Fiction Affliction: Diagnosing January Releases in 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 every day this week for coverage of January releases in fantasy, young adult paranormal, and science fiction. Today’s column examines new releases in FANTASY.

The Symptoms: Directions and numerals taken on ominous meaning in the Nine Kingdoms, the Seven Kingdoms and the Ten Houses—not to mention the Terror of the East and the Frozen Sanctuary of the North. Oh, and demons are on the loose.

The Diagnosis: Fourteen new fantasy books rise from the hidden kingdoms in January, including six evil sorcerers, four searching heroes-in-waiting, two heroes in exile, killer demons, and a smothering scourge of a plant.

The Cure: Buy a few anti-magical cloaks, avoid going out after dark— and a good herbicide wouldn’t hurt.

The Soul Mirror, by Carol Berg (Jan. 4, Roc)

In a royal city beset by hauntings, avian plagues and strange sinkholes that swallow light and buildings, whispers of necromancy swirl about the queen’s volatile sorcerer. Scholarly, reclusive Anne de Vernase rejoices that she lacks magical talent since her father’s pursuit of illicit sorcery left her family in ruins. But a plague of murders compels Anne to investigate matters beyond science—a centuries-old rivalry, the boundaries of death, and the most dangerous sorcerer in Sabria. Second in the Collegia Magica trilogy.

Of Truth and Beasts (Noble Dead), by Barb Hendee and JC Hendee (Jan. 4, Roc)

In the newest Noble Dead outing, young Journeyor Wynn Hygeorht finds herself cast into the wilds on a dangerous quest for knowledge that may instead lead to her doom. This is the third book of Noble Dead, Series Two. The first book of Series Three is scheduled for release in January 2012.

Spellweaver, by Lynn Kurland (Jan. 4, Berkley)

Lynn Kurland returns to the Nine Kingdoms for another story of magical romance. Ruith had long managed to ignore the magic in his veins, until aiding Sarah with her ill-fated quest forced him into places where his heritage was impossible to deny. Faced with an ever-increasing number of enemies who covet his power, Ruith must accept his birthright and gather his father’s spells so he can destroy them—or turn away and allow his father’s evil to overcome the Nine Kingdoms. Romance alert!

House Name, by Michelle West (Jan. 4, DAW)

The House War series centers on the most popular character in The Sun Sword series—a young woman named Jewel who survives both the everyday perils of being an orphan in the slums of the city of Averalaan and the demonic dangers of the Undercity. She rises to become a key figure in House Terafin, the most important of the Ten Houses of the Essalieyan Empire. At the close of The Sun Sword series, the House War is about to begin. Now the war begins.

The Hammer, by K.J. Parker (Jan. 5, Orbit)

Gignomai is the youngest brother in the current generation of met’Oc, a once-noble family exiled on an island for its role in a vaguely remembered civil war. On this island, a colony was founded seventy years ago to mine silver. Now, an uneasy peace exists between the colonists and the met’Oc, who are tolerated since they alone possess the weapons considered necessary protection against the island’s savages. Gignomai is about to discover exactly what it is expected of him, and what it means to defy his family. He is the hammer who will provide the spark that ignites a brutal and bloody war.

Harbinger of the Storm, by Aliette de Bodard (Jan. 25, Angry Robot)

In the second Obsidian and Blood novel, death, magic and intrigue are pervasive in the Aztec world, which teeters on the brink of extinction. As the political infighting starts within the imperial court, Acatl, High Priest for the Dead, makes a macabre discovery in the palace: a high-ranking nobleman has been torn to pieces by an invocation—and it looks like the summoner belongs to the court itself.

The Sentinel Mage, by Emily Gee (Jan. 25, Solaris)

Her magic may be the only thing that can save a prince—and the Seven Kingdoms. In a distant corner of the Seven Kingdoms, an ancient curse festers and grows, consuming everything in its path. Only one man can break it: Harkeld of Osgaard, a prince with mages’ blood in his veins. But Prince Harkeld has a bounty on his head, and assassins at his heels. At his side as his armsman is Innis, a gifted shapeshifter posing as a man. Only the magic Harkeld loathes may stand between him and death.

