Driftwood by Marie BrennanWelcome to: Driftwood, where worlds go to die as they move inward from the Mist to the Edges to the Crush.
Where you'll learn about: Last, the sole survivor of his world whose impossible escape has made him a folk hero among the other inhabitants of Driftwood, who gather, amid rumors of his demise, to tell stories about his adventures.
For fans of: the world-building of M. John Harrison's Virconium series, the novel-in-vignettes structure of Dan Simmons' Hyperion, or the atmosphere of Cathrynne M. Valente's The Orphan's Tales duology.
The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth DickinsonWhat it is: the 3rd installment of the Masquerade trilogy, after The Traitor Baru Cormorant and The Monster Baru Cormorant, in which the titular protagonist continues her quest to bring down an empire.
Is it for you? Readers seeking an escape from present reality should note that a pandemic figures prominently in this novel's intricate plot.
Read it for: lush prose, twisty political intrigue, detailed world-building, and a complex protagonist who will sacrifice everything -- and everyone -- to achieve her goals.
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah JohnsonIntroducing: Cara, a "traverser" at the Eldridge Institute of Earth Zero, which sends its employees, mostly poor people of color, on dangerous data-harvesting assignments in other dimensions.
What happens: As someone whose "dop" (counterpart) has died in 373 out of 380 known alternate Earths, Cara can travel almost anywhere in the multiverse, which is how she can discover a worlds-altering secret while keeping a few of her own.
Want a taste? "Even worthless things can become valuable once they become rare. This is the grand lesson of my life."
The First Sister by Linden A. LewisThree Civilizations: the Icarii, a technologically advanced social democracy; the Geans, a nature-revering military theocracy; and the Asters, genetically modified humans despised by both Icarii and Geans.
Three people: First Sister, a Gean priestess abandoned by the man who promised to free her; Icarii duellist Lito sol Lucius, tasked with tracking down and executing his traitorous former partner; and Hiro val Akira, who explains their decision to defect in a letter to Lito.
Series alert: this sweeping, often swashbuckling debut is the 1st book in a planned trilogy.
Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn MuirWhat it is: the much-anticipated sequel to the Locus Award-winning Gideon the Ninth, this time focusing on Lady Harrowhark Nonagesimus, now Lyctor to the Emperor.
Is it for you? Although Harrow the Ninth shares its predecessor's setting and stylistic verve, the perspective shifts of Harrow's dissociative viewpoint makes it a very different reading experience.
Want a taste? "It was in the close of the myriadic year of our Lord -- that far-off King of Necromancers, that blessed Resurrector of Saints! -- that you picked up your sword. That was your first big mistake."
Automatic Reload by Ferrett SteinmetzStarring: cyborg mercenary Mat and genetically enhanced assassin Silvia, should-be enemies who join forces and go on the lam.
Why you might like it: Sympathetic characters and sensitive depictions of mental health issues anchor this fast-paced, action-packed romantic comedy adventure by the author of The Sol Majestic.
For fans of: the brisk pacing and shoot-'em-up action of Kieran Shea's Koko novels, the pop culture references of Ready Player One.
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane AndersThen: magic user Patricia Delfine and science geek Laurence Armstead become friends, their bond a shield against school bullies.
Now: They reunite as adults in San Francisco, where Laurence is an engineer and Patricia is a witch. Both are trying to save a world on the brink of destruction, but will their efforts do more harm than good?
Why you might like it: Set in a pre-Apocalyptic world that pits technology and magic against each other, this fantastical coming-of-age story is also a moving meditation on friendship and belonging.
Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko; translated by Julia Meitov HerseyWhat happens: Encouraged by her mysterious mentor-turned-benefactor, 17-year-old Sasha Samokhina enrolls in the Institute of Special Technologies, an unusual school that harbors dark secrets.
Reviewers say: "an unnerving, deeply philosophical coming-of-age tale" (Publishers Weekly).
For fans of: Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House, Sarah Gailey's Magic for Liars, or Elisabeth Thomas' Catherine House.
All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault by James Alan GardnerWhat happens: After a laboratory accident bestows superpowers on queer Chinese Canadian university student Kim Lam and her housemates, Shar, Miranda, and Jools, the newly minted "Sparks" don capes and masks to battle the powerful and immortal Darklings.
Series alert: This Prix Aurora Award-nominated novel is the 1st in a planned series, with each volume focusing on a different member of the team. Jools' story is next in They Promised Me the Gun Wasn't Loaded.
The Magicians by Lev GrossmanIntroducing: High-school senior Quentin Coldwater, who has just been accepted to the exclusive Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy.
What happens: Practicing magic turns out to be far less glamorous -- and much more dangerous -- than it sounds. (Especially once Quentin learns that the fantasy series that inspired him to become a magician is not exactly fiction).
Media buzz: This series opener and its sequels, The Magician King and The Magician's Land, serve as the source material for the television series of the same name.
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