3 Time Travel Books to Get Mixed Up In

I think about the possibilities and implications of time travel way more than a normal human adult should. Let’s face it, though, filling your head with dreams of hypothetical sci-fi scenarios is more fun than filling up on the news cycle, so let’s roll with it. First off, before we go any further, if I had a time machine I would go back in time and see Roy Orbison live at his Black and White Night concert. Full stop, on the record. Sorry fam, sorry problems of the world, that’s where I’d be. Sound off on your dream time machine trip in the comments. Okay, now on to the time travel books.

There is one major ingredient I need in my time travel and that ingredient is angst. Get on board with me here. Characters that are out of their own time, loved ones left behind (or forward) in time, paradoxes. The angst goes on and on. I’m stopping myself from typing a stream of consciousness run-on sentence of angsty Doctor Who moments that had me crying my face off. I mean, there’s this one Twelve x Clara fanfic where she goes back to see him before he forgets her and I just can’t (sorry!). That being said, these next three books kinda had me crying my face off too.

An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim, Time Travel Books, Book RiotAn Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim

Here’s the set up: there’s a deadly flu pandemic in America. Frank catches the virus and his girlfriend Polly is willing to do whatever it takes to save him. Time travel has been invented in the future in order to combat the virus. Big bad business is offering to pay for the expensive, life-saving medical treatment in exchange for a one-way trip to the future as a bonded laborer. Polly takes the job to save Frank and they plan to meet up on a specific date in the future. Problem is, Polly ends up an extra five years into the future. The America she finds herself in is very different from what she was expecting and she has to cope not only with the potential loss of Frank, but also with the loss of everything that she knows about the world.

Polly and Frank are living in some dark times. I mean not only are they living in a time travel novel, it’s also just a tiny bit dystopian too. Real talk though, I love this book so much. It’s got your classic stuck-in-time angst, but there’s also the added, super relevant angst of Polly’s journey as a time refugee.

Doctor Who angst level equivalent: Rose and Ten stuck on opposite sides of that (time and space) wall.

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen, Time Travel Books, Book RiotHere and Now and Then by Mike Chen

First off, here’s what you need to know: Kin Stewart is just your normal IT guy, he has a wife and daughter (both super sci-fi nerds btw), and his life is pretty normal. The only thing is, Kin used to be a time-traveling secret agent from the future. After a botched mission left him stranded in San Francisco in the 1990s, he had to make a new life. Then his rescue team shows up, 18 years too late.

I know, right, you already want to start reading and you don’t even know how emotional this one is going to get! Kin is quite literally torn between two lives and it gets angsty, people. I don’t want to give too much more away but there’s bootstrap paradoxes, good old ’90s hacking, time emails, and Doctor Who quotes. Get your hands on this ASAP.

Doctor Who angst level equivalent: “I’m changing history to save Clara.”

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas, Time Travel Books, Book RiotThe Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

The set up: It’s 1967 and a group of four genius, flawed, badass women invent time travel. Now they have to live with it and all the consequences that follow. Time travel is revolutionary, but it also comes with its own everyday problems. They found the Conclave to deal with all of these new issues, like time government, time crime, and time administration. These ladies are like UNIT, the Doctor, the companion, and the Time Lords all in one. But with time travel becoming a huge business, what started out as a regulatory institution quickly becomes more like a secret society, complete with the hazing of rookies and their own book of terminology.

There’s so much to unpack with this one. It’s told from multiple characters’ points of view including the original inventors, some of their family members, and some time-adjacent folks. The most important plot point is that time travelers meet up with their future selves or “silvers” constantly, which makes for some really interesting scenes. The story begins with the breaking up of the original group and continues with a pretty crazy, locked-room mystery. And it really brings the angst when the multiple story lines begin to intertwine and overlap.

Doctor Who angst level equivalent: “We keep meeting in the wrong order.”

The World is Falling Apart: Timely Dystopias That Reflect Our Fears

I am an irrepressible book juggler. For the most part, there is a method to my madness, and I try to juggle books that are different from each other so that I have options for every possible mood. But the other week, I ended up reading both Justin Cronin’s The Passage and Christina Dalcher’s Vox at the same time. At one point, it finally occurred to me that I was reading two books that are both about the world falling apart. They were just falling apart in different ways.

It’s interesting to me how the dystopias of ten years ago differ from the dystopias of today. Cronin’s 2010 epic is—much like Stephen King’s The Stand—about a government-made super-virus unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. But the dystopias of today (or at least the ones I’m most drawn to) all seem to be about the same thing: governmental control of women.

Can you really blame me, when we live in a world where women’s bodies seem more than ever to be policed by everyone but them?

And can you really blame these authors for being so preoccupied with the topics of control and rebellion?

via GIPHY

Here are some of the standouts that have been on my radar:

Vox book coverVox by Christina Dalcher

This book takes place in a world in which women are only allowed to speak 100 words a day. When someone goes over the allotted amount, the counter she wears on her wrist sends a thousand volts of electricity through her body. While at times this book felt heavy-handed and a bit too on the nose, I appreciated how it made me squirm in the way it cast judgment on those who don’t see fit to speak out against injustice until it lands at their front door.

man eaters issue 1Man-Eaters by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, Rachelle Rosenberg, Joe Caramagna, and Lia Miternique

I get such a kick out of this comic, and out of the way in which the ancillary artwork really goes to work in service of the world-building. The world? It’s much like the one we live in now except, in Cain’s version, a mutation in toxoplasmosis causes some menstruating women to turn into bloodthirsty wildcats. In order to combat this, the government has been putting progesterone and estrogen into the public water supply in order to block ovulation. And for boys? A whole line of estrogen-blocking products “specially designed to protect what matters most: boys!”

Bitch_Planet_Vol_1Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Robert Wilson IV, Chris Peter, and Clayton Cowles

One of the titles that got me into comics, Bitch Planet is a no holds barred sci-fi story from a future in which women who are found to be “noncompliant” are shipped off to a prison planet. One group of women ends up banding together to kick some major ass and, holy hell, I need more Bitch Planet in my life!

Before She Sleeps by Bina ShahBefore She Sleeps by Bina Shah

In South West Asia, the female population has fallen to dangerously low levels thanks to war, disease, and the practice of gender selection. Because of this, women are forced to take multiple husbands in order to pump out as many babies as possible, as quickly as possible. Shah’s novel explores what resistance looks like within a Muslim culture that practices female seclusion, veiling, and other forms of patriarchal control.

Internment by Samira AhmedInternment by Samira Ahmed

The lone young adult novel on my list, Ahmed’s Internment takes place in a near-future United States in which Muslim Americans are forced into internment camps. But can the 17-year-old protagonist start a revolution that frees those she loves?

A People's Future of the United StatesA People’s Future of the United States edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams

I had been looking forward to this one for a while, as I consider LaValle to be a paragon of good taste and high quality writing. In this collection, he and Adams bring together 25 works of speculative fiction that envision new futures for America, similar to what was done in 2015’s The Feminist Utopia Project. I was stoked to see pieces from Gabby Rivera, Kai Cheng Thom, G. Willow Wilson, and other favorites.

