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

I’m doing some catching up this week since I ended up unexpectedly busy most of last weekend. This post includes last week’s books as well as this week’s.

One book showed up in the last week that I’ve already talked about. Here it is in case you missed it:

On to the rest of the books!

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: July 7 (Hardcover, Ebook, Audiobook)

Kim Stanley Robinson is both a New York Times bestselling and award-winning author whose works have won Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards. The Mars Trilogy, which contains books that have each won at least one of these awards, is being adapted for television.


A major new novel from one of science fiction’s most powerful voices, AURORA tells the incredible story of our first voyage beyond the solar system.

Brilliantly imagined and beautifully told, it is the work of a writer at the height of his powers.

Our voyage from Earth began generations ago.

Now, we approach our destination.

A new home.


Artemis Invaded by Jane Lindskold

Artemis Invaded (Artemis Awakening #2) by Jane Lindskold

Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: June 30 (Hardcover, Ebook)

Previous Book in the Series:

  1. Artemis Awakening (Read an Excerpt)

Jane Lindskold is a New York Times bestselling author. Her work includes The Firekeeper Saga beginning with Through Wolf’s Eyes, Thirteen Orphans, Child of a Rainless Year, and more.


In Artemis Invaded, Jane Lindskold returns to the world of Artemis, a pleasure planet that was lost for millennia, a place that holds secrets that could give mankind back unimaginable powers.

Stranded archaeologist Griffin is determined to make his way back to his home world with news of the Artemis discovery. He and his gene-modified native companion, the huntress Adara, and her psyche-linked puma Sand Shadow, set out to find another repository of the ancient technology in the hope that somehow Griffin will be able to contact his orbiting ship.

In the midst of this, Adara wrestles with her complex feelings for Griffin–and with the consequences of her and Sand Shadow’s new bond with the planet Artemis. Focused on his own goals, Griffin is unaware that his arrival on Artemis has created unexpected consequences for those he is coming to hold dear.  Unwittingly, he has left a trail–and Artemis is about to be invaded.

The Crow of Connemara by Stephen Leigh

The Crow of Connemara by Stephen Leigh

Genre: Fantasy (Contemporary)
Release Date: March 3 (Hardcover, Ebook)

Read an Excerpt

Stephen Leigh, who also writes as S. L. Farrell, is the author of Immortal Muse, the Hoorka trilogy beginning with Slow Fall to Dawn, and more. He has also contributed to some of the Wild Cards books edited by George R. R. Martin.


The Crow of Connemara is a contemporary Celtic fantasy set primarily in Ireland.  Picking up threads from ancient Irish mythology and folktales, this story is fantasy, drama, and tragic romance all at once, a tale caught in the dark places where the world of ancient myth intersects our own, where old ways and old beliefs struggle not to be overwhelmed by the modern world.

Colin Doyle is young Irish-American musician from Chicago, whose interest is traditional Irish music.  Maeve Gallagher is an Oileánach, an “Islander” from Ireland’s west coast. Islanders are outcasts treated with suspicion by the locals, who think them responsible for wild and strange happenings in the area. Colin soon discovers that he’s connected to Maeve in ways he never could have imagined.

Jinn and Juice by Nicole Peeler

Jinn and Juice (The Jinni #1) by Nicole Peeler

Genre: Fantasy (Urban)
Release Date: April 7 (Paperback); Ebook and Audiobook Available Now

Read an Excerpt

Nicole Peeler is also the author of the Jane True series beginning with Tempest Rising.


Cursed to be a jinni for a thousand years, Leila nears the end of her servitude—only to be bound once again against her will. Will she risk all to be human?

Born in ancient Persia, Leila turned to her house Jinni, Kouros, for help escaping an arranged marriage. Kouros did make it impossible for her to marry—by cursing Leila to live a thousand years as a Jinni herself.

If she can remain unBound, Leila’s curse will soon be over. But Ozan Sawyer, a Magi with the ability to See, Call, and Bind jinn has other plans. Oz needs Leila to help him penetrate Pittsburgh’s steel-soaked magic, a juice potent but poisonous to supernatural creatures, in order to find a missing girl with her own mysterious connection to Kouros. Unfortunately for Leila, becoming Bound to Oz may risk more than just her chance to be human once more—it could risk her very soul…

Jinn and Juice is the first in a new series by fantasy writer, Nicole Peeler, set in a world of immortal curses, powerful jinni and belly dancing.

