September 3-10 is the Week of Doom, the days when all the presses and houses put on their very finest, select their champions, and then show up to watch a bookish battle royale. Let the gothic fantasies scrap! Let the newbies do battle with the established authors! Let all the murderbabe characters duke it out!
Okay, it’s not really a competition. Yes, you can buy more than one book at once–it’s not like movies, which the average person can probably only afford (in time and money) to go once in a weekend. But with attention spans and bookshelves both limited, it’s very difficult to get to everything out there. To make it slightly easier for you, here’s a list of everything that’s coming out so you can make the best decision for your time and money. Keep in mind that the recent trend of murdergoth has really taken over SFF and YA, so there will be a lot of titles with dark themes and stabby protagonists.
Darkdawn (Jay Kristoff) – Alas for the conclusion of this most murderous of trilogies, the mega-bisexual epic of Mia Corvere. Will Mia attain the vengeance she has so long sought? Will she and her human allies bring down a nation and a church, or will her supernatural allies force her to play for even bigger stakes—those of the gods themselves? Well, you probably know from reading the other books that Kristoff never does one thing if he can do three, and his only guiding principle is, “what is the most badass possible thing I can do?” It’s a hell of a ride and then some.
Five Dark Fates (Kendare Blake) – Another dark, murderous series that’s ending! I can’t wait to see how this one wraps up, since every other book has left us with a major cliffhanger. Can Blake pull off a satisfying but still-grim finale? Who will reign and who will perish? Will naturalists or elementals triumph over the poisoner rulers, or will the even rarer gifts of war and prophecy rise up? And how will the sisters reconcile all their love with all their hate?
Only Ashes Remain (Rebecca Schaeffer) – And yet a third super murder-y title! This is the second book in the trilogy, and I don’t see it highlighted enough. Sure, it’s gory and dark, but it grapples with some very big ideas and some very interestingly flawed characters. No princesses here: Nita is the daughter of criminals who is most at home dissecting dead bodies. A moment of kindness put her on the black market in the first book, and now that she’s mostly free, she’s out to make sure both the black market and the kindness never happen again.
Catfish Lullaby (A. C. Wise) – Broken Eye Books is either doing something brave or silly by debuting A. C. Wise’s first novel into this scrum. While it might get drowned out in the chaos, there’s also room for the small press to distinguish itself by presenting a very unique story out of the southern/swamp gothic tradition rather than the straightforward gothic. It’s also a bit more Lovecraftian than the other dark works here, so if you’re craving creatures from out of time and space, this will scratch your itch. It does, however, exactly fit the bill for dangerous ladies: beware the power of Cere, who will do things much worse than stab you.
Kingdom of Souls (Rena Barron) – Parental expectations are terrible, especially when both your parents expect you to take up their mantle of witchdoctor when you consistently fail to summon your ancestral powers. But that’s soon the least of Arrah’s problems. Children begin to disappear from her kingdom, and the Demon King begins to stir. If ancestral magic won’t work, she’s willing to trade her very life to save her people. But are days and even years of her life enough for the magic that can set all this to rights?
There Will Come a Darkness (Katy Rose Pool) – This book begins with—you guessed it—a vengeful, murder-fixated young lady. But she’s not the only POV character, and there’s a chance that one of the others will be burdened with the destiny of total destruction or worldwide salvation. Could the exiled prince be the new Prophet? Or the dying girl? Or any of the others, who by strange fate find themselves playing out an ancient doom? I don’t know but I’m excited to find out.
Caster – Aza’s family has debts, a business to run, and her sister Shire to grieve. They’re overwhelmed, and Aza just wants to help. The only thing she can think to do, though, is exactly what she shouldn’t: enter the dangerous world of casting, where illegal magic can earn life-changing amounts of money but also draw the attention of gangsters, the police, and—worst of all—her parents.
After the Flood (Kassandra Montag) – Global Warming has reduced America to a series of archipelagoes connected only by crafts that can navigate the perilous new waters . Myra and her young daughter Pearl are citizens of this rough territory, but when they hear rumor that Row, Myra’s stolen firstborn daughter, is alive, they strike off on their own. Their journey explores the nature of fellowship and family, as well as the “post-apocalyptic” genre from an all-too-realistic point of view.
