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The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – reviews roundup
The Scandalous Confessions of Lydia Bennet, Witch by Melinda Taub; Mothtown by Caroline Hardaker; Saturnalia by Stephanie Feldman; Writing the Future, edited by Dan Coxon and Richard V Hirst; She’s a Killer by Kirsten McDougall
The Scandalous Confessions of Lydia Bennet, Witch by Melinda Taub (Jo Fletcher, £20) Novels about witches are thick on the ground at present, but this one stands out for its wit and charm. The second novel by the Emmy award-winning TV writer addresses the hidden life of Lydia, the youngest (and wildest) Bennet sister from Pride and Prejudice, revealing a world of witchcraft and demonology behind the decorous romance of her oblivious sister and Mr Darcy. Infused with elements of English folk horror, this Regency-era comedy of manners makes for a lively, delightful adventure.
Mothtown by Caroline Hardaker (Angry Robot, £9.99) David has never felt comfortable in his own skin. The only person who seemed to understand was his grandfather, a scientist whose investigations for the Institute of Dark Matter could provide the key to another world. But his grandfather disappeared before he could tell David what he needs to know, and his parents won’t talk about it. His life becomes a solitary quest for answers. The news is filled with stories of people gone missing, referred to as “the Modern Problem”, and David knows his family fears he will fall prey to it. But he will take any risk if there’s a chance of making it through to another reality, as he thinks his grandfather did. A strange, haunting tale about loneliness, grief and the yearning for transformative experiences, with illustrations by Chris Riddell adding to the uncanny atmosphere.
Saturnalia by Stephanie Feldman (Verve, £9.99) Taking place over the course of one long night, this dark fantasy is set in a near-future version of Philadelphia where the midwinter festival of Saturnalia is celebrated as a grand carnival hosted by social clubs named after pagan gods. It’s a chance for people to party and ignore the climate crisis they are living through, the floods and tornadoes that have demolished whole neighbourhoods and sent the wealthiest fleeing up north. Former Saturn Club employee Nina is commissioned by her friend Max to find a package hidden in the building. At first she’s only worried about an uncomfortable encounter with her former best friends at the club, but she’s soon running for her life from a terrifying creature, not knowing who she can trust, or who wants her dead, or why. An unusual blend of thriller, alchemical fantasy and climate apocalypse, it’s a wild, entertaining ride.
Writing the Future , edited by Dan Coxon & Richard V Hirst (Dead Ink, £9.99) This collection of essays on the crafting of science fiction will be of interest to aspiring writers, but also to readers wanting to understand what SF has to offer. Going well beyond the usual “how to write/sell” guides, Aliya Whiteley, Oliver K Langmead, Toby Litt, TL Huchu and other current practitioners offer thought-provoking perspectives on the genre, looking at why it is especially open to experimental writing, whether it can ever be “prophetic”, what it has in common with historical fiction, and more. Elsewhere Nina Allan , Adam Roberts and Anne Charnock turn their attention to groundbreaking works by JG Ballard, HG Wells and Margaret Atwood . An important addition to any writer’s bookshelf, it informs and inspires.
She’s a Killer by Kirsten McDougall (Gallic, £16.99) Set in a near-future New Zealand strained by an influx of “wealthugees” fleeing climate disasters in their own countries, this savagely funny novel is narrated by Alice, who notes: “The problem with emergencies was that the longer they went on, the more they just felt like normal life.” She is almost a genius and possibly a sociopath, communicates with her mother in the flat upstairs via morse code and spends most of her time talking to Simp, the imaginary friend from her childhood who has (invisibly) turned up again. When a wealthugee offers Alice several thousand dollars to let his 15-year-old daughter stay with her while he goes back to China to rescue his ex-wife, her life takes a much wilder, more dangerous turn. An outrageous, comic, disturbingly timely novel.
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Quiz: Which Crowns of Nyaxia vampire kingdom do you belong to?
Are you a bloodborn, nightborn or shadowborn vampire.
The Serpent and the Wings of Night is the first book in the bestselling TikTok sensation Crowns of Nyaxia series by Carissa Broadbent . The Hunger Games meets vampires in this heart-wrenching, epic fantasy romance of dark magic and bloodthirsty intrigue. Discover which of the three vampire houses you identify with the most.
- The House of Night
- The House of Shadow
- The House of Blood
The Serpent and the Wings of Night
By carissa broadbent.
Human or vampire, the rules of survival are the same: never trust, never yield, and always — always — guard your heart. The adopted human daughter of the Nightborn vampire king, Oraya carved her place in a world designed to kill her. Her only chance to become something more than prey is entering the Kejari: a legendary tournament held by the goddess of death herself. But winning won’t be easy against the most vicious warriors from all three vampire houses. To survive, Oraya is forced to make an alliance with a mysterious rival.
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Winter is Coming
Discover Entangled: Red Tower Books' "Fourth Wing" by Rebecca Yarros on Amazon.
Amazon adapting fantasy book Fourth Wing as a TV show
The golden age of fantasy and science fiction television continues! Deadline reports that Amazon MGM Studios and Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society are developing a TV show based on The Emyprean fantasy series by Rebecca Yarros. The first book in the series, Fourth Wing , was a massive hit that spent 25 weeks on the New York Time Bestseller list this year and sold millions of copies across 40 different languages. It’s no surprise that a studio like Amazon MGM is looking to bring it to the small screen.
Oh my god, this 'Fourth Wing' adaptation is going to be 🔥 🐉 !!! https://t.co/mDdM7SVJGy — Goodreads (@goodreads) November 3, 2023
Amazon is making a Fourth Wing television show!
Fourth Wing is a dark and romantic fantasy series which takes place at Basgiath War College. There, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail is deeply immersed in her historical studies, until her war general mother forces her to join a brutal competition to become a dragon rider. Only an elite few will succeed. The rest will perish.
According to Deadline , a Fourth Wing show has been in the works since even before the book released on May 2. Amazon MGM won the rights to the series in an auction that occurred before the writers guild went on strike in May. But just because a studio gets the rights to something doesn’t mean they’ll move forward with a series. But now, we have word that Amazon is developing Fourth Wing for television.
Amazon MGM Studios’ deal includes not just Fourth Wing but also the sequel Iron Flame as well as three more forthcoming books in the series. Clearly, there’s enough runway here for a sizable TV series should things go well.
While Fourth Wing is Rebecca Yarros’ first fantasy novel, she’s published upwards of 20 other books in other genres, including Great and Precious Things , In the Likely Event , A Little Too Close , The Things We Leave Unfinished , The Last Letter , and Reason to Believe . The second book in The Empyrean series, Iron Flame , is out today from Entangled Publishing’s Red Tower imprint.
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- Published on 11/07/2023 at 1:18 PM CST
- Last updated on 11/07/2023 at 1:18 PM CST
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Making the most of your con budget.
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SFWA Comments on AI to US Copyright Office
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SFWA Market Report – November 2023
Welcome to the November edition of the SFWA Market Report. Please note: Inclusion of any venue in this report does not indicate an official endorsement by SFWA. Those markets included on this list pay at least $0.08/word USD in at least one category of fiction. This compilation is not exhaustive of all publication opportunities that pay […]
In Memoriam: Sherrie R. Cronin
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18 fantasy and science fiction books to read in November 2023
Posted: November 5, 2023 | Last updated: November 5, 2023
This post contains affiliate links, where we may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability accurate as of the time of publication.
It's that time again! Another month has come and gone, and more books are on the way. Just like in October , there are a ton of exciting fantasy and science fiction books hitting shelves in November. From long-awaited returns to exciting debuts; steampunk, sci-fi and epic fantasy filled with dragons and dangerous quests, the to-be-read stack is about to grow.
You know the drill. Let's run through 18 fantasy and science fiction books we're dying to get our hands on this November.
THE OLYMPIAN AFFAIR by Jim Butcher ( The Cinder Spires #2) — October 7
First up, we have a new book from Dresden Files author Jim Butcher. The Olympian Affair is the long-awaited sequel to Butcher's steampunk novel The Aeronaut's Windlass , which came out all the way back in 2015. That novel marked a bit of a departure from Butcher's usual works, but retained the same fun flair; it takes place in a world where people live in massive spires. The awakening of monstrous powers threatened their way of life. Butcher also threw included some political intrigue and great characters (including a talking cat).
Steampunk books are few and far between, especially those of the scope and scale of Butcher's Cinder Spires series. We've been waiting a long time for this one, and now it's finally time to see what's next for Captain Grimm and his companions.
For centuries the Cinder Spires have safeguarded humanity, rising far above the deadly surface world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses rule, developing scientific marvels and building fleets of airships for defense and trade.
Now, the Spires hover on the brink of open war.
