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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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Five Books for Full Moon Enthusiasts

Ah, the full moon – a powerful time for releasing negative energy, emotions, or habits. While some engage in practices such as journaling, burning photos of their exes, or engaging in a cleansing ritual, others are… I don’t know. Shifting into werewolves, fighting intergalactic battles, and facing cosmic forces that have the power to shape destinies… no pressure or anything.

Let’s explore some books that will have you over the moon (no pun intended)!


9781250766755 The Cradle of Ice by James Rollins

The second book in the New York Times bestselling Moonfall series from thriller-master James Rollins, The Cradle of Ice is a page-turning tale of action, adventure, betrayal, ambition, and the struggle for survival in a harsh world that hangs by a thread. With the moon casting its light over the icy terrain, ancient mysteries and modern-day threats collide in a pulse-pounding race against time.

9780765395818Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone

Get ready for a smart, swashbuckling, wildly imaginative adventure; the saga of a rag-tag team of brilliant misfits, dangerous renegades, and enhanced outlaws in a war-torn future. Think cosmic battles, celestial wonders, and a moon that shines as a beacon of hope in a universe on the brink of chaos.

9781250890313Wolfsong by TJ Klune

Discover love, loyalty, and transformation in the Green Creek Series’ Wolfsong, from beloved fantasy romance sensation and New York Times bestselling author TJ Klune. Follow the journey of a young man discovering his destiny amidst a pack of werewolves. The moon’s phases mirror inner turmoil, adding depth to this captivating tale of werewolves and destiny. Deep, right?

9781250236968The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

Amidst Earth’s escalating climate crisis due to meteor impacts, widespread riots, and space program sabotage, a determined protagonist faces the challenge of navigating both a deteriorating planet and the conflicts within a moon colony. It’s like House of Cards meets Space: The Final Frontier. Need I say more?

9781250264947Sweep of Stars by Maurice Broaddus

Maurice Broaddus’s Sweep of Stars is the first in a trilogy that explores the struggles of an empire. Get to know the Muungano empire—a coalition of city-states stretching from O.E. to Titan—as it faces escalating threats and internal power struggles. This one’s a must-read!

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Excerpt Reveal: Web of Angels by John M. Ford

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web of angels by john m ford

From the brilliant author of The Dragon Waiting and Growing Up Weightless, a novel that saw the cyberpunk future with stunning clarity, years before anyone else.

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.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Web of Angels by John M. Ford, on sale 4/30/24


Chapter 1

THE DARK LADY

The boy ran for his life, across the City Juvenal on the planet called Brass. Past lights and mirrors he ran, through blocks of shadow and dark glass, short legs running, small heart pounding, seeking a street to hide him from those that came after; for if the City would not have him he would surely die.

(Oh, said the serpent, thou shalt not surely die.)

He was blond, dark-eyed, dressed in soft parti-colored felts and high glossy boots turned down at the tops. To his chest he clutched a box covered in gray leather, resembling a large book; held it with both arms, looking more often at it than at the streets ahead, Finngers spread wide to grip as much of its surface as he could.

The City Juvenal sat on the shore of the great golden sea that gave Brass its name. It was a city of colors not too bright, of sins not too black, of comfortable means and reputation. Its people took Lifespan to stretch their years into centuries, and took other things to fill up those centuries, and sometimes quietly did certain acts that ended their Lifespanned lives all at once; but this was the City Juvenal, not New Port Royal or Granmarque or Wicked Alexandria.

So the black “oaters over the city were a strange sight, like dark clouds the size of a man’s hand, small shadows on the land. The Combined Intersystem Regulation and Control Executive was like a shadow. You could look away from it, or put it behind you, but there it always was; and the brighter the light shone upon it the starker and blacker it stood. The only way to be free from the shadow was to enter a darkness so deep that it was lost in the shadow of the whole universe.

The CIRCE “oaters seined the city, all in pursuit of one small running boy, running before the edge of a net that tightened toward the sea.

When he entered Swann’s Way, the old ones stopped chewing their cream pastries to look at him. Lips moved, hands went to brows.

“He’s young.”

“Not real, not real. Too many éclairs.”

They “oated around him on their singing Hellmann chairs, looking down on him.

“Are you a boy, or a Prousty surfeit?”

“He’s an angel. He’s a hologram.”

“He’s real enough; angels cast no shadows.”

Cakes fell to the pavement. The boy looked at one, stepped toward it; but he would not take a hand from his box to reach out for it.

“He’s hungry! He’s not a dream. My memories aren’t ever hungry.”

“Mine are mostly of food. Are you edible, boy?”

“Tell him not to touch the pastry. I don’t want to see the womb again.”

The chairs, humming off the ground, closed in. The boy stepped back.

“His eyes! Look at his eyes!”

The Hellmann hum changed pitch. Fingers, heavy with gems and age, pointed.

“Oh, me. Running, he is.”

“Running. My memories don’t ever run.”

“Who cares for real youth? Waiter! Champagne and éclairs—a hundred trays of them!”

A young man came out with a silver salver of memory-cakes and a silver-handled broom. He shook the broom at the shivering boy.

“Go on, please,” he said, not harshly. “You couldn’t outlast them anyway.” The man set the fresh éclairs down and began sweeping up the scattered crumbs.

The boy ran on, watching his shadow shorten. The big red sun of Brass was soon before him, so he stared at the box instead. He was better than halfway across the city, and the city ended at the yellow sea.

He ran into Peridot Street, where the Goliards were dancing a late-afternoon step. They chittered and giggled, praising the right people, scandalizing the right names, drinking the right drinks with the right pills following after.

The boy stood no chance in the Dance of the Goliards, though he did not know it; he was not schooled in the steps.

He stopped, boots swishing and clunking. The noise caught the Goliardic ears, always alert for such a disturbance and thoroughly numbed to each others’ voices anyway.

The Dance stopped in midturn.

Eyes roved over the boy, measuring his smallness. Daggers came out to pin him down, cut him up.

“He does not Dance.

“One, two, doesn’t Dance, doesn’t Dance.”

A Goliard in a red-and-white uniform and boots like the boy’s came forward, stepped round him. “If he’s not one of us, he can’t Dance and can’t pay forfeit.” The soldier dropped to his knees with a clank of deadly metal. He spoke very softly: “You can run, I can see. Can you shoot? Can you stab? If not, you must keep running.” The soldier’s eyes held the boy’s, then moved low. His voice fell to a whisper. “Run, child, when I say. Live and Dance when you know how.”

The man stood, smacked the dust from his knees. “I don’t think he’s what he appears at all,” he said loudly. “Some sick joke, some juvenile whim—look! Does he bear himself like a youth?”

The crowd revolved to look, and murmured that he did not, that his carriage was wrong somehow.

“Of course. Joke or whim, but not youth! When was your Lifespan given, sir? How many years have you been that age? I would not have stretched the time to my maturity.” The soldier stepped aside, breaking the cordon of people; gave the boy an urgent nod.

Without nodding back, he dashed through the gap and departed Peridot Street.

He came to the Quarter, which could hide anyone and hid nearly everything. A gleam peddler scouting for a fad to start spotted the box in the desperate clutch and blocked the clutcher’s path. The boy dodged, but gleam peddlers are of slicker stuff; a slippered foot went into his path.

He stumbled, boot tops “opping, then lost balance and fell, felt shirt gliding on the smooth stone veneer of the Quarter’s streets.

Heads came out of dark Quarter corners, not wanting to miss a killing or be left out of a brawl.

“It’s one of Ildrahim’s dwarf pickers,” someone said in the mutter that Quarterfolk favor.

“Na-na, ’tis that new cannon larkey, the devil’s own child.” Mutter again; a whisper is too sibilant, carries too far. The Quarterfolk have a saying that all ears are wrong save the one you’re nibbling.

“Ah, your noses are full o’ dream. It’s none of our Quarterfolk. I want to know what’s the commotion? Where’s the jolly ruckus?”

The boy had come to a stop, had lost his tight hold on the case but not quite his grip. The gleam peddler was near, though, straddling him and reaching, hating to hurt a soul without profiting some thereby. Down came her arms, twinkling with plexy jewelry.

The boy’s breath whistled, and he rolled, but his elbows slid on the pavement and he could not pull the case in.

Then the peddler’s eager eyes opened in great surprise, and she lay down quietly next to the boy and did not move. Did not breathe. Only bled a last trickle from a star-shaped wound in her back.

The boy rolled away, scraping the gray package. At the end of the street, looming awful from so low a view in the setting sunlight, were two figures in black, almost human in shape. One had a hand outstretched, and something in that hand. The something moved down.

The boy struggled with his frictionless clothes, squirming on the ground. Keeping one hand locked on his case, he grabbed the peddler’s clothing with the other, used her body to lever himself up. He hesitated, looked at the CIRCE pair, saw them walking toward him. The one with the quiet gun holstered it.

The boy stopped hesitating. He jumped up from the body in the street and in a few clip-clopping steps was at one of the thousand locked doors of the Quarter. He knocked, double-knocked, triple-knocked. There was a scuf”ing behind the door, but no other answer.

Another door: rap, rap-rap, rap-rap-rap. A bolt slammed hollowly home.

Another door, and this time the knock was punctuated by the double click of boots coming closer.

“Find another door,” said the door. “Find another street, another city. Leap into the sea and swim to another world. That’s CIRCE chasing you, lad.”

The boy hung back an instant, then repeated the knock.

“Go away, boy, if that’s what you are. We’ll fight any man living, but CIRCE isn’t man or living. We’re scared, if you’re not. Go away.”

Black-gloved hands swung into view, impact gloves that stiffened a slap to break bones. Black boots shod with steel, black jackets and trousers of bulletweave. Black helmets with black shiny shields instead of faces.

There were human bodies beneath all the black—at least, bodies born of man/woman/creche unit. But on the march, with the wands in their belts black for kill instead of brown for stun or red for pain, with a quiet gun issued them, they were CIRCE with its boar tusks bared. Real pure nova death on the march.

And they were not so very far to the rear of a gasping boy with light hair askew and face gray-pale as the box he still pressed to himself, feeling his colored clothes burning his skin, the leather case heavy as a shoplifted sweetchip.

Behind him, CIRCE; ahead, the butter-colored sea and the sun now drowning in it; between, only one more place: Romany Court.

And Romany Court was still asleep.

The sour dust of the day was still settling on the pavilions and doorsills when the boy came there. The clean air of night would soon blow in from the sea, waking the inhabitants from their beds with the home soil spread beneath them. Then the streets would ignite, and those who dared would revel under the colored “ames for as long as they could stand it, or until dawn.

But now there was only dust, and dark lanterns, and the boy with the black knights following behind.

He played dodge-me with them for five minutes, ten, trying to outlast the light. But however he turned in the high narrow streets, the click of their boots soon came after. Clever the black knights might not be, but determined they always were. And the doors were locked, the windows shuttered; not a whisper stirred.

It was twilight. Almost night. Down an alley the boy ran, case in both hands, head bent down, CIRCE behind him.

And suddenly ahead of him as well. No more fox and hounds, now. Piston and cylinder. Hammer and anvil.

He looked at the case, held it before him. Chest rising and faling, hair in his eyes, he put his thumbs reverently on the latches.

In the middle of the crooked street with death at both ends, an open door caught his eye: the slit in the cylindrical shell of a public Web terminal. And though it was no exit, he ran for it, as cornered people will. He reached the opening, shoved it wide.

Inside, filling the booth, was a man in coarse green cloth, a hood over his face. He held something golden in one hand. He looked taller than the sky.

With his empty hand the man slammed the door.

The boy landed on his backside, bringing his knees up and his arms in close. He looked right, left—

The black knights were gone.

“And what are you, there, on your back like a beetle? Get up, little tumblebug.”

He got up, looked all round once more. The CIRCE killers had vanished entirely.

Before the boy stood a very black woman in a very white dress that reached to the ground. A blue shawl was over her shoulders, and her hair was gray.

She smiled whitely, spat on one thumb and rubbed it against her foreigner. Her skin was lined and dry, like rubbed mahogany. The stuff of her dress was rough, burlap or sacking; the shawl was glossy metal-silk.

“They’ve not gone forever, little bug, but they won’t be back for a while. Come with me, now.” She stretched out a knuckly hand.

The boy stepped back, turned to face the Web terminal, which still stood closed and impenetrable.

“Come with me,” the woman said. “There’s not a thing for you in there now.”

He took another step, pushed the door open. The booth was empty save for seat and keyboard and mirrorlike Web-screen.

The woman clucked her tongue. “Not any thing, do you see. I would God to see how he does it, but he does. Now come with me, little bug. You should rest. You want a rest, no?”

He held his gray case so that his knuckles swelled white.

She laughed. “And you may sleep upon that if it pleases.”

He nodded, and followed her, but did not take her hand.

“I am Celene Tourdemance,” she said.

No reply.

“I am not so of the night as the others here. Good for you, I think; the black samedis might yet have found you, but they would not have taken you home with them.”

They walked from one end of Romany Court to the other. Shutters opened as they passed, and steps were heard in the street as night stole in. Romany eyes followed them. The boy looked once at those dark eyes and did not again; few people did.

“How much farther?” he said finally, annoyance in his voice painting over the fear in it.

“Right here.” They were at a low wooden door in a white wall. The door-panel was deeply carved, the wood strongly figured, and when the woman put her hand on the old brass knob the boy thought how similar in texture she and the door were.

