Day two of my Anticipated Books series for the first half of 2015. As usual I had so many fantasy books catch my fancy I had to split them into two posts. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!
Joshua Gaylord – When We Were Animals (Mulholland Books)
When Lumen Fowler looks back on her childhood, she wouldn’t have guessed she would become a kind suburban wife, a devoted mother. In fact, she never thought she would escape her small and peculiar hometown. When We Were Animals is Lumen’s confessional: as a well-behaved and over-achieving teenager, she fell beneath the sway of her community’s darkest, strangest secret. For one year, beginning at puberty, every resident “breaches” during the full moon. On these nights, adolescents run wild, destroying everything in their path.
But Lumen resists. She promises her father she will never breach, she investigates the secrets behind the community’s traditions, and finally unearths the stories buried in her family’s past. As the mysteries mount, we realize we may not know Lumen–or Anne as she now calls herself–at all.
A gothic coming-of-age tale for modern times, When We Were Animals is a dark, provocative journey into the American heartland.
Street magician Missy Masters inherited more than the usual genetic cocktail from her estranged grandfather; she also got his preternatural control of shadow and his legacy as the vigilante hero, Mr. Mystic. Problem is, being a pulp hero takes more than a good fedora and a knack for witty banter, and Missy lacks the one thing Mr. Mystic had: experience. Determined to live up to her birthright, Missy journeys to China to seek the aid of Lung Huang, the ancient master who once guided her grandfather.
Lung Huang isn’t quite as ancient as Missy expected, and she finds herself embroiled in the politics of Lung Huang and his siblings, the nine dragon-guardians of creation. When Lung Di, Lung Huang’s brother and mortal enemy, raises a magical barrier that cuts off China from the rest of the world, it falls to the new Mr. Mystic to prove herself by taking down the barrier. But is it too great a task for a lone adventure hero?
Suzanne Johnson – Pirate’s Alley (Tor)
Wizard sentinel DJ Jaco thought she had gotten used to the chaos of her life in post-Katrina New Orleans, but a new threat is looming, one that will test every relationship she holds dear.
Caught in the middle of a rising struggle between the major powers in the supernatural world—the Wizards, Elves, Vampires and the Fae—DJ finds her loyalties torn and her mettle tested in matters both professional and personal.
Her relationship with enforcer Alex Warin is shaky, her non-husband, Quince Randolph, is growing more powerful, and her best friend, Eugenie, has a bombshell that could blow everything to Elfheim and back. And that’s before the French pirate, Jean Lafitte, newly revived from his latest “death,” returns to New Orleans with vengeance on his mind. DJ’s assignment? Keep the sexy leader of the historical undead out of trouble. Good luck with that.
Duty clashes with love, loyalty with deception, and friendship with responsibility as DJ navigates passion and politics in the murky waters of a New Orleans caught in the grips of a brutal winter that might have nothing to do with Mother Nature.
War could be brewing, and DJ will be forced to take a stand. But choosing sides won’t be that easy.
Jane and Vincent have finally gotten some much-needed rest after their adventures in Italy when Vincent receives word that his estranged father has passed away on one of his properties in the West Indies. His brother, who manages the estate, is overwhelmed, and no one else in his family can go. Grudgingly, out of filial duty the couple decide to go.
The sea voyage is long and Jane spends enough time unable to perform glamour that towards the end of the trip she discovers that she is with child. They are overjoyed, but when they finally arrive at the estate to complete what they expect to be routine legal tasks, they realize that nearly everything they came expecting to find had been a lie. Also, the entire estate is in disarray, with horrifying conditions and tensions with the local slave population so high that they are close to revolt.
Jane and Vincent’s sense of peril is screaming out for them to flee, but Vincent cannot stand to leave an estate connected with his family in such a condition. They have survived many grand and terrifying adventures in their time, but this one will test their skills and wits more than any they have ever encountered before, this time with a new life hanging in the balance.
Ken Liu – The Grace of Kings (Saga Press)
Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, soaring battle kites, conspiring goddesses, underwater boats, magical books, as a streetfighter-cum-general who takes her place as the greatest tactitian of the age. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.
When there were no more titles to win and no more worlds to conquer, the warrior queen Zosia faked her demise and gave up her legend to history. But when violence finds its way to her door years later, she must round up her adventuring companions – each surprised to see her alive – and set out for revenge.
