Critical Point - Tor/Forge Blog

Queer SFF Books from 2020 You Can Read Now!

Queer SFF Books from 2020 You Can Read Now!

Queer SFF Books from 2020 You Can Read Now!

Happy Pride, everyone! We’re doing some socially distant celebrating this month by moving these brand new queer SFF books to the top of our TBR pile. Which ones are you most excited to read?

image-37128Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton

This is the motto of the Lady Knights—sworn to fealty under a struggling kingdom, promised to defend the prospective heir, Banna Mora. But when a fearsome rebellion overthrows the throne, Mora is faced with an agonizing choice: give up everything she’s been raised to love, and allow a king-killer to be rewarded—or retake the throne, and take up arms against the newest heir, Hal Bolingbrooke, Mora’s own childhood best friend and sworn head of the Lady Knights.


image-37064Burn the Dark by S. A. Hunt

Robin is a YouTube celebrity gone-viral with her intensely-realistic witch hunter series. But even her millions of followers don’t know the truth: her series isn’t fiction. Her ultimate goal is to seek revenge against the coven of witches who wronged her mother long ago. Returning home to the rural town of Blackfield, Robin meets friends new and old on her quest for justice. But then, a mysterious threat known as the Red Lord interferes with her plans….


image-36437The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood

What if you knew how and when you will die? Csorwe does—she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice. But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power. But Csorwe will soon learn—gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.


image-36448The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world. Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.


image-36457Critical Point by S. L. Huang

Math-genius mercenary Cas Russell has stopped a shadow organization from brainwashing the world and discovered her past was deliberately erased and her superhuman abilities deliberately created. And that’s just the start: when a demolitions expert targets Cas and her friends, and the hidden conspiracy behind Cas’s past starts to reappear, the past, present, and future collide in a race to save one of her dearest friends.


image-36950The Unconquered City by K. A. Doore

Seven years have passed since the Siege—a time when the hungry dead had risen—but the memories still haunt Illi Basbowen. Though she was trained to be an elite assassin, now the Basbowen clan act as Ghadid’s militia force protecting the resurrected city against a growing tide of monstrous guul that travel across the dunes. Illi’s worst fears are confirmed when General Barca arrives, bearing news that her fledgling nation, Hathage, also faces this mounting danger.  To protect her city and the realm, Illi must travel to Hathage and confront her inner demons in order to defeat a greater one—but how much can she sacrifice to protect everything she knows from devastation?


image-36473The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison

In an alternate 1880s London, angels inhabit every public building, and vampires and werewolves walk the streets with human beings in a well-regulated truce. A fantastic utopia, except for a few things: Angels can Fall, and that Fall is like a nuclear bomb in both the physical and metaphysical worlds. And human beings remain human, with all their kindness and greed and passions and murderous intent.otJack the Ripper stalks the streets of this London too. But this London has an Angel. The Angel of the Crows.


#ICYMI- A Recap of TorCon 2020

#ICYMI- A Recap of TorCon 2020

A Recap of TorCon 2020

We are so grateful to everyone who joined us for TorCon 2020, and we hope you had as much fun as we did!

If you’re bummed you couldn’t make it to all of the activities, don’t worry, we’ve got your back. You can see the recordings of almost all of TorCon plus some short recaps below!

On the first day of TorCon, Christopher Paolini (To Sleep in a Sea of Stars) and Brandon Sanderson (Rhythm of War) chatted about writing fantasy and science fiction, writing veeerrry long books, steak, and finding truth in fiction. Their event was only available at TorCon, but you’ll get a chance to see their conversation again this fall!

Later on, V. E. Schwab (The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue) and Neil Gaiman (The Annotated American Gods) came together live and in conversation. It was beautiful and inspiring and we stan two legends and we weren’t crying it was just raining directly over our faces.

Rewatch below through Crowdcast:

video sorucepowered by Crowdcast

Nothing pairs better with brunch than books. So we grabbed a brunch cocktail and joined The Calculating Stars author Mary Robinette Kowal for a balanced brunchfest of book talk…and a sneak peek at her upcoming “Lady Astronauts” novel, The Relentless Moon. Books & Brunch was moderated by Den of Geek contributor Natalie Zutter.

Rewatch now via Crowdcast:

video sorucepowered by Crowdcast

Authors can take inspiration from anything to write stories, and we got a special inside look into how some of our favorite authors did when WE were the inspiration. At Saturday’s Chaotic Communal Storytime, K. A. Doore (The Unconquered City), S. L. Huang (Critical PointBurning Roses), Arkady Martine (A Memory Called Empire), and Kit Rocha (Deal With the Devil) used audience writing prompts to create a brand new story—filled with MURDER, of course.

Rewatch now via Facebook Live!

video soruce

Books are portals to different worlds, or so people say—but what exactly goes into creating those worlds? We joined P. Djèlí Clark (Ring Shout), Charlotte Nicole Davis (The Good Luck Girls), Bethany C. Morrow (A Song Below Water), Tochi Onyebuchi (Riot Baby), and moderator Saraciea Fennell as they discussed worldbuilding, craft, and the fun of creating limitless new universes contained within the pages of their works.

