Subscriber-Only Content. You must be a PW subscriber to access feature articles from our print edition. To view, subscribe or log in.
Site license users can log in here.

Get IMMEDIATE ACCESS to Publishers Weekly for only $15/month.

Instant access includes exclusive feature articles on notable figures in the publishing industry, the latest industry news, interviews of up and coming authors and bestselling authors, and access to over 200,000 book reviews.

PW "All Access" site license members have access to PW's subscriber-only website content. To find out more about PW's site license subscription options please email: PWHelp@omeda.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (outside US/Canada, call +1-847-513-6135) 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, Monday-Friday (Central).

Dwellers

Eliza Victoria. Tuttle, $14.99 (160p) ISBN 978-0-8048-5523-5

Philippine National Book Award winner Victoria (Lambana) mixes magic and mystery in this addictive but uneven urban fantasy. In contemporary Manila, two unnamed “dwellers,” entities that can possess bodies at will, take over the corpses—and lives—of brothers Jonah and Louis, both professors, following a fatal car crash. Then they find a woman’s rotting body in a basement freezer of the brothers’ house, and worry they may have chosen wrong. As neither retains any of the original Jonah or Louis’s memories, they have no leads on the murder—until a chance encounter with their neighbor, Ivy, helps them piece together what might have happened, and how their new identities may have been involved. This mystery propels the plot as the new Jonah and Louis investigate, with the help of former students who know them as favorite professors, but the tight focus on the whodunit leaves little room for much else, including any significant character development or worldbuilding. Still, readers who don’t mind the hazily constructed world will find this a fast-paced page-turner. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/10/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Uncanny Times

Laura Anne Gilman. Saga, $17.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-5344-1592-8

Monster hunting siblings set out to solve a series of murders in this lush, atmospheric historical fantasy from Gilman (the Devil’s West series), the first in the Huntsmen series. News of a cousin’s death at the hands of an Uncanny—Gilman’s umbrella term for any malevolent creature from myth or folklore—summons Rosemary and Aaron Harker to Brunson, N.Y., to fulfill their duty as Huntsmen by killing the culprit. Gilman’s fluid prose effortlessly evokes the social and industrial upheaval of 1913: Rosemary professes conflicted feelings about the suffragette movement, and the Harkers’ investigation results in the police suspecting them of being union agitators. The deeper the Harkers dig into Brunson’s secrets, the more stumped they become, as the only Uncanny presence they encounter is a mere-creature who implores them to destroy the monster plaguing the town—a plea that goes against all they’ve been taught about Uncanny behavior. Another death provides a fresh trail for the Harkers’ specially bred hound, Botheration, and the hunt begins, leading the siblings to a dark truth about the being behind the murders. Gilman’s evocative descriptions blend history with rich supernatural lore, while finely interwoven intrigues promise great things to come from this gaslamp fantasy series. Readers will be eager for more. Agent: Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 06/10/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Savage City

L. Penelope. Heartspell, $4.99 e-book (272p) ASIN B09Q282K7K

Bestseller Penelope (Requiem of Silence) launches her Bliss Wars series with a seamless blend of fantasy subgenres, wrenching action, and all-too-human characters. After 23-year-old Talia dies in an accident, she’s transported to a fantastical, post-apocalyptic world populated by powerful shape-shifter factions where she’s mistaken for the lost princess Celena and must play the part in order to survive. Everything in this strange new world feels faintly familiar to her—especially Ryin, a Fai prisoner of war held captive by the ruling Nimali faction as their never-ending battle over the resource known as Bliss rages. For his part, Ryin knows he shouldn’t be so attracted to Princess Celena, the daughter of his sworn enemy, but there’s something about Talia that draws him in—in much the same way they’re both drawn into the political intrigues of their feuding factions. Alternating perspectives between these protagonists, Penelope offers a wonderfully in-depth exploration of their characters, forcing readers to reevaluate the dichotomy of hero and villain. The romance blossoms organically against a background that skillfully mixes high fantasy elements with an urban post-apocalypse. Readers will be eager to see what comes next. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 06/10/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Councilor

