From the fold of the British Genre Fiction Focus comes the British Genre Fiction Hitlist: your bi-weekly breakdown of the most notable new releases out of the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.
October is almost upon us, and with it, an honest to God onslaught of spooky books. The first fortnight of the month is not, however, dominated by horror, but rather the release—at long last—of The Republic of Thieves. Rejoice, dear readers: the Gentlemen Bastards are back!
There are a fair few other new releases for us to talk about too. I’m particularly excited about The Abominable by Dan Simmons, which is a sort of spiritual successor to The Terror—his best book besides Hyperion—as well as Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, because it’s been getting a whole bunch of buzz in recent weeks, and The Devil’s Apprentice, Jan Siegel’s first new novel in seven years.
Early October also sees the start of several new series of note, including Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard and Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton. All that and much, much more… after these messages.
Ancillary Justice—Ann Leckie (October 1, Orbit)
They made me kill thousands, but I only have one target now.
The Radch are conquerors to be feared—resist and they’ll turn you into a ‘corpse soldier’—one of an army of dead prisoners animated by a warship’s AI mind. Whole planets are conquered by their own people.
The colossal warship called The Justice of Toren has been destroyed—but one ship-possessed soldier has escaped the devastation. Used to controlling thousands of hands, thousands of mouths, The Justice now has only two hands, and one mouth with which to tell her tale.
But one fragile, human body might just be enough to take revenge against those who destroyed her.
Conquest (Conquest #1)—John Connolly & Jennifer Ridyard (October 3, Headline)
The start of an epic new series from bestselling author John Connolly and illustrator Jennifer Ridyard, perfect for fans of The 5th Wave.
Earth is no longer ours. It is ruled by the Illyri, a beautiful, civilised yet ruthless alien species. But humankind has not given up the fight, and Paul Kerr is one of a new generation of young Resistance leaders waging war on the invaders.
Syl Hellais is the first of the Illyri to be born on Earth. Trapped inside the walls of her father’s stronghold, hated by the humans, she longs to escape.
But on her sixteenth birthday, Syl’s life is about to change forever. She will become an outcast, an enemy of her people, for daring to save the life of one human: Paul Kerr. Only together do they have a chance of saving each other, and the planet they both call home.
For there is a greater darkness behind the Illyri conquest of Earth, and the real invasion has not yet even begun…
Fearsome Dreamer—Laura Eve (October 3, Hot Key)
England has become Angle Tar—a technophobic and fiercely independent country holding its own against the mass of other nations that is World. Rue is an apprenticed hedgewitch in rural Angle Tar, but she knows she is destined for greater things.
After being whisked off to the city by the enigmatic Frith, Rue becomes the student of White, a young Worlder with a Talent that is much in demand: White is no ordinary Dreamer—but then neither is Rue. Both can physically ‘jump’ to different places when they dream, and both have more power than they know. Rue and White find themselves electrically attracted to each other, but who is the mysterious silver-eyed boy stalking Rue’s dreams? And why is he so interested in her relationship with White? Is Rue about to discover just how devastatingly real dreams can be?
Shadowlark (Skylark Trilogy #2)—Meagan Spooner (October 3, Corgi)
“They only come at night, when the Star fades.”
Lark Ainsley escapes the Iron Wood to search for her brother, only to find herself captured and imprisoned in an underground metropolis.
Powerful magic protects the city of Lethe, providing sanctuary from the Empty Ones, monsters who hunger for human flesh.
But this magic comes at a terrible price, and the city lives in fear of their leader Prometheus and his gang of Eagles.
Danger lies in the shadows, and Lark must find the light…
Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron—ed. Jonathan Strahan (October 3, Hot Key)
A stellar cast of acclaimed fantasy writers weave spellbinding tales that bring the world of witches to life. Boasting over 70 awards between them, including a Newbery Medal, five Hugo Awards and a Carnegie Medal, the authors delve into the realms of magic to explore all things witchy. From familiars that talk, to covens that offer dark secrets to explore, these are tales to tickle the hair on the back of your neck and send shivers down your spine.
Be truly spooked by these stunning stories by Diana Peterfreund, Frances Hardinge, Garth Nix, Holly Black, Charles de Lint, Tanith Lee, Neil Gaiman, Ellen Klages, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Patricia A. McKillip, Tim Pratt, M. Rickert, Isobelle Carmody, Jane Yolen, Jim Butcher, Peter S. Beagle and Margo Lanagan.
The New Girl (Downside #3)—S. L. Grey (October 7, Corvus)
Don’t mess with the creepy new girl.
Ryan Devlin, a predator with a past, has been forced to take a job as a handyman at an exclusive private school, Crossley College. He’s losing his battle to suppress his growing fascination with a new girl who seems to have a strange effect on the children around her.
