It’s summertime and the reading is easy. The only hard part is deciding which of these ten must-read sci-fi fantasy books to pick up first. These titles are already generating a lot of buzz, including Rebecca Roanhorse’s debut and the latest from Naomi Novik. Fans of Gail Carriger will be delighted to get their hands on the latest in the Custard Protocol series, and lovers of science will devour Cixin Liu’s new book. From starless skies to lightning trails, from New Orleans to the star LQ Pyx, we’ve got titles sure to keep you spellbound from the first word to the last.
In Jacqueline Carey’s new standalone epic fantasy, Zar the Sun kicks all the stars from the sky and orders them to live on Earth as gods. A prophecy states that one of these gods, Miasmus, could destroy the world. The novel follows Princess Zariya and her protector Khai as they set out to stop Miasmus. Starless may be set in a world without stars, but the early reviews are certainly starry-eyed. Publishers Weekly’s review notes: “Carey handles themes of duty, love, and identity with tenderness and fortitude, never pigeonholing her protagonists, and the tapestry of her characters elevates this novel above its peers.”
On shelves: June 12
Fans of historical fiction and fantasy will not want to miss C. L. Polk’s novel, set in a world similar to Edwardian England. Upon his return from the war, undercover mage Miles Singer reinvents himself as a doctor. If Miles reveals his witchmark, he runs the risk of being sent to an asylum like the rest of his kind. When Tristan Hunter, an angel in disguise, brings a dying man to Miles for help, Miles decides to risk using his powers. Miles discovers a mysterious poison in the man’s system, and he decides to team up with Tristan to learn more. Expect twists, turns, riddles, and romance in this debut.
On shelves: June 19
Nebula-winner Rebecca Roanhorse kicks off her Sixth World series with a post-apocalyptic novel that explores life in Dinétah, the former Navajo nation. After flood waters leave the world uninhabitable and in ruin, Dinétah is one of the few surviving places. Now, monsters roam the land and gifted Diné must use magical powers to protect their people. When Diné begin to go missing, Maggie Hoskie (who is blessed with a powerful ability) teams up with medicine man Kai Arviso to find out who or what is behind the disappearances. Sure to delight fantasy lovers, Trail of Lightning is one of the buzziest books of the season.
On shelves: June 26
Readers who loved Naomi Novik’s Uprooted have eagerly awaited her latest book, Spinning Silver. The novel is loosely inspired by “Rumpelstiltskin” and examines the anti-Semitism found within the original tale. Miryem’s father is a moneylender, but has brought the family to the brink of destitution because he loves to lend and hates to collect. Miryem takes over collections and begins to demand the payments her family is owed from her fellow villagers. She’s successful in her work, eventually earning the reputation of turning silver to gold. Her actions soon draw the attention of the king of the Staryk, creatures who haunt the woodlands and have a lust for gold. He wishes to use her talent for his gain. The king offers a challenge she is not able to refuse: If she loses she will die, but if she wins she becomes his queen.
On shelves: July 10
The ever-delightful Gail Carriger is back with a brand new installment in the Custard Protocol series. The books are set in a steampunk British Empire, where werewolves and zombies walk the streets. In Competence, Rue’s best friend Miss Primrose Tunstell takes the lead. She and the crew of the airship Spotted Custard are hot on the trail of a new type of vampire. The crew’s travels take them from Singapore to Peru, where they cross paths with pirates. Filled with adventure and discovery (and even romance) this book will leave readers eager for the final installment, Reticence.
On shelves: July 17
Get ready for the third book in Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series. Human life has been gone from Earth for centuries. While the wealthier humans moved to Mars, many found homes for themselves in the Exodus Fleet, a group of spaceships that took them far from Earth. When the fleet arrives in the Galactic Commons (the fictional universe the series is set in) the passengers must decide whether to stay on their ships or move to alien cities. The novel follows multiple passengers, including Tessa (sister of Wayfarer captain Ashby, who readers will remember from The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet) who has stayed behind in the fleet with her two small children. When tragedy strikes the fleet, those Exodans who remain begin to wonder if the fleet should truly be their home or if it’s worth venturing out into the unknown.
On shelves: July 24
Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu
Cixin Liu is back with a standalone science fiction adventure. After witnessing his parents’ deaths when he was a child, Chen devotes his life to studying the thing that killed them: ball lightning. When his explorations lead him to army major Lin Yun, Chen has a breakthrough in his understanding of ball lightning and particle physics. But Chen soon realizes that sharing his discoveries is dangerous when men like Lin seek to weaponize natural phenomena such as ball lightning. This is ideal for readers who enjoy a lot of science in their science fiction.
On shelves: August 14
This highly anticipated follow-up to Noumenon is heading to a shelf near you. The relaunched crew of Convoy Seven is heading back to star LQ Pyx to work on an energy harvesting structure called the Web. A splinter group of the convoy breaks off to study the alien species called Nataré, who were possibly the Web’s original architects and builders. In their study they find that the true purpose of the Web is more sinister. In another part of deep space, a convoy once believed lost returns and discovers another part of the Web’s secret purpose. It’s now up to both convoys to pull together all of the strands of the Web’s deeper and possibly destructive meaning.
On shelves: August 14
In this alternate-history fantasy, 14-year-old Creeper is ready to leave the streets of post-confederate New Orleans behind. She wants to fly out of town and into a new life aboard Midnight Robber, an airship captained by Ann-Marie. Creeper’s ticket on the ship is information. In particular, Creeper will share what she knows about the Black God’s Drums, a weapon created by a Haitian scientist. Once on board the ship, it’s up to Creeper and the rest of the crew to save New Orleans from the Black God’s Drums. Dread Nation author Justina Ireland raved about The Black God’s Drums calling it, “A mesmerizing, sprawling alternate history brimming with authenticity and voice. You’ll be bitterly disappointed when it’s over. Clark’s novella will leave you ravenous for more.”
On shelves: August 21
Readers, the wait is over. The final installment of Ilona Andrew’s New York Times-bestselling Kate Daniels urban fantasy series is finally here. Saying goodbye is bittersweet, but that won’t stop us from diving into this new adventure. After nine action-packed books, Kate should be enjoying a well-earned rest with Curran Lennart and their family. Instead, she’s preparing for one final battle after receiving a threatening message from an enemy she thought was long gone. Will Kate be able to protect her family and save Atlanta once more? You’ll get no spoilers here. Read on and find out.
On shelves: August 28