The 2021 Speculative Historical Novels Mega-List

This third annual mega-list of what I’ve loosely defined* as “speculative historical” novels is our biggest list yet, partly because I’ve made a slight change to my rules: Where authors or publishers have specifically said an otherwise secondary-world story is directly inspired by an historical era, I’ve gone ahead and included it for the reasons discussed in my 2020 list. You can find the 2019 list here.

This really was a huge year for anyone who loves stories at the intersection of the historical and fantastical. There’s even a nice mix of sequels, conclusions to trilogies, and debuts! Overall, we’ve got a more balanced list than usual from the perspective of historical eras covered, and if you’ve been waiting for sapphic fantasy romances to have their time to shine, this is your year! While the Victorian era and its adjacent eras around the world remain as popular as ever, you’ll find books ranging from the Ming Dynasty (She Who Became the Sun) and Siege of Troy (Daughter of Sparta) to the 1990s and ’00s (Truth in the Divine).

Due to the sheer lovely weirdness that is 2021, we even have two books featuring badass girls piloting mechas in our historical/historically-inspired worlds—The Great Destroyers and Iron Widow!

It was nearly impossible to pick out one trend without feeling I was neglecting another, but here are some that especially caught my eye…

Court Intrigue. A wealth of stories on the list this year involve navigating royal courts and the treacheries of kings and queens—from Makiia Lucier’s Year of the Reaper and Aamna Qureshi’s The Lady or the Lion (which I had the immense pleasure of editing) to Aliette de Bodard’s tender novella Fireheart Tiger and Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart.

Gothic, gothic, GOTHIC. Call it the Mexican Gothic effect, or just assume we were all feeling moody back when these titles were being bought, but the dark and the sensual have stormed the spec-fic castle, replete with vampires and other urban monsters. I hope you’ll all take special note of the utterly haunting gay Jewish Gothic The City Beautiful by my longtime critique partner Aden Polydoros. Another not-to-be-missed choice: The Keeper of the Night by Kylie Lee Baker, set in 19th-century Japan, explores the dangerous world of yokai from the perspective of a girl who is Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami.

The Roaring ’20s. While there aren’t as many as you may have been led to expect, at least not yet, the handful we have are too exciting to ignore, with standouts being Chloe Gong’s sequel Our Violent Ends and Nghi Vo’s Gatsby retelling The Chosen and the Beautiful. Please let this trend continue into 2022!

Punching Nazis and Overthrowing Empires. Cannot imagine why we all might be a little obsessed right now with World War II, fascism, postcolonialism, and the like. Of the many fascinating angles writers took, I’m especially looking forward to A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel, which gives me serious This Is How We Lose the Time War vibes. The worldbuilding and political stakes of the North Africa-inspired The Unbroken by C. L. Clark have outright wowed me, and I’m slowly savoring this read.

Time Travel Isn’t Finished With Us. The new books in this subgenre look as quirky as they are compelling, especially Annie and the Wolves by Andromeda Romano-Lax. Take me back to Annie Oakley!

Sing a Sea Shanty. I love this one. There are, quite simply, so many stories set in or alongside the ocean, especially in the cold northern reaches of the world. A Rush of Wings by master storyteller Laura Weymouth is a Wild Swans-inspired tale set in the Scottish Highlands. Another one that has my attention: Beyond the Blue Border by Dorit Linke (trans. Elisabeth Lauffer), with its characters daring a treacherous swim across the Baltic Sea.

If you cornered me into picking my single most anticipated book of the year, my heart is absolutely clenching for the conclusion to Fonda Lee’s extraordinary “Godfather meets wuxia and gangster films” Green Bone Saga, Jade Legacy, out in late November.

Happy reading!


P. S. If you think I’m missing a title, please drop a comment or send me a quick note on Twitter! I really try hard to create a full list. Special thanks to Julie and Vicky & Rachel for their help earlier this year in compiling the first titles!

January 2021

A Dowry of Blood by S. T. Gibson. A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides. Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king.

The Brass Queen by Elizabeth Chatsworth. In 1897, a fiery British aristocrat and an inept US spy search for a stolen invisibility serum that could spark a global war.

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell. As the age of the photograph dawns in Victorian Bath, silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Desperately seeking help from a serial killer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them.

Thirty Talks Weird Love by Alessandra Narváez Varela. Out of nowhere, a lady comes up to Anamaría and says she’s her, from the future. But Anamaría’s thirteen, she knows better than to talk to some weirdo stranger. Girls need to be careful, especially in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico—it’s the ’90s and fear is overtaking her beloved city as cases of kidnapped girls and women become alarmingly common.

February 2021

On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu. Firuzeh and her brother Nour are children of fire, born in an Afghanistan fractured by war. When their parents, their Atay and Abay, decide to leave, they spin fairy tales of their destination, the mythical land and opportunities of Australia. Told partly in verse, a magical story of grief and resilience.

The Shadow War by Lindsey Smith. A WWII alternate history about a gang of queer teens who set out to destroy the Nazis by way of a parallel universe of dark energy that may contain an evil of its own.

A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel. A fast-moving, darkly satirical look at 1940s rocketry through the eyes of extra-terrestrial women who are dedicated to helping humans get into space.

The Wide Starlight by Nicole Lesperance. A dreamy, atmospheric novel that follows sixteen-year-old Eli as she tries to remember what truly happened the night her mother disappeared off a glacier in Norway under the Northern Lights.

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard. A Southeast Asian-inspired romantic fantasy. Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh must navigate negotiations with the powerful, magnetic Eldris on behalf of her country, while surrounded by worrying magical echoes of the fire that once devastated Eldris’ palace and chased Thanh home.

Mortal Remains by Mary Ann Fraser. Morticia. Ghoul Girl. Freak. A YA gothic romance featuring a seventeen-year-old resident cosmetologist at her family’s funeral home, and the mysterious boy she rescues from certain death—who oddly reminds her of a long-dead childhood crush. [I’m not sure this is historical, but the gothic set-up and the dark history feels like something the hist-spec crowd would vibe with.]

Yesterday Is History by Kosoko Jackson. A man enters an experimental trial to cure his hemophilia, and as a side effect winds up slipping through time from present-day Boston to 1969 NYC on the eve of the Stonewall riots, delivering a story that is part romance, part gay history, and part time-travel drama, exploring how far we have and haven’t come.

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo. A Lovecraftian gothic take on The Addams Family with a dash of Pan’s Labyrinth; a tale of one seemingly human girl’s attempt to reconnect with her inhuman family—to nightmarish results—while coming to understand that true monstrousness is much more than skin deep.

Muse by Brittany Cavallaro. American Royals meets The Winner’s Curse in an alternate history American monarchy where a girl grapples for control of her own life in the middle of a looming war. When her inventor father’s weapon fails to fire on the fair’s opening day, Claire is taken captive by Governor Remy Duchamp, St. Cloud’s young and untried ruler.

Annie and the Wolves by Andromeda Romano-Lax. A modern-day historian finds her life intertwined with Annie Oakley’s in an electrifying novel that explores female revenge an the allure of changing one’s past. Obsessed with Annie Oakley, she enlists the help of a tech-savvy teen to go back in time in a risky attempt to change events.

Everything That Burns by Gita Trelease. Camille lives for the rebellion. In the pamphlets she prints, she tells the stories of girls living at society’s margins. But as her writings captivate the public, she begins to suspect a dark magic she can’t control lies at the heart of her success. Then Louis XVI declares magic a crime and all magicians traitors to France.

March 2021

The Bright and the Pale by Jessica Rubinkowski. A tale inspired by Russian folklore following an orphan, one of the only survivors of a magical happening that trapped her entire mining town in a sheet of unbreakable ice; when her best friend is kidnapped, she will lead a team of cutthroats and thieves on a perilous expedition to the very mountain that claimed her family, where something sinister slumbers.

