There’s so much to look forward to in our speculative fiction future. Here are some of the fantasy books we’re most excited about and/or are currently consuming…
Top New Fantasy Books July 2020
The Book of Dragons: An Anthology by Jonathan Strahan
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release date: July 7
Den of Geek says: I’m always looking for a good book about dragons, and this incredible list of authors promises adventurous and unique stories. Anne Leckie, Zen Cho, Seanan Maguire, J.Y. Yang, Patricia A McKillip, Brooke Bolander … it’s an astounding, literary-flavored list of people qualified to write cool creatures.
Publisher’s summary: Here there be dragons . . .
From China to Europe, Africa to North America, dragons have long captured our imagination in myth and legend. Whether they are rampaging beasts awaiting a brave hero to slay or benevolent sages who have much to teach humanity, dragons are intrinsically connected to stories of creation, adventure, and struggle beloved for generations.
Bringing together nearly thirty stories and poems from some of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers working today— Garth Nix, Scott Lynch, R.F. Kuang, Ann Leckie & Rachel Swirsky, Daniel Abraham, Peter S. Beagle, Beth Cato, Zen Cho, C. S. E Cooney, Aliette de Bodard, Amal El-Mohtar, Kate Elliott, Theodora Goss, Ellen Klages, Ken Liu, Seanan Maguire, Patricia A McKillip, K. J. Parker, Kelly Robson, Michael Swanwick, Jo Walton, Elle Katharine White, Jane Yolen, Kelly Barnhill, Brooke Bolander, Sarah Gailey, and J. Y. Yang—and illustrated by award-nominated artist Rovina Cai with black-and-white line drawings specific to each entry throughout, this extraordinary collection vividly breathes fire and life into one of our most captivating and feared magical creatures as never before and is sure to become a treasured keepsake for fans of fantasy, science fiction, and fairy tales.
Or What You Will by Joe Walton
Publisher: Tor Books
Release date: July 7
Den of Geek says: Jo Walton is a writer’s writer, highly praised but still generally skating under the radar. I found her 2014 My Real Children to not nearly live up to its very high concept, but she’s one of those authors with technical prowess who is at least worth checking out for context for women’s science fiction. The metafiction plot sounds fun.
Publisher’s summary: He has been too many things to count. He has been a dragon with a boy on his back. He has been a scholar, a warrior, a lover, and a thief. He has been dream and dreamer. He has been a god.
But “he” is in fact nothing more than a spark of idea, a character in the mind of Sylvia Harrison, 73, award-winning author of thirty novels over forty years. He has played a part in most of those novels, and in the recesses of her mind, Sylvia has conversed with him for years.
But Sylvia won’t live forever, any more than any human does. And he’s trapped inside her cave of bone, her hollow of skull. When she dies, so will he.
Now Sylvia is starting a new novel, a fantasy for adult readers, set in Thalia, the Florence-resembling imaginary city that was the setting for a successful YA trilogy she published decades before. Of course he’s got a part in it. But he also has a notion. He thinks he knows how he and Sylvia can step off the wheel of mortality altogether. All he has to do is convince her.
The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal
Type: Graphic Novel
Publisher: First Second
Release date: July 14
Den of Geek says: The Adventure Zone is a wildly popular humorous fantasy podcast. It’s part of the big 2010s wave of Dungeons & Dragons coming back into the geek space. Especially for someone who might not want to listen to hundreds of episodes of a podcast, the illustrated version does a good job of smoothing out the story into a graphic novel format without removing the goofy chaos of the original podcast.
Publisher’s summary: START YOUR ENGINES, friends, Clint McElroy and sons Griffin, Justin, and Travis hit the road again with Taako, Magnus and Merle, the beloved agents of chaos from the #1 New York Times bestselling graphic novels illustrated by Carey Pietsch, The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins and The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited.
