of Sacrifice by Anna Smith Spark
Release Date: Late Mar
This is the paperback edition of the conclusion to the Empires of Dust series. This is an amazing grimdark fantasy series that has unfortunately been hampered by supply issues. We’re doing our best to make sure we’ve got plenty because if you’re a fan of Abercrombie, MacDonald or Lawrence you need to add The Court of Broken Knives, The House of Sacrifice and this one to your library. The story in a nutshell is the journey of Marith Altrersyr from young outcast noble to nation crushing leader of an army of devoted followers. At first glance it’s got a ‘rise of the dark lord’ kind of motif, but Marith’s rise also reminds me a bit of the stories around Ghengis Khan because in this world Marith has that kind of mystique as well as actual magic. He’s a complex character, as is Thalia, a priestess who fled the isolation of her temple to avoid being murdered only to fall into the pull of Marith’s destiny and a complicated relationship of love and fear. There is plenty of the moral ambiguity that grimdark readers love in this, as well as compelling characters, but what stands out for me is Smith-Spark‘s willingness to go just that little bit further. To really explore the cult of personality around Marith, and what that sort of thing does to a people and a leader. I don’t want to spoil this for those just starting the series (and you should) so I’ll just say that the best example of pushing grimdark boundaries is this third book and that I’m keenly awaiting to see what Anna Smith-Spark writes next.
of Earth And Blood by
Sarah J Maas
Release Date: Early Mar
Sarah J Maas has a massive fanbase for her young adult books, many of whom aren’t young adults. Whether or not that is the reason for her new book to be tagged as an adult novel, or she just wanted to have some writing options not available to YA, I don’t know. What I do know is that folks are going crazy for this one. The first in a new series, it’s set in Crescent City, home to angels, shifters, humans and fae, all sharing a place where magic and technology coexist. Bryce Quinlan was happy here, until her friends were murdered by a demon. The culprit is caught and imprisoned, or so they think. But the killings don’t stop. Now with the reluctant aid of Hunt Alathar, a deadly fallen angel that seeks to win his parole by helping her, Bryce will journey into the dark heart of Crescent City to find the killer. By all accounts Hunt is as bad as the thing Bryce is pursuing but despite that, she is drawn to him in a way that is as irresistible as it is ill advised. I’ve only dipped into my copy of this, but the short version is urban fantasy romance with plenty of action, loads of magic and sex scenes. Definitely not a young adult book, but adult fans of Maas will still like it. It’s also one for fans of writers like Christine Feehan or Sherrilyn Kenyon, even though that’s not quite how they’re branding it.
Will Come a Darkness by
Katy Rose Pool
Release Date: Mid Mar
This young adult book came out last year in a larger format, and despite being very popular internationally, doesn’t seem to have had quite the same impact here. This month we’ll be getting the small paperback, and even though it has the same (in my opinion) fairly bland cover, I’m hoping I can get a few more of them into peoples hands. It’s set in a classic fantasy world filled with ancient prophecies and threatened by dark forces. The story is told via five character perspectives, which may not be to everyone’s taste, but the voices are different enough to avoid confusion. The book has positive queer representation as well as a core character who is chronically ill, so while the fantasy setting is familiar, it’s also been written with an eye towards modern sensibilities. This is the first book in a series and as sometimes happens, is given over to character development and world building. Since each of the five core characters has their own plot-line, at least for now, none of them move very far along and we only get to meet the antagonist at the very end. That said, they’re interesting and varied characters and it’s shaping up to be a fascinating world so if you’re ok with the older and less episodic style of fantasy that doesn’t really do end of volume payoffs, then you’ll be fine with this. For fans of Tasha Suria and Sebastien De Castell.
Queen’s Bargain by Anne Bishop
Release Date: Mid Mar
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 with the world of the Black Jewels. 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 into the twisted kingdom of madness again. The last time he was restored by the Queen that carried the ancient title of Witch, by 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 bother Daemon’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.
Deep by Astrid Scholte
Release Date: Early Mar
I was fortunate to be able to read a preview copy of this one and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with folks. I’d include it in the sub-genre of climate fiction, even though it’s really much more about people than the environment. Tempest is a girl who ekes out a living scavenging the sunken cities of a future flooded world, alone now after the death of her sister Elysea. But death is no longer the end. The Palindrome facility can restore the dead to life, though only for twenty-four hours and only once. And Tempest wants to get Elysea restored, not for the ‘closure’ that Palindrome offers but because only Elysea has the answer to the mystery of their parents disappearance and her own unexplained death. Lor, a quiet boy who lives inside Palindrome is tasked to supervise Elysea’s revival. Tempest snatches Elysea and escapes, all three of them end up in a desperate and dangerous race against the clock to uncover a terrible secret about the facility and themselves. The book is tagged 13-18, but is probably best for the low end of that range. It’s told by Tempest and Lor in alternating first person chapters. They’re good voices, Tempest is impulsive, Lor is introspective and it’s the sincerity of both that allows the book to move from escapes and chases to thoughts of death and loss and finally hope while keeping the reader invested. There’s a couple of nice reveals in the last third and it ends on an appropriate mix of happy and sad. Solid treatment of some serious ideas that stays interesting and fun. The only complaint I have about the book is that it’s a standalone, and I’d very much like to go back to this world again.
