Our favorite books coming out this week include new titles from Benji Nate, Deborah Levy, and Bridget Walsh.

Girl Juice

Benji Nate. Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-77046-663-0
This technicolor tour de farce from Nate (Hell Phone) reads like the TV show Girls drawn by Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley. The narrative circles around a group of young housemates and the mundane wackiness of their everyday lives. There are the wannabe influencer whose unsponsored makeup videos are becoming increasingly not worth it and her girlfriend (who ironically plays the straight man in gags). Then there’s the aspiring cartoonist who can’t quite shake the aftereffects of a formative sexual experience involving a clown. Finally, the undeniable star is Bunny, a porn-obsessed, dubiously religious, über-confident coquette with a “dog-daughter” and a penchant for punctuating every scene with scandalous punch lines, as when she tells a maybe-date, “I don’t believe in safe words becus silly words make me ugly-laugh & take me out of it.” Bunny is at once ditzy and droll, a Samantha Jones for the “WAP” era; readers will be in giddy thrall to her next retort. Most of the volume, which first published as web comics, centers on Bunny’s numerous sexistential crises and how her endlessly forgiving friends attempt to pick up the pieces. Despite the episodic format, the laugh-a-minute pace—fueled by deadpan dialogue and eye-popping art—never flags. Nate’s fans will flip for this extra sexed-up compilation of her idiosyncratic wit. (May)

August Blue

Deborah Levy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (208p) ISBN 978-0-374-60204-8
Levy follows up The Man Who Saw Everything with another magnificent experiment in surrealism, this time with the story of a 34-year-old Londoner who encounters her double. Elsa Anderson, a famous pianist whose star is on the wane after a disastrous Rachmaninov performance, is sight-seeing in Athens when she notices a woman wearing a green raincoat that’s similar to hers. Later, while Elsa is with a piano student, the double’s voice emerges in Elsa’s thoughts, claiming that Elsa is running away from her life. Elsa was orphaned by her mother as a newborn and adopted at five by an influential music teacher. All her life, Elsa has put off reading the adoption papers, preferring instead to channel the mysteries and sadness of her origins into her playing. Levy slowly and skillfully teases out the implications of Elsa’s disconnection from herself, which become apparent in a series of striking scenes. While waiting in a London station for a train to Paris, Elsa is surprised to be recognized by a fan, a woman who was “convinced she knew who I was, but I did not know who I was.” In Paris and beyond, the voice of Elsa’s double continues to return. Levy’s sensual descriptions make the conceit come to life (“Her voice inside me. Like a handful of small stones thrown at a window”), and when the two women finally meet, their exchange leads Elsa to a most illuminating revelation. This is a stunner. (June)

The Tumbling Girl

Bridget Walsh. Gallic, $17.95 trade paper (296p) ISBN 978-1-913547-51-6
Walsh (Domestic Murder in Nineteenth-Century England) impresses in this series launch featuring an unlikely pair of investigators in 1876 London. Minnie Ward writes sketches and songs for a music hall. She becomes a sleuth after her closest friend, actor Rose Watkins, is found murdered. Lacking confidence that Rose’s killing will get the official attention it merits, Minnie and Watkins’s grieving mother, Ida, seek out Albert Easterbrook, a private investigator and retired prizefighter. His inquiry, which Watkins takes an active role in, coincides with the police’s search for the so-called Hairpin Killer (named for his choice of murder weapon), who has been claiming victims on and off for a decade. Another murder, that of an aspiring politician, thickens the plot. Walsh’s diligent research pays off in spades here, and her rich and nuanced portrayal of the period will leave readers feeling like they’re on the soggy streets of London. Imogen Robertson readers will be eager for a sequel to this un-put-downable mystery. (May)

The Battle Drum

Saara El-Arifi. Del Rey, $29.99 (544p) ISBN 978-0-593-35697-5
El-Arifi’s incendiary second Ending Fire fantasy (after The Final Strife) again weaves hypnotic African and Arabian myths into the tumultuous tale of a blood-caste-segregated empire mired in conspiracies. The story circles the inextricably bound destinies of three dauntless women. Sylah, a member of the red-blooded Ember caste, leaves her beloved Anoor’s side on a quest to understand the tidewind, a perpetual tempest wreaking havoc on their homeland, along the way encountering a fanatical cult and a dreadful war prophecy. Blue-blooded Duster Anoor, having usurped Sylah’s destiny as the queen of the Ember-ruled empire, loses her already tenuous grasp on political power when she’s wrongly arrested for murder. As she fights to clear her name, she uncovers unsavory secrets that could drive their empire to ruin. Meanwhile, clear-blooded Ghosting Hassa grapples with secrets of her own as she unearths evidence of atrocities perpetrated in the name of the empire. As the women contend with both the ghosts of the past and the irascible winds of the changing times, their discoveries threaten to spark a war. By toggling between key points of view, El-Arifi grants readers a dramatic bird’s-eye view of both an unraveling world and the indomitable spirits of the women embroiled in its maelstrom. This is a knockout. Agent: Ginger Clark, Ginger Clark Literary. (May)

