Our Holiday Gift Guides are here to help you find the perfect page-turner for every bookworm on your list this year!
The eight books on this list are an excellent showcase of the banner year that was 2023 for science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Rising stars and established masters of the genre alike are represented, and while you’ve probably heard of at least one book on this list, there’s a few cult favorites here as well, in case you’re buying for an SFF reader who seems to have read everything.
Bookshops & Bonedust
Viv’s career with the notorious mercenary company Rackam’s Ravens isn’t going as planned. Wounded during the hunt for a powerful necromancer, she’s packed off against her will to recuperate in the sleepy beach town of Murk—so far from the action that she worries she’ll never be able to return to it. What’s a thwarted soldier of fortune to do? Spending her hours at a beleaguered bookshop in the company of its foul-mouthed proprietor is the last thing Viv would have predicted, but it may be both exactly what she needs and the seed of changes she couldn’t possibly imagine. Still, adventure isn’t all that far away. A suspicious traveler in gray, a gnome with a chip on her shoulder, a summer fling, and an improbable number of skeletons prove Murk to be more eventful than Viv could have ever expected.
In the vibrant city-state of Castellane, the richest of nobles and the most debauched of criminals have one thing in common: the constant search for wealth, power, and the next hedonistic thrill. Kel is an orphan, stolen from the life he knew to become the Sword-Catcher—the body-double of a royal heir, Prince Conor Aurelian. He has been raised alongside the prince, trained in every aspect of combat and statecraft. He and Conor are close as brothers, but Kel knows he has one destiny: to die for Conor. No other future is possible. Lin Caster is one of the Ashkar, a small community who still possess magical abilities. By law, they must live behind walls in the city, but Lin, a physician, ventures out to tend to the sick and dying of Castellane. Despite her skills, she cannot heal her best friend Mariam without access to forbidden knowledge. After a failed assassination attempt brings Lin and Kel together, they are drawn into the web of the mysterious Ragpicker King, the criminal ruler of Castellane’s underworld. He offers them each what they want most; but as they descend into his world of intrigue and shadow, they discover a conspiracy of corruption that reaches from the darkest gutters of Castellane to the highest tower of its palaces. As long-kept secrets begin to unravel, they must ask themselves: Is knowledge worth the price of betrayal? Can forbidden love bring down a kingdom? And will Lin and Kel’s discoveries plunge their nation into war—and the world into chaos?
Alix E. Harrow
Opal is a lot of things—orphan, high school dropout, full-time cynic and part-time cashier—but above all, she’s determined to find a better life for her younger brother Jasper. One that gets them out of Eden, Kentucky, a town remarkable for only two things: bad luck and E. Starling, the reclusive nineteenth century author of The Underland, who disappeared over a hundred years ago. All she left behind were dark rumors—and her home. Everyone agrees that it’s best to ignore the uncanny mansion and its misanthropic heir, Arthur. Almost everyone, anyway. Opal has been obsessed with The Underland since she was a child. When she gets the chance to step inside Starling House—and make some extra cash for her brother’s escape fund—she can’t resist. But sinister forces are digging deeper into the buried secrets of Starling House, and Arthur’s own nightmares have become far too real. As Eden itself seems to be drowning in its own ghosts, Opal realizes that she might finally have found a reason to stick around. And now she’ll have to fight.
A Power Unbound
Jack Alston, Lord Hawthorn, would love a nice, safe, comfortable life. After the death of his twin sister, he thought he was done with magic for good. But with the threat of a dangerous ritual hanging over every magician in Britain, he’s drawn reluctantly back into that world. Now Jack is living in a bizarre puzzle-box of a magical London townhouse, helping an unlikely group of friends track down the final piece of the Last Contract before their enemies can do the same. And to make matters worse, they need the help of writer and thief Alan Ross.
The Fragile Threads of Power
V. E. Schwab
Once there were four worlds, nestled like pages in a book, each pulsing with fantastical power and connected by a single city: London. After a desperate attempt to prevent corruption and ruin in the four Londons, there are only three—Grey London, thriving but barely able to remember its magical heritage; Red London, ruled lately by the Maresh family, flourishing and powerful; and White London, left to brutality and decay. Now the worlds are going to collide anew—brought to a dangerous precipice by the discoveries of three remarkable magicians. There’s Kosika, the child queen of White London, who has nourished her city on blood and dreams—and whose growing devotion to both is leading her down a dangerous path. Then there’s Delilah Bard, born a thief in Grey London, who crossed the worlds to become a legend far from there. She’s an infamous magician, a devious heroine, and a risk-taking rogue, all rolled into one unforgettable package. Having disappeared to seek new adventure, an old favor now calls Lila back to a dangerous port, to join some old friends who need more help than they realize. Last there is Tes, a young runaway with an unusual and powerful ability, hiding out in Red London while trying to stay out of the limelight. Tes is the only one who can keep all the worlds from unraveling—if she manages to stay alive first
Following the events in Network Effect, the Barish-Estranza corporation has sent rescue ships to a newly-colonized planet in peril, as well as additional SecUnits. But if there’s an ethical corporation out there, Murderbot has yet to find it, and if Barish-Estranza can’t have the planet, they’re sure as hell not leaving without something. If that something just happens to be an entire colony of humans, well, a free workforce is a decent runner-up prize. But there’s something wrong with Murderbot; it isn’t running within normal operational parameters. ART’s crew and the humans from Preservation are doing everything they can to protect the colonists, but with Barish-Estranza’s SecUnit-heavy persuasion teams, they’re going to have to hope Murderbot figures out what’s wrong with itself, and fast!
Black River Orchard
It’s autumn in the town of Harrow, but something else is changing in the town besides the season. Because in that town there is an orchard, and in that orchard, seven most unusual trees. And from those trees grows a new sort of apple: Strange, beautiful, with skin so red it’s nearly black. Take a bite of one of these apples and you will desire only to devour another. And another. You will become stronger. More vital. More yourself, you will believe. But then your appetite for the apples and their peculiar gifts will keep growing—and become darker. This is what happens when the townsfolk discover the secret of the orchard. Soon it seems that everyone is consumed by an obsession with the magic of the apples… and what’s the harm, if it is making them all happier, more confident, more powerful? And even if buried in the orchard is something else besides the seeds of this extraordinary tree: a bloody history whose roots reach back to the very origins of the town. But now the leaves are falling. The days grow darker. It’s harvest time, and the town will soon reap what it has sown.
Red Tower Books
Everyone expected Violet Sorrengail to die during her first year at Basgiath War College — Violet included. But Threshing was only the first impossible test meant to weed out the weak-willed, the unworthy, and the unlucky. Now the real training begins, and Violet’s already wondering how she’ll get through. It’s not just that it’s grueling and maliciously brutal, or even that it’s designed to stretch the riders’ capacity for pain beyond endurance. It’s the new vice commandant, who’s made it his personal mission to teach Violet exactly how powerless she is-unless she betrays the man she loves. Although Violet’s body might be weaker and frailer than everyone else’s, she still has her wits — and a will of iron. And leadership is forgetting the most important lesson Basgiath has taught her: Dragon riders make their own rules. But a determination to survive won’t be enough this year. Because Violet knows the real secret hidden for centuries at Basgiath War College — and nothing, not even dragon fire, may be enough to save them in the end