In the Triangle, every year is a banner year for local speculative fiction, and 2020 was no exception. From Arthurian fantasies to dystopias, dinosaurs to space operas, horror to time travel, here are eight ways to escape our reality and reflect on another—from authors all around the Triangle.

Tracy Deonn: Legendborn

[Margaret K. McElderry Books; Sept. 15] 

UNC-Chapel Hill grad Tracy Deonn sets her YA urban fantasy breakout, Legendborn, at her alma mater, where 16-year-old Bree Matthews enrolls in an early college program following her mother’s passing. At an off-campus party before classes begin, Bree stumbles into a secret world of demons, magic, Arthurian bloodlines, and the discovery that her memory of her mother’s death has been altered.

Natania Barron: Queen of None

[Vernacular Books; Dec. 1] 

If your preferred Arthurian flavor tends more to the medieval, Barron’s Queen of None is a Circe-meets-Excalibur journey through a reimagined Camelot. Natania Barron reinvents the familiar through a voice that has been missing from so many retellings—that of Arthur’s forgotten youngest sister, Anna Pendragon. In Queen of None, Anna returns to her brother’s court 20 years after being married off and is confronted with the schemes and machinations of men—and her older sisters. 

T. Kingfisher: The Hollow Places

[Gallery/Saga Press; Oct. 6] 

The Hollow Places arrived just a year after Kingfisher’s acclaimed The Twisted Ones. If you were a fan of the latter, this new horror release carries some similarities over: a rural North Carolina setting, an affection for dogs, friendly baristas, and an endearingly nicknamed first-person protagonist. But this time, Kingfisher ramps up the otherworldly scares. In The Hollow Places, “Carrot” (aka Kara) has inherited her Uncle Earl’s taxidermy-heavy museum, replete with a hidden bunker that serves as a portal to infinite alternate realities—most of which are, of course, haunted by terrifying creatures. 

Jay Posey: Every Sky a Grave

[Skybound Books; July 7] 

Jay Posey’s Every Sky a Grave is the Durham author and video game designer’s first novel since 2017. Thousands of years in the future, humanity has established a utopian society, from galaxy’s edge to galaxy’s edge, under the control of a powerful organization known as the Ascendance. The Ascendance uses the “Deep Language” of the cosmos to re-write and direct reality, keeping this knowledge secret through a monastic order of interplanetary assassins. When one of these agents is sent to a backwater planet to investigate a forbidden strain of this knowledge, she questions everything she thought she knew about the universe.

Whitney Hill: Elemental

[Benu Media; April 2] 

Durham author Whitney Hill’s debut, Elemental, kicks off an urban fantasy series called Shadows of Otherside, which has already seen a second installment, Eldritch Sparks, released in November. The series follows private investigator Arden Finch through an alternate Raleigh-Durham of startups populated by elves, djinn, werewolves, and vampires—collectively known as “Otherside,” living beyond humanity’s notice. 

Lisa Shearin: The Entity Game

[Murwood Media; May 12] 

After a prolific 2018 that included publishing multiple books in her SPI Files and Raine Benares series, Shearin debuted a new protagonist and series this year with psychometric detective Aurora Donati, who can glean information simply from touching an object or person. When she’s called to investigate the suspicious death of a U.S. Senator, she becomes entangled in an international web of spies and conspiracies—one in which she’s suddenly not the only one with supernatural abilities. 

Robin Kirk: The Hive Queen

[Blue Crow Books; Aug. 31] 

Kirk continues her YA dystopian series, The Bond Trilogy, with a direct sequel that shifts the point of view from Dinitra—the genetically engineered teenager through whose eyes we witnessed the fall of matriarchal society the Weave—to Fir, a rebel warrior who embarks on an Aeneid-like journey to save himself and his brothers. The Hive Queen is an astounding feat of worldbuilding.

Christopher Ruocchio: Demon in White

[DAW; July 28] 

The third and penultimate installment in Raleigh author Christopher Ruocchio’s epic space opera, the Sun Eater series, Demon in White sees Hadrian Marlowe receive a hero’s welcome at the Imperial court, with worshipful whispers of “Half-Mortal!” raising eyebrows. Marlowe, however, simply wants to return to the front, light-years away. For readers not wanting to wait for the next book to get more House Marlowe, Ruocchio also self-published a novella, The Lesser Devil, in April, focusing on Hadrian’s brother, Crispin. 

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