Hello darlings, has it been a week already? Apparently so.
I’ve mentioned before that I adore first novels. You can generally get a good hint at what an authors loves and hates and style will be from the first book they write. They may venture far from their roots in their career, but the seeds are almost always there early on. Indeed, some writers never again achieve the insight and brilliance of their first publications (Orson Scott Card comes to mind, he’s spent a career diluting the power of ‘Ender’s Game‘, with the sole exception of ‘Speaker for the Dead‘).
Every year the editors in New York find us an amazing new crop of delicious new authors, and here is a list of just a few from the first half of the year that you should check out. Being a first time novelist is tough, because most don’t have a built in fan-base (barring the exception like Charlie Jane Anders from last year) so it’s hard for them to get attention and traction. Having read one and a half of the books on the list below I can assure you that there’s some real brilliance coming out this year.
Katherine Arden • The Bear and the Nightingale • 01/10
(I’m currently reading this book, which was sold to me as being like 2015s stunning ‘Uprooted‘ by Naomi Novik. And while it’s not exactly the same, it clearly springs from the same soil. It’s lovely and I’m really enjoying it so far.)
At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
Elly Blake • Frostblood • 01/10
Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.
Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating–yet irresistible–Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her–and from the icy young man she has come to love.
Vivid and compelling, Frostblood is the first in an exhilarating series about a world where flame and ice are mortal enemies…but together create a power that could change everything.
Ruthanna Emrys • Winter Tide • 04/04
(This book is amazing. If you’ve ever wondered what the world looked like from the other point of view of the Lovecraft Mythos this book is for you. And if you’re not familiar with Lovecraft, then this is a remarkable story on it’s own. Just read it. I adored it.)
After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future.
The government that stole Aphra’s life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race.
Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.
Antonia Honeywell • The Ship 04/25
Lalla has grown up sheltered from the chaos amid the ruins of civilization. But things are getting more dangerous outside. People are killing each other for husks of bread, and the police are detaining anyone without an identification card. On her sixteenth birthday, Lalla’s father decides it’s time to use their escape route–a ship he’s built that is only big enough to save five hundred people.
But the utopia her father has created isn’t everything it appears. There’s more food than anyone can eat, but nothing grows; more clothes than anyone can wear, but no way to mend them; and no-one can tell her where they are going.
Chelsea Mueller • Borrowed Souls • 05/02
Callie Delgado always puts family first, and unfortunately her brother knows it. She’s emptied her savings, lost work, and spilled countless tears trying to keep him out of trouble, but now he’s in deeper than ever, and his debt is on Callie’s head. She’s given a choice: do some dirty work for the mob, or have her brother returned to her in tiny pieces.
Renting souls is big business for the religious population of Gem City. Those looking to take part in immoral—or even illegal—activity can borrow someone else’s soul, for a price, and sin without consequence.
To save her brother, Callie needs a borrowed soul, but she doesn’t have anywhere near the money to pay for it. The slimy Soul Charmer is willing to barter, but accepting his offer will force Callie into a dangerous world of magic she isn’t ready for.
With the help of the guarded but undeniably attractive Derek—whose allegiance to the Charmer wavers as his connection to Callie grows—she’ll have to walk a tight line, avoid pissing off the bad guys, all while struggling to determine what her loyalty to her family’s really worth.
Losing her brother isn’t an option. Losing her soul? Maybe.
Sarah Gailey • River of Teeth • 05/23
In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.
Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.
This was a terrible plan.
Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.
Sarah Tolcser • Song of the Current • 06/06
Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. Her father is a wherryman, as was her grandmother. All Caro needs is for the river god to whisper her name, and her fate is sealed. But at seventeen, Caro may be too late.
So when pirates burn ships and her father is arrested, Caro volunteers to transport mysterious cargo in exchange for his release. Secretly, Caro hopes that by piloting her own wherry, the river god will finally speak her name.
But when the cargo becomes more than Caro expected, she finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies. With much more than her father’s life at stake, Caro must choose between the future she knows, and the one she could have never imagined.
David Mealing • The Soul of the World • 06/27
It is a time of revolution. in the cities, food shortages stir citizens to riots against the crown. In the wilds, new magic threatens the dominance of the tribes. and on the battlefields, even the most brilliant commanders struggle in the shadow of total war. Three lines of magic must be mastered in order to usher in a new age, and three heroes must emerge.
Sarine is an artist on the streets of New Sarresant whose secret familiar helps her uncover bloodlust and madness where she expected only revolutionary fervor.
Arak’Jur wields the power of beasts to keep his people safe, but his strength cannot protect them from war amongst themselves.
Erris is a brilliant cavalry officer trying to defend New Sarresant from an enemy general armed with magic she barely understands.
Each must learn the secrets of their power in time to guide their people through ruin. But a greater evil may be trying to stop them.
Callie Bates • The Waking Land • 06/27
Lady Elanna is fiercely devoted to the king who raised her like a daughter. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Elanna is accused of his murder—and must flee for her life.
Returning to the homeland of magical legends she has forsaken, Elanna is forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, branded a traitor long ago. Feeling a strange, deep connection to the natural world, she also must face the truth about the forces she has always denied or disdained as superstition—powers that suddenly stir within her.
But an all-too-human threat is drawing near, determined to exact vengeance. Now Elanna has no choice but to lead a rebellion against the kingdom to which she once gave her allegiance. Trapped between divided loyalties, she must summon the courage to confront a destiny that could tear her apart.
Now I’m off to read some more of the lovely ‘The Bear and the Nightengale’ and catch up with the rest of ‘A series of Unfortunate Events’ on Netflix which I’m enjoying. I’ll see you all next week!