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Future Treasures: The Helm of Midnight by Marina Lostetter

Future Treasures: The Helm of Midnight by Marina Lostetter

The Helm of Midnight (Tor Books, April 13, 2021)

There’s something about a well-rendered fantasy city that speaks to me of adventure. Maybe it’s the classic tales of Leiber’s Lankhmar, or Gygax’s Greyhawk, Ellen Kushner’s Riverside, Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork, or so many others. When I see a procedural detective novel in a fantastical city, I look forward to a tale of intrigue, action and surprises.

That’s what I’m expecting from The Helm of Midnight, the first novel in a new trilogy from Marina Lostetter, author of the popular Noumenon space opera series that wrapped up last year. It arrives in hardcover from Tor in three weeks. Here’s the description.

In a daring and deadly heist, thieves have made away with an artifact of terrible power—the death mask of Louis Charbon. Made by a master craftsman, it is imbued with the spirit of a monster from history, a serial murderer who terrorized the city.

Now Charbon is loose once more, killing from beyond the grave. But these murders are different from before, not simply random but the work of a deliberate mind probing for answers to a sinister question.

It is up to Krona Hirvath and her fellow Regulators to enter the mind of madness to stop this insatiable killer while facing the terrible truths left in his wake.

K. B. Wagers, author of the Farian War trilogy, calls it “An utterly enthralling mystery of magic, masks, and murder. Marina Lostetter weaves together three stories to a stunning conclusion.” Maybe that’s just a couple of space opera writers sticking together, but I’m willing to take the chance.

The Helm of Midnight will be published by Tor Books on April 13, 2021. It is 456 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover, $13.99 digital, and $27.99 in audio formats. Read a generous excerpt at

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

Future Treasures: Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley

Future Treasures: Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley

Skyward Inn (Solaris, March 16, 2021)). Cover by Dominic Forbes

Aliya Whiteley is the author of The Beauty (which I described as “dystopian horror filled with cosmic weirdness, strange fungi, and terrifying tales told around post-apocalyptic campfires” three years ago), The Arrival of Missives, and Skein Island. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably noticed that Whiteley is accumulating a rep for SF on the weird side.

Her newest certainly fits that mold. SFX calls Skyward Inn “A melancholy and compellingly weird tale of identity in crisis,” and Publisher’s Weekly says it’s a “deeply weird story of missed chances, invasion, and assimilation.” I don’t know about you, but those sound like compelling endorsements to me. Here’s the publisher’s description.

Drink down the brew and dream of a better Earth.

Skyward Inn, within the high walls of the Western Protectorate, is a place of safety, where people come together to tell stories of the time before the war with Qita.

But safety from what? Qita surrendered without complaint when Earth invaded; Innkeepers Jem and Isley, veterans from either side, have regrets but few scars.

Their peace is disturbed when a visitor known to Isley comes to the Inn asking for help, bringing reminders of an unnerving past and triggering an uncertain future.

Did humanity really win the war?

Skyward Inn will be published by Solaris on March 16, 2021. It is 336 pages, priced at $24.99 in hardcover, $6.99 in digital format, and $24.99 for the audiobook. Read an excerpt at SciFiNow.

See all our coverage of the best upcoming SF and fantasy here.

Revealing the Cover — and an Excerpt — from Robert V. S. Redick’s Sidewinders

Revealing the Cover — and an Excerpt — from Robert V. S. Redick’s Sidewinders

We’re big fans of Robert V. S. Redick here at Black Gate. I’ve lost count of how many of his books our staff has enthusiastically reviewed over the years but… whew, it’s a lot. That’s why we’re so excited at the impending release of Sidewinders, the second volume in The Fire Sacraments series (following Master Assassins, which we covered — you know it! — right here back in 2018).

As if we weren’t excited enough already, Black Gate website editor emeritus C.S.E. Cooney sent us this blurb for the book and I have to tell you, it wound us up pretty good. Have a look.

Sidewinders. I love this book, goddamnit. Robert V. S. Redick gives a fantasy reader everything her fiendish heart craves: plagues, prophets, demonic possessions, a desperate dash through desert dunes, giant spiders, giant cats, creepy children, plenty of vulgarity and sex, and an all-too-brief glimpse of paradise. So sure, if you like that kind of thing, go for it. Read this book. It’s for you. But wait, there’s more. For your not-so-average fantasy reader, your not-so-run-of-the-mill genre-lover, I beg you, look to Sidewinders. For it will give you ambiguity and delicacy. It will not spare you of its irony — and, oh, such irony! Its pages will impart so profound and aching an empathy that it just might leap off the page and follow you into your daily life. There is such courage in Robert V. S. Redick’s Sidewinders — such courage and fury and passion and hope. Truly a breathtaking work.

