“On The Smugglers’ Radar” is a feature for books that have caught our eye: books we have heard of via other bloggers, directly from publishers, and/or from our regular incursions into the Amazon jungle. Thus, the Smugglers’ Radar was born. Because we want far more books than we can possibly buy or review (what else is new?), we thought we would make the Smugglers’ Radar into a weekly feature – so YOU can tell us which books you have on your radar as well!
On Ana’s Radar:
You know, if there is a moment for a “shocking psychological thriller” to get our minds out of THINGS, this is IT:
Lola doesn’t particularly want a new stepmother. Especially not one who has come out of nowhere and only been with her dad for three weeks. And – she’s not racist or anything – but since when did her dad like black women anyway?
Darling didn’t particularly want a new stepdaughter. Especially not one as spiteful and spoilt as Lola. She does want Lola’s dad though. And he wants her, so that’s that: Darling and Lola will just have to get used to each other.
Unless Lola can find a way to get rid of Darling.
This upcoming SF debut sounds cool:
An outsider who can travel between worlds discovers a secret that threatens her new home and her fragile place in it in a stunning sci-fi debut that’s both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging.
Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: no one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from diseases, from turf wars, from vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on three hundred seventy-two worlds in total.
On this earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and, therefore, a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment in the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect offworld data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the Wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place now. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.
But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgangers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.
I am also super into the description for this own voices dark fantasy:
A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself, with terrifying and far-reaching consequences, in this stunning, feminist fantasy debut.
In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.
But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.
Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.
Oh LOOK a new Horror novel by T Kingfisher. I LOVED The Twisted Ones so I am really keen to read this new one:
Pray they are hungry.
Kara finds the words in the mysterious bunker that she’s discovered behind a hole in the wall of her uncle’s house. Freshly divorced and living back at home, Kara now becomes obsessed with these cryptic words and starts exploring this peculiar area—only to discover that it holds portals to countless alternate realities. But these places are haunted by creatures that seem to hear thoughts…and the more one fears them, the stronger they become.
With her distinctive “delightfully fresh and subversive” (SF Bluestocking) prose and the strange, sinister wonder found in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, The Hollow Places is another compelling and white-knuckled horror novel that you won’t be able to put down.
The First Sister sounds super cool and I love the cover:
Combining the social commentary of The Handmaid’s Tale with the white-knuckled thrills of Red Rising, this epic space opera follows a comfort woman as she claims her agency, a soldier questioning his allegiances, and a non-binary hero out to save the solar system.
First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is so much harder to do when you’re falling in love.
Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus, but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito’s own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.
A stunning and sweeping debut novel that explores the power of technology, colonization, race, and gender, The First Sister is perfect for fans of James S.A. Corey, Chuck Wendig, and Margaret Atwood.
On Thea’s Radar:
For my radar this week, loads of books I’ve just purchased and/or received in the mail. Starting with this forthcoming fantasy novel from the excellent Django Wexler:
Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world, in the start of Django Wexler’s new epic fantasy trilogy
Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.
Chasing rumors of a fabled city protecting a powerful artifact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.
Next up, another forthcoming Orbit title from a repeat favorite author, Melissa Caruso (set in the same universe as her excellent Tethered Mage/Sword and Fire trilogy):
The mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers.
Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall her: Ryx accidentally kills a visiting dignitary in self-defense, activating a mysterious magical artifact sealed in an ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle.
Ryx flees, seeking a solution to her deadly magic. She falls in with a group of unlikely magical experts investigating the disturbance in Vaskandar—and Ryx realizes that her family is in danger and her domain is at stake. She and her new colleagues must return to the family stronghold to take control of the artifact that everyone wants to claim—before it destroys the world.
Next up, a YA novel slated for release in May of this year–dragons!
Five royal houses will hear the call to compete in the Trial for the dragon throne. A liar, a soldier, a servant, a thief, and a murderer will answer it. Who will win?
When the Emperor dies, the five royal houses of Etrusia attend the Call, where one of their own will be selected to compete for the throne. It is always the oldest child, the one who has been preparing for years to compete in the Trial. But this year is different. This year, these five outcasts will answer the call….
THE LIAR: Emilia must hide her dark magic or be put to death.
THE SOLDIER: Lucian is a warrior who has sworn to never lift a sword again.
THE SERVANT: Vespir is a dragon trainer whose skills alone will keep her in the game.
THE THIEF: Ajax knows that nothing is free–he must take what he wants.
THE MURDERER: Hyperia was born to rule and will stop at nothing to take her throne.
Next up, a horror novel (you know I’m a sucker for those):
Inspired by a true story, this supernatural thriller for fans of horror and true crime follows a tale as it evolves every twenty years—with terrifying results.
Ella Louise has lived in the woods surrounding Pilot’s Creek, Virginia, for nearly a decade. Publicly, she and her daughter Jessica are shunned by their upper-crust family and the Pilot’s Creek residents. Privately, desperate townspeople visit her apothecary for a cure to what ails them—until Ella Louise is blamed for the death of a prominent customer. Accused of witchcraft, both mother and daughter are burned at the stake in the middle of the night. Ella Louise’s burial site is never found, but the little girl has the most famous grave in the South: a steel-reinforced coffin surrounded by a fence of interconnected white crosses.
Their story will take the shape of an urban legend as it’s told around a campfire by a man forever marked by his boyhood encounters with Jessica. Decades later, a boy at that campfire will cast Amber Pendleton as Jessica in a ’70s horror movie inspired by the Witch Girl of Pilot’s Creek. Amber’s experiences on that set and its meta-remake in the ’90s will ripple through pop culture, ruining her life and career after she becomes the target of a witch hunt. Amber’s best chance to break the cycle of horror comes when a true-crime investigator tracks her down to interview her for his popular podcast. But will this final act of storytelling redeem her—or will it bring the story full circle, ready to be told once again? And again. And again…
And then last but not least, a new YA lgbt SFF effort that sounds fantastic:
A young pilot risks everything to save his best friend–the man he trusts most and might even love–only to learn that he’s secretly the heir to a brutal galactic empire.
Ettian Nassun’s life was shattered when the merciless Umber Empire invaded. He’s spent seven years putting himself back together under its rule, joining an Umber military academy and becoming the best pilot in his class. Even better, he’s met Gal Veres–his exasperating and infuriatingly enticing roommate who’s made the Academy feel like a new home.
But when dozens of classmates spring an assassination plot on Gal, a devastating secret comes to light: Gal is the heir to the Umber Empire. Ettian barely manages to save his best friend and flee the compromised Academy unscathed, rattled both that Gal stands to inherit the empire that broke him and that there are still people willing to fight back against Umber rule. As they piece together a way to deliver Gal safely to his throne, Ettian finds himself torn in half by an impossible choice. Does he save the man who’s won his heart and trust that Gal’s goodness could transform the empire? Or does he throw his lot in with the brewing rebellion and fight to take back what’s rightfully theirs?
And that’s it from us! What books do you have on your radar?