While TAZ: Balance is the love of my podcast life, TAZ: Amnesty is giving it a run for its money. Featuring oddball cryptids in the West Virginia woods, monsters with a purpose bigger and darker than we could ever know, and a trio of player characters who are SOMEHOW mostly finding their footing in this weird world they’ve been hurled into, Amnesty is the charming spooky woods arc I didn’t know I’ve been waiting for.
Which NATURALLY means it’s time for another set of book recommendations! Characters are listed in their rough order of appearance, so if you’re not caught up with Amnesty, you can duck (HA) out whenever you really need to.
Duck Newton || The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman
Duck Newton, one day, is going to be able to spend some time in the woods like a normal dude. Until then, though, he has to deal with monstrous woods, a talking sword, and general danger to the small town it’s apparently his job to protect from the supernatural. Short of a talking sword, The Devouring Gray covers most of these points. Monsters in the woods? Well, just one, but it’s very monstrous. Small town sort of claustrophobic vibes? One hundred percent. Everyone is tired and just wants things to be normal. Yeah, you could definitely say that.
Team Let Duck Take a Break Please 2k19.
“I want to keep living! Hell, I got a boat to finish, I got a cat to feed, I- this isn’t me!”
Ned Chicane || The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
There are only two options for a Ned Chicane book recommendation: a terrible get-rich quick self-help title, or a book about a conman instead one written by one. It’s a lot easier to get behind a recommendation for the latter, so The Lies of Locke Lamora it is! There’s outlandish cons, a willingness to lie even when it’s probably going to go sideways, some tragic backstory, BETRAYAL, and general gray morality. Oh, and stealing from rich people just for the funsies.
Yeah, this is a VERY Ned Chicane book.
“No, no, that’s not the way to go. Ya gotta bend the rules a little bit!”
Aubrey Little || Firebug by Lish McBride
I haven’t even read Firebug quite yet, but by the summary alone, it’s a peak Aubrey Little story. Dead mom? Check. Monster hunting? Check. Starting LOTS OF FIRES? Oh, that’s a very very very big check. All that’s left is a magic act and some bisexuality, tbh, and it’s a perfect match.
Rabbits are covered, though. I’ve been informed Firebug has biker wererabbits. In case it wasn’t intense enough already.
“Mama, not only do I swear on my life, I swear on the life of Dr. Harris Bonkers, PhD.”
And Speaking of Rabbits…
Dr. Harris Bonkers, PhD || The Republic by Plato
Look, Dr. Harris Bonkers deserves to be on this list by virtue of being a delightful good boy and ALSO because he’s a rabbit with a PhD in philosophy. Which means he’s getting Plato to work with, because somebody has to put their degree to work, and if it’s not me, it’s going to be the rabbit!
He’ll be just fine untangling the moral complexities of The Republic. And he can snack on the pages when he’s done.
“His name is not Nougat. That’s—that’s what his name was at the store because they did not appreciate the work that he had put into in receiving his doctorate. His name is Dr. Harris Bonkers, PhD, thank you very much, mother.”
Mama || Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
Strange Practice feels absolutely tailor-made for Mama, given that it follows Dr. Greta Helsing, a doctor for monsters, who finds herself facing a cult of murderous monks that threaten the lives (and afterlives) of everyone she cares about. While Mama may not be medically inclined, there’s every bit of evidence that she would die to protect Amnesty Lodge and its residents from conflict. And, like Dr. Helsing, she’s been immersed in all this monster business for a long, long while. She’s pretty much the local expert, you know.
“So, that’s the truth of the matter. Monsters are real.”
Minerva || Vengeful by VE Schwab
Marcella Riggs and Minerva of Miralaviniax Orbital Body 5 have one very important thing in common: they’re looking for revenge. Marcella prefers fire, and Minerva prefers a MASSIVE SWORD, but they’re both out to avenge the wrongs done to them, to see everything made right even in the aftermath.
It’s really just a matter of how far is too far, and only one of them has the kind of people around ready to pull them back from the brink, don’t you think?
“And that is why my passion manifests as fury, Duck. I know your toil, and it makes me tired.”
Beacon || The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken
Beacon may not be a demon who likes to take the shape of a fox, but he is full up with sarcasm and has a tendency to favor the more…brutal solutions…to conflict. Really, he and Alastor would probably get along save for Beacon being a weapon for justice and Alastor a demon out to save his own skin.
Yeah, actually, that kind of moral difference might be too much for either one of them to get over.
But hey, for our purposes, they’re very alike, and very good at inconveniencing our heroes.
“Congratulations, new owner! My name is Beacon. My former owner has tragically died, but fear not—”
Dani || Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Dani doesn’t get as much airtime as I’d personally like (tell me more about the cute vamp Aubrey keeps flirting with, please!), but when she does, she always seems a little bit strained, like there’s a whole world out there that she misses.
And in her exile from Sylvain, that’s true, which makes Every Heart a Doorway a perfect fit. The kids in Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children have once lived in fantastic worlds, worlds suited uniquely to them, but now they’re trapped back on Earth again with the knowledge that their portals may never come back for them, may never give them that second chance.
