Featuring: Leigh Bardugo, Brian Michael Bendis (w. Matthew Wilson), Sarah Bowring, Kevin Chong, S. A. Cosby, Max Gladstone, Rudy Gobert (w. Hellef Bay), Lee Goldberg, Rachel Howzell Hall, Daniel Polansky, James Swallow, Keziah Weir
Leigh Bardugo, HELL BENT (Flatiron Books)
Wealth. Power. Murder. Magic. The Ivy League is going straight to hell…
Find a gateway to the underworld. Steal a soul out of hell. A simple plan, except people who make this particular journey rarely come back. But Galaxy “Alex” Stern is determined to break Darlington out of purgatory — even if it costs her a future at Lethe and at Yale.
Forbidden from attempting a rescue, Alex and Dawes can’t call on the Ninth House for help, so they assemble a team of dubious allies to save the gentleman of Lethe. Together, they will have to navigate a maze of arcane texts and bizarre artifacts to uncover the societies’ most closely guarded secrets, and break every rule doing it. But when faculty members begin to die off, Alex knows these aren’t just accidents. Something deadly is at work in New Haven, and if she is going to survive, she’ll have to reckon with the monsters of her past and a darkness built into the university’s very walls.
I only read the first novel featuring Alex Stern, Ninth House relatively recently, but ever since finishing it I’ve been eagerly anticipating the sequel. I pre-ordered it from my local SFF store, and started reading it pretty soon afterwards (my timing on the previous read was a little off, so I wasn’t able to start it right away). It’s another excellent entry in the series, one that opens up the world and mythology nicely. Bardugo has a gift for messing with readers’ expectations, and also coming up with superb creations and characters. Very much enjoyed it, and it lived up to my high expectations. (Also, if you are a fan of Buffy, then I really think you’ll find a lot to like in this series.) Hell Bent is out now, published by Flatiron Books in North America and Gollancz in the UK.
Also on CR: Review of Ninth House
Brian Michael Bendis & Matthew Wilson, FORTUNE & GLORY (Dark Horse)
Before co-creating Miles Morales, Wakanda Forever’s Ironheart and the Peabody award winning Jessica Jones, before the triumphant successes with Secret Invasion, Daredevil, Superman, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Invincible Iron Man… before the groundbreaking original series Powers, Scarlet, Cover, and The Ones…
Before all these, Brian Michael Bendis was a hungry young cartoonist about to take his first step into the shark-filled swimming pool that is the American motion picture industry. The harsh lessons that he learned along the way — and the unforgettable people that he met — are set down for the ages in Fortune and Glory, his hilarious autobiographical account of Hollywood development hell.
Written and illustrated by Brian Michael Bendis, with colors by Matthew Wilson (X-Men), this new edition of Fortune and Glory collects the three-issue miniseries and includes an introduction by Paul Dini, a gallery of promotional art, and interviews from Bendis’ archives.
Shannon Bowring, THE ROAD TO DALTON (Europa Editions)
It’s 1990, and the lives of the inhabitants of Dalton, Maine play on.
Rose goes to work at the diner every day, her bruises hidden from both the customers and her two young boys. At a table she waits, Dr. Richard Haskell looks back on the one choice that’s charted his entire life, before his thoughts wander back to his wife, Trudy, and her best friend.
Trudy and Bev have been friends for longer than they can count, and something more than lovers to each other for some time now—a fact both accepted and ignored by their husbands. Across town, new mother Bridget lives with her high school sweetheart Nate, and is struggling with postpartum after a traumatic birth. And nearer still is teenager Greg, trying to define the complicated feelings he has about himself and his two close friends.
In most small towns, the private is also public. When one of Dalton’s own makes an unthinkable decision, the community is left reeling. In the aftermath, their problems, both small and large, reveal a deeper understanding of the lives of their neighbors, and remind us that no one is exactly who you think they are.
The Road to Dalton offers valuable understandings of what it means to be alive in the world—of pain and joy, conflict and love, and the endurance that comes from living.
