In 2013, some venerable fantasy series head to the great backlist in the sky. Filling the gap are stand-alone novels and short story collections by an impressive array of new and popular authors.
Brandon Sanderson put paid to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series in January, and the spring will see another giant epic fantasy series conclude at last: Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar books, which began with Magician in 1982. With Magician’s End: Book Three of the Chaoswar Saga, Feist completes the story of the fifth and final Riftwar. Urban fantasy fans also have cause for sorrow as Charlaine Harris finishes the HBO-inspiring Sookie Stackhouse series with Dead Ever After. On the bright side, readers who hate cliffhangers and waiting for future installments will at last be able to pick up these series from start to finish and find out what all the fuss has been about.
There’s been speculation for years about who might pick up the epic fantasy mantle. At the moment, the answer seems to be... no one. Just as having the same job or career for 30 years now feels like a faint dream from a bygone age, authors and publishers are investing less in lengthy series. Instead, many of the season’s most interesting books are designed to stand alone.
“Designed” is a particularly relevant word for two heavily illustrated books that will appeal to fans of science and history. On the fantasy side, Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons is set in a place very similar to Victorian England in some ways, and very different in other ways: the dominant religion looks more like Judaism than Christianity, and mythical creatures roam the landscape. The novel is the ostensible memoir of Isabella, Lady Trent, who keeps extensive notes as she follows her husband on a dragon-hunting expedition. Veering more toward horror is E.B. Hudspeth’s The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work and Writings of Dr. Spencer Black, a set of notebooks chronicling a 19th-century doctor’s efforts to understand and conquer death through any means possible. In the process he carefully examines and draws the anatomy of various impossible creatures.
Even books set in the present day ring with echoes of the past. Robert Jackson Bennett’s American Elsewhere takes place in a small town that has deliberately been kept free of modernizing influences since its founding in the 1950s. When a woman inherits a house there, she is plunged into the mysteries of her long-dead mother’s life and work. In Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, the narrator is plagued by the consequences of events from 40 years before.
Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine is the story of conjoined twins, the children of a demigod and a human woman. When they’re separated, one is left with a limp—and the other is left without any magic at all. Two children with unusual parents and connections also feature in C. Robert Cargill’s powerful debut, Dreams and Shadows.
Series appeal to readers with a particular sort of patience. At the other end of the spectrum are those who prefer the quick satisfaction of short fiction. For those readers, two small-press collections hold a lot of promise: Karen Heuler’s The Inner City, which focuses on slightly warped visions of the contemporary world, and Yoon Ha Lee’s Conservation of Shadows, which blends science fiction and mythology.
PW’s Top 10: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Magician’s End: Book Three of the Chaoswar Saga. Raymond E. Feist. Harper Voyager, May 14
Dead Ever After: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel. Charlaine Harris. Ace, May 7
A Natural History of Dragons. Marie Brennan. Tor, Feb. 5
The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work and Writings of Dr. Spencer Black. E.B. Hudspeth. Quirk, May. 21
American Elsewhere. Robert Jackson Bennett. Orbit, Feb. 12
The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Neil Gaiman. William Morrow, June 18
Sister Mine. Nalo Hopkinson. Grand Central, Mar. 12
Dreams and Shadows. C. Robert Cargill. Harper Voyager, Feb. 26
The Inner City. Karen Heuler. ChiZine, Feb. 12
Conservation of Shadows. Yoon Ha Lee. Prime, May 8
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs (Mar. 5, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0441020010). Mercy Thompson returns for the seventh novel in the bestselling series.
The City by Stella Gemmell (June 4, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0425264188). Gemmell’s first solo novel is dark epic fantasy about a war-torn civilization and the immortal emperor who has it clutched in his evil grasp.
Dead Ever After: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel by Charlaine Harris (May 7, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1937007881). The final installment in the bestselling series that was the basis for HBO’s hit series True Blood.
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Every Boy Should Have a Man by Preston L. Allen (May 14, hardcover, $23.95, ISBN 978-1617751622). Echoing Jonathan Swift, Allen breaks new ground with a novel that is part allegory, part fantasy.
Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman (Feb. 26, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0857663207). Newman launches an urban fantasy series with a novel set in Aquae Sulis, Bath’s secret mirror city.
The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu (Apr. 30, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0857663290). Slacker tech Roen wakes up with an alien in his head, and has to learn how to fight, shoot, and spy before his alien guest’s enemies find and kill them both.
Domino Falls by Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes (Feb. 19, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-1451617023). What happens when an alien race brings Earth to the brink of apocalypse, forcing a struggle for control of the planet?
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How Dark the World Becomes by Frank Chadwick (Feb. 5, trade paper, $14, ISBN 978-1451638707). With one act of kindness, a tough-as-nails hood with a heart of gold saves two alien children from assassination—and resets the balance of galactic power.
