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A Storm of Swords

A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 3

George R. R. Martin

Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as violently as ever, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey, of House Lannister, sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the land of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, the victim of the jealous sorceress who holds him in her evil thrall. But young Robb, of House Stark, still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Robb plots against his despised Lannister enemies, even as they hold his sister hostage at King's Landing, the seat of the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world....

But as opposing forces maneuver for the final titanic showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost line of civilization. In their vanguard is a horde of mythical Others--a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords...

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Patrick Suskind

The year is 1738; the place, Paris. A baby is born under a fish-monger's bloody table in a marketplace, and abandoned. Orphaned, passed over to the monks as a charity case, already there is something in the aura of the tiny infant that is unsettling. No one will look after him; he is somehow too demanding, and, even more disturbing, something is missing: as his wet nurse tries to explain, he doesn't smell the way a baby should smell; indeed, he has no scent at all.

Slowly, as we watch Jean-Baptiste Grenouille cling stubbornly to life, we begin to realize that a monster is growing before our eyes. With mounting unease, yet hypnotized, we see him explore his powers and their effect on the world around him. For this dark and sinister boy who has no smell himself possesses an absolute sense of smell, and with it he can read the world to discover the hidden truths that elude ordinary men. He can smell the very composition of objects, and their history, and where they have been, he has no need of the light, and darkness is not dark to him, because nothing can mask the odors of the universe.

As he leaves childhood behind and comes to understand his terrible uniqueness, his obsession becomes the quest to identify, and then to isolate, the most perfect scent of all, the scent of life itself.

At first, he hones his powers, learning the ancient arts of perfume-making until the exquisite fragrances he creates are the rage of Paris, and indeed Europe. Then, secure in his mastery of these means to an end, he withdraws into a strange and agonized solitude, waiting, dreaming, until the morning when he wakes, ready to embark on his monstrous quest: to find and extract from the most perfect living creatures-the most beautiful young virgins in the land- that ultimate perfume which alone can make him, too, fully human. As his trail leads him, at an ever-quickening pace, from his savage exile to the heart of the country and then back to Paris, we are caught up in a rising storm of terror and mortal sensual conquest until the frenzy of his final triumph explodes in all its horrifying consequences.

Told with dazzling narrative brilliance and the haunting power of a grown-up fairy tale, Perfume is one of the most remarkable novels of the last fifty years.

The Heroes

The First Law Universe

Joe Abercrombie

They say Black Dow's killed more men than winter, and clawed his way to the throne of the North up a hill of skulls. The King of the Union, ever a jealous neighbour, is not about to stand smiling by while he claws his way any higher. The orders have been given and the armies are toiling through the northern mud. Thousands of men are converging on a forgotten ring of stones, on a worthless hill, in an unimportant valley, and they've brought a lot of sharpened metal with them.

Bremer dan Gorst, disgraced master swordsman, has sworn to reclaim his stolen honour on the battlefield. Obsessed with redemption and addicted to violence, he's far past caring how much blood gets spilled in the attempt. Even if it's his own.

Prince Calder isn't interested in honour, and still less in getting himself killed. All he wants is power, and he'll tell any lie, use any trick, and betray any friend to get it. Just as long as he doesn't have to fight for it himself.

Curnden Craw, the last honest man in the North, has gained nothing from a life of warfare but swollen knees and frayed nerves. He hardly even cares who wins any more, he just wants to do the right thing. But can he even tell what that is with the world burning down around him?

Over three bloody days of battle, the fate of the North will be decided. But with both sides riddled by intrigues, follies, feuds and petty jealousies, it is unlikely to be the noblest hearts, or even the strongest arms that prevail. Three men. One battle. No Heroes.

The Serpent

Gameshouse: Book 1

Claire North

In 17th Century Venice exists a mysterious establishment known only as the Gameshouse.

There, fortunes are made and fortunes are broken over games of chess, backgammon and every other game under the sun.

But those whom fortune favours may be invited to compete in the higher league... a league where the games played are of politics and empires, of economics and kings. It is a league where Capture the Castle involves real castles, where hide and seek takes place on a scale as big as the British Isles.

Not everyone proves worthy of competing in the higher league. But one woman, who is about to play, may just exceed everyone's expectations.

Though she must always remember: the higher the stakes, the more deadly the rules...

The Lie Tree

Frances Hardinge

Read this thought-provoking, critically acclaimed novel from Frances Hardinge, winner of the Costa Book of the Year and Costa Children's Book Awards.

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy--a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.

In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father's possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father's murder--or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself. Frances Hardinge is the a

The Last Witness

K. J. Parker

When you need a memory to be wiped, call me.

Transferring unwanted memories to my own mind is the only form of magic I've ever mastered. But now, I'm holding so many memories I'm not always sure which ones are actually mine, any more.

