The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I discuss books I got over the last week—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (most of which are unsolicited books from publishers). 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 covers multiple weeks since there hasn’t been a lot of book mail since the last one of these posts, plus I was working on last week’s review of A Spark of White Fire (Celestial Trilogy #1) by Sangu Mandanna. I found this Mahabharata-inspired space opera to be incredibly engaging—engaging enough that I pre-ordered the soon-to-be-released sequel, A House of Rage and Sorrow!

And now, the most recent book arrivals…

A Hero Born by Jin Yong - Book Cover

A Hero Born (Legends of the Condor Heroes #1) by Jin Yong; translated by Anna Holmwood

An English translation of the first volume in acclaimed Chinese author Jin Yong’s Legends of the Condor Heroes will be released in the US for the first time on September 17 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The publisher’s website has an excerpt from A Hero Born, and The Bookseller has an interview with translator Anna Holmwood about Jin Yong’s work and influence and her work on this English edition.

The next three installments in this series are scheduled for release in 2020 and 2021:

A Bond Undone, translated by Gigi Chang — March 2020
A Snake Lies Waiting — September 2020
A Heart Divided — March 2021


The epic Chinese classic and phenomenon published in the US for the first time!

A fantastical generational saga and kung fu epic, Jin Yong’s A Hero Born is the classic novel of its time, stretching from the Song Empire (China 1200 AD) to the appearance of a warlord whose name will endure for eternity: Genghis Khan. Filled with an extraordinary cast of characters, A Hero Born is a tale of fantasy and wonder, love and passion, treachery and war, betrayal and brotherhood.

And then a hero is born…

After his father, a Song patriot, was murdered, Guo Jing and his mother fled to the plains and joined Genghis Khan and his people. Loyal, humble and driven, he learned all he could from the warlord and his army in hopes of one day joining them in their cause. But what Guo Jing doesn’t know is that he’s destined to battle an opponent that will challenge him in every way imaginable and with a connection to his past that no one envisioned.

With the help and guidance of his shifus, The Seven Heroes of the South, Guo Jing returns to China to face his foe and carry out his destiny. But in a land divided by treachery and war, betrayal and ambition, he’ll have to put his courage and knowledge to the test to survive.

Novice Dragoneer by E. E. Knight - Book Cover

Novice Dragoneer (Dragoneer Academy #1) by E. E. Knight

Novice Dragoneer, the first book in a new series by Compton Crook Award–winning author E. E. Knight, will be released on November 5 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

Goodreads currently has a US giveaway for a copy running through September 15, and a book tour event in Naperville, IL, is scheduled on November 6.


In the first book in an exciting new coming-of-age fantasy series from the author of the Age of Fire series, an impoverished girl enters into a military order of dragonriders, but her path won’t be as easy or as straightforward as she expected.

Fourteen-year-old Ileth grew up in an orphanage, and thanks to her stutter was never thought to be destined for much beyond kitchen work and cleaning. But she’s dreamed of serving with the dragons ever since a childhood meeting with a glittering silver dragon and its female dragoneer. For years she waits, and as soon as she is old enough to join, Ileth runs away to become a novice dragoneer at the ancient human-dragon fortress of the Serpentine.

While most of her fellow apprentices are from rich and influential families, Ileth must fight for her place in the world, even if it includes a duel with her boss at the fish-gutting table. She’s then sent off to the dragon-dancers after a foolish kiss with a famously named boy and given charge of a sickly old dragon with a mysterious past. But she finds those trials were nothing when she has to take the place of a dead dragoneer and care for his imprisoned dragon in enemy lands. . . .

Additional Book(s):


Space opera meets mythic fantasy in Sangu Mandanna’s young adult novel A Spark of White Fire, the first book in the Mahabharata-inspired Celestial Trilogy. This riveting, expertly paced tale features gods and goddesses, prophecies and curses, a divided royal family, and a sentient warship who is not particularly fond of the destruction and bloodshed for which she was crafted. I loved every moment of reading it and have already pre-ordered the sequel, A House of Rage and Sorrow (coming September 17 in the US and September 19 in the UK).

