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The Golden Enclaves

Naomi Novik (Del Rey)

Novik’s masterful final Scholomance fantasy functions simultaneously as a satisfying resolution to El and Orion’s story, a page-turning magical adventure in its own right, and a thoughtful homage to Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. Engaging deeply with both genre convention and real-world moral quandaries, this brilliant finale elevates the entire series to dazzling heights.

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The Hacienda

Isabel Cañas (Berkley)

With an ear for lyricism and an eye for historical detail, Cañas puts a fresh spin on the classic haunted house story. In the aftermath of Mexico’s War of Independence, the new wife of a mysterious widower teams up with a Mestizo priest to exorcize a ghost—leading to supernatural thrills, exhilarating romance, and a probing examination of the horrors of colonialism.

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Leech

Hiron Ennes (Tordotcom)

It’s the exquisitely realized narrative voice that makes Ennes’s mind-bending debut such a standout: through the eyes of a hive mind of parasitic worms, readers encounter a postapocalyptic mystery replete with inventive twists and squirming body horror. The resulting blend of gothic horror and science fiction is ambitious, atmospheric, and astounding.

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Lonely Castle in the Mirror

Mizuki Tsujimura, trans. from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel (Erewhon)

Lost, friendless middle school dropouts meet in a strange land straight out of a storybook in this breathtaking portal fantasy from Tsujimura. Hopeful and heartbreakingly sweet without ever being saccharine, this character-focused tale of finding unexpected community unfolds remarkably gently, eschewing a typical Western plot structure. Readers will leave with their faith in humanity restored.

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Moon Witch, Spider King

Marlon James (Riverhead)

In flipping the narrative of Black Leopard, Red Wolf on its head and immersing readers in the villain’s perspective, James’s outstanding second Dark Star fantasy proves an even more profound exploration of the power and peril of storytelling. This standalone sequel—which runs parallel to (and often contradicts) the first installment—reveals the epic scope and ambition of James’s project.

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The Mountain in the Sea

Ray Nayler (MCD)

The discovery of a society of intelligent octopuses in Vietnam’s Con Dao archipelago sparks scientific investigation and international competition in Nayler’s wildly impressive debut. Grounded in believable science and tense geopolitics, this speculative thriller manages to be both an immersive, accessible page-turner and a smart, deeply philosophical investigation of the nature of sentience and personhood.

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Ocean’s Echo

Everina Maxwell (Tor)

There’s a catchy hook to Maxwell’s powerful sophomore space opera: it’s a queer, sci-fi take on fake dating wherein two men must fake a neural link to survive within the brutal far future military. This alone would be enough for an enjoyable romp, but Maxwell’s goals are grander. She cleverly subverts and critiques military sci-fi tropes to create an incisive and emotional epic.

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