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Do you love a dash of magic in your fiction? Are you bored with garden-variety sword-and-sorcery fantasies? If you’re ready to take a dive into a different kind of spellbinding story, check out some of our recent favorites. From flying women to futuristic crime families who trade in drug-aided magic, we’ve got a little something for every kind of reader.

Do you love a dash of magic in your fiction? Are you bored with garden-variety sword-and-sorcery fantasies? If you’re ready to take a dive into a different kind of spellbinding story, check out some of our recent favorites. From flying women to futuristic crime families who trade in drug-aided magic, we’ve got a little something for every kind of reader.

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All Science Fiction & Fantasy Coverage

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Do you love a dash of magic in your fiction? Are you bored with garden-variety sword-and-sorcery fantasies? If you’re ready to take a dive into a different kind of spellbinding story, check out some of our recent favorites. From flying women to futuristic crime families who trade in drug-aided magic, we’ve got a little something for every kind of reader.


The Coincidence MakersThe Coincidence Makers by Yoav Blum
Fate. Kismet. Coincidence. Luck. We all have our theories about why things work out the way they do, but Israeli author Blum’s debut poses an intriguing alternative: What if people employed by a supernatural organization were in charge of orchestrating so-called coincidences? These creators of “situations” (formerly imaginary friends) possess strange powers like “the ability to experience the present as something that was the future until a moment ago when it became ever so slightly past.”  Read our review.


Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer
(spoiler alert) In Molly Tanzer’s gender-swapped take on The Picture of Dorian Gray, the aesthetes of Wilde’s iconic novel become even more scandalous. Lady Henrietta “Henry” Wotton belongs to a club that contacts demons, which in this case means beings from another dimension, not Judeo-Christian spirits. Most demons are drawn to aspects of our world they can’t experience in theirs, and Lady Henry’s demon is enamored of magnificent aesthetic experiences above all else. Looking down somewhere from a velvet chaise lounge, Oscar Wilde must be very proud. Read our review.


Jade City by Fonda Lee
Lee’s gangsters might be the coolest out of all the magic users on this list. The crime families of Janloon carry jade that gives them increased strength, speed and durability. They train from birth to carry it, slowly exposing themselves to more of the substance over the years. But as you might expect, the demand for jade is enormous, and drugs are formulated that allow anyone to use it, if they’re willing to risk the potentially deadly side effects. Read our review.

 


The Philosopher's FlightThe Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller
In this extremely entertaining alternate history tale, the United States has just entered World War I, and the science behind unaided human flight, known as empirical philosophy, is deeply controversial—mostly because, for the most part, only women can fly. Against the backdrop of tension and drama playing out on a national level, 18-year-old Robert Weekes dreams of following his mother’s footsteps and learning to fly. Read our review.

 


The PowerThe Power by Naomi Alderman
What if women had physical superiority over men? How would that change our world? Read Alderman's award-winning novel to find out, as the women in this world suddenly gain the power to wield (and kill with) electricity. Reading this page-turning thriller feels like holding lightning in your hands. Read our review.

 


The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso
Every magic user in the Raverran Empire is conscripted into service, and jesses are placed on their wrists to prevent the using of magic. Warlocks, called Falcons, are dependent on an assigned Falconer, who can say the incantation that releases their power. The arrangement forces irreverent, cynical fire warlock Zaira and bookish noblewoman Amalia to work together as one, blending classic buddy comedy with fantasy intrigue. We won’t spoil anything, but let’s just say the magic of Caruso’s world gets even more interesting in the upcoming sequel, The Defiant Heir. Read our review.


Torn by Rowenna Miller
In Miller’s wonderful debut, talented seamstress Sophie is able to create charmed clothing for good luck or protection. She draws from her Pellian heritage, in which charm casting is traditionally done via stone tablets. As this tale of political intrigue winds on, Sophie discovers she can cast curses, and that her magic is more nuanced and more dangerous than she ever imagined. Read our Q&A with Rowenna Miller and Melissa Caruso.

 


Winter of Ice and Iron by Rachel Neumeier
The regions and countries of Neumeier’s Four Kingdoms are personified in what their inhabitants call Immanent Powers. The Powers are literal spirits of the land, increasing or decreasing based upon the strength of the region. When Kehera, the princess of peaceful Harivir, flees to the harsh, forbidding domain of the Wolf Lord of Ëaneté, their tentative alliance changes their lives and the Powers they’re tied to. Read our review.

