To say fall 2023 is packing some truly stellar sci-fi and fantasy releases would be something of an understatement. The next few months include a return to the world of Red London, two truly unsettling houses, and giant cats that wear business suits (which is as adorable as it is terrifying to think about).
Below you’ll find 12 highly anticipated sci-fi and fantasy titles hitting shelves soon.
The Free People’s Village by Sim Kern
Image: Levine Querido
Do you ever catch yourself wondering what our world would look like if Al Gore had won the 2000 election and proceeded to declare a war on climate change? In Sim Kern’s upcoming novel The Free People’s Village (the first adult title to be published by Levine Querido, previously known for its diverse, award-winning children’s literature), the answer is considerably greener and more eco-friendly, but not for everyone.
When the historically Black neighborhood in Houston where she teaches — and where the queer punk band she’s part of meets to play – is threatened by the development of a new electromagnetic hyperway, disillusioned Maddie Ryan decides it’s time to take a stand. In an effort to keep her band together — and, importantly, to spend more time with her crush — Maggie joins a local, Black-led movement on the brink of an anti-capitalist revolution that will change history forever.
A timely tale that feels like it could be ripped from the headlines, The Free People’s Village could easily fall prey to the white savior trope. Kern instead has Maddie reckon with her whiteness and the damage that she has unwittingly caused to the community she calls home in a thought-provoking and unflinching story of revolution.
Rouge by Mona Awad
Image: Simon & Schuster
Don’t plan on starting Rouge if you have any chores that need to be completed sometime in the near future. Mona Awad is an expert when it comes to crafting surreal (and often horrific) gothic tales that suck you in from the very first page and stick with you long after you’ve finished reading it.
In Rouge, Awad ruthlessly tackles the beauty industry and the often unachievable standards it holds modern society to, drawing inspiration along the way from Snow White, Egyptian mythology, and of all people, Tom Cruise. Rouge’s protagonist, Belle, is lured to a reportedly transformative and undeniably cultlike spa known as La Maison de Méduse (a name that should be enough to raise a few eyebrows) after her glamorous mother’s mysterious death. Once there, Belle learns of her mother’s unhealthy obsessions and the monsters (both of the fairy-tale variety and otherwise) that seemingly lurk around every corner.
Inspired by the skinfluencers that populate TikTok, Awad has crafted a cinematic and gripping tale about the relationship between mothers and daughters, and what we’re prepared to do to “fit in.”
Starter Villain by John Scalzi
Following in the footsteps of sci-fi greats like Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, who embraced the absurd and tackled larger subjects like workers’ rights, trade unions, and late-stage capitalism, John Scalzi is truly a must-read no matter the subject. His new novel, Starter Villain, is no exception.
Divorced and living alone with his cat, it’s fair to say Charlie’s life hasn’t gone exactly according to plan. It’s not a bad life, but it’s not a particularly remarkable one, either. All of that changes when Charlie’s estranged uncle, a notorious supervillain, passes away and leaves him his business. Being a supervillain isn’t all sunshine, secret lairs, and super-intelligent spy cats. Charlie’s uncle had enemies, and now it’s up to him to put these soulless goons in their place and follow in his family’s footsteps. Starter Villain is a madcap, hilarious adventure and a truly delightful story of a villain you’ll end up rooting for.
The Navigating Fox by Christopher Rowe
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but Quintus Shu’al, the world’s only navigating fox, learns the hard way this isn’t always the case.
In Christopher Rowe’s novella, animals are divided into two categories: “knowledgeable” and “voiceless.” Quintus, being knowledgeable, has been gifted with human intelligence and the ability to communicate using spoken language, and he can maneuver his way through a network of mysterious pathways otherwise invisible to the human eye. After a trip to the gates of hell goes horribly awry, Quintus is pressed into guiding a second expedition (consisting of a sinister priest, a bison ambassador, and twin raccoons, among others) in order to save his own skin.
Set in an alternate North America and taking inspiration from Roman history, The Navigating Fox is perfect for readers who grew up on a steady diet of Redwall and enjoy complex philosophical debates about creation. It’s part tall tale, part intricate heist novel and, quite frankly, downright weird in the best way possible.
The Undetectables by Courtney Smyth
Image: Titan Books
What do you get when three witches and a ghost stuck for eternity in a cat costume join forces to solve supernatural mysteries together? Courtney Smyth’s downright delightful and unapologetically queer new novel, The Undetectables.
The citizens of the occult town of Wrackton have a big problem. There’s a serial killer on the loose, and the hypnotic whistling that heralds their arrival is causing victims to chew off their own tongues in a truly gruesome act of violence. With very little evidence to go on, virtually no leads, and a less-than-stellar track record when it comes to solving mysteries — their first case is technically still open — the job of catching the killer falls to Mallory, Cornelia, Diana, and Theodore (the aforementioned unlucky ghost). What transpires is a compulsively readable race against the clock to stop a supernatural killer before they strike again.
The Fragile Threads of Power by V.E. Schwab
Everyone’s favorite world-hopping magicians are back in the start of a brand-new series from V.E. Schwab, beloved author of the Shades of Magic trilogy.
Seven years have come to pass since Kell Maresh and his fellow Antari saved the world from devastation. He and Lila have since been spending life at sea, living as privateers, while Kell struggles to cope with the loss of his magical abilities. When news of an assassination attempt on his brother reaches them, Kell and Lila are forced to return to Red London. It’s there that they learn of a precocious new Antari, Kosika, who has claimed White London’s throne in Holland’s absence, and of a rebellion set on tearing down the monarchy in its entirety. Amid all of this magical chaos and political intrigue, a young thief discovers a device that could bring friends and enemies together, and change the world as they know it.
