Book Reviews

YA Speculative Fiction Fall Reads

So is it winter yet? I know from the title alone you might think I’d be sharing YA SFF reads for the fall. But I’m sharing YA SFF reads from the fall. Tricky I know. Keep reading for mini book reviews of Catfish Rolling, A Prayer for Vengeance, Unholy Terrors, Sinner’s Isle, and That Self-Same Metal.

(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)

Catfish Rolling by Clara Kumagai

There’s a catfish under the islands of Japan and when it rolls the land rises and falls.

Sora hates the catfish whose rolling caused an earthquake so powerful it cracked time itself. It destroyed her home and took her mother. Now Sora and her scientist father live close to the zones – the wild and abandoned places where time runs faster or slower than normal. Sora is sensitive to the shifts, and her father recruits her help in exploring these liminal spaces.

But it’s dangerous there – and as she strays further inside in search of her mother, she finds that time distorts, memories fracture and shadows, a glimmer of things not entirely human, linger. After Sora’s father goes missing, she has no choice but to venture into uncharted spaces within the time zones to find him, her mother and perhaps even the catfish itself…


Catfish Rolling is a book I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since I finished. It’s a book rich with metaphors and layers. These liminal spaces of time were lenses to look at biracial identities, memories and dementia, moving on and letting go. It’s a book which operates on so many levels. A story about Sora’s quest to find her father, but also the grief over losing her mother. About the ways she’s losing her father in front of her eyes. And all the ways the world has moved on to take advantage or forget time.

Catfish Rolling also uses these spaces of inbetween-ness to look at identity. How she feels separate and isolated while also being immersed. For anyone who has ever felt stuck in between, Catfish Rolling is for you. It’s also deeply rooted in explorations of memory and time which moves differently for others. How we can adapt to time which moves quickly for us, or the moments when it drags. As someone who had a family member with dementia, the metaphor is an easy jump.

Find Catfish Roling on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.

That Self-Same Metal by Brittany N. Williams

Sixteen-year-old Joan Sands is a gifted craftswoman who creates and upkeeps the stage blades for William Shakespeare’s acting company, The King’s Men. Joan’s skill with her blades comes from a magical ability to control metal—an ability gifted by her Head Orisha, Ogun. Because her whole family is Orisha-blessed, the Sands family have always kept tabs on the Fae presence in London. Usually that doesn’t involve much except noting the faint glow around a Fae’s body as they try to blend in with London society, but lately, there has been an uptick in brutal Fae attacks. After Joan wounds a powerful Fae and saves the son of a cruel Lord, she is drawn into political intrigue in the human and Fae worlds.


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

From the premise alone I was so in love with That Self-Same Metal. You’ve got a metal magic heroine who wants to inherit the business but cannot because of the Patriarchy. At the same time it’s set in this historical fiction Shakespeare setting combined with the Fae. Sword fights, performances, and magical blacksmith. Did I also mention this was queer? All around win from me. Normally I’m not a huge fan of the Fae, but That Self-Same Metal gets it right.

There’s this balance of eternal identity, meddling, and cruelty all wrapped up in one. I couldn’t help but love Joan and her fight against the Fae, the Patriarchy, and for the truth. If you’ve been wanting some more YA historical fantasy, this should 100% be on your TBR. It’s a testament to talking about the overlooked pieces of history, the racism of the past, and the joys of their lives. Find That Self-Same Metal on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.

Unholy Terrors by Lyndall Clipstone

Everline Blackthorn has devoted her life to the wardens—a sect of holy warriors who guard against monsters known as the vespertine.

When a series of strange omens occur, Everline disobeys orders to investigate, and uncovers a startling truth in the form of Ravel Severin: a rogue vespertine who reveals the monsters have secrets of their own.

Ravel promises the help she needs— for a price. Vespertine magic requires blood, and if Everline wants Ravel to guide across the dangerous moorland, she will have to allow him to feed from her.

It’s a sin for a warden to feed a vespertine— let alone love one— and as Everline and Ravel travel further across the moorland, she realizes the question isn’t whether she will survive the journey, but if she will return unchanged. Or if she wants to.


