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.

One book that I’m very excited about showed up in the mail a couple of days ago, but first, here are last week’s posts in case you missed either of them:

The Tiger's Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera

The Tiger’s Daughter (Their Bright Ascendancy #1) by K Arsenault Rivera

This epic fantasy, K Arsenault Rivera’s debut novel, will be released on October 3 (trade paperback, ebook). Entertainment Weekly has an excerpt from The Tiger’s Daughter.

This sounds fantastic, and I also love the cover.

 

Even gods can be slain

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

A crack in the wall heralds the end…two goddesses arm themselves…K Arsenault Rivera’s The Tiger’s Daughter is an adventure for the ages.

Additional Books:

Since the beginning of 2016, I have been reading and reviewing one book a month based on the results of a poll on PatreonAll of these monthly reviews can be viewed here.

June’s theme is fantasy of manners. It’s a subgenre that I tend to enjoy, and I’ve been in the mood to read more fantasy of manners novels lately so I scoured my shelves for books I’ve heard fit into this category. The June book selections were as follows:

The June book is…

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett
The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett

In this enchanting debut novel, Galen Beckett weaves a dazzling spell of adventure and suspense, evoking a world of high magick and genteel society—a world where one young woman discovers that her modest life is far more extraordinary than she ever imagined.

Of the three Lockwell sisters—romantic Lily, prophetic Rose, and studious Ivy—all agree that it’s the eldest, the book-loving Ivy, who has held the family together ever since their father’s retreat into his silent vigil in the library upstairs. Everyone blames Mr. Lockwell’s malady on his magickal studies, but Ivy alone still believes—both in magic and in its power to bring her father back.

But there are others in the world who believe in magick as well. Over the years, Ivy has glimpsed them—the strangers in black topcoats and hats who appear at the door, strangers of whom their mother will never speak. Ivy once thought them secret benefactors, but now she’s not so certain.

After tragedy strikes, Ivy takes a job with the reclusive Mr. Quent in a desperate effort to preserve her family. It’s only then that she discovers the fate she shares with a jaded young nobleman named Dashton Rafferdy, his ambitious friend Eldyn Garritt, and a secret society of highwaymen, revolutionaries, illusionists, and spies who populate the island nation of Altania.

For there is far more to Altania than meets the eye and more to magick than mere fashion. And in the act of saving her father, Ivy will determine whether the world faces a new dawn—or an everlasting night. . . .

I’ve been wanting to read this since I first heard about it and was especially intrigued by it after reading Thea’s excellent review of The Magicians and Mrs. Quent  on The Book Smugglers—so I’m very much looking forward to it!

Book Description from Penguin Random House (CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR FOOL’S ASSASSIN and FOOL’S QUEST):

More than twenty years ago, the first epic fantasy novel featuring FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious, often maddening friend the Fool struck like a bolt of brilliant lightning. Now New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb brings to a momentous close the third trilogy featuring these beloved characters in a novel of unsurpassed artistry that is sure to endure as one of the great masterworks of the genre.

Fitz’s young daughter, Bee, has been kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society whose members not only dream of possible futures but use their prophecies to add to their wealth and influence. Bee plays a crucial part in these dreams—but just what part remains uncertain.

As Bee is dragged by her sadistic captors across half the world, Fitz and the Fool, believing her dead, embark on a mission of revenge that will take them to the distant island where the Servants reside—a place the Fool once called home and later called prison. It was a hell the Fool escaped, maimed and blinded, swearing never to return.

For all his injuries, however, the Fool is not as helpless as he seems. He is a dreamer too, able to shape the future. And though Fitz is no longer the peerless assassin of his youth, he remains a man to be reckoned with—deadly with blades and poison, and adept in Farseer magic. And their goal is simple: to make sure not a single Servant survives their scourge.

