This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: The N’awlins Underworld, Forbidden Magic, and Repo Men in Space

Pimp My Airship, by Maurice Broaddus
If the title doesn’t tell you as much, it’s clear Maurice Broaddus (Buffalo Soldier) is having a great deal of fun with his new adventure starring a poet named Sleepy, who is more interested in his words and his drugs than taking part in protests that will only earn him the wrong kind of attention. Unfortunately, a chance encounter with political agitator named (120 Degrees of) Knowledge Allah delivers lots of just that. Meanwhile, the father of a young heiress is murdered, upsetting the balance of her ordered world and throwing her in with Sleepy and Knowledge as they race across an alternate version of Indianapolis with a sky littered with airships, hoping to stay one step ahead of criminals and the authorities. Imagine the anarchic spirit of Sorry to Bother You given a turn away from body horror and toward steampunk.

Gather the Fortunes, by Bryan Camp
Bryan Camp’s sequel to his lauded debut The City of Lost Fortunes focuses on Renaissance “Renai” Raines, a young woman who died in 2011 and woke up in a New Orleans both alike and different from the one she knew. In this new reality, she’s a “psychopomp,’”helping dead souls to break their mortal chains and guiding them to an afterlife populated by whimsy and demons. When a young boy is killed in a drive-by shooting, his body and soul both vanish before Renai can do her thing, and she sets off to investigate with the help of her familiar, talking raven Salvatore. Renai’s search takes her—and the reader—on a tour of a eerie alternate world, as she slowly comes to realizes that if the missing spirit should escape its fate, the consequences will be dire for the entire population of New Orleans, both the living and the dead.

Triumphant, by Jack Campbell
The third entry in Campbell’s Genesis Fleet series—a prequel to the Lost Fleet saga—finds the colony of Glenlyon in desperate straits. After coming to the aid of their sister colony, Kosatka, and helping to repel an invasion, Glenlyon is unable to resist when the invasion comes to them. They have only one ship left, the Saber, commanded by Rob Geary, but all he can do is make trouble for the invaders, even as Mele Darcy and her marines fight desperate close-quarter battles and negotiator Lochan Nakamura fights a lonely diplomatic battle to convince other colonies to risk a measure of their independence to come to Glenlyon’s aid.

Queenslayer, by Sebastien de Castell
Kellen Argos is no great mage, but the outlaw spellslinger will need to step up quickly in order to survive his latest misadventure—seems he’s earned the ire of the queen for disrespecting the Daroman flag by accidentally wiping blood across it. The young queen gives him one chance to save his neck—he must beat her at a game of cards. But just when it seems the stakes couldn’t be any higher, the game reveals a threat to more than just Kellen’s bodily integrity—it seems someone wants the queen dead, too. This is the fifth book (of a planned six) in Sebastien de Castell’s rousing fantasy adventure series to be released within the last 12 months, with the final volume due later this year. It’s just as well, because fans of fast-moving stories filled with chase scenes, high drama, action, and smart dialogue will want to devour them one after another.

Warlock Holmes: The Sign of Nine, by G.S. Dennings
Fantasy and science fiction have never met a Sherlock Holmes retelling they didn’t like, and this is a good one. As the title suggest, the Warlock Holmes book mix a bit of magic into the mystery, resulting in a sly combo of sorcery and suspense. For the next case, Warlock Holmes’ assistant Dr. John Watson plays the victim: he’s been imbued with the essence of an ancient mummy, the sorcerer Xantharaxe, whose dissolved corpse made it into the good doctor’s bloodstream, granting him unusual prophetic powers that will only serve to complicate Watson’s love life, not to mention Holmes’ matchmaking efforts.

Broken Shadow, by Jaine Fenn
This follow-up to Hidden Sun completes British Science Fiction Award-winner Jaine Fenn’s Shadowlands duology, set in a world of contrasting shadowlands and bright alien skylands. The first book began the story of Rhia Harlyn, a well-born, science-minded woman in the shadowland Shen who put her skill for research and discovery to use after her brother disappeared, sending her off into the skylands to seek the truth behind his disappearance. There, she discovered things that changed her understanding of the way of the worlds—and now, her knowledge has resulted in accusations of heresy. With her brother forever changed by the arcane experiments of a mad scientist, Rhia has no one else to rely on. She again sets forth for the skylands, this time to save herself.

Year of the Orphan, by Daniel Findlay
The latest entry in the literary post-apocalyptic novel boom is described as a mix of The Road and Mad Max. It’s set in the dangerous, unforgiving Australian Outback in the wake of a world-altering disaster, and follows a young girl known only as Orphan, who scours the poisoned desert in search of scraps of technology left behind by a ruined civilization, trying to eke out a living by trading what meager items she can find to others in the System, an unforgiving fortress and, nasty as it is, one of the last outposts of humanity. But Orphan has a secret—she knows what killed the world. This makes her dangerous, and there are forces following her that may do anything to ensure her silence. Though the setting is richly imagined and the plot propulsive, you’ll want to read this one for Orphan’s voice—her story is told in a language of her own, the product of the hard and lonely life of a born survivor.

An Illusion of Thieves, by Cate Glass
In the land of Costa Drago, magic is forbidden, and its is use punishable by death. Understandably, the magically gifted Romy has hidden her abilities and reinvented herself as Cataline, a courtesan to the Shadow Lord. In her role as Cataline, Romy can be intelligent, witty, and skilled with a sword, and she loves her engineered life. But when her brother Neri uses magic, putting his life in danger, Romy chooses to give it all up in order to save him. Returned to the slum of their youth, known as Lizard’s Alley, Romy and Neri must fight for survival without daring to use magic again—until Romy is informed of a nefarious plot to overthrow the lord she has come to love. To save him, she must learn to control the powers she has always feared; her resulting journey makes for a grand, romantic, fantastical adventure.

Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water, by Vylar Kaftan
This haunting novella from Nebula Award-winner Vylar Kaftan (The Weight of the Sunrise) opens on a woman named Bee, an inmate on a harsh prison planet criss-crossed with underground tunnels and gaping caverns. Bee can’t remember committing the crime that landed her in the darkness of Colel-Cab, but her only companion—fellow prisoner Chela—assures her it was terrible indeed; Chela says they are both telepaths, and responsible death of an an entire starship; certainly they belong below ground and isolated, where they can’t hurt anyone else. But then the two hear the distant voice of another telepath, and Bee is forced to reckon with a reality far removed from the one she has grown to accept. Using a harsh sci-fi setting to explore themes of trauma and emotional abuse, this is a powerful story, with a depth that defies its slim page count.

Starship Repo, by Patrick S. Tomlinson
Patrick S. Tomlinson’s new novel, following the highly amusing Gate Crashers, combines the awe and discovery of a first-contact story with a bit of swashbuckling and a lot of hilarious absurdity. Despite receiving the ignominious name Firstname Lastname via clerical error, becoming one of the first humans to establish herself in the wider galaxy following humanity’s debut into galactic society should be a great honor. But living as one of the only humans on an alien space station isn’t quite the grand adventure Firstname expected, at least until she sneaks aboard a ship and finds herself joining a team of privateers that goes about “recovering” ships from the wealthiest of deadbeats all over the galaxy—in other words, a crew of interstellar repomen. Or, as some would call them, pirates. Tomlinson has crafted a space adventure with tongue planted firmly in cheek, filled with corny gags, absurd action sequences, and delightfully weird flourishes, including a living brain in a jar, a transgender member of race of crablike aliens, sentient tentacles, and an ’80s hair metal band. It’s utterly ludicrous, and that’s certainly not a bad thing.

What new SFF book is next on your TBR?

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