Archive for September 2018

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 10, Issue 10 (September 2018)

In this issue:



Volunteers are vital to Sirens. Our greatest need during the conference is for room monitors—the designated adult for the room! Typical duties involve helping presenters keep on time, closing the doors if the room gets full, and getting help for more involved troubleshooting. Shifts last for a morning or afternoon, for a few hours at a time.

For more details, please visit our volunteer page. If you’re a returning volunteer, you don’t need to fill out the form—just follow the directions in the email sent through the Google Group to claim a shift or two.



Wakanda carvings, a magical adventure kit, a whale of a quilt—these are just some of the items in our auction this year! If you are planning to donate auction items, you’ll need to complete our new in-kind donation form no later than Monday, October 1. (If you are donating multiple auction items, please note that you must complete the form multiple times.) More information is available on our auction page.



In the coming weeks, we’ll be sending important instruction emails to registered attendees on how to meet the Sirens Shuttle, check in for the Sirens Studio and Sirens, and find the Sirens Supper—which is in a new location this year! Presenters will also receive communications from the programming team.

If you’re riding the Sirens Shuttle and you have not yet provided us with your flight information, please write to (help at We’ll track your progress toward Sirens and make sure that you haven’t run into any delays along the way.



To celebrate our conference theme of reunion, we continue to reflect on past conferences and check in with our past Guests of Honor to see what they’ve been up to these days. In 2015, our theme was rebels and revolutionaries, and our Guests of Honor were Rae Carson, Kate Elliott, and Yoon Ha Lee. Read the full post.

In 2016, our theme was lovers, and our Guests of Honor were Renée Ahdieh, Laurie J. Marks, and Kiini Ibura Salaam. Read the full post.



Sirens veterans know that we choose a variety of popular, controversial, and just plain brilliant books related to our theme, and invite attendees to bring their breakfast on conference mornings and discuss the selections. View all our 2018 selections—with four themes to match our reunion year!—including our picks for 2016’s lovers theme featuring Roshani Chokshi’s A Crown of Wishes and Ellen Klages’s Passing Strange.



Like Water for Chocolate

Sirens co-founder Amy read Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate this month: “a scalding, blistering work of fiery passions and violent anger and ultimately, literal conflagration.” Read her review on the blog and on Goodreads.



Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Are you, like Faye, sprinting to the 2018 Reading Challenge finish line? So close! Melissa Bashardoust’s Girls Made of Snow and Glass had a premise she loved: “the queen stepmother and the princess are pitted as rivals, but realize they are more similar than they are different. They eventually recognize each other’s strength and power, and rule the realm together.” Read her thoughts on the execution on the blog and on Goodreads.



Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at and questions about programming to (programming at


Read Along with Faye: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Each year, Communications Director Faye Bi attempts to read the requisite 25 books to complete the Sirens Reading Challenge. In 2018, a Reunion year, she’ll be reading books from the past four years’ themes: hauntings, revolutionaries, lovers, and women who work magic. Light spoilers ahead. If you’d like some structure—or company—on your own reading goals, we invite you to read along!

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

The premise of Melissa Bashardoust’s Girls Made of Snow and Glass is stunning: a feminist retelling of Snow White where the queen stepmother and the princess are pitted as rivals, but realize they are more similar than they are different. They eventually recognize each other’s strength and power, and rule the realm together. If someone gave me this elevator pitch, I would ride it all the way up to the penthouse! It’s certainly why I picked this up in the first place.

And that is partly the reason why I was so lukewarm towards the actual execution. It feels as if someone had said, “Hey, do you know what would make a really great book?” but then only gave an outline—or fable, perhaps?—instead of a full-length novel. The outline is pretty good: in a cursed land where the snow falls year-round, Mina has married King Nicholas after the beautiful queen dies, now a stepmother to his infant daughter. Though their marriage is loveless, Mina has ambitions of her own, and plans to build a university in the South, where she is from. Lynet grows to be sixteen, the absolute spitting image of her late mother, and seen by everyone—her father the king, the council, etc.—to fill her delicate, dainty shoes in both looks and personality.

