Underrated Science Fiction & Fantasy Books | #BooktubeSFF Babbles


Hi, it’s Maija here with another #BooktubeSFF Babble video. And these videos are linked to the #BooktubeSFF Awards, and I will leave a link to the Goodreads group down below. So this time the topic given is underrated science fiction and fantasy. I’ve done videos like this twice before – one of them was a Top 5 Wednesday video called Underrated Books and most of that was fantasy, and then I have also done an Overlooked Fantasy video for last year’s #BooktubeSFF Awards, and I will leave a link to both of these down below if you want to check out more recommendations from me. So since I have already done two of these videos, this time I decided to try to find something new, and I went through my Goodreads shelf by going to the Read shelf and organizing the books by the number of ratings that they have and starting from the lowest and going forward. These are all books that have under 5,000 ratings on Goodreads, and many of them have a lot less than that. So what I noticed was that things that have the least amount of ratings on Goodreads tend to be novellas, comics, or books published in 2016 that have not had the time to gain more ratings yet. But I didn’t want to only put comics and novellas on this list – I chose a few – but I also chose a few actual novels. Before I start I want to give out two of my favorite recommendations of overlooked fantasy that I give in all of these videos, but I’m just going to share them with you briefly now. And one of them is Ursula Vernon writing fairy tale retellings under the name T. Kingfisher. And I would especially recommend The Raven and the Reindeer, which is a retelling of The Snow Queen, and Bryony and Roses, which is a retelling of The Beauty and the Beast. I’d also like to recommend the Courtney Crumrin graphic novel series by Ted Naifeh, which is a middle grade comic about this young girl who’s a witch and her uncle who is a warlock. And they have adventures that deal with other warlocks or Fay or other creatures, and they are so much fun, and I really like the art. So let’s move on to the stuff that I haven’t talked about before. And first I have this novella that was published in 2016, so of course it has less ratings on Goodreads, but this one only had thirteen ratings, so that’s very low. I just read this novella a month ago or so and I really liked it. And it was The Convergence of Fairy Tales by Octavia Cade, which is published by The Book Smugglers. And this is a novella that ties together five different fairy tale princesses into one character: so there’s Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, The Frog Princess, Snow Queen, and Rapunzel. And this is a darker, bloodier, sort of horror-ish retelling, and I really liked the writing style. I’m going to read you a little snippet to give you a sense of the style. This is not the first paragraph, because that was quite graphic, so I can’t read it to you here, but I will read another paragraph. “The Snow Queen’s dreams were haunted. She lay in the bed she had spent so much time in and her sleep was broken and restless, a far cry from the soft deep slumber of spindles. She had even tried the needle again, pricked herself with it till her fingertips bled, but coma and inoculation had made her immune and the sweet heaviness of poisoned rest was beyond her.” So, it’s quite enjoyable, the writing style, but you can also get the dark atmosphere from that snippet. So next is a comic book series that I’ve mentioned a couple of times on my channel before. That is Shadoweyes by Sophie Campbell. I have here Volume 1 and Volume 2. And Volume One only had 259 ratings, Volume Two had a hundred ratings, and the Omnibus edition that is these two together in full color, only had nine ratings on Goodreads. So even combined all of these editions or volumes had under 400 ratings. So this is a combination of teen relationship drama with superheroes and science fiction. It is set in the future and while the visuals of the city are quite detailed, the characters themselves are pretty stylized. So the main character is Scout Montana and this is her friend Kyisha, and they join a neighborhood patrol, but Scout gets hit in the head and for some inexplicable reason turns into this creature and sort of starts to do super heroics and calls herself Shadoweyes, but she gets stuck in this form. There’s also this girl called Sparkle, who goes to their school also and sort of hero worships Shadoweyes. And there’s also Noah, who is Kyisha’s boyfriend. So, a little aside, I thought that her name was pronounced Key-sha – she’s my favorite character, but I pronounced her name wrong – even though right at the beginning Sparkle pronounces her name Key-sha and she says it’s wrong and should be pronounced Ky-e-sha, I think. Kyisha is also an intersex character, so if you’re looking for representation, there’s that, also. Shadoweyes may be a bit hard to get. It’s currently published by Iron Circus Comics in the omnibus edition in full color, I will leave a link to the store down below. Then I have another novella, which is my favorite thing so far that I’ve read from Catherynne M. Valente, and it is called Silently and Very Fast and it is available to read for free on the Clarkesworld website, which is where I read it, and I will leave a link to it down below. And it’s about an AI that has belonged to the same family for generations. And from Valente I’ve read before this one and another novella, Six-Gun Snow White, which was fine, and then the book The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which I liked, but out of those ones this is my favorite so far. And Silently and Very Fast has about 1250 ratings on Goodreads. And next on my list is A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar, which I also mentioned in my Babble last time, but here it is again. And this has 1267 ratings on Goodreads, which is really wild, since I think it won the World Fantasy Award the year it came out. This tells of Jevick who has heard stories of the land of Olondria his whole childhood, and when he grows up he takes up the family trade of being a spice merchant, and finally gets to go to Olondria and see the country for himself. And I really enjoyed this tale, not for the plot, which isn’t, in my