October is upon us, which means it’s time to celebrate spooky season, with all the atmospheric frights and thrills that entails. But just because it’s the time of year for the horror genre to shine doesn’t mean that there aren’t also a plethora of intriguing fantasy titles headed our way this month too. Even though most of us are still working our way through the stack of must-read titles from September, the Fall publishing machine cannot be stopped.
That sounds like a complaint, but it’s honestly the best time of the year for book lovers, as competition heats up for shelf space in the months leading up to the lucrative Christmas shopping season and we get plenty of fodder for our own holiday wishlists. What I’m saying is, enjoy, because the variety of titles arriving this month is exceptional.
Here are our picks for the best fantasy books hitting shelves this October.
Release Date: October 4 from Inkyard Press
Why You’ll Love It: This compelling sequel to Kylie Lee Baker’s Keeper of the Night skips forward ten years to 1900s Tokyo, where we find Ren Scarborough—half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami-struggling to rule the underworld. On the surface, the story is about the challenges that Ren faces as Japan’s new Goddess of Death, from managing the unrest among the Shinigami to facing an invasion of British Reapers. But it’s really about Ren grappling with the choices she’s had to make in her past, the person she wants to become in the future, and how to find a balance between the two.
Publisher’s Description: Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami Ren Scarborough is no longer the girl who was chased out of England—she is the Goddess of Death ruling Japan’s underworld. But her problems have never been greater. Her Shinigami see her as a foreigner on the throne. Her brother, Neven, is gone, lost in the deep darkness. And her fiancé, Hiro, has been killed by her own hand.
Then Ren receives the most troubling news yet—Reapers have been spotted in Japan, and it’s only a matter of time before Ivy, now Britain’s Death Goddess, comes to claim her revenge.
Ren’s last hope is to appeal to the god of storms and seas, who can turn the tides to send Ivy’s ship away from Japan’s shores. But he’ll help Ren only if she finds a sword lost thousands of years ago—an impossible demand.
Together with the moon god Tsukuyomi, who shares an uncanny resemblance to his brother Hiro, Ren ventures across the country in a race against time. As her journey thrusts her into the middle of scheming gods and dangerous Yokai demons, Ren will have to learn who she can truly trust—and the fate of Japan hangs in the balance.
Release Date: October 4 from Sourcebooks Landmark
Why You’ll Love It: I have a weakness for well-done magical realism stories and this tale of family secrets and storytelling traditions is wonderfully rich and layered. The multilayered twists intertwining Isla’s more traditional coming-of-age journey with her discovery that she comes from a long line of cuentistas, or storytellers who experience visions, is well handled and evenly balanced.
Publishers’ Description: There was always an old woman dying in the back room of her family’s house when Isla was a child…
Isla Larsen Sanchez’s life begins to unravel when her father passes away. Instead of being comforted at home in New Jersey, her mother starts leaving her in Puerto Rico with her grandmother and great-aunt each summer like a piece of forgotten luggage.
When Isla turns eighteen, her grandmother, a great storyteller, dies. It is then that Isla discovers she has a gift passed down through her family’s cuentistas. The tales of dead family storytellers are brought back to life, replaying themselves over and over in front of her.
At first, Isla is enchanted by this connection to the Sanchez cuentistas. But when Isla has a vision of an old murder mystery, she realizes that if she can’t solve it to make the loop end, these seemingly harmless stories could cost Isla her life.
Release Date: October 11 from Fiewel & Friends
Why You’ll Love It: This story is technically set in the same universe as Christo’s To Kill a Kingdom, but Princess of Souls is a standalone adventure that can be read on its own. A Rapunzel-inspired story about a teen witch forced to live in a tower while she prepares to take her mother’s place as King’s Witch, who will one day foretell deaths in the Festival of Predictions. But when she unwittingly binds her fate to a young soldier out for revenge, they’re forced to work together or perish
Though much of Princess of Souls is predictable to anyone who reads a lot in the YA fantasy space, its action-packed framing, snarky dual narrators, and compelling romance make it worth your time.
