy, witty dialog, and characters bent on circumventing rules and getting up to mischief. There’s darkness beneath the surface though, and true heart and emotion as well. This is the kind of novella that is perfectly satisfying at its length, but also left me longing for more with these characters and in this setting.

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

Another highly-atmospheric novella, drawing on Gothic tropes to re-tell Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. A retired solider travels to the estate of kan’s childhood friends, Roderick and Madeline Usher, to discover that not only is something wrong with the twins themselves, but with the very land. There are unnatural lights in the waters of the tarn and the rabbits in the field move in ways nothing living should. Madeline and Roderick are both wasting away, Maddie sleepwalking and seeming increasingly unlike herself, and Roderick nervous and jumping at every sound. Kingfisher honors the original tale, and transforms it with new twists, resulting in a wonderful re-imagining of a classic tale full of those genuinely unsettling and eerie moments that she excels at creating.

Bishop’s Opening by R.S.A. Garcia

Deep worldbuilding, wonderful characters, and a slow-burning mystery that unfolds into a complex story of political maneuvering and interpersonal relationships. A group of cargo haulers is caught up in an assassination attempt when one of their number impulsively steps into to save a man’s life and winds up being accused of being one of the perpetrators of the attack. Garcia does a wonderful job of creating a world that feels fully lived in, and characters whose lives, complex motives, and often clashing worldviews feel like they extend far beyond the page.

Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk

The perfect mash-up of magic and noir that steadily reveals new layers to its central mystery to build to a satisfying conclusion. Helen photographs crime scenes, specializing in finding the supernatural elements at play that most people are unable to see. Her latest job brings her face to face with her estranged brother Teddy, who is only one of many parties – not all of them human – with an interest in the case. Time is running out for Helen as she tries to solve the mystery, protect her lover Edith, repair her broken relationship with Teddy, and save her own soul. A wonderful, slick voice and an excellent, multi-layered mystery.

Empire of the Feast by Bendi Barrett

A heavily anime-influenced story of warring factions and uncertain alliances set against the backdrop of a sumptuously-built world powered by sex magic. The latest ruler of the Stag Empire wakes up next to the corpse of his previous incarnation, the victim of assassination, with no memory of who killed him or the various complexities of his precarious political situation. He doesn’t have the luxury of time to recover though, but must jump straight into the effort to maintain peace, hold his empire together, untangle his own history, and figure out who he can trust, all while seemingly being haunted by the hungering, demonic entity imprisoned in the nearest sun.

Pomegranates by Priya Sharma

This novella was just released in a gorgeous hardcover edition from PS Publishing a few weeks ago, and I hope folks don’t miss it in the year-end rush. It’s a re-telling/re-imagining of the myth of Persephone, set against the backdrop of the climate crisis, seamlessly blending mythic figures and gods with the real world. Told through three primary voices – those of Demeter, Persephone, and Bear, a human scientist desperately trying to gather seeds for a seed vault, the novella is full of lovely and evocative prose. It flips the traditional story of Persephone as a victim of kidnapping, to give us a Persephone deeply in mourning over Hades, who she viewed as her only true family, choosing to close the underworld in her grief, leaving the dead and the living both stranded in a world of eternal winter. It offers us a lovely balance of hope and heartbreak, and again, I hope folks don’t miss out due to its publication late in the year.