Some of them are sensitive; all of them are private. And there are those who are willing to kill to access the secrets I'm trying to bury...

A classic Parker tale with a strong supporting cast of princes, courtiers, merchants, academics, and generally unsavory people.

Originally published as a chapbook. This story can also be found in The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas 2016, edited by Paula Guran.

Curtsies & Conspiracies

Finishing School: Book 2

Gail Carriger

Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?

Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing School for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy (won't Mumsy be surprised?). Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot--one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

In this bestselling sequel to New York Times bestselling Etiquette & Espionage, class is back in session with more petticoats and poison, tea trays and treason. Gail's distinctive voice, signature humor, and lush steampunk setting are sure to be the height of fashion this season.

The Stress of Her Regard

Tim Powers

When Michael Crawford discovers his bride brutally murdered in their wedding bed, he is forced to flee not only to prove his innocence, but to avoid the deadly embrace of a vampire who has claimed him as her true bridegroom. Joining forces with Byron, Keats, and Shelley in a desperate journey that crisscrosses Europe, Crawford desperately seeks his freedom from this vengeful lover who haunts his dreams and will not rest until she destroys all that he cherishes.

A Feast for Crows

A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 4

George R. R. Martin

Few books have captivated the imagination and won the devotion and praise of readers and critics everywhere as has George R. R. Martin's monumental epic cycle of high fantasy. Now, in A Feast for Crows, Martin delivers the long-awaited fourth book of his landmark series, as a kingdom torn asunder finds itself at last on the brink of peace... only to be launched on an even more terrifying course of destruction.

A Feast for Crows

It seems too good to be true. After centuries of bitter strife and fatal treachery, the seven powers dividing the land have decimated one another into an uneasy truce. Or so it appears.... With the death of the monstrous King Joffrey, Cersei is ruling as regent in King's Landing. Robb Stark's demise has broken the back of the Northern rebels, and his siblings are scattered throughout the kingdom like seeds on barren soil. Few legitimate claims to the once desperately sought Iron Throne still exist -- or they are held in hands too weak or too distant to wield them effectively. The war, which raged out of control for so long, has burned itself out.

But as in the aftermath of any climactic struggle, it is not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters start to gather, picking over the bones of the dead and fighting for the spoils of the soon-to-be dead. Now in the Seven Kingdoms, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed, while surprising faces -- some familiar, others only just appearing -- are seen emerging from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges ahead.

It is a time when the wise and the ambitious, the deceitful and the strong will acquire the skills, the power, and the magic to survive the stark and terrible times that lie before them. It is a time for nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages to come together and stake their fortunes... and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests -- but only a few are the survivors.

Best Served Cold

The First Law Universe

Joe Abercrombie

Springtime in Styria. And that means war.

There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. Armies march, heads roll and cities burn, while behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.

War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso's employ, it's a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular - a shade too popular for her employer's taste. Betrayed and left for dead, Murcatto's reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.

Her allies include Styria's least reliable drunkard, Styria's most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Northman who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that's all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started...

Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

BEST SERVED COLD is the new standalone novel set in the world of Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy.

Sorcerer to the Crown

The Sorcerer Royal: Book 1

Zen Cho

In Regency London, Zacharias Wythe is England's first African Sorcerer Royal. He leads the eminent Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, but a malicious faction seeks to remove him by fair means or foul. Meanwhile, the Society is failing its vital duty -- to keep stable the levels of magic within His Majesty's lands. The Fairy Court is blocking its supply, straining England's dangerously declining magical stores. And now the government is demanding to use this scarce resource in its war with France.

Ambitious orphan Prunella Gentleman is desperate to escape the school where she's drudged all her life, and a visit by the beleaguered Sorcerer Royal seems the perfect opportunity. For Prunella has just stumbled upon English magic's greatest discovery in centuries -- and she intends to make the most of it.

At his wits' end, the last thing Zachariah needs is a female magical prodigy! But together, they might just change the nature of sorcery, in Britain and beyond.

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent

Lady Trent: Book 1

Marie Brennan

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart - no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon's presence, even for the briefest of moments - even at the risk of one's life - is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world's preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

Marie Brennan introduces an enchanting new world in A Natural History of Dragons.

Fire & Blood

A Song of Ice and Fire: Targaryen History: Book 1

George R. R. Martin

Centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones, House Targaryen--the only family of dragonlords to survive the Doom of Valyria--took up residence on Dragonstone. Fire & Blood begins their tale with the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and goes on to recount the generations of Targaryens who fought to hold that iconic seat, all the way up to the civil war that nearly tore their dynasty apart.

What really happened during the Dance of the Dragons? Why was it so deadly to visit Valyria after the Doom? What were Maegor the Cruel's worst crimes? What was it like in Westeros when dragons ruled the skies? These are but a few of the questions answered in this essential chronicle, as related by a learned maester of the Citadel and featuring more than eighty all-new black-and-white illustrations by artist Doug Wheatley. Readers have glimpsed small parts of this narrative in such volumes as The World of Ice & Fire, but now, for the first time, the full tapestry of Targaryen history is revealed.

With all the scope and grandeur of Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Fire & Blood is the the first volume of the definitive two-part history of the Targaryens, giving readers a whole new appreciation for the dynamic, often bloody, and always fascinating history of Westeros.

The Tropic of Serpents

Lady Trent: Book 2

Marie Brennan

Attentive readers of Lady Trent's earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world's premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.

Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell... where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

The Poppy War

The Poppy War: Book 1

R. F. Kuang

When Rin aced the Keju--the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies--it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn't believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin's guardians, who believed they'd finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard--the most elite military school in Nikan--was even more surprising.

But surprises aren't always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power--an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive--and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away.

Rin's shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity ... and that it may already be too late.

The Devil in America

Kai Ashante Wilson

Scant years after the Civil War, a mysterious family confronts the legacy that has pursued them across centuries, out of slavery, and finally to the idyllic peace of the town of Rosetree. The shattering consequences of this confrontation echo backwards and forwards in time, even to the present day.

This novelette is included in the anthologies The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Nine (2015), edited by Jonathan Strahan, Nebula Awards Showcase 2016, edited by Mercedes Lackey, and Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction (2018), edited by Irene Gallo.


Read this story online for free at Tor.com.

Glamour in Glass

Jane Ellsworth: Book 2

Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal stunned readers with her charming first novel Shades of Milk and Honey, a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence. This magic comes in the form of glamour, which allows talented users to form practically any illusion they can imagine. Shades debuted to great acclaim and left readers eagerly awaiting its sequel. Glamour in Glass follows the lives of beloved main characters Jane and Vincent, with a much deeper vein of drama and intrigue.

In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to Belgium for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, Jane and Vincent's concerns turn from enjoying their honeymoon... to escaping it.

Left with no outward salvation, Jane must persevere over her trying personal circumstances and use her glamour to rescue her husband from prison... and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country's war.

A Conjuring of Light

A Darker Shade of Magic: Book 3

V. E. Schwab

Londons fall and kingdoms rise while darkness sweeps the Maresh Empire, and the fraught balance of magic blossoms into dangerous territory while heroes struggle. The direct sequel to A Gathering of Shadows, and the final book in the Shades of Magic epic fantasy series, A Conjuring of Light sees the newly minted New York Times bestselling author V. E. Schwab reach a thrilling conclusion concerning the fate of beloved protagonists--and old foes.

The Darkness That Comes Before

The Prince of Nothing: Book 1

R. Scott Bakker

Strikingly original in its conception, ambitious in scope, with characters engrossingly and vividly drawn, the first book in R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing series creates a remarkable world from whole cloth—it's language and classes of people, its cities, religions, mysteries, taboos, and rituals—the kind of all-embracing universe that has thrilled readers of Stephen R Donaldson and George R.R. Martin.

It's a world scarred by an acopalyptic past, evoking a time both two thousand years past and two thousand years into the future, as untold thousands gather for a crusade. Travelling among them, two men and two women are ensnared by a mysterious traveler, Anasurimbor Kellhus—part warrior, part philosopher, part sorcerous, charismatic presence—from lands long thought dead. The Darkness that Comes Before is a history of this great holy war, and like all histories, the survivors write its conclusion.

With this stunning debut, R. Scott Bakker is poised to become one of the next great fantasy writers of his generation. The Darkness that Comes Before proves again that epic fantasy can be intelligent, majestic, and terrifying.

The Warrior Prophet

The Prince of Nothing: Book 2

R. Scott Bakker

"Book Two of The Prince of Nothing" finds the Holy War continuing its inexorable march southward. But the suspicion begins to dawn that the real threat comes not from the infidel but from within...

Steering souls through the subtleties of word and expression, Kellhus strives to extend his dominion over the Men of the Tusk. The sorcerer Achamian and his lover, Esmenet, submit entirely, only to have their faith - and their love - tested in unimaginable ways. Meanwhile, the warrior Cnaiur falls ever deeper into madness. Convinced that Kellhus will betray their pact to murder his father, Cnaiur turns to the agents of the Second Apocalypse and strikes an infernal bargain.

The Holy War stands on a knife edge. If all is not to be lost, the great powers of the world will have to choose between their most desperate desires and the end of the world. Between hatred and hope. Between Anasurimbor Kellhus and the second apocalypse.