Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for February 2022

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month
It’s that time of the month again, time for “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie and small press authors newly published this month, though some December books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have urban fantasy, epic fantasy, historical fantasy, cozy fantasy, dark fantasy, sword and sorcery, YA fantasy, fantasy romance, paranormal romance, paranormal mystery, space opera, military science fiction, science fiction romance, weird western, vampires, werewolves, mages, healers, aliens, space marines, ghost ships, magical prisons, arrnaged marriages, time travel, barbarian kings, shattered gods, fake goddesses, crime-busting witches, crime-busting psychics, orc baristas and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a group blog run by Jessica Rydill and myself, which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things speculative fiction several times per week.

As always, I know the authors at least vaguely, but I haven’t read all of the books, so Caveat emptor.

And now on to the books without further ado:

Legends and Latte by Travis BaldreeLegends and Lattes by Travis Baldree:

High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention

Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.

However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.

A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth.

The Secret of the Chateau by Carrie BedfordThe Secret of the Chateau by Carrie Bedford:

A jug of wine, a loaf of bread – and death.
She knows it’s coming, she has to stop it!

London architect Kate Benedict has barely shucked off her coat before she spots her host’s aura, a swirling pattern above his head that Kate has come to recognize as a prediction of death within a few days.

And she’s barely realized he’s in danger when he drops to the floor, shot by an unseen assailant.

It should have been the perfect junket—escaping miserably rainy London to a luxurious chateau in the Burgundy countryside. All she had to do was advise the owner on rebuilding his winery’s tasting room. But trouble seems to come in threes…

The first person to rush into the room, the young woman who manages the tasting room, also has an aura, as does the winemaker, nephew to the dead man.

Surrounded by absolute strangers and the ever-present reminders of imminent death, Kate is overwhelmed by uncertainties: Where is the danger coming from? Does it extend to her? And dodgiest of all, Whom to trust?

She makes fast friends with the tasting room manager, and she knows from past experience that if she can discover the source of the danger she can cheat death out of a victory. She desperately wants to save this woman.

So she’ll have to make the chateau give up its centuries of secrets: betrayals among the highly competitive vintners of the region, disputed ownership claims, deceitful spouses, treacherous employees, even secret passageways.

And, of course, since it’s a 700-year-old chateau, there will be ghosts. The question is: Does the elegantly-caped gentleman in the green hat mean to help…or to harm?

Just as you’re thinking, “What a clever solution,” the tale takes an even cleverer twist. This is a book with pretty much everything—a likeable heroine, an ancient chateau, all the wine you can drink, a fun plot, and a ghost to top it off. The very definition of cozy.

Antique Instincts by Odette C. BellAntique Instincts by Odette C. Bell:

They say some things can’t wait. One of them is destiny. The other is murder.

Sonia is meant to be normal. She isn’t. She has a rare magic – she can sort out the temporal order of anything.

But while that might be incredible, it can’t catch his eye.

Rushford Halsey is one of the most powerful vampires in the city. A resolute man who heads up Vampire Pharmaceuticals, he shouldn’t be interested in her. But there’s a problem. He’s her one-true vampire. Destiny has dictated they will be together. So what does Rushford do? Go and marry someone else.

He seemingly has no interest in Sonia – other than to keep her as far from his murky world as possible. When a dangerous drug hits the streets and she’s dragged into the police investigation to stop it, that all ends, and once more they are thrown together.

But destiny can be a fickle thing. It will give you one chance at happiness. Lose it or ignore it, and you will do so at your peril.

The Book of Shadow by Bruce BlakeThe Book of Shadow by Bruce Blake:

Llyris Fildarae is an outcast tainted by a sliver of magic in a world terrified of the supernatural. Loathed and distrusted, she uses her ability to control a magical Unnamed to survive.

Caedric Carpera is desperate to save his son from a deadly illness. He enlists Llyris to locate a lost tome containing secrets capable of healing him, but its location is a mystery that’s already claimed lives. Thrust into a hostile world, Llyris and her companions risk everything to find the relic and return before the child’s sickness prevails.