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft. Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself.

The Unbroken by C. L. Clark. This North Africa-inspired queer epic fantasy follows a soldier accused of murder who is saved from execution when a dethroned princess decides to take her on as a spy, while grappling with a crumbling empire and their unexpected bond.

The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers. Paris, 1925: To enter the Secret Circus is to enter a world of wonder-a world where women tame magnificent beasts, carousels take you back in time, and trapeze artists float across the sky. But each daring feat has a cost.

Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare. The Shadowhunters must catch a serial killer in Edwardian London while each tries to contain a dangerous, disastrous secret of their own.

Spellmaker by Charlie N. Holmberg. England, 1895. An unsolved series of magician murders and opus thefts isn’t a puzzle to Elsie Camden. But to reveal a master spellcaster as the culprit means incriminating herself as an unregistered spellbreaker.

April 2021

A Still and Awful Red by Michael Howarth. A young seamstress accepts a position in the castle of the legendary and bloody Countess Elizabeth Bathory in 1609 Hungary.

Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart. Two witches from enemy castes—one seeking power, and one seeking revenge—will stop at nothing to overthrow the witch queen, even if it means forming an alliance with each other and unleashing chaos on their island nation. A Jamaican-inspired debut fantasy.

Poison Priestess by Lana Popović. In 17th-century Paris, 19-year-old Catherine Monvoisin is a well-heeled jeweler’s wife with a peculiar taste for the arcane. She lives a comfortable life, far removed from a childhood of abject destitution—until her kind spendthrift of a husband lands them both in debt. Hell-bent on avoiding a return to poverty, Catherine must rely on her prophetic visions and the grimoire gifted to her by a talented diviner to reinvent herself as a sorceress.

Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur. Years ago, Elsa’s now-catatonic mother had warned her that the women of their line were doomed to repeat the narrative lives of their ancestors from Korean myth and legend. But beyond these ghosts, Elsa also faces a more earthly fate: the mental illness and generational trauma that run in her immigrant family, a sickness no less ravenous than the ancestral curse hunting her.

May 2021

Words Composed of Sea and Sky by Erica George with poetry by Jamie Gelman. A story told in alternating points of view between a teenage girl who uses poetry to escape her home life, and a girl who lived in the same quaint Cape Cod town during the height of Yankee whaling over a century before who also uses poetry to escape the social conformities of her time.

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon. A genre-bending work of gothic fiction that wrestles with the tangled history of racism in America and the marginalization of society’s undesirables, about a black woman with albinism, the mother of infant twins, who is hunted after escaping a religious compound and then discovers that her body is metamorphosing and that she is developing extra-sensory powers.

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark. Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.

Beyond the Blue Border by Dorit Linke (trans. Elisabeth Lauffer). When Hanna and Andreas are expelled from school for activism directly challenging the socialist state in East Germany, they end up doing factory work. The choice to risk imprisonment or death by escaping to the democratic West seems like a risk worth taking. They set out to swim twenty-five hours across the choppy waters of the Baltic Sea.

Sixteen Scandals by Sophie Jordan. In this irreverent regency romp, newly minted sixteen-year-old Primrose Ainsworth finds herself on a wayward birthday adventure through London with a mysterious hero—perfect for fans of My Lady Jane.

Shadows Over London by Christian Klaver. The Faerie have invaded Victorian London, the Kasric siblings can’t stay neutral in the ensuing war when they find their parents on opposing sides.

The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley. Joe Tournier has a bad case of amnesia. His first memory is of stepping off a train in the nineteenth-century French colony of England. The only clue Joe has about his identity is a century-old postcard of a Scottish lighthouse that arrives in London the same month he does.

Illusionary by Zoraida Córdova. Set in a lushly drawn world inspired by Inquisition Spain, this sequel to Incendiary, Renata Convida reluctantly joins forces Prince Castian, her most infuriating and intriguing enemy, to find the fabled Knife of Memory, kill the ruthless King Fernando, and bring peace to the nation.

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa. Set in a world inspired by the pre-colonial empires of West Africa, when Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with a discovery that threatens to destroy the empire.

June 2021

Curse of the Specter Queen by Jenny Elder Moke. Indiana Jones gets a refresh with this female-driven mystery adventure, set in the 1920s Ireland, full of ciphers, ancient relics, and heart-stopping action.

Daughter of Sparta by Claire Heywood. A reimagining of the Siege of Troy, told through the perspectives of the infamous Helen and her sister Clytemnestra.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo. Immigrant. Socialite. Magician. Set in 1920s America, a magical reimagining of The Great Gatsby told through the eyes of a queer, Asian American Jordan Baker.

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid. Inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology: a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.

A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions by Sheena Boekweg. In 1926, seventeen-year-old Elsie is dropped off in a new city with four other teenage girls. All of them have trained together in the Society since childhood to become the Wife of a powerful man. But their next target is earmarked to become President, making this a chance at the most powerful position in the Society.

My Contrary Mary by “The Lady Janies” (Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows). Welcome to Renaissance France, a place of poison and plots, of beauties and beasts, of mice and . . . queens? Mary is the queen of Scotland and the jewel of the French court. Except when she’s a mouse. Yes, reader, Mary is an Eðian (shapeshifter) in a kingdom where Verities rule. It’s a secret that could cost her a head—or a tail.

The Lady or the Lion by Aamna Qureshi. Retells “The Lady or the Tiger?” against a Pakistan-inspired world of forbidden love and court intrigues. Once there was a princess forced to choose a fate for her lover—to a future in the arms of a beautiful lady, or to death in the mouth of a lion? But what came first was the fate she would choose for herself.

Stranger Things: Rebel Robin by Amy Rose Capetta. It’s the ’80s, and Robin has been hiding out with the band kids since middle school, hoping nobody would notice that she’s something even stranger than a French horn player who can speak four languages: she’s gay.

When You and I Collide by Kate Norris. Sliding Doors meets Code Name Verity in this 1940s story of a 16-year-old aspiring physicist witnesses a tragedy and is accidentally pulled into another universe—one that already has another version of herself in it.

Monstrous Design by Kat Dunn. 1794, London: Camille and Al are desperately hunting Olympe’s kidnapper. From the glamorous excesses of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens to the city’s seedy underbelly, they are caught in a dangerous game of lies and deceit.

July 2021

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan. Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in this bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty.

Summer in the City of Roses by Michelle Ruiz Keil. Inspired by the Greek myth of Iphigenia and the Grimm fairy tale “Brother and Sister,” this follows two siblings torn apart and struggling to find each other in early ’90s Portland.

A Radical Act of Free Magic by H. G. Parry. The Concord has been broken, and a war of magic engulfs the world. In France, the brilliant young battle-mage Napoleon Bonaparte has summoned a kraken from the depths, and under his command the Army of the Dead have all but conquered Europe. But there is another, even darker war being fought beneath the surface: the first vampire war in hundreds of years.

Gods & Monsters by Shelby Mahurin. In this conclusion to the trilogy, after a heartbreaking loss, Lou, Reid, Beau, and Coco are bent on vengeance more than ever before—and none more so than Lou. But this is no longer the Lou that captured a chasseur’s heart. A darkness has settled over her, and this time it will take more than love to drive it out.

August 2021

The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith. In New York City in 1911, a 17-year-old seamstress is whisked off to a school for witches disguised as a tuberculosis sanitarium, where she reckons with her growing powers and suspicions that the magical underworld of the city may be related to the mysterious death of her brother six months prior.

Your Life Has Been Delayed by Michelle Mason. A 17-year-old takes off on a flight from New York in 1995 and lands back home in St. Louis—25 years later. She grapples with her family, friends, and new boyfriend moving on without her, taking a crash-course in social media and viral news culture while she’s the biggest story to hit the internet.