Do you love a dash of magic in your fiction? Are you bored with garden-variety sword-and-sorcery fantasies? If you’re ready to take a dive into a different kind of spellbinding story, check out some of our recent favorites. From flying women to futuristic crime families who trade in drug-aided magic, we’ve got a little something for every kind of reader.

We ranked this year’s Halloween offerings from slightly spooky to totally terrifying.


Chasing Ghosts by Marc Hartzman

Scariness level: You can safely read it by flashlight in the middle of a desecrated graveyard.

In Chasing Ghosts, Marc Hartzman gives a lighthearted historical account of ghostly legends, haunted houses and other unearthly visits from beyond the grave. Using humor, fun illustrations and interesting anecdotes, Hartzman main focus is on humanity’s attempts to reach out to the dead. There are hucksters galore in this entertaining book: mediums, spirit photographers, levitators and automatic writers who used all kinds of gimcrackery and stagecraft to pull off their frauds, separating the susceptible from their healthy skepticism—and money.

So, what are ghosts? Mass hysteria or hoaxes? Reactions to invisible environmental factors or the lingering embodiments of souls? Chasing Ghosts raises these questions but wisely avoids offering definitive answers. So the next time you walk through a sudden cold spot on a humid evening, you might want to consider the possibility that ghosts are chasing you.

(Read the full review by Deborah Mason.)


Horseman by Christina Henry

Scariness level: Strike a match and spark one solitary lantern.

Christina Henry’s Horseman is an atmospheric and haunting reimagining of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Fourteen-year-old Bente “Ben” Van Brunt is the grandson of Katrina Van Tassel and Brom Bones, whose tale-as-old-as-time romance once sparked rumors of the ghostly Horseman and ran a gangly, awkward schoolmaster named Ichabod Crane out of town. Ben, who is transgender, experiences much frustration with fellow townsfolk who insist on repeatedly misgendering him and accusing him of witchcraft. But there is even more that sets him apart: Ben has visions of the Horseman, who says he is there to protect him.

With visceral visions of nightmares, creepy prose and a pace as fast as the rush of horses’ hooves, Henry’s take on Irving’s classic story is a chilling romp into the forest where sometimes the scariest monsters are all too human.

(Read the full review by Stephanie Cohen-Perez.)


Slewfoot by Brom

Scariness level: Light a few candles. It’s safe enough to read at home in bed but might cause some goosebumps if you’re alone in a cabin in the middle of the woods.

Abitha, a young Englishwoman, marries into the Puritan society of Sutton, Connecticut, and finds herself an outsider due to her sharp tongue and headstrong manner. When her husband is killed in the woods behind her house, Abitha must decide how to live as a widow in a community that seems to be waiting for her to fail.

If only that were all she had to worry about. Deep in the dark of the forest, something ancient, primal and hungry has awoken. Slewfoot is creepy, crawly, bloody fun. Author-illustrator Brom wastes no opportunity to turn up the spooky factor, whether in prose or in the deliciously creepy paintings that illustrate his tale. If you’re looking for a thrilling ride that also has a philosophical soul, grab a copy of Slewfoot—and don’t put it down until you’ve finished it.

(Read the full review by Chris Pickens.)


Reprieve by James Han Mattson

Scariness level: It’s as creepy as sinking into J.R.R. Tolkien’s Dead Marshes and lighting one little candle.

At some point while reading James Han Mattson’s Reprieve, you’ll think, “This can’t be real. This better not be real.” Quigley House in Lincoln, Nebraska, is a full-contact escape room, in which staff are allowed to physically engage with contestants. If things get too intense, a member of the group can shout, “Reprieve!” at which point the game and its torment ends, though no one wins the prize money. Quigley House is not a nefarious entity, but something or someone within it is. Is it one of the actors hired to play ghouls and freaks? Maybe it’s the folks responsible for the house’s ghastly special effects. Or is it someone among the latest group of thrill-seekers who have taken on the challenge of this grisly obstacle course? As the book’s horrifying events unfold, Reprieve can be read as a commentary on, or even an allegory of, American racism. It’s a horror story, certainly, but it’s not as scary as it is deeply disturbing.

(Read the full review by Arlene McKanic.)


Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Scariness level: Imagine encountering three Japanese spirits, each holding one flickering lighter.

