From the fold of the British Genre Fiction Focus comes the British Genre Fiction Hitlist: your biweekly breakdown of the most notable new releases out of the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.
With Jim Butcher back to play a Skin Game with Dresden Files followers, Paul Cornell’s sequel to London Falling looking good, and the long-awaited conclusion of the Mortal Instruments series coming oh so soon, late May looks like a fine time to be an urban fantasy fan.
Readers of genre fiction in general have loads to look forward to, in fact, including the start of new series by Trudi Canavan, D. J. Molles and Stephen Hunt; sequels by C. Robert Cargill, Mary Robinette Kowal and Elizabeth Moon; and handsome standalones like The Three by Sarah Lotz and Defenders, Will McIntosh’s telepathic alien invasion tale.
Queen of the Dark Things (Dreams and Shadows #2)—C. Robert Cargill (May 15, Gollancz)
Six months have passed since the wizard Colby lost his best friend to an army of fairies from the Limestone Kingdom, a realm of mystery and darkness beyond our own. But in vanquishing these creatures and banning them from Austin, Colby sacrificed the anonymity that protected him. Now, word of his deeds has spread, and powerful enemies from the past—including one Colby considered a friend—have resurfaced to exact their revenge.
As darkness gathers around the city, Colby sifts through his memories desperate to find answers that might save him. With time running out, and few of his old allies and enemies willing to help, he is forced to turn for aid to forces even darker than those he once battled.
In Dark Service (Far-Called #1)—Stephen Hunt (May 15, Gollancz)
Jacob Carnehan has settled down. He’s living a comfortable, quiet life, obeying the law and minding his own business while raising his son Carter… on those occasions when he isn’t having to bail him out of one scrape or another. His days of adventure are—thankfully—long behind him.
Carter Carnehan is going out of his mind with boredom. He’s bored by his humdrum life, frustrated that his father won’t live a little, and longs for the bright lights and excitement of anywhere-but-here. He’s longing for an opportunity to escape, and test himself against whatever the world has to offer.
Carter is going to get his opportunity. He’s caught up in a village fight, kidnapped by slavers and, before he knows it, is swept to another land. A lowly slave, surrounded by technology he doesn’t understand, his wish has come true: it’s him vs. the world. He can try to escape, he can try to lead his fellow slaves, or he can accept the inevitable and try to make the most of the short, brutal existence remaining to him.
That is unless Jacob gets to him first and, no matter the odds, he intends to. No one kidnaps his son and gets away with it—and if it come to it, he’ll force Kings to help him on his way, he’ll fight, steal, blackmail and betray his friends in the name of bringing Carter home.
Wars will be started. Empires will fall. And the Carnehan family will be reunited, one way or another…
Mirror Sight (Green Rider #5)—Kristen Britain (May 15, Gollancz)
Karigan G’ladheon is a Green Rider: a seasoned member of the royal messenger corps whose loyalty and her bravery have already been tested many times. And her final, explosive magical confrontation with Mornhavon the Black should have killed her.
But rather than finding death, and peace, Karigan wakes to a darkness deeper than night. The explosion has transported her somewhere—and into a sealed stone sarcophagus—and now she must escape, somehow, before the thinning air runs out and her mysterious tomb becomes her grave.
Where is she? Does a trap, laid by Mornhavon, lie beyond her prison? And if she can escape, will she find the world beyond the same—or has the magic taken her out of reach of her friends, home and King forever?
Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule #1)—Trudi Canavan (May 15, Orbit)
In a world where an industrial revolution is powered by magic, Tyen, a student of archaeology, unearths a sentient book called Vella. Once a young sorcerer-bookbinder, Vella was transformed into a useful tool by one of the greatest sorcerers of history. Since then she has been collecting information, including a vital clue to the disaster Tyen’s world faces.
Elsewhere, in a land ruled by the priests, Rielle the dyer’s daughter has been taught that to use magic is to steal from the Angels. Yet she knows she has a talent for it, and that there is a corrupter in the city willing to teach her how to use it—should she dare to risk the Angels’ wrath.
But not everything is as Tyen and Rielle have been raised to believe. Not the nature of magic, nor the laws of their lands.
Not even the people they trust…
Where on Earth? (The Unreal and the Real #1)—Ursula K. Le Guin (May 15, Gollancz)
For over half a century, multiple award-winner Ursula K. Le Guin’s stories have shaped the way her readers see the world. Her work gives voice to the voiceless, hope to the outsider and speaks truth to power. Le Guin’s writing is witty, wise, both sly and forthright; she is a master craftswoman.
This two-volume selection of almost forty stories was made by Ursula Le Guin herself. The two volumes span the spectrum of fiction from realism through magical realism, satire, science fiction, surrealism and fantasy.
Where on Earth? focuses on Ursula Le Guin’s interest in realism and magic realism and includes eighteen of her satirical, political and experimental earthbound stories. Highlights include World Fantasy and Hugo Award winner ‘Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight?’ the rarely reprinted satirical short ‘The Lost Children,’ Jupiter Award winner ‘The Diary of the Rose’ and the title story of her collection ‘Unlocking the Air,’ which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Valour & Vanity (Glamourist Histories #4)—Mary Robinette Kowal (May 15, Corsair)
When a family celebration brings Glamourists Jane and David Vincent to the Continent, they seize the opportunity to voyage for Murano, to study the world-renowned glassblowers at work. But their ship is set upon by Barbary corsairs en route, and they arrive in Murano penniless.