Check it out now via YouTube!

video soruce

What better way to enjoy brunch than to pair it with some books? Authors Jenn Lyons (The Ruin of Kings and the upcoming The Memory of Souls) and Nathan Makaryk (Nottingham and the upcoming Lionhearts) joined TorCon for a brunch to end all brunches…complete with MULTIPLE CAMERA ANGLES and dramatic readings from both authors! Books & Brunch was moderated by Den of Geek contributor Natalie Zutter.

Watch it again via Crowdcast:

video sorucepowered by Crowdcast

Pop culture has shifted its attention to the messy, the morally ambiguous, and the weird, and we’re LOVING IT! We joined some of the genre’s most exciting authors at TorCon to discuss how chaos reigns in their fantasy worlds, the cosmos, and the real world alike. Our panelists included Kate Elliott (Unconquerable Sun), Andrea Hairston (Master of Poisons), Alaya Dawn Johnson (Trouble the Saints), and Ryan Van Loan (The Sin in the Steel) and was moderated by Kayti Burt of Den of Geek.

Rewatch the Chaos and Cosmos panel now on YouTube:

video soruce

Technology. Science. Politics. Their books touch on all of these, and they had the chance to talk about it at TorCon. We joined critically acclaimed, award-winning authors Cory Doctorow (Attack Surface, Little Brother) and Nnedi Okorafor (Binti, Remote Control) for our last TorCon panel, and what an amazing way to close out the weekend!

Rewatch this discussion, moderated by Kayti Burt of Den of Geek, via Crowdcast:

video sorucepowered by Crowdcast


On the (Digital) Road: Tor Author Events in June

On the (Digital) Road: Tor Author Events in June

We are in a time of social distancing, but your favorite Tor authors are still coming to screens near you in the month of June! Check out where you can find them here:

S. L. Huang, Critical Point

Image Place holder  of - 72

Friday, June 5- Sunday, June 7
Renaissance Virtual Conference
Full Schedule Here

Inverse SFF Happy Hour
Instagram Live
5:00 PM EST

John Scalzi, The Last Emperox

Image Placeholder of - 6

Tuesday, June 9
In Conversation with Sarah Gailey (Upright Women Wanted, Publishing)
12 PM PT

Wednesday, June 24
Reading/Q&A with Hudson (OH) Library/The Learned Owl Bookstore

S. A. Hunt, I Come With Knives

Placeholder of  -9

Tuesday, June 9
Tor After Dark
Instagram Live
7:00 PM EST

Gregory Benford and Larry Niven, Glorious

Place holder  of - 78

Tuesday, June 16
Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore
Instagram Live
7:00 PT

Wednesday, June 17
Poisoned Pen
6:00 PT

Thursday, June 18
Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop
7:00 PM EST

Friday, June 19
Reddit r/Books AMA

Tuesday, June 30

Katherine Addison, The Angel of the Crows

Poster Placeholder of - 28

Tuesday, June 16
Tor After Dark
Instagram Live
7:00 PM EST

Tuesday, June 30
Boswell Books, in conversation with Jim Higgins from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


On the (Digital) Road: Tor Author Events in April

On the (Digital) Road: Tor Author Events in April

We are in a time of social distancing, but your favorite Tor authors are still coming to screens near you in the month of April! Check out where you can find them here:

John Scalzi, The Last Emperox


Thursday, April 16
Inverse SFF Happy Hour
Instagram Live
7:00 PM EST

Friday, April 17
Commonwealth Club Virtual Event
Commonwealth Website
3:00 PM EST

Friday, April 17
Online Reading/Q and A with Scott Simon’s Open Book
Open Book
6:15 PM EST

Monday, April 20
Online Chime Interview with Amazon Book Review
Time TK

Tuesday, April 21
Tor After Dark
Instagram Live
7:00 PM EST

Wednesday, April 22
Reddit r/Books AMA
3:00 PM EST

Friday, April 24
Veronica Roth + BuzzFeed Book Club Present: Quarantine Reading
1:30 PM EST

Jenn Lyons, The Memory of Souls


Saturday, April 18
Toils of the Dreamer – Celebrity DnD
5:00 PM EDT

Christopher Paolini, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars


Monday, April 20
Reddit r/Books AMA
Time TK

TJ Klune, The House in the Cerulean Sea


Monday, April 20
Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, in conversation with CB Lee
Instagram Live
7:00 PT

Sarah Kozloff, A Queen in Hiding


Tuesday, April 21
Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop
6:00 PM CT

S. L. Huang, Critical Point


Monday, April 27
Reddit r/Books AMA
Time TK

Wednesday, April 29
Second Life: Deep Dive Virtual Panel
Second Life
Time TK

Chris Kluwe, Otaku


Monday, April 27
Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop
6:00 PM CT

S. A. Hunt (Burn the Dark), Camilla Bruce (You Let Me In), Kit Rocha (Deal with the Devil)


Tuesday, April 28
Reddit r/Fantasy AMA
Time TK


Every Tor Book Coming This Spring

Every Tor Book Coming This Spring

We’re poking out our heads from our winter hibernation to yell about TOR SPRING BOOKS! We are more than ready for the weather to get warm so we can drag this big ol’ stack of books outside. Here’s EVERYTHING coming from Tor this spring:

March 24

Image Place holder  of - 60

The Poet King by Ilana C. Meyer

After a surprising upheaval, the nation of Tamryllin has a new ruler: Elissan Diar, who proclaims himself the first Poet King. Meanwhile, a civil war rages in a distant land, and former Court Poet Lin Amaristoth gathers allies old and new to return to Tamryllin in time to stop the coronation. For the Poet King’s ascension is connected with a darker, more sinister prophecy which threatens to unleash a battle out of legend unless Lin and her friends can stop it.


