Attention, lovers of fantastical fiction: These two recent announcements just might make your day. Deborah Harkness, author of the best-selling All Souls trilogy, has just sold another book set in the same world to Viking. The Serpent's Mirror, the first in a new series, will explore historical riddles surrounding the ascent of Elizabeth I to the throne and feature characters from the original trilogy, including vampire Matthew Clairmont and historian Diana Bishop.
And Helene Wecker, whose mythology-steeped debut novel, The Golem and the Jinni, made the bestseller and "best" lists back in 2013, has just made a two-book deal with her editor at HarperCollins. The Iron Season, tentatively scheduled for 2018, is a sequel, and will follow the titular characters through World War I. On her Facebook page, Wecker says that she "had two massive false starts before I arrived at something that felt sequel-worthy," but has completed a detailed outline and expects to spend the next two years writing the book, which finds Chava and Aham encountering "beings of their own kind, only to realize that their close ties to human beings have forever altered them."
RELATED CONTENT: More news about 2016 releases.
Photo of Harkness by Scarlett Freund.
Few books can transport you to an entirely different world like a finely-tuned sci-fi or fantasy can. From adventures in distant futures on distant planets to tongue-in-cheek satires and magical fairy tales to all-too-possible dystopian thrillers, we've rounded up some of the best offerings from 2015.
It’s hard to follow a debut novel like Ready Player One: It immediately became an international phenomenon, was published in 40 countries and is in the works to become a movie, but Ernest Cline's winning formula that blends Gen-X nostalgia, pop-culture references and high-stakes adventure is once again executed to a T in his second novel, Armada. High school student Zack Lightman finds himself in the middle of a government conspiracy and on the frontlines of an alien invasion that only the best gamers are unwittingly prepared for. And yes, it's supposed to remind you of Ender's Game and The Last Starfighter.
Dennis Mahoney reimagines the colonial era of the 1700s, when European empires were sending explorers to the New World, in his latest novel. But the familiarity ends there, as the Old World is called Heraldia and the New World is known as Floria. The natural world is home to fantastical wonders and meteorological phenomena, seasons can change in a matter of hours and unpredictable "colorwashes" often transform the landscape. If you're looking to get lost in a magical wilderness, then Bell Weather is the historical fantasy for you.
Grossman's wickedly witty alternative history stars one of our most (in)famous and parodied presidents, Richard Nixon. In Crooked, everything you know about Nixon's politics, the Watergate scandal and the Cold War is wrong. Narrated by Grossman's own version of Nixon, we discover a world in which he wasn't a paranoid and conniving president, but a selfless hero battling a supernatural enemy much scarier than the Soviet Union.
Looking to escape Earth? In the compelling Mother of Eden, author Chris Beckett returns readers to the alien world of his award-winning novel Dark Eden. The characters are familiar, as they are descendants of the first novel's original castaways, yet instead of a struggle for survival, this story deals with humans navigating now thriving communities on the planet Eden. The reader quickly learns that Eden's alien flora and fauna aren't nearly as threatening as other humans on their worst behaviors.
Neal Stephenson, one of the most popular science-fiction writers in America, imagines Earth’s impending doom and its aftermath in his latest gripping novel. After the moon explodes, it becomes apparent that Earth isn’t long for this universe. National divisions dissolve as the human race bands together to give humanity a chance at survival in outer space. And—despite quite a few setbacks—it works! Humanity survives and thrives—for 5,000 years, at that—on another planet. But after five millennia, people become curious about returning to the legendary planet known as Earth. Filled with detail and technical minutiae, this novel is a sci-fi space odyssey with a giant, mesmerizing scope.
Are you ready to dive into a vast world of magic and adventure a lá George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, but a bit hesitant to pick up an 800-page doorstopper with a hefty roster of characters to keep track of? Then Naomi Novik has the perfect entry-level fantasy for you with her spellbinding novel Uprooted. This fairy-tale influenced story follows 17-year-old Agnieszka as she leaves her sleepy, vaguely Eastern European village for an apprenticeship with a gruff master wizard known as the Dragon. A classic and inspiring good-versus-evil story with plenty of magic, monsters and romance, this fantasy is easily one of the year's most accessible.
