by Julia Bergen
Sometimes you want something a little different for a beach read. If that’s you, may we recommend focusing less on the body of water nearby and more on what’s under your toes? Yes, we’re talking sand. Sometimes at the beach you don’t necessarily want a book about people swimming or going on vacation or eating lobster. Sometimes you just want a good SFF with quality SAND.
We just like sand. It’s summer and we write about what we want.
Let’s dive in the deep end of the literary sandbox.
Sandymancer by David Edison
What’s the best kind of magic? Sand magic.
Caralee lives in a world full of sand (lucky), but she’s keeping a secret: she can control sand (lucky), making it do whatever she wants (so lucky). Which sounds awesome, until she accidentally summons a former god king (oh) who broke the world 800 years ago and now takes over her best friend’s body. Not the way you want a beach day to go, UNLESS YOU’RE READING ABOUT IT!
Princess of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
Dune is classic sandy SF&F, and Princess of Dune takes that sandy legacy to the sandiest level. This brand-new Dune adventure follows the two princesses, Chani and Irulan, and explores what pushes the trajectory of their lives leading up to the beloved original trilogy. The story of a sand planet full of sand worms, this is perfect sandy reading material.
The Starless Crown by James Rollins
Set on a planet that’s half desert, half ice, this book is appropriate on both a sandy list and icy list, so pay attention for “5 Icy Reads to Enjoy in the Belly of an Iceberg” from us this winter (approval pending).
So who’s in this writ-large, deconstructed beach crew? A gifted student on the run from a death sentence. A broken soldier who picks up weapons he’s forbidden to wield. A drunken prince looking for purpose. A thief who finds an artifact that will ignite a power struggle across the planet. Hope they packed sunscreen with high SPF.
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
Taking place in the Central Plains of alternate-universe Ming Dynasty, China, sand is an important and threatening element at the onset of this epic duology. A girl raised in a parched village full of sand and hardly any food slowly outlives her family, watching them agonizingly perish one by one from drought, famine, raiders, and broken spirit. This leads her, in time, to assume her deceased brother’s identity, and destiny, which she claims by seeking sanctuary in a monastery, as the departed was once promised such a fate. All the adventure, betrayal, murder, love, machinations, realizations, cunning ploys, and startling developments that follow would never have happened without this drought-ravaged sandy foundation. We think that’s worth considering, especially and perhaps specifically in the context of this listicle.
The Lotus Kingdoms Trilogy by Elizabeth Bear
Set in a sprawling fantastical world, a significant portion of the trilogy takes place in a fantastic desert. This book has so many cool things, dragons, magic robots, wizards, giant birds, fantasy politics, fantasy gender subversion, a character called “The Dead Man.” Bring all three books to the beach and just live there for a bit. Read about sand while surrounded by sand.