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

Before I get to this week’s book, a couple of reminders:

There’s still time to enter to win a copy of Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega #1) by Patricia Briggs (US only). The fourth book in the series, Dead Heat, releases next week.

Courtney Schafer shared four concluding volumes that she thought were the best book in the entire series last week. I now want to read all the books she mentioned that I haven’t read yet!

On to this week’s book.

Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop

Vision in Silver (The Others #3) by Anne Bishop

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: March 3 (Hardcover, Ebook, Audiobook)

Read an Excerpt
View Upcoming Book Events (including five with Patricia Briggs for the release of Dead Heat!)

Previous Books in the Others Series (with at least two more to come):

  1. Written in Red (Read an Excerpt)
  2. Murder of Crows

New York Times bestselling author Anne Bishop has also written the Black Jewels series. I’ve heard good things about both series, and Written in Red was actually on my wish list after reading Angie’s review at Dear Author so now I might have to order it…


The Others freed the  cassandra sangue  to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

Today I’m delighted to welcome Courtney Schafer back to the blog! Her debut novel, The Whitefire Crossing, was quite enjoyable, and her second book, The Tainted City, was even better with its deeper exploration of the world and characters—and the way it kept me turning the pages! I loved this book, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the conclusion to Dev and Kiran’s story, The Labyrinth of Flame. That’s why I’m so glad there is currently a Kickstarter in progress for the third book after the publisher of the first two faced some financial difficulties. Enough money has been raised that the recently-written book will be edited and completed, but it still hasn’t met the first stretch goal and there are some great rewards such as the book (of course!), the entire trilogy, manuscript critiques, climbing lessons, ice skating lessons, and much more!

The Labyrinth of Flame by Courtney Schafer

Endings are hard. It’s difficult enough to bring a single book to a satisfying close, but when you’re finishing a series? Pulling together multiple books’ worth of plot threads and character arcs into a finale that fulfills or even exceeds readers’ expectations is one heck of an authorial achievement.

This has been much on my mind recently as I worked on revising the final chapters of The Labyrinth of Flame, the conclusion to my Shattered Sigil trilogy. It can be paralyzing to worry about reader expectations; when I’m working on a manuscript I prefer to pretend nobody will read the book but me, so I can focus on writing a novel that I personally love and find satisfying. To that end, I spent a lot of time pondering all my favorite series endings and why they worked so well for me, compared to others that didn’t.

So when a few days ago I heard a friend bemoaning the lack of SF and fantasy series with good endings, I was ready to jump in with suggestions. But in the course of that discussion, my friend brought up an even more interesting question: how many series had I read in which the ending was not only satisfying, but the final book was my favorite of the set?

I had to admit that narrowed my list quite a bit. Even the most well-crafted of resolutions is a closing off of possibilities; you lose the fun of speculating over mysteries and character arcs in progress. Plus, the more I love a set of characters, the more I hate to say farewell.

Yet there are some authors who pull off a final book so awesome that it easily overcomes these handicaps.   Today I want to share a few such books with you, because now I’ve finished my own trilogy I understand just how much a great ending deserves to be celebrated. (I don’t yet know what readers will think of my own ending, but I take comfort that I love The Labyrinth of Flame with a deep and abiding passion!) If you have more excellent endings to recommend, I hope you’ll share them in the comments.

A Tapestry of Lions by Jennifer Roberson

Jennifer Roberson’s A Tapestry of Lions (final book of the Chronicles of the Cheysuli)

This is book eight of the series. BOOK EIGHT. Which makes it all the more impressive that Roberson ends on such a strong note.   I think the final book works so well for me because Roberson isn’t afraid to change things up. Each Cheysuli novel features a different protagonist (often the son or daughter of the previous book’s POV character), but most of the heros and heroines of previous novels shared a sense of duty toward the Cheysuli nation and a pride in their magical heritage. In this last book, Roberson gives us a protagonist who does his level best to reject his birthright, and not in the lip-service way seen in so many fantasy heroes: “Oh, how I wish I did not have the burden of being the Chosen one! But because I am a good person, I will shoulder that burden anyway despite my angst.” Kellin destroys his relationships with friends and family, makes choices that result in terrible consequences, and Roberson doesn’t shy away from any of the pain of that, or sugar-coat his bitterness and selfishness. Instead she makes him change and grow in a way that’s both believable and tied directly into the plot; it’s Kellin’s stubborn rejection of his family’s beliefs that gives him the strength to overcome prejudice and forge a peace with his people’s greatest enemies. I liked the previous books in the series, but it’s this one that I love.

