The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound like they may be interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration. Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. Cover images are affiliate links to Bookshop, and I earn from qualifying purchases.

One book came in the mail last week, and it’s another novel on my 30 Anticipated 2022 Speculative Fiction Releases list!

There have not been any new posts since last weekend’s feature (although I have been working on a review), but there is a Gothic novel cover reveal coming up on Tuesday!

Cover of The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi

The Final Strife (The Ending Fire Trilogy #1) by Saara El-Arifi

The Final Strife, the first book in an adult epic fantasy trilogy, will be released in the US on June 21 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). It will be published in Canada on the same date, and it will be available in the UK on June 23.

Saara El-Arifi discussed her upcoming debut novel a little on Goodreads, saying that it contains the following:

Friends to lovers (F/F)
A drug addicted chosen one who TOTALLY misses her calling
A tournament with awesome armour
A desert landscape with giant lizards that you can ride
Blood magic…that uses…blood
An insular world plagued by a nightly hurricane called the ‘tidewind’
A cruelly divided Empire where red-blooded reign, blue-blooded labour and translucent-blooded are maimed servants

She also wrote a bit about it last month in “Routes to my roots,” her Women in SF&F Month guest post highlighting Phillis Wheatley:

These are the challenges Phillis Wheatley faced, the ripples of which still permeate through writers of the diaspora today. My battle with my conflicting identities led me to creating a world that is wholly me. The Final Strife is set in a land that is both beautiful and broken. Plagued by issues of empire, while also celebrating arab and afro culture, queerness and gender non-conformity, it is the product of my lived experience. To truly know me is to walk a day in the Wardens’ Empire—the ruling country in The Final Strife.

If you’d like to try a sample, the publisher’s website has an excerpt from The Final Strife.


In the first book of a visionary fantasy trilogy with its roots in the mythology of Africa and Arabia that “sings of rebellion, love, and the courage it takes to stand up to tyranny” (Samantha Shannon, author of The Priory of the Orange Tree), three women band together against a cruel empire that divides people by blood.

The Final Strife is the real deal: epic fantasy turned on its head in the most compelling way imaginable.”—Kalynn Bayron, bestselling author of Cinderella Is Dead and This Poison Heart


Red is the blood of the elite, of magic, of control.
Blue is the blood of the poor, of workers, of the resistance.
Clear is the blood of the slaves, of the crushed, of the invisible.

Sylah dreams of days growing up in the resistance, being told she would spark a revolution that would free the empire from the red-blooded ruling classes’ tyranny. That spark was extinguished the day she watched her family murdered before her eyes.

Anoor has been told she’s nothing, no one, a disappointment, by the only person who matters: her mother, the most powerful ruler in the empire. But when Sylah and Anoor meet, a fire burns between them that could consume the kingdom—and their hearts.

Hassa moves through the world unseen by upper classes, so she knows what it means to be invisible. But invisibility has its uses: It can hide the most dangerous of secrets, secrets that can reignite a revolution. And when she joins forces with Sylah and Anoor, together these grains of sand will become a storm.

As the empire begins a set of trials of combat and skill designed to find its new leaders, the stage is set for blood to flow, power to shift, and cities to burn.

Book One of The Ending Fire Trilogy

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound like they may be interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration. Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. Cover images are affiliate links to Bookshop, and I earn from qualifying purchases.

One book came in the mail last week, and it’s a novel on my 30 Anticipated 2022 Speculative Fiction Releases list!

The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez - Book Cover

The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez

This epic fantasy novel is scheduled for publication on August 30 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

The Spear Cuts Through Water is Simon Jimenez’s second novel. His science fiction debut novel, The Vanished Birds, was a finalist for both the Locus Award for Best First Novel and the Arthur C. Clarke Award.


Two warriors shepherd an ancient god across a broken land to end the tyrannical reign of a royal family in this new epic fantasy from the author of The Vanished Birds.