A Spark of White Fire is the story of Esmae Rey, a princess separated from her parents and twin brother shorty after her birth—a princess whose very existence was kept secret due to the curse that prompted her mother to send her away in the first place, though she herself learned the truth of her identity from the war goddess Amba. For seventeen years, Esmae lived in obscurity while her twin became renowned, beloved even, for his courage, honor, and accomplishments. She dreamed of one day reuniting with him, and after their uncle became king in her brother’s stead and exiled him, she envisioned herself joining him on a quest to take back his crown.

When a contest to win the god-forged warship Titania is announced, Esmae sees her opportunity to step out of the shadows into the light—and grasps it, despite Amba’s adamant warnings that taking this path leads to dire consequences.

After all the competitors have had their turn, Esmae comes forward and takes her own shot, besting everyone—including her brother, who had been the clear winner before she threw the competition into chaos. Esmae reveals that she is a part of the Rey family in a private meeting with the king running the competition, his son, her two brothers, and her cousin, creating a quandary about whether or not the prize goes to the person registered in the contest who did best or the one who actually did best. The king resolves this by asking the Titania which twin she’d prefer to accompany, and the ship chooses Esmae, knowing they are much alike: though Esmae is a capable warrior, she is not one who relishes blood and glory.

Esmae accepts her uncle’s invitation to rejoin that part of her family so she can gather information for her brother’s cause, but she’s surprised by how genuinely welcoming they are to her—and the more she gets to know them personally, the more she realizes her family members and their differences are not as black and white as she’d once believed.

A Spark of White Fire captivated me immediately with its opening paragraphs describing the imminent competition for Titania and the players involved. Esmae has a compelling voice as she describes the situation in just enough detail to make it intriguing without overloading the reader with too much information at once, adding a tad of dramatic flair as she introduces those involved and compares it to a strategic game—and also a bit about her character, since she’s partial to tactics and studying. This is one of those novels that I thought perfectly set up what can be expected from the rest of the book since it maintains this strong narrative and pacing from start to finish. I was never once bored; the plot and action are well balanced with Esmae’s thoughts and character interactions throughout, making every single scene thoroughly immersive.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m fond of books in which gods and goddesses meddle in the lives of mortals, and this has plenty of those with deities who choose favorites and decide to reward those who please them—which can include the gods’ favorites cursing people who wrong them, leading to situations that seem as though they may be self-fulfilling prophecies. I’ve not read the Mahabharata (though I now want to find a translation to read!) so I can’t speak for how the inspirations work within this story, but I thought that giving these celestial beings a larger playground by setting it in space made it more epic than if they had been confined to a single world. (But then, I do tend to be fond of stories that combine space opera with myth as well.)

Most of all, I loved Esmae for her strengths and understandable weaknesses—and I loved that she’s a character who does not remain stagnant at the end of her journey, one who is affected by events in a way that changes her attitude and worldview. Esmae has spent so long dreaming and wishing that she doesn’t always see her surroundings clearly, and her compassion and loyalty are often clouded by her preconceptions. That’s not to say she’s not capable of readjusting her mindset based on evidence, because she does to some extent (even if she does sometimes overlook the obvious for a while), but she also makes tragic mistakes because of misguided idealistic beliefs.

I appreciated that none of the characters Esmae knew of before meeting them for the first time were exactly like she expected them to be, and I especially enjoyed reading about her cousin Max—the so-called jealous prince who certainly had some insecurities but was also insightful and thoughtful. Besides Esmae and Max, there were two others I found especially wonderful: Esmae’s great-grandmother, a powerful political player; and her mentor, a legendary fighter who will neither suffer nor forgive dishonesty but can still have affection for the person who wronged him.

Although I didn’t think most of the characters were simply “good” or “bad,” I did think that the novel’s biggest weaknesses are that they could have shown a bit more depth and there are parts that could have been built with more subtlety. For instance, Esmae’s said to be a good tactician and is apparently rather good at strategy games, but there’s not much emphasis on her utilizing this knowledge (although, given how this book ends, there may be more reason for her to use it in the sequel!). And perhaps this is due to the original source material I have not read, but there is one revelation that’s been so heavily hinted at that I almost hope it turns out not to be true despite being unable to see how it could possibly be otherwise.

However, those are minor quibbles considering how thoroughly engrossing I found this book, and I mainly point them out to explain why I’m not giving it a higher rating. A Spark of White Fire is one of the most engaging, exciting, fun novels I’ve read this year, and I can hardly wait to discover what Esmae unleashes in A House of Rage and Sorrow.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: It was a birthday present selected from books on my wish list!


