The Golden Enclaves

by Naomi Novik

El is basically goth Harry Potter, and in the third Scholomance book she has to solve the mystery of her boyfriend, the Scholomance itself, and the wizards’ enclaves in the void. Meanwhile, someone is destroying enclaves …

I still love these books. I don’t know if there will be a fourth one, but if there is I’ll read it!

The Empress of Time

by Kylie Lee Baker

The Japanese goddess of death suffers from a crippling inferiority complex. And the British goddess of death is coming to kill her and take her crown.

I didn’t like Ren as much in this book. She’s one of those protagonists who keeps making the same obvious mistakes over and over again, ostensibly because she has issues but definitely also because the story needs to end with her personal transformation. It’s frustrating to read. But hey, real people are sometimes like that, and it’s just as frustrating to be around them.

I still liked it.

The Rising

by Ian Tregillis

The three-sided conflict comes to a head. The Dutch threaten to wipe the French from the face of the New World. The French try not to let them. And a new Clakker threat emerges from the frozen north.

Plus a bit of philosophizing on the nature of souls and free will. But less than in the first book; this is more a straight-up save-the-world adventure. I enjoyed it, if not quite as much as the first book. But like Empire Strikes Back, it’s clearly a connector to the finale, which I will be starting … now.

The Mechanical

by Ian Tregillis

Artificial intelligence, but with alchemical robots—Clakkers—instead of computerized ones. Instead of enslaving Africans to build the New World, the Dutch use alchemy to create mechanical slaves and take over Europe, driving the French into exile in their North American territories. French catholics who believe Clakkers have souls help rogue Clakkers escape on the ondergrondse grachten, the “underground canals.” New France barely survives by wielding advanced chemical weapons and defenses.

With plenty of references to the actual colonial history of North America, this is fundamentally an adventure story about a Clakker fugitive from injustice, a French spymaster’s quest to restore her country, and a French agent forced to betray his conscience and country. I liked it a lot, and I’ll start reading the next book in the series right away.

(Ian Tregillis’s other series, The Milkweed Triptych, is also a creative alternative-history series, about Nazis super-soldiers during World War II.)

The Golem and the Jinni

by Helene Wecker

A Jewish golem and a Syrian jinni become friends in New York City.

I didn’t feel invested in any of the main characters, which made this book tough going. And I was taken by surprise by the plot twists that started coming more than two thirds through the book–because they came completely out of nowhere.

I thought it was just OK.

Last Argument of Kings

by Joe Abercrombie

The decrepit king finally dies and his successor surprises everyone. The kingdom is threatened by a peasant revolt. And before the army can return from the North the massive Gurkish army attacks the city with one hundred Eaters on their side.

On the one hand, this is a fully satisfying conclusion to the series. On the other hand, by the end you’ll hate—or at least be very disappointed by—every single character.

Son of the Storms

by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

An exiled and naïve young scholar discovers a forgotten people and their magic, and holds the key to even greater power. But so does his ruthless fiancé, who seeks power. Echoes of Dune, I thought, but to explain why would probably spoil the plot.

I never really connected with the characters, and somewhere in the middle the story started dragging for me. It was just OK, but not OK enough for me to want to continue the series.

A Court of Silver Flames

by Sarah J. Maas

I needed to know how the story ends—and if you’ve read this far, you will, too. This book is pretty heavy on gushy romance, but there was enough of the underlying story to keep me reading to the end.

There are a couple of supplemental books with more backstory for the superfans, but I think I’ve had more than enough romance for a while.

Before They Are Hanged

by Joe Abercrombie

The stage was set in The Blade Itself. Now the story splits into three: all-out war in the North, a hopeless battle in the South, and a quest for a world-saving magic item in the West. A connector that substantially develops the main characters.

A worthy sequel. Just remember: the more you start to like someone, the more likely it is that they are about to do something terrible.