When I was making my “Spring 2017” releases list, I had to stop at April. There are just so many exciting books coming out this May! This list covers only April and May – I’ll be releasing a new one sometime in May to cover summer releases.
The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories. ★★★★
This collection of short stories is one of the strongest I’ve seen in a while; definitely the strongest I’ve yet read in 2017.
This collection takes stories by twenty-two authors from all over the world, all dealing in some form with the djinn – the fantastical beings of smoke and fire. I picked up this collection due to some authors who’s work I was already familiar with – Neil Gaiman, Claire North, Amal El-Mohtar, Helene Wecker, and Nnedi Okorafor. Turns out, most of my favorite stories were by authors who were new to me. Oh, and the Neil Gaiman story was an excerpt from American Gods, so don’t pick this collection up based on him.
Brimstone by Cherie Priest. ★★★
I’ve been following Cherie Priest’s work for years, so it was with not a little anticipation I picked up this newest outing from her. Unfortunately, I was expecting and desiring a historical fantasy story, but I found Brimstone to be more horror with a Southern Gothic twist.
Alice Dartle is descended from a long line of witches, but she has no idea how to use her clairvoyant abilities. The town of Cassadaga, Florida, a community of similarly gifted people seems to hold the answer. But as she draws closer to the town, she keeps having dreams of fire and trenches. She knows that these are not her own dreams, and she believes that she can help the dreamer.
Tomas Cordero came back from World War I to find his wife dead of influenza. He continues to operate his tailoring business, but he’s haunted by the memories of his wife. Since his return, inexplicable fires have hounded him. Could they be messages from the beyond?
Welcome back to my March feature on women who write science fiction and fantasy! To find more posts in this series, check the “SFF Female Author Project” tag.
March 12th – Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm
Robin Hobb is one of the most successful female fantasy authors still writing today. She started writing under her own name, Megan Lindholm, but in 1995 published an epic fantasy novel under the name Robin Hobb. That novel was Assassin’s Apprentice, and it became the basis of her most successful series. She has continued to publish fantasy trilogies set in the world first imagined in Assassin’s Apprentice, albeit in different settings within that world. She has a large bibliography of which I still have many books to get to.
Recommended starting place: Assassin’s Apprentice, the beginning of a first person epic fantasy trilogy, or Ship of Magic, the beginning of a multi POV fantasy trilogy with an emphasis on female characters.
March 13th – Octavia E. Butler
Octavia Butler broke down barriers within the science fiction genre by being the first African American women to achieve critical success within the science fiction genre. She is still massively influential today. Her work often addresses themes of race, power, gender, and colonialism. She is perhaps best known for her novel Kindred, in which a modern day black women is transported to the days of her ancestors and American slavery. Her other works include a dystopian series (Parable of the Sower), a series about African immortals (Wild Seed), alien abduction (Dawn), and vampires (Fledgling).
Recommended starting place: Dawn, a science fiction novel where aliens are a metaphor for colonialism, or Kindred, a time travel novel.
March 14th – Emma Newman
Emma Newman writes science fiction and urban fantasy. I’ve enjoyed every book she’s written, and her science fiction is some of the best I’ve read. Her two science fiction novels, Planetfall and After Atlas, both take place in the same future but can be read separately. Both are dark stories involving mental health issues, and After Atlas has some mystery elements. Her urban fantasy series begins with Between Two Thorns and takes place in the grey zone between the human world and the world of the fae. She also has a new historical fantasy novella, Brother’s Ruin.
Recommended starting place: Planetfall, a science fiction novel about an off-planet colony built on secrets, or Brother’s Ruin, a fantasy novella set in the 1800’s.
March 15th – Cornelia Funke
Cornelia Funke is a beloved German children’s author. She is probably best known for her middle grade/young adult fantasy novel Inkheart, in which certain people have the ability to read characters and objects out of books. Her stand alone novel, The Thief Lord, about magic in Venice, has also been one of her most successful works. Currently, she is writing the Mirrorworld series about a fairy tale world going through wars and industrial revolutions.
