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18 SFFH Books We’re Looking Forward to in April 2024

Written By Maria Haskins

Maria Haskins is a Swedish-Canadian writer and reviewer of speculative fiction. She lives just outside Vancouver with a husband, two children, several birds, a snake, and a very large black dog. Her work has appeared in several publications, and is also available in her short story collections Wolves & Girls (2023), and Six Dreams About the Train (2021).

Court of Wanderers, by Rin Chupeco

Got a hankering for some (queer) vampires and vampire hunters? Say no more! Court of Wanderers is book #2 in Chupeco’s “queer, bloody Gothic epic fantasy series,” Silver Under Nightfall. Following the battle against the Night Empress in book 1, vampire hunter Remy Pendergast and his unexpected entourage of royal vampires are all still alive and traveling through the kingdom of Aluria. There is trouble afoot, of course, what with Pendergast being afflicted with strange dreams of the Night Empress, and the terrible threats to the fragile peace between humans and vampires. On Instagram, Chupeco has said that readers can expect “more vampires/vampire hunter shenanigans, dealing with the dysfunction that is Remy’s family, a freaking underground castle, and even spicier situations…” (googly eyes)

The Black Girl Survives in This One: Horror Stories, edited by Desiree S. Evans & Saraciea J. Fennell

The list of writers for this YA anthology is enough for me to immediately put it on my “must-read” list: Camara Aaron, Erin E. Adams, Monica Brashears, Charlotte Nicole Davis, Zakiya Dalila Harris, Daka Hermon, Justina Ireland, L.L. McKinney, Brittney Morris, Maika & Maritza Moulite, Kortney Nash, Eden Royce, and Vincent Tirado. Wow. Plus! A foreword by Tananarive Due. All of the stories in the anthology feature Black girls “who battle monsters, both human and supernatural, and who survive to the end.”

The Book of Thorns, by Hester Fox

Fox’s book is set in Europe during Napoleon’s reign, and follows the penniless Cornelia Shaw, a naturalist with an uncanny ability to heal wounds with her herbal mixtures, and an even uncannier ability to hear flowers speak. Cornelia ends up traveling as part of Napoleon’s army and as they approach Waterloo, the flowers tell her of a girl who resembles her, a girl who might be her long-lost sister. Betrayal, secrets, lies, and accusations of witchcraft swirl around both sisters as they try to find a way through a world at war. This is described as a gothic mystery and historical fiction which tickles two of my literary fancies.

Lake of Souls – The Collected Short Fiction, by Ann Leckie

This short story collection features 18 stories, including a new novelette, by the multi-award-winning Ann Leckie. It is a complete collection, featuring all Leckie’s short fiction in one handy, wonderful book. Here you can, “Journey across the stars of the Imperial Radch universe. Listen to the words of the Old Gods that ruled the Raven Tower. Learn the secrets of the mysterious Lake of Souls.” If you prefer to listen to your fiction, the audiobook version of Lake of Souls is read by the one and only Adjoa Andoh and you can listen to a sample on Soundcloud.

Cranberry Cove, by Hailey Piper

A supernatural crime novella? From the fabulous, Bram Stoker Award-winning Hailey Piper? Who (by the way) has described this as her “bleakest book yet”? Oh yes, this is definitely a release I’m looking forward to. The book’s tagline is: “What’s been happening at Cranberry Cove? It’s unspeakable. It’s unspoken.” The answers involve a very haunted (maybe hungry) hotel, but if you want to know the full, paranormal truth, you’ll have to follow Emberly Hale on “a dark journey inside the derelict hotel—and inside her own past.”

Someone You Can Build a Nest In, by John Wiswell

If you’ve already read John Wiswell’s brilliantly original short fiction (for example, “We Are Not Phoenixes” and “Open House on Haunted Hill”), you know you definitely want to check out his debut novel, described as a “creepy, charming monster-slaying fantasy romance—from the perspective of the monster.” And if you want more reasons to pick up Someone You Can Build a Nest In, you can read a great interview with Wiswell in Uncharted Magazine where he talks to Myna Chang about the book, and how it began, for him, as a story of a “monstrous figure, feared by all the locals, accidentally smitten with the sweet nerd and desperately trying not to blow it.” Like I said: if you know Wiswell, you know you need this book. If you don’t know him yet, pick it up and find out what you’ve been missing.