I was invited to review this by the publisher, and not only did the synopsis catch my attention, but so did the blurb from Richard Russo. (He seems to be finding a lot of new novels to blurb, recently, especially everything set in Maine — understandable, of course.) A debut novel, The Road to Dalton is due to be published by Europa Editions in North America and in the UK, on June 6th.
Kevin Chong, THE DOUBLE LIFE OF BENSON YU (Atria)
This fresh and unique work of metafiction follows Benson Yu, a writer, who loses control of his own narrative when he attempts to write the story of his fraught upbringing in 1980s Chinatown.
In a Chinatown housing project lives twelve-year-old Benny, his ailing grandmother, and his strange neighbor Constantine, a man who believes he’s a reincarnated medieval samurai. When his grandmother is hospitalized, Benny manages to survive on his own until a social worker comes snooping. With no other family, he is reluctantly taken in by Constantine and soon, an unlikely bond forms between the two.
At least, that’s what Yu, the narrator of the story, wants to write.
The creator of a bestselling comic book, Yu is struggling with continuing the poignant tale of Benny and Constantine and can’t help but interject from the present day, slowly revealing a darker backstory. Can Yu confront the demons he’s spent his adult life avoiding or risk his own life…and Benny’s?
I was invited to give this a try by the publisher, and it sounded kind of interesting. Sounds quite different from many of the other review copies I’ve received recently, so I hope to get to it pretty soon. The Double Life of Benson Yu is due to be published by Atria Books in North America and in the UK, on April 18th.
S. A. Cosby, ALL THE SINNERS BLEED (Flatiron)
After years of working as an FBI agent, Titus Crown returns home to Charon County, land of moonshine and cornbread, fist fights and honeysuckle. Seeing his hometown struggling with a bigoted police force inspires him to run for sheriff. He wins, and becomes the first Black sheriff in the history of the county.
Then a year to the day after his election, a young Black man is fatally shot by Titus’s deputies.
Titus pledges to follow the truth wherever it leads. But no one expected he would unearth a serial killer who has been hiding in plain sight, haunting the dirt lanes and woodland clearings of Charon.
Now, Titus must pull off the impossible: stay true to his instincts, prevent outright panic, and investigate a shocking crime in a small town where everyone knows everyone yet secrets flourish. All while also breaking up backroads bar fights and being forced to protect racist Confederate pride marchers.
For a Black man wearing a police uniform in the American South, that’s no easy feat. But Charon is Titus’s home and his heart, and he won’t let the darkness overtake it. Even as it threatens to consume him…
Like many people, I was introduced to Cosby’s excellent fiction via Blacktop Wasteland. I found his follow-up, Razorblade Tears to be an equally excellent thriller, and I fully intend to get caught up on his recently-rereleased debut, My Darkest Prayer. His fourth novel was of course on my most-anticipated of 2023 list, so as you can imagine I am extremely happy to have received a review copy. I shall be reading this very soon. Maybe next. All the Sinners Bleed is due to be published by Flatiron Books in North America and Headline in the UK, on June 6th.
Max Gladstone, DEAD COUNTRY (Tor.com)
Since her village chased her out with pitchforks, Tara Abernathy has resurrected gods, pulled down monsters, averted wars, and saved a city, twice. She thought she’d left her dusty little hometown forever. But that was before her father died.
As she makes her way home to bury him, she finds a girl, as powerful and vulnerable and lost as she once was. Saving her from raiders twisted by the God Wars, Tara changes the course of the world.
Dead Country is the first book in the Craft Wars Series, a tight sequence of novels that will bring the sprawling saga of the Craft to its end, and the perfect entry point to this incomparable world.
Gladstone’s Craft Sequence is one of the series I am recommended the most. I actually have all of the books, too. But, because they’re eBooks, I keep forgetting that I do… With the upcoming release of this, the first in a new series set in the same world/universe, I really should get around to remedying this oversight. Dead Country is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on March 3rd.
