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):

I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for Aurora Award–winning author Julie E. Czerneda’s next fantasy book and twentieth published novel, The Gossamer Mage! To celebrate its release on August 6, Penguin Random House is giving away a set of 18 books signed by Julie E. Czerneda—including all nine Clan Chronicles novels and the Species Imperative trilogy—and I have a guest post by her to share with you today!

The Gossamer Mage - Julie E. Czerneda - Book Cover
Cover Art by Katie Anderson
Concept by Roger Czerneda

ABOUT THE GOSSAMER MAGE:

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.

Success = S.C.T.
by Julie E. Czerneda

I’ve been writing science fiction and fantasy novels (thank you, Sheila Gilbert and all at DAW Books) for many years now. I make my living at it, have wonderful friends within the writing and reading community, and definitely can say I #lovemylife.

Success, in real terms.

While it’d be impressive to say I planned it all, using some great strategy that continues to play out exactly as intended? Wow, that’d be an inspiring Ted Talk, but wouldn’t be true. I’ve muddled along, happily writing the stories I wanted to write, riding the ups and downs of a writerly budget (oh look, loot, everyone gets new shoes!), while utterly convinced at Some Point, Some One would notice I was having far too much fun and tell me to STOP. Yes, in all caps.

Safe so far. Whew!

The Gossamer Mage Book Cover
Cover Art by Katie Anderson
Concept by Roger Czerneda

Still, even I’m a smidge curious, especially with The Gossamer Mage being my twentieth published novel. How’d that happen? More specifically, had I a strategy after all? An unconscious competence? A thing? (I’m not a believer in luck, btw.)

Maybe.

I’ve a few personal quirks. Everyone does. Mine might be yours too. Learning new things makes me giddy. Creating something new makes me joyful. Hard work? Bring it on!

Put those together, and you have a pretty good idea why our family is accustomed to biology trivia over supper. They also regard my muffins, subject to constant experimentation, warily and expect me to move the furniture around (or walls or trees) when no one’s looking. Often in February, but that’s another conversation.

Let me hasten to reassure you. My muffins haven’t made anyone ill (yet) and I’m a contented, happy person. I just require a certain amount of S.C.T.—sweaty creative tinkering—in my day. That challenge to make things better. Who doesn’t?

I need it in my writing too. Looking back, I can spot the moments when I decided it was high time to move a figurative wall. Try something I’d never done before. What I’d no idea I could or even how. Do some sweaty creative tinkering.

Case in point. Third person.

Much as I enjoyed English classes, viewing them as the way new-to-me books arrived in my lap, I’m a biologist at heart. When courses conflicted, I chose science and math (and philosophy, but that was February too). My education in language is therefore informed by what I like to read and have read than, well, knowing how myself. I wrote my first four books in “first person” oblivious to there being another choice or really what that was. I just liked it, and it was handy. After all, telepathy works easier if you’re the head in question. Then there’s Esen’s internal babble—how better? I’d bits of the third person thing, but only bits.

In the Company of Others Book Cover
Cover Art by Luis Royo

Still…I felt the twitch. The challenge to do better. When I tackled In the Company of Others, I decided it would be in third person throughout and let the sweaty creative tinkering begin!

It was terrifying. Exhilarating. Hard. I was so happy! WHOOO! Look at me, doing he and she!

I went back to first person for two more books, already knowing what my next creative tinkering would be.

Species Imperative Book Cover
Cover Art by Kenn Brown

I’d write a galaxy-spanning SF EPIC! In, let me add, third person. AND, for the first time ever, I’d set it partly on Earth. Thus Species Imperative came to be.

It was terrifying. Exhilarating. Not as hard, because this time I wrote about salmon which I’d studied when not writing fiction, but harder, because I wrote about real places, like New Zealand, I’d never seen. I was even happier! WHOOOOOOO! Another first? Staying in the same story for three years!

I’ll confess, I was sad to leave, but it was time to try something new. Something I wasn’t sure I could do.

Was it February? Might have been, as I recall.