opinion, the strongest aspect of this book, but for the descriptions of the sights that Jevick sees and how he is in love with travel and everything that he sees in Olondria, and also about how this story is about stories, how the people of Olondria tell their own stories to Jevick, and it’s also about oral stories versus written stories, and language and everything. I’ll just read you a little snippet of the first few sentences. “As I was a stranger in Olondria, I knew nothing of the splendor of its coasts, nor of Bain, the Harbor City, whose lights and colors spill into the ocean like a cataract of roses. I did not know the vastness of the spice markets of Bain, where the merchants are delirious with scents, I had never seen the morning mists adrift above the surface of the green Illoun, of which the poets sing; I had never seen a woman with gems in her hair, nor observed the copper glinting of the domes, nor stood upon the melancholy beaches of the south while the wind brought in the sadness from the sea.” So that’s just a little taste of the descriptions of Olondria that you get in this book. So next I’d like to recommend Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman, which starts her fantasy series, and the first book has 1320 ratings on Goodreads. A lot of people have been reading Newman’s science fiction books, Planetfall and After Atlas. I have read Planetfall and really liked it, but this is her urban fantasy / fantasy of manners series. I have the third book, All is Fair, here, which I’m currently reading. And this is, as I said, a combination of fantasy of manners and urban fantasy. So there are three worlds: our world in the modern day, this sort of mirror world called the Nether, where these old magical aristocratic families live in a sort of combo Victorian and Regency era setting, and then there’s also Exilium, which is the world of the Fae. And the Fae are the patrons and the bosses of sort of the families of the Nether. And this focuses on three characters, the main one is Cathy, who wants to leave behind the Nether and its confining gender roles and escape to our world, then there’s Sam, who’s just a regular guy from our world who gets tangled up with the Fae, and then there’s Max, who is an Arbiter, who is a sort of police who tries to keep the mortals, so us, safe from the magical families of the Nether and from the Fae. I have so far given these books consistently about 3 or 3.5 stars, they’re not my favorite by any means, but they are entertaining and I do like to read them. And finally I have one more fantasy series that I’d like to recommend, and the series is The World of Riverside by Ellen Kushner, and the first book is Swordspoint. And the first book has 7096 ratings on Goodreads, but the second book already has only 4000 ratings, that is The Privilege of the Sword. This is a fantasy of manners series set in a secondary world and the main character is Richard, who is a swordsman, and his boyfriend, whose name’s Alec, and they get tangled up into the plots of the nobles who live up the hill. So this is set in one city, and there are two sides of the city: Riverside, which is the side of the swordsmen and the thieves and people like that, and then the Hill, which is the side of the nobles. And I really do enjoy especially the characters and the world and all the drama and plots going on. Also I think it’d be good to mention that in this world bisexuality is the norm, but also the women have the shorter end of the stick, because especially with the nobles they are still married off, so the nobles still make contracts by marrying off their daughters to noblemen. So, like I said, the first book is about the swordsman and his boyfriend getting tangled up with the nobles’ plots, I’ve also read the second book, called The Privilege of the Sword, which focuses on a new character called Katherine, who gets called to live in the city by her uncle, and she’s there to practice swordfighting, which is not something that is normally taught to girls. And I really enjoyed both of these books, I haven’t read any more in the series yet. So to give you a little taste again, here’s a paragraph from quite near the beginning of Swordspoint: “The blood lies on the snow of a formal winter garden, now trampled and muddy. A man lies dead, the snow filling in the hollows of his eyes, while another man is twisted up, grunting, sweating frog-ponds on the frozen earth, waiting for someone to come and help him. The hero of this little tableau has just vaulted the garden wall and is running like mad into the darkness while the darkness lasts.” So that was all the overlooked fantasy and science fiction books that I’d like to recommend this time. Like I said, I’ll leave a link to my previous recommendation videos down below. And let me know one science fiction or fantasy book that you would really like to be wider read and get noticed more, especially on Booktube. I hope you’re all having a great day and I will see you in my next video. Bye!

6 Replies to “Underrated Science Fiction & Fantasy Books | #BooktubeSFF Babbles

  1. I love that mention shorter works and comics! Silently and Very Fast is still my favorite SF piece by Valente. I need more like that!

    Have you tried the Tremontaine serial yet?

  2. I would love for Kij Johnson to be read more in the BookTube community. I know many people know of her from MercysBookishMusings, but not many have actually read her. Her short story collection and recent novella (The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe) are especially excellent places to start πŸ˜€

  3. Oh, there was a lot of new-to-me recommendations in there and another reminder to read Swordspoint at some point.
    As far as recommendations get, in addition to the 5 I did in my video, I'd say Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone should be talked about more for the wonderful and unique world he created in his Craft Sequence.

  4. Need to pick up Shadoweyes – I love the blue hues of the art style. And I've never read a book with an intersex character so thanks for mentioning that! Will always second Sofia Samatar πŸ™‚

  5. Some fantastic recommendations! Thank you. If you like Kushner, I have to take your recommendations seriously!

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