Future Treasures: Harrow the Ninth, Book 2 of The Locked Tomb Trilogy by Tamsyn Muir

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Gideon-the-Ninth-medium Harrow the Ninth-small

Covers by Tommy Arnold

Gideon the Ninth was… well, just about the most acclaimed SF novel released last year. Acclaimed by whom? Everyone who read it in the Black Gate offices, for one thing. People who vote for awards, for another — it’s been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards for Best Novel, and it won the Locus Award for Best First Novel. It was voted one of the Best Books of 2019 by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, BookPage, Shelf Awareness, BookRiot, and Bustle.

Book 2 arrives next week, and as you can imagine, anticipation is high. Here’s a taste of the feature review over at Nerd Daily.

When I read Gideon the Ninth last year, I didn’t know that I would be a wreck by the end of the book. I didn’t know it would create such an impact in my emotional well-being. I didn’t know that it would be one of the best books I read in 2019. Reading its sequel, Harrow the Ninth, now is like enjoying a nice, eventful walk… and then getting hit by a bus. This brilliant, confounding, and heartstopping sequel will quench the thirst of the fans, but not without leaving a new set of mysteries to keep us hooked.

Harrow the Ninth focuses on Harrow training in the Emperor’s haunted space station to fight an impossible war. Fresh off of lyctorhood, everything should be going easy for Harrow. But the truth is that both her body and her mind are failing her. And on top of that, someone just keeps trying to kill her…. Harrow the Ninth is mind-boggling from start to finish, and it’s an electrifying sequel you do not want to miss.

The third book in the series, Alecto the Ninth, is scheduled to be released next year.

Harrow the Ninth will be published by Tor.com on August 4, 2020. It is 512 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Tommy Arnold. Download the complete first act (all 139 pages!) in multiple digital formats at Tor.com.

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


Future Treasures: Chaos Vector by Megan E. O’Keefe

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Velocity Weapon-small Chaos Vector-small

Covers by Sparth

Megan E. O’Keefe’s 2019 space opera Velocity Weapon was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, and earned a bucket full of great press. The Guardian called it “A brilliantly plotted yarn of survival and far-future political intrigue,” and Booklist described it as “Full of twists, feints, and deception… [in] a visionary world rife with political intrigue and space adventure.” But my favorite review was from Kirkus:

The last thing Sanda Greeve remembers is her ship being attacked by rebel forces. She’s resuscitated from her evacuation pod missing half a leg — and two centuries — as explained to her by the AI of the rebel ship that rescued her. As The Light of Berossus — aka Bero — tells her, she may be the only living human for light-years around, as the war wiped both sides out long ago. Sanda struggles to process her injuries and her grief but finds friendship with the lonely spaceship itself. Sanda’s story is interspersed with flashbacks to the war’s effects on her brother, Biran, as well as scenes from a heist gone terribly wrong for small-time criminal Jules. The three narratives, separated by a vast gulf of time, are more intertwined than is immediately apparent. When Sanda rescues Tomas, another unlikely survivor, from his own evacuation pod, she learns that even time doesn’t end all wars….

Meticulously plotted, edge-of-your-seat space opera with a soul; a highly promising science-fiction debut.

We previously covered Velocity Weapon, and O’Keefe’s Scorched Continent fantasy trilogy.

The sequel to Velocity Weapon is one of the more hotly anticipated books of the year. Chaos Vector arrives from Orbit on July 28. It is 592 pages, priced at $16.99 in trade paperback, and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Sparth. See all our recent coverage of the best upcoming SF and fantasy here.


Future Treasures: Peace Talks by Jim Butcher

Thursday, July 9th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Peace Talks Jim Butcher-smallIt’s been six long years since we’ve seen Harry Dresden.

The Dresden Files was one of the first big breakout fantasy hits of the 21st Century; beginning with Storm Front in 2000, and continuing at roughly a book a year until Skin Game, the 15th novel in the series, was published in 2014. Author Jim Butcher took a long pause after that — but now Harry Dresden returns in his long-awaited sixteenth novel, Peace Talks, which arrives in hardcover from Ace Books next week.

Tor.com broke the news last December with an announcement that included a handy summary of the series to-date:

A contemporary urban noir series that has been described as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer starring Philip Marlowe” (Entertainment Weekly), the Dresden Files follows Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, as he takes on supernatural cases throughout the city and an alternate magical realm. Peace Talks follows wisecracking private investigator Harry Dresden as he joins the White Council’s security team to ensure negotiations between the Supernatural nations of the world remain civil. Harry’s task is challenging, because dark political manipulations threaten the very existence of Chicago — and everything he holds dear.

