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Why You Need to Read…My Selections for Best Speculative Fiction of 2022

And, we made it to the end of 2022! For me, it was a very busy year! Now, I’m a full-time librarian and I’m attempting to make time for even more books to read (for work and for fun). I’m still working on balancing a career and life while continuing to pursue my other goals, so my reading was affected a bit by these changes. Yet, I was able to read and to compile enough books for a lengthly list of my Favorite Speculative Fiction Books of 2022. Some of the books on this list are books I read for work and for fun as well; and, some of the books I read for work are worth reading!

Here are my favorite books of 2022. Remember, this list is based on the books that were released THIS YEAR (I may or may not post a separate list containing the other books I enjoyed reading in 2022).

#20: Gallant by V.E. Schwab

There are many readers who either enjoyed this book or did not enjoy this book. I enjoyed this book because I am aware of the author’s intended audience. This is a work of Gothic Fiction that is meant for Middle Grade Readers. Fans of the author’s Young Adult and/or Adult books might not have enjoyed this one as much due to the “simplicity” of the narrative. All of the elements are in this narrative: an orphan who learns she has living relatives; a run-down and haunted manor, a dark family secret, etc., and the story is there. I believe I enjoyed this book more than many who read it because I knew who was “supposed to be” reading this book.

#19: Squire by Sara Alfageeh, illustrated by Nadia Shammas

The standalone graphic novel is part (military) fantasy and historical fiction. The story centers around a young girl from a family whose culture is viewed as “inferior” by the Empire who wants to join the army and become a soldier like the ones in the stories she’s heard. With her family’s blessing, she leaves her home and enlists with the other recruits–who are all from different parts of the Empire and from different backgrounds. Yes, the protagonist is challenged throughout her training, but as she makes herself standout from the other recruits, she learns more about the General and the Empire’s true intentions.

#18: A Forgery of Roses by Jessica S. Olson

This historical fantasy book is aimed for YA readers, but it should be read by more adults. Based on the folktale about the painter whose portraits can come to life, the protagonist is an artist who has an ability “to alter physical forms.” In fact her mother had the same gift and taught the protagonist how to paint without exposing her gifts. This is because their magic is viewed as being “barbaric” by their society. Unfortunately, both the protagonist and her younger sister are left alone after their parents’ disappearance. On top of that, the Governor’s wife is in need of such an artist, even though it’s against the laws imposed by her husband. And no, you will not see the twist coming!

#17: Fractured Fables, #2: A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow

This is the follow up to A Spindle Splintered; and, this time the fairy tale is “Snow White.” This is an interesting look at the numerous variants of “Snow White,” and how the “villain” in the story reacts when they–like the protagonist–are willing to do everything to change their fate. Not to mention, it’s obvious the protagonist is dealing with a “hero complex,” which is affecting her view of (our) “reality.” This is another interesting retelling of the fairy tales we thought we knew all about.

#16: The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill

I did not get to finish reading When Women Were Dragons (the author’s adult debut novel), but I did enjoy reading this author’s latest children’s book. The premise of this book centers on a once prominent town which, after a series of unfortunate events, has fallen on hardship. Around that time, a newcomer professes he alone can save the town and he is elected Mayor. Only, nothing seems to be getting done to help the town. Years later, an ogress moves in and settles into the town where she becomes a successful farmer. She believes she should share what she has because she has so much to give. Meanwhile, the town’s orphans begin to notice that the Mayor might not be who he says he is (and, he’s not). This is a sweet narrative about being neighborly and taking responsibility for what needs to be done.

#15: How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

For some strange reason this ended being the only science fiction book I read this year. And, this was an excellent book to read. This book contains a collection of stories of the events involving a worldwide pandemic caused by global warming. Each story follows a character with ties to the character from the previous story; each story focuses on how that character lives in a post-apocalyptic world. The final story in this book connects all of the stories together in a shocking revelation which gives hope to the world. This book falls in between A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World and The Last of Us.