It was dark inside, close but not oppressive, smelling of ancient furniture and being long closed up. Thick cloth hangings covered the walls, and small two-dimensional pictures with glass over them, and strange things like cane-stalks and snakeskins. A furry rug had claws and a head with teeth and eyes. What light there was came from colored glass globes at an adult’s eye level; he thought at first that they were Hellmann hoverlamps, but as his sight got better saw the chains that hung down from the beamed ceiling. One globe only was white and bright. It hung above a round table with two chairs covered in deep blue fibersilk.

Behind one of the chairs was a painted picture of a young woman, black-skinned, holding a ball in one hand and something rectangular in the other. He could see in a moment that the picture was of Celene Tourdemance, maybe a thousand Lifespanned years ago; and she was wearing a silver crown. He moved closer, to see the thing she was holding in her left hand.

“Come, come,” the old lady said. “There is all the time for that later. We will ask later.”

Between the cool and the darkness and the curious music of her voice, he was suddenly very tired. He took off his boots, which felt wonderful once done, and lay down on a couch with feathers puffing out at its corners, which felt better still. She tried to cover him with a brocade shawl, but he turned it back to his waist.

He had seen the painting close, just for an instant. The white thing was a card, with a colored picture of a man; and for that moment it had seemed that the man was dressed like him.

He fell asleep with the gray case under his head, still in one hand’s grip.

Copyright © 2024 from Daniel M. Ford

Pre-order Web of Angels Here:

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Fall Into Tor Books This Autumn!

Ready to FALL into some new books this autumn? (*wink*) Get your TBR ready for every book from Tor coming out this fall! Which one are you most excited to read?


September 6

The Atlas Six by Olivie BlakeThe Atlas Six by Olivie Blake (paperback)

Each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to earn a place in the Alexandrian Society, the foremost secret society in the world. The chosen will secure a life of power and prestige beyond their wildest dreams. But at what cost? Each of the six newest recruits has their reasons for accepting the Society’s elusive invitation. Even if it means growing closer than they could have imagined to their most dangerous enemies—or risking unforgivable betrayal from their most trusted allies—they will fight tooth and nail for the right to join the ranks of the Alexandrians. Even if it means they won’t all survive the year. Now available in paperback!

September 20

Place holder  of - 45Mistborn: Secret History by Brandon Sanderson

Kelsier, sentenced to die mining the Pits of Hathsin after attempting to rob the Lord Ruler’s palace, arose as a powerful Mistborn and inspired the revolution that shook the foundations of the Final Empire. His name and deeds passed into legend. But was that truly the end of his tale? Whispered hints to those he called friends suggested there was a lot more going on. If you think you know the story of the Mistborn trilogy, think again—but to say anything more here risks revealing too much. Even knowing of this tale’s existence could be heresy.

September 27

The Genesis of Misery by Neon YangThe Genesis of Misery by Neon Yang

It’s an old, familiar story: a young person hears the voice of an angel saying they have been chosen as a warrior to lead their people to victory in a holy war. But Misery Nomaki (she/they) knows they are a fraud. Raised on a remote moon colony, they don’t believe in any kind of god. Their angel is a delusion, brought on by hereditary space exposure. Yet their survival banks on mastering the holy mech they are supposedly destined for, and convincing the Emperor of the Faithful that they are the real deal. The deeper they get into their charade, however, the more they start to doubt their convictions. What if this, all of it, is real?

Placeholder of  -15Growing Up Weightless by John M. Ford; introduction by Francis Spufford

Matthias Ronay has grown up in the low gravity and great glass citadels of independent Luna—and in the considerable shadow of his father, a member of the council that governs Luna’s increasingly complex society. But Matt feels weighed down on the world where he was born, where there is no more need for exploration, for innovation, for radical ideas—and where his every movement can be tracked by his father on the infonets. Matt and five of his friends, equally brilliant and restless, have planned a secret adventure. Their passage into the expanse of perpetual night will change them in ways they never could have predicted…and bring Matt to the destiny for which he has yearned. With a new introduction by Francis Spufford, author of Red Plenty and Golden Hill.

October 4

Poster Placeholder of - 58The Witch in the Well by Camilla Bruce

Centuries ago, beautiful young Ilsbeth Clark was accused of witchcraft after several children disappeared. Her acquittal did nothing to stop her fellow townsfolk from drowning her in the well where the missing children were last seen. When author and social media influencer Elena returns to the summer paradise of her youth to get her family’s manor house ready to sell, the last thing she expected was connecting with—and feeling inspired to write about—Ilsbeth’s infamous spirit. The very historical figure that her ex-childhood friend, Cathy, has been diligently researching and writing about for years. What begins as a fiercely competitive sense of ownership over Ilsbeth and her story soon turns both women’s worlds into something more haunted and dangerous than they could ever imagine.

October 11

The Spare Man by Mary Robinette KowalThe Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

Tesla Crane, a brilliant inventor and an heiress, is on her honeymoon on an interplanetary space liner, cruising between the Moon and Mars. She’s traveling incognito and is reveling in her anonymity. Then someone is murdered and the festering chowderheads who run security have the audacity to arrest her spouse. Armed with banter, martinis and her small service dog, Tesla is determined to solve the crime so that the newlyweds can get back to canoodling—and keep the real killer from striking again.

Mystic Skies by Jason DenzelMystic Skies by Jason Denzel

Fifty-four years have passed since Crow Tallin, the catastrophic celestial event that merged Fayün and the human world. One devastating result of that cataclysm is that most human babies are born fused with fay spirits. The Mystics of Kelt Apar, once beloved, are blamed for this worldwide phenomenon. On the island of Moth, the Barons have declared the Myst illegal and imprisoned all Mystics under house arrest. Under the watchful eyes of deadly Hunters, a much-older Pomella AnDone now lives as a prisoner at Kelt Apar with her granddaughter and apprentice Mia, as well as the rapidly declining High Mystic of Moth, Yarina Sineese.

October 25

Image Placeholder of - 67The Atlas Paradox by Olivie Blake

Six magicians were presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. Five are now members of the Society. Two paths lay before them. All must pick a side. Alliances will be tested, hearts will be broken, and The Society of Alexandrians will be revealed for what it is: a secret society with raw, world-changing power, headed by a man whose plans to change life as we know it are already under way.

November 1

Ocean's Echo by Everina MaxwellOcean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell

Rich socialite, inveterate flirt, and walking disaster Tennalhin Halkana can read minds. Tennal, like all neuromodified “readers,” is a security threat on his own. But when controlled, readers are a rare asset. Not only can they read minds, but they can navigate chaotic space, the maelstroms surrounding the gateway to the wider universe. Conscripted into the military under dubious circumstances, Tennal is placed into the care of Lieutenant Surit Yeni, a duty-bound soldier, principled leader, and the son of a notorious traitor general. Whereas Tennal can read minds, Surit can influence them. Surit accepted a suspicious promotion-track request out of desperation, but he refuses to go through with his illegal orders to sync and control an unconsenting Tennal. So they lie: They fake a sync bond and plan Tennal’s escape.

November 8

Legends & Lattes by Travis BaldreeLegends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

After a lifetime of bounties and bloodshed, Viv is hanging up her sword for the last time. The battle-weary orc aims to start fresh, opening the first ever coffee shop in the city of Thune. But old and new rivals stand in the way of success — not to mention the fact that no one has the faintest idea what coffee actually is. If Viv wants to put the blade behind her and make her plans a reality, she won’t be able to go it alone. But the true rewards of the uncharted path are the travelers you meet along the way. And whether drawn together by ancient magic, flaky pastry, or a freshly brewed cup, they may become partners, family, and something deeper than she ever could have dreamed.

Origins of the Wheel of Time by Michael Livingston; foreword by Harriet McDougalOrigins of the Wheel of Time by Michael Livingston; foreword by Harriet McDougal

Take a deep dive into the real-world history and mythology that inspired the world of The Wheel of Time®. Origins of The Wheel of Time is written by Michael Livingston, Secretary-General of the United States Commission on Military History and professor of medieval literature at The Citadel, with a Foreword by Harriet McDougal, Robert Jordan’s editor, widow, and executor of his estate. Origins of The Wheel of Time will provide knowledge and insights to new and longtime fans looking to expand their understanding of the series or unearth the real-life influences that Jordan utilized in his world building.

Blood Moon by Heather Graham & Jon LandBlood Moon by Heather Graham and Jon Land

They may have managed to win a major battle against the powerful enemy determined to destroy civilization as we know it. But the war continues, with Alex and Sam embarking on a desperate journey to save mankind, even as their friendship blossoms into something much more. The roadmap for their journey lies in a mysterious book, the language of which has never been deciphered, until Alex finds himself able to translate the words that may hold the keys to saving the future. But an ageless foe, long the guardian of the secrets his race has left behind on Earth, arises to stop them at all costs. At his disposal is a merciless army that has been awaiting this very war, an army as unstoppable as it is relentless.

The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene WolfeThe Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe

Far from Earth, two sister planets, Saint Anne and Saint Croix, circle each other in an eternal dance. It is said a race of shapeshifters once lived here, only to perish when men came. But one man believes they can still be found, somewhere in back of the beyond. In The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Gene Wolfe skillfully interweaves three bizarre tales to create a mesmerizing pattern: the harrowing account of the son of a mad genius who discovers his hideous heritage; a young man’s mythic dreamquest for his darker half; and the bizarre chronicle of a scientist’s nightmarish imprisonment. With a new introduction by O. Henry Award winning author Brian Evenson

November 15

Image Place holder  of - 22The Lost Metal by Brandon Sanderson

For years, frontier lawman turned big-city senator Waxillium Ladrian has hunted the shadowy organization the Set since they started kidnapping people with the power of Allomancy in their bloodlines. When Detective Marasi Colms and her partner Wayne find stockpiled weapons bound for the Outer City of Bilming, this opens a new lead. After Wax discovers a new type of explosive that can unleash unprecedented destruction, an immortal kandra serving Scadrial’s god, Harmony, reveals that Bilming has fallen under the influence of another god: Trell, worshipped by the Set. And Trell isn’t the only factor at play from the larger Cosmere—Marasi is recruited by offworlders with strange abilities who claim their goal is to protect Scadrial…at any cost.

November 29

Alone With You in the Ether by Olivie Blake

Two people meet in the Art Institute by chance. Prior to their encounter, he is a doctoral student who manages his destructive thoughts with compulsive calculations about time travel; she is a bipolar counterfeit artist, undergoing court-ordered psychotherapy. By the end of the story, these things will still be true. But this is not a story about endings. For Regan, people are predictable and tedious, including and perhaps especially herself. To Aldo, the world feels disturbingly chaotic. For Regan and Aldo, life has been a matter of resigning themselves to the blueprints of inevitability—until the two meet. Could six conversations with a stranger be the variable that shakes up the entire simulation?

post-featured-image

Excerpt: Growing Up Weightless by John M. Ford

amazona bna booksamilliona ibooks2 98 indiebounda

Placeholder of  -47Out of print for more than two decades, John M. Ford’s Growing Up Weightless is an award-winning classic of a “lost generation” of young people born on the human-colonized Moon.

Matthias Ronay has grown up in the low gravity and great glass citadels of independent Luna—and in the considerable shadow of his father, a member of the council that governs Luna’s increasingly complex society. But Matt feels weighed down on the world where he was born, where there is no more need for exploration, for innovation, for radical ideas—and where his every movement can be tracked by his father on the infonets.

Matt and five of his friends, equally brilliant and restless, have planned a secret adventure. They will trick the electronic sentinels, slip out of the city for a journey to Farside. Their passage into the expanse of perpetual night will change them in ways they never could have predicted…and bring Matt to the destiny for which he has yearned.

With a new introduction by Francis Spufford, author of Red Plenty and Golden Hill.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Growing Up Weightless by John M. Ford, on sale 9/27/22.


1

Hating the Earth was easy.

It was always there to hate, a filmy blue eye hanging in the black sky, winking side to side. Even on that high day of the month when the eye was shut, a blue halo, a crust of dirty air, stared on. It asked to be hated, sending its people who thought Luna’s land was ugly and her cities strange and her gravity comical, sending its message that Earth was the source of all the life in the Universe as if nobody had ever been born on Luna or Mars or the Frames, never mind the Far Worlds, sending its stupidity and its lies. It was full as a pimple of trash and stink and jealousy, spitting them all by shipfuls at Luna, hating Luna for not being another piece of Earth itself, refusing even to call the world by its proper name, as if “Moon” meant “owned,” as if gravity made property: what was there to do except hate it back?

Matthias Ronay sat in his best coldspot, looking up at the blue eye and hating it until his jaws hurt. Then finally he looked down, to the Lunarscape under the eye, and felt better for what he saw there.

Matt sat, suspended, between two walls of the Copernicus A Port service building: two broad, smooth concrete slabs, a couple of meters apart, sloped at thirty degrees off the vertical. Between the walls was a network of structural glass rods, each as thick as Matt’s thumb; he sat comfortably nested in the net on his folded jacket and a cheap Betacloth chair cushion, about two-thirds of the way to the roof, the floor some ten meters below him. He faced a strip of glass that was the whole reason for being here.

