This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Goblin Kings, Mayan Gods, and Grand Admiral Thrawn

Desdemona and the Deep, by C.S.E. Cooney
This novella from World Fantasy Award-winning author C.S.E. Cooney focuses on Desdemona Mannering, the wealthy and well-intentioned daughter of the mining baron of the town of Seafall. Desdemona lives a happy life and is proud of her ongoing work to bring true social reform to the town, in part to make up for the economic disparity afflicting its residents—but then she discovers the horrifying truth behind her father’s wealth, and the horrific tithes he offers to the Goblin King in return. Desdemona sets off with her best friend Chaz to rescue the men her father has endangered—and contemplates striking her own bargain with the Goblin King, one that may doom her for her good intentions. In addition to writing stories, Cooney is an award-winning poet, and her prose positively sings.

Medusa in the Graveyard, by Emily Devenport
Oichi Angelis was nothing but a worm aboard the generation ship Olympia, harmless until (literally) pushed too far (as in out of an airlock). With her band of insurgents, they led a revolution that put them in charge of the starship (see: the events of last year’s Medusa Uploaded); now, they’re headed deep into the Charon System in hope of uncovering a mystery that’s buried within Oichi’s DNA: three colossal sentient starships wait for them on the planet Graveyard, engineered by the same extinct race that made Oichi’s people. If the travelers are judged worthy, they’ll gain control of unimaginable power. Book two of the Medusa Cycle is just as dark, daring, and propulsive as the first.

The Dark Above, by Jeremy Finley
Jeremy Finley’s sequel to The Darkest Time of Night opens up 15 years after Lynn Roseworth rescued her grandson, William Chance, after he was abducted by strange forces in the woods behind her house. William is now an adult and living in seclusion in order to avoid the constant attention his famous disappearance has earned him. When he makes a mistake and brings the press running to Arkansas, he also meets parks service investigator Lois Jumper and Lily, a little girl who appeared out of thin air in North Dakota. When mysterious agents assault them, Lois is killed and Lily fights them off by giving them impossibly rapid cancers. William takes Lily and runs for their lives while evil forces and William’s family launch parallel searches for them in what becomes a tense thriller of sci-fi proportions.

Hateful Things: The Children of D’Hara, by Terry Goodkind
The second installment in Terry Goodkind’s series of novella-length sequels (which he calls “episodes” rather than books) to The Sword of Truth saga delivers more insight into the fates of Richard Cypher and Kahlan Amnell. After discovering a new threat in the form of the Golden Goddess, who intends to cross over into their world—and almost losing Kahlan when she attempted to use her powers as Mother Confessor—Richard and Kahlan are now dealing with the fact that the latter is now pregnant with twins. Goodkind brings a thriller’s pacing to these short episodes, offering a compelling (if brief) return trip to a popular fantasy universe.

Sherlock Holmes Vs. Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Innsmouth Mutations, by Lois H. Gresh
The third volume in Gresh’s delightful Sherlock Holmes/Lovecraft mashup takes Holmes and the Watsons to Innsmouth. After sealing up a dimensional rift that filled London with monsters, the duo are tasked with getting to the bottom of the horrifying things appearing off Devil’s Reef—and, finally, the presence of Cthulhu itself. Holmes and Watson take the appearance of a great old one with aplomb, but when they arrive at Innsmouth they discover that locals are more monster than men. Worse, Holmes finds his old enemy Moriarty is there as well, along with the harbingers of Dagon, who have called Cthulhu forth with one bloody goal: to bring about the end of humanity. Now as never before, the fate of the world rests in the hands of the world’s greatest detective.

Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Infused with and inspired by Mexican folk stories, the latest novel from the author of Certain Dark Things is a Mexican folklore-inspired epic that tells the story of young Casiopea Tun, who slaves away keeping her wealthy grandfather’s house until she stumbles on a mysterious wooden box. When she opens it, she releases the Mayan god of death—a curiously charming entity who asks Casiopea to help him regain his throne from his treacherous brother. Casiopea knows the risk—failure means her death—but the rewards are too tempting to pass up. Accompanying the charismatic god to the Mayan underworld and beyond, Casiopea is determined to have a life that goes far beyond the small Mexican town she was born in, even if it costs her everything. A B&N Discover Pick for the summer of 2019.

Jade War, by Fonda Lee
The second book in Lee’s Nebula-nominated, World Fantasy Award-winning Green Bone Saga (following Jade City) continues the story of the Kaul family’s struggle for dominance over the island of Kekon and its capital city in an alternate world that draws from a myriad of Asian history, legends, and traditions but mixes in plenty of fantastic invention. The clan has its work cut out for them as they struggle against the rival No Peak clan and an array of other external and internal threats from the many forces that covet the invaluable jade the island produces, and which imbues the Green Bone warriors with supernatural abilities. In the face of their enemies, the Kaul family will trade away everything, including their honor, to ensure their survival. Lee’s epic twist on the mob drama is addictive.