Assassin’s Fate, the third book in Robin Hobb’s Fitz and the Fool trilogy and the sixteenth novel set in the Realm of the Elderlings, was one of my top most anticipated books of 2017 since I loved both the previous books, Fool’s Assassin and Fool’s Quest. Like my reviews of the preceding installments, I’m not going to discuss Assassin’s Fate in depth to avoid spoilers: after all, this is the conclusion to the third trilogy about FitzChivalry Farseer, as well as the fifth series in this world. If you’ve read this far, you know what the series is about and probably don’t want to read any plot-related details (and if you haven’t read these books and enjoy character-driven fantasy, magic and kingdoms, animal companions, and dragons, and you don’t mind angst or books in which characters endure significant hardship, start with the first book in the Farseer trilogy, Assassin’s Apprentice).

Although I found it nearly impossible to put down throughout the last 40% or so, Assassin’s Fate is my least favorite book in this trilogy mainly because the first 60% of it seemed excessively long. While Fool’s Assassin was not at all fast paced, it was riveting due to the characters and their relationships—and those were just not as compelling in this final installment as in the first (or second) book, even though there were still some great scenes. At first, I wondered if I found it less engaging than the previous installments due to a lack of familiarity with the characters from the Rain Wilds Chronicles quartet, the only Realm of the Elderlings novels I have not yet read. Yet I still found it slow even after it shifted to primarily focusing on this trilogy’s characters and some who appeared in previous books I had read, plus the second storyline also seemed longer than necessary. The journeys seemed to drag on and on, and there were not a lot of interesting plot or character developments throughout these pages—nor were there many interesting interactions between the characters who have been present throughout this trilogy.

Once the traveling finally came to an end, the book was quite readable complete with more excitement and Epic Events. Though this trilogy is primarily focused on Fitz and characters close to him, occurrences in Assassin’s Fate have some large ramifications for the liveship merchants and include revelations involving dragons (and fantastic scenes involving dragons!), and the ties to these other series are some of the best parts.

As with all of Hobb’s books, one of the most memorable aspects is the emotional journey, but I didn’t think that measured up to previous books in the series: these parts seemed rushed, especially after reading so many pages that meandered. Though heartbreaking, even the ending didn’t hit me as hard as I would have expected. It was so heavily foreshadowed that it wasn’t surprising to me, but predictable scenes in Hobb’s books have often managed to elicit strong feeling—the characters just didn’t seem as vivid in this novel to me as in others, and I think that also affected my experience with it.

Although I’m glad I finished the Fitz and the Fool trilogy since there are some momentous scenes that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss, I did feel that Assassin’s Fate was a bit disappointing compared to most of the other Realm of the Elderlings novels. While Hobb’s deft characterization usually keeps me invested despite any slow pacing, more than half of this installment seemed far too drawn out for both the amount of plot and character development it contained. It does eventually become more engaging with more action and compelling character interaction, but many of these parts have the opposite issue with pacing and seem too rushed, especially considering they follow a large portion containing little of interest. It’s still a keeper as an important volume in the series, but it doesn’t have the same high quality I’ve come to expect from these books (although you should probably take my opinion with a grain of salt since most readers seem to think better of it than I do!).

My Rating: 7/10

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

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 some books that sound rather intriguing, especially the first and last (which I didn’t feature with the cover and description today because I already featured it earlier this year). The first of these includes many well-known authors, and the last is a soon-to-be-released debut novel.

The Book of Swords edited by Gardner Dozois

The Book of Swords edited by Gardner Dozois

This anthology will be released on October 10 (hardcover, ebook). As you can see in the book description below, it contains an incredible lineup of authors including but not limited to George R. R. Martin, Robin Hobb, Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch, Ken Liu, Kate Elliott, and C. J. Cherryh.

George R. R. Martin’s “The Sons of the Dragon” is a tale from the past set in the same world as A Song of Ice and Fire (and, as can be guessed from the title, it’s about Targaryens).

Robin Hobb’s “Her Father’s Sword” is set in the Realm of the Elderlings and features FitzChivalry Farseer.

 

New epic fantasy in the grand tradition—including a never-before-published Song of Ice and Fire story by George R. R. Martin!