Image Placeholder of - 91

A Broken Queen by Sarah Kozloff

Barely surviving her ordeal in Oromondo and scarred by its Fire Spirit, Cerulia is taken to a recovery house in Wyeland to heal from the trauma. In a ward with others who are all bound to serve each other, she discovers that not all scars are visible, and dying can be done with grace and acceptance. While she would like to stay in this place of healing, will she ever be able to the peace she has found to re-take the throne?


April 7

The Glass MagicianPoster Placeholder of - 86 by Caroline Stevermer

Thalia Cutler doesn’t have prolific family connections. What she does know is stage magic and she dazzles audiences with an act that takes your breath away. That is, until one night when a trick goes horribly awry. In surviving she discovers that she can shapeshift, and has the potential to take her place among the rich and powerful. But first, she’ll have to learn to control that power…before the real monsters descend to feast.


April 14

Place holder  of - 30Queen by Timothy Zahn

Nicole Hammond is a Sibyl, a special human that has the ability to communicate with a strange alien ship called the Fyrantha. However, Nicole and all other sentient creatures are caught up in a war for control between two competing factions. Now, the street-kid turned rebel leader has a plan that would restore freedom to all who have been shanghaied by the strange ship.


Placeholder of  -21The Last Emperox by John Scalzi

Emperox Grayland II has finally wrested control of her empire from those who oppose her and who deny the reality of the empirical collapse. But “control” is a slippery thing, and even as Grayland strives to save as many of her people form impoverished isolation, the forces opposing her rule will make a final, desperate push to topple her from her throne and power, by any means necessary. Grayland and her thinning list of allies must use every tool at their disposal to save themselves, and all of humanity. And yet it may not be enough. Will Grayland become the savior of her civilization . . . or the last emperox to wear the crown?


April 21

You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce

Cassandra Tipp has left behind no body—just her massive fortune, and one final manuscript. Then again, there are enough bodies in her past.

Cassandra Tipp will tell you a story—but it will come with a terrible price. What really happened, out there in the woods—and who has Cassie been protecting all along? Read on, if you dare…


The Cerulean Queen by Sarah Kozloff

The true queen of Weirandale has returned. Cerulia has done the impossible and regained the throne. However, she’s inherited a council of traitors, a realm in chaos, and a war with Oromondo. Now a master of her Gift, to return order to her kingdom she will use all she has learned—humility, leadership, compassion, selflessness, and the necessity of ruthlessness.


April 28

Critical Point by S. L. Huang

Math-genius mercenary Cas Russell has stopped a shadow organization from brainwashing the world and discovered her past was deliberately erased and her superhuman abilities deliberately created. And that’s just the start: when a demolitions expert targets Cas and her friends, and the hidden conspiracy behind Cas’s past starts to reappear, the past, present, and future collide in a race to save one of her dearest friends.


May 12

Deal with the Devil by Claire Eddy

Nina is an information broker with a mission—she and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to save the hopeless in a crumbling America. Knox is the bitter, battle-weary captain of the Silver Devils. His squad of supersoldiers went AWOL to avoid slaughtering innocents, and now he’s fighting to survive.

They’re on a deadly collision course, and the passion that flares between them only makes it more dangerous. They could burn down the world, destroying each other in the process…Or they could do the impossible: team up.


May 19

I Come With Knives by S. A. Hunt

A dangerous serial killer only known as The Serpent is abducting and killing Blackfield residents. An elusive order of magicians known as the Dogs of Odysseus also show up with Robin in their sights. Robin must handle these new threats on top of the menace from the Lazenbury coven, but a secret about Robin’s past may throw all of her plans into jeopardy.


Uranus by Ben Bova

On a privately financed orbital habitat above the planet Uranus, political idealism conflicts with pragmatic, and illegal, methods of financing. Add a scientist who has funding to launch a probe deep into Uranus‘s ocean depths to search for signs of life, and you have a three-way struggle for control.


May 26

Automatic Reload by Ferrett Steinmetz

In the near-future, automation is king, and Mat is the top mercenary working the black market. He’s your solider’s solider, with military-grade weapons instead of arms…and a haunted past that keeps him awake at night. On a mission that promises the biggest score of his life, he discovers that the top secret shipment he’s been sent to guard is not a package, but a person: Silvia, genetically-altered to be the deadliest woman on the planet—her only weakness is her panic disorder.