Motherland by Lauren BeukesMotherland by Lauren Beukes

And because our appetite for these types of novels will never be satisfied, I’m just going to mention a book that’s not out until 2020 (sorry not sorry!). According to the book’s description, Beukes’s latest follows a mother living in a time when a super-virus has decimated the male population, causing a shift in the way in which the country operates. Harboring a healthy male is now considered a criminal offense, rivaled only by the murder of a man, and the book’s protagonist—who is guilty of both—struggles to find a place where she and her son can be safe. Knowing Beukes, whatever she releases will be deliciously dark.

What recent dystopias have been ringing your bell?

The Wasted Potential of Ellaria Sand in GAME OF THRONES

Game of Thrones is like free popcorn. It dehydrates you and makes you crave water or soda. In the end, you feel unsatisfied and yet wanting to nibble on more of it because that salty taste won’t leave you.

Mind, I had a bad experience when introduced to the books from A Song of Ice and Fire, so I can only watch clips at a time of the show. I use spoilers to keep up because seeing entire episodes at a time would be too depressing, and the cliffhangers keep drawing me back despite my distrust. Other people can find joy in the show, but mainly I keep up to satiate my desire for spoilers.  Speaking of which…

Spoilers

Women Who Cause Harm

One of our previous Book Riot contributors talked about how in Game of Thrones, women are seen as sex objects and defined by how men desire them. The exceptions, Arya and Brienne, adopt masculine roles.  There’s another issue with the women in Game of Thrones: revenge motivates most of their actions.

We can argue that the “strongest” characters in Game of Thrones are those that avenge slights to themselves or others; Arya kills to avenge her family and her friends, as an example. Cersei avenges her family, and while it backfires at times, you have to admire her hypocritical resolve. Dany wants to reclaim her throne to pay for a lifetime of pain and assassins sent after her before she turned eighteen.

In contrast, the women who seek to turn the other cheek tend to die. Catelyn Stark, a non-sexualized woman who avoids the revenge route, dies futilely trying to save her son; Selyse hangs herself after she and Stannis sacrifice their only child for a steady victory. Melisandre, who has been exiled for her actions, only seeks to support who she believes is the Red God’s champion. While this drives the point that in this world, you have to right all the wrongs set against you or others will tear you to pieces, it also seems dismal that forgiveness is rarely an option unless the person who hurt you makes amends.

The Exception

Then we get to Ellaria. And we groan in frustration. Ellaria Sand became a hot button for many people, for good reason. She causes undue conflict out of a desire for revenge and pays a heavy price. Yet we didn’t need that subplot at all; the books don’t have it. And she’s the exception that shows how revenge backfires.

We meet Ellaria as one of Oberyn Martell’s lovers. They aren’t married, but they have a child together, Tyene. To avenge his sister Elia, Oberyn takes on the Mountain in a trial by combat; he dies because he spends too much time extorting a confession from the Mountain for his sister’s murder, and doesn’t wear a helmet. Ellaria, in turn, wants revenge for him. Oberyn’s brother Doran says that they can’t take on the Lannisters in a fight they will lose, and they certainly won’t kill their royal hostage, the innocent Myrcella Baratheon, in revenge. Ellaria then goes off the deep end; she poisons Myrcella fatally, kills Doran and his son, and agrees to join Dany’s alliance for war.

This backfires, badly; Cersei has made her alliances, and she aptly points out that Myrcella was an innocent bystander who had no part in her family’s schemes. When Cersei receives a captured Ellaria and Tyene, she locks the two up, poisons Tyene with the same lipstick used on Myrcella, and promises that Ellaria will live long enough to see her daughter’s corpse rot. That storyline ends rather abruptly, with Ellaria and Tyene waiting in the dungeon for the end.

In the books, Ellaria argues against seeking revenge for Oberyn, despite what the other Sand Snakes want. Doran agrees with her and tells her to go to her four children. As she puts it, the death didn’t bring her lover back, and he wouldn’t want others to slay innocents for him; also, her daughters may engage in this pointless cycle and sacrifice their lives as well. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but in the books it makes more sense.

Why was the Change Necessary?

Did we really need Ellaria to become the one who would hurt a girl—a girl no older than her Tyene? And did we need harebrained revenge to justify how Cersei could persist in gaining victories against her enemies? Viewers pointed out that Ellaria came off as unreasonable and hypocritical. Murdering her own family totally crosses the line. The writers decided the best fate for Ellaria was to give her to the show’s most sadistic character. Which, yeah. Why?

There is no clear answer. Maybe they wanted to give a reason for Cersei to gain victories. Even so, there are better scenarios that don’t throw characterization in the mud.

You could do the same arc, where all the Martells are in conflict about how Oberyn died for nothing and didn’t avenge his sister. Have Ellaria’s daughters talk about revenge, and make it more about the ongoing theme of settling a blood feud versus venting your rage and grief on the world. She and Doran could have their reasonable talk, where Doran also worries about crossing the line and if they can truly avenge all their losses. If the Martells enter Dany’s alliance, they could still lose badly, He lost Elia already, and now Oberyn. Myrcella has nothing to do with the plot, and the whole point of Tyrion sending her to the Martells was damage control and to remind Joffrey and Cersei to not act like idiot politicians. If Myrcella still needs to die for Cersei to make her claim to the throne, then you could write it as a rogue Sand Snake or the coup from the books that injured the young girl.

 Season 8 and the End

While I’m still not going to watch full episodes of Game of Thrones and will keep up via spoilers, I do wonder where the revenge theme will go. Dany and Jon have tried to convince Cersei to ally with them against the wights and have failed, while Jaime has decided to join their cause. Arya, Bran, and Sansa have vowed to stick together now that they’ve killed Littlefinger and avenged their father.

“In the game of thrones, you win or you die.” But that doesn’t speak for the blood feuds that ensue or the pain. If Dany retakes her throne, or Sansa outlives the other contenders, that would be interesting. This world seems to support the Inigo Montoya characters, who make sure the people they kill are guilty and deserve a sporting chance before running them through their swords.

Fantasy Book Covers Intimidate Me—Here’s Why

I consider myself a casual fan of speculative fiction. Twilight came out when I was 13 and, by then, I had already been reading Harry Potter for a while, so my interests grew into other fantasy novels with the occasional piece of science fiction. Then the dystopian boom came along, which generally incorporated pieces of science fiction or fantasy, so I read a bit of that, too. The more I read, the more interested I was in the origins of speculative—particularly fantasy—fiction. And then I started seeing older fantasy book covers.

Hoo boy. There’s a lot going on with them, isn’t there?

Into the Labyrinth by Margaret Weis and Tracy HickmanThe problem is, I find them entirely intimidating. Head on over to Google and try an image search for “90s fantasy,” “80s fantasy,” “70s fantasy,” or even “60s fantasy” and you’ll get a pretty quick idea of what I’m talking about. Highly-stylized art on covers with loads of detail. They all seem like an awfully big commitment. I see this and ask myself, oh boy, am I going to have to sit through excessive scenery and war depictions? Is the bulk of the plot detailed political discussions set in ornate castles? Will there be feasts that list every bite of food on the table? (Sorry, J.R.R.)

