Best SF/Fantasy of 2022

Witches, spaceships, and dragons appear in the most spellbinding and thrilling science fiction and fantasy books of 2022.

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Abdullah, Chelsea. The Stardust Thief. Orbit. (Sandsea Trilogy, Bk. 1). ISBN 9780316368766.

Abdullah brilliantly unfolds a tale built from the threads of One Thousand and One Nights. It is an adventure quest in search of the jinn in the lamp. To start, four travelers must step into the endless, ever-shifting sands of the desert, a shimmering substance that hides wonder and terror. Abdullah splendidly transports readers into this world by layering details into the story so deftly that the veil between magic and reality slips and flows delightfully.

Barnhill, Kelly. When Women Were Dragons. Doubleday. ISBN 9780385548229.

Alex Green watched as her family was changed forever by the Mass Dragoning of 1955, when women across the world took to the skies with scales and rage. She must now navigate a world that tries to hide from its history but will never truly bury the truth. Barnhill’s first adult novel powerfully showcases the joys and agonies of female power in this alternate-history/coming-of-age story.

Chambers, Becky. A Prayer for the Crown-Shy. ISBN 9781250236234.

In this enchanting novella, Tea Monk Sibling Dex and their traveling companion, the robot Mosscap, continue their journey around the villages of their home planet seeking answers, finding friends, and learning what else exists in life. Chambers’s thoughtful storytelling is filled with a gentleness that is as encompassing as any action filled work. This will leave readers feeling hopeful that a crumbling world can be rebuilt better.

Dean, Sunyi. The Book Eaters. Tor. ISBN 9781250810182.

Dean makes her debut with a fascinating and unusual story. The Family, a line of people who eat books for sustenance and continued knowledge, has existed for generations in the Yorkshire moors. When Devon discovers that her son is a rare, vilified, and desired mind eater, she begins a quest to remove the child from the Family’s power. The novel is full of vivid, detailed characters and worldbuilding with lashings of gothic fantasy and contemporary thriller.

Gilmore, Olesya Salnikova. The Witch and the Tsar. Ace: Berkley. ISBN 9780593546970.

Gilmore’s entrancing debut impresses with this feminist retelling of the Baba Yaga folktale set in 16th-century Russia. Yaga lives in a sentient hut that has chicken legs. She spends her time healing mortals, but she is eventually convinced to do more once she learns that the immortals are meddling in the affairs of humans. Gilmore’s immersive prose steeps readers in a wonderfully epic folktale fantasy full of magic and myth.

Jamnia, Naseem. The Bruising of Qilwa. Tachyon. ISBN 9781616963781.

This medical fantasy mystery, set amid a tense refugee crisis, features a nonbinary protagonist in a Persian-inspired world. When Firuz’s search for a cure to a terrible disease leads to a healer gone rogue, they must wrestle with their mentor, their conscience, and questions of whether good ends can justify evil means. The delicately interwoven complexity of the story, along with the loving portrait of Firuz and their found family, make this fantasy puzzler a delight.

Kowal, Mary Robinette. The Spare Man. Tor. ISBN 9781250829177.

Heiress Tessa Crane planned on enjoying her honeymoon cruise to Mars in anonymous bliss, but when her new husband is accused of murder, Tessa brings her fame, her reputation, and her money to bear in order to find out who really committed homicide on the luxury space liner. Featuring a smart heroine with chronic pain and PTSD, this ultimate shipboard mystery is delivered with gin-soaked determination and a load of snark and sparkle.

Mandanna, Sangu. The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches. Berkley. ISBN 9780593439357.

Conjuring a blissful, effervescent tone, Mandanna delights with the story of the lonely, somewhat broken Mika Moon, a witch who agrees to tutor three young witches in need of aid. In so doing, she moves into Nowhere House and finds far more than she expects. A subtle courtship story and plentiful feel-good found-family vibes makes this a cozy charmer, perfect to get out of a bad mood or extend a good one.

Oyebanji, Adam. Braking Day. DAW. ISBN 9780756418229.

This taut sf thriller mixes a coming-of-age story with a disaster tale as the colony ship Archie is about to conclude its multigenerational journey. The colonists have created the seeds of their own annihilation, and the long-awaited landfall will bring disaster. It’s up to an engineering student, a brilliant hacker, and a desperate rebel to find a path away from mutually assured destruction.

Tan, Sue Lynn. Daughter of the Moon Goddess. Harper Voyager. ISBN 9780063031302.

In an exquisitely detailed fantasy based on Chinese mythology, Xingyin, the sheltered, secret daughter of Moon Goddess Chang’e, races to save her mother by facing down the powerful Celestial Emperor and her own feelings for his son. The intimate prose and epic, immortal story lands make Tan’s wonderful debut a spellbinding experience.

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