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.
The Focus may be on hiatus over the holidays, but the Hitlist is still here, readers! Just as well, what with all of the awesome new releases due out in early August, beginning with a bunch of big hitters—such as the start of Robin Hobb’s new series, Fitz and the Fool; a bumper alien invasion tale from award winner Peter Watts; Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami; and the very end of The Malazan Empire, by way of Assail.
Add to all that an array of exciting debuts, headlined by The Buried Life by Carrie Patel and The Godless by Ben Peek; the continuation of The Dagger and the Coin by Daniel Abraham; the conclusion of The Skyscraper Throne series by Tom Pollock; and the completion of The Fourth Gwenevere by the late, great John James.
The Graveyard Book Volume I—Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell (August 1, Bloomsbury)
An irresistibly-brilliant graphic novel adaptation of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, adapted by award-winning illustrator P. Craig Russell. This is the first of two volumes.
Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead. There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard. But it’s in the land of the living that the real danger lurks, for it is there that the man Jack lives, and he has already killed Bod’s family.
Each chapter is illustrated by a different artist, with contributions from P. Craig Russell, Kevin Nowlan, Tony Harris and Scott Hamptom, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson and Stephen B. Scott.
The Widow’s House (The Dagger and the Coin #4)—Daniel Abraham (August 5, Orbit)
Lord Regent Geder Palliako’s war has led his nation and the priests of the spider goddess to victory after victory. No power has withstood him, except for the heart of the one woman he desires. As the violence builds and the cracks in his rule begin to show, he will risk everything to gain her love – or her destruction.
Clara Kalliam, the loyal traitor, is torn between the woman she once was and the woman she has become. With her sons on all sides of the conflict, her house cannot stand, but there is a power in choosing when and how to fall.
And in Porte Oliva, banker Cithrin bel Sarcour and Captain Marcus Wester learn the terrible truth that links this war to the fall of the dragons millennia before, and that to save the world, Cithrin must conquer it.
The Buried Life—Carrie Patel (August 7, Angry Robot)
The gaslight and shadows of the underground city of Recoletta hide secrets and lies. When Inspector Liesl Malone investigates the murder of a renowned historian, she finds herself stonewalled by the all-powerful Directorate of Preservation—Recoletta’s top-secret historical research facility.
When a second high-profile murder threatens the very fabric of city society, Malone and her rookie partner Rafe Sundar must tread carefully, lest they fall victim to not only the criminals they seek, but the government which purports to protect them. Knowledge is power, and power must be preserved at all costs…
Codex Born (Magic Ex Libris #2)—Jim C. Hines (August 7, Del Rey UK)
Sent to investigate the brutal slaughter of a wendigo in the north Michigan town of Tamarack, Isaac Vainio and his companions find they have wandered into something far more dangerous than a simple killing.
A long established werewolf territory, Tamarack is rife with ancient enemies of Libriomancy who quest for revenge. Isaac has the help of Lena Greenwood, his dryad bodyguard born from the pages of a pulp fantasy novel, but he is not the only one in need of her unique and formidable powers…
The Confabulist—Steven Galloway (August 7, Atlantic)
How much of our lives is real and how much is an illusion?
The world’s gaze is focussed on the feats and daring of the amazing Harry Houdini, while not a soul is aware of down-and-out Martin Strauss… yet Strauss’ fate is inextricably linked with the magician’s, and as Houdini continues to rise, and Strauss continues to fall, their lives will converge in a spectacular and devastating fashion.
At once entertaining and suspenseful, historically rich and cleverly told, The Confabulist is a book about magic and memory, truth and illusion, and the ways that love, hope, grief, and imagination can—for better or for worse—alter what we perceive and what we believe.
The Fourth Gwenevere—John James (August 7, Jo Fletcher)
Gwenevere, Arthur’s Saxon wife, is a problem. As the dynastic cement between the British and the Saxons, her marriage to the Arthur will result in a child that will unite both sides. At least, that would have been the plan, had the Great Duke Arthur not died and left the petty kings of Britain to squabble over his title.