Everyone knows it's coming. The guns of the great airship fleets that control the skies between the last bastions of humanity will soon speak in anger, and Spire Albion stands alone against the overwhelming might of Spire Aurora's Armada and its new secret weapon–one capable of destroying the populations of entire Spires.
A trading summit at Spire Olympia provides an opportunity for the Spirearch, Lord Albion, to secure alliances that will shape the outcomes of the war, and to that end he dispatches privateer Captain Francis Madison Grimm and the crew of the AMS Predator to bolster the Spirearch's diplomatic agents.
It will take daring, skill, and no small amount of showmanship to convince the world to stand with Spire Albion–assuming that it is not already too late.
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MURTAGH by Christopher Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle #6) — November 7
Speaking of returns to beloved fantastical worlds, November is an exciting time for fans of Christopher Paolini's The Inheritance Cycle . This series about dragonriders going on a quest to defeat an evil emperor is seeing not one, but two new releases this month. The first is Murtagh , a standalone novel which follows the titular character and his dragon Thorn as they try to navigate the new society that blossomed in the wake of the original series.
We won't delve too deeply into who Murtagh is and why it's so exciting that he's getting his own book; if you know you know, and if you don't know then maybe you should read The Inheritance Cycle so we don't need to spoil it for you! Suffice it to say that he's the perfect character to lead an Inheritance sequel. It's time to go back to Alagaësia!
The world is no longer safe for the Dragon Rider Murtagh and his dragon, Thorn. An evil king has been toppled, and they are left to face the consequences of the reluctant role they played in his reign of terror. Now they are hated and alone, exiled to the outskirts of society.
Throughout the land, hushed voices whisper of brittle ground and a faint scent of brimstone in the air—and Murtagh senses that something wicked lurks in the shadows of Alagaësia. So begins an epic journey into lands both familiar and untraveled, where Murtagh and Thorn must use every weapon in their arsenal, from brains to brawn, to find and outwit a mysterious witch. A witch who is much more than she seems.
In this gripping novel starring one of the most popular characters from Christopher Paolini's blockbuster Inheritance Cycle, a Dragon Rider must discover what he stands for in a world that has abandoned him. Murtagh is the perfect book to enter the World of Eragon for the first time . . . or to joyfully return.
Eragon: The Illustrated Edition by Christopher Paolini — November 7
In addition to the brand new Inheritance Cycle adventure Murtagh , Paolini is also celebrating the 20th anniversary of the original Eragon book. He's releasing Eragon: The Illustrated Edition , which is exactly what it sounds like. This is a gorgeous oversized hardcover book with tons of beautiful illustrations that make the world of Alagaësia pop off the page.
E ragon is a story about a young boy who discovers a dragon egg and is drawn into a war to overthrow an empire. Whether you've read the original novel or not, the illustrated edition sounds like a great new way to experience the tale.
Prepare for the flight of a lifetime with Eragon as you've never seen him before in this dazzling edition with brand-new full-color illustrations throughout. This is the perfect must-have gift for both new and longtime Inheritance fans.
Soar high above the ground with Eragon on Saphira's majestic back. Experience narrow escapes from the gruesome Ra'zac. See the wonders of the dwarves' city-mountain, Tronjheim. Rich detail and painterly strokes make each piece by accomplished fantasy artist Sidharth Chaturvedi feel as if it's actually moving.
Fifteen-year-old Eragon believes that he is merely a poor farm boy—until his destiny as a Dragon Rider is revealed. Gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power. Now his choices could save—or destroy—the Empire.
In this extraordinary work of art, Paolini's fantasy masterpiece Eragon is brought to life in an entirely new way through SidharthChaturvedi's brilliant illustrations that accompany the complete original text. This is the ideal book to return to the World of Eragon. Experience the thrill and exhilaration of becoming a Dragon Rider all over again!
BOOKSHOPS & BONEDUST by Travis Baldree (Legends & Lattes #2) — October 7
Legends & Lattes was author Travis Baldree's hit debut novel, a cozy fantasy book that followed the orc warrior Viv as she hung up her sword and opened a coffee shop. It was a fun read with a ton of heart, and it got a lot of buzz when it came out for how much it leaned into the lighter side of the fantasy genre.
This month, Baldree is releasing a prequel novel called Bookshops & Bonedust . This will presumably bridge the gap between Viv's decision to call it quits on mercenary work and her coffee shop days. If you're a fantasy reader who wants to sip pumpkin spice and get cozy this fall, this one is ideal.
Viv's career with the notorious mercenary company Rackam's Ravens isn't going as planned.
Wounded during the hunt for a powerful necromancer, she's packed off against her will to recuperate in the sleepy beach town of Murk—so far from the action that she worries she'll never be able to return to it.
What's a thwarted soldier of fortune to do?
Spending her hours at a beleaguered bookshop in the company of its foul-mouthed proprietor is the last thing Viv would have predicted, but it may be both exactly what she needs and the seed of changes she couldn't possibly imagine.
Still, adventure isn't all that far away. A suspicious traveler in gray, a gnome with a chip on her shoulder, a summer fling, and an improbable number of skeletons prove Murk to be more eventful than Viv could have ever expected.
SHADOW BARON by Davinia Evans (The Burnished City #2) — October 14
Shadow Baron is most certainly going to be another fun book, but with some very dangerous stakes. This is the second novel in Davinia Evans The Burnished City series, which started with last year's Notorious Sorcerer . In a city where alchemy is strictly regulated, a young street alchemist named Siyon Velo accidentally sets off a chain reaction of calamitous events after visiting another plane. The result was a complicated tangle of politics and magic, with characters stuck in the middle whose unpredictable chaos kept things very interesting.
Shadow Baron continues the story for Siyon, complete with djinn, angels, and other magical entities from the planes outside the bustling city of Bezim. What trouble will he get himself into next?
Strap in for a thrilling adventure in the sequel to Davinia Evans's wickedly entertaining debut fantasy that follows our favorite irreverent alchemists, high society ladies, and swashbuckling street gangs as they wrestle with the nature of reality itself.
Siyon Velo might be acknowledged as the Alchemist. He may even have stabilized the planes and stopped Bezim from ever shaking into the sea again. But that doesn't mean he has any idea what he's doing—and it won't be long before everyone knows it.
To make things worse, mythical creatures once confined to operas and myths are spotted around Bezim. A djinn invades Zagiri's garden party, and whispers of a naga slither across Anahid's Flower district card tables. Magic is waking up in the Mundane. It's up to Siyon to figure out a way to stop it, or everything he's worked so hard to save will come crashing down.
THE KING-KILLING QUEEN by Shawn Speakman (Old World Tales #1) — November 7
Author Shawn Speakman is best known as the founder of Grim Oak Press and for his Annwn Cycle series, which began with The Dark Thorn , an urban fantasy series with deep roots in folklore. This month he begins a new chapter in the Annwn world with The King-Killing Queen , a medieval fantasy. Though it does technically take place in medieval France, Speakman weaves in magic and intrigue more akin to traditional fantasy than historical fiction.
One of the most exciting things about The King-Killing Queen is how it stands on its own; though this is technically the start of a new prequel series, it's set far enough back before the Annwn Cycle that it's still accessible to newcomers.
When Alafair Goode lay wounded during his quest to destroy Mordreadth the Great Darkness, a witch magicked and saved the future High King's life to fulfill his destiny. Thereafter, all born to his line also cannot die, to be only undone by natural death.
Decades later, Sylvie Raventress is the devoted apprentice to the Master Historian stepbrother of the High King. It is a life of scholarly pursuit and privilege where one day she will take her instructor's place and write her own histories. But beside Alafair's deathbed, Sylvie and his scions learn a surprising truth—she is no orphan but is his named heir. Worse, when he dies, the witch's curse is no more, leaving all of them suddenly mortal and vulnerable.
With her siblings loathing Sylvie's selection and vying for her throne, she must rely on a Fae guide, a disgraced former First Knight, and a cantankerous light-weaver to restore the fracturing kingdom and become High Queen. And yet the thing none of them know is destiny has its own part to play too.
For the witch saved Alafair Goode for her own reasons…
A Curse of Krakens by Kevin Hearne (The Seven Kennings #3) — November 7
Iron Druid Chronicles author Kevin Hearne is releasing the third and final book of his epic fantasy series The Seven Kennings this month as well. Krakens, giants, fantastical warfare and ancient magics come to the fore as the series that began with A Plague of Giants speeds toward its epic conclusion.
Seeker and Sower
Pen Yas ben Min's cousin was one of the legendary heroes of the wars against the giants until her untimely death. Pen has grown up in her famous cousin's shadow, but when she's given a quest to plant the seed of the magical Fourth Tree, she has a chance to step into the light—and usher in a new age for her country.