Recommended starting place: Inkheart, a story about a girl who’s father can bring to life characters out of books, or Reckless, a story about an adventure from our world seeking to save his brother from a curse in a war torn fairy tale land.
March 16th – Alyssa Wong
Alone of the authors in this feature, Alyssa Wong does not have any novel length work published. However she is an award winning short fiction author of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Among other venues, her work has been published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, Nightmare Magazine, Black Static, and Tor.com. She has also written nonfiction essays about the science fiction and fantasy genre. You can find her complete bibliography here.
Recommended starting place: “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,” where a young woman who devours the ugly thoughts of others goes to far and can’t find the darkness needed to satisfy her, or “The Fisher Queen,” where the daughter of a fisherman accompanies the family boat to the trade – catching mermaids for high end restaurants. Note, both stories contain references to sexual assault.
March 17th – Ellen Kushner
Ellen Kushner is perhaps best known for her Riverside series, which begun with the 1987 novel Swordspoint. Swordspoint has since become the corner stone of a subgenre, fantasy of manners. Although the Riverside books are set in a fictional world, they contain no or very little magic. Homophobia in this world is basically nonexistent, and most of the major characters are gay or bisexual. Ellen Kushner is currently reviving Riverside through Tremontaine, a Serial Box prequel to Swordspoint, with other authors being brought in to help write a season’s worth of “episodes.”
Recommended starting place: The Privilege of the Sword, in which a bisexual girl goes to live with her mad uncle and learn the art of swordsmanship (TW: rape), or Tremontaine, a prequel in which a number of characters lives interest over politics involving the chocolate trade.
March 18th – Maggie Stiefvater
Maggie Stiefvater is a YA author who always includes fantastical elements in her work, whether it be the werewolves of her Shiver trilogy or the man-eating water horses of the stand alone novel The Scorpio Races. She’s known for her lyrical prose and deft hand at characterization. Her most recent and most acclaimed series is The Raven Cycle, which begins with The Raven Boys. The series centers on magic and friendship as four boys and a girl look for a sleeping Welsh king in Virginia.
Recommended starting place: The Scorpio Races, because racing carnivorous horses is an excellent idea, or The Raven Boys, because of the power of friendship.
The Lifeline Signal by RoAnna Sylver. ★★★1/2
In Chameleon Moon, RoAnna Sylver introduced the dystopic city of Patrol, who’s citizens lived a precarious life above eternally blazing fire, governed by the nefarious Eye in the Sky. Oh, and most of these citizens also had some form of superpower – the reason they were trapped within Patrol.
In this sequel, Slyver takes us outside the city of Patrol. But as it turns out, the world beyond isn’t all sunshine and happiness. A poisonous wasteland named Tartarus has infected much of America with noxious fumes and eerie ghosts. Three teenagers will have to brave this danger zone to bring hope to Patrol.
Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman. ★★★★
Brother’s Ruin is the first in a planned series of historical fantasy novellas.
Charlotte Gunn is the daughter of a lower middle income family in 1850 England. Her father barely scrapes by as an illustrator, but Charlotte has her own secret artistic career that she’s using to help her older brother pay for engineering school. Then disaster strikes – Charlotte finds out that her father is in debt and doesn’t have the money to pay and is facing debtor’s prison or worse.
In addition to her own career as an illustrator, Charlotte has another secret – she has significant magical abilities.
Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson. ★★★★
I’m a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson’s interrelated worlds – the Cosmere. Obviously, I had to read this collection of shorter Cosmere stories (short stories and novellas). While it took me a while to get to it, better late than never!
This collection is probably not a great starting point to those unfamiliar with Sanderson’s Cosmere work. While some of the stories stand independently, many tie in to his novels. In particular, you really need to have read the original Mistborn trilogy before reading Mistborn: Secret History. I would instead suggest The Emperor’s Soul or Sixth of Dusk as shorter Cosmere works that can be read on their own. Or The Way of Kings, Elantris, or Mistborn: The Final Empire if you’d prefer to start with a novel.