Despite its reputation as the season of R&R, summer can be as busy and chaotic as any other time of year. Sure, the exotic vacation you’re planning will be a refreshing break from the day-to-day grind, but there’s so much planning to do before the lounging begins. We’re happy to take at least some of stress off of you by offering up the most exciting new fantasy books launching each week this summer. Go on: pre-order now and save yourself the trouble later.
Beren and Lúthien, by J.R.R. Tolkien and edited by Christopher Tolkien
Whether you have read The Silmarillion in full or stopped after finishing The Lord of the Rings, you are aware, in some sense, of the story of Beren and Luthien. It is a timeless star-crossed love story, between Beren, the mortal man, and Luthien, the ethereal, immortal elf. Nothing, however, with Middle-earth ends at the surface, and this piece of First Age lore is no exception. Tolkien continued to build and shape the story through subsequent works and publications. Now, his son, Christopher Tolkien, has extracted Beren and Luthien’s plight and packaged the various evolutions of the story together to create a unique standalone piece that closes a narrative loop.
The Refrigerator Monologues, by Catherynne M. Valente
Any time you pick up a new book by Valente, you are prepared for an absorbing, utterly intoxicating experience. So The Refrigerator Monologues, a series of linked short stories relaying tales of women in a comic book universe, was always going to be a must-read. But coming so quickly on the heels of Marvel’s diversity-doesn’t-sell flap, this probe into the “refrigeration” of women in comics—the oft-tragic sidelining of female characters for the sake of a male storyline—couldn’t be more timely and necessary. In an invented universe, the six women of the Hell Hath Club swap stories of how they have suffered at the altar of superheroism, invoking and subverting every last trope that’s done them wrong.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire
Last year’s Every Heart a Doorway was a darling novella, imbued with the wide-eyed wonder—and inherent horror—of the portal fantasy. McGuire introduced us to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, where all those kids who tumbled through wardrobes and rabbit holes wind up when their Wonderland spits them back out. The trauma of this experience, for each of these children, would be enough to fill several subsequent volumes, and here, we have the first such exploration. Here, we find out what happened to twin sisters Jack and Jill between their 12th and 17th years, when they survived in a land of mad scientists and vampires, where fairy tales can be both lush and twisted.
A Gathering of Ravens, by Scott Oden
Historically speaking, Oden has focused his narrative powers on fantasies set in the ancient world, in Greece and in Egypt. That makes the alternate early medieval Europe he has crafted in A Gathering of Ravens feel like a rather modern departure. Steeped in mythos and bearing a trace of Beowulf, the story reveals a land in which men do battle with monsters and gods, and a new religion, Christianity, is overtaking the old faiths and customs. Grimnir, a giant and the last of his kind, seeks long-awaited vengeance on a quest that will crisscross the changing landscapes of Denmark, England, and Ireland. The result is a loving ode to mythology and a thrilling tour of the genre.
The Waking Land, by Callie Bates
This is a hotly anticipated debut, and if it delivers on a tenth of its awesome blurbs (Terry Brooks! Tamora Pierce! Charlaine Harris!), it will be well worth the wait. Now 19, Elanna’s life has been, and continues to be, complicated. She has been raised by the king as if she were his own daughter. In reality, she was a hostage. When the king is murdered, Elanna is framed for the crime and forced to seek refuge with her ostracized and estranged father, branded a traitor by the king years earlier. Family sagas and power struggles, however, are only the tip of the iceberg, as Elanna must confront the secret she has long hidden: her magical abilities, outlawed for centuries.
The Harbors of the Sun, by Martha Wells
The Books of the Raksura series, of which The Harbors of the Sun will be the fifth installment, is, well, weird—in an excellent way. High fantasy usually mimics some parallel reality, most often Medieval Europe. Wells has done none of that, building from scratch a wholly foreign universe with minimal human presence. Here, the dominant presence is that of the Raksura, shapeshifting dragon creatures. Here, in their concluding adventure, the Raksura have been betrayed and some of their lot has been kidnapped. Rescue attempts are complicated by the mysterious, yet lethal, plans of the pursued captors. It’s a risky business, and one that promises to end a celebrated series on a soaring note.
At the Table of Wolves, by Kay Kenyon
This remarkable fantasy crosses genre borders—pulling in elements of comic books, war thrillers, and historical fiction—to craft an alternate history spy game sure to satisfy just about any genre reader. It is 1936, and in England, certain ordinary people have begun to manifest special talents, manifestations brought on by fallout from the trauma of the Great War. Kim Tavistock is one of them; her Talent is “the spill,” which causes people to feel an irresistible desire to tell her their innermost secrets—without realizing it. As you can imagine, this ability makes her quite valuable in the efforts to combat the looming threat of Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, getting to the bottom of a Nazi plot to unleash a Talent that will carry the devastating impact of a superweapon, Kim will need to go undercover—even if it means joining up with a Nazi spy.
Minecraft: The Island, by Max Brooks
Brooks, the author of World War Z, may not be the first name you think of when you consider who would write the first official novel tied to the Minecraft gaming universe. But maybe it should. Not only is Brooks a noted Minecraft devotee, but his works to date have all centered on survival. The novelization of the game promises to be of the same vein, beginning with a castaway hero who must make his way on a mysterious island. Also, there are zombies. So whether you’re a fan of Brooks’ previous works, a player of the game at hand, or a long-time reader of Robinson Crusoe-esque survivalist stories, you’ll find something here to like.