But who is the enigmatic old man who appeared out of nowhere to set them on this dangerous expedition? And what does he really want?

Only a perilous mission to an untamed land can save the boy and reveal the truth.

Except some truths are too shocking to be exposed.

Twelve Nooses by Richard Blakemore and Cora BuhlertTwelve Nooses by Richard Blakemore and Cora Buhlert:

Before Kurval became King of Azakoria in the year of the forked serpent, he was commander of a mercenary company in service to his predecessor King Orkol.

While helping to bring the rebellious northern provinces back under Orkol’s heel, Kurval is ordered to hang twelve innocent young women as an example to the rebels.

Kurval is disgusted by Orkol’s cruelty. But can he find a way to save the twelve young women from the gallows? And dare he defy King Orkol?

The new sword and sorcery adventure by two-time Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert and her occasional alter ego, 1930s pulp writer Richard Blakemore. This is a novelette of 14200 words or approx. 50 print pages in the Kurval sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.

The Tear of Chronos by Richard Blakemore and Cora BuhlertThe Tear of Chronos by Richard Blakemore and Cora Buhlert:

In the year of the forked serpent, Kurval came from beyond the sea, slew King Orkol and became King of Azakoria.

On the day of his coronation, Kurval consults the oracle in the temple of the goddess Ashvarya, where he is supposed to gaze into a magical jewel called the Tear of Chronos, hoping for a vision of the future.

But before Kurval can receive his vision, a young woman named Stella suddenly appears in a flash of light in the inner sanctum. Not only is Stella a deadringer for the goddess, she also wears the Tear of Chronos around her neck.

Can Stella help Kurval retain the throne he’s barely won? And is she truly a goddess or just an imposter?

The new sword and sorcery adventure by two-time Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert and her occasional alter ego, 1930s pulp writer Richard Blakemore. This is a novelette of 13500 words or approx. 45 print pages in the Kurval sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.

When Words Fail by Jonathan P. Brazee and J.N. ChaneyWhen Words Fail by Jonathan P. Brazee and J.N. Chaney:

The Galaxy is growing…and it’s more dangerous than ever before.

An all-out war within humanity has been narrowly avoided, and peace is finally at hand.

Yeah, right.

Human ships are being taken, their crews disappearing. Has an old enemy returned? Or has the galaxy revealed a new threat?

With humanity’s very existence at stake, Rev and the Perseus Union Marines have to put old rivalries aside and help form a last line of defense if the human race is going to have a fighting chance to survive.

Fight. Endure. Win. Live.

Prepare yourself for the seventh entry in the ongoing Sentenced to War series. Experience what fans are calling the military science fiction story of the year and find out why you just can’t keep a good Marine down.

Crown of Command by Chris FoxThe Crown of Command by Chris Fox:

An Empire Entombed Under Ash

Four centuries ago the Stewards decreed that the Elentian Imperium must be punished. For a year and a day ash rained from the sky forming what is now known as the Ashlands.

As a new member of the Temple of Celeste you are now privy to the truth. Our diviners have scried the infamous lich’s final moments. If you dare witness the memory, you will find it transcribed within.

The Crown of Command is a SHORT STORY set in the Shattered Gods universe. It foreshadows the fate of our protagonist Xal, and also shows one of the most important historical events in the series.

A Very Klagan Valentine by Holly HanzoA Very Klagan Valentine by Holly Hanzo:

From being jilted at the altar, to being ghosted by a blind date, Mia held onto the hope that one day, she’d finally be the bride and not the bridesmaid. The Elodian invasion of Earth and Mia’s subsequent capture changed everything. Mistaken for a Sudabian, and dropped on Sudabia, a pleasure planet she’s never heard of, Mia finds herself smack in the center of their annual hedonistic mid-winter celebration – and – up for auction.

Klagan Warrior Rylan’s mission takes a turn for the worse after a firefight with a lone Elodian cruiser over a remote planet in the middle of nowhere. His worst nightmare comes true when he’s forced to land on Sudabia. As a virtuous man who doesn’t mix business and pleasure, his only goal was to get off-world, and fast, until he stumbles across the auctions – and the frantic pleas of an unwilling participant in the auctions stirred something within him. Against his better judgement, Rylan rescues Mia from the auction block.

