Sleeps With Monsters

Sleeps With Monsters: Books To Look Out For

When I sat down to write this column, I thought I’d be writing enthusiastically about the books I was looking forward to reading over the next half-year or so. That was before I realised that I’m not actually looking forward to reading an awful lot of new fiction this year: in fact, the thought of all those new books coming into the world when I haven’t caught up on the old ones has begun to fill me with fear and trembling.

Mind you, I’ve been informed that fear and trembling is the native state of all postgraduate students who see their thesis deadline looming into view, so maybe it’s not the books’ fault after all.

I imagine I’m hardly the only one with this kind of existential anxiety. But that said, there are indeed books forthcoming or just come out that I refuse to miss. (Like Michelle Sagara’s Touch, which came out this month: an excellent sequel to the truly excellent Silence.)

I’m intrigued by the cover copy for C.S. Friedman’s Dreamwalker, out in February. But Friedman’s work tends to leave me with bad dreams. I think I might give dark fantasy a wide berth for a few more months…

Marie Brennan’s The Tropic of Serpents is out this March. I enjoyed the hell out of A Natural History of Dragons: it had a marvellous voice, a sense of humour, and drew liberally on the influence of Victorian natural philosophy and exploration in constructing the world of the story. Natural History was the first volume of the memoirs of Lady Isabella Trent, ground-breaking dragon naturalist: The Tropic of Serpents will take up the tale three years later, with Isabella’s expedition to tropical, war-torn Eriga, in search of arboreal tree snakes and legendary swamp-wyrms. And the perils of being a lady adventurer. Like childcare and menstruation.

March, too, sees the release of Seanan McGuire’s Half-Off Ragnarok, which I fully expect to be just as entertaining as its predecessors. I’m not sure I like this business of switching protagonists mid-series, but this is an urban fantasy with talking, excessively religious mice. For the talking mice, I’m in.

And I hope I have the chance to read Sophia McDougall’s Mars Evacuees. “The fact that someone had decided I’d be safer on Mars, where you could still only sort of breathe the air and sort of not get sunburned to death, was a sign that the war with the aliens was not going fantastically well.” Who doesn’t want to read a novel whose back cover advises you to “Always carry duct tape”?

What do I expect from April? April is where things really get started. Elizabeth Bear’s The Steles of the Sky, the culmination of an epic fantasy begun in Range of Ghosts and continued in Shattered Pillars, is a novel I’m on bloody tenterhooks to read. (As an aside: is everyone else really impressed with the cover art for this series, too? Because that’s some lovely art.) Stephanie Saulter’s Binary, sequel to her debut novel Gemsigns, also comes to us this month, from Jo Fletcher Books. I liked Gemsigns quite a bit. It was a very interesting debut, and I’m looking forward to seeing if Saulter continues to use community and allegory to the same degree. And Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon is slated to appear from Hodder & Stoughton: it sounds really interesting, and maybe by then I’ll have managed to finish Who Fears Death and Akata Witch. (So many books, so little time!)

May brings us Deborah Coates’ Strange Country, a sequel to Deep Down. For me, Coates’ books so far don’t fit neatly into any category. They’re as much ghost story as fantasy, and I’d call them urban fantasy were it not for the fact they take place in the rural American Midwest.* So far, the adventures of Hallie Michaels have involved strange magic and the underworld. I look forward to seeing what comes next.

*It is the Midwest, right? The giantness of the USA gets confusing.

Also in May are two new entrants in epic fantasy series: Elizabeth Moon’s Crown of Renewal, the fifth book in her Paladin’s Legacy series, and Kristen Britain’s Mirror Sight. I confess I’m mostly looking forward to Mirror Sight out of nostalgia for the twelve-year-old me who read Green Rider and wanted more sixteen-year-old girls having adventures: in intervening years, the Young Adult subgenre boom has finally taken care of the gaping hole in the “supply” side of that particular supply-and-demand equation, but there’s nothing quite like the stuff you read when you’re twelve.

There’s even more out in May,* because that’s when Jo Walton’s next novel arrives: My Real Children, which looks like a bittersweet novel of living life between two universes. But the real treat, the astounding thing, is a little volume due out then (according to Amazon) from Lethe Press. Fairs’ Point, by Melissa Scott. Scott returns again to characters and settings she and the late Lisa A. Barnett created in Point of Hopes and Point of Dreams.

*I’d better start saving up. Time, I mean, as much as money.

I only recently read Point of Hopes and Point of Dreams (and the solo novella Scott published with Lethe Press in 2012, Point of Knives).* The city of Astreiant is a wonderful rich alternate-Renaissance setting, with astrologers and necromancers and theatres and crimes: Hopes and Dreams are really excellent fantasy mysteries, with really interesting characters. I had no idea that a sequel was in the making, but I’m utterly thrilled that one is.

*I know, I’m really late to the party on this one. It’s embarrassing, is what it is.

That brings us on to June. I don’t have the first idea what to expect from Karen Lord’s The Galaxy Game, which is apparently a sequel-of-sorts to The Best of All Possible Worlds. But I do want to see what she does with it.

June is also supposed to give us P.C. Hodgell’s The Sea of Time, her new Kencyrath novel. Hodgell’s Kencyrath novels are, for me, marvellous things: her epic fantasy contains a great deal of unusual and… whimsical is perhaps too harmless a word… inventive elements, but it’s her touch with characters that won me over from the start. Jame, her protagonist, is complicated, determined, loyal, and probably doomed. It’s really excellent stuff, and has had (as I have to say every time I recommend this series to people who’ve never heard of it) an unlucky publication history, so every new volume is a great delight.

That’s the first half-year’s worth of books I’m hoping to read. How about you?


Postscript: Sleeps With Monsters focuses on work by and about women. That doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to, for example, Peter Higgins’ Truth and Fear or Richard Morgan’s The Dark Defiles (if I get to read them), but it does mean that I’d take it kindly if you kept that focus in mind in the comments.

Liz Bourke is a cranky person who reads books. Her blog. Her Twitter.


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