Sometimes I have a theme in mind when I write these, and sometimes it’s just whatever looks amazing. This month, I think you could safely say the theme is women who kick butt.
“Champion of Fate” by Kendare Blake
When Reed was orphaned as a child, she was rescued and raised by the Order of the Aristene. The Aristene are a group of immortal women warriors who act as shepherds guiding heroes to glory. All her life, Reed has wanted nothing more than to join their ranks, and she’s finally about to face her Hero Trial. She’s tasked with guiding young Prince Hestion in his fight against a neighboring kingdom. If she succeeds, she’ll have everything she’s dreamed of in an immortal life of service to the goddess of glory. If she fails, she’ll be forced to leave the Aristene Citadel forever. As she embarks on her trial, Reed learns that there’s more to the Order and to Hestion than she imagined, and the price of success or failure increases drastically. This duology opener boasts some phenomenal worldbuilding, expertly paced fight scenes, and well-developed relationships among the women of the Aristene.
“Thieves’ Gambit” by Kayvion Lewis
We’re switching to contemporary for this heist thriller. Rosalyn “Ross” Quest is seventeen and has spent her whole life honing her skills as a globe-trotting master thief. While traveling the world with her tight-knit and notorious family has been thrilling, Ross is longing for a “normal” life. She’s ready to leave her life of crime and sneak off to a summer gymnastics camp, but the night before she departs her mother’s current job goes sideways. Now her mom is being held by mysterious captors for an absurdly high ransom, and Ross enters the Thieves’ Gambit in desperation. The Gambit is an international heist competition where the competitors aren’t exactly discouraged from eliminating their rivals, but the prize is the granting of one wish. Ross plans to use that wish to save her mom, but the Gambit gets even more complicated when she realizes she’s facing a childhood nemesis and a handsome, smooth-talking boy who could easily distract her. With non-stop action, gorgeous descriptions of various international cities, and fully realized characters, there’s a lot to love here.
“Cooking With Monsters: The Beginner’s Guide to Culinary Combat” by Jordan Alsaqa and Vivian Truong
Look, I know my blog last month was all about graphic novels, but I couldn’t resist telling you about this one too! Hana has been dreaming of becoming a warrior chef, someone who defeats monsters and then cooks them into mouthwatering dishes. She and her best friend make it into the Gourmand Academy of Culinary Combat together and begin their culinary journey. While Hana is skilled with a spatula (for both cooking and combat), she’s quickly challenged by and attracted to the class prodigy Olivia. When Olivia and Hana are chosen by each other’s dream chef mentors, the two can’t help but resent it. In between action-packed lessons about how to take down and prepare beasts like giant shrimp and basilisks, the students at the Academy navigate things like anxiety, cultural discrimination, romance and more. The cast of characters is diverse and fleshed out, with even secondary characters given plenty of on-page time and personality. Keep an eye out for the next book in the series!