2012 is going strong with debut novels, and April doesn’t look like it’ll be a letdown, either. Don’t forget to take the time to suggest debut novels you’ve found particularly good this year for the William C. Morris Award consideration. Interestingly, this month seems to be filled with a lot of stories about defying death.
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (Houghton Mifflin, 9780547628349) is the first in the His Fair Assassin trilogy. Ismae is 17, and she’s involved in a brutal arranged marriage. Lucky for her, she’s able to escape to St. Mortain convent–except this is not necessarily the kind of convent one expects. Sure, the sisters worship the gods, but Ismae learns she’s been blessed with a special talent from the god of Death. Now she has to make a choice: stay at the convent, train as an assassin, and become a handmaiden to Death or escape. When she chooses to become an assassin, she faces an even bigger hurdle in having to decide whether or not to kill someone who matters to her.
Moving from assassins to angels, Scott Speer’s Immortal City (Penguin/Razorbill, 9781595145062) follows hot Angel Jackson as he prepares to take on the duties as a Guardian. In this city, everyone wants to be watched over by an Angel because they carry with them good luck and protection. Maddie, though, doesn’t buy into the lore at all, and her skepticism is what leads Jackson to be interested in her. Maddie doesn’t know he’s a Guardian, and of course, when they fall in love, she’s shocked and surprised to learn the truth. But here’s where the twist is: when a serial killer is loose in the city, Jackson is powerless and Maddie might be the one who has to protect him. This looks like it’ll appeal to fans of paranormal books, as well as those who cannot get enough angel lore.
J. Anderson Coats’s debut novel The Wicked and the Just (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780547688374) is set in 1293-1294. Cecily, whose father just took post as assistant to the King of Wales, who is determined to keep the Welsh at bay. This now means that Cecily gets to become the Lady of the house–something that helps keep her from feeling too bitter about moving away from home. Unfortunately for Gwenhwyfer, who has always dreamed of becoming Lady of the house, this means new duties as servant to Cecily. Coats’s story explores both the challenges Cecily has fitting into this new world, as well as those Gwenhwyfer faces in not only dealing with a demanding boss, but in making a living at all. Bonus: there’s a war going on outside the castle to stir things up even more.
Another historical fiction set in the UK is Amy Carol Reeves’s Ripper (Flux, 9780738730721), and this one features Jack the Ripper. When Abbie’s mother dies, she’s sent to live with a relative in London, where she takes on volunteering at Whitechapel Hospital. Her duties include helping women who have been abused and who are sick. But when Abbie’s patients start dying at the hands of Jack the Ripper, she begins to suspect she may have a link to him through the visions she sees of him in the moments before her patients pass on. This one looks like it’ll appeal to readers who like historical fiction, as well as those who like their stories with a touch of fantasy, too.
— Kelly Jensen, who is reading Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock (a May debut)