The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight 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, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

It’s been a few weeks since one of these posts. I spent some of my weekend time working on last week’s post, which took forever to write since it’s not possible to adequately describe how gorgeous this book is:

  • Review of Realm of Ash (The Books of Ambha #2) by Tasha Suri — This standalone sequel to Empire of Sand about Mehr’s younger sister, Arwa, is a little slow to start but comes together beautifully. I cannot recommend these books highly enough to those who love poetic introspection that cuts deep, characters and relationships with dimension, and stories with hope shining through the darkness.

And now, the latest book arrivals!

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal - Book Cover

We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya #1) by Hafsah Faizal

We Hunt the Flame, Hafsah Faizal’s New York Times bestselling debut novel, was released earlier this year (hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook). I’d been looking forward to this one for a while, and when I saw the author link to some signed copies for sale on Twitter, I couldn’t resist buying one!

Hypable has a chapter one excerpt, and Macmillan has a chapter two excerpt.

You can also read Hafsah Faizal’s guest post from Women in SF&F Month 2019 on realizing why she incorporated the girl disguised as a boy trope into this novel.

We Free the Stars, the second half of this tale, is scheduled for release in July 2020.


Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, Hafsah Faizal’s We Hunt the Flame—first in the Sands of Arawiya duology—is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.

People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward - Book Cover

Legacy of Ash (Legacy #1) by Matthew Ward

This epic fantasy novel is available in ebook and audiobook now with the trade paperback to come in April.

The Orbit website has an excerpt from Legacy of Ash.


Legacy of Ash is an unmissable fantasy debut–an epic tale of intrigue and revolution, soldiers and assassins, ancient magic and the eternal clash of empires.

A shadow has fallen over the Tressian Republic.

Ruling families — once protectors of justice and democracy — now plot against one another with sharp words and sharper knives. Blinded by ambition, they remain heedless of the threat posed by the invading armies of the Hadari Empire.

Yet as Tressia falls, heroes rise.

Viktor Akadra is the Republic’s champion. A warrior without equal, he hides a secret that would see him burned as a heretic.

Josiri Trelan is Viktor’s sworn enemy. A political prisoner, he dreams of reigniting his mother’s failed rebellion.

And yet Calenne Trelan, Josiri’s sister, seeks only to break free of their tarnished legacy; to escape the expectation and prejudice that haunts the family name.

As war spreads across the Republic, these three must set aside their differences in order to save their home. Yet decades of bad blood are not easily set aside. And victory — if it comes at all — will demand a darker price than any of them could have imagined.

Buzz Kill by David Sosnowski - Book Cover

Buzz Kill by David Sosnowski

Buzz Kill, a prequel to Happy Doomsday, will be released on January 28 (hardcover, trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).


Pandora Lynch lives in Alaska with her single dad, an online therapist for Silicon Valley’s brightest and squirreliest. Homeschooled by computer and a self-taught hacker, Pandora is about to enter high school to learn how to be normal. That’s the plan at least.

NorCal runaway George Jedson is a hacker too—one who leaves the systems he attacks working better than before. After being scooped up by a social media giant, will George go legit—or pull off the biggest hack ever? Not even his therapist knows for sure, but maybe the headshrinker’s daughter…

After meeting in cyberspace, the two young hackers combine their passions to conceive a brainchild named BUZZ. Can this baby AI learn to behave, or will it be like its parents and think outside the box?

With a hilarious and deeply empathetic narrative voice, this elegiac and unapologetically irreverent novel is both humorous and tragic without ever taking itself too seriously.

Additional Book(s):

Realm of Ash
by Tasha Suri
496pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.25/5

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Empire of Sand, Tasha Suri’s fantasy debut novel inspired by Mughal India, is a gorgeous novel and one that I found deeply affecting—I loved it so much that it was my choice for Book of the Year in 2018 with its rich storytelling, fascinating world, and beautiful writing. Most of all, I was enchanted by the main characters and the vividly drawn relationships, especially the slow burn romance that grew from respect and common values, and its exploration of choice and connection.