The clear glass strip was fifteen decs wide, and as high as the whole wall. It was left over from the building days, meant to give light and view to the construction crews after the outer shell was sealed. At the bottom was an old cylindoor, bolted now and caulked tight. There were similar leftovers all over the city. The glass was just as strong as the crete around it, the sealed door as safe as a blank slab. No one would bother with busting vacuum just to replace them. And with that Matt was entirely pleased.

Because for all that it looked on the nasty Earth, the window also opened directly onto the A Port.

The three-day-wonder shuttles from Earth dumped their trash on the little pads at C Port. B caught the system ships from Mars and the Frames and the Jovian moons; those were good ships, sometimes beautiful ships, but they only went out and back. Home traffic, suborbital hoppers and Big Dippers back from the water run, came down at Old Landing on the other side of the city; they were important, Matt knew, but they went nowhere at all—another Lunar city, a comet, nowhere. Copernicus A was the real starport, where the MIRAGE-drive ships on the Far Worlds trade sent down their shuttles, or landed themselves. And then took off again, to go where the strongest telescope could not find the Earth in the sky.

The watch on Matt’s wrist trembled. It was time.

The beacons around the pad lit white, red, blue. A service buggy ran for shelter under the crete pavilion where the crash vehicles waited, just in case of the impossible. Strobes on glass-rod towers flared upward, spilling a little light from their metallized-glass bowls, but casting no beams in the clean Lunar sky.

The TECHNET said the ship was the Eau Claire, a real free trader, no home port, last stop Burgundy, eighty parsecs out. Matt wanted to grab his slate and read her data live: but if he touched the net Matt could be located—He could find Matt as easily as whistling a note. He didn’t know about this place, and He wouldn’t. Matt was not going to heat his own coldspot.

The ship came down.

Eau Claire was a pipe-racker, eight fifty-meter lengths of tube making two # signs one atop the other. Four flare cylinders went through the junctions; they were burning hydrogen in oxygen, their exhaust bells blasting against gravity with flares that were nearly invisible, except for the dust they tore up from the surface as the ship settled down. Inside the tubes, four meters across, were crew quarters, controls, storage for delicate cargo. Less-sensitive goods were hung outside, in small pods and cases along the tubes, and big containers in the central square.

The ship seemed to be coming down at an off angle. Between two breaths Matt played it out crashing, in a burst of dust and debris and burning gas; and, alert as no one else in the city could have been, he would grab a suit of plate from the public lockers, rush to the site, aid in the rescue . . . earn the gratitude of Eau Claire’s master and crew. Earn an offer of a job. Earn his ticket to go.

All he needed was an offer. Matt was past his hundred and fifteen thousandth hour, old enough for an offer. With a promise of work, by Lunar law he could leave his parents, leave the sight of the blue planet, get out, gain orbit, grab outworlds, go.

Then the ship touched the pad. Matt shook with imaginary shock of landing, and the play burst like soap film.

He wouldn’t really want to light out that way, Matt told himself, as the starship’s engines shut down, the clouds of dust collapsed. He wouldn’t, he said in his head, want to win his ticket in the wreck of a ship, in a master’s disaster. He told himself that three times over.

Ramp slots were opening around the pad, trucks crawling from their tunnels. Along the pipes of the ship, windows blinked as the crew moved from landing to loading stations. A twin-racker would have a crew of about forty.

Room and work for forty ought to mean enough for forty-one, Matt thought. But he had asked the question, asked it more than once since reaching the hour of Go. One master had just smiled and shaken her head. One had shown him all over his ship, given him a piece of white coal from Saint Alexis (he had traded a third of it for two slate memory modules, but the rest was carefully hidden). The third had called Him. There had been no reason for that; it was a lawful question anywhere to ask for work, but—

Matt’s father had been in a meeting (as if He were ever anywhere else). Not that He had said anything; no long careful argument this time, no explanation of why He was right and Matt was wrong. Why should He? It had gone His way, and Matt had learned something. Matt had learned that he wasn’t going anywhere, not this way. So He just let the silence beat in Matt’s ears like the pound of blood in a small dark room.

In another forty thousand hours there would not have to be any sort of promise from a third party. Matt could survive that long. He could last that long breathing vacuum, if only he could get out of sight of the Earth.

And everything Matt had ever read or seen or heard told him that people did what they had to, to survive. Even He couldn’t argue around that.

Matt put on his jacket. He tucked up the pillow for his next visit, stepped off the support rod and skipped down the inner wall, barely touching the crete with his soft-soled boots, brushing the glass rods as he dropped between them. He hit surface with a light bouncing shock and ran between the walls.

The space between the walls got dim as Matt left the window strip behind. He came to his exit: he unducked, grabbed a glass rod with both hands and killed his momentum in a full-circle swing over the bar. At knee height, a half-meter square of plain gray plycore covered a hole in the inside wall. Matt went through.

He came out in a very dim room, a vacant retail space on the top concourse of the building. There were some Beta dropcloths piled and draped, a box of bolts and fasteners, an unmounted light fixture. At the front of the store, light leaked in a fine white grid around the edges of ply panels.

Above the loose lightbox was an open spot in the ceiling. Matt jumped into it, caught the edge of the glass-channel suspension grid and swung inside with no more sound than a door closing. Careful to touch only the grid, not the glass-foam panels, with fingers and elbows and knees and toes, he crabbed his way past lights and cables and ducts to the space above a toilet room. He listened: no whumph of toilets or hum of sinks, not a grunt, not a cough. Matt tipped up a panel and dropped through.

He whacked the dust off his jacket and slacks, walked to a sink and blasted his hands clean in the ultrasound. He looked in the mirror: in a corner behind him was an empty camera bracket, a pigtail of wires. Eventually there would be a pickup installed, and Matt would have to find another way to the cold. Which he would.

Matt went out onto the concourse. The building was A-framed, walls sloping up to meet in a long skylight. There were walks along both sides, a gap down the middle that looked down past two more decks to the transit level. Air vines curtained down from railing to railing. To Matt’s right, the floor ended in a circular space, a stairway spiraling down the center, a curved band of window giving a general view of the three Copernicus ports.

A few people were standing by the window, looking out; they began to walk away, their step confirming them all as Lunars. The last person spotted Matt and waved. Matt knew him: Gordon Tovey, one of the Transport supervisors. He wore a ten-pocket Beta vest over a high-collared shirt in Transport red, red jeans tucked into heavy boots. The vest pockets were stuffed full of gear, still more hardware clipped and looped to his belt and jeans.

Tovey said “Hello, Ronay the Younger.”

It was what he always said. He meant nothing by it, and Matt had decided it was all right for Gordon to call him that: it wouldn’t always be so, but when the time came the explanation would too. “Hello, Gordon.”

Tovey pointed out the window. “Surely you didn’t miss the big one.”

“Pickup to con-down.”

“So what did you think?”

“Think?”

“Of the ship.”

“Oh, well. She came in a little off, true—but pipe ships don’t handle all that smooth, especially doubles. And her last stop was Burgundy—”

“That right?”

“TECHNET. Which probably means from Dvor before, and maybe Churchill or Ananse before that. She may not have been anyplace airless in—oh, five thousand hours at least.”

“You do spend a little time on the net, don’t you?” Tovey said, grinning.

“Oh . . .”

“Don’t suppose you’d like a job?” Tovey said suddenly. He was not grinning now.

Matt felt his guts drop away. He could feel His hand in this, and if so it led to a bottomless well of plots—if He knew about Matt’s coldspot—had always known—and this would be just how He would close in, from a dark corner—“Have you got a job?” Matt said, trying to sound eager.

Tovey scratched at his ear. “Usually do; Tracks ’n’ Packs isn’t much of a star role these days. Not like starships, anyway. I keep saying, there’s not such a difference between ziplines and tracks, eh?” His smile seemed a bit awkward. Matt held his own face rigid. Tovey said “Any rate, I heard you were past your one-fifteen.”

“Yes.” And who told you that? “I’ve got to think about it, Gordon.”

“I don’t see any reason to hurry.” Tovey pressed at his ear again, pulled a picsel from a vest pocket. “Tovey, go ahead. . . . Oh, doesn’t it always? Details. Put ’em up.” Matt could see the face on the palmsized screen change to a technical-systems display. There was no sound; Tovey was sound-wired, the audio running up an implanted fiber-optic pipe directly into his auditory nerves. He could hear private and clear over any amount of background noise. “Oh, put a spitwad in it and hold your breath. I’m coming.” He snapped the picsel shut, said to Matt, “Want to see the mess I’ve just tried to get you into? Quick, before that starship’s crew finds out what we’ve shoved under their goods?”

Matt did and knew he couldn’t, but he checked his timer just to confirm. “I’ve really got to be someplace, Gordon. Maybe sometime else?”

Tovey shrugged. “Next ship, next disaster.” There was no malice in it, and it cut Matt open.

Matt said “Really. I have to go.”

“I guess you do,” Tovey said seriously, then “If you’re late, blame me.”

“Thanks, Gordon.”

“Arigato, but I meant Tranny, not me personally.” They both laughed. Tovey said “Would you tell your father—”

Matt froze.

“No, wipe that. Think about the job, though, eh?”

“Sure. And thanks.”

Tovey went to the stairwell rail and jumped over it. He could get away with that: he had a job to get to. Nobody would give him hardpoints for risking himself and spooking the Slammers.

Matt took a long step to the edge, looked down. Tovey had landed three decks down and was loping off to wherever his mess was. His work.

Matt had been tempted for a vac-tight fact. Gordon Tovey had the freedom of Luna: the run of the tracks and tunnels, Tycho to Tsio and all stops and stations. Transport ran the well buggies that loaded and unloaded starships; a Transport load super was the first person a ship captain saw live on landing, the last before lighting out.

But if it was the freedom of Luna, it was the freedom of only Luna, the freedom to work under the Earth. Tidelocked.

It was, and this killed it deader than a soap sphere in vacuum, the freedom to take orders from Himself. And there the matter ended.

Matt jumped the rail. A deck and a half down, he drifted by a Slammer team, two adults and two kids. Matt knew what they looked like before he saw them, because they all looked alike— what Tani called a gestalt, all the bits streaming as a whole. They had cameras and sunshields and THE EARTH’S ROUND AFTER ALL! shirts of Beta over their linty weed clothes. They had a stuffed plush Ango and a Name the Craters game card. Before they left they would have a pocketful each of degaussed tickets from Transport and hourly suit hire and a Skyhook match and the theatre or the ballet or the orchestra (choose one), and at the Port Duty Free shop they would each get a glass sphere of Lunar soil and vacuum, the adults a bottle of Authentic Moonshine white whiskey.

One of the kids gaped and pointed at Matt dropping past, and he grinned and waved and did a back-flip before landing just right on his feet. Matt had seen their cameras, as he knew he would; that was all right. Sometimes you had to be careful—a news disc might get on the channels—but these were just going back to the Earth, and what happened to them there Matt could not even slightly care. If you were trying to live and run cool on Luna, knowing the difference was everything.

He was skambling now; a light-footed run with knees bent and head down, ducked and tucked. The idea was to put all your power into forward momentum, none into vertical lift. You had to be Lunar to do it right. It drove the Slammers crazy when you skambled by them, so of course you weren’t supposed to do it, and you did it every chance you got.

Matt riffed up a chart in the slate of his brain. He was in the A Port Surface level. He had to get to Ruby’s place on Sokoni plus seven. There were three thousand meters of travel tube between Port and Sokoni Tower; they had wanted the landings far out for some reason.

For a long time Matt had walked the distance, thinking it must be cooler than a railcar. Then he discovered there were cameras in both—and few enough people walked that when the sensors warmed to somebody in the passage, someone always took a look. In the cars, if you kept quiet, you might run the whole city unseen.

Matt had quickly come to understand that things didn’t always play as they ought. No Lunar in the blue eye’s sight expected things fair. It was when things played completely backward that he wondered about the world.

Matt slowed down as he came to the travel concourse. It was always full of offworlders; no place was hotter. He was traveling at a nice smooth walk when he got to the rail gates.

There were instructions in six languages for Slammers; Lunars knew the system. About a year ago Transport had put up signs in Sympla, the icon language they used on starships. The ship people liked it, so it must work well, but Matt wondered: didn’t they talk on ships? In stories they talked, of course. In stories they explained things to each other that real crew would be black vac dead for not knowing, or else they explained them to planet people who had no business aboard except not to know things—space Slammers. What were they like, without a spit of gravity to hold them down and together?

It was a relief when the story ships got into trouble: then they didn’t talk so much. Or they said useless things like “Another hit like that and we’ll lose cooling in the MIRAGE cases!” when any idiot could see the cracks and the clouds of boiling wet-N; but then you could just flip the sound off and enjoy the story pure.

Matt reached into the inside pocket of his jacket. Lining the pocket was a sort of envelope, made of double-layer foil with a thumbnail circuit panel wired in. Ruby, who had made them for all the team, called it a Faraday Pocket; a-eyes couldn’t see through it. Matt flipped his Transport tag out just before he went through the gate, and it passed him. Rubylaser had warned him not to forget. He never forgot.

With the tag read he was warm, gated and dated precisely located, a hot spark on the lines. All He had to do was look. Let Him.

Between the gate area and the train tube was a spinney door, a frame of layered plates that would whirl in to seal tight if vacuum broke on either side. Older Lunars sometimes took a long arching step through spinneys—the guillotine gavotte—just in case, though Matt had never in his life actually heard of a serious decompression.

