Book Reviews

Speculative Fiction Hyped Releases

Today I’m sharing some of my most anticipated speculative fiction releases and debuts from 2023. You know that feeling when you’ve been so excited for a book and you finally read it? Here are some of my reads from the summer!

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The Phoenix King by Aparna Verma

For Elena Aadya Ravence, fire is yearning. She longs to feel worthy of her Phoenix god, of her ancestors who transformed the barren dunes of Sayon into a thriving kingdom. But though she knows the ways and wiles of the desert better than she knows her own skin, the secrets of the Eternal Flame elude her. And without them, she’ll never be accepted as queen.

For Leo Malhari Ravence, fire is control. He is not ready to give up his crown—there’s still too much work to be done to ensure his legacy remains untarnished, his family protected. But power comes with a price, and he’ll wage war with the heavens themselves to keep from paying it.

For Yassen Knight, fire is redemption. He dreams of shedding his past as one of Sayon’s most deadly assassins, of laying to rest the ghosts of those he has lost. If joining the court of flame and serving the royal Ravence family—the very people he once swore to eliminate—will earn him that, he’ll do it no matter what they ask of him.

But the Phoenix watches over all and the fire has a will of its own. It will come for all three, will come for Sayon itself….and they must either find a way to withstand the blaze or burn to ash.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

If you’ve seen a BookTok about a morally grey heroine, then you’ve probably heard about The Phoenix King. This multiple POV story is action packed and I wasn’t sure who my favorite character was. In The Phoenix King we can witness the varying motivations of Yassen, Elena and Leo. This speculative fiction world is one that examines the power of religion, destiny, and prophets. The lines in the sand we draw and the ones we won’t cross. All the sacrifices we are willing to make for our foals, our children, our religion, our future.

The Phoenix King illustrates our misguided attempts, our beliefs which instruct our lives, and the orders we disobey. It’s about how our paths through fire just might consume us. The book also explores what makes a leader. These characters wade through deadly hidden secrets that have been fermenting with betrayal and misdirection. With characters who wonder if they have lost themselves and wonder at who they have become. It’s easy to think we are pursuing the truth, but what happens if we get a taste?

As I was reading The Phoenix King about two thirds through I was absolutely smitten. With the growing political tension in the book, the complicated and ethical decisions they have to make, I cannot wait for the next. Find The Phoenix King on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.

The Splinter in the Sky by Kemi Ashing-Giwa

The dust may have just settled in the failed war of conquest between the Holy Vaalbaran Empire and the Ominirish Republic, but the last Emperor’s surrender means little to a lowly scribe like Enitan. All she wants is to quit her day job and expand her fledgling tea business. But when her lover is assassinated and her sibling is abducted by Imperial soldiers, Enitan abandons her idyllic plans and weaves her tea tray up through the heart of the Vaalbaran capital. There, she learns just how far she is willing to go to exact vengeance, free her sibling, and perhaps even secure her homeland’s freedom.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

As someone who drinks about two pots of tea a day, I knew I had to read The Splinter in the Sky. And what I read was a story deeply entrenched in colonization, rebellion, and rage. Instantly my rage was steeped as The Splinter in the Sky examines the way colonization permeates our foot, the way we address each other, and the art. The world building was, from the very beginning, entrancing and angering as we can see the cultural appropriation. The direct and insidious ways the colonization and erasure are continuing.

The Splinter in the Sky is one of those books where I couldn’t pick what I loved most. The tea touches and the ways she is demanded to ‘perform’ was nauseating, but incredibly realistic. All the comments, the little moments of insensitivity, entitlement, and prejudice. Don’t even get me started on how passionate I became about the museum scenes and the buying of artifacts which is very much going on in our world. They see the perceived violence, which they themselves brought, reflected back at them because those in power always fear the loss of power.

Or in the arguments you hear in the pages that they weren’t responsible because they had the shields of soldiers, governments, and power. How they try to escape individual culpability. If you enjoyed The Unbroken and are open to a science fiction setting, then this is for you. It’s a book I already want to re-read and share with everyone I know. Find The Splinter in the Sky on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.

Sun of Blood and Ruin by Mariely Lares

In sixteenth-century New Spain, witchcraft is punishable by death, indigenous temples have been destroyed, and tales of mythical creatures that once roamed the land have become whispers in the night. Hidden behind a mask, Pantera uses her magic and legendary swordplay skills to fight the tyranny of Spanish rule.

To all who know her, Leonora de Las Casas Tlazohtzin never leaves the palace and is promised to the heir of the Spanish throne. The respectable, law-abiding Lady Leonora faints at the sight of blood and would rather be caught dead than meddle in court affairs.

No one suspects that Leonora and Pantera are the same person. Leonora’s charade is tragically good, and with magic running through her veins, she is nearly invincible. Nearly. Despite her mastery, she is destined to die young in battle, as predicted by a seer.

When an ancient prophecy of destruction threatens to come true, Leonora–and therefore Pantera–is forced to decide: surrender the mask or fight to the end. Knowing she is doomed to a short life, she is tempted to take the former option. But the legendary Pantera is destined for more than an early grave, and once she discovers the truth of her origins, not even death will stop her.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

The premise of Sun of Blood and Ruin hooked me. A vigilante with rebellion, magic, and double identities. From the very beginning, Sun of Blood and Ruin delivered action and I was struck by how wry Leonora is. How she’s asked how one can fight for justice for those on the ground, the ones without options or recourse. A theme which is explore with depth is identity. We, as well as Leonora, are asked who she is really – Leonora or Pantera? Whether she will let people she love suffer for one or the other.

The first half and the set up can be a little slow in terms of wondering where the story will go, but I think that this theme really delivers in the second half. The ways that Sun of Blood and Ruin also examines the themes of being torn between these identities and Leonora’s family identity was one of my favorite elements. The idea of lineage, bloodlines, and discrimination. Sun of Blood and Ruin is one of those book which comes into its own in the second half. It’s about the power we can unleash when we accept ourselves and the people who plot for their own ends around us.

Like with many stories of rebellion, Sun of Blood and Ruin questions justice versus vengeance. Lares forces Leonora to examine what she is really fighting for. Find Sun of Blood and Ruin on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.


What is your most recent favorite speculative fiction?

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