The Tower Broken by Mazarkis Williams

Mazarkis Williams’s The Tower Broken (final book of the Tower and Knife trilogy)

Adding significant POV characters late in a series is always a risk. Readers may resent what they perceive as time taken away from the characters they already care about, or the author may struggle with story bloat brought on by the need to give the new character an equally compelling arc. The Tower Broken is a wonderful example of how to do a new POV right. I loved the addition of Farid, a fruit seller who in the wake of a tragedy discovers he possesses a magical talent that both sides of a conflict wish to exploit. Not only is Farid an interesting character in his own right, but Williams uses him to give us insight into the two fascinating types of magic present in the series (pattern magic and elemental magic) while still keeping the overall plot tight and well-paced. Farid and the beautifully written scenes of magic aren’t the only reason I love this third book best; I also loved where Williams took certain other characters, and how their relationships evolved. The second book in the series was very bleak, but in this one, hope returns, and for me that clinched its place as my favorite of the series.

The Summer Queen by Joan D. Vinge

Joan Vinge’s The Summer Queen (final book of the Snow Queen cycle)

Vinge won a Hugo for the first book in the series, The Snow Queen, but I’ve always felt The Summer Queen deserved it even more. Vinge builds upon The Snow Queen and sequel World’s End in all the best ways: The Summer Queen’s plot is more intricate, the characters deeper, the world and themes more expansive. Plus, Vinge adds a terrific antagonist character who’s sympathetic to the point I found myself desperately hoping his arc wouldn’t end in tragedy. (I won’t spoil anything, but suffice it to say I thought his plotline was one of the best in the book.) C.J. Cherryh’s Cyteen still wins out for my favorite science fiction novel of all time, but The Summer Queen is my favorite science fiction ending.

Restoration by Carol Berg

Carol Berg’s Restoration (final book of the Rai-Kirah trilogy)

I’m aware I’m in the minority on this one. Many fans love the first book Transformation best, citing the developing respect and friendship between slave protagonist Seyonne and his owner Prince Aleksander. I suspect my opinion is different because I read the series out of order. Back in the days I got my new reads exclusively from my local library, I learned to start series mid-course if the first book was checked out (patience isn’t one of my strong suits). I picked up the second Rai-Kirah book, Revelation, off the new release shelf because of its snowy mountain cover and I plunged right in. So it was Seyonne and his attempt to unravel the mystery of demons that caught my interest first, not his relationship with Aleksander (who plays a smaller role in the latter two novels). I love the way Berg first expands and then resolves the demon plot in the third book, and I love Seyonne’s struggle to hold onto his humanity.   I suppose it goes to show how much our expectations of character and story are formed by the first novel we read of a series, and how much influence that holds over our experience of the tale as a whole.

About The Labyrinth of Flame:

Dev’s never been a man afraid of a challenge. Not only has he kept his vow to his dead mentor, rescuing a child in the face of impossible odds, but he’s freed his mage friend Kiran from both the sadistic master who seeks to enslave him and the foreign Council that wants to kill him.

But Kiran’s master Ruslan is planning a brutal revenge, one that will raze an entire country to blood and ashes. Kiran is the key to stopping Ruslan; yet Kiran is dying by inches, victim of the Alathian Council’s attempt to chain him. Worse yet, Dev and Kiran have drawn the attention of demons from the darkest of ancient legends. Demons whose power Dev knows is all too real, and that he has every reason to fear.

A fear that grows, as he and Kiran struggle to outmaneuver Ruslan and uncover the secrets locked in Kiran’s forgotten childhood. For the demons are playing their own deadly game – and the price of survival may be too terrible to bear.

Read an Excerpt: Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three

New to the series? Read the first six chapters of The Whitefire Crossing!

