The Best Sci-Fi And Fantasy Novels Of 2019

Image: Tamsyn Muir / Tor.com

2019 has been a great year for fantasy and sci-fi novels, with several new faces making stunning debuts, and returning ones making blockbuster new ideas look easy.

There were tales of mermaids, pirates, warlocks and swordswomen. There were time wars and magic scrolls and revolution. In a year of greats, these were some of the best books of the lot.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth is the most fun you'll ever have with a skeleton.

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.


Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Alex Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale's freshman class. A dropout and the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved crime - the last thing she wants is to cause trouble. Not when Yale was supposed to be her fresh start. But a free ride to one of the world's most prestigious universities was bound to come with a catch.

Alex has been tasked with monitoring the mysterious activities of Yale's secret societies - societies that have yielded some of the most famous and influential people in the world. Now there's a dead girl on campus and Alex seems to be the only person who won't accept the neat answer the police and campus administration have come up with for her murder.

Because Alex knows the secret societies are far more sinister and extraordinary than anyone ever imagined.

They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living...


This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Two time-traveling agents from warring futures, working their way through the past, begin to exchange letters—and fall in love in this thrilling and romantic book from award-winning authors Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. In the ashes of a dying world, Red finds a letter marked "Burn before reading. Signed, Blue."

So begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents in a war that stretches through the vast reaches of time and space. Red belongs to the Agency, a post-singularity technotopia. Blue belongs to Garden, a single vast consciousness embedded in all organic matter. Their pasts are bloody and their futures mutually exclusive. They have nothing in common—save that they're the best, and they're alone.

Now what began as a battlefield boast grows into a dangerous game, one both Red and Blue are determined to win. Because winning's what you do in war. Isn't it? A tour de force collaboration from two powerhouse writers that spans the whole of time and space.


Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

'The child is dead. There is nothing left to know.'

Tracker is a hunter, known throughout the thirteen kingdoms as one who has a nose - and he always works alone. But he breaks his own rule when, hired to find a lost child, he finds himself part of a group of hunters all searching for the same boy. Each of these companions is stranger and more dangerous than the last, from a giant to a witch to a shape-shifting Leopard, and each has secrets of their own.

As the mismatched gang follow the boy's scent from perfumed citadels to infested rivers to the enchanted darklands and beyond, set upon at every turn by creatures intent on destroying them, Tracker starts to wonder: who really is this mysterious boy? Why do so many people want to stop him being found? And, most important of all, who is telling the truth and who is lying?


Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

Machines Like Me occurs in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda's assistance, he co-designs Adam's personality. This near-perfect human is beautiful, strong and clever - a love triangle soon forms.

These three beings will confront a profound moral dilemma. Ian McEwan's subversive and entertaining new novel poses fundamental questions: what makes us human? Our outward deeds or our inner lives? Could a machine understand the human heart? This provocative and thrilling tale warns of the power to invent things beyond our control.


The Deep by Rivers Solomon

The water-breathing descendants of African slave women tossed overboard have built their own underwater society—and must reclaim the memories of their past to shape their future in this brilliantly imaginative novella inspired by the Hugo Award-nominated song "The Deep" from Daveed Diggs's rap group clipping Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.

Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.


Dark Age by Pierce Brown

For a decade Darrow led a revolution against the corrupt color-coded Society. Now, outlawed by the very Republic he founded, he wages a rogue war on Mercury in hope that he can still salvage the dream of Eo. But as he leaves death and destruction in his wake, is he still the hero who broke the chains? Or will another legend rise to take his place?

Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile, has returned to the Core. Determined to bring peace back to mankind at the edge of his sword, he must overcome or unite the treacherous Gold families of the Core and face down Darrow over the skies of war-torn Mercury. But theirs are not the only fates hanging in the balance. On Luna, Mustang, Sovereign of the Republic, campaigns to unite the Republic behind her husband. Beset by political and criminal enemies, can she outwit her opponents in time to save him?


