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 (usually 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.

Last week brought two books I’m very excited about since I’ve been wanting to read the first one in this series.

It’s been kind of quiet here lately since I seem to be going through a reading slump and have also been having difficulty concentrating on writing reviews, but I’m hoping to finish the review I’m working on this week. Then it’s time to start on the review of this month’s Patreon selection, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (which is fun)!

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

The Grace of Kings (Dandelion Dynasty #1) by Ken Liu

The Grace of Kings, the first novel by Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award-winning writer Ken Liu, was released last year. It received the Locus Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for the 2015 Nebula Award. has an excerpt from The Grace of Kings.


Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty.

The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

The Wall of Storms (Dandelion Dynasty #2) by Ken Liu

The second Dandelion Dynasty novel was released earlier this month (hardcover, audiobook, ebook).

io9 has a brief interview with the author and an excerpt from The Wall of Storms.


In the much-anticipated sequel to the “magnificent fantasy epic” (NPR) Grace of Kings, Emperor Kuni Garu is faced with the invasion of an invincible army in his kingdom and must quickly find a way to defeat the intruders.

Kuni Garu, now known as Emperor Ragin, runs the archipelago kingdom of Dara, but struggles to maintain progress while serving the demands of the people and his vision. Then an unexpected invading force from the Lyucu empire in the far distant west comes to the shores of Dara—and chaos results.

But Emperor Kuni cannot go and lead his kingdom against the threat himself with his recently healed empire fraying at the seams, so he sends the only people he trusts to be Dara’s savvy and cunning hopes against the invincible invaders: his children, now grown and ready to make their mark on history.

Additional Books:

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 (usually 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 a couple of slow mail weeks, which is why there hasn’t been one of these posts lately, but this week there are some intriguing books to feature including one recent purchase!

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #1) by Amanda Bouchet

A Promise of Fire was just released in August (mass market paperback/ebook/audiobook), and I’ve wanted to read it ever since I first heard about it via a review on Angieville. It sounded like fun, and it sounded particularly intriguing given the comparison to the banter of the Kate Daniels series and the inclusion of Greek mythology (and, of course, because Angie has fantastic taste in books and has been influential in my discovery of some particularly good ones!).

Heroes and Heartbreakers has an excerpt from A Promise of Fire.


Catalia “Cat” Fisa is a powerful clairvoyant known as the Kingmaker. This smart-mouthed soothsayer has no interest in her powers and would much rather fly under the radar, far from the clutches of her homicidal mother. But when an ambitious warlord captures her, she may not have a choice…

Griffin is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm in the magic-deprived south. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her. But Cat will do everything in her power to avoid her dangerous destiny and battle her captor at every turn. Although up for the battle, Griffin would prefer for Cat to help his people willingly, and he’s ready to do whatever it takes to coax her…even if that means falling in love with her.

Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Breath of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #2) by Amanda Bouchet

The second book in the Kingmaker Chronicles trilogy will be released on January 3, 2017 (mass market paperback/ebook).


“Cat” Catalia Fisa has been running from her destiny since she could crawl. But now, her newfound loved ones are caught between the shadow of Cat’s tortured past and the threat of her world-shattering future. So what’s a girl to do when she knows it’s her fate to be the harbinger of doom? Everything in her power.

Griffin knows Cat is destined to change the world-for the better. As the realms are descending into all-out war, Cat and Griffin must embrace their fate together. Gods willing, they will emerge side-by-side in the heart of their future kingdom…or not at all.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo

The first book in this duology, Six of Crows, will be reviewed later this month since it is this month’s Patreon selection. Shortly after finishing it, I purchased the next book, which was just released toward the end of last month (hardcover/ebook).

The Six of Crows duology page on the Grishaverse website has excerpts from both books.


Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

The Immortal Throne by Stella Gemmell

The Immortal Throne (The City #2) by Stella Gemmell

This sequel to The City will be released December 6 (hardcover/ebook).


No one is safe, and no one is to be trusted as the bloody war that began in Stella Gemmell’s The City continues…

The dreaded emperor is dead. The successor to the throne is his nemesis, Archange. Many hope her reign will usher in a new era of freedom and stability. Soon however, word arises of a massive army gathering in the shadows of the north. They are eager to lay waste to the City and annihilate anyone—man, woman, or child—within it.

