E.K. Johnston, The Afterward:A little misleadingly titled, because there are flashbacks to the quest to save the world, but most of it is indeed set afterward, when the thief Olsa and the apprentice knight Kalanthe are doing their best to return to normal life after having experienced miracles and horrors. Since Olsa is a thief, and now really well known, it’s not going so well for her, and Kalanthe needs to marry to pay off her debt for her knight training but she only wants to be with Olsa so it’s not going so well for her either. If you want fantasy where sexuality is considered a purely personal matter by everyone—as long as the nobility produce heirs of the body—it’s fine, but quest fantasy isn’t my favorite and apparently aftermath isn’t either.
Adrian Tchaikovsk/y, Walking to Aldeberan: Space horror novella. When humanity finds an alien artifact beyond Pluto, the expedition to explore it goes very badly indeed; a surviving astronaut is deeply altered both physically and mentally. Appropriately creepy and much more horror-focused than Pohl’s Gateway to which it has some bare bones plot similarities.
Yoon Ha Lee, Hexarchate Stories: Mostly short stories about Jedao and Cheris’s younger lives, but a final longer story about their unwilling reunion which was very satisfying (and Jedao’s not quite human nature is more fully elaborated in fairly yucky ways).
T. Kingfisher, Swordheart: Halla is a widow about to be forced to marry her repellent cousin by marriage; she’s constantly asking questions that work as a matter of self-defense in a variety of situations, but not this one. Sarkis is a guy in a sword, enchanted to serve whoever owns the sword. Turns out, this time it’s Halla! Shenanigans ensue, with some banter, some slaughter, and a lot of journeying back and forth. Also, Halla and Sarkis fall in love. It’s cute.
T. Kingfisher, Jackalope Wives: Short stories with a mythical, often Southwestern, flair. Lots of cranky old women and treacherous gods.
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Friday Black: Short stories of the if-this-goes-on variety. The first involves a young black man who flirts with joining a new movement, the Namers, who dress in formal outfits while committing violence against whites and chanting the names of black children who’d been murdered with impunity. Others involve working retail in a world in which Black Friday creates zombie-like behavior and routinely leaves multiple people dead per store. The last story, and the one I liked best, featured a protagonist who’d been trapped in a time loop right before nuclear devastation; in possibly millions of loops, she’d turned herself into a monster and then tried for redemption, with unclear results.
Harry Connolly, A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark: A sprightly aunt uses magic to try to limit the bad effects of other magical beings like vampires on her city. She’s assisted by a nephew who’s a traumatized war vet, and hampered by the murder of another nephew. I don’t like characters who deliberately don’t explain stuff, even when it’s lampshaded, and so this wasn’t for me.
Sarah J. Maas, Kingdom of Ash: Doorstop ending to the Throne of Glass series. A series of last battles, thrilling escapes, brutal victories, and heterosexual couplings. She finished as she began, with lots of power and fights and references to “males,” which never failed to make me flinch—I mean, just call them Fae if you can’t say “people” or “men,” ok? Still, it kept me reading, and King Dorian and Manon Blackbeak in particular did good work.
R.F. Kuang, The Dragon Republic: Rin is back, and still making poor choices (from a very limited choice set) about who to trust in her quest to kill the Empress. Given the horrors of the last book, it’s not surprising that more death and coercion follow, but the greater threat of the Hesperians (English/European analogues) emerges as they want to study Rin so they can destroy the gods, which they consider agents of chaos compared to their superior monotheism. I kept thinking of N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, because it is also about how abuse does not ennoble and how existing structures can make it all but impossible for someone who has power to use it well.
Zen Cho, The True Queen: Sakti and Muna are sisters who awake on a beach with no memories from before. The sorceress of Janda Baik tries to help them, but ends up sending them to England—only Sakti is swept away into Fairy on the journey. As Muna, who lacks magic, tries to make her way with the Sorceress to the Crown, she begins to learn that her connections to Fairy are far deeper than she suspected—as are her connections to the beautiful Henrietta, one of the Sorceress’s companions. Regency-ish fantasy with dragons who have impeccably British nicknames.