I’ve read Harry Potter and Eragon and title after title of those hot speculative fiction books that you’ve probably read (or at least heard about) as well. This summer, I made it my goal to read as many bestselling spec fic titles (especially YA) as possible: We Hunt the Flame, Throne of Glass, A Darker Shade of Magic, The Lunar Chronicles, Grisha, etc. etc.
However, there are so many good books out there that don’t get the hype they deserve. I want to shine the spotlight on some lesser-known speculative fiction titles that deserve your attention. Luckily, my positions within the publishing industry give me the unique opportunity to directly interact with authors and books that others might not.
So let’s get started.
The Facefaker’s Game by Chandler J. Birch
Think Oliver Twist mixed with magic. This book was penned by a Taylor University professional writing major who graduated a year before I entered the program, and our professor told tales of Chandler Birch to inspire us. I continue to hold out hope for a sequel, because this world deserves more than one book.
Ashes lives in Burroughside—the dirtiest, most crime-ridden district in the huge city of Teranis. His neighbors are gangs of fellow orphans, homeless madmen, and monsters that swarm the streets at nightfall. Determined to escape Burroughside, Ashes spends his days begging, picking pockets, and cheating at cards. When he draws the wrath of Mr. Ragged, Burroughside’s brutal governor, he is forced to flee for his life, only to be rescued by an enigmatic man named Candlestick Jack.
Jack leads a group of Artificers, professional magicians who can manipulate light with their bare hands to create stunningly convincing illusions. Changing a face is as simple as changing a hat. Ashes seizes an opportunity to study magic under Jack and quickly befriends the rest of the company: Juliana, Jack’s aristocratic wife; William, his exacting business partner; and Synder, his genius apprentice. But all is not as it seems: Jack and his company lead a double life as thieves, and they want Ashes to join their next heist. Between lessons on light and illusion, Ashes begins preparing to help with Jack’s most audacious caper yet: robbing the richest and most ruthless nobleman in the city.
A dramatic adventure story full of wit, charm, and scheming rogues, The Facefaker’s Game introduces an unforgettable world you won’t soon want to leave.
Heaven Came Down by Bryan Davis
Bryan Davis was one of my favorite authors as a kid. Imagine my delight now being able to say that I in fact EDITED his newest title, Heaven Came Down? (And we’re currently working on book two!) Yup, I work for his publisher, my friends. Whether you’ve been a Bryan Davis fan for years or you’re brand new to the fandom, this new series isn’t one to miss.
Heavenly messengers, or deadly parasites?
In the chaotic aftermath of apocalyptic war, the strange lights in the sky heralding the coming of unearthly beings seemed like an answer to prayer. When the heavenly visitors entered selected people and transformed them into angels who demanded obedience in exchange for the restoration of order, the majority accepted their new rulers.
But Ben Garrison and his siblings, Jack and Trudy, have seen a dark side to these so-called angels. They join a rebel faction with one goal: destroy the invaders and free the world from their tyranny.
When the rebels catch wind of an angel plot to invade the resistance region and spread a deadly contagion, the Garrisons embark on a crucial mission to swap the angel troops’ vaccine with a fake injection, stealing the real vaccine to save the rebels. The catch: Ben and Trudy, in disguise as doctors, must volunteer to become implanted by angels and fake their implantation.
The rebels’ plan, however, is soon exposed, jeopardizing the mission and their lives. Their only hope for rescue lies in an odd bounty hunter, a young angel priestess, and a mysterious spy embedded among the angels—a woman whose identity the rebels have yet to discover.
The Paradise Protocol by Anna Zogg
I started this book before bed one night, thinking I would read a bit and then sleep. Nope. I stayed up until 4 a.m. I love the world, I love the mystery, and I love the romance. If you’re anything like me, you’ll devour the entire series.
