I don’t know how we got all the way to July, but here we are. I hope that one day I’ll be writing this up and I’ll get to say “it’s been a great year”, or “time has passed normally”, or “nothing shitty happened”, but that doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon. The good news is, there are still books to look forward to, which is a balm for our uneasy 2022 souls.
Recently I spent some time with my friends in the mountains of Vermont, a blissful getaway filled with laughter, good food, and gorgeous sunsets. Every time we get together I think about how wonderful it is to sit around a table and have conversations about ghosts and cryptids and woodland faeries, and have those topics be taken seriously. As a child interested in fantasy and sci-fi, I was frequently told that I ought to stay in the “real world”, that I had trouble discerning between fiction and reality. And maybe that’s true, but fiction—and fantasy in particular—was the lens through which I understood the world. Those things were as real to me as anything else, and I never really understood why that was wrong. This is cultural, of course—outside of the US, there are peoples that encourage the fantastic as part of their cultural imagination, and it shows in the writing they produce. But I count myself lucky now to have a social circle and a profession that allows me to indulge in speculative thought, and that believes in the power of fantasy and sci-fi storytelling. Not only does it help us understand ourselves as individuals and our place in the world, but SFF is an undeniable force in pop culture at large. These stories are important, especially when the world is crumbling around us. And they are beautiful.
Now it’s time to get your calendars out, cuz there are a lot of books I want to tell you about.
Firstly, I’ve got a couple pub date changes I want you to keep an eye on, because you absolutely cannot miss the new Simon Jiminez, The Spear Cuts Through Water, which moved to August 30 (it’s INCREDIBLE). The Honeys from Ryan La Sala moved to August 3, and A Taste of Gold and Iron from Alexandra Rowland also moved to August 30.
You may have already heard that we’re getting a short story collection from the great Alan Moore called Illuminations (October 11, Bloomsbury), which I, personally, cannot wait for. The Pallbearers Club from Paul Tremblay came out last week (July 5, William Morrow), we’ve got a new Last King of Osten Ard novel from Tad Williams, Into the Narrowdark (July 12, DAW), and R.A. Salvatore continues the new Drizzt series with Glacier’s Edge (August 9, Harper Voyager). There’s also a new Dune, The Heir of Caladan, from Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (November 22, Tor Books), the latest in Andrzej Sapkowski’s Hussite Trilogy, Light Perpetual (October 25, Orbit), and Wayward (November 15, Del Rey) by horror master Chuck Wendig, the follow up to Wanderers. Excitingly, we’re also getting a new N. K. Jemisin, The World We Make (November 1, Orbit), the next in the Great Cities series started by The City We Became. Plus, I know you’re all getting ready for The Lost Metal, the next Mistborn novel from Brandon Sanderson (November 15, Tor Books).
There are a plethora of sequels and new additions to beloved series coming out too. Becky Chambers continues her absolutely perfect Monk & Robot series with A Prayer for the Crown-Shy (July 12, Tordotcom Publishing), and we’ve got a new Singing Hills novella from Nghi Vo titled Into the Riverlands (October 25, Tordotcom Publishing). We’ve got another adventure with Captain Eva Innocente in Fault Tolerance by Valerie Valdes (August 2, Harper Voyager); the next in Tasha Suri’s epic fantasy series, The Oleander Sword (August 16, Orbit); a follow-up to Defy the Night, from Brigid Kemmerer, Defend the Dawn (September 13, Bloomsbury YA); the next in the Legendborn Cycle, Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn (November 8, Simon & Schuster BFYR); The Atlas Paradox, the next twisty dark academia from Olivie Blake (October 25, Tor Books); the sequel to Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber, The Ballad of Never After (September 13, Flatiron); the next in Ayana Gray’s series, Beasts of Ruin (July 26, Putnam BFYR); Kerstin Hall’s Second Spear, follow-up to The Border Keeper (August 16, Tordotcom Publishing); Seasparrow, the fifth novel in the Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore (October 25, Dutton BFYR); Fall of the Iron Gods, the sequel to Rise of the Red Hand by Olivia Chadha (September 13, Erewhon); the next in Seanan Maguire (writing as A. Deborah Baker)’s Up-and-Under series, Into the Windwracked Wilds (October 25, Tordotcom Publishing); the next historical fantasy romance adventure from Freya Marske, A Restless Truth (November 1, Tordotcom Publishing); Kit Rocha’s next Mercenary Librarians book, Dance with the Devil (August 16, Tor Books); Heart of the Sun Warrior by Sue Lynn Tan, the follow up to Daughter of the Moon Goddess (November 15, Harper Voyager); and H.A. Clarke’s The Scratch Daughters, the long-awaited sequel to The Scapegracers (October 25, Erewhon).
