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Fantasy Novel Pub Crawl!

by a cat

You ever read a book and you’re just like wow, I wish I was there. I wish I was sitting with my favorite characters in the cool fantasy pub telling stories around the hearth and heartily sloshing funtime refreshments? Well, lean into this list of fantasy titles, because we’re going on a fantasy pub crawl to all the hottest watering holes in Epic Fantasy Town! 


legends & lattes by travis baldreeViv’s Coffeeshop from Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Pub, coffeeshop—very similar in concept, honestly, and hey! It’s seven in the morning somewhere! And where better to start our long day of fantasy pub crawling than by stopping at Viv’s Coffeeshop. It’s the first such establishment in the city of Thune, and it’s got a lot to love: Tasty treats prepared by a talented ratfolk baker named Thimble, a large direcat that’s the shop’s pet / guardian, and the finest coffee drinks Gnomish engineering can serve up! Viv—entrepreneur and ex-adventurer—grew tired of her life on the combat-intensive road, and hung up her sword to open the shop, and has put oodles and oodles of love into it. You’ll love it too. 

book of night by holly blackRapture Bar & Lounge from Book of Night by Holly Black

An important quality to our fantasy pub crawl is going to eclecticness! Now that we’ve finished soaking in the cozy atmosphere of Viv’s Coffeeshop, our logical next destination is the Rapture Bar & Lounge. It’s a shady establishment, and we mean that literally, because extralegal shadow magicians headquarter in the basements beneath it, but that’s all part of the charm. Break out your gothiest attire because eerie is in at this locale, and you’ll love Charlie, the bartender. She’s trying to pivot away from her days as a thief of dangerous magical secrets. Unfortunately, sometimes the shadow hive downstairs wants more of her business than just her time bartending. It’s good that we’re moving on to the next bar, actually. A man and his shadow just walked in separately. He’s dressed clandestine and his shadow has claws. Time for bar number next. 

The First Binding by rr virdiThree Tales Tavern from The First Binding by R.R. Virdi

Whew! Sorry we left the last place in such a rush, but we can settle here for a little bit. In fact, let’s all get comfortable, because as the observant may have predicted from this pub’s name, we’re here for drinks and for stories. Travelers often find rest here, and when two travelers meet, there are always tales to tell. Stay a while and get to know Ari. He has many stories to share. He’ll tell you legends of dead gods, stolen magic, and dreadful curses. He’ll tell tall tales and short, and if you stay long enough, he might tell you the story of how he loosed the first evil on the world. 

But don’t stay too, too long, because our crawl isn’t done yet!

the atlas six by olivie blakeAlexandrian Society Lounge from The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

Okay. Everyone act cool, this is a private establishment. Very private. As in ‘warded magically multiple times over.’ It’s not even really a bar, but you won’t believe that once you see all the good stuff it keeps stocked. This library—a modern ancestor to the one that vanished from ancient Alexandria—houses all the world’s most dangerous secrets and magics. It’s part library, part vault really, since part of its function is strategically withholding certain infohazards from a cadre of ambitious graduate magicians working on their theses. One of their number is actually our host. Meet Callum Nova! He’s the scion of a magical cosmetics empire and kind of a prickly jerk, but there’s no way we would have made it through the wards without his help. Luckily he’s a lonely jerk, who would just hate to admit how much he craves company to share a bottle of scotch. 

the silverblood promise by james loganSaphrona, City of Merchant Princes from The Silverblood Promise by James Logan

And we finish our crawl in the ultimate pub: a whole Fantasy City where opulence, grime, truth, and wine mix freely, or expensively rather. Saphrona is the city of the merchant princes, and whatever you want is available for the commensurate quantity of coin. Rare vintage? Yes. Barrels of cheapest ale. Yep. The truth behind who orchestrated the demise of your estranged noble father? … Well, that one’s not really for everyone, but it is for Lukan Gardova, our guide into the underbelly of the princely city. He’s a disgraced scion and accomplished cardshark, hoping to solve his dad’s murder and gain some kind of atonement and posthumous approval. But more important for the context of this list, he knows all the good pubs to pick up a pint. 

 

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Can You Survive a Night Out in Epic Fantasy Town?

by a cat

When your day job is fighting dragons, or being a cantankerous mage in an imposing tower, or keeping the lava hot at the fantasy forge, or befriending dragons—basically if you’re doing anything in Epic Fantasy Town, you’ll have to unwind on the weekend. Where better to go than Epic Fantasy Tavern? The ale is frothy, the laughter is mirthy, and there’s no way you’ll meet your untimely end while you’re out relaxing!

. . .

Better take this quiz, just to be sure. And then if you like the vibes, check out The Silverblood Promise by James Logan 😎



Pre-order The Silverblood Promise Here:

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Every Paperback from Tor in Spring 2024

It’s Spring, and flower’s aren’t all that’s growing! We’ve got paperback books springing up left and right! 

Check them out 😎


April 2, 2024

one for my enemy by olivie blakeOne for My Enemy by Olivie Blake

In modern-day Manhattan where we lay our scene, two rival witch families fight to maintain control of their respective criminal empires. On one side of the conflict are the Antonova sisters — each one beautiful, cunning, and ruthless — and their mother, the elusive supplier of premium intoxicants, known only as Baba Yaga. On the other side, the influential Fedorov brothers serve their father, the crime boss known as Koschei the Deathless, whose ventures dominate the shadows of magical Manhattan. After twelve years of tenuous co-existence, one family member brutally crosses the line. Bad blood reignites old grudges; at the same time, fate intervenes with a chance encounter between enemies. In the wake of love and vengeance, everyone must choose a side. As each of the siblings struggles to stake their claim, bloodshed is inevitable. The question is: Whose?

tress of the emerald sea by brandon sandersonTress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

The only life Tress has known on her island home in an emerald-green ocean has been a simple one, with the simple pleasures of collecting cups brought by sailors from faraway lands and listening to stories told by her friend Charlie. But when his father takes him on a voyage to find a bride and disaster strikes, Tress must stow away on a ship and seek the Sorceress of the deadly Midnight Sea. Amid the spore oceans where pirates abound, can Tress leave her simple life behind and make her own place sailing a sea where a single drop of water can mean instant death?


April 9, 2024

forge of the high mage by ian c. esslemontForge of the High Mage by Ian C. Esslemont

After decades of warfare, Malazan forces are poised to consolidate the Quon Tali mainland. Yet it is at this moment that Emperor Kellanved orders a new, some believe foolhardy campaign: the invasion of Falar that lies far to the north . . . And to fight on this new front, a rag-tag army raised from orphaned units and broken squads is been brought together under Fist Dujek, and joined by a similarly motley fleet under the command of the Emperor himself. So the Malazans head north, only to encounter an unlooked-for and most unwelcome threat. Something unspeakable and born of legend has awoken and will destroy all who stand in its way. Most appalled by this is the Empire’s untested High Mage, Tayschrenn. All too aware of the true nature of this ancient horror, he fears his own inadequacies when the time comes to confront it. Yet confront it he must. 


April 16, 2024

the cradle of ice by james rollinsThe Cradle of Ice by James Rollins

To stop the coming apocalypse, a fellowship was formed. A soldier, a thief, a lost prince, and a young girl bonded by fate and looming disaster. Each step along this path has changed the party, forging deep alliances and greater enmities. All the while, hostile forces have hunted them, fearing what they might unleash. Armies wage war around them. For each step has come with a cost—in blood, in loss, in heartbreak. Now, they must split, traveling into a vast region of ice and to a sprawling capital of the world they’ve only known in stories. Time is running out and only the truth will save them all.

dual memory by sue burkeDual Memory by Sue Burke

Antonio Moro lost everything to the Leviathan League. Now he’s alone in a city on an Arctic island fighting the ruthless, global pirates with the chance to be the artist he always wanted to be. Unfortunately, he thinks it’s a cover story for his real purpose—spying on sympathizers. When things look bleak, he discovers an unusual ally. His new personal assistant program, Par Augustus. It’s insolent, extroverted, moody, and a not-quite-legal nascent A. I. Together they create a secret rebellion from unlikely recruits to defend the island from ideological pirates with entitlement and guns, and capitalist pirates with entitlement and money.


