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Category: New Treasures

The Complete Version of John C. Hocking’s Conan: Black Starlight is Now Available

The Complete Version of John C. Hocking’s Conan: Black Starlight is Now Available

Conan: Black Starlight (Titan Books, October 17, 2023)

The name John C. Hocking is well known to long-time Black Gate readers. He published several terrific stories in the print version of the magazine, including two tales in his Brand the Viking series, and the opening stories in his popular Archivist series, “A River Through Darkness and Light” and “Vestments of Pestilence,” which was continued in Skelos and Weirdbook. He’s also launched a brand new series, the King’s Blade tales, in Tales From the Magician’s Skull, edited by Howard Andrew Jones.

I was delighted to see that John had been commissioned to write a serialized novella for Marvel’s high-profile relaunch of Conan The Barbarian in 2019. Conan: Black Starlight was published in installments in the first twelve issues of the comic, and now the entire story has been collected by Titan in a single handsome volume.

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New Treasures: Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez

New Treasures: Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez


Our Share of Night (Hogarth, February 7, 2023)

I first heard of Mariana Enriquez in Adam Nevill’s 2022 Black Gate article, Five Great International Horror Collections, in which he celebrates “a sense of encountering original, innately weird creative visions for the first time” in the work of Luigi Musolino, Anders Fager, Attila Veres, and two collections from Enriquez, Things We Lost in the Fire and The Dangers of Smoking in Bed. Here’s the paragraph that grabbed my attention.

Argentinian Mariana Enriquez has been celebrated the world over, and I can see why from the quality of her writing. But I am surprised because her work is weird, not at all mainstream. How often does that kind of success come to a writer of quality weird? Almost never (because how many traditional publishers ever get excited about it?). I am heartened that it is possible. “Adela’s House” from Things We Lost in the Fire became an immediate favourite. Disturbing, sensory, unpredictable stories.

Enriquez’s fourth novel, her first to be translated into English, Our Share of Night, was published in hardcover by Hogarth this year, and I think the time is finally right for me to jump on board this train.

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Feminine Horror Works Better: A Darker Shade of Noir edited by Joyce Carol Oates

Feminine Horror Works Better: A Darker Shade of Noir edited by Joyce Carol Oates

A Darker Shade of Noir (Akashic Books, August 22, 2023)

Among the plethora of new anthologies of horror stories continuously produced by little-known editors, minor authors and obscure publishers, where very few tales are worth reading, here’s finally an above average anthology. Devoted to so called “body horror” and including only women authors, the volume is edited by Joyce Carol Oates, a well respected, famous writer herself, who certainly demonstrates her good taste in her selection of the stories.

Her insightful and detailed Introduction is a sort of commentary on the material, but for the purposes of this review I’ll focus on the tales that especially impressed me.

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A Fantasy City That Feels Alive: The Burnished City by Davinia Evans

A Fantasy City That Feels Alive: The Burnished City by Davinia Evans


Notorious Sorcerer and Shadow Baron (Orbit, September 13, 2022,
and November 14, 2023). Cover Design by Lisa Marie Pompilio

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a groundswell of interest like I’ve witnessed for Notorious Sorcerer, Davinia Evans’ debut novel and the opening book in her Burnished City series. It didn’t get a lot of attention when it was released in trade paperback last year, but over the last twelve months I’ve seen a lot of discussion. Everyone is talking about this book.

The Book Nook says it’s “compelling… a remarkable and ambitious debut,” and Every Book a Doorway calls it “Dazzling… badass and honestly wondrous… the story never has a dull page.” Publishers Weekly labels it an “energetic epic… This is a charmer,” and Book Page doesn’t rein in their enthusiasm, saying it “deploys genre tropes with delirious glee and builds a rich and fascinating world.”

All this recent buzz is good timing, since the sequel, Shadow Baron, arrives next month, and that gives me just enough time to finish the first volume and get some hot cocoa ready in time for Book Two.

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Future Treasures: The Queen of Days by Greta Kelly

Future Treasures: The Queen of Days by Greta Kelly

The Queen of Days (Harper Voyager, October 24, 2023). Cover design by Richard L. Aquan

Greta Kelly is the author of the Warrior Witch duology (The Frozen Crown and The Seventh Queen, both from Harper Voyager). I’m hearing a lot of pre-release buzz about her latest, The Queen of Days, a fantasy heist tale released in hardcover in two weeks.

The Queen of Days is the tale of a lovable band of thieves hired to steal a statue during a religious celebration. Like all tales of great heists, this one goes very wrong — in this case, accidentally ripping open a portal that allows warring gods into the world, threatening the entire city.

Publishers Weekly calls it “A high-stakes heist in a secondary world populated by gods, demigods, and plenty of wily rogues,” and Library Journal says it’s packed full of “”Incredible worldbuilding [and] fast-paced action… a fantasy heist novel filled with interesting characters, a vivid world, and protagonists trying to find their way through.”

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New Treasures: The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Seven edited by Neil Clarke

New Treasures: The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Seven edited by Neil Clarke


The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Seven (Night Shade,
September 5, 2023). Cover by Thomas Chamberlain-Keen

It’s been distressing to watch the havoc the pandemic played with many Year’s Best Science Fiction volumes. The 13th volume of Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, published by Prime Books, was delayed a year and produced in a digital only edition last year, and now that series seems to be dead. Jonathan Strahan’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction (Saga Press) published its final volume in 2021.