The people suffer under the centuries-long rule of the Moon Throne. The royal family—the despotic emperor and his monstrous sons, the Three Terrors—hold the countryside in their choking grip. They bleed the land and oppress the citizens with the frightful powers they inherited from the god locked under their palace.

But that god cannot be contained forever.

With the aid of Jun, a guard broken by his guilt-stricken past, and Keema, an outcast fighting for his future, the god escapes from her royal captivity and flees from her own children, the triplet Terrors who would drag her back to her unholy prison. And so it is that she embarks with her young companions on a five-day pilgrimage in search of freedom—and a way to end the Moon Throne forever. The journey ahead will be more dangerous than any of them could have imagined.

Both a sweeping adventure story and an intimate exploration of identity, legacy, and belonging, The Spear Cuts Through Water is an ambitious and profound saga that will transport and transform you—and is like nothing you’ve ever read before.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound like they may be interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration. Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. Cover images are affiliate links to Bookshop, and I earn from qualifying purchases.

It’s been a while since the last one of these features since April was the eleventh annual Women in SF&F Month series. In case you missed it, there were 17 guest posts by speculative fiction authors discussing a variety of topics: their experiences as a reader and writer, the ideas they explore in their work, worldbuilding, fairy tales/folktales and retellings, monsters, the types of characters they gravitate toward, and more.

And then, things came up the week before last, and I ended up having to work on the weekend instead of doing one of these posts.

It would take a long time to cover every book that has arrived since the end of March today, especially since my birthday is in April. So this week’s post will just include the latest ARC in the mail and a couple of other new books that I don’t believe I’ve discussed here before.

Cover of Rise of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Rise of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

This is a prequel to the New York Times bestselling School for Good and Evil books and the start of a new series set in the same universe. Rise of the School for Good and Evil will be available on May 31 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

Goodreads currently has a US-only giveaway of five print copies running through May 30.

I’ve been looking forward to the Netflix movie The School for Good and Evil coming out later this year, and fairy tale subversions are very much my cup of tea, so I’m excited to read this!


The battle between Good and Evil begins.

Two brothers.

One Good.

One Evil.

Together they watch over the Endless Woods.

Together they choose the students for the School for Good and Evil.

Together they train them, teach them, prepare them for their fate.

Then, something happens.

Something unexpected.

Something powerful.

Something that will change everything and everyone.

Who will survive?

Who will rule the School?

The journey starts here. Every step is filled with magic, surprises, and daring deeds that test courage, loyalty, and who you really are. But they only lead you to the very beginning of the adventures that are THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL.

Cover of Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia A. McKillip

Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia A. McKillip

Patricia A. McKillip’s The Changeling Sea and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld are two of my favorite books, and I love her writing in general, so I was delighted to get another one of her books for my birthday this year.


Fantasy author Patricia A. McKillip, the 21st century’s response to Hans Christian Andersen, has mastered the art of writing fairy tales — as evidenced by previous works like The Tower at Stony Wood, Ombria in Shadow, and In the Forests of SerreAlphabet of Thorn is yet another timeless fable suitable for children and adults alike.

In the kingdom of Raine, a vast realm at the edge of the world, an orphaned baby girl is found by a palace librarian and raised to become a translator. Years later, the girl — named Nepenthe — comes in contact with a mysterious book written in a language of thorns that no one, not even the wizards at Raine’s famous Floating School for mages, can decipher. The book calls out to Nepenthe’s very soul, and she is soon privately translating its contents. As she works tirelessly transcribing the book — which turns out to be about the historical figures of Axis, the Emperor of Night, and Kane, his masked sorcerer — the kingdom of Raine is teetering on the brink of chaos. The newly crowned queen, a mousy 14-year old girl named Tessera who wants nothing to do with matters of state, hides in the woods as regents plot revolution. The queen’s destiny, however, is intertwined with Nepenthe’s ability to unravel the mystery of the thorns.

Cover of Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Iron Widow (Iron Widow #1) by Xiran Jay Zhao

This was another birthday present I was quite excited about! I have heard such great things about this #1 New York Times bestselling YA science fiction novel, which reimagines the rise of China’s only female emperor, Wu Zetian.

