2019 r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge: First Impressions (2/2)

This is the second part of my r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge first impressions breakdown, containing my opinions and recommendations for squares 13-25. First part can be found here.

SFF Novel Published in 2019

What it is

Pretty self explanatory – the card says Fantasy but any speculative fiction will work.

HARD MODE: It’s also a Debut Novel.


Another repeat square, probably the easiest one – there’s some great stuff coming out. Will probably end up using some ARC or another.

Will probably be reading: I have a copy of Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia I’ve been procrastinating on because it’s not due until August. Works well enough.


  • The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson (shit, I need to review it)
  • The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden
  • The Vela by Yoon Ha Lee, Rivers Solomon, Becky Chambers, S.L. Huang

Middle Grade SFF Novel

What it is

So many SFF authors are writing Middle Grade these days, thought this would be fun! Middle Grade works are typically written with an readership of 8-12 year olds in mind.

HARD MODE: You can NOT use your ‘reread’ for this square.


Hmm. I stopped reading middle grade long, long ago. Even when I was the target age, I mostly read older. So I’m unfamiliar with it, especially the English SFF side of it. Regardless, I do not think this will be a hard square at all. Out of my comfort zone for sure, but not in the “fuck no” territory. In a way, my unfamiliarity makes it easier – there is far more choice and I can scour the toplists.

Will probably be reading: Someone mentioned The Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede, which I can get easily. So this is my placeholder for now. I’m also eyeing The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.


  • The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, just don’t do it in German. Or do. Actually, this is a good square for reading in a foreign language.
  • Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

A Personal Recommendation from r/Fantasy 

What it is

You ask the community for recommendations and choose one of those recommendations to read for this square.

HARD MODE: Do not use the most frequently recommended book.


Well, this is simple enough. I’m fairly active and there’s quite a few users with a similar enough taste for this not to be too hard. I’ve also been thinking of posting one of those oddly specific rec threads. We’ll see.

Will probably be reading: My current read, City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett has been personally recommended to me by one of the users in the past, so that’s one option. When I asked in the rec thread, I also received The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and The Lighthouse Duet by Carol Berg. And both seem very appealing. So there’s that.


Daily rec threads are useful. Specify what you don’t want recommended in addition to what you do (my example: no popular stuff). Or you’ll get recommended Malazan and Sanderson, I guarantee it 😛

Any r/Fantasy Book Club Book of the Month OR r/Fantasy Read-along Book

What it is

Any past or still active book clubs count, as well as past or current read-alongs. NOTE: All of the current book club info can also be found on our goodreads page.

HARD MODE: Must read a current selection of either a book club or read-along and participate in the discussion.


I like that all book clubs have been merged, which makes the selection quite a bit wider. Plus, one can always help nominating and voting a book in.

Will probably be reading: The current Goodreads Book Club one, City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty. Hopefully I can manage it in April.


  • The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan (I ran this bookclub! Check out the discussions, I don’t think any other book got as many comments.)
  • The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
  • Lirael by Garth Nix
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip
  • Touch by Claire North
  • Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett (I ran this one too!)
  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
  • The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso
  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  • Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  • City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • …and I left out a few. There’s so many!

Media Tie-In Novel

What it is

Books based on existing film, television, or game franchises are used for this square.

HARD MODE: NOT a Star Wars novel.


Another square I have a distaste for. Outside of books, I live in hole when it comes to media 😂 I don’t watch series, only see 1-2 movies a year, am not interested in D&D or any other tabletop games, play video games without much interest in lore (not that I heard many good things about the quality of writing in video game tie-ins…).

Will probably be reading: Children of the Nameless by Brandon Sanderson. At least it’s short.



Novel Featuring an AI Character

What it is

Pretty self-explanatory, but let me know if you have questions about this.

HARD MODE: The AI is a main protagonist.


Another one that I don’t have many immediately obvious choices for, but isn’t necessarily something I’d dislike. We’ll see.

Will probably be reading: My current placeholder is Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill. I can get it easily and it sounds interesting. But I don’t guarantee it won’t change.


SFF Novel That Has a Title of Four or More Words

What it is


HARD MODE: Has 7 or more words in the title.


Requires a pass through good ol’ Mt. TBR, but sounds simple enough.

Will probably be reading: The absolute brick that is The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon.


  • Any book from the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers
  • Any book from the Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden (reviews for book 2, book 3)
  • Any book from the Montague Siblings series by Mackenzi Lee (reviews for book 1, book 2)
  • Any book from the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch
  • Any book from the Children of the Black Sun trilogy by Jo Spurrier
  • City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer
  • A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
  • The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip


What it is

Any retellings would work for this square – fairytale retellings, myth retellings, retellings of previous literature, etc.

HARD MODE: The retelling must be of a previous published work, not a fairytale or myth. For example, Jacqueline Carey’s book Miranda and Caliban is a retelling of The Tempest, so that would work, but Madeline Miller’s Circe, a retelling of Circe’s stories from Greek Mytholgy, would not.


I tend to like retellings (funny how I dreaded this square in 2015), so this should be a great opportunity to find something new. Will be keeping an eye on recs for this square.

