Unspoken Name by A K Larkwood
Release Date Mid Apr
The start of a new series that blends fantasy and science fiction elements and gives readers a new deadly female protagonist named Csorwe. Raised by a death cult as a sacrifice to the dark powers they worship, she finds escape through the aid of a Sorcerer. The price of her rescue is to become his sword-hand and sometime assassin, travelling from world to world searching for a powerful lost artefact. A necromancer, formally a member of the death cult of her childhood is also after the artefact and a confrontation is inevitable. There’s a lot of really cool elements in this one, with ships that travel between dimensions and worlds and an interesting magic system and cosmology. It’s also got a distinctive take on fantasy races, and while it doesn’t use words like Orc and Elf, that’s what the descriptions of the characters remind me of. Especially Csorwe herself, who is without a doubt the best badass Orc-chick ever. There’s plenty of action, some very cool plot twists, a few surprising and clever revelations, and even a bit of a romance sub-plot which I thought was charming. It’s episodic, so it kind of has an ending, but I’m definitely on board to find out what happens in the forthcoming books in this series.
Greater Than Death by
Charlie Jane Anders
Release Date: Early Apr
The new standalone young adult science fiction novel from Charlie Jane Anders takes a classic trope in an unusual direction. Tina is the clone of a famed galactic hero, hidden anonymously on Earth till she’s old enough to venture forth and save the galaxy. She’s always known that she’s special and that one day the beacon within her will activate and that it with then be time for her to fulfil her true purpose. Then the day comes and she soon finds herself on a spaceship fleeing very real and very frightening enemies. Those around her are expecting a great leader and tactical genius and to her dismay she’s just the same girl she always was. Destiny might have put her here, but it doesn’t seem to have given her anything else to help. The war is going badly and apparently only Tina can turn it around, and she really wants to. She just needs to figure out how to turn herself from a frightened Earth girl in to a hero. Wonderful new space adventure about finding yourself in a sea of expectations. Great fun.
Control by Nnedi Okorofor
Release Date: Early Apr
In this new novella Nnedi once again blurs the lines between science fiction, fantasy and folklore weaving elements from all three together seamlessly. In a near future Ghana a girl finds something that had fallen from the sky. A box and, within it, a seed. It gives her power to kill with a thought or a look. It gets taken from her with lethal consequences and starts her on a journey to recover it. With only a fox as companion she searches, giving the gift of death and its release to those who ask. She does not understand what she has become or why, only that if there are answers then the box and the seed within it will have them. The sections of the book are vignettes from her journey and those she encounters. There’s something unique and compelling in Nnedi Okorofor’s books. They defy easy categories, so it’s best to use what Nnedi does and just call it African futurism (not Afrofuturism, and it’s worth looking up Nnedi’s essay as to why). This is especially for fans of her books Who Fears Death and The Book of Phoenix.
Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer
I love reading Jeff VanderMeer’s books. Writing pithy summaries of them? No so much. There’s just too much in his books, and as one of the masters of what I’d call ‘weird’ fiction it’s just too hard to nail it down in a synopsis that does it justice. So, with apologies, this is a near future thriller about climate change, political and social instability, corporate greed, the surveillance state, eco-terrorism and taxidermy. Jane Smith receives a letter with a key. The key opens a storage unit. In it is a taxidermied hummingbird and salamander, both among the most endangered species in the world. Led by a thoughtfully provided note Jane starts a bizarre journey where each action she takes, like opening a strangers storage unit, has wide reaching consequences. Oh, did I mention that Jane used to be a wrestler? Well, she did and also has the worst impulse control and is prone to obsession. Not fun in a family member, but perfect for a VanderMeer narrator. This is a wild and bizarre ride of a book that I’ve not come close to doing justice to, but if you’ve read his work you’ll understand. If you like strange books written brilliantly this is for you. For bonus points try to explain it to a friend afterwards.
of Koli by M R Carey
Release Date: Early Apr
This is the third and final in the Rampant series which is set in a highly advanced but post collapse future. Koli, a young boy of Mythen Rood, a rural town in what is left of Britain, discovered a piece of technology and got it to work. He shouldn’t have been able to, according to the nobles, since that is something only they can do. Exiled for his defiance of the rule, he found himself a wanderer. At first his only friend was Monono, the artificial intelligence inside the entertainment device that was the reason for his exile. Later, along with the travelling medic Ursala, they tracked down a signal coming from the English Channel that calls itself Albion. Meanwhile in Mythen Rood, Koli’s childhood friend Spinner, has to deal with the fallout of Koli’s abandonment and the discoveries she makes whilst trying to figure out what happened to him. In this third book, the two major storylines will come together and perhaps the truth about the collapse of technology and how the world can be rebuilt, or even if it deserves to be. This is the best post-collapse series I think I have ever read and I am dying to find out what happens in the finale. M R Carey’s work is consistently brilliant and he always seems to one-up himself with every book. This is going to be glorious.
