New Treasures: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

Monday, March 2nd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

House of Earth and Blood-small House of Earth and Blood-back-small

Cover by Carlos Quevado

Sarah J. Maas is the bestselling author of two enormously popular young adult series, Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses, which Elizabeth Galewski called “A classic high fantasy.” House of Earth and Blood is the opening volume in Crescent City, her first adult series. Not every author can make a smooth transition from YA to adult fiction, but House of Earth of Blood has the basics of epic fantasy right. By which I mean it’s huge, a whopping 803 pages. Maureen Lee Lenker at Entertainment Weekly says “it earns the more mature label, with depictions of toe-curling sex, explicit violence, and liberal swearing (don’t worry, we won’t tell your parents).” Here’s the description.

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life — working hard all day and partying all night — until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose — to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion — one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

House of Earth and Blood will be published by Bloomsbury Publishing tomorrow, March 3, 2020. It is 803 pages, priced at $28 in hardcover and $19.60 in digital formats. The striking cover and endpapers are by Carlos Quevado. See all our recent New Treasures here.

Captured at Capricon: The Best of Greg Egan

Sunday, March 1st, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best of Greg Egan-small

Cover by David Ho

I attended Capricon, a friendly science fiction convention here in Chicago, last month. And as usual I spent much of my time wandering the Dealer’s Room, looking for bargains. As I often do I ended up at Greg Ketter’s Dreamhaven booth, where he had a bunch of discount paperbacks. (Yes, I needed a box to get back to my car.) But the most interesting purchase I made wasn’t a vintage Robert Silverberg or A.E. Van Vogt paperback, but a copy of The Best of Greg Egan, the new (and monstrously huge) retrospective collection from Subterranean Press.

I’ve read Egan almost exclusively at short length, and I’ve been very impressed (especially tales like “Reasons to be Cheerful,” the story of a man who slowly learns to reprogram his own personality after a near-fatal brain injury, which I read in Interzone), so this was a very easy decision to make. The collection has been well reviewed at Publishers Weekly (“Egan’s talent for creating well-drawn characters shines”), and Library Journal (“The author’s brand of hard sf is captivating, approachable, and not overly technical”), but the best review I’ve found is Russell Letson’s lengthy feature at Locus Online.

‘Unstable Orbits in the Space of Lies’’ lies somewhere between a Borgesian fable and an old Galaxy-style comic inferno: a literalized metaphor worked out with science-fictional rigor, as an epistemological hobo tries to maintain some independence of mind as he navigates an urban landscape that has been fractured by ‘‘attractors’’ into competing ideological precincts. The physical environment of ‘‘Into Darkness’’ is one of Egan’s topological puzzles, an intruding wormhole through which the narrator moves to rescue people trapped by its alien geometry and physical laws. The story framework is a tense and effective physical adventure, while at the same time the narrator recognizes the metaphorical properties of the space he is traversing.

As massive as this book is (it weighs in at 731 pages), it’s a relative bargain, priced at $45 in hardcover.

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A Gaslamp Fantasy with Political Intrigue and Witchcraft: The Kingston Cycle by C. L. Polk

Friday, February 28th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Will Staehle

C. L. Polk’s fantasy debut Witchmark made a huge splash in 2018. It came in fourth for the Locus Award for Best First Novel, was nominated for a Nebula, and won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. It was also included in Best of the Year lists by NPR, Publishers Weekly, BuzzFeed, the Chicago Review, BookPage, and the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog. It had lots of stellar coverage — including the Los Angeles Public Library, which called it “Brilliant… full of atmosphere and thrills” — but my favorite review was from Publishers Weekly. Here’s an excerpt.