The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I discuss books I got over the last week—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (most of which are unsolicited books from publishers). 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 are a few books here that sound very intriguing, but first here are the reviews that went up after the last one of these features:

And now, the latest book arrivals!

The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang

The sequel to The Poppy War was released earlier this month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The publisher’s website has a sample from The Dragon Republic and both a text and audio sample from The Poppy War.

The Poppy War was one of my favorite books of 2018, and I recently purchased this since I’m excited to find out what happens to Rin in The Dragon Republic!


Rin’s story continues in this acclaimed sequel to The Poppy War—an epic fantasy combining the history of twentieth-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters.

The war is over.

The war has just begun.

Three times throughout its history, Nikan has fought for its survival in the bloody Poppy Wars. Though the third battle has just ended, shaman and warrior Rin cannot forget the atrocity she committed to save her people. Now she is on the run from her guilt, the opium addiction that holds her like a vice, and the murderous commands of the fiery Phoenix—the vengeful god who has blessed Rin with her fearsome power.

Though she does not want to live, she refuses to die until she avenges the traitorous Empress who betrayed Rin’s homeland to its enemies. Her only hope is to join forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who plots to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new republic.

But neither the Empress nor the Dragon Warlord are what they seem. The more Rin witnesses, the more she fears her love for Nikan will force her to use the Phoenix’s deadly power once more.

Because there is nothing Rin won’t sacrifice to save her country . . . and exact her vengeance.

Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner - Book Cover

Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner

This fantasy debut novel will be released on November 5 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).


A “brilliant and terrifically fun”* debut novel brings an enchanting new voice to fantasy.

Onna can write the parameters of a spell faster than any of the young men in her village school. But despite her incredible abilities, she’s denied a place at the nation’s premier arcane academy. Undaunted, she sails to the bustling city-state of Hexos, hoping to find a place at a university where they don’t think there’s anything untoward about providing a woman with a magical education. But as soon as Onna arrives, she’s drawn into the mysterious murder of four trolls.

Tsira is a troll who never quite fit into her clan, despite being the leader’s daughter. She decides to strike out on her own and look for work in a human city, but on her way she stumbles upon the body of a half-dead human soldier in the snow. As she slowly nurses him back to health, an unlikely bond forms between them, one that is tested when an unknown mage makes an attempt on Tsira’s life. Soon, unbeknownst to each other, Onna and Tsira both begin devoting their considerable talents to finding out who is targeting trolls, before their homeland is torn apart…

*Kat Howard, Alex Award-winning author of An Unkindness of Magicians

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford - Book Cover

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

This YA fantasy, Mara Rutherford’s debut novel, will be released on August 27 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

The Inkyard Press Tumblr website has an excerpt from Crown of Coral and Pearl.


For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen…and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.

A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen - Book Cover

A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen

This apocalyptic book, Mike Chen’s second novel after Here and Now and Then, will be released on January 14, 2020 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

The Mary Sue has an excerpt from A Beginning at the End.


How do you start over after the end of the world?

“Not just an apocalyptic thriller, but also a timely reminder of what is most important in life—family, love, and hope.” —Peng Shepherd, author of The Book of M 

Six years after a global pandemic wiped out most of the planet’s population, the survivors are rebuilding the country, split between self-governing cities, hippie communes and wasteland gangs.

In postapocalyptic San Francisco, former pop star Moira has created a new identity to finally escape her past—until her domineering father launches a sweeping public search to track her down. Desperate for a fresh start herself, jaded event planner Krista navigates the world on behalf of those too traumatized to go outside, determined to help everyone move on—even if they don’t want to. Rob survived the catastrophe with his daughter, Sunny, but lost his wife. When strict government rules threaten to separate parent and child, Rob needs to prove himself worthy in the city’s eyes by connecting with people again.

Krista, Moira, Rob and Sunny are brought together by circumstance, and their lives begin to twine together. But when reports of another outbreak throw the fragile society into panic, the friends are forced to finally face everything that came before—and everything they still stand to lose.

Because sometimes having one person is enough to keep the world going.

