5 New Fantasy Novels Revitalizing Old Metaphors

Megan Collins Sullivan/NPR

The fantasy genre is known for its standard motifs—magical elements drawn from lore and history that pop up again and again whenever such tales are told.

Books of magic, dragons, mermaids, fairies, and magical circuses breathe new life into the pages of these five enchanting tales that hit shelves in May and June.

Inkblood Sister Writer by Emma Tours

You could tell that sisters Joanna and Esther are estranged. They grew up together, hidden away with their family’s collection of magical books. Each book is a spell written in blood. Now Joanna tends to the group alone and isolated. Esther ran away years ago when she discovered she was endangering her family with her presence. Tired of living on the run, she decides to risk it all and stay on the Antarctic Station where she has spent the last year and is finally starting to put down roots. But almost immediately, the magic catches up to her, endangering her, Joanna, and her family books. They soon realize that the spells that control their lives go back further and have more complex origins than they could have imagined.

Confident, compassionate, and incredibly interesting, Sister Ink Blood Writer He grabbed me with his first pages and put me completely under his spell – though not written in blood. Elements of many different genres intertwine to form the cleverly paced narrative as we move from an Antarctic station thriller to a murder mystery in New England to the intrigues of Europe’s magical elite secret society. The characters are all delightfully warm in their quirky, though traumatized and exhausting ways, and the plot twists and turns meanders along with just the right amount of twists and revelations. Sister Ink Blood Writer It stands out as a stellar and innovative debut novel.

Formation of Dragon’s Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose

Anekus grew up on Masquapaug Island with her family, and was going to be there forever. But when a dragon hatches among her people for the first time in recent memory, he chooses her to commune with. I soon discovered that the English settlers who colonized the lands around Masquapaug had rules about who could own dragons and how they should be trained to forge dragon breath and hone its power. With her society and her dragons under threat, she has no choice but to enroll in an Anglish school for dragon riders on the mainland. But it soon becomes clear that there are many people out there who want Anekus to fail, and she realizes that shaping her dragon’s breath and sense of self based on English values ​​could destroy everything she cares about.

Magic schools have always been a staple of the fantasy genre, but these days, I find it hard to read a boarding school setting without looking at the colonial undertones inherent in such establishments, even when they’re fictional. To form Dragon Breath Interrupts the right to chase and on This, displaying a stinging rejection of the idea that there is only one right way for a person to be taught. The idea that a creature like a dragon is also something that can be colonized, and that there is power in honoring Aboriginal ways of preserving knowledge and working in harmony with the forces of nature rather than seeking to control them, is a fascinating approach that brings something real current to the genre. To form Dragon Breath It’s also a very entertaining and enjoyable read, full of likable characters and intricately original world building. I tore it up, caught up in a dragon fervor I hadn’t experienced since I was an Ursula K-obsessed teen. I can only hope that there are more stories set in this captivating new world.

Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khao

In this story, a king takes a mermaid as a wife and their children are born with great hunger. A mermaid leaves the ruined kingdom of her ex-husband and travels the land with a strange but kind plague doctor, in search of a new story–but one that may be even scarier than the one they left behind.

This slip-up of the novel sounds more like a poem or fireside sermon recited by an ancient poet than it does traditional fantasy or horror novels. It’s bloody and weird, full of severed body parts and the kind of people consuming them. But she is also beautiful in her darkness. Much like mermaids – before they turn into sweet, smooth-haired manatee sirens – they have teeth. Readers in the mood for a taste of a little silver-tongued nightmare they’ll sink happily into its depths.

Deadly Follies by Alexis Hall

This sinister historical romance with a supernatural twist has only been seen by that shrewd and inventive imp called Robin Goodfellow, the imaginary king’s servant. Or rather, a former servant. Out of luck, the narrator is forced to live as a mortal and (ugh) makes a living telling tales…

In an England full of small but powerful gods and spirits around every corner, Miss Mitchelmore finds herself under the power of a curse that seeks to destroy her. Her gown is falling to pieces around her, and swarms of bees are chasing her down dangerous streams—apparently someone is wishing her great misfortune, or even a fatal one. Could it be the mysterious Lady Georgiana, whom everyone calls the Duke of Anadel, who was seen to (allegedly) kill her father and brothers by magical means in order to take possession of their property? If the Duke is the cause of Miss Mitchelmore’s misfortunes, surely she must not be drawn to the impossibly prickly woman! But if there was another source of the curse, the Duke might be the only one who could help her break free from it.

Alexis Hall can always be counted on to deliver a sweet and compelling historical romance that explores the paths queer people forged to find love in the past. Deadly follies It certainly fits with this brief, though it deviates slightly from the framework of the traditional romance, relying on the observations of a third-party narrator to tell how the characters feel rather than delve directly into their thoughts. And though this conceit keeps both Miss Mitchelmore and the Duke at a slightly further distance from the reader, Robin Goodfellow’s funny sides grumble more than make up for it. Also of note are the minor characters, who are so compelling that I wish Hall intended to give several of them follow-up books of their own—especially Miss Mitchelmore’s best friend, Miss Bickle, who really deserves some romantic adventures of her own. in the meantime, Deadly follies more than satisfies.

First Thing Bright by JR Dawson

When Windy Van Hooten’s Circus Fantasticals rolls into town, it’s always a target. The Department, led by the Ringmaster, can see into the future and even travel back and forth through time using powers called Sparks, which manifested in a select few in the aftermath of the Great War. Everyone in the circus is a spark, and by performing for the right people on the right nights, they hope to set the world on a path to a better future. Because the Ringmaster knows another war is coming, one way or another worse than the one that was supposed to end all wars. She also knows that another Circus Spark is on their heels – one led by a man who once sought to control her with his power.

Over the years, magic circus books have become a staple of the fantasy genre, and it can be hard for a new example to really set itself apart. The first thing is bright The use of time travel and the characters’ dedication to shaping the future they hope for is where it shines. Themes of family, faith, weirdness, and free will intertwine in and out of timelines along with the Ringmaster and her crew. The circus itself serves, as it often does, as a symbol of where the impossible becomes reality–and the power of it is why stories about the circus will continue to enchant readers for years to come.

Caitlin Paxson is a writer and performer. She is a regular reviewer for NPR Books and Feather and Quill.

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