Tara Marais fills her empty days by volunteering at Crossley’s library. Tara is desperate, but unable, to have a baby of her own, so she makes Reborns—eerily lifelike newborn dolls. She’s delighted when she receives a commission from the mysterious Vader Batiss, but horrified when she sees the photograph of the baby she’s been asked to create. Still, she agrees to Batiss’s strange contract, unaware of the consequences if she fails to deliver the doll on time.
Both Tara and Ryan are being drawn into a terrifying scheme—one that will have an impact on every pupil at Crossley College…
A Dance of Cloaks (Shadowdance #1)—David Dalglish (October 8, Orbit)
The Underworld rules the city of Veldaren. Thieves, smugglers, assassins… they fear only one man.
Thren Felhorn is the greatest assassin of his time. All the thieves’ guilds of the city are under his unflinching control. If he has his way, death will soon spill out from the shadows and into the streets.
Aaron is Thren’s son, trained to be heir to his father’s criminal empire. He’s cold, ruthless—everything an assassin should be. But when Aaron risks his life to protect a priest’s daughter from his own guild, he glimpses a world beyond poison, daggers and the iron rule of his father.
Assassin or protector; every choice has its consequences.
The Abominable—Dan Simmons (October 10, Sphere)
June 1924. On the brutal North East Ridge of Mount Everest, famous adventurers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine vanish into the snow-whipped night.
Daredevil explorer Richard Deacon devises a plan to follow in the men’s footsteps, accompanied only by two friends. Off-piste and with no support team, the three men strike for Everest’s peak and the most vicious climate on earth.
As the winds rise and the temperature and oxygen levels drop, Deacon and his companions hear howls in the distance. Some dark creature is tracking them up the mountain, sending them scrabbling blindly into Everest’s dangerous heights to escape it.
Soon they will discover what happened to Mallory’s crew—but can they escape the same hideous fate?
A gripping thriller by a master of the genre, The Abominable blends historical fact with spine-tingling drama. This is one of the most chilling and unforgettable novels you will ever read.
Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story—Diane Setterfield (October 10, Orion)
As a boy, William Bellman commits one small cruel act that appears to have unforseen and terrible consequences. The killing of a rook with his catapult is soon forgotten amidst the riot of boyhood games. And by the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, he seems indeed, to be a man blessed by fortune.
Until tragedy strikes, and the stranger in black comes, and William Bellman starts to wonder if all his happiness is about to be eclipsed. Desperate to save the one precious thing he has left, he enters into a bargain. A rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner, to found a decidedly macabre business.
And Bellman & Black is born.
The Devil’s Apprentice—Jan Siegel (October 10, Ravenstone)
The Devil is retiring… but who’s taking over?
When teenage Pen inherits the job of caretaker for a London building with no doors and only a secret entrance from the caretaker’s lodge—which she must never use—little does she know it will lead her into unbelievable danger. For Azmordis, also known as Satan, a spirit as old as Time and as powerful as the Dark, Immortality is running out.
In the house with no front door, a group of teenagers are trapped in assorted dimensions of myth and history, undergoing the trials that will shape them to step into his cloven footwear—or destroy them. Assisted by only by an aspiring teenage chef called Gavin and Jinx, a young witch with more face-piercing than fae-power, Pen must try to stop the Devil’s deadly game plan—before it’s too late.
Drakenfeld (Drakenfeld #1)—Mark Charan Newton (October 10, Tor UK)
The monarchies of the Royal Vispasian Union have been bound together for two hundred years by laws maintained and enforced by the powerful Sun Chamber. As a result, nations have flourished but corruption, deprivation and murder will always find a way to thrive…
Receiving news of his father’s death, Sun Chamber Officer Lucan Drakenfeld is recalled home to the ancient city of Tryum and rapidly embroiled in a mystifying case. The King’s sister has been found brutally murdered—her beaten and bloody body discovered in a locked temple.
With rumours of dark spirits and political assassination, Drakenfeld has his work cut out for him trying to separate superstition from certainty. His determination to find the killer quickly makes him a target as the underworld gangs of Tryum focus on this new threat to their power.
Embarking on the biggest and most complex investigation of his career, Drakenfeld soon realises the evidence is leading him towards a motive that could ultimately bring darkness to the whole continent. The fate of the nations is in his hands.
Dream London—Tony Ballantyne (October 10, Solaris)
Captain Jim Wedderburn has looks, style and courage by the bucketful. He’s adored by women, respected by men and feared by his enemies. He’s the man to find out who has twisted London into this strange new world, and he knows it.
But in Dream London the city changes a little every night and the people change a little every day. The towers are growing taller, the parks have hidden themselves away and the streets form themselves into strange new patterns. There are people sailing in from new lands down the river, new criminals emerging in the east end and a path spiralling down to another world.