Mal Goes to War, by Edward Ashton

A satirical, dark comedy / techno-thriller about Mal, an artificial intelligence, “a free A.I.” who is going about his own business in a world where humans are at war with each other. Currently, it’s the augmented Federals fighting the puritanical Humanists. Mal doesn’t really care about the fighting but that changes when he suddenly finds himself cut off from access to infospace, trapped in the body of a cyborg mercenary, and responsible for keeping a modded girl safe. Ashton’s 2022 novel, Mickey7, about a “disposable employee” on a space mission is being turned into a movie by Bong Joon-ho (it’s set for release in 2025) and if you want to sample Ashton’s writing, you can read his short stories in places like Kaleidotrope and Metaphorosis.

The Familiar, by Leigh Bardugo

This historical fantasy novel by Bardugo (you might have heard of her Grishaverse novels) is set in the Spanish Golden Age and follows Luzia, the servant girl of a poor noble family who “reveals a talent for little miracles.” Luzia’s ambitious mistress wants her to use those miracle-powers to improve the noble family’s standing in Madrid, but, of course, that leads to complications and all sorts of trouble. Luzia might be in over her head, even though she has the help of an immortal familiar named Guillén Santángel, whose own secrets could prove deadly for them both. In interviews, Bardugo has said that Luzia’s story is, at least in part, inspired by the life and fate of Lucrecia de León, a Spanish woman who predicted the fall of King Philip II and was imprisoned by the Inquisition (no one expects the…you know).

The Last Phi Hunter, by Salinee Goldenberg (illustrated by Ilya Nazarov)

The Last Phi Hunter is described as a mythic dark fantasy that draws inspiration from Thai culture, Buddhism, and martial arts, while being “delightfully fun.” It’s also described as The Witcher meets Princess Mononoke, which is one heck of an intriguing comparison. Goldenberg’s book follows Ex, the youngest member of the Phi Hunters Order who has spent his young life slaying ghosts and demons in the Suyoram Kingdom. His big goal is to hunt down a boss demon called Shar-Ala, and during this quest he ends up traveling with Arinya, “a charming muay-boran champion” who is a) nine-months pregnant and b) full of secrets. Ghosts, demons, magic, and a kick-ass pregnant woman? I’m in.

To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods, by Molly X. Chang

Chang’s debut novel is an epic fantasy tale, set in a world that was invaded by a people arriving “from the heavens” a long time ago. The invaders defeated the local people’s magic with their technology, and now everyone must serve them or suffer. Ruying, “daughter of a conquered world,” hates the invaders but is pulled into their service, and into a world of violence, betrayal, and intrigue, because of her gift: she was born with the ability to “pull the life right out of mortal bodies.” She is offered a deal by an enemy prince: to work for him as an assassin to further his political goals and keep her family safe in the bargain, while also betraying her own people, and her own beliefs.

Sheine Lende, by Darcie Little Badger

This book is a prequel to Darcie Little Badger’s award-winning novel Elatsoe (named as one of the 100 best fantasy novels of all time by Time Magazine), and it includes ghost dogs which means I’m automatically on board. Sheine Lende follows the story of Shane who works with her mother and the ghost dogs (I love them already) until her mother and a local boy go missing. There are fairy ring shenanigans, and it turns out that Shane’s mother might be in another world, and maybe another time. There’s a great interview with Little Badger at The Beat, where she talks about some of the historical inspiration for Sheine Lende, and about her writing.

Indian Burial Ground, by Nick Medina

I am absolutely intrigued by Medina’s latest novel, set on a fictional Rez, and described as a supernatural horror story, a family drama, and a suspenseful mystery that blends reality and Native mythology. It follows Noemi Broussard who thinks she might finally have a shot at getting the life she wants, until her boyfriend dies. The circumstances surrounding his death lead Noemi to suspect that there is some kind of hidden horror lurking on tribal land and she teams up with her Uncle Louie to unravel the mystery. If that whets your appetite, I highly recommend whetting it even more by reading an excerpt over at CrimeReads.