She wants to leave. He can’t let her go.

Haunted Plains Drifter by Lily Harper HartHaunted Plains Drifter by Lily Harper Hart:

Hannah Hickok and Cooper Wyatt are newly engaged and ready to celebrate. Cooper just didn’t think the celebration would involve a hike to a long-abandoned boom town called Blackridge. He had something more romantic in mind. Despite that, he agrees … and believes the trip will be fine, right up until they stumble across a homeless man warning them away from their destination.

Hannah tries talking to him but the man is out of it, to the point where she recognizes he needs medical help. They manage to call the local sheriff to provide that help, but when the team he brings to carry the individual out of the valley crosses the Blackridge border, a wave of magic ricochets back and knocks Hannah for a loop.

She recovers quickly, but there’s a question as to what happened. Once back in Casper Creek, that question becomes a concern. It seems the ghostly shadow that appeared in Blackridge at the time it fell more than a hundred years before is back, and now he’s focused on Hannah.

The dark man is more than a ghost. He’s more than a shadow. He’s a monster who can straddle two worlds. He needs Hannah to lift the curse that has kept him trapped for a century, and he’s more than willing to threaten those she loves to make it happen.

A new sort of terror has come to town, and Hannah has no idea how to fight him. She’s a strong witch, but she’s also a new witch, and when this battle lands on her doorstep, it’s going to be a doozy.

Buckle up, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

The Lowest Healer and the Highest Mage by HiyodoriThe Lowest Healer and the Highest Mage by Hiyodori:

“I never forgot the sound of you calling for me. Not for a second.”

The Lowest Healer and the Highest Mage is a slow-burn f/f romance set in an original modern-era fantasy world, featuring a magical tower with countless curious rooms. It’s a story of friends to enemies to reluctant allies, guilty secrets, love mixed inextricably with hate, fragile second chances, and the true price of boundless magical power.

In a country where mages have all the power and healers supposedly only exist to support them, Clematis—a talented healer—is despised for her past attempts to defy the mageocracy. In her early thirties, she’s already on year seven of a life sentence for treason.

But when the most powerful mage in the nation suddenly loses all her magic, the government wants unconventional Clematis to help get it back.

The mage is a tall, distant woman called Wist, and Clematis knows her all too well. They used to be classmates. Best friends. Perhaps more. Wist is also the person who reported Clematis for leaking state secrets. She’s the reason Clematis spent the last seven years in prison.

Clematis wants revenge for her betrayal, but she wants freedom even more. She’s got thirty days to recover Wist’s magic: miss the deadline, and she’ll be shunted back to prison for the rest of her life. Yet attempting to resurrect Wist’s lost magic will force her to face the real reason why Wist betrayed her—and to face her unresolved, unspoken feelings for the mage who stabbed her in the back and walked away.

Family Ties by B.R. KingsolverFamily Ties by B.R. Kingsolver:

When a man came into my shop in the Great Marketplace at the Crossroads of the Worlds and tried to kill me, it completely ruined my day. Not only did I have to clean up the blood, but disposing of his body made me late to meet my friends for drinks. A nagging little detail kept bugging me, though. As he died, he said he was hired by my mother’s family—people I hadn’t seen for more than a decade. Then I discovered that assassins had made attempts on my brother and sister as well. As much as I didn’t want to, I decided I should find out who wanted us dead, and put a stop to it. Talk about stepping out of the pan into the fire…

Smoke and Spells by Ryver KnightSmoke and Spells by Ryver Knight:

An ordinary girl. A rare power. A deadly game.

Lie low.
Don’t draw attention to yourself.

Fifteen-year-old Asha Olinger has abided by her sister’s rules her entire life. Every day, she works relentlessly as a cleaner to put food on the table, scrambling in the dredges of Althuria. Every day, she wonders about a life where she no longer struggles for a few measly coins.