We’ve got the conclusion to TJ Klune’s teen superheroes The Extraordinaries in Heat Wave (July 12, Tor Teen), the wrap-up to Ryan Van Loan’s trilogy, The Memory in the Blood (July 5, Tor Books); the final entry in the Kingdoms of Sand and Sky series from Sarah Henning, The King Will Kill You (August 2, Tor Teen); the end of the First Sister Trilogy, The Last Hero by Linden A. Lewis (November 8, Saga); the conclusion of the dark duology from Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman All of Our Demise (August 30, Tor Teen); the second in Judy I. Lin’s Book of Tea duology, A Venom Dark and Sweet (August 23, Feiwel & Friends); the wrap-up to Kylie Lee Baker’s Keeper of the Night duology, The Empress of Time (October 4, Inkyard); the last from Rosaria Munda’s Aurelian Cycle, Furysong (August 9, Putnam BFYR); and the finale of Nick Martell’s epic fantasy series, The Voyage of the Forgotten (November 1, Saga).
Other major releases to put on your calendar include: Daphne from Josh Malerman, Devil’s Gun by Cat Rambo, a fairy tale collection called Marigold and Rose from Nobel and Pulitzer prize winner Louise Glück, sci-fi mystery The Spare Man from Mary Robinette Kowal, Veronica Roth’s next adult dystopia Poster Girl, and Susan Dennard’s next YA fantasy The Luminaries. And you won’t want to miss Dead Man’s Hand, the debut novel from James J. Butcher, son of Jim Butcher, plus the extensive history of one of the most iconic fantasy series, Origins of The Wheel of Time: The Legends and Mythologies that Inspired Robert Jordan, from Michael Livingston.
Wait, hold on, here’s something I’m missing… something big…
OH RIGHT: NONA.
Nona the Ninth, the next installment of Tamsyn Miur’s Locked Tomb series, is out in September. Get ready — does the Locked Tomb fandom have a name? Tombers? Gideonites? Skulls & Gays? We’ll workshop that.
In addition to those titles, here are 30 upcoming SFF releases that I think deserve your special attention. Trust me, they’re all excellent, and you won’t want to miss them!
What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher (July 12, Nightfire)
T. Kingfisher is so good at painting visuals it’s almost annoying, like I’ve-got-to-put-this-down-for-5-minutes-to-breathe-it’s-that-good annoying. This was a balm for my gothic-loving soul, both aesthetically and linguistically, and I can’t wait for you all to join me on the moors. What Moves the Dead is Kingfisher’s retelling of Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher that features one of our favorite horror tropes: weird ass mushrooms. We follow ex-soldier Alex Easton as they head to see childhood friend, Madeline Usher, who has taken ill, as has her brother Roderick. Alex, along with an American doctor called Denton, is, of course, worried for their friends’ health, and even more worried about the strange house of legend. Little do they know there’s darkness lurking in the walls and in the land, and Madeline and Roderick’s fates are irrevocably tied to it. What Moves the Dead is lush and genuinely creepy in the most delightful way. Put this one on your shelf next to Mexican Gothic.
