Every year I resolve to read more from my backlist – books I’ve been meaning to read for months or even years but have never quite gotten around to – and every year I look ahead to the shiny new releases and my plans fly out the window! I love reading these kinds of posts from others and adding to (an already lengthy) TBR list. They’re especially helpful for me as a reader/blogger who gets most of my reading material from my local library so I can place my holds early and get ahead in the queue! Last year my most anticipated list included just 13 titles, but I read 7 of them in the end, so that’s pretty good. I still plan to read through some of the titles that I already own, but I know I’ll be unable to resist the siren song of many of these hotly anticipated releases!
Note: I’ve noticed this year that a lot of release dates have been shifting around, even in the last few weeks, so this is (as far as I know) accurate at the time when I wrote it, but release dates may change. I’ve tried to check both goodreads and chapters indigo, the largest bookstore chain here in Canada for accuracy.
The Teacher by Michal Ben-Naftali
January 21, 2020
“No one knew the story of Elsa Weiss. She was a respected English teacher at a Tel Aviv high school, but she remained aloof and never tried to befriend her students. No one ever encountered her outside of school hours. She was a riddle, and yet the students sensed that they were all she had. When Elsa killed herself by jumping off the roof of her apartment building, she remained as unknown as she had been during her life. Thirty years later, the narrator of the novel, one of her students, decides to solve the riddle of Elsa Weiss. Expertly dovetailing explosive historical material with flights of imagination, the novel explores the impact of survivor’s guilt and traces the footprints of a Holocaust survivor who did her utmost to leave no trace.”
Since my first few titles (and some more further down) appear both on Rachel’s most anticipated list and on mine, a big shout out to Rachel for so often being my source for new literary/general fiction titles I might enjoy. Thanks Rachel! I’m so intrigued by this premise. Survivor’s guilt is a really interesting (and obviously depressing) theme and the promise of a book with historical material that has been well-researched and a richly imagined fictional biography speaks to me.
January 28, 2020
“Jess Walker has come to a concrete campus under the flat grey skies of East Anglia for one reason: To be taught by the mesmerizing and rebellious Dr Lorna Clay, whose seminars soon transform Jess’s thinking on life, love, and Agatha Christie. Swept up in Lorna’s thrall, Jess falls in with a tightly-knit group of rule-breakers–Alec, a courageous South African journalist with a nihilistic streak; Georgie, a seductive, pill-popping aristocrat; and Nick, a handsome geologist with layers of his own.
But when tragedy strikes the group, Jess turns to Lorna. Together, the two seek refuge on a remote Italian island, where Jess tastes the life she’s long dreamed of–and uncovers a shocking secret that will challenge everything she’s learned.”
I don’t read nearly enough literary suspense and this sounds like the perfect antidote to that problem. I’m always wary of comp titles, especially those invoking the Queen of Crime Agatha Christie, but the goodreads blurb has enough descriptors I enjoy (‘unsettling’, ‘beautifully written’) for me to pick this up.
To be Taught, If Fortunate
January 28, 2020
“As an astronaut on an extrasolar research vessel, Ariadne and her fellow crewmates sleep between worlds and wake up each time with different features. Her experience is one of fluid body and stable mind and of a unique perspective on the passage of time. Back on Earth, society changes dramatically from decade to decade, as it always does.
Ariadne may awaken to find that support for space exploration back home has waned, or that her country of birth no longer exists, or that a cult has arisen around their cosmic findings, only to dissolve once more by the next waking. But the moods of Earth have little bearing on their mission: to explore, to study, and to send their learnings home.”
Canada usually follows the US release dates for books. More rarely, we’ll align with the UK date. Yet when it comes to books by Becky Chambers we’re somehow always months late to the party! I waited months for Record of a Spaceborn Few and I’m still waiting for this new novella by the author of the Wayfarers series, so onto the 2020 list it goes.
Upright Women Wanted
February 4, 2020
“Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her—a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda. The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.”
I really enjoyed Gailey’s Magic for Liars but, let’s be honest, it’s the “queer librarian spies on horseback” that rocketed this to the top tier of my TBR!
Daughter from the Dark
Marina & Sergey Dyachenko
translated by Julia Meitov Hersey
February 11, 2020
“Late one night, fate brings together DJ Aspirin and ten-year-old Alyona. After he tries to save her from imminent danger, she ends up at his apartment. But in the morning sinister doubts set in. Who is Alyona? A young con artist? A plant for a nefarious blackmailer? Or perhaps a long-lost daughter Aspirin never knew existed? Whoever this mysterious girl is, she now refuses to leave.