Yet just as the swords clang in fields wet with the blood of warriors, family feuds, ancient rivalries, and political battles rage on within the cold stone walls of the City. A hero must rise up and restore the peace before anything left to fight for is consumed by the madness.

Additional Books:

October’s Patreon poll theme is young adult speculative fiction (I know, it seems like it should have been Halloween/horror themed, but I couldn’t find many books on my shelves that seemed applicable!). The choices were as follows:

The October book is…

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

The hardcover is a beautiful book, and I’ve heard such good things about this!

November’s theme will be science fiction due to it being Sci-Fi Month hosted by Rinn Reads and Over the Effing Rainbow!

Tooth and Claw
by Jo Walton
336pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 8.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.1/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.92/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.84/5

Tooth and Claw, one of Jo Walton’s earlier novels, won the 2004 World Fantasy Award. Though it is often compared to Jane Austen’s work, the author cites Victorian novels in general and Anthony Trollope’s Framley Parsonage in particular as inspirations in her Dedication, Thanks, and Notes, adding “this novel is the result of wondering what a world would be like…if the axioms of the sentimental Victorian novel were inescapable laws of biology.” She imagined this by populating Tooth and Claw with dragons who literally grow stronger by eating the flesh of weak or deceased dragons—yet are very aware of propriety—and the result is surprisingly delightful!

As the Dignified Bon Agornin lies near death, his family gathers to observe the rituals: his son Penn, a parson, will attend him through the final moments of his life, and after his passing the entire family will distribute his wealth according to his will and devour his body. Since Penn and his sister Berend are already established, it’s Bon’s wish that they each take one memorial piece of gold and divide the rest among their three siblings who are not yet settled. Penn reassures his father that this will be so and that these three will also receive the greater portion of his corpse since they need his strength most.

However, the traditional feast does not go according to plan. Berend’s husband Illustrious Daverak believes the allotment of Bon’s wealth does not include his remains and refuses to stop gorging when he’s told he’s already had his share. The local parson supports Illustrious Daverak’s assumption unless Penn divulges the entirety of his conversation with his dying father—which he cannot do without bringing shame upon himself since he allowed Bon to make a confession as practiced by the old religion. Penn has no choice but to step aside since he cannot fight the other dragon either, and Illustrious Daverak, Berend, and his dragonets leave less than half the body for those who were supposed to consume most of it.

The three yet-to-be-established siblings feel robbed of their inheritance, and Avan decides to take Illustrious Daverak to court even though his two equally wronged sisters cannot contribute funds, being dependent on the gold for their dowries—and each is being sent to the household of one of their established siblings until a suitable marriage can be arranged, meaning one of them is also dependent on the goodwill of Illustrious Daverak.

Though I’ve often heard that Tooth and Claw is wonderful, I was still a little skeptical about its premise. It seemed like it would be difficult to imagine dragons in a world of “politics and train stations, of churchmen and family retainers, of courtship and country houses,” as described on the back of the book. I was also doubtful because dragons literally eating the weak and deceased to gain strength also sounded like it may be full of not-so-subtle social commentary. Having now read it, I can say that both of these are true—it is not at all easy to visualize large dragons riding trains and carriages, writing letters, or donning fashionable hats and it is full of rather literal social commentary—and yet Jo Walton somehow makes it all work beautifully. Tooth and Claw is a charming story of family, courtship, and survival as seen through the eyes of flesh-eating (but often very proper!) dragons.

It took two or three chapters for it to hook me, but I soon found it a quite immersive book that I didn’t want to put down. The narration is delightful and occasionally entertainingly self aware, and the social order and characters are quite interesting to read about. The stories of all three sisters highlight the problems they face because they are female dragons, as does the disparity between their treatment and concerns and those of their brothers. Selendra’s emphasizes the double standards of sexism and how easily a female dragon’s reputation can be destroyed while the male’s stays intact for similar indiscretions. In Tooth and Claw, female dragons actually turn pink when too close to a male so all can see an unmarried dragon is no maiden. Selendra encounters this when a suitor leans on her as she’s turning down his proposal, and though she finds a cure, she has to worry that it will work too well and she won’t blush if she does want to become betrothed later.