Shadow of Freedom by David Weber (Mar. 5, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1451638691). Bestseller Weber delivers book 18 in the popular Honor Harrington space opera series.
Portal by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor (May 7, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1451638967) is the epic space adventure sequel to Boundary and Threshold.
Eight Million Gods by Wen Spencer (June 4, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1451638981). A young American expat writer in Japan tries to figure out whether she’s crazy while solving a murder that may be part of a war among Japanese deities.
Affliction by Laurell K. Hamilton (Apr. 30, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0425255704). The next book in the bestselling Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series.
Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (July 1, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0764210273) continues the Christy-winning Tales of Goldstone Wood epic fantasy series.
Hero’s Lot by Patrick W. Carr (July 1, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0764210440). In Carr’s second Staff and the Sword novel, hero Errol Stone is accused of conspiracy and consorting with spirits.
Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines (Feb. 26, trade paper, $14, ISBN 978-0804136570). A genre-busting mashup of sci-fi, thriller, and horror pits zombies against superheroes.
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The Inner City by Karen Heuler (Feb. 12, trade paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1927469330). Heuler (The Made-Up Man) presents an engrossing collection of 15 tales of the ways individuals and society influence one another.
Goldenland Past Dark by Chandler Klang Smith (Mar. 12, trade paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1927469354). Smith’s debut showcases a cornucopia of memorably weird personalities in a handful of vivid moments.
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The Middle Kingdom by David Wingrove (May 1, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1848877313). In the third book of the Chung Kuo series, cities spiral into chaos as the ruling T’ang struggle against rebels.
A Turn of Light by Julie E. Czerneda (Mar. 5, trade paper, $20, ISBN 978-0756407070). A charming character-driven fantasy of rich magic, multilayered characters, and dangerous choices.
The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord (Feb. 12, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0345534057). Lord’s science fiction epic series launch includes commentary on the modern world and a deeply romantic love story.
A Conspiracy of Alchemists: Book One in The Chronicles of Light and Shadow by Liesel Schwarz (Mar. 5, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0345545077). Schwarz’s steampunk debut stars brave and determined zeppelin pilot Elle Chance, who both loves science and wields magic.
Bloodfire Quest: The Dark Legacy of Shannara by Terry Brooks (Mar. 12, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0345523501). The second book in the Dark Legacy of Shannara series.
Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead (June 4, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0525953685). YA author Mead (the Vampire Academy series) joins the Dutton list with a futuristic investigation novel for adults.
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The Stone Thrower by Adam Marek (Apr. 1, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1770411425). Marek’s short stories bring the absurd and the mundane together, using outright surrealism to steel us against merciless reality.
Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson (Mar. 12, hardcover, $23.99, ISBN 978-0446576925). Conjoined twin daughters of a human woman and a demigod are separated, leaving one with a limp and the other bereft of magic.
Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill (Feb. 26, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0062190420). In this beautifully written debut, Cargill chronicles the friendship and adventures of two boys with an unhurried, totally immersive storyteller style. 40,000-copy announced first printing.
The Lost: Celestial Blues, Book Two by Vicki Pettersson (Mar. 19, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0062064653). Bestseller Pettersson continues her breakout supernatural noir mystery series. 35,000-copy announced first printing.
Blood of Dragons: Volume Four of the Rain Wilds Chronicles by Robin Hobb (Apr. 9, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0062116857). The fourth and final volume in a thrilling fantasy series from a perennial bestseller. 75,000-copy announced first printing.
Magician’s End: Book Three of the Chaoswar Saga by Raymond E. Feist (May 14, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0061468438). After 30 years as a top-ranked fantasy author, Feist presents the final book in the epic Riftwar Cycle. 75,000-copy announced first printing.
Kill City Blues: A Sandman Slim Novel by Richard Kadrey (July 30, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0062094599). Bestseller Kadrey returns to his acclaimed Sandman Slim series with a high-octane fifth adventure. 75,000-copy announced first printing.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The Fall of Arthur by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien (May 23, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0544115897). J.R.R. Tolkien’s only venture into the legends of Arthur, king of Britain, depicts drama and adventure in Old English alliterative meter. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
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Poisoned Pawn by Jaleta Clegg (Apr. 19, trade paper, $13.95, ISBN 978-1936564811) presents the third book in the Fall of the Altairan Empire space adventure series.
Mountain Echoes by C.E. Murphy (Feb. 19, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-0373803514). Shaman Joanne Walker’s penultimate adventure takes her back to the Cherokee reservation where she grew up.