L.E. Modesitt Jr. Tor, $29.99 (528p) ISBN 978-1-250-81445-6

Modesitt’s smart second Grand Illusion political thriller (after Isolate), set in a world of steam-powered cars and empaths who can remotely sense emotions, turns a microscope on the parliamentary process. Steffan Dekkard and Avraal Ysella-Dekkard, two former security agents for Premier Axel Obreduur, marry and strike out on their own. Steffan is appointed to the governing Council of Sixty-Six, while Avraal takes a job with a well-connected security firm. To head off the unrest fomented by the reformist New Meritorists, Steffan introduces a bill to dismantle the corrupt and out-of-control Ministry of Security. As his fellow councilors barter for compromises on the bill, Steffan is targeted by both rogue Security special agents and more radical Meritorists. He and Avraal investigate, suspecting a connection between the two groups, possibly mediated by a corporate political operative looking to increase the Meritorist threat while keeping the special police available for corporate dirty tricks. Modesitt drills deeply into the day-to-day minutiae of his world’s government (including hearings on the regulation of milled sand dust and the problem of “melon misrepresentation”), perhaps to a level past the interest of most science fantasy readers. Still, his protagonists, both outsiders with integrity, will win readers over, even when they indulge in some murderous tricks to tie up loose ends. This keeps the series going strong. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/10/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Thistlefoot

Gennarose Nethercott. Anchor, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-0-593-46883-8

Nethercott’s dark, difficult debut offers a heartbreaking reinterpretation of the myth of Baba Yaga. Isaac Yaga and his younger sister, Bellatine, are the “youngest living direct descendants” of Baba Yaga. They’ve been estranged since Isaac ran away from home at 17, but cautiously reconcile six years later when they inherit Baba Yaga’s famous chicken-legged hut. Woodworker Bellatine, who can bring inanimate objects to life, loves the house on sight, so actor/shape-shifter Isaac offers her a deal: they’ll tour the U.S. performing puppet shows and, at the end, all the proceeds will be his but the house will be hers. However, the mysterious Longshadow Man has been stalking the hut since 1919 and seeks to destroy it—and the Yagas—once and for all. Told largely by Isaac, Bellatine, and—fascinatingly—the hut itself, Nethercott’s ambitious attempt to write the next American Gods falters in its handling of evil. The characters themselves point out that the villain talks like a Nazi from an Indiana Jones movie, which cheapens the examination of racism and mob mentality—especially in the context of depictions of horrific antisemtism witnessed by the house (including a graphic infant murder in a Russian pogrom). Still, fans of thorny, contemporary retellings of folklore will appreciate Nethercott’s take on the theme of inherited trauma. Agent: Paul Lucas, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/10/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Midnight on the Marne

Sarah Adlakha. Forge, $26.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-77459-0

A few crucial choices change the fate of two people in this entrancing speculative love story from Adlakha (She Wouldn’t Change a Thing). In the summer of 1918, WWI rages through France and Marcelle Marchand, both a nurse and a spy for British Intelligence, crosses paths with American soldier George Mountcastle, who is immediately captivated by her beauty. When Marcelle’s assignment goes wrong, history is rewritten, and Germany succeeds in conquering France. George rescues Marcelle with the help of Marcelle’s twin sister, Rosalie, and they escape to Soissons. The price for hiding American soldiers is death, but Marcelle risks it. She and George have fallen in love, and she’ll do anything to protect their life together. But as the war threatens everything they hold dear, George wonders what might have happened if, at various points in their relationship, they had made different choices, and contemplates altering history to end their suffering. Adlakha expertly lays the foundation for this sweeping, tragic romance while never shying away from the merciless bloodshed of war. The mystical element of George playing with time arrives late and a bit abruptly, but this does not detract from its powerful emotional impact. This wistful tale is a winner. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/10/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Unbalancing

R.B. Lemberg. Tachyon, $17.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-61696-380-4

The finely wrought first full-length outing into Lemberg’s inclusive and lushly folkloric Birdverse universe (after the novella The Four Profound Weaves) begins centuries after the goddess Bird carried 12 stars into the world. One of these stars has become increasingly unstable, tormented by nightmares as it sleeps beneath the Gelle-Geu archipelago. Neurodivergent nonbinary poet Erígra Lilún has a subconscious connection to the star, but they’re uninterested in assuming the powerful position of starkeeper, preferring their quiet life of contemplation and gardening. Meanwhile, the brash and determined new starkeeper, Ranra Kekeri, discovers that the islands’ circumstances are far more dire than anyone realizes: unless the people of Gelle-Geu can stabilize the star, the archipelago is headed for environmental collapse. When Erígra and Ranra meet, they’re instantly drawn to one another as they rush to galvanize their community to mend what has been broken. Brisk action balances the meditations on gender and glimpses of the complex magic system as this unpredictable tale wends to an intense and deeply moving climax. It’s bittersweet and lovely. Agent: Mary C. Moore, Kimberley Cameron & Assoc. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/10/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Daphne