Only Morvran, Arthur’s chief fixer, has the wit to see that the Fourth Gwenevere is the key to maintaining a crumbling peace. But when she is abducted, it seems that all hopes might disappear with her.
For, in a world where swords and horses have names of honour, where poets speak as oracles of a shifting truth and the raiding of Saxon warriors is set to ruin Britain, perhaps it’s only the Fourth Gwenevere herself who has the real solution?
The Guild of Assassins (The Majat Code #2)—Anna Kashina (August 7, Angry Robot)
Kara has achieved something that no Majat has ever managed: freedom from the Guild!
But the Black Diamond assassin Mai has been called back to face his punishment for sparing her life. Determined to join his fight or share his punishment, Kara finds herself falling for Mai.
But is their relationship—and the force that makes their union all-powerful—a tool to defeat the overpowering forces of the Kaddim armies, or a distraction sure to cause the downfall of the Majat?
Our Lady of the Streets (The Skyscraper Throne #3)—Tom Pollock (August 7, Jo Fletcher)
Ever since Beth Bradley found her way into a hidden London, the presence of its ruthless goddess, Mater Viae, has lurked in the background. Now Mater Viae has returned with deadly consequences.
Streets are wracked by convulsions as muscles of wire and pipe go into spasm, bunching the city into a crippled new geography; pavements flare to thousand-degree fevers, incinerating pedestrians; and towers fall, their foundations decayed.
As the city sickens, so does Beth—her essence now part of this secret London. But when it is revealed that Mater Viae’s plans for dominion stretch far beyond the borders of the city, Beth must make a choice: flee, or sacrifice her city in order to save it.
The Return of the Discontinued Man (Burton & Swinburne #5)—Mark Hodder (August 7, Del Rey UK)
Leicester Square, London. Blood red snow falls from the sky and a strange creature, disorientated and apparently insane, materialises out of thin air. Spring Heeled Jack has returned, and he is intent on one thing: hunting Sir Richard Francis Burton.
Burton is experiencing one hallucination after another; visions of parallel realities and future history plague his every thought. These send him, and his companions, on an unimaginable expedition—a voyage through time itself.
The Wine-Dark Sea—Robert Aickman (August 7, Faber & Faber)
Peter Straub called Robert Aickman “this century’s most profound writer of what we call horror stories.” Aickman’s “strange stories” (his preferred term for them) are a subtle exploration of psychological displacement and paranoia. His characters are ordinary people that are gradually drawn into the darker recesses of their own minds.
First published in the USA in 1988 and in the UK in 1990, The Wine-Dark Sea contains eight stories that will leave the reader unsettled as the protagonists’ fears and desires, at once illogical and terrifying, culminate in a disturbing yet enigmatic ending.
Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage—Haruki Murakami (August 12, Harvill Secker)
Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school. By chance all of their names contained a colour. The two boys were called Akamatsu, meaning ’red pine’, and Oumi, ’blue sea’, while the girls’ names were Shirane, ’white root’, and Kurono, ’black field’. Tazaki was the only last name with no colour in it.
One day Tsukuru Tazaki’s friends announced that they didn’t want to see him, or talk to him, ever again.
Since that day Tsukuru has been floating through life, unable to form intimate connections with anyone. But then he meets Sara, who tells him that the time has come to find out what happened all those years ago.
Fool’s Assassin (Fitz and the Fool #1)—Robin Hobb (August 12, HarperCollins Voyager)
Tom Badgerlock has been living peaceably in the manor house at Withywoods with his beloved wife Molly these many years, the estate a reward to his family for loyal service to the crown.
But behind the facade of respectable middle-age lies a turbulent and violent past. For Tom Badgerlock is actually FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard scion of the Farseer line, convicted user of Beast-magic, and assassin. A man who has risked much for his king and lost more…
On a shelf in his den sits a triptych carved in memory stone of a man, a wolf and a fool. Once, these three were inseparable friends: Fitz, Nighteyes and the Fool. But one is long dead, and one long-missing.
