For two decades, Jim Killen has served as the science fiction and fantasy book buyer for Barnes & Noble. Every month on Tor.com and the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Jim shares his curated list of the month’s best science fiction & fantasy books.
Street Freaks, by Terry Brooks
(October 2, Grim Oak Press—Hardcover)
Terry Brooks has been buried deep in the universe of Shannara for so long, it’s big news when he publishes something outside of that series. The fact that he would choose to write a sci-fi novel might seem strange for someone so linked to epic fantasy, but then again, under the fantasy trappings, Shannara is a secret sci-fi setting of sorts. Here, Brooks imagines a futuristic world where robots enforce the law and adults twist their children with technology to the point where they’re no longer considered human. Ash Collins receives a warning from his scientist father moments before his apartment is raided and flees to the Red Zone where the Street Freaks work on their sleek rides and sharpen their hacking skills. This is a crisply written dystopian thriller from an old master.
Kill the Queen, by Jennifer Estep
(October 2, Harper Voyager—Paperback)
Estep, best known for her wildly popular urban fantasies like the Elemental Assassin series, branches out into epic fantasy with the first of a new series set in a world where your social value is determined by your magical ability. Since Lady Everleigh of Bellona is not only 17th in line for the royal throne, but shows absolutely no magical ability whatsoever, she’s regarded as a non-entity, ignored and largely forgotten. Unfortunately for her, when her cousin Vasilia stages a violent coup and seizes the throne, she does not forget Evie, who only survives because her magical gift is actually an immunity to magic. Joining a gladiator troupe to escape the palace and hide from Vasilia’s spies, Evie trains as a warrior and prepares for the day when she can exact her revenge and kill the queen. Estep brings many urban fantasy touches to this story, giving it a modern edge that sets it apart in a crowded genre.
An Easy Death, by Charlaine Harris
(October 2, Saga Press—Hardcover)
Charlaine Harris made her name with the Sookie Stackhouse stories that were the basis for HBO’s True Blood, and followed that up with the Midnight, Texas trilogy, which also birthed a TV show. Now, she launches a whole new series about another kick-butt lady, and it seems a safe bet this one will eventually make it to the screen too. Lizbeth “Gunnie” Rose is a bodyguard and gunslinger in an alternate America shattered by the assassination of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, wracked by poverty, and infused by magic—though magic is generally distrusted and discouraged. After Gunnie’s team is wiped out in a job gone bad, she’s desperate enough to take work from a pair of Russian wizards searching for one of their own, Oleg Karkarov, who might be a descendant of Grigori Rasputin himself, and thus the key to the tsar’s survival. It quickly becomes apparent to Gunnie that this will be her hardest job yet, but Harris makes it go down easy, bringing together a fiesty lead, strong worldbuilding, and fast-paced plotting.
Zero Sum Game, by S.L. Huang
(October 2, Tor Books—Hardcover)
It’s difficult to live up to the label “Renaissance woman,” but S.L. Huang certainly seems qualified to do so: she has been a professional stuntwoman and weapons expert, she holds a degree from MIT, and, oh yeah, she’s written a great debut sci-fi novel. Zero Sum Game follows Cass Russell, a math genius whose ability to calculate aides her like a superpower in her mercenary work. Cass is used to thinking circles around everyone—until she discovers someone who can literally control minds. Her first instinct is to steer clear of bad odds, but she’s haunted by the possibility that her thoughts are no longer her own. Huang brings excess verisimilitude to the story, effortlessly selling the idea of a kick-butt math genius—because she basically is a kick-butt math genius.
Time’s Children, by D.B. Jackson
(October 2, Angry Robot—Paperback)
Tobias is a Walker, gifted with the ability to travel through time, to the detriment of his own lifespan. Trained by the Academy of Travelers, he awaits the day he’ll be given a contract to work for one of the many royal courts. But his appointment to the Sovereign of the kingdom of Daerjen comes at a cost: a mission that will send him on a near-fatal walk 15 years into the past to avert a war that threatens to consume the world. Fearing a loss, the opposing side likewise sends a crew of military travelers back to wipe Tobias and the Sovereign off the face of the earth. Meanwhile, in a totalitarian future created by both sides’ meddling, Mara, Tobias’ former childhood friend, senses something is off about the world around her and sets out with the aid of a time demon to save history, and possibly the world. Jackson (who also writes as D.B. Coe) begins a series that imaginatively blends time travel tropes with a flintlock fantasy setting.
