Fiction Affliction: Diagnosing December Releases in Epic Fantasy

Fiction Affliction is a monthly column written by Royal Street author Suzanne Johnson that examines upcoming releases by genre or sub-genre. Check back the next four days for coverage of December releases in urban fantasy, young adult paranormal, and science fiction. Today’s column examines new releases in EPIC FANTASY.

The Symptoms: Former and current slaves of mysterious principalities are in revolt—or returning for revenge. Vengeance and Evil are the warm, fuzzy catchwords for December. And it’s a really bad time to be a cat.

The Diagnosis: Twelve new fantasies rise from the misty hills in December, including four slaves in revolt; three princes or princesses in dire straits; a couple of dying races; a case of mistaken runes; a race of felines; and a Viking with amnesia.

The Cure. Hide your cats! Cats in space, cats in cages—they’re all being targeted in Mau (or is that Meow?). Also, beware of vengeful sorcerers and anything containing druidic runes.

Beneath the Thirteen Moons, by Kathryne Kennedy (Dec. 1, Sourcebooks Casablanca)

When smuggler Mahri Zin kidnaps a Healer to cure her family and he turns out to be the Prince of Sea Forest, she must use too much of the magical zabbaroot to escape his enemies. From her root-induced coma she learns that the natives of this planet plan for her to bond with him, a joining so final that to tear it asunder would mean the death of them both. Mahri only wants her freedom, but as they plunge through the dangerous waters of the swamps she finds it hard to resist the physical lure of Prince Korl. This is a new release of the author’s first book, originally published in 2003 by Five Star.

The Castings Trilogy, by Pamela Freeman (Dec. 2, Orbit)

An omnibus edition of the trilogy includes Blood Ties, Deep Water, and Full Circle, together for the first time. When the Eleven Domains were invaded, the original inhabitants were driven onto the road as Travelers, belonging nowhere, welcomed by no one. Now the Domains are governed by the Warlords but there are wilder elements in the landscape that cannot be controlled and that may prove the Warlords’ undoing. As the stories of three unlikely heroes unfold, along with the tales of those whose lives they touch, it becomes clear that they are bound together in ways that not even a stonecaster could have foreseen.

Finding the Way and Other Tales of Valdemar, edited by Mercedes Lackey (Dec. 7, DAW)

Sixteen original stories set in the Valdemar universe, including a new novella from Mercedes Lackey. A group of today’s hottest fantasy authors appear in this sixth anthology of Valdemar stories edited by Lackey, including Tanya Huff, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Fiona Patton, and Judith Tarr—each adding their own special touches.

Songs of the Wolf (Tales of the Holtlands), by R.F. Long (Dec. 7, Samhain)

Elite Fey’na warrior Shan is driven by hatred for the Lord of River Holt, the human who killed his sister. Vengeance is his only goal. Then he meets Jeren, who’s desperate to escape her brother before his misuse of magic consumes his sanity. She finds safety and protection with Shan, but only as long as she hides her kinship with the Lord of River Holt. Jeren doesn’t expect Shan’s people to readily accept her, but she’s determined to prove herself worthy.

Seer of Sevenwaters, by Juliet Marillier (Dec. 7, Roc)

The young seer Sibeal is visiting an island of elite warriors before making her final pledge as a druid. It’s there she finds Felix, a survivor of a Viking shipwreck who’s lost his memory. The scholarly Felix and Sibeal form a natural bond. As Felix regains his memory, Sibeal has a runic divination showing her that Felix must go on a perilous mission—and that she will join him. The rough waters and the sea creatures they will face are no match for Sibeal’s own inner turmoil.

Catacombs: A Tale of the Barque Cats, by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (Dec. 7, Del Rey)

In Catalyst, Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough introduced readers to the beguiling Barque Cats: spacefaring felines who serve aboard starships as full-fledged members of the crew. When fear of a virulent plague leads the government first to quarantine and then to kill all animals suspected of infection, Pshaw-Ra activates a “mousehole” in space that carries the refugees to a place of safety: Pshaw-Ra’s home planet of Mau, where godlike cats are worshiped by human slaves—and hunted down by a mysterious enemy. 

The Bards of Bone Plain, by Patricia A. McKillip (Dec. 7, Ace)

Scholar Phelan Cle is researching Bone Plain—which has been studied for the last 500 years, though no one has been able to locate it as a real place. Archaeologist Jonah Cle, Phelan’s father, is also hunting through time, piecing history together from forgotten trinkets. His most eager disciple is Princess Beatrice, the king’s youngest daughter. When they unearth a disk marked with ancient runes, Beatrice pursues the secrets of a lost language that she suddenly notices all around her, hidden in plain sight.

Hawkmoon: The Runestaff, by Michael Moorcock (Dec. 7, Tor)

The final book in this epic fantasy chronicling the adventures of Dorian Hawkmoon, an incarnation of Moorcock’s famed Eternal Champion. In the far future, Dorian Hawkmoon is pulled unwillingly into a war that will pit him against the ruthless Baron Meliadus and the armies of the Dark Empire. In the final installment of Moorcock’s epic fantasy, Hawkmoon’s quest to destroy the Dark Empire of Granbretan leads him to Dnark, the home of the Runestaff. Now he must take up the Runestaff to stop Granbretan once and for all.

The Iron Palace, by Morgan Howell (Dec. 28, Del Rey)

In the third Shadowed Path installment, 17 years have passed since Yim, an ex-slave, sacrificed her body—and perhaps her soul—to Lord Bahl, avatar of the evil Devourer. In that selfless act, Yim stripped Lord Bahl of his power but became pregnant with his son. Now that son, Froan, is a young man. And though Yim has raised him in the remote Grey Fens and kept him ignorant of his past, the taint of the Devourer is in his blood. Armed with a dark magic he barely understands, Froan sets out to claim his destiny.

Guild Wars: Edge of Destiny, by J. Robert King (Dec. 28, Pocket Star)

The races of Tyria stand on the edge of destiny. Heroes have battled against dragon minions, only to be corrupted into service of the enemy. Armies have marched on the dragons and been swept aside. The dwarves sacrificed their entire race to defeat a single dragon champion. The age of mortals may soon be over. This is a time for heroes. While the races of Tyria stand apart, six heroic individuals will come together to fight for their people. Will it be enough?

Elric Swords and Roses, by Michael Moorcock (Dec. 28, Del Rey)

The sixth and final omnibus edition of author Michael Moorcock’s most famous creation, with a foreword by Tad Williams. This volume, illustrated by John Picacio, includes the full texts of The Revenge of the Rose, a screenplay for Stormbringer, the novella Black Petals, the conclusion to Moorcock’s “Aspects of Fantasy” essay series and other nonfiction, and a reader’s guide by John Davey.

The Dark Griffin (The Fallen Moon), by K.J. Taylor (Dec. 28, Ace)

Being chosen as a griffin’s companion has allowed Arren Cardockson to gain a place of status within the land of Cymria. But Arren can never escape the prejudice that comes with his Northerner slave origins. For chained within the Arena where rogue griffins battle to entertain the crowds, there lies another soul crying out to be freed—a kindred spirit that will allow Arren to fulfill his destiny and release the darkness in his heart.

Urban fantasy author Suzanne Johnson is waiting for the Steampunk-Bonanza tie-in, with zombie Hoss and Little Joe. 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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