Xiran Jay Zhao’s website has a free PDF sample from Iron Widow.


An instant #1 New York Times bestseller!

Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this blend of Chinese history and mecha science fiction for YA readers.

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Women in SF&F Month Banner

Thank you so much to all of this year’s guests for the amazing essays and another fantastic Women in SF&F Month! And thank you so much to everyone who shared guest posts and news of this year’s series—I really appreciate it!

This year’s series may be over, but I wanted to make sure there was a convenient way to find all of this year’s guest posts in case you missed any of them or are finding this later. This April was the eleventh annual Women in SF&F Month, which is dedicated to highlighting some of the many women doing wonderful work in speculative fiction. Guest posts include both discussions related to women in science fiction and/or fantasy and more general discussions about the genre(s), influences, writing, and creating stories, characters, and worlds.

You can browse through all the Women in SF&F Month 2022 guest posts here, or you can find a brief summary of each and its link below.

2022 Women in SF&F Month Guest Posts

Abdullah, Chelsea — “Why SFF?: Lies, Truths, and the Story Between Them”
The Stardust Thief author Chelsea Abdullah shared about some inspirations—such as oral storytelling, Arab representation in SFF, and blurred lines between truth and fiction—that had a role in her writing the personal story that became her debut novel.

Barnes, S. A. — “Give Me Messy Heroines”
Dead Silence author S. A. Barnes discussed wanting stories about flawed, imperfect heroines and writing about these types of characters in her own work.

Berwah, Tanvi — “A Girl and Her Maristag”
Monsters Born and Made author Tanvi Berwah shared about her love of monster companions and the trope of “a boy and his x” in fantasy—and how that had an influence on her YA debut novel.

Chee, Traci — “What Makes a Hero?”
The Reader author Traci Chee wrote about realizing that the hero’s journey didn’t quite fit the arc she wanted for her YA fantasy novel A Thousand Steps into Night—and discussed reconsidering some of our ideas about heroism.

El-Arifi, Saara — “Routes to my roots”
The Final Strife author Saara El-Arifi dedicated her Women in SF&F Month guest post to the Black women who preceded her, with a particular focus on Phillis Wheatley as the first writer of the Black diaspora.

Emrys, Ruthanna
The Innsmouth Legacy author Ruthanna Emrys discussed writing a story that reflected her experiences as a parent and combining parenting with first contact in her “diaperpunk” novel, A Half-Built Garden.

Evans, Davinia — “The Reason”
Notorious Sorcerer author Davinia Evans shared about her thought process when deciding to include more women in her fantasy debut novel—and the Notorious Sorcerer cover was revealed along with her guest post!

Falaye, Deborah — “We Are All a Little Morally Gray”
Blood Scion author Deborah Falaye wrote about having morally gray female characters in YA fiction and discussed making one the protagonist of her YA fantasy debut novel.

Gillig, Rachel — “Maidens, Monsters, and the Lines that Blur Between Them”
One Dark Window author Rachel Gillig discussed the monster/maiden dynamic and exploring it through a different type of maiden in her gothic fantasy novel.

Lin, Judy I. — “On Developing a Non-Combat Focused Magic System and Addressing Issues of Inequality Through Storytelling”
A Magic Steeped in Poison author Judy I. Lin discussed the tea-based magic system and worldbuilding in her YA fantasy debut novel.

Lyons, Jenn — “Out of the Maze”
A Chorus of Dragons author Jenn Lyons shared how Tenar’s story in The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin had an impact on her.

McMyne, Mary
The Book of Gothel author Mary McMyne wrote about her love of fairy tales and feminist retellings—and discussed exploring the Rapunzel folktale from the witch’s perspective in her debut novel.

Patel, Vaishnavi — “Divorcing the Evil Stepmother”
Kaikeyi author Vaishnavi Patel analyzed the evil stepmother trope and discussed telling a story from the perspective of one of these characters in her debut novel.

