You get used to certain content from certain authors. Sometimes that’s because the author usually writes in one genre, or maybe you’ve only read one particular genre from an author’s oeuvre. But to me, one of the exciting parts of being an avid reader is trying something fresh and unexpected from an author. Like when C.L. Polk, known for their queer Edwardian-esque fantasy romance novels, wrote the 1940s-set hardboiled detective novella Even Though I Knew the End, or when Rebecca Roanhorse, known for Indigenous fantasy, came up with the murder mystery Weird West noir Tread of Angels.
This year, there are six authors whose new and very different books I’m all a flutter for. Who is doing something different this year that you’re excited about?
The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older—Tordotcom; March 7, 2023
What I knew of Malka Older was mostly the Centenal Cycle: Infomocracy, Null States, and State Tectonics. \I knew her as a writer of science fiction flavored with technothriller, dystopian, and cyberpunk. While The Mimicking of Known Successes shares similar themes with her previous work, the tone is much different. I don’t know if cozy sci-fi mystery was a genre category before, but after this novella I want an endless stream of it. Older’s story about two women coming together as they try to solve the case of the disappearing scholar is a warm blanket on a rainy day. While the Centenal Cycle had me stressed and tense (in a good way! The books are great!) this one had me smiling from page one.
Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh—Tordotcom; April 11, 2023
Kyr has been training her whole life to defeat the alien civilization who destroyed Earth years before. But soon she learns that what she thinks she knows about Earth’s demise isn’t what actually happened. Some Desperate Glory is still in my TBR (I’m hoping to get to it this summer), but I’m very eager to read it. I adored Emily Tesh’s Greenhollow novella duology and constantly recommend it. But to go from Victorian-era historical fantasy to futuristic space opera? Sign me up!
Harvest House by Cynthia Leitich Smith—Candlewick Press; April 11, 2023
Cynthia Leitich Smith has written a bunch of books across children’s and young adult, both fantasy and contemporary fiction about Indigenous characters. Harvest House is her first foray into ghosts and murder mysteries, and it did not disappoint. It’s charming and chilling, a story about a haunted crossroads, racist violence perpetrated on Native people, and a group of teens trying to figure out how to get justice in a world designed to sideline them. I hadn’t expected a premise like this from Smith, but she absolutely nailed it.
Witch King by Martha Wells—Tordotcom; May 30, 2023
Like a lot of readers, I came to Martha Wells through the Murderbot Diaries, about a cyborg killing machine with a penchant for binge watching streaming dramas. Witch King is her first fantasy novel since 2017, and her first new fantasy story (as in not part of a series) since 2011. It’s also one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. Kai, a demon, and his magical cohort, set out across a fantasyland to uncover who tried to kill him, who is plotting to destroy the tentative peace he fought so hard to establish, and find their missing friend. It’s a stunning voyage across a fascinating landscape with characters you can’t help getting obsessed with.
You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight by Kalynn Bayron—Bloomsbury YA; June 30, 2023
So far, most of Kalynn Bayron’s work has been young adult and middle grade fantasy. My Dear Henry is the queer historical science fiction YA remix of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde you never knew you wanted. While much of her work has dark elements, You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight is her first true YA horror novel. Set at an abandoned summer camp, it tells of Charity, the teen manager of a full-immersion horror movie simulation game that becomes terrifyingly real. It’s campy fun, with the feel of a cult classic 1990s teen slasher. I hope this isn’t her last horror novel.
Just a Pinch of Magic by Alechia Dow—Feiwel and Friends; October 10, 2023
This is another one I haven’t read yet but can’t wait to dive into. Given how much I’ve loved Alechia Dow’s YA science fiction, I’m very much looking forward to what she does with middle grade fantasy. We have so little young adult science fiction, even less of it set in space. That fraction becomes even more fractional when you limit it to books by and about QT/BIPOC. That Dow writes so well in such an underrepresented category is a testament to her power. Plus, this new book sounds so cute! Wini casts a spell to help save her family’s magical bakery, and chaos breaks out. Kal has just moved to town looking for a new start for her fractured family. Wini and Kal become friends and work together to find a solution to their magical woes and get their dads to date.
Alex Brown is a Hugo-nominated and Ignyte award-winning critic who writes about speculative fiction, librarianship, and Black history. Find them on twitter (@QueenOfRats), instagram (@bookjockeyalex), and their blog (bookjockeyalex.com).