These covers always seem to scream “high fantasy” to me. (While high fantasy technically refers to books that take place entirely in a fantasy world, I also use it to describe fantasy fiction that is just a lot—dense prose, overly-detailed descriptions, highly-political plots, you get the idea.) I can’t say exactly why that is. Maybe, early on, I had exposure to high fantasy with these covers and it created an association. Maybe there’s something to be said about something like internalized misogyny in me, and that the complex covers indicate complex interiors which is intended for men because of the myth that science fiction and fantasy are for men (and when women write it, it’s for young adults). Maybe there’s just something about the intricate covers that turn me off, like detailed illustrations in graphic novels have.

The Eye of the World by Robert JordanWhatever the cause, these kinds of covers have long intimidated me and kept me from truly diving into even fantasy that I might have enjoyed. When a book’s cover suggests high fantasy and I know I’m not ready for that kind of commitment, I’m going to disregard it out of hand as a reading option. Book covers aren’t always a great gauge for the content of a book, but they do inform potential readers about the book. So I use what limited information I have to decide not to read a lot of these books and probably miss out on some great stuff as a result.

At used book sales, I typically totally disregard the fantasy mass market paperbacks. Pretty inevitably, most of the books in those collections have these kinds of covers. With precious little time to shop (you have to leave time to read!), I don’t waste my time digging through these covers to find blurbs or jacket copy that might otherwise entice me. I just generally assume these books are not for me. And that’s a shame.

Is this a me problem or a publishers problem? Both? I’m certain I need to get over myself to some degree, but I also figure publishers are doing something like gate keeping. Those highly detailed and stylized covers do feel, for whatever, very masculine to me. And maybe someone smarter than I can articulate why that is. Whatever the case, if publishers continue to publish in this style, I have a feeling they’re alienating a good chunk of a potential market.

Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen KushnerThere’s a good chance many people will respond to this with something along the lines of “feminists want to ruin publishing/book covers” and “not everything has to be for you.” But all I’m saying here is that publishers are probably missing out on lots of consumers because their covers do not accurately represent the contents of their books. For those intimidating fantasy book covers that are accurately representing their interiors, I say well done! But for the rest, I’m sorry—it’s not you, it’s me. (Maybe.)

Has a book cover ever turned you off from even picking a book up to find out what it’s about? Is there a whole category of book covers that are automatic deal breakers for you? Tell us in the comments.

50 Must-Read Books About Unicorns

I don’t know about you, but I went through a serious unicorn phase when I was a kid, which lasted well into high school not because of Lisa Frank, but rather thanks to Sue Dawe and her ability to make unicorns look like they were all stepping off of a heavy metal album cover. I’m not sure when dragons suddenly took over from unicorns as being “cooler” in my brain, but they never fully expunged these magical horses and their stab-a-guy-ready horns. And while I think dragons have taken over fantasy that involves magical creatures, unicorns are still gamely hanging onto the written word, just waiting for their chance to take over again. Here’s a list of 50 books about unicorns (not just unicorns as “also appearing”), both old and new, that are well worth reading.

I’ve separated these books about unicorns loosely by age group, but does age really matter to unicorns? I will note that this book list turned out very white, almost entirely so. I spent days sifting through unicorn books and failed pretty hard when it came to locating more written by authors of color; perhaps it’s an issue of the specificity of the topic. Here’s hoping for more unicorn books from a wider array of voices in the future—because unicorns are for everyone.

Are there any awesome unicorn books I missed, either favorites from your childhood or new releases? Let us know in the comments!

Picture Books About Unicorns

You Don’t Want a Unicorn by Ame Dyckman, Illustrated by Liz Climo

“When a little boy throws a coin in a well asking for a pet unicorn, he has no idea what kind of trouble he’s in for. Unbeknownst to him, unicorns make the absolutely worst pets: they shed, they poke holes in your ceiling, and they make a big mess.”

The Secret World of Unicorns by Pat Perrin, illustrated by Ryan Hobson

“Have you ever seen a unicorn? Though rare, they’re out there. In China, if you’re very lucky, you might see the Kilin, a unicorn considered to bring great fortune. Mist and Rain Fader unicorns are said to love the waterfalls of South America. And, rumor has it that unicorns have even been glimpsed in New York’s Central Park.”

Not Quite a Narwhal by Jessie Sima

“Growing up in the ocean, Kelp has always assumed that he was a narwhal like the rest of his family. Sure, he’s always been a little bit different—his tusk isn’t as long, he’s not as good of a swimmer, and he really doesn’t enjoy the cuisine. Then one night, an extra strong current sweeps Kelp to the surface, where he spots a mysterious creature that looks just like him!”

Lily the Unicorn by Dallas Clayton

“Lily the unicorn loves making new friends and going on adventures! So when Lily meets her new pal, Roger the penguin, she plans all sorts of fun for them. But Roger is afraid of trying new things. What if he tries and fails?”

Beasts of Olympus: The Unicorn Emergency by Lucy Coats, illustrated by Brett Bean

“Demon has just returned from a trip to Asgard when a brand-new set of disasters fall into his lap. Not only does he have a groggy volcano monster to deal with, but something seems to be wrong with the unicorns, too. Demon’s only clue is a mysterious note saying “Unicorn Emergency!” left on his bed.”

Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea

“Ever since Unicorn moved into the neighborhood, Goat has been feeling out of sorts. Goat thought his bike was cool-until he saw that Unicorn could fly to school! Goat made marshmallow squares that almost came out right, but Unicorn made it rain cupcakes! Unicorn is such a show-off, how can Goat compete?”

Twelve Dancing Unicorns by Alissa Heyman, illustrated by Justin Gerard

“Once upon a time, a king owned twelve enchanting unicorns that he locked up with golden chains. But every morning, he’d find the beautiful creatures peacefully asleep in their corral—with their chains shattered. Puzzled, he promised a reward to anyone who could reveal the unicorns’ secret. With the help of a magic cloak, a little girl sets out to discover the truth . . . and help the special unicorn that she loves the most.”

Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey

“Thelma dreams of being a glamorous unicorn. Then in a rare pink and glitter-filled moment of fate, Thelma’s wish comes true.”

The Unicorn and the Moon by Tomie dePaola

“When the moon gets stuck between two hills, the unicorn tries to free it with help from a griffin and an alchemist.”

Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Brigette Barrager

“Uni the unicorn is told there’s no such thing as little girls! But no matter what the grown-up unicorns say, Uni believes that little girls are REAL.”

The Baby Unicorn by Jean Marzollo

“Star, a baby unicorn and one of the last eight unicorns on earth, must find a way to help save her friends from the evil dragons.”

Where Have the Unicorns Gone? by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Ruth Sanderson

“Long ago unicorns lived in a haven of sun-dappled glades and flower-filled dells. But as civilization spread over the ages — with its fierce knights, its chugging trains, its thick smogs — unicorns had to find a new sanctuary. But where?”

The Unicorn and the Lake by Marianna Mayer, illustrated by Michael Hague

“When a serpent poisons the lake where all the animals drink, only the unicorn has the power to save them.”

Nobody Rides the Unicorn by Adrian Mitchell, illustrated by Stephen Lambert

“When the magic of Zoe’s soft, sweet singing draws a beautiful unicorn to her, everyone is delighted. But then Zoe finds that her unicorn is in terrible danger.”

Morgan Morning by Stephen Cosgrove, illustrated by Robin James

“When the young horse, Morgan, is swept over a waterfall and breaks his leg, he is rescued by a magical unicorn, who changes Morgan into a unicorn.”