The Way of the Shield, by Marshall Maresca
(October 2, DAW—Paperback)
Across seven previous novels, Maresca has created a fantastic character in the city of Maradaine, the setting for three linked series exploring all walks of life in his imagined metropolis. To these, and a fourth: this is the first book of the Maradine Elite, following the highly trained group of warriors that once stood in defense of the common people, but are now generally regarded as a symbolic power. Dayne Heldrin dreamed for years of becoming one of the Elite Orders of Druthal, but after a failed rescue, his future with the order is in doubt. Meanwhile, his beloved city is in turmoil, with violence and revolution in the air. In one fast-paced, funny, highly readable novel after another, Maresca continues to build out every nook and alleyway of Maradaine, which is fast becoming one of the most richly detailed settings in fantasy.
Dragon’s Code, by Gigi McCaffrey
(October 2, Del Rey—Hardcover)
When Anne McCaffery passed away in 2011, it seemed to signal the end of the beloved Dragonriders of Pern series, but now, her daughter Gigi—who collaborated with her mother on several writing projects—is keeping the legacy alive with a new adventure on the world of Pern. Released to honor the 50th anniversary of Dragonflight, this story focuses on Piemur, a journeyman harper who is grieving over the impact growing up has had on his beautiful voice. The Masterharper sees something in the young man, however, and sends him on a mission to the exiled Oldtimers—the dragonriders who came from the past to save Pern from the Thread and found it impossible to adjust to their new lives. Bitter and angry, the Oldtimers live apart, but when Piemur arrives in their midst, he discovers clues that hint at a coming threat worse even than the Thread—the possibility of war between the dragons. Though there will never be another Anne McCaffrey, Gigi does her mother’s creation proud.
Priest of Bones, by Peter McLean
(October 2, Ace—Paperback)
McLean (Drake) begins a new grimdark fantasy series that promises to be bloody good fun. Tomas Piety was once a crime lord in the city of Ellinburgh, but he found religion and went off to fight for god, forming a company known as the Pious Men. When he returns to Ellinburgh, he finds everything changed—his people are ruined, and a foreign power runs the city, and he and the Pious Men have their work cut out for them if they want to reclaim what was once his. McLean studies martial arts (and magic!) and brings that expertise to his fights scenes; those visceral affairs are but one highlight of this fantasy take on The Godfather, which also features punchy prose and a likable crew of gruff fighting companions.
An Uncompromising Honor, by David Weber
(October 2, Bean Books—Hardcover)
Weber’s long-running Honor Harrington series is often described as “Horatio Hornblower in space,” and that’s high praise indeed. Aside from the obvious military inspirations, Weber has also infused his series with the sort of realistic character development over time that made the Hornblower stories (as well as Weber’s other obvious inspiration, O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series) so beloved. Over almost 20 novels, Honor has slowly evolved from the brilliant but inexperienced junior officer to the highest levels of command in the Star Kingdom of Manticore’s fleet. In this installment, the first in five years, the Solarian League is sliding towards unthinkable defeat as technological stagnation and widespread corruption leech the empire of its strength, and Harrington must proceed cautiously in order to avoid atrocities and the law of unexpected consequences. But when the desperate League resorts to brutal, unthinkable tactics, Harrington is pushed until she breaks—and decides to show the League and its ruling Mandarins just how horrible war can be.
Exit Strategy, by Martha Wells
(October 2, Tor Books—Hardcover)
Wells has been a beloved but under-read voice in fantasy for two decades, which is why it is so gratifying to see the success she’s having with the bestselling, and now, Hugo- and Nebula-winning Murderbot Diaries novella series, which follow a rogue Security Unit cyborg that has hacked its governor module and gained sentience and free will—and given itself the (mostly ironic) name Murderbot. This fourth and final novella (a full-length novel arrives next year) finds Murderbot close to getting the goods on the evil corporation GrayCris. When it learns that its former owner/possible friend Dr. Mensch is under threat, Murderbot doesn’t understand its own urge to save him. Wells’ explorations of free will and the question of what, exactly, makes us human remain fascinating, and the snarky narrative voice—and the murder-y mayhem—that peppers the story as it marches toward to a bracing conclusion are as fun as always.
