This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Witchy Winters, Wayward Children, and Galactic War(s)

Editor’s note: This week’s list of book launches covers a few lingering titles from last week, when we were off for the holidays.

A Cathedral of Myth and Bone, by Kat Howard
The author of Rot and Ruin and An Unkindness of Magicians assembles her first collection, featuring a host of previously published, often fairy tale-inspired stories that first appeared in Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and other venerable genre magazines, as well as a few new ones. Howard’s stories seek the intersections between the magical and the everyday (a modern saint struggles with a deluge of emailed prayer requests; the tale of King Arthur plays out on a college campus) and plugs the holes in the stories we’ve told ourselves for centuries (“The Calendar of Saints” imagines a fearless, blade-wielding woman determined to rewrite history in blood).

The Fall of Io, by Wesley Chu
Chu’s long-awaited sequel to The Rise of Io returns to the story of über-competent Ella and Io, the utterly incompetent alien intelligence that has taken up residence inside of her head. They’ve recently been expelled from the scheme by the alien sect Prophus to train Ella as an agent in their efforts to raise humanity to a technological level that will be useful to their war effort against the Genjix—the Prophus’ ruthless alien siblings who are willing to destroy humanity in pursuit of their goal of returning to their own home world. Ella is happily back to a life of short cons and petty heists, with Io unhappily along for the ride—but it turns out Io has information the Genjix need to further their own ends, and Ella and Io find themselves on the run, hunted by immaterial beings who have been guiding human history and development for centuries. This is the series that made Chu’s name in sci-fi (and helped win him a Cambell Award). We’re happy to return to it.

In an Absent Dream, by Seanan McGuire
McGuire’s fourth Wayward Children novella is a prequel, telling the story of Katherine Lundy, the erstwhile group therapy leader at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children (“erstwhile” in that she was killed off midway through the first book, Every Heart a Doorway). As a child, Katherine is absorbed in her studies and wants nothing to do with the responsibilities—or suffocation—of being a housewife, though that’s what everyone seems to assume she will do when she grows up. When Katherine discovers a portal that leads her to the Goblin Market, a place ruled by logic and reason expressed in riddles and falsehoods, she thinks she has finally found her place in the world. In the Goblin Market you can make any bargain you like—but there is always a cost. When Katherine realizes her time at the Market is drawing to a close she’s desperate enough to make such a bargain—with unexpected and heartbreaking results. In a series built from the bones of childhood, this installment may be the most painfully true yet.

Through Fiery Trials, by David Weber 
Weber’s 10th Safehold novel begins with peace. After so much time avoiding technology in order to ensure the survival of humanity, the war between technology-endorsing Charis and the luddite-like Church of God’s Awaiting is finally over. The Charis’ desire to see humanity move forward through science and technology—inspired long ago by Merlin, an artificial being hosting the intelligence of a former naval officer and obeying ancient orders to free mankind from the yoke of the megalomaniacal Archangels—have won the day. But Safehold is now a broken world as a result, and Charis’ victory has shifted the balance of power and the nature of alliances in ways not immediately apparent. Rebellions arise in the war’s wake, and the Charisian cabal worries the Archangels may be returning sooner rather than later, driving them to push a radical agenda of industrialization that further destabilizes the unstable.

The Lost Puzzler, by Eyal Kless
The debut novel of internationally acclaimed classical violinist Eyal Kless proves him skilled at more than one form of artistic expression. This complex science fantasy takes place in a deeply-imagined, puzzle-laden post-apocalyptic world 100 years after a disaster known as the Catastrophe. Humanity has slowly recovered along different lines—the Wildeners have reverted to primitive beliefs, while others work to restore the old technological glory. In the center of the fallen Tarkanian empire, the City of Towers hosts the Guild of Historians. Salvationists seek out the lost Tarkanioan technology, each search party led by a Puzzler skilled in opening the digital locks protecting forgotten treasures. Rafik, a skilled Puzzler who has been marked as cursed, goes missing while leading a dangerous expedition in a booby-trapped city. A decade later, a lowly scribe for the Guild is tasked with searching for him. It seems Rafik is the key to a revived Tarakan Empire and the future of humanity—but a host of monsters, traps, and puzzles stand in the way.