And Neil Clarke’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Volume 7 (Night Shade Books), covering fiction from 2021, was delayed a year, and finally arrived last month. Volume 8 is still (supposedly) scheduled for release next month, but there’s no word on it from either the publisher or the editor, and I’m very concerned this series may be dead as well.

What does that leave us? The ninth volume of John Joseph Adams’ Best American Science Fiction And Fantasy (Mariner Books, co-edited with R. F Kuang) arrives next month, and seems to be going strong. Allan Kaster produced The Year’s Top Hard Science Fiction Stories Volume 7 (Infinivox) in June. And Paula Guran edited two: The Year’s Best Fantasy: Volume Two (Pyr, August 15), and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: Volume 4 (Pyr, coming October 24). So the situation isn’t totally dire. But to lose so many top-notch anthologies in rapid succession is a blow.

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Neverwhens: Picts, Romans, Eldritch Horrors and Giants in the Earth collide in The Shadows of Thule by Patrick Mallet and Lionel Marty

Neverwhens: Picts, Romans, Eldritch Horrors and Giants in the Earth collide in The Shadows of Thule by Patrick Mallet and Lionel Marty

The Shadows of Thule (Humanoids, August 15, 2023). Cover by Lionel Marty

Scotland, 2nd Century AD. The Roman conquest has stopped south of Hadrian’s Wall; beyond it lies the land of the unconquered Gauls, and even further north, the wild hills of the Pictish people.

When a Roman general loses his wife in a Pictish raid, a mysterious necromancer convinces him to awaken an ancient horror and unleash it on the North. In response, Cormak Mac Fianna, the last king of the Picts, unites his fractured tribes to fight the rising evil. But he soon finds that the power of his tribes is not enough to stop the terrifying Shadows of Thulé from destroying everything in their path.

The only solution is to join forces with their enemies to fight the coming apocalypse but can the Picts, the Gauls, and the Romans set aside their differences long enough to save the world from the ancient evil threatening their existence?

It’s a growingly fine time for sword & sorcery: via small press efforts, via a new work by a major press (Howard Andrew Jones’s magisterial Lord of a Shattered Land) and by Titan’s reprints and pastiche of the works of Robert E. Howard. Among Titan’s efforts has been a much-heralded new Conan comic (rightly so, so far), but this ignores the long-standing catalog of French sword & sorcery comics (indeed, the French mag The Cimmerian is several years old already, and also decidedly better than Marvel’s recent mishandling of the adventuring barbarian.) Fortunately, Humanoids has been increasingly making a number of their titles available in English translation, and one of the newest is about as Sword & Sorcery as it gets!

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New Treasures: The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez

New Treasures: The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez


The Spear Cuts Through Water (Del Rey, May 30, 2023). Cover by Simón Prades

I always seem to be late with Simon Jimenez. Last year I found his acclaimed debut novel The Vanished Birds buried in the bottom of my TBR file, and three weeks ago I nabbed his follow up The Spear Cuts Through Water the instant I spotted it. Which turned out to be nearly a year after it was published, in August of last year. Some people arrive just as the party’s getting started, and some of us show up when the hors d’oeuvres are all gone and the cops have already raided the place.

Well, it’s still new to me, I guess. This looks like the last weekend of summer weather we’ll get in Chicago, and this book will keep me company on the porch. The Spear Cuts Through Water is the story of two warriors who must guide a dying goddess across a dangerous land, to bring an end to the rule of a tyrannical family. Paul Di Filippo at Locus compares it to Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light (high praise in my book), calling it “utterly individual… A wild chase and odyssey which you must read to believe,” and Polygon included it in their list of Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2022, calling it “mesmerizing… a love story unlike anything you’ve read before.”

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Future Treasures: The Big Book of Cyberpunk edited by Jared Shurin

Future Treasures: The Big Book of Cyberpunk edited by Jared Shurin

The Big Book of Cyberpunk (Vintage, September 26, 2023). Cover by Ociacia

While you and I have been spending our time talking about old paperbacks, Jared Shurin has been toiling away, making a rep for himself as an anthologist. The two volumes of original fantasy he assembled with Mahvesh Murad, The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories and The Outcast Hours, were both nominated for the World Fantasy Award, and his most recent books are two volumes of The Best of British Fantasy from NewCon Press.

His latest effort, on sale next week from Vintage Books, is an entirely different beast. The Big Book of Cyberpunk is a feast of a book, 1136 pages of fiction from the biggest names in science fiction. It belongs on your shelf next to the most monumental and groundbreaking anthologies of the last few years, including Jeff and Ann Vandermeer’s Big Book of Science Fiction, The Weird, and Lawrence Ellsworth’s Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure.

I was very pleased to see The Big Book of Cyberpunk is also the first appearance in print of Isabel Fall’s famous Hugo nominee “Helicopter Story” (2020), originally published in Clarkesworld under the title, “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter,” until that title generated such a furor of rage and resentment that the story was withdrawn after three days and the author entered a psychiatric hospital. Hopefully this will give that story more much-deserved exposure.

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Ancient Castles and All-Night Parties: The Collected Macabre Stories by L.P. Hartley

Ancient Castles and All-Night Parties: The Collected Macabre Stories by L.P. Hartley

The Collected Macabre Stories
By L.P. Hartley
Tartarus Press (Two volumes in slipcase, £80, 2023)

LP Hartley (1895-1972) was a British novelist (author of The Go-Between just to mention one title) and a prolific author of short stories, some of which have a distinctive dark vein.

Tartarus Press has collected his macabre stories in a new edition consisting of two hardcover volumes sold together in a slipcase, featuring thirty-seven stories.

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