Gods of Want by K-Ming Chang (July 12, One World)
Yes, I am trying to get you to read more story collections, and this one should be near (if not at) the top of your list. K-Ming Chang’s quest to bring us brilliant fabulist stories about Asian-American culture and mythology is on full display in Gods of Want, a sparkling series of stories that tackle everything from ghost cousins to living inside a plastic shark to armies of aunties. Chang’s unique look at life in the margins takes surrealist and horrific turns that explore family, desire, queerness, belonging, and memory. Gods of Want is an absolute stunner that defies expectation and categorization. Get ready to have your heart yanked out.
Wake the Bones by Elizabeth Kilcoyne (July 12, Wednesday)
There has been a big boom of YA horror lately, for understandable reasons (cuz, life). Wake the Bones is a southern gothic-y addition to the forming canon, filled with bones and blood and weird shit happening in the woods (which is my absolute favorite kind of weird shit). Laurel, taxidermist and college dropout was supposed to be working her uncle’s tobacco farm when she and her friends came across a pool of blood leading into the woods. She doesn’t know how, but it’s clear that something is coming, and it’s coming for Laurel. It might just be the same thing that haunted her mother, causing her tragic death years ago. Soon enough Laurel’s having wild nightmares and being chased by bone creatures, and that’s only the beginning. Oh, and on top of that, she’s dealing with romantic entanglements, because the girl can’t catch a break. Wake the Bones is a slowburn horror with earthy magic and folklore elements. It is a perfect summer read, if I do say so myself.
Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey (July 19, Tor Books)
Family is hard, and sometimes the people we love turn out to be not great people—and sometimes they turn out to be monsters. Sarah Gailey takes this idea and runs a marathon with it in Just Like Home. The novel follows Vera as she returns to the home she grew up in, the home her father built—her father the serial killer, that is. But her father is not the only horror in the house, and the narrative is spent reckoning with the good, the bad, and the ugliness of their past—while Vera simultaneously deals with the artist who has come to mine their memories for their own work. This is more than a haunted house story, but is still very much the psychological horror-drama we love about that trope. Just Like Home deals heavily with mental health and toxic family dynamics in a style that is uniquely and unmistakably Gailey—beautiful, genre-defying chaos.
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (July 19, Del Rey)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We are in the Silvia Moreno-Garcia era of SFF. There have been no misses in her writing oeuvre as of yet, with (hopefully) much more to come. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is, you guessed it, a reimagining of the classic sci-fi novel. Through Moreno-Garcia’s vision, we are taken to Northern Mexico in the 19th century where we meet Carlota Moreau, living on a massive hacienda with her father—and her father’s experiments (or “hybrids”, his attempts to genetically splice human and animal in the hopes of creating a submissive work force). When the handsome son of her father’s benefactor rolls up unexpectedly and falls for Carlota, things start to go off the deep end, and Carlota’s comfortable life is disrupted. It is a wildly imaginative novel that delves into identity, ethics, colonialism, and more alongside a brewing romance and rising rebellion. If this one isn’t already on your list, I… don’t know how to talk to you anymore. What are you doing with your life, dude. Get on it.
A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows (July 26, Tor Books)
We’re in a true renaissance for fantasy romance, and A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is a heart-wrenching entry into that category. Velasin is a young prince—not in line for the throne, thankfully, but prince enough to be pushed into an arranged marriage to a girl from a neighboring kingdom. When an ex-lover shows up to ruin things (I’m putting this lightly), the more open-minded neighboring kingdom agrees to marry Vel to the girl’s brother, Caethari—which results in his exile from his homophobic homeland. But Vel and Cae find something in each other they could have never expected. It’s a slow-burn romance, and though I will warn you that there’s some violent sexual assault and mentions of self-harm in this book, but I wouldn’t call it gratuitous. The narrative is driven by healing, comfort, and compassion, so everything is handled with resolution. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is about survival and finding the strength to let someone into your heart.