Fantasy fiction has produced some of the most unforgettable heroes ever conjured onto the page: Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné, Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Classic characters like these made sword and sorcery a storytelling sensation, a cornerstone of fantasy fiction—and an inspiration for a new generation of writers, spinning their own outsize tales of magic and swashbuckling adventure.

Now, in The Book of Swords, acclaimed editor and bestselling author Gardner Dozois presents an all-new anthology of original epic tales by a stellar cast of award-winning modern masters—many of them set in their authors’ best-loved worlds. Join today’s finest tellers of fantastic tales, including George R. R. Martin, K. J. Parker, Robin Hobb, Ken Liu, C. J. Cherryh, Daniel Abraham, Lavie Tidhar, Ellen Kushner, and more on action-packed journeys into the outer realms of dark enchantment and intrepid derring-do, featuring a stunning assortment of fearless swordsmen and warrior women who face down danger and death at every turn with courage, cunning, and cold steel.

FEATURING SIXTEEN ALL-NEW STORIES:

“The Best Man Wins” by K. J. Parker
“Her Father’s Sword” by Robin Hobb
“The Hidden Girl” by Ken Liu
“The Sword of Destiny” by Matthew Hughes
“‘I Am a Handsome Man,’ Said Apollo Crow” by Kate Elliott
“The Triumph of Virtue” by Walter Jon Williams
“The Mocking Tower” by Daniel Abraham
“Hrunting” by C. J. Cherryh
“A Long, Cold Trail” by Garth Nix
“When I Was a Highwayman” by Ellen Kushner
“The Smoke of Gold Is Glory” by Scott Lynch
“The Colgrid Conundrum” by Rich Larson
“The King’s Evil” by Elizabeth Bear
“Waterfalling” by Lavie Tidhar
“The Sword Tyraste” by Cecelia Holland
“The Sons of the Dragon” by George R. R. Martin
 
And an introduction by Gardner Dozois

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon

This collection of Outlander-related stories (mainly novellas) by #1 New York Times bestselling author Diana Gabaldon, including two new novellas, will be released on June 27 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

For more information such as a brief description of each story and a couple of excerpts, see the Seven Stones to Stand or Fall page on Diana Gabaldon’s website.

 

A magnificent collection of Outlander short fiction—including two never-before-published novellas—featuring Jamie Fraser, Lord John Grey, Master Raymond, and many more, from #1 New York Times bestselling author Diana Gabaldon

“The Custom of the Army” begins with Lord John Grey being shocked by an electric eel and ends at the Battle of Quebec. Then comes “The Space Between,” where it is revealed that the Comte St. Germain is not dead, Master Raymond appears, and a widowed young wine dealer escorts a would-be novice to a convent in Paris. In “A Plague of Zombies,” Lord John unexpectedly becomes military governor of Jamaica when the original governor is gnawed by what probably wasn’t a giant rat. “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” is the moving story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents during World War II. In “Virgins,” Jamie Fraser, aged nineteen, and Ian Murray, aged twenty, become mercenaries in France, no matter that neither has yet bedded a lass or killed a man. But they’re trying. . . . “A Fugitive Green” is the story of Lord John’s elder brother, Hal, and a seventeen-year-old rare book dealer with a sideline in theft, forgery, and blackmail. And finally, in “Besieged,” Lord John learns that his mother is in Havana—and that the British Navy is on their way to lay siege to the city.

Filling in mesmerizing chapters in the lives of characters readers have followed over the course of thousands of pages, Gabaldon’s genius is on full display throughout this must-have collection.

The Bones of the Earth by Rachel Dunne

The Bones of the Earth (Bound Gods #2) by Rachel Dunne

The second Bound Gods novel will be released on June 27 (trade paperback, ebook).

The Harper Collins website has a sample from In the Shadow of the Gods, the first Bound Gods novel.

 

A mismatched band of mortals and their violent, secretive leader must stand against a pair of resentful gods to save their world in this second volume in Rachel Dunne’s breathtaking dark epic fantasy trilogy, The Bound Gods, which began with In the Shadow of the Gods.