#14: The Nsibidi Scripts, #3: Akata Woman by Nnedi Okorafor

Thanks to a Buddy Read I participated in, I was able to read the previous books in this series before the latest book was released. This series follows the adventures and the growth of the protagonist, her companions and her family as she continues to mature into the person she is meant to be alongside her growing magical talents. This book sees the series shift from Middle Grade to Young Adult as the now adolescents deal with everything that comes with getting older, including a dangerous quest to retrieve what was once stolen. I hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next book.

#13: Giving the Devil His Due: A Charity Anthology by The Pixel Project edited by Rebecca Brewer

The procedures for this anthology go to The Pixel Project so that they can use the funds to assist victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.

This anthology consists of stories in which the abuser(s) gets what’s coming to them. Each story centers on a different form of abuse and where the abuser meets their end. Similar to real life, individuals suffer abuse from anyone within their life circle; and, there are times (and stories) where the abuser is someone you least expect it to be (the reality within the fiction). While some of the methods used for revenge are “unconventional,” you are left rooting for the victim to succeed in their vengeance.

#12: Lore Olympus: Volume Two by Rachel Smythe

I should consider reading this series on WebToons, but I prefer the print editions. This webtoon turned graphic novel is a retelling of the story of Hades and Persephone. Not only does this series delve into themes (and triggers) associated with immortals, but also presents the Greek Gods in a new way while maintaining their familiarity. So far, I enjoyed Volume 2 the most (there are 3 volumes available in print), but I’m sure a future volume will replace it.

#11: Wildseed Witch, #1: Wildseed Witch by Marti Dumas

The cover of this debut Tween novel was too cute for me to pass up on reading it. The protagonist has 2 goals for her summer vacation: 1) Grow her YouTube Channel; and, 2) Get her separated parents back together. When she learns about her father’s new girlfriend, her emotions causes a bridge to malfunction. That’s when she learns she’s a witch and she’s been accepted to a summer camp to learn about her powers. The protagonist is exciting to attend what she believes will be similar to Hogwarts, only to learn that not only does she realize that it’s not, but also she’s left to learn everything by herself because she’s not from a magical family. Being a witch is not as easy as the stories make it out to be.

#10: The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

This book has the most eye-catching title of the year because after reading the title you need to know which ones“? And, once you learn which Witch and which Tsar the author is referring to, you need to quench your curiosity and to learn how this narrative is going to go. This historical fantasy is an amazing debut novel by the author, which offers a very believable “What if?” to that fantasy subgenre. I’m curious as to which Russian historical figure the author will write about next.

#9: The River of Silver: Tales from the Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty

I don’t believe I’ll ever not want to read more about Daevabad. I’m so glad the author decided to release the short stories of this world and her characters into this collection. Fans of the series received stories of events from the points-of-view of the other main characters in the series as well as the protagonists. In addition, the author included the alternate opening for The Kingdom of Copper and the alternate ending for The Empire of Gold. And, I’m glad the publisher decided not to leave this collection as an audiobook exclusive (yes, I have that edition, too because it was released before the print edition).

#8: Alchemical Journeys, #2: Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire

Middlegame is another book I often recommend to readers who want a “different reading experience.” This year, fans of the first book in the series got to read the companion novel (not quite a sequel). In the first book, separated twins learn of the other’s existence and why one has an affinity for numbers and the other has an affinity for languages. In this book, who have high school sweethearts who are unknowingly candidates for the seasons of Winter and Summer. When the last regional rulers die, they become candidates for the Crowns. But, there’s a catch: if they don’t claim the Crowns, then they will die. Not to mention, the foes from the first book are still on their conquest for control of the dual powers.

#7: Molly Southbourne, #3: The Legacy of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson

This final entry in this sci-fi thriller novella series was nonstop action from beginning to end. And, there were several revelations which brought the narrative full circle from “Molly Prime” to the surviving “Mollys.” Now that this series has ended, I hope more readers consider reading it.

#6: Wayward Children, #7: Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire

Yes, I’m cheating on my list this year, but it’s my list and Seanan McGuire had A LOT of book releases this year. This entry in Wayward Children is the one readers of the series have been waiting for since Every Heart a Doorway; readers traveled to Maine with one of the protagonists who believes she needs a “different approach” to the trauma she’s experienced. On the one hand, the opposing school is nothing like Eleanor West’s School where the students are “forced” to deny their magical experiences. On the other hand, the author reminds her readers that there are more nuances to each Traveler than those who simply want to forget about their experiences or want to return Home.

