On the Smugglers’ Radar: April 2021
“On The Smugglers’ Radar” is a feature for books that have caught our eye: books we have heard of via other readers, directly from publishers, and/or from our regular incursions from various corners of the interwebs. Because we want far more books than we can possibly buy or review (what else is new?), we are revamping the Smugglers’ Radar into a monthly (mostly) SFF-focused feature – so YOU can tell us which books you have on your radar as well!
Starting this month, all of our monthly picks can be found on Bookshop!
This one had us at “navigating an afterlife in which [the main character] must defeat an AI entity intent on destroying humanity.”
The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Simon & Schuster BFYR | April 6, 2021
Westworld meets Warcross in this high-stakes, incisive, dizzyingly smart sci-fi about a teen girl navigating an afterlife in which she must defeat an AI entity intent on destroying humanity, from award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman.
Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years.
The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.
When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.
As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.
From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes an incisive, action-packed tale that explores big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity.
This next book is the second in a Mughal-inspired fantasy series (clearly I need book 1 to read immediately as well).
Gifting Fire by Alina Boyden
Ace Books | April 13, 2021
The battle has been won, but the war is just beginning.
Although at long last Razia Khan has found peace with herself and love with her prince, Arjun, her trials are far from over. In order to save her prince and his city from certain destruction, Razia made a deal with the devil–her father, the Sultan of Nizam. Now the bill has come due.
Razia must secure the province of Zindh, a land surrounded by enemies, and loyal to a rebel queen who has survived her father’s purge. But when her old tormentor Prince Karim invades her new home and forces her into a marriage alliance, Razia finds herself trapped in the women’s quarters of a foreign palace, with her beloved Prince Arjun exiled from her side.
Now, in order to free herself, and her province, from Karim’s clutches, she must call upon all of her training as a royal princess, a cunning courtesan, and a daring thief to summon new allies and old friends for a battle that will decide her fate, and the fate of an empire.
The next book in Becky Chambers’ optimistic, charming Wayfarer’s series is out at the end of this month–HUZZAH!
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers
Harper Voyager | April 20, 2021
Return to the sprawling, Hugo Award-winning universe of the Galactic Commons to explore another corner of the cosmos—one often mentioned, but not yet explored—in this absorbing entry in the Wayfarers series, which blends heart-warming characters and imaginative adventure.
With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.
At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.
When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.
Speaking of new releases in favorite series, the newest Murderbot is out this month as well (thank you kindly, Martha Wells):
Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells
Tordotcom | April 27, 2021
The sixth part of the Murderbot Diaries series that began with All Systems Red, this novella takes place between Exit Strategy and the novel Network Effect.
No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.
When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people–who knew?)
Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!
Leigh Bardugo has a big April–Shadow and Bone starts streaming, and this second book in the King of Scars duology (also set in the Grishaverse) just dropped.
Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo
Imprint | March 30, 2021
The wolves are circling and a young king will face his greatest challenge in the explosive finale of the instant #1 New York Times-bestselling King of Scars Duology.
The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible.
The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.
The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.
King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.
This historical thriller sounds tantalizingly awesome:
The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur
Feiwel & Friends | April 20, 2021
Suspenseful and richly atmospheric, June Hur’s The Forest of Stolen Girls is a haunting historical mystery sure to keep readers guessing until the last page.
1426, Joseon (Korea). Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest near a gruesome crime scene.
Years later, Detective Min?Hwani’s father?learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared from the same forest that nearly stole his daughters. He travels to their hometown on the island of Jeju to investigate… only to vanish as well.
Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village?and collides with her now estranged sister, Maewol?Hwani comes to realize that the answer could lie within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.
Speaking of thrillers, I’m excited for this monster-in-the-woods tale:
Near The Bone by Christina Henry
Berkeley | April 13, 2021
A woman trapped on a mountain attempts to survive more than one kind of monster, in a dread-inducing horror novel from the national bestselling author Christina Henry.