Time has not been kind to her old comrades, and some have only their own goals in mind. Not only that, but there’s a young, beautiful and skilled general out there, gathering soldiers to her banner for a war against the deadliest of enemies. The girl is using a legend she did not earn, and calling herself by a name that was never hers – that of Zosia herself.
Martin Millar – The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies (Piatkus)
Set in ancient Athens, The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies is the new book from the celebrated author of The Good Fairies of New York and the Kalix Werewolf series.
This is Martin Millar at his best, gently poking fun while tugging at our heart strings, surprising us with sudden and sharp insights into the life of the outsider. It comes complete with a struggling playwright (a little-known bloke called Aristophanes), excess cavorting, an assortment of divinities, the odd Amazon and some truly execrable poetry. Fans of Kalix, here you will find no laudanum but a lot of drinking. No carnage, but plenty of intrigue and danger. And humour (of course). And a love story. And a few very troublesome phalluses.
Reclusive cleric Seris is happily tending to his book-infested temple until he finds himself drafted–for political reasons–to the rescue mission. His sole companion on the journey is Elhan, a cheerfully disturbed vagrant girl with terrifying combat skills and her own enigmatic reasons for seeking the prince.
Venturing into the wild, unconquered lands, Seris has no fighting prowess, no survival skills, and no charisma, as Elhan keeps pointing out. Armed only with a stubborn streak and creative diplomacy, he must find a way to survive outlaw towns and incendiary masquerades, all without breaking his vow to do no harm.
Chasing rumours of rebel camps and rising warlords, dangerous curses and the return of the vanished sorcerers, Seris and Elhan soon discover a web of treachery and long-buried secrets that go far beyond a kidnapped prince.
His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the sword, the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war.
But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.
E.E. Richardson – Ritual Crime Unit: Disturbed Earth (Abaddon)
A tough, hard-nosed career officer in the male-dominated world of British policing, DCI Claire Pierce of North Yorkshire Police heads Northern England’s underfunded and understaffed Ritual Crime Unit. Injured in the line of duty, DCI Claire Pierce returns to work to find her a new detective challenging her authority. He has brought in a self-proclaimed necromancer to question the victim of a murder, there’s a coven of druids outside protesting the sale of their sacred site, and something in the evidence room has just given off some sort of signal.
Pierce is going to have to hit the ground running. A suspected ritual murder and a string of puzzling artefact thefts initially seem unconnected, but signs point to something bigger in the pipeline; buried skulls possessed by evil spirits start turning up, and they may only be the beginning. Someone is planning something big, and the consequences if they succeed could be catastrophic. With a rebellious second-in-command, an inexperienced team, and a boss who only cares about potential bad publicity, Pierce has to make the connections and stop the ritual before it’s too late…
Tim Waggoner – Dream Stalkers (Angry Robot Books)
A new drug – Shut-Eye – has been developed in the dreamland, and smuggled into our world. It’s addictive, and dangerous, and Shadow Watch agents Audra and Mr Jinx are on the case, preparing new recruits to deal with the problem.
Meanwhile, a wave of ancient, bodiless Incubi are entering the dreams of humans in an attempt to possess them and live new lives. Only the criminally insane would ever risk a confrontation with them.
Thank goodness, then, for Mr Jinx: clown, Shadow Watch agent, psychopath.
Tehani Wessely (ed.) – Insert Title here (Fablecroft)
“…a fabulous lineup of stories from both established and emerging authors, which range from science fiction to fantasy to some truly dark horror, with some of the most unusual and engaging genre-bending stories I’ve ever read. It was really tough to select from the great slushpile, and Insert Title Here will be our biggest anthology yet…”
Alex Bledsoe – Long Black Curl (Tor)
Long Black Curl: a brand-new tale in Alex Bledsoe’s acclaimed urban fantasy series, where magic is hidden in plain sight and age-old rivalries simmer just beneath the surface
In all the time the Tufa have existed, only two have ever been exiled: Bo-Kate Wisby and her lover, Jefferson Powell. They were cast out, stripped of their ability to make music, and cursed to never be able to find their way back to Needsville. Their crime? A love that crossed the boundary of the two Tufa tribes, resulting in the death of several people.