Courtney Schafer

About Courtney Schafer:
Courtney Schafer is the author of the Shattered Sigil series: The Whitefire Crossing, The Tainted City, and The Labyrinth of Flame.  When not writing, she climbs mountains, figure skates, works as an engineer in the space industry, and chases after her insanely active young son. Visit her at or

Today I am giving away two copies of Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs! This is the first novel in the Alpha and Omega series, which was introduced with “Alpha and Omega” in the anthology On the Prowl. Cry Wolf is followed by Hunting Ground and Fair Game with the fourth book, Dead Heat, releasing next week. Patricia Briggs is one of my favorite authors of urban fantasy because of her wonderful series—and character!—Mercy Thompson, and Alpha and Omega is set in the same world as her other series. Giveaway details are below (this one is US only).

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

ABOUT CRY WOLF (read an excerpt):

Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack… and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’d learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then Charles Cornick, the enforcer—and son—of the leader of the North American werewolves, came into her life.

Charles insists that not only is Anna his mate, but she is also a rare and valued Omega wolf. And it is Anna’s inner strength and calming presence that will prove invaluable as she and Charles go on the hunt in search of a rogue werewolf—a creature bound in magic so dark that it could threaten all of the pack.

Courtesy of Penguin Random House, I have two copies of Cry Wolf to give away! This giveaway is open to US residents only.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Cry Wolf Giveaway.” One entry per household and one winner will be randomly selected. Those from the US are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Friday, March 6. Each winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book).

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

Good luck!

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

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

Before I get to this week’s books, a quick review update: I’m working on a review of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. Even if I finish it soon, it might not be up right away since there are a couple of other planned posts coming up next week, but I want to give it a shout out now since The Invisible Library is currently at the top of my list of favorite books read this year. The heroine is a spy who collects books from different alternate worlds for the Library, which exists outside of time and space, and it is so much fun. I’m really looking forward to the next two books.

One book showed up this week that I’ve already discussed, but in case you’ve been waiting for the paperback release, here it is:

On to the new books!

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

The Girl at Midnight (Book #1 of 3) by Melissa Grey

Genre: Fantasy (Young Adult)
Release Date: April 28 (Hardcover, Ebook, Audiobook)
View Upcoming Book Event(s)

I hadn’t heard of this debut novel before it showed up in the mail this week, but I’m quite curious about it after seeing multiple Goodreads reviews comparing it to Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (my favorite YA author and one of my favorite authors ever).


For readers of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, The Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

The Doll Collection edited by Ellen Datlow

The Doll Collection edited by Ellen Datlow

Genre: Horror
Release Date: March 10 (Hardcover, Ebook)
Read the Introduction

Book Events:
Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, New York (March 10)
The Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico (March 15)

Ellen Datlow, recipient of the 2014 World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, edited this anthology of stories about dolls that are dark and creepy without using the “evil doll” trope. Authors include Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn, Mary Robinette Kowal, Jeffrey Ford, Pat Cadigan, Genevieve Valentine, Tim Lebbon, Joyce Carol Oates, and more.


The Doll Collection is exactly what it sounds like: a treasured toy box of all-original dark stories about dolls of all types, including everything from puppets and poppets to mannequins and baby dolls.

Featuring everything from life-sized clockwork dolls to all-too-human Betsy Wetsy-type baby dolls, these stories play into the true creepiness of the doll trope, but avoid the clichés that often show up in stories of this type. Master anthologist Ellen Datlow has assembled a list of beautiful and terrifying stories from bestselling and critically acclaimed authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn, Pat Cadigan, Tim Lebbon, Richard Kadrey, Genevieve Valentine, and Jeffrey Ford. The collection is illustrated with photographs of dolls taken by Datlow and other devoted doll collectors from the science fiction and fantasy field. The result is a star-studded collection exploring one of the most primal fears of readers of dark fiction everywhere, and one that every reader will want to add to their own collection.

The Exile by C. T. Adams

The Exile (The Fae #1) by C.T. Adams

Genre: Fantasy (Paranormal/Urban)
Release Date: March 10 (Paperback, Ebook)
Read Chapter 1

This will be C. T. Adams’ first solo novel. Together with Cathy Clamp she is USA Today bestselling author Cat Adams (Blood Singer series).


Brianna Hai runs an occult shop that sells useless trinkets to tourists—and real magic supplies to witches and warlocks. The magical painting that hangs in Brianna’s apartment is the last portal between the fae and human worlds.