Polk’s stellar debut, set in an alternate early 20th century in an England-like land recovering from a WWI-like war, blends taut mystery, exciting political intrigue, and inventive fantasy. Miles Singer’s influential family of mages wants to turn him into a living battery of magic for his sister to draw on. Fearing this fate, he runs away to join the army and make use of his magical healing abilities, although — like all magic-users — he must hide his powers or risk being labeled insane and sent to an asylum. When Tristan Hunter, a handsome, suave gentleman who’s actually an angel in disguise, brings a dying stranger to Miles’s clinic, the two pair up to uncover the reason for the man’s mysterious death… Polk unfolds her mythology naturally, sufficiently explaining the class-based magical system and political machinations without getting bogged down. The final revelations are impossible to see coming and prove that Polk is a writer to watch for fans of clever, surprising period fantasy.

The sequel, Stormsong, arrived in trade paperback earlier this month, and you know what that means. Time for me to track down a copy of the first book! Here’s the back covers for both.

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io9 on All the New SF & Fantasy You Need to Know About in February

Thursday, February 27th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Puzzler's War-small The Last Smile in Sunder City-small The Firmament of Flame-small

As the months go by I feel the loss of the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog keenly. It shut down on December 16th of last year, firing all freelancers and halting production of new content. That included Jeff Somers’ monthly survey of the best genre books, which I’d grown to depend on to keep me reliably informed. Fortunately there are fine other resources for book junkies, like Cheryl Eddy’s monthly new book column at io9/Gizmodo. This month Cheryl looks at 43 new titles from Seanan McGuire, Alastair Reynolds, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Ken Liu, Ben Aaronovitch, Katharine Kerr, Gareth L. Powell, R.E. Stearns, C.L. Polk, Sarah Gailey, Melissa de la Cruz, Justina Ireland, Cate Glass, and many others.

Here’s a few of the highlights. First up is the sequel to The Lost Puzzler, Eyal Kless’ tale of a lowly scribe sent out in world full of puzzles, tattooed mutants, and warring guilds, which we covered last year.

The Puzzler’s War by Eyal Kless (Harper Voyager, 560 pages, $17.99 trade paperback/$11.99 digital, February 4, 2020)

This follow-up to sci-fi adventure The Lost Puzzler finds a variety of characters — including an assassin, a warlord, and a mercenary — tracking down a teenage boy who may the only person able to save the world by solving the ultimate puzzle.

My underground contacts tell me The Puzzler’s War is the second novel in what’s being called The Tarakan Chronicles.

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Bringing to Life an Ancient Mystery: Cries From the Lost Island by Kathleen O’Neal Gear

Thursday, February 27th, 2020 | Posted by CAITLIN MCALLISTER

Cries From the Lost Island-smallCries From the Lost Island
by Kathleen O’Neal Gear
DAW (320 pages, $26 in hardcover/$13.99 digital, March 10, 2020)

Sixteen-year-old Hal Stevens is an outcast. His friend group consists of two people: Robert, a witch and Cleo Mallawi, who believes herself to be the reincarnation of the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra.

Hal is a budding historian, who just happens to be obsessed with Egypt. He and Cleo spend every moment of their free time discussing ancient Roman Egypt, which Cleo claims to remember intimately. She provides details Hal could never find in a book or online. Listening to her describe the landscape, politics and the great love between Cleopatra and Marc Anthony fills Hal with wonder.

A bit that fills him with fear is the demons that Cleo also describes, specifically Ammut, the Devourer of the Dead, whom she believes is hunting her in present day.

The stories Cleo has told Hal since they were children quickly transition from fantasy to reality when Hal finds Cleo murdered outside her home. Left with her pleas to help her find eternal rest, a mysterious medallion forced into his hands by his dying friend, and questions that may never be answered, Hal finds himself headed to Egypt with famed archeologist (and Cleo’s uncle) James Moriarity. Robert the witch completes the adventurous trio, bringing along his wards of protection and his sense of humor, which truly does entertain.

Cries From the Lost Island weaves fantasy and history together to create a beautiful adventure that the reader won’t be able to put down. O’Neal Gear, a nationally award-winning archeologist, has created an engrossing quest that spans Colorado to Egypt and brings to life an ancient mystery – what actually happened to Cleopatra and Marc Anthony?

