A grimdark fantasy, a genetically modified bodyguard, Dracula, and Death (well, lots of Deaths) are featured in our picks for the best science fiction and fantasy books of November.
The Burning Isle by Will Panzo – A young killer arrives at the ragged, brutal town of Scipio. As he insinuates himself deeper into the organizations of the two local crime lords, it becomes clear that our mysterious hero, Cassius, has a far deeper plan than simply establishing his bonafides. Debut author Panzo has thought a lot about Cassius’ world, giving it an authentic touch even while he unspools the motivation behind Cassius’ master plan. Suspenseful and dark, this is a strong addition to the shelves of those who like Leigh Bardugo or George R. R. Martin.
Dracula vs. Hitler by Patrick Sheane Duncan – Really, ’nuff said. Val Helsing from Bram Stoker’s famous tale is now an older man, and he and his brave daughter are freedom fighters in Romania against the Nazi onslaught. But it’s soon clear that rebellion won’t be enough against the superior firepower and the lesser morals of the S.S., so Van Helsing revives his old nemesis, Dracula, to take on Hitler’s army. Told in the same epistolary fashion as Stoker’s original, this time from the points of view of Van Helsing, his daughter, and an English spy who also has family ties to the original escapade, Duncan’s novel is sheer fun. And bonus points for a great cover.
Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier – The third book in Marillier’s Blackthorn and Grim fantasy series pulls Grim and Blackthorn apart as Blackthorn struggles with her desire for vengeance and Grim uncovers secrets that were meant to stay hidden. Marillier’s assured writing and strong characters will make this one another winner for her fans and will gain her new ones as well. If you haven’t started this series yet, begin with
The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid – Genetically modified from birth and trained in horrific ways to be a cold-blooded bodyguard, Nemesis is considered by others—and by herself—to be less than human. But when her charge is demanded as a hostage by the Galactic emperor, Nemesis assumes her identity, takes her place at the palace, and unwillingly enters a plot to overthrow the government. Nemesis struggles to meld her old identity as a killer with her new life as a power player in the government even as she awakens to her own worth and moral strength in a powerful YA novel perfect for those who loved
The Hunger Games.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman – What if people didn’t have to die anymore but the planet is unable to support those millions more mouths? Enter the Scythes, people who have chosen the life of ending others’ in order to maintain balance. Due to their compassion and clear-thinking, teens Citra and Rowan are chosen to become apprentices to a Scythe. But a rise in brutality and violence among the Scythes might split Citra and Rowan apart even as they need each other the most. Schusterman keeps the stakes high even as he explores death, kindness, loyalty, and mental conditioning in thought-provoking ways.
Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation by Ken Liu – Liu, the translator of Cixin Liu’s
The Three-Body Problem and
Death’s End plus a renowned author in his own right (
The Grace of Kings), assembles a collection of brilliant writing from many up-and-coming Chinese SF writers. New ways of thinking and new topics of focus give this collection an edge over others, and you’ll come away with a new perspective…which is what the best SF writing always does.
See the full list of the best of the month here, including new works from Brandon Sanderson, Faith Hunter, Robert Masello, and David Weber.
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