Fiction Affliction: Diagnosing March 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 March releases in science fiction, urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and science fiction. Today’s column examines new releases in FANTASY.

The Symptoms: Long lines of elven-clad dudes, knights and damsels at real and virtual bookstores must mean—gasp—humongous releases are due for imminent release.

The Diagnosis: Seventeen new fantasy books rise from the ashes of falling kingdoms in March, including an assortment of power-mongering mages, weeping minstrels, powerful dragons and more powerful women. And a couple of really, really big novels.

The Cure: There are many cures for what ails you this month, but the words Kvothe and Malazan will do for starters.

Mild spoilers ahead for certain titles.

Twilight’s Dawn, by Anne Bishop (March 1, Roc)

Bishop returns to the Black Jewels world with four new novellas. In Winsol Gifts, Daemon, the Black Jeweled Warlord Prince of Dhemlan, is settling into his first year of married life with his Witch Queen Jaenelle. But as the thirteen-day celebration of Winsol draws near, Daemon finds himself being pulled in too many directions as he plays host to his formidable family. In Shades of Honor, Surreal returns to Ebon Rih on the orders of Prince Lucivar. When her former lover Falonar ruthlessly challenges the rule of her family, Surreal may finally succumb to the darkness burning inside her. In Family, someone lays a vicious trap for Queen Sylvia and her sons, the fallout disrupting the lives of the ruling family of Dhemlan. Now, they have to uncover the identity of the warlord known only as No Face, before he returns to finish what he started. In The High Lord’s Daughter, after losing the two most important people in his life, Daemon has assumed his father Saetan’s role as High Lord of Hell and built a wall around his heart. But when he inadvertently forges a new connection, will it be enough to break him free from his loveless life?

The Crippled God, by Steven Erikson (March 1, Tor)

The tenth and final Malazon Book of the Fallen. Savaged by the K’Chain Nah’Ruk, the Bonehunters march for Kolanse, where an unknown fate awaits. Tormented by questions, the army totters on the edge of mutiny, but Adjunct Tavore will not relent. One final act remains, if it is in her power, if she can hold her army together, if the shaky allegiances she has forged can survive all that is to come. Tavore Paran of House Paran means to challenge the gods, if her own troops don’t kill her first.

Awaiting Tavore and her allies are the Forkrul Assail, the final arbiters of humanity. Drawing upon an alien power terrible in its magnitude, they seek to cleanse the world, to annihilate every human, every civilization, in order to begin anew. In the realm of Kurald Galain, home to the long lost city of Kharkanas, a mass of refugees stand upon the First Shore. Commanded by Yedan Derryg, the Watch, they await the breaching of Lightfall, and the coming of the Tiste Liosan. This is a war they cannot win, and they will die in the name of an empty city and a queen with no subjects.

Elsewhere, the three Elder Gods, Kilmandaros, Errastas and Sechul Lath, work to shatter the chains binding Korabas, the Otataral Dragon, and release her from her eternal prison. Once freed, she will be a force of utter devastation, and against her no mortal can stand.

At the Gates of Starvald Demelain, the Azath House sealing the portal is dying. Soon will come the Eleint, and once more, there will be dragons in the world. And so, in a far away land and beneath indifferent skies, the final cataclysmic chapter in the Malazan Book of the Fallen begins.

Other Kingdoms, by Richard Matheson (March 1, Tor)

A young American soldier, recently wounded in the Great War, Alex White comes to Gatford in 1918 to escape his troubled past. The pastoral English village seems the perfect spot to heal his wounded body and soul. True, the neighboring woods are said to be haunted by capricious, even malevolent spirits, but surely those are just old wives’ tales, right? A frightening encounter in the forest leads Alex into the arms of Magda Variel, an alluring red-haired widow rumored to be a witch. She warns him to steer clear of the woods and the perilous faerie kingdom it borders, but Alex cannot help himself.

The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles Day 2), by Patrick Rothfuss (March 1, Daw)

The highly anticipated sequel to 2009’s The Name of the Wind. An escalating rivalry with a powerful member of the nobility forces Kvothe to leave the university and seek his fortune. Adrift, penniless, and alone, he travels to Vintas, where he quickly becomes entangled in the politics of courtly society. While attempting to curry favor with a powerful noble, Kvothe discovers an assassination attempt, comes into conflict with a rival arcanist, and leads a group of mercenaries into the wild, in an attempt to solve the mystery of who (or what) is waylaying travelers on the King’s road. All the while, he searches for answers, attempting to uncover the truth about the mysterious Amyr, the Chandrian, and the death of his parents. Along the way, Kvothe is put on trial by the legendary Adem mercenaries, forced to reclaim the honor of the Edema Ruh, and travels into the Fae realm. There he meets Felurian, the faerie woman no man can resist, and who no man has ever survived. Under her tutelage, Kvothe learns much about true magic and the ways of women. In The Wise Man’s Fear, Kvothe takes his first steps on the path of the hero and learns how difficult life can be when a man becomes a legend in his own time.