Somehow, Bo-Kate has found her way back. She intends to take over both tribes, which means eliminating both Rockhouse Hicks and Mandalay Harris. Bo-Kate has a secret weapon: Byron Harley, a rockabilly singer known as the “Hillbilly Hercules” for his immense size and strength, and who has passed the last sixty years trapped in a bubble of faery time. He’s ready to take revenge on any Tufa he finds.
The only one who can stop Bo-Kate is Jefferson Powell. Released from the curse and summoned back to Cloud County, even he isn’t sure what will happen when they finally meet. Will he fall in love with her again? Will he join her in her quest to unite the Tufa under her rule? Or will he have to sacrifice himself to save the people who once banished him?
Brian Catling – The Vorrh (Coronet)
In B. Catling’s twisting, poetic narrative, Bakelite robots lie broken – their hard shells cracked by human desire – and an inquisitive Cyclops waits for his keeper and guardian, growing in all directions. Beyond the colonial city of Essenwald lies the Vorrh, the forest which sucks souls and wipes minds. There, a writer heads out on a giddy mission to experience otherness, fallen angels observe humanity from afar, and two hunters – one carrying a bow carved from his lover, the other a charmed Lee-Enfield rifle – fight to the end.
Thousands of miles away, famed photographer Eadweard Muybridge attempts to capture the ultimate truth, as rifle heiress Sarah Winchester erects a house to protect her from the spirits of her gun’s victims.
In the tradition of China Miéville, Michael Moorcock and Alasdair Gray, B. Catling’s The Vorrh is literary dark fantasy which wilfully ignores boundaries, crossing over into surrealism, magic-realism, horror and steampunk.
When Liz Drake’s best friend vanishes, nothing can stop her nightmares. Driven by the certainty he needs her help, she crosses a continent to search for him.
She finds Blake comatose in a Vancouver hospital, victim of a mysterious accident that claimed his lover’s life–in her dreams he drowns. Blake’s new circle of artists and mystics draws her in, but all of them are lying or keeping dangerous secrets. Soon nightmare creatures stalk the waking city, and Liz can’t fight a dream from the daylight world: to rescue Blake she must brave the darkest depths of the dreamlands. Even the attempt could kill her, or leave her mind trapped or broken.
And if she succeeds, she must face the monstrous Yellow King, whose slave Blake is on the verge of becoming forever.
Rod Duncan – Unseemly Science (Angry Robot Books)
In the divided land of England, Elizabeth Barnabus has been living a double life – as both herself and as her brother, the private detective. Witnessing the hanging of Alice Carter, the false duchess, Elizabeth resolves to throw the Bullet Catcher’s Handbook into the fire, and forget her past. If only it were that easy!
There is a new charitable organisation in town, run by some highly respectable women. But something doesn’t feel right to Elizabeth. Perhaps it is time for her fictional brother to come out of retirement for one last case…? Her unstoppable curiosity leads her to a dark world of body-snatching, unseemly experimentation, politics and scandal. Never was it harder for a woman in a man’s world…
The queen of Steelhaven has grown in strength. Taking up her dead father’s sword, she must defend the city from the dread warlord Amon Tugha and his blood-thirsty army now at the gates. A vicious, unrelenting four-day battle ensues, the most perilous yet.
…OR BOW TO THE ENEMY
No side is immune from danger as all hell breaks loose, with the threat of coups and the unleashing of the deadliest and darkest magick. Loyalty, strength and cunning will be put to test in the quest for victory. What fate awaits the free states?
Lucy Hounsom – Starborn (Tor UK)
Starborn features a vividly imagined world where a strong female protagonist stumbles upon hidden magic. As she fights to stay alive and find her path, she discovers that lost powers walk the earth and her own choices will shape the fate of thousands. Starborn, with its pace, adventurous themes and compelling characters will be perfect for fans of Trudi Canavan, David Eddings and Karen Miller.
Kirsty Logan – The Gracekeepers (Crown)
As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, laying the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.
In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland (“landlockers”) and those who float on the sea (“damplings”), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives–offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.
Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age.
