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28 SFFH Books We’re Looking Forward to in February 2024

a collage of book covers
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 Tainted Cup, by Robert Jackson Bennett

To someone like me who is a sucker for mystery novels, Sherlock Holmes stories, and fantasy, this book, described as “fantasy with a mystery twist”, featuring a “Holmes and Watson–style detective duo” sounds decidedly intriguing. When a high imperial officer is seemingly killed by a tree erupting from his body, the case is assigned to the brilliant but eccentric detective Ana Dolabra. Her new assistant is Dinios Kol who has been “magically altered in ways that make him the perfect aide to Ana’s brilliance.” Ana’s investigations uncover a plot that threatens the Empire and makes Dinios Kol worry that his own secrets might not be safe from her either.

Beggar’s Sky, by Wil McCarthy

This is book number three in McCarthy’s science fiction series Rich Man’s Sky, and it’s billed as a “wildly original alien contact novel, set against a vivid backdrop of near-Earth corporate intrigue”, and, well, I kind of love all those things. Trillionaire Igbal Renz is on board a starship capable of traveling to Alpha Centauri in 20 years. The ship is carrying a cargo of frozen scientists and diplomats, but instead of heading to its destination among the stars, the ship comes to a stop after, supposedly, making with something non-human. The stakes are high with aliens in the mix, stealth ships on the prowl, and a space race that might escalate to war.

Your Shadow Half Remains, by Sunny Moraine

Any and all new fiction from Sunny Moraine is an automatic must-read for me (go read the amazing “Shape Without Form, Shade Without Color” at TOR to sample Moraine’s darkly haunting prose.) This new novella is tagged as horror, LGBTQ, post-apocalyptic, and psychological horror and it takes place in a future where “eye contact causes people to spiral into a deadly, violent rage.” The protagonist, Riley, has not seen a human face for as long as she can remember, but in spite of the danger she is drawn to her new neighbor, Ellis. Soon, Riley’s grip on reality slips and her desire for human contact, to look, becomes ever more impossible to fight.

I’m a huge fan of Takács’s work, and I was lucky enough to read an Advance Reading Copy of this collection. It is both original and brilliant. Bogi Takács blends science fiction and fantasy, and there’s an undercurrent of the surreal and the weird running through all their work. Alien encounters, Jewish mysticism, religion and neurodivergence, gender identity, and a vast spectrum of futures and realities … these stories defy easy categorization, but they are all beautiful, incisive, and nuanced. For a taste of Takács’s prose, read “Four-Point Affective Calibration” in Lightspeed, and then pick up the collection and let it flow into your mind.

The Warm Hands of Ghosts, by Katherine Arden

Described as a historical novel with a speculative twist (I do like that!), Arden’s book takes place during World War I. Laura Iven is a field nurse who is injured and sent back home to Canada while her brother, Freddie, is stuck fighting in the trenches. When Laura hears that Freddie is dead, she returns to Europe to search for him in a war-torn Belgium where ghosts move among the living and where there are rumors of a mysterious man “whose wine gives soldiers the gift of oblivion.”

Gogmagog, by Jeff Noon and Steve Beard

What initially intrigued me about this book was the title, since Gogmagog is a legendary giant in Welsh mythology. Once I read the book synopsis though, I was even more intrigued, because the book is described as the “story of an epic journey through the sixty-mile long ghost of a dragon.” 👀 In the book, we follow Cady Meade, a veteran taxi pilot on the river Nysis. Cady used to be skilled at spectral navigation, a necessary skill when navigating the Nysis, but she is now mostly drunk and down on her luck. She takes on two passengers for a river trip: a severely ill girl who is in great danger, and “an artificial being of singular character” with “secrets hidden inside his crystal skull.”

The Frame-Up, by Gwenda Bond

A magical heist novel? An old crew reluctantly getting together for one last job? Well, count me in. In Bond’s book, Dani Poissant, daughter of the world’s most famous art thief (AKA Dani’s mother, AKA the woman Dani turned over to the FBI as a teen), is approached to pull off an art heist. Even with the crew’s magical abilities (which are kept very secret from the non-magical world), the job seems impossible, but they’ll try it anyway. I am a sucker for heist stories, and I do love a good “old crew get-together,” plus, Gwenda Bond? Yep, this one sounds like a keeper.