Mage Against the Machine, by Shaun Barger
(October 9, Saga Press—Hardcover)
You’d think alchemically combining science fiction and fantasy tropes would be too big a challenge for a debut author, but Shaun Barger asks you to politely hold his beer. This first novel is set in the 22nd century, a hundred years after an insane mage engineered a magical-nuclear holocaust, killing all humans. Mages have survived behind magical Veils that protect them from the ravaged world outside. Young Nikolai is tasked with helping maintain the Veils, but is obsessed with the vanished world that was, indulging in Ready Player One-esque hunts for 20th century pop culture. When he discovers on one of his jaunts that humanity not only survived, but remains locked in a bloody war with powerful AIs called Synths, his faith in his world crumbles. When he meets Jem, a technologically augmented former ballerina turned Runner for the fading human resistance, he knows he’ll have to choose a side—and accept the consequences. The publisher calls this one “Harry Potter meets the Terminator,” and we’re inclined to agree; there’s a lot going on here, but it’s all great fun to puzzle out.
The Phoenix Express, by K. Arsenault Rivera
(October 9, Tor Books—Paperback)
Rivera made a splash last year with her richly romantic debut The Tiger’s Daughter, an epic fantasy story inspired by Asian cultures and told using a variety of narrative techniques, including epistolary narration and second-person sequences that feel like the stuff of role-playing games. The second book in the Their Bright Ascendancy series continues the story of a worldwide empire that’s crumbling into chaos, beset by monsters creeping from the dark edges—and the two very different young women who find themselves bound together by love and destiny. As the sequel opens, Shefali and Shizuka have been apart for eight years, but are still bound to each other. As the demonic invasion gathers force, however, they struggle to find trust again, as Rivera dives deep into character exploration, worldbuilding, and lore, and trusts her readers to keep up.
There Before the Chaos, by K.B. Wagers
(October 9, Orbit—Paperback)
Wagers’ woman-led space operas offer a perfect blend of political intrigue and realistically-conveyed action. There Before the Chaos kicks off a sequel series to her popular trilogy The Indranan War, which detailed the rise of Hailimi “Hail” Bristol from self-exiled gunrunner to empress of the Indranan Empire, and her battles against enemies both obvious and hidden. Having saved her family’s empire, Hail’s concerns now turn outward, as one of the empire’s oldest allies, the Farians, march to war against another power, with potential consequences that are disastrous for the Indranans. Kick-butt women, space battles, complex relationships, and fiendish plots abound.
The Black Khan, by Ausma Zehanat Khan
(October 16, Harper Voyager—Paperback)
Khan has made a dramatic shift from crime fiction to fantasy with the Khorasan Archives series, set in a world where a male-dominated regime called the Talisman seeks to enslave women and hold the world in ignorant thrall. In the first book, the all-female Companions of Hira banded together to seek the the titular Bloodprint, a powerful text that holds the power to destroy the Talisman—but in the end, they failed. As volume two opens, they are scattered, in danger, and being tortured by their foes. But hope survives because the Bloodprint still exists, and the Companions have learned where it is being held. Khan draws on her Muslim heritage and Middle Eastern history to root her dark fantasy in distressingly believable realities, and avoids the middle book slump by ramping up complex plot twists, character betrayals, and other surprises with a crime-writer’s aplomb.
Tomorrow Factory, by Rich Larson
(October 16, Talos—Paperback)
This has been a year of debuts for Larson, a short fiction wunderkind who has had more than 100 stories published in just about every major SFF market, from Asimov’s to Tor.com. His debut novel, Annex, dropped in July, and now arrives his debut collection, loaded with twenty-three stories that make a case for his reputation as one of the most promising young writers in genre today. Across straightforward short fiction, flash, and even verse, Larson explores possible futures and alternate universes, putting an inventive spin on tried-and-true tropes and exploring new ideas all his own. The stories collected here have appeared in eight different “Best of the Year” anthologies; opener “All That Robot Shit,” voted the best short story of 2016 in an Asimov’s reader poll, is a great starting point.
