2023 Fantasy Bingo, 2024 Bingo Squares

For the past few years, I’ve been doing two r/Fantasy Bingo cards each year: one themed card, and one regular card. I finished my 2023 themed card back in 2023, but with my regular card coming so close to the deadline, I decided to hold my full review so that I could highlight which squares each selection would fit in 2024 r/Fantasy Bingo.

So let’s take a look at my second 2023 Bingo card, complete with ratings, mini-reviews, and places you can use them for this year’s Bingo board. I have to caveat that some of these books have been read as much as a year ago, and my memory may not be perfect. If I’m unsure about a square, I’ve tried to default to not mentioning it, so it’s possible these books could fit more than I’ve listed.

Title With a Title: The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

  • 2024 Squares: Alliterative Title, Character with a Disability, Author of Color, Judge a Book By Its Cover, Book Club
  • Mini-review: It’s an Island of Doctor Moreau telling with the addition of a beauty kept isolated by her reclusive father. Suitors come, drama ensues. The main story is fairly straightforward, but the prose is lovely and the themes—particularly around religion and the Problem of Evil—are fascinating. The most pleasant surprise in last year’s Hugo reading. 
  • Rating: 17/20. 

Superheroes: Any Minor World by Craig Schaefer

  • 2024 Squares: First in a Series, Dreams, Self-Published. 
  • Mini-review: A cross between a noir and a superhero thriller, with an intriguing animating mystery, breakneck pacing, and plenty of metafictional elements. I’m not much of a thriller guy, but this kept me invested. 
  • Rating: 15/20. 

Bottom of the TBR: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

  • 2024 Squares: Alliterative Title (hard mode), Book Club. 
  • Mini-review: This horror classic relies heavily on atmosphere and uncertainty and very little on gore, which helped suck in even a squeamish reader. It’s a terrifying and fascinating descent into madness—easy to see how it became a titan of the genre. 
  • Rating: 18/20.

Magical Realism/Literary Fantasy: Three Eight One by Aliya Whiteley

  • 2024 Squares: Published in 2024, Reference Materials.
  • Mini-review: It’s a strange and aimless quest narrative heavily annotated by a reader from several centuries in the future. Thematically interesting and often engaging, but perhaps more often mystifying. 
  • Rating: 13/20. 

Young Adult: Girl Squad Volta by Maya Lin Wang

  • 2024 Squares: First in a Series, Self-Published, Author of Color.
  • Mini-review: This short novel plays pretty close to the tropes, but if you’re here for middle school girls discovering hidden powers and having to save the day, you’re in for a fun ride. 
  • Rating: 15/20. 

Mundane Jobs: Starling House by Alix E. Harrow

  • 2024 Squares: Reference Materials (hard mode), Small Towns (hard mode), Under the Surface, Judge a Book By Its Cover.
  • Mini-review: Despite horror marketing, this is much more a fantasy story with Gothic aesthetics, featuring a small Kentucky town with a dark secret and a heap of dastardly rich white men. There’s not much mystery as to the villains, but Harrow’s storytelling makes for an excellent and often beautiful tale. 
  • Rating: 17/20. 

Published in the 00s: Warchild by Karin Lowachee

  • 2024 Squares: Space Opera (hard mode), POC Author, First in a Series, Character with a Disability (hard mode).
  • Mini-review: Pulling Warchild off the eternal TBR was one of the biggest wins of the Bingo year. It’s a solid military sci-fi and an outstanding character study of an abused orphan growing up in the midst of war. This gets heavy, but it’s a fantastic read. 
  • Rating: 18/20. 

Angels and Demons: Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk

  • 2024 Squares: POC Author, Book Club. 
  • Mini-review: This queer period noir novella delivers a tremendously immersive narrative voice alongside a competent mystery and an often-frustrating main character. The story is solid, but the storytelling is the star here. 
  • Rating: 15/20.

Five Short Stories: Lost Places by Sarah Pinsker

  • 2024 Squares: Five Short Stories (hard mode).
  • Mini-review: I’ve been a big fan of Pinsker’s writing since I first read “Two Truths and a Lie” as part of the inaugural Hugo Readalong, and that doesn’t change here. There are a pair of Hugo winners and plenty of other winners, mostly set in too-real near-futures or in uncanny, liminal spaces. There’s one weak story here, and everything else ranges from good to mind-blowing. 
  • Rating: 18/20.

Horror: What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

  • 2024 Squares: Book Club, First in a Series, Under the Surface.
  • Mini-review: This is a “The Fall of the House of Usher” retelling that replaces some of the unexplained horror with a little more plot backbone. The storytelling is as good as always from Kingfisher, but there’s no real secret about where the story is going, and she doesn’t quite match the original on pure atmosphere. 
  • Rating: 15/20. 

Self-Published: Apocalypse Parenting by Erin Ampersand

  • 2024 Squares: Self-Published, First in a Series, Survival (hard mode), Judge a Book By Its Cover, Reference Material. 
  • Mini-review: I didn’t have prior experience with the litRPG subgenre, but this was a delightfully endearing example. It’s paced like a serial, which I think is genre standard but sometimes threw me off, but the depiction of family in the apocalypse was exceptional. If you’re looking for a “how would regular people act in a wild SFF scenario” book, this is the one for you. 
  • Rating: 15/20.

Middle Eastern Setting: Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

  • 2024 Squares: Criminals, Dreams. 
  • Mini-review: A magical technothriller set in Arabia, this takes a lot of common storytelling tropes and tells them in a fresh new setting loaded with djinn and computer programming that may be as much magic as science. 
  • Rating: 15/20. 

