Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of February: 5 Top Picks

Adrian Liang on February 11, 2019
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Too-short February is bursting with very long books among our picks for the top science fiction and fantasy of the month. Two quite different fantasy series-starters from Jen Lyons and Marlon James clock in at more than 500 pages, delivering immersive reads. Those looking for brisker reading experiences have a science fiction/romance hybrid to look forward to as well as Jasper Fforde's latest absurd and outlandish novel about humans hibernating during winter. And Charlie Jane Anders's The City in the Middle of the Night packs a lot into a mid-range 368 pages.

The month is passing fast. Time to get reading!

The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons) by Jenn Lyons

Lyons kicks off her debut fantasy series with a prisoner being forced by a demon to tell his story, with the young man's family's lives at stake if he doesn't comply. Jump back in time to when Kihrin accidentally witnesses a murder while plundering a supposedly empty house, and novel's action begins its headlong charge. Magical gems, demon powers, kraken, and Kihrin's mysterious parentage layer on top of each other, making one long for a cheat sheet about kingdoms and races and who does what. But Kihrin's strange and winding road to power and then powerlessness is an entertaining one. Wry footnotes commenting on the veracity of various statements add an enjoyable flair. While this fantasy series starter won't be The Next Big Thing, it's a thoroughly entertaining read.
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The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

Charlie Jane Anders's second novel after All the Birds in the Sky is set on a planet colonized at some point by Earthlings, but whose human denizens no longer understand the technology that got them there. Nor do they understand that the "crocodile" creatures who live on the dark side of the planet are sentient. After being exiled into the dark and presumed dead, Sophie learns that the crocodiles are far smarter than any human suspects, and she slowly befriends them. But the political tensions between the humans' two cities are about to overboil, and Sophie's alliance with the crocodiles might be the one thing that can save everyone. The two main characters of Sophie and Mouth will pull readers through the story as it skips from city to wasteland to city again, and it's the complex relationships of the two that gives this novel its gravity. With this novel, Anders might have bitten off more than she can chew (political power structures, environmental hazards, fear of the other, love, revenge), but the journey itself is a rewarding one.
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Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy) by Marlon James

It might be wise to consider why you enjoy reading fantasy before cracking open Marlon James's much-anticipated Black Leopard, Red Wolf. Those who thrill to heroic sacrifices, the struggle of good versus evil, and right against might… well, this novel is not going to push any of those buttons. Readers who prize immersion in a strange new world will have better stamina for the onslaught of violence and rape. There's much to admire here: hypnotic, magical stories; strange beings with unique powers; deeply complex characters; a pitch-dark humor; a vivid newness that many (most) fantasies lack. But the reading experience is, I imagine, like watching a skillfully shot snuff film: If your admiration for the lighting and pacing and technique can overcome your queasiness with the subject matter, you'll get something rewarding out of this read. I highly recommend using the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon to sample the first few pages—it will give you a good snapshot of what to expect.
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Early Riser: A Novel by Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde has a way with words and worlds. His latest novel is set in an alternate Wales where most of the human population hibernates through the deadly winter months. A few people—members of the Winter Consul Service—stay awake to watch over the sleepers and to ensure that everyone has a peaceful winter. Enter Charlie Worthing, who is embarking on his first winter and attempting to navigate the ins and outs of his new job, complete with intense isolation, nebulous Wintervolk, and the stray zombified aristocrat. The last thing Charlie is equipped for is a visit to Sector Twelve. The story is told, of course, with Fforde’s particular brand of wink-wink humor, which fans of his Thursday Next books will love. All in all, this book is a delightful romp through an eye-opening new world. —Review by Alison Walker, Amazon Bookstore
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Polaris Rising: A Novel (The Consortium Rebellion) by Jessie Mihalik

This highly enjoyable and action-filled read blooms in that normally barren zone between sci-fi and romance. A princess on the run from an arranged marriage, a vigilante super-soldier, a Very Bad Dude, lots of complicated heists and hand-to-hand combat, and a mysterious new way to recharge FTL drives quicker than ever before whirl together in this breakneck-paced space opera. After being on the run for two years from her father and the arranged marriage he wants for her, Ada is captured and locked in a cell with the notorious Devil of Fornax Zero. Her wits plus his strength are the perfect combination… if only they can trust each other. And that distrust runs deep on both sides. But when Ada realizes that a rival House might have developed a new technology that could tip the balance of power and start a galaxy-wide war, going home again might be the only way forward. This fun, tense, and sexy novel is clearly the beginning of an ongoing series, with the next novel featuring Ada's sister, Bianca.
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Looking for more SF and fantasy recommendations? See all our picks for the best books of the month, including a biting cautionary tale from Robert Jackson Bennett, an anthology of contemporary Chinese science fiction edited by Ken Liu, and a new series-starter from Paper Magicians author Charlie N. Holmberg.


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