Knuckleduster by Andrew Post (Mar. 1, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-1605424934). Two army buddies searching for a missing woman run afoul of a corporation whose mind-control experiments have driven a veteran to commit mass murder.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (June 18, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0062255655). A man returns to the site of his childhood home, but when he gets there he learns that nothing is as he remembered. 200,000-copy announced first printing.
American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett (Feb. 12, trade paper, $13.99, ISBN 978-0316200202). In an idyllic small town, creatures from another dimension attempt to live the American dream.
(dist. by IPG)
New Taboos by John Shirley (Apr. 1, trade paper, $12, ISBN 978-1604867619). Horror author Shirley sets satirical stories alongside essays about the future of America, and an interview.
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Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter by Richard Parks (Feb. 1, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1607013839). In an ancient Japan where the incursions of gods, ghosts, and demons into the living world is an everyday event, an impoverished nobleman becomes a demon hunter for hire.
Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee (May 8, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1607013877). The long-awaited debut collection of one of science fiction’s most compelling short story authors.
Shield of Sea and Space by Erin Hoffman (May 1, trade paper, $18, ISBN 978-1616147693) brings Hoffman’s Chaos Knight story to an epic conclusion.
The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work and Writings of Dr. Spencer Black by E.B. Hudspeth (May. 21, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1594746161). The question of how angels’ wings attach led to this beautiful and macabre debut novel, which includes detailed drawings of paranormal anatomy.
River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay (Apr. 2, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0451464972) returns to the China-inspired setting of Under Heaven four centuries later.
The Thousand Names: Book One of the Shadow Campaigns by Django Wexler (July 2, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0451465108). In this epic fantasy series launch, the thunder of musket fire and the clang of steel resound, but the real battle is against a subtle and sinister magic.
Written in Red: A Novel of the Others by Anne Bishop (Mar. 5, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0451464965). Bishop (the Black Jewels series) launches an urban fantasy series in which monstrous Others rule North America and humans survive at their sufferance.
Trickster by Jeff Somers (Feb. 26, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1451696776). Somers launches a gritty urban fantasy series starring a pair of unlikely heroes: lowlife blood mages caught up in a violent scheme not of their own making.
Damn Him to Hell by Jamie Quaid (June 25, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-1451656374). In book two of the Saturn’s Daughter series, a young woman is gifted with the power to dispense justice.
Small Beer Press
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A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar (Apr. 16, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-1618730626). An absorbing debut novel about how the act of reading kidnaps us and changes the paths of our lives.
St. Martin’s Press
Fifth Grave Past the Light by Darynda Jones (July 9, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-1250014405). Jones continues her series about a young woman who ushers dead souls onward while investigating crimes and juggling romantic complications.
Plague Nation by Dana Fredsti (Apr. 9, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0857686367) is a tale of the zombie apocalypse in which the undead are held at bay only by a scant few who are immune to the zombie virus.
Ecko Rising by Danie Ware (June 11, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-0857687623). Ware’s ambitious genre-bending debut novel, acclaimed in the U.K., is released for the first time in the U.S.
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan (Feb. 5, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0765331960). Brennan’s stand-alone novel, written as Lady Trent’s memoir of her youthful dragon-chasing adventures, is saturated with the joy and urgency of discovery and scientific curiosity.
Firebrand by Gillian Philip (Feb. 19, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0765333223). Philip’s YA-ish Rebel Angels series launch quickly develops into a force to be reckoned with.
The Gate Thief by Orson Scott Card (Mar. 19, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0765326584). Card follows The Lost Gate with the further adventures of a superpowered young man who battles evil.
Kitty Rocks the House by Carrie Vaughn (Mar. 26, mass market, $7.99, ISBN 978-0765368676). Supernatural radio host Kitty Norville contends with werewolf pack dynamics while facing down an ancient vampire.
The Human Division by John Scalzi (May 14, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0765333513) returns to the world of Scalzi’s bestselling Old Man’s War series.
Earth Afire by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston (June 4, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0765329059). One hundred years before Ender’s Game, the aliens arrived on Earth with fire and death.
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Stealing Light by Gary Gibson (July 1, trade paper, $13.95, ISBN 978-1447224099). In the 25th century, an alien race monopolizes a faster-than-light technology that allows it absolute control over galactic trade and exploration.
Self-Reference ENGINE by Toh EnJoe (Mar. 19, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-1421549361). Science, surrealism, number theory, and more dead Sigmund Freuds than you can shake a stick at.
The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente (July 16, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-1421556130). Science fiction and fantasy stories about Japan by bestselling and groundbreaking fantasist Valente.
Phallos: Enhanced and Revised Edition by Samuel R. Delany, edited by Robert F. Reid-Pharr (June 5, trade paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-0819573551). In second-century Rome, a young man searches for the ancient secrets of science and society that will lead to power, knowledge, and wealth. The original novella has been expanded by nearly a third.