Published in 2023: Blade of Dream by Daniel Abraham

  • 2024 Squares: Eldritch Creatures (hard mode).
  • Mini-review: Fans of Abraham’s work know what to expect here—a slow build focusing on characters that may not always be the movers and shakers in their society, gradually opening up into an epic plot. This sequel to Age of Ash retells the story from a new perspective that reveals still more pieces of the main plot. It requires some patience for plot-focused readers, but the storytelling quality is high and it’s plenty rewarding. 
  • Rating: 17/20. 

Multiverse: The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

  • 2024 Squares: Book Club.
  • Mini-review: This reads like an intensely quippy summer blockbuster in book form, complete with the smarmiest and most punchable villain available. That’s not a style I tend to like, and this one was too over-the-top (with characters a bit too samey) to change my mind, but it’s certainly easy to blast through in a hurry. 
  • Rating: 11/20. 

POC Author: Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

  • 2024 Squares: POC Author (hard mode), Survival (hard mode), Multi-POV (hard mode), Criminals, Character with a Disability (hard mode), Reference Materials. 
  • Mini-review: An absolute brutal book, but also the best thing I read in 2023. An incisive critique of the American prison system by means of a gladiatorial game, with a broad cast of well-developed characters reminiscent of litfic and a devastating main plot. And apparently it’s a 2024 Bingo all-star. 
  • Rating: 19/20. 

Book Club: Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

  • 2024 Squares: Goblins Orcs and Trolls (hard mode), Alliterative Title, First in a Series, Book Club. 
  • Mini-review: This is clearly meant as a pleasant and low-stakes book about an orc who abandons adventuring to open a coffee shop, and it largely succeeds at being pleasant and low-stakes. Unfortunately, it suffers from a structural issue I more often see in thrillers, where the reader is thrust into the plot before being given enough character background to generate real investment into what happens. 
  • Rating: 13/20.

Novella: Nothing But the Rain by Naomi Salman

  • 2024 Squares: Small Towns (hard mode), Survival (hard mode), Dreams (hard mode), Character with a Disability (hard mode).
  • Mini-review: A short, epistolary novella about a town where the rain washes away memory. This is exactly the kind of unusual narrative structure that I so often love, and Nothing But the Rain delivered in spades, with a premise that generates immediate intrigue and builds to a devastating conclusion. 
  • Rating: 18/20.

Mythical Beasts: The Tainted Cup by Robert Jackson Bennett 

  • 2024 Squares: Published in 2024, Character with a Disability (hard mode). 
  • Mini-review: While many fantasy murder mysteries eschew the hallmarks of the mystery genre, this truly does feel like a genderbent Sherlock Holmes in a weird fantasy world, with a gripping central mystery and plenty of political implications in the midst of a leviathan attack that threatens the survival of everyone involved. 
  • Rating: 17/20. 

Elemental Magic: Witch King by Martha Wells

  • 2024 Squares: Under the Surface, Book Club.
  • Mini-review: An ambitious standalone epic fantasy with a found family at its core, Witch King splits the story between two timelines featuring a very similar cast of characters. The dual timeline structure allows for a real thematic resonance between the storylines, but it also makes the character development feel choppy enough that I was never able to fully settle into the story. 
  • Rating: 10/20. 

Myths and Retellings: Ganger by Wole Talabi

  • 2024 Squares: Published in 2024, POC Author.
  • Mini-review: This short novella presents a familiar dystopia, in which the masses are given shelter from a deadly environment at the cost of 24/7 surveillance and life in a servant class. This story of a girl given the opportunity for adventures off the grid, however, gains a whole new dimension when interspersed with a classic West African folktale with tremendous thematic resonance. 
  • Rating: 16/20.

Queernorm Setting: Saint Death’s Daughter by C.S.E. Cooney

  • 2024 Squares: Book Club, Character with a Disability (hard mode), Reference Materials (hard mode), Judge a Book by Its Cover, First in a Series, Alliteration, Under the Surface. 
  • Mini-review: The prose here—along with the amusing footnotes detailing increasingly absurd deaths in the lead’s family history—is the first thing to catch the eye, but the story grows in to a wonderful tale of a woman trying to protect what’s left of her family while dealing with the fallout of their unsavory past. While also necromancing. 
  • Rating: 18/20. 

Coastal Setting: The Mimameid Solution by Katherine Kempf

  • 2024 Squares: Under the Surface (hard mode), First in a Series, Self-Published (hard mode), Character with a Disability. 
  • Mini-review: This fight for survival in post-apocalyptic Scandinavia builds a little bit slower than it should, but it’s easy reading with at least one eminently likeable lead. 
  • Rating: 13/20. 

Druids: Wise Child by Monica Furlong

  • 2024 Squares: Small Town (hard mode), Dreams, Under the Surface. 
  • Mini-review: While there’s too much danger to truly call this cozy fantasy, this slow-paced tale of a young girl studying language, nature, healing, and magic under the tutelage of the distrusted village witch certainly has some leanings in the cozy direction. It’s quietly beautiful, with conflicts of the deeply human variety, many self-inflicted by a young lead who remains at many times childish. 
  • Rating: 17/20. 

Robots: Replacement by Jordan Rivet

  • 2024 Squares: Self-Published, First in a Series.
  • Mini-review: This moves a bit quickly through some of the interpersonal elements, but fans of young adult sci-fi thrillers need look no farther than this propulsive page-turner about a clone seeking answers about her own history and the mysterious death of her long-lost batchmate. 
  • Rating: 14/20. 

Sequel: Mammoths at the Gates by Nghi Vo

  • 2024 Squares: Entitled Animals, POC Author, Bards.
  • Mini-review: The prose is as good as always for the Singing Hills Cycle, but this entry feels like it’s trying to cram a bit too much into the novella form. The study of grief, however, is tremendous and is worth the price of admission, even if the mammoths themselves sometimes feel like a distraction. 
  • Rating: 16/20.



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