The best space opera books with a hint (or a whole lot) of magic

Why am I passionate about this?

As an engineer for multiple space projects (including the ISS, Gateway, and commercial space), it seems like I should be a strict sci-fi person. But I love sci-fi and fantasy equally, and I love books that break through the wall between them. Especially in space opera, you can play with how much technology and how much magic shaped a world and a culture. Zooming in, that will greatly influence the characters. Some make it esoteric and exclusive, where others make it more common. All of them transport readers to magical, expansive universes.


I wrote...

Embargo on Hope

By Justin Doyle,

Book cover of Embargo on Hope

What is my book about?

On planet Vastire, good families rise to the elite and the wicked fall into poverty. Unfortunately for sixteen-year-old Darynn Mark, his father incited a revolution. Now, Darynn scrounges through life in the slums. When Vastire is surrounded by an embargo, it gets even harder to survive. 

An alien ship slips through, seeking Darynn with an offer: finish the revolution and the embargo ends. He has a chance thanks to mysterious magic powers and his two companions: clairvoyant crush Fyra and soldierly alien Kaylaa. Cutthroat killers, mystical beasts, and power-hungry priests, lords, and spies stand in their way. If the three of them can crack his father's secret, maybe they can end the embargo and save the poor. If not, another orphan will be added to the growing piles of dead.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Dune

Justin Doyle Why did I love this book?

Dune is universally recognized as one of the greatest, if not the greatest science fiction book of all time. It heavily influenced Star Wars and many space operas after it (but for some reason, the “magic” in it has been rarely replicated). There are few science fiction books that have the depth of lore that Dune has; it’s almost Lord of the Rings-like. I’m especially thankful for it because so much probably doesn’t exist in the genre without it. If you’re just starting your science fiction journey, it’s a great place to start. But be prepared to dig in and appreciate the depth and the expansive universe.

By Frank Herbert,

Why should I read it?

51 authors picked Dune as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Before The Matrix, before Star Wars, before Ender's Game and Neuromancer, there was Dune: winner of the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards, and widely considered one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written.

Melange, or 'spice', is the most valuable - and rarest - element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person's lifespan to making interstellar travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world of Arrakis.

Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.

When the Emperor transfers stewardship of…


Book cover of Nyxia

Justin Doyle Why did I love this book?

Nyxia, the first in a young adult trilogy, introduces the reader to an Earth that has found a foreign substance called nyxia on another planet. Use of nyxia basically grants magical abilities to the user, and the more clever the user, the more capability it has. The cast is very diverse, the main character’s voice is refreshing, and the dialogue is realistic. It’s a fast, easy read with a relatable main character. And the plot only thickens as the series goes on…

By Scott Reintgen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nyxia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

“A high-octane thriller . . . Nyxia grabs you from the first line and never lets go.” —Marie Lu, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Warcross

Every life has a price in this sci-fi thriller—the first in a trilogy—that has the nonstop action of The Maze Runner and the high-stakes space setting of Illuminae. 
 
What would you be willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune?
 
Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping…


Book cover of A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe

Justin Doyle Why did I love this book?

The great thing about this one is how closely related the magic and technology are—the magic is really used to manipulate technology. For example, Mechanists can tap into the inner workings of machines, while Datamancers can comb through data even better than AI. The book features fantastic action sequences at a breakneck pace, and a lovable rag-tag team thrown-in together to defeat a terrifying villain named Mother.

By Alex White,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Furious and fun, the first book in this bold, new science fiction adventure series follows a crew of outcasts as they try to find a legendary ship that just might be the key to savings themselves-and the universe.

Boots Elsworth was a famous treasure hunter in another life, but now she's washed up. She makes her meager living faking salvage legends and selling them to the highest bidder, but this time she got something real--the story of the Harrow, a famous warship, capable of untold destruction.

Nilah Brio is the top driver in the Pan Galactic Racing Federation and the…


Book cover of The Imaginators

Justin Doyle Why did I love this book?

The writing is really strong in this one, with vivid descriptions and great metaphors. The badass main character walks a thin line between hero and anti-hero, but she still shows vulnerabilities that make her relatable. The novella features a small cast with a tight story, so it’s a fast read that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat.

By M.K. Valley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Imaginators as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Andria del Scorpio traded her crown for a sword.

Being an Assassin on Ares might mean rubbing elbows with the filth of the Infinite Universe, but at least she’s free. Her ability to imagine is perfectly suited to kill, and all Andria has to do is bag the prize money and consider the next Contract on the list.

When an illegitimate Contract goes according to plan, everything goes wrong for her and her partner. They have a month before they’re put on trial and chained for murder. As time runs out and unlikely alliances form, Andria’s ready to pay whatever…


Book cover of Star Wars: Leia, Princess of Alderaan

Justin Doyle Why did I love this book?

Star Wars is probably the most famous example of space operas with magic, but most people probably don’t realize there are dozens of books that take place in the universe.

Even if you’re just an original trilogy fan, you’ll like Gray’s books about Leia, majorly because she nails Leia's character (just like in the previous book Bloodline, but I think this book is better). Since it takes place between Episodes III and IV, it ties in heavily to the events of the original trilogy. Leia is learning about politics and the rebellion and the reader can see why she becomes the most important person in the rebellion.

I won’t spoil it, but the ending alone (especially the last line) is enough to make this one a worthy read.

By Claudia Gray,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Star Wars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ... there was a princess who became a legend.


Sixteen-year-old Princess Leia Organa faces the most challenging task of her life so far. To be named heir to the throne of Alderaan, she must prove herself in body, mind and heart; she's taking rigorous survival courses, practicing politics, and spearheading relief missions to worlds under Imperial control. But Leia has worries beyond her claim to the crown. Her parents, Breha and Bail, aren't acting like themselves; determined to uncover their secrets, Leia sets down a dangerous path that puts her…


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Acquaintance

By Jeff Stookey,

Book cover of Acquaintance

Jeff Stookey Author Of Dangerous Medicine

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Historical fiction writer Gay male Reader History buff Curious human

Jeff's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

As a young doctor, Carl Holman has experienced the horrors of World War I and the death of his lover, a fellow officer. Back home after the War, he befriends a young jazz musician who he hopes will become a companion he can share his life with. But this is Oregon: the Ku Klux Klan is gaining influence, homosexual acts are illegal, and such a relationship will jeopardize Carl’s promising medical career.

Musician Jimmy Harper has his own dreams for the future and his own obstacles to overcome before he will allow himself to accept Carl’s love. More than a gay love story, Acquaintance is a deep dive into gay and lesbian history based on extensive period research of the 1920s.

Acquaintance

By Jeff Stookey,

What is this book about?

As a young surgeon, Carl Holman has experienced the horrors of World War I and the loss of his lover, a fellow officer. Back home after the war, he befriends a young jazz musician who he hopes will become a companion he can share his life with. But this is Oregon: the Ku Klux Klan is gaining influence, homosexual acts are illegal, and such a relationship will jeopardize Carl’s promising medical career. Musician Jimmy Harper has his own dreams for the future and his own obstacles to overcome before he will allow himself to accept Carl’s love.
Acquaintance is a…


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