#5: A Chorus of Dragons, #5: The Discord of Gods by Jenn Lyons

The epic finale of this epic fantasy series was everything I wanted and I expected from the author and her characters. All of the protagonists and the characters have formed a plan save the world from Relos Var while they try to divert the prophecies as much as possible. With the inevitable looming over the entire world, all of the characters do everything—and I mean everything—they can to save to world and each other. But first, the characters need to go on a scavenger hunt before they all make their final sacrifice.

#4: The Night Eaters, #1: She Eats the Night by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda

As a fan of the Monstress series, I couldn’t stop myself from reading this horror graphic novel series by the same duo. In short, the premise of this series is as follows: a brother and his twin sister are managing their business during the Pandemic, when they sense an ominous force coming from the house across the street from their parents’ house. After some bizarre incidents, the twins’ parents decide that they all should investigate the house. It turns out there are more to the twins and their parents than the twins ever knew.

#3: The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson

I’ve been reading more and more horror stories, and I find myself enjoying them more over being afraid to read them. This standalone YA book is both a retelling and a tribute to Stephen King’s Carrie. The interesting thing to know about this novel is that because it’s based on a popular Stephen King book, the readers already know what happens on Prom Night. The question is, why did it happen? This retelling delves into the continued practice of racism in American Society and how the younger generation continues this harmful practice deliberately alongside bullying and school cliques. As you get closer to the tragic Prom Night, you start to wonder if anyone in that fictional town were “innocent victims.”

#2: The Shepherd King, #1: One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig

This debut novel blew me away and still has me demanding to read the sequel as soon as possible! The narrative centers on a young woman who has a monster in her head, literally. She has managed to keep this secret from her family and from the King for most of her life. However, an attempted robbery exposes her abilities to the King’s nephew who decides to use the protagonist for his cause. It turns out if all of the magic cards can be collected, then the kingdom’s curse can be lifted. The issue is each card provides the user with magic that gives them abilities, but at a cost. It turns out the protagonist knows more about the cards than she lets on, but as she learns more about the card she touched as a child the less time she has before she succumbs to the cost of her magic.

#1: Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

This short novel–yes, it’s a novel–was one of the most buzzworthy books of this year! In fact, I was convinced to read this book by other authors who couldn’t stop praising it. This narrative is a new “fairy tale,” which is presented as a dark fantasy story; and, there is a reason for the author’s direction for this narrative. The protagonist–a “spare” princess–decides to leave her life of “comfort” to save her sister from an abusive marriage–and, her parents’ kingdom from war. The princess locates her fairy godmother who gives her 3 tasks to complete so that she can gain a spell to kill a prince. It should be as easy as in the stories, right? Well, that’s when the story takes off and the protagonist learns there is more to saving princesses than magic and fairy godmothers. This is a creative and an entertaining story; especially for those who crave a new “fairy tale” without too many of the familiar tropes. If this book wins either most or all of next year’s the major Sci-Fi/Fantasy Literary Awards (i.e. Hugo, Nebula, etc.,), then I will NOT be surprised.

I am aware that my Best Speculative Fiction Books of 2022 differ from several other readers and bookbloggers. The books I did not get to read and did not get to finish reading this year are on my “Immediate TBR” for 2023. I hope I get to read those books, the 2023 releases, and as many books from my TBR as I am able to next year. So many excellent books and not enough time to read them all. I highly recommend you read the books on this list. What were some of your favorite books from 2022?

14 thoughts on “Why You Need to Read…My Selections for Best Speculative Fiction of 2022

  1. I’m trying to balance out my reading too for similar reasons, reading for work vs reading for fun.
    As for the books, I’ve been curious about Squire all year. I’ll try it if I see it at the library.

  2. You’ve always got such great lists – I’ve read a few of these but was forced to add a bunch to my TBR because you make such good suggestions and haven’t steered me wrong yet!

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