April 30, 2024

stan lee's the devil's quintet: the shadow society by stan lee & jay bonansingaStan Lee’s The Devil’s Quintet: The Shadow Society by Stan Lee & Jay Bonansinga

Ever since The Armageddon Code, the Devil’s Quintet have been using their demonic powers to fight evil and protect the world, while remaining nothing but an urban legend to the general public. But the Devil is not about to let them keep using his powers for good. Created by Satan himself to counter the Quintet, the Shadow Society are five saintly men and women that have been secretly (and strategically) possessed by five of Hell’s most powerful demons. Granted supernatural powers of their own, they are part of a literally diabolical plot to strike at the very heart of the Quintet—and destroy humanity’s last hope!

web of angels by john m fordWeb of Angels by John M. Ford

Originally published in 1980, the legendary John M. Ford’s first published novel was an uncannily brilliant anticipation of the later cyberpunk genre—and of the internet itself. The Web links the many worlds of humanity. Most people can only use it to communicate. Some can retrieve and store data, as well as use simple precoded programs. Only a privileged few are able to create their own software, within proscribed limits. And then there are the Webspinners. Grailer is Fourth Literate, able to manipulate the Web at will—and use it for purposes unintended and impossible for anyone but the most talented Webspinner. Obviously, he cannot be allowed to live. Condemned to death at the age of nine, Grailer must go underground, hiding his skills, testing his powers- until he is ready to do battle with the Web itself. With a new introduction from Cory Doctorow, written especially for this edition.


May 7, 2024

the silverblood promise by james loganThe Silverblood Promise by James Logan

Lukan Gardova is a cardsharp, academy dropout, and—thanks to a duel that ended badly—the disgraced heir to an ancient noble house. His days consist of cheap wine, rigged card games, and wondering how he might win back the life he threw away. When Lukan discovers that his estranged father has been murdered in strange circumstances, he finds fresh purpose. Deprived of his chance to make amends for his mistakes, he vows to unravel the mystery behind his father’s death. His search for answers leads him to Saphrona, fabled city of merchant princes, where anything can be bought if one has the coin. Lukan only seeks the truth, but instead he finds danger and secrets in every shadow. For in Saphrona, everything has a price—and the price of truth is the deadliest of all.


May 14, 2024

malarkoi by alex phebyMalarkoi by Alex Pheby

Nathan Treeves is dead, murdered by the Master of Mordew, his remains used to create the powerful occult weapon known as the Tinderbox. His companions are scattered, making for Malarkoi, the city of the Mistress, the Master’s enemy. They are hoping to find welcome there, or at least safety. They find neither – and instead become embroiled in a life and death struggle against assassins, demi-gods, and the cunning plans of the Mistress. Only Sirius, Nathan’s faithful magical dog, has not forgotten the boy. Bent on revenge, he returns to the shattered remains of Mordew – only to find the city morphed into an impossible mountain, swarming with monsters. The stage is set for battle, sacrifice, magic and treachery in the stunning sequel to Mordew. Welcome to Malarkoi.


May 21, 2024

fractal noise by christopher paoliniFractal Noise by Christopher Paolini

July 25th, 2234: The crew of the Adamura discovers the anomaly.

On the seemingly uninhabited planet Talos VII: a circular pit, 50 kilometers wide. Its curve not of nature, but design. Now, a small team must land and journey on foot across the surface to learn who built the hole and why. But they all carry the burdens of lives carved out on disparate colonies in the cruel cold of space. For some the mission is the dream of the lifetime, for others a risk not worth taking, and for one it is a desperate attempt to find meaning in an uncaring universe. Each step they take toward the mysterious abyss is more punishing than the last. And the ghosts of their past follow.


June 4, 2024

wolfsong by tj klune with orange sprayed edgesWolfsong by TJ Klune (with beautiful sprayed edges!)

Oxnard Matheson was twelve when his father taught him a lesson: Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then his father left. Ox was sixteen when the energetic Bennett family moved in next door, harboring a secret that would change him forever. The Bennetts are shapeshifters. They can transform into wolves at will. Drawn to their magic, loyalty, and enduring friendships, Ox feels a gulf between this extraordinary new world and the quiet life he’s known, but he finds an ally in Joe, the youngest Bennett boy. Ox was twenty-three when murder came to town and tore a hole in his heart. Violence flared, tragedy split the pack, and Joe left town, leaving Ox behind. Three years later, the boy is back. Except now he’s a man – charming, handsome, but haunted – and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them.


June 11, 2024

the first bright thing by j r dawsonThe First Bright Thing by J. R. Dawson

Ringmaster — Rin, to those who know her best — can jump to different moments in time as easily as her wife, Odette, soars from bar to bar on the trapeze. And the circus they lead is a rare home and safe haven for magical misfits and outcasts, known as Sparks. With the world still reeling from World War I, Rin and her troupe — the Circus of the Fantasticals — travel the midwest, offering a single night of enchantment and respite to all who step into their Big Top. But threats come at Rin from all sides. The future holds an impending war that the Sparks can see barrelling toward their show and everyone in it. And Rin’s past creeps closer every day, a malevolent shadow she can’t fully escape. It takes the form of another circus, with tents as black as midnight and a ringmaster who rules over his troupe with a dangerous power. Rin’s circus has something he wants, and he won’t stop until it’s his.

icehenge by kim stanley robinsonIcehenge by Kim Stanley Robinson

SF titan Kim Stanley Robinson’s breakout novel, now in a Tor Essentials edition with a new introduction by Henry Farrell

Decades before his massively successful The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson wrote one of SF’s greatest meditations on extended human lifespan, the limitations of human memory, and the haunted confabulations that go with forgetting. On the North Pole of Pluto there stands an enigma: a huge circle of standing blocks of ice, built on the pattern of Earth’s Stonehenge—but ten times the size, standing alone at the edge of the Solar System. What is it? Who could have built it? The secret lies in the chaotic decades of the Martian Revolution, in the lost memories of those who have lived for centuries.


June 18, 2024

ebony gate by julia vee & ken bebelleEbony Gate by Julia Vee & Ken Bebelle

Emiko Soong belongs to one of the eight premier magical families of the world. But Emiko never needed any magic. Because she is the Blade of the Soong Clan. Or was. Until she’s drenched in blood in the middle of a market in China, surrounded by bodies and the scent of blood and human waste as a lethal perfume. The Butcher of Beijing now lives a quiet life in San Francisco, importing antiques. But when a shinigami, a god of death itself, calls in a family blood debt, Emiko must recover the Ebony Gate that holds back the hungry ghosts of the Yomi underworld. Or forfeit her soul as the anchor. What’s a retired assassin to do but save the City by the Bay from an army of the dead?


June 25, 2024

foul days by genoveva dimovaFoul Days by Genoveva Dimova

As a witch in the walled city of Chernograd, Kosara has plenty of practice treating lycanthrope bites, bargaining with kikimoras, and slaying bloodsucking upirs. There’s only one monster she can’t defeat: her ex, the Zmey, known as the Tsar of Monsters. She’s defied him one too many times and now he’s hunting her. Betrayed by someone close to her, Kosara’s only choice is to trade her shadow—the source of her powers—for a quick escape.

Unfortunately, Kosara soon develops the deadly sickness that plagues shadowless witches—and only reclaiming her magic can cure her. To find it, she’s forced to team up with a suspiciously honorable detective. Even worse, all the clues point in a single direction: To get her shadow back, Kosara will have to face the Foul Days’ biggest threats without it. And she’s only got twelve days. But in a city where everyone is out for themselves, who can Kosara trust to assist her in outwitting the biggest monster from her past?

the frugal wizard's handbook for surviving medieval england by brandon sandersonThe Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England by Brandon Sanderson

A man awakes in a clearing in what appears to be medieval England with no memory of who he is, where he came from, or why he is there. Chased by a group from his own time, his sole hope for survival lies in regaining his missing memories, making allies among the locals, and perhaps even trusting in their superstitious boasts. His only help from the “real world” should have been a guidebook entitled The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England, except his copy exploded during transit. The few fragments he managed to save provide clues to his situation, but can he figure them out in time to survive?

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Tor’s Whimsically Energizing Spring Quiz

Can you hear the sound of many birds calling? Their song heralds the arrival of Spring. Listen, they’re saying 🎵Tweet, tweet! Take this quiz! Read a book! Whistle, tweet!🎶”

(accept cookies in the popup to view the quiz!)



And while you’ve got books on the brain, check out When Among Crows by Veronica Roth!

Pre-order When Among Crows Here:

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8 Evergreen Reads

Our listicle scientists worked really hard to distill this one: Evergreen reads perfect for any time, but critically–only those that have an appropriately thematic green cover. This is our list green reads. Evergreen reads. 