The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean (August 2, Tor Books)
I know I’m not alone in loving books about books, and even more so wanting to devour the books I love so much that they become part of me. Sunyi Dean’s novel The Book Eaters, a story about a mother and her child who come from a family of book eaters, deals precisely with this, and with how books shape who we are and who we might become. Devon grew up sequestered away from the rest of society, where her family lives. They’re one of the few families that eat books, and young Devon is only fed certain kinds of texts in an attempt to keep her from questioning her existence. When she has a child of her own, and her child is one of the rare Eaters who needs to feed directly on human brains, she knows she needs to get away from the abusive life she’s known to give her son a better life. Together they go on the run, hunting and surviving as best they can while Devon tries to track down a rare drug that can help her son. The Book Eaters is a thrill, and it’s obvious that Dean holds such reverence for books and the power of stories. I cannot imagine a book lover in the whole world who wouldn’t—sorry—eat this up. Ugh, I hate that I did that pun. But I’m also right.
Face by Joma West (August 2, Tordotcom Publishing)
There are a lot of dystopian narratives surrounding motherhood and procreation, taking our current fears and magnifying them to extreme. To be frank, it’s not often that I come across a book that does something significantly different with those concepts (I call them Uterus Dystopias), as most are only geared toward one type of “woman”, if you know what I mean. But Joma West’s Face manages to merge discussions around motherhood with ideas about race, social mobility, and society’s obsession with aesthetics to form one intense novel. The world of Face is one where children are genetically designed for social success—the more beautiful you are, the more powerful you are—and a lot of life happens in an extreme virtual reality called the “In”. But babies aren’t the only things that are designed, because the mysterious monitors are watching over everything, and order is only kept through the creation of strict social strata. Face is a novel that deals with all the various ways humans use and manipulate each other, and who has the power to question—and change—societal standards.
Kalyna the Soothsayer by Elijah Kinch Spector (August 9, Erewhon)
I love schemes and schemers, because there’s nothing better than watching a character pull on various strings for their own gain and then scramble to untangle them. Kalyna is the shame of her family because she doesn’t possess The Gift of premonition, and thus is left to create false prophecies to keep her family afloat (comprised of disabled father and a real asshole of a grandmother). She gets by with gossip and bullshit—which, whomst among us hasn’t. It is a series of small, seemingly innocuous things that snowball into Kalyna being kidnapped by the prince’s spymaster, but she is soon chin-deep in court intrigue and scandal, all while faking it till she makes it lest they kill her for her deceptions. Oh, and her father has predicted that a devastating war will begin in just three months, so she’s got that on her mind too. Kalyna the Soothsayer is an engaging read with unique prose and a strong-willed, witty protagonist to adore.
Babel by R.F. Kuang (August 23, Harper Voyager)
R.F. Kuang’s dark academia fantasy Babel is 800 pages of pure genius. It’s rare that I read a book that big and feel that no space was wasted, that every word on every page was earned. Babel follows Robin, a young boy stolen from his home in China by an Oxford Professor who prepares him for entry into the University’s prestigious translation program (the titular Babel). Students in this program learn the art of translation in order to assist in the creation of silver bars—words carved on the bars are magically converted to energy, and go towards powering the British empire. Robin soon discovers that Babel is using foreign-born students for their native language skills, and the narrative soon spins into an anti-colonial revolution. Kuang interrogates language, the economy of empire, and its human by-product in this absolutely epic text—complete with footnotes—that no one but R.F. Kuang could have written. It is, in short, a masterpiece.
Day Boy by Trent Jamieson (August 23, Erewhon)
You know you’re in for something good when the book opens with “every story should start with a fight”—and boy does this book deliver. In this world, Day Boys serve the immortal and powerful Masters (who can only be active at night), by running chores and marking future victim’s doors with chalk. The masters need to feed, after all. Mark is in service of Master Dain, who is both terrifying and fatherly towards him. But Mark’s 18th birthday is coming up, and with it a change in his life—time to decide which path he will take after his service to Master Dain ends. The dynamic between Mark and Master Dain is engaging and ever-changing, the lore is deep and beautiful. Both a coming of age story and a unique vampire horror, Jamieson skillfully plays with language to create a poetic and dark future world of extremes. Day Boy is a vampire story with Mad Max: Fury Road energy, and definitely a can’t miss this year.
