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21 SFFH Books We’re Looking Forward to in July 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).

The Gilded Crown, by Marianne Gordon

A book that opens with the line “The first time Hellevir visited Death, she was ten years old” should obviously be featured at Psychopomp, and after reading an excerpt of The Gilded Crown, I am definitely putting it on my to-read list. Hellevir has been able to raise the dead since she was a little girl, but the mysterious figure who rules the afterlife claims a part of her for every resurrection. After Hellevir resurrects Princess Sullivain, the heir to the throne, she is tasked with protecting the Princess from death for as long as it takes, and she might end up trading away more of herself than she can pay.

The Shadow on the Glass, by Jonathan L. Howard

Howard’s book is part of Aconyte’s Call of Cthulhu universe, and it’s a tale of dark secrets, human greed, cruelty, and cosmic horrors. I read an advance reading copy of this and loved the characters and the setting. Howard is a great writer (his Apex story “O Have You Seen the Devle with his Mikerscope and Scalpul?” still haunts me), and he infuses this tale with a real sense of both danger and adventure. I really had no idea where the ending was going to take me which usually makes for a thrilling ride. By the way: I had some really intense nightmares about giant sky-monsters after reading this book so be warned!

Masquerade, by O.O. Sangoyomi

Sangoyomi’s novel is loosely based on the myth of Persephone, but it’s set in a reimagined version of 15th century West Africa. The main character, a young woman named Òdòdó, is part of Timbuktu’s blacksmith guild. The women of the guild, including Òdòdó, are shunned as social pariahs, and things only get worse for them when the city is conquered by the warrior king of Yorùbáland. Òdòdó is abducted and ends up entangled in a new world full of power struggles, elaborate schemes, and hidden enemies.

Wilderness Reform, by Matt Query and Harrison Query

In the Query brothers’ previous novel, Old Country, a young couple uncovered the horrors held within their newly purchased dream house. In Wilderness Reform, there is a hidden evil at work beneath the surface in a remote camp for troubled teens. Thirteen-year-old Ben knows as soon as he arrives at the camp that something is off—the staff is friendly yet menacing, and there are rumors about mysterious events and disappearances—but he will have to work together with the other boys in his cabin to unearth the truth.

This Great Hemisphere, by Mateo Askaripour

Askaripour’s science fiction novel is set in a future where some people are born invisible and relegated to second-class citizenship. (That premise alone is tantalizing enough to pique my interest.) One such invisible person is a young woman named Sweetmint who goes looking for her older brother when he disappears in the aftermath of a political murder. Sweetmint sets out to find him before it’s too late, but will have to dodge a law officer, a ruthless politician, and a system stacked against her. Askaripour says that his novel is about “the nature of power, the lengths people will go to in order to gain and maintain it… It is a call to arms for the unseen, a rallying cry for those who are tired of being ignored and forgotten. And, of course, it’s a hell of an adventure.”

Navola, by Paolo Bacigalupi

The publisher’s description says that this fantasy novel has “echoes of Renaissance Italy, The Godfather, and Game of Thrones” which makes it sound like Machiavellian fantasy with something of a violent vibe and that sounds enticing. Bacigalupi sets his tale in Navola, a city-state where a few influential families rule society, and where “power is everything.” Young Davido di Regulai is a member of one of these powerful families, a family that is in possession of an eldritch dragon relic, and he is expected to take over after his father, but “strange and ancient undercurrents lurk behind the gilt and grandeur.” If that’s not enough to draw you in, just look at that stunning cover! (The cover illustration is by Sasha Vinogradova and the cover design by John Gall.)

The Nightmare Box and Other Stories, by Cynthia Gómez

This short story collection goes right to the top of my TBR-pile, because what I’ve already read of Gómez’s short fiction is sharp and fierce and all-around delicious. For example, check out “The Books Would Like a Word” in Fantasy Magazine, and “The Ones Who Come Back To Heal” in Strange Horizons. The publisher calls the collection “a magic-soaked love letter to Oakland, brimming with feminist rage. Its twelve stories center ordinary people—Latine, queer, working class-as they wield supernatural powers against oppression, loneliness, and dread.” In other words, a must-read.

Afterlives: The Year’s Best Death Stories, edited by Vajra Chandrasekera

From our very own Psychopomp publishing house comes the inaugural edition of a new annual anthology, Afterlives: The Year’s Best Death Stories. This anthology is edited by Vajra Chandrasekera, and includes fabulous, deathly tales by Isabel J. Kim, Diana Dima, Eugenia Triantafyllou, M.L. Krishnan, B. Pladek, and many more. A full table of contents is available here on Psychopomp.

Beyond the Bounds of Infinity – An Anthology of Diverse Horror, edited by Vaughn A. Jackson & Stephanie Pearre

This anthology from Raw Dog Screaming Press features stories by L. Marie Wood, S.A. Cosby, Jessica McHugh, Mary SanGiovanni, Cassius Kilroy, Jessica L. Sparrow, Pedro Iniguez, Vicky Velvet, and more. It’s weird fiction and cosmic horror that is “diverse down to the cellular level” featuring Taíno folk horror, horrors from the cozy to apocalyptic, with dark gods feasting on suffering, and where the unexplained lurks beneath crumbling urban structures. The anthology was funded by a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of publishing horror and weird fiction by people from marginalized groups.

Slow Burn, by Mike Allen

I was lucky enough to get my mitts on an early review copy of this collection of short stories and poetry. Spoiler alert: I loved it so much that I blurbed it. If you like your horror darkly beautiful, disturbing, and profoundly unsettling then Allen’s work is definitely for you. There’s a blend of visceral, under-your-skin, into-your-bones horror and gorgeously crafted prose (and poetry!) that is hard to beat. I particularly love the way Allen twists and skews the reality of everyday places and people, tucking evil and terror into the cracks of what we think is real. For a taste of Allen’s fiction, check out “The Feather Stitch” in Lackington’s.

The Bright Sword: A Novel of King Arthur, by Lev Grossman

I have a real thing for stories about King Arthur, and from what I’ve read about it, Grossman’s book approaches the story from a different point of view. It’s set soon after Arthur’s death when a young knight named Collum arrives at Camelot. He finds a few surviving knights of the Round Table and they are joined by Nimue, who is Merlin’s former apprentice. While Arthur’s Britain starts to fall apart around them with kingdoms turning on each other, warlords besieging Camelot, and old gods and monsters returning, Collum and his companions must try to “solve the mysteries of this ruined world.”

The World Outside, by Elad Haber

I’m reading a review copy of Haber’s debut collection right now, and it begins with a selection of reimagined fairytales—Rapunzel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and more— where the characters in the old, well-known stories move past their old worlds and old settings into new places. There are also several stories that center on music in a variety of incisive and uniquely imagined ways, including “Number One Hit” and “The Conductor Sighs,” two of my favorites so far from this collection. For a taste of Haber’s storytelling, you can read “Number One Hit” at Interfictions Online.

Yoke of Stars, by R.B. Lemberg

I am a huge, unabashed fan of Lemberg’s writing and their Birdverse is one of my favorite fantasy realms, so it was a real thrill to read an advance reading copy of this book earlier this year. It’s a beautiful, tender tale where stories are told and shared between two people: Stone Orphan who is an apprentice assassin, and their visitor, Ulín, who turns out to be an inquisitive linguist. These two are connected in ways they do not understand when they first meet and Lemberg weaves their story, and their lives, together with thoughts on language and translation and how we shape ourselves with language while we are also shaped by it. For the best description of this book, I give you Lemberg’s own words: “it features assassins, linguistics, and FISH COMMUNISM.”

That Which Stands Outside, by Mark Morris

A horror novel inspired by Nordic folklore will always grab my attention, and That Which Stands Outside also has the tantalizing tagline “On an isolated Nordic isle, ancient forces awaken.” The story follows Todd Kingston who meets and soon falls in love with Yrsa Helgerson in London. When her mother dies, Todd accompanies Yrsa back to her childhood home, where the locals greet them with suspicion and hostility. They believe Yrsa is a child of the mythic Jötnar, something Yrsa denies. But strange things are afoot, and Todd finds himself drawn into a battle that might decide the future of the entire world.