Beyond the Mapped Stars by Rosalyn Eves. In this sweeping adventure set in the late 19th century, seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Bertelsen dreams of becoming an astronomer, complicated by her role in the Latter-day Saint community to which she belongs. Tempted to view a total eclipse of the sun in Colorado, Elizabeth must navigate a new world of familial duties, faith, and dreams.

Warriors of God by Andrzej Sapkowski. Book 2 of the Hussite Trilogy by the author of The Witcher takes Reynevan—scoundrel, magician, possibly a fool—into the depths of war as he attempts to navigate the religious fervors of the fifteenth century.

The Great Destroyers by Caroline Tung Richmond. The Hunger Games meets Pacific Rim, set in the 1960s Cold War. Raised in her father’s mecha repair shop, Jo knows more than anyone about the awesome machines and piloting. She’s also the most unlikely pick for Team USA since she’s a virtually unknown fighter. So when Jo is invited at the last minute to compete, she jumps at the chance.

Dagger Hill by Devon Taylor. In summer 1989, a plane crashes right on top of four friends. In the aftermath, three are plagued by eerie visions and messages from an unknown watcher. They soon realize that the plane crash was no accident, and now they are being hunted by a sinister presence. And everyone is still searching for Kimberly, who has been missing ever since they saw somebody wearing a gas mask carry her away…

September 2021

The Nightland Express by J. M. Lee. In antebellum America, two teens bury their secrets and join the historic Pony Express, and soon discover the mortal world is not the only one on the brink of war.

Before We Disappear by Shaun David Hutchinson. The Prestige meets What If It’s Us in this queer “ahistorical” fantasy set during the 1909 Seattle Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition, where the two assistants of two ambitious magicians find themselves falling in love amidst a bitter rivalry designed to tear them apart.

Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery by Brom. A tale of bewitchery and a deal with the devil set against the backdrop of Puritan America.

For All Time by Shanna Miles. Two teens are fated to repeat their love story across hundreds of lifetimes, from 14th-century Mali to the distant future, as they struggle to break the cycle.

The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros. Set against the backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, this queer Jewish Gothic fantasy follows a young immigrant who is possessed by the dybbuk of his murdered best friend and is thrust into a deadly hunt for a serial killer.

The Bones of Ruin by Sarah Raughley. As an African tightrope dancer in Victorian London, Iris is used to being strange. She is certainly a strange sight for leering British audiences always eager for the spectacle of colonial curiosity. But Iris also has a secret that even “strange” doesn’t capture…​ She cannot die.

The Other Merlin by Robyn Schneider. Welcome to the great kingdom of Camelot. Prince Arthur’s a depressed botanist who would rather marry a library than a princess, Lancelot’s been demoted to castle guard after a terrible misunderstanding, and nothing is going according to plan. Then Arthur accidentally pulls the sword from the stone (in his defense, he was drunk and mostly kidding), and now everyone’s convinced he’s some prophesied hero.

The Corpse Queen by Heather Herrman. Molly arrives in 1850s Philadelphia to live with her estranged aunt Ava, who has secrets and wealth she intends to share–for a price. Ava has built her empire by robbing graves and selling the corpses to medical students who need bodies to practice surgical procedures. And she wants Molly to help her procure the corpses.

The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi. After Séverin’s seeming betrayal, the crew is fractured. Armed with only a handful of hints, Enrique, Laila, Hypnos and Zofia must find their way through the snarled, haunted waterways of 19th-century Venice, Italy, to locate Séverin.

A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix by C. B. Lee. The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. But Xiang is determined to find the fleet, and with it, what happened to her father, using the pendant he left behind.

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff. It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending realm and church from the creatures of the night. But even the Silver Order couldn’t stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains. [I’m not actually sure this is historical, but it was described in several places as “gothic” for obvious reasons.]

A Song of Flight by Juliet Marillier. The final book in the trilogy about an organization of elite operatives—MI6 in a medieval-style fantasy world—who use magic, song, poetry, weapons, and combat skills to solve crimes and protect the public.

Invisible Sun by Charles Stross. In this inter-timeline coup d’etat gone awry, a renegade British monarch is on the run through the streets of Berlin as robotic alien invaders from a distant timeline flood through a wormhole, wreaking havoc in the USA. Can disgraced worldwalker Rita and her intertemporal extraordaire agent of a mother neutralize the livewire contention between their respective timelines before it’s too late?

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. In this novel inspired by historical figures from across Chinese history (the Tang dynasty & others), when Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

October 2021

Daughters of a Dead Empire by Carolyn Tara O’Neil. A reimagining of the Anastasia legend, following two young women as they flee from the Red Army at the height of the Russian Revolution—one a peasant and proud member of the Bolshevik party and the other a battered, bourgeoisie girl who’s harboring a secret that could cost them their lives.

The Keeper of the Night by Kylie Lee Baker. A half-reaper, half-Shinigami girl, caught between two worlds and belonging to neither, fights monsters and struggles for acceptance in a 19th-century Japan that is haunted by the goddess of death.

Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco. Set against the backdrop of late 1800s Sicily: After selling her soul to become Queen of the Wicked, Emilia travels to the Seven Circles with the enigmatic Prince of Wrath. She vows to do whatever it takes to avenge her beloved sister, Vittoria … even if that means accepting the hand of the Prince of Pride, the king of demons.

Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe. A glittering 1920s retelling of The Tempest, in which a teenage girl seizes her chance at magic over the course of one dramatic night.

Truth of the Divine by Lindsay Ellis. In this sequel to Axiom’s End, set in the early ’00s, the human race is at a crossroads. We know we are not alone, but don’t fully understand who has arrived.

November 2021

Innate Magic by Shannon Fay. A fantasy adventure romp through an alternate 1950s England, where magic is real, but real power is reserved only for the top of society, featuring a magician who can charm nearly everyone, but trusts the wrong person with the secret of his illegal magic abilities—powers that could change the course of the postwar world.

A Rush of Wings by Laura Weymouth, set in the tumultuous 18th-century Scottish Highlands, inspired by The Wild Swans fairy tale, in which a girl with the strength of saltwater and the heart of a witch must master her forbidden craft in order to free her cursed brothers and prevent a charismatic tyrant from destroying all she holds dear.

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood. An Ethopian-inspired Jane Eyre retelling in which an unlicensed debtera is hired to rid a castle of its dangerous curses, only to fall in love with a boy whose life hangs in the balance.

Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong. 1927 Shanghai is under siege in this captivating and searingly romantic sequel to These Violent Delights. After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on the warpath. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir.

The Reckless Kind by Carly Heath. Set in 1904 Norway, a trio of queer teens, two boys and their best friend, defy the expectations of their rural Scandinavian village by leaving their families, living on their own, and challenging the town’s patriarch in the region’s annual horse race.

Under a Starlit Sky by E. M. Castellan. Spring 1662. In the wake of Fouquet’s defeat, Henriette is keeping her promise to the Sun King and helping him build the enchanted Palace of Versailles he’s always dreamed of. But when her poor health worsens, her magic wanes and her husband Philippe fears for her well being to such an extent that he forbids her to remain Louis’ Source.

The Undertakers by Nicole Glover. In this sequel to The Conductors, Hetty Rhodes and her husband, Benjy, magic practitioners and detectives living in post–Civil War Philadelphia, investigate a powerful Fire Company known to let homes in the Black community burn to the ground.

The Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier. Against an Iberian-inspired landscape, Lord Cassia was an engineer’s apprentice on a mission entrusted by the king until a plague swept over the land, leaving countless dead. Cas wants only to return to his home in the mountains and forget past horrors. But home is not what he remembers. His castle has become a refuge for the royal court. And they have brought their enemies with them.

Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee. In the conclusion to this “Godfather meets wuxia and gangster films” Green Bone Saga, the Kaul family faces intergenerational tensions within as their country is riven by dangerous factions and foreign interference that could destroy the Green Bone way of life altogether.

December 2021

The Excalibur Curse by Kiersten White. Vowing to unravel the truth of her past with or without Merlin’s help, Guinevere joins forces with the sorceress Morgana and her son, Mordred—and faces the confusing, forbidden feelings she still harbors for him. When Guinevere makes an agonizing discovery about who she is and how she came to be, she finds herself with an impossible choice: fix a terrible crime, or help prevent war.

Of Sea and Venom by Trinidad Escobar. A graphic novel set in the 1500s Pacific Islands and near-future Oakland, California, a teenage Priestess-in-training’s future in the divine sciences is challenged when unexpected conquistadors land on her tribe’s beach. [exact pub date unknown, book is still listed as “2021” without details]

*Author’s Note: By “speculative historical novels,” I mean novels with events set in particular historical eras with fantastical, fabulist, or magical realist elements woven into them. I am intentionally loose with my categories and include books based more on what I anticipate lovers of historical settings with fantastical elements are likely to gravitate toward. Genre fantasy, magical realism or fabulism, alt-history, and “literary” novels all count. Where authors or publishers have specifically said an otherwise secondary-world story is directly inspired by an historical era, I’ve included it as well. Spec fic celebrates whatever goes beyond the literal or “hyper-real” to lean into imagination, collective myths, mystery, and wonder. There’s no reason to be unnecessarily restrictive and miss out on excellent books.

Book Reviews

The 2020 Speculative Historical Novels Mega-List

Last year when I set out to compile a list of speculative* novels set in specific historical eras, I was happily surprised to find more than 50 titles out there. I attempted to read as many of them as I could, and I still have some truly exciting ones waiting in my TBR in spite of my best efforts.

So how does 2020 compare? Well, yet again, we had around 50 novels I could loosely group as speculative historical, but the trends have definitely shifted. (See the 2019 list.)

More “recent” history. With practically every decade from the 1920s through the 2000s represented, alternate history is IN. People are reimagining a wide variety of places and historical moments, giving us more breadth than last year. Something I’m really enjoying about this trend is the playful cognitive dissonance of these “almost ordinary” worlds. Futuristic novels like Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey and The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin seem to have been written in the same spirit. So if you find yourself inhaling these alt-histories, consider looking up 2020 dystopian novels for still more jaw-dropping concepts.

Witches! This was a wonderful year for covens, with both some series continuations and some innovative new offerings that place witches outside the usual Medieval settings. (And perhaps as a natural side-effect of the rise of witches, there are more books out there that toy with traditionally Christian topics like sin and guilt, in the spirit of Prosper’s Demon by K. J. Parker and The Year of Witching by Alexis Henderson, even though those narrowly missed out on my list because they are not set in real-world locations. Those covers, though!)

Time-Slip Novels. Many novels jump across historical and alt-historical eras due to some kind of originating event that the character must resolve. Many of you will immediately think of V. E. Schwab’s venture into historical fantasy with The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, but there are actually quite a few others. Special shout-out here to Jason Offutt and his novel So You Had to Build a Time Machine, which I had the privilege of editing! There are some really cool present/near-future novels that hug closely to these themes, so expand your list to explore those if you enjoy this trend. There are some fun “metafiction” options I’d include under this umbrella, too.

Still-painful lack of world regions and diaspora stories. There is a tiny smattering of these novels, of course, many of them by familiar names like R. F. Kuang, whose Poppy War trilogy wraps up this year. But it just doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of variety. Perhaps it’s the tendency to corner novelists interested in combining speculative elements with history into “serious literary fiction.” Perhaps some authors choose to shift their settings into secondary worlds for fear of getting the history wrong (in no small part because so much of it was lost or stolen). Look to authors like Fonda Lee and Namina Forna, whose gorgeous novels deserve more readers, to help fill this gap. I’m eagerly anticipating These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong, a Romeo & Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai.

Long live the Victorians and the Goths. Don’t worry, if you’re like me and remain incurably addicted to this subgenre, there is a wealth of choices yet again this year! Having read Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire for the first time in my life this year, I confess I’m most excited to read Blood Countess by Lana Popović and Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

I’ll add any new or missed books to my lists as I find them, so if you know of some I’m missing, please tell me, as this is an “evergreen” list that people visit year-round. Happy reading!


January 2020

Blood Countess by Lana Popović

A historical YA horror novel based on the infamous real-life inspiration for Countess Dracula

In 17th century Hungary, Anna Darvulia has just begun working as a scullery maid for the young and glamorous Countess Elizabeth Báthory. When Elizabeth takes a liking to Anna, she’s vaulted to the dream role of chambermaid, a far cry from the filthy servants’ quarters below. She receives wages generous enough to provide for her family, and the Countess begins to groom Anna as her friend and confidante. It’s not long before Anna falls completely under the Countess’s spell—and the Countess takes full advantage. Isolated from her former friends, family, and fiancé, Anna realizes she’s not a friend but a prisoner of the increasingly cruel Elizabeth. Then come the murders, and Anna knows it’s only a matter of time before the Blood Countess turns on her, too. Add it on Goodreads

The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala (trans. Anna Kushner)

Haunting and transcendently twisted, this English-language debut from a Cuban literary star is a tale of race, magic, belief, and fate

The Stuart family moves to a marginal neighborhood of Cienfuegos, a city on the southern coast of Cuba. Arturo Stuart, a charismatic, visionary preacher, discovers soon after arriving that God has given him a mission: to build a temple that surpasses any before seen in Cuba, and to make of Cienfuegos a new Jerusalem.

In a neighborhood that roils with passions and conflicts, at the foot of a cathedral that rises higher day by day, there grows a generation marked by violence, cruelty, and extreme selfishness. This generation will carry these traits beyond the borders of the neighborhood, the city, and the country, unable to escape the shadow of the unfinished cathedral.

Told by a chorus of narrators–including gossips, gangsters, a ghost, and a serial killer–who flirt, lie, argue, and finish one another’s stories, Marcial Gala’s The Black Cathedral is a darkly comic indictment of modern Cuba, gritty and realistic but laced with magic. It is a portrait of what remains when dreams of utopia have withered away. Add it on Goodreads

A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers

In 1895, sixteen-year-old Juliet LaCompte has a passionate, doomed romance with the married Parisian painter Auguste Marchant. When her mother—a witch—attempts to cast a curse on Marchant, she unwittingly summons a demon, binding her daughter to both the artist and this supernatural being for all time. Juliet is fated to re-live her affair and die tragically young lifetime after lifetime as the star-crossed lovers reincarnate through history.

The demon—who appears to Juliet in all her reincarnations as a mysterious, handsome, and worldly benefactor — has been helplessly in love with her since 19th-century France, even though she forgets him each time she dies. He falls for her in 1930s Hollywood, in 1970s Los Angeles, and finally in present-day Washington D.C.—where she begins to develop powers of her own. In this life, she starts to remember her tragic past lives. But this time, she might have the power to break the cycle. Add it on Goodreads

February 2020

Sensational by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

Jodie Lynn Zdrok’s Sensational is the thrilling follow-up to Spectacle in which a killer haunts the Paris World’s Fair of 1889.

The 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris is full of innovations, cultural displays, and inventions. Millions of visitors attend over the course of several months…so no one would notice if a few were missing, right? Maybe—but someone is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the guillotine with a display of their own: beheaded victims in some of the Exposition’s most popular exhibits.