Fighter and Friend
Abhi's life—and the world—changed when he discovered a lost magic: the power to speak to animals. After fighting so many battles, he's weary and longs for home and his love, Tamhan. But before he can return, there is one last mission that only Abhi can complete: to speak to the colossal creatures who wait beneath the waves—the krakens.
Sailor and Explorer
Koesha and her shipmates have already made an impossible journey by navigating the Northern Yawn, at the end of which she secured an unusual cloak. But when that cloak turns out to be the key to unlocking the mystery of the Seventh Kenning, Koesha has to risk everything on another life-threatening journey and hope that she can steer her crew to safety.
CHAOS TERMINAL by Mur Lafferty (The Midsolar Murders #2) — November 7
Stepping into the realm of science fiction, next up we have a new mystery from author and former Escape Pod podcast host Mur Lafferty. Chaos Terminal is the second in Lafferty's Midsolar Murders series, which follow amateur detective Mallory Viridian as she solves various extraterrestrial crimes—whether she wants to or not.
Mallory Viridian would rather not be an amateur detective, thank you very much. But no matter what she does, people persist in dying around her—and only she seems to be able to solve the crime. After fleeing to an alien space station in hopes that the lack of humans would stop the murders, a serial killer had the nerve to follow her to Station Eternity. (Mallory deduced who the true culprit was that time, too.)
Now the law enforcement agent who hounded Mallory on Earth has come to Station Eternity, along with her teenage crush and his sister, Mallory's best friend from high school. Mallory doesn't believe in coincidences, and so she's not at all surprised when someone in the latest shuttle from Earth is murdered. It's the story of her life, after all.
Only this time she has more than a killer to deal with. Between her fugitive friends, a new threat arising from the Sundry hivemind, and the alarmingly peculiar behavior of the sentient space station they all call home, even Mallory's deductive abilities are strained. If she can't find out what's going on (and fast), a disaster of intergalactic proportions may occur.…
Tonight, I Burn by Katharine J. Adams (Thorn Witch Trilogy #1) — November 7
Back to fantasy, next up is the debut novel from Katharine J. Adams: Tonight, I Burn . This novel follows a young witch whose life is turned upside down at a crucial juncture. Tonight, I Burn has a fascinating take of the practice of burning witches at the stake.
Spooky season may technically be over, but it's still autumn and that makes it still a very good time for a witchy read filled with dark intrigue and magic.
Thorns, Tides, Embers, Storms, and Ores. All five covens are bound in servitude to the tyrant High Warden of Halstett.
Penny Albright is a daughter of the thorn coven, forced to patrol the veil between the realms of Life and Death. Each night, one thorn witch—and only one—must cross the veil by burning at the stake. Each morning, that witch draws on their magic to return. Failure to follow the rules risks the veil and risks them all.
But one morning, Penny's favorite sister Ella doesn't return. And that night, determined to find her, Penny breaks the rules. She burns in secret. And she discovers that all isn't as it seems in Life or Death.
Her journey leads her to Malin, a devastating lord with too many secrets; to Alice, a mysterious captive prophet; and to a rebellion brewing in the shadows beneath the city. And as Penny's world splits, she'll face a devastating choice. Because it's not just her sister's life that hangs in the balance. It's the fate of all magic.
All it takes is one witch—and one spark—to set the world ablaze.
Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros (The Empyrean #2) — November 7
Rebecca Yarros' YA fantasy novel Fourth Wing was one of 2023's breakout hits; it spent a solid 25 weeks on The New York Times Best Sellers List , and for 13 of those it held the number one spot. There were a solid few months wgere everyone and their mother was talking about this book, which follows a young woman who goes to a war college where she enters a competition to become a dragon rider. It's even being developed as a television show by Amazon.
Yarros isn't sleeping on the sequel, which is already here only a few short months later. Iron Flame picks up the story of Violet Sorrengail as she moves beyond her initiation into Basgiath War College. What dangers await?
Everyone expected Violet Sorrengail to die during her first year at Basgiath War College—Violet included. But Threshing was only the first impossible test meant to weed out the weak-willed, the unworthy, and the unlucky.
Now the real training begins, and Violet's already wondering how she'll get through. It's not just that it's grueling and maliciously brutal, or even that it's designed to stretch the riders' capacity for pain beyond endurance. It's the new vice commandant, who's made it his personal mission to teach Violet exactly how powerless she is–unless she betrays the man she loves.
Although Violet's body might be weaker and frailer than everyone else's, she still has her wits—and a will of iron. And leadership is forgetting the most important lesson Basgiath has taught her: Dragon riders make their own rules.
But a determination to survive won't be enough this year.
Because Violet knows the real secret hidden for centuries at Basgiath War College—and nothing, not even dragon fire, may be enough to save them in the end.
THE DARKNESS BEFORE THEM by Matthew Ward (The Soulfire Saga #1) — November 7
The Darkness Before Them is the start of a new fantasy trilogy from Matthew Ward. Ward is best known for his Legacy Trilogy , which began with Legacy of Ash and featured epic warfare, intrigue and revolution. In The Darkness Before Them , Ward tells the story of a thief with the preternatural gift to speak to spirits, which sounds pretty handy considering that many spirits have been forced into guarding treasures for a kingdom teeming with corruption.
These are dark times for the Kingdom of Khalad. As the magical mists of the Veil devour the land, the populace struggles beneath the rule of ruthless noble houses and their uncaring immortal king.
Kat doesn't care about any of that. A talented thief, she's pursuing one big score that will settle the debt that destroyed her family. No easy feat in a realm where indentured spirits hold vigil over every vault and treasure room. However, Kat has a unique gift: she can speak to those spirits, and even command them. She'll need every advantage she can get.
Kat's not a hero. She just wants to be free. To have her old life back. But as rebellion rekindles and the war for Khalad's future begins, everyone – Kat included – will have to pick a side.
SLAY by Laurell K. Hamilton ( Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #30 ) — November 7
Slay is the 30th novel in Laurell K. Hamilton's paranormal romance series Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter . Hamilton and Anita Blake are pretty much mainstays of the genre at this point; this 30th book is releasing 30 years after the first, which is fitting.
This time around, Anita is getting married! To a vampire! Or at least, she will be if she can navigate one of her most dangerous challenges yet.
Necromancer Anita Blake is small, dark, and dangerous. Her turf is the city of St. Louis. Her job: U.S. Marshal—Preternatural Branch. She's faced horrifying monsters and brutal killers and come out the other side still standing.
Considering how things in her life tend to go, Anita never expected her walk down the aisle with Jean-Claude to go smoothly. They've already been confronted with naysayers and a power-hungry ancient evil, but now Anita has to do the one thing that actually scares her: introduce her very religious, very human relatives to her fiancé—the newly crowned vampire king of America.
As Anita tries to keep the peace between the family she left behind and the family she's chosen, dark forces jump at the chance to take advantage of the chaos. With her happy-ever-after at risk and everyone's immortal souls hanging in the balance, Anita grapples with a hard truth: Blood makes you related, but loyalty makes you family.
THE NARROW ROAD BETWEEN DESIRES by Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicle novellas #2) — November 14
Whew! We've finally made it past November 7, which apparently is the day when publishers mutually agreed to hammer our TBR lists with relentless force. And not a moment too soon, because the next book on our list a very exciting one.
Patrick Rothfuss is the widely acclaimed author of The Kingkiller Chronicle series, which consists of The Name of the Wind , The Wise Man's Fear , and the novella The Slow Regard of Silent Things . You don't need me to explain who Rothfuss is; the long wait for the third book in his trilogy, The Doors of Stone , is the stuff of literary legend, pretty much only comparable to the wait for The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin.
On November 14, Rothfuss is releasing his first new book set in the world of The Kingkiller Chronicle in nearly a decade. The Narrow Road Between Desires is a reimagining of his 2014 novella The Lightning Tree , which was part of the Rogues anthology from George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. This new version of the story beautifully expands on the original and features a ton of gorgeous artwork from The Slow Regard of Silent Things illustrator Nate Taylor. If you've missed Temerant, it's the perfect way to dip your toes back into this beloved fantasy world.
Bast knows how to bargain. The give-and-take of a negotiation is as familiar to him as the in-and-out of breathing; to watch him trade is to watch an artist at work. But even a master's brush can slip. When he accepts a gift, taking something for nothing, Bast's whole world is knocked askew, for he knows how to bargain—but not how to owe.
From dawn to midnight over the course of a single day, follow the Kingkiller Chronicle's most charming fae as he schemes and sneaks, dancing into trouble and back out again with uncanny grace.
The Narrow Road Between Desires is Bast's story. In it he traces the old ways of making and breaking, following his heart even when doing so goes against his better judgement.
After all, what good is caution if it keeps him from danger and delight?