A book as hotly anticipated as this doesn’t need early reviews to heighten the anticipation… but there’s no reason they shouldn’t try. Here’s a snippet from Publishers Weekly’s review.

Butcher ramps up the tension for wizard Harry Dresden in this open-ended 16th installment… When Thomas Raith, Harry’s half-brother, attempts to assassinate the leader of the Svartalves, one of the groups in attendance, Harry comes under suspicion for his role in the crime. With the aid of vampire Lara Raith and human detective Karrin Murphy, Harry frees Thomas from prison and certain death. Along the way, he discovers a new threat that could upend both the mundane and supernatural worlds… When Butcher finally pushes the story forward, readers are rewarded for their patience with gritty magical worldbuilding and bursts of dark humor.

Peace Talks will be published by Ace Books on July 14, 2020. It is 352 pages, priced at $28 in hardcover and $14.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Chris McGrath. Read the first six chapters for free at Jim Butcher’s website.

See all our recent coverage of the best forthcoming releases in SF, fantasy and horror here.


Revisit the Fabled City of Brass: S. A. Chakraborty Wraps The Daevabad Trilogy with The Empire of Gold

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The-City-of-Brass-smaller The-Kingdom-of-Copper-small The Empire of Gold-small

It’s always a delight to watch a talented writer successfully wrap up a fantasy series.

And that’s especially true of S. A. Chakraborty’s The Daevabad Trilogy, which opened with one of the most popular debuts of the last few years. The City of Brass. Here’s what Brandon Crilly’s said in his enthusiastic review right here at Black Gate in 2018.

Chakraborty creates a world that’s nuanced and detailed. It has exactly the vivid freshness we continue to need in the fantasy genre, as a balance for the variations on the same Eurocentric worldviews that are still widely common…. But the novel is much more than its world – at the end of the day, my interest is always characters. Our two main protagonists, Cairo street urchin Nahri and immortal warrior Dara, are great counterparts; they’re equally passionate and protective, but in different ways, and both are seeking to find their place in the world… The City of Brass is excellent. It’s rare that I find a fantasy novel that’s so vividly detailed.

The Kingdom of Copper arrived last year; Kirkus Reviews called it “As good or better than its predecessor.” And now the concluding volume, the massive 784-page The Empire of Gold, arrives in hardcover; here’s the description.

Read More »


Space Opera and Romance in Equal Measure: The Consortium Rebellion Trilogy by Jessie Mihalik

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Polaris Rising-small Aurora Blazing-small Chaos Reigning-small

Authors love to blend genres these days, and I’m heartily glad to see it. Thus you get the Horror Comedy, the Science Fiction Police Procedural, the Weird Western (my favorite!) and many other tasty fiction concoctions.

Of course, some are harder to craft than others. I think the trickiest may be the science fiction romance, just based on the fact that there are so few successful examples. So I was very intrigued to see Jessie Mihalik’s 2019 debut novel Polaris Rising hit a bullseye with critics. Here’s The New York Times.

Jessie Mihalik’s splendid Polaris Rising… [is] a thrill of a book. Ada von Hasenberg is the fifth child of one of the three royal houses of the universe’s ruling Consortium. She’s been on the run for the last two years, fleeing an arranged marriage with the son of a rival house. When she finds herself about to be captured by her intended, she manages to escape with a fellow prisoner: Marcus Loch, the Devil of Fornax Zero, and the most wanted man in the universe. Ada soon discovers that the small ship they’ve stolen for their escape holds secrets that could topple the universe’s delicate balance of power.

Mihalik’s universe is vividly imagined… The book is told entirely from Ada’s point of view, offering the reader no more insight past Loch’s cold exterior than Ada herself has. It’s a risk on Mihalik’s part — Loch starts out menacing and mysterious, and he always remains a bit opaque — but it pays off as the reader, right along with Ada, gets to treasure every small crack in his stoic facade. Besides, Ada’s a tremendous heroine, brilliant and capable but never infallible, and I wouldn’t want to give up a moment with her. The set pieces skew toward sci-fi, but the burgeoning attraction between Ada and Loch is just as important to the story. This is space-opera adventure and sweeping romance in equal parts, an enthralling and eminently satisfying book.

You can check out the full review here. Mihalik followed up the success of her first book with Aurora Blazing (“A standout, memorable book that oozes crossover appeal” — BookPage) late last year, and in May of 2020 the series concluded with Chaos Reigning. The Seattle Review of Book says “The third and final volume in this blaster-filled space adventure romance series lands with a bang…” (Is that a euphemism for sex? I’m pretty sure it is.)

