Mary Sue Book Club June 2022: Necromancy & Other Magic

This month’s edition of The Mary Sue Book Club features a murder mystery set in a library, a coming-of-age story about body hair, and a lot of science fiction and fantasy (including one graphic novel). Each of these SFF stories doesn’t just differ in style and tone but offers readers a variety of settings, from the streets of New Orleans to new mythos inspired by Arab and African cultures. Like almost every entry, there are several stories that feature queer characters and arcs, because we don’t just wait until PRIDE month to celebrate the books by and about the various experiences of the LGBTQ+ community.

That being said … HAPPY PRIDE Y’ALL!

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill -Image: Poisoned Pen Press.
(Poisoned Pen Press)

Ned Kelly award winning author, Sulari Gentill sets this mystery-within-a-mystery in motion with a deceptively simple, Dear Hannah, What are you writing? pulling us into the ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library.

But fair reader, in every person’s story, there is something to hide…

The tranquility is shattered by a woman’s terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who’d happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning–it just happens that one is a murderer.

The Woman in the Library releases June 7.

TJ Powar Has Something to Prove by Jesmeen Kaur Deo.  Image: Viking Books for Young Readers.
(Viking Books for Young Readers)

When TJ Powar—a pretty, popular debate—and her cousin Simran become the subject of a meme: with TJ being the “expectation” of dating an Indian girl and her Sikh cousin who does not remove her body hair being the “reality”— TJ decides to take the stand.

She ditches her razors, cancels her waxing appointments, and sets a debate resolution for herself: “This House Believes That TJ Powar can be her hairy self, and still be beautiful.” Only, as she sets about proving her dela point, she starts to seriously doubt anyone could care about her just the way she is–even when the infuriating boy from a rival debate team seems determined to prove otherwise.

As her carefully crafted sense of self begins to crumble, TJ realizes that winning this debate may cost her far more than the space between her eyebrows. And that the hardest judge to convince of her arguments might just be herself.

TJ Powar Has Something to Prove releases on June 7.

lapvone by Ottessa Moshfegh

Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh.  Image: Penguin Press
(Penguin Press)

Little Marek, the abused and delusional son of the village shepherd, never knew his mother; his father dela told him she died in childbirth. One of life’s few consolations for Marek is his enduring bond with the blind village midwife, Ina, who suckled him when he was a baby, as she did so many of the village’s children. Ina’s gifts from her extends beyond childcare: she possesses a unique ability to communicate with the natural world. Her gift dela often brings her the transmission of sacred knowledge on levels far beyond those available to other villagers, however religious they might be.

For some people, Ina’s home in the woods outside of the village is a place to fear and to avoid, a godless place.

Among their number is Father Barnabas, the town priest and lackey for the depraved lord and governor, Villiam, whose hilltop manor contains a secret embarrassment of riches. The people’s desperate need to believe that there are powers that be who have their best interests at heart is put to a cruel test by Villam and the priest, especially in this year of record drought and famine. But when fate brings Marek into violent proximity to the lord’s family, new and occult forces upset the old order. By year’s end, the veil between blindness and sight, life and death, the natural world and the spirit world, will prove to be very thin indeed.

lapvone releases June 21.

The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi.  Image: Del Rey Books
(Del Ray)

Red is the blood of the elite, of magic, of control.
Blue is the blood of the poor, of workers, of the resistance.
Clear is the blood of the slaves, of the crushed, of the invisible.

Sylah dreams of days growing up in the resistance, being told she would spark a revolution that would free the empire from the red-blooded ruling classes’ tyranny. That spark was extinguished the day she watched her family murdered before her eyes. Anoor has been told she’s nothing, no one, a disappointment, by the only person who matters: her mother, the most powerful ruler in the empire. But when Sylah and Anoor meet, a fire burns between them that could consume the kingdom–and their hearts.

Hassa moves through the world unseen by upper classes, so she knows what it means to be invisible. But invisibility has its uses: It can hide the most dangerous of secrets, secrets that can reignite a revolution. And when she joins forces with Sylah and Anoor, together these grains of sand will become a storm. As the empire begins a set of trials of combat and skill designed to find its new leaders, the stage is set for blood to flow, power to shift, and cities to burn.

The Final Strife releases on June 21.

The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings.  Image: Redhook.

Nola is a city full of wonders. A place of sky trolleys and dead cabs, where haints dance the night away and Wise Women help keep the order. To those from Away, Nola might seem strange. To Perilous Graves, it’s simply home.

In a world of everyday miracles, Perry might not have a talent for magic, but he does know Nola’s rhythm as intimately as his own heartbeat. So when the city’s Great Magician starts appearing in odd places and essential songs are forgotten, Perry realizes trouble is afoot.

Nine songs of power have escaped from the piano that maintains the city’s beat, and without them, Nola will fail. Unwilling to watch his home dela be destroyed, Perry will sacrifice everything to save it. But a storm is brewing, and the Haint of All Haints is awake. Nola’s time might be coming to an end.

The Ballad of Perilous Graves releases on June 21.

M Is for Monster by Talia Dutton.  Image: Abrams Comics – Surely.
(Abrams Comics – Surely)

When Doctor Frances Ai’s younger sister Maura died in a tragic accident six months ago, Frances swore she would bring her back to life. However, the creature that rises from the slab is clearly not Maura.

This girl, who chooses the name “M,” doesn’t remember anything about Maura’s life and just wants to be her own person. However, Frances expects M to pursue the same path that Maura had been on–applying to college to become a scientist–and continue the plans she and Maura shared. Hoping to trigger Maura’s memories of her, Frances surrounds M with the trappings of Maura’s past dela, but M wants nothing to do with Frances ‘attempts of her to change her into something she’s not.

In order to face the future, both Frances and M need to learn to listen and let go of Maura once and for all. Talia Dutton’s debut graphic novel, M Is for Monstertakes a hard look at what it means to live up to other people’s expectations–as well as our own.

M is for Monster releases June 28.

(featured image: Viking Books for Young Readers, Penguin Press, and Orbit/Redhook.)

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