When Unicorns Poop by Lexie Castle, illustrated by Christian Cornia

“Did you know that when a unicorn poops, rainbows arch across the sky? And when they toot, shiny bubbles float all around! What happens when a unicorn sneezes or spits or cries?”

Michael Hague’s Magical World of Unicorns by Michael Hague

“Classic unicorn illustrations are paired with excerpts from poems, stories, and songs that reflect our fascination with the mysterious and beautiful unicorn and its enchanted, mythical world.”

Never Let a Unicorn Scribble! by Diane Alber

“This story is about a little girl who keeps hearing, “Never let a unicorn scribble!” But in her heart believes that people just don’t understand how beautiful scribbling can be. She keeps trying to teach her unicorn to scribble but soon realizes this is more difficult then she anticipated.”

Sarah’s Unicorn by Bruce Coville and Katherine Coville

“Although she tries to keep her friendship with Oakhorn a secret, Sarah’s wicked aunt finds out and is determined to rob the unicorn of his magic.”

Goodnight Unicorn: A Magical Parody by Karla OceanakGoodnight Unicorn: A Magical Parody by Karla Oceanak, illustrated by Kendra Spanjer

“As night falls in the enchanted forest, the unicorns and their friends gather to get ready for bed. Say goodnight to all the types of unicorns — the pearly-whites, the foals, the oldens, the fluffies, the jet-blacks, the cuties, and more — as well as the wonderful beings who attend them, from rainbows and fairies to baby dragons and, of course, the full moon.”

Middle Grade Books About Unicorns

Here There Be Unicorns by Jane Yolen and David Wilgus

“A fabulous collection of unicorn stories and poems, with both medieval and modern settings, weaves the author’s imaginative perspective intotraditional unicorn lore about the fabled beast’s healing powers and quintessential goodness.”

The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko

“Claire Martinson still worries about her older sister Sophie, who battled a mysterious illness last year. But things are back to normal as they move into Windermere Manor . . . until the sisters climb a strange ladder in a fireplace and enter the magical land of Arden.”

Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training by Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pearce

“Some things Pip and Tomas will find when dealing with unicorns: Show-offs, stampedes, mystery, a unicorn who’s afraid of everything
Some things Pip and Tomas will not find when dealing with unicorns: peace and quiet”

Phoebe and Her UnicornPhoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson

“It all started when Phoebe skipped a rock across a pond and accidentally hit a unicorn in the face. Improbably, this led to Phoebe being granted one wish, and she used it to make the unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, her obligational best friend.”

Louie Lets Loose! by Rachel Hamilton

“Louie the Unicorn is a star! At least, he will be once he polishes his act at performing arts school. With a song in his heart, a spring in his step, and an unwaveringly sunny outlook, he’s about to take the big city by storm.”

Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: The Unicorn’s Tale by R.L. LaFevers, illustrated by Kelly Murphy

“Is there no rest for the travel worn and weary? Not if you are Nathaniel Fludd, world’s youngest beastologist-in-training. All Nate really wants is to track down his missing parents, but when a unicorn falls mysteriously ill, Nate’s Aunt Phil makes it clear where beastologists’ duties lie: with the beasts who need them.”

Cover of Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power By Mariko TamakiLumberjanes: Unicorn Power! by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Brooke Allen

“When challenge-loving April leads the girls on a hike up the TALLEST mountain they’ve ever seen, things don’t go quite as planned. For one, they didn’t expect to trespass into the lands of the ancient Cloud People, and did anyone happen to read those ominous signs some unknown person posted at the bottom of the mountain? Also, unicorns.”

The Road to Balinor by Mary Stanton

“As Arianna recovers from a bad accident and loss of memory, she slowly recalls things about her past and learns that her “horse” Chase can speak thoughts to her, as can her dog. When Chase is threatened, Arianna tries to run away with Chase and Lincoln – only to find herself transported into the world of Balinor, where she must reclaim her birthright.”

A Glory of Unicorns edited by Bruce Coville, illustrated by Alix Berenzy

“An award-winning author compiles twelve stories from popular fantasy writers to demonstrate the importance of magic in everyday life and show how unicorns are a prime source of this power.”

Into the Land of Unicorns by Bruce Coville

“On a wintry night Cara and her grandmother are pursued into St. Christopher’s church by an unknown man. Clutching her grandmother’s mysterious amulet, Cara escapes into Luster, the Land of the Unicorns. Soon she is traveling across a beautiful but dangerous world to bring her grandmother’s message to the oldest unicorn of all.”

The Unicorn in the Barn by Jacqueline Ogburn

“For years people have claimed to see a mysterious white deer in the woods around Chinaberry Creek. It always gets away. One evening, Eric Harper thinks he spots it. But a deer doesn’t have a coat that shimmers like a pearl. And a deer certainly isn’t born with an ivory horn curling from its forehead.”

Young Adult Books About Unicorns

Zombies Vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

“It’s a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths–for good and evil–of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies.”

A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle

“Fifteen-year-old Charles Wallace and the unicorn Gaudior undertake a perilous journey through time in a desperate attempt to stop the destruction of the world by the mad dictator Madog Branzillo.”

The Secret of the Unicorn Queen by Josepha Sherman and Gwen Hansen

“When her eccentric friend Dr. Reit invents an amazing transport into other worlds, Sheila McCarthy accidentally falls through the portal into the kingdom of Arren. There, Sheila finds herself part of a band of warrior-women. Astride unicorns, they gallop toward a dazzling city made of marble. But will they arrive in time to stop the evil king and his wicked wizard henchman from carrying out their deadly plans?”

Birth of the Firebringer by Meredith Ann Pierce

“Jan, the prince of the unicorns, is high-spirited, reckless-and the despair of his mighty father, Korr. Reluctantly, Korr allows Jan to accompany the other initiate warriors on a pilgrimage. Soon Jan’s curiosity leads him, along with his friend Dagg, and their mentor, the female warrior Tek, into the greatest dangers-deadly gryphons, sly pans, wyverns, pards, and renegade unicorns.”

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

“Real unicorns are venomous, man-eating monsters with huge fangs and razor-sharp horns. Fortunately, they’ve been extinct for a hundred and fifty years. Or not. Astrid had always scoffed at her eccentric mother’s stories about killer unicorns. But when one of the monsters attacks her boyfriend—thereby ruining any chance of him taking her to the prom—Astrid finds herself headed to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient cloisters the hunters have used for centuries.”

The Twelve Kingdoms, Volume 1: Sea of Shadow by Fuyumi Ono

“Yoko Nakajima, a typical, obedient Japanese high school student, has a fairly ordinary life–that is until Keiki, a unicorn in the guise of a young blond-haired boy, tells her that she is his master and must return to their kingdom, but when the boy mysteriously vanishes, Yoko is left alone on a quest for survival and self-discovery.”

Last Unicorn Peter S BeagleThe Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

“The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. So she ventured out from the safety of the enchanted forest on a quest for others of her kind. Joined along the way by the bumbling magician Schmendrick and the indomitable Molly Grue, the unicorn learns all about the joys and sorrows of life and love before meeting her destiny in the castle of a despondent monarch—and confronting the creature that would drive her kind to extinction…”

The Transfigured Hart by Jane Yolen

“Richard, a lonely boy, enlists the help of the popular Heather in his quest to save a unicorn with magical powers from the hunters who descend upon Five Mile Wood.”

