Blackfish City (Ecco), by Sam J. Miller is set on an island city in the Arctic built after society has collapsed because of environmental disasters and war. Refugees flood the city, and a mysterious disease runs rampant through the population. One day a woman rides in on an orca, with a polar bear at her side, setting off a chain of events that ensnares a street fighter, a political lackey, an agender teen courier and a forlorn rich boy into a battle to take over the city. Miller has written an urgent tale imploring us to look at the ties between technology, race, gender and class privilege. Still, the novel is surprisingly heartwarming. Ultimately, “Blackfish” is a book about power structures and the way that privilege is built on the backs of the disenfranchised — wrapped in an action-packed science fiction thriller.
Julia Whicker’s Wonderblood (St. Martin’s) plunges readers into a marvelous and brutal world of pseudo-magic, religion and astronomy. Set in a post-apocalyptic United States 500 years in the future, the novel follows Aurora, a 14-year-old girl abandoned by her mother, a “walking doctor” who performs illegal surgeries, at a carnival run by Aurora’s brother. At these carnivals, people worship the remains of space shuttles and descendants of astronauts and believe that regular executions will replenish the land. When a rival carnival, led by a man who claims to be the True King, attacks and conquers an encampment where Aurora’s brother lives, Aurora is heralded as a queen who will lead the True King to his destiny. Aurora must decide what she believes and if she will help the man on his quest. The political machinations of the carnivals are thrilling, and the narration lush and wild. Some readers may find the ending unsatisfying, but the getting to it is entirely worth it.
Fire Dance (Tor) is a new fantasy by Ilana C. Myer set in the same world as her 2015 novel “Last Song Before Night.” Magic has returned to the poets of Vassilian and with it, new dangers. Lin Amaristoth, now Court Poet, must travel to an ally nation to help stop a war and discover who is behind evil magic plaguing the land. In Lin’s absence, one of the academy headmasters dies, and a new one takes up residence and begins spiriting away powerful students to mysterious ends. It is unclear whether “Fire Dance” is meant to be a sequel or a stand-alone novel, but new readers will be happy to learn that it’s possible to read this on its own, even if the learning curve is a bit steep. While the plot is somewhat confusing, the writing is gorgeous. Fans of fantasy intrigue will like this one.
Everdeen Mason reviews science fiction and fantasy every month for The Washington Post.