But here is the twist, and it’s a good one. Mina and Lynet are actually close. Lynet wishes to step outside of her dead mother’s shadow and be her own person; Mina has always wanted that for her, even though her husband the king would rather his daughter copy his dead wife. They have a well-established mother-daughter relationship at the beginning of the novel, even when everyone else expects them to resent each other. More yet, they both share a secret: Mina’s heart is made of glass, fashioned by her magician father Gregory, and Lynet—well, Lynet was created by Mina’s father as well. The former queen did not die after giving birth to Lynet… Lynet is fashioned completely from snow. As a consequence of such magic, both Mina and Lynet have power over their glass and snow respectively, including the power to conjure and shape inanimate objects and animate beings.

While the magic is not particularly well fleshed out—Lynet conjures a cloak from snow, but can she create food that’s truly nourishing? Does vanishing something mean it’s destroyed? How do you create organic matter out of thin air? Etc. Etc.—it does have a crucial limitation: life requires blood. Gregory gave his own blood to give Lynet a pulse, so yes, she is a real person and not a hollow body like the Huntsman, and that’s the only indication of magical cost and the crux of the novel’s conflict. But given the misunderstandings galore in this novel, one truly wonders why either Lynet nor Mina didn’t just conjure a bird with a message to fly to the other person and get this Shakespearean drama (including a fake death!) sorted out once and for all.

Ultimately, however, my biggest complaint with Girls Made of Snow and Glass is the lack of specificity. The setting, for instance, feels incredibly generic, lacking the details that make Arendelle Arendelle, or Winterfell Winterfell. We know it’s cold, and there’s a curse. Most of the court politics and personality descriptors are told rather than shown, and while they’re relevant to the main plot, they feel like unsatisfying filler. So, the reader must hinge on something else, perhaps the characters? Well, there are only five characters total: Mina, Lynet, the king-who-eventually-dies, Mina’s magician father with his own motives, and the young surgeon, Nadia. Seven if you count the Huntsman and the head Pidgeon/court lady whose name I forget. As such, it feels small. That means that a lot of the novel is focused on the inner lives of these characters and their emotions—is my stepmother planning to kill me? Who could ever love a girl with a glass heart? I was going to sell you out but you changed everything for me!—without any textual examples to sink into and make me actually feel those emotions.

Still, that said, there is plenty to like in Girls Made of Snow and Glass. Bashardoust was successful in pacing two perspectives in different timelines—contemporary Lynet and past Mina—and weaving them together for the last act. The romance between Lynet and Nadia is a lovely idea, but the focus between Lynet and Mina is front and center, as it should be. It reminds me much of Malinda Lo’s Ash, with much of the same strengths and flaws (great, underrepresented premise, yet lack of specificity in setting, characters, and plot). I can only hope that, as Bashardoust’s first novel, her subsequent efforts will be more what I’m looking for in my reading.

Next month: A recap of Faye’s 2018 Reading Challenge!

Faye Bi is a book-publishing professional based in New York City, and leads the Sirens communications team. She’s yet to read an immigrant story she hasn’t cried over, and is happiest planning nerdy parties, capping off a long run with brunch, and cycling along the East River.


Where Are They Now: 2016 Guests of Honor

This fall will mark our tenth year of Sirens. With our conference theme of reunion, it’s the perfect chance to reflect on past conferences and revisit some old friends. In this series, we check in with our past Guests of Honor to see what they’ve been up to these days. If you attended Sirens that year, please share with us your memories of 2016 in the comments or on social media, and take a stroll with us down memory lane!

In 2016, our theme was lovers, and our Guests of Honor were Renée Ahdieh, Laurie J. Marks, and Kiini Ibura Salaam.

Renée Ahdieh

Renée AhdiehSmoke in the Sun

In 2017, Renée published a new YA romantic fantasy set against the backdrop of feudal Japan titled Flame in the Mist, starring seventeen-year-old Mariko, the only daughter of a samurai, who is ambushed by a group of lethal bandits on her journey to the imperial court. It was a New York Times Bestseller and won a 2018 Southern Book Prize for young adult fiction. In anticipation of this past June’s second of the duology, Smoke in the Sun, two digital short stories were also published, Okami and Yumi, eponymously titled after supporting characters in the saga.

You can catch some of Renée’s short fiction in the 2017 Star Wars anthology, From a Certain Point of View (her story is “The Luckless Rodian”), alongside the works of other past Sirens guests of honor Rae Carson and Zoraida Córdova. She also contributed to A Thousand Endings and Beginnings, a collection of stories reimagining the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia, with the story “Nothing to All.”