Additional Book(s):

Book Description:

From an Aurora Award-winning author comes a new fantasy epic in which one mage must stand against a Deathless Goddess who controls all magic.

Only in Tananen do people worship a single deity: the Deathless Goddess. Only in this small, forbidden realm are there those haunted by words of no language known to woman or man. The words are Her Gift, and they summon magic.

Mage scribes learn to write Her words as intentions: spells to make beasts or plants, designed to any purpose. If an intention is flawed, what the mage creates is a gossamer: a magical creature as wild and free as it is costly for the mage.

For Her Gift comes at a steep price. Each successful intention ages a mage until they dare no more. But her magic demands to be used; the Deathless Goddess will take her fee, and mages will die.

To end this terrible toll, the greatest mage in Tananen vows to find and destroy Her. He has yet to learn She is all that protects Tananen from what waits outside. And all that keeps magic alive.

The Gossamer Mage, Julie E. Czerneda’s latest novel, is a standalone fantasy book set in a land where a Deathless Goddess has bestowed Her Gift upon a chosen few through the ages. Men called to Her service receive the ability to write their creations into existence; women called to Her service do not create magic but have mastery over Her language and enforce Her rules. But being blessed by the Deathless Goddess comes with a cost: mage scribes age each time they use magic and therefore die prematurely, and though Her daughters do not pay this specific price, one of them may suddenly be required to sacrifice her life in the name of Her justice.

This story follows multiple characters but primarily focuses on an unusually long-lived mage determined to put an end to the Deathless Goddess and the cycle of forcing those who do magic to shorten their life spans in the process. In the course of his journey to the mage academy, he encounters two others seeking answers related to recent strange occurrences at their hold: a daughter who has heard both evil within the walls and the Goddess’ pleas to defend her, and a chemist who has learned that her cousin the hold lord has been inhabited by a mysterious wicked entity.

The Gossamer Mage sounded wonderful from its description, and it does have some intriguing elements. I loved the way magic was bound to language, the fact that magic came with a price, and the idea of flawed magic resulting in the Deathless Goddess’ gossamers floating around causing harmless mischief for mages and daughters, like hiding socks on laundry day. (And there are some not-so-harmless gossamers as well!) The main characters are overall decent people who oppose diabolical forces and desire a world that’s better for everyone, and there are some lovely descriptions.

However, I had one huge problem with it: I found it boring. It took me a couple of tries to get past the first 80 pages or so, and although it did improve after that, I still struggled to finish it. It’s bogged down by exposition, internal reflection about the mysteries, and the dullness of travel, and it didn’t seem as though much actually happened even though the ending involved big changes. Despite containing a lot of explanation, the workings of this land and its holds never seemed truly clear; despite some wondrous scenes, the world never seemed fully alive to me. It changed character perspective every few pages, and although the characters were generally likable people in what seemed like they should have been interesting situations, they just were not compelling to read about. On top of that, the villainous dialogue was trite and awful (but fortunately, there was not much of that!).

The Gossamer Mage is one of those books I felt had some great concepts but was not executed particularly well (although many others have loved it so you may want to read more reviews!). I found it to be far too long with too much uninteresting narrative, and the characters were just not engaging enough to make up for those issues.

My Rating: 3/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC/finished copy from the publisher. (I mostly read the finished copy since one showed up before I got very far into the ARC.)

Read an Excerpt from The Gossamer Mage

The Girl in the Tower
by Katherine Arden
384pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 9.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.7/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.4/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.4/5

The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden’s debut novel and the first book in the Winternight Trilogy, is a beautifully written, atmospheric, Slavic-folklore-inspired book set in a fourteenth century Rus’ in which the old spirits are beginning to fade with the rise of Christianity in the region. This volume chronicles the childhood and young adulthood of Vasya, starting with her mother’s knowledge that her next child will be a daughter very much like her own mother, a woman resembling a swan maiden who rode into Moscow astride a majestic horse one day and later wed the Grand Prince—a mysterious woman who never spoke of where she came from and was rumored to have the powers of a witch.