Check em’ out! 


in the lives of puppets by tj kluneIn the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune

Victor Lawson, a human, lives with his family of robots in a house among a strange grove of trees. Those green trees earn this queer retelling of Pinocchio its spot on this list of green books, but adventure is on the horizon, and it’s going to pull Victor out of the grove and into a quest to fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson from his captors in the City of Electric Dreams. 

kinning by nisi shawlKinning by Nisi Shawl

This title continues where Shawl’s Everfair leaves off: The island nation of Everfair has persisted in defiance of European colonizers. In this alternate history, barkcloth airships dot the sky and varied peoples come together to form a new society. As enemies within and without challenge whether Everfair will continue to serve as a symbol of hope, freedom, and equality to anticolonial movements around the world. 

Importantly within the context of this listicle, the cover of this title is a deep and calming green, but also on a deeper level, envisioning a world with kinder technologies and a brighter future is critical to creating a greener present. 

masters of death by olivie blakeMasters of Death by Olivie Blake

Like much of Blake’s work, Masters of Death combines the sacred and profane to synthesize profound implications. This is a book about the lives of immortals, and the dilemmas of mortals that plague all regardless of undying status. It’s also a story about a real estate agent who happens to be a vampire, and who happens to have a haunted house that happens to be quite difficult to sell as a result. The cover is a tranquil shade of green. 

the library of the dead by t l huchuThe Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu

The hardcover cover for this title was actually a deep blue, but for the paperback edition, we’re all mean green here 😎

And that’s not all that’s mean… Something is stalking the streets and alleys of Edinburgh and leaving drained, huskified children in its wake. But don’t worry! Professional ghost talker Ropa is on the case! Or maybe you should worry. This entity is dangerous. 

after the forest by kell woodsAfter the Forest by Kell Woods

Twenty years after the fairy tale ends, Hans is drowning in debts from gambling and Greta’s trying to ignore the tempting whispers of the old witch’s grimoire that calls to her from where she hid it away. When dark magic enters the forest from the outside, Greta may need to call on her own, but down that path lays danger too. 

tress of the emerald sea by brandon sandersonTress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

C’mon. This one’s got emerald in the title! It’s perfect! 

In this swashbuckling adventure, Tress must stow away on a ship in order to cross the green ocean that surrounds her island home to find the Sorceress of the Midnight Sea. Her aim is to save her friend, but just one drop of this water carries death. She may just have to settle for saving herself, or fatally failing altogether. 

thornhedge by t kingfisherThornhedge by T. Kingfisher

An impenetrable wall of brambles preserves a curse and holds a princess locked in a tower, but not all curses should be broken. The green of Thornhedge is tinged with a little red, both on the cover and in concept: Here we have the nature magic of faerie but also betrayal and bleeding secrets that have been kept far too long. 

heartsong by tj kluneHeartsong by TJ Klune

This list wouldn’t be complete without an entry from TJ Klune’s Green Creek series, right?? So enter, Heartsong, the werewolf book heart-melter with the greenest color palette. Just look at that starburst green with warm accents! This book about queer love between queer werewolves is evergreen for sure. 

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Excerpt Reveal: Foul Days by Genoveva Dimova

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foul days by genoveva dimova

The Witcher meets Naomi Novik in this fast-paced fantasy rooted in Slavic folklore, from an assured new voice in genre fiction.

As a witch in the walled city of Chernograd, Kosara has plenty of practice treating lycanthrope bites, bargaining with kikimoras, and slaying bloodsucking upirs. There’s only one monster she can’t defeat: her ex, the Zmey, known as the Tsar of Monsters. She’s defied him one too many times and now he’s hunting her. Betrayed by someone close to her, Kosara’s only choice is to trade her shadow—the source of her powers—for a quick escape.

Unfortunately, Kosara soon develops the deadly sickness that plagues shadowless witches—and only reclaiming her magic can cure her. To find it, she’s forced to team up with a suspiciously honorable detective. Even worse, all the clues point in a single direction: To get her shadow back, Kosara will have to face the Foul Days’ biggest threats without it. And she’s only got twelve days.

But in a city where everyone is out for themselves, who can Kosara trust to assist her in outwitting the biggest monster from her past?

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Foul Days by Genoveva Dimova, on sale 6/25/24


Chapter 2

Earlier that day, Kosara took out a lock of the Zmey’s hair, carefully pressed between two sheets of paper in an old spell book. She’d kept it on her bedside table all year, worried that if she let it out of her sight for too long, it might disappear.

It hadn’t been easy to obtain. Kosara and the Zmey had developed an annual ritual in the last seven years, ever since she’d left his palace. Every year, she did her best to avoid him. Every year, he found her. He’d smile his handsome smile and ask in his sweetest voice, “How about a game of cards?”

The wager? A lock of hair.

It wasn’t simply a sentimental keepsake. For a witch, a lock of hair had power. It meant that if she won, Kosara would finally have a weapon she could use against him. Not strong enough to hurt him, but perhaps strong enough to keep him away.

Which was why the Zmey enjoyed the game so much. He always won—until last year.

Kosara walked downstairs to the kitchen and hung her cauldron over the hearth. The room was aglow with the light of the fire, reflecting in the copper pots and pans hanging on the walls. The brighter it grew, the darker the shadows became, her own swirling and whirling around them.

Sweat beaded on Kosara’s skin, the droplets mirroring the flames, as if she were covered in hundreds of small fires. She’d stripped down to her underwear, and her chemise clung to her wet skin. Instead of subduing the hearth, she stoked it. She needed all the power she could get.

It wasn’t as if anyone else was around to complain about the heat. Kosara lived alone.

There was a loud bang from one of the upstairs bedrooms.

It wasn’t as if anyone else alive was around, Kosara corrected herself. The ghost of her sister haunted a bedroom upstairs.

A few more bangs followed. Strange, Nevena wasn’t this active usually. Perhaps she could feel the heat after all, or the magic Kosara wielded.

“Nevena!” Kosara shouted. “Will you please stop it? I’m trying to concentrate.”

The banging continued. Kosara sighed. No point trying to reason with kikimoras.

First, Kosara fished inside a bucket of salty water for two rusalka ink sacs. She pierced them with her knife, letting the dark liquid drip into the cauldron, hissing as it hit the copper surface.

Then, she rummaged for the rest of the ingredients among the many jars and bottles scattered around the kitchen. Aspen tree sap served as a binder, a rusty nail used to kill a karakonjul as a mordant, thyme oil and soda ash as preservatives. Finally, she threw the lock of the Zmey’s hair into the cauldron.

The mixture came to a boil fast, large bubbles rising to the surface and popping, splattering the walls with sticky black liquid.

As she watched it, Kosara wondered if she was making a mistake. What if her attempt to keep the Zmey away angered him too much?

He’d told her before that if she ever tried to defy him again, he’d take more than a lock of her hair. He’d take her. He’d force her back under his control. He liked her knowing that her freedom was conditional on his goodwill.

No, she decided. She was toeing the line, but she wasn’t crossing it. He’d see this as a challenge—a part of their game of cat and mouse. Next year, he’d arrive prepared to fight her spell, but by then, Kosara would have devised a different one to throw at him.

Or maybe her spell wouldn’t be strong enough to stop him. He’d laugh that annoyingly pleasant laugh of his, like hundreds of chiming bells, and then she’d have to sit through another card game. She’d squirm under his icy stare for hours, as he threw stronger and stronger cards on the table. Finally, she’d chop off a lock of hair to give him, and the missing chunk would remind her of him whenever she looked at herself in the mirror.

Kosara sighed. She had to make sure her spell would hold. She’d spent all year preparing it: a ward strong enough to keep the Zmey out. She’d read every book on the subject she could get her hands on. She’d practised all the runes. It would hold.

Unless someone invited the Zmey in, that was. But who would do that?

At last, Kosara took the cauldron off the fire and emptied the liquid into a glass vial. She wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. Then, she put out the fire with a click of her fingers.

The kitchen went dark, only the flickering of the gas lamps remained. The cold from outside immediately began to seep through the walls.

Kosara got dressed: black woollen trousers, a warm sweater, her long coat, leather boots she’d worn so often the soles were starting to rub through. She couldn’t do the spell in her house—it would be the first place the Zmey would look for her after he arrived at midnight.

“Bye, Nevena!” Kosara shouted.

The ghost remained silent. Sometimes, Kosara wondered if Nevena could even understand her.

Most ghosts were little different from the people they’d been while still alive. But Nevena wasn’t like most ghosts. She was a kikimora: a wraith who rose from the blood spilled after a murder. All that was left of the sister Kosara remembered was her pain and her anger.

Kosara sighed and opened the front door. She braced herself against the winter wind, burying her chin in the neckline of her sweater. After the warmth of the kitchen, stepping outside felt like diving into a cold swimming pool.