Mattie can’t remember a time before she and William lived alone on a mountain together. She must never make him upset. But when Mattie discovers the mutilated body of a fox in the woods, she realizes that they’re not alone after all.
There’s something in the woods that wasn’t there before, something that makes strange cries in the night, something with sharp teeth and claws.
When three strangers appear on the mountaintop looking for the creature in the woods, Mattie knows their presence will anger William. Terrible things happen when William is angry.
Charlie Jane Anders’ first YA novel! It’s almost here!
Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders
Tor Teen | April 13, 2021
Outsmart Your Enemies. Outrun the Galaxy.
“Just please, remember what I told you. Run. Don’t stop running for anything.”
Tina never worries about being ‘ordinary’–she doesn’t have to, since she’s known practically forever that she’s not just Tina Mains, average teenager and beloved daughter. She’s also the keeper of an interplanetary rescue beacon, and one day soon, it’s going to activate, and then her dreams of saving all the worlds and adventuring among the stars will finally be possible. Tina’s legacy, after all, is intergalactic–she is the hidden clone of a famed alien hero, left on Earth disguised as a human to give the universe another chance to defeat a terrible evil.
But when the beacon activates, it turns out that Tina’s destiny isn’t quite what she expected. Things are far more dangerous than she ever assumed–and everyone in the galaxy is expecting her to actually be the brilliant tactician and legendary savior Captain Thaoh Argentian, but Tina….is just Tina. And the Royal Fleet is losing the war, badly–the starship that found her is on the run and they barely manage to escape Earth with the planet still intact.
Luckily, Tina is surrounded by a crew she can trust, and her best friend Rachel, and she is still determined to save all the worlds. But first she’ll have to save herself.
Buckle up your seatbelt for this thrilling YA sci-fi adventure set against an intergalactic war from internationally bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders.
This one is a bit of a cheat since it technically came out in 2017, but is now getting a beautiful paperback repackage this month (and also it’s Silvia Moreno-Garcia so obviously gonna recommend it):
The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Tor Trade | April 27, 2021
From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a sweeping romance with a dash of magic.
They are the Beautiful Ones, Loisail’s most notable socialites, and this spring is Nina’s chance to join their ranks, courtesy of her well-connected cousin and his calculating wife. But the Grand Season has just begun, and already Nina’s debut has gone disastrously awry. She has always struggled to control her telekinesis?neighbors call her the Witch of Oldhouse?and the haphazard manifestations of her powers make her the subject of malicious gossip.
When entertainer Hector Auvray arrives to town, Nina is dazzled. A telekinetic like her, he has traveled the world performing his talents for admiring audiences. He sees Nina not as a witch, but ripe with potential to master her power under his tutelage. With Hector’s help, Nina’s talent blossoms, as does her love for him.
But great romances are for fairytales, and Hector is hiding a truth from Nina ? and himself?that threatens to end their courtship before it truly begins.
The Beautiful Ones is a charming tale of love and betrayal, and the struggle between conformity and passion, set in a world where scandal is a razor-sharp weapon.
Last but certainly not least, Marina Lostetter–the glorious, brilliant author behind the Noumenon series–has a fantasy novel out this month, and I need it in my life RIGHT NOW.
The Helm of Midnight by Marina Lostetter
Tor Books | April 13, 2021
A legendary serial killer stalks the streets of a fantastical city in The Helm of Midnight, the stunning first novel in a new trilogy from acclaimed author Marina Lostetter.
In a daring and deadly heist, thieves have made away with an artifact of terrible power–the death mask of Louis Charbon. Made by a master craftsman, it is imbued with the spirit of a monster from history, a serial murderer who terrorized the city with a series of gruesome murders.
Now Charbon is loose once more, killing from beyond the grave. But these murders are different from before, not simply random but the work of a deliberate mind probing for answers to a sinister question.
It is up to Krona Hirvath and her fellow Regulators to enter the mind of madness to stop this insatiable killer while facing the terrible truths left in his wake.
And that’s it from us! What books do you have on your radar?