Happy bookmail day! Here’s what came in recently. Thanks to the publishers who sent advanced reader copies.
Blood Moon Prophecy by Dilani Kahawala — Cedar Street Press; October 11, 2022
Eleven years ago, Tilly Nyx did something she wasn’t supposed to. As a result, her mother was killed. Her village was destroyed. Her sister disappeared. And an ancient horror sent her into hiding.
Now sixteen years old, Tilly is determined to go home, even though she doesn’t know where home is or how to get there. All she has is the map that her mother made her swear to protect with her life.
Tilly soon finds herself plunged into the world where it all began—a world of oceans, sailing ships, and feuds between ancient magical families. She joins a fleet in search of the secret that her map holds, the secret that has been guarded by her family for thousands of years.
As Tilly learns how to cast sprites and make potions, she and her three friends must follow the trail of murky clues left by her ancestors before time runs out. But the closer they get to their destination, the more Tilly learns about her true identity–and everything is not as it seems.
Desert Creatures by Kay Chronister — Erewhon; November 8, 2022
In a world grown desiccated and treacherous, one young woman will find salvation or become just another rot-lonely skull in the sand.
Nine-year-old Magdala and her father have been exiled from their home; they flee through the harsh landscape of the American West, searching for refuge. As violence pursues them, they join a handful of survivors on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Las Vegas, where it is said that vigilante saints reside, bright with neon power. Magdala, born with a clubfoot, is going to be healed. But when faced with the strange horrors of the Sonoran Desert, one by one the pilgrims fall victim to a hideous sickness–leaving Magdala to fend for herself.
After surviving for seven years on her own, Magdala is tired of waiting for her miracle. Magdala turns her gaze to Las Vegas once more, and this time, nothing will stop her. She recruits an exiled Vegas priest at gunpoint to serve as her guide, and the pair form a fragile alliance as they navigate the darkest and strangest reaches of the desert, on a journey that takes her further from salvation even as she nears the holy city.
With ferocious imagination and poetic precision, Desert Creatures is a story of endurance at the expense of redemption. What compromise does survival require of a woman–and can she ever unlearn the instincts that have kept her alive?
Combining the subversive inventiveness of Inland by Téa Obreht with the eco-surrealism of Jeff Vandermeer’s Dead Astronauts and the themes of survival and morality in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, award-winning short fiction writer Kay Chronister transfigures genre and the myth of the West in this stylish and original debut novel.
The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg — Tachyon Publications; September 1, 2020
The Surun’ nomads do not speak of the master weaver, Benesret, who creates the cloth of bone for assassins in the Great Burri Desert. But aged Uiziya must find her aunt in order to learn the final weave, although the price for knowledge may be far too dear to pay.
Among the Khana in the springflower city of Iyar, women travel in caravans to trade, while men remain in the inner quarter, as scholars. A nameless man struggles to embody Khana masculinity, after many years of performing the life of a woman, trader, wife, and grandmother.
As his past catches up, the nameless man must choose between the life he dreamed of and Uiziya–while Uiziya must discover how to challenge the evil Ruler of Iyar, and to weave from deaths that matter.
In this breathtaking debut set in R. B. Lemberg’s beloved Birdverse, The Four Profound Weaves offers a timeless chronicle of claiming one’s identity in a hostile world.
House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson — Ace Books; September 27, 2022
WANTED – Bloodmaid of exceptional taste. Must have a keen proclivity for life’s finer pleasures. Girls of weak will need not apply.
A young woman is drawn into the upper echelons of a society where blood is power in this dark and enthralling Gothic novel from the author of The Year of the Witching.
Marion Shaw has been raised in the slums, where want and deprivation are all she know. Despite longing to leave the city and its miseries, she has no real hope of escape until the day she spots a peculiar listing in the newspaper seeking a bloodmaid.
Though she knows little about the far north–where wealthy nobles live in luxury and drink the blood of those in their service–Marion applies to the position. In a matter of days, she finds herself the newest bloodmaid at the notorious House of Hunger. There, Marion is swept into a world of dark debauchery. At the center of it all is Countess Lisavet.
The countess, who presides over this hedonistic court, is loved and feared in equal measure. She takes a special interest in Marion. Lisavet is magnetic, and Marion is eager to please her new mistress. But when she discovers that the ancient walls of the House of Hunger hide even older secrets, Marion is thrust into a vicious game of cat and mouse. She’ll need to learn the rules of her new home–and fast–or its halls will soon become her grave.
The Keeper by Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, Marco Finnegan — Harry N. Abrams; September 27, 2022
A young Black girl finds herself trapped between desperation and her family’s dark history in this horror graphic novel
Aisha has suffered a devastating loss. Her parents were killed in a car crash, and now she must move to decrepit and derelict Detroit to live with her ailing grandmother. However, shortly after moving in, Aisha’s grandmother’s health rapidly deteriorates. With her dying breath, she summons the dark spirit that has protected their family for generations to watch over Aisha.
At first it seems that this spirit, whom Aisha refers to as the Keeper, is truly doing as her grandmother asked, caring for Aisha and keeping her safe; however, it soon becomes clear that this being can only sustain itself by stealing life from others. As the Keeper begins to prey on the apartment building’s other residents, Aisha and her friends must come together to destroy it . . . or die trying.
Written by masters of horror Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes and illustrated by Marco Finnegan, The Keeper reflects on the horror Black Americans face every day, while still staying true to the genre.
Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura — Erewhon; October 18, 2022
Seven students find unusual common ground in this warm, puzzle-like Japanese bestseller laced with gentle fantasy and compassionate insight.