—C.S.E. Cooney, author of the forthcoming Saint Death’s Daughter, on Sidewinders

Talos Press will be publishing Sidewinders on July 6, 2021. Wunderkind PR were kind enough to send us a high-resolution sneak peek of the cover to share with you — and also a tasty excerpt from Chapter One of the book.

Without further ado — check out the gorgeous cover, featuring artwork by Mack Sztaba!

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Future Treasures: The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst

Future Treasures: The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst

Sarah Beth Durst has been nominated three times for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and the Andre Norton Award. Her most recent work for adults is the 4-volume Queens of Renthia series, which opened with The Queen of Blood (2016).

Her latest, arriving from Harper Voyager next week, is a standalone epic fantasy in which a band of aging warriors have a second chance to defeat dark magic and avenge a haunting loss. This is one of my most highly-anticipated March releases, and I’m looking forward to finally having a copy in my hands.

Twenty-five years ago, five heroes risked their lives to defeat the bone maker Eklor — a corrupt magician who created an inhuman army using animal bones. But victory came at a tragic price. Only four of the heroes survived. 

Since then, Kreya, the group’s leader, has exiled herself to a remote tower and devoted herself to one purpose: resurrecting her dead husband. But such a task requires both a cache of human bones and a sacrifice — for each day he lives, she will live one less.

She’d rather live one year with her husband than a hundred without him, but using human bones for magic is illegal in Vos. The dead are burned — as are any bone workers who violate the law. Yet Kreya knows where she can find the bones she needs: the battlefield where her husband and countless others lost their lives.

But defying the laws of the land exposes a terrible possibility. Maybe the dead don’t rest in peace after all.  

Five warriors — one broken, one gone soft, one pursuing a simple life, one stuck in the past, and one who should dead. Their story should have been finished. But evil doesn’t stop just because someone once said, “the end.”

The Bone Maker will be published by Harper Voyager on March 9, 2021. It is 496 pages, priced at $17.99 in trade paperback, $10.99 digital, and $44.99 for the audio CD. 

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

In 500 Words or Less: The Unbroken by C.L. Clark

In 500 Words or Less: The Unbroken by C.L. Clark

The Unbroken (Magic of the Lost #1)
By C.L. Clark
Orbit (544 pages, $16.99 paperback/$9.99 eBook, March 23, 2021)
Cover by Lauren Panepinto and Tommy Arnold

Typically when I read an ARC I’m definitely going to review, I take notes. Simple stuff like this is a cool moment to mention or I think the author is going for X that help frame my five hundred words when I sit down to write.

For The Unbroken, I wrote ABSOLUTELY NOTHING while reading because at no point did I want to break my journey through this narrative. Somehow I knew that as soon as I finished, I’d be at my computer typing. Which is what I’m doing right now.

One thing that sets an excellent fantasy novel apart for me these days is gut punches. You’re thrown into a world with a set of expectations for certain characters, and how quickly the author twists that around tells me the kind of ride I’m being taken on. In the first chapters of The Unbroken, Clark gives us a suite of amazing characters and a clear narrative trajectory – then suddenly one of those characters is gone, and another’s world is turned upside down, and the trajectory changes. And then halfway through it changes again, as the destination looming in the background turns out to be impossible, and you need to pivot alongside characters trying to navigate a changing, complex world.

There are no easy fixes or apologies between Clark’s characters, either. Decisions leave a permanent mark, much like in real life, and people need to navigate a new understanding of each other much like navigating the world. Touraine and Luca’s relationship is complex, and an example of what readers talk about when they say they want realistic, flawed, problematic women in their fiction. Wanting to root for them or keep shipping them almost feels wrong at times, as each makes decisions I can’t blame the other for not forgiving, no matter how badly they want to. Gut punches, like I said.

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Future Treasures: Dead Space by Kali Wallace

Future Treasures: Dead Space by Kali Wallace

Kali Wallace is the author of Salvation Day (July 2019), which Jeff Somers at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog called a “sci-fi horror thriller [that] looks do outdo the scares of Alien, and comes damn close.”

Her new novel is Dead Space, and it got a rave from Publisher’s Weekly (“a locked-room mystery set on an asteroid mining colony… a gripping, cinematic sci-fi thriller that readers won’t want to put down.”) I’m liking these comparisons to Alien, and mysteries set on mining colonies. I’m thinking I need to check this one out. Here’s the publisher’s description.

