2020 r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge: First Impressions

The r/Fantasy Bingo is a yearly challenge run by Lisa (Way Too Fantasy) that takes place on the r/fantasy subreddit from April to April. It’s pretty much the only reading challenge I regularly participate in, and I’ve been doing it since the very beginning. And I honestly love the 2020 card. It’s much easier than the 2019 one, while still having plenty of squares that’ll take me out of my comfort zone.

This year was the first when I experienced the one advantage of being a moderator: the ability to plan your card a little in advance. So this is technically my second draft. Like in 2019, I’ll again be doing only one non-themed card, and I tried to give priority to books I either already own or can borrow, to the point there are only two books on it that don’t belong in this category.

But as they say, no plan survives contact with the enemy, so it will be interesting to see how will the completed card compare to this list a year from now.

2020 bingo

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Novel Translated from its Original Language

The spirit of this square would be to read a book that’s originally not written in English. But you can also read books in another language you speak. Doesn’t matter what language you read the book in, as long as it’s not the original language it was first published in.

HARD MODE: Written by a woman. Coauthor does not count.

First choice: Daughter from the Dark by Sergey & Maria Dyachenko

I don’t think this should be too difficult. I even already started it and made it to about 20% before I decided it’s the wrong time for it and temporarily put it aside.

Even if I don’t end up reading my first pick, I still have The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirähk, or perhaps I could go for Kalpa Imperial by Angelica Gorodischer. Or I could cheat and read an English book translated to Slovenian, but why would I want to do this to myself?

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Setting Featuring Snow, Ice, or Cold

This setting must used be for a good portion of the book.

HARD MODE: The entire book takes place in this setting.

First choice: Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg

Wanted to read this one for a while because it’s been recommended to me a lot. Perhaps I will finally manage to get around to it?

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Optimistic SFF

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and while we’ve come across some trouble, we’re going to overcome it together. Sometimes very bad things happen (like an entire apocalypse) but ultimately you’re left feeling things will get better, with a sense of hope. Includes genres like hopepunk and noblebright.

HARD MODE: Not Becky Chambers.

First choice: Redemption’s Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Because I have it and it seems like just my kind of thing (post-war fantasy, yay!) and it’s been lying on my shelf since forever. And I’m out of Becky Chambers this year. Another alternative is The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells.

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Novel Featuring Necromancy

Raising the dead, woot! Self-explanatory.

HARD MODE: Necromancer is the protagonist.

First choice: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

This square has been kind of difficult to find a pick for because I’m not really that interested in necromancy. But then I saw this on sale and hell, why not? Might as well give it a try.

Ace / Aro Spec Fic

A novel featuring Asexual and/or Aromantic character(s). It should be explicitly stated (either by the character themselves, another character, or the author) that a character isn’t interested in romance or sex.

HARD MODE: Ace / Aro protagonist.

First choice: Mindtouch by M.C.A. Hogarth

Randomly saw it was free while looking for options for this square and snatched it. It’s been on my TBR for a while, and it’s supposed to be pretty slice of life, which is a huge plus in my book. Another possibility would be Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace, especially since Erio @ Black Forest Basilisks spoke of it pretty highly and we’re usually a close enough match.

Resources for anyone who may have trouble with this square:

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Novel Featuring a Ghost

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

HARD MODE: At least one main protagonist is a ghost.

First choice: A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

One of the two squares that took me the longest to find even a single candidate for. Then I saw someone in the big rec thread mention this and, well, problem solved. Easy enough.

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Novel Featuring Exploration

Boldly go… Again, pretty self-explanatory.

HARD MODE: The exploration is the central plot.

First choice: The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

Planned to continue this series since forever and I have the book too, so this square should be great motivation to do so.

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Climate Fiction

Climate should play a significant role in the story. This includes the genres of solarpunk, post-apocalyptic, ecopunk, clifi.

HARD MODE: Not post-apocalyptic.

First choice: Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

Honestly, still looking for a book that’d be quieter and less depressing than climate fiction usually is, but this seems as good of a candidate as any so far.