Nathalie Baudin’s ability to see murder scenes should help, but she’s suffering the effects of her magic more than ever before. Fortunately she has other Insightfuls to team up with—if they can be trusted. Add it on Goodreads

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

A “recent past” novel set from the 1990s onward with a speculative twist. Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.

Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella—through visits both mundane and supernatural—tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down. Add it on Goodreads

Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

The sequel to Dread Nation is a journey of revenge and salvation across a divided America.

After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother.

But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodermus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880s America.

What’s more, this safe haven is not what it appears — as Jane discovers when she sees familiar faces from Summerland amid this new society. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her. Add it on Goodreads

The Golden Key by Marian Womack

An extraordinary, page-turning Gothic mystery set in the wilds of the Norfolk Fens from the BSFA-shortlisted author.

London, 1901. After the death of Queen Victoria the city heaves with the uncanny and the eerie. Séances are held and the dead are called upon from darker realms.

Samuel Moncrieff, recovering from a recent tragedy of his own, meets Helena Walton-Cisneros, one of London’s most reputed mediums. But Helena is not what she seems and she’s enlisted by the elusive Lady Matthews to solve a twenty-year-old mystery: the disappearance of her three stepdaughters who vanished without a trace on the Norfolk Fens.

But the Fens are a liminal land, where folk tales and dark magic still linger. With locals that speak of devilmen and catatonic children found on the Broads, Helena finds the answer to the mystery leads back to where it started: Samuel Moncrieff. Add it on Goodreads

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

1888. Five years after they met in The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, Thaniel Steepleton, an unassuming translator, and Keita Mori, the watchmaker who remembers the future, are traveling to Japan. Thaniel has received an unexpected posting to the British legation in Tokyo, and Mori has business that is taking him to Yokohama.

Thaniel’s brief is odd: the legation staff have been seeing ghosts, and Thaniel’s first task is to find out what’s really going on. But while staying with Mori, he starts to experience ghostly happenings himself. For reasons Mori won’t—or can’t—share, he is frightened. Then he vanishes.

Meanwhile, something strange is happening in a frozen labor camp in Northern Japan. Takiko Pepperharrow, an old friend of Mori’s, must investigate.

As the weather turns bizarrely electrical and ghosts haunt the country from Tokyo to Aokigahara forest, Thaniel grows convinced that it all has something to do with Mori’s disappearance–and that Mori may be in serious danger. Add it on Goodreads

False Value by Ben Aaronovitch

The eighth book of the bestselling Rivers of London urban fantasy series returns to the adventures of Peter Grant, detective and apprentice wizard, as he solves magical crimes in the city of London.

Peter Grant is facing fatherhood, and an uncertain future, with equal amounts of panic and enthusiasm. Rather than sit around, he takes a job with émigré Silicon Valley tech genius Terrence Skinner’s brand new London start up—the Serious Cybernetics Company.

Drawn into the orbit of Old Street’s famous ‘silicon roundabout’, Peter must learn how to blend in with people who are both civilians and geekier than he is. Compared to his last job, Peter thinks it should be a doddle. But magic is not finished with Mama Grant’s favourite son.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden… Add it on Goodreads

March 2020

The Book of Kane and Margaret by Kiik Araki-Kawaguchi

Winner of FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize

A novel about two teenage lovers who disrupt a World War II internment camp in Arizona

Kane Araki and Margaret Morri are not only the names of teenage lovers living in a World War II Japanese relocation camp. Kane Araki is also the name of a man who, mysteriously, sprouts a pair of black raven’s wings overnight. Margaret Morri is the name of the aging healer who treats embarrassing conditions (smelly feet and excessive flatulence). It’s also the name of an eleven-year-old girl who communes with the devil, trading human teeth for divine wishes.

In The Book of Kane and Margaret, dozens of Kane Arakis and Margaret Morris populate the Canal and Butte camp divisions in Gila River. Amidst their daily rituals and family dramas, they find ways to stage quiet revolutions against a domestic colonial experience. Some internees slip through barbed wire fences to meet for love affairs. Others attempt to smuggle whiskey, pornography, birds, dogs, horses, and unearthly insects into their family barracks. And another seeks a way to submerge the internment camp in Pacific seawater. Add it on Goodreads

The Deep by Alma Katsu

Someone, or something, is haunting the Titanic.

This is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the ship from the moment they set sail: mysterious disappearances, sudden deaths. Now suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone during the four days of the liner’s illustrious maiden voyage, a number of the passengers — including millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, the maid Annie Hebbley and Mark Fletcher are convinced that something sinister is going on . . . And then, as the world knows, disaster strikes.

Years later and the world is at war. And a survivor of that fateful night, Annie, is working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, now refitted as a hospital ship. Plagued by the demons of her doomed first and near fatal journey across the Atlantic, Annie comes across an unconscious soldier she recognises while doing her rounds. It is the young man Mark. And she is convinced that he did not – could not – have survived the sinking of the Titanic . . . Add it on Goodreads

The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner

In Poland, as World War II rages, a mother hides with her young daughter, a musical prodigy whose slightest sound may cost them their lives.

As Nazi soldiers round up the Jews in their town, Róża and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, flee, seeking shelter in a neighbor’s barn. Hidden in the hayloft day and night, Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses through her and the farmyard outside beckons. To soothe her daughter and pass the time, Róża tells her a story about a girl in an enchanted garden:

The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom.

Inspired by the true stories of Jewish children hidden during World War II, Jennifer Rosner’s debut is a breathtaking novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter. Beautiful and riveting, The Yellow Bird Sings is a testament to the triumph of hope—a whispered story, a bird’s song—in even the darkest of times. Add it on Goodreads

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn

In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends.

Nainoa’s family, struggling amidst the collapse of the sugarcane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favor from ancient Hawaiian gods–a belief that appears validated after he exhibits puzzling new abilities. But as time passes, this supposed divine favor begins to drive the family apart: Nainoa, working now as a paramedic on the streets of Portland, struggles to fathom the full measure of his expanding abilities; further north in Washington, his older brother Dean hurtles into the world of elite college athletics, obsessed with wealth and fame; while in California, risk-obsessed younger sister Kaui navigates an unforgiving academic workload in an attempt to forge her independence from the family’s legacy.

When supernatural events revisit the Flores family in Hawai’i–with tragic consequences–they are all forced to reckon with the bonds of family, the meaning of heritage, and the cost of survival. Add in on Goodreads

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister. Add it on Goodreads

April 2020

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

Conjure Women is a sweeping story that brings the world of the South before and after the Civil War vividly to life. Spanning eras and generations, it tells of the lives of three unforgettable women: Miss May Belle, a wise healing woman; her precocious and observant daughter Rue, who is reluctant to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a midwife; and their master’s daughter Varina. The secrets and bonds among these women and their community come to a head at the beginning of a war and at the birth of an accursed child, who sets the townspeople alight with fear and a spreading superstition that threatens their newly won, tenuous freedom. Add it on Goodreads

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community. Add it on Goodreads

Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

The Handmaid’s Tale meets Alice in Wonderland in this gripping and imaginative historical novel about a shunned orphan girl in 16th-century England who is ensnared in a deadly royal plot and must turn her subjugation into her power.

For the crime of stealing bread, fourteen-year-old May receives a life sentence: she must become a Sin Eater—a shunned woman, brutally marked, whose fate is to hear the final confessions of the dying, eat ritual foods symbolizing their sins as a funeral rite, and thereby shoulder their transgressions to grant their souls access to heaven. Orphaned and friendless, apprenticed to an older Sin Eater who cannot speak to her, May must make her way in a dangerous and cruel world she barely understands Add it on Goodreads

Now, Then, and Everywhen by Rysa Walker

When two time-traveling historians cross paths during one of the most tumultuous decades of the twentieth century, history goes helter-skelter. But which one broke the timeline?