Cassandra Khaw’s horror novella brings readers to Japan, where a wedding of questionable taste is about to unfold. Nadia, who is engaged to Faiz, has decided she wants to be married in a haunted house. The couple’s megarich friend Phillip secures a venue for them: a Heian-era mansion in a forest, built on the bones of a bride-to-be and other girls killed to appease her loneliness. Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a brooding horror story that incorporates Japanese mythology in colorful, excruciating detail, including spirits such as yōkai and bake-danuki in addition to the malicious, ghostly bride. Readers looking for bite-size horror on a stormy night will appreciate Khaw’s twisted tale.

(Read the full review by Ralph Harris.)


The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

Scariness level: You’ll need most of the lights in your room (and perhaps an extra night light in the bathroom).

A woman in search of a husband finds one with more than his fair share of deadly secrets in the atmospheric, well-plotted The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling. In an alternate version of Victorian-era Britain, known as Great Bretlain, Jane Lawrence understands that a married woman is afforded far more freedom than an unmarried maiden. Bachelor Augustine Lawrence, the only doctor in town, seems like a fine option. He agrees, under one simple condition: Jane must never visit his ancestral home. Anyone who has ever read a gothic novel knows exactly where this is going, but Starling does a magnificent job steering clear of the obvious plot beats in this white-knuckle reading experience. For those who crave intense and detailed gothic horror, or those who just want more Guillermo del Toro a la Crimson Peak vibes in their life, this is a must-read.

(Read the full review by Amanda Diehl.)


This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno

Scariness level: Keep all the lights in your house on—and maybe unplug your smart devices and toss them into the backyard.

In powerfully immersive first-person prose, Gus Moreno’s debut novel provides an inside view of a grief-stricken husband’s worst nightmare. This Thing Between Us feels like a fever dream as Thiago Alvarez, in a one-sided conversation with his late wife, Vera, reexamines the tragic events that led to her death and recounts what’s happened since. A few months prior, Thiago and Vera’s smart speaker started playing music without their request. Odd packages arrived, even though no orders had been placed. And then an alarm clock didn’t go off as it should’ve, throwing their schedule into chaos and placing Vera in the exact wrong place at the worst possible time. Now Vera’s gone, and Thiago is lost. And that’s just the beginning.

There’s no question that this novel delivers the fright. Bodies drop. Violence springs up seemingly out of nowhere. But the most surprising and challenging aspect of This Thing Between Us is that it’s as emotionally taxing as it is terrifying—a novel of domestic conflict and suspense as well as horror.

(Read the full review by Carole V. Bell.)

How many lights does it take to feel safe while reading these books?

While set in very different worlds and starkly different eras, Summer Sons and Revelator are marvelous modern additions to the Southern gothic canon, full of paranoia and the grotesque (as well as the occasional jump scare).

★ Summer Sons

Lee Mandelo’s Summer Sons opens in tragedy. After the death of his adoptive brother and best friend, Andrew is left with a legacy he never asked for: Eddie's money, Eddie’s sports car, Eddie’s house, the American Studies graduate program at Vanderbilt in Tennessee that Eddie picked out for the two of them and even Eddie’s roommate. Driven by grief and convinced that there is more to Eddie’s death than meets the eye, Andrew slides into the life that Eddie prepared for him, discovering all that Eddie had tried to conceal. As Andrew dives deeper into a world of sun-soaked men, racing and trouble, he is forced to deal with another unwanted legacy. Eddie’s revenant won’t leave him alone, and neither will Eddie’s research into their shared supernatural experience, a topic they had agreed to let lie. Summer Sons is raw and chaotic, driving readers through the disordered grief and anger of its main character. Mandelo’s visceral writing tugs at readers’ hearts as well as their amygdalas. Alternating between discussions of identity and sexuality, the horror of grief and an actual haunting, it is part The Fast and the Furious, part The Shining and part Ninth House.

Revelator

While Summer Sons deals in the present, Daryl Gregory’s Revelator is a story of ancestry and ancient powers. Set in the 1930s and ’40s, in the mountainous triangle where Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia collide, it follows Stella Birch: moonshiner, businesswoman and Revelator and prophet to Ghostdaddy, the god under the mountain. The red splotches across Stella’s face signaled this title when she was born and sealed her destiny. She would be the one to go under the mountain and commune with Ghostdaddy, bringing his word out to be recorded and interpreted by the men of her family. That is, until tragedy and rebellion struck. Stella fled, leaving her role and god behind. But when her grandmother Motty’s death calls Stella back to her childhood home and to Motty’s adopted daughter, Sonny, whom Stella has long ignored, she will have to deal with her past if she is to have any hope of a future.

