Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of January: 5 Top Picks

Adrian Liang on January 21, 2019

If you're particularly pained by the idea of waiting a year for the release of the second book in your newest favorite series, then get ready for good news. January 2019 is filled with second books or third of series that have wowed readers with book one. And if you haven't yet started these series, the news is even better: Because you now have two—or three!—great reads that will consume your imagination this month.

The Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty

The City of Brass ended on a breathtaking reveal. The Kingdom of Copper—book two of Chakraborty's Daevabad trilogy—pulls the main characters apart, setting them on their own perilous journeys without being able to rely on each other… or be betrayed by each other. The exiled prince Ali has powers that were conveyed upon him by mysterious forces in the big battle of book one, Nahri is learning just how far she can push open the bars of her royal cage, and supernatural forces roil as they sense an opening for taking control of the world once more. In other words, things are even more complicated than before… and Chakraborty's confident writing is a perfect map to a djinn-filled world readers that will hate to leave. (January 22 release)

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

As the third book opens in Arden's fantasy trilogy set in medieval Russia, Moscow is burning. Vasya is one of the few who can still see and speak with the old spirits who guard the hearth, calm horses, or lure unwary travelers into bogs, but her impatience and sense of invincibility has led to this disaster. Before the ashes of the city cool, old enemies rise to take their revenge on Vasya, and only through striking a bargain with a previous foe does Vasya have a chance to survive. Under the pressure of her mistakes, Vasya transforms into a battered but wiser warrior, and to save Russia from the all-too-human invaders at its borders, she must find a way for the old magic to work with the new. Arden's writing is almost luminescent in its power and emotion, and she bypasses lyrical fripperies for spare, white-hot storytelling. Not only does the Winternight Trilogy shine among Russian-inspired tales, it establishes a new high bar for coming-of-age fantasy epics. The Amazon editors picked all three books in the Winternight Trilogy as Best Books of the Month among all books published that month, and I can't wait to see what Arden creates next. See our interview with Arden about Vasya, Russian fairy tales, and the need to read all the way through to the end.

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The Fall of Io by Wesley Chu

In book one, we learned that an alien species called the Quasing have lived on Earth for a very long time and survive by jumping from human host to human host. Those hosts are carefully chosen—so it's a big surprise to the other Quasing as well as budding criminal Ella when the Quasing Io jumps into her head instead of following the proscribed path. In book two, Io and Ella have gone to ground in Tokyo to avoid the two warring Quasing, but Ella's criminal skillz won't be able to hide them forever, especially when the fate of humanity is at stake. Readers of Chu's Lives of Tao series will enjoy exploring a new slice of the Prophus and Genjix war, but new readers can dive right in with this series's book one, The Rise of Io.

The Wicked King by Holly Black

Black's sequel to The Cruel Prince opens with Jude not quite on the throne of Elfhame but certainly in the driver's seat—or so she thinks. When you come to power through trickery and betrayal, it's hard to gain trust (or give trust), and Jude now has a lot of enemies and few allies. Even as her relationship with King Cardan grows more complicated, Jude's and Cardan's upbringing amongst the backstabbing court of Faerie make it difficult for them to figure out what's a run-of-the-mill toxic relationship, what's merely posturing, and what's seriously wrong. Twisty and thrilling, this series and this heroine will have readers pre-ordering book three as soon as book two is done.

The Iron Codex by David Mack

Historical fantasy has been growing slowly but surely in the past several years, and Mack's addition to the subgenre finds its happy place in the fraught years of World War II and beyond. Well, maybe not so happy, with Nazi sorcerers afoot, the A-bomb in testing, and magickal warfare running hot on the battlefield and in the postwar shadows. Set in 1954, The Iron Codex revels in the messy politics of the Cold War as Nazi sorcerer hunter Anja Kernova is running down her enemies in South America with the help of a magickal book, and war hero Cade Martin is making former Allies suspicious of his movements and motives. Full of action and political shenanigans, this will delight readers of alternate history who appreciate a bracing dose of the supernatural.

Click here to see all our picks for the best science fiction and fantasy of the month.

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