The Kingdom of Copper, by S.A. Chakraborty
Con artist Nahri accidentally summoned the djinn Dara in 18th century Cairo in The City of Brass and found herself whisked off to the royal court of Daevabad, where she had to use every bit of her wits and her magical abilities just to survive. As the sequel begins, Prince Ali has been banished and is fleeing assassins, even as Daevabad recovers from a devastating battle. Nahri now knows more about her origins—and her power—but that doesn’t mean she’s out of danger, even if she did just marry the heir to the throne. Trapped in a luxurious prison, the king uses her family as leverage to ensure her compliance, and Nahri must once again navigate the complex alliances, grudges, and familial connections of the magical city in order to protect those she loves. Chakraborty’s debut was one of our best-loved books of 2016, and the sequel proves worth the wait.
A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery, by Curtis Craddock
This is the second volume in Curtis Craddock’s swashbuckling Risen Kingdoms series, which draws from the tropes of gaslamp and steampunk fantasy, classic adventure and mystery novels, and the real history of late 17th century France and Spain to tell an altogether different kind of princess story. After having discovered her latent magical talents and used them to help stop a war in An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, heroine Isabelle des Zephyrs is no longer sidelines at the royal court—until she is accused of violating a peace treaty she helped bring about. Now little better off than a commoner, she and her faithful soldier Jean-Claude stumble upon yet another conspiracy, this one involving a serial killer known as the Harvest King—who may have a connection to a palace coup that could bring about the end of the empire.
The Gutter Prayer, by Gareth Hanrahan
Hanrahan’s epic fantasy debut centers on the city of Guerdon, to where refugees flee from an epic ongoing war between insane gods and the sorcerers who once served them. This is where Carillon Thay, desperate thief and recent member of the Thieves’ Brotherhood, finds herself, alongside her friends Rat and Spar. Thay is dealing with the aftermath of a heist gone wrong, and must contend with Ravellers, the shape-shifting servants of the ancient Black Iron Gods which haven’t been seen in decades. As an apocalypse approaches Guerdon, the last place of safety in this violent world, these three thieves can only count on themselves—but it seems their fates may be strangely intertwined with the warring guilds and other powers that be in the city, and the network of ancient tunnels deep below its streets. Hanrahan brings his city to life in lyrical prose, even as the plot leaps from action sequence to breathless chase and back again.
The Smoke, by Simon Ings
Much of Ings’ latest novel is told in the second person, but don’t let that distract you; the author is known for crafting challenging narratives, but he always has his reasons, and the end result is a book of alternate history unlike any you’ve ever encountered. The point of diversion with our own timeline is the discovery of the biophotonic ray in the 20th century—a discovery that divides the human race into three distinct sub-species, and makes all manner of medical miracles commonplace. Protagonist Stuart returns to Yorkshire, where they’re making parts for a spaceship headed for Jupiter, after his breakup with Fel, daughter of the leader of the Bund, the group responsible for many of said medical breakthroughs. But Stuart can’t seem to stay away from Fel, or from London—now known as the Smoke, and in turmoil due to the increasingly fractured nature of humanity. Without explaining too much: this might be the year’s weirdest science fiction book, and it’s only January.
The Hod King, by Josiah Bancroft
The third book in Bancroft’s deeply compelling Books of Babel quartet more than delivers on the building promise of the first two. The Sphinx, having discovered the location of Senlin’s missing wife Marya, worries over a brewing revolution, and sends her new servant Senlin to the Ringdom of Pelphia to investigate. In Pelphia, Senlin is, per usual, caught up in local intrigue: specifically, the brutal, bloody arena where the enslaved hods fight as gladiators to amuse the crowds. Meanwhile, Voleta and Iren take on false identities in an attempt to get close to Marya, who has married Duke Wilhelm Horace Pell and become a celebrity isolated by fame. Edith, now captain of the Sphinx’s flagship, investigates happenings along the hod’s Black Trail, which stretches the height of the entire Tower, and hears whisperings of a figure known as the Hod King, whose identity drives this volume to its cliffhanger conclusion—as does the question of whether Senlin can stay focused on his mission, or if he’ll risk disobeying the Sphinx in order to finally reunite with Marya. Bancroft once again perfectly pairs beautiful prose with lively characters and an exploration of an utterly original fictional edifice. A classic in the making, it will set your expectations high for the concluding volume, expected to arrive in 2020.
Vultures, by Chuck Wendig
Wendig’s sixth and final book in the Miriam Black series sees the foul-mouthed deathseer’s world in flux. The Trespasser is back, and now has the ability to possess the living as well as the dead. Miriam’s own capability to see the demise of everyone she touches—a power that she regards as a curse—is shifting as well, which gives her hope she might be able to save her already doomed unborn child. Her baby is fated to die, but they don’t call Miriam the Fatebreaker for nothing. On the trail of a serial killer, Miriam sees a pattern emerging than spans all the strange events of her brutal life, and as she faces off against the Trespasser one final time, knowing only one of them will survive, she can only hope to find the meaning of it all, before it’s too late.
Tor.com Publishing Editorial Spotlight #1: A Selection of Novellas (The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang; Run Time, by S.B. Divya; Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, by Kai Ahsante Wilson; Killing Gravity, by Corey J. White; The Murders of Molly Southbourne, by Tade Thompson), edited by Carl Engle-Laird
Everyone can name their favorite authors, but how many of you have a favorite editor? Though editors are far more visible in SFF than in many genres, they are still more often than not operating anonymously, behind the scenes. Tor.com Publishing is doing its part to make these essential figures in publishing—those responsible for acquiring and shaping manuscripts that will one day become (hopefully) brilliant books—a bit more visible, while also highlighting the skill of their authors. This is the first in a series of ebook bundles the publisher has assembled, each focused on the output of one of their editorial team. First up is Carl Engle-Laird, who has selected five wide-ranging works he’s edited—two of which earned Hugo or Nebula award nominations.
What new SFF are you picking up this week?