The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Fantasy

The Bright & the Pale by Jessica Rubinkowski

Valeria may have not been trapped by the mystical freeze that stole her family and village away but she never really escaped. She realizes this is true when she’s blackmailed into returning with her best friend she thought she’d lost the year before. In order to earn his freedom and her own, she must go back to the cursed village and hope to survive once more. This story was fantastic! Twisty and terrifying, I tore through it at a ridiculously fast pace. I can’t wait for the next installment!

The Bright & the Pale by Jessica Rubinkowski (List Price: $17.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780062871503, 3/2/2021)

Reviewed by Katlin Kerrison, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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Tales from the Hinterland by Melissa Albert

Albert’s fairytales are filled with the dark beauty and decay of withering roses and fog-filled forests. Many of them are nightmare-inducing but all of them are too enthralling to put down and I wondered if Albert may have bespelled me herself; her prose is that good. Tales from the Hinterland is for girls too covered in thorns for a traditional tale and for all who dream of a dark starless sky.

Tales from the Hinterland by Melissa Albert (List Price: $19.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250302724, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Sami Thomason, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

Ash is a typical white All-American football-playing teen. Then he gets tackled into another dimension, and has to confront issues he’s never directly faced before. From homophobia to racism, sexism to privilege, Ash gets a crash course on every hard-hitting issue we face today. This is an important and timeless tale about perceiving a world beyond your own.

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman (List Price: $17.95, Quill Tree Books, 9780061998676, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

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Root Magic by Eden Royce

Root Magic is an own-voices magical realism story about two Gullah Geechee twins, Jezebel and Jay, who start to learn rootwork from their uncle after their grandmother’s passing in 1963. A perfect blend of historical fiction, supernatural fantasy, and a classic story of family and friendship, ROOT MAGIC will capture readers, teleporting them to the mysterious marsh inhabited by supernatural beings. Scarier than hags, though, is a local white police officer who has taken to threatening the Turner family. Luckily, Jezebel’s growing affinity for rootwork may save the day. This magical book is sure to be one of my favorites for young readers!

Root Magic by Eden Royce (List Price: $16.99, Walden Pond Press, 9780062899576, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston

Poston delivers a unique new fantasy world in Among the Beasts & Briars, and I am here for it! Aloriya has been safe and prosperous for hundreds of years, kept safe by the crown worn by their ruler. But when the king dies and his daughter isn’t crowned for a few days as she mourns, their world is put into peril. Cerys, the gardener’s daughter and best friend to the princess, is cursed from the forbidden wood that borders Aloriya, and it’s up to her to save them all.

Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston (List Price: $17.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062847362, 10/20/2020)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Roswell, Georgia

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Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston

I absolutely adore this clever, cozy, flower-dotted novel that manages to be gentle and whimsical and yet serve up scenes of truly spine-tingling eldritch horror. Written in the vein of Diana Wynne Jones and featuring the absolute Very Best Fox of young adult literature, this is a story that spans the gap between middle grade and adult fantasy readers. I would recommend this to fans of The Girl Who Drank the Moon and An Enchantment of Ravens equally, and I cannot wait to read more Ashley Poston.

Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston (List Price: $17.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062847362, 10/20/2020)

Reviewed by Cristina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida

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Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

This is the perfect book to curl up with a blanket and a warm drink! Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful story and setting is the epitome of cozy. Each character feels so real, with universal problems surrounding love, family, and growing older. The magic of time travel, and the magic of getting to say what they really feel, makes this a soul-satisfying story. The desire to make things right with our loved ones is a universal impulse. Everything about Before the Coffee Gets Cold is fun and true.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (List price: $19.99, Hanover Square Press, 9781335430991, November 2020).

Reviewed by Karyn Cumming, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

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When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo

This is an impressive sophomore novella that breathes new life into campfire stories and oral history. In a mystical world of tiger shifters and deadly mammoths, one cleric must bargain for their life with a folk tale. When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain is a story of cultural exchange and a question of who pens history. It’s powerful, compelling, and downright enchanting.

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo (List price: $15.99, Tordotcom, 9781250786135, December 2020), recommended by Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL.

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Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

This is the start of a brilliant new middle grade fantasy series. Move over, Harry Potter. It’s time for some #blackgirlmagic. This was a super fun read but also touches on racism and class issues with a deft hand. Can’t wait for the next one!

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston (List Price: $1.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062975164, January, 2021).

Reviewed by Melissa Taylor, E. Shaver, bookseller in Savannah, GA

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Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Tordotcom | 9781250767028
October 13, 2020

Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns with Ring Shout, a dark fantasy historical novella that gives a supernatural twist to the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror

IN AMERICA, DEMONS WEAR WHITE HOODS.

