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.
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, by George R.R. Martin (October 6, Bantam—Hardcover)
Impatient for your next visit to Westeros? We’re still waiting for The Winds of Winter to blow in, but until then, why not take a journey into the Seven Kingdoms’ past with Ser Duncan the Tall (“Dunk”) his faithful squire “Egg,” the future king Aegon V Targaryen? Set some 90 years before the events of the series, these three novellas, previously published across scattered anthologies, are collected for the first time in a single volume with dozens of new pieces of artwork from Gary Gianni. This is epic fantasy in miniature, as thrilling and full of adventure as anything in A Song of Ice and Fire proper.
An Ancient Peace, by Tanya Huff (October 6, DAW—Hardcover)
The first in a new spin-off series set in Huff’s celebrated Confederation universe, An Ancient Peace sees Torin Kerr and her team investigating who is searching for the lost weapons of the Elder Race the H’san—weapons the Elder Race gave up long ago when they abandoned war and entered into the Confederation with the Younger Races. The weapons are capable of incredible destruction, and if someone were to discover them the entire universe would be threatened—but the secrets that Kerr begins to uncover also upset the fine balance between the races, leading to explosive complications.
Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie (October 6, Orbit—Paperback)
The sci-fi series that turned space opera on its ear and won all the awards along the way comes to an end, wrapping up the story of Breq, once the artifical mind inhabiting a vast starship and a network of mine-wiped human bodies, now confined to a single, frail human form. The action is set largely upon the remote Aethok Station, in orbit around an unremarkable but strategically located planet that may turn out to be a crucial outpost in a brewing intergalactic civil war between the divided halves of Anaander Mianaai, the once-human, many-bodied Lord of the Radch. Exploring complex themes of gender, sexual, and cultural identity, Leckie’s trilogy tells an unusually thoughtful story that’s also immensely satisfying when it comes to scenes of stuff blowing up real good.
Closer to the Heart, by Mercedes Lackey (October 6, Ace—Hardcover)
Book two in Lackey’s newest Valdemar series picks up where Closer to Home left off, following Mags in his continuing adventures as a spy and King’s Herald following a hardscrabble life as a child slave. With an unusually strong Gift that allows him to Mindspeak and Mindhear, Mags is perfectly suited for his role, and this sequel gives fans another opportunity to explore Lackey’s storied universe of Valdemar, one of the best-imagined fantasy universes in history, featured in dozens of books.
Departure, by A.G. Riddle (October 20, Harper Voyager—Hardcover)
Riddle’s brain-twisting story of time travel, quantum mechanics, and the law of unexpected consequences begins with a bang: the opening pages detail a nerve-wracking plane crash, then takes the reader down a rabbit hole as the survivors discover they’ve landed in a post-apocalyptic England that portends all sorts of terrible things to come. As the survivors struggle against mysterious people in futuristic suits who appear to be locked in some sort of civil war, they begin to realize their own fates and futures are caught up in the balance. They must find a way to not only understand what’s happened, but to change their own futures even as they witness them firsthand. With nonstop twists, Riddle keeps you guessing all the way to the thrilling ending.
Elantris: 10th Anniversary Author’s Definitive Edition, by Brandon Sanderson (October 6, Tor Books—Paperback)
The mega-prolific Sanderson got his start with this story of a city ruled over by godlike beings who were once normal humans, before they were literally touched by divinity. This anniversary edition is loaded with 10,000 words of new material, including an introduction by author Dan Wells, an afterword from Sanderson exploring how the book fits into the larger fantasy universe he’s been building one book at a time, and “The Hope of Elantris,” a short story expounding upon a key plot point late in the novel. Whether you’re an established fan eager to see where Sanderson got his start, or you’re completely new to his writing, this one will satisfy.
