Welcome to the Asylum’s latest feature: Release Radar, a new monthly feature where we highlight our most anticipated reads of the month. We hope this feature becomes your go-to guide to all the shiny new releases and that you’ll discover new authors and new reads to further take you where no reader has gone before.
Our January edition features delightful sword-free fantasy, bloody revenge quests, cutthroat space races, tribal wars, and more. It may come a bit delayed given it’s already February (HOW?!) but hey, it’s never too late to shout out great books!
Obsidian by Sara J. Daley
Rogue. That’s it, that’s the reason. Honestly, it’s enough for me to pick up a book, but I liked the no-nonsense feel of the main character and the badass synopsis too.
Shade Nox is a fiend, a rogue, and a wanted murderer, though her only true crime is that she chooses to dress like a man. Proud and defiant, she wears her tattoos openly as any bloodwizard would, and carries obsidian blades at her hips. Those who laughingly call her a witch to her face soon learn an unfortunate lesson: Shade Nox might be an abomination, but she wields her blades with devastating precision, gleefully shedding blood for elemental magic that matches any man’s.
Shade scratches out a dangerous living in the broken Wastes, but now that they are growing more unstable and dangerous, Shade and her people need their own Veil to protect them. She vows to raise one—a feat not accomplished in over a hundred years. But the Veils are controlled by the Brotherhood, who consider them sacred creations. They would sooner see all the Veils collapse into dust than allow a witch to raise one.
With the help of her friends and allies, and her own indomitable will, Shade stays one step ahead of her enemies. Her zeal is only tempered when she learns the true sacrifice required to raise a Veil—a secret even the centuries-old Brotherhood has forgotten. It is too high a price to pay. Nevertheless, she must pay it, or she will lose everything and everyone she loves…
The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman
Sibling conflict, political maneuvers, and waning magic, just a few of my favorite elements. This “Indian-inspired fantasy debut, epic, fierce and magnetically addictive, taking you on a thrilling journey where magic, a prized resource, is the only thing between peace and war” sounds right up my alley.
Four siblings. A country in ruin. One quest to save them all.
Vira is desperate to get out of her mother’s shadow and establish her legacy as a revered queen of Ashoka. But with the country’s only quarry running out of magic – a precious resource that has kept Ashoka safe from conflict – she can barely protect her citizens from the looming threat of war. And if her enemies discover this, they’ll stop at nothing to seize the last of the magic.
Vira’s only hope is to find a mysterious object of legend: the Ivory Key, rumoured to unlock a new source of magic. But in order to infiltrate enemy territory and retrieve it, she must reunite with her siblings, torn apart by broken relationships and the different paths their lives have taken. Each of them has something to gain from finding the Ivory Key – and even more to lose if they fail. Ronak plans to sell it to the highest bidder in exchange for escape from his impending political and unwanted marriage. Kaleb, falsely accused of assassinating the former maharani, needs it to clear his name. And Riya, the runaway sibling who cut all family ties, wants the Key to prove her loyalty to the rebels who took her in.
They must work together to survive the treacherous journey. But with each sibling harbouring secrets and their own conflicting agendas, the very thing that brought them together could tear apart their family – and their world – for good.
The Starless Crown by James Rollins
Fleeting alliances and world-at-stake journeys that unearth secrets of distant pasts are the bread and butter of fantasy fiction. Yet what is known isn’t always unsurprising. For me, it’s the way these tropes are told that excites me most, and The Starless Crown seems a very fine introduction to a whole new world I could happily discover.
A gifted student foretells an apocalypse. Her reward is a sentence of death.
Fleeing into the unknown she is drawn into a team of outcasts:
A broken soldier, who once again takes up the weapons he’s forbidden to wield and carves a trail back home.
A drunken prince, who steps out from his beloved brother’s shadow and claims a purpose of his own.
An imprisoned thief, who escapes the crushing dark and discovers a gleaming artifact – one that will ignite a power struggle across the globe.
On the run, hunted by enemies old and new, they must learn to trust each other in order to survive in a world evolved in strange, beautiful, and deadly ways, and uncover ancient secrets that hold the key to their salvation.
But with each passing moment, doom draws closer.
WHO WILL CLAIM THE STARLESS CROWN?
Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi
Tochi needs no introduction. His poignant, outstanding work always takes the world by storm and I’m a fool for not having read any of it yet. I think I’m making War Girls my introduction into his worlds, but Goliath will come a close second. Look at that synopsis!
In the 2050s, Earth has begun to empty. Those with the means and the privilege have departed the great cities of the United States for the more comfortable confines of space colonies. Those left behind salvage what they can from the collapsing infrastructure. As they eke out an existence, their neighborhoods are being cannibalized. Brick by brick, their houses are sent to the colonies, what was once a home now a quaint reminder for the colonists of the world that they wrecked.
A primal biblical epic flung into the future, Goliath weaves together disparate narratives—a space-dweller looking at New Haven, Connecticut as a chance to reconnect with his spiraling lover; a group of laborers attempting to renew the promises of Earth’s crumbling cities; a journalist attempting to capture the violence of the streets; a marshal trying to solve a kidnapping—into a richly urgent mosaic about race, class, gentrification, and who is allowed to be the hero of any history.
Half a Lion by Palle E.K. Oswald
I’ve actually read an ARC of this boo and damn, is my enthusiasm justified. This just gives such an interesting take on classic fantasy tropes, twisting them and melding them into something different. Tribal wars, bloodthirsty siblings, grand epic battles, even more epic worldbuilding; I can see why the author advertised it as African GoT.
It takes a village to raise a child.
In a land of brutal conquests, twisted histories and forbidden magic, the Lion tribe is in crisis. The chief has three heirs. The warrior, the worker, and the accursed. For one to ascend the lionchair, the others must be broken.
It takes the demons to make a man.
Sakhan fights captivity, shamans, and shapeshifters – all while caring for an ailing mother and vowing to win a throne he does not want. Betrayed, hunted and alone, Haikachi dreams of revenge as he puts his trust in the loyalty of sworn enemies. His destiny is a chief – if his allies do not kill him first. Helpless husband to a murdered wife, Neneh is free of expectations. With nothing else to lose, he is at an advantage – but nothing is a double-edged blade.
Destiny is a choice.
As folklores come alive and dark clouds gather, amid tragedy and victory, honor and betrayal, everyone must gamble for that most elusive of places – survival.
Engines of Empire by Richard S. Ford
Industrial fantasy is my fucking weakness. I love everything to do with the meeting of boundaries, the melding of what at first glance appear as opposites. A matriarch sending her descendants on a quest to assure her industrial empire’s continuity just seems like the perfect set-up to allow us to explore this world while throwing us right into its political machinations.
This epic fantasy tells the tales of clashing Guilds, magic-fueled machines, intrigue and revolution—and the one family that stands between an empire’s salvation or destruction.
The nation of Torwyn is run on the power of industry, and industry is run by the Guilds. Chief among them are the Hawkspurs, and their responsibility is to keep the gears of the empire turning. It’s exactly why matriarch Rosomon Hawkspur sends each of her heirs to the far reaches of the nation.
Conall, the eldest son, is sent to the distant frontier to earn his stripes in the military. It is here that he faces a threat he could have never seen coming: the first rumblings of revolution.
Tyreta’s sorcerous connection to the magical resource of pyrstone that fuels the empire’s machines makes her a perfect heir–in theory. While Tyreta hopes that she might shirk her responsibilities during her journey one of Torwyn’s most important pyrestone mines, she instead finds the dark horrors of industry that the empire would prefer to keep hidden.
The youngest, Fulren, is a talented artificer, and finds himself acting as consort to a foreign emissary. Soon after, he is framed for a crime he never committed. A crime that could start a war.
As each of the Hawkspurs grapple with the many threats that face the nation within and without, they must finally prove themselves worthy–or their empire will fall apart.
The Chosen Twelve by James Breakwell
Honestly what really drew me in was that tension, the imminent backstabbing and clashing ambitions. Blood, betrayal, mayhem! The publisher (Rebellion) was fantastic with the comps too: Lords of the Flies meets Phillip K Dick. The Hunger Games meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Yeah. Yeah, I want that.
There are 22 candidates. There are 12 seats.
