Andromeda Romano-Lax’s Plum Rains skillfully combines speculative sci-fi, historical fiction and an unconventional romance into something emotionally satisfying and hopeful. In Japan’s near future, where artificial Intelligence is replacing human health care aides, nurse Angelica’s livelihood is at risk. A prototype healthcare AI, nicknamed “Hiro”, threatens to push out Angelica while it forms a bond with her client, an unhappy centenarian named Sakoyo. Hiro’s presence brings Sayoko’s repressed memories back to the surface, and then each character must struggle to reconcile the past, learn to trust, and pursue future happiness as each sees it. This book is a joy that defies genre and should just be shelved under “terrific book”.
The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley is dark and gorgeous and absolutely devastating. It is a retelling of Beowulf that hits you hard whether you know every line or have never read the original. It is a beautiful fable about war, trauma, and what it means to keep those you love safe, a book as deep and layered as the mere within it.
With stunning world-building, RF Kuang creates a fantastical epic inspired by 20th Century China and its culture. Rin, a war orphan taken in by loathsome criminals, decides her only way out is to ace the Keju – an empire wide test. Spoiler alert (kidding) she does it and gets into the most prestigious academy, Sinegard. Here her southern roots, dark skin, racial class and gender do her no favors. Her well-heeled/wealthy peers, who have spent their lives studying and training to be the best, aren’t ready to accept a peasant girl into their ranks. She soon discovers powerfully terrifying gifts of her own and uses them to try and win an unwinnable war. This heart-stopping, breath-stealing first in what is soon to be a series, is a perfect summer read, though if you are anything like me, it may only take a few days.