Realm of Ash, the second novel in The Books of Ambha, was one of my most anticipated books of 2019, possibly even my most anticipated book of the year given my fondness for Tasha Suri’s first novel—and just like her debut, it’s a gorgeous book. It’s difficult to say which of the two I enjoyed more, even though I preferred the main characters and love story in the first and thought this one was slower overall. It still has a lovely slow build romance, wonderful characters, and the quality storytelling, world building, and writing that I appreciated about the first, but it’s also a more mature, complex book. It kept me reading late into the night and is one of those special books I expect to reread in the future despite the never-ending pile of books I want to read for the first time.

In short: I loved Realm of Ash and found it deeply affecting, just like Empire of Sand.

Although Realm of Ash expands on the world and consequences resulting from the end of the previous book, it’s more of a companion novel to Empire of Sand than a direct sequel since it follows different characters approximately a decade later. Technically, you could read this book first if you don’t mind discovering the truth about the Empire along with the main protagonist, but I’d recommend reading them in order to get the most out of them.

This novel is a story about Mehr’s younger sister, Arwa, who was only nine years old when the head of the faith forced her only sibling to enter his service because of the power in her blood, rare even for those descended from the gods like herself. Unlike Mehr, who was old enough to remember their mother and learn from her before her exile, Arwa knew very little about that side of her heritage—especially since the woman who married her father and raised her as her own daughter strove to keep it that way. Before she was made to leave home, Mehr did teach Arwa that drawing her blood would keep the daiva she feared from harming her, as they’d realize she’s related to them and recall their vow not to hurt one of their own. But the main lesson ingrained into Arwa about that part of herself was that it was best kept hidden: her father’s people hated her biological mother’s people, and their family fell into disgrace after her sister refused to let go of their rites and traditions.

Now 21 years old, Arwa also knows that this blood is the only reason she’s alive: extracting some spared her from a massacre at the military fort her husband had commanded, making her the sole survivor of an attack caused by a feral spirit. As a widow, she’s expected to either spend the rest of her days with her parents or in a hermitage with other women who outlived their husbands. Fearing the same blood that saved her, Arwa chooses the latter, hoping for respite from curiosity about how she alone evaded death and wishing to spare her family further suffering.

But Arwa is unable to escape the daiva and ends up revealing the truth of her ancestry to another widow, one who still has ties to the royal family. Arwa offers to serve the princess, believing her blood may be key to breaking the curse that has swept through their land ever since their religious leader died several years ago—the same curse that’s resulted in an increase in incidents like the bloodbath she witnessed.

The princess accepts and has Arwa brought to her palace to spend her nights secretly working forbidden occult magic with a scholarly illegitimate prince, who introduces her to the realm of ash: a spirit realm with their ancestors. As a descendant of the head of the faith, the prince seeks to unravel the mystery of keeping the horrors of the curse at bay, a goal that seems within reach with Arwa’s involvement—but the two discover the need to forge a new path, all while facing danger and turmoil within the royal family as the Emperor’s health fails.

Realm of Ash had my interest from the beginning, especially considering that I was already familiar with the world and Arwa’s childhood after reading Empire of Sand, but it did take longer to completely draw me in than the previously published book. The overarching story, Arwa’s development, the romance, and emergent themes are built slowly and carefully—masterfully, and powerfully, as words and scenes come to have immense impact. Like its predecessor, it has high stakes without being action packed, has darkness running through it but is ultimately hopeful, and has a focus on choice and connection, but it’s very much its own tale. As with her previous novel, Tasha Suri is particularly adept at creating relationships with dimension and a lyrically sharp introspective voice, and her exploration of truth, love, power, and anger viewed through Arwa’s eyes is piercing.

Arwa’s journey is intensely poignant—at its heart, it’s about having had a part of herself stolen from her, discovering that piece of herself she never completely realized was missing, and taking it back. From the earliest pages, Arwa’s rage simmers, and as she discovers more about her history and those who had control over it, she comes to realize much of her fury is misdirected. Initially, she blamed Mehr for being taken—for not blending in and behaving as a proper noblewoman should, like Arwa always has—rather than her oppressors. But as she learns more of their shared past, she realizes who is truly to blame and the cruelty inherent in the love that tried to protect her from reality.

