The new year is right around the corner, so it’s time to start planning out your book pre-orders for 2023. If you’re a fan of the speculative and macabre, you’re going to want this short list of science fiction/fantasy (SFF) & horror debuts to watch for before you make your 2023 book wishlist.
Debut novelists have a lot on their plates. They’ve passed through the grueling gauntlets of querying and submissions to achieve a lifelong dream. By the time their debut book launch rolls around, however, most writers are already knee-deep in their next manuscript — meaning they have to juggle marketing one book with writing another. As new authors, they’re forced to navigate this tumultuous time while being unknown to the readers, teachers, librarians, and booksellers who might buy their books.
Then, as always, there’s the question of money. Authors with small marketing budgets may struggle to gain the attention of readers and the press. With Twitter’s future now woefully uncertain, debut authors who favor that platform — over, say, Instagram or TikTok — may struggle to find a place to promote themselves. Worries over whether or not their debut will earn out loom large.
As a reader, you know that you can support the authors you love by buying their books and talking about them online. But in times of great uncertainty — such as the last six years — preordering books from your favorite booksellers is more helpful than buying them the day they come out. Preorder sales help publishers and booksellers to see early interest in titles — meaning that those books become more visible. That’s all too important for debut authors, who lack the name recognition of their peers.
And so, if you love science fiction, fantasy, or horror, you should consider pre-ordering one of these debuts in 2023.
The Daughters of Izdihar is the first installment of Hadeer Elsbai’s debut duology. The story here centers on Nehal, a highborn woman with magical talent who’s forced into an unhappy marriage to pay off her family’s debts. After she becomes involved with the eponymous group of feminist activists, Nehal meets Giorgina: another magician, born into a completely different life than her own, who just so happens to be the woman Nehal’s husband is in love with.
Three years ago, a night in a haunted house fractured the friendship of three young women forever. One of them never left the House. The remaining two, Alice and Ila, were formerly lovers. Now, they can’t stand each other. But when Alice and Ila realize that they each have radically different memories of what happened inside the House, they reunite with a mission: to find out what really happened and rescue their friend before it’s too late.
A father desperate for money moves his two daughters into a deeply haunted house in this debut novel. As the new caretaker of the Masson House, Eric is tasked with determining whether or not the property — adjacent to an abandoned orphanage — is truly haunted. He’s not the first to attempt to unravel the house’s secrets…but will he be the last?
2023 is shaping up to be the year of haunted house novels, in case you hadn’t noticed. In She Is a Haunting, a Vietnamese American teenager plans a five-week stay in Vietnam, where her estranged father is renovating an old house built by the country’s French occupiers. She’s only there to get her college tuition money and go back to the States, but when terrifying symptoms begin to manifest during her stay — phenomena her father and sister deny — she realizes she may be her family’s only hope in getting out alive.
Elle knows her younger brother will kill her if he finds her. That’s why she’s working an entry-level job with a temp agency; she can’t risk putting all of her magical powers on display for him to find. It’s not all bad — she gets to help a cute half-elf named Luc carry out some truly dangerous operations. When Luc’s next target turns out to be Elle’s younger brother, Elle sees a chance at the kind of happiness she can only dream of. But can she really choose Luc over the rest of her family?
Ai Jiang’s Linghun isn’t your average ghost story. Here, grieving families camp out in a strange town for a chance at reuniting with their dead loved ones. Dead spirits can be brought back to occupy the houses of HOME, but their presence comes at a steep price: the peace of moving on from grief. This horror novella is a masterful treatise on mourning, family, and the ongoing relationships that bind the living and the dead.
Anequs is the first dragon rider on the island of Masquapaug in decades. The Anglish colonizers who now control her people’s land refuse to let her raise the dragon hatchling she has found unless she agrees to undergo training at an Anglish school on the mainland. Anequs’s dragon companion’s life depends on her successful completion of an Anglish education, but she’s determined not to let the school destroy her connection to her heritage.
Maeve’s connections to Old Hollywood haven’t granted her stardom. Instead, she’s stuck playing a princess at the most magical place on earth by day and haunting seedy bars by night. To put it simply, her life isn’t what it was supposed to be — and it’s only getting worse. As Maeve’s circumstances go down the tubes, her contempt for humanity rises. She’s about to become the kind of monster she’s only read about…and she’s in for a wild ride.
Humanity relies on the architects to survive. People with the ability to psychically shape the plants of the jungle below, architects keep plant-built cities afloat in the sky. Ahilya is not an architect, but her husband Iravan is. He’s revered for his work protecting the city of Nakshar, and his position provides Ahilya with some much-needed cover. Iravan’s wife is secretly a radical who thinks humanity should return to the jungle below, and she’s about to get her chance to make her unpopular philosophy a reality.
A cottagecore retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth? Yes, please! Neither Lila nor Damien is the child their parents wanted. She’s too temperamental for her disapproving parents; he’s already made it clear that he’ll put his own feelings ahead of his duty. Damien knows that Lila is the next girl who must be sacrificed to keep Luna Island safe, but could she be the one to stop the grisly tradition in which he’s forced to take part?
The generation ship Phoenix is halfway between the dying Earth and humanity’s new home when a massive explosion jeopardizes the fate of the mission. Now, three of the crew are dead, and Asuka — an American crewmember chosen for the mission because of her Japanese ancestry — is the primary suspect. She needs to clear her name by finding the real bomber, but her crewmates aren’t exactly inclined to help.
Steeped in Venezuelan folklore, The Sun and the Void centers on Reina, a servant indebted to the sorceress of Aguila Manor — a woman she barely knows, who happens to be her own grandmother. She begins working as a servant in the grand old house, where she finds herself falling for the Don’s daughter, Celeste. Reina is determined to stay close to these two women — the one who saved her life and the one she’s growing to love — but her dealings with an ancient god may get in the way.
Interested in finding more SFF & horror debuts to watch for? Make sure you haven’t slept on the best debuts of 2022, and keep these 2023 YA titles on your radar!