Lady-Protector, by L.E. Modesitt Jr. (March 15, Tor)

The eighth Corean Chronicles book is a new novel of Mykella, the young woman introduced in The Lord-Protector’s Daughter. Though a bloody coup has made Mykella ruler of her land, it has left her and her two sisters bereft of family and uncertain of their friends. Worse, an examination of the nation’s accounts reveals that their country is almost destitute. Plus, there are rumblings of war along the borders. With no money and few allies, Mykella is faced with the difficult prospect of rebuilding her nation while trying to hold off a potentially devastating invasion. Fortunately for Mykella, an old magic has awakened in her, a power that gives her the ability to read the emotions of others and to spy on the movements of her enemies. But the resurgence of this power might herald the return of an ancient enemy, one Mykella isn’t sure how to face.

Hidden Cities, by Daniel Fox (March 22, Del Rey)

The mythic beasts and glorious legends of feudal China illuminate a world at war in the conclusion to Daniel Fox’s critically acclaimed series. More by chance than good judgment, the young emperor has won his first battle. The rebels have retreated from the coastal city of Santung—but they’ll be back. Distracted by his pregnant concubine, the emperor sends a distrusted aide, Ping Wen, to govern Santung in his place. There, the treacherous general will discover the healer Tien, who is obsessed with a library of sacred mage texts and the secrets concealed within—secrets upon which, Ping Wen quickly realizes, the fate of the whole war may turn. As all sides of this seething conflict prepare for more butchery, a miner of magical jade desperately tries to save his beautiful, brutally scarred clan cousin; a priestess loses her children, who are taken as pawns in a contest beyond her comprehension; and a powerful woman commits an act of violence that will entwine her, body and soul, with the spirit of jade itself.

Wolfsangel, by M.D. Lachlan (March 22, Pyr)

The Viking king Authun leads his men on a raid against an Anglo-Saxon village. Men and women are killed indiscriminately, but Authun demands that no child be touched. He is acting on prophecy—a prophecy that tells him the Saxons have stolen a child from the gods. If Authun, in turn, takes the child and raises him as an heir, the child will lead his people to glory. But Authun discovers not one child, but twin baby boys. After ensuring that his faithful warriors, witnesses to what has happened, die during the raid, Authun takes the children and their mother home, back to the witches who live on the troll wall. And he places his destiny in their hands. This begins a multivolume fantasy epic that will take a werewolf from his beginnings as the heir to a brutal Viking king down through the ages.

Kings of the North, by Elizabeth Moon (March 22, Del Rey)

Elizabeth Moon returns to the fantasy world of the paladin Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter—Paks for short. Peace and order have been restored to the kingdoms of Tsaia and Lyonya, thanks to the crowning of two kings: Mikeli of Tsaia and, in Lyonya, Kieri Phelan, a mercenary captain whose royal blood and half-elven heritage are resented by elves and humans alike.  On the surface, all is hope and promise. But underneath, trouble is brewing. Mikeli cannot sit safely on his throne as long as remnants of the evil Verrakaien magelords are at large. Kieri is being hounded to marry and provide the kingdom with an heir—but that is the least of his concerns. A strange rift has developed between him and his grandmother and co-ruler, the immortal elven queen known as the Lady. More problematic is the ex-pirate Alured, who schemes to seize Kieri’s throne for himself—and Mikeli’s, too, while he’s at it. Meanwhile, to the north, the aggressive kingdom of Pargun seems poised to invade.  Now, as war threatens to erupt from without and within, the two kings are dangerously divided, and a shocking discovery will change everything.

Black Halo (The Aeon’s Gate 2), by Sam Sykes (March 22, Pyr)

The Tome of the Undergates has been recovered, and the gates of hell remain closed. Lenk and his five companions set sail to bring the accursed relic away from the demonic reach of Ulbecetonth, the Kraken Queen. But after weeks at sea, tensions among the adventurers are rising. Their troubles are only beginning when their ship crashes upon an island made of the bones left behind from a war long ended. And it appears that bloodthirsty alien warrior women, fanatical beasts from the deep, and heretic-hunting wizards are the least of their concerns. Haunted by their pasts, plagued by their gods, tormented by their own people, and gripped by madness personal and peculiar, their greatest foes may yet be themselves. The reach of Ulbecetonth is longer than hell can hold.

