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A Storm of Swords

A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 3

George R. R. Martin

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

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

We Are All Completely Fine

Daryl Gregory

Nebula- and World Fantasy-nominated Novella

Harrison is the Monster Detective, a storybook hero. Now he's in his mid-thirties and spends most of his time not sleeping. Stan became a minor celebrity after being partially eaten by cannibals. Barbara is haunted by the messages carved upon her bones. Greta may or may not be a mass-murdering arsonist. And for some reason, Martin never takes off his sunglasses.

Unsurprisingly, no one believes their horrific tales until they are sought out by psychotherapist Dr. Jan Sayer. What happens when these questionably-sane outcasts join a support group? Together they must discover which monsters they face are within, and which are lurking in plain sight.

The Imago Sequence and Other Stories

Laird Barron

To the long tradition of eldritch horror pioneered and refined by writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Peter Straub, and Thomas Ligotti, comes Laird Barron, an author whose literary voice invokes the grotesque, the devilish, and the perverse with rare intensity and astonishing craftsmanship. Collected here for the first time are nine terrifying tales of cosmic horror, including the World Fantasy Award-nominated novella "The Imago Sequence," the International Horror Guild Award-nominated "Proboscis," and the never-before published "Procession of the Black Sloth." Together, these stories, each a masterstroke of craft and imaginative irony, form a shocking cycle of distorted evolution, encroaching chaos, and ravenous insectoid hive-minds hidden just beneath the seemingly benign surface of the Earth.

Perfume

Patrick Suskind

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

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

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

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

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

The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Gentleman Bastard Sequence: Book 1

Scott Lynch

An orphan's life is harsh -- and often short -- in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. But born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains, a man who is neither blind nor a priest. A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected family of orphans -- a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke grows to lead the Bastards, delightedly pulling off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting.

Passing themselves off as petty thieves, the brilliant Locke and his tightly-knit band of light-fingered brothers have fooled even the criminal underworld's most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi. But there is someone in the shadows more powerful -- and more ambitious -- than Locke has yet imagined.

Known as the Gray King, he is slowly killing Capa Barsavi's most trusted men -- and using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr's underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own brutal game -- or die trying....

Moby Dick

Herman Melville

The outcast youth Ishmael, succumbing to wanderlust during a dreary New England autumn, signs up for passage aboard a whaling ship. The Pequod sails under the command of the one-legged Captain Ahab, who has set himself on a monomaniacal quest to capture the cunning white whale that robbed him of his leg: Moby-Dick. Capturing life on the sea with robust realism, Melville details the adventures of the colorful crew aboard the ship as Ahab pursues his crusade of revenge, heedless of all cost.

The Serpent

Gameshouse: Book 1

Claire North

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

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

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

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

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

The Heroes

The First Law Universe

Joe Abercrombie

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

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

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

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

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

Ink and Bone

The Great Library: Book 1

Rachel Caine

Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time....

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly--but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family's spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library's service.

When he inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life--and soon both heretics and books will burn....

The Last Witness

K. J. Parker

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

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

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

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

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

Best Served Cold

The First Law Universe

Joe Abercrombie

Springtime in Styria. And that means war.

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

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

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

Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

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

A Feast for Crows

A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 4

George R. R. Martin

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

A Feast for Crows

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

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

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

The Stress of Her Regard

Tim Powers

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

The Nightmare Stacks

The Laundry Files: Book 7

Charles Stross

After stumbling upon the algorithm that turned him and his fellow merchant bankers into vampires, Alex Schwartz was drafted by The Laundry, Britain's secret counter-occult agency that's humanity's first line of defense against the forces of darkness. Dependent on his new employers for his continued existence -- as Alex has no stomach for predatory bloodsucking -- he has little choice but to accept his new role as an operative-in-training.

Dispatched to Leeds, Alex's first assignment is to help assess the costs of renovating a 1950s Cold War bunker into The Laundry's new headquarters. Unfortunately, Leeds is Alex's hometown, and the thought of breaking the news to his parents that he's left banking for civil service, while hiding his undead condition, is causing more anxiety than learning how to live as a vampire secret agent preparing to confront multiple apocalypses.

Alex's only saving grace is Cassie Brewer, a drama student appearing in the local Goth Festival who is inexplicably attracted to him despite his awkward personality and massive amounts of sunblock.

But Cassie has secrets of her own -- secrets that make Alex's night life behaviors seem positively normal...

The Annihilation Score

The Laundry Files: Book 6

Charles Stross

NOBODY DOES IT BETTER...

Dr Mo O'Brien is an intelligence agent at the top secret government agency known as 'the Laundry'. When occult powers threaten the realm, they'll be there to clean up the mess and deal with the witnesses.

But the Laundry is recovering from a devastating attack and when average citizens all over the country start to develop supernatural powers, the police are called in to help. Mo is appointed as official police liaison, but in between dealing with police bureaucracy, superpowered members of the public and disgruntled politicians, Mo discovers to her horror that she can no longer rely on her marriage, nor on the weapon that has been at her side for eight years of undercover work, the possessed violin known as 'Lecter'.

If this wasn't bad enough, a mysterious figure known as Dr Freudstein is committing heists and sending increasingly threatening messages to the police. Who is Freudstein and what is he planning?

The Litany of Earth

The Innsmouth Legacy

Ruthanna Emrys

The state took Aphra away from Innsmouth. They took her history, her home, her family, her god. They tried to take the sea. Now, years later, when she is just beginning to rebuild a life, an agent of that government intrudes on her life again, with an offer she wishes she could refuse. "The Litany of Earth" is a dark fantasy story inspired by the Lovecraft mythos.

Read the full story for free at Tor.com, or listen to a podcast of this story at Drabblecast.

The Devil in America

Kai Ashante Wilson

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


Read this story online for free at Tor.com.

Hammers on Bone

Persons Non Grata: Book 1

Cassandra Khaw

John Persons is a private investigator with a distasteful job from an unlikely client. He's been hired by a ten-year-old to kill the kid's stepdad, McKinsey. The man in question is abusive, abrasive, and abominable.

He's also a monster, which makes Persons the perfect thing to hunt him. Over the course of his ancient, arcane existence, he's hunted gods and demons, and broken them in his teeth.

As Persons investigates the horrible McKinsey, he realizes that he carries something far darker. He's infected with an alien presence, and he's spreading that monstrosity far and wide. Luckily Persons is no stranger to the occult, being an ancient and magical intelligence himself. The question is whether the private dick can take down the abusive stepdad without releasing the holds on his own horrifying potential.

Maplecroft

The Borden Dispatches: Book 1

Cherie Priest

The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me. Perhaps rightfully so. I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial. With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny. But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents. Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place. It originates from the ocean's depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness. This evil cannot hide from me. No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it. With an axe.

The Darkness That Comes Before

The Prince of Nothing: Book 1

R. Scott Bakker

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

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

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