The last interstellar colony ship is down to its final batch of humans after the robots in charge unhelpfully deleted the rest. But rebooting a species and training them for the arduous task of colonisation isn’t easy – especially when the planet below is filled with monsters, the humans are more interested in asking questions than learning, and the robots are all programmed to kill each other.
But the fate of humanity rests on creating a new civilization on the planet below, and there are twelve seats on the lander. Will manipulation or loyalty save the day?
Cinder the Fireplace Boy: and other Gayly Grimm Tales by Ana Mardoll (author) & Alex Dingley (illustrator)
I will 100% always get behind fairytales told through a queer lens.
Once upon a time there lived… a beautiful prince who kissed a frog. A cinder-smudged child who hid a secret. A princess who climbed a long braid of golden hair for love. A thumb-sized boy with the courage of a giant. And a valiant little tailor whose wit was as sharp as her needle.
These stories and many more await you in this delightful collection of classic fairy tales, lovingly retold and featuring characters who receive wonderfully queer happily-ever-afters! Let these new takes on the Brothers Grimm warm your heart and nurture your yearning to see yourself reflected in beloved favorites.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan
A story of love and bravery through a celestial immortal realm, inspired by the legend of the Chinese moon goddess. Weaving myth, perilous quests, dangerous bargains, and grandiose magic, Daughter of the Moon Goddess may have caught my eye with its stunning cover, but it was the summary that sealed the deal.
A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm.
Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.
Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.
To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.
The Eternal Machine by Carol Ryles
I came across this book on Netgalley and the cover piqued my curiosity, then I read the summary and it vaguely reminded me of the episode from Loved, Death + Robots with the ninetails-inspired mc in a silkpunk world. I’m curious about its alternative Australia setting, which is something I haven’t read much of in fantasy.
A woman with the strength to rebel. A shapeshifter who wears the souls of the dead. Together, they face a lethal enemy. Em helped create it. Now she must craft its defeat.
In a city owned by industrialists, Em sells her magic to make ends meet. The extraction procedure is brutal and potentially deadly. Desperate for change, she joins an underground resistance movement to weaponize her magic and stop the abuse of workers.
Meanwhile, a mysterious voice wakes Ruk from a decades long slumber and compels him to become human. He wants to break free but is torn between his shapeshifter instincts and the needs of the soul that sustains him.
On streets haunted by outcasts and predatory automatons, a new danger emerges – an ever-growing corruption of magic and science. Em and Ruk must put aside their differences and pursue it – each for their own reasons.
What they discover will forever change their lives… Or end them.
The Isle of a Thousand Worlds by Dan Fitzgerald
Having read the first book in this series, The Living Waters, I am eager to dive headfirst into this one. I actually had the honor of beta reading this book and it was already intense and fantastic, so I’m curious to see the finished product! The Isle of 1,000 Worlds has: “alchemy, meditation magic, a mystical form of social media, a semi-feral pet otter, no death”.
An aging alchemist seeks the key to the Universal Tincture said to unlock the Thousand Worlds of the mind, but she never expected to solve the riddle of her hermetic heart.
A meditation acolyte travels the mystical social media known as the Caravan and finds that the Thousand Worlds lie just below the surface, if she can only learn to see the space between the stars.
This spicy romantic fantasy exploring the union of the physical and the metaphysical is the sequel to The Living Waters, but it could be read as a standalone.
Whispers of Stone by Allegra Pescatore
While this is another sequel that can technically be read as a standalone, the author states it’ll be a much better experience if you read the other books in the series. I already had my eye on the first book in this series, Where Shadows Lie, so that works out pretty well for me. Whispers of Stone sounds like a fun “everybody’s out to get you” underdog conspiracy story!
Warning: This book is a sequel. Spoilers for the 1st book ahead.
A God is Dead. A Queen is Missing. Secrets are Unraveling.
On trial for the murder of the King, Elenor and Gabriel must become allies if they want to survive. His magic is spiraling out of control, awakening a mystery hidden in the very walls of the palace. She has one month to pass her Water Rite and find a way out of the marriage her parents set up. But things are about to get much more complicated.
Between sadistic family members intent on taking Elenor’s throne, Tirit Mindel breathing down Gabriel’s neck, and a Golden Dragon appearing in the sky above the Mondaer Desert with an ominous warning, more than the Kingdom of Lirin is at stake.