Rudy Gobert & Hellef Bay, BASH! (Titan Comics)
BASH — an intergalactic game of basketball played by superstar athletes from across the cosmos. Young Rudy comes from the poor neighborhood of Nevilia, but dreams of a being a BASH star, and his talent might just make it happen: but can he make it while threats come from every corner of the galaxy? Throughout the universe, there’s one sport that everyone’s a fan of: BASH! A brutal, high-octane version of basketball: its players are rockstars, legends, gods, and for young Rudy, a poor kid from Nevilia, his only dream is to be one of them.
Rudy’s got talent, but talent is nothing without practice and so he sets out to become the best BASH player in the galaxy, always training, always reaching for just one more dunk.
And while Rudy is starting to get noticed by the teams and the talent scouts, other, more sinister forces have started to creep out from the shadows, jealous of this rising young star.
As many CR readers will know, I am an NBA enthusiast, and love reading about the league’s history and personalities. So, when I saw that Gobert (formerly of the Jazz, now of the Timberwolves) had written a graphic novel, I was intrigued. I’ll read this very soon, and get a review up hopefully next week. Bash! is due to be published by Titan Comics in North America and in the UK, on February 15th.
Lee Goldberg, MALIBU BURNING (Thomas & Mercer)
Hell comes to Southern California every October. It rides in on searing Santa Ana winds that blast at near hurricane force, igniting voracious wildfires. Master thief Danny Cole longs for the flames. A tsunami of fire is exactly what he needs to pull off a daring crime and avenge a fallen friend.
As the most devastating firestorms in Los Angeles’ history scorch the hills of Malibu, relentless arson investigator Walter Sharpe and his wild card of a new partner, Andrew Walker, a former US marshal, suspect that someone set the massive blazes intentionally, a terrifying means to an unknown end.
While the flames rage out of control, Danny pursues his brilliant scheme, unaware that Sharpe and Walker are closing in. But when they all collide in a canyon of fire, everything changes, pitting them against an unexpected enemy within an inescapable inferno.
This is a new stand-alone LA thriller, by the author of the Eve Ronin series (which I rather enjoy, and need to catch up on). Looking forward to reading it. Malibu Burning is due to be published by Thomas & Mercer in North America and in the UK, on June 20th.
Also on CR: Review of Lost Hills
Rachel Howzell Hall, WHAT NEVER HAPPENED (Thomas & Mercer)
It’s murder in paradise as a woman uncovers a host of secrets off the rocky California coast…
Colette “Coco” Weber has relocated to her Catalina Island home, where, twenty years before, she was the sole survivor of a deadly home invasion. All Coco wants is to see her aunt Gwen, get as far away from her ex as possible, and get back to her craft—writing obituaries. Thankfully, her college best friend, Maddy, owns the local paper and has a job sure to keep Coco busy, considering the number of elderly folks who are dying on the island.
But as Coco learns more about these deaths, she quickly realizes that the circumstances surrounding them are remarkably similar…and not natural. Then Coco receives a sinister threat in the mail: her own obituary.
As Coco begins to draw connections between a serial killer’s crimes and her own family tragedy, she fears that the secrets on Catalina Island might be too deep to survive. Because whoever is watching her is hell-bent on finally putting her past to rest.
I’ve not read as many of Hall’s novels as I would have liked, by this point. What I have read, though, I’ve enjoyed. Looking forward to reading this latest mystery. What Never Happened is due to be published by Thomas & Mercer in North America and in the UK, on July 11th.
Also on CR: Review of And Now She’s Gone
Daniel Polansky, MARCH’S END (Angry Robot Books)
The Harrows are a typical suburban family who, since time immemorial, have borne a sacred and terrible charge. In the daylight they are teachers, doctors, bartenders and vagrants, but at night they are the rulers and protectors of the March, a fantastical secondary world populated with animate antiquated toys and sentient lichen, a panorama of the impossible where cities are carried on the backs of giant snails, and thunderstorms can be subdued with song.
But beneath this dreamlike exterior lie dark secrets, and for generation after generation the Harrows have defended the March from the perils that wait outside its borders – when they are not consumed in their own bitter internecine quarrels.