Read More »


Diplomacy, Politics and Military Action: The Breaker of Empires Trilogy by Richard Baker

Thursday, June 25th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Valiant-Dust-medium Restless Lightning Scornful Stars-small

Covers by Larry Rostant

Every time an author completes a trilogy, we bake a cake at the Black Gate offices. We’re gotten pretty pudgy over the years, but hey. You don’t mess with tradition.

I missed the arrival of Scornful Stars, the final book in Richard Baker’s Breaker of Empire trilogy, last December — which means I missed an excuse for another cake. Sounds like I missed a good story too, if the Tzer Island review is anything to go by. Here’s an excerpt.

North’s ship is patrolling four systems in the Zerzura Sector. Piracy has been a problem that North hopes to do something about. He is, in fact, entreated to do so by a lovely woman whose shipping company is plagued by pirates… The pirates seem to know when the military will arrive. North develops a theory as to why that might be, putting him in a position to shoot it out with pirate ships. Later, he seizes an opportunity to thwart Bleindal’s nefarious plans, which leads to more shootouts, both between vessels and between North’s boarding parties and provocateurs.

The emphasis in the second novel was on diplomacy, while this one explores how corruption results in a breakdown of diplomacy. All three novels feature strong action scenes and interesting discussions about military strategy in the context of space, where warships are separated by thousands of kilometers. A fair amount of military science fiction is ghastly, but the Breaker of Empires series combines a thoughtful balance of diplomacy and politics with military action…

Scornful Stars continues Baker’s strong characterization and carefully conceived universe building. The story balances moments of excitement with convincing descriptions of what it might be like to serve in a space-based military organization. Baker’s attention to detail adds credibility to the story, while his focus on the impact of war on his characters adds an important dimension that most military action novels address only in generic terms. RECOMMENDED.

Baker began his career as a game designer at TSR, where he co-designed the highly-regarded Birthright campaign setting. He wrote nine Forgotten Realms novels for TSR over the next decade, but Breaker of Empires is his first non-licensed project. We covered Valiant Dust here, and Restless Lightning here.

Scornful Stars was published by Tor Books on December 3, 2019. It is 462 pages, priced at $23.99 in trade paperback, $8.99 in mass market, and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Larry Rostant. See all our recent coverage of the best in SF and Fantasy series here.


Vintage Treasures: Skinner by Richard S. McEnroe

Friday, June 19th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Skinner Richard S McEnroe-small Skinner Richard S McEnroe-back-small

Skinner by Richard S. McEnroe. Bantam Spectra, June 1985. Cover by Enric

One of the advantages of writing up at least one Vintage Treasure every week is that it gives me an excuse to read a lot of the forgotten and overlooked classics I missed out on over the decades. And occasionally, to indulge in a guilty pleasure.

Take Skinner for example. It’s the fifth (and last) science fiction novel by Richard S. McEnroe, a literary agent turned author who began his career writing Buck Rogers novels in 1981. Skinner didn’t make much of a splash when it first appeared; it had a single paperback printing in the US, a UK edition from Orbit a year later, and then went out of print forever. But I don’t care. It’s got a dinosaur on an alien planet right there on the cover, and I want to read it, damnit.

When I went looking for contemporary reviews, I was surprised to find a few. And they only sharpened my interest. Here’s the most popular review on Goodreads, by Scott Schmidt.

What an odd, unique and refreshing work of science fiction. Well worth the fifty cents I paid for it at Goodwill. While I initially picked it up for the content depicted on the cover, this is only a part of a bigger plot that essentially boils down to interstellar shipping economics. I really loved the ending, which came about just as I was beginning to wonder where the story was headed. Great to read a piece of science fiction that didn’t have to be an epic, seven-part space opera. If I happen upon more of McEnroe’s works, I won’t hesitate to pick them up.

It might not be part of a seven-part space opera, but Skinner is the third book in a trilogy (which I didn’t learn until about 30 minutes ago… thank you, ISFDB). Here’s the first two.

Read More »


New Treasures: Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Escaping Exodus-small Escaping Exodus-back-small

Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden. Harper Voy­ager, October 2019. Cover by Courtney ‘Seage’ Howlett

I missed Nicky Drayden’s Escaping Exodus when it was published late last year. Seems I wasn’t the only one — the book has only 19 reviews on Amazon, far fewer than her debut The Prey of Gods, which won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, and has over 100 Amazon reviews.

It’s a pity it hasn’t connected with more readers yet, as Escaping Exodus is generating good critical buzz. Kirkus praised its “top-notch worldbuilding and sharp characterization,” and Tom Whitmore at Locus Online was even more enthusiastic, saying “it’s got a breakneck pace: I wanted to take just a little longer to be with these people as they grow.” Here’s an excerpt from his review.