But after discovering she wields a rare and destructive power, her quiet life is turned upside down. Her older sister gives her a mysterious warning. Lex Sylvester, with his fame, wealth, and stupidly charming looks—that she certainly never, ever noticed—starts flirting with her. And to top it all off, she receives a letter from the famed Luminus Academy, declaring that she got accepted through the lottery system. The terrifying probabilities quickly turn into incredible opportunities, and suddenly controlling her power doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

What is this darned ability of hers? Why does everyone keep telling her to stay away from the Queen of Althuria? And more importantly…

Who the heck is murdering girls at the Academy?

If she doesn’t find out soon… she might just be next.

Freaky Sights by Amanda M. LeeFreaky Sights by Amanda M. Lee:

Mystic Caravan Circus is on the move after their winter break. First stop? Moonstone Bay. Poet Parker and crew are looking for a permanent location because traveling won’t be an option for much longer. They’re expecting a normal trip.

They’re getting so much more … including a mystery.

The day after they arrive, a body drops in the ditch across from the city park, and what follows is a series of bone-chilling events that revolve around the island’s children. It seems something weird is causing them to act out of sorts … and they might just have murder on their minds.

Moonstone Bay is a magical place and Poet feels a kinship with the land and people who live there almost immediately. Unfortunately, the terror stalking the island isn’t something that can be ignored.

Poet has to band together with the island inhabitants – including a feisty witch and fiery half-demon – to figure out what’s happening. Their research leads them to an ancient story about a possessing demon, and the villages he left decimated in his wake.

Poet is strong. Her new friends make her stronger. If Moonstone Bay is ultimately to be their home, she’s going to have to go all out to protect it.

Two teams are coming together to fight a war. It’s going to take all of them to ensure a happy ending.

Buckle up. Things are about to get wicked on Moonstone Bay.

Scion of Lightning by J.T. MoyScion of Lightning by J.T. Moy:

The deadliest blades are not made of steel . . . When Jaks almost kills another soldier with his volatile magic, he is forced to tread the fearful path of the electromancer. Succeed, he will be the first in a generation. Fail, he will lose everything.

As the ruthless king of Voros invades the land with axe warriors, skyships and dragons, Jaks and his battlemage master begin a quest to train his powers and uncover a potent artifact that could halt the rampaging enemy.

On their journey through dangerous lands, they are accompanied by a sharp-eyed ranger, a lethal assassin, and a mysterious foreigner with unworldly weapons.

However, nothing is simple when Jaks’ greatest adversary is much closer than he knows.

The Fallen Shall Rise by James PylesThe Fallen Shall Rise by James Pyles:

Jepheth Shinzi, archeologist on the rigid backwater Kaamus star system, discovers a controversial anomaly when scans taken of space match up with 3,000 years worth of cultural mysteries.

Fearing being labeled a traitor to his government, he proceeds to share the findings in confidence before the evidence becomes overwhelming and the situation warrants in-person investigation.

There appears to be an ancient gate in deep space and it’s emitting an energy signal.

Gnome on the Range by Tammy SalyerGnome on the Range by Tammy Salyer:

The West wasn’t won with grit and guns. It took a sawbones with fae blood to git ’er done.

Book 1 in the Otherworld Outlaw series, an action-packed romp through the Wild West, loaded with living myths, dark magic, and bloodthirsty monsters aplenty.

Lula Cullen isn’t sweet and gentle, and she’s got no time for anyone’s guff. Esteemed Bostonian surgeon, she’s a woman with a career in a time when the very idea is laughed at. And nothing, not even her fiancé and his Brahmin family’s traditional values, is going to get in her way. Until…

Her ambitions are derailed like a runaway steam engine when her uncle and only living relative is killed in a freak lightning accident. His dying words—“Find Toxicore Darkheart. He’s the only one who can protect you now”—launch Lula into an ill-conceived and unchaperoned trip to Abilene, Kansas, where hanged men dangle for days for minor crimes and only married women are considered respectable.

Mistaken for a soiled dove the minute she hits the frontier, Lula decides to hell with respectability and starts swinging her uncle’s shillelagh at anyone who asks for it. And the West sure has a lot of folks asking for it. Upon finding Darkheart, whose peculiarities go well beyond his odd name, she unearths long-buried family secrets tied to her bloodline, secrets that ultimately led to her uncle’s murder and the disappearance of her parents when she was an infant. And worse, much worse, she discovers that though she’s the one hunting for the truth—she’s also being hunted.

