Future Treasures: The Blackest Heart, Book 2 of The Five Warrior Angels by Brian Lee Durfee

Friday, February 8th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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The Forgetting Moon, the 800-page fat-fantasy debut from Brian Lee Durfee, was published in 2016 to some acclaim, and drew comparisons to Steven Erikson, David Eddings, and George R. R. Martin. SFFWorld was impressed, though it found things a little on the grimdark side.

When a young boy, Nail, is orphaned and taken in by a gruff and mostly silent warrior named Shawcroft, you might have an idea that Brian Lee Durfee’s The Forgetting Moon is going to tread into the waters of Epic Fantasy. You’d be mostly correct, but the routes he takes are down some of the more shadowy, grim, and darkest roads traveled in this popular sub-genre of Fantasy. To say that The Forgetting Moon leans on the shady grimdark side of fantasy would be an understatement, but nothing else about Durfee’s epic novel (and saga) is understated.

Not too surprisingly, one of the most enthusiastic reviews came from Matthew Cropley at Grimdark Magazine.

The Forgetting Moon by Brian Lee Durfee is a fantastic new addition to the grimdark fantasy landscape… The story begins with Nail, a young man living in a sleepy whaling village in the corner of the kingdom of Gul Kana. Unbeknownst to Nail, he has a grand destiny to fulfil and magical items that only he can wield. In Amadon, the capital of Gul Kana, Princess Jondralyn seeks to become a warrior as her younger sister, Tala, is swept into an assassination plot. Gault, a knight of the invading army from Sør Sevier, has become disillusioned with the conflict, and questions the rule of the conquering Angel Prince, Aeros Raijael. Other individuals scattered across the kingdom give further insight into the escalating war… It sounds like a familiar story but, in this case, Durfee turns it on its head. Nail is far from the moralistic hero of traditional fantasy, and everyone seems to have a different interpretation of the prophecies, if they’re even genuine in the first place…

The Forgetting Moon is an engaging tale about the fine line between truth and lies. It skilfully subverts stories of destiny and ancient magic without losing the grandeur such stories possess. The characters are memorable and realistic, the world is steeped in lore, and the book succeeds in being both fast-paced and sweeping. Brian Lee Durfee has done a fantastic job with his first novel, and the four more to come in the series are books to get excited about.

Wait, there are four more?? Volume two, The Blackest Heart, arrives in hardcover on February 26, and my advance copy tips the scales at 941 pages. We’re only two books into this series, and it’s already over 1,700 pages long. It you like your grimdark epic, I have good news for you.

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Future Treasures: Broken Stars: Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, edited by Ken Liu

Monday, February 4th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Science Fiction has a reputation — deserved, I think — for being an inhospitable market for non-English writers. Some of the great science fiction writers of all time, like Jules Verne, Jorge Luis Borges, Stanisław Lem, Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, Pierre Boulle, Elizabeth Vonarburg, and Karel Čapek, wrote in languages other than English…. but remarkably few found real success with American readers.

But that’s changing rapidly as the world gets smaller, and the American appetite and appreciation for international culture grows, especially among the young. Japanese anime, manga, and videogames have been hugely popular in the US for decades, and that helped open the door for Asian cinema, Bollywood, K-pop, Afrofuturism… and much, much more. Clarkesworld magazine has published a Chinese SF story in translation every issue for the past two years, and writers like Cixin Liu (The Three-Body Problem) have achieved breakout success in the U.S.

Ken Liu (The Grace of Kings, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories) has been at the forefront of the Chinese SF invasion, as both promoter and translator. Invisible Planets, his 2016 anthology of contemporary Chinese SF in translation, came in #2 in the Locus Poll for Best Anthology. This month he builds on that success with Broken Stars, a brand new collection of 16 short stories from Liu Cixin, Hao Jingfang, Xia Jia, Chen Qiufan, and many others. It also includes three essays that explore the history of Chinese SF, survey modern Chinese fandom, and the impact of the growing popularity of SF in China. Broken Stars arrives in hardcover from Tor on February 19.

