Friday, June 28, 2024

6 Books with Samantha Mills

Samantha Mills is a Nebula, Locus, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award winning author living in Southern California. You can find her short fiction in Uncanny Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, and others, as well as the best-of anthologies The New Voices of Science Fiction and The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2023. Her debut science fantasy novel, The Wings Upon Her Back, is out now! You can find more at

Today she tells us about her Six Books.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I am about halfway through Road to Ruin, a debut fantasy novel by Hana Lee. I saw it described as a high fantasy bisexual Mad Max: Fury Road and had to check it out. And so far, it is delivering on that promise! The main character, Jin, is a magebike courier delivering questionable cargo across the monster-filled wasteland, including some ill-advised love letters. The action kicks off when a high-born client begs Jin to help her escape the city, and they set off into the storm-torn wastes together. I’m digging the action and worldbuilding and am eager to see where it goes.

2. What upcoming book are you really excited about?

I am really looking forward to Countess by Suzan Palumbo. I have been a fan of Suzan’s short fiction since “Tara’s Mother’s Skin” appeared in PseudoPod in 2020, and snapped up her short story collection Skin Thief last year. I was pretty excited to find out she has a novella coming out this September! Her work is always weird, unsettling, and tragic. Countess is undoubtedly going to be in that camp as well—it’s being described as a queer Caribbean space opera version of The Count of Monte Cristo. I love all of those things so that’s an auto-buy for me.


3. Is there a book you’re currently itching to re-read?

The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty. I read the first book, The City of Brass, in 2019. It was a ton of fun, with evocative worldbuilding, fun characters, and lots of drama, and I wanted to know what would happen next. But, in classic Sam fashion, I kept chipping away at the other first-books-in-series on my towering TBR pile and didn’t immediately pick up the rest of the series. In late 2020, when I was losing my mind with cabin fever and pandemic stress, I nabbed The Kingdom of Copper from the library and found myself fully immersed and blessedly distracted for the first time in months. I devoured that book, immediately dove into The Empire of Gold, devoured that book, screamed in delight that it actually stuck the landing, convinced my sister to read them all, screamed with her a bit… Anyway, it was a real bright spot in an awful year and reminded me of the power of escapism and big, ambitious storytelling. 

I don’t often have time to reread books, especially beefy trilogies, but I just convinced my husband to start the series and join the family fan club. Watching him read it is giving me the itch to pick them back up so we can discuss all those twists and turns!

4.  A book that you love and wish that you yourself had written.

I wish I could write anything like The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi. The initial setup is straightforward: a scholar marries a beautiful, mysterious woman. She has only one rule: do not ask questions about her past. He tries to keep his promise, but when circumstances bring them both to her childhood home, he can no longer resist the urge to learn the truth about his wife and the crumbling manor in which she grew up. It is a gorgeously written novel that unfolds like a fairytale. Does that make it fantasy? I don’t know! But it revels in language and atmosphere and storytelling in a way I found enthralling. It does something I am not yet capable of doing: be quietly compelling. By the end I was clutching the book in my hands muttering, “I want to do that. Why can’t I do that??”


5. What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that holds a special place in your heart?

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett will always hold a place of honor in my heart. I stumbled onto it in junior high. I had picked up Good Omens on a whim in some Christmas or birthday book buying spree, and it was so funny I had to go check these authors’ other work out. Neil Gaiman’s books did not look funny, but Terry Pratchett’s sure did (sorry Neil, I did come back later!) The first solo Pratchett book I grabbed was The Last Continent. I had no idea who any of these characters were or why this random wizard was stranded in fake Australia, but I was still so entertained that I begged for more of them, this time paying more attention to publication date!

Death quickly became one of my favorite characters, and Hogfather was the bludgeon I used to recruit my school friends and siblings into joining my new obsession. Some of my fondest memories are of reading the entire book to my younger brother and laughing over it together. When I spot that dogeared copy on my shelf, I remember all those evenings sitting in his bedroom sharing this new world I had discovered by accident, and I can’t wait till I can foist it upon my kids.

6. And speaking of that, what’s your latest book, and why is it awesome?

I have a book! It’s called The Wings Upon Her Back and it just came out this April. On one level, it is a fantasy novel told in two timelines, about a warrior who is cast out of her sect and must fight the system she once upheld. On another level, it is about hero worship, intergenerational trauma, and how to come back from utter disillusionment in the ideals of one’s youth. There are sleeping gods and an entire city caught in the clutches of an abandonment crisis. There are towers built to the heavens, a fight for the right to be heretical, and also a bunch of body modification.

To put it another way: if this book were being recommended by a dramatically deep-voiced action movie trailer narrator, he would declare: Zemolai did terrible things to earn her wings. How far would she go to get them back? And then right when you settled in like, oh ok this is an action movie, he’d break character and yell: bam! here’s a philosophical treatise on the nature of cities and gods. That’s The Wings Upon Her Back.

Thank you, Samantha!

POSTED BY: Paul Weimer. Ubiquitous in Shadow, but I’m just this guy, you know? @princejvstin.