A game of cat-and-mouse has begun.
Claiming that she is a musical prodigy, Alyona insists she must play a complicated violin piece to find her brother. Confused and wary, Aspirin knows one thing: he wants her out of his apartment and his life. Yet every attempt to get rid of her is thwarted by an unusual protector: her plush teddy bear that may just transform into a fearsome monster.
Alyona tells Aspirin that if he would just allow her do her work, she’ll leave him—and this world. He can then return to the shallow life he led before her. But as outside forces begin to coalesce, threatening to finally separate them, Aspirin makes a startling discovery about himself and this ethereal, eerie child.”
The challenging foreboding Russian fantasy Vita Nostra was one of my favourite reads of 2018, so I’m excited to dive deeper into Marina and Sergey Dyachenko’s minds with this standalone novel, also translated by Julia Meitov Hersey.
The Unspoken Name
February 11, 2020
“What if you knew how and when you will die?
Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.
But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.
But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.”
The Unspoken Name has been much buzzed about in sci-fi & fantasy circles, but it first came to my attention when it was recommended by author Tamsyn Muir as a great high fantasy with queer representation. Admittedly I read fewer fantasy books these days that feature non-human characters, but titles like The Goblin Emperor are among my all-time favs, so a orc characters isn’t necessarily a turn-off. Also, author A.K. Larkwood’s about page lists some pretty intriguing favourite things to write about!
Last Smile in Sunder City
February 25, 2020
“I’m Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are a few things you should know before you hire me:
Because it’s my fault the magic is never coming back.”
An actor trying their hand at writing novels always fills me with a certain trepidation, urban fantasy is not my genre of choice, and reviews have been pretty middling, so I can’t honestly say that I’m expecting much from Last Smile in Sunder City, but I do still plan on reading it for two reasons: 1) It’s written by Luke Arnold, AKA Long John Silver on the best TV show there ever was, Black Sails, and Arnold has always seemed very pop culture and fandom savvy. 2) The Kirkus review described it as “the illegitimate love child of Terry Pratchett and Dashiell Hammett.” I love Chandler, Hammett and the hardboiled detective fiction genre and I’ve enjoyed the woefully little I’ve read from Pratchett, so this is a pretty powerful comp. It’s appeared in my local library’s catalogue so I’ll definitely pick it up at some point.
When We Were Magic
March 3, 2020
“Alexis has always been able to rely on two things: her best friends, and the magic powers they all share. Their secret is what brought them together, and their love for each other is unshakeable—even when that love is complicated. Complicated by problems like jealousy, or insecurity, or lust. Or love.
When accidental magic goes sideways and a boy winds up dead, Alexis and her friends come together to try to right a terrible wrong. Their first attempt fails—and their second attempt fails even harder. Left with the remains of their failed spells and more consequences than anyone could have predicted, each of them must find a way to live with their part of the story.”
More Sarah Gailey. More magic. Also apparently female friendships and gay witches? Sounds good to me!
My Dark Vanessa
Kate Elizabeth Russell
March 10, 2020
“2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.
2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?
Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.”
Obviously a very timely novel in the era of #MeToo, I’m really intrigued to see how this one goes down and what uncomfortable questions it raises.
The Glass Hotel
Emily St. John Mandel
March 24, 2020
“Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star hotel on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. On the night she meets Jonathan Alkaitis, a hooded figure scrawls a message on the lobby’s glass wall: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for Neptune-Avradimis, reads the words and orders a drink to calm down. Alkaitis, the owner of the hotel and a wealthy investment manager, arrives too late to read the threat, never knowing it was intended for him. He leaves Vincent a hundred dollar tip along with his business card, and a year later they are living together as husband and wife.
High above Manhattan, a greater crime is committed: Alkaitis is running an international Ponzi scheme, moving imaginary sums of money through clients’ accounts. He holds the life savings of an artist named Olivia Collins, the fortunes of a Saudi prince and his extended family, and countless retirement funds, including Leon Prevant’s. The collapse of the financial empire is as swift as it is devastating, obliterating fortunes and lives, while Vincent walks away into the night. Until, years later, she steps aboard a Neptune-Avramidis vessel, the Neptune Cumberland, and disappears from the ship between ports of call”.