Then one Winterfest night a messenger arrives to seek out Fitz, but mysteriously disappears, leaving nothing but a blood-trail. What was the message? Who was the sender? And what has happened to the messenger?
Suddenly Fitz’s violent old life erupts into the peace of his new world, and nothing and no one is safe.
Assail (Malazan Empire #6)—Ian Cameron Esslemont (August 14, Bantam)
Tens of thousands of years of ice is melting, and the land of Assail, long a byword for menace and inaccessibility, is at last yielding its secrets. Tales of gold discovered in the region’s north circulate in every waterfront dive and sailor’s tavern and now adventurers and fortune-seekers have set sail in search of riches. And all they have to guide them are legends and garbled tales of the dangers that lie in wait: hostile coasts, fields of ice, impassable barriers and strange, terrifying creatures. But all accounts concur that the people of the north meet all trespassers with the sword—and should you make it, beyond are rumoured to lurk Elder monsters out of history’s very beginnings.
Into this turmoil ventures the mercenary company, the Crimson Guard. Not drawn by contract, but by the promise of answers: answers that Shimmer, second in command, feels should not be sought. Also heading north, as part of an uneasy alliance of Malazan fortune-hunters and Letherii soldiery, comes the bard Fisher kel Tath. With him is a Tiste Andii who was found washed ashore and cannot remember his past and yet commands far more power than he really should. It is also rumoured that a warrior, bearer of a sword that slays gods and who once fought for the Malazans, is also journeying that way. But far to the south, a woman patiently guards the shore. She awaits both allies and enemies. She is Silverfox, newly incarnate Summoner of the undying army of the T’lan Imass, and she will do anything to stop the renewal of an ages-old crusade that could lay waste to the entire continent and beyond.
Casting light on mysteries spanning the Malazan empire, and offering a glimpse of the storied and epic history that shaped it, Assail brings the epic story of the Empire of Malaz to a thrilling close.
Dissonance (Dissonance #1)—Erica O’Rourke (August 14, Simon & Schuster Children’s)
Delancey Sullivan knows for sure that there is more than one universe. Many more. Because every time someone makes a choice, a new, parallel world spins off the existing one. Eating breakfast or skipping it, turning left instead of right, sneaking out instead of staying in bed—all of these choices create an alternate universe in which an echo self takes the road not travelled.
Del knows all of this because she’s a Walker, someone who can navigate between the worlds, and whose job is to keep the dimensions in harmony. But Del’s decisions have consequences too. And when she secretly starts to investigate other dissonant worlds she’s intrigued by the echo versions of Simon Lane, a guy who won’t give her the time of day in the main world, but whose alternate selves are uniquely interested.
But falling for Simon draws Del closer to a truth that the Council of Walkers is trying to hide: a secret that threatens the fate of the entire multiverse.
Fiefdom (Kingdom #1)—Dan Abnett & Nik Vincent (August 14, Abaddon)
Dan Abnett’s hit 2000AD series Kingdom took us to the isolated wastelands of the southern hemisphere, where Gene the Hackman and his fellow Aux listened to the voices of The Masters as humanity hibernates, awaiting the destruction of the alien Them.
In Fiefdom, the action moves into the northern hemisphere, where Them are now a folk memory and the Aux war with one another in the ruins of what was once Berlin. Inspired by the legends of Gene, young Evelyn War begins to question the Aux’s situation as she hears the first rumours about the return of Them…
Firefall—Peter Watts (August 14, Head of Zeus)
The day sixty-five thousand objects burned briefly around Earth: an unexplained moment of surveillance by an alien intelligence. We called it Firefall.
Two months later, we sent the Theseus reconnaissance mission into deep space. Somewhere past Jupiter, we lost contact.
For the last twenty-five years we have waited for word. No further sightings of “fireflies” have been reported.
