If you’re like us, then books have offered you a necessary coping mechanism during this endless downward spiral of a year. Our Dark Horse Initiative is one of many ways we combat that spiral. Every year, we search for promising debuts among the Sci-Fi and Fantasy pantheons and compile them into our Dark Horse list.
One teeny-tiny glimmer of bookish hope for this hellscape of a year emerged as we collected our most anticipated 2020 debuts: we had too many. And if you’ve followed along, you know that we split our 2020 Dark Horse list into two halves to bring you more reviews of SFF debut novels. We’re chugging right along with our January-June list (some of the books were pushed to July or early August); after a few more reads we’ll wrap that half of the year up. Now, it’s time to share our Dark Horse picks for July through December of 2020.
As always, we’ll aim to review these titles during the next six months to help you parse out which debuts are worth your time. The Quill To Live is your guide to every world but this one, and thank goodness, because this world needs a break right about now.
Also, if you need a guaranteed win, check out our top books of the first half of 2020 for some top-notch reads.
- The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
- Nophek Gloss by Essa Hansen
- The First Sister by Linden Lewis
- Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
- The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
- Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis
- Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
- Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots
- Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne
- The Phlebotomist by Chris Panatier
After the success of last year’s Dark Horse Initiative, we knew we were going to do it again this year. For those of you just joining us, the DHI is our attempt to sift through all the relatively unknown debuts coming out in a year and bookmark a handful to check out and review just based on their descriptions. However, when we were building the lists this year we realized that we had A LOT of books on it – so we decided to make two. We are splitting the DHI into two lists, one for each half of the year. The following books are our picks for books coming out from January 2020 to June 2020, and we will have a second list for the back half of the year in July.
As mentioned, each of the following 12 books (in no particular order) is something that caught the eyes of one of our reviewers. We will do our best to read and review all of these, but there are only so many hours in the day so no promises we will get to all of them. Regardless, each looks like a promising new story and we are very excited to check them out! Happy 2020 everyone.
- Repo Virtual by Corey J. White
- The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood
- Mazes of Power by Juliette Wade
- A Song Below Water by Bethany C Morrow
- The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez
- Rebelwing by Andrea Tang
- Docile by K. M. Sparza
- Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed
- The Loop by Ben Oliver
- The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska
- The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell
- Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson
Every year the Quill to Live sit down in December to plan our collective reading schedule for the next year. It’s a long process, and it heavily involves combing through release dates of series we are following and, more importantly, digging into the hundreds of upcoming and highly anticipated book lists made by publishers, authors, other reviewers, and general fantasy and sci-fi fans. Through this process, we give our yearly reading schedules a little bit of structure – but one of the other benefits is picking out potential dark horses to keep an eye on. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a dark horse is a competitor who comes out of nowhere against all odds to win. In our case, we use it to refer to books that almost no one has heard of that we want to check out or keep an eye on. Sometimes this results in us reading terrible books that we might or might not review depending on how productive we feel our criticism will be. However, other times it results in us being able to champion new and upcoming authors who deserve more recognition.
Recently, we have been getting a lot of requests to describe the 2019 books we are excited about, in particular, the dark horses we have our eyes on. Thus, going forward we will put out a list of our annual dark horses in case you want to keep an eye on them as well. We will put this list out earlier next year, and while we will do our best to review every book on this list, the inclusion of a book does not guarantee we will be able to get to and review it. Here are the dark horses The Quill to Live is watching in 2019 (in no particular order). Goodreads links are on the pictures:
- For The Killing Of Kings, by Howard Andrew Jones: As I mentioned we are a bit late on this list this year, so we have actually already reviewed this one. We loved it, check it out!
- Sky Without Stars, by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell
- The Luminous Dead, by Caitlin Starling
- The Lost Puzzler, by Eyal Kless
- Perihelion Summer, by Greg Egan
- The Priory Of The Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon
- Titanshade, by Dan Stout
- Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir
- Gods Of Jade And Shadow, by Silva Moreno-Garcia
- Famous Men Who Never Lived, by K Chess
- Sixteen Ways To Defend A Walled City, by K. J. Parker
- This Is How You Lose The Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone