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Catching up with Tor.com Publishing — August 2020 edition

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Tor.com novellas August 2020-small

Just some of the Tor.com releases that have accumulated in the Black Gate reference library since 2015

Arrgh. I can’t keep up with all the cool stuff coming from Tor.com.

You think it’d be easy. These are short little novellas, quick reads. I love novellas, and got all excited when they launched back in 2015, covered the first 33 releases in detail as they arrived, and watched in satisfaction as they started getting Hugos and Nebula nominations — and then virtually sweeping the nominations in the Novella category, year after year. And the books kept coming, and piling up on my desk, and then on the office tables at Black Gate‘s rooftop headquarters, and then spilling onto the floor….

Okay. I’m just one guy, I can’t keep up with the tireless dynamo that is Tor.com Publishing. But I’m not giving up. In the last few months alone, they’ve released brand new books by Jeffrey Ford, Alex Irvine, Carrie Vaughn (two!), Zen Cho, Emily Tesh, Eddie Robson — plus a new Murderbot novel by Martha Wells, and a New York Times bestseller by Tamsyn Muir. My readers deserve to know about it all, damnit.

So I’m in triage mode. Tor.com has been releasing a book a week for the past few months, and I can’t cover them all. But I can hit the highlights. So let’s take a look at three of their most interesting releases from the past few months.

[Click the images for novella-sized versions.]

The Empress of Salt and Fortune-small The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water-small Drowned Country-small

Covers by Alyssa Winans, uncredited, and David Curtis

First up is a debut from Nghi Vo, easily one of the most acclaimed books of the spring: a Paste Most Anticipated Novel of 2020; a Library Journal Debut of the Month, and a Buzzfeed Must-Read Fantasy Novel of Spring 2020. Jessica Wick at NPR called it “a remarkable accomplishment of storytelling,” and in a starred review Publishers Weekly labeled it “A stunning feminist fantasy… this masterfully told story is sure to impress.”

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo (112 Pages, $12.99 in paperback/$3.99 digital, March 24, 2020) — cover by Alyssa Winans

A young royal from the far north, is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully.

Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for.

At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the rise of the empress In-yo, who has few resources and fewer friends. She’s a northern daughter in a mage-made summer exile, but she will bend history to her will and bring down her enemies, piece by piece.

The sequel, When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, is scheduled to arrive in December. Read Maya Gittelman’s Tor.com coverage of the first book here.

Zen Cho, UK author of the BFA Award-winner (and Locus Award nominee) Sorcerer to the Crown, joined the Tor.com stable in June with a high-profile hardcover that sounds fantastic.

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho (160 Pages, $19.99 hardcover/$9.99 digital, June 23, 2020) — cover uncredited

Zen Cho returns with The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune-back-small Drowned Country-back-small

Back covers for The Empress of Salt and Fortune and Drowned Country

Emily Tesh’s fiction debut was the Tor.com novella Silver in the Wood, the opening book in The Greenhollow Duology. Publishers Weekly called it “Exquisitely crafted,” and Book Riot said (quite poetically, I thought) “Find a quiet place in a nearby wood, listen to the trees whisper, and thank the old gods and new for this beautiful little book.”

The sequel (and closing volume), a Buzzfeed Summer Must-Read, hits bookstores today.

Drowned Country by Emily Tesh (176 Pages, $13.99 paperback/$3.99 digital, August 18, 2020) — cover by David Curtis

Drowned Country is the stunning sequel to Silver in the Wood, Emily Tesh’s lush, folkloric debut. This second volume of the Greenhollow Duology once again invites readers to lose themselves in the story of Henry and Tobias, and the magic of a myth they’ve always known.

Even the Wild Man of Greenhollow can’t ignore a summons from his mother, when that mother is the indomitable Adela Silver, practical folklorist. Henry Silver does not relish what he’ll find in the grimy seaside town of Rothport, where once the ancient wood extended before it was drowned beneath the sea—a missing girl, a monster on the loose, or, worst of all, Tobias Finch, who loves him.

The Builders Daniel Polansky-smallThe Tor.com Publishing novella line began in 2015 with The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson. We’ve covered the first 33 here at Black Gate.

  1. The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
  2. Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell
  3. Sunset Mantle by Alter S. Reiss
  4. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  5. The Last Witness by K. J. Parker
  6. Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter
  7. Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace
  8. The Builders by Daniel Polansky
  9. Domnall and the Borrowed Child by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
  10. The Shootout Solution by Michael R. Underwood
  11. The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster
  12. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
  13. Patchwerk by David Tallerman
  14. Lustlocked, Matt Wallace
  15. A Song for No Man’s Land, Andy Remic
  16. The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle
  17. The Absconded Ambassador, Michael R. Underwood
  18. The Devil You Know, K. J. Parker
  19. Forest of Memory, Mary Robinette Kowal
  20. Pieces of Hate, Tim Lebbon
  21. Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire
  22. The Emperor’s Railroad, Guy Haley
  23. The Jewel and Her Lapidary, Fran Wilde
  24. A Whisper of Southern Lights, Tim Lebbon
  25. Runtime, S. B. Divya
  26. Infomocracy, Malka Older
  27. Return of Souls, Andy Remic
  28. Pride’s Spell, Matt Wallace
  29. The Ghoul King, Guy Haley
  30. Nightshades, Melissa F. Olson
  31. City of Wolves, Willow Palecek
  32. Spiderlight, Adrian Tchaikovsky
  33. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson

The-Emperors-Railroad-smallerFor more details, check out Tor.com‘s online catalog:

New Releases
Coming Soon
Download the Tor.com Publishing Sampler for Free!
Free Short Fiction — hundreds of free short stories and novelettes at Tor.com

Our more recent coverage includes:

Harrow the Ninth, Book 2 of The Locked Tomb Trilogy by Tamsyn Muir
The Ghosts of Sherwood and The Heirs of Locksley by Carrie Vaughn
Anthropocene Rag by Alex Irvine
Network Effect is the First Full Novel in the Martha Wells’ Epic Murderbot Saga
Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson
Rebecca Diem on The New Golden Age of the SFF Novella
Intergalactic Wars, Ancient Gods, and Living Ships: New Novellas from Tor.com
Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney
Get Cozy with Tor.com Publishing’s Winter 2017 Titles
Caterers to the Damned, Zombie Gladiators, and Lovecraft’s Dreamlands: Catching Up With Tor.com Publishing
Proceeding in the Pulp Tradition by Writing Five Novels a Year: A Conversation With Guy Haley
Tor.com Publishing’s Fall 2016 Line-Up
Pirates, Weather Sorcery, and Desperate Nautical Adventure: The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster
The Goblin King, New York Sorcery, and Demon Pirates: The New and Upcoming Fantasies of Tor.com

See all of our coverage of the best in upcoming fantasy here.

2 Comments »

  1. i have been loving the ones i am able to read given the output, the only thing that turns me off is a lot of the prices are $10 or more for a smaller page count. now i know i should judge the worth on how great the story is, but it’s a hurdle i hve a hard time jumping, especially if i havent reseached if it’s something i would like in the first place. i am glad authors are getting paid, at leaast it seems with this imprint, but i guess i am just stuck in the 8 bucks for a paperback that is long, and the new thing seems to be 160 pages for $10 plus.

    i have still bought quite a few because the reviews and synopsis make them sound like something i dont want to miss, and compared to video games getting a full story for 10 is way less then a 15-20 hour game at $60.

    wish i could get over this, haha.

    Comment by silentdante - August 19, 2020 7:20 pm

  2. Dante,

    I know what you mean. It’s a very fair critique, in fact. Especially for the shorter novellas which are barely 120 pages or so.

    The books are far more reasonably priced in digital format — $3.99 each. I think that’s the default format for these books; I suspect the physical print runs aren’t that high. Which may explain why the per-unit price is higher.

    I don’t mind playing a higher price. But then again I get a lot of review copies for free, so I don’t mind paying full price for the ones I really want. So I’m probably not the best person to judge.

    Comment by John ONeill - August 19, 2020 11:00 pm


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