Recommended Reading with Mary Robinette – Late 2022 and Early 2023

Welcome to Recommended Reading with Mary Robinette! In this series, I like to consolidate a list of books I’ve been reading and enjoying. You can also follow along with my reading on social media, Goodreads, or

And now… on to the books!

Servant Mage
by Kate Elliott

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Fellion is a complex character who gets swept up in an epic. I think what I love most about this is how messy the world is. There are no clear and easy choices. The ride is filled with magic and swashbuckling heroism but for causes that are not unquestionably good — the imprints of revolution and colonization mean that there are no good choices for Fellion, just ones that are less harmful. She stays a shining light and true to herself and her people. I would follow her anywhere and am a little sad that this is a standalone. It’s satisfying as a novella, don’t get me wrong. There are no cliffhangers here, but because things aren’t neatly resolved — and shouldn’t be — it feels messily real in ways that many epics don’t. It feels like a world where conflicts will continue and that seems right. I highly recommend this. I stayed up way too late finishing it and am still thinking about it a week later.

The Murder of Mr. Wickham
by Claudia Gray

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Have you ever read a book that you felt was written specifically for you? The Murder of Mr. Wickham is everything I wanted it to be — a cozy murder mystery, with my favorite Jane Austen characters, and a delightful romance. Also, on a technical front, Claudia Gray did her research on the Regency and it shows with beautiful attention to historic detail. It kept me up late reading and guessing whodunnit.

The Kiss Quotient
by Helen Hoang

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I loved this so much. It has the sexiest, most consensual first kiss I’ve ever read. This couple makes sense together and watching them come to understand that it was okay to trust was so lovely.

The Space Between Worlds
by Micaiah Johnson

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Oh, my heart. I’ve just finished The Space Between Worlds and it is not often that I finish a book and think “that ending was perfect” but it was for me. The premise of the book sounds straightforward and inevitable. Travel between multiverses is popular. Earth One is only slightly different from Earth Zero while Earth 255 is very different. So far, fairly standard. If a version of you exists in that world, the other can’t enter. Which means that the most valuable traversers are the ones most likely to have died young. The people who live on the margins. From that premise, The Space Between Worlds delivers a twisty story that always bends away from conventional plots and leads you down paths that you don’t expect. I cannot wait to see what she writes next.

Station Eternity
by Mur Lafferty

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What a glorious romp. Murder, sentient space stations, and banter. It had everything I wanted.

The Raven Tower
by Ann Leckie

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Wow. I’m a fan of Ann Leckie and she does not disappoint with The Raven Tower. I’m also impressed as hell with the structural integrity of this novel, which I realize is a very writerly thing to think about, but she is writing on Hard Mode in this. You want to know what flashbacks are for and how to use them? This book understands how to use them to ratchet tension up. You want to understand how and why to use second person vs. first person? OMG, the creeping dread that she managed to wring out of me as the book progressed and I understood what was happening. There’s a mystery and betrayal and court politics, wrapped up in a tightly plotted bundle of deliciousness. Also, I listened to the audiobook and Adjoa Andoh is a stunningly brilliant narrator.

The Monsters we Defy
by Leslye Penelope

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A prohibition era, Black Washington heist novel with ghosts. I loooooooved this book. I love a good heist novel and this one was delightful. I also really enjoyed the interstitials that gave us backstory about the various team members without slowing the story down. Clara Johnson is smart, damaged, and compelled to help people. Even if she weren’t cursed to help anyone who asks her, she would still get up and help. I listened to the audiobook and the narration was fantastic.

When Franny Stands Up
by Eden Robins

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This is a powerhouse of a novel. If you think it’s a fantasy Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, you’re missing the wonderful and glorious nuance of this book. This is a book about comedy and trauma and family. It is funny and heartbreaking on every other page. I could not stop reading it, and I had deadlines and kittens that should have pulled me away. I love Franny and all her awkwardness and strength. I loved her family. The only things I didn’t love were things that were supposed to make me uncomfortable and did it with mastery. Eden Robins is a helluva powerful writer. This book is a Showstopper.

Lavender House
by Lev AC Rosen

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This is a tightly plotted murder mystery in the noir tradition. It feels like a book written by Dashiell Hammet and is also gloriously gay. I love books that do two things at once. This one does three. It’s a murder mystery. It’s a coming out story. It’s a found family story. It’s satisfying on all three levels. PLUS it feels like the 1950s. I cannot stress to you enough what an amazing job Lev does with the voice here. This book is outstanding and you should read it.

by V. E. Schwab

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I read Vicious, book 1 in this series, and loved it. Book 2 raises even more questions about the difference between a hero and a villain. Each character feels real and vivid and lost in different ways. She does things with structure that make me deeply jealous on a craft level. Like, in another author’s hands this non-linear timeline would be a jumbled mess, but here it’s clear and unrelenting, giving you information exactly when you need it in ways that ramp the tension up with quiet unforgiving dread.

Charlotte Illes Is Not a Detective
by Katie Siegel

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When former child detective Charlotte Illes stepped onto the page, I felt this immediate deep love for her. She’s clever, she’s depressed and she has no idea that she’s depressed. The friend group that loves her makes me remember the camaraderie of Nancy Drew’s friends. Each has their area of specialty and each has their own baggage. The mystery is fun and just threatening enough to be engaging but not so much as to break the coziness. It’s nice to read a book set in and around NYC that feels like the city and isn’t gritty. There’s a particular joy in reading a book and wishing you could be friends with the characters — Charlotte Illes is Not a Detective kept me guessing and left me with a warm and happy glow.

Dial A for Aunties
by Jesse Q. Sutanto

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This book is SO much fun. It’s equal parts dark comedy, romance, and family genre. It’s a great example of why genre labels can shut down great stories because this doesn’t fit neatly into any category. What I can promise you is that you’ll be in for a fun ride that twists and turns to places that you don’t expect. I can promise you a gaggle of Asian Aunties who are a delight. I can promise you a protagonist who is competent and vulnerable. Also a sweet, sweet love story. I loved this so, so much.

Ghost Station
by Dan Wells

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This is a fantastically paced and tense novel. Following a cryptographer in Berlin, right after the wall goes up, is absolutely gripping. Dan Wells consistently writes characters that I relate to deeply, even when I have little in common with them. In this historical novel, the tensions of the Cold War were palpable. I have never felt so committed to a string of numbers in my life.

The Last Dreamwalker
by Rita Woods

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The Last Dreamwalker is deeply evocative and clings to you like the humid air of the South. It is a creepy, moving tale in which intergenerational trauma reaches out of dreams and makes the waking world a nightmare. I keep thinking about it.

After the Dragons
by Cynthia Zhang

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This is a slim, beautiful jewel-box of a novel. It is vividly atmospheric and feels real as if tiny flocks of dragons might sit on telephone lines in modern-day Beijing. It explores falling in love in the wake of grief and the ways in which we try to exert control over our lives. It’s quiet intimacy will break your heart and give you hope — and also dragons. Perfect, beautifully drawn dragons. It’s a lovely debut and I look forward to seeing what Cynthia Zhang does next.

Iron Widow
by Xiran Jay Zhao

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Iron Widow is really compelling and the voice is incredibly vivid. The giant mecha battlebot armor things were very cool and I very much liked the world-building that went into how they worked and why they existed. My only problem was that I just wanted the main character to make better choices. She’s a teen. I understood why she made the choices she did but they were also not always her only option. But she’s building a found family and I hope that she gets to experience some kindness and trust in the future. Don’t get me wrong, she’s deeply real and believable, but also tragic in ways that were hard to witness.

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