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Novel with a Colour in the Title

Self-explanatory.

HARD MODE: Not black, red, grey, or white.

First choice: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

I’m already reading it, so what the hell. I think this will be my first completed square. It’s a wonderfully optimistic, compassionate, and kind book and I’m loving it so far.

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

Any past or still active book clubs count, as well as past or current read-alongs. 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.

First choice: Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

Again giving priority to the books I already own. Strange Practice has been recommended to me quite highly and I’m curious to see if I can find a third UF series I’ll like. As for hard mode – we’ll see what the future bookclubs bring 😉

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Self-Published SFF Novel

Only self-published novels will count for this square. If the novel has been picked up by a publisher as long as you read it when it was self-pubbed it will still count.

HARD MODE: Self-pubbed and has fewer than 50 ratings on goodreads.

First choice: Legacy of Ghosts by Alicia Wanstall-Burke

Still not sure on this square. I’d like to finally get around to Legacy of Ghosts, especially since I promised to read it back in November, before the whole unfortunate string of events that ended in a months-long slump, but we’ll see. I certainly feel very guilty about not having read it yet.

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Novel with Chapter Epigraphs

A quote used to introduce a chapter, it often serves as a summary or counterpoint to the passage that follows, although it may simply set the stage for it.

HARD MODE: Original to the novel (i.e., not a quotation from another source).

First choice: City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

I pretty much intended to find a book for that square at random – read fantasy long enough and you’ll stumble upon something with epigraphs. But it would be nice if I managed to continue with the Divine Cities series and make it into another Bingo tradition.

As far as alternatives go, off the top of my head, the sequel to Hard Contact by Karen Traviss would also count. And if I’m honest, I’m probably more likely to read it.

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Novel Published in 2020

Self-explanatory.

HARD MODE: It’s also a Debut Novel.

First choice: Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

As a reviewer who gets the occasional ARC, this is one of the easiest squares to check. Should be no issue at all.

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Novel Set in a School or University

Self-explanatory.

HARD MODE: Not Harry Potter or the Magicians.

First choice: The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller

Another book I’m very, very glad I kept on my TBR and haven’t read yet. Otherwise, this would have been quite difficult since I’ve read so many school books – Vita Nostra, In Other Lands, Harry Potter, Name of the Wind, Every Heart a Doorway, Red Sister, Black Magician Trilogy, The Magicians, Vampire Academy (yep), Wizard of Earthsea, some Valdemar…even my favourite, The Gray House counts.

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Book About Books

Books must be central to the plot somehow.

HARD MODE: Does not feature a library (public, school, or private).

First choice: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

I think this might have been my suggestion for a potential 2020 Bingo square in the 2019 midway thread. It’s a fun trope and there’s plenty of choices. I picked The Starless Sea mostly because I have it. I’m not actually sure I’ll be able to finish it – after I got the hardcover, I read her other book, The Night Circus and DNF’d very early on – but I can always try. If not, I might read The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman instead.

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A Book that Made You Laugh

Doesn’t have to be a comedy, but should make you laugh at least once while reading.

HARD MODE: Not Pratchett.

First choice: A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland

If you asked me what I’d consider the absolute hardest square of 2020? This one. Without a single doubt. I’m a weirdo who bounces off pretty much every single book labelled as comedy (hated The Princess Bride, DNF’d The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, not too into Pratchett either…the list goes on) and that’s all that ever gets recommended when you ask for a funny book. I don’t want comedic SFF. I want a serious book with a few hilarious bits.

But I have vague memories of the first few pages of A Conspiracy of Truths being pretty funny, so fingers crossed.

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Five SFF Short Stories

Self-explanatory.

HARD MODE: Read an entire SFF anthology or collection.

First choice: This year’s Hugo nominations…? Which means:

But overall, not 100% sure, except for the fact that I’ll definitely read free short stories. Can’t be bothered with another whole anthology.

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Big Dumb Object

A novel featuring any mysterious object of unknown origin and immense power which generates an intense sense of wonder or horror by its mere existence and which people must seek to understand before it’s too late. In this case, we are counting mythical forests, objects under the sea or in space, mysterious signals or illnesses, and science that is too futuristic for our protagonists to understand. NOT a monster.

