Books·Reading List

12 sci-fi and fantasy books to unwind with this summer

It's the summer season in Canada! Check out these Canadian and international books perfect to read at the beach or patio.

It's the summer season in Canada! Check out these Canadian and international science fiction and fantasy books perfect to read at the beach or patio.

A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin

Magic Steeped in Poison is a novel by Judy I. Lin. (Feiwel & Friends, Aaron Perkins)

A Magic Steeped in Poison is a fantasy novel that features the protagonist Ning, a magician versed in the art of tea-making. After an encounter with poison tea results in the untimely death of her mother, Ning sets off to the imperial city to enter a tea-making competition and save the life of her sibling. While there, Ning encounters court politics, less-than-honourable competitors and a mysterious boy with a dangerous secret. 

Judy I. Lin was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Canada with her family at a young age. She grew up with her nose in a book and loved to escape to imaginary worlds. A Magic Steeped in Poison is her debut novel.

Judy I.Lin on what inspired A Magic Steeped in Poison.

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

Kaikeyi is a book by Vaishnavi Patel. (Redhook, vaishnavipatel.com)

Kaikeyi is a fantasy novel that reimagines the life of the eponymous queen from the Ramayana, an Indian epic poem. In a world where humans and gods interact, Kaikeyi is a story of how one woman navigates family, love, pain and destiny. 

Vaishnavi Patel is an American author and law student with a focus on constitutional law and civil rights. Her work explores Indian myth, feminism and anti-colonialism. 

All the Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay

A composite photo of a green book cover featuring a wave in the ocean and the book's author, an older man with short hair looking straight at the camera.
All the Seas of the World is a novel by Guy Gavriel Kay. (Viking Canada, Ted Davis)

All the Seas of the World is a historical fantasy tale of treachery, destiny, memory and power. Two people are set on an epic mission to destroy the balance of power in a region. What happens next is an atmospheric story of fate, vengeance and political intrigue. 

Guy Gavriel Kay has published 13 novels and is a familiar name on bestseller lists around the globe. His Fionavar Tapestry fantasy series has sold over a million copies worldwide since being published in the 1980s and has been optioned by the Canadian production company behind the hit series Orphan Black. Some of Kay's other titles include Children of Earth and SkyTigana and River of Stars. In 2014, he was appointed to the Order of Canada.

The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara

The Immortal King Rao is a novel by Vauhini Vara. (WW Norton, Andrew Altschul)

In the novel The Immortal King Rao, a precocious child is born into a family of Dalit coconut farmers in 1950s India. King Rao will grow up to be the most accomplished tech CEO in the world and, eventually, the leader of a global, corporate-led government. In a future in which the world is run by the Board of Corporations, King's daughter, Athena, reckons with his legacy — literally, for he has given her access to his memories, among other questionable gifts.

Vauhini Vara is an American Canadian writer and technology reporter. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and an O. Henry Prize winner.

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Sea of Tranquility is a book by Emily St. John Mandel. (Sarah Shatz, HarperCollins Canada)

From Vancouver Island in 1912 to a colony on the moon 500 years later, Sea of Tranquility is a novel about time travel and metaphysics. 

When detective Gaspery-Jacques Roberts is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended — from an exiled son driven mad by beauty and mystery in a Canadian forest to a writer living in a colony on the moon as a pandemic ravages Earth. Through his work, Gaspery has the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

Sea of Tranquility unfurls a story about humanity across centuries and space.

Emily St. John Mandel is a bestselling Canadian author currently based in New York. Her other novels include The Glass Hotelwhich was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and selected by President Barack Obama as a favourite book of 2020; and Station Elevena bestseller adapted for HBO and a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award.

Canadian writer Emily St. John Mandel was described as a prophetic visionary during the pandemic, for writing about a flu-like illness that shut down the world in her 2014 novel Station Eleven. The book surged in popularity during the actual pandemic and was adapted into an acclaimed television series. Her 2020 book, The Glass Hotel, also earned raves – Barack Obama listed it as one of his favourites of the year. In her much-anticipated follow-up, Sea of Tranquility, Mandel is once again revisiting life during global crisis – and yes, that includes pandemics. She sits down with Piya Chattopadhyay to talk about the new book, which takes readers on a journey through time travel, moon colonies, and big questions like whether we're all living in one big simulation.

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

How High We Go in the Dark is a novel by Sequoia Nagamatsu. (William Morrow)

How High We Go in the Dark is a centuries-spanning sci-fi epic that unpacks themes of climate change and the lasting effects of a global pandemic. Set in 2030, an archaeologist travels to the Arctic Circle to conduct research on melting permafrost. When the perfectly preserved remains of a girl is retrieved from the ice, the event unleashes an ancient virus that quickly infects large parts of society. The various storylines in How High We Go in the Dark examine the power of the human spirit, imagination and how we are all connected.