The West Passage, by Jared Pechaček

I read an advance reading copy of this book a couple of months ago and it has not quite left my mind since. This book is strikingly original, beautiful, and also profoundly strange and I loved every phantasmagorical, darkly lustrous crumb of it. It is set in a realm/city/palace ruled by giant magical ladies where the threat of the beast, the beast that rises, must be kept at bay by the Guardian of the West Passage. I could say more about the plot, but nothing I write will really prepare you for the unsettling majesty of this book. It’s like the unholy and gorgeous love child of The Wizard of Oz (on acid), Alice in Wonderland, Lowery’s The Green Knight, and the works of Hieronymus Bosch, with a dash of Piranesi. It’s the kind of book that will twist your head around in the best possible way.

The Atropine Tree, by Sarah Read

A book of gothic terror from Bram Stoker Award-winning author Sarah Read? You’d best believe I’m all in for this. To quote a post on Read’s Instagram: “Check it out if you like ghosts, witches, big houses, alchemists, poison gardens, and matters of questionable inheritance. Mostly ghosts.” I MEAN, what else do you need? The story involves one Alrick Aldane who returns home to his family’s estate to inherit his father’s land and title. But things are complicated by the property’s disturbing history and a mystery that might condemn Alrick to a fate worse than death.

The Spice Gate, by Prashanth Srivatsa

Srivatsa’s fantasy novel is set in a world where Spice Gates connect eight far-flung kingdoms. The novel’s protagonist, Amir, is born with the spice mark, meaning he is a Spice Carrier, one who can travel through the gates. This isn’t such a good thing, though, as it only means he is forced to carry spices for the rich and powerful through the gates, with little or no means of changing his own fate. When Amir begins to plot a path to freedom, he is drawn into a dangerous conspiracy that makes him question everything he has ever known. You can read an excerpt at the publisher’s website, and I must say, after reading it, I am thoroughly intrigued.

In the Shadow of the Fall, by Tobi Ogundiran

This is the first in a new epic fantasy novella duology that follows Ashâke, an acolyte in the temple of Ifa, who has been waiting for years to become a priestess and serve the orisha. But during all that time, the orisha have stubbornly refused to speak to her: “Her own peers were five seasons into their priesthoods. Yet here she was, stuck as an acolyte, suffering the jeers of the little runts who had come up behind her and now thought themselves her equal.” Frustrated, Ashâke takes matters into her own hands and tries to summon and trap an orisha. A bad idea? Oh, you bet. There is a great excerpt from the novella at Reactor to whet your appetite.

The Body Harvest, by Michael J. Seidlinger

Will and Olivia, the main characters in Seidlinger’s book, are virus chasers. Meaning: their hobby is to seek out sickness. Will wants to catch the latest flu; Olivia yearns for fevers; and both of them think they can overcome any affliction they encounter. Then they meet Zaff who tells them of a new outbreak and says he knows when and where it will happen, and Will and Olivia definitely want to catch the latest strain. That premise sounds pretty twisted, and yet, after years of pandemic denials, anti-vaxxers and the like, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched that people would try to get infected. The publisher describes it as “J.G. Ballard’s Crash meets Albert Camus’s The Plague” and color me seriously curious because that is some heavy-duty comparison titles.

Ghost Camera, by Darcy Coates

Stories and movies featuring creepy, haunting, and haunted photos and/or movies are one of my favorite kinds of horror, so Coates’s Ghost Camera sounds pretty freaking great and terrifying to me. Jenine finds an abandoned polaroid camera, snaps a photo and finds something unexpected in the image: a ghostly figure in the background, watching her. For every picture she takes, the figure moves one step closer. When Jenine shares the camera’s secrets with her friend Bree, the ghostly figures start to follow both of them.

Navigational Entanglements, by Aliette de Bodard

On social media, de Bodard has described her new science fiction novella as “disaster queer space romance with extra jellyfish” while the publisher calls it “a compelling tale of love, duty, and found-family in an exciting new space opera that brings xianxia-style martial arts to the stars.” Either way it sounds amazing and after reading an excerpt (available here), I am even more excited to read the whole thing. It’s space sci-fi with jockeying navigator clans, space creatures called Tanglers, and a dangerous mission that might be doomed right from the start.