To win the coming battle for control of the world and the mortals who dwell in it, the cunning priest Joros secretly assembled a team of powerful fighters—Scal, a lost and damaged swordsman from the North; Vatri, a scarred priestess who claims to see the future in her fires; Anddyr, a drug-addled mage wandering between sanity and madness; and Rora and Aro, a pair of twins who have secretly survived beyond the reach of the law.

But the war is only beginning for these disparate warriors and victory is far from certain when the enemy is a pair of vengeful gods. As the bound Twins strengthen in force against their parents—the Divine Mother and Almighty Father—who exiled them, a shadow begins to spread across the land, threatening to engulf all in its wake.

As deadly magic takes hold, the tenuous bonds tying these uneasy allies begins to unravel. If they cannot find a way to keep their band together, each of their lives—and the entire world—will be lost to the darkness, leaving nothing but the bones of the earth. . . .

A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

A Plague of Giants (Seven Kennings #1) by Kevin Hearne

The first book in this upcoming epic fantasy trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Kevin Hearne will be released on October 17 (hardcover, ebook).

Unbound Worlds has an interview with Kevin Hearne discussing A Plague of Giants.

 

From the author of The Iron Druid Chronicles, a thrilling novel that kicks off a fantasy series with an entirely new mythology—complete with shape-shifting bards, fire-wielding giants, and children who can speak to astonishing beasts

MOTHER AND WARRIOR
Tallynd is a soldier who has already survived her toughest battle: losing her husband. But now she finds herself on the front lines of an invasion of giants, intent on wiping out the entire kingdom, including Tallynd’s two sons—all that she has left. The stakes have never been higher. If Tallynd fails, her boys may never become men.

SCHOLAR AND SPY
Dervan is an historian who longs for a simple, quiet life. But he’s drawn into intrigue when he’s hired to record the tales of a mysterious bard who may be a spy or even an assassin for a rival kingdom. As the bard shares his fantastical stories, Dervan makes a shocking discovery: He may have a connection to the tales, one that will bring his own secrets to light.

REBEL AND HERO
Abhi’s family have always been hunters, but Abhi wants to choose a different life for himself. Embarking on a journey of self-discovery, Abhi soon learns that his destiny is far greater than he imagined: a powerful new magic thrust upon him may hold the key to defeating the giants once and for all—if it doesn’t destroy him first.

Set in a magical world of terror and wonder, this novel is a deeply felt epic of courage and war, in which the fates of these characters intertwine—and where ordinary people become heroes, and their lives become legend.

Additional Book(s):

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 quite a few books, but first, here’s last week’s post in case you missed it:

  • Review of the May Patreon Book, The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier. I was torn about this one: I loved the setting and story and appreciated that the book was quite different in a lot of ways, but the narrative voice, dialogue, and pacing didn’t entirely work for me. However, there were enough strengths that I’ll probably read the sequel that is planned when it’s out.

The Dragon's Legacy by Deborah A. Wolf

The Dragon’s Legacy (The Dragon’s Legacy #1) by Deborah A. Wolf

The Dragon’s Legacy was released in April (hardcover, ebook).

I quite like the cover, plus it has two of my favorites: dragons and cats who bond with humans!

 

In the heart of the singing desert, the people are fading from the world. Mothers bear few live children, the warriors and wardens are hard-pressed to protect those who remain, and the vash’ai—the great cats who have called the people kithren for as long as there have been stories—bond with fewer humans each year. High above, the Sun Dragon sings a song of life and love while far below, the Earth Dragon slumbers as she has since the beginning of time. Her sleep is fitful, and from the darkness of her dreams come whispers of war… and death.

Sulema is a newly minted warrior of the people and a true Ja’Akari—a daughter of the unforgiving desert. When a mysterious young man appears in her home of Aish Kalumm, she learns that the Dragon King is dying in distant Atualon. As the king fades, so does the magic that sings the Earth Dragon to sleep.