After a year of ravaging, headline-grabbing drought in California and incredibly deadly wildfires eating up swaths of the American West, The Water Knife is about as timely as a sci-fi novel can be. Bacigalupi envisions an eerie, not-so-distant future where climate change has caused another dust bowl and California, Nevada and Arizona are willing to wage war over water rights. Bacigalupi's dystopian novel is a thriller that will keep you turning the pages, but it doesn't shy away from exploring the politics of greed, bureaucracy and environmental regulation. Similar to Margaret Atwood's stories, The Water Knife is a frightening vision of an all-too-plausible future.
In her 35th novel, best-selling science fiction and fantasy author Tepper brings back two of her favorite characters for another adventure. Abasio the Dyer (first seen in A Plague of Angels) and his wife, Xulai, are on a trip with a mission: to warn the residents of Tingawa of a literal sea change heading their way. The waters are rising, and people must adapt to a sea-dwelling lifestyle. Not exactly the most welcome of messages, as they discover . . .
Though they had been on this journey for almost a year now, their reception from place to place had been so varied that they had been unable to settle on a routine. Words and phrases that were acceptable in one village turned out to be fighting words in the next place, even though they tried to avoid any fighting at all. If hostility seemed imminent, they had the means to leave, and they did leave: horses, wagon, and all. Essentially they had three duties: first to explain that the world was being drowned; second to let people know about the sea-children. Third: to survive!
What are you reading this week?
South African novelist Lauren Beukes, author of last year's supernatural thriller The Shining Girls, returns this fall with a new violent mash-up of fantasy and crime fiction. Broken Monsters is set to publish on September 16 by Mulholland Books.
Beukes had us on the edges of our seats with her wildly imaginative, uber-creepy second novel, the international best-selling The Shining Girls. With the help of a portal in a mysterious House, an unfathomably cruel serial killer travels through time to hunt his victims—all women. The only one of his targets to ever escape is Kirby, who decides to track down the villain and put an end to his murderous reign.
Broken Monsters once again finds a capital-B Bad Guy who indulges his sick compulsions, this time in abandoned Detroit warehouses. The publisher gives a preview:
Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies. But this one is unique even by Detroit's standards: half boy, half deer, somehow fused. The cops nickname him "Bambi," but as stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams?
If you're Detective Versado's over-achieving teenage daughter, Layla, you commence a dangerous flirtation with a potential predator online. If you are the disgraced journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to investigate what may become the most heinous crime story in memory. If you're Thomas Keen—known on the street as TK—you'll do what you can to keep clean, keep your head down, and try to help the broken and possibly visionary artist obsessed wth setting loose The Dream, tearing reality, assembling the city anew.
What do you think, readers? Looking forward to getting creeped out by Beukes' newest horror-filled vision?
As part of our Best Books of 2013 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
His 50-something unnamed narrator finds himself back in his childhood home of Sussex, yet the trip takes a strange turn as he becomes entangled in the memories of his childhood past—the catalyst for his magical adventure. For a novel just under 200 pages, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a philosophical and emotional heavyweight you won’t easily shake.
Read our review.
2013 is winding down, and it's time to celebrate the year in books! With so many notable titles published this year, picking our top 50 was a real challenge. The full list will debut for the first time in our December issue, but for now, check out #26-50.
26. The Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson
27. Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
28. Schroder by Amity Gaige
29. The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
30. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
31. The Book of Ages by Jill Lepore
32. Flora by Gail Godwin
33. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
34. Brief Encounters with the Enemy by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh
35. At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón
36. Drinking with Men by Rosie Schaap
37. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
38. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
39. Going Clear by Lawrence Wright
40. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
41. Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
42. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
43. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
44. Ecstatic Nation by Brenda Wineapple
45. Ghostman by Roger Hobbs
46. The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler
47. Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones
48. Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
49. Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda
50. Gulp by Mary Roach
Starting this week, our editors will be posting about some of their favorites from the list, so there’s plenty more “Best of” coverage to look forward to. Any guesses about who's #1? What was your favorite book of 2013?
Have you finished The Hunger Games trilogy? Read your Harry Potter books to pieces? Been through the His Dark Materials novels too many times to count? Well, this fall, there's a new post-apocalyptic series in town. It's ambitious, complex—and the brainchild of an author who was still at university when she finished the first book.
The Bone Season will be published by Bloomsbury on August 20, and the buzz is already building. It's the first in a projected seven-book series from Samantha Shannon, a 21-year-old who has just graduated from Oxford University, and it's already been optioned for film by Imaginarium Studios. Set in 2059 Britain, a world where psychic abilities are commonplace—and illegal—the book stars 19-year-old Paige Mahoney. Part Lisbeth Salander, part Oliver Twist, Paige is part of an underground gang of clairvoyants who try to undermine the authority of the security force currently in charge of the country, Scion.
