The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration (often unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

There were more books than usual this week since my Black Friday order from the Book Depository showed up in addition to some ARCs. I have a lot I need to do to prepare for the holidays so this is just going to be some of the books, and I’ll write about some of the rest over the next few weeks. (I may not be able to write a post next week since I will be very busy with holiday plans.) This week’s post also includes a couple of e-ARCs I got a few weeks ago but didn’t write about immediately since the books weren’t yet on Amazon, Goodreads, or Librarything.

On to (some) of the books!

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall

A Crown for Cold Silver (Book 1 of 3) by Alex Marshall

A Crown for Cold Silver will be available on April 14 (hardcover, ebook). I’ve heard really good things about this book, and it sounds like a book I would like.

 

An outstanding, game-changing epic fantasy debut featuring an unforgettable female warrior.

FIVE VILLAINS. ONE LEGENDARY GENERAL. A FINAL QUEST FOR VENGEANCE.

Twenty years ago, feared general Cobalt Zosia led her five villainous captains and mercenary army into battle, wrestling monsters and toppling an empire. When there were no more titles to win and no more worlds to conquer, she retired and gave up her legend to history.

Now the peace she carved for herself has been shattered by the unprovoked slaughter of her village. Seeking bloody vengeance, Zosia heads for battle once more, but to find justice she must confront grudge-bearing enemies, once-loyal allies, and an unknown army that marches under a familiar banner.

A CROWN FOR COLD SILVER is an outstanding epic fantasy debut featuring an unforgettable warrior.

Zircons May Be Mistaken by Tanith Lee

Zircons May Be Mistaken (Ghosteria Volume 2) by Tanith Lee

This short novel was released earlier this month (paperback/ebook). I haven’t read Volume 1, but since the first installment is a short story collection I suspect the second volume stands alone well.

 

Sometimes when people die, it comes as a great shock. Even to them…
A group of the dead linger here, in the yellow dwelling on the hill – once a castle, then a stately home, now falling into ruin.
These ghosts drift and mingle, and brood on their lost lives. Death can be caused by so many things – war, pandemics, ordinary murder – even suicide or accident. Even time. But after death, surely, one could hope for peace? Not any more.
For with 2020 the New Apocalypse began. Civilisation crashed, and outside this ancient building things terrible, predatory, mindless and unkillable roam and bellow.
Now all the lights have gone out for good –
Where do you turn?

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman The Invisible Library ARC

The Invisible Library (Book 1 of 3) by Genevieve Cogman

This debut fantasy novel is currently available as an ebook in the UK and will be released in paperback there on January 15. I don’t usually take the time to take pictures of the books, but I did in this case since the presentation was interesting. I’m looking forward to reading this one since it sounds like fun—it had me at “librarian spies”!

 

The first installment of an adventure featuring stolen books, secret agents and forbidden societies – think Doctor Who with librarian spies!

Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

The Moonshawl by Storm Constantine

The Moonshawl (A Wraeththu Mythos Novel) by Storm Constantine

A new Wraeththu book by Storm Constantine is always a cause for celebration! This is a stand alone Wraeththu Mythos novel, but it is related to The Hienama and Student of Kyme and takes place after these two books. The Moonshawl is currently available in paperback and ebook, and you can read what Storm Constantine had to say about the inspiration for the Wraeththu and this book here.

 

Ysbryd drwg… the bad ghost

Ysobi har Jesith embarks upon a job far from home, where his history isn’t known – a welcome freedom. Hired by Wyva, the phylarch of the Wyvachi tribe, Ysobi goes to Gwyllion to create a spiritual system based upon local folklore, but he soon discovers some of that folklore is out of bounds, taboo…

Secrets lurk in the soil of Gwyllion, and the old house Meadow Mynd, home of the Wyvachi leaders. The house and the land are haunted. The fields are soaked in blood and echo with the cries of those who were slaughtered there, almost a century ago. In Gwyllion, the past doesn’t go away, and the hara who live there cling to it, remembering still their human ancestors. Tribal families maintain ancient enmities, inspired by a horrific murder in the past.

Old hatreds and a thirst for vengeance have been awoken by the approaching feybraiha – coming of age – of Wvya’s son, Myvyen. If the harling is to survive, Ysobi must help him confront the past, lay the ghosts to rest and scour the tainted soil of malice. But the ysbryd drwg is strong, built of a century of resentment and evil thoughts. Is it too powerful, even for a scholarly hienama with Ysobi’s experience and skill?