In 2136 Madison Grace uncovers a key to the origins of CHRONOS, a time-travel agency with ties to her family’s mysterious past. Just as she is starting to jump through history, she returns to her timeline to find millions of lives erased—and only the people inside her house realize anything has changed.

In 2304 CHRONOS historian Tyson Reyes is assigned to observe the crucial events that played out in America’s civil rights movement. But a massive time shift occurs while he’s in 1965, and suddenly the history he sees isn’t the history he knows.

As Madi’s and Tyson’s journeys collide, they must prevent the past from being erased forever. But strange forces are at work. Are Madi and Tyson in control or merely pawns in someone else’s game? Add it on Goodreads

The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan

Louisa Morgan, author of A Secret History of Witches, returns with another riveting tale of family, witchcraft, and love that spans generations, set in Gilded Age New York and London.

Harriet Bishop, descended from a long line of witches, uses magic to help women in need — not only ordinary women, but also those with powers of their own. She must intervene when a distant cousin wields dangerous magic to change the lives of two unsuspecting young people… one of whom might just be a witch herself. Add it on Goodreads

Creatures of Charm and Hunger by Molly Tanzer

Two young witches, once inseparable, are set at odds by secrets and wildly dangerous magic.

In the waning days of World War II, with Allied victory all but certain, desperate Nazi diabolists search for a demonic superweapon to turn the tide. A secluded castle somewhere in the south of Germany serves as a laboratory for experiments conducted upon human prisoners, experiments as vile as they are deadly.

Across the English Channel, tucked into the sleepy Cumbrian countryside, lies the Library, the repository of occult knowledge for the Société des Éclairées, an international organization of diabolists. There, best friends Jane Blackwood and Miriam Cantor, tutored by the Société’s Librarian—and Jane’s mother—Nancy, prepare to undergo the Test that will determine their future as diabolists.

When Miriam learns her missing parents are suspected of betraying the Société to the Nazis, she embarks on a quest to clear their names, a quest involving dangerous diabolic practices that will demand more of her than she can imagine. Meanwhile Jane, struggling with dark obsessions of her own, embraces a forbidden use of the Art that could put everyone she loves in danger. Add it on Goodreads

The Unsuitable by Molly Pohlig

Molly Pohlig’s The Unsuitable is a fierce blend of Gothic ghost story and Victorian novel of manners that’s also pitch perfect for our current cultural moment.

Iseult Wince is a Victorian woman perilously close to spinsterhood whose distinctly unpleasant father is trying to marry her off. She is awkward, plain, and most pertinently, believes that her mother, who died in childbirth, lives in the scar on her neck.

Iseult’s father parades a host of unsuitable candidates before her, the majority of whom Iseult wastes no time frightening away. When at last her father finds a suitor desperate enough to take Iseult off his hands—a man whose medical treatments have turned his skin silver—a true comedy of errors ensues. Add it on Goodreads

Ship of Fates by Caitlin Chung

In the gridlocked harbor of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, a ship hung with red paper lanterns draws crowds eager to gamble and drink. Aboard this red-lit ship, the fates of two young women will be altered irrevocably and tied forever to that of an ancient lighthouse keeper who longs to be free. 

Set against the backdrop of Gold Rush-era San Francisco’s Chinese immigrant community, Ship of Fates is a coming-of-age fairy tale that stretches across generations. Add it on Goodreads

May 2020

Rules for Being Dead by Kim Powers

It’s the late 1960s in McKinney, Texas. At the downtown theater and the local drive-in, movies—James BondMy Fair LadyAlfie, and Dr. Zhivago—feed the dreams and obsessions of a ten-year-old Clarke who loves Audrey, Elvis, his family, and the handsome boy in the projector booth. Then Clarke loses his beloved mother, and no one will tell him how she died. No one will tell her either. She is floating above the trees and movie screens of McKinney, trapped between life and death, searching for a glimpse of her final moments on this earth. Clarke must find the shattering truth, which haunts this darkly humorous and incredibly moving novel. Add it on Goodreads

Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn

Camille, a revolutionary’s daughter, leads a band of outcasts – a runaway girl, a deserter, an aristocrat in hiding. As the Battalion des Mortes they cheat death, saving those about to meet a bloody end at the blade of Madame La Guillotine. But their latest rescue is not what she seems. The girl’s no aristocrat, but her dark and disturbing powers means both the Royalists and the Revolutionaries want her. But who and what is she?

In these dangerous days, no one can be trusted, everyone is to be feared. As Camille learns the truth, she’s forced to choose between loyalty to those she loves and the future. Add it on Goodreads

June 2020

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

A reimagining of the classic gothic suspense novel, a story about an isolated mansion in 1950s Mexico — and the brave socialite drawn to its treacherous secrets.

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find — her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough, smart, and has an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom. Add it on Goodreads

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

Zen Cho returns with a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined. Add it on Goodreads

A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians by H. G. Parry

A sweeping tale of revolution and wonder in a world not quite like our own, A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians is a genre-defying story of magic, war, and the struggle for freedom in the early modern world.

It is the Age of Enlightenment — of new and magical political movements, from the necromancer Robespierre calling for revolution in France to the weather mage Toussaint L’Ouverture leading the slaves of Haiti in their fight for freedom, to the bold new Prime Minister William Pitt weighing the legalization of magic amongst commoners in Britain and abolition throughout its colonies overseas.

But amidst all of the upheaval of the early modern world, there is an unknown force inciting all of human civilization into violent conflict. And it will require the combined efforts of revolutionaries, magicians, and abolitionists to unmask this hidden enemy before the whole world falls to darkness and chaos. Add it on Goodreads

The House of Whispers by Laura Purcell

A new gothic Victorian tale from Laura Purcell, set on the atmospheric Cornish coast in a rambling house by the sea in which a maid cares for a mute old woman with a mysterious past, alongside her superstitious staff.

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr. Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the disease in the caves beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralyzed and mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try to escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers her new home may be just as dangerous as her last. Add it on Goodreads

Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie).

When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.

Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution. Add it on Goodreads

July 2020

Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis

By the fall of 2007, one well-timed leak revealing that the U.S. government might have engaged in first contact has sent the country into turmoil, and it is all Cora Sabino can do to avoid the whole mess. The force driving this controversy is Cora’s whistleblower father, and even though she hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government–and redirected it to her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him–until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades.

To save her own life, she offers her services as an interpreter to a monster, and the monster accepts. Add it on Goodreads

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal continues her Hugo and Nebula award-winning Lady Astronaut series, following The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, with The Relentless Moon.

The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and sabotage plague the space program. The IAC’s goal of getting as many people as possible off Earth before it becomes uninhabitable is being threatened.

Elma York is on her way to Mars, but the Moon colony is still being established. Her friend and fellow Lady Astronaut Nicole Wargin is thrilled to be one of those pioneer settlers, using her considerable flight and political skills to keep the program on track. But she is less happy that her husband, the Governor of Kansas, is considering a run for President. Add it on Goodreads

A Peculiar Peril by Jeff VanderMeer

Jonathan Lambshead stands to inherit his deceased grandfather’s overstuffed mansion—a veritable cabinet of curiosities—once he and two schoolmates catalog its contents. But the three soon discover that the house is filled with far more than just oddities: It holds clues linking to an alt-Earth called Aurora, where the notorious English occultist Aleister Crowley has stormed back to life on a magic-fueled rampage across a surreal, through-the-looking-glass version of Europe replete with talking animals (and vegetables).

