Our favorite books coming out this week include new titles from Kritika H. Rao, Uzma Jalaluddin, and Peter Turchin.

The Surviving Sky

Kritika H. Rao. Titan, $16.95 trade paper (512p) ISBN 978-1-80336-124-6
Rao weaves a tale of broken love, redemption, and the Hindu concept of samsara in her magical and mind-bending debut. Iravan and his wife, Ahilya, are denizens of Nakshar, one of several semisentient temple cities called ashrams constructed entirely of plants and soaring above a far-future Earth rendered inhospitable to humans by cataclysmic phenomena known as earthrages. Iravan is a senior architect, one of the exalted individuals whose mental abilities allow them to control plant life, thereby maintaining and shaping the ashram to their will. Archaeologist Ahilya doesn’t possess this ability and her inferiority complex drives her to seek to end humanity’s dependence on architects, even at the expense of her own marriage. Meanwhile, Iravan and his fellow architects are faced with the growing threat of unknown elements increasingly impeding their powers. If this continues, the ashrams are doomed to fall from the sky. Furthermore, Iravan’s competence is called into question when the governing council learns of his failing marriage. Ahilya and Iravan both possess key pieces of knowledge needed to prevent humanity’s demise, meaning they must find a way to salvage their relationship and save their world. Drawing deeply from Hindu mysticism, this heart-pounding cli-fi adventure will leave readers breathless. Agent: Naomi Davis, BookEnds. (June)

Much Ado About Nada

Uzma Jalaluddin. Berkley, $17 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-33638-0
Jalaluddin’s delightful latest (after Hana Khan Carries On) puts a rom-com spin on Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Nada Syed works hard to launch the “Ask Apa” app, designed to offer sisterly advice to Toronto’s Muslim community, but a dishonest business partner undermines her efforts, forcing her to return to an engineering job she hates. As she approaches her 30th birthday, Nada is grappling both with this professional disappointment and with mounting parental pressure to find a spouse. To lift her spirits, Nada’s best friend, Haleema, takes her to Deen&Dunya, an annual Muslim convention (“like Comic-Con, except with hijabs”), for the weekend. There, Nada will finally meet Haleema’s fiancé, Zayn, and grudgingly participate in a speed-dating event. Upon arriving, however, Nada’s shocked to learn that Zayn’s brother is Baz Haq, whom she’s known since grade school and with whom she had an intense on-and-off relationship in college. As Nada navigates the convention, she and Baz try to conceal their romantic history from their loved ones while grappling with their unresolved emotions and simmering sexual tension. Jalaluddin makes their rekindling romance positively swoonworthy, and interfering family members and rich cultural detail add to this romance’s power. Austenite or not, readers will be swept away. Agent: Ann Collette, Rees Literary. (June)

End Times: Elites, Counter-elites, and the Path of Political Disintegration

Peter Turchin. Penguin Press, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-49050-1
Poverty at the bottom and cutthroat elitism at the top breed disaster, according to this scintillating theory of history. Complexity scientist Turchin (Ages of Discord) deploys “cliodynamics”—the study of historical change—to survey revolutions, civil wars, and other upheavals, and assess the likelihood of such unrest in the U.S. in coming decades. His scholarship involves datasets and mathematical models, but he boils it down to a few lucid principles centered around socioeconomic “wealth pumps” that shunt resources from the working class to the rich, resulting in “popular immiseration” and discontent, along with “elite overproduction” of privileged people squabbling over a finite pie of power and status. Turchin applies this framework to many historical settings, including 14th-century France, as well as contemporary American politics, where he explores the resentments of blue-collar white men with declining incomes; the frustration of swelling numbers of college grads who can’t land jobs commensurate with their elite diplomas; and the opportunism of “counter-elite” political entrepreneurs like Donald Trump, who radicalize working-class populists from the right or degree-hoarding progressives from the left. Turchin’s elegantly written treatment looks beneath partisan jousting to class interests that cycle over generations, but also yields timely policy insights. It’s a stimulating analysis of antagonisms past and present, and the crack-up they may be leading to. (June)

To Have and to Heist

Sara Desai. Berkley, $17 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-593-54850-9
Oceans 8 meets The Wedding Planner in this dazzling rom-com caper from Desai (The Singles Table). Simi Chopra spends her life rushing from a series of “soul-sucking, mind-numbing entry-level office jobs” to retail side gigs because she has “too much debt to pursue anything interesting, much less find [her] passion.” When her ride-or-die bestie, Chloe, a freelance white hat hacker, gets set up to take the fall for the theft of a $25 million diamond necklace, Simi mounts a rescue that proves both hilarious and thoroughly ineffective, stymied by the presence of another criminal, Jack. Jack, a thief, doesn’t have a last name he’s willing to share with Simi, but he does have a plan. If Simi and her gig worker friends (each of whom has a relevant talent) can get him into the house of Chicago’s best fence, Joseph Angelini, Jack will steal the necklace, clear Chloe’s name, and give each member of the crew enough reward money that they’ll be able to finally focus on their passions. As the danger increases, so does the sizzling attraction between Simi and Jack—but Simi can’t tell if she can trust Jack’s motives in the caper, let alone with her heart. Desai perfectly balances the lighthearted romance with a fun and twisty heist plot enacted by a kooky cast of indebted millennials. Romance lovers will devour this un-put-downable treat, and even readers generally wary of the genre will be swept away. Agent: Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary (July)