The Black Unicorn by Tanith Lee

“Nobody knew where it had come from, or what it wanted. Not even Jaive, the sorceress, could fathom the mystery of the fabled beast. But Tanaquil, Jaive’s completely unmagical daughter, understood it at once. She knew why the unicorn was there: It had come for her. It needed her.”

Adult Books About Unicorns

Space Unicorn Blues by T.J. Berry

“Having magical powers makes you less than human, a resource to be exploited. Half-unicorn Gary Cobalt is sick of slavery, captivity, and his horn being ground down to power faster-than-light travel. When he’s finally free, all he wants is to run away in his ancestors’ stone ship. Instead, Captain Jenny Perata steals the ship out from under him, so she can make an urgent delivery. But Jenny held him captive for a decade, and then Gary murdered her best friend… who was also the wife of her co-pilot, Cowboy Jim. What could possibly go right?”

Song of Sorcery by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

“Hearthwitch Maggie Brown meets minstrel Colin Songsmith and a unicorn named Moonshine while saving both her sister and the kingdom.”

Acorna: The Unicorn Girl by Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball

“Three old space mining prospectors in their beat-up space ship discover a small pod floating in space. Inside is a tiny girl child, with funny little hooves, a wealth of silver hair growing on her body, and a lump in the middle of her forehead which, as time elapses, grows into a horn.”

Ariel by Steven R. Boyett

“Five years ago the lights went out, cars stopped in the streets, and magical creatures began roaming the towns and countrysides of Earth. Pete Garey, a young loner who survived the Change and the madness that followed, spent two years wandering and scavenging the near-deserted cities and towns alone — until the day he encountered an injured unicorn.”

Immortal Unicorn edited by Peter S. Beagle

“In a new anthology, the author of The Last Unicorn and other authors–including Charles de Lint, Nancy Willard, Tad Williams, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Eric Lustbader, and Katharine Kerr–contribute short stories about this legendary animal.”

Unicorns I edited by Jack Dann and Gardner R. Dozois

“Sixteen magical tales about the most wondrous of all creatures.”

Touched by Magic by Doranna Durgin

“Magic has never been a part of Reandn’s life. Until the people under his care start dying. Until the threat extends to his family-and then turns on him. Someone, somewhere, is trying to draw magic back into Keland, and they don’t care what-or who-is destroyed in the process. But Reandn does.”

The Unicorn Sonata by Peter S. Beagle

“A tomboy misfit and born musician, thirteen-year-old Josephine “Joey” Rivera encounters a mysterious young man named Indigo who changes her life, playing ghostly, haunting music that she follows down an ordinary street into the magical world of Shei’rah.”

The Natural History of Unicorns by Chris Lavers

“Where did the unicorn come from and how was it accepted for so long as a part of the animal kingdom? Chris Lavers argues that although the unicorn of our imagination isn’t real, traces of its character can be found in existing species.”

The Outstretched Shadow by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

“Kellen’s life changes almost faster than he can understand or accept. Rescued by a unicorn, healed by a female Wild Mage who knows more about Kellen than anyone outside the City should, meeting Elven royalty and Elven warriors, and plunged into a world where the magical beings he has learned about as abstract concepts are flesh and blood creatures-Kellen both revels in and fears his new freedom.”

Plot Holes are the Real Crimes of Grindelwald

Spoilers ahead!

I’ll always be a fan of the original Harry Potter books and movies, despite the tokenizing way that Rowling writes diversity and multiple inconsistencies in her world-building. I enjoyed the 2016 prequel movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I loved the new characters: Newt, Jacob, and sisters Queenie and Tina Goldstein. The setting of the Wizarding World in the 1920s United States was a little underdeveloped but still vivid and intriguing, with slang and speakeasies. Disappointingly, the 2018 sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald undoes much of the characterization that made me enjoy the previous movie.

crimes of grindelwald feature

Although J. K. Rowling has mentioned repeatedly that Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald had a sexual and romantic relationship, the film stays frustratingly noncommittal on this fact. Saying that Dumbledore and Grindelwald were “closer than brothers” is not LGBTQ representation. Some non-romantic friends describe themselves as closer than siblings, and not all siblings are close. The statement is too vague to mean anything, and all evidence of the relationship remains offscreen.

It’s also hard to imagine Dumbledore refusing to take sides against someone because he used to be in love with him. In prequels like the Fantastic Beasts movies, set many decades in the past, it’s difficult to tell whether the characters are inconsistently written or whether they’ve changed in the intervening decades. This might be the pivotal relationship that inspired Dumbledore to take clear moral stances later on, but the audience doesn’t have enough information to decide.

Another inconsistency is the Obliviate or Memory Charm. At the end of the first Fantastic Beasts movie, Jacob’s memory is apparently Obliviated, removing all of his memories of magic. The sequel reverses this. Queenie says that the charm was temporary and only meant to eliminate “bad memories.” However, the usual purpose of the Obliviate spell isn’t to remove traumatic or otherwise unpleasant memories. It’s to protect the wizarding world’s secrecy by ensuring that Muggles like Jacob don’t remember its existence. This seems like a confusing attempt to retcon the ending of the first movie into the plot of the second.

Queenie’s treatment of Jacob is also out of character with the nurturing, nonjudgmental, flirtatious character I enjoyed in the first movie. Inexplicably, she admits that she placed a love spell on him. The Harry Potter books do an excellent job of showing that love spells and potions are coercive: the Wizarding world’s equivalent of date-rape drugs. Aside from being abusive, Queenie’s enchantment of Jacob is unnecessary, even counterproductive. She can literally read his thoughts, so she always knew that he was attracted to—and eventually, deeply in love with—her.

Death Eaters and their obsession with blood purity have always been a possible metaphor for real-world white supremacists, including Hitler and Nazis. However, this message seems undercut by the irony of Yusuf Kama, a French and Senegalese pure-blood wizard who shares this fixation on blood purity. Queenie Goldstein—whom I’d always interpreted as possibly Jewish because of her surname—attends one of Grindelwald’s rallies. Grindelwald preaches the superiority of wizards and witches over Muggles. It’s hard to imagine why this message appeals to Queenie, who is engaged to a Muggle.

The pale, blond, blue-eyed, aristocratic Malfoys from the original books and movies made the parallel to white supremacists clear, but these movies conflate white supremacists with their targets. Nagini’s true identity as an East Asian woman who is an Animagus also prompted criticism because it objectifies her and plays into harmful stereotypes. By diversifying bigoted and stereotypical characters, the movie presents false equivalencies between racists and their targets.

Exclusive Excerpt: WE HUNT THE FLAME By Hafsah Faizal

Looking for an epic fantasy adventure? Check out Hafsah Faizal’s We Hunt the Flame, and read the exclusive excerpt below!

We Hunt the Flame book coverPeople lived because she killed. People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine. Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.


People died because he lived. And if that was the only way to carry forward in this life, then so be it.