June 2

Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Phyllis LeBlanc has given up everything—not just her own past, and Dev, the man she loved, but even her own dreams. Still, the ghosts from her past are always by her side—and history has appeared on her doorstep to threaten the people she keeps in her heart. And so Phyllis will have to make a harrowing choice, before it’s too late—is there ever enough blood in the world to wash clean generations of injustice?


June 9

The Living Dead by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus

A pair of medical examiners find themselves battling a dead man who won’t stay dead. In a Midwestern trailer park, a Black teenage girl and a Muslim immigrant battle newly-risen friends and family. On a US aircraft carrier, living sailors hide from dead ones while a fanatic makes a new religion out of death. At a cable news station, a surviving anchor keeps broadcasting while his undead colleagues try to devour him. In DC, an autistic federal employee charts the outbreak, preserving data for a future that may never come. Everywhere, people are targeted by both the living and the dead.


The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

The hunt is over. After fifteen years of lies and sacrifice, Baru Cormorant has the power to destroy the Imperial Republic of Falcrest that she pretends to serve. The secret society called the Cancrioth is real, and Baru is among them. But the Cancrioth’s weapon cannot distinguish the guilty from the innocent. If it escapes quarantine, the ancient hemorrhagic plague called the Kettling will kill hundreds of millions…not just in Falcrest, but all across the world. History will end in a black bloodstain.


The Shadow Commission by David Mack

November 1963. Cade and Anja have lived in hiding for a decade, training new mages. Then the assassination of President Kennedy trigger a series of murders whose victims are all magicians—with Cade, Anja, and their allies as its prime targets. Their only hope of survival: learning how to fight back against the sinister cabal known as the Shadow Commission.


June 16

By Force Alone by Lavie Tidhar

Everyone thinks they know the story of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. The fact is they don’t know sh*t.

Arthur? An over-promoted gangster.
Merlin? An eldritch parasite.
Excalibur? A shady deal with a watery arms dealer.
Britain? A clogged sewer that Rome abandoned just as soon as it could.


Glorious by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven

Audacious astronauts encounter bizarre, sometimes deadly life forms, and strange, exotic, cosmic phenomena, including miniature black holes, dense fields of interstellar plasma, powerful gravity-emitters, and spectacularly massive space-based, alien-built labyrinths. Tasked with exploring this brave, new, highly dangerous world, they must also deal with their own personal triumphs and conflicts.


The Unconquered City by K. A. Doore

Seven years have passed since the Siege—a time when the hungry dead had risen—but the memories still haunt Illi Basbowen. Illi’s worst fears are confirmed when General Barca arrives, bearing news that her fledgling nation, Hathage, also faces this mounting danger. In her search for the source of the guul, the general exposes a catastrophic secret hidden on the outskirts of Ghadid. Illi must travel to Hathage and confront her inner demons in order to defeat a greater one—but how much can she sacrifice to protect everything she knows from devastation?


Excerpt: Critical Point by S. L. Huang

Excerpt: Critical Point by S. L. Huang

amazons bns booksamillions ibooks2 30 indiebounds

Placeholder of  -44S. L. Huang’s Critical Point is a breakout SF thriller for fans of John Scalzi and Greg Rucka.

Math-genius mercenary Cas Russell has stopped a shadow organization from brainwashing the world and discovered her past was deliberately erased and her superhuman abilities deliberately created.

And that’s just the start: when a demolitions expert targets Cas and her friends, and the hidden conspiracy behind Cas’s past starts to reappear, the past, present, and future collide in a race to save one of her dearest friends.

Please enjoy this excerpt of  Critical Point, available 4/28/2020. 

f i v e

The room was a wreck.

In kind terms, Arthur was…particular. He wasn’t so much a neat freak as he wanted everything in its place. Now the large file cabinets had all been wrenched open, the drawers pulled at amok angles. Files littered the floor in a paper carpet. Everything had been tossed off the desks—both Arthur’s desk and at Pilar’s old station— and the drawers had been yanked fully out and plopped on the floor.

Arthur’s tall gun safe had been blown open, too, the metal warped and charred.

“Rio,” I said. “How certain are you nothing live is here?”

“Approximately ninety percent,” he answered.

I inched forward, motioning Pilar to stay back. Luckily, I knew this room well, and the level of sloppiness here suggested little attempt at subtlety, enough for me to be able to take a set difference. The complement rose to prominence in my senses, allowing me to focus on what had changed.

The locks on the file cabinets, the desks, and the gun safe had all been busted open with varying levels of explosives. “One-trickpony,” I muttered, as I edged around to Arthur’s desk. The desktop computer still hummed. I reached out and turned on one of the dual monitors.

A login screen flared to life undramatically. No way the ransacker could have gotten past Checker’s security, not unless the computer was already unlocked for some reason, which I supposed was possible. Come to think of it…

“Isn’t there a security system on this place?” I called to Pilar, who was still by the door. Checker’s security on his home probably rivaled theWhite House; why wouldn’t he have wired the office the same way?

Pilar twisted her hands against each other. “We have one, we do, and it’s really good, but it’s more for when we’re not here. During the day, we mostly have it turned off—we have to, what with clients coming in and out al the time. And even the cameras, Arthur doesn’t keep them on when we have people in, because of confidentiality.”