Full of matter-of-fact descriptions of unthinkable horror, Revelator is both weird and wonderful. On the one hand, it tells a story familiar to Southern literature: the chaos resulting from the death of a matriarch. And on the other, it tells the story of a creature so alien that it’s difficult to wrap your head around. Perfect for fans of Lovecraft Country and anyone who wished the 2000 film Songcatcher had a few more monsters, Revelator is full of surprises both fascinating and stomach-clenching.

Both Summer Sons and Revelator serve a slice of cold terror, paired with a view of humanity that is equal parts revelatory and humbling.

Two new novels put their own horrifying spin on the Southern gothic.

Cassandra Khaw’s horror novella Nothing but Blackened Teeth brings readers to Japan, where a wedding of questionable taste is about to unfold. Nadia, who is engaged to Faiz, has decided she wants to be married in a haunted house. The couple’s mega-rich friend Phillip secures a venue for them: a Heian-era mansion in a forest, built on the bones of a bride-to-be and other girls killed to appease her loneliness.

Khaw roots the novella in the perspective of Cat, who along with Phillip and the group’s resident pot-stirrer, Lin, is one of the wedding’s three guests. Cat has recently emerged from six months of self-imposed isolation to treat her depression, the exact details of which are left purposefully vague. Cat thinks this retreat has done her some good, but Khaw does not shy from portraying Cat’s ongoing experience with depression in the form of long, spiraling trains of thought. These mental soliloquies color the entire story with Cat’s internal angst. Her barely controlled depressive energy bleeds through every page, punctured by curt dialogue among the small fellowship of supposed friends. Supposed is the key adjective, as each member of the five-person crew has some sort of sordid history with another member—or two. Their friendships, especially as seen through Cat’s eyes, are flimsy at best. Despite flying across the world to participate in this marriage ceremony, the bonds between them disintegrate as the haunting begins.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: The year's best Halloween reads, ranked from slightly spooky to totally terrifying.


Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a brooding horror story that incorporates Japanese mythology in colorful, excruciating detail, including spirits such as yōkai and bake-danuki in addition to the malicious, ghostly bride. Cat’s relative familiarity with Japanese culture (she is Chinese and grew up in Malaysia) means that she is quick to identify certain beings but doesn’t spend unrealistic amounts of time explaining significant details for the audience, a careful balance of clarity and obscurity that will appeal to Japanese horror aficionados and newcomers alike.

Khaw builds horror slowly and evenly. Rather than sporadically appearing to frighten and terrorize the young squad of not-quite-friends, the spirits of the house appear with steadily increasing frequency until they are simply present in every scene. By the novella’s climax, the tension has increased to such an unbearable degree that the final burst of violence is more expected than surprising.

Readers looking for bite-size horror on a stormy night will appreciate Khaw’s twisted tale of foolish young adults, all of whom are poorly prepared for the effects their decisions will have on their psyches (and lives).

Cassandra Khaw’s horror novella Nothing but Blackened Teeth brings readers to Japan, where a wedding of questionable taste is about to unfold.

Christina Henry’s Horseman is an atmospheric and haunting reimagining of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” perfect for both fans of classic horror and those new to the tale of the Headless Horseman. Henry’s retelling centers on 14-year-old Bente “Ben” Van Brunt, the grandson of Katrina Van Tassel and Brom Bones, whose tale-as-old-as-time romance once sparked rumors of the ghostly Horseman and ran a gangly, awkward schoolmaster named Ichabod Crane out of town. When a child is killed, supposedly by the shadowy folkloric monster the Kludde, the usually sleepy little town of Dutch descendants erupts into chaos as more murders ensue and people point fingers at the Horseman and each other.

The orphan Ben has lived his entire life in this small town with his Oma Katrina and Opa Brom. Ben, who is transgender, experiences much frustration with fellow townsfolk who insist on repeatedly misgendering him and accusing him of witchcraft, a traditionally feminine stereotype. Henry’s depiction of Ben’s experience as a trans boy feels a little forced, bordering on stereotypical. There are several descriptions of him being a “boy soul in a girl’s body,” as well as an assumption that he will not be able to have a family or children.

But there is even more that sets him apart from the other folks in the Hollow. Ben can hear whispers in the woods at the end of a forbidden path, and he has visions of the Horseman, who says he is there to protect him. And perhaps worst of all, he’s the only person who actually wants to leave the tightknit community marked by old wives’ tales and superstitious secrets.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: The year's best Halloween reads, ranked from slightly spooky to totally terrifying.