She stumbled through the muddy snowdrifts, past dark houses and snow-covered gardens, gripping the vial of inky liquid in her pocket. Her bag hung heavy on her shoulder, filled with notes and sketches copied from spell books.

Granite spires rose high above, icicles hanging off their elaborately carved buttresses. Their grand shapes were a reminder of Chernograd’s more prosperous past before the Wall was built. Now, their stonework was black with dirt and soot, and their arches were crumbling.

In the distance, magic factories coughed dark smoke out of their long chimneys, contrasting against the white streets and the pale sky. Most of them manufactured medicine, cosmetics, or perfumes for export over the Wall to Belograd. Ironically, few in Chernograd could afford their products.

People in dark clothes passed Kosara, their grim faces peeking over ugly hand-knitted scarves and even uglier hand-knitted jumpers. Their coats were more like patchwork blankets, sewn together so they’d last another winter. Occasionally, a horse-drawn carriage flew past, spraying muddy water over the pavements. The swearing of the now-soaked pedestrians was drowned out by the drumming of the horse’s hooves.

Kosara elbowed her way through the crowds gathered in front of the Main Street shops. It was the last day of the year: the last chance to stock up on holy water and aspen stakes in peace, to melt any remaining family heirlooms into silver bullets, to hire a witch to draw a protective ward around the house’s doors and windows. Customers and merchants bargained quietly, in tense whispers, as if shouting would break whatever fragile peace they still had until midnight. Some of them clutched steaming cups of coffee, brown and thick as mud, and others were already well into their wine, their breath coming out in pungent plumes.

Finally, Kosara reached the pub. The barkeep, Bayan, waited for her in front of it, only a thin sliver of his face visible between his karakonjul fur hat and his scarf. He narrowed his eyes at her in question.

Kosara nodded at him, and he unlocked the door.

She went to her knees on the icy ground. Then, she unscrewed the lid from her vial, dipped her finger in it, and began drawing.

━━ ˖°˖ ☾☆☽ ˖°˖ ━━━━━━━

“Kosara!” a familiar voice called outside the bar, just after midnight. He didn’t shout, but his words nevertheless carried over the wind’s howling, the monsters’ cries, and the people’s screams. “Kosara!”

The blood rushed to Kosara’s head. Her nails left crescents in the soft skin of her palms.

He was here already. How the hell had he found her so fast?

She looked down at the ward she’d drawn. Half of it was visible on the floor inside, arching around the door and windows: a series of runes drawn in black ink. The other half was outside. If Kosara had done her job right, no amount of snow or hail or rubbing of shoes would erase it for the next twelve days.

She’d hoped to have an hour or two to test it on lesser monsters, like the karakonjuls. To recharge it if needed, or maybe try a different recipe if this one proved too weak—but the Zmey was here already.

“Kosara!” His voice came closer and closer. It sent shivers down her spine.

Calm down, for God’s sake. It would be the same as every year. He’d come, he’d make her feel small, weak, and helpless, and then he’d leave.

But, for some reason, this time it felt different. There was something in his voice—something she hadn’t heard in a long time. Something taut like a guitar string.

Anger.

“Kosara!”

His shadow ran past the window. He wiped the frost away with his palm and peeked inside.

His eyes were the bright blue only found in the centre of a flame, and his hair was like molten gold. When his gaze fell on the mirror above the bar, it shattered.

“Here you are.”

The doorknob rattled.

Kosara inhaled sharply. She watched, petrified, as the lines of her ward twisted and strained under the pressure, but they didn’t break. For now.

Copyright © 2024 from Genoveva Dimova

Pre-order Foul Days Here:

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Every New Book from Tor this Spring

We’ve got something to put a spring in your step this season! Check out this rundown of every new title from Tor over the next few months 😎


April 2, 2024

a view from the stars by cixin liuA View from the Stars by Cixin Liu

A View from the Stars features a range of short works from the past three decades of New York Times bestselling author Cixin Liu’s prolific career, putting his nonfiction essays and short stories side-by-side for the first time. This collection includes essays and interviews that shed light on Liu’s experiences as a reader, writer, and lover of science fiction throughout his life, as well as short fiction that gives glimpses into the evolution of his imaginative voice over the years.


April 9, 2024

lyorn by steven brustLyorn by Steven Brust

Another Opening…Another Cataclysm? Vlad Taltos is on the run. Again. This time from one of the most powerful forces in his world, the Left Hand, who are intent on ending his very lucrative career. Permanently. He finds a hidey-hole in a theatre where the players are putting on a show that was banned centuries ago…and is trying to be shut down by the House that once literally killed to keep it from being played. Vlad will take on a number of roles to save his own skin. And the skins of those he loves. And along the way, he might find a part that was tailor-made for him. One that he might not want…but was always his destiny.

forge of the high mage by ian c. esslemontForge of the High Mage by Ian C. Esslemont

After decades of warfare, Malazan forces are poised to consolidate the Quon Tali mainland. Yet it is at this moment that Emperor Kellanved orders a new, some believe foolhardy campaign: the invasion of Falar that lies far to the north . . . And to fight on this new front, a rag-tag army raised from orphaned units and broken squads is been brought together under Fist Dujek, and joined by a similarly motley fleet under the command of the Emperor himself. So the Malazans head north, only to encounter an unlooked-for and most unwelcome threat. Something unspeakable and born of legend has awoken and will destroy all who stand in its way. 


April 23, 2024

necrobane by daniel m. fordNecrobane by Daniel M. Ford

Aelis de Lenti, Lone Pine’s newly assigned Warden, is in deep trouble. She has just opened the crypts of Mahlgren, releasing an army of the undead into the unprotected backwoods of Ystain. To protect her village, she must unearth a source of immense Necromantic power at the heart of Mahlgren. The journey will wind through waves of undead, untamed wilderness, and curses far older than anything Aelis has ever encountered. But as strong as Aelis is, this is one quest she cannot face alone. Along with the brilliant mercenary she’s fallen for, her half-orc friend, and a dwarven merchant, Aelis must race the clock to unravel mysteries, slay dread creatures, and stop what she has set in motion before the flames of a bloody war are re-ignited.


April 30, 2024

web of angels by john m fordWeb of Angels by John M. Ford

Originally published in 1980, the legendary John M. Ford’s first published novel was an uncannily brilliant anticipation of the later cyberpunk genre—and of the internet itself. The Web links the many worlds of humanity. Most people can only use it to communicate. Some can retrieve and store data, as well as use simple precoded programs. Only a privileged few are able to create their own software, within proscribed limits. And then there are the Webspinners. Grailer is Fourth Literate, able to manipulate the Web at will—and use it for purposes unintended and impossible for anyone but the most talented Webspinner. Obviously, he cannot be allowed to live. Condemned to death at the age of nine, Grailer must go underground, hiding his skills, testing his powers- until he is ready to do battle with the Web itself. With a new introduction from Cory Doctorow, written especially for this edition.


May 7, 2024

the silverblood promise by james loganThe Silverblood Promise by James Logan

Lukan Gardova is a cardsharp, academy dropout, and—thanks to a duel that ended badly—the disgraced heir to an ancient noble house. His days consist of cheap wine, rigged card games, and wondering how he might win back the life he threw away. When Lukan discovers that his estranged father has been murdered in strange circumstances, he finds fresh purpose. Deprived of his chance to make amends for his mistakes, he vows to unravel the mystery behind his father’s death. His search for answers leads him to Saphrona, fabled city of merchant princes, where anything can be bought if one has the coin. Lukan only seeks the truth, but instead he finds danger and secrets in every shadow. For in Saphrona, everything has a price—and the price of truth is the deadliest of all.


May 14, 2024

when among crows by veronica rothWhen Among Crows by Veronica Roth

We bear the sword, and we bear the pain of the sword. Pain is Dymitr’s calling. His family is one in a long line of hunters who sacrifice their souls to slay monsters. Now he’s tasked with a deadly mission: find the legendary witch Baba Jaga. To reach her, Dymitr must ally with the ones he’s sworn to kill. Pain is Ala’s inheritance. A fear-eating zmora with little left to lose, Ala awaits death from the curse she carries. When Dymitr offers her a cure in exchange for her help, she has no choice but to agree. Together they must fight against time and the wrath of the Chicago underworld. But Dymitr’s secrets—and his true motives—may be the thing that actually destroys them.


