Welcome to the Asylum’s latest feature: Release Radar, a new monthly feature where we highlight our most anticipated reads of the month. We hope this feature becomes your go-to guide to all the shiny new releases and that you’ll discover exciting new authors and reads.
April’s edition features snarky Norse retellings, cozy haunted houses, and powerful reworkings of the classic canon.
Why Odin Drinks by Bjørn Larssen
That comp, are you kidding me?! Norse myth “for fans of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Calvin & Hobbes” sounds like the amalgamation I’ve waiting for all my life. I’ve loved Bjørn’s Norse retelling in Children (most faithful yet authentic rendition of the myths I’ve come across), so I can’t wait to dive into this one.
Norse Mythology retelling for fans of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Calvin & Hobbes.
Ever woken up being a God, but not knowing how to God properly?
Poor Odin must restrain his brothers, who create offensive weapons such as mosquitoes and celery; placate his future-telling wife, Frigg, who demands sweatpants with pockets; listen to Loki’s Helpful Questions; hang himself from Yggdrasil for nine days with a spear through his side (as you do); teach everyone about nutritional values of kale (but NOT celery); meet a Wise Dom, Sir Daddy Mímir, in order to outwit those who outwit him; and, most importantly, prove he is The All-Father, while his brothers are, at best, Those-Uncles-We-Don’t-Talk-About.
This nearly (except in Vanaheim) universally acclaimed retelling of the Gods’ first millennium answers way too many questions, including ones on Freyr’s entendre, horse designing… and why Odin drinks.
Braking Day by Adam Oyebanji
By now I’ve actually already read this book and I can say it’s a great intro to sci-fi for younger readers, and the perfect nostalgia read for all those who are into the “underdog beats space academy” trope, but with a very nice twist. An intriguing premise develops into a thoughtful discussion on colonization, the future of humankind and, the cherry on top, space dragons.
On a generation ship bound for a distant star, one engineer-in-training must discover the secrets at the heart of the voyage in this new sci-fi novel.
It’s been over a century since three generation ships escaped an Earth dominated by artificial intelligence in pursuit of a life on a distant planet orbiting Tau Ceti. Now, it’s nearly Braking Day, when the ships will begin their long-awaited descent to their new home.
Born on the lower decks of the Archimedes, Ravi Macleod is an engineer-in-training, set to be the first of his family to become an officer in the stratified hierarchy aboard the ship. While on a routine inspection, Ravi sees the impossible: a young woman floating, helmetless, out in space. And he’s the only one who can see her.
As his visions of the girl grow more frequent, Ravi is faced with a choice: secure his family’s place among the elite members of Archimedes‘ crew or risk it all by pursuing the mystery of the floating girl. With the help of his cousin, Boz, and her illegally constructed AI, Ravi must investigate the source of these strange visions and uncovers the truth of the Archimedes‘ departure from Earth before Braking Day arrives and changes everything about life as they know it.
Dark Theory by Wick Welker
Wick’s sci-fi standalone, Refraction, joined the ranks of this year’s SPSFC and wowed the audience with its cover. So when I spied Dark Theory on Netgalley, the synopsis had me doing grabby hands. If there’s one thing I’m a sucker for (and actually, there are many) it’s robots having feelings.
A robot yearns to remember. A thief struggles to forget. A galaxy on the verge of collapse.
On the fringe of a broken civilization, a robot awakens with no memories and only one directive: find his creator. But in the village of Korthe, Beetro finds only radioactive pestilence, famine, and Miree—a tormented thief with dreams of retiring after her final score. Meanwhile, the fiefdom is plunged further into chaos when a new warlord seizes control, recasting serfs as refugees and leaving derelict robot peasants in his wake. With a shared interest in survival, Beetro and Miree team up to pull off an impossible castle heist: steal a single flake of dark matter, the world’s most valuable and mysterious ore.
But as they trek through the feudal wasteland in search of answers, they realize the true extent of the chaos surrounding them: the stars are disappearing from the sky and the entire galaxy is unraveling. As he uncovers his origin, Beetro discovers he may be the key to the salvation of the cosmos—or its destruction. Time, space, and loyalty become relative as he learns the real reason he was created.
A mind-bending science fiction epic with the bones of a fantasy traveling quest, Dark Theory unfolds through a journey of betrayal, identity, and unlikely friendships in a world of darkness set at the edge of space and time.