The Consuming Fire, by John Scalzi
(October 16, Tor Books—Hardcover)
Scalzi’s second novel of 2018, after Head On, is another sequel, this one the follow-up to his space opera The Collapsing Empire. This volume dips into Dune-esque politics as the Wu family, rulers of the interstellar empire known as the Interdependency, battle scheming enemies at court who don’t believe the Flow—the natural phenomenon that allows instant travel between vast distances—is truly collapsing. This apocalyptic event would destroy human civilization, but the desperate Emperox Grayland II finds all her efforts to stave off disaster frustrated. Scalzi loads this one up with space battles and skulduggery, and sets it within a deeply imagined, all-too-relevant universe, reminding us in the bargain why he’s among sci-fi’s most popular, most reliable working writers.
Mutiny at Vesta, by R.E. Stearns
(October 16, Saga Press—Paperback)
Stearns introduced Adda Karpe and Iridian Nassir last year in her tense locked space station thriller debut Barbary Station, quickly establishing them among sci-fi’s most endearing and admirably capable queer couples. Having defeated an insane AI and earned their place as part of pirate Captain Sloane’s legendary space pirate crew, they’re off to Sloane’s home of Vesta to start raking in the ill-gotten gains. Unfortunately, the universe laughs while engineers-turned-pirates make plans, and Adda and Iridian soon find themselves less free than when they were fighting for their lives on Barbary Station. Stearns brings together thrilling action and twisty, heist-centric plotting for a second volume even stronger than the first.
Red Rising B&N Exclusive Edition, by Pierce Brown
(October 23, Del Rey—Hardcover)
Return to the first volume of Brown’s revolutionary space opera trilogy with this special edition reissue of his bestselling debut. The Red Rising series has taken on the status of new genre classic, telling the story of a color-coded solar empire modeled on ancient Roman swagger and built on ruthless genetic manipulation. In this series-opener, Darrow, a laboring Red on Mars, grows weary of people treated like a tool to be used and thrown away by the ruthless, ruling Golds. Pulled into a vast conspiracy, he undergoes painful surgeries in order to pass as one of the aristocratic elites, and takes place in a deadly sort of gladiatorial games; winning them will position him to increase his status and take down the system from the inside. This exclusive B&N edition features an alternate cover and full-color endpapers, as well as a new preface by the author.
The Dream Gatherer, by Kristen Britain
(October 23, DAW—Hardcover)
Twenty years and five sequels ago, Kristen Britain launched a beloved epic fantasy series with The Green Rider, following the titular central heroes in a sort of postal service/spy network. The series draws on her own history as a former ranger with the National Parks service and her current life in the desert—as someone who has spent her life out in nature, her descriptions of her fantasy world feel rich and vibrant. The central heroes of the story, the Green Riders themselves, are a sort of combination of postal workers and spies. To celebrate the two-decade milestone (and ease the wait for the next full-length volume), Britain offers up the titular novella—featuring series faves the Berry Sisters—and two additional short stories, each featuring illustrations she created herself. It’s a must for fans.
Cold Iron, by Miles Cameron
(October 23, Orbit—Paperback)
Under a variety of pen names, Cameron has written extensively in historical fiction and epic fantasy, including, most recently, the expansive Traitor Son Cycle. He credits the remarkable levels of verisimilitude he’s able to bring to these stories to his military service, his training as a historian, and his enthusiasm for historical reenactments, which force him to learn how to recreate the past and give him insight into how people interacted, dressed, and lived in ancient times. His new series, Masters & Mages, kicks off with Cold Iron, telling the story of a talented young mage named Arnathur, who finds himself compelled to train under a legendary sword master after revealing his surprising skill with a blade and begins questioning that path even as he’s drawn into the intrigue surrounding a growing revolt. Cameron brings an intimate knowledge of history and warfare to a remarkably complex, real-feeling work of epic fantasy.
Roar of Sky, by Beth Cato
(October 23, Harper Voyager—Paperback)
With the Breath of Earth series, set in an alternate San Francisco that’s part of a Japan-USA super empire known as the United Pacific, and taking place before, during, and after the great earthquake of 1906, Cato has created a genre unto itself—one combining elements of historical fiction, alternate history, steampunk, and urban fantasy. In this concluding volume, a weakened but defiant geomancer named Ingrid Carmichael (whose father was discovered to have magically caused the earthquake in the first place) flees to Hawaii to seek out her roots and evade the insane grasp of Ambassador Blum, who wants to use her power to further her own nefarious ends. Cato’s historically grounded worldbuilding and fierce protagonist have made this series a highlight of the past three years; we’re sorry to see this series reach its ending—but what a climactic ending it is.