Reap the Wild Wind Book Cover
Cover Art by Luis Royo

That something? Going back to my very first, first person novel, A Thousand Words for Stranger. Recapturing the feel of it, the tone and details, in order to write a three book prequel to begin what would become the nine book Clan Chronicles.

I almost faltered. I hadn’t done first person in ages. I didn’t remember how to write as my first novel younger self. I found I couldn’t. I wasn’t that person or that writer.

That’s when it occurred to me I didn’t need to be. Stratification should be its own story. Had its own unique world(s) to build. Trusting myself, challenging myself, I plunged into the sweatiest creative tinkering of my writerly life. I invented new ways to organize information. Outlined. Wrote with new phrasing. Brought in worldbuilding detail I’d learned from Species Imperative. Third person, people. Yup. That too.

When it all came together? Best. Feeling. Ever.

I’m going to post elsewhere about my next February adventure, writing my first fantasy. Suffice to say here, having pondered my quirks? I see that for me the most satisfying feeling when I finish a book is knowing I can do better with the next one. I have. I will. Challenging myself to do so is what has kept me contented and happy and, yes, successful as a writer.

Plus sweaty. And occasionally terrified. With joy.

Those feelings keep me excited to be writing. In fact, I’m in the midst of more sweaty creative tinkering, involving a story within a story that folds back on itself and I’ve no idea if it’ll work or not—

Hey, look at me! New thing! Yup. #lovemylife

Julie E. Czerneda
Photo by Roger Czerneda Photography

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

What is magic? As imagined by Julie E. Czerneda, it’s wild and free, a force of nature and source of wonder. She first explored this theme in her Night’s Edge series, starting with the award-winning Turn of Light. In The Gossamer Mage, Julie goes further, envisioning magic not only as integral to landscape and history, but well aware what we’re doing with it. That tie between us and other, the profound changes we make by connecting, have always informed her work, be it fantasy or science fiction.

Mage is Julie’s twentieth novel published by DAW Books, and she couldn’t be more proud to belong to this esteemed publishing family. For more about Julie and her work, please visit czerneda.com.

Although I don’t tend to read post-apocalyptic as much as some other speculative fiction subgenres, Peng Shepherd’s first novel caught my eye before its publication last year—long before The Book of M began garnering acclaim by appearing on numerous Best Books of 2018 lists, becoming a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fantasy finalist, or more recently, winning the Neukom Literary Arts Award for Debut Speculative Fiction. From the moment I read its description, I was intrigued by the idea of examining the connections between memory and identity by exploring what could happen if people around the world suddenly began losing their memories. Having now read it, I think it will appeal to those more interested in those particular aspects and characters’ journeys—both literal and metaphorical—than those who mainly want answers about why and how such a thing might happen, and despite having a few technical quibbles, I found it compelling, unique, and…well, just plain memorable.

The event that changed the world began on Zero Shadow Day, which occurs a couple of times a year in some parts of the world when the sun aligns directly above specific latitudes on Earth. This position causes people to temporarily “lose” their shadows, but on this particular Zero Shadow Day in Pune, India, one man’s shadow did not reappear when all the others did. At first, watching this man’s movement with no mirroring shadow seemed magical, and as other individuals in India also began losing their shadows, many people wished they too could experience this miracle for themselves.

But the wonder ceased on the fourth day: the day the man failed to recognize his own brothers, who had been his near constant companions since his shadow disappeared. Soon after, it became apparent that everyone without a shadow was losing their memories—and the longer they remained shadowless, the more they forgot.

People forgot their friends and family, how to speak and read, where they lived, that they needed to eat and drink. They no longer remembered that fire was dangerous, that flowers didn’t communicate, that deer didn’t have wings. And when they forgot something strongly enough, their faulty recollections became reality: they could walk through a blaze unharmed, plants could provide them with directions, and bucks with wings in place of antlers appeared.

