This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: A Warning from Deep Space, a Holy Assassin, and Ancient Myths Reimagined

To Be Taught, If Fortunate, by Becky Chambers
Becky Chambers takes a break from her Best Series Hugo-winning Wayfarer series for a powerful standalone novella exploring the immense personal cost of space exploration. After a technological breakthrough known as Somaforming enables the human body to adapt to any environment—enabling a person to consume radiation as food, for example—astronauts Ariadne O’Neill and her three crewmates toil in a system 15 long light years from Earth, exploring four potential colony planets. Slowly, Ariadne begins to truly contemplate the cost of both her own transformations and the unstoppable evolution of distant Earth, which may no longer be anything like the home she remembers—if it’s even still inhabited.

The Mythic Dream, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe
Dominik Parisien and freshly minted Hugo-winner Navah Wolfe follow up their Shirley Jackson Award-winning Robots Vs. Fairies with one that explores the myths that form the bedrock of sci-fi and fantasy. These 18 stories seek to reinvigorate these ancient tales with a burst of modern energy. Writers including Seanan McGuire, Naomi Novik, Rebecca Roanhorse, Ann Leckie, Arkady Martine, and Amal El-Mohtar put their own stamp on myths from many different cultures, reimagining everything from the Norse pantheon to the heroes of ancient Greece in surprising ways, both celebrating them and reclaiming them for the modern age. for the modern age.

The Nightjar, by Deborah Hewitt
Deborah Hewitt’s debut takes its inspiration from Finnish myths. In its world, everyone has a nightjar, a bird that mirrors their soul—but only an aviarist can actually see them. Alice Wydnham discovers she is just such a person, and with careful practice, she finds her ability means she can even penetrate a person’s memories and emotions. When Alice and her friend Jen are attacked, Jen is grievously injured and winds up in a coma, her nightjar fleeing. The only way Alice can save her friend is to locate the nightjar and reunite them before it’s too late. The quest brings her to the Rookery, an alternate sister-city to London, where Alice is hunted by the Judicium, a group that wants to eliminate all aviarists. Readers of Genevieve Cogman and Rachel Caine will find much to love in this textured, character-focused fantasy.

The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man, by Dave Hutchinson
Dave Hutchinson, best known for his award-winning Fractured Europe series, drops a slow-burn story that opens with an ambitious journalist getting his dream job and ends with an orgy of bendy quantum physics, time travel, and, yes, an incredible exploding man. It all begins when a billionaire struggling to clean up some bad publicity around his supercollider project hires Alex Dolan to write a book about it—a job Dolan seizes as his last chance at career success. Arriving at the facility, Dolan immediately senses something is wrong, but he chalks it up to paranoia—until a terrible accident literally changes everything and suddenly makes him the one man who can save the entire universe.

Darkdawn: Book Three of the Nevernight Chronicle, by Jay Kristoff
After a year’s delay, the much-anticipated conclusion of Jay Kristoff’s dark fantasy saga the Nevernight Chronicle finds holy assassin Mia Corvere on the run after her failed attempt to eliminate Consul Julius Scaeva. Chased by both Red Church assassins and Luminatii legionnaires, and with her mentor Mercurio a hostage of her enemies, Mia goes underground, where she learns she has one final journey to undertake, and it will be the most dangerous she has ever faced. In a world where the three suns in the sky never set, Truedark is finally upon the republic—and with the death of light may come the death of everything, unless Mia can solve the riddle of her very existence.

The Harp of Kings, by Juliet Marillier
Liobhan and her brother Brocc are talented musicians and singers training as warriors on Swan Island in the kingdom of Breifne. When the sacred Harp of Kings—vital to the successful coronation of a new king—goes missing just weeks before the Midsummer Day ceremony, they are drafted to pose as traveling musicians on a quest to retrieve the harp before disaster strikes. Soaked in gorgeous Celtic imagery and mythology, this standalone fantasy from the author of the Sevenwaters novels offers a perfect entry point for readers of Naomi Novik and Anne Bishop eager for a book that offers similar pleasures.

After the Flood, by Kassandra Montag
An extreme vision of the climate crisis unfolds in Kassandra Montag’s debut novel, set 100 years in the future, by which time rising ocean waters have flooded not just the coasts but huge swaths of the mainland, leaving behind a straggling assortment of colonies eking out a spare existence atop formerly towering mountains-turned-islands. Two of the inhabitants of this wetter, harsher world,Myra and her young daughter Pearl, spend most of their days on the sea, fishing for food and selling the extra catch to the few pockets of civilization remaining. Myra is still struggling with the tragedy that befell her as the floodwaters rushed in to claim her former home in Nebraska, when her elder daughter Row’s father stole her away amid the chaos. Myra has long kept her diminished family alive by steering clear of both alliances and conflict, but when she learns Row may still be alive in a distanct colony near the Arctic Circle, she sets off with Pearl on a treacherous voyage that will put them at risk of both the hazards of the environment and the roving bands of raiders who patrol the seas looking for easy prey, and force her to weigh the risk of changing one daughter’s fate against the survival of the other.

The Unkindest Tide, by Seanan McGuire 
Seanan McGuire’s thirteenth entry in the Hugo-nominated October Daye urban fantasy series finds Toby facing a request she literally can’t refuse. Centuries before, the Selkies made a deal with the sea witch: they would have the sea until she decided to call in their debts. The time has come, and the bill is now due—including Toby Daye’s. The debts must be honored, or the consequences will be terrible, so she has no choice but to travel to the Duchy of Ships and call a convocation of Selkies. When events quickly spiral out of Toby’s control and her daughter Gillian is threatened, she will have to find a way to ensure the sea witch is paid what she’s owed—or pay the ultimate price.

The Nobody People, by Bob Proehl
Smart and at turns terrifying, The Nobody People offers a literary take on the X-Men for the 21st century, imagining what would happen if a hidden class of extra-normal individuals—Resonants—existing at the margins of society decided to go public en masse. Told from the points of view of disabled reporter Avi Hirsch; Carrie, a Resonant studying at a secret school for the “gifted and talented;” and Faheema Deeb, a Resonant engineer who works at the school, Proehl’s sophomore effort goes beyond the tropes and texts that inspired it, bringing to life a cast of characters struggling through the traumas of a new world order. Avi is reporting on a death that can’t be explained by any known branch of science, and trying not to bring darkness into the life of his young daughter, who seems to somehow know everything. Carrie feels invisible, and also can also become literally so. Faheema must deal with the otherness of not only her Resonant ability to perfectly engineer any machine she can imagine, but also her queerness and her Muslim heritage. Special powers and mutations have also been a reliable tool for exploring prejudice in fantasy fiction, but what sets this book apart is not necessarily the tropes it upholds or subverts but the depth with which it explores the characters’ inner lives. The empathy runs deep, and the people you meet in these pages will stick with you for a long time.

What new SFF release has you most excited this week?

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