On a generation ship, two young people from different classes meet and fall in love. One rises, one falls, and their complex and forbidden rela­tionship causes a major rupture in the society. This is a classic SF trope: Drayden takes it to new places.

In Escaping Exodus, people use a pod of space whales as generation ships to escape an (unnamed) catastrophe on Earth. The people “ter­raform” the interior of the beasts, exploiting both the beasts’ internal systems and the biota that have adapted to live inside them; as those systems are exhausted, the society has to move from one beast to another. There are ten different groups, each with a different social system… Nicky Drayden’s new novel builds on the amaz­ing strengths she’s shown before. If you can imag­ine a feminist, Afro-centric, queer Heinlein juve­nile, with a strong discussion of class politics, then you might get close to what she’s doing here. I don’t think I could have imagined such a book be­fore reading this one. This is something I’ve been missing.

The sequel, Escaping Exodus: Symbiosis, is scheduled to be released next January. Here’s a sneak peek at the cover.

Read More »


Vintage Treasures: Sword-Dancer by Jennifer Roberson

Saturday, June 13th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Sword-Dancer Jennifer Roberson-small Sword-Dancer Jennifer Roberson-back-small

Sword-Dancer by Jennifer Roberson. DAW paperback original, 1986. Cover by Kathy Wyatt

Jennifer Roberson was one of the 80s class of DAW women writers. Her first short short story, “The Lady and the Tiger,” the genesis for the Tiger and Del series, appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s groundbreaking Sword and Sorceress 2 in 1985. Like Mercedes Lackey, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Cheryl J. Franklin (whom I covered last week) and others, Roberson was a fixture on bookstores shelves and the DAW catalog all through the 80s and 90s. She launched several popular paperback series that ran for decades, and helped transform DAW into an industry powerhouse.

Her first novel was Shapechangers (1984), the opening book in the long-running, 8-volume Chronicles of the Cheysuli. In September 1986, with the first three novels in that series under her belt, she released Sword-Dancer, the first book in perhaps her most popular series, Tiger and Del, which follows the adventures of Tiger, a legendary warrior and sword-dancer, and Del, the sword-singer who hires him to rescue her brother, and who turns out to be as good with a blade as he is — something that vexes him greatly at first.

Tiger and Del ran to seven volumes (so far). The first six were collected in a handsome trio of omnibus trade paperbacks in 2006 with new covers by Todd Lockwood, making a nicely complete set on my bookshelf… until Roberson released a seventh book, Sword-Bound, in 2013. It’s tough being a collector sometimes.

As a series opener, Sword-Dancer is a little uneven, but still well worth reading. Here’s a snippet from one of my favorite Goodreads reviews by Dana.

Read More »


Epic Fantasy on a Reliable Schedule: A Chorus of Dragons by Jenn Lyons

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Ruin of Kings-small The Name of all Things-small The Memory of Souls-small

Covers by Lars Grant-West

Bestselling fantasy dominates modern bookshelves in a way I could only dream about as a young reader. George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle are the two biggest examples in recent memory. Of course, both are also unfinished, and the latest installments are both long overdue. Makes you wonder what they could have accomplished if the publishing magic that fueled them had also included a reliable schedule.

Tor is trying something impressive with their latest big-budget epic fantasy. If things unfold as scheduled, Jenn Lyons’ ambitious 5-volume series A Chorus of Dragons will be released in rapidfire sequence. Here’s what Lyons said on her website last year.

The series is on a nine month release schedule. That means that, should everything go to plan, Tor will be releasing a book in the series every nine months or so. Two this year, one next year, two the year after that (again, if all goes to plan.) Is this stunningly ambitious? Yes. Is this going to kill me? Quite possibly…

So far, Jenn (and Tor) have hit the deadlines. The Ruin of Kings was published in February 2019, The Name of All Things in October, and Book 3, The Memory of Souls, is now scheduled to arrive on August 25, 2020.

The series has been a critical hit as well as a commercial one; the first novel scored a rare publishing quadruple crown, with starred reviews from Library Journal (“Stunning”), Booklist (“Dazzling”), Publishers Weekly (“intricate epic fantasy”) and Kirkus Reviews (“Un-put-down-able”). Tor has been leaking news about the third book since October. I’ll be very curious to see if the buzz built up after the release of the first two volumes continues once the third arrives.

Read the complete first chapter of The Ruin of Kings at Tor.com, and see all our recent New Treasures here.


  Earlier Entries »

This site © 2020 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.