I finished my circuit of the office. The set difference had revealed no indication of active explosives anywhere things were out of place. I couldn’t be a hundred percent sure, but I thought we were probably in the clear, and on top of Rio’s check, that was the best we could hope for.

“Okay, you two can go,” I said to Simon and Rio. “Pilar, text Checker and see if he can get anything, anything at all, from either the security system or by hopping on the office intranets. Then tell me where you think Arthur would’ve been keeping stuff.”

“We’ll go find the man you took prisoner,” Simon promised, turning to leave.

Shit. I’d already forgotten that’s where I was sending them.

“Rio,” I called.

He turned.

“This guy, he…” My memory of the Australian’s face was still fuzzy, but I could recall my attempted interrogation now. “I had the impression…I don’t think he’s quite with it. Minimal force, okay? Unless you find out he really is with Pithica.”

Rio hesitated. “Cas, if they have broken their covenant with us, this will only be their first step. I submit that I may be more useful to you elsewhere.”

He was right, but . . . “Our first priority has to be finding Arthur. Please.”

He touched his forehead. “As you wish, Cas.”

I took a relieved breath.

A year ago I wouldn’t have thought it necessary to caution Rio against employing his . . . usual methods… against someone who displayed a questionable mental capacity. But these days, every time I thought about assuming something like that, the image flashed in  my head of Rio pointing a gun at Pilar’s head, and I warned him off anyway.

He didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he seemed to take it as logical, which was frightening in a whole host of other ways.

Rio and Simon headed out into the gathering darkness, and Pilar finished tapping out a message on her phone and picked her way across the paper-strewn floor. “When you say you want to know anywhere Arthur was keeping stuff, what kind of stuff are you looking for?”she said. “Do you mean anything on—on D.J.?”

“Yeah,” I said. “That, or any current cases, any files he wanted to keep sort of on hand. Or, on the flip side, anything he wanted to hide. And if he or Checker were still doing any legwork on Pithica without my knowledge, I want that too.” Dawna had also given Arthur the mental block, but he might’ve taken advantage of Simon’s presence to get it removed too. Everything was on the table at this point.

A sneaking doubt reminded me that Checker wasn’t the only one who had a complicated past. What if instead of D.J., it was my own history Arthur had been looking into?

Was it possible a personalized bomber could be after me? Thanks to Simon, any villains I had known were a faded clutter of disconnected faces. A woman with a scar. Another with steel-gray hair, holding a clipboard. A man with a crew cut holding a stopwatch, nodding approvingly…

“Oh. Okay,” Pilar interrupted my disturbed ponderings. She gazed around the clutter-strewn office. “Isn’t it sort of useless to tell you where things would’ve been, though?”

“Pilar,” I growled.

“Okay! Um.” She started pointing. “His inbox used to sit here, uh—I think that’s it in the corner. And there was a slot here where I’d put phone messages for him, but I don’t know if he uses it anymore. Any really current stuff would’ve been on his desk or in the top right drawer. Anything sensitive was in the desk file drawer, which was reinforced and only Arthur had the key. This drawer here had a file for miscellaneous papers, which could be anything, and docs that weren’t filed yet got put in here.” She pointed to another mangled file drawer. “I think that’s…that’s all I can think of? I had places I kept current stuff too, but it doesn’t look like he’s been using my desk for anything.”

She stood staring down at the empty drawers at her own old station, looking a little lost.

“Good,” I said. “That’s good. Now, stay still and don’t touch anything.”

I started backtracking the entropy of the room.

The place might look like chaos, but the stacked and scattered papers became coded in probability according to where they’d come from. Someone had searched through the mess before we’d gotten here—several times, if I was reading things correctly—but still, the way the files overlapped, the way the drawers overlapped, the most expected progression around the space…it all served to cut out possibilities and narrow the sequence down to a few interchangeable likelihoods.

The room disarrayed itself before me, forward and back, forward and back, in only a few possible combinations. Ones that overlapped significantly.

Finally, a problem I could attack and solve.

I held the backtracking in my head and started moving, picking   up documents and folders whenever they came from where Pilar had pointed out, as long as I assumed the most probable events. By the time I reached Pilar’s desk, I had an armful of papers.

Her eyes were very round. “Now that’s a superpower.”

“Oh, shut up.”

I stared down at the folders for a moment, an intrusive reluctance makingme hesitate in handing them over to her. How likely was it any of them would contain sprinklings of my past, my life? Quiet, concerned research Arthur might have been doing, one glimpse of which might destabilize my own amputated mind?

Find Arthur, I repeated to myself. Everything else was secondary. If my own ghosts or sanity interfered, well, I would have to cowboy up and deal.

I tried not to let myself consider that if the investigation did lead in that direction, I could be the one to blame for the attack on Arthur. For all my righteous indignation about him keeping things from me… maybe it would have been better for him if we’d never met.

No. This was D.J. Everything points to D.J.

I handed the papers to Pilar with rigid fingers and had her sit and start going through the pile. Then, to keep myself busy more than anything, I called Checker to see what he’d found on the security system. “Can you get us any info on what happened here?” I asked him.