Like many, I absolutely loved St. John Mandel’s previous novel Station Eleven, a quiet, hopeful book about rebuilding after the end of the world and the importance of the arts to our humanity. The Glass Hotel sounds completely different, but I’m sure that St. John Mandel’s prose will continue to soar and I can’t wait to read her latest effort!
The Empress of Salt and Fortune
March 24, 2020
“With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a tightly and lushly written narrative about empire, storytelling, and the anger of women.
A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.”
This Tor.com novella sounds so intriguing! If there’s anything I learned with my reading last year it’s how many terrific novellas there are out there and what an impact can be made in under 200 pages. I’m really looking forward to finding more great novellas in the new year and this looks like the perfect choice! Also ‘feminist high fantasy’ about the ‘anger of women’. Those are some pretty great descriptors.
The City We Became
March 26, 2020
“Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five.
But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.”
N.K. Jemisin. Need I say more? She’s definitely on my auto-read list by now and this is one of the most hyped and exciting SFF releases of 2020.
Robert Jackson Bennett
April 21, 2020 (???)
“The upstart firm Foundryside is struggling to make it. Orso Igancio and his star employee, former thief Sancia Grado, are accomplishing brilliant things with scriving, the magical art of encoding sentience into everyday objects, but it’s not enough. The massive merchant houses of Tevanne won’t tolerate competition, and they’re willing to do anything to crush Foundryside.
But even the merchant houses of Tevanne might have met their match. An immensely powerful and deadly entity has been resurrected in the shadows of Tevanne, one that’s not interested in wealth or trade routes: a hierophant, one of the ancient practitioners of scriving. And he has a great fascination for Foundryside, and its employees – especially Sancia.
Now Sancia and the rest of Foundryside must race to combat this new menace, which means understanding the origins of scriving itself – before the hierophant burns Tevanne to the ground.”
There have also been January and February release dates for this one floating around, but I’m going with the bookseller pre-order date of April 21st. At this point Robert Jackson Bennett is both an auto-read/buy author and one of the few white cis straight men that I trust to write women/woc well. I adored his Divine Cities trilogy and thought Foundryside, the first in his Founders series, with its astounding worldbuilding was one of the most intelligent, thoughtful books I read in 2018. I can’t wait to dive into this sequel!
The Silence of Bones
April 21, 2020
“1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman.
As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder.
But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly.”
Hadeer’s most anticipated reads turned me onto this one. I don’t have a ton of YA on my TBR for next year and The Silence of Bones sounds unique for the genre. After Pachinko I’ve definitely had an interest in Korean lit/history, and the author is Canadian and apparently we even work for the same library system (although to my knowledge we’ve never met)!
Swimming in the Dark
April 28, 2020
“When university student Ludwik meets Janusz at a summer agricultural camp, he is fascinated yet wary of this handsome, carefree stranger. But a chance meeting by the river soon becomes an intense, exhilarating, and all-consuming affair. After their camp duties are fulfilled, the pair spend a dreamlike few weeks camping in the countryside, bonding over an illicit copy of James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. Inhabiting a beautiful natural world removed from society and its constraints, Ludwik and Janusz fall deeply in love. But in their repressive communist and Catholic society, the passion they share is utterly unthinkable.
Once they return to Warsaw, the charismatic Janusz quickly rises in the political ranks of the party and is rewarded with a highly-coveted position in the ministry. Ludwik is drawn toward impulsive acts of protest, unable to ignore rising food prices and the stark economic disparity around them. Their secret love and personal and political differences slowly begin to tear them apart as both men struggle to survive in a regime on the brink of collapse.”
Rachel, Steph, and I have a bit of a pattern of reading books described as gay and heartbreaking and this certainly fits the bill. There was a distinct lack of depressing fiction in my 2019 reads. I’m hoping to change that and to be really emotionally impacted by something, and this might be the perfect choice. I also haven’t read a lot of Polish lit and I’m intrigued to see what that looks like.
May 5, 2020
“Murderbot returns in its highly-anticipated, first, full-length standalone novel.
You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.
Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.”
Hands down the 2020 release that I am most excited about! Martha Wells was my favourite discovery of 2019. The Murderbot quartet of novellas are absolutely brilliant, with a protagonist who is snarky, relatable, and human even in its desire to be anything but. Like many other Muderbot devotees, I jumped for joy when I heard there would be a full-length novel featuring Murderbot.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
May 19, 2020
“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will revisit the world of Panem sixty-four years before the events of The Hunger Games, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games.”
The title and the cover are objectively pretty awful but how could I not be excited about a return to Panam (and terrified, definitely terrified)!