The Last Big Thing, by David Moody
This new collection from the author of Hater proves David Moody to be a compelling voice in modern horror, with 11 stories that run the gamut from Barker-esque body horror to post-apocalyptic survival tales, collected from more than a decade of previously published work—though there are a few new ones here as well. In addition to stories inspired by Moody’s love for ’50s B-movies (“Big Man”) and The Twilight Zone (“The Deal,” “Nolan Higgs Is Out of His Depth”), there is also a story set in-between Hater and sequel Dog Blood; “Everything and Nothing” has never before appeared in print.

Darksoul, by Anna Stephens
The sequel to Godblind, Darksoul is the second rewarding, if incredibly bleak, installment in the grimmer-than-grimdark Godblind trilogy. This installment is a bit less sprawling than the last, a credit to the cast of fascinating, extremely flawed point-of-view characters that navigates its war-torn, god-blasted landscape. In a city under siege, Durdil Koridam takes command, determined to defend the walls even if it kills every last person they are protecting, while outside, the armies of King Corvus and Prince Rivil ally themselves and marshall for a final attack. Dom, a powerful seer, strives to serve a bloodthirsty goddess who has bent his faith to her will. This series isn’t for the squeamish—violence and bloodshed abound—but for readers interested in seeing how good brutal fantasy can be, it’s definitely still a winner.

The Storm, by David Drake
The sequel to The Spark continues Drake’s creative retelling of the King Arthur myth, set in a post-apocalyptic, fantastical future existing long after the fall of an advanced technological civilization turned the world into a wasteland, forcing the remnants of humanity to gather together to stave off the monsters who invade from the parallel dimension of “Not Here.” Pal, a young man from a backwater settlement who found his destiny in The Spark, now stands against the darkness alongside the Champions of Mankind. Pal is a good fighter but a truly gifted Maker, able to parse the strange language of the ancient technology that litters the Waste—a talent that gets him into as many scrapes as it helps him out of. If you enjoyed the first book, this one opens up the world while promising many more adventures to come.

Alliance Rising, by C.J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher
The latest entry in the sprawling, complex, and Hugo-winning Company Wars series begins with a mysterious, unidentified ship on its way to Alpha station. Like the other stations of the Hinder Stars near Sol, Alpha Station has fallen far behind newer megastations like Pell and Cyteen. Rumors fly about the ship’s purpose and origin, with much of the suspicion centering on another ship docked at Alpha, the mysterious The Rights of Man, commanded by the Earth Company. The true purpose of The Rights of Man is unknown, and many believe the mystery ship was sent by Pell to investigate it. James Robert Neihart, Captain of the Pell ship Finity’s End, also intends to find out, suspecting that there’s more going on with the ship—and with Alpha Station—than meets the eye.

The Winter of the Witch, by Katherine Arden
The concluding volume of Arden’s acclaimed Winternight trilogy picks up right where The Girl in the Tower left off, with Moscow in ashes from Vasya’s inexpert use of a Firebird. Russia and the people Vasya love are still in danger, however, as Arden continues her secret history of a nation’s turmoils in parallel with the story of Vasya’s becoming. She stumbles forward in her troubled relationship with the winter-king Morozko, while the Grand Prince Dmitrii makes decisions leading them all inevitably towards a battle that could unite Russia—though the chaos demon Medved would prefer events unfold otherwise. Vasya is no longer the frightened girl of the earlier books, but neither has she perfected her abilities. Even still, she must embark on several dangerous magical quests in order to protect the people and the land she loves. Along the way, she meets new and fascinating chyerti, and all the threads of the two previous books weave together in an epic, truly satisfying ending.

The Outlaw and the Upstart King, by Rod Duncan
The sequel to the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated Queen of All Crows is set on the Island of the Free, a version of Newfoundland where violent clans rule, laws and oaths are dictated by tattoos inked on the skin, and the only thing the squabbling factions agree on is that no king will ever rule them. Elias No-Thumbs returns to his homeland, smuggling something that could upset the balance of power in the name of the revenge he seeks. His plan pivots on the assistance of a mysterious woman and her friends who have crash-landed on the Island of the Free and desperately wish to leave—but the only ways ion or off the island are controlled by warlords known as Patron Protectors. Faithful Duncan fans will recognize the mystery woman as Elizabeth Barnabus, protagonist of the Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire trilogy, but readers both old and new will enjoy seeing her save herself and help Elias get his revenge on the people who took his wealth (and his thumbs).

What new SFF are you reading this week?

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