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li
Exploring Chinese identity, diaspora, and colonization of art, Portrait of a Thief blends a heist plot with Chinese American identities. This synopsis couldn’t sound better and I’m really eager to dive into it.
Ocean’s Eleven meets The Farewell in Portrait of a Thief, a lush, lyrical heist novel inspired by the true story of Chinese art vanishing from Western museums; about diaspora, the colonization of art, and the complexity of the Chinese American identity.
History is told by the conquerors. Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of war, of conquest, of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now.
Will Chen plans to steal them back.
A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son who has always been his parents’ American Dream. But when a mysterious Chinese benefactor reaches out with an impossible—and illegal—job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago.
His crew is every heist archetype one can imagine—or at least, the closest he can get. A con artist: Irene Chen, a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with steady hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering major who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down.
Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars—and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted attempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.
Equal parts beautiful, thoughtful, and thrilling, Portrait of a Thief is a cultural heist and an examination of Chinese American identity, as well as a necessary critique of the lingering effects of colonialism.
The Hunger of the Gods by John Gwynne
I’ve read the first book in this series, The Shadow of the Gods, and let me tell you, Gwynne sure knows how to deliver an ending. Absolutely blown away by the first book’s conclusion, I can’t wait to see where this Norse-inspired, gods-warmongering story goes next.
Note: This book is a sequel, spoilers ahead.
Lik-Rifa, the dragon god of legend, has been freed from her eternal prison. Now she plots a new age of blood and conquest.
As Orka continues the hunt for her missing son, the Bloodsworn sweep south in a desperate race to save one of their own – and Varg takes the first steps on the path of vengeance.
Elvar has sworn to fulfil her blood oath and rescue a prisoner from the clutches of Lik-Rifa and her dragonborn followers, but first she must persuade the Battle-Grim to follow her.
Yet even the might of the Bloodsworn and Battle-Grim cannot stand alone against a dragon god.
Their hope lies within the mad writings of a chained god. A book of forbidden magic with the power to raise the wolf god Ulfrir from the dead . . . and bring about a battle that will shake the foundations of the earth.
Rosebud by Paul Cornell
By now it’s pretty obvious I will become absolutely obsessed by any story exploring the melding of technology and psychology, like robots with feelings, or, in this case, sentient digital beings. Add to it a mysterious object and an existential crisis aaand you have me drooling.
A multilayered, locked-room science fiction novella from Paul Cornell in which five digital beings unravel their existences to discover the truth of their humanity.
“The crew of the Rosebud are, currently, and by force of law, a balloon, a goth with a swagger stick, some sort of science aristocrat possibly, a ball of hands, and a swarm of insects.”
When five sentient digital beings—condemned for over three hundred years to crew the small survey ship by the all-powerful Company—encounter a mysterious black sphere, their course of action is clear: obtain the object, inform the Company, earn lots of praise.
But the ship malfunctions, and the crew has no choice but to approach the sphere and survey it themselves. They have no idea that this object—and the transcendent truth hidden within—will change the fate of all existence, the Company, and themselves.
The Demon’s Dagger by Douglas Lumsden
I’m not personally acquainted with the Alexander Southerland, P.I. series, but the synopsis for this standalone sounds all kinds of crazy and I’m loving the worldbuilding elements that shine through.
A standalone spinoff from the Alexander Southerland, P.I. series.
Once he checked in, checking out became an obsession!
Crawford the were-rat checks into a shady hotel and promptly stumbles over a dead man. A mysterious troll is obsessed with finding the dagger that killed him—a dagger possessed by a demon! The demon denies that he is a demon and is obsessed with regaining his freedom. Meanwhile, the hotel’s night clerk is obsessed with the hooker on the third floor. Crawford is obsessed with what’s in the hooker’s room: a solid gold statuette of a demon-slaying goddess! Crawford has checked in, but, when obsessions collide, does he have any hope of checking out?
Merchants of Knowledge and Magic by Erika McCorkle
We’ve interviewed the author for a blog tour recently and, as interviews tend to do, I just became more curious about this story. It sounds really unique and imaginative, blending a lot of elements I’ve seen little of.
On one of the many planes of the Pentagonal Dominion, priestess Calinthe trades in information, collecting valuable secrets for her demonic employer. Calinthe has a secret of her own: she’s intersex, making her a target for the matriarchal slavers of the Ophidian Plane whose territory she must cross in her search for hidden knowledge. But thanks to her friend Zakuro’s illusions, Calinthe presents as a woman- a comfortable, if furtive, existence in a world determined to bring her to heel.