The Warlord’s Legacy, by Ari Marmell (Jan. 25, Spectra)

Corvis Rebaine, the Terror of the East, a man as quick with a quip as he is with a blade, returns in this sequel to The Conqueror’s Shadow. Now Marmell raises the stakes in a story with the humor and action of its predecessor, plus a new villain evil enough to be a match for Rebaine himself, who returns in his trademark suit of black armor and skull-like helm, armed with a demon-forged axe, in command of a demonic slave, and with allies that include a bloodthirsty ogre.

The Sworn, by Gail Z. Martin (Jan. 25, Orbit)

Summoner-King Martris Drayke must attempt to gather an army from a country ravaged by civil war. Tris seeks new allies from among the living and the dead as an untested generation of rulers face their first battle. Meanwhile, the legendary Dread are stirring in their burrows after millennia of silence and no one knows what hand wakes them and whom they will serve when they rise. Now, Drayke turns to the Sworn, a nomadic clan of warriors bound to protect the Dread. But even the mighty Sworn do not know what will happen when the Dread awaken. The Sworn is the beginning of a new adventure set in the world of The Chronicles of the Necromancer.

Heart of the Exiled, by Pati Nagle (Jan. 25, Del Rey)

The Bitter Wars left a world divided. Now the ælven governors convene at Glenhallow, while the savage kobalen gather in numbers not seen in five centuries. Vastly outnumbered, the ælven clans will send barely trained guardians to confront the kobalen, and a young female warrior, Eliani, will be entrusted with the most crucial mission of all: to reach distant Fireshore and learn why their governor has not responded to the call to war. But Eliani cannot see the dark force watching from the Ebon Mountains.

The Griffin’s Flight, by K.J. Taylor (Jan. 25, Ace)

In the newest installment in the Fallen Moon series, Arren Cardockson—brought back to life by a power beyond his understanding—flees for the frozen sanctuary of the North. With the man-eating griffin Skandar by his side and an entire country hunting him, Arren has little hope of reaching the place of his ancestry and of lifting his curse. But then he comes across a wild woman who may hold the key to making his lifeless heart beat once more. Romance alert!

The Alchemist, by Paolo Bacigalupi (Jan. 31, Subterranean)

The Executioness, by Tobias S. Buckell (Jan. 31, Subterranean)

In paired novellas both illustrated by J.K. Drummond, Tobias Buckell and Paolo Bacigalupi explore a shared world where magic is forbidden and its use is rewarded with the axe.

In the The Alchemist: In the beleageured city of Khaim, a lone alchemist seeks a solution to the bramble, a plant that feeds upon magic. It presses upon Khaim, nourished by the furtive spellcasting of its inhabitants and threatening to strangle the city under poisonous vines. Driven by desperation and genius, the alchemist constructs a device that transcends magic, unlocking the mysteries of bramble s essential nature. But the power of his newly-built balanthast is even greater than he dreamed. Where he sought to save a city and its people, the balanthast has the potential to save the world entirely—if it doesn’t destroy him and his family first.

In the The Executioness: In Khaim, the price is your head if you’re found using magic. For the use of magic creates bramble, a creeping menace that has covered majestic ancient cities and felled civilizations. In order to prevent the spread of the bramble, many lose their heads to cloaked executioners such as Tana, who takes the job from her ailing father in secret, desperate to keep her family from starvation. But now her family has been captured by raiders and taken to a foreign city, so Khaim’s only female executioner begins a quest to bring her family back together.

Brayan’s Gold, by Peter V. Brett (Jan. 31, Subterranean)

Return to the world of The Warded Man and The Desert Spear in a new novella by Peter V. Brett, illustrated by Lauren K. Cannon. Humanity has been brought to the brink of extinction. A scant few hamlets and half-starved city-states are all that remain of a once-proud civilization, and it is only by hiding behind wards, ancient symbols with the power to repel demons, that they survive. A handful of Messengers keep the lines of communication open between the increasingly isolated populace. Arlen Bales is seventeen, an apprentice Messenger about to go out for the first time on a simple overnight trip. Instead, he finds himself on a frozen mountainside, carrying a dangerous cargo to Count Brayan’s gold mine, one of the furthest points in the duchy.


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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