The Son of Black Thursday, by Alejandro Jodorowsky
(October 23, Restless Books—Hardcover)
Sci-fi fans might best know Jodorowsky as the man who utterly failed to get a 14-hour film version of Dune into production, but his career encompasses much more than that legendary debacle. He’s also written for comics and penned novels, and now, publisher Restless Books is translating some of his fantasy-autobiographical books into English for the first time. The Son of Black Thursday tells the story of Jodorowsky’s family’s move from Ukraine to Chile, and his early life there—but adds into the mix a healthy dose of surrealism and the sort of sci-fi flourishes that have always characterized his work. It’s not so much a memoir as a science fiction version of Jodorowsky’s epic life.
Thin Air, by Richard K. Morgan
(October 23, Del Rey—Hardcover)
Earlier this year, a whole new audience was introduced to Morgan’s work via the Netflix adaptation of his debut, Altered Carbon, meaning the timing is perfect for this new story from the English writer. Thin Air is more of what Morgan does best: dark, gritty sci-fi noir. In the future, Mars has become a battleground for ruthless forces back on Earth, even as a native independence movement gains steam among the red planet’s permanent residents. Hakan Veil is a professional enforcer with body tech that makes him deadly, but he’s tired of being the heavy on Mars, and just wants to back to a planet with a breathable atmosphere. In classic noir tradition, he gets his chance via one last mission: protecting a visiting investigator for the Earth Oversight organization. The ensuing events threaten not just the balance of power on Mars, but the lives of Veil and his client; as Morgan’s regular readers will expect, things are going to get bloody fast.
Red Moon, by Kim Stanley Robinson
(October 23, Orbit—Hardcover)
Robinson leaves the waterlogged Big Apple of New York 2140 to explore humanity’s future off-planet in Red Moon, as a political conspiracy unfolds on Earth’s satellite in a novel that harkens back to his landmark Mars trilogy. In the near future, the moon has been colonized by both the United States and China. The uneasy peace between the two countries is threatened when American Fred Fredericks is somehow involved in the poisoning of Governor Chang of the Chinese colony. Fredericks finds himself fighting for his life as he and an illegally pregnant Chinese woman named Qi race to return to Earth. As always, Robinson employs careful research and exacting worldbuilding as he traces current events into an entirely plausible future—it’s a novel that considers, among many other things, what role blockchain might play in our lunar colonial future.
A Conspiracy of Truths, by Alexandra Rowland
(October 23, Saga Press—Hardcover)
Rowland’s major debut (she self-published the novel In the End in 2012) is a story about stories. Chant, a member of an order of wandering storytellers, finds himself arrested on baffling charges of espionage in the realm of Nuryevet, a country run by five elected rulers. A Conspiracy of Truths has a bifurcated tone: half-comic in the exaggerated grandiloquence of Chant’s stories and self-regard, and maybe more than half-tragic in the events that inevitably unfold. Our narrator knows the power of stories, and his weaving of them from the depths of his incarceration ends up being the seismic event that shakes the very foundations of Nuryevet.
The Monster Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson
(October 30, Tor Books—Hardcover)
With The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Dickinson showed an impressive talent for executing an epic fantasy rich in worldbuilding, complex in character, and brutally exacting in its clockwork plotting. Baru Cormorant rose off the page as one of the most flawed, fascinating characters to come out of fantasy in a long time, her incandescent rage and patient desire for revenge but a few of her visceral qualities. In the first book, she survived the destruction of her culture and death of her loved ones at the hands of the Empire of Masks and feigned obedience in order to rise within its ranks and orchestrate its epic downfall from the inside. As The Monster Baru Cormorant opens, she finds herself, finally, a powerful member of the empire she’s vowed to destroy, yet psychically damaged by the effort it took to get there, to the point that she can no longer trust her own motivations. With this second of a planned four-volume epic, Dickinson has done something incredible by deepening our understanding of a fabulously complex, compelling character.