Bullied to the point of dropping out of school, Kokoro’s days blur together as she hides in her bedroom, unable to face her family or friends. As she spirals into despair, her mirror begins to shine; with a touch, Kokoro is pulled from her lonely life into a resplendent, bizarre fairytale castle guarded by a strange girl in a wolf mask. Six other students have been brought to the castle, and soon this marvelous refuge becomes their playground.
The castle has a hidden room that can grant a single wish, but there are rules to be followed, and breaking them will have dire consequences. As Kokoro and her new acquaintances spend more time in their new sanctuary, they begin to unlock the castle’s secrets and, tentatively, each other’s.
With the thoughtful whimsy of Before the Coffee Gets Cold, the exquisite textures of A Tale for the Time Being, and the youthful resonance of Your Name, Mizuki Tsujimura paints an intricate portrait of a cycle of loneliness that can only be broken by friendship, empathy, and sacrifice. Lonely Castle in the Mirror is a mesmerizing, heart-warming novel about the unexpected rewards of embracing human connection.
The Nightland Express by J.M. Lee — Erewhon; November 8, 2022
In antebellum America, two teens bury their secrets and join the historic Pony Express, soon discovering that the mortal world is not the only one on the brink of war.
When bright, brash Jessamine Murphy finds a recruitment poster for the Pony Express, her tomboy heart skips a beat: not only for adventure, but for the chance to track down her wayward father in California. Eager to reunite her fractured family, Jessamine cuts her hair, dons a pair of trousers, and steps into the world as Jesse.
With a bit of trickery, Jesse wins a special assignment–as does Ben Foley, a quiet but determined boy who guards secrets as closely as Jesse does. The two are to transport unusual cargo along an unusual route: the Nightland Express. They ride west together, one excitedly navigating the world as a boy, the other passing as white to escape the monsters from his past.
Ben and Jesse soon realize their assignment is special in more ways than one: their tireless horses cover ground faster than should be possible, and inhuman creatures watch their journey from the darkness. The Nightland Express is more than a mail route–it traces the border between the mortal world and a vibrant, magical land just beyond.
As both realms hover on the precipice of disaster, Jesse and Ben must learn to fully trust one another before a catastrophic rift separates the two worlds–and the two riders–forever.
One Arm Shorter than the Other by Gigi Ganguly — Atthis Arts, LLC; April 5, 2022
Strange things are happening in the heart of Delhi.
At Dadaji’s repair shop in Chandni Chowk, every broken object that passes through its seasoned teak doors is being transformed into something much…more.
A two-part novella, One Arm Shorter Than The Other weaves mysteries of fantasy with sci-fi possibilities.
Rust in the Root by Justina Ireland — Balzer & Bray; September 20, 2022
The author of the visionary New York Times bestseller Dread Nation returns with another spellbinding historical fantasy set at the crossroads of race and power in America.
It is 1937, and Laura Ann Langston lives in an America divided–between those who work the mystical arts and those who do not. Ever since the Great Rust, a catastrophic event that blighted the arcane force called the Dynamism and threw America into disarray, the country has been rebuilding for a better future. And everyone knows the future is industry and technology–otherwise known as Mechomancy–not the traditional mystical arts.
Laura disagrees. A talented young queer mage from Pennsylvania, Laura hopped a portal to New York City on her seventeenth birthday with hopes of earning her mage’s license and becoming something more than a rootworker.
But four months later, she’s got little to show for it other than an empty pocket and broken dreams. With nowhere else to turn, Laura applies for a job with the Bureau of the Arcane’s Conservation Corps, a branch of the US government dedicated to repairing the Dynamism so that Mechomancy can thrive. There she meets the Skylark, a powerful mage with a mysterious past, who reluctantly takes Laura on as an apprentice.
As they’re sent off on their first mission together into the heart of the country’s oldest and most mysterious Blight, they discover the work of mages not encountered since the darkest period in America’s past, when Black mages were killed for their power–work that could threaten Laura’s and the Skylark’s lives, and everything they’ve worked for.
Seeds for the Swarm by Sim Kern — Stelliform Press; November 1, 2022
Rylla McCracken dreams of escaping her family’s trailer in the Dust States to go to college, but on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, her mother demands she drop out of school to work for Lockburn chemical refinery instead. When Rylla learns Lockburn is planning to dam the Guadalupe River—the last flowing water in Texas—she defies her mother to protest in the state capital. The protest ends in disaster, but her ensuing viral infamy gains Rylla an acceptance to the mysterious Wingates University.
At Wingates, Rylla befriends a diverse group of students, all working on new technologies to save the planet. Besides mountains of homework, Rylla struggles with guilt for leaving her brother behind in the Dust, where tensions with the Lush States are escalating towards civil war. Succeeding at Wingates seems like Rylla’s best chance to help her family, until she uncovers a terrible secret about the school’s billionaire backers. Now, Rylla and her friends are in a race against the rich to reclaim the world-altering technology they’ve developed—before it’s too late.
Unwieldy Creatures by Addie Tsai — Jaded Ibis Press, LLC; August 2, 2022
Unwieldy Creatures, a biracial, queer, gender-swapped retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein, follows the story of three beings who all navigate life from the margins: Plum, a queer biracial Chinese intern at one of the world’s top embryology labs, who runs away from home to openly be with her girlfriend only to be left on her own; Dr. Frank, a queer biracial Indonesian scientist, who compromises everything she claims to love in the name of science and ambition when she sets out to procreate without sperm or egg; and Dr. Frank’s nonbinary creation who, painstakingly brought into the world, is abandoned due to complications at birth that result from a cruel twist of revenge. Plum struggles to determine the limits of her own ambition when Dr. Frank offers her a chance to assist with her next project. How far will Plum go in the name of scientific advancement and what is she willing to risk?