Fiction Affliction: Diagnosing October Releases in Epic Fantasy

Fiction Affliction is a new monthly column written by Royal Street author Suzanne Johnson that examines upcoming releases by genre or sub-genre. Click the links for this week’s coverage on young adult paranormal fiction, urban fantasy, and science fiction. Today’s column examines FANTASY.

The Symptoms: Thieves run rampant in imaginary kingdoms. Magic, left gasping for breath by science, makes a comeback. Unanticipated resurrections and arranged marriages lead to discovery of latent powers and impulsive actions.

The Diagnosis: Sixteen new fantasies hit the shelves in October: 10 tales of magic and power, including multiple flights from arranged marriages, and six political fights for the survival of beleaguered native peoples.

The Cure: If dad hands you an engagement ring, run for the mist-enshrouded hills. Otherwise, call upon your heretofore-unsuspected magical powers to save your lands. Prepare to fight, preferably with a superior warrior of the opposite sex at your side.

In the October Fiction Affliction Fantasy Medicine Chest:

* The Spirit Thief, by Rachel Aaron (Sept. 28, Orbit)
First in the new Legend of Eli Monpress series from Georgia author Rachel Aaron, the book features a world where magic comes from the spirits inhabiting the universe around us. Monpress is a wizard who also happens to be the greatest thief of his era. In a scheme to raise the bounty on his head to a million in gold, he joins forces with a magical sword-wielding fighter and a demonseed with the worthy goal of stealing the king himself.

* The House on Durrow Street, by Galen Beckett (Sept. 28, Spectra)
Jane Austen meets the kingdom of Altania in this sequel to Beckett’s bestselling The Magicians and Mrs. Quent. As oh-so-proper Ivy Quent is thrust into the fashionable circles of Altanian society, she must discover the secrets of her father’s Durrow Street house before rogue magicians bring down the kingdom and its way of life.

* The Heir of Night, by Helen Lowe (Sept. 28, Eos)
YA author Lowe’s adult fantasy debut kicks off a four-book Heir of Night series. A young woman, Malian, must access her dormant powers to protect her people’s longstanding enemies as they try to infiltrate the Wall of Night, which keeps darkness from their world. Though marketed for adults, early reviews have pointed the book toward YA readers.

* Harvest Moon, featuring novellas by Mercedes Lackey, Michelle Sagara and Cameron Haley (Oct. 1, Harlequin/Luna)
In Lackey’s “A Tangled Web,” Prince Leopold crosses the realm of the dead to retrieve his kidnapped wife, while Sagara’s “Cast in Moonlight” features a mouthy teen thief who takes on a child-prostitution ring. In “Retribution,” Haley’s heroine Domino Riley contends with a supernatural hit-man.

* The Wolf Age, by James Enge (Oct. 5, Prometheus/Pyr)
This is the third in Enge’s Ambrose series, which began with World Fantasy Award-nominated Blood of Ambrose. Suruyaaria is a city of werewolves, where humans fill the role of slave or meat and a tribe of rogue wolves is determined to claim power for itself—until unseen threats require sworn enemies to join forces.

* Intrigue (A Valdemar Novel), by Mercedes Lackey (Oct. 5, Daw)
The second book in the Collegium Chronicles trilogy follows the story of a 13-year-old orphan, Mags, as he’s taken to the capital for training as a herald and quickly becomes suspected of espionage. He must prove his loyalty, using his hidden gift of telepathy.

* Troubled Waters, by Sharon Shinn (Oct. 5, Ace)
Twelve Hours series author Shinn opens a new world of magic and politics, where everything is ruled by the four elements. Zoe, promised to the king as his fifth bride, instead uncovers her powers as a Prime, ruled by the element of water. It gets her out of the unwanted marriage, but she must learn to use her newfound skills to survive the machinations of the royal court.

* Knot Gneiss, by Piers Anthony (Oct. 12, Tor)
In the thirty-fourth Xanth novel, Wenda Woodwife has become the victim of her own violent mood swings and must engage in an adventure with the Good Magician Humphrey so that both can solve their respective dilemmas. Meanwhile, Prince Charming heads off on his own to escape Wenda’s tirades.

* Passion Play, by Beth Bernobich (Oct. 12, Tor)
Magic and politics blend in this coming-of-age story, where Therez flees her family to avoid an arranged marriage to a power-hungry man. This is the first in a planned series for Bernobich, who describes its setting as “a world of magic and politics and multiple lives. The story takes place in the kingdom of Veraene, a world of political factions, of ambition and treachery and the gray border between one’s honor and loyalty to the kingdom. And because each soul lives on after death, the decisions of each life—good or bad—carry on to the next.”

* Against All Things Ending, by Stephen R. Donaldson (Oct. 19, Putnam)
The third in Donaldson’s The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series finds Thomas once again alive, thanks to Linden Avery, but his resurrection unleashes the dark power of the Worm of the World’s End. The only hope for survival may fall to Linden’s adopted son, Jeremiah. The fourth in the Last Chronicles series is tentatively scheduled for release in 2013.

* Weight of Stone, by Laura Anne Gilman (Oct. 19, Gallery)
Second in Gilman’s Vineart War series, which began last year with the Nebula-nominated Flesh and Fire. Weight of Stone finds everything in disarray as violence and terror consume the Lands Vin. Four companions will brave sea serpents and killer winds to save the land from an evil force. A third book from the Lands Vin will be released in 2011.

* Geist, by Philippa Ballantine (Oct. 26, Ace)
Life is getting complicated for Sorcha Faris, a Deacon of the Order of the Eye and the Fist, in this unusual epic fantasy-meets-steampunk. “In Geist, supernatural beings have broken through into a once-peaceful world so that a formerly religious order of Deacons is all that stands between the unliving and a sprawling empire of terrified humans,” says Ballantine, a native New Zealander. “It is a world of conspiracy, runes, gunpowder, and the occasional airship.” First in a new series. The second, Spectyr, will be released in July 2011.

* Echo City, by Tim Lebbon (Oct. 26, Spectra)
In this standalone dark fantasy, Echo City is a hellish town surrounded by a huge, poisonous desert. While most citizens believe their city is all the world holds, a political exile and his companions are sure there is more—and it falls to them to save the day when an ancient, deadly evil from the past rises from below.

* Soul Stealers, by Andy Remic (Oct. 26, Angry Robot)
Second in Remick’s Clockwork Vampire Chronicles, Soul Stealers finds hero Kell being hunted by the machinated, bronze-fanged vampires, the Vachine, as he travels with a small group to warn the king of Falanor about the advancing albino army.

* City of Dreams and Nightmare, by Ian Whates (Oct. 26, Angry Robot)
British author Whates offers the first in a new series set in the ancient vertical city of Thaiburley—whose upper tiers are rumored to house demons. Below, a street thief tries to evade capture after witnessing a murder. Part fantasy, part sci-fi, part steampunk, this new hybrid was released in the U.K. to strong reviews in March.

* Crown of Crystal Flame, by C.L. Wilson (Oct. 26, Avon)
The fifth and final book in Wilson’s popular Tairen Soul series brings trouble to the lives of Ellysetta Baristani and the Fey King Rain as they face their ultimate battle against the High Mage of Eld and try to secure eternal light for the world. How big a sacrifice will it require? When Wilson planned the series, she said she took “everything that sparked my imagination—everything I loved about fantasy and about romance—and tried to merge them together in a single work.”

Urban fantasy author Suzanne Johnson is a bonafide book geek. Her new urban fantasy series, scheduled to begin with the release of Royal Street in April 2012 by Tor Books, is set in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. Find Suzanne on Twitter.


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