Though all of Arwa’s various relationships are compelling, the romance that develops between her and Zahir, the illegitimate prince with whom she traverses the realm of ash, has the most weight. Zahir is despised because of his mother—he could have been executed just like her, if not for his sister’s affection—and is lonely, living and studying in isolation. He knows what it’s like to be unsure of where he stands and which rules others expect him to follow as someone who is royalty yet not; he knows that Arwa may have similar insecurities as a widow who unexpectedly finds herself in the taboo situation of meeting a man alone by order of the princess. As the two work together to figure out how to break the curse, they come to care for each other and come to see themselves as being their own “mystic order of two.” Theirs is a romance founded on common goals and respect, one in which two people who have always had to be careful about showing their true selves can just be their true selves with one another—one in which they lift each other up and are all the stronger for having the other in their life.

Realm of Ash is an enchanting novel with a compelling story, a fantastic world, wonderful characters, and elegant, hauntingly memorable prose. All this, plus the insight it offers into the world in which we live—from society and power structures, to truth and the cost of knowledge, to the necessity of “dreaming a new world”—make it an indelible book. Tasha Suri is a master of crafting poetic, quietly sharp introspection that cuts deep, and both of her novels have great emotional resonance. I can hardly wait to read more of her work.

My Rating: 9/10

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

Reviews of Other Book(s) in The Books of Ambha:

  1. Empire of Sand

Read an Excerpt from Realm of Ash

Read Tasha Suri’s Women in SF&F Month 2019 Essay (on fairy tales and Indian classical dance as an inspiration for the magic system in The Books of Ambha)

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight 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, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

It has been A Week so I didn’t get a chance to finish any book reviews, but at least it was a great week for books! I recently won M. L. Wang‘s 100 Goodreads Reviews Celebration Giveaway, which included all three of her novels and some lovely swag like bookmarks and character cards, and was rather excited when the prizes arrived last week! Plus, a pre-ordered book I’ve been looking forward to for a while showed up…

The Sword of Kaigen by M. L. Wang - Book Cover

The Sword of Kaigen (A Theonite War Story) by M. L. Wang

The Sword of Kaigen, a standalone military fantasy novel set thirteen years before the Theonite books, was released earlier this year (paperback, ebook). And I just saw that the ebook is currently just $.99 on Amazon for the duration of #TheSwordOfKaigenBlogTour (through November 29)!

The Sword of Kaigen is also a finalist in this year’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off: Kitty G announced just a couple of days ago that it’s her winner, making it one of ten books that will be moving on to the final round.

The author’s website has both an Amazon preview and a text sample from The Sword of Kaigen.

I keep hearing this novel is excellent and it sounds wonderful!


On a mountainside at the edge of the Kaigenese Empire live the most powerful warriors in the world, superhumans capable of raising the sea and wielding blades of ice. For hundreds of years, the fighters of the Kusanagi Peninsula have held the Empire’s enemies at bay, earning their frozen spit of land the name ‘The Sword of Kaigen.’

Born into Kusanagi’s legendary Matsuda family, fourteen-year-old Mamoru has always known his purpose: to master his family’s fighting techniques and defend his homeland. But when an outsider arrives and pulls back the curtain on Kaigen’s alleged age of peace, Mamoru realizes that he might not have much time to become the fighter he was bred to be. Worse, the empire he was bred to defend may stand on a foundation of lies.

Misaki told herself that she left the passions of her youth behind when she married into the Matsuda house. Determined to be a good housewife and mother, she hid away her sword, along with everything from her days as a fighter in a faraway country. But with her growing son asking questions about the outside world, the threat of an impending invasion looming across the sea, and her frigid husband grating on her nerves, Misaki finds the fighter in her clawing its way back to the surface.

When the winds of war reach their peninsula, will the Matsuda family have the strength to defend their empire? Or will they tear each other apart before the true enemies even reach their shores?