Submit to the director or forfeit your life…
Alone on a primitive planet light-years from Earth, bio-scientist Aric Lindquist believes she has been abandoned by SARC, the sponsor of her research assignment. In the five months since her assistant disappeared, she has struggled to survive Empusa III’s beautiful but hostile environment. Is SARC punishing her because she accused them of breaking protocol in not safeguarding the indigenous humanoids? After a new assistant finally arrives, Aric’s suspicions escalate.
When Sean Reese agreed to this mission, he expected to find a dangerous and possibly demented woman. Carrying out his orders would have been easy. But Aric is unlike anything he expected. Sean might find a way to save her life if she submits to the power director of SARC. If she won’t, the director will use any means to silence them both…including murder.
The Sword and Shield by Emma Khoury
In exciting news, The Sword and Shield was recently signed for audio production, and I’m very excited. I got to be one of The Sword and Shield’s first readers, when it showed up in the submissions email. Soon, I snatched Emma up as a client and it’s been a fun ride ever since. I love how funny this book is, how quirky the characters are, and how sweet a story about an assassin can somehow be.
Ezra Toth is your typical sword for hire. A dark past, a few secrets, a talent for killing, with a sharp sword and sharper wit. Perhaps his several dozen cats are a bit unique but other than that… He returns from an ordinary, arduous job to find representatives of the crown waiting for him at his home – not so typical. They bring him to the Crown Prince who has a problem only Ezra can solve. Crown Prince Christophe’s brother, and possibly even the King himself, are part of a plot to assassinate him. With no idea who in the palace is truly loyal to who, Ezra must navigate a myriad of potential suspects whilst protecting the heir.
Let the Ghosts Speak by Bryan Davis
Another Bryan Davis? Yes, sorry, but I love this book so much. I wasn’t on the editorial team for this one, but I absolutely LOVE the mystery, the creepiness, and the literary feel. It just screams “classic.”
Let the ghosts speak—but will the sane heed their counsel?
In 19th century Paris, Justin Trotter, an immigrant from England, is making his way as a book translator while paying for his blind twin sister’s care. One evening, Marc Noël, Justin’s well-to-do friend and fellow thespian, invites him to a masquerade party at an abandoned schoolhouse. Justin hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know Marc’s lovely though sharp-tongued sister, Francine.
At the event, Justin meets four ghostly strangers—two adults and two children—who warn him that the party guests are in danger, and they must leave at once. True to their prediction, a murder takes place, and Justin is the prime suspect. He escapes and becomes a fugitive, hiding in the Paris catacombs.
Mystery and intrigue swirl as the ghost of Joan of Arc and other martyrs guide Justin on a lonely journey to prove his innocence and protect his sister from an abusive caretaker. Who really committed the crime? Marc? Francine? A ghost? And does seeing these ghosts mean he is going insane? Maybe he really is the murderer after all.
There is only one way to find out, to let the ghosts speak as they reveal the mysteries within Justin’s mind.
BONUS: Dear Hero by Hope Bolinger and Alyssa Roat
Did I co-write this book? Yes, that’s why this is a bonus, not one of my top five. But if you like my picks so far, hopefully you’ll find this YA chat fiction up your alley as well.
Cortex and V need a new nemesis.
Up-and-coming teen superhero Cortex is on top of the world—at least, until his villain dumps him. If he’s going to save his reputation, he needs a new antagonist, and fast.
Meanwhile, the villainous Vortex has once again gotten a little overeager and taken out a hero prematurely. Will any young hero be able to keep up with her? Maybe she should work on finding a steady relationship with an enemy she won’t kill in the first round.
So the two turn to Meta-Match, a nemesis pairing site for heroes and villains, where they match right away. But not everything in the superhero world is as it seems. Who are the real heroes and villains? And just how fine of a line is there between love and hate? When darkness from the past threatens them both, Cortex and V may need to work together to make it out alive.
Have any other lesser-known titles we all need to read? Drop them in the comments below!
Note: I don’t get paid for these recommendations, nor have any of the authors asked me to endorse these (except my own book, lol). Yada yada whatever other legal stuff people always say. I just genuinely like to share my favorite books and geek out about them!