The tube was a broad oval, cut through the regolith with electron guns; the curved walls were still of burnstone, smooth and slightly glassy. The passenger platform was a slab of white crete notching the tunnel’s corner. A glass wall ran the thirty-meter length of the station, dividing platform from train tube, doors marked off by strips of red-enameled metal. At the upline end, big digits counted down to the next train: 48 seconds.

At 30 seconds out a chime rang to wake up dozing passengers— that was clearly explained on the signs, but some Slammers never saw anything—as happened now: a fat man, two stuffed shopping bags hung from each hand, heard the bell and was touched off like a racing mouse. He practically leapt through the gate, the bags rising under thick-legged thrust, oscillating on the heavy slack couplings of arms; by the time he reached the platform he was a hurtling chaotic system, an insoluble n-body problem.

The fat Slammer saw the end coming, the glass wall rushing up on him. He tried to kill his velocity, tried, Matt saw with some surprise, like a Lunar, crouching and scraping his shoes on the crete, and he almost did make it—but there was really a lot of mass times velocity squared there, and he didn’t handle the whirling baggage right, and space just ran out on him.

Slam.

The man bounced off the glass, and again off the floor, a wavefront of shopping bags expanding from the impact. They were still in flight when the train filled the tube, train doors mating to platform doors and sliding open. The fat man tried to get up and grab his property at once, and managed neither.

Matt looked at the train and the time and the struggling Slammer, and then at the few other people on the platform. The Slammers were hustling into the cars, trying to see the accident without looking at it. Most of the Lunars hadn’t seen it to begin with, it happened so many times a day. A small, yellow-haired woman in a blue coverup and sticky sandals was kneeling, putting books back into a Beta sack.

Matt gathered up the nearest bag. It was full of food: wrapped sandwiches, liter flasks of Pepsi Musato, two entire boxes of Cadbury’s Rego Crunch bars. Matt and the woman in blue came up on either side of the fallen man. “Careful, sir,” Matt said, and they got him on his feet. A chime rang, and the woman waved and kicked the crete hard; she sailed into a car just as the glass doors closed. The train slid out.

The fat man stared after the train for a moment, shook his head, and said “Thank you, thank you so much. Can you tell me when the next train to the Hub is due?”

Matt pointed at the countdown clock. “About 500 seconds.”

“Ah.” The man pulled back his left sleeve. There was a long black case strapped to his forearm: a tasset computer, time digits showing through a window in the closed lid. “I have to be on a long-distance train at 1400. Do you think I’ll make it?”

“You ought to,” Matt said, “sir.” There was only one train from Copernicus Hub at 1400 today, as Matt had excellent reason to know.

“Ah. Good. My luggage is already supposed to be on there, you see, and I’d hate to have to run after my dirty socks. Especially as you’ve seen how I run.” He smiled. Matt smiled too, trying to imagine the cubage of the man’s luggage.

The next train pulled in. “This one will get you there,” Matt said, and almost hung back, almost went to another car, but voidit he wanted to know. He followed the Earthman aboard.

Matt said “It’s three stops to the Hub Transport Center. We’re on Surface level here, but Hub will be sub-2; the TranCity trains leave from Surface . . . that’s two decks up. There’s a lift. And you can get a cart for this . . . your packages.” Pause. The man was listening carefully. Matt tightened his chest and said “How far are you going?”

“The end of the line. Tsiolkovsky.”

Breath. “Are you an astronomer?”

“Astrophysicist. My name is Yuri Korolev.”

“Oh! I’ve heard of you.”

Korolev’s eyebrows went up. “Oh, of course. The crater, on Farside.” He smiled. “The big fat one.”

“No, sir. I mean, you, sir.”

“That’s very kind, young man. . . .”

“Matt.”

“Thank you, Matt, but I’m certain—”

“You wrote about MIRAGE tracing by Avakian shock. It was on VACOR TECHNET.”

Korolev laughed out loud. Matt held still for a moment, feeling sweat on his ribs, and then Korolev reached out, clamped Matt’s hand in both of his and shook it. Korolev’s hands were strong, and surprisingly fine-boned for such a big man. “Matt, sir, I am so delighted to make your acquaintance. You must excuse me: I have a son, you see, just about your age, and he is about as interested in celestial physics as . . . as the far side of the Moon.”

Matt nodded for want of anything better to do. Korolev had said Moon, yes, but he’d called it the far side. Not the dark side.

The train stopped at Verne Center. No one entered their car. The doors closed.

“Do you live here, Matt? Copernicus, I mean? I haven’t been to the Moon before, you see, and I really don’t know how much you people travel.”

“I live in Copernicus. I’ve been to some other cities. Tycho, and Da Vinci/Crisium.”

“To Tsio?”

Heartbeat heartbeat. “No.”

“Ah. Well, I shall be there for . . . let me see, you’d say seven hundred hours? A month, on Earth?”

“A skyday.”

“I see,” Korolev said. He seemed to be filing the word away. “Well, if you should happen to be in Tsiolkovsky during that skyday, you will say hello to me? Pozhalasta?”

“Da gospodeen.”

“Muy bueno. I have hardly been on the Moon two days, and already I am amazed by . . . no, I am not saying that right. After fifty hours here, I find Luna amazing.”

Matt said “We call it the Moon sometimes,” which was only true. Korolev hadn’t pronounced it right—“Loona,” like “lunatic,” not properly with a short u—but he seemed to mean well enough. Through the car window, burnstone and cables shockwiped to glass and platform, and the sign for Sokoni Tower. “This is my stop, sir. Nazdrovye.”

“Zero noise, Matt.”

“Next stop for you, sir. Luna e irrashaimase.”

Korolev waved as Matt got off. Matt waved back, and then left the station, fast as he could.

He tumbled up a ramp and was in Sokoni Split, the triple-height traders’ zone, shopcent souk and streetfair all in one and outside of time. There were tables and tents and kiosks, crosstalk pitches and pleas crackling in the air, which smelled of food and incense and drifting pine from the Core beyond. There were openframe openstores, built of glass rods and modular connectors, that ran up and out as they pleased, dangling draperies and ladders—there was no rule that you had to make it easy for Slammers to get in; a couple of stores were hung from under deck 1, accessible only by an easy jump that no Slammer would ever try.

Copyright © 2022 from John M. Ford

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Every Book Coming From Tor in Spring 2022

Ready to build up that Spring TBR pile? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Check out everything coming from Tor Books in Spring 2022 here!


March 1

cover of The Atlas Six by Olivie BlakeThe Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

The Alexandrian Society, caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity, are the foremost secret society of magical academicians in the world. Those who earn a place among the Alexandrians will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams, and each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to be considered for initiation. When the new candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they will have one year to qualify for initiation. One will be eliminated. The six potential initiates will fight to survive the next year of their lives, and if they can prove themselves to be the best among their rivals, most of them will.

March 8

Image Place holder  of - 81Last Exit by Max Gladstone

When Zelda and her friends first met, in college, they believed they had all the answers. They had figured out a big secret about how the world worked and they thought that meant they could change things. They failed. One of their own fell, to darkness and rot. Ten years later, they’ve drifted apart, building lives for themselves, families, fortunes. All but Zelda. She’s still wandering the backroads of the nation. She’s still fighting monsters. She knows: the past isn’t over. It’s not even past. The road’s still there. The rot’s still waiting. They can’t hide from it any more. Because, at long last, their friend is coming home. And hell is coming with her.

March 15

Image Placeholder of - 41The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

When COVID-19 sweeps through New York City, Jamie Gray is stuck as a dead-end driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who works at what he calls “an animal rights organization.” Tom’s team needs a last-minute grunt to handle things on their next field visit. Jamie, eager to do anything, immediately signs on. What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at least.

Cover of Worlds of Exile and Illusion by Ursula K. Le GuinWorlds of Exile and Illusion by Ursula K. Le Guin, introduction by Amal El-Mohtar

These three spacefaring adventures mark the beginning of grand master Ursula K. Le Guin’s remarkable career. Set in the same universe as Le Guin’s groundbreaking classics The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, these first three books of the celebrated Hainish Series follow travelers of many worlds and civilizations in the depths of space. The novels collected in this Tor Essentials edition are the first three ever published by Le Guin, a frequent winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards and one of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers of all time. With a new introduction by Amal El-Mohtar, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author.

Poster Placeholder of - 42Three Kings edited by Melinda M. Snodgrass, in the Wildcards World of George R.R. Martin

In the aftermath of World War II, the Earth’s population was devastated by an alien virus. Those who survived were changed forever. Some, known as jokers, were cursed with bizarre mental and physical mutations; others, granted superhuman abilities, became the lucky few known as aces. Queen Margaret, who came to the English throne after the death of her sister Elizabeth, now lies on her death-bed. Summoning the joker ace Alan Turing, she urges him to seek the true heir: Elizabeth’s lost son. He was rumored to have died as a baby but, having been born a joker, was sent into hiding.

March 22

Placeholder of  -39The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller

Charm is a witch, and she is alone. The last of a line of conquered necromantic workers, now confined within the yard of regrown bone trees at Orchard House, and the secrets of their marrow. Charm tends the trees and their clattering fruit for the sake of her children, painstakingly grown and regrown with its fruit: Shame, Justice, Desire, Pride, and Pain. The wealthy and powerful of Borenguard come to her house to buy time with the girls who aren’t real. Except on Tuesdays, which is when the Emperor himself lays claim to his mistress, Charm herself. But now—Charm is also the only person who can keep an empire together, as the Emperor summons her to his deathbed, and charges her with choosing which of his awful, faithless sons will carry on the empire—by discovering which one is responsible for his own murder.

Place holder  of - 95Destiny of the Dead by Kel Kade

The God of Death is tired of dealing with the living, so he’s decided everyone should die. And he’s found allies. The Berru, an empire of dark mages, has unleashed a terrifying army of monstrous lyksvight upon everyone with a pulse. While the wealthy and powerful, the kings and queens, abandon the dying world, one group of misfits says no more. Through dogged determination and the ability to bind souls to their dead bodies, Aaslo and his friends fight on. In the mountains of the far north, another bastion of defense is opened. Cherrí, the avatar of a vengeful fire god, has united the survivors amongst her people and begun her own war on the invaders. Now, Aaslo and Cherrí must find a way to unite their powers, one divine, the other profane, to throw back the monsters of the Berru, and challenge Death itself.

March 29

Sweep of Stars by Maurice Broaddus

The Muungano empire strived and struggled to form a utopia when they split away from old earth. Freeing themselves from the endless wars and oppression of their home planet in order to shape their own futures and create a far-reaching coalition of city-states that stretched from Earth and Mars to Titan. With the wisdom of their ancestors, the leadership of their elders, the power and vision of their scientists and warriors they charted a course to a better future. But the old powers could not allow them to thrive and have now set in motion new plots to destroy all that they’ve built. In the fire to come they will face down their greatest struggle yet.

April 5

Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments by T.L. Huchu

When Ropa Moyo discovered an occult underground library, she expected great things. She’s really into Edinburgh’s secret societies – but turns out they are less into her. So instead of getting paid to work magic, she’s had to accept a crummy unpaid internship. Then her friend Priya offers her a job on the side. Priya works at Our Lady of Mysterious Maladies, a very specialized hospital, where a new illness is resisting magical and medical remedies alike. If Ropa can solve the case, she might earn as she learns – and impress her mentor, Sir Callander. Her sleuthing will lead her to a lost fortune, an avenging spirit and a secret buried deep in Scotland’s past. But how are they connected? Lives are at stake and Ropa is running out of time.

Aspects by John M. Ford

Enter the halls of Parliament with Varic, Coron of the Corvaric Coast. Visit Strange House with the Archmage Birch. Explore the mountains of Lady Longlight alongside the Palion Silvern, Sorcerer. In the years before his unexpected death, John M. Ford wrote a novel of fantasy and magic unlike any other. Politics and abdicated kings, swords and sorcerous machine guns, divination and ancient empires—finally, Aspects is here.

April 12

Shadow Fallen by Sherrilyn Kenyon

For centuries, Ariel has fought the forces of evil. Her task was to protect the souls of innocent mortals when they die. Captured by a powerful sorceress, she is transformed into a human who has no memory of her real life or calling. And is plunked into the middle of the Norman invasion of England. Cursed the moment he was born with a “demonic deformity,” Valteri wants nothing of this earth except to depart it and will do his duty to his king until then. When a strange noblewoman is brought before him, Valteri realizes he has met her before…in his dreams. When others come for her, bringing with them preternatural predators, he is faced with a destiny he had no idea was waiting. One he wants no part of.

April 19

Flint and Mirror by John Crowley

As ancient Irish clans fought to preserve their lands and their way of life, the Queen and her generals fought to tame the wild land and make it English. Hugh O’Neill, lord of the North, dubbed Earl of Tyrone by the Queen, is a divided man: the Queen gives to Hugh her love, and her commandments, through a little mirror of obsidian which he can never discard; and the ancient peoples of Ireland arise from their underworld to make Hugh their champion, the token of their vow a chip of flint.

April 26

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

Marra never wanted to be a hero. As the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter, she escaped the traditional fate of princesses, to be married away for the sake of an uncaring throne. But her sister wasn’t so fortunate—and after years of silence, Marra is done watching her suffer at the hands of a powerful and abusive prince. Seeking help for her rescue mission, Marra is offered the tools she needs, but only if she can complete three seemingly impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes and witches, doing the impossible is only the beginning.