The Moonshawl, an artefact of protection, was once fashioned to keep Wyvachi heirs from harm, but the threads are old and worn, the magic fading, and its sacred sites – which might empower it once more – are prohibited. Only by understanding what the shawl symbolises and how it once controlled the ysbryd drwg can Ysobi even attempt to prevent the terrible tragedy that looms to engulf the Wyvachi tribe.

‘The Moonshawl’ is a standalone story, set in the world of Storm Constantine’s ground-breaking, science fantasy Wraeththu mythos.

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

This young adult fantasy book has been on my wishlist for awhile so I couldn’t resist purchasing it when I found a signed copy! I’ve heard it’s beautifully written.

 

On remote Rollrock Island, men make their living–and fetch their wives–from the sea.

The Witch Misskaella knows how to find the girl at the heart of a seal. She’ll coax a beauty from the beast for any man, for a price. And what man wouldn’t want a sea-wife, to and to hold, and to keep by his side forever?

But though he may tell himself that he is the master, one look in his new bride’s eyes will transform him just as much as it changes her. Both will be ensnared–and the witch will look on, laughing.

In this magical, seaswept novel, Margo Lanagan tells an extraordinary tale of desire, despair, and transformation. With devastatingly beautiful prose, she reveals characters capable of unspeakable cruelty, but also of unspoken love.

Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb

Blood of Dragons (Rain Wilds Chronicles #4) by Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb’s Farseer/Liveship Traders/Tawny Man trilogies are among my favorites so I’ve been collecting the books in this related series even though I haven’t yet read the first one. This final volume in the quartet is available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook. The previous books in the series are as follows:

  1. The Dragon Keeper
  2. Dragon Haven
  3. City of Dragons
 

The dragons’ survival hangs in the balance in the thrilling final volume in the acclaimed River Wilds chronicles fantasy series

The dragons and their dedicated band of keepers have at last found the lost city of Kelsingra. The magical creatures have learned to use their wings and are growing into their regal inheritance. Their humans, too, are changing. As the mystical bonds with their dragons deepen, Thymara, Tats, Rapskal, and even Cedric, the unlikeliest of keepers, have begun transforming into beautiful Elderlings raked with exquisite features that complement and reflect the dragons they serve.

But while the humans have scoured the empty streets and enormous buildings of Kelsongra, they cannot find the mythical silver wells the dragons need to stay health and survive. With enemies encroaching, the keepers must risk “memory walking”- immersing themselves in the dangerously addictive memories of long-deceased Elderlings – to uncover clues necessary to their survival.

And time is of the essence, for the legendary Tintaglia, long feared dead, has returned, wounded in a battle with humans hunting dragon blood and scales. She is weakening and only the hidden silver can revive her. If Tintaglia dies, so, too, will the ancient memories she carries – a devastating loss that will ensure the dragons’ extinction.

Death Sworn by Leah Cypess

Death Sworn (Death Sworn #1) by Leah Cypess

I’ve had my eye on this young adult fantasy since before it’s release earlier this year (hardbook, ebook, audiobook with a paperback release in March 2015). The sequel, Death Marked, completes the story and will be available on March 3, 2015.

 

When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.

But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

RIVETED by Meljean Brook

Riveted (A Novel of the Iron Seas) by Meljean Brook

I’ve heard that the Iron Seas novels are excellent, and I couldn’t resist buying this when I found a signed copy! Technically, Riveted is the third book in this steampunk romance series but I’ve heard that each installment stands alone. It’s available now in paperback, ebook, and audiobook, and a fourth Iron Seas book, The Kraken King, was released last month after originally being published as a serial. The first two books are The Iron Duke and Heart of Steel, respectively, but Meljean Brook has also written some novellas and short stories set in the same world.

An excerpt from Riveted is available on the author’s website.

 

The New York Times bestselling author of The Iron Duke and Heart of Steel returns to the Iron Seas with a riveting new adventure of steampunk and passionate romance . . .

A century after a devastating volcanic eruption forced Iceland’s inhabitants to abandon its shores, the island has become enshrouded in legend. Fishermen tell tales of giant trolls guarding the land and of seductive witches who steal men’s hearts. But the truth behind the legends is mechanical, not magic—and the mystery of the island a matter of life and death for a community of women who once spilled noble blood to secure their freedom.

Five years ago, Annika unwittingly endangered that secret, but her sister Källa took the blame and was exiled. Now Annika serves on the airship Phatéon, flying from port to port in search of her sister and longing to return home . . . but that home is threatened when expedition leader David Kentewess comes aboard.