The Practice, the Horizon, and the Chain, by Sofia Samatar

Please allow me a moment to just scream about this: it’s a brand-new novella by Sofia Samatar! The story is described as “a mystical, revolutionary space adventure for the exhausted dreamer” that embodies “the legacy of Ursula K. Le Guin” and every single word of that sounds absolutely amazing. Samatar’s story follows a boy who is one of “the Chained,” condemned to work on a mining ship in space. His life is changed when he is given the opportunity to attend the ship’s university and meets a woman called “the professor.” All of Samatar’s work is essential reading as far as I’m concerned and I am definitely taking this opportunity to travel into space with her fiction.

Withered, by A.G.A. Wilmot

I read an advance reading copy of this queer paranormal psychological horror novel and loved it for a host of reasons. For one, it offers an original take on a haunted house, and it also has a great cast of characters, led by 18-year-old Ellis who is the new arrival in the small town of Black Rock. Ellis and their mom move into a house that everyone in town thinks is haunted, and, as Ellis finds out when the walls in their home begin pulsing—everyone is right! Wilmot deftly weaves together the stories of the house and its ghosts with the stories of the living, threading together the past and the present, the natural and the supernatural. Ellis’s struggle to find their footing after surviving an eating disorder, and the death of their father, is dealt with in a thoughtful manner that adds another dimension to Ellis’s interactions with the house. This is horror, but horror with empathy and purpose beyond gore and jump scares.

Living In Cemeteries, by Corey Farrenkopf

In Farrenkopf’s wonderfully weird novel, a person’s wrongdoings must be atoned for by their descendants which means that relatives of serial killers, criminals, and even bull-slaughtering matadors, run the risk of getting killed by mysterious, vengeful Spirits. The only way to get a heads-up on what preordained fate will befall you is to speak to dead family members, which is doable since their ghosts linger in the cemeteries where they’re buried. After his friend is killed by an enraged, Spirit-whipped bull, Dave Gallagher wants to find out what awaits him, but his long dead father won’t speak to him, and Dave is left wondering what kind of secrets lurk in his own family’s past.

A Letter to the Luminous Deep, by Sylvie Cathrall

An epistolary novel set in an underwater world. A story of unknown depths, mysteries, whimsical academia, world-altering discoveries, and love, kindled by letter correspondence. All this sounds decidedly tantalizing to me. In Cathrall’s story, the reclusive E. begins a correspondence with the scholar Henerey Clel. Together, they uncover a mystery, but after a sea quake destroys E’s home, the pen-pals both vanish. It’s left to E.’s sister Sophy, and Henerey’s brother Vyerin, to piece together what has happened by poring over the letters, sketches, and field notes the letter-writers have left behind.

The Wings Upon Her Back, by Samantha Mills

I’ve read Samantha Mills’s debut novel, and I am here to tell you that you need this piercingly sharp and harrowing tale in your life right now. The Wings Upon Her Back is set in a place that was once visited, and later abandoned, by mysterious god-like beings that still shape the world they left behind. The story follows Zenya, AKA Winged Zemolai. As a teenager, Zenya rebelled against, and betrayed, her family to join the mechanically-modified warrior sect in order to earn her wings. For 26 years she has followed the orders of the warriors’ charismatic, harsh, and controlling leader, but after being stripped of her privileged position, she begins to understand the truth about her city, her world, and her own past. Mills’s story had me on tenterhooks throughout. It is a shatteringly beautiful, glorious tale of faith and disillusionment, violence and redemption.

Oracle, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

This supernatural thriller heralds the return of Robert Grim, well-known to fans of Thomas Olde Heuvelt from his breakthrough novel Hex. In Oracle, the discovery of an eighteenth-century sailing ship stranded in a flower field, leads to the mysterious disappearance of several people. Robert Grim, retired specialist of the occult, is enlisted to help unravel this mystery which leads to a tangled tale that involves ancient doom beneath the sea, international intrigue, history, horror, and maybe an open doorway to the apocalypse. If you’re interested in Heuvelt’s writing, there’s a great interview with him at Revenant where the talks to Madelon Hoedt about his writing (including Oracle), and the challenges of translating Hex from Dutch into English.