No one was able to figure out why some people lost their shadows and memories or how to prevent this fate, and this phenomenon continued to spread. Eventually, it came to the United States, where it affected Naz, an Iranian archer training for the Olympics in Boston, and Max and Ory, a married couple attending a wedding in Arlington at the time. The topsy-turvy new world created by the Forgetting turned all their lives into an endless struggle for survival, resulting in Naz journeying to Washington, DC, and Max and Ory doing their best to feed and protect themselves as the last of the wedding party residing in the hotel.

Then Max loses her shadow. Fearing she will become a danger to her husband—and what will happen she inevitably forgets him—she sneaks away while her most important memories are still intact, leading Ory to set out to find her. On their separate quests, they hear rumors of The One Who Gathers in New Orleans and are drawn to find him—for reports indicate he may hold the key to retaining one’s memories.

The Book of M is one of those books I’ve been finding difficult to review and describe because, as much as I enjoyed and appreciated it, I realize it has imperfections and elements that some may have a harder time with than I did: it’s overlong, it has logical issues, and it requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. Plus it didn’t have any characters that I loved (even though I did rather like reading about a couple of them!) and the prose was uneven since it could be unnatural and exposition-heavy at times but beautiful at other times.

Yet the storytelling, overall concept, and twist at the end are all superb, and The Book of M is such an imaginative, magical, indelible book that it winnowed its way into my heart regardless of its clearly visible flaws. It’s one of those books I could hardly stop thinking about after finishing, considering how the various pieces fit together. It’s a book that leaves a permanent mark on the mind, and it belongs on my bookshelf for always.

The Book of M is a novel that provides more questions than answers: though characters wonder, it never so much as hints at why people suddenly lost their shadows and memories, why this happened to some people and not others, or why and how it spread around the world. Given the implication that the connection between memory and shadow is tied to the legend of Chhaya, created as a shadow with all her creator’s memories, I saw it as a near future, post-apocalyptic fairy tale that isn’t about examining why this magic happened but how it affected individuals and society. Readers are left to decide how to interpret the rich symbolism and allegory that imbues its pages, all while examining the intersection of memory and identity—how much of who we are is tied to our remembrances and what is lost without them—and the power of names.

It does this by following four characters whose lives are (eventually, in some cases) bound together in various ways, two with their shadows and memories intact and two who have forgotten pieces of their pasts. Naz, the Olympic hopeful, is my favorite because of her grit, determination, and bond with her sister—and it’s also her viewpoint that first offers the clearest picture of the beginnings of the shadowless, starting with media coverage of the first of them in India. After Naz, I most enjoyed reading about The One Who Gathers, an amnesiac who had forgotten much about himself in a terrible accident and never recovered those memories, though he did retain his shadow and post-accident memories. Max’s perspective is narrated entirely through tape recordings she made after she lost her shadow and set out on her own, fearing what her worsening memory loss will mean for her husband, Ory. Though I didn’t always find her voice natural, even considering she was addressing Ory and it made some sense that she’d explain so much given she was grappling with memory, her story is fascinating and an important part of the novel—a contrast to Ory, who I found dull since he was largely focused on finding Max and didn’t have any particularly compelling characteristics or internal conflicts.

Even viewing it as a tale about these four people built upon myth, there were some aspects that didn’t quite seem to fit to me. For one, it seemed as though the world should have been even more chaotic than shown considering magical memory loss led to vanishing cities and a giant Statue of Liberty rampaging through New York City. Although there was disorder, it seemed somewhat contained and orchestrated since I would have expected travelers to run into more inconveniences related to changing landscapes. I also thought some of the ways magic was used toward the end didn’t entirely make sense, although I could also see a few possible reasons it worked the way it did.

However, none of that was enough of a distraction to prevent me from cherishing a creative story well told—and The Book of M is exactly that.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

Read or Listen to a Sample from The Book of M

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.

Last week’s book arrivals all sound excellent! There are no new reviews from the last week, but I am working on one I hope to have finished this week.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia - Book Cover

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This Mexican-inspired dark fairy tale featuring the Mayan god of death will be released on July 23 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

The publisher’s website has an excerpt from Gods of Jade and Shadow.

I’m pretty excited about reading this one, which sounds amazing, has a stunning cover, and piqued my interest in the first couple of sentences!

