Fantasy readers may find themselves overwhelmed this season by the sheer deluge of SFF fiction hitting stores, across a number of wildly different sub-genres. If you’re the type of reader who likes many flavors of fantasy, that diversity is exciting. But where to start amongst all the new fall 2023 releases?
Check out this collection of fan-favorite authors, all of whom are stepping into fresh territories—and series—with these new fantasy novels.
THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS and THE OLYMPIAN AFFAIR by Jim Butcher
Fantasy / Steampunk | Available November 7th
If you’ve spent any time in the sci-fi/fantasy stacks at your local bookstore, you’ve probably seen Jim Butcher’s prolific output. Best known for his DRESDEN FILES urban fantasy series, Butcher ventured into steampunk territory with the 2015 novel, THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS.
That book, originally published with a cover very in-line with the style of the Dresden Files novels, kicked off THE CINDER SPIRES series. The promised sequel, however, didn’t manifest until now—eight years later!
With the release of book 2, THE OLYMPIAN AFFAIR, the first novel has also been re-released with new trade dress to match its sequel. The new covers reflect a more contemporary Fantasy design style, but I expect some readers will misinterpret them as romantasy or young adult fantasy.
What should you actually expect? Swashbuckling action adventure in a well-built steampunk-y society settled sky high, with airships and sword duels and tricksy political problems. Also, sassy talking cats!
I’ve seen it described as Fantasy Firefly, and yes, there’s a certain Malcom Reynolds-ish flair to Butcher’s Captain Francis Madison Grimm.
AN INHERITANCE OF MAGIC by Benedict Jacka
Urban Fantasy | Available October 5th
If you prefer your fantasy a little more street level, Benedict Jacka’s AN INHERITANCE OF MAGIC might be more your speed. Previously known for the ALEX VERSUS series, Jacka kicks off the new STEPHEN OAKWOOD novels with a steady and accessible coming-of-age urban fantasy story.
It follows a young man wrestling with his abandonment issues by delving into the only true inheritance left by his vanished parents: Drucraft. But self-taught magic may not save him when manipulative parties from wealthy and connected circles decide he might be a useful pawn—or even a threat.
With lean, direct prose and a unique, relatively crunchy magic system, Inheritance offers a promising series start. Some readers may find it a bit sparse for their taste, and the pretty but over-designed cover poorly reflects the tale inside. But if you’re into dark-academy-but-still-blue-collar vibes and Succession-esque family politics, give this one a try.
SWORD CATCHER by Cassandra Clare
Fantasy | Available October 10th
Cassandra Clare is the bestselling author and co-author of just a ridiculous number of Young Adult and Middle Grade Fantasy novels, notably THE SHADOWHUNTER CHRONICLES. Now she makes her first foray into adult oriented Fantasy, with SWORD CATCHER.
I’m not very familiar with Clare’s previous works. The premise of this novel caught my attention, though. Selected as an orphan for his physical similarity to the crown-prince, the titular “sword catcher” was raised as a full-time royal body double. His entire life is centered on dying in the prince’s stead should he be attacked.
A failed assassination attempt inadvertently pairs the sword catcher with a rural physician who seeks a forbidden cure for her best friend. But a shadowy patron pulls them both into their city-state’s shadowy and corrupt underworld. Their illicit discoveries may force them to betray the nation they hold dear—but the cost to do what’s right might be unimaginably high.
The graphic nature of this cover design really appealed to me, and favorably reminded me of Katy Rose Pool’s THERE WILL COME A DARKNESS. (Though I really hate it when the author’s name is bigger than the title — see also: way too many Stephen King books.)
The book is slow, slow burn, though lighter on romantic elements than Clare’s YA readers might expect. Instead, you’ll get layered plotting and world building, and tangled, emotionally compromised characters.