For over a decade, Jim Killen has served as the science fiction and fantasy book buyer for Barnes & Noble. Every month on The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog and Tor.com, Jim shares his curated list of the month’s can’t-miss new SF/F releases.
Star Wars: Lords of the Sith—Paul S. Kemp
(April 28, LucasBooks—Hardcover)
The latest entry in the new canon of Star Wars novels flashes back to the period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Our heroes are… Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine? When the two Lords of the Sith become stranded in the midst of a rebel stronghold on a dangerous planet, they must rely on one another to survive—but those who follow the Dark Side aren’t generally known for their trustworthiness. Veteran franchise author Paul S. Kemp shines a light on the tense relationship between the Emperor and his masked apprentice in this action-packed adventure, which also sets a precedent in the canon via the inclusion of a lesbian Imperial officer.
The Grace of Kings—Ken Liu
(April 7, Saga Press—Hardcover)
Celebrated, multi-award-winning short fiction author Ken Liu makes a stunning leap to long form with an ambitious debut novel that aims to do little less than rewrite the entire epic fantasy narrative. Both sweeping in scope and intimate in character and incidental detail, this is an expansive look at a rebellion, its aftermath, and two young leaders caught in the tides of history. Liu’s book illustrates the idea that as the decades roll by, even great deeds can start to look small.
A Crown for Cold Silver—Alex Marshall
(April 14, Orbit Books—Hardcover)
Much of the buzz surrounding this inventive new epic fantasy has focused on the identity of its pseudonymous author, but that intrigue pales in comparison to what’s on the page. A grim and gritty story of a massacre and the resulting quest for revenge blends the blood-soaked adventure of Joe Abercrombie with the snappy, accessible prose of John Scalzi, and earns extra points for a protagonist who feels wholly original—an aged woman warrior who thought she was out of the revenge game until an ill-timed attack on her village pulled her back in.
The Rebirths of Tao—Wesley Chu
(April 7, Angry Robot—Paperback)
Wesley Chu broke onto the SF/F scene in a big way with his fast, funny 2013 debut The Lives of Tao, about an alien symbiont that loses its host and inadvertently winds up in the body of a schlubby IT tech named Roen. Forced to become a player in an ancient struggle between opposing alien forces that have shaped humanity’s destiny over millennia, Roen whipped himself into shape (with some gentle prodding from Tao, the passenger in his head), and helped to uncover and outwit a fiendish conspiracy in sequel The Deaths of Tao. Now, it’s all come down to this: the final conflict in a civil war that has stretched across time, and the key player is a guy who never should have been involved in the first place. This trilogy-capper raises the stakes in every way, and Chu (a Campbell Award nominee for Best New Writer) just keeps getting better.
The Silence—Tim Lebbon
(April 14, Titan Books—Paperback)
It’s best to go into this gripping end-of-the-world tale knowing as little as possible. Fortunately, you don’t need to know very much to get your pulse racing: a tight-knit group of family and friends wander a strange landscape that has been overrun by creatures who hunt by sound. The only way they can hope to survive is to not make a single noise. Forget not blinking; how are you supposed to stop breathing?
Dark Heir: A Jane Yellowrock Novel—by Faith Hunter
(April 7, Roc—Paperback)
Badass shape-shifting vampire slayer Jane Yellowrock faces her toughest foes yet in the ninth book in this engaging urban fantasy series. One of the vampire witches of the European Council, which has had its thumb on the scales of world history for centuries, arrives in New Orleans with a to-do list that will wreak havoc. Jane and her compatriots at Yellowrock Securities are the only ones who can hope to stop him, but hope may be running out.
The Unremembered—Peter Orullian
(April 7, Tor Books—Paperback)
Now here’s an interesting case: The Unremembered isn’t a new book, but then again, it is. Originally released in 2011 amid much scrutiny and publisher hype, it received an enthusiastic reception and strong reviews that praised it as a lyrical return to grand, expansive epic fantasy storytelling. But as Orullian toiled away at the sequel, he couldn’t help but feel the first book wasn’t all it could have been, due both to his maturation as a writer and a compromised editorial process. So he asked Tor if he could try again, and, for one of the few times in its history, the venerable publisher agreed. On the eve of the release of Trial of Intentions, The Unremembered is being rereleased in the “Author’s Definitive Edition,” with substantial additions, subtractions, and other alterations to the original text. Read it again, for the first time.
Jinn & Juice—Nicole Peeler
(April 7, Orbit Books—Paperback)
If they handed out Hugos for the best title, we could go ahead and call this year’s race right now. What’s better: the book entirely lives up to the cheeky moniker. Desperate to escape an arranged marriage, Lyla asked for a jinni’s help, and found her wish granted: she lived the next 1,000 years as a jinni herself, bound to serve the will of others in exchange for her eventual freedom. Now that her sentence is almost up, she finds herself beset on all sides by those who want to trap her in that magic bottle, from a dastardly magician, to a vengeful fellow jinni, to a dark secret from her past. You make a lot of enemies in a millennium. Memorable characters, a rollicking plot, and a sharp sense of humor make this one a wish come true for UF fans (yes, we went there).
Captain Marvel, Vol. 2: Stay Fly—by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Marcia Takara (artist)
(April 21, Marvel Comics—Paperback)
The second collection of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run on the revitalized, soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture saga of Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel, once again proves the gender-flipped superhero is one of the best things about the current Marvel Universe. With a guest appearance by Rocket Raccoon and a plot concerning Carol’s pet cat Chewie’s secret life as mother to hoards of space kittens, this one will be hard to resist.
Jupiter’s Legacy, Vol. 1—by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely (artist)
(April 21, Image Comics—Paperback)
This generations-spanning story finds comics’ favorite bad boy Millar once again wrenching the superhero narrative to suit his own purposes. Decades ago, brothers Sheldon and Walter set off on a quest to discover a source of unlimited power—and found it. Now, they are both recognized for their world-altering superheroic feats, but the next generation, trained to follow in their footsteps, proved to be far less deserving of the mantle. A rift in the family leads to larger complications like, oh, say, a few governments being toppled (don’t visit them at Thanksgiving), and setting things right may take more power than even Sheldon and Walter possess.
Lumberjanes, Vol. 1—Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, and Brooke Allen (artist)
(April 21, Simon & Schuster—Paperback)
This youth-skewing graphic novel series will probably be responsible for getting a whole host of young female fans into comics (which isn’t to say boys—not to mention adults of both genders—won’t love it too). Five best friends head off to the Lumberjanes scout camp for the summer, where they share sleeping bags, S’mores, and tactics for hunting and disposing of supernatural beasties. The pop culture references and cute catchphrases recall the glory days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is high praise indeed.