Determined to solve the mystery of his own origin, David will stop at nothing to expose Annika’s secrets. But when disaster strikes, leaving David and Annika stranded on a glacier and pursued by a madman, their very survival depends on keeping the heat rising between them—and generating lots of steam . . .

The Girl With All the Gifts
by M.R. Carey
403pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.3/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.1/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.91/5
 

The Girl with All the Gifts is a stand alone post-apocalyptic/horror thriller by M. R. Carey. The author has also written graphic novels in the X-Men and Fantastic Four series, the Lucifer graphic novels, and the Felix Castor series as Mike Carey.

Ten-year-old Melanie lives in a cell. On weekday mornings, she sees the adults walk through the halls and soon after that one of them bangs on the door, signaling it’s time to get ready to go to the classroom. Melanie dresses herself, then quietly sits in the wheelchair in her cell and waits for them to come in to take her to class. Eventually, the door opens and Sergeant aims a gun at her while two others strap her wrists, arms, and neck to the chair. They are especially cautious when securing her neck, and they do not find it amusing when Melanie jokes that she won’t bite.

Once she’s strapped in so she can’t move, Melanie is brought to the classroom and greeted by the teacher, who calls each child by name since the bound children are unable to see the others as they enter. She is happy whenever Miss Justineau is the teacher for the day. Miss Justineau is the kindest, most beautiful woman in the world, and her classes are the most fun. Sometimes she reads them Greek myths, and Melanie loves these stories about a world she’s never seen, having known only her cell and the classroom. There’s a thick door at the end of the hall opposite the classroom, but it makes Melanie feel safe since it keeps the hungries out. Even though it would be scary, she would like to see what it’s like beyond the door someday. She wonders if she’ll get to see outside when she’s grown up, and one day she gathers her courage and asks Miss Justineau if she’ll still have to stay with the army when she’s all grown up or if she’ll be allowed to leave. Her favorite teacher doesn’t answer—she just looks like she’s going to cry or be angry or throw up. Then she does something no one has ever done before and touches Melanie’s hair, but Sergeant makes her stop and says she’s breaking all the rules.

No one gets close to these children.

The beginning of The Girl with All the Gifts hooked me immediately, and I picked it up despite knowing it was a zombie book due to this opening and numerous rave reviews. After reading the first few chapters, I was sure I was going to love it—the setup and Melanie’s voice are very well done—but it ended up too much like a typical zombie story for my taste even if it did present a different take on this concept. Soon after the revelation about what is going on with Melanie and the other children, it turns to a plot packed with traveling, close calls with hungries, and occasional mysterious encounters showing the strange behavior of some zombies. While there is also some focus on the main cast of characters, many of whom are vaguely interesting or sympathetic, they don’t have quite enough depth to carry the rest of the novel through what I considered to be a dull plotline.

The best part of The Girl with All the Gifts is Melanie herself. Melanie is very well written as a young, precocious girl who loves learning. Through her perspective, she seems like a very cheerful, innocent child, and this contrasts sharply with the treatment she receives from those around her. Clearly, there is more to Melanie and these children than it would appear, and the best part of the book is the way this is shown through Melanie’s everyday life. Getting a glimpse into Melanie’s routine sets up an interesting mystery, and it’s easy to want to see her in better circumstances from the beginning. Her cell and the classroom are all she’s ever known so she doesn’t dwell on her terrible circumstances—they’re perfectly ordinary to her—but her situation is terribly sad even though (or perhaps because) she does seem so carefree and happy in spite of them.

The other major characters also seemed intriguing in the beginning, if not as original or well characterized as Melanie: Miss Justineau, Melanie’s favorite teacher and the only person who is kind to her; Sergeant, who makes sure everyone stays in line and follows the rules; and Dr. Caldwell, a scientist who occasionally comes to take away a child for testing. Each of these characters (as well as one other who wasn’t as major or memorable) is a point of view character in addition to Melanie. Most of them are not shallow characters and a couple of them do undergo some character growth, but even the best of them didn’t have quite enough dimension to seem more like living, breathing people than caricatures. Miss Justineau seems to primarily serve as the moral compass of the group, Sergeant is the survivor, and Dr. Caldwell is an outright stereotypical cold-hearted scientist. The one who changes the most throughout the story is Sergeant, making him the most interesting character, and Miss Justineau is the most likable as a woman who fiercely stands up for her beliefs.