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Future Treasures: Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones by Micah Dean Hicks

Thursday, January 31st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Chicago is being crushed by record-breaking cold this week. Trains aren’t running, the post office isn’t delivering mail, and I haven’t gone to work for two days.

But it’s a great time to cuddle under blankets with a good book. What kind of book do you read when it’s bone-chillingly cold outside? A bone-chilling book, of course. Micah Dean Hicks’ horror debut Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones, “set in the creepiest screwed-up town since ’Salem’s Lot” (Sci Fi Magazine), looks like a perfect pick. It arrives in hardcover next Tuesday. Here’s the description.

Swine Hill was full of the dead. Their ghosts were thickest near the abandoned downtown, where so many of the town’s hopes had died generation by generation. They lingered in the places that mattered to them, and people avoided those streets, locked those doors, stopped going into those rooms… They could hurt you. Worse, they could change you.

Jane is haunted. Since she was a child, she has carried a ghost girl that feeds on the secrets and fears of everyone around her, whispering to Jane what they are thinking and feeling, even when she doesn’t want to know. Henry, Jane’s brother, is ridden by a genius ghost that forces him to build strange and dangerous machines. Their mother is possessed by a lonely spirit that burns anyone she touches. In Swine Hill, a place of defeat and depletion, there are more dead than living.

When new arrivals begin scoring precious jobs at the last factory in town, both the living and the dead are furious. This insult on the end of a long economic decline sparks a conflagration. Buffeted by rage on all sides, Jane must find a way to save her haunted family and escape the town before it kills them.

Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones will be published by John Joseph Adams Books on February 5, 2019. It is 298 pages, priced at $24 in hardcover and $12.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Chris Thornley. See all our recent coverage of the best upcoming fantasy here.

Read an Excerpt from Howard Andrew Jones’ Upcoming For the Killing of Kings at Tor.com

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Howard Andrew Jones upcoming novel For the Killing of Kings is the finest thing he has ever written — and considering his previous books include the modern fantasy classics The Desert of Souls and The Bones of the Old Ones, that’s saying a great deal. It is the opening volume The Ring-Sworn Trilogy, and one of the major fantasy releases of the year. I had a chance to blurb the hardcover release from St. Martin’s Press, and did so enthusiastically. Here’s what I said:

For The Killing of Kings is a white knuckle murder mystery brilliantly set in a Zelazny-esque fantasy landscape. It has everything ― enchanted blades, magic rings, edge-of-your seat sword fights, Game of Thrones-scale battles, ancient legends… It is the finest fantasy novel I have read in years.

The Tor.com excerpt features one of my favorite scenes, as Kyrkenall and Elenai approach a strange tower and find it defended by a mysterious ring of obelisks… and something far more sinister. Read the complete chapter here.

If you find yourself captivated by the excerpt, you won’t have long to wait. For the Killing of Kings will be published by St. Martin’s Press in three weeks, on February 19, 2019. It is 368 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover artist is uncredited. In addition to the exclusive Tor.com excerpt, you can also read the first chapter at the Macmillan website here, and keep up with the latest news at Howard’s website here.

Future Treasures: Never Die by Rob J. Hayes

Saturday, January 26th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Best Fantasy Books.com‘s Top 25 Best Indie Fantasy Books is a very handy list if you’re interested in discovering new fantasy talent. It originally appeared in 2016, and has been updated at least once, in November 2017. Buried deep in the article the (anonymous) author notes that

I found Mark Lawrence’s (you know, author of The Broken Empire series) Great Self Published Fantasy Blog Off contest immensely helpful for helping to point me in the direction of some of the stand out picks.

Okay, I didn’t know Mark had a self-publishing contest, but what a cool idea. The SPFBO has apparently been running for several years now, and has showcased several intriguing writers. For example, Rob J. Hayes won in 2017 for Where Loyalties Lie.

What’s so intriguing about Hayes? For one thing, except for one book from Ragnarok Publications, he’s exclusively self published, and his backlist is lengthy and impressive, including the Best Laid Plans series, The Ties that Bind trilogy, It Takes a Thief to Catch a Sunrise (2016) and City of Kings (2018). And next week his newest self-published effort Never Die arrives, the tale of five undead heroes re-animated by an eight-year-old Necromancer to take on an evil emperor. Here’s a snippet from Michael Gruneir’s review at Fantasy Book Review.

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Future Treasures: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Monday, January 21st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Samantha Shannon, author of the bestselling Bone Season trilogy, is the latest YA author to attempt the jump to adult fantasy. Her highly anticipated The Priory of the Orange Tree — all 830 pages of it — arrives in hardcover from Bloomsbury in a month.

The transition from YA superstar to mainstream success isn’t easy, however (just ask JK Rowling). But I’m extremely intrigued about this one. Mostly because of Sarah Avery’s review of The Bone Season to be honest, published right here back in 2014. Here’s the snippet that caught my eye.

Read this book. Just read it. Ignore the reviews that call Samantha Shannon the next J.K. Rowling, or call the series that opens with The Bone Season the next Hunger Games… It’s the book you would get if Philip K. Dick decided to write about the wild Victorian occult scene that flourished under Madame Blavatsky, blossomed again in the time of W.B. Yeats and Aleister Crowley, lingering until it faded with its evenstar, Dion Fortune. That is, if Philip K. Dick decided to take all that supernatural grandiosity, and steampunk adaptations of Victoriana, and turn them on their heads by transposing them into a dystopian near-future historical moment that feels intermittently like hard SF with its what-ifs scrambled.

The early reviews of The Priory of the Orange Tree have been very promising. Marie Brennan calls it “An astonishing achievement,” and Laini Taylor labels it a “magnificent epic of queens, dragonriders, and badass secret wyrm-slaying priestesses.” Publishers Weekly says it’s a “massive standalone epic fantasy with court intrigue, travel through dangerous lands, [and] fantastical religions.” Here’s the description.

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Future Treasures: The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan

Thursday, January 17th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Gareth Hanrahan has written or co-written an impressive number of gaming supplements for several of our favorite systems, including Ashen Stars, Trail of Cthulhu, Traveller, and 13th Age. His debut fantasy novel The Gutter Prayer, set in a world of strange monsters, dark gods and dangerous magic, explodes onto shelves next week, and it’s currently my most anticipated fantasy novel of the month. Peter McLean (Priest of Bones) calls it “A groundbreaking and extraordinary novel,” and Nicholas Eames (Kings of the Wyld) says “Guerdon is a city that seethes with history, horror, and hidden secrets, and Hanrahan’s assured style is reminiscent of China Mievelle in the best way possible.” Michael W. Everest at Fantasy Hive gave it a rave review, saying:

The Gutter Prayer is a mercurial masterpiece… Welcome to Guerdon. A city of cities, built upon the brick and block of those cities and civilisations before it. And like its construction, its citizens stand on the shoulders of those beneath them, those ‘low lifes’ whose only crime (or at least, their first crime) was to be born into a lower rank than the rich and the ruthless above them. Politicians and priesthoods, alchemists and ancient forces, sorcerers and saints, thieves and Tallowmen, golems and ghouls – Guerdon’s streets are a hive of scum and villainy that would spit out any Chosen One farmboy (or girl!).

This one looks like it will command my attention the day it arrives. Here’s the description.

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Future Treasures: Fog Season, Book II of Tales of Port Saint Frey by Patrice Sarath

Monday, January 14th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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I was proud to publish Patrice Sarath’s short story “A Prayer for Captain LaHire” in Black Gate 4, and see it reprinted in Year’s Best Fantasy 3 (2003). She turned to novels with the popular Gordath Wood trilogy (Gordath Wood, Red Gold Bridge, and The Crow God’s Girl). But her real breakthrough came last year with her first release from Angry Robot, The Sisters Mederos, the tale of a once-great family fallen on hard times, and the two sisters — one a masked bandit, and another with secret supernatural powers — who reverse their family’s downfall. Louisa Morgan (A Secret History of Witches) called it:

A colorful Dickensian fantasy that leads the reader on an unpredictable path of murder, intrigue, and mystery… It’s a tale of magic lost and recovered, fortunes made and squandered, and broken lives healed, all of it engineered by Yvienne and Tesara, two resourceful and delightful protagonists, in the company of some charming and often dangerous sidekicks.