Harrow the Ninth
June 2, 2020
“Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.
Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?”
Gideon the Ninth wasn’t an absolute slam dunk for me; I found the worldbuilding incomplete and the pacing uneven, however it was still one of the most singularly unique books I’ve ever read. I fell in love with the characters and I can’t wait to see where Muir takes them next in her second The Locked Tomb book.
The Court of Miracles
June 2nd 2020
“A diverse fantasy re-imagining of Les Misérables and The Jungle Book.
In the dark days following a failed French Revolution, in the violent jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, young cat-burglar Eponine (Nina) Thenardier goes head to head with merciless royalty, and the lords of the city’s criminal underworld to save the life of her adopted sister Cosette (Ettie).
Her vow will take her from the city’s dark underbelly, through a dawning revolution, to the very heart of the glittering court of Louis XVII, where she must make an impossible choice between guild, blood, betrayal and war.“
I mean the pitch is “a diverse fantasy re-imagining of Les Misérables and The Jungle Book”. This could be terrible but I’m so curious about what a combination of those two things would look like!
The Tyrant Baru Cormorant
June 9th 2020
“The hunt is over. After fifteen years of lies and sacrifice, Baru Cormorant has the power to destroy the Imperial Republic of Falcrest that she pretends to serve. The secret society called the Cancrioth is real, and Baru is among them.
But the Cancrioth’s weapon cannot distinguish the guilty from the innocent. If it escapes quarantine, the ancient hemorrhagic plague called the Kettling will kill hundreds of millions…not just in Falcrest, but all across the world. History will end in a black bloodstain.
Is that justice? Is this really what Tain Hu hoped for when she sacrificed herself?
Baru’s enemies close in from all sides. Baru’s own mind teeters on the edge of madness or shattering revelation. Now she must choose between genocidal revenge and a far more difficult path — a conspiracy of judges, kings, spies and immortals, puppeteering the world’s riches and two great wars in a gambit for the ultimate prize.
If Baru had absolute power over the Imperial Republic, she could force Falcrest to abandon its colonies and make right its crimes.”
I know, I haven’t even read The Monster Baru Cormorant yet, but I’m planning to prioritize it this year and then carry on with this third book in the series. The Traitor Baru Cormorant is an all-time favourite of mine that I’m excited to revisit.
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water
June 23, 2020
“Zen Cho returns with a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.
A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.”
I wasn’t as enthralled by The True Queen as I was Sorcerer to the Crown, but I still enjoyed reading it a great deal. I’m excited about anything Zen Cho has to offer and the blurb sounds right up my alley and fits in well with my recent plunge into The Untamed obsession! This also fits in well with my continuing read more novellas goal for 2020!
The Angel of the Crows
June 23, 2020
Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of this London too. But this London has an Angel. The Angel of the Crows.”
Somehow I only recently found out about this?? I’m a little appalled at my lack of awareness of this book because The Goblin Emperor is one of my all-time favourites… as is her Doctrine of Labyrinths quartet published under the name Sarah Monette. At this point I would read anything she chooses to write and a paranormal Victorian London is certainly appealing!
The Empire of Gold
June 30, 2020
“Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.
And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.”
I still haven’t read Kingdom of Copper, but I loved City of Brass and look forward to reading the final chapter in the Daevabad Trilogy!
The Island Child
July 28, 2020
“Twenty years ago, Oona left the island of Inis for the very first time. A wind-blasted rock of fishing boats and sheep’s wool, where the only book was the Bible and girls stayed in their homes until mothers themselves, the island was a gift for some, a prison for others. Oona was barely more than a girl, but promised herself she would leave the tall tales behind and never return.
The Island Child tells two stories: of the child who grew up watching births and betrayals, storms and secrets, and of the adult Oona, desperate to find a second chance, only to discover she can never completely escape. As the strands of Oona’s life come together, in blood and marriage and motherhood, she must accept the price we pay when we love what is never truly ours . . .”
Magic realism can be hit or miss for me, but I’ve read some books in the genre I truly loved and the emphasis on Irish folklore definitely appeals to my interests and my roots. This is also one of the more gorgeous covers I’ve seen!
So there you go! Nearly double the number of anticipated reads I had last year (especially if you add in Rebecca Kuang’s The Burning God and Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, both due to be released in Fall 2020 although they don’t have cover art yet). Are you eagerly awaiting some of these too? Is there another upcoming release that you can’t wait to read? Please comment and let me know!