The short days and long nights of winter are the perfect time for readers to climb under the covers and snuggle up with their favorite sci-fi and fantasy books. This season’s SFF picks cover all the bases, from the final installment in Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy to the first installment of Marlon James’ Dark Star series, and from the long-awaited return of Jasper Fforde to the highly anticipated debut from author Mike Chen. Peopled with such characters as time traveling secret agents, an unstoppable human scent tracker, dragon riders, djinn, and gods, winter’s must-read sci-fi and fantasy books are certain to thrill fans and newbies alike and help them make it through the long winter nights.
This second book in the Chronicles of The One series takes place nearly a decade after a virus known as the Doom wrought destruction upon the world, killing billions. The Doom left upheaval in its wake: Survivors who don’t have magical powers have begun clashing violently with those who do. Twelve-year-old Fallon Swift might seem like a normal kid, but she is fated to become The One. This means that she just might be able to end the era of tragedy and destruction that has been plaguing the land if she can learn to master the incredible abilities she possesses. When she turns 13, it will be time to go into the woods and learn more about her powers from the sorcerer Mallick. Will The One be able to save her world? You’ll have to read to find out.
On shelves: December 4
Readers have waited with baited breath to find out what would become of Vasya, and now they’ll get their answer in The Winter of the Witch, the third and final installment of Katherine Arden’s thrilling historical fantasy trilogy. This novel begins where The Girl in the Tower ended: Moscow is in flames. The Grand Prince is allying himself with all of the wrong people, and a familiar demon comes back to wreak havoc on the suffering city. Stuck between the world of mortals and the world of magic, Vasya is desperate to save her beloved land. Readers will love watching Vasya come into her own in this satisfying conclusion to the beloved Winternight series.
On shelves: January 8
Fantasy lovers take note: S. A. Chakraborty is returning this winter with the second novel in the Daevabad trilogy. In City of Brass readers were introduced to Nahri, whose new life began when she entered the king’s court in the city of Daevabad after summoning the djinn Dara. In this sequel, Nahri struggles with a compulsory marriage to King Ghassan’s eldest son, Muntadhir, as well as the loss of Dara, who was killed by Prince Ali in a battle that rocked the kingdom to its core. Meanwhile, there is a growing danger in the northern part of the kingdom, and if left unchecked, it could change Daevabad forever.
On shelves: January 22
Kin Stewart has one foot in the 20th century and the other in the 22nd. He has two families, and two complete lives… they just happen to be more than a century apart. In 2142, he is a time-traveling secret agent in the Temporal Corruption Bureau. When the book opens, he’s been living as IT worker in the San Francisco area for nearly two decades ever since a Temporal Corruption Bureau mission went wrong in 1996. There he is the married father of a teenage daughter named Miranda. When his future life collides with his current life, Kin must travel back to the future to save Miranda. In their starred review Publishers Weekly has this to say about Mike Chen’s debut: “Quick pacing, complex characters, and a fascinating premise make this an unforgettable debut.”
On shelves: January 29
Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James hits the ground running in the first book of his Dark Star series. Tracker and a band of misfits, including the shape-shifting Leopard, are on the trail of a missing boy they know little about. Using Tracker’s exceptional nose, the group trails the boy through all manner of terrain, facing constant danger. As the hunt continues, Tracker begins to question why he’s hunting for this boy at all and whether all of his new team can be trusted. In a starred review, Kirkus raves, “If this first volume is any indication, James’ trilogy could become one of the most talked-about and influential adventure epics since George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire was transformed into Game of Thrones.”
On shelves: February 5
As he sits in a jail cell awaiting certain death, Kihrin is kept company by Talon, his guard and a shape-shifting assassin. The two trade off narration, piecing together the tale of how Kihrin, a bastard orphan, went from living on the streets to believing he may be the empire’s lost prince to being trapped in a prison cell. In the fairytales Kihrin grew up hearing, the hero always saved the day. But after facing dragons, gods, demons, and backstabbers, he’s starting to realize that not all stories have a happy ending. This first novel in Jenn Lyons’s epic fantasy series promises to hold readers captive from beginning to thrilling end.
On shelves: February 5
Charlie Jane Anders’ latest novel is set on the planet January in the distant future. One half of this planet faces the sun and is bathed in perpetual light, while the other half exists in eternal darkness. Humans have settled in two cities on a thin strip of land between the two extremes. University student Sophie has been living in one of the habitable cities, but is sentenced to death for her revolutionary activities. She’s exiled to the dark side of the planet. There, she manages to survive the frigid darkness and befriend the Gelet, a species native to the planet who develop a psychic bond with her to communicate. Sophie realizes that everything humans thought about the world beyond their cities may be wrong, but not everyone from her home is willing to see that.
On shelves: February 12
Author Jasper Fforde returns after four years to delight readers with the trials and tribulations of Winter Consul Service member Charlie Worthing. In this dystopian novel, Charlie is tasked with keeping hibernating sleepers safe during a long cold winter in a present-day alternate-world Wales. Humans aren’t meant to sleep for four months at a time, and even with the help of medication (only available to the very wealthy), there can be some nasty side effects. Charlie is on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary when he becomes aware of a dream shared by many of the sleepers. At first, Charlie dismisses the dream as nonsense. Then the first sleeper dies. Charlie will have to race to stop the viral dream before it’s too late.
On shelves: February 12
The Raven Tower is the latest novel by award-winning author Ann Leckie. With this book Leckie, known best for her space operas, ventures into the territory of epic fantasy and does so to amazing effect. The kingdom of Iraden thrives due to an ancient agreement between a god called Raven and human kings: Raven chooses a ruler, the ruler offers Raven a blood sacrifice to aid Raven’s powers, and Raven uses those abilities to help Iraden. But everything begins to fall apart when the chosen king is unseated and a usurper takes his place. With echoes of Hamlet, this novel explores what happens when the politics of men and gods intersect.
On shelves: February 26
This standalone epic fantasy is set in a world inspired by the legend of George and the dragon. The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for centuries. It’s said that powerful magic ensures that as long as Berethnet queens reign, the once-deadly dragon known as the Nameless One will remain bound to the bottom of the ocean. But the current queen, Sabran, is both unwed and without an heir. As tensions grow in her city, Sabran is protected by Ead Duryan, a mage with her own agenda passing herself off as a lady-in-waiting. Meanwhile, far from court lives Tané, a dragon rider whose actions threaten to reveal truths that would change Inys forever.
On shelves: February 26