Rao, Kritika H. — “In Defense of Questions”
The Surviving Sky author Kritika H. Rao discussed the many questions explored in her science fantasy debut novel, such as those related to power and privilege as seen through the (often opposing) perspectives of a married couple.

Sim, Tara
Scavenge the Stars author Tara Sim shared about how she became a fantasy reader and writer, particularly how Alanna: The First Adventure gave her a love for girls with swords that had an influence on her novel The City of Dusk.

Unger, Kimberly
The Extractionist author Kimberly Unger shared some thoughts on research and including explanation when crafting stories, featuring an example from the science fiction TV series The Expanse.

Verma, Aparna — “The Need for Angry, Ruthless Women in Adult SFF”
The Boy with Fire author Aparna Verma wrote about Maa Kali, Rani Laxmi Bhai, and Begum Hazrat Mahal—and how they had an influence on Elena and Ferma, the female protagonist and her closest friend, in her debut novel.

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Today’s Women in SF&F Month guest is Aparna Verma! She is the author of the first book in The Ravence Trilogy, The Boy with Fire, which is described as “a glorious yet brutal tour-de-force debut that grapples with the power and manipulation of myth in an Indian-inspired epic fantasy.” Leading up to its release last year, she wrote about it on Goodreads, calling it “a magical conglomeration of Dune, Hindu mythology, Game of Thrones, and ATLA.”

Cover of The Boy with Fire by Aparna Verma

The Need for Angry, Ruthless Women in Adult SFF
By: Aparna Verma

When I first came across Maa Kali, I thought she was more a demon than a goddess.

A garland of skulls adorned her neck. Her skin was pitch-black like darkness itself. In the picture book where I first saw her, Maa Kali stood on the body of a demon, one hand gripping its decapitated head, the other wielding a bloody sword. Her eyes bulged and her red tongue flared out of her mouth, vicious like a snake.

I was terrified.

Terrified, but intrigued.

Maa Kali, as fearsome as she seems, is one of the highly revered goddesses in Hinduism. During Navratri, a nine-day festival dedicated to Ma Durga (another manifestation of Maa Kali), Hindus pray to the goddess. She is believed to be the goddess of time, destruction, and death. She destroys the ego, thus allowing one to attain moksha, or freedom from the endless, tiresome cycle of reincarnation. She is both power and forgiveness.

And she’s a fierce warrior.

According to the Devi Mahatmyam, a Hindu philosophical text, Maa Kali saved the world, and the gods, by defeating the demon Mahishasura. Her rage, her bloodthirst, though terrifying, allowed the world to flourish. Why then is she so misunderstood?

I’ve come to realize that when ferocious women arise in history, when they try to claim power or upset the status quo through violence, they’re often seen as mad. Begum Hazrat Mahal, a queen who led an army against the British, was described to have a “savage disposition.” Rani Laxmi Bhai, one of the greatest freedom fighters of Indian history, was diminished by a British officer to be an “ardent, daring, licentious woman.”

In other words, a whore.

But Maa Kali and these freedom fighters are more than bloodthirsty warriors or mad women.

They’re guardians.

They all harbor a deep passion to protect the ones they love.

When I began writing The Boy with Fire, I could not forget Maa Kali or these freedom fighters. Their violence, their anger, was understandable. More importantly, it was useful. 

Elena Aadya Ravence, the female protagonist of my story, puts her anger to use. She bends fire to wreak havoc on her enemies. She destroys to protect her kingdom. Her male counterparts believe her to be mad, like Maa Kali, like Rani Laxmi Bhai, like Begum Hazrat Mahal, but her violence is exacting. Precise. Yes, she is full of grief. Yes, she is full of fury. But like the women and goddess who inspired her, Elena Aadya Ravence wields her anger as a weapon. She is not a Dany Targaryen. She is a guardian of a kingdom, and she will do anything to protect it.