A rich elemental magic system and deep world-building make this martial fantasy perfect for fans of R.F. Kuang, Brandon Sanderson, Leigh Bardugo, and Lian Hearn.

Theonite: Planet Adyn by M. L. Wang - Book Cover

Theonite: Planet Adyn (Theonite #1) by M. L. Wang

The first book in the Theonite series, which is set in the same universe as The Sword of Kaigen, is out now (paperback, ebook).

The author’s website has both an Amazon preview and a text sample from Theonite: Planet Adyn.

Superpowers, crime-fighters, parallel dimensions, and a mysterious villain—this sounds like a comic book in novel form in the very best of ways!


Joan is at her happiest when she uses her powers – stirring air currents, creating fire, and levitating metal objects – but she learned at a young age that no one in her small-minded suburban town was prepared to accept her abilities. Since that painful revelation, she has hidden her powers, isolating herself from others, even keeping her own parents at a distance.

However, all that changes when a spastic but charming boy named Daniel Thundyil transfers to her school and she begins to suspect that he is concealing powers of his own. Burning with curiosity and desperate to end her loneliness, Joan makes it her mission to get to the bottom of this boy’s secrets. What she doesn’t realize is that Daniel isn’t just another Earthling with uncanny abilities; he is an inter-dimensional traveler from a world of super-powered beings. And the moment she started prying into his life, she put herself in the sights of the godlike evil that follows him from his dimension.

Now, the most powerful girl on Earth faces a choice: will she retreat back to the safety of her life in hiding or brave the storm for a chance at truth and friendship?

For Daniel Thundyil and his crime-fighter father, Robin, adventures in exotic places are nothing new. The two of them have chased criminals all over their own planet of super-powered beings. But this is the first time a mission has brought them to a parallel dimension, and something about it doesn’t sit right with Daniel. Questions gather like storm clouds: Who is this villain they are hunting? Why won’t Robin reveal his name? As the sky darkens, Daniel and Joan start to wonder who is really being hunted.

Theonite: Orbit by M. L. Wang - Book Cover

Theonite: Orbit (Theonite #2) by M. L. Wang

The second book in the Theonite series is also available now (paperback, ebook).

The author’s website has both an Amazon preview and a text sample from Theonite: Orbit.


This was a world where two black women with spears trumped three white men with guns, and one unarmed musician trumped them all. This was going to take some getting used to…

After barely escaping Earth with their lives, Joan and Daniel scramble to piece together the mystery of Killer 31 while dodging police, security guards, fanboys, and a dark hooded figures.Daniel always intended to take on the Firebird mantle and fight his father’s enemies, but he didn’t expect to have to do it at the age of thirteen under a hail of spears and bullets.

Joan was hoping to find a world where she wouldn’t be isolated because of her powers, but adjusting to existence on the bottom of Duna’s racial hierarchy turns out to be more painful than any of the alienation she experienced on Earth.

Grieving, unbalanced, and quickly becoming the most wanted people on the Dakkabana space station, Joan and Daniel are forced to strike up alliances with some unlikely people: a hyperactive Firebird fanboy, a friendly painter, and the disappointing son of an otherwise powerful warrior family. Can the group of misfits pull together into something resembling a team in time to outsmart their enemies and save Firebird? Or will Robin Thundyil’s legacy disappear with him?

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black - Book Cover

The Queen of Nothing (Folk of the Air #3) by Holly Black

The final book in the Folk of the Air trilogy just came out last week (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

Hachette has an excerpt from The Queen of Nothing, as well as samples from the previous books in the series:

  1. The Cruel Prince (text and audio samples)
  2. The Wicked King

The end of The Wicked King was amazing and infuriating (because it stopped there), and I had to find out what happened next! I already finished reading it this weekend because it’s short and the Internet is dark and full of spoilers, but I’m still processing how I feel about it. I definitely loved reading it and enjoyed Jude’s voice and the dialogue, but it seemed less twisty and dark than the first two books.


From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black, comes the highly anticipated and jaw-dropping finale to The Folk of the Air trilogy.