The Fragile Threads of Power is a delightfully nostalgic addition to the world V.E. Schwab has created that still keeps things fresh with the introduction of new characters and the promise of more story to come.
Starling House by Alix E. Harrow
As sumptuous and romantic as it is sinister, Alix E. Harrow’s foray into Southern gothic literature is a perfect book to ring in the start of spooky season.
Set in the rapidly decaying town of Eden, Kentucky, Starling House tells the story of a hardscrabble young woman named Opal, the sentient manor house that haunts her dreams, and its stubborn, self-sacrificing (and frustratingly handsome) heir, Arthur Starling. Destitute and desperate for work, Opal takes a job as a house cleaner for Arthur despite her initial misgivings about him — he’s far too broody — and the Starling House, both of which are fueled by small-town rumors about a reclusive 19th-century author who mysteriously vanished years ago. But what begins as a relationship built on mutual mistrust soon turns into a tenuous alliance and undeniable attraction as Opal and Arthur spend increasingly more time together in the face of the sinister forces that threaten both of their lives.
Menewood by Nicola Griffith
Ten years after the release of Hild, Nicola Griffith is finally returning to the meticulously researched and gorgeously rendered seventh-century Britain that St. Hilda of Whitby — known for turning snakes into stone and leading one of the most important abbeys in Anglo-Saxon history — called home.
Like its predecessor, Menewood continues to expand upon the canon of what little is known about Hild’s life and her rumored otherworldly abilities. No longer a bright-eyed young girl, though still as fierce and determined as ever, Hild is faced with a world on the brink of war. Former alliances are tested and surprising new friendships are struck as she strives to protect her kingdom and navigates the unconventional community that has built itself around her.
Clocking in at just over 700 pages, Menewood is easily the longest book on this list, and is sure to keep you reading through the fall months and into the winter.
Shield Maiden by Sharon Emmerichs
If you’re someone who can’t resist a story based on epic mythology or who couldn’t put down Maria Dahvana Headley’s recent, powerfully feminist translation of Beowulf, then you might want to put Shield Maiden by Sharon Emmerichs on your TBR pile.
Subversive and action-packed from start to finish, Shield Maiden tells the story of Beowulf from a very different perspective. Fryda, raised on tales of her uncle, King Beowulf, wants nothing more in the world than to be a shield maiden, but a childhood accident has kept her from achieving her dreams. At least until now. Fryda must muster her courage and what power she wields when her father’s kingdom is threatened by foreign lords and a dragon of legend begins to stir in its fabled lair.
A Haunting on the Hill by Elizabeth Hand
Image: Mulholland Books
With three Shirley Jackson awards to her name, it should come as no surprise that Elizabeth Hand’s upcoming novel, A Haunting on the Hill, is “the first-ever authorized novel to return to the world of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.” And what better time to read a chilling tale of isolation and madness than when the weather grows suddenly colder and the sun begins to set earlier in the day. It’s incredibly creepy, and will have you jumping at every sound your house makes at night.
Desperate to find the perfect space to work on her new play, Holly Sherwin jumps at the opportunity to rent Hill House when she discovers it on a weekend getaway. The old mansion — massive and unsettling — speaks to her the moment Holly sets eyes on it. Her girlfriend is less sure about it, but agrees to accompany Holly to the house. As they settle in, strange things begin to occur. Time begins to play tricks on them, and disturbing sounds are heard echoing in the empty halls. Soon, what begins as a writing retreat turns into a fight with something ancient and sinister that refuses to stand alone.
Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind by Molly McGhee
Image: Astra House
Death is present from the first page in Molly McGhee’s hotly anticipated and surprisingly touching debut novel, Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind. It’s a delightfully searing critique of late-stage capitalism in which McGhee examines what might happen if the worst of the worst in our society figured out a way to audit dreams.
Jonathan Abernathy has had a bad string of luck. He’s lonely, broke, and spinning his metaphorical wheels in the mud. When a job opportunity comes to him in a dream (literally), Jonathan jumps at the chance to change his life. He soon finds himself marking anxieties for removal from the dreams of white-collar workers, which is all well and good until the lines between his life and his work become increasingly unclear.
A Power Unbound by Freya Marske
If I had the ability to make everyone read one trilogy of books, it would be The Last Binding, Freya Marske’s phenomenal (and extremely spicy) fantasy series. No one intersperses gleeful, squeal-inducing sexual tension with tender and painfully human interactions between characters quite like Marske does. Think of your favorite romance trope. Is it rivals to lovers? Enemies to something more? Sunshine and grump? Forced proximity? Chances are you’ll find it in one of these books.
A Power Unbound is a deeply satisfying conclusion to this series. Not long after the devastating death of his twin sister, Jack Alston finds himself drawn back to an alluring world of magic and mystery he wants nothing to do with. Waiting for him is a bizarre London townhouse, a group of eccentric and unlikely friends, and the inimitable Alan Ross. A writer and a thief by trade, Alan finds Jack to be absolutely insufferable. Jack, on the other hand, finds Alan to be insufferable and very attractive.
When Jack’s ancestral home and the very foundations of magic are threatened, the two are forced to join forces and work out some kinks (both literally and figuratively, thanks to some clever pamphlets).