SYSTEM COLLAPSE by Martha Wells (Murderbot Diaries #7) — November 14
Murderbot is back this November! Martha Wells' Hugo Award-winning sci-fi series continues to expand with System Collapse , the seventh volume to follow the lovable SecUnit known as Murderbot. Murderbot may tell itself that humans are annoying and that it would rather avoid them, but we all know that whenever Wells puts out a new story in this series, their resolve will be put to the test.
Like Network Effect , System Collapse is another full-length Murderbot novel. More pages for more Murderbot is never a bad thing!
Following the events in Network Effect, the Barish-Estranza corporation has sent rescue ships to a newly-colonized planet in peril, as well as additional SecUnits. But if there's an ethical corporation out there, Murderbot has yet to find it, and if Barish-Estranza can't have the planet, they're sure as hell not leaving without something. If that something just happens to be an entire colony of humans, well, a free workforce is a decent runner-up prize.
But there's something wrong with Murderbot; it isn't running within normal operational parameters. ART's crew and the humans from Preservation are doing everything they can to protect the colonists, but with Barish-Estranza's SecUnit-heavy persuasion teams, they're going to have to hope Murderbot figures out what's wrong with itself, and fast!
DEFIANT by Brandon Sanderson (Skyward #4) — November 21
In the Year of Sanderson, no monthly book round-up is complete without an appearance from one of the sci-fi/fantasy genre's most prolific authors. This month Brandon Sanderson launches Defiant , the fourth and final novel in his YA sci-fi series Skyward .
Spensa has come a long way since she found that derelict stealth spacecraft which changed her life back in the original Skyward book. Now we finally get to see how the story ends for her and the rest of her Skyward Flight companions.
Spensa made it out of the Nowhere, but what she saw in the space between the stars has changed her forever. She came face to face with the Delvers, and finally got answers to the questions she's had about her own strange Cytonic gifts.
The Superiority didn't stop in it's fight for galactic dominance while she was gone, though. Spensa's team, Skyward Flight, was able to hold Winzik off, and even collect allies to help with the cause, but it's only a matter of time until humanity–and the rest of the galaxy–falls.
Defeating them will require all the knowledge Spensa gathered while in the Nowhere. But being Cytonic is more complicated than she ever could have imagined. Now, Spensa must ask herself: how far is she willing to go for victory, if it means losing herself–and her friends–in the process.
WARRIOR OF THE WIND by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (The Nameless Republic #2) — November 21
Another book I'm personally very stoked for this month is Warrior of the Wind , the sequel to Nigerian author Suyi Davies Okungbowa's Son of the Storm . Inspired by the pre-colonial empires of West Africa, Son of the Storm featured a young scholar who is swept away from everything he knows when he crosses paths with a woman wielding magics long thought to be forgotten. Or at least, they're forgotten in Bassa, a bustling empire with many dark secrets.
After narrowly escaping with their lives in Son of the Storm , Danso and Lilong have to work through the horrors they've faced so far and plan their next moves—while back in Bassa, a dangerous new ruler is on the rise.
There is no peace in the season of the Red Emperor.
Traumatized by their escape from Bassa, Lilong and Danso have found safety in a vagabond colony on the edge of the emperor's control. But time is running out on their refuge. A new bounty makes every person a threat, and whispers of magic have roused those eager for their own power.
Lilong is determined to return the Diwi—the ibor heirloom—to her people. It's the only way to keep it safe from Esheme's insatiable desire. The journey home will be long, filled with twists and treachery, unexpected allies and fabled enemies.
But surviving the journey is the least of their problems.
Something ancient and uncontrollable awakens. Trouble heads for Bassa, and the continent of Oon will need more than ibor to fix what's coming.
Like Thunder by Nnedi Okorafor ( The Desert Magician's Duology #2) — November 28
A few months back, a beautiful new edition of award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor's novel Shadow Speaker hit shelves, which was pretty damn exciting since it had been out of print for some time. Now, Okorafor is back with a brand new sequel: Like Thunder .
Okorafor is best known for her Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism works such as the Binti trilogy and Who Fears Death , an adaptaition of which is currently in development at HBO with A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin attached as a producer. Her latest work, Like Thunder , is set in a near-future Nigeria three years after the events of Shadow Speaker . Okorafor can always be counted upon for a compelling read, and we're more than a little curious to see what Dikéogu Obidimkpa and Ejii Ubaid have been up to since their epic quest in Shadow Speaker .
Niger, West Africa, 2077
Welcome back. This second volume is a breathtaking story that sweeps across the sands of the Sahara, flies up to the peaks of the Aïr Mountains, cartwheels into a wild megacity—you get the idea.
I am the Desert Magician; I bring water where there is none.
This book begins with Dikéogu Obidimkpa slowly losing his mind. Yes, that boy who can bring rain just by thinking about it is having some…issues. Years ago, Dikéogu went on an epic journey to save Earth with the shadow speaker girl, Ejii Ubaid, who became his best friend. When it was all over, they went their separate ways, but now he's learned their quest never really ended at all.
So Dikéogu, more powerful than ever, reunites with Ejii. He records this story as an audiofile, hoping it will help him keep his sanity or at least give him something to leave behind. Smart kid, but it won't work—or will it?
I can tell you this: it won't be like before. Our rainmaker and shadow speaker have changed. And after this, nothing will ever be the same again.
As they say, 'Onye amaro ebe nmili si bido mabaya ama ama onye nyelu ya akwa oji welu ficha aru.'
Or, 'If you do not remember where the rain started to beat you, you will not remember who gave you the towel with which to dry your body.'
THE WITCHWOOD KNOT by Olivia Atwater (Victorian Faerie Tales #1) — November 28
We end with a new book from Regency Faerie Tales author Olivia Atwater. The Witchwood Knot is set in the same world as Atwater's last series, which began with Half a Soul , and looks to have the same sort of charm, whimsy and wit. It has faeries, it has Victorian sensibilities and it has a heist which forces a governess to become a would-be thief (but the good kind, who is stealing a child back from the faeries). The Witchwood Knot sounds like a very fun read with some cozy vibes to ring in the end of autumn.
The faeries of Witchwood Manor have stolen its young lord. His governess intends to steal him back.
Victorian governess Winifred Hall knows a con when she sees one. When her bratty young charge transforms overnight into a perfectly behaved block of wood, she soon realises that the real boy has been abducted by the Fair Folk. Unfortunately, the lord of Witchwood Manor is the only man in England who doesn't believe in faeries—which leaves Winnie in the unenviable position of rescuing the young lord-to-be all by herself.
Witchwood Manor is bigger than its inhabitants realise, however, and full of otherworldly dangers. As Winnie delves deeper into the other side of the house, she enlists the aid of its dark and dubious faerie butler, Mr Quincy, who hides several awful secrets behind his charming smile. Winnie hopes to make her way to the centre of the Witchwood Knot through wit and cleverness… but when all of her usual tricks fail, who will she dare to trust?
And so concludes our gargantuan list of new science fiction and fantasy book releases for November! What will you be reading?
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10 of the Best Books on Writing by Sci-Fi and Fantasy Authors
Whether you're struggling with the nuances of a fictional language or just struggling to get started, take some tips from the best of the best.
There’s a lot you can learn from books on writing. For would-be writers of science fiction and fantasy, though, sometimes general advice just isn’t enough. Take John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction , for instance: it’s one of the best books on writing ever put together, but it’s shockingly short on tips for crafting a believable Elvish language.
Allow me to present this list of the best books on writing by sci-fi and fantasy authors. These volumes contain wisdom and tips for writing fiction in general, but also take the time to address the specific struggles of genre fiction. Take that, John Gardner.
Zen in the Art of Writing
By Ray Bradbury
Bradbury’s book is a member of the very large club of works that adapt their title from Zen in the Art of Archery . The title may be a bit derivative, but it’s also quite appropriate: this book serves more as a spiritual guide than as an instructor or drill sergeant. It’s a collection of essays Bradbury wrote on writing, and while it’s short on specific instruction, it delivers plenty of thoughtful insights and inspirational moments.
RELATED: Brilliant Reads for Fans of Ray Bradbury Books
How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy
By Orson Scott Card
In fiction writing, as in music (writers are fond of saying), you need to know the rules before you can break them. But a lot of writing teachers seem allergic to explaining the rules, perhaps because they fear they’ll come across as too amateurish to be busy breaking them. No such problem here: Card lays out simple and practical advice and rules, and in the process puts together one of the best books on writing you’ll ever read.
By Stephen King
Part memoir, part MFA-course-in-a-book, Stephen King’s On Writing is one of the best books on writing ever written—period. But it holds a special appeal for genre fiction fans, as King includes tidbits that will help writers of horror and fantasy, among other genres. The blunt advice and sometimes overly general rules have led some of the literati to look down on this one (it seems likely that King’s mass appeal didn’t help, either), but they’re just being snooty: for practical advice on the craft of writing, this is one of the best.
RELATED: Hear Stephen King & George R.R. Martin Discuss Their Craft
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Words Are My Matter
By Ursula K. Le Guin
There are two types of writing books: ones that lay out rules, tips, and techniques, and ones that speak broadly about art, purpose, and big picture decisions. We have a few of each on this list, and Le Guin’s book is firmly in the latter camp. Aspiring writers need a little bit of both instruction and inspiration, and Words Are My Matter is among the best possible ways to get some of the latter.
RELATED: 5 Things Every Fantasy Writer Can Learn from Earthsea
Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly
By Gail Carson Levine
YA fantasy fans will remember Gail Carson Levine for her novel Ella Enchanted , among other works. In Writing Magic , Levine shares her techniques for crafting engaging fantasy stories. Readers get tips on everything from plot to dialogue, plus a bunch of helpful writing exercises for putting Levine’s advice into practice.
RELATED: Explore Tor.com 's Original Fiction!
Why I Write
By George Orwell
Okay, so this is technically an essay, but it has been published as a (very short) book, so I say it counts. Orwell’s rumination on his life and writing focuses on the things he felt drove him to write, which he narrows down to four key impulses. This is a careful and organized piece of writing-on-writing, and it’s certainly one of the best books on writing, assuming you count it as a book.
RELATED: 15 Insightful George Orwell Quotes From 1984 and Beyond
The Art of Language Invention
By David J. Peterson
When George R.R. Martin’s epic series A Song of Ice and Fire made the jump to TV screens as Game of Thrones , his fictional languages had to be expanded to accommodate lines the show added.
Enter David J. Peterson, who developed Dothraki into a real language that the series' screenwriters could use extensively. If you want to top George R.R. Martin’s efforts and give your sci-fi or fantasy story a real, functional language, then this is the book for you: it’s the best book on writing in languages that don’t exist yet. Read it carefully, and Peterson won’t have to fix your language for you when you sell your novel’s TV rights to HBO.
Get Started in Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy
By Adam Roberts
Roberts’ book is aimed at newcomers to the world of writing, and it does a great job of getting future sci-fi and fantasy writers off and running. It’s a straightforward book with a nice blend of advice and inspiration—a sort of all-in-one primer in the art of writing genre fiction. It’s one of the best books on writing for the inexperienced. Consider it your 101-level course.
RELATED: 14 Impactful Female Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction
By Jeff VanderMeer
You can teach technique in writing, but not imagination—right? Wrong, says VanderMeer, and he wrote Annihilation , so I guess we have to take his word for it. In Wonderbook , VanderMeer ambitiously sets out to help readers get creative, and he does it with a rule-breaking book full of illustrations.
RELATED: 14 Heart-Pounding Books Like Annihilation
By Kate Wilhelm
Like Stephen King’s On Writing , Wilhelm’s Storyteller blends personal stories with lessons in the art and science of writing fiction. Wilhelm’s fantasy and science fiction resume was beyond reproach (she won both the Hugo and the Nebula), and this volume shows that she was as good at explaining her writing as she was at, well, writing it.
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NPR Books Summer Poll 2021: A Decade Of Great Sci-Fi And Fantasy
We asked, you answered: your 50 favorite sci-fi and fantasy books of the past decade.
The question at the heart of science fiction and fantasy is "what if?" What if gods were real, but you could kill them ? What if humans finally made it out among the stars — only to discover we're the shabby newcomers in a grand galactic alliance ? What if an asteroid destroyed the East Coast in 1952 and jump-started the space race years early?
Summer Reader Poll 2021: Meet our expert judges
Summer Reader Poll 2018: Horror
Click if you dare: 100 favorite horror stories.
Summer Reader Poll 2019: Funny Books
We did it for the lols: 100 favorite funny books.
This year's summer reader poll was also shaped by a series of "what ifs" — most importantly, what if, instead of looking at the entire history of the field the way we did in our 2011 poll , we focused only on what has happened in the decade since? These past 10 years have brought seismic change to science fiction and fantasy (sometimes literally, in the case of N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth series), and we wanted to celebrate the world-shaking rush of new voices, new perspectives, new styles and new stories. And though we limited ourselves to 50 books this time around, the result is a list that's truly stellar — as poll judge Tochi Onyebuchi put it, "Alive."
As always, a pretty extensive decision-making process went into the list, involving our fabulous panel of expert judges — but we know you eager readers want to get right to the books. So if you're inclined, follow these links to find out how we built the list (and what, sadly, didn't make it this year ). Otherwise, scroll on for the list!
We've broken it up into categories to help you find the reading experience you're looking for, and you can click on these links to go directly to each category:
Worlds To Get Lost In · Words To Get Lost In · Will Take You On A Journey · Will Mess With Your Head · Will Mess With Your Heart · Will Make You Feel Good
Worlds To Get Lost In
Are you (like me) a world-building fanatic? These authors have built worlds so real you can almost smell them.
The Imperial Radch Trilogy
Breq is a human now — but once she was a starship. Once she was an AI with a vast and ancient metal body and troops of ancillaries, barely animate bodies that all carried her consciousness. Poll judge Ann Leckie has created a massive yet intricate interstellar empire where twisty galactic intrigues and multiple clashing cultures form a brilliant backdrop for the story of a starship learning to be a human being. Your humble editor got a copy of Ancillary Justice when it came out and promptly forced her entire family to read it.
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The Dead Djinn Universe (series)
What a wonderful world P. Djélì Clarke has created here — an Arab world never colonized, where magic-powered trams glide through a cosmopolitan Cairo and where djinns make mischief among humans. Clarke's novella Ring Shout also showed up on our semifinalists list, and it was hard to decide between them, but ultimately our judges felt the Dead Djinn Universe offered more to explore. But you should still read Ring Shout , a wild ride of a read where gun-toting demon-hunters go up against Ku Klux Klan members who are actual, pointy-headed white demons. Go on, go get a copy! We'll wait.
The Age of Madness Trilogy
One of my pet peeves with fantasy novels is they sometimes don't allow for the progression of time and technology — but in Joe Abercrombie's Age of Madness series, the follow-up to his debut First Law trilogy, industrialization has come to the world of The Union, and it's brought no good in its wake. More than that — machines may be rising, but magic will not give way, and all over the world, those at the bottom of the heap are beginning to get really, really angry. This series works as a standalone — but you should also read the excellent First Law series (even though it's old enough to fall outside the scope of this list).
The Green Bone Saga
This sprawling saga of family, honor, blood and magical jade will suck you in from the very first page. Poll judge Fonda Lee's story works on every conceivable level, from minute but meaningful character beats to solid, elegantly conveyed world-building to political intrigue to big, overarching themes of clan, loyalty and identity. Plus, wow, the jade-powered martial arts sequences are as fine as anything the Shaw Brothers ever put on screen. "Reviewing books is my actual job," says fellow judge Amal El-Mohtar, "but I still have to fight my husband for the advance copies of Fonda's books, and we're both THIS CLOSE to learning actual martial arts to assist us in our dueling for dibs."
The Expanse (series)
Yes, sure, you've seen the TV show (you HAVE, right? Right?) about the ragtag crew of spacers caught up in a three-way power struggle between Earth, Mars and the society that's developed on far-off asteroid belts. But there's much, much more to explore in the books — other planets, other characters, storylines and concepts that didn't make it to the screen. Often, when a book gets adapted for film or TV, there's a clear argument about which version is better. With The Expanse , we can confidently say you should watch and read. The only downside? Book- Avasarala doesn't show up until a few volumes in.
The Daevabad Trilogy
Nahri is a con woman (with a mysteriously real healing talent) scraping a living in the alleys of 18th century Cairo — until she accidentally summons some true magic and discovers her fate is bound to a legendary city named Daevabad, far from human civilization, home of djinns and bloody intrigues. Author S.A. Chakraborty converted to Islam as a teenager and after college began writing what she describes as "historical fanfiction" about medieval Islam; then characters appeared, inspired by people she met at her mosque. "A sly heroine capable of saving herself, a dashing hero who'd break for the noon prayer," she told an interviewer . "I wanted to write a story for us, about us, with the grandeur and magic of a summer blockbuster."
The Aztecs meet the Byzantines in outer space in this intricately imagined story of diplomatic intrigue and fashionable poetic forms. Mahit Dzmare is an ambassador from a small space station clinging desperately to its independence in the face of the massive Teixcalaanli empire . But when she arrives in its glittering capital, her predecessor's dead, and she soon discovers she's been sabotaged herself. Luckily, it turns out she's incredibly good at her job, even without her guiding neural implant. "I'm a sucker for elegant worldbuilding that portrays all the finer nuances of society and culture in addition to the grandness of empire and the complexity of politics," says judge Fonda Lee. "Arkady Martine delivers all that in droves."