Our boys have gone full-time at the Bureau of Balance, and their next assignment is a real thorny one: apprehending The Raven, a master thief who’s tapped into the power of a Grand Relic to ransack the city of Goldcliff. Local life-saver Lieutenant Hurley pulls them out of the woods, only to throw them headlong into the world of battle wagon racing, Goldcliff’s favorite high-stakes low-legality sport and The Raven’s chosen battlefield. Will the boys and Hurley be able to reclaim the Relic and pull The Raven back from the brink, or will they get lost in the weeds?
Based on the beloved blockbuster podcast where three brothers and their dad play a tabletop RPG in real time, The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal has it all: blossoming new friendships, pining for outlaw lovers, and a rollicking race you can root for!
Top New Fantasy Books June 2020
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
Release date: June 23
Den of Geek says: Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown was an atmospheric novel about court intrigue and magic, and this follow-up looks just as lush. And it’s a martial arts novel, promising stylized action and a love for the genre.
Publisher’s summary: Zen Cho returns with The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.
A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.
Burn by Patrick Ness
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Release date: June 2
Den of Geek says: Ness, the author best known for the creepy, heart-wrenching childhood tale A Monster Calls, promises a unique kind of dragon with Burn. The mix of fantasy and Americana sounds like it’ll add a lot of texture to the story of a family struggling to make ends meet.
Publisher’s summary: On a cold Sunday evening in early 1957, Sarah Dewhurst waited with her father in the parking lot of the Chevron gas station for the dragon he’d hired to help on the farm…
Sarah Dewhurst and her father, outcasts in their little town of Frome, Washington, are forced to hire a dragon to work their farm, something only the poorest of the poor ever have to resort to.
The dragon, Kazimir, has more to him than meets the eye, though. Sarah can’t help but be curious about him, an animal who supposedly doesn’t have a soul but who is seemingly intent on keeping her safe.
Because the dragon knows something she doesn’t. He has arrived at the farm with a prophecy on his mind. A prophecy that involves a deadly assassin, a cult of dragon worshippers, two FBI agents in hot pursuit—and somehow, Sarah Dewhurst herself.
A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians by H.G. Parry
Release date: June 23
Den of Geek says: This historical fantasy has a strong Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell vibe, with magic intertwined with reality until it feels a little bit mundane itself–or makes the whole world magical. Intertwined perspectives including a sorcerous version of the Haitian Revolution leader Toussaint L’Ouverture populate this alternate world.
Publisher’s summary: A sweeping tale of revolution and wonder in a world not quite like our own, A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians is a genre-defying story of magic, war, and the struggle for freedom in the early modern world.
It is the Age of Enlightenment — of new and magical political movements, from the necromancer Robespierre calling for revolution in France, to the weather mage Toussaint L’Ouverture leading the slaves of Haiti in their fight for freedom, to the bold new Prime Minister William Pitt weighing the legalization of magic amongst commoners in Britain and abolition throughout its colonies overseas.
But amidst all of the upheaval of the early modern world, there is an unknown force inciting all of human civilization into violent conflict. And it will require the combined efforts of revolutionaries, magicians, and abolitionists to unmask this hidden enemy before the whole world falls to darkness and chaos.
Top New Fantasy Fiction in May 2020
The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell
Publisher: Gallery / Saga Press
Release date: May 5
Den of Geek says: Magic has to have a cost. That’s one of the basic rules of fantasy writing, and this military fantasy novel takes that in a new direction with the cost of magic being memory. You have a lot to live up to if your narrator claims to tell “ the greatest story ever told” in the first line.
Publisher’s summary: Michael is branded a traitor as a child because of the murder of the king’s nine-year-old son, by his father David Kingman. Ten years later on Michael lives a hardscrabble life, with his sister Gwen, performing crimes with his friends against minor royals in a weak attempt at striking back at the world that rejects him and his family.
In a world where memory is the coin that pays for magic, Michael knows something is there in the hot white emptiness of his mind. So when the opportunity arrives to get folded back into court, via the most politically dangerous member of the kingdom’s royal council, Michael takes it, desperate to find a way back to his past. He discovers a royal family that is spiraling into a self-serving dictatorship as gun-wielding rebels clash against magically trained militia.