Swept into encounters with allies more unpredictable than enemies, Jonathan pieces together his destiny as a member of a secret society devoted to keeping our world separate from Aurora. But as the ground shifts and allegiances change with every step, he and his friends sink ever deeper into a deadly pursuit of the profound evil that is also chasing after them. Add it on Goodreads

So You Had to Build a Time Machine by Jason Offutt

Skid doesn’t believe in ghosts or time travel or any of that nonsense. A circus runaway-turned-bouncer, she believes in hard work, self-defense, and good strong coffee. Then one day an annoying theoretical physicist named Dave pops into the seat next to her at her least favorite Kansas City bar and disappears into thin air when she punches him (he totally deserved it).

Now, street names are changing, Skid’s favorite muffins are swapping frosting flavors, Dave keeps reappearing in odd places like the old Sanderson murder house—and that’s only the start of her problems.

Something has gone wrong. Terribly wrong. Absolutely *$&ed up.

Someone has the nastiest versions of every conceivable reality at their fingertips, and they’re not afraid to smash them together. With the help of a smooth-talking haunted house owner and a linebacker-sized Dungeons and Dragons-loving baker, Skid and Dave set out to save the world from whatever scientific experiment has sent them all dimension-hopping against their will.

It probably means the world is screwed. Add it on Goodreads

Crossings by Alex Landragin

Crossings is an unforgettable and explosive genre-bending debut–a novel in three parts, designed to be read in two different directions, spanning a hundred and fifty years and seven lifetimes.

On the brink of the Nazi occupation of Paris, a German-Jewish bookbinder stumbles across a manuscript called Crossings. It has three narratives, each as unlikely as the next. And the narratives can be read one of two ways: either straight through or according to an alternate chapter sequence. The first story in Crossings is a never-before-seen ghost story by the poet Charles Baudelaire, penned for an illiterate girl. Next is a noir romance about an exiled man, modeled on Walter Benjamin, whose recurring nightmares are cured when he falls in love with a storyteller who draws him into a dangerous intrigue of rare manuscripts, police corruption, and literary societies.

Finally, there are the fantastical memoirs of a woman-turned-monarch whose singular life has spanned seven generations. With each new chapter, the stunning connections between these seemingly disparate people grow clearer and more extraordinary. Crossings is an unforgettable adventure full of love, longing and empathy. Add it on Goodreads

Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings

In a small Western Queensland town, a reserved young woman receives a note from one of her vanished brothers—a note that makes question her memories of their disappearance and her father’s departure.

A beguiling story that proves that gothic delights and uncanny family horror can live—and even thrive—under a burning sun, Flyaway introduces readers to Bettina Scott, whose search for the truth throws her into tales of eerie dogs, vanished schools, cursed monsters, and enchanted bottles.

In these pages Jennings assures you that gothic delights, uncanny family horror, and strange, unsettling prose can live—and even thrive—under a burning sun.

Holly Black describes as “half mystery, half fairy tale, all exquisitely rendered and full of teeth.” Flyaway enchants you with the sly, beautiful darkness of Karen Russell and a world utterly its own. Add it on Goodreads

Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The dangerous magic of The Night Circus meets the powerful historical exploration of The Underground Railroad in this timely and unsettling novel, set against the darkly glamorous backdrop of New York City at the dawn of WWII.

Amidst the whir of city life, a girl from Harlem is drawn into the glittering underworld of Manhattan, where she’s hired to use her knives to strike fear amongst its most dangerous denizens.

But the ghosts from her past are always by her side—and history has appeared on her doorstep to threaten the people she loves most.

Can one woman ever sacrifice enough to save an entire community?

Trouble the Saints is a dazzling, daring novel—a magical love story, a compelling chronicle of interracial tension, and an altogether brilliant and deeply American saga. Add to Goodreads

A Summoning of Souls by Leanna Renee Hieber

At the dawn of the twentieth century, New York City houses both the living and the dead. And when it comes to crimes of an otherworldly nature, it falls to the psychics and spirits of the city’s finest secret agency—The Ghost Precinct—to serve justice beyond the earthly realm . . .

The ethereal denizens of New York owe a great debt to Eve Whitby, the young talented medium who leads the all-female spiritualists in the police department’s Ghost Precinct. Without her team’s efforts on behalf of the incorporeal, many souls would have been lost or damned by both human and inhuman means.

But now Eve faces an enemy determined to exorcise the city’s ghostly population once and for all. Albert Prenze is supposed to be dead. Instead he is very much alive, having assumed the identity of his twin brother Alfred, and taken control of the family’s dubiously made fortune. With unlimited wealth at his disposal, Albert uses experimental technology to banish ghosts to an eternal darkness forever.

To achieve his vicious ends, Albert plots to manipulate Eve and twist her abilities into a psychic weapon—a weapon that not only poses a threat to spirits but to everyone she cares for, including her beloved Detective Horowitz . . . Add it on Goodreads

Mayhem by Estelle Laure

A YA feminist mash up inspired by The Lost Boys and The Craft.

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self.

There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.

From the acclaimed author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back, Estelle Laure offers a riveting and complex story with magical elements about a family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough. Add it on Goodreads

August 2020

Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley

I’m cheating a little by including this one, but knowing Headley’s Mere Wife retelling, this translation promises to be a creative and daring and worth the read for historical spec fic lovers.

Nearly twenty years after Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf—and fifty years after the translation that continues to torment high-school students around the world—there is a radical new verse translation of the epic poem by Maria Dahvana Headley, which brings to light elements that have never before been translated into English, recontextualizing the binary narrative of monsters and heroes into a tale in which the two categories often entwine, justice is rarely served, and dragons live among us.

A man seeks to prove himself as a hero. A monster seeks silence in his territory. A warrior seeks to avenge her murdered son. A dragon ends it all. The familiar elements of the epic poem are seen with a novelist’s eye toward gender, genre, and history—Beowulf has always been a tale of entitlement and encroachment, powerful men seeking to become more powerful, and one woman seeking justice for her child, but this version brings new context to an old story. Add it on Goodreads

The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks by Mackenzi Lee

Return to the enchanting world of the Montague siblings in the finale to the New York Times bestselling and Stonewall Honor-winning series, featuring a teenage Adrian Montague as he desperately seeks the now adult Monty and Felicity—the older siblings he never knew he had.

The sole heir to his family’s fortune, Adrian Montague desperately wants to be free—from his father’s high expectations; the grief of losing his beloved mother; and the constant war being waged inside his mind. Adrian was diagnosed with hysteria at a young age and it’s always been kept a secret. But when he has a breakdown at his engagement party, the public learns Adrian’s worst fear: he might not be fit to run the Montague estate.

Thankfully, Adrian is given an opportunity to avoid the impending scandal: a trip to the Caribbean to claim the last of his mother’s possessions. Add it on Goodreads

September 2020

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known. Add it on Goodreads

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn’t get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin.

Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones). With the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), he belongs to an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops. Add it on Goodreads

Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

The hotly anticipated sequel to the New York Times and IndieBound bestseller Serpent & Dove—packed with even steamier romance and darker magic—is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas.

After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven. Add it on Goodreads

A Dance with Fate by Juliet Marillier

young woman who is both a bard–and a warrior–seeks to repay her debts and settle scores in this thrilling historical fantasy series.

The young warrior and bard Liobhan has lost her brother to the Otherworld. Even more determined to gain a place as an elite fighter, she returns to Swan Island to continue her training. But Liobhan is devastated when her comrade Dau is injured and loses his sight in their final display bout. Blamed by Dau’s family for the accident, she agrees to go to Dau’s home as a bond servant for the span of one year.

There, she soon learns that Oakhill is a place of dark secrets. The vicious Crow Folk still threaten both worlds. And Dau, battling the demon of despair, is not an easy man to help.