Tiamat's Wrath by James S. A. Corey

Thirteen hundred gates have opened to solar systems around the galaxy. But as humanity builds its interstellar empire in the alien ruins, the mysteries and threats grow deeper.

In the dead systems where gates lead to stranger things than alien planets, Elvi Okoye begins a desperate search to discover the nature of a genocide that happened before the first human beings existed, and to find weapons to fight a war against forces at the edge of the imaginable. But the price of that knowledge may be higher than she can pay.


Recursion by Blake Crouch

What if someone could rewrite your entire life?

`My son has been erased.'

Those are the last words the woman tells Barry Sutton before she leaps from the Manhattan rooftop.

Deeply unnerved, Barry begins to investigate her death only to learn that this wasn't an isolated case. All across the country, people are waking up to lives different from the ones they fell asleep to. Are they suffering from False Memory Syndrome, a mysterious, new disease that afflicts people with vivid memories of a life they never lived? Or is something far more sinister behind the fracturing of reality all around him?

Miles away, neuroscientist Helena Smith is developing a technology that allows us to preserve our most intense memories and relive them. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss or the birth of a child.

Barry's search for the truth leads him on an impossible, astonishing journey as he discovers that Helena's work has yielded a terrifying gift...


Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.

Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.

Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.

Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.

Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.


The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life.


The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare

All Magnus Bane wanted was a vacation.

A lavish trip across Europe with Alec Lightwood, the Shadowhunter who, against all odds, is finally his boyfriend. It doesn’t seem like too much for the centuries-old High Warlock to ask for. But no sooner have they settled in Paris than an old friend arrives with news about a demon-worshipping cult called the Crimson Hand that is bent on causing chaos around the world. A cult that was apparently founded by Magnus himself. Years ago. As a joke.

Now Magnus and Alec must race across Europe to track down the Crimson Hand and its elusive new leader before the cult can cause any more damage. As if it wasn’t bad enough that their romantic getaway has been sidetracked, demons are now dogging their every step, and it is becoming harder to tell friend from foe. As their quest for answers becomes increasingly dire, Magnus and Alec have to trust each other more than ever—even if it means revealing the secrets they’ve both been keeping.

The first book in the Eldest Curses series from #1 New York Times bestselling author Cassandra Clare and award-winning science fiction author Wesley Chu, The Red Scrolls of Magic is a fast-paced adventure bursting with magic, humor, and (if demons stop getting in the way) romance that offers a fresh look at the world of the Shadowhunters.


The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.


Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer's Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery-magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library's most dangerous grimoire, and Elisabeth is implicated in the crime. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she's been taught-about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.


The 10,000 Doors of January by Alix E Harrow

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored and utterly out of place. But her quiet existence is shattered when she stumbles across a strange book.

A book that carries the scent of other worlds and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page reveals more impossible truths about the world, and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.


The Raven Tower by Anne Leckie

For centuries, the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by the god known as the Raven. He watches over his territory from atop a tower in the powerful port of Vastai. His will is enacted through the Raven's Lease, a human ruler chosen by the god himself. His magic is sustained by the blood sacrifice that every Lease must offer. And under the Raven's watch, the city flourishes. But the Raven's tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself... and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.


Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff

Mia Corvere, gladiatii, escaped slave and infamous assassin, is on the run.

After the greatest games in Godsgrave's history ended with the most audacious murders in the history of the Itreyan Republic, Mia finds herself pursued by Blades of the Red Church and soldiers of the Luminatii legion. She may never escape the City of Bridges and Bones alive.

Her mentor Mercurio is now in the clutches of her enemies. Her own family wishes her dead. And her nemesis, Consul Julius Scaeva, stands but a breath from total dominance over the Republic.

But beneath the city, a dark secret awaits. Together with her lover Ashlinn, brother Jonnen and a mysterious benefactor returned from beyond the veil of death, she must undertake a perilous journey across the Republic, seeking the final answer to the riddle of her life. Truedark approaches.

Night is falling on the Republic for perhaps the final time.


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