He will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight 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, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Last week brought a book I’m very excited about (and I recently bought a signed copy of a book I loved, although I’m just linking to my review in the list at the end since I have written about it and am sure I will be writing about it again in my yearly favorites post!), but first, here’s the latest review in case you missed it:

Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender - Book Cover

Queen of the Conquered (Islands of Blood and Storm #1) by Kacen Callender

This Caribbean-inspired epic fantasy novel, Lambda Literary Award–winning author Kacen Callender’s first book for adults, was released last week (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

Orbit has an excerpt containing the prologue and first three chapters of Queen of the Conquered.


An ambitious young woman with the power to control minds seeks vengeance against the royals who murdered her family, in a Caribbean-inspired fantasy world embattled by colonial oppression.

Sigourney Rose is the only surviving daughter of a noble lineage on the islands of Hans Lollik. When she was a child, her family was murdered by the islands’ colonizers, who have massacred and enslaved generations of her people — and now, Sigourney is ready to exact her revenge.

When the childless king of the islands declares that he will choose his successor from amongst eligible noble families, Sigourney uses her ability to read and control minds to manipulate her way onto the royal island and into the ranks of the ruling colonizers. But when she arrives, prepared to fight for control of all the islands, Sigourney finds herself the target of a dangerous, unknown magic.

Someone is killing off the ruling families to clear a path to the throne. As the bodies pile up and all eyes regard her with suspicion, Sigourney must find allies among her prey and the murderer among her peers… lest she become the next victim.

Queen of the Conquered reckons with the many layers of power and privilege in a lush fantasy world — perfect for readers of S. A. Chakraborty, Ken Liu, and Tasha Suri.

Additional Books:

A House of Rage and Sorrow
by Sangu Mandanna
264pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.5/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.56/5

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

A House of Rage and Sorrow is the second book in Sangu Mandanna’s Mahabharata-inspired Celestial Trilogy, a young adult series combining mythic fantasy with space opera to tell the story of Esmae Rey, a princess who grew up desperate to connect with her twin and the rest of the family she never knew—a princess whose very existence was kept secret by the mother who sent her away, fearing a curse involving her daughter.

In A Spark of White Fire, Esmae decided to step out of the darkness into the light after seventeen years of living in obscurity, despite having been warned by the war goddess who divulged her true identity to her that it would be best if she remained in the shadows. The heretofore unknown girl made shock waves throughout the galaxy when she not only bested beloved exiled prince Alexi Rey in a contest for the indestructible, god-forged sentient warship Titania but also revealed herself to be the formerly presumed winner’s twin. This one act led to a horrific vision foreseen by the gods, and though it didn’t exactly unfold as expected, Esmae still suffered great losses—including her dream of being her brother’s closest ally and standing by him to defeat the uncle who stole his crown.

When A House of Rage and Sorrow opens three months later, Esame has staunchly sided with the uncle who accepted and cared for her and started the war with her twin that many within their house had been working to avoid. She feels as though she’s let so many down—her grandmother, her cousin, her mentor, and even Titania, who had chosen to join the twin she believed least likely to set off the conflict brewing between the Reys—but she is too consumed by her rage and sorrow to end it. Esmae doesn’t want to simply kill Alexi—that would be too easy on him—but wants to destroy his reputation, incensed that he remains highly regarded even after publicly shedding his honor on the day he betrayed her. Yet with the god of tricks (and bargains! He hates it when we mortals forget that part!) aiding Alexi, the twins’ war threatens to escalate beyond their kingdoms: for he seeks to free an imprisoned great beast that would devour entire stars, all because she could bring battles with Titania to a stalemate.

After reading A Spark of White Fire earlier this year, A House of Rage and Sorrow became one of my most highly anticipated books of 2019. I pre-ordered a copy and began reading it soon after its arrival but was surprised to find it less riveting than the previous book, which had a vivid narrative voice and masterful pacing that perfectly balanced character development and plot. The sequel is actually too quickly paced: a slightly shorter novel that adds another perspective besides Esmae’s (Titania‘s) and seems more focused on shocking revelations and plot than characterization, despite its many characters. I also thought that the writing was not as poignant as the first, and though that may have been due to Esmae’s increasing anger and jadedness, I rarely felt her oft-mentioned rage earlier in the novel.