City We Became by N K Jemisin
Release Date: Late Mar
I’m not sure what I was expecting Nora K Jemisin‘s new book to be about, but it wasn’t an urban fantasy style ode to New York with cosmic horror antagonists. Of course now that it’s here and I’ve had a chance to start reading a copy, I think it’s an excellent idea. People talk about the ‘heart of a city’ or a city’s ‘soul’ and they’re euphemisms for the experience of visiting or living there. This book takes that literally so here a city can have a heart, soul and even a consciousness of its own. Not all cities though, only some have woken up or been born into awareness. Some are ancient and introspective, others young and brash. Now New York is joining that fraternity, but unlike the other cities it has not one soul but five. Each of the boroughs of New York contributes to the whole but is also separate. Also, when a city awakens one of its citizens is chosen as it’s protector. This is because there are dark and terrible forces that can destroy the newborn city in its cradle. Again, the unique nature of New York means it has five protectors, vastly different people who must understand what they are and put aside their differences to work together to save their shared home. This is the first in a series that I imagine will move to a new city each book. It’s a tremendous adventure with cosmic horror / Lovecraftian antagonists and a fun new approach to some familiar urban fantasy ideas. If you’ve been to New York I suspect that this book will have a whole extra dimension, much like Neil Gaiman‘s Neverwhere if you’ve spent time in London. Not that you have to, I haven’t and I still thought it was a great read. Highly recommended for N K Jemisin fans obviously, but also for fans of Ben Aaronovitch for the magic and Erin Morganstern for atmosphere.
of Jade and Shadow by
Release Date: Early Mar
I’ve been excited about this one since read the first few lines about it. This is a stunningly new entry to the urban fantasy /historical fantasy genre. The Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age, a world waking to all sorts of new possibilities. In a small town in southern Mexico, Cassiopea knows it’s all happening, but far from her. Little more than a servant in her wealthy grandfather’s house, she can only dream of the things she’d see and do. Until she opens a hidden chest and accidentally frees an ancient Mayan god of death. In return for her help in restoring him to his full power, he offers to give her the life she has always dreamed of and set her on a journey that will take her from bright city lights to canopy shrouded jungles and even into shadowy Xibalba, the Mayan Underworld. To be honest, Mayan / Mexican urban fantasy set in the 1920s was enough to get me interested in this one, but it sounds even cooler than I first thought. This is one for Naomi Novik, Kevin Hearne, Rebecca Roanhorse and Katherine Arden fans or anyone who like stepping out of their cultural comfort zone.
Watch by Myke Cole
Release Date: Mid Mar
My first encounter with Myke Cole was his Shadow Ops books, which mixed military action with urban fantasy. Since then he’s also written the Sacred Throne trilogy, a fantasy series featuring the coolest alchemical power armour ever. This new one is near future science fiction that takes the politics of a world like our own into space. If there are more people and ships in space, then you’re going to need folks like Coast Guard Captain Jane Oliver. After a career spent in search and rescue, she’s eyeing retirement when she finds herself suddenly at the head of the SAR-1 unit based on the moon. Even more unexpected is that she might be the only person who can prevent a lunar war that if not stopped will spread to Earth with devastating consequences. This is definitely a homage to real world Coast Guards and the work that they do, and there’s a lot of actual terminology and procedure woven through the book, though it’s still a great space adventure. It’s just that he’s shifted the focus to the sorts of folks who will actually have to do all that tricky space stuff if we ever get that far. It’s a standalone book and quite short, but Myke has managed to fit a lot into it. This is highly recommended for fans of near-future science fiction.
Devil’s Blade by Mark Alder
Release Date: Late Mar
If you’re any kind of fan of the badass women of history then you’re sure to have encountered the story of Julie D’Aubigny, Mademoiselle Maupin. The famous, or rather infamous 17th century French opera singer was as well known for her off stage adventures as much her beautiful voice. She counted men and women, many of them powerful nobles, among her numerous lovers and on one occasion is said to have burned down a convent after rescuing her girlfriend from confinement within it. She was also known for her skill with the sword and is said to have fought and won duels, and even to have seduced one of her vanquished foes after he recovered. There are lots more stories about her and no way of knowing how many are true, but it’s super fertile ground for conjecture. And that’s what this book is. A mixture of history, gossip and magic set against the stage of 17th century France and starring the most notorious woman of the era. Were the rumours right? Did Julie’s alluring ways and beautiful voice come from a pact with dark powers? You’ll have to read it to find out.