Where She Is Now: “I live in North Carolina (Go Heels!) with my husband Victor and our dog Mushu. In my spare time, I like to cook, mess with makeup, and wreak havoc on the lives of my characters.


Laurie J. Marks

Laurie J. MarksAir Logic

Fans of Laurie’s Elemental Logic series, the wait is (quite nearly) over! Small Beer Press has announced that the fourth and final volume, Air Logic, will be released on July 9, 2019. This is not a drill! Twelve long years after Water Logic, Laurie brings us back to Shaftal at last. Check out Small Beer’s book page for more information.

Where She Is Now: From writer Rosemary Kirstein’s website, we’ve learned that Laurie is still working at the University of Massachusetts and hard at work on her next novel.


Kiini Ibura Salaam

Kiini Ibura SalaamWhen the World Wounds

In November 2016, Kiini published her next collection of short stories When the World Wounds, which “continues her exploration of the dark, the sensual, and the mysterious with fiction that disturbs, delights, and dazzles” that we have come to expect from Ancient, Ancient. It received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. One of the stories, “The Malady of Need,” also appeared in the anthology Sycorax’s Daughters—co-edited by 2018 Sirens Studio faculty member Dr. Kinitra D. Brooks and featuring poems and stories by African American women writers—with some slight tweaks.

Kiini traveled extensively to cons, signings, and various events in 2017 to promote When the World Wounds. “I promised I’d spend a year promoting the book, and that’s just what I did. Now 2018 will be a year of minimal traveling and writing, writing, writing.

Apex Magazine re-ran Kiini’s piercing non-fiction essay “‘There’s No Racism Here?’ A Black Woman in the Dominican Republic” in their September 2018 issue.

Where She Is Now: Working as an editor and copyeditor in New York. Kiini and her daughter live in Brooklyn.


Book Club: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Each year, Sirens chair Amy Tenbrink posts monthly reviews of new-to-her books from the annual Sirens reading list. You can find all of her Sirens Book Club reviews at the Sirens Goodreads Group. We invite you to read along and discuss!

Like Water for Chocolate

In 1989, when Like Water for Chocolate was first published, I was 13. I was reading my mother’s mysteries and bodice rippers, where the girls were either, respectively, dead or had to be told how much they wanted sex. I was consumed with my own perfectionism and already worried about achieving perfect grades, perfect attendance, and perfect extracurricular activities in high school, which I wouldn’t even start for another year. I did not read Like Water for Chocolate when it came out.

But maybe I should have.

In certain Spanish-speaking countries, the phrase “like water for chocolate” means “furious.” Often, in those countries, hot chocolate is made with near-boiling water, so the simile is, essentially, so mad that one is boiling over, rage-filled, livid. And Laura Esquivel’s book is so much like water for chocolate: a scalding, blistering work of fiery passions and violent anger and ultimately, literal conflagration.

Widowed Mama Elena has three daughters: Gertrudis, Rosaura, and the youngest, Tita. Like Water for Chocolate is Tita’s story, born of Mama Elena’s insistence that, as in family tradition, Tita never marry and instead stay home to take care of her mother. As with life, instead, Tita is the first of the girls to fall in love, instantly and fervidly with Pedro, who promptly appears in Mama Elena’s living room to ask for Tita’s hand in marriage. Mama Elena refuses, of course, and instead offers Rosaura to Pedro, who…accepts. Pedro’s reasoning is that, by marrying her sister, he can be close to Tita. Tita is predictably heartbroken and bakes her sorrow into Rosaura and Pedro’s wedding feast, causing sickness and, ultimately, a magical realism river of vomit.

Like Water for Chocolate, while purportedly told in monthly segments full of recipes and cooking tips – as befits Tita’s passion for cooking – in fact covers over 20 years of Tita’s life: her love of Pedro; Gertrudis’s escape from the household (another magical realism moment of unquenchable passion that culminates in a naked race into the desert and sex with a stranger on a horse); Mama Elena’s death (and haunting of Tita); and finally Tita and Pedro’s eventual consummation of their passion, only to have Pedro’s orgasm cause his death – upon which Tita, unwilling to let him go, creates her own death, burning the ancestral family ranch to the ground in the process. Does that sound like a lot? That’s not even the half of it!