Like the series opener, many of the clues leading to big revelations are seeded with the subtlety of a flashing neon sign. Although predictability isn’t necessarily bad, I do prefer that hints regarding Big Reveals leave at least some question as to whether or not my suspicions could be wrong. Interspersing the warship’s viewpoint with Esmae’s also added exposition and more obvious tip-offs about certain events, even if it did include some interesting bits and pieces (and gave a better idea of how much Titania cares about Esmae, as well as providing more insight into her thoughts and emotions). Having an additional narrative also supplemented my impression that this book was less intimate and centered than the first with all the characters weaving in and out. I did appreciate that most of these personalities were not clearly “good” or “evil” and I was never bored by it, but I was underwhelmed for a while considering how thoroughly enjoyable I found A Spark of White Fire.

But it improved later and the last 20% is amazing—among the best, most memorable sequence of chapters I’ve read this year. Esmae is forced to confront a devastating truth, and her rage becomes palpable as it boils over into a frothing mess that will leave a permanent mark. Given this and the wonderful foundation set in the first book, I’m still obsessed with this trilogy and where it’s headed, despite believing the middle volume to be a weaker installment.

That’s in part because of the excellently handled themes and the way they tie in with and expand on those from the previous book. This series is largely about family, both biological and found family, and this sequel has parallels with the first as Esmae continues to chase wishes only to realize she already had what she’d been longing for the whole time. It concerns people making mistakes that cascade into problems for the next generation, and the cycle created when those who come after feel as though the odds are stacked against them and make the same mistakes. It shows Esmae grappling with the reality that she’s had to fight for every single scrap of power she’s accumulated while her twin brother has been freely given loyalty, love, and acclaim; it shows the courage of taking an honest look at oneself and facing the worst parts. Esmae’s struggles are heartbreaking and relatable, and her anger is understandable even when she makes horrific choices and descends further into her fury and darkness.

Most of all, I loved that Esmae is not a static character—she will never be the same after the conclusion of A House of Rage and Sorrow. I can hardly wait to learn how that impacts the rest of her story, coming in September 2020.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

Reviews of Other Book(s) in The Celestial Trilogy:

  1. A Spark of White Fire

Read “Steel and Flowers” (prequel short story about Kyra)

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight 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, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

There’s a lot of catching up to do after missing the last couple of weekends for various reasons. A lot of books have come in the mail over the last couple of weeks, plus I attended this year’s Neukom Literary Arts Award ceremony since I live in the area—and, of course, purchased some books there (and got this year’s winning novels signed by their authors!). It was a wonderful event, and I very much enjoyed hearing Audrey Schulman and Peng Shepherd discuss their books. (You may recall I reviewed Peng Shepherd’s The Book of M a few months ago and very much enjoyed it!)

The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman - Book Cover

The Secret Chapter (The Invisible Library #6) by Genevieve Cogman

The Secret Chapter, the sixth book in the Invisible Library series, will be released on January 7, 2020, in the US (trade paperback, ebook) and on November 14 in the UK (paperback, ebook, audiobook).

This series, which follows an agent of the Library that exists outside of time and space, is a delight, and I’m rather intrigued by the fact that the next installment features an art heist.

The previous books in the series are as follows:

  1. The Invisible Library (My Review | Excerpt)
  2. The Masked City (My Review | Excerpt)
  3. The Burning Page (My Review | Excerpt)
  4. The Lost Plot (My Review | Excerpt)
  5. The Mortal Word (My Review | Excerpt)

Time-travelling, dimension-jumping, Librarian-spy Irene and dragon-prince Kai will have to team up with an unlikely band of misfits to pull off an amazing art heist—or risk the wrath of a dangerous villain with a secret island lair.

