It's hard to keep up with the hundreds of new speculative fiction books being released each month, so there's a decent chance that you may have missed the release of a sequel in a series you've already started. Here's another roundup of some worthwhile sequels that recently hit the bookstore shelves. These books easily work as standalone stories, but if you're not reading these series, then consider this a nudge to check them out.

The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst

SERIES: The Queens of Renthia epic fantasy series, which began with The Queen of Blood, is marked by political intrigue and violent magic, and is set in a world filled with malevolent nature spirits who want to kill all humans. Only certain women have the power to control them and the Queen is the one woman who serves as humanity's sole protector. But there are also Queens-in-training, like Daleina, a young idealistic student who simply wants the world to be a better place.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In The Reluctant Queen, Daleina has assumed the throne and done her part protecting the land from the evil spirits, but she is also harboring a secret: she is dying. In order for the people to continue being protected, she must find an heir capable of keeping the spirits at bay. Naelin is one such person; she has the ability to control spirits, but she has no desire to rule. Her life is focused on her family. Naelin even tries to hide her magical ability, fearing it will bring death and separate her from those she loves. Will the encroaching threat to humanity be enough to overcome Naelin's sense of duty as Daleina's power wanes?

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Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

SERIES: The Court of Fives series, which began with Court of Fives and Poisoned Blade, depicts the a split-class society of Haves and Have-Nots that holds a multi-level athletic competition called the game of Fives. The games offer players a chance for glory amongst the kingdom's best competitors. Jessamy, a privileged Patron girl, challenges society's norms and risks all that she has – including her family -- when she joins the Fives and rises through the ranks.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In Buried Heart, the final book in the series, Jes is on the due to her bold decisions, fleeing from a murderous King while trying to reinstate her beloved Kalliarkos to his rightful place on the throne. Kalliarkos will restore the class imbalance between the high Patrons and lowly Commoners. Jes must decide if she is ready to join and perhaps even lead the Commoner rebellion against their Patron overlords.

Escape Velocity by Jason M. Hough

SERIES: Jason M. Hough's The Dire Earth Cycle consists of a standalone trilogy (comprised of The Darwin Elevator, The Exodus Towers and The Plague Forge) and a standalone duology (comprised of Injection Burn and Escape Velocity). It takes place in the 23rd century, when a plague has rendered Earth a post-apocalyptic mess and aliens have established space elevators on planet Earth, opening up space for farming and further exploration.  The lead character is Skyler Luiken. The series is noted for being a thrilling, non-stop action-adventure.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In Injection Burn, Skyler Luiken and his band or scavengers and scientists embarked on a mission to a distant planet where a race of benevolent aliens are being held captive. He finds another human ship there, led by a tough captain named Gloria Tsandi. In Escape Velocity, the two crews, initially at odds with each other, team up against the common foe. Their new mission is to destroy the military compounds of their technologically advanced alien enemy and find a way back to Earth.

The God Peak by Patrick Hemstreet

SERIES: In The God Wave Trilogy, which began with The God Wave, Patrick Hemstreet introduced the concept of scientifically enhanced humans called Alphas. The man behind the science, neuroscientist Chuck Brenton, gets more than he bargained for when people who crave power seek to control what they see as an army of superhumans.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In The God Peak, a trio of renegade Alphas have used their powers to take control the world, claiming to want peace but willing to kill thousands to achieve their goal.  They've essentially becoming seemingly unstoppable superhuman terrorists. Dr. Brenton, armed with his wits as the man behind their creation, attempts to stop them, even if there are those who see the Alphas as the inevitable next stage of human evolution.

The Dinosaur Princess by Victor Milán

SERIES: The Dinosaur Lords Series, which began with The Dinosaur Lords and The Dinosaur Knights, is set on a world named Paradise. Paradise is populated by all manner of dinosaurs and indeed they are the predominant species, outnumbering even mankind. On Paradise, which resembles a 14th century European society, different factions of humanity wage war while on the backs of dinosaurs. Like you do. One such knight is Karyl Bogomirskiy, who was betrayed by those close to him but resurrected by the magical Fae to become their unwitting hero against alien gods.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In The Dinosaur Princess, the alien gods who created the world return to complete their agenda: (1) Defeat their Fae enemies and get rid of them once and for all, and (2) Pass judgment on their human experiment of a world. Meanwhile Karyl, who is really not a fan of war and would prefer that the people live in peace, just wants to be left alone. The last thing he considers himself to be is humanity's savior. Sorry, Karyl…for better or worse, you may just be humankind's last hope.

Ferocious by Paula Stokes

Ferocious

SERIES: In this high-action young adult thriller series, which began with Vicarious, a pair of Korean orphans (Winter Kim and her sister, Rose) are rescued by a businessman who runs a virtual reality company called Vicarious Sensory Experiences.  VSE provides for its clients the thrills of extreme experiences. Winter and Rose work as high-tech stuntwomen, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities which are recorded for customers who relive those experiences for a high price.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: In Ferocious, Winter has a score to settle and learns that she has a brother she never knew about. Vengeance and reuniting with her long-lost brother are the only things that matter. Her mission takes her back to Korea, where she infiltrates the corporation run by the man who is her unlucky but well deserving target.

John DeNardo is the founding editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning science fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal