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7 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Squads We Desperately Want to Join

by  | July 20
Group of friends walking in the rain

Admit it, you’ve definitely daydreamed about joining an adventurous band of literary characters at least once in your life—whether to explore Middle Earth with the Fellowship, join the crew of the Rocinante as they uncover the secrets of the Protomolecule in James S. A. Corey’s The Expanse series, or delve into the many different facets and faces of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. There’s nothing like picking up a good book to join the chase with a colorful crew of characters. So if you’re looking for some new literary squad goals, or are just a sucker for a good ensemble cast, here are seven books you should add to your TBR.

When We Were Magic

When We Were Magic

by Sarah Gailey

When you really think about it, “coven” is really just another word for squad, as it is for the six magical girls in Sarah Gailey’s When We Were Magic. Alexis, Paulie, Roya, Iris, Marcelina, and Maryam are best friends, a bond that gets tested when Alexis accidentally murders a boy on prom night. These teen witches cast a spell to help dispose of the body, but they have to do so piece by piece in a special manner. Alexis watches the ritual as each friend destroys their piece—and loses something of themselves along with it. Every part has Alexis examining her relationship with said witch, including the one best friend with whom she is in love. This unexpectedly intimate novel looks at how bonds are formed, nourished, and maintained among female friends, revealing the special connections between them. Magic might not be real, but this book will make you feel as though it is.

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Dark Run

Dark Run

by Mike Brooks

Being good can be its own reward, but sometimes, it’s just more fun to be bad. That’s why it would be a kick to join the crew of the Keiko from Dark Run. Captain Ichabod Drift is not above doing the wrong thing for the right price, and that has led him to collect a motley crew of hackers, fighters, and all-around sly scoundrels. The crew consists of second-in-command Tamara Rourke; fighter Apirana Wahawaha; pilot-mechanic duo Jia and Kuai Chang; and tech genius Jenna McIlroy, all of whom we get to know in-depth as the books in the series progress. This first book really sinks its hook in you with the intrigue of a mysterious package that a former minister from the European Commonwealth blackmails Drift to deliver to Earth for him. But when it turns out that the cargo is more dangerous than first anticipated, the crew turns their sights on revenge. Charming, devious, and downright magnetic, the crew of the Keiko will have you enthralled from cover to cover.

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An Easy Death

An Easy Death

by Charlaine Harris

The world of An Easy Death is very different from our own. Diverging from reality, Franklin Roosevelt is killed before his inauguration, and the U.S. is divided up between Canada, Mexico, and the Holy Russian Empire. It’s also a world full of magic, though many of its inhabitants don’t trust it, like our gunslinging protagonist, Lizbeth Rose. Strange then that she takes on Paulina Coopersmith and Ilya “Eli” Savarov, two magic users, as clients in search of a descendant of Rasputin for the potential healing properties of his blood. While this team-up is short-lived, the banter and interplay between these three characters is a lot of fun, especially in a world as complex and unique as this one. Everyone’s got secrets in this story: Lizbeth is hiding from these two wizards the fact that she killed one of the men they were looking for, and Paulina and Eli, in turn, are themselves in more trouble than they’ve let on. Charlaine Harris, best known for the Sookie Stackhouse novels, is both an expert world builder and an excellent character writer, so it makes sense that her latest series only makes you want to dive deeper (good thing the sequel, A Longer Fall, is already out!).

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The Institute

The Institute

by Stephen King

If there’s anyone who rules at creating amazing ensemble casts, it’s Stephen King. There are dozens of examples I could pull from, and we’d all jump at the chance to sign on to the squad. I mean, who doesn’t feel like an honorary member of the Losers Club? But I think perhaps one of the most interesting casts comes from one of his latest books, The Institute. Luke Ellis is stolen away in the night and brought to a mysterious place, called The Institute, deep in the woods of Maine. There, he meets kids—including Kalisha, Helen, Nicky, George, Iris, and Avery—with special abilities like his. They undergo experiments by the Institute’s evil masterminds, who are trying to enhance the kids’ psychic abilities in the “Front Half” until they are ready to graduate to the “Back Half,” where they virtually disappear. Luke and his friends take it on themselves to fight back against what is happening to them, and uncover dark and terrible secrets in the process, revealing even more layers of sinister planning at work than they even imagined. Each of Luke’s friends is a well-rounded and nuanced character, even though they don’t get to spend much time in the narrative spotlight. So if you’re looking to join a band of brazen kids who use their psychic powers to take on the bad guys, you know where to find them.

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Space Opera

Space Opera

by Catherynne M. Valente

Let’s be real—a lot of us have fantasized about joining a band. The fame, the money, the outrageous lifestyle, it all sounds intriguing, even when it ends in flames. That’s basically what happened to Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes in Space Opera, a trio who dressed fabulously, partied hard, and lost Mira, leading to their dissolution. That doesn’t matter though, as they are chosen by the world to sing in the Metagalactic Grand Prix, a kind of Eurovision for the whole universe that Earth has just been entered into. The cost of losing? The Earth will be destroyed. Who doesn’t want to play in a rock concert to save the world? Join Decibel Jones and Oort St. Ultraviolet (along with Oort’s very perceptive cat) as they prepare to play for their lives…and everyone else’s. Author Catherynne M. Valente really hones in on both a love of music and a Douglas Adams–style attention to wacky detail that will surround the reader in a technicolor galaxy of aliens and planets of every imaginable style.

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Meddling Kids

Meddling Kids

by Edgar Cantero

Ever wanted to be a part of the Scooby Gang? Solving mysteries as teenage sleuths might not be all it’s cracked up to be. Just ask the Blyton Summer Detective Club, whose members were stars in their little town in Oregon in the 1970s. But now? Well, Andy is wanted in two states; Kerri’s got a major drinking problem and a lot of wasted potential; Nate is in and out of mental institutions; and Peter, the golden boy, is dead. You might think this would mean they are a squad you should avoid, but it’s quite the opposite. When they do reunite, they easily fall back into finding clues and solving mysteries, reconnecting in that innate way that close friends do. And the mystery they tackle is darker and more Lovecraftian than anything they’ve ever faced, pushing them to their limit. Grab your magnifying glass, strap yourself in, and join this group of Meddling Kids for one hell of a wild ride.

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

by Becky Chambers

Flying on a starship seems as though it would be pretty glamorous, but it’s who is exploring the stars with you that makes the difference. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a sci-fi novel that is all about the journey rather than the destination, highlighting the adventures and experiences of its multi-species Wayfarer crew. Throughout the novel, author Becky Chambers lovingly crafts every character and dives into their stories. We start with the protagonist Rosemary Harper, a human born on Mars who is looking to leave her past behind. Each member of the ship brings a unique perspective to the story, from the two technicians Kizzy Shao and Jenks to the private navigator Ohan, to Captain Ashby Santoso. My personal favorite is Dr. Chef, the ship’s physician/cook, who has seen the horrors of war but remains caring and friendly. Full of LGBTQ+ representation, a lot of heart, and some seriously inspiring moments, this book will have you ready to sign on to the Wayfarer in no time.

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A reporter by trade, Sara Roncero-Menendez is a lover of horror, sci-fi, and all things pop culture. From indies to classics to even the strangest genre pieces, all movies, TV shows, and books are fair game for a binge-fest. Follow her on Twitter @sararomenen or at her website, www.sara-roncero-menendez.com