In the modern day the Harrow clan are composed of Sophia, the High Queen of the March, a brilliant, calculating matriarch, and her three children – noble Constance, visionary, rebellious Mary Ann, and clever, amoral Will. Moving back and forth between their youth, adolescence, and adulthood, we watch as this family fractures, then reconciles in the face of a conflict endangering not only the existence of the March, but of the ‘real world’ itself.
MARCH’S END is a book about growing up, in which the familial struggles of the Harrows are threaded through the mythic history of the fantastical land they protect. It is a story of failure and redemption, in which the power of love is tested against forces that seek to break it, and the necessity of each generation to recreate itself is asserted.
I’ve enjoyed each book by Polansky that I’ve read. This one sounds quite different, and not in my usual genre of preference. But, because it’s by Polansky, I want to give it a try. March’s End is due to be published by Angry Robot Books in North America and in the UK, on May 9th.
James Swallow, GARRO: KNIGHT OF GREY (Black Library)
As the epic battle for Terra rages and the future of mankind hangs in the balance, former Knight Errant Nathaniel Garro fights among the ashes and fire of the embattled Imperial Palace as the shadow of Horus Lupercal’s triumph looms.
From the brutal betrayal at Isstvan to the desperate flight of the Eisenstein, through his missions as Malcador the Sigillite’s Agentia Primus, Garro’s path has drawn him inexorably towards a destiny that can only end in bloodshed.
As he struggles to protect Euphrati Keeler, the first Saint of the Imperial Church, from the horrors of this titanic war, Garro must face his greatest enemy – his father, Mortarion, his former master and the monstrous liege-lord of the traitorous Death Guard – in a final, shattering confrontation.
This is, I believe, the last book starring Nathaniel Garro — a Death Guard legionnaire still loyal to the Emperor, and founding member of the Grey Knights. As has been made clear in a number of articles and interviews over the years, the Siege of Terra will see a number of characters meet their ends, or at least have their final appearances. A recent article may have thrown out a bit of a spoiler for this one, describing it as “the story of Nathaniel Garro’s final hours”, but given that he’s going to go up against a daemon primarch, one that is still kicking about 10,000 years later, I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise? I’ve been a fan of Garro’s story ever since he appeared in Flight of the Eisenstein, the first Horus Heresy novel to focus on the Death Guard (and fourth novel overall) — he’s appeared in numerous short stories, novellas, as well as some guest appearances in novels, and I am confident that Swallow will give him an epic, worthy send-off. Garro: Knight of Grey is out now, published by Black Library in North America and in the UK.
Keziah Weir, THE MYTHMAKERS (Scribner/Mary Sue Rucci Books)
An intoxicating debut novel about a young journalist who discovers a short story that’s inexplicably about her life — leading to an entanglement with the author’s widow, daughter, and former best friend.
Sal Cannon’s life is in shambles. Her relationship is crumbling, and her career in journalism hits a low point after it’s revealed that her profile of a playwright is full of inaccuracies. She’s close to rock-bottom when she reads a short story by Martin Keller: a much older author she met at a literary event years ago. Much to her shock, the story is about her and the moment they met. When Sal learns the story is excerpted from his unpublished novel, she reaches out to the story’s editor — only to learn that Martin is deceased. Desperate to leave her crumbling life behind and to read the manuscript from which the story was excerpted, Sal decides to find Martin’s widow, Moira.
Moira has made it clear that she doesn’t want to be contacted. But soon Sal is on a bus to Upstate New York, where she slowly but surely inserts herself into Moira’s life. Or is it the other way around? As Sal sifts through Martin’s papers and learns more about Moira, the question of muse and artist arises — again and again. Even more so when Martin’s daughter’s story emerges. Who owns a story? And who is the one left to tell it?
The Mythmakers is a nesting doll of a book that grapples with perspective and memory, as well as the battles between creative ambition and love. It’s a story about the trials and tribulations of finding out who you are, at any stage in your life, and how inspiration might find you in the strangest of places.
The premise caught my attention, and thought it might be interesting. Hope to read it pretty soon, but will hold off (maybe) on posting a review until closer to release. The Mythmakers is due to be published by Scribner/Mary Sue Rucci Books in North America and in the UK, on June 13th.