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5 SFF Books Set in the American South


5 SFF Books Set in the American South

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5 SFF Books Set in the American South


Published on December 13, 2023

Photo by Joey Csunyo [via Unsplash]
Photo of a map of the United States with several pins placed at various cities
Photo by Joey Csunyo [via Unsplash]

One of the reasons I most look forward to the end of the year is because I often do rereads of my favorite novels during the holidays. Lord of the Rings is a must, and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles are a requisite. They rekindle my love of all things SFF, and they remind me why I do what I do. As a writer, my goal has been to transport and transfix like Rice and create new worlds beyond the bounds of the human imagination like Tolkien. Returning to some of my favorites is like slipping into the jeans you’ve had for years; the ones that fit you like a second skin and never fail to change your mood for the better.

But this year I may change things up a bit. In that spirit, here are five of my most beloved SFF books set in the American South and why I think we all need to challenge ourselves to some outside-the-box rereads this holiday season.


The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

Book cover for The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

Of course, Rice’s vampires will always be my favorite, but the Mayfair witches are a close second. I devoured the first book in the series, The Witching Hour, when I was in high school, not long after I’d sold my soul to Anne Rice’s work. I remember reading it in a bubble bath and not noticing the water had turned cold until long after I was shivering. A dynasty of witches set against the backdrop of a lushly dangerous New Orleans? How can anyone say no? Dreamlike, dark, and delicious all at once, the Mayfair witches prove, yet again, why Rice rules supreme when it comes to the world of the Louisiana occult. It haunts you in just the right way, at the same time it beckons you to fall in deep. Plus, it’s a completed series. Any serious fantasy fan will tell you there is nothing better than falling in love with a finished story.


Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

There had to be at least one vampire book among the five. The longer I am privileged to work as a writer, the more I admire the gifted ones who can marry the gothic with just the right dash of humor. Charlaine Harris is the queen of making a reader laugh out loud in the middle of a gruesome murder scene. Her Sookie Stackhouse series, immortalized by True Blood on HBO, is the perfect blend of cheeky, sexy, and scary. Dead Until Dark goes beyond the laughs to create a world and a space with one foot planted firmly in the familiar and the other in the darkly absurd. That world lingers with you long after you’ve turned the last page because, at its core, the book is relatable, and the characters worm their way into your heart. Sookie is much more than a sassy damsel in distress, and I still envy people who get to meet her for the first time.


Kindred by Octavia Butler

The first time I finished this book, I remember sitting on my bed, slumped over, weeping and wondering how someone could wring their heart onto the page like this. Kindred is, first and foremost, a tale rife with feeling. One of deep sorrow, but also one of resilience. It contextualizes the pain and the generational trauma of our country’s greatest sin in a way that makes a reader incapable of looking away. Butler will always be the standard when it comes to eschewing what is expected and creating complex characters that buck typecasts in thoughtful, nuanced ways. Dana always lingers with me for days afterward, not because she is strong but because she is real to me. I feel with her, and that, in my opinion, is the only way for our society to truly understand the effects of slavery on our nation and on our souls.


Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Hawkins is another author who never fails to make me laugh, and Hex Hall is, in my opinion, always such a fun read. Set in a fictional boarding school for magical beings on a remote island in Georgia, the story of Sophie, a wayward witch who keeps making ridiculous mistakes when it comes to controlling her powers, is the perfect kind of holiday read. It’s fun and easy in that way any writer knows is damn hard to pull off. With a dash of romance and a lazy yet lovable heroine, this is one of my favorite one-sitting reads. Plus, it’s the beginning of a completed trilogy. If you’re looking for that perfect gift for your bookloving teen, give them Hex Hall. It never fails to cast the right spell.


Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

This is a recent addition to the ranks of my favorite SFF set in the American South, but I was sold the moment I heard it was set at UNC Chapel Hill and involved a historically white magical society and a Black girl attempting to infiltrate its ranks to learn about its involvement in her mother’s death. As a Carolina grad, seeing my school through this lens of the occult was fascinating, as well as eye-opening when it came to the problematic elements in our history as the first public university to open its doors. Bree is an inspired, layered main character, and the book’s nod to Arthurian legend makes it one of the best urban fantasies I’ve read in a long time.


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The Ruined
The Ruined

The Ruined

Renée Ahdieh is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a high-rise in South Korea; consequently, Renée enjoys having her head in the clouds. She and her family live in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is the #1 New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the Wrath and the Dawn series, the Flame in the Mist series, and The Beautiful quartet.

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Renee Ahdieh


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