We Value Your Privacy

This site uses cookies to improve user experience. By continuing to browse, you accept the use of cookies and other technologies.


Why ‘The Water Outlaws’ by S.L. Huang Is a Must-Read for Fantasy Lovers

Plus, more sci-fi/fantasy authors who use field expertise to craft their stories.

Image of The Water Outlaws by S. L. Huang

Lin Chong trains the Emperor’s soldiers. She’s an expert arms instructor, proficient in a wide range of weapons and fighting tactics. It’s a strange job for a woman, but she believes it’s proof that even in a hierarchal society, keeping your head down and doing a good job is the best approach. Until it’s all taken away. 

After a man with a vendetta destroys her life, Lin Chong is left a disgraced, tattooed criminal on the run. She finds a new home with the Bandits of Liangshan, outlaws who live in the mountains on the edge of society. The Bandits believe in justice, even if they have to resort to murder and thievery to find it. As outcasts, they are a force to be reckoned with. Together, they must just have the power to overthrow the Empire.

Like the main protagonist, The Water Outlaws is a force to be reckoned with. A genderbent epic fantasy that draws inspiration from the original fourteenth century Chinese martial arts classic, The Water Margins, Huang has reimagined ancient China and written an enthralling feminist story.

Told through multiple perspectives, we get a stunning array of characters, some good, some bad, many fantastically, morally grey. If you’re looking for a story with badass women achieving impossible things, look no further. Huang draws on their extensive expertise as a stunt performer and firearms expert. The action scenes are incredible and the fights crackle with realism. It’s cinematic, but the real magic is in the quiet comradery of these characters.

A quick glance online will give you an array of content warnings, and if you are squeamish, it’s worth being aware before going in. This isn’t a story where the misogyny alone will turn your stomach. It’s violent and brutal, and Huang does not shy away from giving those scenes as much depth as the rest.

However, overall, The Water Outlaws is a must-read for fantasy lovers. The characters are superb, the fights are dynamic, and the tactics are precise. It’s unapologetically queer and is punctuated with plenty of humor.

More Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books Written by Experts



By R.F. Kuang

After cholera makes young Robin Swift an orphan, a mysterious professor brings him to London to train in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese. It’s to prepare him for Oxford University’s Royal Institute of Translation, otherwise known as Babel. There, the students use translation as part of silver-working, the magical process of infusing meaning lost in translation into silver. It’s made the British Empire a powerful colonizer. As Robin progresses through Babel’s prestigious halls, he comes into contact with the Hermes Society, a group determined stop Britain’s expansion. But when Britain threatens China with an unjust war, Robin has to decide. Can he change things from within? Or does change always mean violence? 

With graduate degrees from Cambridge, Oxford, and as a current student at Yale, author R.F. Kuang is an expert in history, philosophy, Chinese studies, and East Asian languages and literature. Her experience at multiple Ivy League institutions, including Oxford, means that she can bring to life the inner dynamics and subtle cultures sheltered within her the schools. 



By William C. Dietz

When humans and androids crash on the alien planet Zuul, they discover it’s an inhospitable landscape riddled with violent earthquakes and volcanic dust clouds. Even worse, while they struggle to survive, they’re facing two alien races. On that hates technology with a religious fervor, and the other are brilliant and have their own nanotechnology. As war between the two alien races escalates, humans have to learn how to harness technology to save the planet. And an android named Doon might have a secret in their programming that could help them all.

Dietz served in both the Navy and the Marines. There he became an expert in tactics and strategy, which he applied to create realistic military narratives in science fiction novels. His stories are filled with strategy and politics that propel a stunning pace and offer shocking twists. His style creates a sense of realism for the reader, making war between aliens feel as plausible as war between countries.

a memory of empire

A Memory Called Empire

By Arkady Martine

When Ambassador Mahit Dzmare leaves her small, independent mining Station to arrive in the middle of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire, she expects to find the previous ambassador. Instead, he’s dead. And no one will admit his death wasn’t an accident. Even worse, there’s reason to believe that Mahit might be next. To survive, she has to find the murderer. But she also has to navigate through an alien culture that is as seductive as it is confusing, all while protecting secrets of her own. Secrets that could destroy not just Mahit, but the future of her entire Station.

Arkady Martine uses her PhD in medieval Byzantine, global, and comparative history with her experience as a city planner to image an Empire as rich and complex as our own planet. The city thrums to life in the small details, while cultural nuance such as names and an emphasis on poetry are not mere add-ons, but deep layers of importance to the characters and the world they inhabit.

The Scourge Between Stars by Ness Brown

The Scourge Between Stars

By Ness Brown

The starship Calypso has seen better days. After the colony they tried to establish failed, the crew are now heading back to Earth. But they’ve found themselves in the middle of an alien war, and their ship is paying the disastrous consequences. Captain Jacklyn Albright has to keep the ship and crew from falling apart. But then someone dies. And there’s something in the walls. Something hunting them.

Ness Brown spent several years after receiving her degree teaching astronomy and astrobiology before turning her expertise into building a fictional world. The intricacies of the spacecraft, along with the biological horrors of her alien creatures reflect the hours she’s spent not just learning the science, but imagining how the elements we’re familiar with might create something entirely different.



By Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

When Katy Grant wakes up, she believes the worst thing in the world was breaking up with her boyfriend Ezra. Then her planet is attacked. Katy, Ezra, and a handful of other refugees manage to escape … only to be chased by a warship. 

Her problems are only starting. Between a plague breaking out, an AI that may be their worst enemy, and the pathological liars in leadership, Katy decides to hack her way to the truth. But when she uncovers exactly who is after them and why, she realizes the only person who can help her is the one person she swore she’d never talk to again. 

While the story itself has nothing to do with Jay Kristoff’s marketing experience, creating a detailed method of unique storytelling does. Each page in the Illuminae Files is a small story in itself, using the materials to propel the reader forward as much as the text. It’s visually appealing and incredibly impactful, working in tandem with the prose to create an immersive and memorable experience.