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

I am always going to read a book with bone magic in the premise. Add in family complexity? Sold. In Unholy Terrors the magic is phenomenal whether it be action packed fights or magical powers which are outlawed. For Everline, she’s always been shunned because of her mother’s past and so while she has a family, they’re mostly off limits to her. With her best friend, Everline is a curious one.

She wants to explore in the unexplored moorland to find her best friend, but also to find answers she’s been looking for her whole life. What she finds is a world of revenge, betrayal, and secrets which have been festering. Nothing is as it seems at Kate Handford’s narration does a phenomenal job at infusing the narration with wonder, fear, and doubt. There’s also a very strong romance storyline in here if you’re looking for enemies to lovers which gets messy.

Unholy Terrors can be boiled down to a story about family and parents. About whether we are responsible for their sins, their expectations, their ambitions. And if we have the strength to walk away from the images our parents have for us, to meet someone who gives us the bravery for a different choice. Find Unholy Terrors on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, Blackwells,, and Google Play.

Sinner’s Isle by Angela Montoya

Rosalinda is trapped on Sinner’s Isle, an island filled with young women like her—Majestics, beautiful witches loathed by society for their dangerous magic yet revered by powerful men who want to use them. 

For years, she has been kept under the watchful, calculating eye of Doña Lucia. Now eighteen, Rosa will be the prized commodity at this year’s Offering, a fiesta for the wealthy to engage in drink, damsels, and debauchery. That is why she must flee—before someone forces the vicious phantoms within her to destroy everything she touches. 

Handsome, swashbuckling Mariano has long sailed the high seas as the Prince of Pirates. Then the king’s fleet attacks his father’s infamous ship, leaving him marooned on Sinner’s Isle with only an enchanted chain meant to lead him to his heart’s desire. Instead, he falls into the hands of a brazen (although) bewitching headache—Rosa.

Together they must outwit each other and their enemies before the Offering ends and it’s too late to escape the perils of Sinner’s Isle.


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

Sinner’s Isle is a swoony adventure story about pirates and dangerous magic. Steeped in patriarchy and power, the Majestics are witches which are used as power pieces. The very things the world desires – power – they claim to abhor while making backhanded deals which overwrites Majestics’s free will. On the surface it’s a story about pirates and witches, but underneath it’s a story about the value of choice and love freely given.

It’s a book which is steeped in romance and love, but also in Rosalinda’s friendships and betrayals, her own relationship to power, and to trust and forgiveness. If you love those stories where more power doesn’t necessarily mean more power over your own life then this is for you. It’s one that unexpectedly swept me away in the action and drama and the ways we can chose our own future and partners. Find Sinner’s Isle on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.

A Prayer for Vengeance by Leanne Schwartz

Centuries after a miracle vanquished Tresttato’s monsters and turned the soldiers fighting them to stone, Milo lovingly tends to the statues of those who protected the city. Raised with devout templars and scholars, autistic temple ward Milo wants nothing more than to be accepted into their ranks. When his prayers admiring her heroic sacrifice accidentally free Gia from stone, she wakes with a fury to kill the man Milo owes his life to, Primo Sanct Ennio.

Gia claims that the immortal holy leader Milo lives to serve is the same man who betrayed her and transformed her into a statue―and what Milo always believed was a miracle was actually a curse that Gia will stop at nothing to break. Even if she has to kill his followers to do it. Even if she must kill the boy who woke her.


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

A Prayer for Vengeance is this fantasy setting grounded in trust and betrayal. In how we can trust someone, believe what they are saying, and in how they can so badly betray us. About leaders, powerful figures in our lives, and legacy figures who spill lies and disguised words. What story will people tell about us when we have no voice? When we face away? A Prayer for Vengeance examines the inaccuracies of history, of records, and stories.

I got entirely captivated by its exploration of these themes – the twisted history and narratives. A Prayer for Vengeance asks us what is the value of truth. When so many people believe on version of life, of history, what value is the truth? It’s a story committed to questioning what makes a good leader. And how we allow ourselves to be used as a weapon and – most importantly – how we fight back. Find A Prayer for Vengeance on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.


What SFF reads do you still want to finish this year?

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