What the truth holds is a set of shocking revelations that will completely change the Hollows, if Michael and his friends and family can survive long enough to see it.
Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore
Publisher: William Morrow
Release date: May 12
Den of Geek says: You might know by now whether you like Moore’s sense of humor. His goofy fantasy books are popular and reliable. A funny take on Shakespeare might be exactly what you need in self-isolation. And if you’re not familiar with Moore, the summary’s mention of “his sidekick, Drool, and pet monkey, Jeff” will probably tell you whether you’ll get a laugh out of this or not.
Publisher’s summary: Set adrift by his pirate crew, Pocket of Dog Snogging—last seen in The Serpent of Venice—washes up on the sun-bleached shores of Greece, where he hopes to dazzle the Duke with his comedic brilliance and become his trusted fool.
But the island is in turmoil. Egeus, the Duke’s minister, is furious that his daughter Hermia is determined to marry Demetrius, instead of Lysander, the man he has chosen for her. The Duke decrees that if, by the time of the wedding, Hermia still refuses to marry Lysander, she shall be executed . . . or consigned to a nunnery. Pocket, being Pocket, cannot help but point out that this decree is complete bollocks, and that the Duke is an egregious weasel for having even suggested it. Irritated by the fool’s impudence, the Duke orders his death. With the Duke’s guards in pursuit, Pocket makes a daring escape.
He soon stumbles into the wooded realm of the fairy king Oberon, who, as luck would have it, IS short a fool. His jester Robin Goodfellow—the mischievous sprite better known as Puck—was found dead. Murdered. Oberon makes Pocket an offer he can’t refuse: he will make Pocket his fool and have his death sentence lifted if Pocket finds out who killed Robin Goodfellow. But as anyone who is even vaguely aware of the Bard’s most performed play ever will know, nearly every character has a motive for wanting the mischievous sprite dead.
With too many suspects and too little time, Pocket must work his own kind of magic to find the truth, save his neck, and ensure that all ends well.
A rollicking tale of love, magic, madness, and murder, Shakespeare for Squirrels is a Midsummer Night’s noir—a wicked and brilliantly funny good time conjured by the singular imagination of Christopher Moore.
Sunshield by Emily B. Martin
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release date: May 26
Den of Geek says: I’ll be honest, it’s a slow month for fantasy. I was tempted to recommend Age of Empyre by Michael Sullivan, but at #6 in a series, even the cool dragon on the cover can’t fly over the barrier of entry. Instead I’ll take a risk on Sunshield, a standalone tale of desolate landscapes and a cutthroat court. A bandit finds herself involved in political upheaval, and might be able to take her “steal from the rich and give to the poor” work ethic to a higher level.
Publisher’s summary: The desolate canyons of Alcoro—and the people desperate enough to hide there—couldn’t be more different from the opulent glass palace and lush forests of Moquoia. But the harsh desert and gleaming court are linked through their past, present, and future: a history of abductions in the desert to power Moquoia’s quarries and factories, and a bleak, inhumane future built on the sweat and sacrifice of these bond laborers.
But events unfolding in the present could change everything. In the desert, outlaw Lark—known to most as the Sunshield Bandit—has built a name for herself attacking slavers’ wagons and freeing the captives inside. But while she shakes the foundation of Moquoia’s stratified society, she also has to fight to protect her rescuees—and herself—from the unforgiving world around them.
In the Moquoian court, young ambassador Veran hopes to finally make his mark by dismantling the unjust labor system, if he can navigate the strict hierarchy and inexplicable hostility of the prince.
And caught in the middle of it all, Tamsin is trapped within four walls, the epicenter of a secret political coup to overthrow the Moquoian monarchy and perpetuate the age-old system of injustice.
Separated by seas of trees and sand, the outlaw, the diplomat, and the prisoner are more connected than anyone realizes. Their personal fates might just tip the balance of power in the Eastern World—if that very power doesn’t destroy them first.