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    The Book of Doors, by Gareth Brown

    “This book is worth killing for” says the tagline on the cover of this debut novel from Gareth Brown, and that sounds both menacing and promising. In this fantasy story, we meet bookshop employee Cassie Andrews who is living a bookish, ordinary life until a customer dies in front of her. The last book in the customer’s possession is The Book of Doors which says that “any door is every door. You just need to know how to open them.” Then, mysterious and terrible events ensue as dark forces try to obtain the book from Cassie.

    The Fox Wife, by Yangsze Choo

    Choo’s novel is set in Manchuria in the early 20th century, during the last days of the Qing Empire and it weaves together a murder mystery, history, myth, and ancient folktales. When a courtesan is found dead, Bao, a detective with “an uncanny ability to sniff out the truth,” is hired to figure out who the dead woman is. In his pursuit of the truth, Bao ends up following a mysterious character called Snow who is on a quest of her own. In an interview in Publisher’s Weekly, Choo talks about the novel, saying that she heard folk legends about foxes from an early age. “The fox…is wily, a trickster. They can be either gender: they’re often female, but occasionally a handsome man slips in and out of a fox’s body, preying on unsuspecting women and vanishing into the countryside.”

    Fractured Fables, by Alix. E. Harrow

    This book contains both A Spindle Splintered and A Mirror Mended, two delicious Harrow tales about “professional fairy tale fixer” Zinnia Gray who helps women get the endings they deserve. These are refreshing, beautifully told, and lovingly re-imagined twists on the tales you thought you knew, infused with Harrow’s wit, charm, and masterful prose. (For more Harrow-goodness, check out her story “The Long Way Up” in The Deadlands.)

    What Feasts at Night, by T. Kingfisher

    This novella is a sequel to Kingfisher’s bestselling What Moves the Dead, and once again we get to travel in the company of Alex Easton, retired soldier. In this book, Easton travels to Gallacia where a “strange breath-stealing being from Gallacian folklore” haunts Easton’s home, and apparently also their dreams. Kingfisher describes it as “a story full of local folklore and trauma, priests and widows, and Easton crashing into the middle of it, trailing chaos in their wake.”

    Among the Living, by Tim Lebbon

    This is a horror thriller with a plot that feels (almost) ripped from the headlines. Lebbon’s novel plays out in a network of caves on a remote Arctic Island where a group of environmental activists are trying to protect the land while a group of miners are there to search for rare earth minerals. The miners find more than they bargained for (don’t they always?), unleashing terrors and a contagion, that threaten the entire world, forcing two ex-friends to work together in order to survive.

    A novel? By Pulitzer Prize nominated, bestselling author Kelly Link? In this economy? Yes, please. In The Book of Love, three teenagers, Laura, Daniel, and Mo, become pawns in a supernatural power struggle. A year after mysteriously disappearing, they find themselves back in their hometown. Only problem is, not only have they have been presumed dead: they are dead. They are allowed to return to their former lives while undertaking a series of magical tasks, and soon realize they have to solve the mystery of their own deaths to avert a looming disaster.

    The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles, by Malka Older

    This is a sequel to Older’s “cozy space opera detective mystery” The Mimicking of Known Successes, meaning Mossa and Pleiti are back. This time, Mossa is working on a missing person’s case—or, more precisely, the case of 17 missing persons who have all disappeared from Valdegald University without anyone noticing. This book promises to be another fabulous dose of sapphic romance, science fiction, and traditional sleuthing.

    A Flame in the North, by Lili Saintcrow

    Say “Norse-inspired epic fantasy” and you definitely have my attention. Saintcrow’s book follows a girl named Solveig, blessed by the gods with powerful fire magic. Solveig ends up as a weregild hostage/guest with a Northern lord, and on her way to the North, she travels through the Black Land, a place she thought was nothing but myth and story. There are foul beasts and terrible plans afoot, and Solveig must fight to save the world from darkness.

    The Briar Book of the Dead, by A.G. Slatter

    Nobody writes witches and magic like Angela Slatter, and her thrilling powers are on full display in this new gothic and (literally) haunting novel. I read an Advance Reading Copy of this book and devoured it in a couple of days. It’s set in the same world as Slatter’s novels All the Murmuring Bones and The Path of Thorns, all part of her Sourdough universe. In the book, we find ourselves in Silverton, a town run by the witchy Briar family for centuries. Ellie Briar (who I consider one of Slatter’s most captivating heroines ever) is the first Briar for generations who doesn’t seem to have any magic in her. However, after the death of her grandmother, Ellie gains an unexpected new ability: she can see and speak to the dead. This leads to the unravelling of several dark family secrets, a search for a lost grimoire, and exposes a series of terrible deeds that might undo everything the Briar witches have built. (My tip: read Slatter’s novella Of Sorrow and Such to gain some insight into the backstory for The Briar Book of the Dead.)

    Convergence Problems, by Wole Talabi

    A short story collection from Wole Talabi. who has been nominated for Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Nommo awards, qualifies as an immediate must-read. Moving through cyber punk, science fiction, and fantasy, these stories “investigate the rapidly changing role of technology and belief in our lives as we search for meaning, for knowledge, for justice; constantly converging on our future selves.” To sample Talabi’s sharp fiction, check out “Debut” (included in this collection) and “Saturday’s Song” in Lightspeed.

    The Bad Ones, by Melissa Albert

    Horror fantasy “threaded with dark magic” sounds just up my alley, and so does a story about friendship (toxic and otherwise), and “the occult power of childhood play.” In Albert’s book four people vanish without a trace in a small town. In the aftermath, Nora tries to find out what happened to one of the disappeared, her estranged best friend Becca. Her investigations unveil secrets from the town’s dark past, and the importance of a forgotten goddess who played a role in Nora and Becca’s own childhood games.

    The Bezzle – A Martin Hench Novel, by Cory Doctorow

    A new book by Doctorow is always worth a closer look. The Bezzle, described as a “high stakes thriller,” is a follow-up to 2023’s Red Team Blues which dealt with cryptocurrency shenanigans and introducedreaders to forensic accountant Martin Hench. Hench is back in this book, and this time he ends up inadvertently poking a bee’s nest of ultra-wealthy individuals who are making their money off the privatized prison system and California’s Department of Corrections. Inquisitive readers might ask themselves, “what’s a bezzle, anyway?” To quote Doctorow himself it is “the magic interval when a confidence trickster knows he has the money he has appropriated but the victim does not yet understand that he has lost it”. But of course, “every bezzle—every bezzle—ends.”

    A Tempest of Tea, by Hafsah Faizal

    Secondary world fantasy, romance, and vampires come together in this book, the first in a duology from bestselling author Faizal, and hey, new takes on vampires are always welcome. The protagonist is Arthie Casimir, “criminal mastermind and collector of secrets,” in the city of White Roaring. Arthie runs an establishment that is a tearoom by day and a bloodhouse for vampires by night. When her business is threatened, she plans a daring heist to infiltrate a sinister vampire society and finds herself pulled into a world-threatening conspiracy.

    Island Witch, by Amanda Jayatissa

    On her Instagram, Jayatissa describes her new book as “a slow burn gothic retelling of a traditional folktale, full of demons and exorcisms and how they are perceived in Sri Lanka.” It’s set in 19th century Sri Lanka where a village Capuwa, or demon-priest, is accused of viciously attacking local men in the jungle. His daughter, who is also accused of witchcraft, tries to clear his name, but is haunted by ominously prescient dreams and dark forces.

    Escalators to Hell: Shopping Mall Horrors, ed. Jennifer Jeanne McArdle and Michael W. Phillips Jr.

    I love the theme for this anthology, bringing out the horror of shopping malls in a collection of “neo-gothic tales, nostalgic yarns, capitalist monstrosities, and one stop shopping gone very wrong (or a little too right!).” The anthology, published by From Beyond Press, includes work by Angela Liu, Avra Margariti, J.A.W. McCarthy, Christi Nogle, Jennifer Lee Rossman, Rick Hollon, and many more.

    Fathomfolk, by Eliza Chan

    Fathomfolk is Eliza Chan’s debut novel, and the more I read about it, the more fascinating it sounds. Chan calls it “a story about rebellion, identity, diaspora feels and water dragons.” The book is set in the semi-submerged city of Tiankawi, where the humans live in shining towers, while the fathomfolk – sirens, seawitches, kelpies and kappas – live in the polluted waters below. Unrest flares in the city, and soon the main characters, Mira, a half-siren, and Nami, “a know-it-all water dragon and fathomfolk princess” are dragged into a brewing revolution.

    The Butcher of the Forest, by Premee Mohamed

    A brand-new book by Premee Mohamed? You know you want—no, need—to read that, but don’t take my word for it. To quote Psychopomp’s very own Meg Elison: “Nothing in nature matches the uncannily sweet murdermirth of Premee Mohamed.” You could not ask for a better recommendation, or a more perfect description of Mohamed’s writing, than that. In The Butcher of the Forest, we find ourselves in a land ruled by a merciless, foreign tyrant. Here lives Veris Thorn who must head into a magical forest full of “traps and trickery, ancient monsters, and hauntings of a painful past” in order to save the missing children of the Tyrant.

    Snowglobe, by Soyoung Park (translated from Korean by Joungmin Lee Comfort)

    This is the first English translation of Soyoung Park’s award-winning, dystopian thriller Snowglobe, a book that some reviewers are comparing to both The Hunger Games and Squid Game. (I might throw in Snowpiercer for good measure.) It’s set in a future of constant winter where the climate-controlled city of Snowglobe, protected by a vast dome, is the last warm place on Earth. The world outside the dome is a frozen wasteland where people barely eke out a living. For those living in that wasteland, the only entertainment are the Snowglobe shows, broadcasting the seemingly luxurious lives of those under the dome. But when Chobah, who has watched the Snowglobe shows all her life, is chosen to join the lucky ones under the dome, she soon finds out that nothing is what it seems. This is the first book in the Snowglobe duology.

    Moon of the Turning Leaves, by Waubgeshig Rice

    While this book is described as a stand-alone, it does take place in the same post-apocalyptic future as Rice’s 2018 novel Moon of the Crusted Snow. I haven’t read either of these books (yet) but I have added them both to my TBR-pile. In Moon of the Turning Leaves a community of Anishinaabe people in Northern Ontario have survived a devastating global power failure, and the societal collapse following in its wake, by going back to the old ways of their ancestors. Now, with resources dwindling, they begin a journey back to the original homeland of the Anishinaabe, encountering dangers, and other survivors, on the way. I am absolutely intrigued by both the Canadian setting and by the focus on post-apocalyptic survival and community building.

    Lore of the Wilds, by Analeigh Sbrana

    This book (described as “cottagecore romantasy” by Sbrana herself) had me on the hook as soon as I saw the mention of an enchanted library—a deadly enchanted library, no less. “In a world ruled by the ruthless Fae,” a young woman named Lore Alemeyu strikes a deal with a Fae lord to save her village. She will attempt to catalog all the books in a cursed library that hasn’t been touched in a thousand years. While no Fae can enter this library, maybe a human can. On her quest, Lore ends up in the company of two “very dangerous and very attractive Fae,” meaning that both romance and danger are definitely in the cards.

    Ghost Island, by Max Seeck

    This is book four in Seeck’s Ghosts of the Past novel series, featuring Jessica Niemi, a Finnish detective with a dark past. (The previous titles are The Witch Hunter, The Ice Coven, and The Last Grudge.) Ghost Island takes place on a remote island in the Åland archipelago in the Baltic Sea (as a Swede transplanted to Canada I am already sitting up and taking notice). The story involves a group of former refugees who fled Finland as children during World War II, an orphanage, and mysterious deaths in both the past and the present.