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New Treasures: Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors, edited by Doug Murano and Michael Bailey

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover by M. Fersner/HagCult

Oh my goodness, this looks like fun. Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors is a brand new anthology from Doug Murano and Michael Bailey, and the small press Written Backwards. It’s packed with original fiction from many of the most important writers in horror today, including Michael Wehunt, Brian Hodge, Josh Malerman, Ramsey Campbell, Victor LaValle, Laird Barron, Scott Edelman, Lucy A. Snyder, Usman T. Malik, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Theodora Goss, and many others. It also has interior art by the talented cover artist M. Fersner (HagCult). Here’s a snippet from Sadie Hartmann’s feature review at Cemetery Dance.

Miscreations, by award-winning editors Doug Murano and Michael Bailey, proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that anthologies are well worth any amount of effort, money, blood, sweat, and tears…. I’ve been dying to read something from both Lisa Morton and Lucy A. Snyder; their stories blew me away. Morton’s is this strange story of a woman who sets her mind on creating a man from her own body. The results were both humorous and upsetting. Snyder’s is a brutal account of a sex worker encountering some kind of… monstrosity. It was really quite disarming and disturbing. Of course, I loved it.

I must make mention of the amazing work some of my long-time favorites did for this anthology. Nadia Bulkin captured my imagination and my heart with her mechanical giant. Josh Malerman did the same with his werewolves. I adored “You Are my Neighbor” by Max Booth III, once again confirming Max as one of the most consistently solid writers in the genre right now… I can’t forget to say that Alma Katsu’s foreword and the interior illustrations by M. Fersner (hagcult) assist in making all the moving parts of this anthology feel like one, cohesive… beast. Monster. Miscreation.

Here’s the complete table of contents.

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New Treasures: The Life Below by Alexandra Monir

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Jacket design by Erin Fitzsimmons and Molly Fehr; art by Getty Images and Shutterstock

I first noticed Alexandra Monir when Jessica Brody described her supernatural romance Suspicion as “If Alfred Hitchcock had directed Downton Abbey,” which is the kind of thing that gets my attention. Monir is an Iranian-American who’s published multiple novels for young adults, including The Girl in the Picture and Timeless. Her current series is near-future SF; it began with The Final Six, the story of teen astronauts o a dying Earth competing for a trip to Europa. The sequel The Life Below arrived this week; Kirkus calls it “Fast-paced and plot-driven, the novel decidedly veers into science fiction horror territory with plenty of scares.” Also the kind of thing that gets my attention. Here’s the publisher’s description.

It was hard enough for Naomi to leave Leo, a fellow Final Six contestant, behind on a dying Earth. Now she doesn’t know who to trust.

The International Space Training Camp continues to dodge every question about its past failed mission, and Naomi is suspicious that not everything is as it seems on her own mission to Europa. With just one shot at Jupiter’s moon, Naomi is determined to find out if there is dangerous alien life on Europa before she and her crew get there.

Leo, back on Earth, has been working with renegade scientist Dr. Greta Wagner, who promises to fly him to space where he can dock with Naomi’s ship. And if Wagner’s hypothesis is right, it isn’t a possibility of coming in contact with extraterrestrial life on Europa — it’s a definite, and it’s up to Leo to find and warn Naomi and the crew.

With questions piling up, everything gets more dangerous the closer that the mission gets to Europa. A storm threatens to interfere with Leo’s takeoff, a deadly entity makes itself known to the Final Six, and all questions the ISTC has been avoiding about the previous mission get answered in a terrifying way.

If the dream was to establish a new world for humans on Europa…the Final Six are about to enter a nightmare.

The Life Below was published by HarperTeen on February 18, 2020. It is 311 pages, priced at $18.99 in hardcover, $10.99 in digital formats. Read an excerpt from The FInal Six at, and see all our recent New Treasures here.