But when, instead of a mere secret, the priestess uncovers an incalculably powerful artifact, Calinthe finds herself in a high-stakes negotiation with the same matriarchs who sought to enslave her. On the table: Calinthe’s discovery, a charm powerful enough to transform a mortal into a god… against a secret so deadly it could quell all life on every plane of the dominion. If Calinthe plays her cards perfectly, she and Zakuro could escape Ophidia wealthier than either of them ever dreamed possible.
But if she plays them wrong…
…she’ll learn slavery in her pursuers’ hands is a fate far worse than death.
Sanctuary by Andi C. Buchanan
I love everything about this synopsis; finding this book was like stumbling across a pirate treasure. Of comfort. Found family of a miscellanea of characters and identities, a sanctuary for ghosts, and an mc who has to rely on their sense of belonging to triumph against “evil”. I love that.
Morgan’s home is a sanctuary for ghosts.
The once-grand, now dilapidated old house they live in has become a refuge for their found family. From Morgan’s partner Araminta, an artist with excellent dress sense, to Theo, a ten-year-old with an excess of energy, to quiet telekinesthetic pensioner Denny, all of them consider this haunted house their home. In a world that wasn’t built for their queer, neurodivergent selves, they’ve made it into a place they belong.
Together they welcome not just the ghosts of the house’s former inhabitants, but any who need somewhere to belong. Both the living and the dead can find themselves in need of a sanctuary.
When a collection of ghosts trapped in old bottles are delivered to their door, something from the past is unleashed. A man who once collected ghosts – a man who should have died centuries before – suddenly has the house under his control. Morgan must trust their own abilities, and their hard-won sense of self, to save their home, their family, and the woman they love.
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
This book sounds like a fantastic, feminist story of reclamation and myth blended together. I love the idea of re-exploring classic canon through another lens.
“I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.”
So begins Kaikeyi’s story. The only daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, she is raised on tales about the might and benevolence of the gods: how they churned the vast ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, how they vanquish evil and ensure the land of Bharat prospers, and how they offer powerful boons to the devout and the wise. Yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, listens as her own worth is reduced to how great a marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear.
Desperate for some measure of independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With this power, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her.
But as the evil from her childhood stories threatens the cosmic order, the path she has forged clashes with the destiny the gods have chosen for her family. And Kaikeyi must decide if resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak—and what legacy she intends to leave behind.
A stunning debut from a powerful new voice, Kaikeyi is a tale of fate, family, courage, and heartbreak—of an extraordinary woman determined to leave her mark in a world where gods and men dictate the shape of things to come.
God of Neverland by Gama Ray Martinez
Peter Pan as a god that powers magic in children? I adore retellings and was immediately pulled in by the imagination in this synopsis.
Peter Pan is missing; Neverland is in trouble. For adults, that might not matter all that much, but for children–whose dreams and imagination draw strength from the wild god’s power–the magic we take for granted in the real world is in danger of being lost forever.
Such is the life of a now grown-up Michael Darling.
Michael returned from Neverland with the dream of continuing his adventuring ways by joining the Knights of the Round, an organization built to keep humanity safe from magical and mythological threats.. But after a mission gone terribly wrong, he vowed to leave the Knights behind and finally live as a “civilian,” finding order and simplicity as a train engineer, the tracks and schedule tables a far cry from the chaos of his youth.
He hasn’t entered the narrative in years. So what could the Knights need from him now?
Maponos–or how he’s better known, Peter Pan–has gone missing, and Neverland is now on the edge of oblivion. Michael realizes he has no choice and agrees to one last mission. Alongside the young Knight Vanessa and some old friends, Michael embarks on the ultimate adventure: a journey to a fantasy world to save a god. Determined to stop evil, fight for Neverland, and find Maponos, will Michael be able to save the magical and physical world? Or will his biggest fear come true?
The clock is ticking, and in Neverland, that’s never a good sign
Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher
T. Kingfisher has a new book out this month. Do we have to say more? Okay, okay, I know you want more. A Princess goes on a quest with her companions in this dark fairytale-like nowel with a few twists and a demon-possessed chicken.
After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra—the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter—has finally realized that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself.
Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince—if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.
On her quest, Marra is joined by the gravewitch, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last.
And that’s all for our April Release Radar. As a companion to this feature, we strongly recommend you check out Rob J. Hayes’ own list of upcoming self-published releases. Beware of toppling TBRs and see you next month!