Selendra’s story is most prominent, but Haner also has some time in the spotlight as she confronts apprehension about her dowry, marriage prospects, and Illustrious Daverak. Seeing how her brother-in-law treats his household makes her realize just how wrong an institution she’s taken for granted throughout her entire life truly is: that of servitude. Haner seeks to discover others who share her views and who have radical ideas about the wrongness of binding the wings of those who do not choose to be bound.

Although I enjoyed reading about both Haner and Selendra, Berend (whose story is the most heartbreaking) was the most interesting character of the three. After overhearing Penn and her husband arguing about the portioning of her father’s body, she impresses Penn by taking “a most diplomatic bite” (pp. 29) that should satisfy both sides of the argument: a single chunk of flesh encompassing much of the chest. During a later conversation with Haner, it becomes quite clear that Berend thoughtfully analyzes her situation and tries to make the best of the unfairness in the world.

The two brothers also have obstacles, with Penn worrying about honoring his father’s wish for confession and Avan with taking his brother-in-law to court and trying to keep his position in his office. There are also a host of other wonderful characters, especially Sher. He’s the son of the Exalt, an older dragon who is quite snobbish about social class, but he’s carefree and not at all like his mother—and he sets his sights on Selendra despite her meager dowry and the fact that the Exalt does not think her father’s origins are fit to be discussed in polite company.

Tooth and Claw is utterly enchanting despite taking a little bit of time to become engaging. Though its explorations of gender and class are not subtle—and are, in fact, about as literal as possible—they fit with the story and world, shedding a bright light on the wrongness of how some are treated. It’s also a thoroughly entertaining Victorian-esque tale with delightful narration and an endearing cast of dragons, and I recommend it highly.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

This book is September’s selection from a poll on Patreon.

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 (usually 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.

This week brought a few books, including a 2017 debut that sounds quite intriguing!

There’s still a lot going on due to my recent move (so much unpacking!), but I did post a review last week of a book that was also released last week: Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9) by Ilona Andrews. This is one of my favorite ongoing series, but I was disappointed in it. The first half was entertaining and there was some really fun dialogue, but the second half bored me and I thought there were a lot of problems with it.

I’m reading the September Patreon book selection, Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw, and will start reviewing it after I finish it. After that, I plan to start my review of Crosstalk by Connie Willis, which is thoroughly entertaining and now on my list of favorite 2016 releases.

On to the latest books!

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

This fantasy debut novel will be released on January 17, 2017 (paperback, ebook). The description mentioning ties to Pride and Prejudice certainly captured my attention!


A debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice in an imaginative world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms.

They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.

Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.

Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.

It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

Elle Katharine White infuses elements of Austen’s beloved novel with her own brand of magic, crafting a modern epic fantasy that conjures a familiar yet wondrously unique new world.

Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown

The conclusion to the Red Rising trilogy will be released in trade paperback on September 27. The hardcover, ebook, and audiobook editions all became available earlier this year. An excerpt from Morning Star can be read on the series website.

Pierce Brown is also writing a second trilogy that follows the events in this one.

I haven’t read Morning Star yet, but I enjoyed Red Rising despite some reservations and loved Golden Son. It was quite intense and I couldn’t put it down!


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Red Rising thrilled readers and announced the presence of a talented new author. Golden Son changed the game and took the story of Darrow to the next level. Now comes the exhilarating conclusion to the Red Rising Trilogy: Morning Star.

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.

Additional Book(s):

Magic Binds is the ninth—and penultimate—novel in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. It’s been one of my favorite ongoing series since reading the phenomenal third and fourth volumes, and I was particularly impressed by how the author(s) balanced plot and action with character development and relationships. The world mythology and the mystery and revelations surrounding Kate’s power and family were also quite well done. However, I’ve been disappointed in the series since book seven, and this trend continues with Magic Binds: despite a thoroughly entertaining first half and a lot of new developments, I found myself underwhelmed by it in the end.

Kate’s wedding day is rapidly approaching, but flower arrangements, cakes, and bridal gowns couldn’t be further from her mind. Roland has been building what he calls a “small residence” on the edge of her territory (I suppose when one has been alive for thousands of years and lived in palaces, thirty thousand square feet may seem small), but Kate goes from aggravated to furious with her father when she learns he kidnapped Saiman. She cannot let him take whomever he wants any time he pleases, especially a resident of her territory, and she decides that she must confront her father.