Empire Ascendant, by Kameron Hurley (October 6, Angry Robot—Paperback)
The sequel to Hurley’s breakout fantasy The Mirror Empire is an engrossing an epic as it is difficult to summarize: on a planet where those in power changes with the shifting orbits of heavenly bodies, the citizens of the kingdom of Dahl are under assault by invaders from another world, invaders who share their faces. As these things often do, their defense comes down to an unlikely potential savior: a scullery maid blessed with dangerous, difficult, but immensely powerful magic. A breath-taking experiment in world-building, Hurley’s series transports us to a brutal, unforgiving land of endless strife, blood magic, and sentient plants, and gives us a front-row seat to the end of it all.
Welcome to Night Vale, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (October 20, Harper Perennial—Hardcover)
Over the last few years, the Welcome to Night Vale podcast has build up a legion of fans addicted to listening in on the decidedly strange news from this dark mirror Lake Wobegon, where all the woman are faceless, the men are in tan jackets, and the children are just disembodied hands. This novel takes us outside the confines of Cecil Baldwin’s broadcasting booth to explore the wider community of shapeshifters, strange doorways, and parent-teacher association treasurers.
Killing Titan, by Greg Bear (October 6, Orbit—Hardcover)
The second book in Bear’s War Dogs trilogy returns us to Master Sergeant Michael Venn, initially confined to Earth after barely surviving his tour of duty on Mars. When he returns to the Red Planet, he picks up his investigation into the Drifters, the mysterious artifacts that have returned to life after centuries of slumber. But humanity’s war against invaders from outside the solar system soon takes Venn to Saturn’s moon, where secrets await, concerning not just the Drifters and the Gurus who have been “sponsoring” humanity in the war, but the origins of life itself.
Our Lady of the Ice, by Cassandra Rose Clarke (October 27, Saga Press—Hardcover)
The domed metropolis of Hope City is the only refuge on the icy continent of Antarctica. Originally constructed to house an elaborate theme park of steampunk androids, it has been years since the city saw its last tourist, and it now exists only to produce atomic power for the mainland. But the infrastructure is rotting, and every time the power goes out, no one is sure it will come back on. As the human population toils away under appalling conditions, mobsters establish a black market trade in illegally imported food. Adding to the tension: the emergence of a sentient class of robots no longer willing to serve. A revolution is brewing, but Eliana doesn’t care—she just wants to collect enough money to escape, even if it means being pulled into a shadowy game of politics and revolution.
Saturn Run, by John Sandford and Ctein (October 6, GP Putnam’s Sons—Hardcover)
Collaborating with photo artist and legendary science fiction fan Ctein, Sanford cooks up a thrilling premise: in the year 2066 an object is observed approaching Saturn—and then decelerating. Since only a craft of some sort would slow down on planetary approach, world governments scramble, and quickly confirm that the spaceship is far beyond the Earth’s current scientific and engineering capabilities—which means any government that can lay claim to it will have a distinct advantage in world politics and military might. As a specially selected crew races to intercept and claim the craft, Sanford and Ctein take the story in surprising directions.
Shadows of Self, by Brandon Sanderson (October 6, Tor Books—Hardcover)
Sanderson returns to his Mistborn series with the first book in a trilogy that follows the magical lawmen at the center of 2011’s The Alloy of Law. In an era in which magic and a burgeoning industry of railroads and steel girders are at increasingly odds, Wax and Wayne are peacekeepers gifted with Allomancy—the power to ingest metals and “burn” their properties to be granted supernatural abilities. They are tasked with hunting down the culprits between recent acts of industrial terrorism seemingly designed to turn the populace against those with the power to manipulate metal. It’s a great on-boarding point for this addictive fantasy world, not only because release of the sequel, The Bands of Mourning, is only a few short months away.
Son of the Black Sword, by Larry Correia (October 27, Baen Books—Hardcover)
If you think only of action-packed urban fantasy when you think of Correia, think again: Son of the Black Sword is an action-packed epic fantasy that offers plenty of thrills and a detailed universe that crackles with energy and secrets. Long ago, demons invaded the world and decimated mankind, until a band of heroes defeated them, creating a rigid caste system in the wake of the conflict. Generations pass, and warriors like Protector Ashok Vadal enforce this system—until the day Ashok and his ancient magical sword discover his life, and the role he was born to play, are based on lies. Ashok then does was heroic warriors do: he sets off to destroy the lie, in the first of what promises to be a propulsive new fantasy saga.