Brave the Wild River: The Untold Story of Two Women Who Mapped the Botany of the Grand Canyon

Melissa L. Sevigny. Norton, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-0-393-86823-4
In this marvelous history, science journalist Sevigny (Mythical River) recounts the 43-day rowboat trip down the Colorado River undertaken by University of Michigan botanist Elzada Clover and her mentee Lois Jotter during the summer of 1938. Sevigny details how the duo successfully catalogued the flora of the Grand Canyon while enduring raging rapids, “stomach-somersaulting drops, and standing waves big enough to swallow a boat whole,” but her focus is on how Clover and Jotter refuted sexist assumptions about the role of women in science. Though historically botany had been deemed too feminine for men, Clover and Jotter undertook their expedition at a time when male scientists were becoming increasingly involved in the field and began excluding women (a well-known adventurer remarked, “Women... do not belong in the Canyon of the Colorado”). Sevigny also weaves in stimulating trivia on the natural history of the Grand Canyon, including explanations of the geological forces behind its formation and National Park Service efforts to repopulate native animals in the region. Drawing on Clover and Jotter’s journals and letters, Sevigny recreates their expedition in novelistic detail, producing a narrative as propulsive as the current of the Colorado. Readers will be swept away. Photos. (May)

The Will of the Many

James Islington. Saga, $29.99 (688p) ISBN 978-1-982141-17-2
Maintaining suspense for almost 700 pages is a tall order, but Islington (the Licanius trilogy) makes it look easy in his staggering Hierarchy series launch, set in a world dominated by the Roman Empiresque Hierarchy. The Hierarchy maintains its power through an insidious scheme: those at the top draw energy, or Will, from those beneath them, who “voluntarily” cede some of their strength to benefit from the system. Against this backdrop, prison worker Vis, 17, must conceal that he’s really Diago, the prince of Suus, a kingdom vanquished by the Hierarchy when it executed Vis’s family. Vis gets an opportunity for revenge when he’s adopted by a powerful senator, Ulciscor Telimus, who wants him to join the Catenan Academy, where the next generation of Hierarchy leadership is trained. Ulciscor’s brother, Caeror, died there under suspicious circumstances, and Ulciscor hopes Vis can find the truth. But Vis’s options change after an encounter with violent rebels seeking to topple the Hierarchy. Islington’s worldbuilding is exceptionally detailed and thoughtful, making suspending disbelief effortless. Perfectly balancing character development and plot momentum, this will have fantasy fans clamoring for more. Agent: Paul Lucas, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc.(May)

Six Ostriches: A Dr. Bannerman Vet Mystery

Philipp Schott. ECW, $24.95 (234p) ISBN 978-1-77041-725-0
Schott’s second mystery featuring gumshoe veterinarian Peter Bannerman (after 2022’s Fifty-Four Pigs) combines the soothing sleuthing of Murder, She Wrote with the humble charm of All Creatures Great and Small. In the fictional town of New Selfloss, Manitoba, a young sheep’s throat is slit. Dr. Bannerman suspects it’s the work of an Icelandic cult that’s recently arrived in the region. With the help of his border collie, Pippin, Bannerman remains one step ahead of largely apathetic local RCMP investigators, including Bannerman’s brother-in-law, Constable Kevin Gudmundurson. Then archaeologist Grim Struluson turns up dead, his head on a pike, and both Bannerman and the authorities pick up the pace. Schott establishes a remarkable amount of tension from the fluffy subject matter, and Bannerman remains a charming, idiosyncratic creation. Fans of small-town mysteries will enjoy the adventures of this offbeat vet sleuth. (May)

Why Fathers Cry at Night: A Memoir in Love Poems, Recipes, Letters, and Remembrances

Kwame Alexander. Little, Brown, $28 (240p) ISBN 978-0-316-41722-8
In this heartfelt memoir, Newbery medalist Alexander (Rebound) churns on what he has learned—and is still learning—about love. He traces his model for romance to his parents, who taught him to “use his words,” but were rarely affectionate and lived apart for decades. He shares hard-won lessons from the painful dissolution of his own marriages and his grief not only for those relationships but also for the questions he became too afraid to ask his father after his mother's death. Finally, he turns to his daughters and confronts the difficulty of embracing solitude as they grow up and away from the family home. Interleaved through these reflections are sensuous memories of meals and music, from cracking a $250 beer with poet Nikki Giovanni to reverse engineering his mother’s fried chicken recipe after she died. Alexander observes that “we sometimes find poems in the strangest and most uncomfortable places,” and, indeed, this candid and courageous work finds poetry in places both ordinary and extraordinary. It’s a quiet triumph. Agent: Deneen Howell, Williams & Connolly. (May)

Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly stated that both of the author's parents are deceased.