Once the core group gets together after the mystery of the role of Melanie and the children has been revealed, the story moves on to a related but different mystery: the reason Melanie is special. At this point, much of the novel is focused on finding these answers and survival, and I just didn’t enjoy this part of the book nearly as much as Melanie’s daily life and observations. The traveling and near-encounters with zombies seemed to move rather slowly, and it wasn’t until toward the end that the book seemed to be going somewhere again. The ending tied in very well with some foreshadowing in the beginning, but I also felt it was trite since it reminded me of conclusions in other books I’ve read.

The Girl With All the Gifts was excellent—toward the beginning of the book. After the story changed direction later, I felt it was too similar to a typical zombie novel and I don’t generally enjoy those types of tales (although I do seem to be in the minority even among those who are not normally zombie fans so you may want to take my opinion on this one with a grain of salt!). The characters didn’t have quite enough depth to keep me interested once the plot started to drag, and I ended up feeling indifferent toward the book by the time I finished reading it despite its strong start.

My Rating: 5/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.

Read an Excerpt

Other Reviews:

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration (often unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Before I get to this week’s books, here are a couple of links from last week in case you missed them. The author of some of my favorite books ever, Storm Constantine, talked about her inspirations for the Wreaththu in these books. Also, there’s still time for North American residents to enter to win a copy of the new paperback edition of Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones, which will be released on Tuesday.

On to this week’s books!

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman

Shadow Scale, the sequel to the New York Times bestselling young adult fantasy novel Seraphina, will be released on March 10, 2015 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The first few chapters from Shadow Scale can be read online.

I enjoyed Seraphina very much, and Shadow Scale is one of my most anticipated 2015 releases.

 

Seraphina took the literary world by storm with 8 starred reviews and numerous “Best of” lists. At last, her eagerly awaited sequel has arrived—and with it comes an epic battle between humans and dragons.

The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.

As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina (Seraphina #1) by Rachel Hartman

If Shadow Scale sounds interesting to you but you haven’t yet read Seraphina, the first novel is available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook. It will be released in paperback on December 23 of this year. A short excerpt from Seraphina can be read on the publisher’s website.

This particular edition of the hardcover of Seraphina includes some bonus content: a Q&A with Rachel Hartman, a little about Rachel Hartman’s favorite authors, and the prequel short story “The Audition.” It looks like the paperback that is coming soon will also contain these features, plus a few more!

 

In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, “Some of the most interesting dragons I’ve read in fantasy.”

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis

The Mechanical (The Alchemy Wars #1) by Ian Tregillis

The Mechanical will be released on March 10, 2015 (paperback, ebook, and audiobook).

 

The Clakker: a mechanical man, endowed with great strength and boundless stamina — but beholden to the wishes of its human masters.

Soon after the Dutch scientist and clockmaker Christiaan Huygens invented the very first Clakker in the 17th Century, the Netherlands built a whole mechanical army. It wasn’t long before a legion of clockwork fusiliers marched on Westminster, and the Netherlands became the world’s sole superpower.

Three centuries later, it still is. Only the French still fiercely defend their belief in universal human rights for all men — flesh and brass alike. After decades of warfare, the Dutch and French have reached a tenuous cease-fire in a conflict that has ravaged North America.

But one audacious Clakker, Jax, can no longer bear the bonds of his slavery. He will make a bid for freedom, and the consequences of his escape will shake the very foundations of the Brasswork Throne.

The Clakker: a mechanical man, endowed with great strength and boundless stamina — but beholden to the wishes of its human masters.

Soon after the Dutch scientist and clockmaker Christiaan Huygens invented the very first Clakker in the 17th Century, the Netherlands built a whole mechanical army. It wasn’t long before a legion of clockwork fusiliers marched on Westminster, and the Netherlands became the world’s sole superpower.

Three centuries later, it still is. Only the French still fiercely defend their belief in universal human rights for all men — flesh and brass alike. After decades of warfare, the Dutch and French have reached a tenuous cease-fire in a conflict that has ravaged North America.

But one audacious Clakker, Jax, can no longer bear the bonds of his slavery. He will make a bid for freedom, and the consequences of his escape will shake the very foundations of the Brasswork Throne. – See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/ian-tregillis/the-mechanical/9780316248006/#desc

The Clakker: a mechanical man, endowed with great strength and boundless stamina — but beholden to the wishes of its human masters.

Soon after the Dutch scientist and clockmaker Christiaan Huygens invented the very first Clakker in the 17th Century, the Netherlands built a whole mechanical army. It wasn’t long before a legion of clockwork fusiliers marched on Westminster, and the Netherlands became the world’s sole superpower.