But when Paige's rare dreamwalking talent is revealed, she is captured and thrown into a prison colony in Oxford, a city that most believe has been destroyed. Oxford is the realm of the Rephaim, powerful, magical beings whom even Scion fear. And that's just the beginning of the discoveries for our heroine, who develops a complicated relationship with the Rephaim who is charged with her care.
If you couldn't tell by this description, there's a LOT going on in The Bone Season. But though complicated, Shannon's world is meticulously detailed and has a strong internal logic that becomes clear to the patient reader. And while you wait for that to kick in, there's plenty of entertaining action—the pace of The Bone Season seldom slacks off, and the strong and resourceful Paige is a memorable heroine. Early days yet, but this is one buzz book that just might merit its hype. You can watch a trailer for the book here. Will you pick this one up?
Related content: Samantha Shannon was one of our 2013 Women to Watch.
In Helene Wecker's magical debut, two supernatural creatures meet in New York City to forge a redemptive friendship.
Chava is a golem, created out of clay to be her late master's wife. Ahmad is a jinni, a creature of fire, trapped for years in a copper flask before a tinsmith released him.
Together, Chava and Ahmad negotiate the harsh streets of turn-of-the-century NYC, encountering new people and cultures. The Golem and the Jinni weaves together fable and historical fiction in what our reviewer calls a "wonderful tale for our time."
Read the rest of our review here and watch the book trailer:
Are you a fantasy reader like me? Will you read The Golem and the Jinni?
Has it really been four years since the publication of Gaiman's last adult novel, Anansi Boys? On June 18, he'll be breaking that streak with The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Morrow). This new modern fantasy—which, at 192 pages, is more of a novella—tells the story of a man who returns to his native English village to confront the horrifying evil he survived as a boy.
It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family's lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed—within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duck pond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.
Will you be looking for this one?
p.s. Want to analyze Neil's handwriting? Check out the Meet the Author he did for Anansi Boys.
Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik
Del Rey • $25 • ISBN 9780345522863
published March 6, 2012
Since the 2006 publication of her first novel in the Temeraire series, His Majesty's Dragon, Naomi Novik's star has risen quickly in the world of science fiction and fantasy. The Temeraire books (named for the dragon whose exploits they follow) have earned praise from such luminaries as Stephen King and director Peter Jackson, who has optioned the series for a possible film adaptation. There's no doubt they would make terrific movies, with their vivid characters (both human and dragon), their exciting battle scenes and their lush and varied historical settings.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Temeraire and his captain, Will Laurence, have traveled across the globe in the service of Britain's Royal Aerial Corps, from England to China to Turkey to the southern tip of Africa to, most recently, Australia (for reasons that I will refrain from revealing, so as not to spoil readers new to the series). Now, in Crucible of Gold, they are being sent to South America to negotiate with the Portuguese royal family in Brazil.
In this excerpt, the dragons Temeraire and Iskierka display their very dragonish love of treasure and fine things:
"I cannot say much for a pavilion without a roof," Iskierka said, with quite unbearable superiority, "and anyway you cannot bring it along, so even if it were finished, it would not be of any use. I do not think anyone can disagree I have used my time better."
Temeraire could disagree, very vehemently, but when Iskierka had chivvied a few of her crew—newly brought on in Madras—into bringing up the sea-chests from below, and throwing open the lids to let the sunlight in upon the heaped golden vessels, and even one small casket of beautifully cut gemstones, he found his arguments did ring a little hollow. It seemed the Allegiance had in her lumbering way still managed to get into flying distance of not one but three lawful prizes, on the way to Madras, and another one on the way back, when Hammond's urgent need of a transport to carry Temeraire to Rio had necessitated her abrupt about-face and return.
"It does not seem very fair," Temeraire said to Laurence, "when one considers how much sea-journeying we have done, without even one French merchantman coming anywhere in reach; and I do not find that Riley expects we should meet others on the way to Brazil, either."
"No, but we may meet a whaler or two, if you like," Laurence said absently. Temeraire was not mollified; whales were perfectly tolerable creatures, very good eating when not excessively large, but no-one could compare them to cartloads of gems and gold; and as for ambergris, he did not care for the scent.