Publishers Weekly gave it a rousing review saying,

The young women, newly returned from boarding school to a fantasy version of a preindustrial European port city, are determined to restore their family’s fortune and revenge themselves on the corrupt Merchant’s Guild, whose machinations lie behind House Mederos’s downfall. Yvienne, “the smartest girl in Port Saint Frey,” provokes through newspaper editorials, takes a governess job as an entrée into the houses of the powerful, and eventually discovers the excitement of committing armed robbery. Tesara, who conceals supernatural powers that she blames for the shipwreck that ruined her family, ingratiates herself with the upper classes at gambling tables… [The] heroines are entertaining company, and the dynamic between the two sisters — occasionally contentious, often secretive, always loving — is the most enjoyable part of this effervescent tale.

I’m delighted to see the sequel, Fog Season, scheduled to arrive February 5, less than a year after the release of the first, and I hope it’s the sign of more to come. Here’s the description.

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Future Treasures: The Numina Trilogy by Charlie N. Holmberg

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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I think I first discovered Charlie N. Holmberg back in June 2015, while compiling a list of the most interesting fantasy releases of the month. The Master Magician, third in her (yes, Charlie is a her) Wall Street Journal bestselling Paper Magician trilogy was released that month, and it piqued my curiosity. Fast forward to 2019, and Charlie is fast tracking a brand new trilogy, with the first novel Smoke and Summons due February 1st, followed by Myths and Mortals less than three months later on April 16, 2019. They’re the first two installments of The Numina Trilogy, set in a world of monsters and magic. Here’s the blurb for the first book.

As a human vessel for an ancient spirit, Sandis lives no ordinary life. At the command of her master, she can be transformed against her will into his weapon — a raging monster summoned to do his bidding. Unlike other vessels, Sandis can host extremely powerful spirits, but hosting such creatures can be fatal. To stay alive, she must run. And in a city fueled by smoke and corruption, she finds a surprising ally.

A cunning thief for hire, Rone owns a rare device that grants him immortality for one minute every day — a unique advantage that will come in handy in Sandis’s fight for freedom. But Sandis’s master knows how powerful she is. He’s determined to get her back, and he has the manpower to find her, wherever she runs.

Now, to outwit her pursuers, Sandis must put all her trust in Rone and his immortal device. For her master has summoned more than mere men to hunt her down…

No news on the third book, but you can keep an eye on her website for updates. Smoke & Summons will be published by 47North on February 1, 2019. It is 365 pages, priced at $24.95 in hardcover, $14.95 in trade paperback, and $4.99 for digital editions. Myths and Mortals arrives April 16, 2019 with the same pricing; no word on page count yet. The covers are by Marina Muun.

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

The Future of Politics, a Desert Fantasy, and Murder in the City of the Dead: Spring Titles from Parvus Press

Sunday, January 6th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Early last year I wrote about a trio of books I discovered from a promising new publisher, Parvus Press. They were plenty interesting: Flotsam, by RJ Theodore, a steampunk space opera, and Vick’s Vultures & To Fall Among Vultures, the first two titles in Scott Warren’s Union Earth Privateers space opera. Parvus Press’s catalog was filled with an enticing assortment of new and forthcoming titles, especially for such a small company. They certainly made a fine first impression, and I made a note to keep close tabs on them.

While prowling the World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore I spotted Colin Coyle, one of the co-founders of Parvus, and after badgering him for three solid hours he cracked like a nut and started spilling secret intel on their 2019 titles. In a dark corner of the bar he grudgingly gave up details, glancing nervously over his shoulder the entire time, while I hastily scribbled notes.

Okay, it wasn’t exactly like that, but it can’t hurt if you picture it that way, so humor me a little. Besides, I did get some good quotes and lots of juicy book details out of Colin, and I’m willing to share them with you, so stop being so negative. Here’s all the secret pre-release info I gathered on the spring 2019 titles titles from Parvus Press. Many bothans died to bring us this information, so listen up.

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