The Discord of Gods by Jenn Lyons

Relos Var’s final plans to enslave the universe are on the cusp of fruition. He believes there’s only one being in existence that might be able to stop him: the demon Xaltorath. As these two masterminds circle each other, neither is paying attention to the third player on the board, Kihrin. Unfortunately, keeping himself classified in the ‘pawn’ category means Kihrin must pretend to be everything the prophecies threatened he’d become: the destroyer of all, the sun eater, a mindless, remorseless plague upon the land. It also means finding an excuse to not destroy the people he loves (or any of the remaining Immortals) without arousing suspicion.

Up Against It by Laura J. Mixon

Jane Navio is the resource manager of Phoecea, an asteroid colony poised on the knife-edge of a hard vacuum of unforgiving space. A mishap has dumped megatons of water and methane out the colony’s air lock, putting the entire human population at risk. Jane discovers that the crisis may have been engineered by the Martian crime syndicate, as a means of executing a coup that will turn Phocaea into a client-state. And if that wasn’t bad enough, an AI that spawned during the emergency has gone rogue…and there’s a giant x-factor in the form of the transhumanist Viridian cult that lives in Phocaea’s bowels.

May 3

Book of Night by Holly Black

Charlie Hall has never found a lock she couldn’t pick, a book she couldn’t steal, or a bad decision she wouldn’t make. She’s spent half her life working for gloamists, magicians who manipulate shadows to peer into locked rooms, strangle people in their beds, or worse. Gloamists guard their secrets greedily, creating an underground economy of grimoires. And to rob their fellow magicians, they need Charlie Hall. Now, she’s trying to distance herself from past mistakes, but getting out isn’t easy. Bartending at a dive, she’s still entirely too close to the corrupt underbelly of the Berkshires. Not to mention that her sister Posey is desperate for magic, and that Charlie’s shadowless, and possibly soulless, boyfriend has been hiding things from her. When a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie descends into a maelstrom of murder and lies.

May 24

cover of The Origin of Storms by Elizabeth BearOrigin of Storms by Elizabeth Bear

The Lotus Kingdoms are at war, with four claimants to the sorcerous throne of the Alchemical Emperor, fielding three armies between them. Alliances are made, and broken, many times over—but in the end, only one can sit on the throne. And that one must have not only the power, but the rightful claim. The Rajni Mrithuri stands as the chief claimant to the Alchemical throne now, but she and her empire remain a prize to be taken unless she gets an heir. She has her allies–her cousin Sayeh, a dragon, a foreign wizard, a fearsome automaton, and the Dead Man–but the throne has the final say. And if it rejects her, the price is death.

What book are you reading first? Let us know in the comments!

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Excerpt: Aspects by John M. Ford

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Image Placeholder of - 90“The best writer in America, bar none.”—Robert Jordan

At last, the final work of John M. Ford—one of the greatest SF and fantasy authors of his time.

Enter the halls of Parliament with Varic, Coron of the Corvaric Coast.

Visit Strange House with the Archmage Birch.

Explore the mountains of Lady Longlight alongside the Palion Silvern, Sorcerer.

In the years before his unexpected death, John M. Ford wrote a novel of fantasy and magic unlike any other. Politics and abdicated kings, swords and sorcerous machine guns, divination and ancient empires—finally, Aspects is here.

“A great writer who is really fucking brilliant.”—Neil Gaiman

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Aspects by John M. Ford, on sale 04/05/22. 


CHAPTER 1

The City and Solitude

It has been said that, if a person is going to die, he should do it in the morning: when the day is new and clean and full of unanswerable questions, when the sun has just risen to cast an afterglow on the things that have been done by night. It has also been said that, if a person is going to die, the circumstances are irrelevant.

On this Paleday morning in Lystourel, capital city of the Republic of Lescoray, the twenty-fifth day of Shepherd’s month, three days before the Equinoctial holiday and six until the autumn Equinox itself, a legal duel was scheduled for seven o’clock in the morning: by seven thirty at the latest, a man whose beliefs ran one way about death and morning was going to kill one of the other persuasion.

It was a foul morning anyway, cold a month too early, the wind off the Grand Estuary hard as a slap across the cheek. The sky was lumpy and curdled, and sooty as well, because the weather had forced fires lit before the flues had been properly cleaned: there was creosote in the air, there would be chimney fires tonight, and the price of dusted coal on the City Exchange was over two gold marks the wagonload for the first time in years.

The gilded dome of the Lystourel Cathedral looked dull and sullen as old copper; the copper dome of the National Gallery looked green and moldy; the glass sheds of the Grand Ironway Terminus were clouded, vapors thick beneath them, like infected blisters. It was the kind of day that made people in the streets long for a King over Lescoray, to heal the aerial sickness, blow away miasma with a royal word. None of the people in the streets was old enough to remember when Lescoray actually had a King over it, which made the longings perfect.

The time was now twelve minimi before seven, and the duel was organizing itself in Willowpark Square, in the western part of Lystourel, just south of the fashionable Silverthread District. The square was four rows of high houses, including the Consulate of a tiny island republic, facing on a small green plot surrounded by an iron fence. There were drooping willow trees, just turning yellow, miscellaneous bushes and benches, a neglected rose arbor. On the outside of the fence were the uninvited spectators: some coatless boys with schoolbooks, some curious tradesmen. The residents were discreetly in their upstairs windows. Inside the fence was the crowd for the matter at hand.

It took rather a lot of people to conduct a legal duel. There were the two duelists’ seconds, young women with their hair tucked under their tall hats and long winter capes over their morning coats; one was in blue, one in green. They were looking rather sadly at one another, but did not speak. The one in the blue coat carried a long, narrow leather case and had a black cheroot between her teeth, chewing more than smoking it. The dueling proctor wore a dark green belted coat, with a silver chain of office crookedly over his shoulders, and a white weeper tied around his silk hat. It fluttered dismally in the wet wind. He tapped an ivory-hilted cane on the ground, looking bored, or impatient, or both. At his side was a boy in a jacket and cap, with a badge pinned to his chest and a wooden box under his arm.

Behind the proctor was a bailiff in the uniform red-andsilver livery, silver buttons on his jacket and black leather cap and boots, silver rope over one shoulder balancing the sling of the magazine carbine on the other. Everyone looked with distaste at the bailiff’s rifle, and the bailiff returned the looks in kind.

A little distance away, leaning against a tree, was the surgeon, in a wine-red, swallow-tailed morning coat and crimson cravat, a white fur hat rakishly on her head. Dangling from her waistcoat pocket was a golden sunburst watch fob, indicating that she was also an accredited sorcerer. It had become fashionable for the observing magicians at affairs like this to fade into the background. The sorcerers’ guild had created the fashion, trying to discourage the idea that a sorcerer would help anyone cheat in the first place.

There were two reporters, rather less well dressed than the rest, one in a short wool coat, cotton cravat, and round-crowned hat, the other in a leather engine driver’s jacket and cap, a soiled silk scarf around his neck, and no cravat at all. One was from the Evening Observer, the one in the jacket from the Northern Star. The Star man would be hitching a ride on the next freight train home with his story as soon as the duel was over, saving the cost of magnostyle and the indignity of having his words rewritten at the office. He had a hip flask of whisky out and open, and was sharing it with his comrade of the press. This was not the usual duel, which they could write up beforehand and insert the names in the appropriate spots after; one of the parties was a Coron in Parliament, and if he died, it would be actual news, at least in the North where his Coronage was.

The duelists were the last to arrive, as was customary. One, a young cavalry officer named Chase, was crossing the square, whirling his cloak off as he shoved through the gate; he tossed the cloak to his second and stretched, his tied-back brown hair bouncing as he moved. The wind fluttered the linen ruffles of his white shirt.

The other man, the Coron Varic, took a step away from one of the willows. He was rather tall, dark haired, severely thin, in a steel-blue frock coat and gray trousers. He took off the coat, folding it lengthwise and over, and handed it to his second; he adjusted his braces slightly, loosened his dark blue cravat but did not remove it.

The breeze rose slightly, shaking the willow trees. The Goddess Coris, it was said, must have been in a terrible melancholy when She made willows. From a few blocks away, a tower clock began striking seven.

The dueling proctor said, “There is still time, honoreds, to conclude these differences without violence, or to lessen their extremity. I remind you both that the insult has been deemed mortal, yet lesser strokes have satisfied greater men. Will you accede?” The law required that the proctor say the words; it could not demand any feeling or concern in them.

Lieutenant Chase said, “The insult remains, honored: no pretense that it is less can make it any less. I do not accede.”

Varic nodded without speaking.

The proctor said, “Then I am required to remind you that the matter, being so begun, may only be so concluded.” He waved to his assistant. The boy held up the wooden case, and the proctor took from it a large, heavy pistol, an antique, firing a single shot with a cap and hand-tamped powder. There was no legal requirement that he use such a thing. “I am the instrument of conclusion,” he said, as prescribed.

The duelists looked at the proctor, then at each other. Varic said suddenly, “How many people have you killed, Lieutenant? I’ve killed two, under just these circumstances. A young man in Trumpeters’ Park, and a very pretty young woman by the Estuary. She was a cavalry lieutenant as well.”

Then I have more honor than my own to redeem,” Chase said.

“She’s dead,” Varic said, “and won’t ever notice.”

“You don’t begin to frighten me,” Chase said, thin patches showing in his voice. “I don’t care how red your lance may be.” He looked, expectantly, into Varic’s face.

The Coron’s expression did not change at all. “Frightening you was not my intention. I just thought you should know that this is an old business with me. I have no particular interest in killing you, Lieutenant.”

“Then you, honored, are at the disadvantage.” It was not a challenge, just a flat statement.

Varic said, “Just so. As the . . . injured party, you have choice of weapons.” He motioned toward his second, who rolled the cigar to a corner of her mouth and opened the long leather case. Four swords gleamed dully on velvet inside. “Sabers or rapiers, Lieutenant?” There was no mention of pistols. They were all gentlefolk here, except possibly for the reporters, and the well aspected did not shoot one another over honorable disputes. The proctor’s gun was another business entirely.

Chase inspected the swords. “These are excellent weapons, Coron.” Varic nodded meaninglessly. “Rapiers, then,” Chase said, and selected a sword, with a straight thin blade and a plain cross hilt, not ornamented at all. Chase tested the sword’s balance, then stepped back as Varic took out the matching weapon.

Varic said to his second, “If it goes against, you’re to report directly to Brook.” The woman nodded, closed the case, dropped the stub of her cigar, and ground it under her boot.

The proctor held up his cane. Varic and Chase took up positions to either side, crossing their points above the stick.

The cane fell. The swords, the duelists, the whole square held still in the cold, bad air for a few instanti, half a heartbeat, and then steel flashed down like a thunderclap.

They stayed close for the first minima or so, Lieutenant Chase parrying brilliantly, thrusting very near his opponent, stepping lightly from side to side. Varic stood nearly still, moving his blade in simple straight lines, easy for the eye to follow, for the hand to predict. Click, ring, step, scrape, the two of them matching moves as if this were an open-air production of King Zargo. Wherever Varic put his sword, Chase’s blade was there first.

And then, suddenly, it was not. The very tip of Varic’s sword was in the meat of Chase’s upper left arm, and there was blood on the white linen. Varic pulled out, held his sword at high guard. Chase did the same. They fell to again, both walking now, stepping off the narrow garden path as they circled one another, steel whipping across the space between. The lieutenant was not content to fence now, he was fighting, trying to find an opening in his enemy’s guard, cut a way into Varic’s flesh. He leaped to the top of a stone bench, slashed, leaped down again.

Varic recoiled, executed a circular disengaging parry, seemed to stumble. Chase lunged into the gap, with a perfect deadly geometry. Steel cut air, whistling.

And then there was a sharp, bright note as Chase’s rapier hit the pavement. There was a gash the width of his right arm, a sheet of blood running from it. Varic was standing entirely away from Chase; if not for the blood dripping from his sword, he might have had nothing at all to do with the wound.

Chase looked at Varic, at Varic’s sword, at his own on the ground. He took an uncertain step, his boot squeaking in his own blood. Varic simply waited.

The lieutenant turned and ran.

The dueling proctor leveled his pistol at the fleeing man’s back. Varic took a long step, and his sword flicked out, knocking the barrel of the gun upward even as it snapped and fired; the bullet rustled the boughs of a willow, and there was an explosion of sparrows.

“Your pardon, honored,” Varic said softly. “I’ve spoiled your aim.”

“No matter,” the proctor said, examining his pistol for damage. “I believe the affair is now concluded?”

“To my satisfaction, certainly.”

“Indeed.” The proctor’s assistant held out the gun case; the proctor put away the weapon, adjusted his cloak and white-sashed hat. “You will of course excuse me, ladies, gentlemen. I have another of these matters to attend at eight. Find Goddess in your ways.”

“In your way,” the others said—though Varic only nodded, and the leather-jacketed reporter was already running to find his train—and the proctor left Willowpark Square, his assistant and the bailiff following behind him. The surgeon stood still for a moment more, then tipped her hat and departed after them.

Varic was sitting on a park bench, cleaning the sword blades with a lemon and a cloth. Lieutenant Chase’s second said to him, “Well and fairly done, honored.” Her face was a bit flushed, perhaps with the cold. Varic said, “Thank you,” and the woman went away.