The Thessaly Trilogy
Apollo, spurned by Daphne, is trying to understand free will and consent by living as a mortal. Athena is trying to create a utopia by plucking men and women from all across history and dropping them on an island to live according to Plato's Republic. Will it all go according to plan? Not likely. "Brilliant, compelling, and frankly unputdownable," wrote poll judge Amal El-Mohtar , "this will do what your Intro to Philosophy courses probably couldn't: make you want to read The Republic ."
Shades of Magic Trilogy
V.E. Schwab has created a world with four Londons lying atop one another : our own dull Grey, warm magic-suffused Red, tyrannical White, and dead, terrifying Black. Once, movement among them was easy, but now only a few have the ability — including our hero, Kell. So naturally, he's a smuggler, and the action kicks off when Grey London thief Lila steals a dangerous artifact from him, a stone that could upset the balance among the Londons. Rich world building, complex characters and really scary bad guys make Schwab's London a city — or cities — well worth spending time in.
The Divine Cities Trilogy
On the Continent, you must not, you cannot, talk about the gods — the gods are dead. Or are they? Robert Jackson Bennett's Divine Cities trilogy builds a fully, gloriously realized world where gods are the source of power, miracles and oppression, and gods can also be killed. But what happens next, when the gods are gone and the work of running the world is left to regular human men and women? What happens in that unsettled moment when divinity gives way to technology? This series spans a long timeline; the heroes of the first volume are old by the end. "And as ancient powers clash among gleaming, modern skyscrapers, those who have survived from the first page to these last have a heaviness about them," writes reviewer Jason Sheehan , "a sense that they have seen remarkable things, done deeds both heroic and terrible, and that they can see a far and final horizon in the distance, quickly approaching."
The Wormwood Trilogy
Part of a recent wave of work celebrating and centering Nigerian culture, this trilogy is set in a future where a fungal alien invader has swallowed big global cities, America has shut itself away and gone dark, and a new city, Rosewater, has grown up around a mysterious alien dome in rural Nigeria. It's a wild mashup of alien invasion, cyberpunk, Afro-futurism and even a touch of zombie horror. "I started reading Rosewater on vacation and quickly set it down until I got home, because Tade Thompson's work is no light beach read," says judge Fonda Lee. "His writing demands your full attention — and amply rewards it."
Black Sun (series)
Author Rebecca Roanhorse was tired of reading epic fantasy with quasi-European settings, so she decided to write her own . The result is Black Sun , set in a world influenced by pre-Columbian mythology and rich with storms, intrigue, giant bugs, mysterious sea people, ritual, myth and some very scary crows. (They hold grudges, did you know?) This is only Book 1 of a forthcoming series, but we felt it was so strong it deserved to be here, no matter where Roanhorse goes next.
Words To Get Lost In
If you're one of those people who thought genre fiction writing was workmanlike and uninspiring, these books will change your mind.
Susanna Clarke at last returns to our shelves with this mind-bendingly glorious story — that's a bit hard to describe without spoiling. So we'll say it's about a mysterious man and the House that he dearly loves, a marvelous place full of changing light and surging tides, statues and corridors and crossings, birds and old bones and passing days and one persistent visitor who brings strangely familiar gifts. Clarke "limns a magic far more intrinsic than the kind commanded through spells," wrote reviewer Vikki Valentine , "a magic that is seemingly part of the fabric of the universe and as powerful as a cosmic engine — yet fragile nonetheless."
Imagine Circe, the fearsome witch of the Odyssey, as an awkward teenager, growing up lonely among scornful gods and falling for what we modern folks would call a f***boy, before coming into her own, using her exile on the island of Aiaia to hone her powers and build an independent life. Circe only shows up briefly in the Odyssey, but Madeline Miller gives her a lush, complex life in these pages. She has worked as a classics teacher, and as our reviewer Annalisa Quinn noted , Miller "extracts worlds of meaning from Homer's short phrases."
A sharp young socialite in 1950s Mexico City travels to a creepy rural mansion to check on her cousin, who has fallen ill after marrying into a mysterious family of English landowners. What could possibly go wrong? Silvia Moreno-Garcia "makes you uneasy about invisible things by writing around them," said reviewer Jessica P. Wick. "Even when you think you know what lurks, the power to unsettle isn't diminished." Not to be too spoilery — but after reading this stylishly chilling novel, you'll never look at mushrooms the same way again.
The Paper Menagerie And Other Stories
"I taught Liu's 'The Man Who Ended History' in a graduate seminar one semester," says judge Tochi Onyebuchi, "and one of the toughest tasks I've ever faced in adulthood was crafting a lesson plan that went beyond me just going 'wtf wtf wtf wtf wtf' for the whole two hours. Some story collections are like those albums where the artist or record label just threw a bunch of songs together and said 'here,' and some collections arrive as a complete, cohesive, emotionally catholic whole. The Paper Menagerie is that."
Judges had a hard time deciding between Spinning Silver and Uprooted , Novik's previous fairy tale retelling. Ultimately, we decided that this reclamation of "Rumpelstiltskin" has a chewier, more interesting project, with much to say about money, labor, debt and friendship, explored in unflinching yet tender ways. Judge Amal El-Mohtar reviewed Spinning Silver for NPR when it came out in 2018. "There are so many mathemagicians in this book, be they moneylenders turning silver into gold or knitters working to a pattern," she wrote at the time . "It's gold and silver all the way down."
"I often get the same feeling reading a Ted Chiang story as I did listening to a Prince song while he was still with us," says judge Tochi Onyebuchi. "What a glorious privilege it is that we get to share a universe with this genius!" This poll can be a discovery tool for editors and judges as much as audience, so hearing that, your humble editor went straight to the library and downloaded a copy of this collection.
In Olondria, you can smell the ocean wind coming off the page, soldiers ride birds, angels haunt humans, and written dreams are terribly dangerous. "Have you ever seen something so beautiful that you'd be content to just sit and watch the light around it change for a whole day because every passing moment reveals even more unbearable loveliness and transforms you in ways you can't articulate?" asks judge Amal El-Mohtar. "You will if you read these books."
Her Body And Other Parties: Stories
These eight stories dance across the borders of fairy tale, horror, erotica and urban legend, spinning the familiar, lived experiences of women into something rich and strange. As the title suggests, Machado focuses on the unruly female body and all of its pleasures and risks (there's one story that's just increasingly bizarre rewrites of Law & Order: SVU episodes). At one point, a character implies that kind of writing is "tiresome and regressive," too much about stereotypical crazy lesbians and madwomen in the attic. But as our critic Annalisa Quinn wrote , "Machado seems to answer: The world makes madwomen, and the least you can do is make sure the attic is your own."
The Buried Giant
Axl and Beatrice are an elderly couple, living in a fictional Britain just after Arthur's time, where everyone suffers from what they call "mist," a kind of amnesia that hits long-term memories. They believe, they vaguely remember that they once had a son, so they set out to find him — encountering an elderly Sir Gawain along the way, and long-forgotten connections to Arthur's court and the dark deeds the mist is hiding. Poll judge Ann Leckie loves Arthurian legends. What she does not love are authors who don't do them justice — but with The Buried Giant , she says, Kazuo Ishiguro gets it solidly right.
Do you love space opera? Alternate history? Silent film? (OK, are you me?) Then you should pick up Catherynne M. Valente's Radiance , which mashes up all three in a gloriously surreal saga about spacefaring filmmakers in an alternate version of 1986, in which you might be able to go to Jupiter, but Thomas Edison's death grip on his patents means talkies are still a novelty. Yes, Space Opera did get more votes, but our judges genuinely felt that Radiance was the stronger book. Reviewing it in 2015, judge Amal El-Mohtar wrote , " Radiance is the sort of novel about which you have to speak for hours or hardly speak at all: either stop at 'it's magnificent' or roll on to talk about form, voice, ambition, originality, innovation for more thousands of words than are available to me here before even touching on the plot."
Will Take You On A Journey
Sure, all books are some kind of journey, but these reads really go the distance.
It's easy(ish) to summarize The Changeling : Rare book dealer Apollo Kagwa has a baby son with his wife, Emma, but she's been acting strange — and when she vanishes after doing something unspeakable, he sets out to find her. But his journey loops through a New York you've never seen before: mysterious islands and haunted forests, strange characters and shifting rhythms. The Changeling is a modern urban fairy tale with one toe over the line into horror, and wherever it goes, it will draw you along with it.
Becky Chambers writes aliens like no one else — in fact, humans are the backward newcomers in her generous, peaceful galactic vision. The Wayfarers books are only loosely linked: They all take place in the same universe, but apart from that you'll meet a new set of characters, a new culture and a new world (or an old world transformed). Cranky space pacifists, questing AIs, fugitives, gravediggers and fluffy, multi-limbed aliens who love pudding — the only flaw in this series is you'll wish you could spend more time with all of them.
