The Fiction Fox
2022 Recommendations to read this Autumn
The month of October is packed with exciting releases, making it all too easy to forget how many great autumnally appropriate books have already been released earlier this calendar-year. If you’re overwhelmed by the choices; let me help you out. Below, I’ll recommend 10 of my favourite releases of 2022, that I think would be perfect to read during autumn.
I could’ve easily doubled the length of this list, had I included all the books I haven’t yet gotten around (The Hacienda, Just Like Home, What We Harvest and The Undead Truth of Us just to name a few), but I narrowed it down to 10 I’ve finished + my current read. They have varying levels of spooks, but all embody the autumnal-vibes perfectly in my opinion.
1. Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield
Genre: literary horror Synopsis: Miri th inks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep-sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah is not the same. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has brought part of it back with her, onto dry land and into their home. Moving through something that only resembles normal life, Miri comes to realize that the life that they had before might be gone. Though Leah is still there, Miri can feel the woman she loves slipping from her grasp. My recommendation: 5/5 stars, the kind of weirdly unnerving that will speak to fans of Annihilation and one of my favourite reads of the year thusfar. Full review here.
2. What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher Genre: horror Synopsis: When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania. What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves. Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.
My recommendation: 5/5 stars, a must-read for fans of Kingfisher ór the original Poe classic.
3. Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Rio Genre: historical fantasy Synopsis: England, 1882. In Victorian London, two children with mysterious powers are hunted by a figure of darkness —a man made of smoke. Sixteen-year-old Charlie Ovid, despite a lifetime of brutality, doesn't have a scar on him. His body heals itself, whether he wants it to or not. Marlowe, a foundling from a railway freight car, shines with a strange bluish light. He can melt or mend flesh. When two grizzled detectives are recruited to escort them north to safety, they are forced to confront the nature of difference, and belonging, and the shadowy edges of the monstrous. What follows is a journey from the gaslit streets of London, to an eerie estate outside Edinburgh, where other children with gifts—the Talents—have been gathered. A journey to discover the truth about their abilities, and the nature of the force that is stalking them: that the worst monsters sometimes come bearing the sweetest gifts. My recommendation: 4/5 stars; a delicious dark fantasy that lives and breathes with Gothic vibes.
4. The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope Genre: historical fantasy Synopsis: Washington D. C., 1925, A woman able to communicate with spirits must assemble a ragtag crew to pull off a daring heist to save her community in this timely and dazzling historical fantasy that weaves together African American folk magic, history, and romance. My recommendation: 5/5 stars, one of the most underrated fantasies of the year for fans of the Conductors of The Diviners. Full review here.
5. They Drown Our Daughters by Katrina Monroe Genre: horror
Synopsis: They say Cape Disappointment is haunted. That's why tourists used to flock there in droves. They'd visit the rocky shoreline under the old lighthouse's watchful eye and fish shells from the water as they pretended to spot dark shapes in the surf. Now the tourists are long gone, and when Meredith Strand and her young daughter return to Meredith's childhood home after an acrimonious split from her wife, the Cape seems more haunted by regret than any malevolent force. But her mother, suffering from early stages of Alzheimer's, is convinced the ghost stories are real. Not only is there something in the water, but it's watching them. Waiting for them. Reaching out to Meredith's daughter the way it has to every woman in their line for generations-and if Meredith isn't careful, all three women, bound by blood and heartbreak, will be lost one by one to the ocean's mournful call. My recommendation: 4/5 stars, perfect for readers who enjoy “vibes” over a fast-paced plot, and anyone looking for a creepy take on oceanic- or mermaid mythology.
6. A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross Genre: fantasy inspired by Scottish folktales Synopsis: Enchantments run deep on the magical Isle of Cadence: gossip is carried by the wind, plaid shawls can be as strong as armour, and the smallest cut of a knife can instil fathomless fear. The capricious spirits that live there find mirth in the lives of the humans who call the land home, but that mischief turns to malevolence as girls begin to go missing. Adaira, heiress of the east, knows the spirits only answer to a bard’s music, enticing them to return the missing girls. But there’s only one bard capable of drawing the spirits forth by song: her childhood enemy Jack Tamerlaine. He hasn’t stepped foot on Cadence in ten long years, content to study music at the mainland university, but as Jack and Adaira reluctantly work together it becomes apparent the trouble with the spirits is far more sinister than first thought and an older, darker secret lurks beneath the surface, threatening to undo them all. My recommendation: 3.75/5 stars, this book had all the atmosphere to be the perfect read for under a blanket on a rainy day, full review here.
7. Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi Genre: horror Synopsis: For nearly two decades, Jamie Warren has been running from darkness. He's haunted by a traumatic childhood and the guilt at having disappeared from his disabled brother's life. But then a series of unusual events reunites him with his estranged brother and their childhood friends, and none of them can deny the sense of fate that has seemingly drawn them back together. Nor can they deny the memories of that summer, so long ago – the strange magic taught to them by an even stranger man, and the terrible act that has followed them all into adulthood. In the light of new danger, they must confront their past by facing their futures, and hunting down a man who may very well be a monster. My recommendation: 5/5 stars, echoes of Stephen Kings It, but without the problematic content. Full review here.
8. A Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna Genre: contemporary Synopsis: As one of the few remaining witches in England, the only life Mika Moon has known is one of solitude. Magic loves company, so every modern witch knows they must stay as far away from other witches, in order to prevent a massive surge of magical powers that will expose their secret society to the world. As a substitute for contact with real fellow-witches, Mika keeps an online blog where she “pretends” to be a witch, expecting nobody to take it seriously. That is until she receives a private message with a highly unusual job opportunity: “witch wanted, to tutor and teach three young witches”. Moving in to become a live-in nanny/witch-craft-teacher, Mika soon finds herself breaking all the rules she was once taught about magical safety, as well as tangled up in the lives of the children and their other caretakers. My recommendation: a must-read witchy contemporary for fans of House in the Cerulean Sea or Under the Whispering Door. Full review here.
9. Babel by R.F. Kuang Genre: dark academia, historical fantasy Synopsis: 1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he'll enroll in Oxford University's prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel. Babel is the world's center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel's research in foreign languages serves the Empire's quest to colonize everything it encounters. Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down? My recommendation: 3/5 stars, must-read for dark-academia fans, despite lacking a little bit of subtlety that hindered my personal enjoyment. Full review here.
10. Sundial by Catriona Ward Genre: horror Synopsis: All Rob wanted was a normal life. She almost got it, too: a husband, two kids, a nice house in the suburbs. But Rob fears for her oldest daughter, Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her too much of the family she left behind. She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice. Callie is worried about her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely, and speaks of past secrets. And Callie fears that only one of them will leave Sundial alive… The mother and daughter embark on a dark, desert journey to the past in the hopes of redeeming their future. My recommendation: 4/5 stars, genuinely unnerving… Full review here.
11. The Ghost Woods by C.J. Cooke Genre: gothic horror, historical fiction. Synopsis: In the midst of the woods stands a house called Lichen Hall. This place is shrouded in folklore – old stories of ghosts, of witches, of a child who was not quite a child. Now the woods are creeping closer, and something has been unleashed. Pearl Gorham arrives in 1965, one of a string of young women sent to Lichen Hall to give birth. And she soon suspects the proprietors are hiding something. Then she meets the mysterious mother and young boy who live in the grounds – and together they begin to unpick the secrets of this place. As the truth comes to the surface and the darkness moves in, Pearl must rethink everything she knew – and risk what she holds most dear. My recommendation: still in the middle, but I’m completely engrossed. It’s giving me a mix of both of Cooke’s previous novels with elements of gothic classic like Rebecca and the Fall of the House of Usher.