Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Order [book in series=yearoffirstbook.book# (eg 2014.01), stand-alone or one-author collection=3333.pubyear, multi-author anthology=5555.pubyear, SFM/MM=5000, interview=1111]: 2021.01


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Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep: A great start to a brand-new trilogy

Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep by Philip Reeve

Philip Reeve has been one of my favourite authors for a while now, even though most of his stories are slightly outside my preferred genres. I loved Railhead, which was science-fiction, and Mortal Engines, which was dystopian – so imagine the weird squeaky noise of excitement I made on discovering that his latest book was not only in my genre wheelhouse (fantasy, of course) but which bore the captivating title of Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep (2021).


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Friday, Book One: The First Day of Christmas: Encyclopedia Brown grows up

Friday, Book One: The First Day of Christmas by Ed Brubaker (author), Marcos Martin (artist), and Muntsa Vicente (colorist)

Ed Brubaker’s Friday is what he calls a post-YA book. It tells the story of eighteen-year-old Friday, who was once a kid detective with her friend, the young genius Lance. Friday was the Watson to Lance’s Sherlock Holmes. In the present of the story, Friday has just returned from her first semester at college, and she is apprehensive about seeing Lance for the first time since their disastrous meeting the night before she left for college.


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Payback’s a Witch: A fizzy paranormal rom-com

Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper

In 2021’s effervescent Payback’s a Witch, the stakes are low, hearts are worn on people’s sleeves, and love is the answer. (Note: No hearts are literally outside the body in this book.) Lana Harper, who writes YA fantasy as Lana Popovic, enters the world of adult paranormal romantic comedy with a story of two modern witches who plot to win a magical tournament while navigating the rocky path of their increasing mutual attraction.

A few hundred years ago,


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You Sexy Thing: A sure-fire recipe for entertainment

You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo

You Sexy Thing (2021) is space opera, with no FTL chase scenes or space battles. Check the list of ingredients: a sentient bioship, space pirates, old feuds, at least one interstellar-conquest scheme, interesting non-human characters, a newcomer with secrets, and lots of cooking. It’s a foolproof recipe for entertainment.

All Niko needs is a Nikkelin Orb award from the food critic coming to the Last Chance, the restaurant she runs with the rest of her ex-military crew. Niko was a captain,


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Grave Reservations: A quirky, engaging protagonist anchors this Seattle mystery

Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest

Leda Foley is trying to keep her single-person travel agency afloat. Grady Merritt is a Seattle PD detective away at a conference. When Leda changes his return flight plans without notice or explanation, she saves his life — and outs herself as a psychic. Back home in Seattle, Grady hires her to assist on a baffling cold case he won’t let go of. Abruptly, a psychic episode shows Leda that this case and unsolved murder of her fiancé Tod three years earlier are connected.

2021’s Grave Reservations is a slight departure for Cherie Priest;


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No Gods, No Monsters: Thoughtful and well-crafted

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull

No Gods, No Monsters (2021) is one of the books that had me admiring it more than enjoying it. Strongly crafted on a sentence level, built on a structure both complex and deftly handled, and dealing with some seriously weighty themes, the book still left me, despite all that, a bit cold, a bit resistant to its charms. Still, as you’ll see, I’m mostly strongly recommending it, even if it didn’t wholly win me over.

We begin with a scene that seems all too familiar.


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The Desert Prince: The next generation of THE DEMON CYCLE

The Desert Prince by Peter V. Brett

The Desert Prince is the newest installment in Peter V. Brett’s fantasy universe where humans have been battling demons for ages. The prior series (THE DEMON CYCLE) ended mostly in seeming victory for the good guys (the humans), but as is often the case in these sorts of stories, victory only lasts until the next trilogy. This new series picks up about fifteen years later, and while some characters return from the prior series,


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The Empire’s Ruin: A successful return to an engaging world

The Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley 

The Empire’s Ruin (2021) kicks off a new series in Brian Staveley’s universe first introduced in his CHRONICLES OF THE UNHEWN THRONE trilogy and then expanded upon via the standalone novel, Skullsworn. The new series, ASHES OF THE UNHEWN THRONE, is a direct sequel to the earlier trilogy, and I strongly recommend reading in publication order, as several of this book’s characters appeared in the first series,


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A Psalm for the Wild-Built: Tea and empathy

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambersfirst novella in the MONK AND ROBOT series, A Psalm for the Wild-Built (2021), is a lovely and optimistic tale of a tea monk who, while seeking an answer to the question of “What am I looking for?” meets a robot looking for an answer to the question of “What do you need, and how can I help?” More generally, the robot is trying to answer the question of what all people need,


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For the Good of the Realm: Genderswapped swordplay for Three Musketeers fans

For the Good of the Realm by Nancy Jane Moore

2021’s For the Good of the Realm is a gender-swapped swashbuckler heavily inspired by Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers. Author Nancy Jane Moore creates a world of nation-states much like France and its neighbors of the Musketeers. Against this backdrop, Anna D’Gart, a swordswoman in the Queen’s Guards, serves the queen and the realm against enemies foreign and domestic — although one domestic adversary is powerful, and Anna finds herself swimming in very deep waters.


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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