“I’m telling you, I’ve got no useful data at all from this end.” His frustration was palpable through the line. “Arthur’s code turned the entire security system off Friday morning, and it’s been off since then. Nobody even tried the computers with an incorrect password, or it would have logged. From now on, I’m going to reprogram things to make the damn system notify me if it’s off for more than twelve hours. I fought with Arthur about turning it off, you know—I said, it’s still confidential if you’re the only person who has access to the recordings, and he quoted stuff at me about California being a two-party consent  state, and I said, well then, what about just video, there’s nothing wrong with video, and he said he wants his clients to feel like they—”

“I get it, you know nothing,” I said, more harshly than I meant to. Checker stopped talking.

Shit. I also had to broach the topic of D.J. with him, and I didn’t know how. I hadn’t meant to start off by snapping at him.

It has to be D.J.—bombs, and the connection to Checker, and Arthur researching him. Playing the music when you ask . . .

This was D.J. It wasn’t me.

“Thanks for looking, anyway,” I said stiffly to Checker. “Maybe we’ll find something in his papers.”

“You’re not good at this, Cas.”


“Beating around the bush. We’ve got buildings blowing up, and you want to know if it’s my fault.”

I hadn’t expected him to be so blunt about it, but my mouth pounced on the hypothesis before my brain could moderate it. “Well, you do have a connection to a homicidal bomber, don’t you? It’s a logical question.”

“And I promise you, I’m looking for the answer, okay? I’m pulling all the CSI data from the police investigation at your office, to see if   I can find any sort of—of signature match with the building explo- sions we know D.J.did or—or with other ones. I’m doing everything I can. I swear I am.”

“I…didn’t think you weren’t.” I swallowed. I’d been insisting to myself that this was D.J. so hard, I’d let what that would mean for Checker fall out of the equation. His anxious self-recrimination made me hate myself.

But itdifferentArthunevehelanofhat againshim...

“We need to consider all possibilities,” I said. Hypocritically. “And that includes D.J.”

“I know.”

“Start by telling me if you know anything that would help us track him—or is it her?” I’d never quite figured that out. “Anything that would help us track them down.”

“Him. I think,” Checker said. “And I don’t. I really don’t, Cas. I tried—a year ago, when D.J.’s  trail showed up again, I followed up  oneverything, I pulled all the police records—but he disappeared. And then I started tracking—explosions, bombings, anything that might—and I couldn’t—God, Cas, between that and trying to track down your past, I didn’t sleep for months. I was behind on work, everything was going to shit—”

I winced. I hadn’t thought I could feel worse, but I knew why I’d missed it all now. I had been holding a grudge against Checker during those months and…not speaking to him.

“And I finally said, ‘I have to stop, this isn’t healthy,’” he continued. “And I stopped. I made myself stop. But the point I’m trying to make is that I wasn’t getting anywhere. I wasn’t finding anythingI was chasing shadows and then obsessing over them, and of course I’m looking again now, but I don’t have any reason to believe I’ll be any more successful than the last time. And I could spend two days straight telling you about D.J. and still not tell you everything I know, and that wouldn’t help you either, but I promise you, if I can think of one single thing that would, I will dial you so fast, I’ll sprain something. Okay?”

“Okay,” I said. Arthur hadn’t stopped looking, I thought. Checker had stopped, but Arthur hadn’t. Because that was the kind of thing Arthur did for people.

“Meanwhile, you can skip Arthur’s apartment unless you have no other leads. He argued with me about a security system there too, the moron, but I put my foot down, and it’s running perfectly fine and shows nothing unusual.”

“Okay,” I said again.

“Cas, I . . .” He sounded miserable.

Pilar held something up and waved at me.

“I gotta go.” I didn’t know what else to say, anyway. “We’ll update you.”

“Yeah,” he said, and hung up.

I let the hand holding my phone drop and turned to Pilar. “What’ve you got?”

She passed me a business card. “Did Arthur ever ask you about this?”

My heart felt like it gave an extra thump as I took the card, but a quick scan of the raised blue text on ribbed cream showed nothing familiar, nothing related to me at all. I tried not to show my relief and read it more closely. The person on the card was some sort of doctor at a place called the Bimini Restorative Wellness Center, with an address out in Ventura County. Arthur had circled the doctor’s name in ballpoint, and below it was scrawled, Mathematical formula—ask Sonya or Cas?

So not about me—just about math. Math, I could handle. But Arthur had never spoken to me about this.

“No,” I said. “He didn’t ask me.”

“Should we call Professor—”

“I’m on it,” I said, my fingers moving on my phone.

“Hello?” said Professor Sonya Halliday. Sonya was a legitimate mathematics professor and a childhood friend of Arthur’s, and I was pretty sure she was the reason he’d put up with me to begin with. Maybe I’d just been a stand-in for her all along.

“It’s Cas,” I said into the phone.

Sonya’s voice turned amused. “Oh, my. I do believe this is the first time you’ve called me instead of the reverse. I’m honored.”

“I don’t have time for games,” I snapped. “I need to know if Arthur ever asked you about someone named…” I glanced back at the business card. “Dr. Eva Teplova.”

