8 SFF Books to Read for an Endless Summer

While I would love summer to last year ’round, unfortunately the warm weather does have to end sometime. As the cold descends on us this fall and winter, there are plenty of fantasy and sci-fi reads to keep the heat coming. From the back-to-school adolescent adventures of Tamora Pierce’s prequel Tempests and Slaughter to the dark mystery of Juliet Marillier’s Heart’s Blood, here are eight tales of conspiracy, magic, and danger with summer settings to keep the fun going all through the year.

 

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

The long-awaited chronicle of Numair, future Tortallan mage extraordinaire, is focused on his time at school in Carthak. The story kicks off on August 30, the beginning of the fall term, as Arram Draper (as he was then known) heads off to school in Carthak.

This is the first glimpse Pierce fans get of the future black robe mage. It’s in the heat of late summer that Arram forms the bonds that will take him through his academic and personal adventures…including his BFF (then, anyway), Ozorne Tasikhe. This sets the stage for the inevitable rupture between the boys that catapults Arram to international fame (and to become the mage we know and love).

 

In the King’s Service by Katherine Kurtz

While some royal courts slumber in the summer or journey to seaside palaces, the Deryni court at Rhemuth schemes. This prequel to Kurtz’s classic High Deryni shows the machinations of both Deryni (a magical race) and humans.

Underlying tensions between humans and their Deryni counterparts pit mother against mother, courtier against courtier. The fight for precedence and, indeed, survival unfolds mostly over one steamy summer—with devastating effects, in typical Kurtz fashion. Furthermore, this volume sets up a battle that foreshadows future tensions in the rest of the trilogy and the birth of fan favorite Alaric Morgan.

 

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

In the summer of 1518, an odd disease that makes people dance (a real 16th-century plague) strikes Strasbourg…but is it illness, witchcraft, or a combination of both? Five hundred years later, a woman dons a pair of shoes that make her dance in an out-of-control manner once again.

Can the descendants of the family accused of causing the “plague” 500 years earlier help her stop dancing and survive? An intriguing and occasionally terrifying look into early modern psychology and plague.

 

A Summoning of Demons by Cate Glass

The final entry in the Ocean’s 11-meets-Tigana Chimera series begins in sweltering weather and continues under political pressure that’s just as hot. Magic is outlawed and practitioners actively persecuted, but Romy has managed to turn her forbidden talents into a side hustle, performing secret missions for Cantagna’s ruler with her friends.

When a puzzling new mission is assigned to the Chimera, Romy’s group of adventurer-colleagues, she must not only risk her life for Il Padrone, her former lover and ruler of Cantagna. She must also figure out the causes of sudden natural disasters in the city while figuring out whether magic, which she spent her life risking her life to protect, is actually causing all of the problems she’s trying to solve…

 

A Choir of Lies by Alexandra Rowland

Rowland’s follow-up to the masterful A Conspiracy of Truths follows at a slightly slower place and a more introspective protagonist: the emotionally-vulnerable Ylfing. During the events of Conspiracy, we saw Ylfing’s heart become irreparably broken.

As summer swells in his new home, Ylfing dwells on his pain, operating robotically and barely channeling his talents as a Chant. That is, until he gets caught up in a corporate scheme that threatens the people of the entire city. Even if right and wrong aren’t as clear-cut as he’d once thought, Ylfing realizes the essential wrongness of what’s going on. And he might just be the only one who can save the people of Heyrland, as the incoming tides of summer storms, and a capricious market, threaten to overwhelm Ylfing and everyone he’s come to care about.

 

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Summer brings relaxation for some…and rebellion for others! The brutal reality of the Martial Empire comes to vivid, sparkling life for our heroine, Laia. She who must battle the heat of the mid-year months in the desert while trying to free her brother—and, ultimately, her people—from imperial oppressors. Can she fight for freedom while keeping the people she loves most in the world safe?

This book kicks off a high-fantasy series in the best fashion, full of well-crafted intrigue, compelling espionage and rebellion, and strong young protagonists. Laia is a world-changing heroine who is as relatable as she is strong.

 

Renegades of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

Though a bit older, this beloved Pern title runs simultaneously in timeline to a number of McCaffrey’s other books. It its plotlines flesh out previously-untold backstories and provide more color–or more sunshine?–to the stories of Pern. As the summer winds on, we see the evolution of alpha villainess Thella, Lady Holdless, whose legacy rears its heads again and again throughout the series. Who can forget that Aramina in Dolphins of Pern is so scared of everything, threatening her son’s passion because of the threat Thella once posed to her family?

We also see the threads (pun intended) of Dragonsdawn and Chronicles of Pern woven in millennia later, as the descendants of original settler Joel Liliencamp play a pivotal role in helping Pern achieve justice, thousands of years after Joel first popped up in foundational Pernese adventures.

 

Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier

This spellbinding Beauty and the Beast retelling is Celtic fantasy master Marillier at her finest. Looking for work, a lone female scribe named Caitrin signs on to help out in a library tucked away in the dark castle of Whistling Tor.

Before she knows it, she must uncover the mystery haunting a dark castle and its reclusive lord, Anluan, by the end of the summer. If she fails at her seemingly impossible task, the entire community might t succumb to the ancient spell she’s sworn to unravel.

 

A public historian, Carly Silver has written for BBC News, History Today, Smithsonian, Atlas Obscura, The Atlantic, Narratively, ThoughtCo/About.com (for which she served as the ancient/classical history expert), Biblical Archaeology, Eidolon, All That’s Interesting, and other publications. She works as an associate editor at HarperCollins and resides in Brooklyn, New York.

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