Josh Malerman. Del Rey, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-15701-5

The inventive plotting, plausible characterizations, and atmospheric prose that marked bestseller Malerman’s Bird Box are wholly absent in this dull horror yarn centered on an urban legend from the unlikely named town of Samhattan. Supposedly, Daphne was a seven-foot-tall local teen decked out daily in “KISS makeup” who was continually taunted about her height during high school in the ’90s; those torments ended when jocks, angered that Daphne never joined the school basketball team, knocked her out with a baseball bat and left her to die in the toxic fumes of her garage. According to local lore, Daphne periodically returns from beyond the grave to kill dozens of teen athletes. This story gets new life when Kit Lamb, a member of the girls’ hoop squad, follows a tradition of asking a question while shooting a free throw, with a successful shot signaling an affirmative answer. She asks, “Will Daphne kill me?” just before sinking a game-winning shot—and the team victory is quickly followed by the gory murders of several teammates, forcing all to wonder how much of the legend is true. Few, if any readers, will feel remotely scared by the setup, and Malerman offers little reason to invest in Kit or the other characters. This time, the gifted author shoots an air ball. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/10/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Face

Joma West. Tordotcom, $26.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-81029-8

West sets her smart but flawed dystopian debut in a heavily surveilled society obsessed with image, status, and social media. A series of vignettes from myriad viewpoints spotlight how the members of the high-status Burroughs family—husband Schuyler, wife Madeleine, and daughters Reyna and Naomi—become the targets of admiration and envy, and how the attention gradually affects them. Teenage Tam plans to feed off Schuyler’s influence by wooing Reyna; Jake, an artificially created menial, develops a forbidden attraction to Madeleine; and couple Tonia and Eduardo’s decision to have a designer baby involves the Burroughs’ connections. Everyone wants to use the Burroughs, and the family fractures under the pressure. West’s crisp, introspective tale succeeds in highlighting the negative side of popularity and power, with her society, a near-future reflection of the present, relying on genetic engineering and highly curated online presences to create picture-perfect self-images. The technique of revisiting scenes and conversations from multiple perspectives creates the sensation of spiraling closer and closer to a central point, which unfortunately never becomes fully clear as events fizzle and plot threads are left dangling. West delivers plenty of creepy, weird, and insightful ideas about privacy, power, and performance for readers to chew on, she just doesn’t quite stick the landing. Agent: Robbie Guillory, Underline Literary. (Aug)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
A Broken Blade

Melissa Blair. Union Square & Co, $17.99 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-1-4549-4787-5

Blair’s bumpy debut tackles addiction in a world where elves are abominations and fae are barely tolerated. Cruel King Aemon has killed off all Light Fae, subjects all Halflings (humans with elvish blood) to his service, and maintains a tenuous peace with the Dark Fae, whom he failed to vanquish completely. Orphan Halfling Keera Kingsown has been a charge of the king for as long as she can remember, trained from childhood to hunt criminals and enemies of the crown. As the King’s Blade, none is her equal in combat, but she chafes under the crown’s oppressive rule and drowns her demons with alcohol. Investigating the Shadow, the leader of a growing resistance to the king’s tyranny, turns into reluctantly joining the resistance in hopes of overthrowing the crown. Blair’s worldbuilding is murky, and the attempt at a fresh take on fae and elvish attributes doesn’t quite land, as neither group particularly stands out. Keera is a well-shaded protagonist, but her development comes at the expense of the rest of the cast, who remain two-dimensional. Readers will be disappointed. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Forgot Password

Premium online access is only available to PW subscribers. If you have an active subscription and need to set up or change your password, please click here.

New to PW? To set up immediate access, click here.

NOTE: If you had a previous PW subscription, click here to reactivate your immediate access. PW site license members have access to PW’s subscriber-only website content. If working at an office location and you are not "logged in", simply close and relaunch your preferred browser. For off-site access, click here. To find out more about PW’s site license subscription options, please email Mike Popalardo at: mike@nextstepsmarketing.com.

To subscribe: click here.