Love, Theoretically

Ali Hazelwood. Berkley, $17 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-593-33686-1
Bestseller Hazelwood (Loathe to Love You) delivers a decidedly quirky and thoroughly charming tale. The fake dating trope gets a techy update via Faux, an app connecting clients with pretend partners for hire, through which Boston adjunct professor Elsie Hannaway finds side gigs while she searches for a better-paying job in theoretical physics. While interviewing for her dream job at MIT, Elsie’s worlds collide: her favorite fake-dating client’s brother, whom she knew as Jack Smith, is actually Dr. Jonathan Smith-Turner, a legendary young physicist whose views are at odds with Elsie’s. The ensuing STEM-themed enemies-to-lovers romance is simply a delight, though it’s complicated by the fact that Jack believes Elsie is his brother’s girlfriend. Meanwhile, sunshiny Elsie’s imposter syndrome rings true as she navigates the cutthroat world of academia (“STEM academia is 98 percent politics and 1 percent science”) and learns that her mentor and idol has feet of clay. Geeky science jokes, humorous student emails, and expertly delivered snarky banter enhance the narrative. Readers will cheer for Jack and Elsie and their bumpy road to happily ever after. Agent: Thao Le, Sandra Dijkstra Literary. (June)

Maddalena and the Dark

Julia Fine. Flatiron, $28.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-2508-6787-2
Fine (The Upstairs House) beguiles with this decadent tale of desire set in 18th-century Venice. Luisa, a 15-year-old orphan, is raised at the all-girls conservatory Ospedale della Pietà, where composer Don Antonio Vivaldi is concertmaster and Luisa dreams of becoming a star violinist. Her life is upended by the arrival of Maddalena Grimani—a charming girl of noble birth, sent to the conservatory in hopes that a modest education will dispel rumors of her illegitimacy and increase her marriage prospects. The two girls embark on an intimate friendship, holding hands during mass and covertly sharing a bed, and Maddalena reveals a powerful secret she’s discovered: the sea grants wishes in exchange for offerings. Maddalena encourages Luisa to cast her own wish: to become the Pietà’s best violinist. But as Luisa’s wish is realized and her enchanting performances capture the attention of Vivaldi and later those of the men in Maddalena’s life, Maddalena makes another wish of her own—that she’ll have Luisa’s undivided affection. Maddalena’s wish sets the girls on a path of increasingly dangerous covenants with the sea that threaten to destroy everything they’ve attained. Fine delivers a masterly exploration of the shifting power dynamics of the protagonists’ relationship, particularly as Maddalena’s devotion to Luisa curdles into obsession. With the alluring Venice backdrop, this will frighten and captivate in equal measure. (June)

The Forbidden Territory of a Terrifying Woman

Molly Lynch. Catapult, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-64622-142-4
Mothers disappear from their homes across the world in Lynch’s spectacular debut. Writing professor Ada Berger, 39, lives in Ann Arbor, Mich., with her husband, Danny, and six-year-old son, Gilles. Ada’s most comfortable in remote, unspoiled places and is in a perpetual state of fear that climate change will destroy the Earth and her small family. Her unease deepens when a local woman mysteriously disappears. As more mothers around the country vanish, Ada feels uncontrollably drawn to the small forest behind Gilles’s school, and when she finally enters a “space like a door, an entryway” in the woods, she loses track of time and senses herself merging with nature. Then Danny wakes up one morning to find that Ada is gone. Efua Asemota, who works with a federal task force, tells him the group is investigating 44 American women, all mothers, who seem to have walked voluntarily out of their lives and disappeared. Though a grimy Ada returns two weeks later, she can’t remember her time away, and she tumbles down a rabbit hole trying to figure out what happened. Writing in tight, precise prose, Lynch weaves environmental disaster, feminist theory, and classical myth into a mesmerizing tale. Lovers of Margaret Atwood and Lauren Groff will be among the many enthralled. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (June)

The Quiet Tenant

Clémence Michallon. Knopf, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-53464-9
In this dazzling debut thriller from journalist Michallon, handsome Hudson Valley family man Aidan Thomas has a ghastly secret in his shed—and even worse ones hidden elsewhere. He’s a serial killer prone to kidnapping his victims whose story emerges gradually, from multiple female narrators: Emily, a lonely bartender who befriends Aidan in hopes of a romantic fling; his 13-year-old daughter, Cecilia; and his latest, still-living victim, whom Aidan insists call herself Rachel. When Aidan and Cecilia are forced to move after Aidan’s wife dies, “Rachel” convinces Aidan he can safely take her with them (with the explanation to Cecilia that she’s a friend of a friend who needs a place to live). In the new living situation, though, Rachel gets bold, befriending Cecilia and planting seeds for her freedom, no matter how risky. The ensuing match of wits and wills between Rachel and Aidan becomes almost excruciating in Michallon’s skillful hands, and as challenging as the going can get, it’s impossible to look away from. This is a smart, female-focused inversion of the serial killer thriller perfect for readers who otherwise wouldn’t give the genre a second look. Agent: Stephen Barbara, InkWell Management. (June)