The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen (August 23, Orbit)
Okay so the main thing you need to know about this one is that the acquiring editor described it as “Shrek-like” which is a delightfully chaotic way to describe a fantasy romance—but throw in Howl’s Moving Castle and You’ve Got Mail and that’s a pretty accurate look at The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy. Hart (a Marshal and “friendless loser”) and Mercy (an undertaker, who runs a “whimsical” business) can’t stand each other, but have a begrudging working relationship. Unbeknownst to them, they have secretly begun regular correspondence (delivered by an owl named Horatio), after Hart sends an anonymous letter to an unknown recipient and it ends up in Hart’s hands. Through this, two lonely souls find understanding and companionship, with plenty of hijinx and laughter in the mix. There are talking animals that deliver the mail, gods, zombies, and donuts, proving that this book is just delightful and darling all the way through. If you love a good romance and unique worldbuilding, pick this one up and don’t look back.
The Genesis of Misery by Neon Yang (September 27, Tor Books)
It’s hard to believe that Genesis of Misery is Neon Yang’s first full-length novel, because in my head their work is such a staple of contemporary SFF. Yang’s Tensorate novella series made a huge splash with readers, and Genesis of Misery is one hell of a leveling up, if I’m honest. It’s a sci-fi retelling of the Joan of Arc story—our Joan is the eponymous Misery, who has done nothing wrong ever in her life and I love her. Misery has the unique ability to move holystone, a skill which only saints and the voidmad have, and is haunted (for lack of a better word) by a maybe-angel-maybe-delusion called Ruin. In a galaxy ruled by piety and faith, Misery is a wanted woman, and soon becomes the center of a holy war. Personally, I would follow Misery to the ends of the universe and back, and there are many more characters to love along the way too. It is an adventure on a massive scale, action packed and fast-paced—oh and there’s a hot princess with a whip. Just in case you needed another reason to read this one. Ya know. I’m trying to look out for you.
Strike the Zither by Joan He (October 18, Roaring Brook Press)
A new star has appeared in the sky, said to signal the appearance of a new god—though who that is and where they are has yet to be discovered. Zythir is the battle strategist to Xin Ren, a warlordess who is attempting to liberate a young empress from the clutches of her regent, Miasma–who unfortunately has a massive army. Zythir pretends to defect to serve Miasma, and there she meets Crow, another strategist and supplier of hot boy banter. But both of them are wicked smart and dedicated to their causes, and so begins a game of mental chess that leave violence in its wake. The world of Strike the Zither, based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms (a classic of Chinese Literature), is dominated by ruthless and clever women, and is driven by Joan He’s signature ability to infuse everything with deep emotion. You’ll cry, you’ll fall in love, and you’ll want to sharpen your blade and join the fight.
The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas (September 6, Wednesday)
This is Aiden Thomas’ first secondworld fantasy, and boy did he hit the ground running. In this world inspired by Mexican culture and mythology, the children of gods-semidioses-gather for a competition, the winner of which will help power the sun for the next ten years in ritual sacrifice. It’s a place of glory, and only the strongest and fastest stand a chance. So when Teo, son of a minor goddess with little to no power is chosen to compete, his whole life is turned upside down. The Sunbearer Trials is a glittering and colorful world with so many fun characters to love (including my personal favorite, goth daddy Mala Suerte, dios of bad luck), with dynamic friendships and an endearing friends-to-enemies(kinda)-to crush situationship for Teo. Pre-order this one, and then also start getting excited about the fact we’re getting a sequel to Cemetery Boys too.
Bliss Montage by Ling Ma (September 13, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Ling Ma wrote one of the best dystopias we have (2019’s Severance), so you best bet I’ll be first in line for her new story collection, Bliss Montage. It is an exquisite group of stories in which Ma makes use of surreality to muse on relationships, home, the loneliness of modern living, and a full range of human emotions. Listen, when you begin with a story about a woman who lives in a mansion with her husband (who only speaks in dollar signs) and her 100 ex-boyfriends, and there’s another story about sleeping with yetis, you know you’re in for something strange, wonderful, and uniquely poignant. Ma’s stark and pointed prose shines here, and each story deserves multiple readings, sure to supply newly discovered emotions each time.
Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott (September 13, Anchor Books)
I have this weird vivid memory of being in a waiting room and finding a strange painting of a house on chicken legs. When I asked after it, my mother told me the story of Baba Yaga, and I’ve been fascinated by that particular folktale ever since—it has everything I love: a witch, a weird sentient house, fantastical woods. So imagine my greedy little hands when I was told there was a book about Baba Yaga’s descendants inheriting the house and going on a journey to their homeland. GennaRose Nethercott’s Thistlefoot follows Isaac and Bellatine Yaga, a charismatic conman and a practical woodworker respectively, as they come together to travel from America to the old country to claim the house and save their legacy from nefarious forces, particularly the elegant Longshadow Man. It’s a clever update of the tale we know and love, and a story of family, heritage, magic steeped in Slavic traditions—and POV chapters from the house itself. Nothing could make me (and hopefully you, also) happier.
Rust in the Root by Justina Ireland (September 20, Balzer + Bray)
Justina Ireland is back with another incredible alt-historical fantasy, set after a period of magical destruction called the Great Rust. All across America there are Blight zones, which contain “troubling phenomena” and have lead to mass migration and displacement. Laura, a Floramancer, has come to New York in the hopes of becoming a licensed mage and opening a magical bakery (funnily enough this is also my dream), but she needs a sponsor. It’s tough going considering she is a) Black b) a girl and c) not a Mechomancer, which is the skill most in demand. She eventually takes a job working for the government and is sent out to help battle the Blights. Rust in the Root uses an inventive magic system to explore this country’s terrible racist history and the tension between those who have power and those who are denied it. The narrative is heavy at times, but you’re in the most capable hands all the way because Ireland is an absolute master at what she does.
One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig (September 27, Orbit)
Hot highwayman? Check. Tarot-inspired magic system? Check. A monster trapped inside a girl’s head? Double check. One Dark Window is an atmospheric gothic fantasy that follows Elspeth as she tries to survive a city surrounded by a dangerous mist where horrors await at every turn, and Nightmare, the spirit inside her head that powers her magic. The world is ruled by Providence Cards, velvet talismans that give off light and are used for power and magic—the only legal magic allowed. And while Nightmare is the result of Elspeth’s interaction with one such card, she still has no idea where the voice came from or why it has stuck with her since she was a young girl. But when Elspeth meets a dangerous highwayman (with a secret identity), she gets caught up in a quest and comes to realize that her destiny is entwined with the fate of the land. This is a consuming fantasy full of old magic, forest spirits, and characters out to get one another at every opportunity that’s perfect for when you need a real escape.
Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong (September 27, Margaret K. McElderry Books)
Chloe Gong has been spoiling us with Shakespeare retellings, and I for one am not complaining. Foul Lady Fortune is a historical fantasy spy thriller inspired by As You Like It, taking place in 1930s China during political tensions between Chinese Nationalists, communists, and Imperial Japan. Newly-immortal Rosalind (a fan favorite from the These Violent Delights duology) begins a new life as an assassin, and is recruited to uncover the culprit behind a series of murders. In order to do so, she’s paired with Orion, a spy, in a fake marriage for protection. Which is one hell of a set-up if you ask me. Rosalind and Orion are a perfect pair, they bicker and compliment each other and get into such trouble and are a joy to follow through their various entanglements, both political and personal. This is Gong at her best—a skillful weaving of political turmoil and sexual tension, with many plot intricacies to keep you guessing all the way through.