There are those who wish to keep the dragon trapped in endless slumber. Others would tap her power to claim it for their own. And there are those who would have her wake, so they might laugh as the world burns.

Soleri by Michael Johnston

Soleri (#1 in Series) by Michael Johnston

This epic fantasy will be released on June 13 (hardcover, ebook). Tor.com has an excerpt from Soleri.

 

Michael Johnston brings you the first in a new epic fantasy series inspired by ancient Egyptian history and King Lear.

The ruling family of the Soleri Empire has been in power longer than even the calendars that stretch back 2,826 years. Those records tell a history of conquest and domination by a people descended from gods, older than anything in the known world. No living person has seen them for centuries, yet their grip on their four subjugate kingdoms remains tighter than ever.

On the day of the annual eclipse, the Harkan king, Arko-Hark Wadi, sets off on a hunt and shirks his duty rather than bow to the emperor. Ren, his son and heir, is a prisoner in the capital, while his daughters struggle against their own chains. Merit, the eldest, has found a way to stand against imperial law and marry the man she desires, but needs her sister’s help, and Kepi has her own ideas.

Meanwhile, Sarra Amunet, Mother Priestess of the sun god’s cult, holds the keys to the end of an empire and a past betrayal that could shatter her family.

Detailed and historical, vast in scope and intricate in conception, Soleri bristles with primal magic and unexpected violence. It is a world of ancient and elaborate rites, of unseen power and kingdoms ravaged by war, where victory comes with a price, and every truth conceals a deeper secret.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale (The Bear and the Nightingale #1) by Katherine Arden

Katherine Arden’s wonderful debut novel, published early this year, is being released in trade paperback on June 27. Unbound Worlds has an excerpt from The Bear and the Nightingale, and you can read more about the creation of its heroine and Katherine Arden’s decision to give her self acceptance in her Women in SF&F Month guest post.

I loved The Bear and the Nightingale, and it’s one of my favorite books of 2017!

 

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman’s myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Additional Books:

 

First published in 2011, Rachel Neumeier’s young adult fantasy novel The Floating Islands was received with acclaim: it was a Junior Library Guild selection and a Kirkus Best Children’s Book of the Year, chosen for the ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Book list, and recommended on the ALA Amelia Bloomer list of feminist literature. Though currently a standalone that completes the two main protagonists’ story arcs, it does leave much of the setting open for further exploration and the author does have plans for a sequel to this book with floating islands, dragons of fire and air, magic, and food references (seriously, do not read this while hungry).

Trei’s long journey from Toulounn to the Floating Islands is fraught with grief. When he returned home after spending the summer with his aunt and uncle, he found it buried in ash after a nearby mount erupted—his father, mother, and sister all buried with it. After this, he went back to the only other family he knew, but despite always having seemed fond of Trei in the past, his uncle refused to make his half-Islander nephew part of his household and pay the tax necessary for him to become a citizen of Toulounn, as Trei’s father would have done once he was of age. Instead, he gave Trei some money, leaving him to make the trip alone to his mother’s family on the distant Floating Islands, held aloft by sky dragon magic off the southwestern coast of Toulounn.

In his despair, Trei barely notices anything on his voyage—until he catches his first glimpse of the wondrous Floating Islands and the winged men flying overhead, also aided by sky dragon magic. Trei immediately realizes he must become one of these fliers, and after his Islander relatives take him in, his uncle helps him set up an audition to join their ranks even though being half-Toulounnese may be an obstacle in achieving this goal.

Araenè, Trei’s cousin, initially resents the new addition to her household since it makes finding the privacy necessary to sneak out of the house and attend classes in the guise of a boy more difficult for her. As a talented cook, Araenè has always wanted to become a chef, but girls are not supposed to attend lectures or do anything other than marry once they reach womanhood. However, she finds a supportive ally in Trei when he discovers her subterfuge—though his sister never had the same problem with pursuing her art, he thinks she would have done the same as Araenè under the circumstances, and this shared secret binds the two closer in friendship.