But Maa Kali’s influence in my story did not end with just Elena. When Maa Kali battled against Mahishasura and his asuras, she summoned an army of female warriors: the chandikas. The chandikas were fierce, powerful, and, above all, loyal.

The Yumi in The Boy with Fire are a bit like the chandikas. A race of fierce warriors, the Yumi often serve as soldiers in the kingdoms of Sayon. The men are healers, but the women are the fighters. Tall, lithe, and quick, the female Yumi are blessed with long hair that can instantly sharpen into hundreds of shards. Think porcupine. Think Medusa, except instead of snakes, you have daggers. With their hair, the Yumi can cut through metal and flesh. As my copy editor noted, it’s quite useful.

Elena’s closest friend, Ferma, is a Yumi. Together, Elena and Ferma serve as an embodiment of Maa Kali and her chandikas. They are both women who trained to become protectors. Fueled by grief and fury, they seek to create a world of peace, even if that peace may not be for themselves.

The Boy with Fire is a story of sin, sacrifice, and power. It pits characters of questionable morals against each other. But more importantly, it depicts women who are ruthless yet strategic. Flawed, but honorable. They are not Dany Targaryens who succumb to madness simply because they became too powerful.

I’m over that kind of storytelling.

It’s time we have angry, violent women in adult SFF who aren’t depicted as mad killers, but as valiant guardians, like Maa Kali, Rani Laxmi Bhai, Begum Hazrat Mahal, and all the unrecorded women of history who picked up the sword to protect the ones they love. I hope that when readers pick up The Boy with Fire, they’ll see Elena and Ferma as protectors. Violent and flawed, but in the end, women who dared.

Photo of Aparna Verma Aparna Verma was born in India and immigrated to the United States when she was two-years-old. She graduated from Stanford University with Honors in the Arts and a B.A. in English. The Boy with Fire is her first novel.

When she is not writing, Aparna likes to ride horses, dance to Bollywood music, and find old cafes to read myths about forgotten worlds. You can connect with Aparna on Twitter and Instagram at @spirited_gal.

Women in SF&F Month Banner

Today’s Women in SF&F Month guest is science fiction and fantasy author Kritika H. Rao! Her science fantasy debut novel, The Surviving Sky, is set in “plant-made civilizations held together by tradition, technology, and arcane science” floating above an uninhabitable planet. It follows a married couple, one of whom is an architect with abilities that help them remain afloat and the other of whom does not have this capability—and it’s scheduled for release this fall!

The Surviving Sky Graphic


I always knew I was writing science fantasy, but in the early days of writing The Surviving Sky, when people asked me what my book was about, I—like many writers—fumbled the answer magnificently. After all, I was spending an entire book’s worth of words to answer that very question. If I could tell you what it was about in a few pat lines, I wouldn’t need to write that book.

Of course, since then, I’ve learned my loglines and my tropes, my tweet-length synopses and my clever metaphors. It’s a story about a husband-wife duo who are trying to save their marriage while they try to save their flying plant city from crashing into jungle storms. It’s a meditation on power and privilege, who we love, why we love, and the cost of love. It’s a critique of capitalism, a story about duty and shared human society, a reflection on our relationship to survival and our damaged environment, and an exploration into the way all of our actions impact our very consciousness. It’s very epic, very awesome, and it has EVERYTHING AAAA!

One truth is that this kind of answer is very common to most writers, to a certain extent. We pour a lot of ourselves and our thoughts and experiences into our stories; so, for us, it is hard to delineate themes and say, “Yes, this is exactly what our books are about.”

Another truth is there truly is a lot packed into The Surviving Sky. All of the above answers feel like they’re getting to the crux, but are not quite accurate. It feels like a hunt, as though each answer is a wolf closing in, that as a pack they are nearing their quarry. But the answer is elusive, it isn’t quite caught yet, it isn’t quite understood, though it has been sighted.

This may be a grand statement for me to be making about a book I wrote, my debut no less, but frankly, my answer on what the book is about changes with the framing of the question. It is often based on who the questioner is. And that, I think, is key to a book like The Surviving Sky.