A shocking magical assault on her home reveals to Brianna that her father, High King Liu of the Fae, is under attack. With the help of her gargoyle, Pug, her friend David, and Angelo, a police detective who doesn’t believe in magic, Brianna recovers what was stolen from her and becomes an unwilling potential heir to the throne.

A suspenseful urban fantasy with a hint of romance, The Exile is the first solo novel by C. T. Adams, who is half of USA Today bestselling author Cat Adams. Like the Cat Adams Blood Singer novels, The Exile is set in a world where magic is real and contains Adams’s trademark blend of suspense, action, humor, and strongly emotional writing.

The Hollow Queen by Elizabeth Haydon

The Hollow Queen (The Symphony of Ages #8) by Elizabeth Haydon

Genre: Fantasy (Epic)
Release Date: June 30 (Hardcover, Ebook)

Previous Books in the USA Today bestselling series, The Symphony of Ages:

  1. Rhapsody: Child of Blood (Read an Excerpt)
  2. Prophecy: Child of Earth
  3. Destiny: Child of the Sky
  4. Requiem for the Sun
  5. Elegy for a Lost Star
  6. The Assassin King
  7. The Merchant Emperor

Acclaimed author Elizabeth Haydon returns with a heartbreaking tale of love and valor in The Hollow Queen, the eighth installment of her USA Today bestselling Symphony of Ages series that began with Rhapsody.

Beset on all sides by the forces of the merchant emperor Talquist, the Cymrian Alliance finds itself in desperate straits. Rhapsody herself has joined the battle, wielding the Daystar Clarion, leaving her True Name in hiding with her infant son. Ashe tries to enlist the aid of the Sea Mages. Within their Citadel of Scholarship lies the White Ivory tower, a spire that could hold the key to unraveling the full extent of Talquist’s machinations. Achmed journeys to the reportedly unassailable palace of Jierna Tal, to kill emperor Talquist—all the while knowing that even if he succeeds, it may not be enough to stop the momentum of the war.

As they struggle to untangle the web of Talquist’s treachery, the leaders of the Cymrian alliance are met with obstacles at every turn. Rhapsody soon realizes that the end of this war will come at an unimaginable price: the lives of those she holds dearest.

Shadow by Will Elliott

Shadow (The Pendulum Trilogy #2) by Will Elliott

Genre: Fantasy (Contemporary)
Release Date: February 24 (Hardcover, Ebook)
Read an Excerpt

Previous Book:

  1. The Pilgrims (Read an Excerpt)

Will Elliott is also the award-winning author of The Pilo Family Circus, which won the Australian Shadows Award and the Golden Aurealis Award for Best Novel. It tied with another novel for the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel.


Eric Albright was a luckless journalist living in London. He had a so-so life…until the day he opened a battered red door that appeared on the graffiti-covered wall of a local bridge, and entered Levaal, a magical world between worlds. A place populated by power damaged mages, stone giants, pit devils—and dragons, Levaal’s possible creators, who are imprisoned in a sky prison. It is also where the mad Lord Vous rules with an iron fist and is busy working on a scheme to turn himself into a god. Vous has been defeated so far because Levaal has been contained by the great Wall at World’s End.

But the Wall at World’s End has been brought down, war is coming to the land, and Eric and his newfound friends are caught in the thick of it. They are forced to flee from the Tormentors, dreadful creatures that have poured through the breach, and there are rumors that one of the great dragons has escaped its sky prison.

Worse yet, Vous’s journey to godhood is almost complete, and a mysterious being called Shadow (who is not but looks remarkably like Eric) is wandering Levaal with great power but no purpose it yet understands.

The end might be coming faster than anyone thinks.

Shadow is the second title in Will Elliott’s fantasy Pendulum Trilogy.

Steelheart is the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s young adult series The Reckoners. The second book in the trilogy, Firefight, was recently released and joined the ranks of the first book as a #1 New York Times bestseller. The conclusion, Calamity, doesn’t appear to have a release date yet.

Even though he was only eight years old at the time, David vividly remembers the day Steelheart appointed himself emperor of Chicago—and changed his life forever.

Epics, people with superpowers, had appeared a couple of years before that occasion. While many considered them to be dangerous, others—like David’s father—still believed that heroes would arise to stand against the villains back then. On the day Steelheart took over Chicago, David and his father were at the bank when the Epic Deathpoint strode in and began destroying people with a simple gesture. David’s father managed to get a hold of a dead security guard’s gun, but before he could shoot Deathpoint, he was noticed by the Epic. As the deadly finger was being raised in his direction, Steelheart’s appearance and displeasure distracted the other Epic.  The people thought they were saved—until Steelheart made it clear his problem wasn’t an aversion to murder but rather an aversion to others having the audacity to think they could do as they pleased to the people in his city.