Master and Apprentice, by Sonya Bateman (March 29, Pocket)

Luck has never been on Gavyn Donatti’s side. Anyone else with magic abilities inherited from a distant genie relative would have it made, but not Donatti, descendant of a cranky, shape-shifting genie named Ian. The prince of a murdered kingdom, consumed with revenge and driven by an unbreakable curse, Ian is determined to hunt down and destroy every one of his enemies in the power-hungry snake clan—at any cost, including his life. Or Donatti’s. Obsessed by his own rage, Ian has never really taught Donatti how to use his abilities. So when a powerful cult of magic-users captures Ian’s wife, the princess Akila, and then Ian himself, Donatti is left alone to take on dozens of half-djinn and their mysterious leader with designs on world domination.

Dark Jenny, by Alex Bledsoe (March 29, Tor)

Freelance Sword Jockey Eddie LaCrosse is in the wrong place at the wrong time while conducting an undercover investigation on the island kingdom of Grand Bruan. When a poisoned apple kills a member of the Queen’s personal guard, Eddie becomes the prime suspect in the murder. He must do some fast talking to keep his head attached to his shoulders. Trying to clear his name and find the real killer, Eddie becomes embroiled in a nasty political scandal. Someone is trying to ruin Queen Jennifer, and they don’t care who they kill on the way.

Tiassa, by Steven Brust (March 29, Tor)

Once, Vlad Taltos knew his trade: he killed people for a living. That skill got him his foothold in House Jhereg, running the rackets for a chunk of urban Adrilankha. Later things happened, leaving Vlad a changed man, on the run from the Jhereg, and frequently involved in the affairs of Dragonlords, Empresses, and even Jenoine. Far more involved than the average short-lived human. Meanwhile, in the very distant past, one of the gods fashioned an artefact, a silver tiassa. To Devera the Wanderer, it’s a pretty toy to play with. To Vlad, it’s a handy prop for a con he’s running. To the Empire, it’s a tool to be used against the Jenoine. And to the Jhereg, it’s a trap to kill Vlad. As it happens, however, the silver tiassa has its own agenda.

Con & Conjure, by Lisa Shearin (March 29, Ace)

Raine Benares is a seeker who finds lost things and people. Ever since the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone that’s given her unlimited power, has bonded to her, the goblin king and the elves have wanted to possess its magic themselves. Which means a goblin thief and her ex-fiancé — an elven assassin—are after her. To survive, she’ll need the help of her notorious criminal family.

Deathless, by Catherynne M. Valente (March 29, Tor)

Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. Valente has modernized and transformed the legends to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century. Deathless follows the young Marya Morevna from being a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power.

City of Hope & Despair, by Ian Whates (March 29, Angry Robot)

In the second City of a Hundred Rows book, dark forces are gathering in the shadowy depths, and the whole city is under threat. The former street-nick, Tom, embarks on a journey to discover the source of the great river Thair, said to be the ultimate power behind all of Thaiburley. Accompanying him are the assassin Dewar and the young Thaistess Mildra. It soon becomes evident that their journey has more significance than any of them realize, as past secrets catch up with them and unknown adversaries hunt them to the death.

The Dedalus Book of Flemish Fantasy, by Eric Dickens (editor) (March 31, Dedalus Ltd.)

This is the eighth volume in Dedalus’s highly acclaimed European literary fantasy series and follows volumes from Austrian, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish. During the 19th century, Belgian literature was still largely written in the language of education, French. Then the Flemings, who inhabit the northern half of Belgium, became aware of the value of their own language, whose standardized form is, to all intents and purposes, Dutch. Modern Flemish literature was born. This anthology incorporates fantasy stories from the early 20th century to the present day, including the genres of horror, mysticism and magical realism. One of the early authors is Felix Timmermans, who started out with horror stories but later ended up writing his inimitable Vitalist novels. Two magic realist authors stand out: Johan Daisne and Hubert Lampo. And horror is well represented by several authors including Hugo Claus, Hugo Raes and Ward Ruyslinck.

The Best of Stephen R. Donaldson, by Stephen R. Donaldson (March 31, Subterranean Press)

Although best known for such epic accomplishments as the ongoing Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and the multi-volume Gap Cycle, Donaldson has also written a wealth of distinctive short fiction. This collection brings together much of the best of that shorter work. Included are eleven stories and novellas that run the gamut from horror (The Conqueror Worm) to high fantasy (Daughter of Regals), from contemporary spiritual drama (Unworthy of the Angel) to action-oriented science fiction (Animal Lover), together with such uncategorizable gems as The Killing Stroke, with its combination of magic and martial arts, and The Woman Who Loved Pigs, an account of personal transformation and long-delayed revenge.

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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