The Observer man came up, his notebook and fountain pen out. “That was quite a fight, milord, quite a fight. Tell me, Coron, were you ever in the army?”

“No,” Varic said, wiping a rapier and replacing it in the case. “I’ve spent most of my career in Parliament.” He looked at the reporter, smiled faintly. “That’s a sort of fencing practice, you know.”

It took the man a moment to get the joke. Then he laughed, said, “Oh, yes! Very good, milord, very good indeed. Thank you.” He scribbled in his book and departed.

Varic’s second had lit a fresh cigar. She said, “Why did you say that, milord Varic?”

Varic put the other sword away, closed the case. The woman was only an acquaintance of his, a retired foot soldier; Brook had suggested her for this morning’s duty. “Because he’s a reporter,” Varic said pleasantly, “and he wanted something to report. I gave him a line he can use, and now he won’t have to make something up.” He sat back, feeling the sweat on his shirt go cold, and looked at the park fence: the spectators, perhaps twenty of them, were starting to drift away from the iron bars. A small blond boy kept staring. Varic gave him a small salute, and the boy turned and ran away. “What’s the time?”

The woman checked her pocket watch. “Twenty-five past seven.”

“Ninety-five minimi to the session bell. . . . Best see if you can find a cab for me. And, Rose?”

“Milord Coron?”

“If I ever have to do this again, I’d be pleased to have you as second. But I hope we never have to.”

“Of course, honored,” she said, sounding somewhat puzzled.

Varic thought, though there was no way to explain it to Rose, that this probably would be his last duel. Those responsible had now failed three times; time to try something new.

Rose had probably been in duels, at least seconded often, since Brook had recommended her. But she was a soldier of Lescoray and therefore had no personal experience of war.

She hailed a two-wheeler with military authority. Carrying his coat over his arm, Varic thanked her again; she would take the swords back to Varic’s house in Healstone Court. After that, barring a fourth duel, they would meet only at sociable functions, Infantry Balls, and charity teas. They would smile at one another, and say, “Yes, we’ve met,” sharing the secret: and let the world confound itself trying to guess at it.

“Parliament House,” Varic told the cab driver as he stepped aboard. He sat down, added through the trapdoor, “West entrance.” The driver nodded, snapped his whip once smartly, and they were off through the gray and hazy streets.

They turned south, out of the residence blocks, and soon were in the heavy morning traffic along the Fresh, the smaller river that branched to the west from the Grand. A bit of Varic’s mind registered the route, making sure the cabby stayed direct, while his main thoughts ticked over the schedule of motions before the Lords today. There were seven on the calendar. Things had piled up, as they always did before a recess. It had the small advantage of shortening the debates.

Four days to the Equinox, he thought. Four days and he would be forty marches away from the City, a guest at Strange House surrounded by friends and fellow guests, a long way from Parliaments and political duels and polluted air. They would play games and argue philosophy and take tea in the autumn twilight—and Varic would spend the whole time with one ear listening for the click of the magnostyle, and when finally the train brought him back to the Grand Terminus, he would feel an inexplicable relief.

The cab turned right, crossing the Fresh on the New Castle Bridge, an ironwork only a few years old; its bright green paint was beginning to turn dingy, and Varic supposed that next spring there would be a motion to repaint it. He filed a thought to check the price for red lead. Just to the right was the Old Bridge, now closed to all but foot traffic. On it, people were strolling or admiring the view, poor as it was today. A coal barge was passing under the central stone arch. The arches were sound after five hundred years. The pilings had been laid by the Quercians, six centuries earlier still. Varic wondered if the New Bridge would be anything more than rust in a century. Even with the red lead.

He looked out the left-side window. Receding behind them, on the point of land where the Fresh branched from the Grand River, was the Castle, a confused but certainly impressive jumble of towers, subfortresses, arches, and buttresses, ringed by the remnants of three different wall systems. Its foundations were Quercian, too, as was the innermost wall. Every ruler since the Empire departed had considered it a personal duty to build something onto the Castle, and usually to tear something else down. Quercia was like that: dismantled, overbuilt, plowed up, quarried, exploded, still the Luminous Empire ended up under your feet, in the walls around you.

The cab reached the South Corner, a fringe of parkland and middle-cost houses around the water, holding back the sprawl of industries farther south. They turned smartly east around Greengage Circle and crossed the Grand River on a stone-andiron bridge high enough to pass a sloop’s topmast. The haze was lifting a bit, and away to the south a forest of masts and rigging was just visible, lining the Estuary. The road came down again into the measured and formal street grid of the East Bank.

Measured and formal when it was laid out, at least. Now the streets were full of flower carts, beer wagons, two-wheel cabs, and four-wheel coaches—Varic heard his driver snort, and saw where some idiot had tried to take a four-horse rig down a side street, blocking it hopelessly—vendors of groundnuts and fresh fish and sausage rolls and eel pies, jaunty signboard-men and tired prostitutes, doctors on rounds and fiddlers playing for copper aces, dawn-service priests tipping their hats to highdayservice priests, those who had worked all night passing those who would work all day passing those who were too wealthy to work at all and were exhausted with their efforts. The streets smelled of starch and urine, mountain flowers and fried pork and cheap beer; they sounded of trade calls and children’s verses, outraged horses and human pain. They were all walled in with many-windowed building fronts, roofed over with coal smoke and magnostyle wires, and packed so solid you could cut slices from the mass.

How could human beings live in this place, Varic thought; how could anyone feel entirely alive until he had lived here?

The streets broadened. Trees appeared, and geometric plots of grass, unbelievably green against the gray City. The cab passed the Park of the Clarity Kings, still hung with fog that made its monuments look sepulchral. To the other side, fronting on Vineyard Avenue (where the last live grape had grown six hundred years ago; now there were iron vines climbing the streetlamps) was Parliament House, twenty columns on its south face, forty broad marble steps down to the avenue. When there was sun, it was very white, and quite beautiful.

The cab passed it by, as instructed, and stopped at the western side, where there was a small walled courtyard and a modest door.

“Fare?” Varic said, gathering his coat and his thoughts.

“Three plates four, honored.”

Varic gave him four silver plates, said, “No change.” The cabby saluted with his whip and drove on. Varic went through the garden, which was empty, pulled the bell cord at the door. The porter admitted him, with only a slight off glance at his shirt and undone cravat. The foyer within was simply decorated, the walls painted a cool pastel green meant to be soothing to redrimmed eyes. The glass-cased clock showed six minima to eight. He should have given the cabby a larger tip, Varic thought, or at least taken his license number. He went two floors up the oak stairway, to the floor of offices one below his own. From behind the other doors along the corridor there were small sounds, of teacups rattling, newspapers rustling, the crunch of toasted muffins.

He knocked on a door. “Yes,” came the answer. Varic went in.

The Chief Parliamentarian’s office was large, three ordinary members’ offices combined, but crowded. The walls of the front room were completely covered with plaques, scrolls, awards, an enormous globe standing next to an enormous desk. The library was visible through a door at the rear, and the door to the conference room. They had spent a lot of time in the conference room, around the green table, taking apart Lescoray’s wheezing patchwork Constitution like surgeons over a dying patient, trying to stitch together something that would heal, be strong, stand on its own. Surgeons, of course, could summon, or themselves be, sorcerers, thought-work a raddled blood stew back into organs and whole bones. Laws and articles broke more easily and mended harder.

Brook was sitting on a green plush davenport by the window, in the pale north light, reading a book. A cart with the remnants of a breakfast and all the morning papers stood a little way from him.

Brook’s hair was gray with a touch of silver, swept immaculately from his high forehead and temples; he had long and feathery mustaches and a neatly pointed beard. Steel-rimmed reading glasses sat low on his broad nose. His morning coat was of a gray just less than black, his trousers dove gray. A linen napkin rested on one knee, and half a buttered muffin on the napkin.

He closed the book and considered the muffin. “You look like you’ve spent the evening in a joy house.”

“It would have been pleasanter,” Varic said.

“So you killed the lieutenant?”

“No. I cut him, and he ran.”

“Then the proctor . . .”

“Missed. I must change my shirt.”

“There’s time. Have some tea. And one of those.” He ate some more of his own muffin.

Varic looked at the breakfast service and was instantly hungry; he had drunk a cup of strong black tea before the fight, but that was all. He poured tea, not commenting that there was a second clean cup, and lifted a silver cover. There were two kippers underneath it. Brook hated kippers. But he knew about duels; he had fought his share once.

Brook said, “You never told me why this young man wanted so particularly to kill you.”

The salt fish stung Varic’s mouth; he swallowed some tea, said, “The speech I gave on the eighteenth, about the value of cavalry. Civilian idler impugning the honor of the service, and so on.”

“Ah. Of course. Honor of the service.”

Varic raised an eyebrow. Surely Brook didn’t believe that.

Brook said, “Your friend Winterhill brought me a copy of a letter last night, concerning Lieutenant Chase and a large gambling debt. Honor of the service, you know.” He looked over his glasses at Varic. “I’d ask you how Winterhill comes by such things, but I’m afraid you’d tell me.”

“Just as well Chase is a cavalryman,” Varic said. “I doubt he’d ever seen so much blood in one place before. If he’d been a real fencer, like the others, I’d have had to kill him.”

Brook said, “I have not known many souls who could keep weighing the need to kill a man after the swordplay had begun.” He finished the muffin, put the book aside, stood up. Brook was a large man, taller than Varic and half again as broad. “And I know this is useless, but you might be more careful in public speaking of the Lescorial Forces of Defense.”

“I’ve shown you the papers on Sarmanjai; you were there when I spoke,” Varic said. “The Imperial Horse were the equal of anyone’s—certainly ours, who haven’t seen a fight in ninety years—and in one charge against a rather ordinary bunch of emplaced riflemen, they lost seven in ten dead and the rest too badly hit to reach the enemy.” He put his cup down. “It’s nothing to do with bravery. War isn’t, not these days. I can’t help it if the word hasn’t reached here.”

“Well, hurrah for peace,” Brook said quietly.

Varic paused and chuckled.

Brook said, “So your humor lived through it as well. Good. Good.”

Varic said, “I don’t suppose the gambling letter mentions any interesting names.”

“No. Did you expect it to?”

“Chase made a joke about ‘reddening my lance.’ I don’t think it was original with him.”

“Ah,” Brook said thoughtfully. Two centuries earlier, when the Parliament was new, the Coron Redlance had been the driving wheel within it. Brook was occasionally called the second Redlance, a title he detested. Whoever had bought Lieutenant Chase’s debts had probably given him the comment to deliver as well. But of course there was nothing provable in that, and Brook said so.

Then he said, “Speaking of the letter, Winterhill brought it to me because you were out last night. Were you in Cold Street?”

“No. I was at home. But I’d sent Midden home early, and I must not have heard the bell.”

“Winterhill thought you’d gone to Cold Street.”

“Winterhill has a fascination with Cold Street. Something to do with his name, I imagine.”

“When were you there last?”

“Some weeks, I think.”

Brook said, “Some months, I think.”

As you say. I must change my shirt before the session.”

“They ask about you. They like you, Varic.”

“I pay my bills on time.”

“I said,” Brook said, very softly and firmly, “they like you.”

“I’m pleased. I haven’t felt the need.”

“Congratulations.”

“Brook, as you very well know, we’ve had six major votes in that time, a seventh today, and another in three weeks. Are you suggesting that my intimate activities are an essential part of our strategy?” He smiled again. “If you are, I shan’t disagree, of course.”

“We are a long way from completing the Revision,” Brook said. “We have a battle today, and then a hundred more, small and great. And you will be no use at all if you’re so intent on the battles that you forget to breathe.”

“One doesn’t go to Cold Street to breathe. At least, I don’t.”

Brook said, “You are going to Strange House for the Equinoctial?”

“Certainly. My train is tomorrow.”

“Very well.” He sorted papers on his desk. “And you’d better get to your office. You really do need a clean shirt.”

Varic went out and up a flight to his own floor. They had not spoken of the day’s schedule. It was not necessary.

He went into his office: one room with a large closet and a lavatory alcove. He rang for the porter, pulled off his cravat and shirt, poured water into the basin, and began washing up, untying, smoothing, and retying his hair at the back, pausing to soak his eyes. He took a fresh white shirt from the closet drawer, had it on but unbuttoned when the knock came.

Leyva, the third-floor day porter (since the Quercians, the saying went), was there with her brass cart and her long white coat. She didn’t even blink to see him with his braces down and his undershirt showing. “Good day, milord.”

“Good morning, Leyva.” He handed her the used shirt. “Wash and light starch, please?” One could get meals here, washing and mending, have a bed rolled in, bathe or shower down the hall. The office wing was everything a hotel was, except comfortable.

“Of course, milord.”

There was a firm click of heels from down the hall. “Porter, what’s the time?” a woman’s voice said. “How long until the Assembly?” The voice had a touch of Western throatiness. It was vaguely familiar.

Varic leaned out the door. The woman was wearing a black velvet tunic brocaded with silver, a sword-and-sunset emblem on the left breast, riding trousers tucked into boots. There was early white in her black hair, which was held back with a silver mesh band. The costume was only, Varic guessed, a hundred and twenty years behind City fashion. Her face was a bit flat, her nose a bit broken, but quite pleasing, he thought. “Nine minimi,” he said. “There’s a single bell at three before. Plenty of time to reach the Chamber.”

She looked hard at him, at his open shirt, then said, “Thank you.”

