2019 was a really good year for genre fiction. I mean, really good. Between new epics from Leigh Bardugo, Erin Morgenstern, Chuck Wendig, Sarah Gailey, Paul Krueger, Annalee Newitz, and other favorites, we were given the gift of Tamsyn Muir’s lesbian necromancers in Gideon the Ninth, brought through to new worlds in Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January, and introduced to several new shining stars in the galaxy of Science-Fiction and Fantasy books. But as the year comes to a close, we’re starting to look forward to the start of a new decade. After all, a to-be-read pile can never be tall enough—our bookshelves might be starting to cave in, but that’s not going to stop us!
Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore (Feiwel & Friends, January 14)
I honestly don’t know what kind of demon Anna-Marie McLemore sacrificed themselves to in order to be able to write like they do, but it must have been a powerful one. As the Prince of Contemporary Magical Realism, McLemore’s prose just consistently knocks it out of the park. This one is not so much a Snow White retelling as it is a complete reimagining, a whole do-over, scrap everything you know and devour this one instead. No. Don’t argue with me. I said what I said.
Infinity Son by Adam Silvera (HarperTeen, January 14)
King of hearbreaking mlm stories and haver of flawless skin, Adam Silvera debuts his first fantasy series with Infinity Son. The story follows brothers Emil and Brighton through a magical New York as they struggle with a feeling I think we all feel—the envy and disappointment that comes along with not having magical powers. As a magical war between magic-havers and magic-stealers wages around them, one brother gets pulled into the fight in a way neither of them expected. The story is fast-paced and exciting, but intensely personal too. Plus, in that classic Silvera way, it’s got All The Feels.
Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi (Tor.com Publishing, January 21)
Listen, Tochi Onyebuchi is one of the smartest people I know, and has crafted a world so elegant and exciting I want to personally shove this book into everyone’s hands. Not a joke: if you see me on the street, going up to strangers and sneakily putting Riot Baby into their bags, don’t be surprised. Ella has the gift of premonition and Kev, her brother, is sworn to protect her. But a world full of racism and disparity is against them. The narrative is a powerful take on the Black American experience and the systems that work against us, but also has an immense capacity for hope, love, and fearlessness. A true accomplishment.
The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood (Tor Books, February 11)
Do I have to say anything other than hot lady orcs to get you interested in this one? No, I didn’t think so. Our protagonist, Csorwe, thinks she knows what fate has in store for her: she’s set to be the sacrifice for the Shrine of the Unspoken. But when a powerful mage comes along and offers her a choice, life becomes way more than she imagined it could be, and way more complicated. Larkwood’s prose will catch you hook, line, and sinker, and just when you thought you couldn’t get invested in a new series, The Unspoken Name is sure to swoop in and make you think again. It’s epic in the true sense of the word, and truly just…*chef’s kiss*
Docile by K.M. Szpara (Tor.com Publishing, March 3)
Okay, here’s what you need to know about Docile: it takes place in a too-near-to-feel-comfortable future where debt is inherited by family members, but can be worked off through…let’s just say it: servitude. Elisha makes the choice to become a Docile for a man named Alex, who also happens to be heir to the company that makes Dociline—the drug that keeps Dociles under control. What unfolds is messy, anti-capitalist, pro-human rights epic sexiness. I wouldn’t do Docile the disservice of comparing it to that other well-known kink narrative—it is much more complex than that. All I can say is: hold on to your collars, kids.
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas (Bloomsbury, March 3)
In her first series for adults, Maas is doing what she does best: creating a world full of magic, adventure, and hella sexy romance. When party girl Bryce’s roommate Dani (who also happens to be the leader of Crescent City’s shifter squad) gets murdered, her whole world gets turned on its head. But it all gets wrapped up, and Bryce returns to her life. Two years later when the murders start again, Bryce gets pulled into the investigation and a cross-continental war full of magical creatures and dark secrets. It’s a unique urban fantasy with magical cell phones and archangels. What’s not to love?
The Electric Heir by Victoria Lee (Skyscape, March 17)
The sequel to thicc boi The Fever King is even thiccer, and knowing Mx. Lee’s excellent understanding of character development and their skill at creating tense situations (sexual or otherwise), The Electric Heir is sure to leave us all on the edge of our seats. Our boy Noam is a technopath working to overthrow the government in order to protect undocumented immigrants affected by magical outbreaks. Book two gives us even more political intrigue, even more sticky situations, and even more magic.