Publisher’s Description: For sixteen years, Selestra has been trapped in her tower on the Floating Mountain, preparing to take her mother’s place as the King’s Witch, who foretells deaths in the Festival of Predictions. Outrunning your fate earns a wish and the chance to steal the King’s immortality. But die and your soul is forfeit. And though thousands have tried, nobody has ever beaten death.
A soldier in the King’s army, Nox is an unlikely candidate for the Festival, but, driven by revenge, he is determined to steal the King’s immortality and kill the entirety of his court, starting with Selestra.
Yet when Selestra touches Nox in her very first prediction, their fates become entwined, and death seeks to take both their souls. Only by working together can they survive long enough to escape the dark fate and the immortal King that now hunts them.
Release Date: October 11 from Harper Voyager
Why You’ll Love It: S.A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad trilogy was a fantasy juggernaut, a rich, layered story of magic, politics, and palace intrigue set in a world of djinns and humans. Though that series concluded with The Empire of Brass, The River of Silver takes us back to the world of Daevabad in this new collection of tales. These short stories each take place at various points before, during, and after the events of The City of Brass, The Kingdom of Copper, and The Empire of Gold, and feature characters both new and familiar.
Publisher’s Descripton: Now together in one place, these stories of Daevabad enrich a world already teeming with magic and wonder. Explore this magical kingdom, hidden from human eyes. A place where djinn live and thrive, fight and love. A world where princes question their power, and powerful demons can help you…or destroy you.
A prospective new queen joins a court whose lethal history may overwhelm her own political savvy…
An imprisoned royal from a fallen dynasty and a young woman wrenched from her home cross paths in an enchanted garden…
A pair of scouts stumble upon a secret in a cursed winter wood that will turn over their world…
From Manizheh’s first steps towards rebellion to adventures that take place after The Empire of Gold, this is a must-have collection for those who can’t get enough of Nahri, Ali, and Dara and all that unfolded around them.
Release Date: October 11 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: This follow-up to The Witch Haven sends Frances and her fellow witches from the cloistered world of Haxahaven Academy to the streets of early twentieth-century Paris. As Frances attempts to learn more about her own abilities, she’ll also have to deal with the fallout from the resurrection magic she used in the first book.
Smith’s sequel features more of the appealing blend of historical fiction, mystery, and YA romance that made the first installment in this series so memorable, and the change in scenery helps keep things fresh.
Pubslisher’s Description: Months after the devastating battle between the Sons of St. Druon and the witches of Haxahaven, Frances has built a quiet, safe life for herself, teaching young witches and tending the garden within the walls of Haxahaven Academy. But one thing nags; her magic has begun to act strangely. When an opportunity to visit Paris arises, Frances jumps at the chance to go, longing for adventure and seeking answers about her own power.
Once she and her classmates Maxine and Lena reach the vibrant streets of France, Frances learns that the spell she used to speak to her dead brother has had terrible consequences—the veil between the living and the dead has been torn by her recklessness, and a group of magicians are using the rift for their own gain at a horrifying cost.
To right this wrong, and save lives and her own magical powers, Frances must hunt down answers in the parlors of Parisian secret societies, the halls of the Louvre, and the tunnels of the catacombs. Her only choice is to team up with the person she swore she’d never trust again, risking further betrayal and her own life in the process.
Release Date: October 11 from Ace Books
Why You’ll Love it: Jim Butcher’s long-running The Dresden Files is a cornerstone of modern urban fantasy and now his son James is set to follow in his father’s footsteps by launching a series of his own. Dead Man’s Hand is the first installment in the Unorthodox Chronicles, and the novel puts a fun twist on the genre with an accessible if sometimes cowardly hero who starts the story doing magical tricks for kids at a fast food restaurant.
Publisher’s Description: On the streets of Boston, the world is divided into the ordinary Usuals, and the paranormal Unorthodox. And in the Department of Unorthodox Affairs, the Auditors are the magical elite, government-sanctioned witches with spells at their command and all the power and prestige that comes with it. Grimshaw Griswald Grimsby is…not one of those witches.
