♦ Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by thatartsyreadergirl! ♦
Okay, so I haven’t ever participated in a book blogging meme before. But when I saw this one’s topic, I knew I wanted to do it. (Even if I only just managed to post it on Tuesday with…7 minutes to spare. Oops.)
Anyway. Y’all, I love me some hidden gems, and there’s so many out there to recommend.
For this post, I decided to narrow the scope of it for myself to fantasy, speculative fiction, and scifi novels I consider underhyped. So, here goes!
💖 The Darkangel Trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce (first book originally published 1982). This novel only has 8,400 ratings and 547 reviews on goodreads, despite being published almost 40 years ago. But man, this series is something else. The first novel starts off with an almost Bluebeard-y premise, but with vampiric angels. Very appealing to an emo 14-year-old me. What takes these novels to the next level, for me, is how Pierce uses her incredible protagonist and vivid, unique setting (I will never forget the image of sailing across a sandsea), to create a beautiful, elegiac, powerfully moving tale of growing up, discovering who you are, and finding out the small and big losses that come with that.
💖 Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow (2013). This novel has 1,140 ratings and 261 reviews on goodreads. It’s been several years since I’ve read this, but it was powerfully, deeply affecting to me at the time, with beautiful prose and a unique magic system. I actually would be curious about how I’d see it now if I reread it, because I’ve learned a lot more about Native American and Indigenous representation in the intervening years (though I’ll still be learning lifelong, of course).
💖 In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente (2006). This novel (the first in a duology) has 5,938 ratings and 782 reviews on goodreads. This is one of my favorite novels of all time. There. I said it. It’s perhaps overly-intricate, a nesting box of tales resting one inside another and connecting in strange, beautiful ways, it is absolutely mind-blowing to me. I want anyone who likes fantasy or speculative fiction to read this, honestly. It’s brutal, and tender, and the language is so poetic it could easily sound overdone, but it just…is so good.
💖 Stained Glass Monsters by Andrea K. Host (2011). This novel has 371 ratings and 52 reviews on goodreads. I gotta say, this novel may not be for everyone, but Andrea K. Host is one of those self-published authors I’ll always buy from. Her main characters have such weight and nuance to them – they’re utterly believable to me in their flaws and self-doubt. There’s a prominent romance in this, but it’s also understated. Plus, there’s a graceful (in my opinion) exploration of power dynamics and healing from societal oppression, thematically. Right up my alley.
💖 Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (2018). This novel somehow only has 3,087 ratings and 986 reviews on goodreads, which is a CRIME and I will be seeing all of you in HELL. Like, look. This book is one of my favorite novels in general, and I only just read it this February. That’s a Big Deal for me. I love this novel to an unspeakable degree – but it’s in such a personal way that it’s hard to even explain why. It’s sensitive, thoughtful, adventurous, hopeful, and ultimately, a meditation on healing. Please read it.
💖 The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (2015). This novel has 7,751 ratings and 1,393 reviews on goodreads. I read this only a month ago for Melanie’s birthday buddy read, and I’m so glad I did. I hope her blogging influence will get more readers to try this one – it’s a powerhouse of a political fantasy novel. I’ll also (hopefully) be reviewing it sometime soon, when I can muster up the words to describe this gem in a way that does it justice.
💖 Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox (2013). This novel has 674 ratings and 164 reviews on good ‘ole goodreads dot com. Knox is a New Zealand author much better known in her home country, I think, as well as for her work The Vintner’s Luck (which I still haven’t read yet, oops). I wish she was better known, though, because she can write like a demon. Her prose is some of the most resonant and vivid I’ve ever read. I also love Canny as a protagonist, though I wonder if I’d find more elements of this novel problematic if I read it now.
💖 Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi (2013). This novel has 1,111 rating and 249 reviews on goodreads. A scifi novel featuring a black lesbian engineer protagonist, a polyamorous sapphic relationship, and withering criticisms of capitalist wage stratification within the narrative, I doubt many old-guard scifi fans will enjoy this one. It’s in your face about how subversively inclusive it is, and that’s why I love it. Also, the plot was really engaging, and there’s cool space shenanigans.
💖 Sleepless, Vol. 1 by Sarah Vaughn and Leila del Duca (2018). This graphic novel volume has 330 ratings and 90 reviews on goodreads. I said in my mini-review that this is “a promising first volume with gorgeous art, complex political maneuvering, and well-realized characters.” That still holds very true, and I hope it reaches a wide audience over time. The art is gorgeous, y’all, and the love interest is a babe, imo.
💖 Jackalope Wives and Other Stories by T. Kingfisher (2017). This short story collection has 447 ratings and 74 reviews despite winning a Nebula award. I’ll be thinking about these stories and their characters (especially the hard-scrabble witches) for a long, long time. Wonderful prose – spare and harsh but beautiful, with an oral storyteller’s rhythm – and vivid imagery also made these worth a read. Underlying themes and motifs of grit, grief, nature, and magic threaded through each story masterfully. Please go read it!
So, what are your favorite hidden gems or underrated books? Do you take umbrage with any of the books I picked? Let me know what you think! 💖