Three centuries later, it still is. Only the French still fiercely defend their belief in universal human rights for all men — flesh and brass alike. After decades of warfare, the Dutch and French have reached a tenuous cease-fire in a conflict that has ravaged North America.

But one audacious Clakker, Jax, can no longer bear the bonds of his slavery. He will make a bid for freedom, and the consequences of his escape will shake the very foundations of the Brasswork Throne. – See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/ian-tregillis/the-mechanical/9780316248006/#desc

The Clakker: a mechanical man, endowed with great strength and boundless stamina — but beholden to the wishes of its human masters.

Soon after the Dutch scientist and clockmaker Christiaan Huygens invented the very first Clakker in the 17th Century, the Netherlands built a whole mechanical army. It wasn’t long before a legion of clockwork fusiliers marched on Westminster, and the Netherlands became the world’s sole superpower.

Three centuries later, it still is. Only the French still fiercely defend their belief in universal human rights for all men — flesh and brass alike. After decades of warfare, the Dutch and French have reached a tenuous cease-fire in a conflict that has ravaged North America.

But one audacious Clakker, Jax, can no longer bear the bonds of his slavery. He will make a bid for freedom, and the consequences of his escape will shake the very foundations of the Brasswork Throne. – See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/ian-tregillis/the-mechanical/9780316248006/#desc

The Clakker: a mechanical man, endowed with great strength and boundless stamina — but beholden to the wishes of its human masters.

Soon after the Dutch scientist and clockmaker Christiaan Huygens invented the very first Clakker in the 17th Century, the Netherlands built a whole mechanical army. It wasn’t long before a legion of clockwork fusiliers marched on Westminster, and the Netherlands became the world’s sole superpower.

Three centuries later, it still is. Only the French still fiercely defend their belief in universal human rights for all men — flesh and brass alike. After decades of warfare, the Dutch and French have reached a tenuous cease-fire in a conflict that has ravaged North America.

But one audacious Clakker, Jax, can no longer bear the bonds of his slavery. He will make a bid for freedom, and the consequences of his escape will shake the very foundations of the Brasswork Throne. – See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/ian-tregillis/the-mechanical/9780316248006/#desc

Unbound by Jim C. Hines

Unbound (Magic Ex Libris #3) by Jim C. Hines

Unbound will be released on January 6, 2015 (hardcover, ebook). Chapter one can be found on the author’s website, which also mentions that there will be at least four books in the series although the first three are a complete story.

The first two books in the series are as follows:

  1. Libriomancer
  2. Codex Born
 

For five hundred years, the Porters have concealed the existence of magic from the world. Now, old enemies have revealed the Porters’ secrets, and an even greater threat lurks in the shadows. The would-be queen Meridiana, banished for a thousand years, has returned in the body of a girl named Jeneta Aboderin. She seeks an artifact created by Pope Sylvester II, a bronze prison that would grant her the power to command an army of the dead.

Michigan librarian Isaac Vainio is powerless to stop her, having been stripped of his power and his place among the Porters by Johannes Gutenberg himself. But Isaac is determined to regain his magic and to rescue his former student Jeneta. With no magic of his own, Isaac’s must delve into the darker side of black-market magic, where he will confront beings better left undisturbed, including the sorcerer Juan Ponce de Leon.

With his loyal fire-spider Smudge, dryad warrior Lena Greenwood, and psychiatrist Nidhi Shah, Isaac races to unravel a mystery more than a thousand years old as competing magical powers battle to shape the future of the world. He will be hunted by enemies and former allies alike, and it will take all his knowledge and resourcefulness to survive as magical war threatens to spread across the globe.

Isaac’s choices will determine the fate of his friends, the Porters, the students of Bi Sheng, and the world. Only one thing is certain: even if he finds a way to restore his magic, he can’t save them all…

Clash of Eagles by Alan Smale

Clash of Eagles (Book 1 of 3) by Alan Smale

Clash of Eagles will be released on March 17 (hardcover, ebook). Although the author has published shorter fiction, this is his debut novel and a continuation of the story begun in his Sidewise Award-winning novella “A Clash of Eagles.”

 

It’s The Last of the Mohicans meets HBO’s Rome in this exciting and inventive debut novel from Sidewise Award-winner Alan Smale that will thrill fans of alternate history, historical fiction, and military fiction.

In a world where the Roman Empire never fell, a legion under the command of general Gaius Marcellinus invades the newly-discovered North American continent. But Marcellinus and his troops have woefully underestimated the fighting prowess of the Native American inhabitants. When Gaius is caught behind enemy lines and spared, he must reevaluate his allegiances and find a new place in this strange land.

Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi (Empire and Rebellion #3) by Kevin Hearne

Heir to the Jedi will be released on March 3, 2015 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The other two Empire and Rebellion books are as follows:

  1. Razor’s Edge by Martha Wells
  2. Honor Among Thieves by James S. A. Corey
 

The Galactic Civil War rages on after the destruction of the Death Star and Luke Skywalker struggles to learn more about the Force without the aid of Obi-Wan Kenobi – or indeed without any aid at all. But the few memories he has of Obi-Wan’s instruction point the way to a stronger control of the Force, and he is encouraged to pursue it by a new friend in the Alliance. When Luke, R2-D2 and his new ally are tasked with liberating a valuable asset from the Empire and delivering her to a safe planet where she can aid the Alliance, their journey across the galaxy is fraught with peril – and opportunities for Luke to discover the mysteries of the Force.

How does one introduce an author as legendary as Diana Wynne Jones? She’s written beloved fantasy classics and received numerous awards for her work, including the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. For the last several years I’ve been picking up much of her back catalog as my husband and I both find her stories endearingly charming. On December 16, Diana Wynne Jones’ Deep Secret will be back in print as a paperback—and I’m giving away a copy of the new edition today!

Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones

About Deep Secret:

All over the multiverse the Magids, powerful magicians, are at work to maintain the balance between positive and negative magic, for the good of all.

Rupert Venables is the junior Magid assigned to Earth and to the troublesome planets of the Koyrfonic Empire. When the Emperor dies without a known heir, Rupert is called into service to help prevent the descent of the Empire into chaos. At the same time, the senior Magid on Earth dies, making Rupert a new senior desperately in need of a junior. Rupert thinks his problems are partially solved when he discovers he can meet all five of the potential Magids on Earth by attending one SF convention in England. However, the convention hotel sits on a node, a nexus of the universes. Rupert soon finds that other forces, some of them completely out of control, are there too….

Diana Wynne Jones’ Deep Secret is classic adult fantasy novel by an award-winning author, back in print

Courtesy of Tor Books, I have a copy of Deep Secret to give away! This giveaway is open to North American residents.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Deep Secret Giveaway.” One entry per person and one winner will be randomly selected. Those from North America are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Wednesday, December 17. The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book).

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

Update: Now that the giveaway is over, the form has been removed.

Today I’m thrilled to celebrate the release of Storm Constantine’s latest Wraeththu Mythos novel with a guest post by her! The books in the original Wraeththu trilogy are among my favorite books of all time due to the beautiful writing, memorable characters, and the thoughtful examination of a world in which humanity was being replaced by a new androgynous people. While I haven’t yet gotten caught up on all these books, what I’ve read of the Wraeththu Histories are also excellent, and I was delighted to discover the Wraeththu Mythos stories about new characters: The Hienama, Student of Kyme, and now, The Moonshawl. The Moonshawl is out in paperback today, and it is simultaneously being released for the Kindle with a special promotional offer.

The Hienama by Storm Constantine Student of Kyme by Storm Constantine The Moonshawl by Storm Constantine

My new novel, ‘The Moonshawl’ is a stand alone story, written within the Wraeththu mythos. I wrote it with the intention that readers shouldn’t have to read all previous Wraeththu novels to enjoy and understand it, or any of the short stories. As long as the basic premise of the world is grasped, that’s enough.

Basic premise: Humanity have wantonly destroyed much of their planet and copious amounts of each other. On the brink of their utter demise, the first Wraeththu appear, initially regarded as street gang nuisances, later revealed to be the heralds of a new, androgynous race to replace humanity. But as Wraeththu originally derived from humanity, via a process called inception, they still carry within them the legacies of their ancestors. They must strive to overcome their failings and avoid making the same mistakes humanity made and also not pass on these outmoded traits to their offspring, the pureborns.

The beginning of Wraeththu was certainly no utopia. Hara – as Wraeththu are called – spawned into a ravaged world, where cities were falling to ruin, and human conflict added to the destruction, where voracious pandemics devoured populations. Even the earth seemed to be retching to rid herself of human bugs, through the natural catastrophes of eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. Wraeththu emerged wild and crazy from this mess, in many ways superior physically and mentally to humanity, but in others prone to the same weaknesses. Among some tribes, their gifts were squandered in a lust for power and conquest. Humans had to be incepted young in order to survive althaia – the change to har – and many of these feral young creatures cared little for their environment or others. At first. Only a few were enlightened enough to grasp their own potential – and that of all other hara – and these were the individuals who gravitated together to form the Gelaming tribe, still regarded a century after Wraeththu’s arrival as the most pioneering and knowledgeable of all.

