Recently in a meeting, we were looking at the circulation statistics (don't be jealous) and a colleague noted how well the fantasy genre was doing. This is perennially true, fantasy always does well, but these stats showed fantasy doing markedly better than the other genres. Maybe it was just a fluke of publishing schedules, but I have a hunch that the bump indicates folks are in need of a little escapism. And by little, I mean a whole planet different from our own.
Personally, I haven't been anywhere more exotic than Topeka since March (not that Topeka isn’t full of surprises) and all I can read anymore is speculative fiction, which is an umbrella term for the three big extra-fictional genres: fantasy, science fiction, and horror. I find that fantasy distinguishes itself from the other two by tending to be less scary, less plausible, and with less robots. At LPL we further subdivide fantasy into regular ol’ fantasy and urban fantasy. Here the difference is less clear, but urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and presumably in a populated area.
Since a lot of the best known fantasy books are already checked out, I’ve compiled a list of some new releases that the critics thought were absolutely fantastic. Enjoy the escape!
Boneset & Feathers by Gwendolyn Kiste
“Dead birds falling from the sky are the first sign of trouble in this dark, witchy novel… This grim tale of magic and resilience is sure to please.” Publishers Weekly
“Kiste effectively creates an intense quasi-Jacobean world where witchfinders rule, and ably depicts a culture of fear, despair, and wonder among the persecuted witches. Recommended for historical fantasy fans and general readers alike.” Booklist
Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
“Lee sets an arresting tale of loyalty, identity, and the power of art in a skillfully rendered fantasy world inspired by the Japanese occupation of Korea… Lee's masterful storytelling is sure to wow.” Publishers Weekly
Spellbreaker by Charlie Holmberg
“Those who enjoy gentle romance, cozy mysteries, or Victorian fantasy will love this first half of a duology. The cliffhanger ending will keep readers breathless waiting for the second half.” Library Journal
“Powerful magic, indulgent Victoriana, and a slow-burn romance make this genre-bending romp utterly delightful.” Kirkus
Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston
“Hairston (Will Do Magic for Small Change) dazzles with this complex epic fantasy about a people struggling to survive in the world they've helped destroy… This is an urgent, gorgeous work.” Publishers Weekly
“An epic fantasy set in an African-inspired world on the brink of ecological disaster… This book's lyrical language and unsparing vision make it a mind-expanding must-read.” Kirkus
The Midnight Bargain by CL Polk
“ The Midnight Bargain is a feminist fantasy novel that is both charming and important, further cementing Polk's place as a powerful voice in the genre whose work exposes the broken systems in the real world.” Shelf Awareness
“World Fantasy Award winner Polk delivers sharp social commentary in this excellent Regency-flavored fantasy.” Publishers Weekly
Burning Roses by SL Huang
“S.L. Huang's Burning Roses is a complex and thought-provoking adventure story following two middle-aged lesbians as they hunt monsters and reckon with their own monstrous pasts.” Shelf Awareness
“The journey, and the struggles both physical and mental are perfectly epic, even in the span of a novella.” Booklist
Over the Woodward Wall by Deborah Baker
“Seanan McGuire, writing as Baker, crafts a delightful, fable-like portal fantasy… With lyrical prose and deep stores of emotion, this grown-up fairy tale works on every level.” Publishers Weekly
“Like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland meets The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, McGuire weaves a whimsical world where it seems anything is possible, but mortal danger is around every corner.” School Library Journal
White Trash Warlock by David Slayton
“Slayton makes a splash with this urban fantasy debut starring a broke, gay wizard living in an Oklahoma trailer park… The complex worldbuilding, well-shaded depictions of poverty, emotional nuance, and thrilling action sequences make this stand out.” Publishers Weekly
“Slayton's debut uses wry humor, alternating viewpoints, and intriguing LGBTQ+ characters that will have readers eager for more of Adam Binder's escapades.” Booklist
The Factory Witches of Lowell by CS Malerich
“Sisterhood, love, and magic blossom in this timely tale of protest based on a historical incident… well-crafted and satisfying” Kirkus
“..a delightful historical fantasy shining a spotlight on New England history...” Library Journal
Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir
“Told with the humor, whimsy, and innocent romance of a children's story, this adult fairy tale is a winsome enchantment.” Publishers Weekly
-Ransom Jabara is a Collection Development Librarian at Lawrence Public Library.