Kill the Queen: A Crown of Shards Novel by Jennifer EstepIntroducing: Everleigh "Evie" Blair, who's 17th in line for the throne of Bellona.
What happens: After one of her cousins massacres the rest of the royal family, Evie takes refuge at a gladiatorial school...where she'll begin her quest for revenge.
Author alert: Best known for her Elemental Assassin novels, urban fantasy writer Jennifer Estep ventures into epic fantasy in this 1st book in the Crown of Shards series.
Salvation by Peter F. HamiltonIntroducing: the Assessment Team, dispatched to investigate an alien shipwreck (and its highly sensitive cargo) on a distant planet.
What sets it apart: Best known for his sprawling Commonwealth Universe, author Peter F. Hamilton builds a space-faring civilization from scratch in this opening installment of the Salvation Sequence.
For fans of: the Decameron-inspired structure of Dan Simmons' Hyperion, the child soldiers of Ender's Game, and the adventure novels of Clive Cussler.
Time's Convert by Deborah HarknessThen: Eighteenth-century surgeon Marcus MacNeil joined the Continental Army, met vampire Matthew de Clermont, and took the plunge into immortality.
Now: Marcus is engaged to mortal Phoebe Taylor, who has agreed to undergo the dangerous transition to vampire prior to their marriage.
Spinoff alert: Fans of Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy (beginning with A Discovery of Witches) will enjoy catching up with Matthew, Diana, and their precocious twins.
Zero Sum Game by S.L. HuangWhat it's about: Mercenary Cas Russell's mathematical abilities are practically superpowers. Her kryptonite? Telepaths, who possess the power to throw off her calculations by warping her perceptions of reality.
Why you might like it: In addition to its intriguing antiheroine, this fast-paced SF thriller promises -- and delivers -- plenty of action.
Want a taste? "I trusted one person in the entire world. He was currently punching me in the face."
The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew WilliamsWhat happens: An agent of the Justified sect recruits gifted teens from worlds destroyed by the Pulse, attempting to stay ahead of rival sect Pax.
Read it for: a sarcastic lead, an action-packed plot, and detailed world-building.
Reviewers say: This 1st book in the Universe After series combines the "strong characterizations of Firefly, the space battles of The Expanse, and a tip of the motion scanner to Aliens" (Booklist).
Waypoint Kangaroo by Curtis C. ChenThe premise: More Maxwell Smart than James Bond, spy Kangaroo -- named for his extra-dimensional pouch that allows him to retrieve objects from other universes -- has bungled yet another mission, prompting his superiors to send him on a mandatory "vacation" to Mars aboard a luxury cruise ship.
What to expect: Spy-versus-spy action, a shipboard murder mystery, and a vast interplanetary conspiracy.
You might also like: With its snarky protagonist and futuristic tradecraft, this debut novel (and its sequel, Kangaroo Too) may appeal to fans of Charles Stross' Laundry Files.
Time Salvager by Wesley ChuOne last job: On the eve of his planned retirement, James Griffin-Mars, a "chronman" who salvages materials from history for use in the resource-poor 26th century, breaks a Time Law by rescuing 21st century scientist Elise Kim from certain death. Now they're both on the run.
About the author: Prior to launching his literary career with The Lives of Tao, the Taiwanese-born writer pursued acting (and had a small role in the film Fred Claus).
Series alert: This opening installment of the Time Salvager series continues with Time Siege.
Winter Tide by Ruthanna EmrysWhat it is: Cthulhu Mythos meets Cold War espionage.
Starring: siblings Aphra and Caleb Marsh, the last of Innsmouth's amphibious Deep Ones, who are recruited as spies by the very government that sent their people to internment camps.
For fans of: Lovecraftian fiction that cleverly critiques its source material, such as Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country or Victor LaValle's The Ballad of Black Tom.
At the Table of Wolves by Kay KenyonWhat it's about: At the end of the Great War came the "bloom" and, with it, paranormal abilities in the form of "Talents." Now it's 1936 and England is on the verge of war with Germany. Kim Tavistock's Talent, the "spill," causes others to confide their secrets to her, making her an ideal spy.
Try this next: For another WWII-era historical fantasy featuring espionage and super-powered individuals, try Ian Tregillis' Milkweed Triptych, which begins with Bitter Seeds.
Spymaster: Book One of the Dragon Corsairs by Margaret Weis and Robert KrammesWhat it's about: While Freyan spymaster Sir Henry Wallace grapples with a succession crisis and an empty treasury, his agent Pip must locate a pretender to the throne. Meanwhile, swashbuckling privateer Captain Kate Fitzmaurice is just trying to get filthy rich.
Is it for you? One word: dragons. (Another word: cliffhanger.)
Series alert: Set in the world of the author's Dragon Brigade trilogy, Spymaster kicks off the Dragon Corsairs series, which continues with Privateer.
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