Tussaud by Belinda
Release Date: Early Apr
Madame Tussaud’s waxworks in London is famous for its disturbingly realistic depictions of celebrities and famous villains. The reality of Marie Tussaud’s life is every bit as strange as you would expect from someone who would create something like this, and in this new book Belinda Lyons-Lee takes the reality of Madame Tussaud’s life, adds a layer of her own and creates a wonderful gothic thriller. We join Marie in London after the French Revolution working in partnership with a maker of mechanical automatons to create a life-like Marie Antoinette that moves. This causes something of a stir and attracts the attention of a very eccentric rural Duke who commissions a figure of his own – that of a young woman who disappeared on his estate many years ago. As Marie and her associate work, they begin to wonder why they are doing this and old secrets begin to unravel inside the palatial manor. This is a wonderful gothic thriller, with lurking servants, haunted castles and lots of mystery going on before the final revelation that leaves you not entirely sure if what you have seen is just coincidence or something supernatural. Terrific fun for gothic fans and very highly recommended.
Last Human by Zack Jordan
Release Date: Mid Apr
This came out in trade paperback last year but only made it to the top of my reading list recently. Luckily this was in time for the release of the paperback, which I am very enthusiastic about. This is a standalone science fiction novel set in a galaxy-spanning society made up of a vast population of widely different aliens and deals with two major issues. One is what kind of political and social system would be required for all of these aliens with different capabilities and natures to live together in some kind of peace, and, what would it take to destroy it. It turns out – humans. Humans are the most feared and hated species in the universe. So much so that they have been exterminated. Well, not entirely. There is one human who is living anonymously. Her name is Sarya and she is the only person who knows she is human (since even the knowledge of what a human looks like has been expunged from the universe) other than her foster mother – a black widow who is a giant and incredibly dangerous spider. Others find out about Sarya’s secret and so begins a rollercoaster ride of revelations about what humanity is, what it was, what happened to it and what Sarya is going to do about it. Along the way she will help to save or destroy the universe depending on her predilection. This is a fantastic read – one of my favourite books of the year.
of Gallows by Peter McLean
Release Date: Late May
This is the third in the War for The Rose series, which I’d sum up as a gangster fiction set in a fantasy world that feels like early industrial revolution Europe. There hasn’t been a lot of magic in the series so far, and what we have seen is equal parts bizarre and deadly. In Priest of Bones, Thomas Piety came home to Elinburg to find the small criminal empire he’d left behind had been taken over by another gang. Reforming the ‘Pious Men’ from his old military unit he took back what was his and more. That process required an alliance with the Queen’s Men, the officially non-existent spy and assassin network that serves the interests of the crown. In Priest of Lies, this alliance forced him to the capital and the discovery that while he is not well versed in the politics and intrigue of court, being a ruthless bastard is a portable skill. Now back in Elinburg, Thomas Piety has what he thought he always wanted. He’s a respected citizen, a successful man of business. His crime activities and business with the Queen’s Men conducted discretely. The sudden death of the Queen however, pulls Thomas back to the capital where Dieter Vogel, Provost Marshal of the Queen’s Men is consolidating his power. Thomas is going to have to choose a side, knowing how much those choices have cost him in the past. Us and them is much easier than good or evil in a complex world, but this isn’t Elinburg and Thomas doesn’t know all the players inside and out, so just how is he going be sure who ‘us’ is? Terrific gritty grimdark fantasy and one for fans of Mark Lawrence, Ed McDonald or Joe Abercrombie.
Queen’s Bargain by Anne Bishop
Release Date; Mid Apr
This month we’re getting the paperback version so here’s what I had to say about the hardcover last year.Anne Bishop‘s Black Jewels series began more than twenty years ago, and when they first came out her blend of dark magic, complex relationships and sensual prose attracted a horde of fans. Often confronting, the books showed the best and the worst her fantasy world could be with equal honesty. Twilight’s Dawn, the ninth book in the series came out in 2011 and pretty much tied up the last remaining loose ends leaving most readers (including me) with the sense that she was done. Apparently not, since after nine years we’re headed back with a two pronged story. One fork explores the deteriorating relationship between Daemon and Surreal and the real danger he faces of falling again into the madness of a twisted kingdom. The last time he was restored by Janelle. but she no longer exists in any of the realms. The other fork follows some new characters which remind me of Cassidy and Gray from the Shalidor books which explores the dynamic of more ordinary members of the Blood. Lord Dillon, a disgraced aristo lord needs to restore his reputation, and a one year handfast to a lesser witch should do the trick. Jillian the young Eyrian from Ebon Rih he has in mind seems appropriately distant from noble society and his enemies, but he discovers too late that she has a connection to volatile Warlord Prince Lucivar Yaslana. Lucivar is deadly serious in protecting those he cares about and now has to navigate the vulnerability of Jillian in the throes of first love and his brother’s possible descent into madness. I didn’t think I needed another Black Jewels book, but I must admit I’m pretty excited about this one.