Alice Isn’t Dead, by Joseph Fink
(October 30, Harper Perennial—Hardcover)
As he did with Welcome to Night Vale and It Devours!, in Alice Isn’t Dead, Joseph Fink transforms one of his popular podcasts into a novel. (The same-titled show, which completed its third and final season in 2018, is also being developed for television.) The story follows Keisha, a long-haul truck driver on a cross-country search for clues regarding her missing wife, who she refuses to believe is actually dead. The journey leads her into a complex web of dark conspiracies and stomach-churning terror. Fink was inspired by his experiences living in and out of his van while driving around the country performing live episodes of Welcome to Night Vale; taken as a travelogue of these weird United States, it’s by turns haunting, touching, and downright terrifying, with a particularly memorable villain—a slouching bag of distended flesh known as the Hungry Man—who will stalk your nightmares.
Astounding, by Alec Nevala-Lee
(October 23, Dey Street Books—Hardcover)
Harvard-grad Lee has published three novels and several short stories, earning a reputation as one of the smartest young SFF writers out there. His first non-fiction work focuses on the Golden Age of Science Fiction, a period roughly between 1935 and 1950, when John W. Campbell and Astounding Science Fiction seemed to single-handedly define—and regularly redefine—the genre, with the able assistance of three of the era’s most important writers: Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard (yes, that L. Ron Hubbard). In this history-cum-narrative, Lee examines what made Campbell and his writers so important, and doesn’t flinch away from these icons’ later wanderings into the fringe. The end result is a welcome analysis of one of the most significant periods in science fiction’s history, explored by a talented writer with a clear love for the genre.
Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy, by Amy Ratcliffe
(October 30, Chronicle Books—Hardcover)
Star Wars is no latecomer to gender equality, slave Leia costume notwithstanding. From the very first film, the galaxy’s women (well, woman, anyway) have played key roles in the story, and it’s high time that legacy is celebrated. Seventy-five of the most important and consequential female characters of the galaxy far, far away are profiled in this volume, including Leia Organa, Rey, Ahsoka Tano, Jyn Erso, and many more. Rare backstory, relevant biographical details, and key moments in the saga’s ever-expanding story are featured alongside more than 100 illustrations that bring these women to vibrant life. Amy Ratcliffe, managing editor of Nerdist and a Star Wars superfan (she cohosts not one but two Star Wars podcasts, Full of Sith and Lattes with Leia) pens the character profiles, guaranteeing that this resource volume is both faithful to continuity, and fun to read.
The Labyrinth Index, by Charles Stross
(October 30, Tor Books—Hardcover)
Over the course of eight novels and three novelettes, computer scientist and author Stross’s Laundry Files series has brought together many, many elements that just shouldn’t go—namely Lovecraftian horrors, bleak office humor, spy thrillers, and plain old sci-fi—to create one of the most amusing, intricate sci-fi horror series running. In this latest entry, he ups the ante by mixing Elder Gods, Nazgûl, vampires, and yet more frustrating bureaucracy into the mix as head of the Lords Select Committee on Sanguinary Affairs, Mhairi Murphey, struggles to deal with her awful boss while searching for the missing American President—who no one in the U.S. seems to care about, or even remember. Once again, Stross manages to tell a fantastic story rife with dark humor, political satire, and plain, old-fashioned fun.
Finding Baba Yaga, by Jane Yolen
(October 30, Tor Books—Paperback)
Nebula-winning Yolen has written hundreds of books and long ago achieved legendary status, but instead of coasting, she continues to challenge herself and her readers. Finding Baba Yaga is not only written in delightful, modern verse, and not only takes inspiration from an old Russian fairy tale, it is also a subtle, powerful take on the #MeToo movement. Natasha flees her abusive, unhappy home and comes across a hut that moves under its own power, walking on chicken legs. She’s taken in by legendary witch Baba Yaga, and carves out a wholly unexpected life for herself that begins with her finding her own voice, and ends with her using her voice to make things happen.
The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, by Ursula K. Le Guin and Charles Vess
(October 30, Saga Press—Hardcover)
Weighing in at over five pounds and extending to nearly 1,000 pages, this is the definitive single-volume collection of all of Ursula K. Le Guin’s novels, stories, and essays concerning the magical island nations of Earthsea. Working in close collaboration with the author, illustrator Charles Vess presents a slightly whimsical new vision of this fantasy realm—its people finally depicted dark skin, as in the text; his dragons, pure magic. The real treat for fans: a new short story, published in the Paris Review just months after Le Guin’s death, gives us the author’s true final words on Earthsea.