Five Most Anticipated Books of 2017

Happy New Year, all! Hope you had a great holiday season.

It’s time to look ahead to all the exciting books coming out this year, and here are five to get you started!

1. Poor Relations by Jo Walton

The acclaimed fantasist, author of Among Others and The Just City, makes her first novel-length foray into science fiction with this tale of an alien invasion of human-colonized Mars, loosely inspired on the Jane Austen novel Mansfield Park. (ETA: This may be a 2018 release instead!)

2. Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz

A debut starring the Night Witches of the WWII Soviet air force, as Valentina joins the all-female night bombers and has to use her flying skills to rescue a boy trapped behind enemy lines. That plus the epistolary style makes me think of it as an Soviet-set Code Name Verity.

3. The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

Speaking of which, a prequel to Code Name Verity is coming this spring! Julie solves a mystery on her grandparents’ estate in Scotland–a murder for which local Travellers were framed.

4. Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer

The second half of the notorious Mycroft Canner’s thrilling story will hopefully resolve the many mysteries of Palmer’s first book, a riff on the Enlightenment set in the far, far future.

5. The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury

The conclusion to the series that began with The Sin-Eater’s Daughter and continued with The Sleeping Prince. How will the supremely creepy Sleeping Prince be defeated? And who will die in the process?

plus one that I’m hoping for but that doesn’t have a firm release date yet

6. The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Following on from The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Baru is elevated to the high political class of the Falcresti empire. She’ll have to be more cunning than ever to succeed in dismantling the Imperial Republic from the inside.

The Winged Histories – Sofia Samatar

This is easily the best fantasy novel I’ve read since The Traitor Baru Cormorant.

9781618731142_bigIt shares many of that novel’s concerns- the protagonists include queer women of color, the plot revolves around an effort to break up an empire, and it will wreck you emotionally. But where the earlier book deals with a 19th-20th century style overseas empire, a violent rupture, The Winged Histories deals with a land empire, with the kind of foundational violence countries try their best to bury and forget. It’s also a gentler, more hopeful book, playing with tragedy without consummating it.

Structurally, Samatar’s novel is composed of three first-person narratives, one after the other, followed by a third person narrative. We know the circumstances of the composition of the first three narratives. The implication is that the fourth character’s tale is never recorded, that that point of view is lost to history. It contains the key which, unknown to the other three pov characters, unlocks many of the mysteries of their narratives. A powerful statement about what is and isn’t remembered.

I don’t want to spoil the ending of this book; it’s too powerful. I will say that some things come too easily– privileged outsider Tav integrates into a marginalized nomadic group and finds a lover, Tav’s country gains the independence she seeks for it even as her war plans crumble on other fronts. But there are always consequences shown on the page, nonetheless.

The book contains both f/f and f/m romances involving pov characters– I know that will recommend it to some of my readers. It’s a very character-driven book; I was left with a lot of unanswered questions at the end and yet felt that each of the characters had achieved a satisfactory resolution. It’s a sequel to A Stranger in Olondria, but I hadn’t read that book, which focuses on different characters, and didn’t feel lost at all.

The writing is lovely, even when it talks about ugly things. That’s a trick I’d like to learn, how to include crude and bodily realities without breaking the aesthetic spell.


Five Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2015

1. Karen Memory – Elizabeth Bear
This one comes out next week. The way I’ve been selling it to my friends is two words: steampunk lesbians. It’s set in the Wild West, with an Indian love interest (that’s Indian from India, not American Indian) and is in first person with a voice that’s been getting raves in early reviews. Bear’s one of my favorite authors and I’ll be picking this one up as soon as it’s out.

2. The Shadow Cabinet – Maureen Johnson
Book two of The Shades of London ended on a major cliffhanger– how will Johnson resolve it? Though I only skimmed The Madness Underneath, I really liked The Name of the Star and am curious to see where this series goes.

3. Black Dove, White Raven – Elizabeth Wein
I had some issues with Code Name Verity and skipped Rose Under Fire due to the implausibility of the premise, but Wein did write the absolutely lovely The Winter Prince and I love that her latest is set during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, a lesser-known but fascinating and disturbing time period.

4. Until the Beginning – Amy Plum
In this sequel to After the End, the final book in the duology, Juno and Mike find Juno’s people, who have been kidnapped due to their discovery of a drug that prevents aging. Juno is such a great character, naive after being raised isolated in the Alaskan wilderness but fiercely competent as a result of the same circumstances.

5. The Traitor Baru Cormorant – Seth Dickinson
Disclaimer: I know the author. But you want to read this book– it’s a heartrending lesbian love story, a brutal exploration of the effects of imperialism, a great secondary-world fantasy, and much more. Much love for the cover art; the crumbling mask refers both to the Empire of Masks which conquers Baru’s home and to the question of Baru’s own identity as she navigates a sea of intrigue.