Top New Fantasy Books in April 2020
Ship of Fates by Caitlin Chung
Publisher: Lanternfish Press
Release date: April 21
Den of Geek says: An atmospheric “fairy tale” of San Francisco, this novella looks like a mesmerizing glimpse into the immigrant experience, touched with magic.
Publisher’s Summary: In the gridlocked harbor of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, a ship hung with red paper lanterns draws crowds eager to gamble and drink. Aboard this red-lit ship, the fates of two young women will be altered irrevocably and tied forever to that of an ancient lighthouse keeper who longs to be free. Set against the backdrop of Gold Rush-era San Francisco’s Chinese immigrant community, Ship of Fates is a coming-of-age fairy tale that stretches across generations.
Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth
Publisher: John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release date: April 7
Den of Geek says: Veronica Roth was part of the largest wave of YA dystopias with Divergent. Her first novel for adults is a look at what happens after the teen heroes have won the war; potentially interesting commentary from a staple of the genre she’s now becoming more playful with.
Publisher’s Summary: Fifteen years ago, five ordinary teenagers were singled out by a prophecy to take down an impossibly powerful entity wreaking havoc across North America. He was known as the Dark One, and his weapon of choice—catastrophic events known as Drains—leveled cities and claimed thousands of lives. Chosen Ones, as the teens were known, gave everything they had to defeat him.
After the Dark One fell, the world went back to normal . . . for everyone but them. After all, what do you do when you’re the most famous people on Earth, your only education was in magical destruction, and your purpose in life is now fulfilled?
Of the five, Sloane has had the hardest time adjusting. Everyone else blames the PTSD—and her huge attitude problem—but really, she’s hiding secrets from them . . . secrets that keep her tied to the past and alienate her from the only four people in the world who understand her.
On the tenth anniversary of the Dark One’s defeat, something unthinkable happens: one of the Chosen Ones dies. When the others gather for the funeral, they discover the Dark One’s ultimate goal was much bigger than they, the government, or even prophecy could have foretold—bigger than the world itself.
And this time, fighting back might take more than Sloane has to give.
The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer
Publisher: Tor Books
Release date: April 7
Den of Geek says: People who can shapeshift into animals and the gilded wealth of the 1900s New York makes for a potentially interesting texture. Add in stage magic, and there’s a lot going on in this coming-of-age fantasy.
Publisher’s Summary: New York 1905―The Vanderbilts. The Astors. The Morgans. They are the cream of society―and they own the nation on the cusp of a new century.
Thalia Cutler doesn’t have any of those family connections. What she does know is stage magic and she dazzles audiences with an act that takes your breath away.
That is, until one night when a trick goes horribly awry. In surviving she discovers that she can shapeshift, and has the potential to take her place among the rich and powerful.
But first, she’ll have to learn to control that power…before the real monsters descend to feast.
Top New Fantasy Books in March 2020
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Release Date: 3/24
Den of Geek Says: N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy slammed into the books world like an earthquake with its lush, brutal prose and finely-drawn characters. Her next book, based on one of her short stories, begins a trilogy that is sure to feature thoroughly researched and thoroughly imaginative world-building in an eldritch fantasy New York City.
Publisher’s Summary: Every great city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got six.
But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs in the halls of power, threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.
Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed
Release date: March 3
Den of Geek says: Premee Mohamed’s funny, goopy writing has been on our radar since her time travel camping trip-gone-wrong story “More Tomorrow.” Her short stories continue to dazzle with creative, sometimes frightening, science fiction and fantasy. One of the most recent, “The Redoubtables,” creates a palpable atmosphere of paranoia and threat. Her first traditionally published novel, “Beneath the Rising,” promises more monsters and heart.
Publisher’s Summary: All the Birds in the Sky meets Lovecraft Country in this whimsical coming-of-age story about two kids in the middle of a war of eldritch horrors from outside spacetime…
Nick Prasad and Joanna “Johnny” Chambers have been friends since childhood. She’s rich, white, and a genius; he’s poor, brown, and secretly in love with her.
But when Johnny invents a clean reactor that could eliminate fossil fuels and change the world, she awakens the primal, evil Ancient ones set on subjugating humanity.