An investigator must solve a brutal murder on a claustrophobic space station in this tense science fiction thriller from the author of Salvation Day.

Hester Marley used to have a plan for her life. But when a catastrophic attack left her injured, indebted, and stranded far from home, she was forced to take a dead-end security job with a powerful mining company in the asteroid belt. Now she spends her days investigating petty crimes to help her employer maximize its profits. She’s surprised to hear from an old friend and fellow victim of the terrorist attack that ruined her life — and that surprise quickly turns to suspicion when he claims to have discovered something shocking about their shared history and the tragedy that neither of them can leave behind.

Before Hester can learn more, her friend is violently murdered at a remote asteroid mine. Hester joins the investigation to find the truth, both about her friend’s death and the information he believed he had uncovered. But catching a killer is only the beginning of Hester’s worries, and she soon realizes that everything she learns about her friend, his fellow miners, and the outpost they call home brings her closer to revealing secrets that very powerful and very dangerous people would rather keep hidden in the depths of space.

Dead Space will be published by Berkley on March 2, 2021. It is 336 pages, priced at $17 in trade paperback, $11.99 in digital formats, and $24.50 for the audio version. Read a lengthy excerpt at the Penguin website.

See all our recent coverage of the best upcoming SF and fantasy releases here.

Space Opera That Reshapes the Genre: A Desolation Called Peace, Book Two of Teixcalaan by Arkady Martine

Space Opera That Reshapes the Genre: A Desolation Called Peace, Book Two of Teixcalaan by Arkady Martine

The first two novels in the Teixcalaan series from Tor Books. Covers by Jaime Jones

Arkady Martine’s debut novel A Memory Called Empire was published in 2019, and was nominated for major awards, including both the Nebula and Hugo. Debuts don’t usually win awards, but that didn’t stop Martine — her first book won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, beating out competition from Seanan McGuire, Tamsyn Muir, Kameron Hurley, Charlie Jane Anders, and others. Andrew Liptak summed up some of the reasons in his rave review at The Verge, which called it “a brilliant blend of cyberpunk, space opera, and political thriller.” Here’s an excerpt.

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare, an emissary from the distant Lsel Station, is called to the center of the vast Teixcalaanli Empire after her predecessor winds up dead… The novel is set in the very distant future: humanity has spread throughout the stars, traveling from system to system by way of a stargate-style network. That’s allowed the Teixcalaanli Empire — a hungry, expansion-minded society — to spread its influence throughout inhabited space, its culture and knowledge stretching from system to system. Mahit Dzmare is the ultimate fish-out-of-water when she’s abruptly assigned to replace Ambassador Yskandr Aghavn, who perished in the empire’s capital city. Her home, a self-sustaining habitat, has remained free of the empire’s oversight, something of paramount importance to the inhabitants of Lsel station…

Unbeknownst to the Teixcalaanlis, the inhabitants of Lsel Station have a particularly advanced technology at their disposal: an Imago, a thumb-sized device implanted in their brainstem that essentially grafts a digital persona into their mind…

It’s an excellent, gripping novel with a brisk plot, outstanding characters, and plenty to think about long after it’s over.

The much anticipated sequel, A Desolation Called Peace, will be published by Tor Books on March 2, 2021. It is 496 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Jaime Jones. Publishers Weekly calls the second volume “A dizzying, exhilarating story of diplomacy, conspiracy, and first contact… This complex, stunning space opera promises to reshape the genre.” Read an excerpt at Gizmodo.

See all our recent coverage of the best new series SF and Fantasy here.

Future Treasures: Machinehood by S.B. Divya

Future Treasures: Machinehood by S.B. Divya

Machinehood (Saga Press, March 2, 2021). Cover by Richard Yoo and Zi Won Wang

S.B. Divya was nominated for a Hugo award for her groundbreaking work with Mur Lafferty on the hugely popular Escape Pod podcast. She’s published over a dozen short stories since 2014 in top-tier markets like Lightspeed,, and Uncanny magazine, but her breakout book was Runtime (, 2016), which was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novella.

Her latest is a near-future thriller with plenty of cyberpunk elements, set in a gritty futurescape run mostly by AIs. Publishers Weekly called Machinehood “stunning” in a rave review; here’s an excerpt.