A Librarian’s work is never done, and Irene is summoned to the Library. The world where she grew up is in danger of veering deep into chaos, and she needs to obtain a particular book to stop this from happening. Her only choice is to contact a mysterious Fae information-broker and trader of rare objects: Mr. Nemo.

Irene and Kai make their way to Mr. Nemo’s remote Caribbean island and are invited to dinner, which includes unlikely company. Mr. Nemo has an offer for everyone there: he wants them to steal a specific painting from a specific world. But to get their reward, they will have to form a team, including a dragon techie, a Fae thief, a gambler, a driver, and the muscle. Their goal? The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, in an early twenty-first-century world, where their toughest challenge might be each other.

Parable of the Sower/Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler - Box Set

Parable of the Sower/Parable of the Talents Boxed Set (Earthseed #1–2) by Octavia E. Butler

This hardcover boxed set of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents was an early Christmas present from my husband (who was too impatient to wait a couple of months to actually give it to me!). These editions from Seven Stories Press are gorgeous and include introductions by Gloria Steinem (Sower) and Toshi Reagon (Talents).

I’ve read Sower before and thought it was fascinating, but it’s been a while since I read it. I definitely want to reread it before starting Talents.


A beautiful boxed set brings together the great sci-fi writer’s two award-winning Parable books

The perfect gift for fans of Octavia Butler, this boxed set pairs the bestselling Nebula-prize nominee, Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, which together tell the near-future odyssey of Lauren Olamina, a “hyperempathic” young woman who is twice as feeling in a world that has become doubly dehumanized. In Sower, the place is California, where small walled communities protect from hordes of desperate scavengers and roaming bands of people addicts. Lauren sets off on foot along the dangerous coastal highways, moving north into the unknown. The book has an introduction by feminist, journalist, activist, and author Gloria Steinem.

Parable of the Talents celebrates the classic Butlerian themes of alienation and transcendence, violence and spirituality, slavery and freedom, separation and community, to astonishing effect, in the shockingly familiar, broken world of 2032. It is told in the voice of Lauren Olamina’s daughter—from whom she has been separated for most of the girl’s life—with sections in the form of Lauren’s journal. Against a background of a war-torn continent, and with a far-right religious crusader in the office of the U.S. presidency, this is a book about a society whose very fabric has been torn asunder, and where the basic physical and emotional needs of people seem almost impossible to meet. Talents is introduced by singer, musician, composer, producer, and curator Toshi Reagon, who created an opera based on the Parable books.

Sword of Fire by Katharine Kerr - Book Cover

Sword of Fire (The Justice War #1) by Katharine Kerr

This epic fantasy, the first book in a new trilogy set in the Celtic-inspired world of Deverry, will be released on February 18, 2020 (hardcover, ebook).


This first novel of an epic fantasy trilogy reintroduces readers to the beloved and bestselling world of Deverry, blending magic, politics, and adventure in an unforgettable setting.

The bards are the people’s voice—and their sword.

All over the kingdom of Deverry, the common people are demanding reform of the corrupt law courts. In Aberwyn, the situation catches fire when Gwerbret Ladoic, second in authority only to the High King, allows a bard to starve to death rather than hear their grievances.

Guildwoman Alyssa, a student at the local scholars’ collegium, and Lady Dovina, the gwerbret’s own daughter, know that evidence exists to overthrow the so-called traditional legal system, if they can only get it into the right hands. The powerful lords will kill anyone who threatens their privileges.

To retrieve the proof, Alyssa must make a dangerous journey that will either change her life forever—or end it.

Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman - Book Cover

Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman

This science fiction novel won the Philip K. Dick Award and Dartmouth’s Neukom Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction and is out now (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

I’ve had my eye on book for a while, and listening to Audrey Schulman talk about it just made me even more excited to read it!