The Girl in the Tower begins shortly after the end of the previous novel and covers a shorter time span, primarily focusing on Vasya, her brother Sasha, and her sister Olga. After the events at the end of The Bear and the Nightingale, Vasya flees her rural home with Solovey, a magical horse she befriended. The frost-demon Morozko is powerless to deter Vasya from her wish to travel—even after she nearly dies in the cold—so he instead teaches her to use a knife and advises that she disguise herself as a boy for her own safety. Vasya does as he suggests and is hailed as a hero when she rides into Moscow with some children she rescued from kidnapping bandits, but she inadvertently causes problems for Sasha and Olga when she claims to be their brother—and Sasha chooses to lie to his close friend the Grand Prince about his sister’s true identity, fearing what will happen if it is revealed that Vasilii is actually Vasilisa. To further complicate matters, Sasha and Olga question whether or not to trust their sister since they can tell her account of recent events at home is not entirely honest, as Vasya knows they would find the full truth involving spirits they neither see nor believe in to be inconceivable—and a political plot is brewing in Moscow that may only be unraveled by someone with the Sight.

This is not only my favorite book in this phenomenal trilogy but also my 2017 Book of the Year and one of the best books I’ve ever read, period. Like the first book in the series (and The Winter of the Witch, the conclusion released earlier this year), it’s a wonderful historical fantasy/fairy tale, and Katherine Arden weaves a story that feels magical and otherworldly yet realistic and true to life with its vividly drawn characters. But of the three installments, I think The Girl in the Tower is the one with the most excitement and tension, despite a slow beginning. I also particularly enjoyed the inclusion of more mythology and learning more about Vasya’s grandmother, although I can’t discuss those aspects without spoilers.

In addition to its focus on Slavic folklore and their old gods being forgotten, The Girl in the Tower is largely about family and acceptance, and the sibling bonds are particularly compelling. Both Sasha and Olga left home when Vasya was just a child—Sasha to become a monk and Olga to become a princess—and had not seen their younger sister since, until she unexpectedly arrived in Moscow masquerading as a boy. Yet all three obviously care about each other even though there’s some strain on Sasha and Olga’s relationship with their younger sister given the circumstances. They find it difficult to understand why Vasya does what she does at times, but they do want to protect her despite the potential cost to themselves.

Sasha finds Vasya easier to comprehend than Olga does, even admiring her bravery despite believing she committed sins along the way. He and Vasya are actually quite similar as free spirits that thirst for adventure, and he too defied their father when he became a monk. At first, Sasha finds it hard to accept that his sister is acting like a boy (though his mentor, the monk Sergei, gently but wisely pushes back on his sexist statements, more concerned with the fact that he’s deceiving the Grand Prince than the fact that Vasya is participating in so-called manly pursuits dressed like a boy), but he also finds their exploits thrilling. Sasha is somewhat unconventional himself and has not advanced in the Brotherhood after years of service because he prefers being a warrior and adviser to the Grand Prince to being cooped up in a monastery. But he’s celebrated for being who he is—and though Vasya is too, it’s only because people believe her to be a boy, and revealing that she’s not would be dangerous.

Olga is more politically astute and forward-thinking than her two siblings, largely due to the role she married into when she became a princess, and she is concerned about more than her own well-being: the one line she will not cross when it comes to keeping Vasya from harm is doing anything she believes will endanger her children. Given that, she worries more about the consequences if Vasya is discovered, especially any resulting from keeping the truth from the Grand Prince and his cousin, her own husband. At first, she hopes to have Vasya married as quickly as possible, but Vasya has already evaded others’ plans to see her wed and sent to a convent and is not likely to submit to such a fate. Throughout the novel, Olga also comes to realize how very much like her aunt her own daughter is—and that it will not be easy to keep either of them safe from those who despise witches, nor will either be content with a quiet life of confinement.

Vasya herself is strong-willed, often rash and prone to acting before thinking, kind, caring, generally polite (unless she’s given a reason not to be), and willing to own up to and attempt to rectify her mistakes. She is what I most loved about The Girl in the Tower, closely followed by her two siblings, her fiercely protective stallion Solovey, and Morozko. There’s a bit of romance developing between Vasya and Morozko in this book that leads to exploration of the dichotomy between love and immortality when gods are shaped by humanity, and the frost-demon appears to be unexpectedly in over his head when it comes to this particular mortal. He’s accustomed to sending humans away to do what they will, but he can’t seem to stay away from Vasya—especially if she’s in trouble.