When Toulounn sets its sights on conquering the Floating Islands, Trei and Araenè are in unique positions to work together for the good of the Floating Islands: Trei, as one of the novices gifted with air magic by the sky dragons and someone with knowledge of Toulounn, and Araenè, in her role as the boy Arei and an apprentice to a master of the hidden school of magic who discovered she had the mage gift. However, in order to succeed, each of them must overcome a personal hurdle: Trei, caught between loyalty to his homeland and his new home, and Araenè, struggling with whether or not to trust her new mentor.

The Floating Islands contains some familiar themes—such as finding one’s place in the world while persevering against the constraints of social roles defined by criteria outside one’s control—yet the backdrop of the setting makes it wholly unique. It’s also a wonderful story, largely uplifting and hopeful (though there is death and tragedy that is not ignored by the characters affected, it doesn’t dwell too much on the sadder parts and is more focused on moving forward afterward). Even so, I find myself conflicted about this novel: I did love the world and story and would be likely to read any sequels, but I also thought it had stock characters, dull narrative and dialogue, and uneven pacing.

In my opinion, the highlight of the novel is the setting and all the fantastic elements. It’s full of magic with the air dragons responsible for both the unusually buoyant nature of the islands and some of its people, fire dragons, and a hidden mage school with friendly doors that appear and tend to open to somewhere one needs to be. Although the story arc felt complete, it seemed to leave a lot of questions unanswered for a standalone novel so I was glad to discover that a sequel is planned. There’s much left to learn about the dragons, particularly the relationships between the different types and their history with the islands, and the workings of magic.

There are some lovely descriptions of the more fantastic aspects, such as the wonder of the Floating Islands and flight, but I also felt the narrative was often bogged down by too much description while glossing over parts I wanted to know more about (such as the details of knowledge of mathematics being necessary for magic). Trei and Araenè’s voices sounded similar with lots of internal monologue about what they were doing or what they should do filled with italics for emphasis, and though there was a lot of telling about their individuality, there wasn’t much showing they had distinct personalities through their rather serious narrations. The dialogue was probably intended to sound like the way people actually talk, filled with ums and wells and elliptic pauses and the overuse of phrases like “do you see,” but this also didn’t really work for me since I prefer reading smoother dialogue even though I realize this style is more realistic.

Although both Trei and Araenè are likable and sympathetic characters, I didn’t find either of them terribly compelling aside from their circumstances. Trei seemed a little more fleshed out to me than his cousin, probably due to the fact that he does have the bigger role in the story. He’s brave and empathetic, and his tale shows his grief and loss as he’s haunted by nightmares about the disaster that destroyed his home and the difficulty of being caught between loyalty to his previous homeland and his new nation. Araenè is rebellious, courageous, and determined, but other than a few personality traits, it seemed she was primarily defined by her love of cooking. Though she could have had more dimension as a character, this did make the story more unusual and memorable. I thought it was a nice twist to read about a girl who wasn’t trying to attain one of the more traditional goals denied girls, such as becoming a warrior, but a girl who simply wanted to be a chef: the chance to actually study the art and make a career of it instead of only cooking for her family. Even Araenè’s mage talent is related to food since she identifies magic by different smells, such as lemon, ginger, nutmeg, and fenugreek. I actually thought tying her magic to different scents was an interesting concept, but these descriptions also became rather repetitive quickly.

The secondary characters are mostly interchangeable, and I found it difficult to keep track of the other students in the mage school and the boys Trei trained alongside. The only one who stood out was Trei’s friend Ceirfei, who just wanted to be treated the same as all the other fliers despite his elevated status.

The Floating Islands is a great story with some originality, and the world is filled with wonder with its islands kept afloat by dragons and magical schools. However, I did think there were a few things holding it back from its full potential: the conclusion was rushed compared to the middle, which dragged at times; the narrative and dialogue were not entirely to my taste despite some lovely prose; and the two main characters did not show a lot of depth through their voices. It’s a book I found interesting but not gripping, yet I probably will read the planned sequel when it’s available because of the amazing setting and the touches that do make this book stand out as different.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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

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