She was too smart. “And you aren’t asking him because…?”

“He’s missing,” I said. “Now, answer the goddamn question. Dr. Teplova. Do you recognize the name?”

“I don’t.” Her voice had gone strained, as if she were pushing herself to recall the impossible. I was about to hang up on her when Pilar grabbed the phone from me.

“Hi, Professor, it’s Pilar. The name Cas was just asking you about is on a business card for a doctor’s office at the Bimini Restorative Wellness Center. Arthur wrote a note on it reminding himself to ask you about a mathematical formula. Does that ring any bells?”

I leaned in so I could hear. “A mathematical formula?” Sonya repeated. “Well, he did pose a hypothetical last week that—but I can’t see how it would be at all related.”

I took the phone back. “Now, Professor.”

“He asked me whether one could potentially write a formula for human beauty. I told him no, of course. The easy contradiction is to view how aesthetic standards change so significantly between centuries or cultures, or even simply to examine differences in personal taste. Beauty is not even well-defined qualitatively, so could never be quantified effectively.”

“You’re wrong,” I said. “You could come up with something locally defined by aggregate taste in terms of a probability distribution. It would just be…very, very, very multivariable.”

“You mean use the culture you’re based in to set the parameters? But how does—”

“Not now. Did Arthur tell you anything else?”

“No. Not that I can recall. Only that it was for a case.” She gave the answers with clipped speed, lacking the dryness I’d come to expect from her. “Miss Russell?”


“Please call me when you find him. Godspeed.” She hung up.

At least Professor Halliday was decent at knowing when to give  me answers and then get off the phone.

I tapped my mobile against my hand, trying to feel through the new information. “Checker said they didn’t have any cases right now. But if Arthur told Sonya this was for a case…if it was something he wasn’t telling Checker about, it must be related to the D.J. thing.”

I tried not to feel guilty for being right. “A plastic surgeon? How?” Pilar said.

“You’re assuming this doctor’s a plastic surgeon?”

She gave an unhappy shrug. “Mathematical formula for beauty? What else could it be?”

That did seem the obvious connection, but I didn’t see how a plastic surgeon would relate to Arthur’s search for a bomber.

“There’s a TV show where a plastic surgeon changes criminals’ faces so they can disappear,” Pilar said. “I—I don’t know how plausible that is in real life.”

Neither did I. “I guess this is where I’m headed next,” I said, holding up the card. “You in?”

“Of course! I mean, if you think I’d be helpful.”

“There might be flipping-through-files crap. You’re better at that than I am.” Not to mention handling any human interaction that couldn’t be solved by bashing it in the head. I started for the door, but pointed back to the rest of the document stack. “Grab those to finish in the car. And text Checker the doctor’s info. Tell him to run background but also to look for any connection to D.J. Orto Pithica,” I added. I didn’t want to think they could still be involved, but we did have evidence of psychic by play here, or something like it. In the vindication of concluding Arthur’s kidnapper was indeed D.J., I’d momentarily forgotten about the puzzle pieces that didn’t yet fit.

The sensation of larger conspiracies loomed. I shook it off. At least I had a definite next step now, one thankfully free of my own ghosts.

Pilar hastened to obey me, but as we left the destroyed office, she said, “Cas, what if—I mean, we’ve been assuming—”

I stopped so fast, she almost ran into me.

“We’ve been operating under the assumption that Arthur’s still alive,” she said softly. “What if we’re only going to find him in—in an alley somewhere, or unidentified in a morgue…” The words wobbled.

“Is making that assumption productive?” I said.

“No,” she admitted in a small voice.

“Then stop.”

“I keep thinking I should’ve been here,” she said, glancing back at the shambles of her former workplace.

I didn’t know what to say to that. Especially given what Pilar had shared earlier; between the lines, her main reason for leaving was that she hadn’t wanted to get swept up with me anymore.

Instead, I resumed my hurried jog down through the gathering darkness to the car, assuming Pilar would follow. I wasn’t going to think about any possibility other than getting Arthur back alive. And if Dr. Eva Teplova was connected in any way to his disappearance, well, she was going to end up needing medical attention herself.

Copyright © S. L. Huang 2020

Pre-Order Your Copy

Image Place holder  of amazon- 8 Poster Placeholder of bn- 28 Image Place holder  of booksamillion- 87 ibooks2 66 indiebound


A Fond Farewell—Series We’re Saying Goodbye to in 2020

A Fond Farewell—Series We’re Saying Goodbye to in 2020

A Fond Farewell—Series We’re Saying Goodbye to in 2020

Everything ends eventually, and that is (sadly) true for several Tor series in 2020. This year marks the conclusion of some of our flagship sagas, as well as one epic fantasy that we’re releasing in a four-month sprint (bingebingebinge)! So, if you want to make sure you’re all caught up, here’s a list of everything ending in 2020. But don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of new and ongoing series to take you well into 2020—and beyond!

Place holder  of - 88Heart of Black Ice– The Nicci Chronicles –Terry Goodkind 

Taken captive by their enemies, King Grieve, Lila, and Bannon are about to discover the terrifying force that threatens to bring destruction to the Old World. The Norukai, barbarian raiders and slavers, have been gathering an immense fleet among the inhospitably rocky islands that make up their home and are poised to launch their final and most deadly war.