From the oldest library in the world to the ruins of Nineveh, hunted at every turn, they need to trust each other completely to survive…
Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn
Release date: March 3
Den of Geek says: More magically-flavored literary fiction than outright fantasy, Sharks in the Time of Saviors nevertheless mixes the magical and the real in a story about family. I was drawn by praise from award-winning author Tommy Orange, and intrigued by the idea of a story soaked in legends intersecting with the real-life problems of a Hawaiian family who may or may not have encountered magic.
Publisher’s Summary: In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends.
Nainoa’s family, struggling amidst the collapse of the sugarcane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favor from ancient Hawaiian gods–a belief that appears validated after he exhibits puzzling new abilities. But as time passes, this supposed divine favor begins to drive the family apart: Nainoa, working now as a paramedic on the streets of Portland, struggles to fathom the full measure of his expanding abilities; further north in Washington, his older brother Dean hurtles into the world of elite college athletics, obsessed with wealth and fame; while in California, risk-obsessed younger sister Kaui navigates an unforgiving academic workload in an attempt to forge her independence from the family’s legacy.
When supernatural events revisit the Flores family in Hawai’i–with tragic consequences–they are all forced to reckon with the bonds of family, the meaning of heritage, and the cost of survival.
Top New Fantasy Books in February 2020
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
Release date: 2/4/20
Den of Geek says: Slangy prose and a unique “weird West” conceit elevate this novel from River of Teeth author Sarah Gailey.
Publisher’s summary: In Upright Women Wanted, award-winning author Sarah Gailey reinvents the pulp Western with an explicitly antifascist, near-future story of queer identity.
“That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”
Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her—a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.
The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.
Mazes of Power by Juliette Wade
Release date: 2/4/20
Den of Geek says: The claustrophobic setting looks like it will dovetail perfectly with the tension of this plot.
Publisher’s summary: This debut work of sociological science fiction follows a deadly battle for succession, where brother is pitted against brother in a singular chance to win power and influence for their family.
The cavern city of Pelismara has stood for a thousand years. The Great Families of the nobility cling to the myths of their golden age while the city’s technology wanes.
When a fever strikes, and the Eminence dies, seventeen-year-old Tagaret is pushed to represent his Family in the competition for Heir to the Throne. To win would give him the power to rescue his mother from his abusive father, and marry the girl he loves.
But the struggle for power distorts everything in this highly stratified society, and the fever is still loose among the inbred, susceptible nobles. Tagaret’s sociopathic younger brother, Nekantor, is obsessed with their family’s success. Nekantor is willing to exploit Tagaret, his mother, and her new servant Aloran to defeat their opponents.
Can he be stopped? Should he be stopped? And will they recognize themselves after the struggle has changed them?
Imaginary Numbers (InCryptid) by Seanan McGuire
Release date: 2/25/20
Den of Geek says: Seanan McGuire charms with dark, fairy tale-inspired fantasy, and the latest in her long-running InCryptid looks like it will continue to do just that.
Publisher’s Summary: The ninth book in the fast-paced InCryptid urban fantasy series returns to the mishaps of the Price family, eccentric cryptozoologists who safeguard the world of magical creatures living in secret among humans.
Sarah Zellaby has always been in an interesting position. Adopted into the Price family at a young age, she’s never been able to escape the biological reality of her origins: she’s a cuckoo, a telepathic ambush predator closer akin to a parasitic wasp than a human being. Friend, cousin, mathematician; it’s never been enough to dispel the fear that one day, nature will win out over nurture, and everything will change.
Maybe that time has finally come.
After spending the last several years recuperating in Ohio with her adoptive parents, Sarah is ready to return to the world–and most importantly, to her cousin Artie, with whom she has been head-over-heels in love since childhood. But there are cuckoos everywhere, and when the question of her own survival is weighed against the survival of her family, Sarah’s choices all add up to one inescapable conclusion.
What new speculative fiction books are on your radar? Let us know in the comments below or over at the Den of Geek Book Club!