Fantastic worlds and where to find them: 7 new books on fantasy

The Nature Of Middle-earth by the late J.R.R. Tolkien and Marlon James' Moon Witch, Spider King are among new books about other worlds. PHOTOS: HARPERCOLLINS/RIVERHEAD BOOKS

SINGAPORE - Ahead of Tolkien Reading Day on March 25 to celebrate the life and works of fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien, The Sunday Times looks at seven new books about other worlds.

Fascinating facts about Middle-earth

Much is made of the late J.R.R. Tolkien's knack for inventing languages, but it turns out the fantasy author was also capable of complicated mathematics.

To create the world of Middle-earth that his books The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord Of The Rings (1954 and 1955) are set in, the British author took pains to calculate details like population growth and maturation rates for the fictional race of the Elves.

These are among the facts readers will discover in The Nature Of Middle-earth, the latest published collection of writings by Tolkien, who died in 1973 - and also likely the last.


Marlon James' season of the witch

Amid the coruscating cast of characters in Black Leopard, Red Wolf - the first instalment of Jamaican novelist Marlon James' Dark Star trilogy - one in particular stood out: Sogolon the Moon Witch, a powerful old woman who, depending on which rumour you listen to, is either 177 or 370 years old.

In a stunning flip of perspective, she gets the stage in this sequel that outdoes its already impressive predecessor.

The novel, set in the same dazzling fantasy world drawn from African myth, follows Sogolon as she goes from a nameless, abused girl-child to the feared Moon Witch, who stalks and kills men who do violence to women and children.


Before the sands of time run out

The desert, like space, is a great literary trope. In The Book Of Sand, a new fantasy series by Theo Clare, it is both a physical and metaphysical challenge to the hotchpotch family at the centre of the tale.

The Dormilones are not related by blood, but by a strange twist of fate which has brought together a multicultural assortment of people in a desert called the Cirque.

This ragged band, competing against other "families", is searching for the Sarkpont, a mysterious sacred basin, before the time limit runs out in this desolate landscape with wrecked versions of Earth cities scattered through its reaches.


Explore more fantasy worlds in these four new novels:

1. The Atlas Six

By Olivie Blake
Tor Books/Paperback/384 pages/$32.95/Buy here/Borrow here


Every 10 years, the mysterious Alexandrian Society recruits six of the world's most powerful magic users to join its ranks as caretakers of ancient knowledge.

The latest batch includes a plant whisperer, a powerful telepath and college rivals who do elemental magic. They must survive one year of life at the society - and one another. Five will be initiated, while the sixth will be eliminated.

Blake's self-published novel became a viral TikTok sensation last year, sparking a publisher bidding war for its rights. A sequel, The Atlas Paradox, will be out in October, while a television adaptation from Amazon Studios is under way.

2. Daughter Of The Moon Goddess

By Sue Lynn Tan
HarperVoyager/Paperback/499 pages/ $29.96/Buy here/Borrow here


Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude. Little does she know, however, that her existence is being hidden from the Celestial Emperor, who exiled her mother Chang'e for stealing his elixir of immortality.

When Xingyin's magic flares, she is forced to flee. She makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom and, in disguise, begins to train in archery and magic alongside the emperor's son.

3. The Embroidered Book

By Kate Heartfield
Harper Voyager/Paperback/672 pages/$29.96/Buy here/Borrow here


In 1768, Charlotte, daughter of the Habsburg Empress, arrives in Naples, Italy, to marry a man she has never met. Her sister Antoine is sent to Versailles, France, to do the same.

One thing keeps the princesses connected, however. When they were children, they discovered a book of spells, which they now use to survive the vicious intrigue of their respective royal courts.

This fantastical spin reimagines 18th-century European politics with two of its queens - the ruthless Maria Carolina and the extravagant, ill-fated Marie Antoinette - with magic in their hands.

4. This Woven Kingdom

By Tahereh Mafi
Electric Monkey/Paperback/512 pages/$29.04/Buy here/Borrow here


Mafi draws on the epic Persian poem Shahnameh for her new young-adult trilogy. Her heroine, Alizeh, is the long-lost heir to an ancient kingdom of the Jinn spirit race, but must conceal her powers in the guise of a servant. The crown prince Kamran falls for her, even though her existence threatens the ruin of his grandfather's empire.

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