Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. The meme was originally the brainchild of The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is 2023 Debut Books I’m Excited About.
2023 Debut Books I’m Excited About
NOTE: In making this list, I was really hampered by my decision not to include HarperCollins titles. The HC union is currently on strike, seeking fair wages and a greater commitment to diversity. They have gone over a year without a contract. The union has asked reviewers not to publicize HC titles until a contract agreement is reached. While HC recently agreed to mediation, that’s just a first step. Therefore, I had to leave out some of my most highly anticipated titles.
Also, some books I thought were debut novels turned out not to be; the author has written in another genre, or for a different age level, or under a different name. I took those off my list, too. In their place, I searched for other titles that hadn’t yet crossed my radar, some of which might not have made my list otherwise. It turns out, it’s really hard to find lists of debut novels in my genres! There are lots of lists of crime novels and thrillers, and literary novels, but few lists of debut fantasy and the more traditional or cozy mysteries I like, and I couldn’t find a single list that had a significant number of historical romance debuts. (I’ve kind of lost interest in a lot of contemporary romance for the time being.) In the end, it proved too difficult to come up with 10 debut books, especially with HarperCollins books excluded. So here are the five I did find that look particularly enticing.
Incidentally, some of these books may turn out to be too dark for me. “Dark” seems to be a trend in both mystery and fantasy at present. I’m not normally drawn to dark books, though, so we’ll see how it goes. It can be hard to tell whether “dark” is just publisher hype intended to sell a book, or an accurate description… and there are degrees of darkness, too. Not every gothic is dark in ways that make me uncomfortable, for instance. I’ll just have to try the books and see how it goes!
Listed alphabetically by title:
The Cloisters (Katy Hays). “The Secret History meets Ninth House in this sinister, atmospheric novel . . . the discovery of a mysterious deck of tarot cards lays bare shocking secrets within a close-knit circle of researchers at New York’s famed Met Cloisters museum.” (Publisher blurb) Why I want to read it: The museum setting, historical research, art, mystery, and tarot theme are enough to tempt me to give it a try despite the “dark academia” label some early reviewers have given it. (BTW, at least one reviewer warns that the book is not fantasy, although some on Goodreads have tagged it as such.)
The First Bright Thing (J. R. Dawson) “Fans of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus will eat up this debut novel set in a big top called the Circus of the Fantasticals, where the ringmaster can travel through time, the performers all have supernatural powers, and a magic war is brewing.” (Polygon) Why I want to read it: It sounds darker than The Night Circus, which puts me off a bit, but I loved TNC and I’m hoping this queer fantasy novel has a similar feel.
Maddalena and the Dark (Julia Fine). “For fans of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and Mexican Gothic, a novel set in 18th-century Venice at a prestigious music school, about two girls drawn together by a dangerous wager… Lush and heady, swirling with music and magic, Maddalena and the Dark is a Venetian fairytale about the friendship between two girls and the boundless desire that will set them free, if it doesn’t consume them first.” (publisher’s blurb) Why I want to read it: It’s historical fantasy set in and around the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice when Antonio Vivaldi was teaching there. I love Vivaldi’s music, and I did love Addie LaRue. On the other hand, the book might prove to be too dark for me, given the comparison to Mexican Gothic.
A Most Agreeable Murder (Julia Seales). “When a wealthy bachelor drops dead at a ball, a young lady takes on the decidedly improper role of detective in this action-packed debut comedy of manners and murder.” (publisher blurb) Why I want to read it: A lighthearted Regency-era murder mystery? Described variously as “Austen meets Christie” or “for fans of Bridgerton and Knives Out“? Sign me up. (This is the only book that was on my original list.)
Spice Road (Maiya Ibrahim). “The first book in an epic fantasy series for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Hafsah Faizal and Elizabeth Lim, set in an Arabian-inspired land. Raised to protect her nation from the monsters lurking in the sands, seventeen-year-old Imani must fight to find her brother whose betrayal is now their greatest threat.” (publisher blurb) Why I want to read it: I’d like to read more fantasy based on non-Western history and mythology, and this YA series debut looks interesting… especially because the magic is tied to spices and tea! There’s also a hint of posssible romance.