David’s father was unable to comprehend that this majestic Epic was not there with heroic intentions, and he shot Deathpoint when it looked like he may harm Steelheart. Unfortunately, the bullet grazed Steelheart and drew blood even though no other weapon in the room had left so much as a scratch on him. Every Epic, even the seemingly indestructible, has a weakness and David’s father unknowingly stumbled upon Steelheart’s. Steelheart’s reaction to this was to destroy the bank and remove everyone who had witnessed his wounding. Only David escaped, but not after seeing Steelheart shoot his father—and he swore that someday Steelheart would pay for that.

Ten years later, David has concocted a plan to capture the attention of the Reckoners, a group of ordinary people who kill these villainous Epics. David has been studying the Epics for his entire life, and he believes both his knowledge of various Epics and Steelheart’s injury can be a great asset to the rebels. Together he thinks they may have a chance to figure out Steelheart’s weakness and eliminate him once and for all—if he can just convince the Reckoners to accept him into their group and set their sights on a major Epic instead of the minor ones they normally target.

Steelheart is pure entertainment. It’s not the type of book I normally enjoy since it’s light on character development, yet I had fun reading it. It was exactly what I was in the mood for when I picked it up during the busy holiday season—a straightforward book with lots of action and dialogue that jumped headfirst into the story. While it did start to lose my interest for a few chapters in the middle that were leading up to the grand finale, it more than made up for this with an exciting ending that left potential for more complexity in the next two books.

Steelheart is an easy book to pick up and become immediately interested in reading since it begins with the experience that shaped David’s life and his desire for revenge against the titular Epic. It’s easy to feel sympathy for David as someone who saw his father killed at a young age and has been living in a world dominated by unstoppable evil tyrants with superpowers ever since. It’s about the desire for vengeance but also about hope—the belief that just maybe there is something ordinary people can do to fight back against the Epics after all. It’s a simple premise but a powerful one since it is so easy to relate to.

It is also an uncomplicated story in other ways. The lines between good and bad are not blurred since the Epics are universally terrible (although the end does leave some room for more blurred lines in future books). There are some moments throughout that serve as clues to revelations in the end, but they’re about as subtle as a flashing neon sign. It’s obvious which occurrences are important, and this just makes the fact that David seems oblivious to what they mean stand out. He’s supposed to be smart, and he’s studied Epics his whole life—in fact, he has figured out things that an entire group of people dedicated to taking them out were unaware of, yet he can’t see what’s right in front of his face sometimes. I found this hard to believe, and these weren’t the only times I found characters’ actions unbelievable. It also seemed far too convenient to me that the Reckoners accepted David into their group as easily as they did, especially since he was very quickly quite influential. There were reasons for this, but it still seemed like a rebel organization should have been harder to infiltrate than it was.

None of the characters are incredibly deep, even the main protagonist. David is primarily defined by his desire for revenge, his love of weaponry, his in-depth knowledge of Epics, and his terrible metaphors. Personally, I thought the metaphors were overdone to the point of annoyance, although some of them were amusing. He’s always trying to come up with good metaphors but fails miserably by coming up with something terrible. This happens in both his narrative and dialogue with other characters, sometimes leading to conversations about why he thinks his mangled metaphor actually makes sense. It seemed as though these were supposed to be funny, but I thought this was trying too hard to be clever and failing most of the time, especially when this happened over and over again. The other characters are also rather thinly developed, and the more interesting aspects of them involve information revealed at the end of the story. Many of these revelations are not terribly surprising, but it did still make for a very exciting, well-executed ending that may be setting up deeper exploration of the Epics in the next books.

There were some aspects of Steelheart that didn’t appeal to me—an overused narrative device that was more tiresome than funny, predictability and a lack of subtlety, and two-dimensional characters—but it is a (mostly) fast-paced, fun book with an epic conclusion. Despite the issues I had, I’d recommend it to those looking for an entertaining book and do plan on reading the sequel myself when in the mood for a light, uncomplicated book.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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

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