15 November 2019

11 Picks for Speculative Fiction Fans

Here at Beth Fish Reads I try my best to provide book news for a range of reading tastes. Last week I was all about true stories, so this week I’ve taken a 180. The books featured today are not only fiction but have some fantastical elements. Most are set in fully imaginary worlds, but one takes places in the bleak future and a couple are based in contemporary times.

Here are 11 November books that caught my eye. The summaries are from the publisher, and I’ve included the first line and audiobook information as well. Speculative fiction lovers have a lot to be grateful for this month.

Note: All books were provided (digital, print, or audio) by the publisher; some first lines are from advance reader copies.

review of Life and Limb by Jennifer Roberson Life and Limb by Jennifer Roberson (DAW, Nov. 5) The first installment in a new urban fantasy with a western slant on Armageddon.

Gabe Harlan, ex-con biker, and Remi McCue, Texas cowboy, are informed—no, commanded—by a higher power that they must form a partnership, bound by blood and bone, to help save the world. Complete strangers one moment, they have now been thrust together, conscripted into heaven’s army-on-earth. While Remi is willing to believe in such things, to Gabe, newly released from prison, it makes no sense that heaven would count on humans when it has angels in its armory.
First line: “His voice was rich, a much loved, clear baritone, as he handed his seven-year-old grandson a gun.” Audiobook: Read by Kevin Stillwell (Audible Studios; 10 hr, 57 min).

review of The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten WhiteThe Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White (Delacorte Press, Nov. 5) This first in a trilogy offers a fresh look at Guinevere and her role at Camelot.
Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution—send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. . . . To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old—including Arthur’s own family—demand things continue as they have been, and the new—those drawn by the dream of Camelot—fight for a better way to live.
First line: “There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl on the cusp of womanhood.” Audiobook: Read by Elizabeth Knowelden (Listening Library; 10 hr, 51 min)

review of Sisters of Shadow and Light by Sara B. LarsonSisters of Shadow and Light by Sara B. Larson (Tor Teen, Nov. 5) The story of two sisters living in a fairy-tale world.
Zuhra and Inara have grown up in the Citadel of the Paladins, an abandoned fortress where legendary, magical warriors once lived before disappearing from the world—including their Paladin father the night Inara was born. On that same night, a massive, magical hedge grew and imprisoned them within the citadel. . . . For fifteen years they have lived, trapped in the citadel, with little contact from the outside world . . . until the day a stranger passes through the hedge, and everything changes.
First line: “The night my sister was born, the stars died and were reborn in her eyes.” Audiobook: Read by Caitlin Kelly (Macmillan Audio, 14 hr, 42 min)

review of Winterwood by Shea ErnshawWinterwood by Shea Ernshaw (Simon Pulse, Nov. 5) A dark fantasy set near a haunted woods lightened by elements of romance.
Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.
First line: “Never waste a full moon, Nora, even in winter, my grandmother used to say.” Audiobook: Read by Emma Lysy and Mark Turesky (Audible Studios; 10 hr, 16 min)

review of Fate of the Fallen by Kel KadeFate of the Fallen by Kel Kade (Tor, Nov. 5) An epic fantasy full of adventure and friendship.
Everyone loves Mathias. Naturally, when he discovers it’s his destiny to save the world, he dives in headfirst, pulling his best friend, Aaslo, along for the ride. However, saving the world isn’t as easy, or exciting, as it sounds in the stories. The going gets rough, and folks start to believe their best chance for survival is to surrender to the forces of evil, which isn’t how the prophecy goes. At all. As the list of allies grows thin . . . they must decide how to become the heroes they were destined to be or, failing that, how to survive.
First line: “ ‘Why?’ Mathias said as he stared down at the back of his best friend’s head.” Audiobook: Read by Nick Podehl (Macmillan Audio; 12 hr, 33 min)

review of Day Zero by Kelly deVosDay Zero by Kelly deVos (Inkyard Press, Nov. 12) Set in the near future, a story of survival after organized violence ends life as we know it.
Seventeen-year-old coder Jinx Marshall grew up spending weekends drilling with her paranoid dad for a doomsday she’s sure will never come. . . . Now that her parents are divorced, she’s ready to relax. But all that disaster training comes in handy when . . . a pattern of violence erupt[s] all over the country. . . . In a desperate attempt to evade paramilitary forces and vigilantes, Jinx and her siblings . . . make a break for Mexico. . . . But if they can survive, will there be anything left worth surviving for?
First line: “I will save the world.” Audiobook: no information

review of The Starless Sea by Erin MorgensternThe Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday, Nov. 5) Stories come alive in an underground world where time is fluid and people are not what they seem.
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, . . . he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him . . . through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead.
First line: “There is a pirate in the basement.” Audiobook: Read by Dominic Hoffman and others (Random House Audio, 18 hr, 37 min)

review of Eight Will Fall by Sarah HarianEight Will Fall by Sarah Harian (Henry Holt BYR, Nov. 26) A dark adventure fantasy with battles, monsters, and forbidden magic
In a world where magic is illegal, eight criminals led by rebellious Larkin are sent on a mission to rid their kingdom of monsters. Descending into an underground world full of unspeakable horrors, Larkin and her crew must use their forbidden magic to survive. As they fight in the shadows, Larkin finds a light in Amias, a fellow outlaw with a notorious past. . . . But as the beasts grow in number and her band is picked off one by one, Larkin is forced to confront a terrible truth: They were never meant to return.
First line: “Beneath Larkin’s glowing lantern, luminite shimmered like fish scales in the darkness of Ethera Mine.” Audiobook: Read by Lauren Fortgang (Macmillan; 10 hr, 15 min)

Review of Unnatural Magic by C. M. WaggonerUnnatural Magic by C. M. Waggoner (Ace, Nov. 5) A standalone historical fantasy with strong female characters who hope to forge peace in their land
Onna Gebowa is determined to become a great wizard. She can write the parameters of a spell faster than any of the young men in her village school. But despite her incredible abilities, she’s denied a place at the nation’s premier arcane academy. . . . Tsira is a troll who never quite fit into her clan, despite being the leader’s daughter. She decides to strike out on her own and look for work in a human city. . . . Trolls have lived alongside—and been revered by—humans for generations, but now it appears they’re being targeted by a sinister sorcery. And Onna and Tsira both begin to devote their considerable abilities into figuring out how to stop the deaths before their homeland is torn apart.
First line: “Onna Gebowa always liked numbers.” Audiobook: Read by Shiromi Arserio (Blackstone; ~14 hr)

review of Blood Heir by Amélie Wen ZhaoBlood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao (Delacorte Press, Nov. 19) The start of an epic fantasy series with elements of mystery, political intrigue, and corruption
In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls. When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew.
First line: “The prison bore a sharp resemblance to the dungeons of Anastacya’s childhood: dark, wet, and made of unyielding stone that leaked grime and misery.” Audiobook: Read by Emily Woo Zeller (Listening Library; 13 hr, 57 min)

review of Empress of All Seasons by Emiko JeanEmpress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean (HMH BYR, Nov. 6) Set in a world where women battle for power and shape-shifters are despised
Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yokai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy. Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren't hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yokai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit.
First line: “Breathing in the dark, and not her own.” Audiobook: Read by Hanako Footman (HMH, 9 hr, 52 min)


sherry fundin 11/15/19, 2:38 PM  

some great looking books. that winterwood one kinda creeps me out. made me think of eyes looking at me. lol
sherry @ fundinmental

rhapsodyinbooks 11/15/19, 5:37 PM  

I enjoyed The Guinevere Deception.

Tina 11/16/19, 8:43 AM  

Day Zero is certainly on my long, long lost for to-read.

Ilse Berg (SnowshineCottage.com) 11/16/19, 1:37 PM  

I always find something interesting in your book posts! Thanks!

Les in Oregon 11/16/19, 2:35 PM  

I'm looking forward to listening to Starless Sea. I loved The Night Circus!

Daryl 11/18/19, 9:20 AM  

i, too , loved Night Circus and Starless Sea is on my TBR list .. thanks

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