 

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

Where Oblivion Lives by T. Frohock - Book Cover

Where Oblivion Lives (A Los Nefilim Novel) by T. Frohock

This historical fantasy novel, which features the same world and characters as the three novellas in Los Nefilim, was published earlier this year (trade paperback, ebook, and audiobook).

The publisher’s website has an excerpt and an audio sample from Where Oblivion Lives, and T. Frohock wrote about the series here in her guest post “Angels and Daimons and the Supernatural World of Los Nefilim” from the end of 2015.

I bought a couple of books off my wish list recently with a gift card, and this was one of the ones that was especially calling to me after looking through a few book samples.

 

A lyrical historical fantasy adventure, set in 1932 Spain and Germany, that brings to life the world of the novellas collected in Los Nefilim: Spanish Nephilim battling daimons in a supernatural war to save humankind.

Born of daimon and angel, Diago Alvarez is a being unlike all others. The embodiment of dark and light, he has witnessed the good and the horror of this world and those beyond. In the supernatural war between angels and daimons that will determine humankind’s future, Diago has chosen Los Nefilim, the sons and daughters of angels who possess the power to harness music and light.

As the forces of evil gather, Diago must locate the Key, the special chord that will unite the nefilim’s voices, giving them the power to avert the coming civil war between the Republicans and Franco’s Nationalists. Finding the Key will save Spain from plunging into darkness.

And for Diago, it will resurrect the anguish caused by a tragedy he experienced in a past life.

But someone—or something—is determined to stop Diago in his quest and will use his history to destroy him and the nefilim. Hearing his stolen Stradivarius played through the night, Diago is tormented by nightmares about his past life. Each incarnation strengthens the ties shared by the nefilim, whether those bonds are of love or hate . . . or even betrayal.

To retrieve the violin, Diago must journey into enemy territory . . . and face an old nemesis and a fallen angel bent on revenge.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse - Book Cover

Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

Since its publication last year, this post-apocalyptic fantasy has won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and been nominated for the Nebula and (this year’s yet-to-be-announced) Hugo Awards. It’s currently available in hardcover, trade paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

NPR has an excerpt from Trail of Lightning, and the publisher’s website has an excerpt from Storm of Locusts, the recently-released second book in the series.

This was another book from my wish list that I purchased with some gift card money since it seemed like one to read sooner rather than later!

 

2019 HUGO AWARD FINALIST, BEST NOVEL

Nebula Award Finalist for Best Novel

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last best hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters, and battling dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the killings, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.

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 not exactly a leaning pile this week since only one book came in the mail last week, but I’m rather intrigued by this one—which I knew nothing about until it showed up on my doorstep!

The Throne of the Five Winds - S. C. Emmett - Book Cover

The Throne of the Five Winds (Hostage of Empire #1) by S. C. Emmett

The Throne of the Five Winds, the first book in a new epic fantasy trilogy by bestselling author Lilith Saintcrow writing as S. C. Emmett, will be released on October 15 (trade paperback, ebook).

 

Two queens, two concubines, six princes.
Innumerable secret agendas.
A single hidden blade.

The imperial palace — full of ambitious royals, sly gossip, and unforeseen perils — is perhaps the most dangerous place in the Empire of Zhaon. Komor Yala, lady-in-waiting to the princess of the vanquished kingdom of Khir, has only her wits and her hidden blade to protect herself and her charge, who was sacrificed in marriage to the enemy as a hostage for her conquered people’s good behavior, to secure a tenuous peace.

But the Emperor is aging, and the Khir princess and her lady-in-waiting soon find themselves pawns in the six princes’ deadly schemes for the throne — and a single spark could ignite fresh rebellion in Khir.

Then, the Emperor falls ill — and a far bloodier game begins…

The Throne of the Five Winds is the first installment of the Hostage of Empire series, an intricate and ruthless East Asia-inspired epic fantasy trilogy perfect for fans of George R. R. Martin, Ken Liu, Kate Elliott, and K. Arsenault Rivera.