June 11, 2024

rogue sequence by zac toppingRogue Sequence by Zac Topping

Ander Rade is a super-soldier, a genetically engineered living weapon, and has been dutifully following orders since he gave himself to Xyphos Industries’ Gene-Mod Program several years ago. But when a mission goes sideways, he’s captured, imprisoned, and forced into brutally violent fighting pits for the better part of the next decade…until agents from the Genetic Compliance Department of the United American Provinces appear in the visiting room. Things have changed since Rade was captured. Shortly after his incarceration, the World Unity Council banned human genetic engineering and deemed all modified individuals a threat to society. Overnight, an entire subculture of people became outlaws simply for existing. But instead of leaving Rade locked behind bars, the GCD agents have come with an offer: Freedom in exchange for his help tracking down one of his former teammates from that ill-fated mission all those years ago.

icehenge by kim stanley robinsonIcehenge by Kim Stanley Robinson

SF titan Kim Stanley Robinson’s breakout novel, now in a Tor Essentials edition with a new introduction by Henry Farrell

Decades before his massively successful The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson wrote one of SF’s greatest meditations on extended human lifespan, the limitations of human memory, and the haunted confabulations that go with forgetting. On the North Pole of Pluto there stands an enigma: a huge circle of standing blocks of ice, built on the pattern of Earth’s Stonehenge—but ten times the size, standing alone at the edge of the Solar System. What is it? Who could have built it? The secret lies in the chaotic decades of the Martian Revolution, in the lost memories of those who have lived for centuries.


June 18, 2024

craft: stories i wrote for the devil by ananda limaCraft: Stories I Wrote for the Devil by Ananda Lima

At a Halloween party in 1999, a writer slept with the devil. She sees him again and again throughout her life and she writes stories for him about things that are both impossible and true.

Lima lures readers into surreal pockets of the United States and Brazil where they’ll find bite-size Americans in vending machines and the ghosts of people who are not dead. Once there, she speaks to modern Brazilian-American immigrant experiences–of ambition, fear, longing, and belonging—and reveals the porousness of storytelling and of the places we call home. With humor, an exquisite imagination, and a voice praised as “singular and wise and fresh” (Cathy Park Hong), Lima joins the literary lineage of Bulgakov and Lispector and the company of writers today like Ted Chiang, Carmen Maria Machado, and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.


June 25, 2024

the daughter's war by christopher buehlmanThe Daughter’s War by Christopher Buehlman

Galva — Galvicha to her three brothers, two of whom the goblins will kill — has defied her family’s wishes and joined the army’s untested new unit, the Raven Knights. They march toward a once-beautiful city overrun by the goblin horde, accompanied by scores of giant war corvids. Made with the darkest magics, these fearsome black birds may hold the key to stopping the goblins in their war to make cattle of mankind. The road to victory is bloody, and goblins are clever and merciless. The Raven Knights can take nothing for granted — not the bonds of family, nor the wisdom of their leaders, nor their own safety against the dangerous war birds at their side. But some hopes are worth any risk.

foul days by genoveva dimovaFoul Days by Genoveva Dimova

As a witch in the walled city of Chernograd, Kosara has plenty of practice treating lycanthrope bites, bargaining with kikimoras, and slaying bloodsucking upirs. There’s only one monster she can’t defeat: her ex, the Zmey, known as the Tsar of Monsters. She’s defied him one too many times and now he’s hunting her. Betrayed by someone close to her, Kosara’s only choice is to trade her shadow—the source of her powers—for a quick escape. Unfortunately, Kosara soon develops the deadly sickness that plagues shadowless witches—and only reclaiming her magic can cure her. To find it, she’s forced to team up with a suspiciously honorable detective. Even worse, all the clues point in a single direction: To get her shadow back, Kosara will have to face the Foul Days’ biggest threats without it. And she’s only got twelve days. But in a city where everyone is out for themselves, who can Kosara trust to assist her in outwitting the biggest monster from her past?

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Excerpt Reveal: Craft by Ananda Lima

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craft: stories i wrote for the devil by ananda lima

Strange, intimate, haunted, and hungry—Craft: Stories I Wrote for the Devil is an intoxicating and surreal fiction debut by award-winning author Ananda Lima.

At a Halloween party in 1999, a writer slept with the devil. She sees him again and again throughout her life and she writes stories for him about things that are both impossible and true.

Lima lures readers into surreal pockets of the United States and Brazil where they’ll find bite-size Americans in vending machines and the ghosts of people who are not dead. Once there, she speaks to modern Brazilian-American immigrant experiences–of ambition, fear, longing, and belonging—and reveals the porousness of storytelling and of the places we call home.

With humor, an exquisite imagination, and a voice praised as “singular and wise and fresh” (Cathy Park Hong), Lima joins the literary lineage of Bulgakov and Lispector and the company of writers today like Ted Chiang, Carmen Maria Machado, and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Craft: Stories I Wrote for the Devil by Ananda Lima, on sale 6/18/24


{    }

You probably couldn’t tell by looking at her now, but once, back in her twenties, the writer had slept with the Devil. They met at a Halloween party in a pop-up art space in 1999. She wore a red dress and pillbox hat, like Nancy Reagan. Though the way the dress clung to her curves mocked the First Lady’s performance of propriety. No one got it; the closest she got was “naughty Jackie O.?” But the Devil would get it. She had stood in the red and blue neon lights, holding a drink in one hand, running her finger over her fake pearls with the other, when she’d seen him across the room.

Thinking of that night now, at her desk in the bright morning light, the writer lifted her hand off the keyboard and traced her collarbone again, now bare between the top buttons of her plain denim shirt.

The writer had not been a writer then, at least not openly so. But the Devil had known. He had known the space she had inside her to carry her stories. He had known her hunger. She typed, and her young self took a sip of her drink and looked straight back into the Devil’s eyes.

━━ ˖°˖ ☾☆☽ ˖°˖ ━━━━━━━

RAPTURE

You probably can’t tell by looking at me now, but once, back in my twenties, I slept with the Devil. We met at a Halloween party in a closed-down store space in Manhattan, Union Square, in 1981. I was nursing my third Snake Bite in the corner. Silhouettes danced to “Memorabilia,” backlit by a makeshift red-and- blue- neon installation stuck to a crumbling brick wall. The Devil was sitting alone on a beat-up brown corduroy sofa. I was inauguration Nancy Reagan: a tighter version of the red Adolfo dress, black gloves, a wig between chestnut brown and dirty blond, topped with a red pillbox hat. He wore an ill-fitting suit, a faded orange wig, and some bad foundation. I walked up to him and asked what he was, yelling over the music. He said he was the future. I told him his costume sucked. He smiled and said he was often misunderstood, scanning the room as if hoping for a specific somebody else to show up. I began spinning the first thread of his story: a woman in a white dress, a cheap Halloween bride costume, would walk in holding a veil in her hand. I imagined him watching as the woman looked for someone too, but not him. As I thought this, the Devil nodded, almost imperceptibly, as if privately approving of something, but continued looking at the room with that slight sadness, that want. I recognized some of what I’d been carrying inside, mirrored on his face.

I thought my friends had stood me up. In my mind, I superimposed said friends, Michael and Angela, over the scene. Michael and Angela as I introduced them to each other at the company Christmas party the year before. Michael and Angela discreetly brushing their hands as they passed each other en route to the elevator, when I first realized they might be together. Michael and Angela the day I found them in the bathroom during lunch break. Those days, I saw Michael and Angela everywhere. I feared the two dancers in the corner, her arms over his shoulders, his pulling her by the waist, were Michael and Angela. Though it was useless to fear it now that everything was out in the open. If it weren’t happening here, it would be happening somewhere else. In her bedroom, in his, in the entry hall of their apartment building because they couldn’t wait, in a taxi on their way here.

I downed the rest of my drink.

“Are you waiting for someone?” I asked the Devil.

The Devil suspended his search and looked at me straight on for the first time. Something awakened in my body. Despite his ridiculous clothes, he looked like a 1940s movie star, with that strong jaw, his nose just the right amount of imperfect. It had been so long since I’d felt anything like that. Even with Michael, the hurt had coiled up around that feeling and all but strangled it. Yet here it was again, that fledgling want serpentining up my bones. I didn’t want to lose it. I wanted it to stay inside me.

The Devil gave me a sly smile and complimented me on my nice family values. I held my fake pearls, feigning shyness, and sat next to him, then stretched my legs over his lap. I grabbed a cigarette and dangled it from my matte-red lips as I fumbled for my matches. He offered me a light. It was as if he held an invisible lighter: there was his hand, and there was the flame. But it was dark, and I wasn’t exactly sober. I leaned in. He moved the fire an inch away from my reach and said I could just say no, smiling as if it were some kind of inside joke. I didn’t know what he was on about, but I had always liked dorks. I pulled his hand toward my cigarette and inhaled.