WINNER 2019 Philip K. Dick Award for BEST Science Fiction

WINNER 2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction

One of The Washington Post‘s 50 Notable Works of fiction in 2018

“Stage four. Surgery. Recovering.” While those are the simple words that once described Dr. Francine Burk’s situation, the reality is much more complex. Her new reality is bacon rinds for breakfast and feeling unduly thrilled by her increasing ability to walk across a room without assistance. And it’s being offered a placement at a prestigious research institute where she can put to good use her recent award money. With the Foundation’s advanced technological resources and a group of fascinating primates, Francine can begin to verify her subversive scientific discovery, which has challenged the foundations of history―her Theory of Bastards.

Frankie finds that the bonobos she’s studying are as complex as the humans she’s working alongside. Their personalities are strong and distinct, and reigning over it all is Mama, the commanding matriarchal leader of the group. Frankie comes to know the bonobos and to further develop her groundbreaking theory with the help of her research partner, a man with a complicated past and perhaps a place in her future. And then something changes everything, and the lines that divide them―between subject and scientist, between colleague and companion―begin to blur.

With deft skill and heartbreaking honesty, Audrey Schulman delves into the very nature of her characters. Her newest novel explores the nuances of communication, the implications of unquestioned technological advancement, and the enduring power of love in a way that is essential and urgent in today’s world. This thrilling literary novel will resonate, long after the final page is turned.

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller - Book Cover

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

Blackfish City won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction and was a finalist for several other awards, including the Nebula Awards for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, and the Neukom Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction. (It was another book I purchased after the Neukom Awards ceremony.) It’s available in hardcover, trade paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

The Harper Collins website has an excerpt from Blackfish City.


A Best Book of the Month in

Entertainment Weekly

The Washington Post

B&N Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog


After the climate wars, a floating city is constructed in the Arctic Circle, a remarkable feat of mechanical and social engineering, complete with geothermal heating and sustainable energy. The city’s denizens have become accustomed to a roughshod new way of living, however, the city is starting to fray along the edges—crime and corruption have set in, the contradictions of incredible wealth alongside direst poverty are spawning unrest, and a new disease called “the breaks” is ravaging the population.

When a strange new visitor arrives—a woman riding an orca, with a polar bear at her side—the city is entranced. The “orcamancer,” as she’s known, very subtly brings together four people—each living on the periphery—to stage unprecedented acts of resistance. By banding together to save their city before it crumbles under the weight of its own decay, they will learn shocking truths about themselves.

Blackfish City is a remarkably urgent—and ultimately very hopeful—novel about political corruption, organized crime, technology run amok, the consequences of climate change, gender identity, and the unifying power of human connection.

Infomocracy by Malka Older - Book Cover

Infomocracy (The Centenal Cycle #1) by Malka Older

Infomocracy, the first book in a completed trilogy, is available in hardcover, trade paperback, audiobook, and ebook. It was a finalist for the Locus Award for Best First Novel and the Neukom Literary Arts Award for Debut Speculative Fiction (and was another book I’ve had my eye on for a while that I purchased after the awards ceremony). has the first five chapters from Infomocracy.


Read Infomocracy, the first book in Campbell Award finalist Malka Older’s groundbreaking cyberpunk political thriller series The Centenal Cycle, a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Series, and the novel NPR called “Kinetic and gripping.”

• A Locus Award Finalist for Best First Novel
• The book The Huffington Post called “one of the greatest literary debuts in recent history”
• One of Kirkus‘ “Best Fiction of 2016”
• One of The Washington Post‘s “Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2016”
• One of Book Riot’s “Best Books of 2016 So Far”

It’s been twenty years and two election cycles since Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, pioneered the switch from warring nation-states to global micro-democracy. The corporate coalition party Heritage has won the last two elections. With another election on the horizon, the Supermajority is in tight contention, and everything’s on the line.

With power comes corruption. For Ken, this is his chance to do right by the idealistic Policy1st party and get a steady job in the big leagues. For Domaine, the election represents another staging ground in his ongoing struggle against the pax democratica. For Mishima, a dangerous Information operative, the whole situation is a puzzle: how do you keep the wheels running on the biggest political experiment of all time, when so many have so much to gain?

Infomocracy is Malka Older’s debut novel.

Book 1: Infomocracy
Book 2: Null States
Book 3: State Tectonics

Additional Books: