In our monthly thematic roundup of BookLife titles, we feature sci-fi and fantasy novels.
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Children’s/YA Fantasy & Sci-Fi
Kandi J Wyatt
About the book: What would you give to be a dragon rider and marry the princess? Hest will do anything to save his kingdom and his betrothed. Blessed is the second book in the coming-of-age fantasy series Four Stars over Ardatz: Sovereigns.
Author statement: “Four Stars over Ardatz: Sovereigns started as a short story idea from my photographer husband. He had an idea of telling the story of a queen heading into battle. When I went to write the story he created, I realized there was a character missing—the husband. Brightlands (Uprooted, Blessed, and Exalted) tells the husband’s story, while Divided Crowns (Resolved, Determined, and Divided) tells the queen’s story as well as their daughter’s.”
Eudora Space Kid: The Great Engine Room Takeover
About the book: The first in a new series of early reader sci-fi chapter books for elementary-aged kids. Meet Eudora Jenkins, the math and science whiz who lives in space!
Author statement: “I started these books as dinnertime tales to my two elementary-aged daughters. I wanted to make them laugh so hard that milk came out of their noses. I also wanted to build a world around a young girl heroine that captured their imaginations and made STEM seem fun. All that just to get them to sit and eat their veggies!”
Gemma Calvertson and the Forest of Despair
About the book: When history is set to repeat itself and nobody is left to read the warning signs, a young historian sets out to stop the rising darkness with the help of an aged hero.
Author statement: “I began plotting this novel in 2014, a year before Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out. I put it on hold when I feared the plots were too similar (only mine was a nod to Tolkien), but I couldn’t let go of it. As the story evolved, I realized it was nothing like that film and overcame my fears.”
Secret of the Dragon Egg
About the book: When Will’s family washes up on a magical island after a storm, they find themselves in a world filled with strange people, dangerous animals, and mighty dragons. When Will discovers a golden dragon egg, he soon realizes he’s stumbled upon something bigger than himself.
Author statement: “I’ve always loved dragons. Soaring effortlessly on the wings of a mighty, fire-breathing beast has got to be one of the universal daydreams of all fantasy lovers. Even C.S. Lewis, who typically painted dragons as evil creatures, managed to squeeze a dragon-riding scene into the Chronicles of Narnia.”
Sword and Sorcery: Frostfire
About the book: Erevan has a problem. He grew up on the unforgiving streets of Bogudos and has the scars to prove it. His friend is stuck in jail because of his mistake. But when a suspicious courier offers him a chance to fix things, should he lift his sword and journey across treacherous lands to aid her cause?
Author statement: “I believe in the power of stories. As a child growing up in the Midwest, they gave me a chance to see a bigger world and to hear what life was like for people that didn’t look like me or believe what I did. And now, years later, I hope to do the same for others.”
The Way of the River (Kellandale Wood #1)
Shan L. Spyker
About the book: After Tillie coaxes her worrisome older sister, Elinora, to join her, they travel deep into the strange and mysterious wood. There, at the edge of a powerful river, they discover a shivering, abandoned wolfhound pup in need of help—and a forest teeming with sentient creatures.
Author statement: “In a world suffering from greed, threats of animal extinction, social injustice, and threats to the environment, The Way of the River reflects on the importance of cherishing our own interconnectedness to nature, to one another, and to all living beings.”
Dark Innocence (The Star Seer’s Prophecy #1)
About the book: In an ancient world of blood sorcery and healing magic, the Soul-Drinker, a vicious necromancer king, is draining the life from the souls of the people and of the Earth itself. Worse yet, he has banished the land’s rightful Goddess and disrupted the Sacred Balance, sending the mortal and divine realms whirling toward destruction. The only hope for salvation is a youth named Kyr, born and raised as one of the Soul-Drinker’s blindly obedient enslaved.
Author statement: “Once upon a time, I was a psychotherapist, minding my own business, and seeing my clients. Then one day in December 1999, I wrote a little story in my journal. The idea was to write down this inner character’s story, so he’d stop bugging me. Big mistake!”
The Dreamer and the Marked
About the book: The Dreamer and the Marked is a dark fantasy novel in which the main character, Krystal, follows a stranger, Draqa, to the realm of the fae after he tells her she has faerish blood. Only after arriving does she realize that this isn’t quite the adventure she bargained for.
Author statement: “This book was a 10-year-long passion project that gradually took on a life of its own. Within the story, I explore issues such as racism and the different shades of grey that can exist between one’s morals and one’s actions, especially when trying to bring about change to a society that’s set in its ways.”
About the book: Godfrey’s Crusade is an Arthurian fantasy and is the first book in the Griffin Legends series.
Author statement: “This story lived in the dark corners of my mind for many years, but it took a while to get serious about writing it. I spent a long time fretting over certain details about the worldbuilding, and I always found myself too busy to write. Finally, I told myself I just needed to make the time, write down the best ideas I had at the moment, and edit out the worse ideas later. It took five years to write Godfrey’s Crusade, but my only regret is not starting sooner!”
About the book: When Autumn, a human from our world, investigates a lone door in the woods, she is thrust into a faerie realm ruled by the evil wizard Maldamien. Immediately, she is cursed to look like a child with her memories erased. She must depend on a scholarly satyr, Puck, to help break the curse and unravel the mysteries surrounding her, including the photo she holds of the missing faerie Queen.
Author statement: “Gryphendale is an original fairytale for young adults and adults alike. As an author with dyslexia, my books focus on heroes overcoming difficulties without being the most talented, the most skilled, or even the destined hero. They are books about persistence and hope.”
The Last Prince
About the book: In a hellish city, the fate of a young boy rests on the very thing he fears most. Robbed of his childhood by tragedy and betrayal and forced onto the streets in a world of gangs and fae, only fury makes young Ninian feel whole—and he is more than willing to fight for his life. When he meets a crimson-eyed stranger, a boy so broken he refuses even to speak, Ninian does not believe he has the capacity to care. He is wrong. And that will change everything.
Author statement: “My first book, The Hidden King, originated in a dream and grew as I began writing. As I got to know my characters, I knew that there was more to Ninian and that readers would love to know more about him. Thus, The Last Prince became the origin story for the series. I write because it makes me feel whole, it makes me feel like all me. It’s grounding. It’s my center.”
On These Black Sands
About the book: He doesn’t mind killing people—he just prefers to do it on his own terms. But the pirates have no say in who they kill on this island. The council orders. The pirates obey. This arrangement has kept Declan from setting foot on these shores for years, until a bit of bad luck forces him to return.
Author statement: “On These Black Sands was my first foray into writing fantasy, and this book stretched me as a writer, pushing me to give up my plotter ways to embrace the chaos that is pantsing a story.”
A Thousand Li: The Third Kingdom
About the book: Long Wu Ying has been banished from the Verdant Green Waters Sect for defying the orders of the Elders. Forced to prove himself in the outer world before he is allowed to return, Wu Ying begins a journey that will have him visiting old haunts and a new kingdom.
Author statement: “Writing an ongoing series is always interesting, especially when you start a new arc. In this case, Wu Ying leaves the familiar confines of his immortal cultivation sect and journeys into a new kingdom. Because of that, I needed to introduce new allies and enemies while keeping the focus on our protagonist. In this case, I chose to borrow from another genre, specifically the murder mystery, while wrapping the entire experience in a familiar xianxia trope of a fighting tournament.”
The Wolf’s Tooth
J. Steven Lamperti
About the book: Becoming a member of a pack of wolves is just the first step on Twee’s coming of age in the magical kingdom of Liamec. Indentured and forced to work as a blacksmith’s apprentice, Twee remembers the freedom of the forests. Will Vix, the flame-haired street urchin who needs him as much as he needs her, help him escape?
Author statement: “The Wolf’s Tooth started with the image of a bumbling baby boy walking into a dark forest. The story grew from there.”
Bed of Rose and Thorns
About the book: Sir Ezra is an Elysian Bell; he has a frightening potential that he keeps hidden deep beneath tight layers of steel armor. He secretly loves a dark queen whose touch would mean his death.
Author statement: “Bed of Rose and Thorns is an exercise in exploring the power of feelings—love, in particular—at the same time that it examines the difficult life of an overscheduled female CEO, the Queen.”
The Fire Prince (Qurilixen Lords)
Michelle M. Pillow
About the book: Charming a dragon prince might be her people’s only hope. Too bad the handsome shifter may be more than she can handle.