Susan Murray – The Waterborne Blade (Angry Robot Books)
The citadel has long been the stronghold of Highkell. All that is about to change because the traitor, Vasic, is marching on the capital. Against her better judgement, Queen Alwenna allows herself to be spirited away by one of the Crown’s most trusted servants, safe from the clutches of the throne’s would-be usurper.
Fleeing across country, she quickly comes to learn that her pampered existence has ill-equipped her for survival away from the comforts of the court. Alwenna must toughen up, and fast, if she is even to make it to a place of safety. But she has an even loftier aim – for after dreaming of her husband’s impending death, Alwenna knows she must turn around and head back to Highkell to save the land she loves, and the husband who adores her, or die in the attempt.
But Vasic the traitor is waiting. And this was all just as he planned.
When Edmund Hartlay arrives at Cleworth Hall, he finds a fraught household living under a curse. Doctors and priests have failed to cure the two young Starkie children of their strange fits and rages, and summoning Hartlay, a celebrated cunning man, is Nicholas Starkie’s last resort; an attempt to appease his desperate, fragile wife.
But Cleworth Hall is a claustrophobic place of terrible secrets and as the charismatic Hartlay enchants the women of the household, the careful knot of lies that binds them unravels, until at last Hartlay begins to suspect the true cause of the strange events plaguing the family.
These are dangerous times. The belief in the supernatural bubbles just below the surface, and accusations of witchcraft too often lead to the gallows. Edmund Hartlay may be a cunning man, but there are others more cunning at Cleworth, and his magnetic charm may well prove to be his own downfall.
Sue Tingey – Marked (Jo Fletcher Books)
With no family and very few friends, Lucky’s psychic ability has always made her an outcast. The only person she can rely on is Kayla, the ghost girl who has been with her since she was born.
But Kayla is not all that she appears.
And when Lucky is visited by a demonic assassin with a message for her friend, she finds herself dragged into the Underlands – and the political fight for the daemon king’s throne.
Lucky, trapped in the daemon world, is determined to find her way home… until she finds herself caught between the charms of the Guardian Jamie, the charismatic Daemon of Death Jinx – and the lure of finding out who she really is.
Marc Turner – When the Heavens Fall (Tor)
If you pick a fight with Shroud, the Lord of the Dead, you had better make sure you end up on the winning side, else death will mark only the beginning of your suffering.
A book that gives its wielder power over the dead has been stolen from a fellowship of mages that has kept the powerful relic dormant for centuries. The thief, a crafty, power-hungry necromancer, intends to use the Book of Lost Souls to resurrect an ancient race and challenge Shroud for dominion of the underworld. Shroud counters by sending his most formidable servants to seize the artifact at all cost.
However, the god is not the only one interested in the Book, and a host of other forces converge, drawn by the powerful magic that has been unleashed. Among them is a reluctant Guardian who is commissioned by the Emperor to find the stolen Book, a troubled prince who battles enemies both personal and political, and a young girl of great power, whose past uniquely prepares her for an encounter with Shroud. The greatest threat to each of their quests lies not in the horror of an undead army but in the risk of betrayal from those closest to them. Each of their decisions comes at a personal cost and will not only affect them, but also determine the fate of their entire empire.
Ishbelle Bee – The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath (Angry Robot Books)
1888. A little girl called Mirror and her shape-shifting guardian Goliath Honeyflower are washed up on the shores of Victorian England. Something has been wrong with Mirror since the day her grandfather locked her inside a mysterious clock that was painted all over with ladybirds. Mirror does not know what she is, but she knows she is no longer human.
John Loveheart, meanwhile, was not born wicked. But after the sinister death of his parents, he was taken by Mr Fingers, the demon lord of the underworld. Some say he is mad. John would be inclined to agree.
Now Mr Fingers is determined to find the little girl called Mirror, whose flesh he intends to eat, and whose soul is the key to his eternal reign. And John Loveheart has been called by his otherworldly father to help him track Mirror down…
Paula Brackston – Lamp Black, Wolf Grey (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Some landscapes hold more magic than others. When Laura Matthews moves to her new home in the Welsh mountains she finds it to be a place so alive with tales and legends that she is able to reach through the gossamer-fine veil that separates her own world from that of myth and fable. Her own story becomes inextricably linked to that of Megan, a young nurse-maid who trod the same hills over seven hundred years earlier. They come to share their love for the same wild landscape, and a love for the same man, a young magician named Merlin.
