Amazon's best books of December: Today's releases

Erin Kodicek on December 03, 2019
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Today's releases include the highly anticipated second book in the Legacy of Orisha fantasy series; the thrilling story of a perilous polar adventure; a chilling work of speculative fiction; and the fascinating story of the Congo river basin and lands west.

Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.   


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Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Legacy of Orisha) by Tomi Adeyemi

Tomi Adeyemi scores another hit with her second book Children of Virtue and Vengeance. Adeyemi elegantly brings readers back into the world she created In her blockbuster debut, Children of Blood and Bone, picking up the thread after Zélie’s powerful ritual brought magic back to the realm. The war between the monarchy and the maji rages on. Zélie is still reeling from heartbreak and betrayal, and now the expectation of her people—to whom she is the Soldier of Death--weighs heavy on her shoulders. Amari prepares to take the throne, believing she can be a queen who will unite the country, but those in power have other ideas. There is more magic than ever in this novel, Zélie’s ritual having unexpectedly created tîtáns and cênters, non-maji who wield powerful magic. A sense of duty and righteousness begins to corrupt even those with the best of intentions. Bids for peace are met with acts of revenge, and ruthlessness rules the day. Death and destruction burns through these pages as love and loyalty are tested. Once again, Adeyemi wraps things up with both a satisfying conclusion to this piece of the puzzle and a thrilling glimpse of what’s to come. —Seira Wilson


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Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition by Buddy Levy

In 1881, American Army officer Lieutenant Adolphus W. Greely and his crew of scientists and explorers set off on an expedition to go as far north as possible—to the Farthest North—and to break the record held by the British for three centuries. While stationed there, Greely’s team established research stations and collected scientific data, all while fighting frostbite, intense darkness, mutinous crew, and packs of marauding wolves. After waiting two years for resupply ships to reach them, Greely took his men on a harrowing journey south to find rescue, travelling over 200 miles with ever-dwindling supplies, the men going so far as to eat their shoes and sleeping-bag covers to stay alive. Levy’s narrative situates the expedition within the complex cultural framework of the late nineteenth century, giving his readers plenty background to the political decisions that drove the exhibition and the accompanying rescue missions. At the same time, Levy never overburdens his readers in minutiae, deftly telling the harrowing story of Greely and his men and their historic voyage. —Alison Walker


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Anyone by Charles Soule

Charles Soule’s second novel (after The Oracle Year) is a fast-paced, mind-bending science fiction adventure that will have you thinking about it days after you have finished. The book employs alternating chapters: one storyline begins in a barn in current day Ann Arbor, Michigan, as a female scientist unintentionally discovers a way to transport consciousness from one person to another; the other takes place twenty-five years in the future, once that technology has spread across the globe. Soule is able to explore a multitude of questions—about consciousness, privacy, anonymity, and identity—even as he keeps the action propelling forward. And when the two threads of the story merge, readers will experience the kind of aha moment that a high-caliber thriller will generate. The Oracle Year was a debut that announced an exciting new voice in speculative fiction; now Anyone is here to let us know that Charles Soule plans to stick around for a while. —Chris Schluep


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Land of Tears: The Exploration and Exploitation of Equatorial Africa by Robert Harms

Colorful characters Henry Morton Stanley, Tippu Tip, King Leopold II of Belgium, the sultan of Zanzibar, and Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza are among those in Robert Harms’ gripping history of the exploration of the belt of Africa in the 1880s. They are also culpable in the ravaging of its people. The surge in the ivory trade—connected with a popularity boom in pianos—decimated elephant herds even as ivory-hunting caravans killed or enslaved the people living in the once-remote interior. As demand pivoted from ivory to rubber, concession holders and investors take even more desperate measures to pull as much profit from equatorial Africa as they can before others move in. Land of Tears takes first-person accounts from Western explorers, slave traders, and empire builders to show how global commerce and a temptingly unexploited land succumbed to intentions both good and bad. This slice of our past may sound depressing—and how greed or ego overthrow decency over and over again indeed is shocking—but there’s fascination as well in about how a desire in Connecticut for piano keys can lead to gun battles between Arab traders half the planet away. We might like to think that globalization is a modern syndrome, but Land of Tears proves that the scramble for profit at all costs has spanned the world for generations. —Adrian Liang

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