There had been a particularly strong blizzard in the neighboring caliphate of Demenhur three nights ago, and Sarasin was chillier because of it. The combination of desert heat and the wayward cold rattled Nasir’s bones, yet here he was, far from his home in Sultan’s Keep, the small portion of land from which the sultan ruled Arawiya’s five caliphates.

Nasir’s missions to Sarasin always gave him a sense of nostalgia he never could understand. Though he had never lived here, it was the caliphate of his lineage, and it felt familiar and strange at once.

He came here for one act alone: murder.

Leil, the capital of Sarasin, was crawling with armed men in turbans of azure. Three stood guard at the entrance to the walled city. Billowing sirwal, instead of tighter-fitting pants, hung low across their hips, vain muscled arms glistened bronze. A gust of desert air carried the musky odor of hot sands, along with the chatter of children and their scolding elders.

Nasir studied the sentries and slid from his mare’s back with a heavy sigh. He had no need for a skirmish with a horde of lowborn men.

“Looks like I’ll be taking the long route,” he murmured, rubbing a hand across Afya’s flank. She nickered a reply, and he tethered her beside a sleepy- eyed camel. She was his mother’s horse, named after her favorite of the Six Sisters of Old.

He climbed a stack of aging crates and leaped from awning to awning of the surrounding structures, balancing on jutting stones, his ears still ringing with orders from the Sultan of Arawiya. He likened the sultan’s voice to a snake, softly creeping into his veins and penetrating his heart with venom.

He scaled the wall and leaped onto the nearest rooftop with practiced ease, sidestepping the ornate rug sprawled in its center, jewel-toned cushions strewn to one side.

He vaulted to the next rooftop and swayed when a blade arced down a mere fraction from his face. A girl of about thirteen leaped back with a gasp, dropping one of her twin scimitars to the dusty limestone, her concentrated drill broken. Nasir’s gauntlet blade thrummed, but the last thing he needed was to kill unnecessarily. As if your kills are ever necessary.

He lifted a finger to his lips, but the girl stared slack-jawed at his hooded attire. An assassin’s garb of layered robes in black, etched with fine silver. His fitted sleeves ended in the supple leather of his gauntlets, blades tucked beneath the folds. The traditional gray sash across his middle was shrouded by a broad leather belt housing smaller blades and the sheath of his scimitar. The ensemble had been engineered in Pelusia, the caliphate as
advanced in mechanics as in farming, so there was nothing finer.

“Hashashin?” the girl whispered in a way that promised his presence would be kept secret. A winding cuff resembling a snake encircled her upper arm, blue jewels studding its eyes.

No, Nasir wanted to say to that voice of awe. An assassin lives an
honorable life.

There was a time when a hashashin danced and the wicked perished, merchants rose to power, trades fell to dust. The glint of a blade turned the tides of the world. They had been poets of the kill, once. Honor in their creed.

But that was long before Nasir’s time. He didn’t live. He existed. And no one understood the difference between the two until they ceased to live. The girl grinned. She was too fair for Sarasin standards, with white hair stark against her brow, but it wasn’t uncommon for the snow-brained Demenhune to turn up here, particularly womenfolk. Demenhur’s caliph
was a biased crow who would blame women for old age, if he could.

He swept past her and leaped to the next rooftop, which overlooked houses of tan stone. The streets below were empty, except for the rare camel being pulled along. Dusty lanterns hung from eaves, the glass long ago shattered into the desert.

The rooftops ended and Nasir dropped down to Leil’s sooq. Stalls with rickety legs spread across the expanse, tattered cloth in an array of colors shading goods from the meager sun. The stench of sweat and heat stirred the air. Bare-chested urchins ducked beneath tables and between swaths of fabric as a good-size crowd meandered the stands. Here, the ghostly landscape was alive.

It would be even busier at noon, when the sharp scents of nutmeg and sumac would entwine with meat-filled mutabaq as merchants catered to the workers who mined for coal and minerals in one of the worst places of Arawiya: the Leil Caves.

Now vendors extolled other wares—bolts of fabric in bright colors muted by the dull skies; spices in enough hues to paint papyrus; carved stone platters with designs so intricate, Nasir did not see the point.

He shoved past a gaggle of women and nearly stepped on a salt merchant cross-legged on a rug, sacks of the precious commodity perched around him and a sharp-eyed falcon on his shoulder. The weathered man looked up with a toothy smile, excited at the prospect of a new customer.

Until he saw Nasir’s garb and the gleam in his eyes turned to fear.

Others had begun to take notice. A woman dropped her newly purchased sack of grain. Nasir lowered his head and pressed forward. If he passed close enough, their whispers brushed his ears. If he passed closer still, they would dare to look at him. They knew what Nasir strode for, dressed the way he was.

It was better this way. It was better for Nasir to be as evil as Sultan Ghameq in their eyes. Because in many ways, he was. Maybe even worse. Still, the people of Sarasin had become hardened to the life that grew more desolate by the day. Their caliph had just been murdered, their lands wrongfully seized by their own sultan. Yet no one seemed any more disturbed than they had been before.

Stand up, he ordered them in his head. Defy. Fight.

Self-derision tore a sound from his chest. Not even you defy the sultan.

And the ones who dared to raise their heads: Nasir killed.

He finally reached the alley at the end of the sooq. A girl blinked wide gray eyes and limped into the shadows, dust stirring in her wake. Sand qit ducked into the rubble, paws silent, tails curling. Ragged papyrus covered the crumbling stone walls, lathered with scrawling lines of poetry
from some romantic fool with too much hope in his hands.

His mother used to say that a person without hope was a body without a soul. It was the loss of the Sisters nearly a century ago that had left the people this way, bereft of the magic Arawiya depended on. And here, where the sand was soot and the sky was forever dusk, there was no hope for anyone, especially Nasir.

A guard stepped from the shadows, sand scraping beneath his boots. Nasir stared down his drawn sword with cool disinterest.

“Halt,” the guard said, puffing out his chest and, subsequently, his gut.
Where do these fools find so much food?

“A bit too late for that,” Nasir said smoothly. He flicked his wrist and extended his gauntlet blade.

“I said, halt,” the guard repeated. He stood tall, a little too new and eager for a world that would set him crooked soon enough.

The guard’s eyes bulged. “No! Wait. I have a sister—”

Nasir pivoted a full turn to avoid the guard’s sword and slashed his blade across the man’s neck. He dragged the gurgling corpse to the shadows before straightening his robes and returning to the alley, hands sliding over the gritty stone wall to find a hold. I’ll be an old man by the end of this.

He scaled the wall to the rooftops north of the sooq, vaulting from terrace to rooftop until he reached the most extravagant limestone con- struction of the city, taller than the rest. The prestigious quarters of Dar al-Fawda. The owners of the camel race were one of the finer groups of notoriety the dead caliph had turned a blind eye upon.

Lattice screens and lush cushions sprawled across the creamy stone in soft sighs of color. A dallah pot and a set of handleless cups lay to the side, stained with dark rings. Strewn sheets and silken shawls littered the expanse. He knew what occurred on these rooftops, and he was glad for his timing.

He pushed aside a pile of silken cushions and crouched at the roof’s edge. The gray skies told nothing of the time of day, but below, the wadi where the race would take place was beginning to attract crowds—Sarasins, with dark hair, olive skin, and rueful eyes. His people.