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit, March 24)
Of course we’re stoked for the new one from Queen Jemisin, Patron Saint of Sci-Fi That Knocks The Breath Outta You. Sentient New York City? Ancient evil? City kids kicking ass? Heck yes, sign me tf up.
Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 7)
You know what I love? A novel that flips a trope on its head so completely, we’re forced to rethink everything we know. That’s what Roth is doing with Chosen Ones, a story about five teenagers who have already saved the world and have to get back to real life afterwards. But of course, that isn’t so easy. Roth is a magician when it comes to well-crafted dystopias, and this is her first book for adults. I honestly can’t wait to see how this story deals with fame, trauma, mental health, and the fate of the world.
The Last Emperox by John Scalzi (Tor Books, April 14)
That’s right, this is the last book in the incredible Interdependency series, Scalzi’s space opera trilogy. We’re finally going to find out the fates of Emperox Grayland and her people in this stunning story about the true weight of power, sacrifice, and trying to keep control. The ride so far has been truly wild, and we know Scalzi is capable of even more. This one is sure to keep us flipping pages and wishing it would never end.
Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova (Disney-Hyperion, April 28)
This is the start of a brand new series by Zoraida Córdova, author of the brilliant Brooklyn Brujas series. Inspired by Spain during the Inquisition, Cordova has created a beautiful world full of thieves, spies, kings, and everything we love in an epic fantasy story. Following a memory thief named Renata (whom I’m already in love with), we set off on a top secret mission to save the lives of the people of Moria, and the boy Renata cares for. Knowing Córdova’s talent for slow burn romances and inventive brujeria, this one is sure to be a BANGER.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games, #0) by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, May 19)
Katinss Everdeen took the world by storm in the Hunger Games trilogy, a story about rebellion in the face of a government that demanded human sacrifice, disparity, and fear. In this new book, we revisit the world of Panem sixty-four years earlier for the Tenth Hunger Games. I’m excited to read more about how Panem came to be so damn terrible, and just how different the Games were at the start. More anti-fascist dystopia? I Volunteer.
Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing, June 2)
So anyway if you haven’t read Gideon the Ninth yet, log off the internet right now and get yourself to a library or bookstore. And then pre-order Gideon’s woman, Harrow. Tamsyn Muir’s weird, gothic, beautiful world of queer space necromancers gets expanded in Harrow the Ninth, as we focus in on our favorite angel of death (or maybe undeath), Harrowhark Nonagesimus as she forges her own path and finds herself. The strength of Muir’s storytelling and unique prose is really on display here to the point that it’s almost sickening. Like, Tamsyn, how dare you?? How dare you be this good. Hot damn.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (Feiwel & Friends, June 9)
Okay, just hear me out: trans boy Yadriel summons a ghost and then can’t get rid of him. Now, said ghost (Julian) determined to cause some trouble while he has the opportunity. Yeah, we love a bad boy, especially a stupid hot Latinx ghost boy. Cemetery Boys is giving us everything: brujería, romance, hijinx, and real heartwarming friendship. This one is just what your heart needs right now and it absolutely cannot be in my hands soon enough.
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow (TorTeen, June 2)
You know what we love? Stories about female friendship. You know what we love even more? When those two friends are young black women trying to make their way in the world. Even more than that? When one of them is a siren, and the other is being haunted by her past. When the murder of another siren shocks the world, Tavia must protect her secret. With Effie at her side, the two girls fight to keep each other safe and sane in a story about friendship, legacy, and magic. Morrow’s debut MEM knocked me full on my ass, and this one will do no less for you.
A Peculiar Peril (The Misadventures of Jonathan Lambshead) by Jeff VanderMeer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux BFYR, July 7)
VanderMeer has been called a lot of things—a master of weird fiction, “the weird Thoreau”, “possibly haunted”, “really a komodo dragon” (okay, that last one he said himself)—but one thing is for sure: he’s one of the most interesting writers working today. After blowing our minds with Borne and the Southern Reach trilogy, VanderMeer is giving us a YA novel about a boy investigating his grandfather’s death, which is definitely not from natural causes. In fact, it might have been from the most unnatural causes. It might have been something behind one of three strange doors. It might be something you wish you didn’t know about. The first of two books, A Peculiar Peril is gonna be one you’ll be talking about even after the final page.