Fortunately, they meet a gentleman banker who arranges for a line of credit and a place to live. But just as the Vincents start to relax, a solicitor arrives at their house and it becomes clear they have been the victims of an elaborate heist.
Trapped, penniless, their safety in fragile shape, they hatch a reckless plan to get their money back. The ensuing adventure is a glorious envisioning of all the best parts of heist narratives, but in a Regency setting—with magic.
A Dance of Shadows (Shadowdance #4)—David Dalglish (May 20, Orbit)
Haern is the King’s Watcher, born an assassin only to become the city of Veldaren’s protector against the thief guilds.
When Lord Victor Kane attacks the city, determined stamp out all corruption, foreign gangs pour in amidst the chaos in an attempt to overthrow the current lords of the underworld.
And when a mysterious killer known as the Widow begins mutilating thieves, paranoia engulfs the city. Haern knows someone is behind the turmoil, pulling strings. If he doesn’t find out who—and soon—his beloved city will burn.
Light or darkness: where will the line be drawn?
The Severed Streets (James Quill #2)—Paul Cornell (May 22, Tor UK)
Detective Inspector James Quill and his wily squad of supernatural crime-busters are coming to terms with their new-found second sight. They have a handle on the ghosts and ghouls, but the rest of London’s supernatural underworld is still scarily unknown. When a seemingly invisible murderer kills a top cabinet minister in mysterious circumstances, the team knows this is a case for them.
Attempts to learn more about this mysterious figure are hampered when their chief detective goes missing, and a core member of their team becomes more focussed on bringing her father back to life than finding their missing detective. Soon the team seems to be falling apart as each member pursues their own interests. Throw in an ancient and vengeful spirit and a Rat King, and their mission soon becomes a trip to Hell… literally.
The Three—Sarah Lotz (May 22, Hodder & Stoughton)
Black Thursday. The day that will never be forgotten. The day that four passenger planes crash, at almost exactly the same moment, at four different points around the globe.
There are only four survivors. Three are children, who emerge from the wreckage seemingly unhurt. But they are not unchanged.
And the fourth is Pamela May Donald, who lives just long enough to record a voice message on her phone.
A message that will change the world.
The message is a warning.
The Lost Fleet: Steadfast (Beyond the Frontier #4)—Jack Campbell (May 24, Titan)
Strains on the Alliance grow as the Syndics continue to meddle, and Black Jack Geary is ordered to take a small force to the border of Syndic space. There he finds a mysterious threat that could finally force the Alliance to its knees.
As he mounts a desperate battle to protect the Alliance against a shrewd and powerful enemy, he’s left with just one question: who are they?
Crown of Renewal (Paladin’s Legacy #5)—Elizabeth Moon (May 27, Orbit)
Count Jeddrin has received a grisly message. His son, Filis, is dead, brutally killed by Alured the Black—the first move in his plan to take the eight kingdoms.
But Filis managed to send his own message, telling of the dark forces that control Alured, warning of something more than human behind the man’s eyes.
Meanwhile, Dorrin Verrakai, last of a long line of magelords, must forever leave the home she loves in order to protect powerful magic relics created by her ancestors. For their power is desired both by Alured, and by the dark elves infesting the kingdoms. Searching for answers, her friend and King, Kieri, considers waking the magelords from their ancient slumber…
Defenders—Will McIntosh (May 27, Orbit)
When Earth is invaded by telepathic aliens, humanity responds by creating the defenders. They are the perfect warriors—seventeen feet tall, knowing and loving nothing but war, their minds closed to the aliens. The question is: what do you do with millions of genetically engineered warriors once the war is won?
A novel of power, alliances, violence, redemption, sacrifice and yearning for connection, Defenders presents a revolutionary new vision of alien invasion.
The Remaining (Remaining #1)—D. J. Molles (May 27, Orbit)
In a steel-and-lead-encased bunker 20 feet below the basement level of his house, a soldier waits for his final orders.
On the surface, a plague ravages the planet, infecting over 90% of the populace. The bacterium burrows through the brain, destroying all signs of humanity and leaving behind little more than base, prehistoric instincts. The infected turn into hyper-aggressive predators, with an insatiable desire to kill and feed.
Someday soon, the soldier will have to open the hatch to his bunker and step out into this new wasteland to complete his mission: to rescue and rebuild.
Skin Game (Dresden Files #15)—Jim Butcher (May 27, Orbit)
Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day. As Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.
This time, it’s worse than that. Mab’s involved Harry in a smash-and-grab heist run by one of his most despised enemies, to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure horde in the world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the Underworld.
Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance…
City of Heavenly Fire (Mortal Instruments #6)—Cassandra Clare (May 28, Walker)
Darkness has descended on the Shadowhunter world. Chaos and destruction overwhelm the Nephilim as Clary, Jace, Simon, and their friends band together to fight the greatest evil they have ever faced: Clary’s own brother.
Nothing in this world can defeat Sebastian… but if they journey to the realm of demons, they just might have a chance. Alas, lives will be lost, love shall be sacrificed, and the whole world will change in the sixth and final instalment of the Mortal Instruments series.
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.