When Liobhan and Dau start to expose the rot at the center of Oakhill, they place themselves in deadly danger. For their enemy wields great power and will stop at nothing to get his way. It will take all the skills of a Swan Island warrior and a touch of the uncanny to give them a hope of survival. . . . Add it on Goodreads

The Residence by Andrew Pyper

In this gripping and terrifying horror story based on true events, the President’s late son haunts the White House, breaking the spirit of what remains of the First Family and the divided America beyond the residence’s walls.

The year is 1853. President-elect Franklin Pierce is traveling with his family to Washington, DC, when tragedy strikes. In an instant, their train runs off the rails, violently flinging passengers about the cabin. But when the great iron machine finally comes to rest, the only casualty is the President-elect’s beloved son, Bennie, which casts Franklin’s presidency in a pall of sorrow and grief.

As Franklin moves into the White House, he begins to notice that something bizarre is happening. Strange sounds coming from the walls and ceiling, creepy voices that seem to echo out of time itself, and visions of spirits crushed under the weight of American history.

But when First Lady Jane Pierce brings in the most noted Spiritualists of the day, the Fox sisters, for a séance, the barrier between this world and the next is torn asunder. Something horrible comes through and takes up residence alongside Franklin and Jane in the walls of the very mansion itself.

Only by overcoming their grief and confronting their darkest secrets can Jane and Franklin hope to rid themselves—and America—from the entity that seeks to make the White House its permanent home. Add it on Goodreads

October 2020

The Once and Future Witches by Alix Harrow

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be. Add it on Goodreads

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name. Add it on Goodreads

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

The award-winning author of The Miseducation of Cameron Post makes her adult debut with this highly imaginative and original horror-comedy centered around a cursed New England boarding school for girls—a wickedly whimsical celebration of the art of storytelling, sapphic love, and the rebellious female spirit.

Our story begins in 1902, at The Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara, two impressionable students, are obsessed with each other and with a daring young writer named Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls establish their own private club and call it The Plain Bad Heroine Society. They meet in secret in a nearby apple orchard, the setting of their wildest happiness and, ultimately, of their macabre deaths. This is where their bodies are later discovered with a copy of Mary’s book splayed beside them, the victims of a swarm of stinging, angry yellow jackets. Less than five years later, The Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors forever—but not before three more people mysteriously die on the property, each in a most troubling way.

Over a century later, the now abandoned and crumbling Brookhants is back in the news when wunderkind writer, Merritt Emmons, publishes a breakout book celebrating the queer, feminist history surrounding the “haunted and cursed” Gilded-Age institution. Her bestselling book inspires a controversial horror film adaptation starring celebrity actor and lesbian it girl Harper Harper playing the ill-fated heroine Flo, opposite B-list actress and former child star Audrey Wells as Clara. But as Brookhants opens its gates once again, and our three modern heroines arrive on set to begin filming, past and present become grimly entangled—or perhaps just grimly exploited—and soon it’s impossible to tell where the curse leaves off and Hollywood begins. Add it on Goodreads

November 2020

The Conductors by Nicole Glover

As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Hetty Rhodes helped usher dozens of people north with her wits and magic. Now that the Civil War is over, Hetty and her husband Benjy have settled in Philadelphia, solving murders and mysteries that the white authorities won’t touch. When they find one of their friends slain in an alley, Hetty and Benjy bury the body and set off to find answers. But the secrets and intricate lies of the elites of Black Philadelphia only serve to dredge up more questions. To solve this mystery, they will have to face ugly truths all around them, including the ones about each other.

In this vibrant and original novel, Nicole Glover joins a roster of contemporary writers within fantasy, such as Victor LaValle and Zen Cho, who use speculative fiction to delve into important historical and cultural threads. Add it on Goodreads

The Burning God by R. F. Kuang

The exciting end to The Poppy War trilogy, R. F. Kuang’s acclaimed, award-winning epic fantasy that combines the history of twentieth-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating, enthralling effect.

After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead. 

Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation. 

Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it? Add it on Goodreads

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule. Add it on Goodreads

Rebel Rose by Emma Theriault

Happily ever after is only the beginning as Belle takes on the responsibility of becoming queen and learns to balance duty, love, and sacrifice, all while navigating dark political intrigue-and a touch of magic.

It’s 1789 and France is on the brink of revolution. Belle has finally broken the Enchantress’s curse, restoring the Beast to his human form as Prince Adam, and bringing life back to their castle in the province of Aveyon. But in Paris, the fires of change are burning, and it’s only a matter of time before the rebellion arrives on their doorstep.

Belle has always dreamed of leaving her provincial home for a life of adventure. But now she finds herself living in a palace, torn between her roots as a commoner, and her future as a royal. When she stumbles across a mysterious, ancient magic that brings with it a dire warning, she must question whether she is ready for the power being thrust on her, and if being Queen is more than just a title.

Rebel Rose is the first in the Queen’s Council series, an empowering fairy tale reimagining of the Disney Princesses-and the real history behind their stories-like you’ve never seen before. Add it on Goodreads

The Madness Blooms by Mackenzie Lee

Mackenzi Lee, bestselling author of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, takes on Dutch Tulip Fever.

My brother Bastian was born in a tulip field, or so the story goes. The woman at the church orphanage boasted this proudly to the seed merchant who had chosen Bas as his apprentice. Lucky for me, he took us both.

When a single tulip bulb sold for the price of Amsterdam’s finest houses, the flower shop was supposed to be our future, our survival. But when our master died, there wasn’t even money to pay for his coffin. He, too, had caught the tulip fever.

Bas and I hatched a dangerous, outrageous plan, a plan I hoped would save our shop—and save us. I would dress as a man, take on a new name, and attempt to sell a fake Semper Augustus bulb, the rarest and most valuable tulip of all, to the one merchant in town with the money to pay for it.

But then I met his daughter, Elsje, and fell in love with her at first sight. Now, I hardly know—and must discover—what to do. Who to save. Who to become. Who I am. Add it on Goodreads

The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White

EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE IN CAMELOT: King Arthur is expanding his kingdom’s influence with Queen Guinevere at his side. Yet every night, dreams of darkness and unknowable power plague her.

Guinevere might have accepted her role, but she still cannot find a place for herself in all of it. The closer she gets to Brangien, pining for her lost love Isolde, Lancelot, fighting to prove her worth as Queen’s knight, and Arthur, everything to everyone and thus never quite enough for Guinevere–the more she realizes how empty she is. She has no sense of who she truly was before she was Guinevere. The more she tries to claim herself as queen, the more she wonders if Mordred was right: she doesn’t belong. She never will.

When a rescue goes awry and results in the death of something precious, a devastated Guinevere returns to Camelot to find the greatest threat yet has arrived. Not in the form of the Dark Queen or an invading army, but in the form of the real Guinevere’s younger sister. Is her deception at an end? And who is she really deceiving–Camelot, or herself? Add it on Goodreads

Don’t miss in January 2021…

Before I go, I would be remiss not to give a special shout-out here to the gaslamp fantasy I had the great pleasure of editing, Elizabeth Chatsworth’s THE BRASS QUEEN, coming out in January 2021. It’s funny, romantic, and an utterly ridiculous romp that is such a heart book for me, I can’t help but urge you all to give it a look, especially if you’ve been craving a good laugh!

*Author’s Note: By “speculative historical novels,” I mean novels with events set in particular historical eras with fantastical, fabulist, or magical realist elements woven into them. I am intentionally loose with my categories and include books based more on what I anticipate lovers of historical settings with fantastical elements are likely to gravitate toward! Genre fantasy, magical realism or fabulism, alt-history, and generically “literary” novels all count. Spec fic celebrates whatever goes beyond the literal or “hyper-real” to lean into imagination, collective myths, mystery, and wonder. There’s no reason to be unnecessarily restrictive and miss out on excellent books.