Everyone is changing, and no-one is who they seem to be.
House of Small Shadows—Adam Nevill (October 10, Pan)
Catherine’s last job ended badly. Corporate bullying at a top television production company saw her fired and forced to leave London, but she was determined to get her life back. One new job later and things look a lot brighter… especially when a challenging new project presents itself: to catalogue the late M. H. Mason’s wildly eccentric cache of antique dolls and puppets. Rarest of all, she’ll get to examine his elaborate displays of posed, costumed and preserved animals, depicting scenes from World War I.
When Mason’s elderly niece invites her to stay at the Red House itself, where she maintains the collection, Catherine can’t believe her luck. Until his niece exposes her to the dark message behind her uncle’s ‘art.’ Catherine tries to concentrate on the job, but M. H. Mason’s damaged visions raise dark shadows from her own past. Shadows she’d hoped had finally been erased.
Soon the barriers between reality, sanity and memory start to merge… and some truths seem too terrible to be real.
King Breaker (King Rolen’s Kin #4)—Rowena Cory Daniells (October 10, Solaris)
When Cobalt stole the Rolencian throne, Byren, Fyn and Piro were lucky to escape with their lives; now they’ve rallied, and will set out to avenge their parents’ murder.
Byren is driven to defeat Cobalt and reclaim the crown, but at what cost? Fyn has sworn to serve Byren’s interests but his loyalty is tested when he realises he loves Byren’s betrothed. And Piro never wanted to win a throne, but now she holds the fate of a people in her hands.
Knight of Shadows (Hunter of Sherwood #1)—Toby Venables (October 10, Abaddon)
This is the story of Guy of Gisburne. Portrayed in legend as a lackey to the Sheriff of Nottingham, Knight of Shadows reveals Guy as an outcast, a mercenary, and now newly knighted, an honourable servant of King John in his intrigues against the vicious and bloodthirsty Lionheart.
Tearing up the clichés of the Robin Hood myth to reveal the deeper issues between this chaotic period of English history, Knight of Shadows will delight readers of Bernard Cornwell and the Flashman series as it deftly weaves history and legend into a brand new pattern, with Gisburne firmly at the heart of events.
Guy’s mission is to intercept the jewel-encrusted skull of John the Baptist from the clutches of the Knights Templar before it can reach Philip, King of France. Gisburne’s quest takes him and his world-weary squire Galfrid into increasingly bloody encounters with The White Devil: the fanatical Templar de Mercheval.
Relentlessly pursued back to England, Gisburne battles his way with sword, lance and bow. But if he survives there lies ahead an even more unpredictable adversary!
The Mouse-Deer Kingdom—Chiew-Siah Tei (October 10, Picador)
It is 1905 and thousands of Chinese natives are fleeing poverty and the Qing Empire to work in the mines and plantations of South East Asia. Chai Mingzhi, an immigrant newly arrived in the port-town of Malacca, meets Engi, a young boy from the jungle, and takes the child to live with him. Trapped in a world he doesn’t recognise and finding himself caught up in Chai Mingzhi’s bitter personal affairs, Engi quickly learns to take on the shape of the legendary mouse deer, and sets out to unravel the mystery surrounding Chai’s past and the tragedy that destroyed him.
The Mouse Deer Kingdom is a tale of love and betrayal, and of the struggle to make a home in a new country. Set in a time of mass immigration, it questions the justice of the claims long-term settlers make on land and asks what rights they have to force their culture and language on others?
The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastards #3)—Scott Lynch (October 10, Gollancz)
After their adventures on the high seas, Locke and Jean are brought back to earth with a thump. Jean is mourning the loss of his lover and Locke must live with the fallout of crossing the all-powerful magical assassins, the Bonds Magi.
It is a fallout that will pit both men against Locke’s own long lost love. Sabetha is Locke’s childhood sweetheart, the love of Locke’s life and now it is time for them to meet again. Employed on different sides of a vicious dispute between factions of the Bonds, Sabetha has just one goal—to destroy Locke for ever.
The Gentleman Bastard sequence has become a literary sensation in fantasy circles and now, with the third book, Scott Lynch is set to seal that success.
The Secrets of Life and Death—Rebecca Alexander (October 10, Del Rey UK)
Summoned by the King of Poland to help save his dying niece, Edward Kelley and his master, alchemist and scholar Dr John Dee, discover a dark secret at the heart of The Countess Bathory’s malady.
But perhaps the cure will prove more terrifying than the alternative…
Jackdaw Hammond lives in the shadows, a practitioner and purveyor of occult materials. But when she learns of a young woman found dead on a train, her body covered in arcane symbols, there’s no escaping the attention of police consultant Felix Guichard.
Together they must solve a mystery centuries in the making, or die trying.
Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.