This June, we wanted to talk about a different sort of beach read. We read Black Water Sister, by Zen Cho. The story follows Jess, recent Harvard graduate and closeted lesbian, as she moves with her parents back to Malaysia to be with her mother’s family. Almost immediately, Jess begins hearing the disembodied voice of her deceased grandmother, Ah Ma. With a little push, Ah Ma convinced Jess to be her eyes, ears, and body as she attempts to defeat the corrupt corporation threatening to tear down a sacred temple. A tale full of ghosts, gods, and mobsters, Black Water Sister is the perfect read to kick-start your summer. As an avid reader and lover of science fiction and fantasy, I want to take this opportunity to talk about some of my favorite Asian sci-fi/fantasy authors, as well as suggest some newer titles that DRBC is very excited about.
Before I talk about anything else, I want to gush about two authors who shaped me into the reader I am today. First, Marie Lu is an incredible young adult science fiction author; her first series, Legend, was released in the height of the Hunger Games craze, drawing in a bunch of geeky kids like me. Legend follows Day, an Asian American teen fallen behind in a dystopian world where a plague has broken out and kids are going missing after failing government testing. Lu’s books are fast-paced with a cast of compelling characters; I absolutely cannot recommend them enough. Her most recent release, Skyhunter, is the first in a mind-bending duology. I always say that you can never go wrong with a Marie Lu book.
Next, I have to give all of my love to Tahereh Mafi. Mafi’s first series, Shatter Me, is the blueprint for teen dystopian fantasy: kids with superpowers, a love triangle, and an annoying, self-insert main character whose emotional, physical, and mental growth is one of the main themes throughout the series. Shatter Me opens on Juliette, a girl imprisoned for her powers; Juliette’s touch causes immense pain to others--and in some cases, death. She is pulled from her prison and placed in the care of a young, brooding official and his kind-hearted guard while they research her power and attempt to weaponize it. The Shatter Me series is cheesy, goofy, and it has all of the tropes under the sun (Tahereh is really big on hurt/comfort). Mafi is one of those authors for me that, no matter what she writes, I’ll read anything she publishes. She also has a middle grade series, Furthermore, that is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland complete with Persian influences, and she has two contemporary teen novels that are semi-autobiographical, about her experiences as a Muslim teenager in the years following 9/11. Mafi doesn’t shy away from punching you right in the gut; her stories are so beautifully written that you can’t help but go back for more.
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo is a Great Gatsby retelling with several twists. Not only is Jordan Baker, our main character, adopted, she’s also Asian, queer, disabled, and magical. This story follows Jordan as she attempts to claim her place amongst the white socialites of the 1920s while also establishing her own identity amongst the chaos of the Jazz Age. Nghi Vo’s debut novel is great for lovers of classics, retellings, and coming-of-age stories.
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan is one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. Described as Mulan meets Song of Achilles, this story follows a girl destined for nothingness but determined to survive in the chaotic landscape of medieval China’s Ming Dynasty. When the second daughter of the Zhu family is orphaned, she takes on her brother’s identity and begins to study at a monastery. In another turn of events, the monastery is burned by supporters of the Mongol rule, and she must learn how to use her cover to fight for greatness and justice. She Who Became the Sun is out July 20th, 2021.
The Poppy War is the first in an epic fantasy trilogy by R F Kuang. This story addresses racism, sexism, and classism through the lens of an orphaned girl who no one thought could make it as a soldier--until she passed the test and was accepted into the elite military training school. She discovers that she can harness the powers of shamanism to aid her country and her people in the time before the inevitable Third Poppy War.
Another anticipated read of mine is The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri. The Jasmine Throne tells the story of Malini, a princess betrayed and imprisoned by her brother, and Priya, a priestess hiding among the ranks of the servants in the royal household. The two women must work together to help each other and alter the future of the empire. This sapphic tale rooted in the history and epics of India is sure to please high fantasy fans everywhere.
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong is a wild ride of a story set in 1920s Shanghai. A loose retelling of Romeo and Juliet, this book follows Juliette and Roma, the heirs of rival high-powered gangs, as they have to work together to sniff out the monsters in the shadows. At only 22 years old, Chloe Gong is one of the youngest and most impressive published authors in the YA market today.
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal is one of the greatest YA high fantasy novels I’ve ever read. Excellent world-building, gut-punch plot, and compelling characters, all to tell the converging stories of Zafira and Nasir. Zafira disguises herself as a man and assumes the role of the mysterious figure known only as “the Hunter,” to protect and feed her village. Nasir is the crown prince, forced to keep up his brutal appearance and do his father’s dirty work. When Zafira is sent as the Hunter to retrieve a magic artifact, and Nasir is sent to kill the Hunter and steal the artifact, the complicated case of mistaken identity unravels decades of dark magic and corruption within the caliphate. It’s up to Zafira, Nasir, and their gang of misfits to restore the kingdom to its former glory. Based on Arabian folklore and history, We Hunt the Flame is the first in a complete duology that is sure to capture your heart.
The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He is described as “We Were Liars meets Black Mirror, with a dash of Studio Ghibli.” Sisters Cee and Kay are seperated: one is trapped on a deserted island, the other living life as usual in her eco-city. Kay knows her sister has been gone for three months, taking off with only a small boat to leave the city; Cee, on the other hand, has been stranded for three years. When Kay decides to trace Cee’s path and find her sister, things get complicated and buried secrets start to surface.
Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta is another one of my anticipated titles of 2021. In a futuristic world where war is rampant and the most detrimental weapons are giant walking atrocities known as Windups, Eris (our main character) works as a Gearbreaker, a rebel group known for destroying Windups piece by piece. When Eris gets caught and imprisoned by the enemy, she meets Sona, who is double crossing the warlords she pilots for, in order to sabotage the Windups that she pilots. Eris and Sona grow closer, and must work together to take down their oppressors and regain control of their fate. Gearbreakers hits shelves June 29th, 2021.
Thank you so much for visiting the Dandy Roll Book Club blog today. I hope you are having a wonderful summer. Happy reading!