Captured at Capricon: The Lucky Devil Series by Megan Mackie

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Finder of the Lucky Devil-small The Saint of Liars-small

I spent last weekend at Capricon 40, a long-running and very friendly science fiction convention here in Chicago with interesting panels, delightful readings, and a great Dealers Room. One of the highlights of the Dealers Room (besides the jewelry vendors, where I spent a small fortune on gifts for Alice to make up for missing Valentine’s Day) was the Bad Grammar Theater booth manned by Chicago authors Brendan Detzner, K.M. Herkes, R.J. Howell, and Megan Mackie. Bad Grammar is a reading series featuring local authors, and the books they had on display looked darn enticing. I ended up buying a whopping 8 titles  at that booth alone.

Truthfully, I bought a lot of books at the convention — including an overflowing box from Greg Ketter of Dreamhaven Books — and I hope to cover the most interesting titles here over the next few weeks. But the one that leaped into my hands when I finally settled in my big green chair was The Finder of the Lucky Devil, the self-published novel by Megan Mackie, and the opening novel in her Lucky Devil series. It’s got an intriguing premise, and that beautiful cover doesn’t hurt any.

The Finder of the Lucky Devil is an urban fantasy… of sorts. Yes, it’s a fantasy. But it’s also set in a dystopian future Chicago ruled by corporations. I did my homework before digging in, and found it’s been well reviewed at Windy City Reviews and Good Reads, where it enjoys a rating of 4.08 and comments like “a fun read with some heart stopping moments… a fresh urban detective-style fantasy with wizards, fairies, corporate spies, shapeshifters, and even a mermaid dog stylist” (from Rebekah). Here’s a look at the back cover of Lucky Devil and its sequel The Saint of Liars, plus a snippet from one of my favorite reviews.

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Future Treasures: The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

Monday, February 17th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Jacket design by Richard Yoo

It good to see a few mainstream publishers still producing collections. The Hidden Girl and Other Stories is Ken Liu’s second, and his second with Saga Press. It follows 2016’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, which was nominated for a World Fantasy Award and won the Locus Award for Best Collection, and about which Amal El-Mohtar wrote, “I have never been so moved by a collection of short fiction. I was at times afraid to read more.”

There’s fine reviews of the new collection at Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, but the most insightful reviewer I’ve found is Paul Di Filippo at Locus Online, who compares Liu to Philip K. Dick, Zelazny, and Heinlein.

“The Reborn” shows us an Earth conquered by aliens who impose their own brand of mutable personalities on humans who resist them. A kind of PKD vibe of surreal memory games pervades the creepy piece…. A wave of Zelaznyian SF-fabulism overcame me as I read “Grey Rabbit, Crimson Mare, Coal Leopard,” which blends shape-changing with the lives of the “midden miners,” poor citizens scavenging the remnants of our era… “The Hidden Girl” is the first pure fantasy in this volume, set in a kind of Asian neverland evocative of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. A young girl, trained as an assassin, is forced to acknowledge a higher oath… There’s a faint flavor of Podkayne of Mars inherent in “The Message,” which finds an archaeologist father and his sulky, willful teen daughter marooned on a planet amidst alien ruins.

Here’s the book description.

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Thrilling Magical Realism: Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

Saturday, February 15th, 2020 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

Call Down the Hawk CoverMeet the brothers Lynch. While all three of them became orphans when their father died, not all of them are human. Arguably none of them are, since their father was a dreamer, someone who can dream things (and people) and bring them back into reality upon waking.

Declan, the eldest, seems the most humanish, since his mother appears to have been a real woman.

Ronan, the middle brother, seems less so, since his mother was a dream. Quite literally. One of the things Ronan’s father brought back from his slumber was an imaginary version of Declan’s mother. This dream woman gave birth to Ronan, who, like his father, is a dreamer.

The youngest brother, Matthew, is most certainly not human. As a child, Ronan dreamed him into existence.

Being not-quite-human is a problem for the Lynch brothers. According to the prophets, a dreamer will someday conjure up the apocalypse, and fire will consume the world. Governments worldwide have created teams of Moderators to stamp out this menace.

Carmen Farooq-Lane, a young woman of extraordinary elegance and poise, is one of these foot soldiers. But no matter how many dreamers she tracks down and kills – including her own brother – the oracles’ visions stay the same. Still, the world is going to burn.

If she finds Ronan, he’s toast.

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