Jeremy "Sequoia" Nagamatsu is an American novelist and short story writer based in California. His debut book was the short story collection Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone. How High We Go in the Dark is his debut novel.

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

The Candy House is a novel by Jennifer Egan. (Scribner, Pieter M. Van Hattem)

Featuring characters from American author Jennifer Egan's previous novel A Visit from the Goon SquadThe Candy House is about a tech maven named Bix Bouton who, despite having a thriving business, is on the hunt for the next big thing in technology. Bouton ends up creating a social media tool that enables people to access memories on-demand — but it comes at a price. The Candy House is a novel that highlights the interconnectedness of modern technology, privacy and what it means to be human.

Jennifer Egan is an American novelist and short story writer. Egan's novel A Visit from the Goon Squad won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. 

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad revisits characters from that book in her new novel, The Candy House. In it, Egan imagines a near-future in which people can upload their memories to the cloud and search around in other people's experiences. What could go wrong? What could go right?And who gets to interpret what it all means?

Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye

Blood Scion is a YA book by Deborah Falaye. (HarperTeen, John Bregar)

In the YA fantasy novel Blood Scion, a teen named Sloane discovers she is a superpowered Scion, a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods. But when she is forced to join the army under a brutal warlord, Sloane realizes she has an opportunity to use her magical powers to defeat the enemy from within.

Blood Scion is for ages 13 and up.

Deborah Falaye is a Nigerian Canadian YA author based in Toronto. She grew up in Lagos, where she spent her time devouring African literature, pestering her grandma for folktales and tricking her grandfather into watching Passions every night. Blood Scion is her debut novel.

Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee

Jade Legacy is a fantasy novel by Fonda Lee. (Feiwel & Friends, fondalee.com)

Jade Legacy is the third instalment in the Green Bone Saga, which also includes Jade War and Jade City. The novel is set in a magical world where clans of warriors called Green Bones battle over control of the source of their supernatural abilities: jade. A clan of Green Bones named the Kauls have to fight off their enemies in a deadly struggle to preserve their ancient ways. 

Fonda Lee is a Canadian American science fiction and fantasy writer. Lee is a three-time Aurora Award winner, including best novel for Jade City and best YA novel for Exo. Jade City also won the World Fantasy Award in 2018.

Calgary author Fonda Lee has been nominated for a prestigious Hugo award for the fantasy series "The Green Bone Saga".

The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monáe

The Memory Librarian is a book by Janelle Monáe. (Harper Voyager)

The Memory Librarian is a story collection about the power of memory and time. The stories uses themes of queerness, race and gender identity — set against the backdrop of totalitarian landscape — to explore what it means to be free, to be human, and to be loved.

Janelle Monáe is an American singer, songwriter, rapper, science-fiction author and actress. The Memory Librarian is her debut book.

Janelle Monáe has been obsessed with science fiction since she was a kid growing up in Kansas. Now, the musician and actor has written a sci-fi book of her own, based on the record that made her a pop superstar. Tom Power spoke with Monáe about her literary debut, The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer, and how she explores her queer, Black identity on the page.

Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James

Moon Witch, Spider King is a novel by Marlon James. (Bond Street Books, Mark Seliger)

In this follow-up to Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James's Moon Witch, Spider King further develops the fantasy worldbuilding of its mythical African landscape that features characters such as Tracker and Sogolon the Moon Witch. Told from the perspective of Sogolon, Moon Witch, Spider King explores themes of war, class and revenge as seen through the eyes of the 117-year-old witch.

Marlon James is a Jamaican writer based in New York City. He is the author of five novels: John Crow's DevilThe Book of Night WomenA Brief History of Seven Killings, which won him the 2015 Man Booker Prize, Black LeopardRed Wolf, and Moon Witch, Spider King.

Marlon James won the Man Booker Prize in 2015, becoming the first Jamaican ever to receive the award. Here he talks to Eleanor Wachtel about his prize-winning novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, and how writing has allowed him to create a new reality.

Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro

Ordinary Monsters is a novel by J.M. Miro. (McClelland & Stewart)

Ordinary Monsters is a historical fantasy novel set in the 1880s. In Victorian London, two children with mysterious powers are hunted by a figure of darkness — a man made of smoke. When a jaded female detective is recruited to escort them to safety, all three begin a journey into the nature of difference and belonging, and the shadowy edges of the monstrous.

J.M. Miro is a Canadian author based in British Columbia.

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