One answer I often give, and one that is deeply inherent to the book, is that it is an exploration of power and privilege.

Exploration, I think, is a very important word here.

There is a pivotal scene early in the story where Ahilya, one of the protagonists, thinks to herself of all the many ways in which architects like her husband, Iravan, are so used to the world submitting to their magic that they never see how monstrous it is that survival itself is created to be architect-dependent.

Everything from their language (the fact that they refer to people like Ahilya as non-architects, ha!) to the permissions of the city (who gets access to magic first and how) is dictated by where power lies. Yet the world works in such a way that the cooperation and consciousness of non-magic folk is imperative to keep the city in flight lest it crash to the earthrages. Ahilya herself, though she would likely not admit it (or more importantly, acknowledge it), has so much power, that she holds Iravan’s magic and his ability to manipulate the world, and in some ways, his very sanity, in the palm of her hand. Both those powers are intertwined deeply, so where does true power really lie?

This question intrigues me on multiple levels.

I think this, in the end, was my favorite part of writing this book; the fact that I could pose questions, often from two very opposing perspectives with Iravan and Ahilya who are on opposite sides of the spectrum, without making a judgement call on the answer. While all the plot questions are answered, deeper questions like this are explored with many possible answers; and that answer, dear reader, is up to you.

My job as a writer is merely to incite curiosity—whether it is on theories of power or of consciousness. The way I see it—questions are far more interesting than answers. We forget the role of dialectics in knowledge-building when we engage in competitive debate—and my hope with The Surviving Sky is that readers are caught in the passions of the two characters and their opposing viewpoints so much that it makes them question their own point of view when it comes to the above themes amongst others.


Another question the protagonists think of often is their culture, both shared and forgotten. As an archeologist, Ahilya is plagued by the absence and erasure of her own history; how no one knows, let alone cares very much about non-architect culture; that in their world, no records exist of people who cannot do magic; and that she and her ancestors have never been more than set pieces to the glamorous heroic histories of the architects.

What’s worse for her is that no one besides herself thinks there is anything wrong with that—not even others who can’t perform magic. She is an anomaly even among her own kind, questioning the very basis of survival—and for her, questioning itself is a political and imaginative act. The answers almost don’t matter, but the very fact that she is asking questions and living in that space of uncertainty makes her different.

This, in so many ways, is one of the things that makes science fiction and fantasy so beautiful—the fact that there is a lot we cannot know, but a lot we will nevertheless explore. The best SFF to me leaves the reader with more questions than answers—and I think sometimes we forget just how satisfying a good question can be.

In this age of insta-answers, insta-interpretation, insta-information, we find it almost offensive if something isn’t instantly clear, but in my experience as a teacher and a student, it is often the questions and the exploration of them that have the potential to bring people closer together than any answer. I worry sometimes about what we are losing when we demand answers before we have fully pondered a question and its shape in the first place.

For me, those questions were where I got the idea for the story. The Surviving Sky was influenced from my learnings of the Vedas and Upanishads, from studying Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s work and re-reading the poetic text Gita (which is a study in contradictions and questioning). It touches on karma, birth, rebirth, reincarnation, time, awareness, freedom and the nature of thought and intention and the meaning of mind itself—all through posing different questions through separate devices, all through a breakneck plot and a slow-burn romance.

I don’t often use those specific terms very much in the book at all because of how much they have been sullied, and how badly they have been appropriated and mangled. But at the heart of it, there is always one more question, one more mystery.

And that I think, if anything, is truly the realm of science fiction and fantasy. So when someone asks me what my book is about, I think the most accurate answer is that it is an homage to the questioning mind.

Photo of Kritika H. Rao Kritika H. Rao is a science fiction and fantasy writer, who has lived in India, Australia, Canada, and The Sultanate of Oman. Kritika’s stories are influenced by her lived experiences, and often explore themes of consciousness, self vs. the world, and identity. When she is not writing, she is probably making lists. You might catch her on Twitter or Instagram @KritikaHRao or visit her online at