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, by H.G. Parry
H.G. Parry’s sparkling debut, another B&N Discover Pick, tells the story of brilliant Charley Sutherland: teenage Ph.D. and a Summoner, someone who can read literary characters from books into the real world and back. His family, especially his normal, jealous brother Rob, have worked hard to keep Charley’s talents secret. Rob especially cherishes a hope that if Charley simply stops using his ability, they’ll fade away. Then Charley makes a shocking discovery—there’s a whole hidden neighborhood where literary characters hide from view and try to make a life, and another Summoner at work in town—he’s bringing evil characters to life, and he is aware of Charley and determined to do him harm. Teaming up with a host of literary characters and a Nancy Drew-like girl detective named Millie Radcliffe-Dix, Charley and Rob must stop the evil Summoner before the villains brought into the world destroy it entirely.

The Wolf’s Call, by Anthony Ryan
Anthony Ryan launches a sequel series to his celebrated Raven’s Shadow trilogy, reacquainting us with the legendary warrior Vaelin Al Sorna, now retired—and bored. When he hears of the Steel Horde, an army led by a ruthless warlord called the Darkblade who believes he is a god incarnate, Vaelin is unmoved—until he hears that his beloved Sherin has been taken by the Horde. Vaelin heads to the lands ruled by the Merchant Kings intent on going to Sherin’s aid, accompanied by a rag-tag group of adventurers, each with their own demons. There he learns that Sherin has disappeared in the company of the Jade Princess, an apparently immortal woman believed to be incredibly powerful. Vaelin realizes he may not know the truth of what’s going on—and he may not have the strength to follow through on his new quest. Though there are callbacks aplenty for fans of the earlier books, this one also stands alone well enuogh to welcome new readers into the fold.

Becoming Superman, by J. Michael Straczynski
J. Michael Straczynski is a legend among geeks—and one of the most successful genre writers of modern times, working in film, comics, and television. Until now, his life has been a mystery, but this incredible memoir details the dark truths behind his embrace of sci-fi, fantasy, and comics. Raised by a Nazi-loving alcoholic father, a clinically depressed mother, and a savage pair of grandparents, he faced a harrowing, abusive childhood that he might never have escaped were it not for the escape he found in comics—especially Superman. Inspired by heroes and those who brought then to life, Straczynski grabbed onto writing like a drowning man and made a future of it. His true life story turns out to be as gripping and inspiring as any of his fiction.

The Violent Century, by Lavie Tidhar
World Fantasy Award-winner Lavie Tidhar blends the superhero and spy genres in this dark, high-energy epic of alternate 20th century history, originally released in 2015. An experiment caused mutations in a tiny portion of humanity, leading to individuals with tremendous gifts being put to use to advance the agendas of global powers: the United States, Germany, and Russia each have their own agents and their own styles of superheroism, with British agents Fog and Oblivion having served as agents of the secretive Retirement Bureau, an organization dedicated to defending against superpowers, during the Second World War. 70 years later, the two are reunited for another mission tied to their sinister pasts.

The Last Astronaut, by David Wellington 
In 2034, a manned mission to Mars ends in a disaster so complete, NASA itself shuts down, and the lone survivor, Commander Sally Jansen, goes into retired exile. Two decades later, an object detected in the depths of space changes course and heads directly for Earth orbit, ignoring all attempts to make contact. The remnants of NASA are called back into service—including a reluctant, still-haunted Jansen, who agrees to take charge solely because she’s literally the only person qualified to do so. What Jansen and the crew she assembles discover when they head out to rendezvous with the object is terrifying—and changes the mission goal to simple survival. This is sci-fi horror at its most terrifying—if only because the science behind it is grounded and all-too-possible.

Magic: The Gathering—Rise of the Gatewatch, A Visual History, by Wizards of the Coast
Magic: The Gathering is an interesting fantasy franchise: both a complex game and an epic set of stories set in a multiverse of detailed, richly-imagined worlds. The planeswalkers are powerful beings who have sworn to defend the multiverse, and the history of the first of these is celebrated in this gorgeous book. Collecting art from the cards—including original versions extending beyond the frame—packaging, and from exclusive convention displays, the history of the planeswalkers is explored in intricate detail. From their origins in the mists of time, to their fabled confrontation with the elder dragon and planeswalker Nicol Bolas, it’s a story that rivals any epic fantasy in any format.

Thrawn: Treason (Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition), by Timothy Zahn
Timothy Zahn continues the story of one of the wider Star Wars saga’s most popular characters—one he created nearly 30 years ago—with the third volume of a trilogy that began with 2017’s Thrawn. For years, Thrawn has served as one of the Emperor’s most deadly weapons, but as Palpatine’s attention shifts to the Death Star project and destruction on a far grander scale, the Grand Admiral finds himself defending his place in the Imperial pecking order—but an envoy from his past suddenly appears with a warning of a threat against Thrawn’s homeworld, information that will force him to choose between his people and the powerful Empire he has sworn his allegiance to. It’s a delight to see Zahn playing around again with the character who made us believe in Star Wars again, all those years ago. The Barnes & Noble edition includes an exclusive pull-out poster.

What new sci-fi & fantasy books are you reading this week?

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