This Week’s New Science Fiction & Fantasy Books: A Posthumous Robert Jordan Epic, Mixed Faerie Blessings, and Ivy League Dark Magic

Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo
The first adult novel from New York Times bestseller Leigh Bardugo—author of several Russia-inspired young adult fantasy series set in her Grisha-verse, which will soon be brought to life as a series on Netflix—explores the fine line between wealth, power, and magic. Galaxy “Alex” Stern is a freshman at Yale, and a complete outsider amid a student body filled with brainy overachievers and overconfident trust fund kids, but not because she was never much one for school or because she grew up far from rich; no, Alex can see ghosts, a talent that makes her valuable indeed to the university’s eight secret societies, which rely on arcane spirit magic to sustain themselves as they position their alumni to move the levers of power in the world post-graduation. Alex is recruited by the mysterious ninth house, tasked with policing the actions of the others, but a full ride scholarship and a seat at the elite table does little to help her process the trauma of her haunted life. When the only person at the school who seems to understand her—a boy named Darlington who believes fervently in the ninth house’s mission—Alex begins to suspect that the houses are hiding even greater secrets than the existence of magic—secrets they’ll do anything to keep. Built in a twisting, teasing structure and told in an irresistible narrative voice, Bardugo’s adult debut is as addictive as anything she’s ever written. The exclusive Barnes & Noble Book Club edition features a discussion guide and an annotated chapter with handwritten notes from the author in the margins.

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse: Book One of the Thorne Chronicles, by K. Eason 
Eason combines elements of fantasy and sci-fi in the first book in a duology focusing on Rory Thorne, a princess of the interplanetary Thorne Consortium. At birth Rory received the traditional fairy blessings, including one that might be considered a curse: the ability to see through flattery and other lies. The first girl born to her family in generations, she expects to inherit her father’s realm—until he’s assassinated, and her mother gives birth to a son. Suddenly Rory is betrothed to a prince of the Free Worlds of Tadesh, enemy of the Thorne Consortium, as part of a complex peace negotiation. Thrust into an unfamiliar world of politics and intrigue, she must use every one of her blessings to avoid becoming a mere pawn in a plot against her new husband. The fusion of fairy tale and space opera tropes feels entirely fresh, and the delightful humor amid the high stakes politicking keeps the pages moving.

The True Bastards, by Jonathan French
We rejoin the crew of foul-mouthed, uncultured, but fiercely loyal half-orcs—now led by the unlikely Fetch, who is half-elf—who we first met as they took control of their “hoof” in Jonathan French’s critically lauded, originally self-published grimdark epic The Grey Bastards. In the followup, Fetch finds herself leading her fellow “mongrels” through hunger, disease, and the threats posed by an enormous orc leading an army of equally monstrous hyenas and other creatures determined to wipe them off the map. Worse, the other hoofs don’t think Fetch has what it takes to lead, and treat her accordingly. Fetch and her people are nothing if not a band of brothers and sisters, however, and in own their crude, violent way, they stick together and protect one another through a fierce, fast-paced story packed with bloody action.

The Princess Beard, by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Delilah S. Dawson and Hearne return to their goofy fantasy saga, delivering another hearty dose of jokes, puns, and smart fantasy satire set in the magical land of Pell—the sort of place with all the familiar fairytale elements are turned on their sides: where a princess wakes from her enchanted slumber to find she’s grown a long beard and horrifying fingernails in the interim. Keeping the beard, the princess escapes her prison and soon finds herself aboard the Puffy Peach, amid a misfit crew of pirates—led by a one-eyed parrot—in the midst of assailing the Myn Sea and the tampooners that live there. If a story that skewers tropes in smart, silly, and extremely funny ways is your jam, the Tales of Pell series was written just for you.

A Lush and Seething Hell, by John Hornor Jacobs
This bindup of two transfixing novellas from John Hornor Jacobs is filled with strange wonders and horrifying beauty, inviting you into its strange depths of his prose alongside his characters, who are likewise falling into unfathomable mysteries.  The Sea Dreams It Is The Sky follows a young Literature professor in South America as she reads a manuscript on behalf of an enigmatic poet known as The Eye; the work is accompanied by a disturbing set of photographs that ultimately leads her deep into the turmoil at the heart of the fictional country of Magera, and to the borders of something powerful and terrifying. My Heart Struck Sorrow follows another academic, a folklore and music researcher for the Library of Congress tasked with digitizing recordings of Southern music made by his dead predecessor, who encounters a horrifying tale of  an ancient evil slipped into a recording of a popular folk song. The stories are linked by the themes of art, obsession, what an act of artistic creation means in the greater context of the world around it, and how beauty—and terror—are in the eye of the beholder.

Warrior of the Altaii (Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition), by Robert Jordan
The late Robert Jordan (neé James Oliver Rigney Jr.) is justifiably famous for his epic fantasy saga The Wheel of Time, but across the years, he wrote in several genres under different names—including his debut, the non-fantasy historical epic The Fallon Blood, released under the name Reagan O’Neal. But Jordan’s first published novel was very nearly this one, Warrior of the Altaii; he actually sold it to DAW books, but had the offer revoked when he requested changes to the contract. He once claimed he had left instructions for the manuscript to be burned when he died, but luckily that didn’t turn out to be true (or his instructions weren’t followed), either way, fans of the much-missed fantasy master now have one more of the author’s books to cherish. It’s the epic story of Wulfgar, leader of the Altaii, as he struggles to save his people from threats both natural and magical. When he encounters a woman from a different world named Elspeth, Wulfgar has to figure out if she might be the salvation of the Altaii people—or their doom. This is a rare opportunity to get a glimpse of the evolution of a fantasy master. The Barnes & Noble edition features an exclusive color map and bonus illustration.

Star Trek: Collateral Damage, by David Mack
If you’re eagerly awaiting the premiere of the new Star Trek series Picard, now might be a good time to check back in with the expanded universe of Star Trek novels that are likewise exploring the future of the Federation. Though the chronology can be somewhat intimidating to newcomers—all of the novels take place within a shared continuity—they can also be enjoyed as standalone adventures. In this latest from Trek regular David Mack, Picard must reckon with the dark legacy of the Federation’s Section 31, a covert organization tasked with carrying out the sort of clandestine operations and unofficially sanctioned wetwork that humanity was supposed to have outgrown centuries ago. Meanwhile, Worf, acting captain of the Enterprise, hunts down a group of pirates who have made off with technology from a Federation colony only to learn their motivations are far more complex that mere profit.

The Forbidden Stars: Book III of the Axiom, by Tim Pratt
Tim Pratt returns one last time to a fast-paced, tightly-plotted trilogy of second contact as Callie Mechado and her rag-tag crew find themselves thrust into the thick of a brewing disaster. When humanity made first contact with the aliens calling themselves the Liars, they gained access to 29 wormholes—but the Liars didn’t tell them that another alien race, the Axiom, were slumbering in distant systems—and that the Liars were hiding from them. When one of the wormholes goes dark, humanity assumes it’s the work of rebels—but Callie and the crew of the White Raven, working with a secret faction of the Liars, soon find out the Axiom are waking up, fast—and bringing doom with them.

A Conjuring of Light Collector’s Edition (B&N Exclusive Edition), by V. E. Schwab
A Conjuring of Light brought to a close Schwab’s transporting tale of parallel Londons—non-magical Grey London, magical Red London, magic-challenged White London, and doomed, magic-poisoned Black London—and the gifted magicians (not all of them good) who can travel between them. So to does this exclusive edition complete our trio of deluxe reissues of the beloved saga. It’s a book packed with extras worthy of the magical original text, featuring endpapers laden with gorgeous fan art, an updated glossary, and a never-before published short story set in the Shades universe. For the Schwab fan who also admired books as physical objects, it is a must-have.

What are you reading this week?

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