A heat fluttered up from my fingertips where they touched him. It was so unexpectedly pleasant, the sparkling sensation on my skin, the warmth rising through my veins up to my palms. I let go of his hands while I still could. I took off my red pillbox hat, my Nancy wig, fluffed up my hair. I’d recently cut it like Kim Wilde, though my hair was brown. I slid his wig off, revealing his immaculate black hair slicked back. I covered it with Nancy’s hair while facing him, our mouths inches away as I adjusted the wig and topped it with the red hat. Remaining close, I stared into him and put his orange wig on myself. He didn’t look away as other men would have. Blondie’s “Rapture” started playing. Our lips were on the verge of touching. Deep in his eyes (had they been green?), the reflection of the red neon looked like fire.

I might have stayed there, trapped in the darkness, in the fire. But someone tapped me on the shoulder, and I came back to my body. They had come after all. Angela was dressed up as Princess Diana, Michael as Prince Charles, their hands glued together as usual. Angela adjusted her tiara, leaning into Michael. Their costumes were brilliant, and my heartbeat was choking me. I wanted to vomit.

“And you are?” Angela asked the Devil.

The Devil answered he was the Devil.

“What happened to the future?” I asked.

He said the future was his costume, but who he was was the Devil.

“What’s the difference?” Angela asked.

“And you.” Michael looked at me, my red dress and the orange wig. “Fire?”

“A dumpster fire,” I replied.

Michael and Angela laughed, a little uncomfortably.

The Devil nodded as he repeated the phrase “dumpster fire,” then said he would have to steal it.

“You look great.” Angela smiled at me, but her eyes were filled with pity. Maybe to spare me from seeing it, she looked away. She put her free hand on my shoulder for a few seconds, then moved it away.

The Devil said he’d always liked red as his hand ran up my calf to the back of my knee, just under the hem of my dress. He said, slowly, that red was a picker-upper. My face contorted, overwhelmed with pleasure. He broke contact, and I opened my eyes just in time to notice Angela’s and Michael’s confused looks moving between my leg and my face, then looking away, a little embarrassed. Thank you, I thought. The Devil stood up and whispered in my ear that I was welcome, then told us he would get us some drinks.

Michael had his hands in his pockets. Angela crossed her arms and rubbed her elbows gently. They looked away awkwardly for a few seconds as if they needed time to reassess how to see me. Gradually, they leaned into each other again and looked at me anew.

I wished I could hate them then. But I didn’t. I loved Angela and was in love with Michael. But I resented that they hadn’t been a little kinder to me over the whole thing. And that they’d left me waiting for them in a sketchy party where the Devil could proposition me, steal me away. But the Devil hadn’t done either of these things. What was the deal?

“So?” Angela asked in a mock conspiratorial tone.

“So?” I played coy.

“Tell me more about Prince Charming.” She let go of Michael and joined me on the sofa, locking arms with me.

Michael followed, smiling dimly.

“There’s not much to tell,” I said, pretending there was much to tell.

Except that, supposedly, he was the Devil, I thought.

Somewhere on the opposite side of the room, someone had turned on a fog machine. The room smelled sweet and chemical.

The Devil winked at me as he walked back into the room, a pyramid with four old-fashioneds on his right hand, on his left hand, a flaming B-52.

He leaned down to the sofa where the three of us were sitting now and offered me the burning drink, a long straw turned toward my lips, the flames somehow blowing in the opposite direction. He handed Michael and Angela their glasses, placed the other two on the table, and sat on the armchair beside me. After the first sip, I thought I might throw up. But the Devil reached in and lightly touched my stomach. It felt like flowers were blossoming inside me, emanating from where he had touched. The nausea was gone.

Unprompted, he told me it really was him. He was what he was.

In the space across the room, people danced to the end of “Primary” by the Cure: a couple; a group of five in a circle, jumping up and down; and several lone figures moving slowly but somehow in rhythm. The fog was thick and made them look like shadows walking in front of an old movie projector or the shapes on the walls when the power went out and my aunt used a flashlight to tell us stories. As they danced, I imagined the beginning of their story. Each of them would have lost something: the person in the middle had a recent breakup, the next one a job, the one in the corner a friend, whom she had visited in the hospital for months. Maybe they were all here, unknowingly, to meet the Devil. The Devil himself, the real one, as he had just told me, who was watching me now, pleased.

“Why do you keep saying that?” I shouted over the music.

He said he liked being honest.

“That’s not what I hear.”

He shook his head and looked away from me, as if a little disappointed. After a few seconds, he sighed, looked back at me, and began talking again. He said I should reconsider my sources. History was written by the victors, scapegoating, etc. “Boys Don’t Cry” came on, to squeals of approval on the dance floor. The Devil had perfect teeth. As he talked, he had this look, a wounded look under the slight frown. His eyebrows were perfect. I wanted to run my fingers over them. I leaned just a little closer, wondering what he would smell like. And he was so tall, I thought. Like Michael.

The song ended and this time was not followed by another straightaway. It felt quiet for a second. Then, as if someone had turned up the volume of the ambient noise in the room: A woman dragged a chair to sit with a new group forming next to us. Loud laughter broke out from a loose circle of people waiting on the dance floor. “No! No! Not true!” said a tall skinny guy, also laughing. The fog had mostly dissipated.

The Devil wanted to know what was so special about Michael.

Michael had spilled a little of his drink on Angela’s leg and tried to wipe it off with his sleeves. They both laughed. With his hair like that, he did look a little bit like Prince Charles, though skirting the opposite side of the ugliness threshold, like a good-looking actor begrudgingly made to play Prince Charles. Angela messed up his hair, and it pained me. Why her? Why was I not enough? They locked arms and drank in a pretend nuptial toast. I countered the Devil by asking what the Devil would be doing there, hanging out with me.

A song finally came on: “Faith” (someone was on a Cure bender). But the tempo was much slower than the previous songs, and the people dispersed from the informal dance area into the rest of the party, except for three stragglers, eyes closed, as they slowly danced to the long intro.

The Devil continued: It was his favorite night, he got around, it’d been a good year, he too deserved to celebrate, yadda, yadda, yadda. He didn’t seem to want to get into his devilish ways. He paused. I stepped closer, feeling an urge to nuzzle into his neck like a feral but needy kitten. Plus, he said, he liked spending time with kindred spirits.

“Meaning?” I frowned. I might have been a little messed up at that moment, but I wasn’t Devil level. I was not evil.

He sighed, paused, looked at me, and said he was not evil. Then he continued moving through each point as quickly as he had been before: He was often, lazily, offered up as a solution to the problem of evil. But he wasn’t it at all.

I squinted at him and said I was more interested in what he had meant by “kindred spirits.”

He apologized for the rant (he didn’t even like talking about himself, preferred to listen, but this, pet peeve, sore spot, etc.). Then he told me what he meant: He also tended to want most what he couldn’t have.

I looked at Michael, and the snake coiled tighter inside me.

The Devil put a hand on my shoulder and loosened the snake’s grip just enough so I could keep breathing.

━━ ˖°˖ ☾☆☽ ˖°˖ ━━━━━━━

Pardon me if things get a little fuzzy from here on. All this was decades ago, and things get distorted like a cassette tape jammed and unraveled. Sometimes I feel like my memories merge a little with dreams, movies, music clips, maybe just absorbing their atmosphere, the shape of their threads, their hopes. And I’m sure I had some trouble remembering that night, even the next day. Boy, could I drink then. I was so young; in the pictures my face has that aura, that thing you can see clearly when looking at old pictures of celebrities when they were younger in those “look at how they aged” posts, some magical glow sparkling from their full cheeks. Also, in my old pictures, there’s a sadness in my eyes, though I wonder if anyone other than me can detect it. I can almost feel it, a phantom pain that allows me to imagine it, even though I can’t conjure it back completely.

I remember the red light in the room. One of the red bulbs in the corner started flickering halfway through the night. I remember closing my eyes for a few seconds, spreading myself from the sway of the alcohol, inhaling and exhaling as I heard the voices: the Devil, Michael, and Angela. I can still hear the Devil, his calm radio-host voice asking someone (who had he asked?) what their story was. I remember the four of us doing shots together and laughing. Angela and Michael warmed up to the Devil. He had his ways. The four of us danced to “Tainted Love.” The Devil was a great dancer, goofy in the right way. Michael somehow had the Nancy wig now. Angela was still in Diana’s. They were already becoming the same person. The Devil flicked his finger, and the TV turned on to MTV. It played a new song, “Thriller,” though it wouldn’t come out until 1982.