Binti is the first of her people, the Himba, to be offered a place at the legendary Oomza University, finest institution of learning in the galaxy — and as if leaving Earth to live among the stars weren't enough, Binti finds herself caught between warring human and alien factions. Over and over again throughout these novellas, Binti makes peace, bridges cultures, brings home with her even as she leaves and returns, changed by her experiences. Our judges agreed that the first two Binti stories are the strongest — but even if the third stumbles, as judge and critic Amal El-Mohtar wrote, "Perhaps the point is just having a Black girl with tentacles for hair possessing the power and freedom to float among Saturn's rings."
Lady Astronaut (series)
What would America's space program have looked like if, say, a gigantic asteroid had wiped out the East Coast in 1952 — and started a countdown to destruction for the rest of the world? We'd have had to get into space much sooner. And all the female pilots who served in World War II and were unceremoniously dumped back at home might have had another chance to fly. Mary Robinette Kowal's Hugo Award-winning series plays that out with Elma York, a former WASP pilot and future Lady Astronaut whose skill and determination help all of humanity escape the bonds of Earth. Adds judge Amal El-Mohtar: "Audiobook readers are in for a special treat here in that Kowal narrates the books herself, and if you've never had the pleasure of attending one of her readings, you get to experience her wonderful performance with bonus production values. It's especially cool given that the seed for the series was an audio-first short story."
Children of Time (duology)
Far in the future, the dregs of humanity escape a ruined Earth and find what they think is a new hope deep in space — a planet that past spacefarers terraformed and left for them. But the evolutionary virus that was supposed to jump-start a cargo of monkeys, creating ready-made workers, instead latched on to ... something else, and in the intervening years, something terrible has arisen there. Poll judge Ann Leckie says she can't stand spiders (BIG SAME), but even so, she was adamant that the Children of Time books deserve their spot here.
Wayward Children (series)
Everyone loves a good portal fantasy. Who hasn't looked in the back of the closet hoping, faintly, to see snow and a street lamp? In the Wayward Children series, Seanan McGuire reminds us that portals go both ways: What happens to those children who get booted back through the door into the real world, starry-eyed and scarred? Well, a lot of them end up at Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children. The prolific McGuire turned up on our semifinalists list A Lot. We had a hard time deciding between this and her killer stand-alone Middlegame , but the Wayward Children won the day with their shimmering mix of fairy tale, fantasy and emotional heft — not to mention body positivity and solid queer and trans representation. (As with a lot of the also-rans, though, you should really read Middlegame too.)
The Space Between Worlds
There are 382 parallel worlds in Micaiah Johnson's debut novel, and humanity can finally travel between them — but there's a deadly catch. You can visit only a world where the parallel version of you is already dead. And that makes Cara — whose marginal wastelands existence means only a few versions of her are left — valuable to the high and mighty of her own Earth. "They needed trash people," Cara says, to gather information from other worlds. But her existence, already precarious, is threatened when a powerful scientist figures out how to grab that information remotely. "At a time when I was really struggling with the cognitive demands of reading anything for work or pleasure, this book flooded me with oxygen and lit me on fire," says judge Amal El-Mohtar. "I can't say for certain that it enabled me to read again, but in its wake, I could."
Will Mess With Your Head
Do you love twisty tales, loopy logic, unsolved mysteries and cosmic weirdness? Scroll on!
Black Leopard, Red Wolf
Poll judge Amal El-Mohtar once described Black Leopard, Red Wolf as " like being slowly eaten by a bear ." Fellow judge Tochi Onyebuchi chimes in: " Black Leopard, Red Wolf is a Slipknot album of a book. In all the best ways." Set in a dazzling, dangerous fantasy Africa, it is — at least on the surface — about a man named Tracker, in prison when we meet him and telling his life story to an inquisitor. Beyond that, it's fairly indescribable, full of roof-crawling demons, dust-cloud assassins, blood and (fair warning) sexual violence. A gnarly book, a difficult book, sometimes actively hostile to the reader — yet necessary, and stunning.
Southern Reach (series)
The Southern Reach books are, at least on the surface, a simple tale of a world gone wrong, of a mysterious "Area X" and the expeditions that have suffered and died trying to map it — and the strange government agency that keeps sending them in. But there's a lot seething under that surface: monsters, hauntings, a slowly building sense of wrong and terror that will twist your brain around sideways. "If the guys who wrote Lost had brought H.P. Lovecraft into the room as a script doctor in the first season," our critic Jason Sheehan wrote , "the Southern Reach trilogy is what they would've come up with."
The Echo Wife
Part sci-fi cautionary tale, part murder mystery, The Echo Wife is a twisty treat . At its center are a famed genetic researcher and her duplicitous husband, who uses her breakthrough technology to clone himself a sweeter, more compliant version of his wife before ending up dead. "As expertly constructed as a Patek Philippe watch," says poll judge Tochi Onyebuchi. "Seamlessly blends domestic thriller and science fiction," adds fellow judge Fonda Lee. "This book is going to haunt my thoughts for a long time."
The Locked Tomb (series)
This series is often described as "lesbian necromancers in space," but trust us, it's so much more than that. Wildly inventive, gruesome, emotional, twisty and funny as hell, the Locked Tomb books are like nothing you've ever read before. And we defy you to read them and not give serious consideration to corpse paint and mirror shades as a workable fashion statement. There are only two books out now, of a planned four-book series, but Gideon the Ninth alone is enough to earn Tamsyn Muir a place on this list: "Too funny to be horror, too gooey to be science fiction, has too many spaceships and autodoors to be fantasy, and has far more bloody dismemberings than your average parlor romance," says critic Jason Sheehan. "It is altogether its own thing."
Remembrance of Earth's Past (series)
Liu Cixin became the first author from Asia to win a Hugo Award for Best Novel, for The Three-Body Problem , the first volume in this series about one of the oldest questions in science fiction: What will happen when we meet aliens? Liu is writing the hardest of hard sci-fi here, full of brain-twisting passages about quantum mechanics and artificial intelligence (if you didn't actually know what the three-body problem was, you will now), grafted onto the backbone of a high-stakes political thriller. Poll judge Tochi Onyebuchi says, "These books divided me by zero. And, yes, that is a compliment."
Machineries of Empire (series)
In the Hexarchate, numbers are power: This interstellar empire draws its strength from rigidly enforced adherence to the imperial calendar, a system of numbers that can alter reality. But now, a "calendrical rot" is eating away at that structure, and it's up to a mathematically talented young soldier — and the ghost of an infamous traitor — to try to repair the rot while a war blazes across the stars around them. " Ninefox Gambit is a book with math in its heart, but also one which understands that even numbers can lie," our critic Jason Sheehan wrote . "That it's what you see in the numbers that matters most."
Will Mess With Your Heart
Books that'll make you cry, make you think — and sometimes make you want to hide under the bed.
The Broken Earth (series)
In the world of the Stillness, geological convulsions cause upheavals that can last for centuries — and only the orogenes, despised yet essential to the status quo — can control them. N.K. Jemisin deservedly won three back-to-back Hugo awards for these books, which use magnificent world building and lapidary prose to smack you in the face about your own complicity in systems of oppression. "Jemisin is the first — and so far only — person ever to have won a Hugo Award for Best Novel for every single book in a series. These books upheaved the terrain of epic fantasy as surely and completely as Fifth Seasons transform the geography of the Stillness," says poll judge Amal El-Mohtar.
Author Emily St. John Mandel went on Twitter in 2020 and advised people not to read Station Eleven , not in the midst of the pandemic. But we beg to disagree. A story in which art (and particularly Shakespeare) helps humanity come back to itself after a pandemic wipes out the world as we know it might be just the thing we need. "Survival is insufficient," say Mandel's traveling players (a line she says she lifted from Star Trek ), and that's a solid motto any time.
This Is How You Lose the Time War
Enemies-to-lovers is a classic romance novel trope, and it's rarely been done with as much strange beauty as poll judge Amal El-Mohtar and co-author Max Gladstone pull off in this tale of Red and Blue, two agents on opposite sides of a war that's sprawled across time and space. "Most books I read are objects of study. And more often than not, I can figure out how the prose happened, how the character arcs are constructed, the story's architecture," says judge Tochi Onyebuchi. "But then along comes a thing so dazzling you can't help but stare at and ask 'how.' Amal and Max wrote a cheat code of a book. They unlocked all the power-ups, caught all the Chaos Emeralds, mastered all the jutsus, and honestly, I'd say it's downright unfair how much they flexed on us with Time War , except I'm so damn grateful they gave it to us in the first place." (As we noted above, having Time War on the list meant that Max Gladstone couldn't make a second appearance for his outstanding solo work with the Craft Sequence . But you should absolutely read those, too.)