HARD MODE: The classic golden-age of science fiction definition of Big Dumb Object – Dyson Spheres, alien spaceships, a BIG thing that appears with no explanation.

First choice: The Breath of the Sun by Isaac R. Fellman

Since I have waited for like a year to be able to get this book, of course I was going to use it somehow. Doubly happy I can use it for one of the hardest squares this year, because I have no idea what would I have read otherwise.

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Feminist Novel

Includes feminist themes such as but not limited to gender inequality, sexuality, race, economics, and reproduction. It’s not enough to have strong female characters or a setting where women are equal to men, feminist themes must be central to and directly addressed in a critical manner by the plot.

HARD MODE: Feminist novel by a person of colour or Indigeous author.

First choice: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

While I love feminist books, I have a bit of a problem: I don’t want to read something overly heavy or depressing (I downright refuse to touch anything by Octavia Butler ever again). But I have been told The Calculating Stars should do nicely, so why not. Pretty sure I grabbed it on a kindle sale a while ago.

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Novel by a Canadian Author

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

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

First choice: Sing the Four Quarters by Tanya Huff

This is another fairly difficult square. I did a quick google search for Canadian SFF authors, and there was nothing that’d immediately jump out to me. But I guess I can try this and see.

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Novel with a Number in the Title

Self-explanatory.

HARD MODE: Also features a colour in the title.

First choice: Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone

One of the easiest squares there are (well, except for hard mode, which is exceptionally hard). So why not go for another book in a series I really should continue.

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Romantic Fantasy / Paranormal Romance

Romance needs to be central to the plot and the story would not make sense if it was removed. Should also either have a happily ever after or a happy for now ending.

HARD MODE: Read and participate in HEA Book Club pick.

First choice: The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera

Honestly, not really a first choice, just one of the options. I will almost certainly read a few romance books this year, the only question is how much of it will be fantasy and what will come first. It’s funny though – in 2016, when this square first appeared, finding smething seemed like torture, but it did end up convincing me romance might not be so bad after all. Now? No issue whatsoever.

Other alternatives: Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh, Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri, The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen (if it ever goes on sale, that is), Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn…

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Novel with a Magical Pet

Self-explanatory.

HARD MODE: Magical pet can also speak.

First choice: Jhereg by Steven Brust

The obvious pick, really. I’ve been aware of Jhereg for a while – one of those older, cult classic series that aren’t really top list material but get consistently mentioned regardless – and it’s high time to finally give it a try. Should be a quick enough read.

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Format: Graphic Novel (at least 1 vol.) (OR Audiobook / Audio drama)

This is a format, not a genre however, please stick to something within speculative fiction. If you are reading individual comics for this square please read a volume’s worth. You can also use a manga volume for this square (again, please keep it to speculative fiction genres). You may also choose to listen to an audiobook OR an audio drama for this square – any speculative fiction audiobook / audio drama will count (novel length).

HARD MODE: Graphic Novel – stand alone graphic novel. Audiobook / audio drama – has to be over 25 hours long.

First choice: On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

As usual, going for the graphic novel option.

I have a whole boatload of comics still left from a Humble Bundle so this should be easy as fuck, but I’d really like to read another webcomic. It’s been forever. If not, I have recently finished Mirror by Emma Ríos and Hwei Lim and while I didn’t like it at all, it should count. Or even Novae, a super cute fantasy romance webcomic featuring astronomy and necromancy I found yesterday (and devoured instantly).

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Novel Featuring Politics

Politics are central to the plot. This covers everything from royalty, elections, wars, and even smaller local politics.

HARD MODE: Not featuring royalty.

First choice: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Another book I planned to read last year, but wasn’t in the mood for more complex books or political intrigue. This year though, it sounds just about perfect. And it’d be funny if I managed to have one book of both spouses, Vivian Shaw and Arkady Martine on the card.


Will you be participating in the Bingo too? What books do you plan to read?

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