The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books, July 14)
MORE. LADY. ASTRONAUTS! Hugo Award winning Mary Robinette Kowal gives the people what they want with this new addition to her series about women who are kicking ass and taking names in space. The Relentless Moon takes place in parallel to The Fated Sky (book 2) and focuses on Nicole Wargin and Myrtle Lindholm in the Lunar colony. I don’t know about you, but I’m about ready to inject this straight into my heart.
Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley (MCDx FSG/FSGOriginals, August 25, 2020)
Author of The Mere Wife (a Beowulf retelling from the perspective of Grendel’s mother) and all around badass Maria Dahvana Headley has gifted us with a new translation of our favorite warrior-kills-monster-then-monster mama-kicks-ass tale, Beowulf. I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for classical folklore through a modern lens, so I’m really excited for this. Plus, if this tweet is anything to go by, it’s going to be a joy ride:
In case you missed it yesterday.
The first word of this translation is “Bro.”
And Grendel’s Mother is a warrior woman, not an “ugly troll lady.”
Among other things. 🐉🔥 https://t.co/rLDbF0cQ99
— Maria DahvanaHeadley (@MARIADAHVANA) November 13, 2019
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson (Del Rey, August 4)
The multiverse exists, with one caveat: if your AU self is still alive, you can’t travel to their world. Fortunately for Cara, her other selves keep dying, so she’s in a unique position to hop between worlds. But of course, her ability gets coopted because Capitalism, and of course, shit eventually hits the proverbial fan. This is such a wild story unlike anything you’ve ever read before and I genuinely can’t wait for it to be in everyone’s hands. It’s a book that asks questions about who we are as people, what makes you you, and how we find our place in the world.
A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine (Tor Books, September 15)
A Memory Called Empire was honestly a knockout in the way that we always want books to be: truly fantastic worldbuilding that feels so real you just want to be a part of it, characters that grow and glow, and a mystery that keeps getting more and more complicated as it goes on. A Desolation Called Peace builds on that and gives us more in a way we’d never expect. Martine has crafted a space opera so compulsively readable it almost gives me whiplash.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury, September 15)
The author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is BACK WITH A VENGEANCE, announcing two new books coming out after a 15-year hiatus. The first, Piranesi, genuinely has me so hype I don’t know if I’ll be able to wait until September. This is mainly because it involves some of my favorite narrative features: a CREEPY HOUSE and a CREEPY NAMELESS SCIENTIST. Gimme some postmodern naming techniques and mysterious messages from another world. It’s gonna be so good.
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini (Tor Books, September 15)
The writer of Eragon is back with a galaxy-spanning sci-fi adventure centered around discovery and first contact. The story kicks off when xenobiologist Kira Navárez finds an unexpected alien relic, and evolves into a tale full of everything we love about science fiction. Paolini is a master storyteller, and this one is sure to become another necessary read.
Between Earth and Sky by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga Press, TBA 2020)
We don’t know much about this new book from one of our greatest SFF writers, but what we do know is that Rebecca Roanhorse is sure to BRING. IT. This is the start of a new epic fantasy trilogy inspired by Ancestral Puebloan culture, featuring a matriarchal society, dark magic, and what is sure to be a complex web of secrets and schemes. Roanhorse is adding to a growing canon of epic fantasy that defies expectations (read: Western traditions), and this one is definitely a can’t-miss.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (Tor Books, TBA 2020)
Lemme say a thing about Victoria Schwab. She knows what she’s doing, and she’s very good at it, and she gets better and better with every new release. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is classic Schwab: a gothic aesthetic, a badass woman at the center, and some dark magic chaos. When Addie LaRue sells her soul to live forever, she’s cursed to be forgotten by those she meets. Then one day, she meets someone who remembers her. This one is gonna fit on your shelf right between The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus and Wuthering Heights.
Stormlight Archive Book #4 by Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books, TBA 2020)
If you’re anything like us here at Tor.com, you’ve been anxiously following Sanderson’s updates on the new addition to the Stormlight Archive. What we can expect from Sanderson’s return to Roshar and the Cosmere universe is a delightfully complex narrative featuring multiple viewpoints, possible flashbacks to characters we’ve loved and lost, and what will likely be a book so huge you could kill a dude with it. Sanderson is so skilled at crafting fantasy worlds, it’s no wonder he’s become a household name. Stormlight 4 is sure to blow all other epics out of the water.