House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson (September 27, Ace)
Now, if you tell me you wouldn’t answer an ad seeking a bloodmaid (recognized as the symbols of “opulence and depravity”) for a group of rich vampires, you are definitely lying and I’m calling you out on it. I’d take that deal—we’d all take that deal. And that’s exactly what Marion does in House of Hunger—traveling north to enter into a life of sensuous beauty, exquisite food, luxurious lesbianism, and regular bloodletting for the beautiful Countess Lisavet. Color me jealous. Of course, things aren’t as good as they seem, because vampires are notoriously obsessive and toxic, and Marion is soon caught up in a web she might not be able to get out of. But until then, it’s a pretty sick deal if you ask me. Alexis Henderson does an incredible job of creating atmosphere and tension, and this one lands solidly in line with Interview with a Vampire and Carmilla. I, for one, and very grateful that vampires are back in vogue—especially if they’re going to be as good as House of Hunger. (Am I allowed to call a book sexy? It’s sexy. It’s a very sexy book).
Saturnalia by Stephanie Feldman (October 4, Unnamed Press)
I love me a secret society, and honestly if I was invited to a club where the dress code was “blacker than the blackest black” I would be in so fast they’d barely have time to extend an actual invitation. The social clubs in Philadelphia are preparing for the Saturnalia carnival, a night of revelry and opulence. Nina is entering her old club, The Saturn Club, with a job to do—but it’s a job that’ll take her into the depraved depths of the Saturn Club and across the city on the longest night of the year. Saturnalia is part The Chosen & The Beautiful and part Eyes Wide Shut, wonderfully weird and chaotic and sexy and tinged with magic. It’s definitely a page-turner, and should be on the list for anyone who likes a little bit of romantic surrealism with their funhouse mirror dystopia.
Little Eve by Catriona Ward (October 11, Nightfire)
Somewhere in Scotland, a butcher enters a castle of the dead. There has been a ritual sacrifice, only one left clinging to life—and there our story begins. And let me tell you, it is BRUTAL out here. Catriona Ward’s haunting new novel Little Eve follows a clan of foundlings (and one creepy Uncle) that worships a snake god—The Adder—in hopes that one day, one of them will be able to “see with his eyes”. Eve(lyn) believes it should be her, and will do anything to make sure that happens. Including feeding her blood to a snake and screwing over her “family” in increasingly bolder ways. Told in dual timelines, Little Eve is a deliciously spooky book, with prose like whispers on the wind. This one is for fans of cult stories (like me) and the gothic (also me), with dynamic characters and intense pseudo-religious psychology.
Self-Portrait With Nothing by Aimee Pokwatka (October 18, Tordotcom Publishing)
Ula Frost, painter—who is said to be able to summon dopplegangers of her portrait subjects from alternate universes—has recently gone missing. Her biological daughter, Pepper, muses often on the possibilities of alternate versions of herself, as is only natural. And though she’s got a decent life with loving adoptive mothers and a good job, Ula’s legacy is too great for her to escape—because Pepper is named sole beneficiary of Ula’s assets, in case she’s never found. Now, Pepper is forced to look into the life of the mother she never knew, her valuable paintings, and the possibility that alternate universes exist. The speculative elements hover gently over the text here, and the narrative reads more like a psychological mystery that slowly reveals itself layer by layer. Pokwatka has crafted a clever and beautiful narrative that is an exploration of how small moments and decisions form us, and the endless possibilities of life.
Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell (November 1, Tor Books)
Ocean’s Echo is billed as a standalone companion novel to Winter’s Orbit which is both accurate—they’re set in the same universe, and both are beautiful romances—and inaccurate, because the minute you start digging into this one, you’ll forget all about its predecessor. In a good way. In Ocean’s Echo, Everina Maxwell takes the foundations she’s built and stretches them out across the stars for a military political thriller that’ll twist your brain into knots. The novel follows Tennal, a “reader” (as in, he can read the thoughts of others), who has been conscripted into military duty, and Surit, the “architect” (he can push thoughts into others’ minds) assigned to look after him. In order to get what they want, they pretend to be synched—a sort of drift compatible mind-merge situation—but that all goes to hell when they get caught up in a struggle for political power. Ocean’s Echo will surprise you with its narrative complexities, but it really shines in the interactions between Tennal and Surit, who are absolutely made for each other and I just want to smoosh them together and make them kiss like two Barbie dolls. Come for the reluctant allies-to-lovers trope, stay for the drama.