Like Water for Chocolate is, even more than Tita and Pedro’s story, Tita and Mama Elena’s. Tita is, fundamentally, a creature of her mother’s making: selfless, abused, oppressed, a perfectionist. The first story in the book is about Mama Elena refusing Tita’s heart’s greatest desire, not because Tita is too young or even that Pedro isn’t suitable, but because Mama Elena wants someone to cook her food, draw her baths, and care for her ranch. Like Water for Chocolate is a slowly accelerating burn, lit when Tita is refused Pedro. The book is Tita’s, as she discovers her agency and how to use it, but every action she takes is in reaction to her mother, her mother’s literal ghost, and her mother’s legacy in Rosaura’s beliefs about marriage, dignity, and eventually, her own daughter staying home to care for her.

Mothers are powerful. As we grow into ourselves and our feminism, so much of that growth is in reaction to what we learned from our mothers. Whether we were encouraged on that path. Whether we were told to be selfless and put our mothers, our fathers, our husbands first. Whether we were taught that cooking, cleaning, and sewing were fundamentally about caretaking. Whether we were taught to suppress our passions, physical and otherwise. Whether we were told that we had to be perfect.

Like Water for Chocolate is that book. It’s about a daughter’s journey as a reflection of her mother’s influence. It’s about finding her own agency and her own path–but always in reaction to what she learned from her mother. Tita’s situation is perhaps extreme–as Esquivel likely intended–but even without violence or a boyfriend given to a sister or a ghost, her story will be so familiar to so many of us because Tita’s story is, ultimately, about her boiling point: her rage, her passion, her reclamation that, in the end, is all about burning it all down.

I didn’t read Like Water for Chocolate at 13, but maybe I should have.

Like Water for Chocolate is a quick read. Twelve chapters, one for each month of a figurative year, each with a Mexican recipe important to Tita’s life. Esquivel is primarily a screenwriter, and it shows, as the book does a lot of telling rather than showing. If it were a longer book, perhaps the writing would be a more significant deterrent, but at a very quick 250 pages, it’s worth the time, if only for a moment of contemplation on how much of what we do, even today, is in reaction to our mothers.

Amy Tenbrink spends her days handling strategic and intellectual property transactions as an executive vice president for a major media company. Her nights and weekends over the last twenty-five years have involved managing a wide variety of events, including theatrical productions, marching band shows, sporting events, and interdisciplinary conferences. Most recently, she has organized three Harry Potter conferences (The Witching Hour, in Salem, Massachusetts; Phoenix Rising, in the French Quarter of New Orleans; and Terminus, in downtown Chicago) and eight years of Sirens. Her experience includes all aspects of event planning, from logistics and marketing to legal consulting and budget management, and she holds degrees with honors from both the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and the Georgetown University Law Center. She likes nothing so much as monster girls, Weasleys, and a well-planned revolution.


Sirens Review Squad: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

The Sirens Review Squad is made up of Sirens volunteers, who submit short reviews of books (often fantasy literature by women authors) they’ve read and enjoyed. If you’re interested in sending us a review to run on the blog, please email us! Today, in honor of Leigh Bardugo’s Guest of Honor week here at Sirens, we welcome a review from Amanda Hudson on Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows.

Six of Crows

Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows follows a team of six diverse and intriguing teenagers as they attempt to pull off an impossible heist. Set in the fictional city of Ketterdam, the capital of an island nation, the story begins with an experiment involving a dangerous drug going wrong. Afterward, a wealthy merchant calls upon Kaz, a legendary criminal and member of the Dreg gang, to break into a high security prison and kidnap the creator of this dangerous drug in exchange for an amount of money that would more than pay off his debts and set him up for life. The prison he has to break into is no ordinary prison, and to pull something like this off, Kaz has to carefully select his team.

Prior to reading Six of Crows, I was not a YA person. Not really. This book changed the way I view YA because the world felt gritty, the characters were complex, and it gave me something deeper while taking me on an adventure. I loved this book, and I recommend it nearly every time someone asks for recommendations, thus I don’t want to go into too many spoilers. Six of Crows is a fun quick read, and—lucky for everyone who hasn’t yet read it—the sequel is already out, so you can dive right into Crooked Kingdom and be swept away to an epic conclusion. Instead, I want to look a little deeper at the two female characters on Kaz’s team: Inej and Nina.