“The future is here,” the Devil toasted.

“It’s not even the future,” I replied.

Angela and Michael stepped farther away, to give us some space, or maybe have each other for themselves. I put the Devil’s orange wig back on him. For a second, his skin seemed to glow a strange orange, like a cheap but radioactive tan. But maybe it was the neon lights, maybe I just imagined it.

“I like him,” Michael mouthed at me from across the room.

Angela nodded and gave me two thumbs up.

As I adjusted the wig, I touched the Devil’s skin and felt that delicious, strange heat again. It spread, running up my arm, about to reach my elbow. I had closed my eyes. He moved away from my hand, bringing me back.

We watched Angela and Michael dance. I fantasized about asking the Devil to split them up but did not say anything.

The Devil said he could, easily, if I wanted him to.

I didn’t respond, some of the heat still in my fingers.

Suddenly, Angela and Michael were arguing. I only heard fragments of what they were yelling at each other. I heard Reagan’s name, and “I was just saying,” and “he did nominate the first woman.” I don’t remember who had which position. Angela stormed out.

I walked to Michael. “What happened?”

“I don’t know. She just—” He looked toward the door.

The Devil sat on the sofa, took a sip of his drink.

Then my hands were in Michael’s. I was startled. There was no supernatural tingling, just his hands, but it was harder to believe than the Devil. I grabbed on, squeezed. I never wanted to leave those hands. He looked at me as he had looked at Angela earlier that night. He was moving closer. I inhaled as the snake coiled tighter in my chest. I realized I was crying. Because it was too much, and because it wasn’t really happening. It wasn’t Michael. It was the Devil puppeteering him.

“I love you,” Michael said blindly. He didn’t seem to notice I was sobbing.

I let go of him and turned to the Devil. “Stop.”

The Devil shrugged.

Michael ran out after Angela.

I sat next to the Devil. He rubbed my back, careful not to touch my skin directly. I nestled my eyes on my wrists.

“It will never happen, right? I mean, for real?”

The Devil asked me what I thought. Rhetorically, he clarified.

I knew the answer.

The Devil then said I didn’t have to answer him but asked if it did happen, would I still want Michael?

I began to hiccup.

The Devil told me there, there. This time, while rubbing my upper back, always over my clothes, he accidentally touched the bottom of my neck. I tingled with pleasure, suddenly wanting him.

“Would you, please?” I pointed to his finger on my neck, panting.

The Devil noticed, a little embarrassed, apologized, and moved his hand away. I rubbed my neck where he had touched it, closed my eyes, savoring the last of the warmth until it disappeared.

The Devil sat on the couch, deflated. He tried to make people happy, he really did. But it didn’t work. In his eyes, the flame wilted. I could feel some of his sadness along with mine. That viscid darkness. Our two miserable, lost souls.

In the next gap between songs, I heard Angela and Michael laughing. It pained me, yet their being back together was somehow right. I gave the Devil a sorrowful smile, mirroring his. He flicked his index finger up. “Time after Time” started playing. He told me it would come out in 1983. We both took a swig of our drinks.

There was more to it, the Devil said, to the two of us being kindred spirits.

“What is it?” I asked, genuinely wanting to know the answer.

Stories, the Devil said. We both craved them.

I didn’t know what the Devil meant exactly. I had not thought of myself like that before he said it. But I knew as I heard it that it was true.

“But you seem to know things. Everything.”

The Devil said stories were more than knowing things, facts. There was no soul in that. It was in the telling and the words, the spaces between them.

He looked at me. I probably looked confused. He sighed and stopped talking.

I asked for elaboration, but he dismissed me with a wave of his hand, took another swig, and looked at the room. Another couple dancing very close and a group of three friends dancing out of rhythm.

We sat still, slumped side by side on the sofa until the song ended. The Devil sighed, lifted his index finger as if to pick the next song, but seemed to give up halfway through. When he lifted his finger again, it was to fill both our glasses. He looked so pathetic. I ran my hands over his wig, and it was as if I wanted to comfort us both. And in my pity for him was also growing this new compassion for me, for both of us. My pain was OK, existing as it was. I was OK. And so was everyone.

“Fuck it,” I said, standing up from the couch. I calculated a clear path for us through the crowd. I would need to make it to the other side of the room, turn left for the back door, and reach far enough up the enclosed stairway where it was dark. I readied myself to make a run for it. Then I grabbed the Devil by the hand.

The heat started rising, warm little snakes uncoiling, traveling up my veins from where I touched him, wildflowers blooming from within my skin, my breath; my heart accelerated, and I walked as quickly as I could, the Devil following, letting me guide him. I pushed through a couple in our way; we were almost in the main room. The heat had folded, rounding around the contour of my shoulder. It was approaching my neck and breasts, my knees were weak, but I kept going. We made it out of the room. By the time I reached the back door, I was moaning. I forced my eyes back open. People were staring, smiling. Some guy fist-pumped the air. But I wasn’t able to care; the heat was overwhelming. My hands trembled as I twisted the doorknob to the stairway. I barely made it up the first few steps on the stairs, crawled up them in a tangle, while ripping his shirt open, unbuckling his belt. Somehow, we made it to the darkness.

It was pure sensation, but also fully embodied. I was my body and his body. And a garden, honey, heat, sweetness, stars, and cosmic dust. Earth, as in dirt and as in the whole planet. I was spring, and the snakes in my veins were green. When they traveled up to my chest, they eased their purple-coiled sister, hardened around my heart, who slowly loosened and let go and turned green too. They swam in golden water and became gold; they swam in lava, then champagne, where they became air and effervesced, bubbling together, erupting into the air and leaving behind the surface of a lake at sunset, where I floated, bruised but free.

It is hard for me to fully understand it now. It was all immediate, all feeling; I could only understand it while I was feeling it. A little like the pain I had for Michael. I take my word for it that it was a real thing. I wish I could say it didn’t hurt after that. It did. And after Michael, it happened again. The Devil had been right about my wanting what I couldn’t have. But at least from then on, I knew myself. And eventually, it didn’t hurt. And eventually, I learned.

At the party, the Devil had asked what was so special about Michael. Today the Devil and I would shake our heads at that young version of me, like the frustrated parents of a teenager. Immersed in the present, it can be hard to know where to look. Sometimes you need the distance to fully appreciate the view, to see mountaintops surrounding the creek and know that if you had kept going farther to the left, you would have seen a canyon so vast, it is hard to believe you missed it. You can see it all together from afar, even though by then, the sound of the water, the mist, and the soft moss are gone.

I saw the Devil twice after that, but he didn’t see me. The first time, much later, at a bar. The Devil was wearing a dark forest green shirt that suited him perfectly, telling a beautiful blond about a decade younger than me something hilarious. There was no jealousy. Seeing him like that made me happy. I looked away for a couple of seconds as a man squeezed next to me at the bar to order a drink, and when I looked back, the Devil and his girl were gone. The man who had squeezed in turned out to be Peter, who later became my husband.

Michael and Angela broke up in the summer of 1983. Our friendship had cooled a little by then, fizzling out until we lost touch at the end of the eighties. About a year ago, she found me on social media. It was so strange to see her profile picture, to recognize her features within that aged face. It was hard to understand it, not having experienced it gradually as I did with my own. I tried to picture my face today and subtract from it my face when she’d known me. It was hard to see either one with any precision.

Later, Angela DMed a scan of a photograph of the two of us together that Halloween, as Nancy and Diana. We were beautiful and had that puppy quality, that youth-soaked snout. I wished I could explain to myself in 1981, and myself now, how time worked. Its mind-boggling speed, even when each day can be slow like a trudge through tar. How you blink, and here you are. How those silly nights feel like some freaky moving Escher picture of a mountain peak appearing to get smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror, but somehow still there in its full size. I ended up unfriending and blocking Angela a couple of months later. She turned out to be one of the 52 percent. She was ecstatic about the election. It was too much for me to witness.

The second time I saw the Devil was at the inauguration. Peter was in the shower. I absentmindedly turned on the TV; we had no interest in watching it. I was about to turn it off when I saw him. The camera moved from a close-up to a wider shot, and he was there, next to a red-haired woman, three rows behind the podium. He had not aged. He frowned slightly, a serious, focused expression. He looked at his watch. The camera cut to a tighter shot of the inauguration ceremony, and he was gone.

Copyright © 2024 from Ananda Lima

Pre-order Craft: Stories I Wrote for the Devil Here:

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6 Stories You Can Enjoy on Page and Screen

Don’t you just love it when books leap off the page? And onto the screen? Here’s a list of exciting titles with series and movie accompaniments! 