But all this is about to change. For a man hiding in the Oregon desert is about to play a key role in the next stage of human evolution. And first he must find the Theseus mission…
The Godless—Ben Peek (August 14, Tor UK)
Fifteen thousand years after the War of the Gods and their corpses now lie scattered across the world, slowly dying as men and women awake with strange powers that are derived from their bodies. While some see these powers as a gift, most call them a curse.
When Ayae, a young cartographer’s apprentice in the city of Mireea, is trapped in a burning building she is terrified as this dormant power comes to life within her. The flames destroy everything around her but she remains unscathed—fire cannot touch her. This curse makes her a target for the army marching on her home—an army determined to reclaim the corpse of the god Ger, who lies dying beneath the city, and harness his power for themselves. Zaifyr, a man adorned in the ancient charms, also arrives in Mireea. His arrival draws the attention of two of the children of the gods, Fo and Bau: powerful, centuries-old beings who consider themselves immortal. All three will offer different visions for Ayae’s powers—and whatever choice she makes will result in new enemies.
Meanwhile, as the army approaches ever closer to Mirea, the saboteur Bueralan and Dark, his mercenary group, look to infiltrate and learn their weaknesses. Alone in a humid, dangerous land, they find themselves witness to rites so appalling they realise it would take the Gods themselves to halt the enemy’s attack—and even they may not be enough.
The Incorruptibles—John Hornor Jacobs (August 14, Gollancz)
In the contested and unexplored territories at the edge of the Empire, a boat is making its laborious way upstream. Riding along the banks are the mercenaries hired to protect it — from raiders, bandits and, most of all, the stretchers, elf-like natives who kill any intruders into their territory. The mercenaries know this is dangerous, deadly work. But it is what they do.
In the boat the drunk governor of the territories and his sons and daughters make merry. They believe that their status makes them untouchable. They are wrong. And with them is a mysterious, beautiful young woman, who is the key to peace between warring nations and survival for the Empire. When a callow mercenary saves the life of the Governor on an ill-fated hunting party, the two groups are thrown together.
For Fisk and Shoe—two tough, honourable mercenaries surrounded by corruption, who know they can always and only rely on each other—their young companion appears to be playing with fire. The nobles have the power, and crossing them is always risky.
And although love is a wonderful thing, sometimes the best decision is to walk away. Because no matter how untouchable or deadly you may be, the stretchers have other plans.
The Supernatural Enhancements—Edgar Cantero (August 14, Del Rey UK)
Everybody loves a ghost story, and the heir to Axton House and his companion are delighted to find themselves living in one. With it come nightmares, a secret society and a curse, such that a ghost may soon be the least of their worries.
Part ghost story, part cerebral mystery, this is a dazzling and wholly original supernatural adventure. Discover what The Supernatural Enhancements is through the journal entries, scrawled notes, recovered security footage, letters to a mysterious Aunt Liza, audio recordings, complicated ciphers and advertisements, that make up this book. This is not just a book—this is a supernaturally enhanced book.
Visions (The Cainsville Trilogy #2)—Kelley Armstrong (August 14, Sphere)
Omens, the first instalment in Kelley Armstrong’s exciting new series, introduced Olivia Taylor-Jones, daughter of notorious serial killers, and Gabriel Walsh, the self-serving, morally ambiguous lawyer who became her unlikely ally. Together, they chased down a devious killer and partially cleared her parents of their horrifying crimes.
Their success, however, is short-lived. While Olivia takes refuge in the old, secluded town of Cainsville, Gabriel’s past mistakes have come to light, creating a rift between the pair just when she needs his help the most.
Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed to look like her, but the body vanishes before anyone else sees it. Olivia’s convinced it’s another omen, a sign of impending danger. But then she learns that a troubled young woman went missing just days ago—the same woman Olivia found dead in her car. Someone has gone to great lengths to kill and leave this young woman as a warning. But why? And what role has her new home played in this disturbing murder?
Olivia’s effort to uncover the truth places her in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces, forces that have their own agenda, and closely guarded secrets they don’t want revealed.
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.