Both work magic, but only Nina works magic in the traditional sense. And yet, Inej and Nina are powerful while dealing in two things that, in our culture, are often seen as weak and submissive. Inej is silent, unseen. Nina works magic with emotions; she literally does emotional labor. And still, they are feared. Kaz has picked every member of his team for the heist because of a unique skill and/or ability. From this, the reader is shown the power and strength of the two amazing women, who are valued explicitly for the things our society so often degrades.

Inej is known for her ability to slip through the shadows unnoticed, which makes her a valuable spy and collector of secrets. One could argue that her ‘magic’ is stealth, which makes her nearly invisible when she doesn’t want to be seen. I found Inej’s phantom qualities magical in their own right, and even wondered at times how much of her invisibility was from her own effort, and how much was merely a truth of being a woman in a man’s world.

Nina, on the other hand, is a Grisha Heartrender. Having not read the Shadow and Bone trilogy, Six of Crows served as my introduction to Bardugo’s world. Heartrenders, I learned, not only use their magic to heal, ease pain, and alter appearances, but are also considered valuable soldiers, able to slow pulses and do serious damage to a person’s body by manipulating their tissues. I found this duality rather beautiful. Nina can do harm, but she can also do good. The capacity to do both makes her a far more interesting kind of magic-worker than one given no choice over how to use their power.

We first meet Nina working in a brothel. Clients seek her out for her magic, not for her body. Specializing in emotions, Nina manipulates bodies into a sense of peace, ease, and relaxation. This brief scene at the start of the book stood in stark contrast to the brutality of the rest of Bardugo’s worldbuilding. The introduction to Nina’s powers as something so light left me wondering what on earth Kaz, the ringleader in this heist, had planned for the Heartrender.

Having power when others do not very obviously creates an imbalance where those with power are feared by those without. Interestingly, when that power is something like knowledge or magic, those without choose to oppress those with, or try to take the power away. In Six of Crows, Nina isn’t safe to broadcast what she is because Grishas are hunted. Thus, Nina is part of an entire class of magic-workers who hold immense power but must hide it away, or use it in non-threatening ways. Nina could torture a man with her mind, but instead she soothes him and deals in emotions. Something safe. Something, ultimately, that is woman’s work.

Following Inej and Nina through Six of Crows, and later through Crooked Kingdom, I thought about how I perceived them at each point. I sometimes judged them for their choices or their passivity, in what I interpreted then as moments of weakness. Like when Kaz pushes Inej too far and she stays silent— I wanted her to scream and tell him off. Or when Nina holds back her magic instead of showing the world what she can do. It reminded me of incidents in my own life, in a world where it’s hard to find power in silence and compassion. In rereading Six of Crows, I forced myself to pause when I came to those pages and asked myself if it was really a moment of weakness for that character. Sometimes, yes, it was, but other times, no. Other times, they drew immense power from holding back. Part of their journeys, like our own, is in learning when to hold back and when to unleash that quiet power hidden away inside.

Nina works magic. Real magic. But Inej works her own magic as well. And through them both we can learn to value what someone else might not, and to find power in perceived weaknesses. Both women are strong not because they’ve overcome hardships, fears, or weaknesses, but because they draw power from and work them to their benefits. It’s this kind of complexity in Bardugo’s characters that makes Six of Crows shine, and why I continue to recommend this book to friends and even acquaintances.

Amanda Hudson works full time as a game developer in Malmö, Sweden. She holds a JD from Baylor University and previously practiced law in Texas. When not reading or writing fantasy, Amanda enjoys eating delicious Scandinavian foods and playing video games and board games.


Where Are They Now: 2015 Guests of Honor

This fall will mark our tenth year of Sirens. With our conference theme of reunion, it’s the perfect chance to reflect on past conferences and revisit some old friends. In this series, we check in with our past Guests of Honor to see what they’ve been up to these days. If you attended Sirens that year, please share with us your memories of 2015 in the comments or on social media, and take a stroll with us down memory lane!