It’s a bit of a sad choice for Dani, but it encapsulates her relationship with Sylvain in the most accurate ways.
Oh, and the main character is suspected of murder, no big deal, just another common thread.
“Do you have any idea what it’s like, knowing you have a home out there, and knowing that you’ll never be able to return to it?”
Barclay || Switchback by Danika Stone
To be fair, maybe a book about two teens surviving in the wilderness despite all the odds would stress Barclay out more than suit him, but this is also a book about two teens working together to survive in the wilderness DESPITE THE ODDS. It’s the kernel of seeing how bad the situation is and still trying that I think rings really true with Barclay.
Also, Barclay is Bigfoot, and I’d be ashamed if I didn’t give him a woodsy book, so there’s that.
“I’d rather hold out hope than go lookin’ for bad news.”
Jake Coolice || The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee
This rec isn’t so much about who Jake Coolice is so much as who he wants to be. Always at the Pine Guard’s peripheral, he clearly wants in on the action, wants to have a hand in protecting Kepler. Not to mention he’s got a taste for stunts and sports. Basically, the kid just wants a little recognition, just a corner of the limelight.
Someone give it to him. Oh my god, please, I love Jake Coolice, please let him be happy and be hero. 😭
“I knew it, I’ve told Mama for such a long time, like, I’ve got what it takes to save the day.”
Pigeon Wilson || Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
Pigeon Wilson may not have been born into the monster business like Verity Price, and she seems to want in on it more than Verity wants out, but Discount Armageddon seems like a perfect fit. It has monster-hunters, disappearing cryptids, and far more curiosity than most sensible folks have towards things that go bump in the night. Given that Pigeon almost got mauled by an abomination and still wanted to join the Pine Guard, this seems like just the book for her!
” I think you are doing a bit of monster hunting. And, if that’s the case, I gotta a follow-up question for you, I guess… Y’all hiring?”
Indrid Cold || The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos
Before listening to TAZ, I wouldn’t have associated the Mothman with seeing the future. Now, though, those two things are intertwined, and I think The Wise and the Wicked makes a perfect fit. Indrid’s visions, like the visions of the Chernyavsky women, are nearly unavoidable.
So why not give the Mothman a book about challenging futures foretold? Tbh the only thing that could make this match more would be if it had copious amounts of eggnog, but I haven’t yet read it and can’t confirm (though I suspect it’s a no; darn).
“I don’t prefer this title, myself, but, well… I’m the Mothman! See you tomorrow!”
Janelle || Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Almost the entire time that we see anything of Janelle, she’s got her nose in a book. Even while she’s talking to someone. She’s just always reading, always learning about magic, always turning pages to find out more. So what better book to recommend than one about books AND magic?
Clearly, I am a recommendation genius. 😎
“Call it theft, then. But if it’s what keeps my world alive without killing yours? This is a harmless crime.”
Vincent || Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zenter
Vincent may be in charge of security in Sylvain, and he may be a man with a goat’s head, but he’s also a little enamored with Earth culture, especially movies. So, in the spirit of Vincent’s cinematic loves, what better choice than this? It’s got horror movies, late night TV, and tough choices about the future, all things that Vincent’s got going on in his weird goatman life.
“Um, one thing before you go. Have any of you seen any good movies lately?”
Boyd Mosche || Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
Boyd Mosche, once he has his sights set on something, isn’t afraid to put on the pressure until he gets it. Making deals and demands is his primary role in TAZ Amnesty, and because of that, Ace of Shades is a solid fit. With New Reynes’s dangerous political relationships and its thriving criminal underworld, deals are the name of the game: both keeping them and breaking them.
Also, death keeps creeping up real close…
“If you’re not going to hold up your end of the deal, I’m not going to hold up mine.”
Hollis || Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon
There is tragically little YA fiction I can find with motorcycles, but you know, I did some searching, and Done Dirt Cheap, in a lot of ways, is a Hollis rec. It does not feature nonbinary stunt bikers (if someone writes this, PLEASE HOOK ME UP I’M BEGGING YOU), BUT it does feature biker gangs and fighting back against the people who say they know best.
If Hollis is focused on anything, it’s defending their crew, keeping the Hornets safe. Even if that means fighting back against powers with much more weight to throw around.
“Okay. Well, good news. You don’t need to know what I’m talking about anymore. You all are relieved of duty. We’ll take it from here.”
Arlo Thacker || Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
It sounds like Kady is a little more adept at all things computers than Thacker, but they’ve got some things in common: getting caught in the crossfire of otherworldly war, and finding themselves fighting for survival with the most important information stored somewhere deep in a hard drive not everyone can access.
Plus, there’s some stuff going on with Thacker and the Quell that just REEKS of rogue AI, stuff we don’t know the full extent of yet, so let’s go out on a limb and lock this rec in!
“He kept notes on everything they ever fought, in this…the oldest functioning computer on this fucking planet.”
Heathcliff || Warriors: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter
So how about those good ol’ super powerful magic cats, huh?
“Before we move on: yes, I’m a gigantic cat. No, you may not pet me. You may not pet me.”