Bodyguard Welga Ramírez is a disillusioned former Special Forces soldier who makes her living protecting CEOs and celebrities, using mechanical implants and a course of high-tech drugs to enhance her combat skills… Welga especially enjoys the opportunity to perform for the ubiquitous microdrone swarms that film and broadcast her every move. She even adds stylish action moves to her fights to improve her tips from her viewers. But when a job goes wrong, Welga faces a mysterious pro-AI terrorist group called The Machinehood. Determined to learn who they are and what they want, Welga heads into the very heart of The Machinehood’s operation… Divya keeps the pace rapid, and her crack worldbuilding and vivid characters make for a memorable, page-turning adventure, while the thematic inquiries into human and AI labor rights offer plenty to chew on for fans of big idea sci-fi. Readers will be blown away.

Machinehood will be published by Saga Press on March 2, 2021. It is 404 pages, priced at $27 in hardcover, $9.99 in digital formats, and $44.99 on audio CD. The cover was designed by Richard Yoo and feature 3D art by Zi Won Wang.

See all our recent coverage of the best upcoming SF and fantasy releases here.

Future Treasures: Transgressions of Power, Book 2 of The Broken Trust by Juliette Wade

Future Treasures: Transgressions of Power, Book 2 of The Broken Trust by Juliette Wade

Mazes of Power and Transgressions of Power (DAW, 2020/21) Covers by Adam Auerbach

I admit I got a little excited by the release of Mazes of Power last year, mostly because it’s set in a thousand year-old cave city (and if I have to explain why that’s so cool, we can’t be friends). But the series has become even more interesting with the impending release of the sequel, Transgressions of Power, arriving in hardcover in two weeks. Here’s an excerpt from the starred review at Publisher’s Weekly for the opening volume.

Wade’s excellent high fantasy debut, the first in the Broken Trust series, invites readers into an intricately constructed and morally ambiguous world full of complex political maneuvering and familial pressure. For centuries, the cavernous city of Pelismara has housed the 12 Great Families that comprise the noble class of the city’s strict caste system, who cling to the glory of a long-faded golden era. When a mysterious illness known as Kinders fever kills the city’s Eminence, the 12 families vie to fill the power vacuum. It’s up to 17-year-old Tagaret to represent his family in the competition to become heir to the throne, but his sociopathic brother Nekantor’s twisted attempts to help their family ascend to power threaten to tear down everything… The impressively winding plot, layered worldbuilding, and psychologically acute characterizations are sure to hold readers’ attention. Wade is an author to watch.

The sequel picks up the tale of the deadly battle for succession, in which brother is pitted against brother in a desperate bid for power. Transgressions of Power will be published by DAW Books on February 23, 2021. It is 480 pages, priced at $27 in hardcover, $14.99 in digital formats, and $29.99 for the audio version. Read the first seven pages of the first book here.

See all our coverage of the best upcoming science fiction and fantasy here.

Future Treasures: Amid the Crowd of Stars by Stephen Leigh

Future Treasures: Amid the Crowd of Stars by Stephen Leigh

Stephen Leigh has had a long and successful writing career. I bought his debut novel Slow Fall to Dawn forty year ago. It turned out to be the opening volume in the Hoorka trilogy, an epic tale of space-faring assassins, recently collected in the handsome DAW omnibus volume Assassin’s Dawn.

In the four decades since Leigh has published some 20 novels and over 40 short stories, including six volumes in the Ray Bradbury Presents series and, under the name S.L. Farrell, the Cloudmages Trilogy and three volumes of the Nessantico Cycle.

His latest, Amid the Crowd of Stars, is a far-future tale of alien infection on far-flung planets. It arrives in hardcover from DAW next week. Here’s an excerpt from Publishers Weekly‘s starred review.

Leigh (A Rising Moon) puts an inventive spin on a familiar trope in this provocative tale of first contact set in the far future. Long before the novel’s start, a devastating meteor strike cut Earth off from other colonized worlds, forcing the now isolated colonists to biologically adapt to their adopted outposts. Now Earth starship Odysseus visits one such outpost, the planet Canis Lupus, for the first time. The crew finds a populace eager to visit the ancestral home world they never knew — but potentially harboring diseases lethal to earthlings. As Terran exobiologist Ichiko Aguilar explores the planet, she discovers a culture divided into Mainlander clans and the Inish: archipelago settlers whose bond with the arracht, a sentient aquatic species indigenous to Canis Lupus, represents first contact between humanity and extraterrestrial life…. Exploring big ideas about interplanetary travel, this finely crafted sci-fi saga is full of both surprises and charm.

Amid the Crowd of Stars will be published by DAW Books on February 9, 2021. It is 352 pages, priced at $26 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. Read an excerpt at

See all our recent coverage of the best upcoming science fiction and fantasy titles in our Future Treasures posts.