Poster Placeholder of - 85Song of the Risen God– The Coven Series – R.A. Salvatore 

The once forgotten Xoconai empire has declared war upon the humans west of the mountains, and only a small band of heroes stand in the way of the God Emperor’s grasp of power. But not all hope is lost. Far away, an ancient tomb is uncovered with the power to stop the onslaught of coming empire and, possibly, reshape the very world itself.



Image Placeholder of - 22Servant of the Crown– Dragonslayer Trilogy – Duncan M. Hamilton 

A swordsman and a dragon make an unlikely pair as they team up to defeat the Prince Bishop. This trilogy started just a year ago, so if you haven’t gotten hooked yet, now is the time to dive in. Come for the swordplay and magic, stay for the compelling characters searching for meaning in their lives.

ON SALE: 03/10/2020


Image Place holder  of - 18The Poet King– The Harp and Ring Sequence – Ilana C. Myer 

The nation of Tamryllin has a new ruler, who proclaims himself the first Poet King despite not all in court supporting the regime change. Meanwhile, a civil war rages in a distant land, and former Court Poet Lin Amaristoth gathers allies old and new to return to Tamryllin in time to stop the coronation.

ON SALE: 03/24/2020


Placeholder of  -83Last Emperox – The Interdependency – John Scalzi 

The collapse of The Flow, the interstellar pathway between the planets of the Interdependency, has accelerated. Entire star systems are becoming cut off from the rest of human civilization. Emperox Grayland II has finally wrested control of her empire from her enemies, but “control” is a slippery thing, and the forces opposing her rule will make a final, desperate push to topple her from her throne.

ON SALE: 04/14/2020


Queen – The Sibyl’s War Series  Timothy Zahn

Nicole Hammond was just trying to survive on the streets of Philadelphia, then she and her partner Bungie were abducted by a race of mysterious moth-like aliens and taken to a strange ship called the Fyrantha.

ON SALE: 04/14/2020



The Cerulean Queen– The Nine Realms Series – Sarah Kozloff 

 The series that starts AND ends in 2020! Perfect for binging, this is an epic fantasy that’s part kick-ass Disney princess and part Game of Thrones. The exiled Princess Cerulia of Weirandale was raised in obscurity. She has no resources, no army, nothing that can help her against her enemies—except their gods.

ON SALE: 04/21/2020


Critical Point – The Cas Russell Series – S.L. Huang 

When a demolitions expert targets math-genius mercenary Cas Russell and her friends, the hidden conspiracy behind her past starts to reappear. The past, present, and future collide in a race to save one of her dearest friends.

ON SALE: 04/28/2020



 The Shadow Commission – The Dark Arts Trilogy – David Mack

In The Shadow Commission we jump forward almost another decade from the events in the previous Dark Arts novel, The Iron Codex. Now it’s November 1963, and Cade and Anja have been living in hiding, training new mages. But when President Kennedy is assassinated, a series of murders whose victims are all magicians forces Cade and Anja to learn how to fight back against the sinister cabal known as the Shadow Commission.

ON SALE: 06/9/2020


The Unconquered City – Chronicles of Ghadid – K.A. Doore 

Seven years after the Siege — a time when the hungry dead had risen — elite assassin Illi Basbowen must find the source of the monstrous guul that travel across the dunes. How much can she sacrifice to protect everything she knows from devastation?

ON SALE: 06/16/2020



In the Kingdom of All Tomorrows – Eirlandia – Stephen R. Lawhead 

Conor mac Ardan is now clan chief of the Darini. Tara’s Hill has become a haven and refuge for all those who were made homeless by the barbarian Scálda. But when a large fleet of the Scalda’s Black Ships arrives, Conor must join Eirlandia’s lords to defeat the monsters. And so begins a final battle to win the soul of a nation.

ON SALE: 07/14/2020


The Last Uncharted Sky – The Risen Kingdoms Series – Curtis Craddock 

Isabelle and Jean-Claude undertake an airship expedition to recover a fabled treasure and claim a hitherto undiscovered craton for l’Empire Celeste, but the ship is sabotaged by an enemy agent and Jean-Claude is separated from the expedition. Meanwhile, a royal conspiracy threatens to undo the entire realm.

ON SALE: 08/11/2020


Breath by Breath – Step by Step Series – Morgan Llywelyn 

The residents of Sycamore River emerge from nuclear war caused by the Change and its effects on technology. As they try to rebuild their shattered lives, they discover the Change continues and that for some, the air has become lethally toxic.

ON SALE: 08/25/2020


The Hellion – Malus Domestica 
S.A. Hunt 

Robin Martine has destroyed witches all across the country, and now makes her way to the deserts of rural Texas where a dangerous gang leader wields an iron fist over his wife and daughter. Robin vows to protect these Latina women from harm, but may be underestimating how powerful Santiago Valenzuela is… and how his shapeshifting powers may pose a threat to everyone Robin holds dear.

ON SALE: 09/15/2020

The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.