There are plenty of great long-running series in the science fiction and fantasy section, but it can be tough to walk in on the middle of a story. With that in mind, here are some great, recent SFF novels—each is either a completely standalone read, the very beginning of a series, or a story that takes place in an established universe but requires no knowledge—and you can all of them for 50 percent off during Barnes & Noble’s Book Haul Blowout, from February 27 to March 4.
Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds, by Brandon Sanderson
Here’s a great way to experience an entire epic series in one volume: this bind-up collects three novellas telling the complete (so far) story of Stephen Leeds. Though best known for his fantasy work, Sanderson shifts into contemporary science fiction for this story of a genius able to learn any skill or vocation in a matter of hours. He’s aided by a team of imaginary experts—people he creates in his mind to help him keep track of all the talents he acquires, all of whom take on lives of their own. Naturally, his ability to master any skill makes him valuable, and a company hires him to recover stolen property. The mission takes him on a globe-spanning adventure that ultimately leads him to investigate the truth of his own origin.
Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen series), by John Gwynne
The war between giants and humans left scars on the Banished Lands that are only just beginning to heal, while the 14-year-old son of a swineherd is poised to discover that a renewed, even more devastating war, might be in the offing. The resourceful young Corban only wants to serve as a warrior in the king’s army, but quickly becomes enmeshed in the dangerous world of politics and greed as he navigates the opening of volume of Gwynne’s dark and truly epic four-volume fantasy series.
The Sisters of the Winter Wood, by Rena Rossner
Inspired by Russian and Ukrainian folktales as well as the subversive 19th century poetry of Christina Rossetti, Rossner’s sumptuous debut follows 18-year-old Liba and her sister Laya, two young women living in a small village on the border of Moldova and Ukraine. Laya falls under the spell of a group of male travelers, but there are other dark forces in the woods. The two sisters come to learn that the fairy stories of their parents and grandparents aren’t all fiction, and contain the secrets that can save them all.This is a richly told tale, with point-of-view chapters switching between the sisters, and between prose and verse.
A Secret History of Witches, by Louisa Morgan
The lightly fantastical, supremely satisfying story of one supernatural gifted family across generations. Stripped of their powers since an ancestor sacrificed her life in the early 19th century, the Orchire family still tried to keep the flame of magic burning, passing down magical lore through the years, losing spells and rituals with each passing decade until the last-born daughter reaches maturity, and the power returns—and must be hidden in order to keep the family safe. The cycle continues for generations, but in the mid-20th century, with a second World War developing, the Ochires’ magic may be the only thing that can save the world, even if it means sacrificing their secrecy and safety in order to do so.
Someone Like Me, by M. R. Carey
The latest from the author of The Girl with All the Gifts (also a part of Book Haul!) introduces us to two very different women: gentle, kind, easily swayed Liz Kendall; and Beth, a fighter who stands up for herself, doing whatever it takes to get what she wants±and then goes too far. The twist? They might be the same person. Assaulted by her ex-husband, Liz gives way to the malicious Beth, an alter-ego who only a teenager named Fran, in therapy following a kidnapping, seems able to see. This standalone supernatural thriller uses horror to get to the root of trauma.
Cold Iron (Masters & Mages series), by Miles Cameron
The first volume of Cameron’s Masters & Mages trilogy introduces Aranthur, a young student of magic who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time during a journey. The bloody confrontation he is caught up in forces him to display his skill with a sword, and unexpectedly places him at the center of events of global import. Cameron’s coming-of-age story takes place in an early modern fantasy world inspired by the latter days of Constantinople. Cold Iron uncovers this engaging world gradually, as the nobody Aranthur comes to understand the scope of a political revolt in the making.
The Black Prism (Lightbringer series), by Brent Weeks
In the world of Weeks’ Seven Satrapies, one person in each generation is the Prism, able to fully harness the extraordinary magical power of light. Following a war against a similarly gifted twin brother, Gavin Guile currently holds the honor, along with the power and authority that come with it—but his time is running out. With only five years left to him, he’s forced to face down a corrupt governor and stop a religious war, all while seeking out the child he left behind. This is a great time to begin Gavin’s journey: the final volume, The Burning White, arrives in August.
New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson
A master of big idea science fiction with a human touch, Robinson’s 2017 Hugo nominee visits the New York City of 12 decades in the future, half of which literally under water due to rising sea levels. Denver takes over the city’s role as the country’s economic engine, while NYC has become a new Venice: people scrabble to in the shallows and the outskirts, orwhile those with more money live on the upper floors of partially submerged high-rise buildings. As the rich build new luxury apartments, the poor scavenge for the city’s underwater resources, and a murder mystery unfolds, with connections to a disparate group of people who all call the same co-op building home. It’s an exploration of a scarily probable future with a NYC-sized cast of fascinating, diverse personalities.
The Wolves of Winter, by Tyrell Johnson
In the aftermath of a global nuclear war and a relentless viral epidemic, crossbow-wielding Lynn McBride struggles to survive with her family in the Yukon. The inhospitable nature of the region makes it a relatively safe place when it comes to avoiding the flu, but Lynn’s word is upended when she encounters Jax, a man with unusual abilities. He’s being pursued by an organization that’s seeking a cure for the pandemic, and the resulting hunt leads Lynn into the dark secrets of her own past, forcing her to choose between the fate of the world and the safety of her family.
Splintered Suns, by Michael Cobley
Set in the world of Cobley’s cinematic Humanity’s Fire series, this standalone adventure novel has all the ingredients of a grand old-fashioned space opera: a ship captain full of mad schemes, a gang of smugglers, and an elaborate heist. Brannan Pyke and his crew have a mission: break into a museum and steal the tracking device that will lead them to a valuable ship they hope to salvage. Of course, they’re not the only one’s after the million-year-old vessel buried in the desert of a backwater planet—and the ship they’re after might be the key to unlocking the advanced technology of a lost civilization.