David Hair – The Pyre (Jo Fletcher Books)
Mandore, Rajasthan, 769 AD: Ravindra-Raj, the evil sorcerer-king, devises a deadly secret ritual, where he and his seven queens will burn on his pyre, and he will rise again with the powers of Ravana, demon-king of the epic Ramayana. But things go wrong when one queen, the beautiful, spirited Darya, escapes with the help of Aram Dhoop, the court poet.
Jodhpur, Rajasthan, 2010: At the site of ancient Mandore, teenagers Vikram, Amanjit, Deepika and Rasita meet and realize that the deathless king and his ghostly brides are hunting them down. As vicious forces from the past come alive, they need to unlock truths that have been hidden for centuries, and fight an ancient battle… one more time.
Elizabeth Haydon – The Hollow Queen (Tor)
Beset on all sides by the forces of the merchant emperor Talquist, the Cymrian Alliance finds itself in desperate straits. Rhapsody herself has joined the battle, wielding the Daystar Clarion, leaving her True Name in hiding with her infant son. Ashe tries to enlist the aid of the Sea Mages. Within their Citadel of Scholarship lies the White Ivory tower, a spire that could hold the key to unraveling the full extent of Talquist’s machinations. Achmed journeys to the reportedly unassailable palace of Jierna Tal, to kill emperor Talquist—all the while knowing that even if he succeeds, it may not be enough to stop the momentum of the war.
As they struggle to untangle the web of Talquist’s treachery, the leaders of the Cymrian alliance are met with obstacles at every turn. Rhapsody soon realizes that the end of this war will come at an unimaginable price: the lives of those she holds dearest.
Scott Hawkins – The Library at Mount Char (Crown)
Carolyn’s not so different from the other human beings around her. She’s sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.
After all, she was a normal American herself, once.
That was a long time ago, of course–before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.
Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.
In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn’t gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient Pelapi customs. They’ve studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power.
Sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.
Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library–and with it, power over all of creation.
As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.
But Carolyn can win. She’s sure of it. What she doesn’t realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price–because in becoming a God, she’s forgotten a great deal about being human.
Winter has locked Prince Jalan Kendeth far from the luxury of his southern palace. The North may be home to Viking Snorri ver Snagason but he is just as eager to leave. However, even men who hold a key that can open any door must wait for the thaw.
As the ice unlocks its jaws the Dead King moves to claim what was so nearly his. But there are other players in this game, other hands reaching for Loki’s key.
Jalan wants only to return to the wine and women of the south, but Snorri has a different and terrifying goal. The warrior aims to find the very door into death and throw it wide. Snorri ver Snagason will challenge all of Hell if that’s what it takes to bring his wife and children back into the living world. He has found the key – now all he needs is to find the door.
But pawns are played to sacrifice and the Red Queen set both these men upon her board. How many moves ahead has the Silent Sister seen? How far will they get before their part in the game is over?
Kieran Shea – Koko the Mighty (Titan)
With an outstanding Ultimate Sanction bounty still on her head, Koko Martstellar (ex-mercenary and saloon madam extraordinaire) and Jedidiah Flynn (former orbital sky-cop) have narrowly escaped death in paradise. Rescued during a storm, Koko and Flynn are taken in by what amounts to a self-sufficient outlander cult. To save Flynn’s life, Koko barters her warrior skills and assists the de-civ group in fending off their most imminent threat: a horde of genetic-mutant raiders. However, even with the group’s foes bested and their idealist lifestyle somewhat enticing, being among the outlander de-civs doesn’t sit well with Koko. In spite of the de-civ group’s hospitality and Flynn’s arguing that they have it pretty good, Koko suspects something is amiss. People within the outlander group’s interlocking compounds keep disappearing with flimsy explanations—people like the girl who died on the cliff before Koko and Flynn’s rescue—and soon the group’s leadership assesses Koko as a threat to their secret agenda. As the mystery unfolds, Koko’s limits and loyalties—perhaps even her love for Flynn—will be tested.
And as if that isn’t enough, bounty agent Wire has managed to track down Koko and, after a little politicking, is preparing to lead an army of genetic-mutant raiders in a last-man-standing battle against the cult . . .