In the gray fog of an uncertain year, these books stand out with their vibrant colors and strong feel. They are only organized in the order I read them.
Elizabeth Knox (Viking, 640 pages, $28)
There are so many expansive, sprawling, kaleidoscopic wonders between its covers that the Book of Absolutes may itself be an object of fantasy. Beginning with domestic realism, explore Taryn Cornick’s grief over the sudden loss of her sister, spiraling into thriller territory before falling into epic fantasy. The novel lives up to its name by spanning the geographic regions of Canada, the UK and New Zealand and the cosmology of fairies, demons and angels.
By E. Lily Yu (Erewhon, 288 pages, $25.95)
Witness the colossal and devastating work, stunning and perfect. Firuzeh and Nour, siblings who fled Afghanistan for Australia, endured dangers across borders and oceans, protected only by parental love and folklore. But when those stories died in the ordeal of the Nauru regional processing center, the ghost of a drowning girl became Firuzeh’s closest companion, for better or worse.
By Karin Tidbeck (Pantheon, 240 pages, $25.95)
A slender, extraordinary book, like a murder ballad tucked into a clock. Brothers and sisters by choice and circumstance, Dora and Thistle are trapped in a brutal and brutal wonderland where immortal creatures torture stolen children for play. But when the antique watch enters their hidden woods, twisting the fairy tale world over time, the children seize the opportunity to escape into even stranger stories.
Kathy McQuiston (St. Martin’s Griffin, 400 pages, paper, $16)
A magnificent love song calling out to queer blood to find family, Brooklyn and a man in his early 20s. August Landry is an angry, cynical loner raised in New Orleans by a bereaved mother who trusts no one and keeps to himself. She moves to New York for college, but just as she’s figuring out the city’s rhythm, she meets Jane Su: gorgeous, badass, amnesiac – stuck on the Q train since 1976.
By Rivers Solomon (MCD/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 355 pp., $27)
Solomon’s most powerful work to date. Fern, a pregnant black teen, escapes the secret compound of the cult she grew up with and gives birth to twins in the woods. Thriving there despite the presence of a menacing presence she calls a “demon,” Fern realizes something else is growing inside her, disrupting its rhythm and forcing her to take her children on a long journey And difficult journey to find support. Like its heroine, “Land of Sorrows” refuses to comfort half-truths in favor of angry integrity.
By Angela Mi Young Hur (Erewhon, 408 pages, $26.95)
Dr. Elsa Park has been told for years that the women of her family are trapped in a tragic Korean folktale mode in which girls are stolen, sacrificed, haunted or haunted. As an adult, Elsa chose science over superstition – but while researching neutrinos in Antarctica, she succumbed to an ancient hallucination of bells and saw a lovely woman on ice with a red ribbon in her hair . Elsa, now haunted herself, struggles to find a way to get in — and more importantly, out — of her family’s story.
By Marissa Levien (Redhook, 402 pages, $28)
An astonishing, action-packed miracle on a Swiss-sized ship of a doomed generation. There’s a crack in the hull that’s growing beyond repair, and it’s been kept secret; Myrra Dal, an indentured nanny, finds it out when her employer kills herself and does the only thing that matters to her: she runs with the baby .
Lincoln Mitchell (Orbit, 356 pages, $27)
Timeless and original, a fusion of noir, cyberpunk and sports. While set in a troubling near future with extreme climate change and runaway medical debt due to the gene therapy and cybernetic enhancements needed for life, “Body Scout” is mostly about baseball, family, and doing it right thing, even if it hurts (or is at risk of retracting your body part).
By Cadwell Turnbull (Blackstone, 387 pages, $26.99)
Intimate and intricate, charismatic monsters and the dueling secret societies to which they belong. A pack of werewolves transforms in front of the camera, prompting hidden forces to unite for or against a supernatural world of gods and monsters that is exposed to the public. Mysterious narrative, fascinating.
By Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tordotcom, 201 pages, paper, $14.99)
Lynesse is the Queen’s fourth daughter: a little royal with no goals or prospects, living in a world full of magic, demons and witchcraft. Nyr is a scientist from another planet, isolated and part of an abandoned anthropological investigation that went wrong hundreds of years ago. Together they will fight crime. It was a treat from start to finish, beautifully written and perfectly paced.