The Explorer’s Guild, by Kevin Costner and John Baird (October 20, Atria Books—Hardcover)
Yes, that Kevin Costner. In a novel that harkens back to adventure stories of old, Costner and co-writer Baird craft a jaunty, rip-roaring story featuring the titular Explorer’s Guild, the sort of secret club of explorers your inner child wishes actually existed and was taking applications. In this first volume of a promised series, set during the leadup to World War I, the members of the guild set off on a quest to locate Shambhala, a golden city of Buddhist myth. Costner’s globe-trotting as a filmmaker sparked a passion for history and exploration that fuels this throwback adventure story. Featuring illustrations by Rick Ross.
The King’s Justice, by Stephen R. Donaldson (October 13, GP Putnam’s Sons—Hardcover)
Donaldson’s first book since wrapping up his Thomas Covenant series collects two standalone novellas in one volume. In one, a mysterious stranger investigating a terrible crime finds himself in a disquietingly cooperative village where he slowly realizes he’s not as in control as he assumes. In the second, a soothsayer who glimpses the future in the entrails of sacrificed creatures tries desperately to warn his queen of impending doom. In both, the classic Donaldson style—rich prose and complex morality—is in full effect.
The Snow Queen, by Joan D. Vinge (October 27, Tor Books—Paperback)
Joan D. Vinge won the 1981 Hugo Award for Best Novel for this evocative fantasy set on the human colony world of Tiamat, whose precarious position at the edge of a wormhole isolates it from the wider universe for decades at a time. This quirk of interstellar geography has resulted in the creation of a symbiotic culture, where every generation, the positions of those in power are flipped, and the Winter Queen cedes rule to the Summer Queen. But the current Snow Queen, Arienrhod, has no intention of giving up power so easily, and has launched a scheme of subterfuge and genetic manipulation to keep her rightful successor, the brave, humble Moon, from taking the throne. What follows is a timeless tale of heroism and rebellion, with rich world-building and characters that will stay with you long after their tale has ended.
Wake of Vultures, by Lila Bowen (October 27, Orbit—Hardcover)
Writer Delilah S. Dawson crafts a bloody western-tinged dark fantasy so unforgiving, she had to create a pseudonym to do it. Nettie Lonesome is a mixed-race orphan treated like a slave by the white couple who clothe and feed her but treat her like anything but family. One night, she is attack by a fearsome, near-immortal wanderer; after finally killing him with a stake to the heart, Nettie realizes she can suddenly see the darkness—the real darkness—all around her. With a few allies from a nearby ranch, she sets off into the desert on a quest to find her true calling, and something resembling a home…provided the monsters don’t get to her first.
Gatefather, by Orson Scott Card (October 20, Tor Books—Hardcover)
The third book in Card’s Mithermages series returns us to Danny and Wad’s universe, where magical families from a distant planet who once ruled the world now live in the shadows, their powers limited after the magical gates connected to their homeworld are destroyed. Danny emerged from The Gate Thief as the first Gate Mage to survive being born of our world in millennia—but he quickly discovers that there was a good reason the Gates were closed so long ago. Danny finds himself facing a much darker threat—one that threatens everyone living on two different worlds.
Hell’s Foundations Quiver, by David Weber (October 13, Tor Books—Hardcover)
The eighth installment of Weber’s Safehold series returns to the colony world where humanity fled, centuries ago, to hide from an alien threat by living without advanced technology. In the generations since, with the population stagnating in a quasi-Middle Ages, a conflict has developed between the Imperial Christian Army and the Army of God over slow reintroduction of technology to their culture—a process being manipulated by the cybernetic copy of one of Safehold’s founders, Merlyn, who has popped up in many guises throughout history in order to move the colony forward. But there is a new player in the game, one who knows exactly what Merlyn is, and what he’s been trying to accomplish.
This post was published simultaneously on the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.