Africa Risen, edited by Sherée Renee Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, & Zelda Knight (November 8, Tordotcom Publishing)
We talk a lot about Afrofuturism/African-futurism in the SFF world, but there is so much more to the literature coming out of the African continent and its diaspora that has yet to be properly recognized. Africa Risen is a unique and exciting collection of speculative stories from African writers and authors in the diaspora, the likes of which are (unfortunately) rarely seen in American publishing. The contents span all genres from fantasy to sci-fi to horror to folklore retellings, each as engaging as the last. With stories from must-know voices and industry favorites alike, Africa Risen simply cannot be missed if you’re a person who cares about the current state of SFF.
The Stars Undying by Emery Robin (November 8, Orbit)
I just don’t think the world has enough space opera, don’t you agree? There is absolutely nothing better than an expansive adventure that places us amongst glittering stars and alien planets. So thank goodness for The Stars Undying—an absolutely gorgeously written reimagining of the story of Mark Antony, Cleopatra, and Julius Caesar. Princess Altagracia watches over the City of Endless Pearl and its broken moons, left in tatters after a civil war—just as she has been left without her rightful throne. When she meets Commander Matheus and his lieutenant Anita, she sees an opportunity to form an alliance (“alliance” wink wink nudge nudge) and take back what she’s lost, but it will take quick and strategic thinking, and steering clear of real feelings. We all know how that goes. The Stars Undying is truly epic take on (and a queering of) one of the greatest stories of all time, complete with god machines and space ghosts.
Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk (November 8, Tordotcom Publishing)
C.L. Polk has delivered unto us a most incredible historical fantasy noir, and I, a Polk devotee, could not get enough. Even Though I Knew the End follows Helen Brandt, warlock, diviner, detective, as she investigates a gruesome murder by the White City Vampire. Her skills allow her to see beyond what the police can, and she’s been hired by the mysterious (and sexy) Marlowe to find the White City Vampire (not an actual vampire) before it’s too late. It’s dangerous, but when Marlowe offers the return of her soul, which she bargained away some time ago, she simply cannot say no. Along with her girlfriend Edith (and Edith’s, uh… friend??), she gets pulled into a world of light and dark, and a battle for her soul. It’s a gaslamp mystery compete with a healthy dose of “dame”s and “doll”s, and one of the most fun reading experiences I’ve had in a long time.
Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse (November 15, Saga)
Rebecca Roanhorse is one of the best fantasy writers we have working today, and her ability to pull together magic, history, and marginalized cultures is unparalleled. Tread of Angels is her newest release, a western filled with angels and demons and an utterly fascinating mystery. We begin in a saloon (!), where our devious protagonist Celeste is playing cards (!!) and fending off stupid white men (!!!). Her sister, a singer, is wrongfully arrested and charged with killing an angel, and it’s up to Celeste to clear her name. This leads Celeste on a quest to dig up angel bones and uncover a twisting mystery, all while dealing with her demon ex, dark secrets, and a town with its own agenda. Tread of Angels is a novella that does a lot of work with the space it takes up, and proves that Rebecca Roanhorse is at the top of her game.
Alone With You in the Ether by Olivie Blake (November 29, Tor Books)
This isn’t a speculative novel upon first glance, instead it falls into my favorite category of fiction: weird shit. In the way that The Atlas Six does, Alone With You in the Ether pairs together characters who are both psychologically engaging and destructive for each other: Aldo, bee-obsessed doctoral student and mathematician trying to solve time travel, and Regan, museum docent, recovering from a mental health break and a previous life of art crime. Their meeting at a museum sets off a narrative filled with lightning-fast repartee and musings about the multiverse. Alone With You in the Ether plays with narrative structure and linear time (including interstitials from various unnamed narrators in a sort of Greek chorus-style technique) to weave a story of two broken people crashing together like comets, and we, as audience, are witness to their glorious destruction.