The best speculative fiction featuring sisters

The Books I Picked & Why

Caraval

By Stephanie Garber

Book cover of Caraval

Why this book?

I absolutely devoured this lush, evocative fantasy, which tells the story of two sisters who live in a world where a select few are invited to play an immersive, magical game on a remote island. As a writer, I found Garber’s prose to be exquisite; her fantasy world, too – and all of its secrets, spells, and wonders – was crafted meticulously and painted in sumptuous detail. But as a reader, the real driver of Caraval for me was the bond between the main character Scarlett and her sister Tella – such an unforgettable adventure with two unique heroines at its core.


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We Have Always Lived in the Castle

By Shirley Jackson, Thomas Ott

Book cover of We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Why this book?

One of my favorite classics, We Have Always Lived in the Castle defies tidy genre classification. Part mystery, part coming-of-age story (with a bit of Gothic horror too), this wonderful and twisted novel from Shirley Jackson tells the story of unusual Merricat Blackwood and her older sister, the agoraphobic Constance, who live with their uncle in isolation at Blackwood House. I remember frantically turning the pages the first time I read Jackson’s story, which is such a fantastic craft study in expert pacing and psychological suspense. But there’s a beating heart to this story, too, which is what really hooks and invests me—and the singular, fierce bond between Merricat and Constance emotionally anchors Jackson’s gripping tale.


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Roses and Rot

By Kat Howard

Book cover of Roses and Rot

Why this book?

Kat Howard’s novel threads so many things that I love together – sisters, reflections on making art and on the artist’s “muse,” faeries, and magical night markets. This story, a loose reimagining of Tam Lin, is set at an artists’ colony, where every seven years, the Fae living at the border of our world select the most promising artist to live among them and, in exchange, grant the artist unparalleled success when they return. But what really gripped me is how differently the two sisters of Roses and Rot consider the Fae, as well as what they’re each willing to sacrifice for fame and fortune, and these disparate attitudes result in such a riveting conclusion. If you’re like me and have a particular fascination with the artistic process and the writer’s life, this novel is not to be missed.


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Down Among the Sticks and Bones

By Seanan McGuire

Book cover of Down Among the Sticks and Bones

Why this book?

This slim novel is actually the second in McGuire’s Wayward Children series, which I wholeheartedly recommend in its entirety. The premise: a school for teenagers who once found secret, magical doors to other worlds when they were younger—and who, for various reasons, are sent back from those worlds to ours again. I particularly loved Jack, the burgeoning mad scientist sister in Down Among the Sticks and Bones, as well as her complicated relationship with her sister, Jill. I’m also a big fan of unique worlds and high-concept premises, and McGuire’s series absolutely checks both of those boxes!


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Court of Fives

By Kate Elliott

Book cover of Court of Fives

Why this book?

Kate Elliott’s young adult series feels a bit like Game of Thrones meets Little Women (both of which I loved, so Elliott’s concept was a dream mash-up for me!). The protagonist, Jessamy, lives in a fantasy world divided by class, a domain where laudable competitors compete in a series of various trials and tribulations called the Fives. As a writer, I found Elliott’s world so well thought out and executed, but it was the Little Women elements of this series that most claimed my reader heart. I treasured the quieter moments between Jessamy and her sisters, who are all memorable, fully rendered, and compelling, and the relationships between them, complex and real.


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