“Of course. You’re Lady Longlight, correct? From the Far West.”

“I’m glad to see someone here knows me.”

“Now, you’ll hurt Leyva’s feelings,” Varic said, buttoning up. “I’m sure she recalls you.”

The porter said, “The lady Coron was last here on the tenth day of the Spear, just after the last Evenday. She had number 319 then, as well, and salt beef and eggs for breakfast, as she did this morning.” Leyva smiled fit to break one’s heart.

“You see,” Varic said, “The Coron of the Third Floor remembers you very well. You’re here with a private motion, I believe. Number seven on the calendar.”

Longlight said coolly, “I’m here with the same motion you’ve ignored five times now, thank you very much.”

That turned the page in Varic’s memory. “Longlight, daughter of the Palion Chesdonay, Coron of the Great Rogue Hills. You have an outlaw problem.”

“Ay—yes,” she said, startled. Far Western dialect, yes, Varic thought. She said, “And you are—”

“Varic, Coron of Corvaric.” He bowed slightly as he fastened his cuffs. He was weighing the situation. She had inherited the Coronage three years ago. The Assembly had voted down her motion for assistance against the outlaws five times since then. There was no more support for it today. And he had Motion Five to deal with.

Longlight said, not too harshly, “If you know I have a problem, do you propose to do anything about it?”

Copyright © John M. Ford 2022

Pre-order Aspects Here:

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Six Essential Titles Coming from Tor in 2022

Tor Essentials’ goal is to provide readers with fresh new editions to science fiction and fantasy works of lasting value and merit, and we’ve got a whole collection of vital titles that the modern genre fan shouldn’t miss! So read on below for all the Tor Essentials coming in 2022, and once you’re through the list, take a trip to your local bookstore and/or library and read on, and on, and on.


Cover of The Black Company by Glen CookThe Black Company by Glen Cook

With a new introduction by Steven Erikson, author of The Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Some feel the Lady, newly risen from centuries in thrall, stands between humankind and evil. Some feel she is evil itself. The hard-bitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must, burying their doubts with their dead. Until the prophesy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more. There must be a way for the Black Company to find her…

ON SALE 2/22/22!

Cover of Worlds of Exile and Illusion by Ursula K. Le GuinWorlds of Exile and Illusion by Ursula K. Le Guin

With a new introduction by Amal El-Mohtar, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author.

These three spacefaring adventures mark the beginning of grand master Ursula K. Le Guin’s remarkable career. Set in the same universe as Le Guin’s groundbreaking classics The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, these first three books of the celebrated Hainish Series follow travelers of many worlds and civilizations in the depths of space. The novels collected in this Tor Essentials edition are the first three ever published by Le Guin, a frequent winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards and one of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers of all time.

ON SALE 3/15/22!

Cover of Up Against It by Laura J. MixonUp Against It by Laura J. Mixon

With a new introduction by James S. A. Corey, author of the Expanse novels.

Jane Navio is the resource manager of Phoecea, an asteroid colony poised on the knife-edge of a hard vacuum of unforgiving space. A mishap has dumped megatons of water and methane out the colony’s air lock, putting the entire human population at risk. Jane discovers that the crisis may have been engineered by the Martian crime syndicate, as a means of executing a coup that will turn Phocaea into a client-state. And if that wasn’t bad enough, an AI that spawned during the emergency has gone rogue…and there’s a giant x-factor in the form of the transhumanist Viridian cult that lives in Phocaea’s bowels. Jane’s in the prime of her career—she’s only a bit over a century old—but the conflict between politics and life-support is tearing her apart. To save her colony and her career, she’s going to have to solve several mysteries at once—a challenge that will put her up against all the difficulties, contradictions, and awkward compromises entailed in the human colonization of outer space.

ON SALE 4/26/22!

Cover of Mythago Wood by Robert HoldstockMythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

With a new introduction by Michael Swanwick, author of The Iron Dragon’s Daughter.

The mystery of Ryhope Wood, Britain’s last fragment of primeval forest, consumed George Huxley’s entire long life. Now, after his death, his sons have taken up his work. But what they discover is numinous and perilous beyond all expectation. For the Wood, larger inside than out, is a labyrinth full of myths come to life, “mythagos” that can change you forever. A labyrinth where love and beauty haunt your dreams…and may drive you insane.

ON SALE 7/12/22!

Cover of Growing Up Weightless by John M. FordGrowing Up Weightless by John M. Ford

With a new introduction by Francis Spufford, author of Golden Hill.

John M. Ford (1957-2006) was a science fiction and fantasy writer, game designer, and poet whose work was held in high regard by peers ranging from Neil Gaiman to Robert Jordan to Jo Walton to Roger Zelazny, alongside innumerable others. His novels include the World Fantasy Award-winning The Dragon Waiting, the Philip K. Dick Award-winning Growing up Weightless, and the contemporary thriller The Scholars of Night. His debut novel Web of Angels (1980) has been called “cyberpunk before there was cyberpunk.” He spent the latter decade-and-a-half of his writing life in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

ON SALE 9/27/22!

Cover of The Fifth Head of CerberusThe Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe

With a new introduction by Brian Evenson, winner of the O. Henry Award.

Far out from Earth, two sister planets, Saint Anne and Saint Croix, circle each other in an eternal dance. It is said a race of shapeshifters once lived here, only to perish when men came. But one man believes they can still be found, somewhere in back of the beyond. In The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Gene Wolfe skillfully interweaves three bizarre tales to create a mesmerizing pattern: the harrowing account of the son of a mad genius who discovers his hideous heritage; a young man’s mythic dreamquest for his darker half; and the bizarre chronicle of a scientist’s nightmarish imprisonment. Like an intricate, braided knot, the pattern at last unfolds to reveal astonishing truths about this strange and savage alien landscape.

ON SALE 11/8/22!

Which book is at the top of your TBR? Let us know in the comments! 

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Every Tor Essential in 2020

We at Tor Books believe the true ‘golden age’ of science fiction and fantasy is now, but we have a lot of love for the SFF published in the past few decades. And thus, our Tor Essentials line was born, reintroducing readers to some of our favorite classics. Need to catch up? Check out this list below for a roundup of every Tor Essentials book that came out in 2020!


Image Place holder  of - 63China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh, introduction by Jo Walton

After the Second Great Depression and the American Liberation War, the US has been left as a satellite state of China. In this somewhat but not entirely regimented world, young New York construction engineer Zhang Zhongshan must find his way in a society that disapproves both of his cultural heritage and his sexual identity. Because not everyone can change the world—sometimes, the ultimate challenge is to find a way to live in it. China Mountain Zhang presents a macroscopic world of microscopic intensity, one of the most brilliant visions in modern science fiction.

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Place holder  of - 50Three Californias by Kim Stanley Robinson

Before Kim Stanley Robinson terraformed Mars, he wrote three science fiction novels set in Orange County, California, where he grew up. These alternate futures—one a post-apocalypse, one an if-this-goes-on future reminiscent of Philip K. Dick, and one an ecological utopia—form a whole that illuminates, enchants, and inspires–collected here as Three Californias.

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Image Placeholder of - 52Among Others by Jo Walton

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins, but her mind found freedom in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. When her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled—and her twin sister dead.

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Poster Placeholder of - 59Blindsight by Peter Watts

Two months since the stars fell. Two months of silence, while a world held its breath. Now some half-derelict space probe, sparking fitfully past Neptune’s orbit, hears a whisper from the edge of the solar system: a faint signal sweeping the cosmos like a lighthouse beam. Whatever’s out there isn’t talking to us. It’s talking to some distant star, perhaps. Or perhaps to something closer, something en route.

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Placeholder of  -61A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

Thousands of years in the future, humanity is no longer alone in a universe where a mind’s potential is determined by its location in space, from superintelligent entities in the Transcend, to the limited minds of the Unthinking Depths, where only simple creatures, and technology, can function. Nobody knows what strange force partitioned space into these “regions of thought,” but when the warring Straumli realm use an ancient Transcendent artifact as a weapon, they unwittingly unleash an awesome power that destroys thousands of worlds and enslaves all natural and artificial intelligence.

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The Wizard Knight by Gene Wolfe

A young man in his teens is transported from our world to a magical realm consisting of seven levels of reality. Transformed by magic into a grown man of heroic proportions, he takes the name Sir Able of the High Heart and sets out on a quest to find the sword that has been promised to him, the blade that will help him fulfill his ambition to become a true hero—a true knight.

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The Dragon Waiting by John M. Ford

In a snowbound inn high in the Alps, four people meet who will alter fate. A noble Byzantine mercenary, a female Florentine physician, an ageless Welsh wizard and Sforza, the uncanny duke. Together they will wage an intrigue-filled campaign against the might of Byzantium to secure the English throne for Richard, Duke of Gloucester—and make him Richard III.

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The Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick

Lemabantunk, the Glorious City, is a place of peace and plenty, bejeweled streets and glittering waterfalls. It is also a place of severe justice. Darroti, a young merchant, has been accused of the brutal murder of a highborn woman. Now, in keeping with his world’s customs, his entire family must share in his punishment: exile to the unknown world that lies beyond a mysterious gate.

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Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

One night in October when he was ten years old, Tyler Dupree stood in his backyard and watched the stars go out. They all flared into brilliance at once, then disappeared, replaced by a flat, empty black barrier. He and his best friends, Jason and Diane Lawton, had seen what became known as the Big Blackout. It would shape their lives.

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Excerpt: The Dragon Waiting by John M. Ford

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Image Placeholder of - 16In a snowbound inn high in the Alps, four people meet who will alter fate.

A noble Byzantine mercenary . . .

A female Florentine physician . . .

An ageless Welsh wizard . . .

And Sforza, the uncanny duke.

Together they will wage an intrigue-filled campaign against the might of Byzantium to secure the English throne for Richard, Duke of Gloucester—and make him Richard III. Available for the first time in nearly two decades, with a new introduction by New York Times-bestselling author Scott Lynch, The Dragon Waiting is a masterpiece of blood and magic.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of The Dragon Waitingon sale 09/29/2020.


Chapter 1

GWYNEDD

THE ROAD THE ROMANS made traversed North Wales a little way inland, between the weather off the Irish Sea and the mountains of Gwynedd and Powys; past the copper and the lead that the travel-hungry Empire craved. The road crossed the Conwy at Caerhun, the Clwyd at Asaph sacred to Esus, and the Roman engineers passed it through the hills, above the shore and below the peaks, never penetrating the spine of the country. Which is not to say that there were no ways in; only that the Romans did not find them.

From Caernarfon to Chester the road remained, and at Caerhun in the Vale of Conwy there were pieces of walls and straight ditches left where the legionary fort had held the river crossing. Roman stones, but no Romans; not for a thousand years.

Beyond Caerhun the road wound upslope for a mile, to an inn called The White Hart. Hywel Peredur lived there in this his eleventh year, the nine hundred tenth year of Arthur’s Triumph, the one thousand ninety-fifth year of Constantine’s City. This March afternoon, Hywel stood on the Roman paving below the innyard, and was King of the Romans.

Fields all his dominion rolled out forever before and below him, lined and set with trees that from the height were no more than tufts on a cloth of patchwork greens and browns. Conwy water was a broad ribbon stitched in easy curves across the cloth. The March air smelled of peat and moisture and nothing at all but its own cold cleanness on the sharp edge of spring.

The place Hywel stood was called Pen-y-Gaer, Head of the Fortress. There had been a fortress, even before the legions came; but of its builders too only stones were left, bits of wall and rampart. And the defense of the slope, a field of sharp-edged boulders set in ranks down the hill.

Hywel stood on the road and commanded the stones, soldiers without death or fear, like the warriors grown from dragon’s teeth in the story; any assault against them would break and be scattered. Then, at Hywel’s signal, his legion of horse would gallop forth from Caerhun and cut down the discomfited enemy, sparing only the nobles for ransom and tribute. His captains, in purple and gold, mounted on white horses, would drive the captive lords before him, shouting Peredur, Peredur! that all might know who was conqueror here. . . .

Not far up the road was a milestone; it was worn and half-legible, and Hywel knew no Latin, but he could read the name constanti. Constantine. Emperor. Founder of the Beautiful City. And now a god, like Julius Caesar, like Arthur King of Britain. Hywel would run his fingers in the carved letters of the name when he passed the marker, touching the figure of the god.

Three years ago, on the May kalend, he had stunned a sparrow with a sling pellet, bound its wings, and taken it to the milestone. It had trembled within his shirt, and then, when he set it down, become curiously still, as if waiting. But Hywel had had no knife, and was afraid to use his naked hands. By the time he had found two flat stones and done the thing, he could no longer remember his intended prayer.

Now, clouds drifted across the low sun, making shadow patterns on the ground. The river dulled to slate, then flashed bluesilver. The standing stones seemed to move, to march, beat spears on shields in salute. Sparrows were forgotten as Hywel moved his cohorts, as soldier and king and god.

Until dust rose, and men moved crosswise to the dream, light flashing on steel: real soldiers, on the road to the inn. Hywel watched and listened, knowing that if he were quite still they could not detect him. He heard the scrape of pikes on the paving stones, the stamp of booted feet, chains dragging. He let the breeze bring him their voices, not distinguishable words but rhythms: English voices, not Welsh. As they turned the last bend in the road, Hywel’s eyes picked out the badge they wore. Then he turned and ran lightly to the gate of The White Hart. As he crossed the innyard, a dog sniffed and raised its head for a pat that was not coming; sparrows fluttered up from the eaves.

