Orange Trees And Iron Widows: Spring Semester TBR

Written by: Eileen Sholomicky

Every semester, I severely overestimate the number of books I can read for pleasure. I bring seven or eight up to my dorm with me in addition to all of the books for my classes, and come break I’ve read one. Maybe two if I’m lucky. This semester, I restrained myself. I brought up just four books with the intent of buying a fifth (a new release from the end of January), and I have made a promise to myself that I will read all of them before the semester is over, in addition to whatever other books I pick up on an inevitable shopping spree.

Is my goal realistic? Maybe not. Five books can be a stretch for someone who already spends a lot of time reading for their majors. However, I like a good challenge. Regardless of whether or not I make it all the way through, here are the five books on my spring semester TBR.

1. Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (Currently Reading) Adult Fantasy

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

This book follows a queen under the threat of an assassination, the secret mage protecting her, and a dragon rider forced to make a life-altering decision as forces of chaos awaken.

I picked this one up four days before the semester started with the intent to finish it before then, finally spurred on by a piece of fanart on Tumblr. Originally, I had considered taking up a popular challenge on Tiktok to read this 800+ page book in one day. However, in the spirit of avoiding burnout, I decided against it.

2 & 3. Written in the Stars and Hang the Moon by Alexandria Bellefleur Adult Romance

Written in the Stars & Hang the Moon by Alexandria Bellefleur

These are two books in a series of queer romance books united by an overarching theme of space and the stars. Written in the Stars is a loose Pride & Prejudice retelling about an astrologer and a nonbeliever, while Hang the Moon follows a hopeless romantic trying to convince a skeptic—one of his childhood best friends—that love is worth it.

I have avoided the romance genre for a long time. My first formal foray into it was Casey McQuiston’s 2019 debut Red, White, & Royal Blue. McQuiston’s books encouraged me to delve deeper, and books centered around the stars seem like the perfect way to do that. I also want to read these because the third book, Count Your Lucky Stars, was the one that originally caught my eye. Count Your Lucky Stars is about a second-chance romance and just released on February 1st.

4. Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao Young Adult Sci-Fi

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

This novel takes place in a world where boys and girls pair up to pilot giant robots and fight off alien mechs. An 18-year-old girl becomes what is known as an iron widow, a female pilot able to kill male pilots and sacrifice them for fuel, in order to avenge her sister’s death and prevent more deaths like it.

While the cover is gorgeous, it was the author themself that finally got me to pick this up. Specifically, it was the fact that the author decided to take their author photo in a cow onesie because they made a promise to their friends seven years before their debut. Additionally, this book was also marketed as “Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale in a polyamorous reimagining of China’s only female emperor,” which grabbed the immediate attention of my entire friend group.

5. Seven Mercies by Laura Lam & Elizabeth May Adult Sci-Fi

Seven Mercies by Laura Lam & Elizabeth May

Seven Mercies is the sequel to 2021’s Seven Devils, in which the heir to the galactic empire fakes her death and joins the resistance. On a mission to infiltrate a cargo ship and gather intel, the heir and her pilot discover other women with knowledge of the empire’s inner workings and form a team bent on taking down the emperor. Seven Mercies follows the fallout of the events of the first book.

Seven Devils was a book I had been anticipating for so long that I occasionally forgot about its existence—that is, until I stumbled upon a copy of it in my local Barnes & Noble. The book hit everything I want out of a book: deadly sibling rivalry, tender love, found family, spaceships, and explosions. I am not-so-patiently awaiting the day I can get my hands on Seven Mercies and catch up with the devils.

These are all of the books I intend on reading this semester! I hope at least one of them has piqued your interest the way they’ve piqued mine, and that they make it onto your TBR, too.

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