TOP PICKS – March 2023
Welcome to this month’s Top Picks!
Every month, we’re going to share with you our favourite reads of the month. We’ve rounded up our contributors and asked them each to recommend just one favourite read of the month. Somehow, it’s the end of another month already!
A big thank you to Nils for coming up with this feature, and our contributors for taking part!
Nils: Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs
I had three contenders for my favourite read of the month—Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs, And Put Away Childish Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky and The Magician’s Daughter by H.G. Parry.
I’m choosing Ink Blood Sister Scribe because I was absolutely blown away by how wonderfully layered this debut by Emma Törzs is. The novel is part fantasy, part thriller and part dark academia and revolves around magical books, family secrets and blood that can create spells. It isn’t out until July (yes I was so excited to read it that I dived in super early!).
Gray: The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik
I finally had a chance to finish the Scholomance series by Naomi Novik this month, and while the third book wasn’t as line perfect as the previous two, it was still extremely satisfying, the resolution to the overarching mysteries was exactly as good as you might have hoped, and I’d recommend the series to literally everyone, if only for the incredible characterisation that has you in love with the protagonist in just a few lines.
Theo: A Second Chance for Yesterday by R. A. Sinn
I’ve not done much reading this month, but I do have a peach of a book to pick out. R.A. Sinn’s A Second Chance for Yesterday which has a very novel take on the “playing with time/revisiting your own past” theme. I do like a good meddling-with-time book (or film) and I also like Sinn’s worldbuilding of their near future (2045) setting. You might describe it as a functioning dystopia (a bit like in Ready Player One) which serves as the backdrop to the protagonist Nev’s dilemma when she finds her own personal arrow of time is travelling in reverse. She wakes up each morning, not in Tomorrow, but in Yesterday and her troubles are sadly not at all far away. As Nev travels backwards, and everyone else is travelling forwards, the plot can get a bit head twisting for character and reader alike. I’m sure the authors must have needed a spreadsheet to keep track – which would be another reason for me to love this book.
Expected publication date August 29, 2023 by Solaris
Julia: Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater
This month it wasn’t easy to choose just one favourite book… I read the fantastic Dryer Street Punk Witches by Phil Williams, which is a gritty urban fantasy and much more. Dying is my Business by Nicholas Kaufmann was another great urban fantasy, which includes gargoyles! Michael McClung’s dark and gritty, but also comical and ridiculous Evil Overlord – The Makening had me almost snorting my drink.
I’m also still reading two wonderful books, which I might not finish by the deadline for this post…
So what book is even better than those? A book that deserves 10 out of 5 stars for me? May I present Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater!
Despite some hard topics, like the conditions in working houses, it’s overall definitely a cosy comfort read. The main characters care dearly for others, and I just adored the strong friendships and loyalties between them all. The romance is the cute but straightforward one, so no annoying whining and pining.
Dora character lost half her soul to a faerie, and now normal society is a bit of a puzzle for her. Her emotions are very much stumped and she says what she thinks – which does not sit well with high society! And then there’s the rather rude and curt Lord Sorcier… Oh and how I enjoyed characters who just simply say what they mean, without all the drama from misunderstanding stuff, or simply not talking about it at all.
Would highly recommend for fans of TJ Klune or regency cosy fantasy!
Jonathan: Walking Practice by Dolki Min, translated by Victoria Caudle
Another month of many great reads, but I’m gonna have to tip my hat to Dolki Min’s gloriously bonkers Walking Practice, translated by Victoria Caudle. The charming tale of a shapeshifting alien who seduces humans so they can eat them, Walking Practice is delightful and strange, as well as being a thought provoking exploration of embodiment and being other.
Scarlett: The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan
Whoa, everyone’s reading sounds so great. It’s always hard to chose a favorite.
So, I finished Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines trilogy as my first read of the month and loved that entire trilogy (not to compare it to the show…that was just awful). Because I had to do some traveling for a week, I knew I would loose precious reading time, so I tried to keep a loose reading schedule with some manga and shorter stories, like Rowena Andrew’s novella Elior, which was just a delight. Next to some historical fiction I picked up, The Ash Garden by Dennis Bock, I finished the duology by Dana Schwartz called Immortality. I’m a sucker for stories of the early trials in surgery and medicines, combined with gothic vibes, and it was pleasant and also really light.
I ended my reading month with two possible contenders, the sci-fi novel The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz and the epic fantasy by Richard Swan, The Justice of Kings. The latter is the one I’d crown my favorite for March simply for the nature of the story. It’s richly textured, evenly paced and filled with intriguing characters. The feared Justice from the order of Justices, Konrad Vonvalt and his orphan protege/clerk Helena Sedenka are on the mission to solve a murder/conspiracy that stretches to the Imperial society and will challenge the judges beliefs on a personal level with the dilemma to make a choice: abandon the law to protect the empire or let the consequences pan out. The Justice of Kings was the perfect novel to get immersed in. I enjoyed it a lot.
Dorian: The Bone Ship’s Wake by RJ Barker
Tough choices this month! I’m going to go with The Bone Ship’s Wake by R.J.Barker. This finishes the Bone Ships trilogy with all the nautical adventures, brilliant characters, and unparalleled world-building I’ve come to expect after the first two books. If you’re looking for a series that is a master-class of marrying language to setting and culture, this is it. Honorable mentions to Gareth L. Powell’s space opera Embers of War and Alix E. Harrow’s fractured-fairytale novella A Mirror Mended, both of which are fantastic.
Beth: Games for Dead Girls by Jen Williams
Some fantastic-sounding reads this month! Like Scarlett, I also loved Justice of Kings, that was a great shout. I ended up reading quite a lot this month (for me) and quite a varied bunch; I’m making my way through the Shardlake historical crime series, I read the non-fiction autobiography of Lemn Sissay for book club, and a dash of xianxia with Judy I. Lin’s A Venom Dark and Sweet.
But far and away my top read of the month was Jen Williams’ folk horror crime thriller Games for Dead Girls. I always say those two genres are generally my least favourite, horror especially as I don’t like being creeped out anymore. But in this instance, Williams’ outstanding writing made it worth the creepy elements to this page-burning crime mystery. Is there anything she can’t turn her hand to?
What was your favourite read of the month? Share with us in the comments!