Caught between a werewolf, a necromancer, and two fae queens of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Lula has to trade her scalpel for a Colt .45 and do it fast. Because they’re not just after her, they’re after her blood.

Don’t miss any of the magic-packed Otherworld Outlaws series

Balefire by Glynn StewartBalefire by Glynn Stewart:

A NEW SHORT DARK FANTASY NOVELLA

A demon born of human evil
A knight forged in holy fire
A town that he must either save…or destroy!

Alsan is a Paladin of the Intercessor, a holy warrior called to the village of Redgarton to investigate a demonic plague. Powerful magic of his fellow priests has sealed the village against the demon’s escape, and still more powerful magic awaits only his command to destroy demon and village alike.

To save the innocent, the knight must enter the village alone and learn what has unleashed the Abyss amongst them. If he can strike down the demon, his holy oath is sufficient to spare the town the balefire.

But the plague is spreading and the order he leaves behind is simple: come dawn, unleash the balefire.

Oscar Tremont: Investigator of the Strange and Inexplicable by Cameron TrostOscar Tremont: Investigator of the Strange and Inexplicable by Cameron Trost:

Introducing Oscar Tremont, Investigator of the Strange and Inexplicable.

Join Oscar Tremont on his first four cases as he tackles mysteries too strange for the police and assures his clients that a rational explanation lies behind what at first appears to be impossible. You will find clues, question suspects, don disguises, break into abandoned houses, solve codes and puzzles, and if you really have your wits about you, crack the case before our hero.

Oscar Tremont, Investigator of the Strange and Inexplicable consists of two novellas and two short stories that display the keen intellect of a private investigator who is bound to make a name for himself in the mystery genre.

  • The Hunt for the Stayne Fortune
  • The Ghosts of Walhalla
  • The Witch at the Window
  • The Secret of the Severed Hand

These four mysteries will challenge and surprise even the most experienced armchair detectives.

Ghost Ship by James David VictorGhost Ship by James David Victor:

Sometimes when things are at their worst, the only way out is to team up with the enemy.

Carl Sebastian has overcome every obstacle and fought every enemy. Now, he’s stuck on an abandoned ship, taken over by xeno-mutations that are fusing with the ship. Their only way off the ship is to work with a group of Palacian soldiers who have also been trapped. Can they escape this ghost ship or will the mutations finally take hold of Carl and his team?

Ghost Ship is the fourth book in the Gene Soldiers series. If you like fast-paced sci-fi adventures with alien mutations, genetically enhanced humans, and an interstellar war nobody was ready for, Gene Soldiers is your next adventure.

Download Ghost Ship and see what happens next in this epic adventure today!

The Four by Katelyn YoungThe Four by Katelyn Young:

Princess Kiera knows that one day she will be auctioned away in an arranged marriage, but she never imagined that her fiancés would be vampires.

When people from the Kingdom of Zayn go missing, Kiera’s father, King Zachariah, arranges for Kiera to marry one of The Four rulers of Vampira. This marriage will end the kidnappings and unite the two kingdoms. As per the rules of the engagement, Princess Kiera is given one month to decide which of The Four she will marry. Kiera wants to be a righteous ruler. She also wants to marry for love. Each of her four suitors has something unique to offer her. Kiera must figure out whose intentions are pure and whose are for show. What Kiera doesn’t realize is that this decision will last for all of eternity.

The Capture by Nicole ZoltackThe Capture by Nicole Zoltak:

I don’t recognize the danger until it’s too late for not only myself but also my sisters.

Our town is besieged by monsters, vile creatures. No one knows who or what they are, but the whispers, the rumors… Everyone stays in at night. I do my best to keep my sisters safe.

But then I’m captured.

I’m bitten.

I flee.

But I’m not safe. I’m turning into one of those monsters… a vampire. But I don’t recognize this until it’s too late.

It may be too late for us all.

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