The cruck-beamed serving hall was dim with afternoon. A little peat smoke hung in the air. Dafydd, the innkeeper, was working at the fire while Glynis, the pretty barmaid, wiped mugs. Both looked up, Glynis smiling, Dafydd not. “Well, my lord of the north, come in, do! While you’ve been with your councillors, this fire nearly—”

“Soldiers on the road,” Hywel said, in Welsh. “My lord of Ireland’s men, from Caernarfon.” He knew Dafydd’s anger was only mocking; when the innkeeper was truly angry he became deadly quiet and small-spoken.

“Well, then,” said Dafydd, “they’ll be wanting ale. Go you and draw a kettleful.”

Hywel, grinning, said, “And shall I fetch some butter?”

The innkeeper smiled back. “We’ve none that rancid. Now draw you the ale; they’ll not care to wait.”

“Ie.”

“And speak English when the soldiers can hear you.”

“Ie.”

“And give yourself a whipping, lad—I haven’t time!”

Hywel paused at the top of the cellar stairs. “There’s a prisoner with them. A wizard.”

Dafydd put the poker down, wiped his hands on his apron. “Well then,” he said quietly, “that’s bad news for someone.”

Hywel nodded without understanding and clumped downstairs. He drew the ale into a black iron kettle, put it on the lift and hoisted it up; and only then, standing in the quiet cellar, did he realize just what he’d said. He had heard the chains, right enough, but never once seen what was in them.

***

Eight men, and something else, stood in the innyard.

The men wore leather jackets, carried swords and pole axes; two had longbows across their backs. One, helmeted and officious, had a long leather pouch at his side, and a baldric from which little wooden bottles hung on strings. Charges of powder, Hywel knew, for the hand-cannon in the pouch.

The badge on the soldiers’ sleeves was a snarling dog on its hind legs; a talbot-hound, for Sir John Talbot, the latest Lieutenant of Ireland. Talbot had smashed the Côtentin rebels at Henry V’s order; it was said the mothers of Anjou quieted their children with threats of Jehan Talbó. Now that Henry was dead, long live Henry VI, and the advisors to the three-year-old King hoped the War Hound could quiet the Irish as well.

Four soldiers held chains that led to the other thing, which crouched on the ground, black and shapeless. Hywel thought it must be some great hunting-hound, a namesake talbot, perhaps, or a beast from Ireland across the sea; then it put out a pale paw, spread long fingers, and Hywel saw it was a man on hands and knees, in fantastically ruined clothes and a black cloak.

The thin hands left blood on the earth. There was a shackle, engraved with something, on each wrist and each ankle, linked to the leash-chains. The head turned, and the black hood fell back, showing dull iron around the man’s neck. The collar was engraved as well. Next to it was a straggly gray beard, a nostril with blood dry around it.

Hywel stared at a dark eye, glassy as with fever, or madness. The eye did not blink. The cracked lips moved.

“None of that, now!” shouted a soldier, and pulled the chain he held, dropping the man flat; another soldier swung the butt of his axe into the man’s ribs, and there was a hint of a groan. The first soldier bent halfway down and shook the chain. “ ’Tain’t beyond th’ law for us to have your tongue, an you try any chanteries.” To Hywel he sounded exactly like Dafydd’s wife Nansi scolding a hen that would not lay. The prone man was very still.

“Ale! Where’s ale!” cried the others, turning away from the prisoner, and Dafydd came behind Hywel with a tray of tankards, hot mulled ale topped with brown foam and steaming. “Here, Hywel. And Ogmius send us all the right words to say.” Hywel took the tray into the yard. A cheer went up—for him, he realized, and for one passing instant he was Caesar again—then the mugs were snatched from him.

“Here, boy, here.”

“Jove’s beard, that’s good!”

“Jove strike you down, it ain’t English beer.” The speaker winked at Hywel. “But it’s good anyway, eh, boy.”

Hywel barely noticed. He was staring again at the chained man, who still did not move except to breathe raggedly. A little of the cloak had blown back, showing the man’s shirt sleeve. The fabric was embroidered in complex patterns—not the Celtic work he knew, but similar, interlocking designs.

And The White Hart was an inn with good trade; Hywel had seen silk twice before, on the wives of lords.

“You have a care of our dog, there, lad,” said the soldier who had winked. His tone was friendly. “He’s an eastern sorcerer, a Bezant. From the City itself, they say.”

The City of Constantine. “What . . . did he do?”

“Why, he magicked, lad, what else? Magicked for th’ Irish rebels ’gainst King Harry, rest him. Five years he hid up in them Irish hills, sorcellin’ and afflictin’. But we ketched him, anyway. Lord Jack ketched him, an’ now he’s Talbot’s dog.”

Tom,” the serjeant said sharply, and the soldier stood to attention for a moment. Then he winked at Hywel again and tossed his empty tankard into Hywel’s hands.

“Have a look here, boy,” Tom said. The soldier reached down and grasped the manacle around the wizard’s left wrist, pulled it up as if there were no man attached to it. “See that serpent, cut there in th’ iron? That’s a Druid serpent, as has power t’ bind wizards. Old Irish Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, for the good of his magic fellows. But we took some snakes with us. Snakes of leather, an’ iron.” The soldier let the shackle fall with a hollow clunk. The prisoner made no sound. Hywel stood fascinated, wondering.

“Innkeeper!” the serjeant said.

Dafydd came out, wiping his hands on his apron. “Yes, Captain?”

The serjeant did not correct his rank. “Have you a blacksmith here? This rebel’s harmless enough, but he’ll crawl off with half a chance given him. We’ll want him fixed to something with weight.”

“You’ll be staying here for a time, then?”

“We’re in no hurry. The prisoner’s to be taken to York for execution.”

A soldier said, “The Irish Sea were deep enough.”

“Not to bury his curse, man,” said the serjeant curtly. “Leave killing him to his own sort of worker.” He turned back to Dafydd. “Don’t worry about the lads, innkeeper; they’re good and they’ll obey me.” He weighted the last word slightly. “And they’re bloody tired of minding this rebel.”

“Hywel,” said the innkeeper, “run you and tell Siôn Mawr he’s wanted, with hammer and tongs.”

A high-voiced young soldier called after Hywel, “And you tell ’im this aren’t no horse wanting shod! A hammer on them chains—”

Hywel ran. He did not look back. He was afraid to. Under all the soldiers’ voices, under Dafydd’s, under his own breathing, he could hear another voice, whispering, insistent, like the beat of blood in his ears when all was still. He had heard it without pause since the sorcerer’s lips had moved without sound.

You who can hear me, it said, come to me. Follow my voice.

And as Hywel ran through the gathering dark, it seemed that hands reached after him, grasping at his limbs, his throat, trying to draw him back.

***

Nansi touched the spit-dog’s collar; it stopped walking its treadle, and Nansi carved a bit of mutton from the roasting haunch. The dog resumed turning the meat. Nansi put the mutton on a wooden plate with a spoonful of boiled corn, added a piece of soft brown bread.

“The soldiers didn’t pay for no meat for him,” said Dai, the kitchen boy.

“You needn’t tell me what they’ve not paid for,” Nansi said, tenting a napkin over the plate. “I hope he has his teeth; I daren’t send a knife. Here, Dai, go you quick, ere it’s cold.”

“Why do they beat him, if he can’t magic?”

“I’m sure I don’t know, Dai,” Nansi said, with a bitter look. “Take it, now.”

“I’ll take his dinner,” Hywel said, from the kitchen door. Dai’s mouth opened, then shut.

Nansi turned away. “I’ve drawn his water,” Hywel said. “And I’m not afraid of him. You’re afraid, aren’t you, Dai?”

Dai’s pudgy hands tightened. He was a year or so older than Hywel, and also an orphan. Dafydd and Nansi, who had no children, had taken them in together, and tried to bring them up as brothers. Hywel could no longer remember what that was like, even when he tried.

Dai said “Ie, feared enough. You feed him.” He handed the covered plate to Hywel, who took it with a nod. Hywel did not hate Dai; usually he liked Dai. But they were not brothers.

Just outside the kitchen, he picked up the hooded lantern and pot of ale he had set by the door, and crossed to the barn. Moonlight slanted across the interior. The wizard was sitting up against a post, all white and black in the light. His head turned slightly; Hywel held very still. The face was a skull’s, with tiny glints in the eye sockets.

Hywel hung the lantern from a peg and opened the shutter; the wizard winced and turned his face away.

It was all he could turn. A chain went through his collar, twice around the post and his upper body, holding him upright. The chains from his ankles were fixed to two old cart wheels. Hywel had seen Siôn Mawr the smith going home, and could not have missed the murder-black look Siôn gave him; now he understood it.

“It was you after all,” the chained man said, and Hywel nearly dropped the food. “Is that for me?”

Hywel took a step. The voice in his head was gone, but he still felt somehow drawn to the wizard. He stopped. “The soldiers say you can’t work magic, in those chains.”

“But you know better, don’t you?” His English had only a little foreign sound. “Well, they’re mostly right. I can’t do much, and I truly can’t escape. Come here, boy.” He moved his hands. Hywel turned away, not to see the sign.

“At least put my supper in reach. Then you may go. Please.”

Hywel moved closer, looked again at the wizard. The cloak was spread out beneath the man; it was lined with glossy black—more silk. Beneath the cloak he wore a dark green gown of heavy brocade, torn at every seam, showing the white silk shirt. Gown and shirt were embroidered all over with interlocking lines in gold and silver thread, with brighter colors worked between. The patterns drew Hywel’s eye despite himself.

He set the plate down in the straw, uncovered it. The man’s eyes widened, becoming very liquid, and he ran his tongue over very white teeth specked with dirt. He reached out, one-handed. Hywel saw that his wrist chains were linked behind his back. The wizard set the plate in his lap, and his delicate fingers hovered over it, talonlike, straining; there was not enough chain for his two hands to touch.

Hywel thought of offering to feed him, but could not say it.

The hands ceased to strain then. The wizard groped for and reached the napkin, shook it out, and arranged it as best he could over his shiny, filthy shirt. Then the thin fingers picked up a single kernel of corn and raised it to the swollen mouth. He chewed it very slowly.

Trying not to watch the wizard’s hands or eyes, Hywel uncapped the pot of ale. He took a twist of greasy paper from his belt pouch, opened it, and slipped the white butter within into the blood-warm ale. He stirred the pot with a clean straw and pushed it as close to the man as he dared. The wizard waited for Hywel to draw back, then picked up the ale and took a small sip. His eyes closed and he pressed his head back against the post, loosening the iron at his throat just slightly.

“Nectar and ambrosia,” he said. “Thank you, boy.” He put the ale down and picked up the mutton, took small, worrying bites.

Finally Hywel said, “You called me by magic. No one else could hear. . . . Why?”

The man paused, sighed, wiped his hands and lips. “I thought you were . . . someone else. Someone who could help.”

“You thought I was a wizard?”

“I called to the talent. . . . It spent me before I heard the answer. Hard to work with a boot in your ribs.” He reached for the bread, nibbled.

“I’m not a wizard,” Hywel said.

“No. I’m sorry. But I am glad you brought me this supper.”

They sat for a little while like that, the wizard eating slowly, Hywel crouched, watching him. To Hywel it seemed the man wanted to make his supper last all night. He said, “You thought I was a wizard.”

“I believe I explained that,” the man said patiently. “Isn’t it late for you to be awake still?”

“Dafydd doesn’t care, long as the fire doesn’t go out. You said it was somebody else you called. But I heard you. You called me.”

The man swallowed, licked his damaged lips. “I called to the talent. The power. It . . . radiates, like the light from a candle. I felt it, and answered back. That’s all.”

“Then I am a wizard,” Hywel said, breathless, triumphant.

The man shook his head, rattling iron. “Magus latens . . . no. Someday you could be, if you were taught. But now . . .” There was a noise within his throat that might have been a laugh. “Now you’re catalyzed. And I did it, now that I would not do it.”

Hywel said “Could you teach me?”

Again the choked laugh. “Why do you think I’m in chains, boy? I’d be dead now if they didn’t fear my death-curse so, and my tongue and eyes aren’t sure through tomorrow. Go to bed, boy.”

Hywel put his foot against one of the cartwheels chained to the wizard’s feet. He pushed. The chain shifted; in a moment it would be taut. It was astonishingly easy.

“Please,” the man said, “don’t.” There was no pleading in it, nor command. Hywel turned, saw the dark eyes ringed white and red, the face white as bare bone. And he stopped pushing. Perhaps if sparrows had voices . . .

“I am very tired,” the man said. “Please come tomorrow, and I will talk with you.”

“Will you tell me about magic?” Hywel’s foot was still on the wheel, but it had suddenly become very heavy and hard to move.

The man’s voice was weak, but his eyes were black and burning. “Come back tomorrow and I will tell you all I know about magic.”

Hywel picked up the plate and napkin, the ale pot. He stood, moved away backwards.

“My name,” said the wizard, “is Kallian Ptolemy. With the letter pi, if you can write.” Hywel said nothing. Everyone knew that wizards gained power by knowing names. He took the lantern from its peg, shuttered it.

Kallian Ptolemy said “Good night, Hywel Peredur.”

Hywel did not know whether to shudder or cry for joy.

Copyright © John M. Ford 2020

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