It’s common to associate summer reading with books about family beach houses on Nantucket where explosive intergenerational secrets come to light. But for some of us, it just isn’t summertime until we’ve cracked open a fat paperback with a big map in the front, a detailed guide to a fictional, magical landscape. In this latest installment of Jezebel’s series of summer reading recommendations from guest writers, Tasha Suri recommends fantasy novels that scratch that particular itch.
Suri is the author of The Jasmine Throne, the first book in a new epic fantasy trilogy that follows two women: Malini, a princess who’s been locked up in a wrecked temple by her emperor brother, and Priya, a servant with dangerous secrets. They form an uneasy alliance—that grows into more—against a backdrop of high-stakes imperial politics and resistance. Suri recommends sweeping fantasy novels drawing on a wide variety of places and magical traditions as well as, in at least one instance, “ a besuited heroine I would happily die for.”
The Councillor is the story of a scholar thrown into the role of kingmaker after the poisoning of the monarch she served. It’s gorgeously written, but it’s the queernorm world, the heroine who uses intelligence as her sword, and the vibrant supporting cast of characters—including a far-too-clever prince with a pet cobra—that really make the book shine.
Rival families use magical jade to wield power against each other… but using that jade can have serious consequences, and tensions are rising. Jade City is about family and power, belonging and addiction, and it’s seriously fun and also seriously gritty. I love the modern-ish setting, the flawed characters, and the innovative magic system, and I’m really excited that the final novel in the trilogy, Jade Legacy, will be out later this year.
A murder mystery in an alternate history Egypt with djinn and a besuited heroine I would happily die for, A Master of Djinn rips into real history with wit and creativity. It’s so, so clever but also incredibly fun. It has three prequels, but you can honestly easily read it as a standalone, just like I did. But you’re definitely going to want the prequels when you’re done!
This book is a dark, folkloric Jewish fantasy about a woman handed over by her village as a sacrifice to the woodsmen. It’s intense, unflinching but also very beautiful and tender and heartfelt. If you like your fantasy bloody and lyrical, this one is for you.
Don’t you just love a villain origin story? Malice’s heroine is Alyce, a woman with dark, distrusted powers, who falls in love with a princess under a terrible curse. I love fairytale retellings, and this spin on Sleeping Beauty is the sharp-edged, sapphic iteration I’ve always wanted.
This book never fails to bring me joy. A con artist in eighteenth-century Cairo finds herself suddenly part of a world of djinn, caught between ancient political rifts. This book is wondrous, and the start of a now complete trilogy.
A poison tester, a siege, a murder (or two, or three), and a mystery—City of Lies is a delicately wrought political fantasy that centers a cast of good people trying to do good things in a world that isn’t as perfect as they may first believe. I love this book for its nuanced characters and its very clever worldbuilding.
I don’t think Silvia Moreno-Garcia is capable of writing a book I won’t love, but this one is my current favourite. A novel where the Jazz Age meets Mayan mythology, and a young woman has to work with the god of death, Gods of Jade and Shadow is unmissable.