perilous time
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perilous time

Perilous Times by Thomas D Lee (Orbit, £16.99)
Merlin ensured that King Arthur’s knights would return from a magical slumber whenever the kingdom was in peril. Having fought in many wars over the centuries, Sir Kay knows the drill. But when he wakes up in a 21st century Britain ravaged by the climate crisis and social unrest, it is difficult to identify the enemy. After rescuing a young woman fleeing from armed guards near a burning fracking facility, he joins forces with feminist eco-terrorists trying to save the planet. The appearance of a fire-breathing dragon suggests someone is playing with magic, and he has a duty to stop them. Humorous fantasy based on magical misadventures may not suit the grim vision of a very near future in which half of England is underwater, but it works. This bold and original debut album is both edgy and entertaining, and an exciting new take on the subject of Britain.

The grieving nurse

The Grieving Nurse by Angie Spoto (Sandstone, £16.99)
Lynx is the titular nurse of sorrow, marked from birth by pale eyes and white hair that indicate her special power to absorb and relieve the grief, fear, anxiety, and sorrows of her employers. It is guarded by the wealthy Aster family to banish all negative feelings, so that they always shine with health and happiness, even at the funeral of their eldest son. Lynx never questioned her role, until the arrival of another grieving nurse on the private island of Asters opened her eyes to her own misfortune. The island is more like a trap when bad weather makes it impossible to leave and people start dying. A powerful first novel that explores serious and sensitive issues through a unique lens of fantasy.

Airside

Airside by Christopher Priest (Gollancz, £22)
In 1949, a Hollywood movie star flew from New York to London and disappeared. In the 1960s, Justin Farmer, a film student in London, is charmed by his films and intrigued by the unsolved mystery of his disappearance, even if only years later when he is a historian and respected film critic, he meets people who may know what happened to him. He also has his own disturbing experience in the liminal space of an international airport. The spirit of La Jetée, Chris Marker’s 1962 sci-fi short skims over the Prestige author’s final novel. Reviews of real movies complement interviews with fictional characters and reflections on people who choose to disappear; the mix of stress and boredom that permeates modern air travel is intertwined with Farmer’s investigation to create a captivating and distinctive narrative.

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Hokey Pokey

Hokey Pokey by Kate Mascarenhas (Head of Zeus, £16.99)
The new novel by the author of The Psychology of Time Travel is set in 1929, mostly in and around a central Birmingham hotel where Nora, a half-English, half-Czech doctor with the uncanny ability to imitate accurately the speech of anyone she hears, has arrived to spy on another guest. What begins as a fascinating psychological mystery in an extremely real setting turns into the supernatural, when Nora wakes up one night to find a huge dog on her bed. A local woman confirms that she saw the ghost of an ax murderer working nearby, and Nora knew him. The story dives into utter visceral horror as we learn of Nora’s childhood connection to a horrific murder that affected the course of her life. A well-crafted, original and nightmarish mix of madness and monsters.

The shadow cabinet

Juno Dawson’s Shadow Cabinet (HarperVoyager, £16.99)
The sequel to Her Majesty’s Secret Coven picks up the story of modern witches following the cliffhanger ending of the first. We finally get the inside scoop on Niamh’s “evil twin,” Ciara, and some shocking revelations about a few previously minor characters. It’s an excellent read, just as exciting, intelligent and addictive as the first, with a third (final?) volume to come.

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