Author statement: “Qurilixen Lords is the latest series installment in my interconnected Qurilixen world. It includes an extensive collection of paranormal, fantasy, and science fiction romance novels.”
About the book: A queer fantasy romance starring a forest god and a man who gets more than he prayed for, Foxen Bloom begins when human Prior petitions horned god Fenton for his aid in saving Prior’s sister. A deal is struck—providing Prior helps to kill Fenton’s sibling in turn. Foxen Bloom is about the things we do for the family we find. It’s about magic, hope, and eating your enemies. It’s about, for some reason, goats.
Author statement: “There aren’t enough queer fairy tales, and certainly not enough where the monsters get a happy ever after! With Foxen Bloom, I wanted to explore ‘traditional’ fantasy settings and motifs, but with a view to exploring the narrative from a different perspective.”
About the book: Coming from a long line of murderous witches hasn’t exactly been sunshine and rainbows for Vianna Roots. When she inherits the family’s haunted house after her mother dies, she decides flipping the run-down dump is her smartest move—but the ghosts that haunt her have a different plan.
Author statement: “Although storytelling is a consuming hobby for me, I have dabbled in genealogy for over 15 years. I’m compelled by my ancestors; the lives they lived and the blood I’m honored to share with them makes me feel a little less insignificant in a giant world. So it should come as no surprise that there was a real Susannah Roots who was, indeed, accused of being a witch during the infamous trials that shook Salem, Massachusetts. And, yes, you guessed it—she’s my ancestor.”
About the book: In an empire of 20 million worlds, a young man sets out to become an imperial knight. A captain of empire and master of many trades, the newly raised imperial knight contends with alien wars, robot assassins, terrorism, and political intrigue in the very heart of the imperium.
Author statement: “I fell in love with the Dune and Foundation novels as a kid, especially the notion of an empire that straddles the stars and all the social and political complexity envisaged in such an institution—it provides a vast sandbox to both challenge the imagination and examine the many facets of the human condition. With Imperial Knight and the Humani series that will follow it, I intend to open a door into a remarkable new world that achieves these purposes.”
The Segonian (Aldebarian Alliance #2)
About the book: Eliana’s life has never been what one might term ordinary. At least, it hasn’t been for a very long time. As a powerful Immortal Guardian, she spends her nights hunting and slaying psychotic vampires that most of humanity doesn’t even realize exist. Then an opportunity arises that instantly makes her extraordinary existence seem downright boring.
Author statement: “The Aldebarian Alliance series is a spin-off of my bestselling Immortal Guardians series.”
Those Left Behind
About the book: Time is running out for the people of New Pallas. Nobody knows that better than Alvera Renata, a tenacious captain determined to scout past the stars with nothing but a hand-picked crew and a promise: to find a new home for humanity. But when a perilous journey across dark space leads to first contact with a galactic civilization on the brink of war, Alvera soon realizes keeping her word might not be as easy as she thought.
Author statement: “This action-packed space opera is a love letter to all the sci-fi stories I’ve enjoyed over the years.”
Gary J. Kirchner
About the book: When Tommy Pierre Antikagamac, the world’s most popular celebrity, is suddenly cut off from the Hive and captured by free-thinking rebels, the unfamiliar emptiness and silence of his unattached mind almost drives him mad. In time, however, he comes to embrace the antiquated concepts of privacy, individuality, and unenhanced mental imagery—and to hate the Hive.
Author statement: “I’ve taken trends in modern society and extrapolated them into the near future. The result is a disturbing glimpse of where we are heading. I had to publish this book now, because I was afraid that in 15 years people would read it and simply say ‘What’s the big deal?’ ”
About the book: Willoughby, known back on Earth as “the East Hamptons of the Kuiper Belt System,” is the first sustainable colony on Mars. Built by the mysterious geneticist Carlo Yakamura, this settlement allows the rich to enjoy decadent homes, physically modifiable partners, meals based on their best memories, and boutique children known on Willoughby as Builds. Even among the uniquely gifted Builds, Lo is unique. And uniquely unbalanced.
Author statement: “I wrote Lo with the intention of bringing the human back to science fiction. In a genre increasingly suffused with dystopian AI and rogue technology, I wanted to explore an advanced future in desperate need of humanizing rationality, care, respect, understanding, and love.”
A version of this article appeared in the 08/22/2022 issue of Publishers Weekly under the headline: Indie Spotlight