With visceral visions of nightmares, creepy prose and a pace as fast as the rush of horses’ hooves, Henry’s take on Irving’s classic story is a one-sitting read, a chilling romp into the forest that will remind readers that sometimes the scariest monster in the room is human nature (not even pumpkin-headed horsemen or the author’s horrifying twist on Ichabod Crane’s fate). While there are some truly shiver-inducing, gruesome scenes in which victims of the Kludde are discovered decapitated and handless, Henry depicts the evil that resides inside the human inhabitants of the Hollow as the most terrifying form, from racism and bigotry to transphobia and the sexualization of children.

Ben has staunch allies in his best friend, Sander; his Opa Brom; and eventually his Oma Katrina—not to mention in his guardian Horseman—but the closed-mindedness of the Hollow, and the nefarious intentions of some of its inhabitants, create a stifling atmosphere, one ready to erupt into flames from the strike of a single match. Readers should also be aware that Henry frequently includes dialogue that reflects the transphobic and sexist beliefs many people held during the Colonial era, while also depicting customs that reflect such beliefs. As Ben unravels the energetically paced mystery and makes connections between the death of his parents and the recent murders, he will inspire readers who love their families but long to forge their own paths.

Christina Henry’s Horseman is an atmospheric and haunting reimagining of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” perfect for both fans of classic horror and those new to the tale of the Headless Horseman.

A woman in search of a husband finds one with more than his fair share of deadly secrets in the latest atmospheric, well-plotted horror novel from author Caitlin Starling.

The Death of Jane Lawrence takes place in an alternate version of Victorian-era Britain, known as Great Bretlain. The eponymous heroine is headstrong, wonderfully smart and knows that to live independently, she must wed. It seems illogical, but finding the right man would allow Jane to continue her own hobbies and pursuits, as a married woman is afforded far more freedom than an unmarried maiden.

Bachelor Augustine Lawrence, the only doctor in town, seems like a fine option for Jane. He agrees without too much fuss, under one simple condition: Jane must never visit his ancestral home. She’s to spend her nights above his medical practice, while he retires to Lindridge Hall for the evening. Eventually, of course, Jane finds herself spending the night at Lindridge Hall following a carriage accident, and where she slowly and methodically uncovers the skeletons lurking in Augustine’s closet.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: The year's best Halloween reads, ranked from slightly spooky to totally terrifying.


Anyone who has ever read a gothic novel knows exactly where this is going, but Starling does a magnificent, twisted job steering clear of the obvious plot beats. There are surprises galore in the secrets these characters keep and the lengths they’ll go to conceal them. Key to many a successful horror novel is having a main character to root for, one whom readers will want to see come out of everything not only alive but also stronger. Jane is absolutely that kind of character, a beacon of light in a dark world through her sheer tenacity alone, making her exploration of Lindridge Hall a white-knuckle reading experience.

Fans of Starling’s debut, the sci-fi horror novel The Luminous Dead, will find the same steadily growing sense of eeriness here, despite the markedly different setting. Jane isn’t exploring caves on an alien planet, but her journey still feels claustrophobic, almost asphyxiated by the estate’s mysterious walls. Are the horrors she senses of a supernatural nature? Or are they merely born of a man with too many internal demons? “Both” is also an option, and Starling keeps readers guessing until the very end.

For those who crave intense and detailed gothic horror, or those who just want more Guillermo del Toro a la Crimson Peak vibes in their life, The Death of Jane Lawrence is a must-read.

A woman in search of a husband finds one with more than his fair share of deadly secrets in the latest atmospheric, well-plotted horror novel from author Caitlin Starling.

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Trending Science Fiction & Fantasy

It hardly seems like a year has passed since the publication of Chilling Effect, the first installment of Captain Eva Innocente’s adventures—a gravity-defying, guns-blazing space opera fit for fans of psychic cats and diverse alien species. But as readers find themselves on board La Sirena Negra once more, it truly feels like we never left this adventure, and these worlds, to begin with.
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One day soon, we may develop technology that integrates with biological systems, that becomes so much a part of you that it isn’t clear where you end and the science begins. This potential paradigm shift lies near the center of two new science fiction thrillers. Both books start with integrated tech as a given, pulling readers through adventures as existentially stressful as they are fascinating.

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