I’m a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy novels, and I’m always looking for new titles to read. These are three of the standout books I read this summer.
Between physical books and audiobooks, I read/listen a lot. I’m always absorbing fictional stories. Though I don’t limit myself to science fiction and fantasy, I tend to read many novels in those genres. This summer, I read a bunch of books, and I want to highlight the three that surprised me and why I enjoyed them.
Science Fiction & Fantasy Recommendation #1: Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
I’ve written about my love of Brandon Sanderson’s writing on this site before. He is one of my favorite authors, and I discovered another one of his hidden gems in the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown. I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy this book as much as I did.
Skyward, published in 2018, is a YA science fiction novel that is best described as Top Gun in space. The story follows a young woman named Spensa (callsign Spin) on the planet Detritus, who wants nothing more than to fly for the Defiant Defense Force. But she struggles because her father, who was a great pilot himself, turned coward and was killed during a fierce battle when she was young. The Force deems Spensa the daughter of a coward. But she is determined not only to fly but escape her father’s shadow and tainted name.
I immensely enjoyed this novel and its sequel, Starsight. I eagerly await the next book in the series. The fast-paced flying and the politics of the flight school are fascinating. And as always, Sanderson employs the fantastic world-building and character development that his readers expect. It’s geared toward a younger audience, but it is enjoyable for all ages.
Science Fiction & Fantasy Recommendation #2: Scythe by Neal Shusterman
I will be honest; I picked up this book because I thought the cover was neat, and it sounded interesting. I was stuck at home with nothing to do, so I figured I would give it a try. I’m so glad I did. I read Scythe, and the two subsequent books in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, Thunderhead, and The Toll, in quick succession.
Scythe, published in 2016, takes place in a strange, dystopian, far future where there is no war, no crime, and no death. Everyone can live forever by resetting their age when they get too old. And, if they die, they’re brought back to life. There is one exception to the immortality, the Scythes. Scythes are the only people in the world who are allowed to kill permanently, and they are required to execute people to keep the population down. This story is about two teenagers, Citra and Rowan, who, against their will, become a Scythe’s apprentices. They learn the ins and outs of killing according to the Scythe rules, and why it needs to happen.
Neal Shusterman crafted a unique world and characters. I loved this whole trilogy and the world it takes place in. The Scythes are fascinating, and I found that I enjoyed learning more about these mysterious grim reapers.
Mild Spoiler Warning:
The story contains an AI called the Thunderhead (an evolution of the Cloud), which controls the world. I assumed that the story was going to reveal that this benevolent AI was secretly evil. I was pleasantly surprised when that was not the direction taken because it seems typical of AI in stories like this. You learn about how the Scythes and the Thunderhead work as the story progresses, and as you learn more, you see just how dark the world is. Check out this fascinating story.
Science Fiction & Fantasy Recommendation #3: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
This book has a tragic history with me. For years I had a friend tell me I needed to read the Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks, and I held off. My friend always said that The Black Prism was one of her favorite novels, and I told her I would eventually get to it. Unfortunately, my friend unexpectedly passed away several years ago. I promised her husband that I would one day read the Lightbringer Series, but I still held off. I couldn’t do it. It hurt too much. I have great respect for Brent Weeks, because after he learned of my friend’s passing and how much of a fan she was, he dedicated a novella, Perfect Shadow, to her memory. So, this year, I decided I would finally fulfill my promise to my friend and her husband and read it in her honor.
The Black Prism, published in 2010, is a wonderful tale that follows a few characters, but mostly Gavin Guile and Kip. Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. As a full spectrum polychrome, he is the most magically gifted. He is the effective ruler of the world and the Chromeria’s spiritual leader. But he harbors a dark secret and fears that he doesn’t have a lot of time left. He must stop a false king from taking over the land. Meanwhile, Kip, a young and chubby teenage boy, discovers that he has magic when the false king’s army attacks his village. This leads to him finding Gavin Guile, who may be his father.
I have not yet finished the series. I am currently on the second book, The Blinding Knife, and I intend to finish the series, as it is excellent. I’m a big fan of good world-building, and Brent Weeks is great at it. The magic system is unique and has clear rules on how it all works. I will warn you though, this book is not for young audiences, there are adult themes and language throughout the story, but it is not gratuitous. I recommend it, but only if you don’t mind the language and adult situations.
What exceptional science fiction and fantasy novels have you read this year? What would you recommend? I’m always looking for new stuff to read. Leave a comment below.