Foolish people, come to empty their coffers with damning bets placed upon camels. He made a dismissive sound and looked to the tents beyond.

Any moment now.

Nasir reached into the folds of his clothes for the sweet he had saved from the night before, but his fingers touched the cool surface of a disc. He brushed his thumb over the camel-bone mosaic adorning the flat circle. Inside, a sundial lay dull with age and veins of turquoise patina, the glass long since cracked. It had once gleamed in the palm of a sultana, and he thought—

These were the small ways in which he could feel like the human he was born as. A leftover cake saved for later. An aging sundial from moments past.

Where was that damned boy? Camels were being pulled forward, and Nasir needed to be down there before the crowds became impenetrable. He drummed his fingers on the stone, coating his fingers in creamy dust.

I am going to rip his—

The trapdoor creaked open and Nasir turned as a boy with knobby elbows climbed onto the roof. A sand qit meowed and curled around the child’s dirty feet.

Nasir lifted an eyebrow. “You took your time.”

“I—I’m sorry. I couldn’t get away from Effendi Fawda.” The page boy’s brown skin was smeared with dirt. The owner of Dar al-Fawda was no respectable one, but if the boy wanted to respect him with the title of effendi, Nasir did not care.

“Everything is ready for you,” the boy said, as if he had been given a tremendous task other than telling Nasir where to find the man he sought. Nasir liked that the boy wasn’t afraid to speak to him. Afraid of him? Most likely. But not afraid to speak to him.

Nasir played along with a small nod. “You have my shukur.”

At his thanks, the boy looked as surprised as Nasir felt, and before his pride could stop him, Nasir held out the date cake. A gasp wheezed past the boy’s chapped lips and he reached with careful fingers, unfolding the wax sheet with awestruck features. He licked the sugar from his dirty fingers and Nasir’s stomach clenched.

All he ever saw were blood, tears, and darkness. The hope in the boy’s eyes, the dirt on his face, the jutting of his bones—

Nasir blinked at the boy’s poise. He and “favor” never sat in the same sentence.

“The children slaved to the races,” he ventured. “Can you free them?”

Nasir looked to the wadi, to the children. His voice was flat, uncaring. “If they don’t die in the races, they’re bound to die elsewhere.”

“You don’t mean that,” the boy said after a long pause, and

Nasir was surprised to find anger aflame in his dark eyes. Let it burn, boy.

“Salvation is for foolish heroes who will never exist. Help yourself and leave the rest.”

It was advice Nasir should have followed years ago. He turned without another word and dropped from the rooftop, swiftly lowering himself to the ground.

Dar al-Fawda guards in sirwal and black turbans loitered nearby. The higher-ups wore plain, ankle-length thobes and sported thick mustaches as they shuffled past. Nasir could never understand the horrid fashion of a mustache without a beard, but these men believed the bigger the better.

He waited in the shadows of a date palm and, head low, slipped into a group of drunkards on their way to the race. They passed bookies on short stools and people cheering for their bets, damning their meager earnings for the thrill of a short-lived gamble.

More camels ambled into the wadi. Children, too, dressed in nothing but dusty sirwal. Nasir’s fingers twitched when a man used a whip on a boy whose cheeks streamed with tears as he rubbed an already reddening shoulder, eyes murderous.

Only in Sarasin could vengeance start so young.

Very few protested the use of children in the races, for the lighter the rider the faster the camel, and so the atrocity carried on. Nasir’s blood burned black, but he stilled his fingers.

Monsters bore no duty to the innocent.

He reached the tents.

The few he peered inside were empty. They held traditional majlis seating, with cushions spread out across the floor for private negotiations or more intimate happenings. The page boy’s marker, a red shawl pinned beneath a stone, lay at the seventh tent as promised.

Nasir dropped his hand to the scimitar at his side.

The mark could be young or near death. He could have children who would stare into his lifeless eyes and scream for a soul that would never return.

He’s a name. A scrap of papyrus, rolled and shoved into Nasir’s pocket. He slipped inside. The beige walls of the tent dressed the place with forlorn, wan light that stole through tears in the fabric and illuminated swirls of dust. Scrolls and books were scattered across the carpet that covered the sand, and a gray-haired man was bent over them, scribing by lantern.

The shouts and cheers of the crowd grew louder as the races began, echoing with the grunts of camels and the cries of the children upon them. The man rubbed his beard, murmuring to himself.

Nasir used to wonder why he stopped feeling sorrow for the people he was sent to slay. At some point, his heart had ceased to register the monstrosity of his deeds, and it had nothing to do with the darkness tainting the lands.

No, it was his own doing.

He was turning his heart black, no one else.

Nasir paused at the man’s calm demeanor and considered killing him without his knowledge. But amid the scrolls he spotted titles written in the ancient tongue of Safaitic—even an account of the deceased Lion of the Night, a man of two bloods who had set his mind upon Arawiya’s throne, doling death in his wake during the horrific Black Massacre.

He pressed his foot deeper into the sand, crunching it beneath his boot.

The man looked up. “Ah, you have come. It took you long enough to find me.”

Irritation stirred in Nasir’s chest. It wasn’t always that his marks spoke to him, that they didn’t fight him. “I am no hunter. I kill when ordered.”

The man smiled. “Right you are, hashashin. But once the head falls, the rest is destined to follow. You tore down our caliph, and as his advisor by name, I have been waiting for you since.”

A warmth filled the man’s eyes, and Nasir darted a wary glance behind, only to realize it was directed at him. Like the page boy’s gratitude at the rooftop. But this, this was a hundred times worse.

No one should show kindness to their murderer.

“Owais Khit,” Nasir pronounced quietly. The name in his pocket. His voice held a sense of finality, and bitter hatred sank fangs into his heart.

Owais was here for the children of the races, rallying to free them. It was unfortunate that he had another agenda, too. One that had nothing to do with the dead caliph and that made Nasir curious, as treasonous as it was. For in Arawiya, strength meant death, unless it was in allegiance to the sultan.

The man dipped his head. “Him I am. Make it quick, but know that this will not end with me.”

“You speak of treason. Your very work is treason.” Nasir should not have indulged him. He should have killed him before he had glimpsed the brown of the man’s eyes and curiosity got the best of him. What treason was there in the study of history?

“The people remain silent out of the fear that taxes may increase. The peace is temporarily ensured—for what? My work was merely unearthing the reason for change. For why a tyrant emerged in place of our good sultan. Our sultana would not have brought him into the fold if he were so dark a man. Something stirs in the shadows, boy. Soon, death will be the least
of our horrors.” Owais lifted his chin, exposing his wizened neck. “Be swift. Know that my work will continue through others. Perhaps, one day, it will continue through you, and Arawiya will return to the splendor it once was.”

Impossible, for a boy whose hands were steeped in blood. Whose heart was as dark as the one Owais sought to rectify. Whatever this man and his people were trying to accomplish, it would live a short life. Their numbers dwindled with each passing day—Nasir ensured it.

His scimitar sang as he pulled it free. Owais exhaled and wound his turban around his head, eyes flashing in the glint of the blade, a brilliant  chestnut hidden beneath the folds of aging skin. A smile curved the man’s lips once more, and Nasir thought of the sultan passing him the fold of papyrus. He thought of Owais’s warning and realized the absurdity of killing a man for the mere act of reading.