After flunking out of the Auditor training program and being dismissed as “not Department material,” Grimsby tried to resign himself to life as a mediocre witch. But he can’t help hoping he’ll somehow, someway, get another chance to prove his skill. That opportunity comes with a price when his former mentor, aka the most dangerous witch alive, is murdered down the street from where he works, and Grimsby is the Auditors’ number one suspect.
Proving his innocence will require more than a little legwork, and after forming a strange alliance with the retired legend known as the Huntsman and a mysterious being from Elsewhere, Grimsby is abruptly thrown into a life of adventure, whether he wants it or not. Now all he has to do is find the real killer, avoid the Auditors on his trail, and most importantly, stay alive.
Release Date: October 18 from Wednesday Books
Why You’ll Love It: In a publishing world full of duologies and trilogies, sometimes it’s just really nice to read a satisfying, thoughtfully plotted standalone that feels complete in and of iteslf.. And when that standalone is a sprawling fantasy set in a world inspired by medieval India and effortlessly balances themes of justice alongside genuinely thrilling adventure? I’m in.
Publisher’s Description: Katyani’s role in the kingdom of Chandela has always been clear: becoming an advisor and protector of the crown prince, Ayan, when he ascends to the throne. Bound to the Queen of Chandela through a forbidden soul bond that saved her when she was a child, Katyani has grown up in the royal family and become the best guardswoman the Garuda has ever seen. But when a series of assassination attempts threatens the royals, Katyani is shipped off to the gurukul of the famous Acharya Mahavir as an escort to Ayan and his cousin, Bhairav, to protect them as they hone the skills needed to be the next leaders of the kingdom. Nothing could annoy Katyani more than being stuck in a monastic school in the middle of a forest, except her run-ins with Daksh, the Acharya’s son, who can’t stop going on about the rules and whose gaze makes her feel like he can see into her soul.
But when Katyani and the princes are hurriedly summoned back to Chandela before their training is complete, tragedy strikes and Katyani is torn from the only life she has ever known. Alone and betrayed in a land infested by monsters, Katyani must find answers from her past to save all she loves and forge her own destiny. Bonds can be broken, but debts must be repaid.
Release Date: October 18 from Scholastic Press
Why You’ll Love It: This buzzy debut is being hailed as a mix of Ninth House and Raven Boys and while I’m not entirely sure that is the description I’d have gone with, if only because it doesn’t quite convey the fizzy originality of this book, with its deliciously snarky main character and entertaining premise. (Plus, it would take a stronger reader than I am to say no to any kind of story set at an occult university plagued by ghosts. Long may the dark academia trend reign.
Publisher’s Description: Delaney Meyers-Petrov is tired of being seen as fragile just because she’s Deaf. So when she’s accepted into a prestigious program at Godbole University that trains students to slip between parallel worlds, she’s excited for the chance to prove herself. But her semester gets off to a rocky start as she faces professors who won’t accommodate her disability, and a pretentious upperclassman fascinated by Delaney’s unusual talents.
Colton Price died when he was nine years old. Quite impossibly, he woke several weeks later at the feet of a green-eyed little girl. Now, twelve years later, Delaney Meyers-Petrov has stumbled back into his orbit, but Colton’s been ordered to keep far away from the new girl… and the voices she hears calling to her from the shadows.
Delaney wants to keep her distance from Colton — she seems to be the only person on campus who finds him more arrogant than charming — yet after a Godbole student turns up dead, she and Colton are forced to form a tenuous alliance, plummeting down a rabbit-hole of deeply buried university secrets. But Delaney and Colton discover the cost of opening the doors between worlds when they find themselves up against something old and nameless, an enemy they need to destroy before it tears them — and their forbidden partnership — apart.
Release Date: October 25 from Tor Books
Why You’ll Love It: The highly anticipated sequel to viral sensation The Atlas Six, The Atlas Paradox essentially pickles up where the first book left off, following the five remaining initiates as they begin their second year at the Alexandrian society and search for their missing classmate Libby. Shifting loyalties and secrets abound as Blake digs further into the characters’ backstories and present-day motivations.
Publisher’s Description: 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.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.