Will probably be reading: I think I’ll go with Deerskin by Robin McKinley.


SFF Novel by an Australian Author

What it is

Australia has a fantastic SFF scene, let’s explore some of the authors there using this square.

HARD MODE: Book from an Australian small press OR self-published Australian author.


Author nationality was something I never paid much attention to, so this will take some digging. Could result in some awesome new discoveries, though.

Will probably be reading: Maybe The Battle of Evernight by Cecilia Dart-Thornton or Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat. On the lookout for more recs.


The Final Book of a Series

What it is

The last book in a series which actually completes that series (not the latest book out but it’s a middle book).

HARD MODE: The last book in the series was published more than a decade ago.


Man, this is useful. The biggest problem of Bingo is all the series it leaves dangling because you can use an author only once, so this is a great opportunity to actually finish something for once. Love it. Coincides with my 2019 goal to finish what I left unfinished, too.

Will probably be reading: Hmm, Children of God by Mary Doria Russell? Or the aforementioned The Battle of Evernight by Cecilia Dart-Thornton. Or The Labyrinth of Flame by Courtney Schafer. I could also finish off The Lays of Anuskaya series by Bradley Beaulieu (though this would take two books) or The Engineer Trilogy by K.J. Parker (ditto).


As a twist, I’ll recommend some good last books.


What it is

From the creator of the #ownvoices hashtag – “…the protagonist and the author share a marginalized identity.” For more information check out the faq here.

HARD MODE: Author and protagonist share 2+ marginalized identities.


I think this square is a wonderful opportunity to discover some new, perhaps underrated books and authors. Since most lists are YA oriented and I’m a primarily adult SFF reader, it’s a bit hard finding anything on the spot, though.

Will probably be reading: Looking at my shelves, I think I’ll try The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang or The Ikessar Falcon by K.S. Villoso first. Also eyeing City of Strife by Claudie Arsenault, Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones, and I’m generally still on the lookout for suggestions.



What it is

Definition from Wikipedia: a literary genre combining the conventions of RPGs with science-fiction fantasy novels. LitRPG is a literary genre where games or game-like challenges form an essential part of the story and where visible RPG statistics (for example strength, intelligence, damage) are a significant part of this world. This in contrast to GameLit, which involves game-like worlds but does not typically provide visible statistics. At least some of the characters in a LitRPG novel may understand that they are playing a game or are in a game-like world: they are ‘meta-aware’.

HARD MODE: LitRPG written by a female author.


By now, I have bitched about quite a few squares. But this is the one where I will be invoking the swap rule. I take no issue if you like the genre. This is not aimed at you, I don’t think the elements I hate so much are somehow inherently bad. I also take no issue with it being a square. I simply loathe LitRPG. I gave it a fair try when Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe came out, no bias or anything since I didn’t even know what it was.

But I just can’t, even in its mildest form. Everything that makes LitRPG what it is takes me out of the story – I fucking hate stats in particular, hate game-like settings, hate munchkin protagonists, I never liked portal fantasy or D&D-inspired fantasy stories and LitRPG is like those two things combined with some additional nastiness thrown in.

There are genres I usually avoid – urban fantasy, portal fantasy, comedic fantasy, horror, dystopia, and so on. But for each of those genres, with a bit effort I could find something I could at least give 3* to, if not 4*. Past Bingo challenges prove that. LitRPG? Nothing. There is nothing. It makes all the other genres I dislike look like my favourites in comparison.

And it’s certainly not for the lack of trying. Over the last few days I tried out about four or five suggestions recommended to me by people who knew I don’t like the genre. Couldn’t get through more than a couple pages of any of them. Those that didn’t have atrocious prose mentioned game elements (like quests starting or leveling up) constantly, and one had a long scene describing a D&D game that made my eyes glaze over. I’ve gone from “well, not my thing” to resenting the genre just from the search. Forcing myself to read a whole book would be a pointless exercise in frustration and does anyone really want another hate-filled rant? Least of all myself. Bless Lisa for introducing the square swap rule, I think this is exactly the scenario it was made for.

And I do take issue with all the fucking pedants in the rec thread and elsewhere who want to make everyone, no matter how reluctant, read the “purest” form of the genre. And this is not exclusive to LitRPG. I just noticed it there first. Let people ease in. Let people find their edge cases. Let people get into the genre (or not) at their own pace. Don’t be that gatekeeper guy.


Will probably be reading: Don’t know. Not LitRPG though.


None. Obviously.

Five SFF Short Stories

What it is

Self explanatory.

HARD MODE: Read an entire SFF anthology or collection


Last of the standard Bingo squares. There’s so many free short stories by well-known authors online that it should be no issue for anyone, even if it’s not my favourite format.

Will probably be reading: This time, it will actually be an anthology – Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens by Eleanor Arnason. I have started it in February, but since I only came to about 35% and there’s way more than 5 more stories for me to read in there, I think it’s safe to use.



Short stories:



5 thoughts on “2019 r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge: First Impressions (2/2)”

    1. On the other hand, is it really any wonder that a genre centered on stats also attracts a certain pedantic type? 🤔

      And I will personally fight anyone who tries to gatekeep and limit the small scale/slice of life square.

      Liked by 1 person

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