July has been a terrific month for fantasy readers, with several exciting debuts, more than a few big names, and a handful of highly anticipated installments in popular series. As usual, Jeff Somers at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog handily summarizes the most interesting titles of the month. Here’s a half-dozen of his best selections.
Kill the Farm Boy by Kevin Hearne and Delilah S. Dawson (Del Rey, 384 pages, $27 in hardcover/ $13.99 digital, July 17)
Hearne and Dawson set out to undermine the white male patriarchy in a hilarious and surprisingly deep fantasy in the Pratchett mold. The titular, clichéd farm boy destined to save the world is killed more or less immediately after being anointed the Chosen One, but his death doesn’t end the threat to the world. A colorful band of unlikely heroes must assemble to do the job for him, including a half-rabbit bard, an aspiring evil wizard whose main skill is conjuring bread, a rogue lacking any sort of coordination, and, naturally, a talking goat. Their quest to take on the Dark Lord infesting their world with evil curses and evil-er magic is filled with plenty of jokes, songs, and riffs on the fundamental importance of cheese — but also delves into the inner lives of these crazy characters, making them real, interesting people. (Which is more than can be said of many super-serious epic fantasy stories.)
If Kill the Farm Boy is half as much fun as I’ve been hearing, it deserves to be the breakout title for the month. It’s book 1 of The Tales of Pell; no news yet on the next release.
[Click the images for bigger versions.]
City of Lies by Sam Hawke (Tor Books, 560 pages, $28.99 hardcover/$15.99 trade paperback/$9.99 digital, July 3)
Hawke’s debut attracted early comparisons to the work of Robin Hobb, and her story of a young poison-master who must solve a murder to save his city certainly echoes the best qualities of those beloved books: a captivating first-person voice, a richly detailed world, and a complex plot laden with intrigue and conspiracies. Hawke inverts the common fantasy trope of the ever-popular assassin [in] the story of Jovan, secret heir to a family of Proofers, who dedicate their lives to protecting the highborn from poisons. Jovan’s uncle serves the chancellor while Jovan protects his heir, pretending to be his highborn friend. When both Jovan’s uncle and the chancellor fall prey to a poison no one has encountered before, Jovan must protect the heir at all costs, even as the city falls under siege. Rich worldbuilding and a twisty plot — there are worse things than being spoken of in the same breath as the author of Assassin’s Apprentice.
I’m a sucker for a strong fantasy debut, and this one looks one of of the most promising in months. City of Lies is the opening novel in The Poison Wars.
Redemption’s Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Solaris, 520 pages, $11.99 trade paperback/$6.99 digital, July 31)
Prolific fantasist Tchaikovsky plays with epic tropes, picking up his latest novel where most books end. A decade ago, the Kinslayer returned from the darkness. A brutal demigod, he led armies of Yorughan and monsters from the void on a rampage, destroying armies and leaving nothing but ruin in his wake. A group of heroes, aided by desperate traitors among the Kinslayer’s army, defeated and killed the despot. As Redemption’s Blade begins, as one of those heroes, Celestaine, dedicates herself to rebuilding the world the Kinslayer almost destroyed — a world where his influence is still strongly felt, possibly strongly enough to destroy the fragile peace. Tchaikovsky also writes excellent sci-fi — his science-fiction novella The Expert System’s Brother is also out this month from Tor.com Publishing.
Redemption’s Blade is perhaps my top choice among Jeff’s selections, and almost certainly the one I’ll read first. Our previous coverage of Adrian Tchaikovsky includes a look at his novel The Tiger and the Wolf, M Harold Page’s review of Guns of the Dawn, and the 2016 article Adrian Tchaikovsky Suggests Five Books Featuring Adventuring Parties.
Apocalypse Nyx, by Kameron Hurley (Tachyon Publications, 288 pages, $15.99 trade paperback/$7.99 digital, July 17)
Nyx, who readers met in Hurley’s Bel Dame Apocrypha series, is a mercenary with a serious drinking problem, which is really only a coping mechanism for her serious everything else problem. In five standalone stories, Nyx and her messed-up crew take on a series of dispiriting jobs as they fight for survival in a world dominated by enormous insects—a world composed of war-blasted wastelands, in which bug magicians plot to exploit an endless war for their own gains. Nyx investigates the death of an ex-con, pays off old debts, and manages to keep her and her team alive — barely — in the midst of a holy war on a planet where technology is all about genetically-altered bugs. In the end, bare survival may be all they’re capable of — but fans of the Bel Dame books will catch plenty of arch references to future adventures and terrible fates that haven’t been served up just yet.
Kameron Hurley’s novels include The Stars Are Legion, and her Nebula-nominated debut God’s War.
Spellslinger, by Sebastien de Castell (Orbit, 432 pages, $15.99 trade paperback/$9.99 digital, July 17)
Kellen is the heir to a powerful magical family in a world that values magical power over everything in this series-starter from de Castell, who won acclaim for his swashbuckling fantasy series The Greatcoats. Kellen’s future should be assured, except for one thing: he can’t cast much magic, and when he turns 16, he will be forced to engage in a magical duel to prove his abilities to society. Instead, Kellen has been honing other skills—deception, trickery, and a keen intelligence—hoping to defeat his magical opponent using nothing more than his brains. When ruse is exposed by his little sister, a magical genius, Kellen is saved from serious harm by a mysterious stranger, Ferius Parfax. Eager to exploit his connection with Parfax, Kellen is enlisted to spy on her by Dowager Magus, widow of the former prince of Kellen’s clan. As an election approaches to choose a new family leader, Kellen must weigh his loyalties, even as a mysterious malady afflicts the young magicians of his nation, preventing them from casting spells. This is the first of a planned six-volume series, with the first four arriving in rapid succession between now and October.
As Jeff notes in that final line, Sebastien de Castell is a one-man publishing force in 2018. Spellslinger, the opening book in a 6-volume series, arrived in paperback this month; the next three titles will all appear in rapid succession in the next few months, culminating with Soulbinder in December. As if that weren’t enough, he just wrapped up his breakout Greatcoats series with the fourth volume, Tyrant’s Throne, on April 5th of this year. In her review of the first one Sarah Avery said, “I love this book.” See all our coverage of Sebastien de Castell here.
One of Us, by Craig DiLouie (Orbit, 400 pages, $26 in hardcover/$9.99 digital, July 17)
In Huntsville, Georgia in 1968, a mysterious and untreatable sexually-transmitted disease moves through the population, resulting in stillborn and malformed babies. The ones that survive are known as the Plague Generation, and are rejected by the community. They are gathered in The Home, where they are mistreated and abused. When the Plague children begin to develop powers, they see a chance to break free from the “Normals” who have imprisoned and tortured them, and they begin to plot a war against humanity — but their burgeoning powers have attracted the notice of the government, which sees great potential for these children as weapons, even as they slowly come into their own in terrifying and violent ways.
Read Jeff’s complete list of 31 fabulous titles for July here.
The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog is a great resource for those with limited reading time (like us). Here’s a few of our selections from their recent articles.
The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of June 2018 by Jeff Somers
The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of May 2018 by Jeff Somers
The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of April 2018 by Jeff Somers
The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Comics & Graphic Novels of February 2018 by Jeff Somers
The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2017 by Joel Cunningham
The B&N Sci-fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Comics & Graphic Novels of August by Ross Johnson
The B&N Sci-fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of August by Jeff Somers
B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2017 So Far by Joel Cunningham
B&N Blog on 96 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in 2017 by Joel Cunningham
Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Selects the Best Horror Books of 2016 by Sam Reader
See all our recent New Treasures here.