In 2015, our theme was rebels and revolutionaries, and our Guests of Honor were Rae Carson, Kate Elliott, and Yoon Ha Lee.

Rae Carson

Rae CarsonInto the Bright Unknown

The year Rae was a Guest of Honor at Sirens, we were first introduced to a girl with the magical ability to sense gold in Gold Rush-era America in Walk on Earth a Stranger, which made the long list for the National Book Award. Since then, two sequels have been published, completing the Gold Seer trilogy: Like a River Glorious in 2016 and Into the Bright Unknown in 2017.

Fans of Star Wars, check out Rae’s work set in the Star Wars world! In 2017, her short story “The Red One” appeared in the anthology From A Certain Point of View, and her novella “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing,” was included in the collection Canto Bright. In May 2018, Rae also published Star Wars: Most Wanted, a YA novel prequel to the film Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Rae also contributed the short story “Omega Ship” in the Natalie C. Parker-edited anthology, Three Sides a Heart: Stories About Love Triangles, which came out December 2017.

Where She Is Now: Rae and her husband adopted a new kitten, named Whiskey, in June 2017! (You can follow Whiskey’s adventures at #AShotofWhiskey, and quite evidently he has figured out how to sneak inside cupboards in their new home.) She is also working on a fantasy novel, and has promised more news in a few months!


Kate Elliott

Kate ElliottBuried Heart

Kate’s Court of Fives, published in 2015, went on to be nominated for an Andre Norton award. Jes’s revolution in a world inspired by Greco-Roman Egypt continued in The Poisoned Blade, out in 2016, and Buried Heart, out in 2017. The Court of Fives universe also includes two novellas: Night Flower, the story of Jes’s parents and how they met, and Bright Thrones, featuring her missing sister Bettany.

Back in July, Kate appeared a WorldCon76 in San Jose—you can listen to an audio recording of her “Writing the Epic” panel with Rebecca Roanhorse here.

Get ready! Unconquerable Sun, the first of Kate’s new Sun Chronicles series, comes out in 2019, and is described as a “genderbent Alexander the Great as space opera in a series of linked volumes that tell the story of an imperial conquest and how it breaks down after the death of its charismatic leader.”

Where She Is Now: Living in Hawaii with her family, writing, and proud owner of a new pup: “A schnauzer. Finn (short for Fingolfin), High King of the Schnoldor. Here he is at 5 months.” (Photo by Kamaaina K9)

Upcoming Appearances: Kate will be returning this year at Sirens in October 2018!


Yoon Ha Lee

Yoon Ha LeeRevenant Gun

Since A Conservation of Shadows, Yoon published the spectacular and brain-breaking military sci-fi Machineries of Empire trilogy to much acclaim! The first, Ninefox Gambit, won the 2017 Locus Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for the Nebula, Hugo and Clarke Awards. In their review, NPR writes, “So how much can you screw with a world before you take it completely to pieces? … Lee has turned this elementary concern into a game of chicken he plays with himself.” Yoon recently appeared on the FutureTech podcast to discuss Ninefox Gambit.

The sequel, Raven Stratagem, was nominated for the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Novel; the conclusion to the trilogy Revenant Gun was released in June 2018. Yoon has written several additional short stories set in the world of the hexarchate, which you can find here, which will be published as a collection in June 2019. “Extracurricular Activities” was a Hugo finalist in the short story category.

For you and the young reader in your life, Yoon has exciting news to share: “I have a middle grade Korean mythology space opera, Dragon Pearl, due out from Disney-Hyperion in January 2019. It’s about a teen fox spirit girl who goes on a quest to save her brother—in spaaaace!”

Where He Is Now: Busy writing, drawing, and composing “oddments of music,” now featuring his work on Patreon! Check that out here.

Upcoming Appearances: Thalia’s Book Club at Symphony Space in New York, NY on January 29, 2019—and this year’s Sirens in October 2018!


Books and Breakfast: Spotlight on Lovers

Each year, we select a variety of popular, controversial, and just plain brilliant books—and then, during Sirens, invite our attendees to bring their breakfast and discuss them. Over the years, this program has highlighted the depth and breadth of each of our annual themes and given attendees yet another opportunity to deconstruct, interrogate, and celebrate what women and nonbinary authors are doing in fantasy literature.