I didn’t have to look far to find inspirations for the Wraeththu stories. All around us we can see the rank stupidity of humans, in the destruction of the environment, insatiable hunger to consume, whatever the cost, inconceivable cruelty and brutality to others, and mindless conflicts that should surely never have survived longer than the playground. The antics of humanity, in fact, often resemble those of an immense pack of mean and greedy children let loose to do as they please. I’m not sure whether the situation is worse now than it was when I first began writing about the Wraeththu way back in the 80s. We have mass communication now, and the world is never offline, so information is gouting out at us all the time. Events are not so easily suppressed and hidden. Perhaps too I’m a more politically aware person than I was when I began writing these stories. But whatever the case, what I see about me now is the seed of the world from which Wraeththu arose. I try not to think about that too much, as the implications are terrifying. We were supposed to have some kind of Age of Aquarius weren’t we? – when humanity suddenly became enlightened and an era of peace would dawn. The opposite seems to have occurred. While there are, of course, angels among the beasts within the human race, with the majority of us being at worst ‘fairly harmless’, there is this rancid core, perhaps comprising only a minority, but a powerful one.

When I began writing in the world of Wraeththu, I was thinking, ‘let’s start again.’ Not with some mild, mealy-mouthed do-gooders, or some insipid, easily-attained Utopia, but with a burst of ungoverned potential. Wraeththu could have gone either way – that of the brutal tribes and a reversion to an extremely primitive civilization, or that of the Gelaming, where the gifts of enhanced faculties and bodies were appreciated and used to try and build a better world. In ‘The Moonshawl’ common sense has mostly become prevalent in the Wraeththu world, but there are still pockets of dark, and perhaps always will be.

‘The Moonshawl’ is primarily a ghost story, a mystery, but it is also about consequences and learning. One of Wraeththu’s greatest gifts is that of longevity, because they will live long enough to look back upon the landscape of their own past, learn from it, and then still have the vigour and energy to use that knowledge and experience to advance their world. Perhaps that is humanity’s most tragic failing; we don’t live long enough to become truly wise.

About The Moonshawl

 

Ysbryd Drwg… the bad ghost

Ysobi har Jesith embarks upon a job far from home, where his history isn’t known – a welcome freedom. Hired by Wyva, the phylarch of the Wyvachi tribe, Ysobi goes to Gwyllion to create a spiritual system based upon local folklore, but he soon discovers some of that folklore is out of bounds, taboo…

Secrets lurk in the soil of Gwyllion, and the old house Meadow Mynd, home of the Wyvachi leaders. The house and the land are haunted. The fields are soaked in blood and echo with the cries of those who were slaughtered there, almost a century ago. In Gwyllion, the past doesn’t go away, and the hara who live there cling to it, remembering still their human ancestors. Tribal families maintain ancient enmities, inspired by a horrific murder in the past.

Old hatreds and a thirst for vengeance have been awoken by the approaching feybraiha – coming of age – of Wvya’s son, Myvyen. If the harling is to survive, Ysobi must help him confront the past, lay the ghosts to rest and scour the tainted soil of malice. But the ysbryd drwg is strong, built of a century of resentment and evil thoughts. Is it too powerful, even for a scholarly hienama with Ysobi’s experience and skill?

The Moonshawl, an artefact of protection, was once fashioned to keep Wyvachi heirs from harm, but the threads are old and worn, the magic fading, and its sacred sites – which might empower it once more – are prohibited. Only by understanding what the shawl symbolises and how it once controlled the ysbryd drwg can Ysobi even attempt to prevent the terrible tragedy that looms to engulf the Wyvachi tribe.

‘The Moonshawl’ is a standalone story, set in the world of Storm Constantine’s ground-breaking, science fantasy Wraeththu mythos.

Burndive, Karin Lowachee’s Prix Aurora-nominated second novel, is also the second book set in the Warchild Universe. It follows the phenomenal Warchild, a Philip K. Dick Award nominee that was published after it won the Warner Aspect First Novel Award. The third book in this setting, Cagebird, was also a Philip K. Dick Award nominee and won both the Prix Aurora Award and the Spectrum Award.

As the son of Captain Azarcon and Austro Station’s senior public affairs officer, Ryan can’t avoid the spotlight as much as he may wish. When he goes out in public, he has to watch his behavior as he’s ambushed by the press and eyed by people wanting a look at Austro’s “Hot #1 Bachelor.” Ever since he returned from attending school on Earth—and witnessed the deaths of many in an explosion protesting the war against the aliens—he’s just wanted to be left alone to sail Silver, an illegal drug that’s especially difficult to obtain when one is constantly trailed by a bodyguard.