If that weren’t bad enough, time is ticking down for Fedrik and Fay as well. With the desert turning against them and Daemon as a questionable new ally, figuring out how to control Fedrik’s Gift has become a matter of life and death.
Picking up in the fallout of Where Shadows Lie, In Silence Abiding is the long-awaited and non-stop second instalment of The Last Gift. Dive back into the world of Dracona and hold onto your hats. Things are about to get… salty.
A Threat Revealed by T.S. Beier
I haven’t yet read the first book in this series, Escaping First Contact, but it describes a labyrinthic rush through a derelict, monstrous spaceship where the characters adopt a very clever and useful “every fool for themselves” strategy. That tension and excitement seem to transfer to the second book, so I’m extremely curious about this. The author is also an SPSFC semifinalist!
Warning: This book is a sequel. Spoilers for the 1st book ahead.
After escaping the ship Misery, the eight survivors went their separate ways. Fearing reprisal or disbelief, they told no one about their time on the supposedly derelict ship or the aliens calling themselves the Trychu.
Six months later, fate pulls them back together when one of their team goes missing … just as the Trychu decide to make their presence known to the galaxy at large.
The team’s divided loyalties are pushed to the brink. They must locate their missing friend, stage a rescue, and battle the Trychu on the ground and in space. It does not help that they are forced to work with two new Strenoi who are none too happy about having to ally with aliens.
An immersive tale of rescue and comradery, A Threat Revealed brings back the unforgettable cast of characters from Escaping First Contact, with even more alien cultures, deft humour, and explosive action.
Red Palace by June Hur
I’ve loved every single one of June Hur’s book synopsis, but I haven’t had the chance to pick up any of them yet. My tbr is a fucking mess and I hate it, but I really hope to be able to read my first Hur soon because everything she writes sounds beautiful, dark, and interesting. Our co-blogger Jen is also excited about this one so that got me even more hyped!
Joseon (Korea), 1758. There are few options available to illegitimate daughters in the capital city, but through hard work and study, eighteen-year-old Hyeon has earned a position as a palace nurse. All she wants is to keep her head down, do a good job, and perhaps finally win her estranged father’s approval.
But Hyeon is suddenly thrust into the dark and dangerous world of court politics when someone murders four women in a single night, and the prime suspect is Hyeon’s closest friend and mentor. Determined to prove her beloved teacher’s innocence, Hyeon launches her own secret investigation.
In her hunt for the truth, she encounters Eojin, a young police inspector also searching for the killer. When evidence begins to point to the Crown Prince himself as the murderer, Hyeon and Eojin must work together to search the darkest corners of the palace to uncover the deadly secrets behind the bloodshed.
Shadow Bound Souls by Steven Rudy
This book landed on my radar thanks to the author. The covers are a masterpiece and the magic system sounded so unique I really hope I get to read it soon. I really like how the worldbuilding seems to stand out and I can’t wait to see it in action.
Warning: This book is a sequel. Spoilers for book 1 ahead.
The frontier of alchemy, magic and machines nears a breaking point.
The Sagean Lord has emerged.
While the Wrythen’s influence grows stronger, the Sagean and his power-hungry acolytes, the Court of Dragons, are intent on delivering the gem of souls to the Temple of Ama; where the Sintering Fountain can transform the acolytes into Luminaries.
Meanwhile, the band of heroes find themselves separated in a world starting to tear itself apart. Having suffered a huge loss, Ellaria and Elias must escape the Mainland with the Sagean’s agents pursuing them. When Elias becomes sick, Ellaria decides to hide amongst the Showman’s Traveling Show of Wonders. But their journey is shadowed by darkness and when troupe members turn up murdered, Ellaria struggles to find the killer amongst her company.
Far away in the Warhawk Mountains, the three young rogues are stranded with the Tempest Stone. Aimless about what to do, their paths take a turn when they discover the horrifying magnitude of the Sagean’s return to power, the Scree.
And that’s all for our January Release Radar. As a companion to this feature, we strongly recommend you check out Rob J. Hayes’ own list of January self-published releases. Beware of toppling TBRs and see you next month!