Spine of the Dragon, by Kevin J. Anderson
This new epic fantasy series-starter from bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson begins with the introduction of a young king and queen and a tour of their prosperous kingdom. None of it lasts: a sandstorm that soon engulfs the young royals’ city is only the first sign of the chaos descending upon this sprawling fantasy world. Two large empires, the Commonwealth and the Ishara, are at war, but the greater threat lies in the reappearance of the legendary wreths, believed to be the creators of the human race. They’ve come back to awaken a dragon that will lay waste to the world their creations have wrought. The warring kingdoms will have to put aside their differences to fight off this ancient enemy, but that’s easier said than done. Anderson has fun with the worldbuilding, imagining different varieties of the magical wreths with powers drawn from ice or fire (heh), and pits them against a cast of flawed and compelling heroes. Though grimdark elements abound—fierce battles, sexual violence—this is, at its heart, a classic epic fantasy: a story in which the good are tested in their quest to protect others and fanatics are driven to evil because of what they view as righteous.
The Soul of Power, by Callie Bates
The final volume of the Waking Land trilogy. In the first book, heroine Elanna reawakened the power of magic in the countries of Caeris and Eren, while the second traveled to Paladis, where Elanna’s beloved, Jahan, attempted to master his own nascent magical talents. The point of view shifts again for the concluding book, focusing on Elanna and Jahan’s friend Sophy, the new queen of the now-united Caeris and Eren. Her tenuous rule faces powerful opposition, which grows worse when her out-of-wedlock pregnancy is revealed. Meanwhile, people throughout the land begin experiencing strange dreams and developing inexplicable habits that seem to hint at an imbalance in magic itself. Once again, Bates has crafted a compelling fantasy that examines the effects of a reemergent magic less on a world or a kingdom, but on individuals—flawed, endearing, and real.
My Enemy’s Enemy, by Robert Buettner
This twisty, time-jumping contemporary thriller-meets-alternate history novel unfolds along two timelines. One travels back to a version of 1939 in which Germany’s Heinrich Himmler has forced a genius physicist, Peter Winter, to aid him in creating a dangerous superweapon—the A-bomb. With the help of his Jewish wife Rachel, Peter attempts to slow the project with subtle sabotage. The other takes place in modern Pakistan, where a terrorist sets off on a mission to destroy America from the inside out, and an American historian and a cowboy discover a secret from the past that may explain the terrorist’s endgame. As the past and future collide, Buettner crafts a compelling race-against-time adventure story, with millions of innocent lives on the line.
To Clear Away the Shadows, by David Drake
The latest volume of David Drake’s RCN military sci-fi series opens with the deep space exploration vessel Far Traveller doing just that, venturing unmolested into the far reaches of space, seeking new trade routes, thanks to the recent truce between the Alliance and the Cinnabar. Scientist, RCN officer, and Cinnabar aristocrat Harry Harper is onboard, as is Lt. Rick Grenville, more accustomed to serving on a warship than one built for research. But it seems the outskirts of space are perhaps even more dangerous that open warfare: with the Alliance no longer on the offensive, the outer territories are exploring independence—by any means necessary. Meanwhile, Doctor Veil, the Far Traveller’s science director, searches for information left behind by an ancient race of spacefarers that explored the stars long before humans—and whose secrets could change the future.
Magic for Liars: A Novel, by Sarah Gailey
Ivy and Tabitha are sisters, estranged for years by the bitter divide between Tabitha’s magical abilities and Ivy’s complete lack of same. Tabitha went on to teach at the prestigious Osthorne Academy for Young Mages, while Ivy ekes out a living working as a private investigator. When a murder is committed at the Academy, Ivy’s desperate financial situation drives her to take the case despite her animosity toward her sister—and mages in general. At Osthorne, Ivy finds out that even magical academies have Mean Girls, Queen Bees, and popular kids—that is to say, no shortage of murder suspects. As she pretends to have magical powers in order to gain the trust and cooperation of the students and faculty, Ivy finds that to crack the case she’s going to have to face her own fears, her history with her sister, and pull off the most difficult trick of them all: forgiving herself. Regular B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog contributor Sarah Gailey delivers a gripping debut novel, equal parts hardboiled magical noir and gripping psychological drama.
Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, Chapterhouse: Dune, by Frank Herbert
Last year, publisher Ace reissued Frank Herbert’s legendary novel Dune with a snazzy new cover. Now, they’ve followed suit with matching mass market paperback editions of the other books in the series. There’s nothing different about the words inside, but if you are a collector or a completist—or if, gasp! you have never read the series before—the whole set of six books looks rather handsome on the shelf. We can’t think of a better way to prepare for director Denis Villeneuve’s forthcoming bid screen (re)adaptation, arriving in November 2020.
Unraveling, by Karen Lord
Award-winner Karen Lord’s new standalone fantasy (her first novel in four years) opens with forensic therapist Dr. Miranda Ecouvo triumphant; a killer responsible for seven murders is behind bars thanks to her work. But a harrowing near-death experience soon thrusts her into a whole other reality, where she meets the near-immortal Chance and Trickster, brothers who reveal the difficult truth—the entity truly responsible for the murders is seeking immortality, and it’s not done killing. The brothers guide her through the labyrinths of this hidden world, assuring her the killer can still be stopped, and it’s up to her to do it. As reality, memory, and dreams converge, Miranda and the brothers fight to bring true justice to two worlds.
Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, by Neal Stephenson
Neal Stephenson gives the near-future world of his 2011 techno-thriller Reamde a science-fantasy twist in a largely standalone followup that revisits the character of Richard “Dodge” Forthrast, the multi-billionaire founder of Corporation 9592 and creator of the MMORPG T’Rain. In his youth, Forthrast stipulated in his will that when he died his brain should be scanned and preserved by a company owned by the mysterious Elmo Shepherd. When a routine surgery goes wrong and he’s declared brain dead, that’s exactly what happens—if much earlier than he ever expected. Generations later, as the “Meatspace” world spirals into post-truth chaos, a technological breakthrough arrives that allows Forthrast’s brain to be “turned on” again in the virtual Bitworld. While existing as an immortal digital soul in a world without physical constraints sounds great, Forthrast soon finds himself in a desperate battle with Shepherd, also dead and uploaded. Forthrast explores this new phase of human existence and Stephenson ponders existential questions large and small as Dodge and the other denizens of Bitworld must determine how to live in a malleable reality limited only by their imaginations.
The Fire Opal Mechanism, by Fran Wilde
Nebula-winner Fran Wilde returns to the setting of her interlinked Gemworld stories with a tale set far after the conclusion of The Jewel and Her Lapidary. The magical gems that once powered the Six Kingdoms are lost. Conquerors known as the Pressman have invaded and are stealing books to power the Great Press, a magical printing press that consumes words, prompting a librarian, Ania, and a thief named Jorit to ally on an adventure across time using the power of the mysterious Fire Opal Mechanism as they seek the secret to destroying the Great Press forever. The journey across time allows Wilde to build out the history of her intriguing magical world, as Ania and Jorit prepare to embrace their grander destinies.
What new books are you reading this week?