Talon of God, by Wesley Snipes and Ray Norman
Yep, that Wesley Snipes. And Blade, as it turns out, has just co-written one of the year’s most thrilling, appropriately cinematic urban fantasies. The action is an occult smorgasbord, through which we are guided by Lauryn Jefferson, a skeptical doctor, and Talon Hunter, a spiritual warrior of an ancient order. This mismatched pair is one of humanity’s last defenses against a shadowy cabal hell-bent on widespread demonic possession and, as you would expect, unholy power. It’s an entertaining, spellbinding (literally) thrill ride.
Hex-Rated, by Jason Ridler
No experience is required to pick up Hex-Rated, the inaugural ride of the new Brimstone Files series. It seems like all things with a bit of noir wind up in Los Angeles. This time, it’s 1970, in a City of Angels that’s a den of the supernatural and demonic. Amidst the cults and the magic and the mayhem is James Brimstone, a P.I. with a colorful backstory and a need to prove his sleuthing chops. His first client is a porn actress whose story of sex and the supernatural has the cops rolling their eyes. Brimstone, however, knows better, and his investigation is rollicking, exotic, and pulpy to the max.
The New Voices of Fantasy, edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman
If there’s someone whose taste in fantasy novels you can trust, it’s probably the author of The Last Unicorn. Here, he has compiled 19 breathtaking fantasy stories that highlight the immense range of the genre and showcase the talent of rising-star authors, including:
- Maria Dahvana Headley (author of the YA breakout Magonia)
- Max Gladstone (author of the Craft Sequence)
- Sofia Samatar (World Fantasy Award winner for A Stranger in Olondria)
- Lily Yu (Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award winner for best short story)
- Usman T. Malik (Bram Stoker Award winner for short fiction)
With those minds, and several others, at work, this anthology brims with wonder, horror, and all the eccentricities you would expect from this collection of imaginations. It’s a wonderful sampler platter of the best and brightest fantasy has to offer.
The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin
The Broken Earth series has, to date, been a darling of the awards circuit, and rightly so. Westeros’ winter has nothing on the Stillness’ cataclysmic seasonal events. In the sweeping yet intricate world Jemisin has constructed, we have followed, to date, the struggles of one woman, Essun, and her daughter, Nassun, as they navigate a crumbling world and a fight over power—and powers. The Stone Sky concludes the story in predictably remarkable fashion. It’s a bittersweet moment, finishing this story, but at least you can always go back and pick up Jemisin’s equally engrossing Inheritance Trilogy.
Hardcover $18.11 | $26.00
An Echo of Things to Come, by James Islington
What is summer without a doorstopper high fantasy epic? Weighing in at just over 750 pages, the sequel to last year’s The Shadow of What Was Lost fits the bill and plunges us deeper into the ongoing tumult of Andarra. In positive news, in the wake of the sweeping attack on Andarra, the Augurs, the demigods forced into the shadows by the Unseen War, have been able to come out in the open and join the fight against the land’s growing enemies. In not-so-positive news, the bad guys are indeed still gathering strength. All the key players are accounted for, including Davian, the Augur; Asha, the super spy; Wirr, the new Northwarden; and Caeden, the conflict’s amnesiac linchpin. By all accounts, we’re in for an exciting middle installment of the Licanius trilogy.
A Song for Quiet, by Cassandra Khaw
Khaw is set to have a standout year. Her full-length debut, Food of the Gods, provided a gruesome and riotous spring, and this summer, she rolls out A Song for Quiet, which promises to build on the wonderfully weird world she revealed in last year’s novella Hammers on Bone. John Persons, private investigator of all things unseemly, takes a backseat in this romp through the universe. Instead, we accompany Deacon James, traveling bluesman and monster incubator, as he confronts the madness within and around him, the latter horrors unleashed by Deacon’s saxophone. No one is dancing the line between madcap and macabre these days quite like Khaw.
The Ruin of Angels, by Max Gladstone
For a brief and alarming period last year, we thought Gladstone’s megalithic urban fantasy series, the Craft Sequence, had come to an end with its fifth installment, Four Roads Cross. Thank the many financially minded gods we were wrong. After switching publishing homes to Tor.com, the Craft Sequence is set to return to its world of dead gods and the sorcerous lawyers who did them in, this time without its chronologically focused titles. There is, however, a familiar face in Kai Pohala, last seen in Full Fathom Five, who turns up on the snarled streets of Agdel Lex to visit her sister. Of course, things don’t go as planned, and in this universe, there’s always a caper to be had.
Hardcover $14.95 | $18.99
Shadowhouse Fall, by Daniel José Older
What’s better to wind down the dog days of summer than a simmering, pavement-pounding urban fantasy? Shadowhouse Fall is the first of two planned follow-ups to the fierce and vibrant Shadowshaper. In her first appearance, Sierra Santiago was plagued by weeping, warping murals in Brooklyn and learned of the sorcery that runs through her own veins. Now, she and her friends own their new lives as the titular shadowshapers, until an ominous calling card arrives that heralds a new beast, the Hound of Light, and the next battle Sierra will have to fight. The series is listed as YA, but it holds cross-genre and cross-demographic appeal, as Older weaves together elements of fantasy and Caribbean myth, with commentary on modern social issues like systemic violence, racism, and gentrification.
One Dark Throne, by Kendare Blake
How about some delightfully dark to bid summer farewell? In series starter Three Dark Crowns, we met the triplet queens of Fennbirn. Each girl has a unique power. Each girl receives deadly training. Only one girl will be allowed to come of age. If the premise sounds like it’s been done before, it hasn’t—at least not like this. In this second book, the conflict comes to a head, with each sister exploring the depths of her powers and each preparing for the deadly confrontation that marks the ascension to the throne. Both brutal and dazzling, the world Blake has invented will consume you—and several hours of your time.
What fantasy books are you looking forward to this summer?