The Poppy War Trilogy
What if Mao Zedong were a teenage girl? That's how author R.F. Kuang describes the central question in her Poppy War series . Fiery, ruthless war orphan Fang Runin grows up, attends an elite military academy, develops fire magic and wins a war — but finds herself becoming the kind of monster she once fought against. Kuang has turned her own rage and anger at historical atrocities into a gripping, award-winning story that will drag you along with it, all the way to the end. "If this were football, Kuang might be under investigation for PEDs," jokes judge Tochi Onyebuchi, referring to performance-enhancing drugs. "But, no, she's really just that good."
The Masquerade (series)
Baru Cormorant was born to a free-living, free-loving nation, but all that changed when the repressive Empire of Masks swept in, tearing apart her family, yet singling her out for advancement through its new school system. Baru decides the only way to free her people is to claw her way up the ranks of Empire — but she risks becoming the monster she's fighting against. "I've loved every volume of this more than the one before it, and the first one was devastatingly strong," says judge Amal El-Mohtar — who said of that first volume, "This book is a tar pit, and I mean that as a compliment."
An Unkindness of Ghosts
The Matilda is a generation ship, a vast repository of human life among the stars, cruelly organized like an antebellum plantation: Black and brown people on the lower decks, working under vicious overseers to provide the white upper-deck passengers with comfortable lives. Aster, an orphaned outsider, uses her late mother's medical knowledge to bring healing where she can and to solve the mystery of Matilda 's failing power source. Poll judge Amal El-Mohtar originally reviewed An Unkindness of Ghosts for us , writing "What Solomon achieves with this debut — the sharpness, the depth, the precision — puts me in mind of a syringe full of stars."
The Bird King
G. Willow Wilson's beautiful novel, set during the last days of Muslim Granada, follows a royal concubine who yearns for freedom and the queer mapmaker who's her best friend. "It is really devastating to a critic to find that the only truly accurate way of describing an author's prose is the word 'luminous,' but here we are," says judge Amal El-Mohtar. "This book is luminous. It is full of light, in searing mirror-flashes and warm candleflame flickers and dappled twists of heart-breaking insight into empire, war and religion."
This was judge Tochi Onyebuchi's personal pick — a devastating portrait of a post-climate-apocalypse, post-Second Civil War America that's chosen to use its most terrifying and oppressive policies against its own people. "It despairs me how careless we are with the word 'prescient' these days, but when I finished American War , I truly felt that I'd glimpsed our future," Onyebuchi says. "Charred and scarred and shot through with shards of hope."
Poll judge Tochi Onyebuchi centers this story on the kind of person who's more often a statistic, rarely a fully rounded character: Kevin, who's young, Black and in prison . Born amid the upheaval around the Rodney King verdict, Kevin is hemmed in by structural and individual racism at every turn; meanwhile, his sister Ella has developed mysterious, frightening powers — but she still can't do the one thing she truly wants to do, which is to rescue her brother. This slim novella packs a punch with all the weight of history behind it; fellow judge Amal El-Mohtar says, "I've said it in reviews and I'll say it again here: This book reads like hot diamonds, as searing as it is precise."
On Fragile Waves
Every year, we ask our judges to add some of their own favorites to the list, and this year, Amal El-Mohtar teared up talking about her passion for E. Lily Yu's haunted refugee story On Fragile Waves . "I need everyone to read this book," she says. "I wept throughout it and for a solid half-hour once I had finished it, and I know it's hard to recommend books that make you cry right now, but I have no chill about this one: It is so important, it is so beautiful, and I feel like maybe if everyone read it the world would be a slightly less terrible place."
Will Make You Feel Good
Maybe, after the year we've just had, you want to read a book where good things happen, eventually? We've got you.
The Goblin Emperor
In a far corner of an elven empire, young half-goblin Maia learns that a mysterious accident has left him heir to the throne. But he has been in exile almost all his life — how can he possibly negotiate the intricate treacheries of the imperial court? Fairly well, as it turns out. Maia is a wonderful character, hesitant and shy at first, but deeply good and surprisingly adept at the whole being-an-emperor thing. The only thing wrong with The Goblin Emperor was that it was, for a long time, a stand-alone. But now there's a sequel, The Witness for the Dead — so if you love the world Katherine Addison has created, you've got a way back to it. "I just love this book utterly," says judge Amal El-Mohtar. "So warm, so kind, so generous."
Oh Murderbot — we know you just want to be left alone to watch your shows, but we can't quit you. Martha Wells' series about a murderous security robot that's hacked its own governing module and become self-aware is expansive, action-packed, funny and deeply human . Also, your humble poll editor deeply wishes that someone would write a fic in which Murderbot meets Ancillary Justice 's Breq and they swap tips about how to be human over tea (which Murderbot can't really drink).
The Interdependency (series)
John Scalzi didn't mean to be quite so prescient when he started this trilogy about a galactic empire facing destruction as its interstellar routes collapse — a problem the empire knew about but ignored for all the same reasons we punt our problems today. "Some of that was completely unintentional," he told Scott Simon . "But some of it was. I live in the world." The Interdependency series is funny, heartfelt and ultimately hopeful, and packed with fantastic characters. To the reader who said they voted "because of Kiva Lagos," we say, us too.
You don't expect a hard sci-fi novel to start with the phrase "I'm pretty much f****d," but it definitely sets the tone for Andy Weir's massive hit. Astronaut Mark Watney, stranded alone on Mars after an accident, is a profane and engaging narrator who'll let you know just how f****d he is and then just how he plans to science his way out of it. If you've only seen the movie, there's so much more to dig into in the book (including, well, that very first line).
Sorcerer to the Crown/The True Queen
A Regency romp with squabbling magicians, romance and intrigue, with women and people of color center stage? Yes, please! These two books form a wonderful balance. Sorcerer to the Crown is more whimsical and occasionally riotously funny despite its serious underlying themes. The True Queen builds out from there, looking at the characters and events of the first book with a different, more serious perspective. But both volumes are charming, thoughtful and thoroughly enjoyable.
How We Built This
Wow, you're some dedicated readers! Thanks for coming all the way down here to find out more. As I said above, we decided to limit ourselves to 50 books this year instead of our usual 100, which made winnowing down the list a particular challenge. As you may know, this poll isn't a straight-up popularity contest, though, if it were, the Broken Earth books would have crushed all comers — y'all have good taste! Instead, we take your votes (over 16,000 this year) and pare them down to about 250 semifinalists, and then during a truly epic conference call, our panel of expert judges goes through those titles, cuts some, adds some and hammers out a final curated list.
What Didn't Make It — And Why
As always, there were works readers loved and voted for that didn't make our final list of 50 — it's not a favorites list if you can't argue about it, right? Sometimes, we left things out because we felt like the authors were well known enough not to need our help (farewell, The Ocean at the End of the Lane , Neil Gaiman, we hope you'll forgive us!), but mostly it happened because the books either came out before our cutoff date or already appeared on the original 2011 list. (Sorry, Brandon Sanderson! The first Mistborn book was actually on this year's list, until I looked more closely and realized it was a repeat from 2011.)
Some books didn't make it this year because we're almost positive they'll come around next year — next year being the 10th anniversary of our original 2012 YA poll, when (spoiler alert!) we're planning a similar redo. So we say "not farewell, but fare forward, voyagers" to the likes of Raybearer , Children of Blood and Bone and the Grishaverse books; if they don't show up on next year's list I'll, I don't know, I'll eat my kefta .
And this year, because we had only 50 titles to play with, we did not apply the famous Nora Roberts rule, which allows particularly beloved and prolific authors onto the list twice. So as much as it pains me, there's only one Seanan McGuire entry here, and Max Gladstone appears alongside poll judge Amal El-Mohtar for This Is How You Lose the Time War but not on his own for the excellent Craft Sequence . Which — as we said above — you should ABSOLUTELY read.
One Final Note
Usually, readers will vote at least some works by members of our judging panel onto the list, and usually, we let the judges themselves decide whether or not to include them. But this year, I put my editorial foot down — all four judges made it to the semifinals, and had we not included them, the final product would have been the less for it. So you'll find all four on the list. And we hope you enjoy going through it as much as we enjoyed putting it together!
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Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy (Writing Series) Paperback – February 1, 2007
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- Print length 224 pages
- Language English
- Publisher Self-Counsel Press
- Publication date February 1, 2007
- Dimensions 6.07 x 0.47 x 9.05 inches
- ISBN-10 1551807858
- ISBN-13 978-1551807850
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About the author, product details.
- Publisher : Self-Counsel Press; 2nd edition (February 1, 2007)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1551807858
- ISBN-13 : 978-1551807850
- Item Weight : 11.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.07 x 0.47 x 9.05 inches
- #411 in Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing
- #2,413 in Words, Language & Grammar Reference
- #6,065 in Writing Skill Reference (Books)
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