I've seen this book summed up as "Harry Potter, if written by Leo Tolstoy" and y'all, I am so here for it. The Institute is no Hogwarts. On Sacco and Vanzetti Street, the mundanities of college life mix with flashes of deep undercurrents of magic -- presented as a fascinating and miserable combination of metaphysics, mania, and delusion -- in a way that borders on psychological horror. Fans of Russian literature, dark fantasy, and people who are really into that nagging feeling that there's a bunch of symbolism going right over their head (me, I'm talking about me) will find much to sink their teeth into here.
At the center of the tale is a drowned child, pulled from the river's icy waters and pronounced dead, until she miraculously awakens. It's the late 19th century, and the girl won't speak, so it's left to the full cast of fascinating characters -- from the scientifically-minded local nurse, to a couple grieving the disappearance of their own young daughter, to the River Thames itself -- to make sense of who she is and how she survived, through religion, folklore, and emerging science. You'll want to clear your schedule, curl up with a blanket and a cup of tea, and fully enjoy this quiet, thoughtful journey.
The deadpan, misandrist thriller of my dreams. Set in Nigeria, this debut novel moves at a breakneck clip as it explores the rivalry and bond of two sisters -- Ayoola (who keeps murdering her boyfriends) and Korede (who keeps cleaning up the bodies) -- and their distinct ways of navigating a deeply patriarchal society with a shared history of abuse at the hands of men.
"Severance" by Ling Ma is a dark, deeply unnerving horror-satire with strong anti-capitalist currents. Set in present-day New York City, Candace Chen -- a millennial working for a Bible production company -- reflects on her past and present as Shen Fever devastates the city & the world beyond, turning the "fevered" into walking corpses doomed to endlessly cycle through their repetitive, menial tasks and lives until they rot. If you love Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam Trilogy and feeling ALL the stomach churning feels, this book is for YOU.
The Broken Earth trilogy is set on an alternate earth called the "Stillness," where society is structured around surviving catastrophic climate events -- earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes -- and a deep hatred for Orogenes, individuals with the supernatural ability to control and manipulate geo-energy. I cannot overstate how fucking magical it is to read epic fantasy, written by a Black woman, with queer and trans characters, and profoundly informed by racial injustice and climate change.