The Three-Body Problemthe three body problem by cixin liu by Cixin Liu

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. 

Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

And meanwhile, on Netflix, you’ll soon be able to watch their adaption of Liu’s work! 

I Am Legendi am legend by richard matheson, cover to be revealed by Richard Matheson

This New York Times bestselling classic tale of Earth’s last survivor of a vampire plague inspired the hit film I Am Legend (2007), and if you haven’t gotten around to reading the book yet, now is seriously the time, because I Am Legend 2 is set to release in 2025. 

The Caladan Trilogydune: the heir of caladan by brian herbert & kevin j. anderson by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

Dune and Dune: Part Two have been all the rage in the box offices of recent years, and decades before that, David Lynch’s Dune (1984) captivated fans of epic science fiction. And all these movies beg a new question: What if there were more Dune books? Answer: There are. The Caladan Trilogy adds more detail to the lives of Duke Leto, Lady Jessica, and Paul. And if you want even more Dune, we’re thrilled to share even more with Princess of Dune and Sands of Dune

The Wheel of Time Seriesthe great hunt by robert jordan by Robert Jordan

How epic do you like your fantasy? If you said “Very!” then The Wheel of Time is for you. All 14 books in the series (plus a prequel!). And if once you’re done with those stacks and stacks of epic writing, or honestly at whatever point you prefer, check out The Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime, starring Rosamund Pike. The first two seasons cover Jordan’s first two books, The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt

Dark HarvestDark Harvest by Norman Partridge by Norman Partridge

Halloween, 1963. They call him the October Boy, or Ol’ Hacksaw Face, or Sawtooth Jack. Whatever the name, everybody in this small Midwestern town knows who he is. How he rises from the cornfields every Halloween, a butcher knife in his hand, and makes his way toward town, where gangs of teenage boys eagerly await their chance to confront the legendary nightmare. Both the hunter and the hunted, the October Boy is the prize in an annual rite of life and death.

Pete McCormick knows that killing the October Boy is his one chance to escape a dead-end future in this one-horse town. He’s willing to risk everything, including his life, to be a winner for once. But before the night is over, Pete will look into the saw-toothed face of horror—and discover the terrifying true secret of the October Boy.

You too can discover this secret, in the pages and now on screen with David Slade’s Dark Harvest (2023)

PinocchioPinocchio with Introduction by Guillermo del Toro; Illustrated by Gris Grimly; written by Carlo Collodi with Introduction by Guillermo del Toro; Illustrated by Gris Grimly; written by Carlo Collodi

This edition of the timeless classic Pinocchio has the full text with a mixture of full-page and spot illustrations in black and white integrated in the text, in pen-and-ink style. The ink is sepia brown, and the introduction is from Guillermo del Toro, the director of Netflix’s adaptation of Pinocchio

You’ll love it, no lie! 

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Space(fam) Jam! L. M. Sagas on Found Family in Space

cascade failure by l m sagasHere at the Tor Blog, we’re pretty good at lists. It’s kind of our bread and butter, and since (as stated) we’re decent listicle chefs, we add all the culinary accoutrements when we cook a bread’n’butter listicle.  That’s very convoluted, but suffice to say: we are impressed with the listicle of spacefaring found families put together by L. M. Sagas, author of Cascade Failure, a science fiction adventure novel that is out today! So check out this list, and then check out L. M. Sagas’ book. Then read more listicles and more books. Reading is good!


by L. M. Sagas

Fantasy, mystery, horror—for my money, found family’s a top-tier trope in any genre. But as you might’ve guessed from the title, there’s one take on this classic trope that’s especially near and dear to my heart: found families in space

I’m not quite sure if it’s the sheer variety of folks (and folk-like humanoids, organisms, and assorted extraterrestrials) you see coming together from the far reaches of the universe, or the delightful volatility of cramming them all in a high-tech soda can for long periods of time and shaking them up ’til it pops. Maybe it’s C, all of the above, and a secret third thing besides. Whatever it is, something about a spacefam just hits different—especially when it’s full of mismatched pieces that shouldn’t work but do

My upcoming novel, Cascade Failure, follows the adventures (and misadventures) of just such a spacefam. But the crew of the Ambit isn’t the first ragtag bunch of misfits to cobble together a home among the stars. Here’s a list of some (but by no means all!) of my favorite spacefaring found families across different books and television. 

the long way to a small angry planet by becky chambersThe Wayfarer Crew from Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers Series

If you’re on the hunt for a heartfelt, hopeful, and occasionally hilarious example of a space-based found family with members from all walks of interstellar life, look no further than Rosemary Harper and the motley crew of the Wayfarer. They’ve got humans and Aandrisks and Harmagians (oh my!), and a few more species and subspecies besides, and each one brings their own needs, their own perspectives, and their own culture to life aboard that charming little vessel. And as awesome as each character is on their own, what I really love about this story is the way they interact with each other—the bits and pieces of themselves they share, the accommodations they make for one another, the respect that they have (even if there are a few hiccups along the way). It takes this great, sprawling universe and makes it feel small in the best possible way. And did I mention it’s cozy? Because it’s super cozy. 

the last watch by j s dewesThe Sentinels from J.S. Dewes’ The Divide Series

There are few things I enjoy more than a bunch of stubborn, self-reliant smartasses who absolutely do not need to rely on other people, being forced into a situation where—you guessed it—they really need to rely on other people. That’s exactly what you get with The Divide series, with some wicked-fun flourishes along the way. You start off with the Sentinels, a crew of outcasts from wildly varied backgrounds who are stuck together playing Night Watch (for you Game of Thrones fans out there) at the end of the universe, and they all seem pretty happy to keep themselves to themselves—at least, as much as they can, living together on a ship in the outer reaches of space. 

But when the rubber meets the road—or, in this case, when the semi-retired warship meets the ever-compressing boundaries of the universe—they all have to scrunch their eyes, pinch their noses, and take that Big Scary Leap into trusting each other, and the relationships that bloom from that choice turn that outcast, misfit crew into a bona fide found family you can’t help cheering for. Warning: it may also leave you craving veggie pie. 

the vanished birds by simon jimenezNia and Ahro from Simon Jimenez’s The Vanished Birds 

Everyone loves a good “unlikely adoptive parent” story (that’s right, we’re looking at you, Pedro Pascal’s Collecting Magical Orphans Cinematic Universe), and the duo I lovingly call the “Flute Fam” hits all my favorite notes (pun intended). Nia definitely isn’t the first person anyone would pick to take in a lost kid, much less a mysterious, musical lost kid with bucketsful of trauma and a future that could fundamentally change the way humanity experiences the universe. But slowly, through trial and error and the judicious use of food-bribes and humor, she and little (and then eventually not-so-little) Ahro fumble and feel their way to a profound bond that reshapes both of their lives, and the lives of those around them.

leviathan wakes by james s a coreyThe Crew of the Rocinante from The Expanse Series by duo James S.A. Corey

Families can be messy, and I think that’s true of found families, too. To me, that’s one of the most appealing things about the crew of the Rocinante (both in the book series and the television show): the messiness. From Holden’s occasionally ill-fated idealism to Amos’s, erm, nonchalant approach to violence, each of the characters comes with their own rough edges, and they don’t always fit so smoothly together. But those moments of tension are just as compelling as the moments when everything gels, and when you put them all together, it paints such a visceral, relatable picture of life and love in the crucible of space that it’s got a permanent spot on my list of favs.  

the killjoys by syfy season 1 promotional image, which includes three characters with weapons walking out of bright light coolyTeam Awesome Force from Killjoys

Confession time: if you’re familiar with the show, you’ll know that part of this found fam is also technically fam fam, since the brothers Jaqobis are actually brothers. But nevertheless, I stand by this pick, because it’s a witty, gritty, bombastically optimistic example of one of my favorite aspects of the trope: putting your ass on the line for the family you choose. Across flashbacks and character arcs and an array of major and minor cataclysms, you get to see so many moments where each of these characters—Dutch, Johnny, D’avin, even Lucy-the-ship-AI—look at each other and roll their eyes and go, yeah, sure, I’d die for that idiot, because no matter how much they screw with each other, nobody had better screw with them. And I just think that’s beautiful. 

That’s it for the list! There’s definitely plenty more out there to choose from, and if you’ve got some to add, please drop a comment and share. And for more spacefam fun (and feels!), don’t forget to check out my book, Cascade Failure, on sale now!


Order Cascade Failure Here!

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