Kate sets out after being warned not to burn any bridges but returns declaring that there is no longer a bridge. Not only did Roland refuse to free Saiman but Kate also learned that he’s been trying to influence her kid and has a field full of people he had crucified, and Kate let her fury fly without mincing any words about what she thinks of her father’s tyranny. To make matters worse, the Witch Oracle summons Kate about her visions of the future, all of which show a battle in which Atlanta is destroyed and Roland kills someone Kate loves—and the only person who has even the slightest chance of altering the course leading to this outcome is Kate herself.

Magic Binds had its moments—like world domination!—yet I thought that its more entertaining qualities masked a lot of problems. It does contain plenty of Ilona Andrews™ dialogue that made the first half fun to read, but I was bored throughout much of the latter part. The plot and characterization are uninspired, the pacing is rushed, and worst of all, it just didn’t make me care despite what should have been high stakes.

Earlier parts, especially the first chapter, are immensely entertaining. There are some hilarious, memorable lines, largely aided by the return of Roman and the prevalence of Roland. I did love the focus on Kate and Roland’s relationship and that it’s not simple: Roland is proud of Kate and does seem to love her in his own bizarre way, and Kate’s surprised to discover she does have affection for her father despite his being a tyrant. Kate also struggles with her power and the fact that she is her father’s daughter, which is a great personal conflict.

However, I was let down by the lack of actual character development. Though Kate does face some obstacles that make her seem less one note than she did in the last couple of books, they don’t actually end up showing much about her personality that we didn’t already know. On the one hand, it seems fitting with her character and I do love her spirit and drive to do what’s right, but on the other hand, she does seem rather stagnant, especially when compared to her growth earlier in the series. Recent books have mainly been focusing on her traits that have already been established, and though this novel is chock-full of revelations, they tend to have more to do with background and history than anything new that cuts to the heart of who any of the characters are as people. The secondary characters once seemed vibrant and fresh, but it’s starting to seem as though it’s just more of the same old snark and attitude whenever they show up.

This may be related to another issue I had: the pacing. There is so much packed into this book that it’s incredibly rushed, and that includes some of the character moments (although there were some I liked, such as Mahon’s change of heart). It flits from scene to scene without taking time to breathe, and some major revelations are conveyed in a brief conversation that came across as a way to fit in an infodump before dashing into the next scene. In particular, the ending was anticlimactic because it was so brief after all the buildup leading to it—but then, the main plot was rather unexciting.

Plots revolving around preventing a terrible future are difficult to make compelling, and even with the high stakes, I found this one rather dull. There’s been enough of an ongoing pattern of playing it safe lately that I just don’t feel any tension when a major character may be in danger anymore, and even aside from that, this was a lazy method of plotting since the visions sometimes propel the actions. Although Kate does at least have her own idea about how she can attempt to change the future, she executes some details based on what the oracle sees. There’s also another time she ends up in a specific place only because of a vision, and this is such a frustratingly transparent way to move characters from point A to point B without actual motivation beyond “it was seen.”

One of the many revelations in Magic Binds addresses an issue I’ve had with the series since Roland’s introduction in the seventh book: how someone as powerful as Roland tried but failed to kill Kate. However, I didn’t feel that the explanation made it more sensible. Since he’s human, I can absolutely understand the matters of the heart involved that led him to make a mistake in the first place, but I find the reasoning given for why he merely tried rather weak. It sounds as though this being (who is, after all, thousands of years old) doesn’t understand how his own magic works, and this just doesn’t fit with the way Roland has been portrayed at all.

Despite some promise and some thoroughly entertaining parts, I thought that Magic Binds fell flat overall. The authorial hand is too obviously hemming in the characters and plot instead of letting them flow naturally and it comes across as calculated, especially the “subvert the prophecy” story and the unconvincing depiction of Roland as extraordinarily powerful unless it suits the need to keep him from defeating Kate before she has a chance to level up. In my opinion, the books were much stronger when teasing the mysteries than they’ve been at providing answers and I found Magic Binds sometimes fun but mostly disappointing.

My Rating: 5/10

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