But he never left a job unfinished.

There was a hitch in the man’s breath when the metal touched his skin. One last spike of emotion before Nasir shifted his arm and blood oozed free. Somewhere, children were losing their father. Grandchildren were losing their greatest love.

He pulled a feather from the folds of his robes and touched it to the blood. It settled on the dead man’s chest, its black vane tipped glimmering red.

Anyone who saw it would know Owais’s killer. They would know vengeance was impossible.

Then Nasir filled his lungs with the familiar stench of blood, and left. He pinned the flap open so that the people would know.

It was the one lenience he could leave them—a marker to help them bury the dead. The people would never consider Nasir an ally, but in that moment he almost felt like they could.

They were right to hate him, for Nasir had killed more than he could count. It used to matter, before. Now it was nothing more than a swipe of his sword. Another felled soul.

To the people, he was not Nasir Ghameq, crown prince of Arawiya, no. He was the purger of life.

The Prince of Death.


Text copyright © 2019 by Hafsah Faizal. Used by permission of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

2019 Hugo Award Finalists Announced, and the List is Gorgeous

I’m not sure I’ve ever looked at an awards list and sighed in happiness, but that’s what I did when I saw the finalists for the 2019 Hugo Awards (scroll to the bottom to see the full list). This list is gorgeous—a work of art on its own, in every category.

Let’s talk about some highlights. The list is dominated by women, with 5/6 women finalists in Novel, Novella, Novelette, AND Short Story, and 4/6 in Best Series. That’s amazing and proves what all we Rioters already know—women rock at writing SFF. We always have, and we always will. And in these five categories, nine nominations go to authors of color, a decent amount, though SFF awards in general still need more diversity.

This is the first year the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book will be awarded, and the finalists in this category are equally strong. There’s only one book I haven’t read—The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin. I’m putting it on my TBR list right now.

Some other highlights: clearly, Tor.com rocks the novella and novelette market, deservedly; I’m sooo behind on movie watching (thanks to baby) because I haven’t seen a single nominated film; BUT I am a Dr. Who fan and happy to see my favorite episode is nominated (I won’t say which one); and that the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer will be a super hard choice to make.

I love the Hugo Awards because they’re fan-based. Anyone can purchase a membership to nominate and vote in these awards.

Any favorites on the list?

Best Novel

Best Novella

Best Novelette

Best Short Story

Best Series

  • The Centenal Cycle by Malka Older (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Laundry Files by Charles Stross (most recently Tor.com Publishing/Orbit)
  • Machineries of Empire by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • The October Daye Series by Seanan McGuire (most recently DAW)
  • The Universe of Xuya by Aliette de Bodard (most recently Subterranean Press)
  • Wayfarers by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton/Harper Voyager)

Best Related Work

Best Graphic Story

  • Abbott written by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colours by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell (BOOM! Studios)
  • Black Panther: Long Live the King written by Nnedi Okorafor and Aaron Covington, art by André Lima Araújo, Mario Del Pennino and Tana Ford (Marvel)
  • Monstress, Volume 3: Haven written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
  • On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (First Second)
  • Paper Girls, Volume 4 written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Cliff Chiang, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher (Image Comics)
  • Saga, Volume 9 written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Annihilation, directed and written for the screen by Alex Garland, based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer (Paramount Pictures/Skydance)
  • Avengers: Infinity War, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Studios)
  • Black Panther, written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, directed by Ryan Coogler (Marvel Studios)
  • A Quiet Place, screenplay by Scott Beck, John Krasinski and Bryan Woods, directed by John Krasinski (Platinum Dunes / Sunday Night)
  • Sorry to Bother You, written and directed by Boots Riley (Annapurna Pictures)
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman (Sony)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • The Expanse: “Abaddon’s Gate,” written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck and Naren Shankar, directed by Simon Cellan Jones (Penguin in a Parka/Alcon Entertainment)
  • Doctor Who: “Demons of the Punjab,” written by Vinay Patel, directed by Jamie Childs (BBC)
  • Dirty Computer, written by Janelle Monáe, directed by Andrew Donoho and Chuck Lightning (Wondaland Arts Society/Bad Boy Records/Atlantic Records)
  • The Good Place: “Janet(s),” written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan, directed by Morgan Sackett (NBC)
  • The Good Place: “Jeremy Bearimy,” written by Megan Amram, directed by Trent O’Donnell (NBC)
  • Doctor Who: “Rosa,” written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall, directed by Mark Tonderai (BBC)

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

  • Neil Clarke
  • Gardner Dozois
  • Lee Harris
  • Julia Rios
  • Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
  • E. Catherine Tobler

Best Professional Editor, Long Form

  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Anne Lesley Groell
  • Beth Meacham
  • Diana Pho
  • Gillian Redfearn
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

  • Galen Dara
  • Jaime Jones
  • Victo Ngai
  • John Picacio
  • Yuko Shimizu
  • Charles Vess

Best Semiprozine

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
  • Fireside Magazine edited by Julia Rios, managing editor Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, social coordinator Meg Frank, special features editor Tanya DePass, founding editor Brian White, publisher and art director Pablo Defendini
  • FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, executive editors Troy L. Wiggins and DaVaun Sanders, editors L.D. Lewis, Brandon O’Brien, Kaleb Russell, Danny Lore, and Brent Lambert
  • Shimmer, publisher Beth Wodzinski, senior editor E. Catherine Tobler
  • Strange Horizons edited by Jane Crowley, Kate Dollarhyde, Vanessa Rose Phin, Vajra Chandrasekera, Romie Stott, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and the Strange Horizons Staff
  • Uncanny Magazine, publishers/editors-in-chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, managing editor Michi Trota, podcast producers Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue editors-in-chief Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Dominik Parisien

Best Fanzine

  • Galactic Journey, founder Gideon Marcus, edited by Janice Marcus
  • Journey Planet edited by Team Journey Planet
  • Lady Business edited by Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay & Susan
  • nerds of a feather, flock together edited by Joe Sherry, Vance Kotrla and The G
  • Quick Sip Reviews edited by Charles Payseur
  • Rocket Stack Rank edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong

Best Fancast

  • Be the Serpent presented by Alexandra Rowland, Freya Marske and Jennifer Mace
  • The Coode Street Podcast presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Fangirl Happy Hour hosted by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
  • Galactic Suburbia hosted by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch
  • Our Opinions Are Correct hosted by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders
  • The Skiffy and Fanty Show produced by Jen Zink and Shaun Duke, hosted by the Skiffy and Fanty Crew

Best Fan Writer

  • Foz Meadows
  • James Davis Nicoll
  • Charles Payseur
  • Elsa Sjunneson-Henry
  • Alasdair Stuart
  • Bogi Takács

Best Fan Artist

  • Sara Felix
  • Grace P. Fong
  • Meg Frank
  • Ariela Housman
  • Likhain (Mia Sereno)
  • Spring Schoenhuth

Best Art Book

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • Katherine Arden (2nd year of eligibility)
  • S.A. Chakraborty (2nd year of eligibility)
  • R.F. Kuang (1st year of eligibility)
  • Jeannette Ng (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Vina Jie-Min Prasad (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Rivers Solomon (2nd year of eligibility)

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book