The Girl in the Tower is an excellent novel, one I can’t imagine ever not having a place on my bookshelf. If you also like historical fantasy, fairy tales, characters who flout societal rules to carve their own paths, animal companions, books with a dash of romance, and sibling relationships, it may be one you that belongs on yours, too (although I would recommend beginning with The Bear and the Nightingale).

My Rating: 9.5/10

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

Read an Excerpt from The Girl in the Tower

Reviews of Previous Books in the Winternight Trilogy:

  1. The Bear and the Nightingale

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I discuss books I got over the last week—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (most of which are unsolicited books from publishers). 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.

It’s been a couple of weeks since one of these posts, mainly because I spent some of that time working on the two posts that went up since the last Leaning Pile of Books feature:

  • Review of The Book of M by Peng Shepherd — Although it was overlong and I didn’t love any of the characters, the storytelling, concept, and twist made this post-apocalyptic tale that explores the connection between memory and identity a unique, captivating book that I could hardly stop thinking about after finishing.
  • The Gossamer Mage Blog Tour — Julie E. Czerneda discussed new challenges in writing (S.C.T. or “sweaty creative tinkering”) as part of the blog tour for her (very) soon-to-be-released epic fantasy novel The Gossamer Mage—and this also includes some information on how to enter to win signed copies of 18 of her books!

This only covers new arrivals from the last week to prevent it from being a mile long. (I may have bought a few books recently, and my husband may have also gotten a few books that look interesting for me…)

Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri - Book Cover

Realm of Ash (The Books of Ambha #2) by Tasha Suri

Realm of Ash, a companion novel to Empire of Sand about Mehr’s sister Arwa, will be released November 12 (trade paperback, ebook).

Empire of Sand, Tasha Suri’s enchanting debut, was my Book of the Year in 2018 so it’s a bit of an understatement to say I was excited when a copy of this unexpectedly arrived a couple of days ago!


A spellbinding fantasy novel set in the Mughal India-inspired world of Empire of Sand, perfect for readers of City of Brass and The Wrath & the Dawn.

Some believe the Ambhan Empire is cursed. But Arwa doesn’t simply believe it — she knows it’s true.

Widowed by the infamous, unnatural massacre at Darez Fort, Arwa was saved only by the strangeness of her blood — a strangeness she had been taught all her life to suppress. She offers up her blood and service to the imperial family, and makes common cause with a disgraced, illegitimate prince who has turned to forbidden occult arts to find a cure to the darkness hanging over the Empire.

Using the power in Arwa’s blood, they seek answers in the realm of ash: a land where mortals can find the ghostly echoes of their ancestors’ dreams. But the Emperor’s health is failing, and a terrible war of succession hovers on the horizon, not just for the Imperial throne, but for the magic underpinning Empire itself.

To save the Empire, Arwa and the prince must walk the bloody path of their shared past, through the realm of ash and into the desert, where the cause of the Empire’s suffering — and its only chance of salvation — lie in wait. But what they find there calls into question everything they’ve ever valued… and whether they want to save the Empire at all.

The Books of Ambha
Empire of Sand
Realm of Ash

Daughters of Nri by Reni K Amayo - Book Cover

Daughters of Nri (The Return of the Earth Mother #1) by Reni K Amayo

Daughters of Nri, Reni K Amayo’s debut novel and the first book in a young adult fantasy series set in ancient Nigeria, will be released on October 1 (hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook).

It features gods and separated twins who don’t know their true identities, and it sounds rather intriguing!


A gruesome war results in the old gods’ departure from earth. The only remnants of their existence lie in two girls. Twins, separated at birth. Goddesses who grow up believing that they are human. Daughters Of Nri explores their epic journey of self-discovery as they embark on a path back to one another.

Strong-willed Naala grows up seeking adventure in her quiet and small village. While the more reserved Sinai resides in the cold and political palace of Nri. Though miles apart, both girls share an indestructible bond: they share the same blood, the same face, and possess the same unspoken magic, thought to have vanished with the lost gods.

The twin girls were separated at birth, a price paid to ensure their survival from Eze Ochichiri, the man who rules the Kingdom of Nri. Both girls are tested in ways that awaken a mystical, formidable power deep within themselves. Eventually, their paths both lead back to the mighty Eze.

But can they defeat the man who brought the gods themselves to their knees?

Additional Book(s):