This year, our Books and Breakfast program will feature eight books, with two dedicated to each of the themes of our past four years: hauntings, rebels and revolutionaries, lovers, and women who work magic. The complete list of our selections and a spotlight on our hauntings selections are here; a spotlight on our rebels and revolutionaries selections is here; and we’ll be featuring the women who work magic selections in the coming weeks. We hope this helps you pick which ones you might like to read before Sirens!



The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Rebels and Revolutionaries

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado


A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

Women Who Work Magic

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle


Our two Books and Breakfast picks focused on lovers are Roshani Chokshi’s A Crown of Wishes and Ellen Klages’s Passing Strange. Do you plan on picking these up soon? Let us know! Tweet @sirens_con or use the hashtag #Sirens18!


A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

A Crown of Wishes

First, a note: Please don’t let the fact that A Crown of Wishes is the second book in Chokshi’s Star-Touched series deter you! We promise, you may read it easily as a standalone—and in fact, only a single scene in A Crown of Wishes is informed by the first book in the series, and even then, only slightly.

A Crown of Wishes belongs to Gauri and Vikram, she a warrior princess struggling under her brother’s rule, he a puppet emperor ascendant of the neighboring kingdom. For reasons you won’t truly understand until the end of the book, Vikram stumbles into the Tournament of Wishes, a deadly game run by the enigmatic Lord of Wealth in a mythical land. Vikram’s invitation is for two, and in a somewhat improbable meeting with Gauri, helped along by the gods, he proposes that they enter the tournament together: He can wish to rule in truth; she can wish to rule in her brother’s stead.

But the gods, of course, have other plans. As Gauri and Vikram navigate myth and magic, they learn an awful lot, through near-death and chance encounters, through conversations and magic. Beautifully, though—and unlike in many romances—they don’t just learn from each other, though they do plenty of that. Here, they learn a lot individually, too: about their pasts, their stumbling blocks, their hang-ups. They see how they need to grow individually, and small spoiler, at the end of the book, when they take time to get their individual hopes and dreams in order before reuniting, you can cheer a relationship of equal individuals who choose to be together in a thoughtful way (even as Guari complains, as we all might: I sent him a gift. He should send a gift back. Why hasn’t he sent a gift back?).

A Crown of Wishes is, in many ways, the best of the rom coms: funny, smart, sexy, and with a twist at the end that levels their happy ending up from merely happy to legendary. Vikram is hot, of course, but also clever and willing to play the gods’ games. Gauri is a revelation: Though she is gorgeous, Vikram frequently describes her as a beast or a monster, in the most admiring terms possible, and it will make your feminist heart melt into a delighted puddle. She’s brute force to his calculated misdirection, a fierce directness to his patience, a dagger to his charm. And they so clearly belong together.


Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

Passing Strange

Passing Strange is, perhaps, best described a tone poem. A tone poem, for anyone who didn’t suffer through classical music classes once upon a time, is this: a piece of orchestral music, typically in one movement, on a descriptive or rhapsodic theme. They’re shorter than symphonies or concertos and, due to their single-movement nature, often lack the variation present in symphonies or concertos as well. Think of them as the musical representation of painting, perhaps. And the same is true of Passing Strange, it’s a glorious work, novella-length, that paints a lesbian romance in airy brushstrokes.

Passing Strange is set in San Francisco against the backdrop of the 1939 World’s Fair, and the city is as much a character as anyone: inviting, enchanting, deviling the human characters themselves. The World’s Fair’s Magic City makes an appearance, as do Chinatown and the city’s famous Painted Ladies rowhouses. For those of you who yearn for sentient settings, drawn with vivid magic and wills of their own, this one’s for you.

But this one is also for anyone who loves a love story for the ages, a moment in time where two people meet and everything else falls away. Where abusive husbands and judgmental people and your own limitations pale in comparison to the person in front of you. In this case, its two women finding each other, improbably, impossibly, despite the violence and discrimination of so many in the city. They are helped along the way by more women, and while the form of their happy ever after won’t surprise you, the beauty and transcendence of the scene depicted on the cover just might.


New Fantasy Books: September 2018

We’re excited to bring you a roundup of September 2018 fantasy book releases by and about women and nonbinary folk. Let us know what you’re looking forward to, or any titles that we’ve missed, in the comments!


Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.


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