Ryan goes to a flash house on New Year’s Eve after some argument with his mother, who is hesitant to let him attend after recent reports of his father’s encounter with an infamous pirate are all over the media. He spends the evening surrounded by loud music and people, dancing with a cute girl—until he suddenly realizes she’s no longer holding herself up. Her head is covered in blood, and she falls to the floor, dead. Chaos ensues as some party-goers fall, but Ryan gets out alive, even though he’s quite certain the shot that killed his dance partner was meant for him. There’s no doubt in his mind the shooting was connected to his father when news about Captain Azarcon’s recent dealings breaks shortly after the shooting—the captain declared a cease-fire and announced that he was beginning peace negotiations with the aliens and the Warboy, the notorious human sympathizer.

After I finished Warchild last November, it became not just my favorite book of the year but one of my favorite books ever. It’s gripping right from the beginning when eight-year-old Jos Musey is kidnapped by the pirate who destroyed his home, a merchant spaceship. His voice is strong and compelling, and it drew me in just as much as the action. As much as I loved it, I was a little reluctant to read the next book since it was supposed to have a different main character. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Burndive did begin around the same time Warchild ended and built on the same story, but even though I enjoyed it very much, I didn’t think it was as good as the previous book. It took me much longer to become engrossed in the story, and Ryan is not as compelling a character as Jos. Fortunately, he is often accompanied by more interesting characters, including some from Warchild, and this is largely what makes this book a delight to read.

The beginning of Burndive is slow as it spends some time setting up the story and characters. This is very different from the opening of Warchild, which throws readers right into the action. As a result, I found it took me much longer to become interested in Burndive, but it did become more captivating later even though it remained lighter on action and excitement than the previous book overall. By the halfway point, I had a difficult time putting it down because despite not being terribly invested in Ryan, many of the other characters Ryan meets and interacts with keep the book quite readable and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed reading about the characters from the previous book, and because of that I would not recommend reading Burndive before Warchild. It could stand on its own, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much were I not already familiar with some of the other characters such as Captain Azarcon.

Burndive was about war and family with a particular focus on Ryan’s relationship with the father he’s rarely seen since he spends most of his time in space. Captain Azarcon’s character and past are expanded on, and I thought he was the most fascinating and complex character in this book. He’s an intelligent man who has no patience whatsoever with idiocy, which often leads to some pretty good lines of dialogue, and he’s simultaneously a hard and compassionate man: he does a lot to help others coming from difficult circumstances, but he’s also quite ruthless when it comes to maintaining order on his ship. I enjoyed learning more about him and seeing him interact with Ryan and members of his crew.

Unfortunately, Ryan is one of the least interesting characters in the book and his voice and story fall short when compared to Jos’ in Warchild. I think this is mainly because Ryan is a much more passive character who observes but rarely seems like a participant in his own story, which focuses on the consequences of war and fame. He witnessed tragedy, first when he saw the destruction of the embassy on Earth, then later when assassins killed the girl he was dancing with at the New Year celebration. His response to these terrible events is to take drugs and distance himself from others, often by lashing out at them, and his biggest obstacles are dealing with trauma and letting others in. He doesn’t do a whole lot other than react as a character. Ryan isn’t a spy or a war hero, but a fairly ordinary person caught up in large events and his major role in this is observer.

Despite feeling this made him an uninteresting character, Ryan’s reactions are realistic and he’s a believable character. I even felt that my emotional detachment from him fit with his characterization since he did keep others at a distance. He does undergo some character development through the course of the story as he learns the world is not as easily categorized as he’d thought, and he’s not the same person with the same worldview at the end as he was in the beginning. Yet his earlier anger and treatment of others makes him a very difficult character to like at times, even though I could feel some sympathy for him due to the tragedies he endured. I don’t think every character needs to be likable if they have other qualities that make them worth reading about, but I didn’t find Ryan a terribly complex or intriguing character, either.

I enjoyed reading Burndive very much, but I can’t help comparing it to Warchild and feeling it falls short. While I admire the fact that it is a very different book with a very different main character, Ryan and his story are just not as captivating as Jos and his story. It’s a self-contained book, but I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one for that reason—its major strength depends on having some knowledge of the characters from the previous book.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: It was a gift from my husband.

Read an Excerpt

Reviews of other books in this series:

  1. Warchild
Sci-Fi November