Some months are really strong for new release science fiction and fantasy, while other months it feels like many publishers have completely forgotten there are SFF readers other than straight white men out there. Happily, November is one of those months where there’s a glut of books to choose from.
On a personal note, I’m on maternity leave starting…well, now, pretty much, but I’ve pre-written this column through February, so you’ll still be getting my sci-fi and fantasy book picks each month. I really hope to get some reading done while I’m at home, but I have no illusions about how much free time I will actually have (basically zero). Still, it’s nice to imagine!
Someone Like Me - M.R. Carey (November 6)
M.R. Carey is best known as the author of the excellent dystopian novel The Girl with All the Gifts, and now he’s back with a brand new novel. There isn’t a lot out there about it (and I haven’t read it yet because I am perpetually behind), but what I do know is that it features a main character named Liz who is a sweet and devoted wife and mother. That is, until her “dark side” comes out, with devastating results.
Girls of Paper and Fire - Natasha Ngan (November 6)
Girls of Paper and Fire is a new novel that sounds reminiscent of another fantasy I loved, The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton. This book features a world in which eight girls are chosen to serve the king. They’re called Paper Girls, and while it’s a demeaning role, it’s also highly coveted. But this year, Lei is chosen along with the other eight girls, which brings back terrible memories of her own mother, who was chosen for a royal role and never seen again. Will Lei use her new status to plot revenge against the royal family?
The Subjugate - Amanda Bridgeman (November 6)
This near-future crime novel focuses on a series of murders within a close-knit religious community. Detectives Salvi Brentt and Mitch Grenville aren’t sure what to think when multiple people are murdered, especially because violent criminals are mentally edited and reduced to peaceful servants. When no one and everyone is a suspect, how do you find a killer?
Empress of All Seasons - Emiko Jean (November 6)
In the fantasy world of Honoku, the empress isn’t a title handed down from mother to daughter. Instead, a tournament is held every generation to determine who the next empress will be. Anyone in the land can compete, as long as you aren’t a yokai, or a supernatural monster. Mari has been preparing for the competition her entire life and is determined to be the next empress. The only problem: she’s a yokai, and if anyone discovers her secret, she is doomed.
Empire of Sand - Tasha Suri (November 13)
Empire of Sand has been on my radar for a long time, ever since I saw City of Brass (one of my favorite books from last year) author Shannon Chakraborty tweeting about just how good it was. Now, the release date is almost here. This fantasy novel is based on Mughal India, featuring a girl named Mehr who has magical abilities coveted by those in power, and she must do everything to keep her gifts from them.
Terran Tomorrow - Nancy Kress (November 13)
Nancy Kress’s Yesterday’s Kin was a huge surprise for me — I loved this sci-fi tale of aliens who made first contact with Earth and the repercussions of that act (if you liked Arrival, you’ll love this book). Now, the final novel in this hard sci-fi trilogy is here. While I haven’t read the second yet, I know a lot of people wait for the last book in a series to release before they’ll dive in, so it’s now your time to go forth!
Vita Nostra - Sergey and Maria Dyachenko (November 13)
I love dark Russian novels, so this work of fantasy in translation is absolutely my jam. (We also don’t get a lot of science fiction and fantasy in translation here in the US, so I try to make it a point to read it whenever I find it.) This book features a young girl named Sasha who meets a domineering mentor who sends her to a mysterious school. Though she doesn’t want to go, she also feels it’s the only place she belongs. The school is maddening — books that are impossible to read, superiors who punish families for students’ transgressions — and yet Sasha finds herself changing and become something strange, something more, as a result of her studies.
Dragonshadow - Elle Katharine White (November 20)
I don’t usually feature sequels of novels I’ve never read in this column, but I couldn’t resist highlighting Dragonshadow. The reason? It’s a fantasy novel based on Jane Austen. It’s not Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; it’s a fully new fantasy world, but the stories and characters are based on Austen’s beloved tales. Jane Austen with dragons and magic? You can bet I’m in for Hearthstone and Dragonshadow.
City of Broken Magic - Mirah Bolender (November 20)
This debut novel has a fantastic and provocative premise. It’s about a bomb squad that goes around defusing magical bombs — sort of like a SWAT team but MAGIC — that are the last remnants of a 500-year-old war. These bombs contain a terrible weapon that can actually consume magic, and only these bomb-defusing teams are qualified to dismantle them. It’s incredibly dangerous work with a high mortality rate, but Laura is one of the best. Only, it turns out she might be the only person who can prevent a general infestation that could possibly mean the end of magic forever.
How Long ’Til Black Future Month?: Stories - N.K. Jemisin (November 27)
All you need to know about this book is that it's authored by modern-day SFF legend N.K. Jemisin. It’s her first collection of short stories (with an excellent title), and really, what more do you need to know? It’s three-time Hugo winner N.K. Jemisin, people. Read this book!