Jason Dessen’s world is (literally) upended when he wakes up after a kidnapping to find himself surrounded by strangers who claim to know him, in a world where nothing about his life as the same as the one he left behind. From the author of Wayward Pines trilogy, you can expect Dark Matter to be the mind-bending sci-fi thriller you had no idea you’ve been waiting for.
Naomi Novik took a break from her popular Temeraire series to pen Uprooted, a dark fantasy novel about a valley that is terrorized by an ominous Wood. Protecting the villagers from the Wood’s evils is a callous wizard called the Dragon, who every ten years demands a steep price for his help. Uprooted may not be part of a series, but it contains all of the high-stakes action and epic storytelling that you would expect from one.
The Library at Mount Char
This dark tale is about twelve children called librarians raised by a godlike figure known only as Father, and it’s one of the more twisted novels on this list. After Father disappears, the knowledge of his power that is stored within his library are suddenly unguarded, and a battle for a new god is about to begin.
Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge
A recent college grad gets a job as a bartender, only to discover a gang of mixologists across Chicago who use the magic of their trade to fight demons. So clearly, this isn’t your typical paranormal novel, and it’s perfect for readers who want all the fun of the urban fantasy genre while feeling just slightly more adult than what you might find in the teen fiction.
The City & The City
The neighboring Eastern European cities of Beszel and Ul Qoma rarely interact, but when a woman is murdered, an inspector from Beszel’s Extreme Crime Squad teams up with an Ul Qoman detective find her killer. As they descend deeper into the case, they uncover an underworld culture of nationalists and unificationists who are each intent on changing the fates of the two cities to very different ends.
Standalone science fiction and fantasy books are such a rarity these days that they almost feel like an oxymoron. After all, most writers don’t commit themselves to incredible feats of world-building to just write one book. That these novels usually come in a series of three or more is practically a trademark of the genre; you expect there to be more. But as awesome as these epic adventures are, they tend to require a certain amount of stamina that not all readers are prepared to give. Just ask the unsuspecting readers who bought A Game of Thrones 20 years ago and have yet to see Daenerys Targaryen set foot in Westeros—waiting for a satisfying conclusion can be agony. Sometimes the idea of committing to a whole series (the cliff-hanger endings, the inevitable spin-offs) can be daunting, and for those times, you need that ever-elusive standalone novel. These 14 books have quirky variations of magic, ingenious uses of technology, rich new landscapes, and even a little horror, all complete with a beginning, a middle, and most importantly, an end.
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