Girl the Sea Gave Back (Adrienne Young) – Young’s debut was really good and really gory, a rough tale of a pseudo-Viking society with a strong narrative voice. Now Young ventures into what sounds like a slightly different part of that world with Tova, a young woman who can read the future with runestones and who is not entirely accepted by the clan that adopted her. They found her washed up on the shore, her body tattooed with sacred symbols–but only the vaguest memories. Where exactly can Tova find a home when the balance of the clans is shifting, and nothing is as it was? I’m not sure, but I know there will be blood before we find out.
The Nightjar (Deborah Hewitt) – Magical London is a perennial trope, but this time there are magic…birds? Well, I like birds, so okay: Alice is able to see nightjars, birds that guard human souls. This gains her access to a magical mentor and to the Rookery, which exists parallel to London. Though maybe not for long, if the anti-magic faction has their way.
Minor Prophets (Jimmy Cajoleas) – I am always impressed by Jimmy Cajoleas’s quiet profundity and unique worldbuilding. This book is nominally set in our world, but features a protagonist who can definitely see things that the rest of us can’t. But is Lee’s ability a blessing, a curse, or just an illness? He tries to figure it out with his mother and sister, but when his mother dies, things become even more complicated. His stepfather wants to adopt Lee and his sister, but they hate and fear the man. The two flee to their grandmother, but the journey and the destination are stranger than either can see or imagine.
Gideon the Ninth (Tamsyn Muir) – Space necromancers! Disaffected swordspeople! A deadly gothic palace! Skeletons! Lesbians! This book all but renders me incoherent with excitement every time I talk about it. Also, if you finished Darkdawn, this will satisfy all your badass girl-goth-goddess cravings.
Pet (Akwaeke Emezi) – Jam makes a new friend from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of blood—a creature who defies biology as well as convention, for Pet has come to hunt a monster. Everyone in Jam’s world is confident that monsters don’t exist, but Jam soon begins to doubt. There’s something hiding in her BFF’s house, and Jam and Pet really need to find out what it is so that they can stop it. A highly philosophical as well as thoroughly engrossing book, this one is for anyone who wants to defy all the genre trends popping up this month.
The Institute (Stephen King) – I mean, it’s Stephen King. Do you like Stephen King, based on any of his 60+ other novels? Probably you will like this, then. Psychic kids and evil organizations abound. You will definitely be scared. ‘Nuff said.
Treason of Thorns (Laura E. Weymouth) – Like Gideon the Ninth, there’s a haunted house. Unlike Gideon, the house does not merely contain magic, but is itself magic. And that magic is upset, to say the least. Violet’s father committed treason, and now the family, the house, and the countryside are all suffering for his betrayal. As the magic twists her home into something less and less recognizable, Violet must be ready to sacrifice everything to the house, knowing that even that may not be enough.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Yet another magic house, this one contains heaps of treasures, including a magic book into which the titular January gets sucked in. Yes, the housing crisis and millennial debt has officially made its way into SFF—these houses are definitely haunting authors and readers alike.
The Shamer’s Daughter (Lene Kaaberbol) – Shamers can elicit dark confessions from people by looking in their eyes—great for employment prospects, not so great for making friends. Dina inherited the gift from her mother, the only person who understands her in a world filled with people who hate and fear them both. But on an assignment to find a murderer, Dina’s mother is suddenly taken from her and imprisoned. Dina will have to finally embrace her powers to save her mother before the dragons get to them both. This trilogy is was already published to some success in the UK, and is now being released in the US. I’m interested to see what we’ve been missing!
Stormrise (Jillian Boehme) – It’s Disney’s Mulan meets an actual dragon instead of Eddie Murphy in this story of Rain, a girl who conceals her gender to join the army. Only it’s not for her family’s honor, but for herself, which is a nice twist. She’s an ace combatant who wants to prove herself, but the dragon powder she takes to magically conceal her identity might have done more for her than she could ever have imagined.
The Resurrectionist of Caligo (Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga) – This is steampunk with blood magic, as well as princesses, corpses, and a deranged murderer. Science and magic go quite well together here, and make for a good alternative setting without giving up September’s apparent theme of grisly murder.
…yes, that’s a single week in publishing. Hopefully you’ve found something to tickle your fancy, or several somethings, or maybe narrowed your choices down. Let us know what you’re reading!