In 1915, The Birth of a Nation cast a spell across America, swelling the Klan’s ranks and drinking deep from the darkest thoughts of white folk. All across the nation they ride, spreading fear and violence among the vulnerable. They plan to bring Hell to Earth. But even Ku Kluxes can die.

Standing in their way is Maryse Boudreaux and her fellow resistance fighters, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter. Armed with blade, bullet, and bomb, they hunt their hunters and send the Klan’s demons straight to Hell. But something awful’s brewing in Macon, and the war on Hell is about to heat up.

Can Maryse stop the Klan before it ends the world?

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Eventide by Sarah Goodman

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Tor Teen | 9781250224736
October 6, 2020

An evocative YA historical fantasy thriller by debut author Sarah Goodman, for fans of Jennifer Donnelly and Libba Bray

MADNESS, SECRETS, AND LIES

Wheeler, Arkansas, 1907

When their father descends into madness after the death of their mother, Verity Pruitt and her little sister Lilah find themselves on an orphan train to rural Arkansas.

In Wheeler, eleven-year-old Lilah is quickly adopted, but seventeen-year-old Verity is not. Desperate to stay close to her sister, Verity indentures herself as a farmhand. But even charming farm boy Abel Atchley can’t completely distract her from the sense that something is not quite right in this little town. Strange local superstitions abound, especially about the eerie old well at the center of the forest. The woods play tricks, unleashing heavy fog and bone-chilling cold…and sometimes visions of things that aren’t there.

But for Verity, perhaps most unsettling of all is the revelation that her own parents have a scandalous history in this very town. And as she tries to unearth the past, sinister secrets come with it—secrets that someone will go to violent lengths to protect…

A haunting tale of long-buried secrets, small-town scandal, and single-minded vengeance by talented debut novelist Sarah Goodman.

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Soulswift by Megan Bannen

This beautifully bittersweet stand alone asks “what would you do if your entire reason for being was built on lies? Your religion, your existence, all of it. Well. Most of it.” Our two main characters follow a terribly sad path where they find their own bits of hope, all leading to an, as I said, bittersweet ending. I thoroughly enjoyed the world building within this book, and would not be disappointed if Megan returned at any point later, following other characters.

Soulswift by Megan Bannen (List Price: $17.99, Balzer + Bray, 11/17/2020)
Recommended by Caitlyn Vanorder, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Once Upon a Unicorn by Lou Anders

If you live near the Glistening Isles and/or Whisperwood then you know that just about any challenge you encounter might involve creatures whose names reflect their true dispositions, or at least what they let you see. This includes a Night Mare named Midnight and a Unicorn named Curious. You will also recognize that unicorns are becoming scarce, as they are hunted for the medicinal properties in their horns. The biggest threat to the unicorns, as well to other magical creatures and all living creatures, really, was that humans either no longer believed or just did not care. Eventually, something was bound to happen…

Once Upon a Unicorn by Lou Anders (List Price $16.99, Crown Books for Young Readers), recommended by Square Books, Oxford MS.

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Ashlords by Scott Reintgen

Nyxia author Scott Reintgen does a topnotch job of world creation in Ashlords. In joining alchemy and apocalypse, he paints a portrait of a forbidding society where chemical magic may be the way to survival.

If you loved The Hunger Games, you’ll thrill to the nail-biting tension of the races in Ashlords.

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen (List price: $17.99, Crown Books for Young Readers), recommended by Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

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Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings

A beautifully dark and lush novella about family and the secrets we keep. Set in rural (and slightly fantastical) Queensland, Flyaway is evocatively written, full of razor sharp edges and lonely, dusty roads. Jenning’s writing has a unique lyrical rhythm to it that immediately grabbed me and her gorgeous hand-cut illustrations that accompany every chapter sealed the deal. An entrancing and unforgettable debut.

Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings (List price: $19.99, TOR), recommended by Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC.

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The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Our differences should never be hidden as a means of conformity, but fully embraced for their powerful ability to make us unique individuals. It’s a simple sentiment, if not a tired one, but TJ Klune has a magical power that allows him to breathe new, exhilarating life into that simplicity. With The House in the Cerulean Sea, he has skillfully crafted a contemporary fable filled with humor, wit, overwhelming delight, and some of the most colorfully drawn characters I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting in a book. Positively queer and heartfelt, you’ll find that TJ Klune is a brilliant writer and a masterful storyteller.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (List price: $18.99, Tor Books), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC.

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