Book Description:

Ten years have passed since the events of the Demon Child books that left the god Xaphista dead, the nation Karien without a religion or king and the matriarchal country of Medalon ruled by men. But it is in the kingdoms of the south that things really heat up. When Princess Rakaia of Fardohnya discovers she is not of royal birth, she agrees to marry a much older Hythrun noble in a chance to escape her ‘father’s wrath. Rakaia takes nothing but her jewels and her base-born half-sister, Charisee, who has been her slave, handmaiden and best friend since she was six years old. And who can pass as Rakaia’s double.

These two sisters embark on a Shakespearean tale of switched identities, complicated love triangles…and meddlesome gods. Rakaia is rescued on the road by none other than the Demon Child, R’shiel, still searching for a way to force Death to release her near immortal Brak. Charisee tries to act like the princess she was never meant to be and manages to draw the attention of the God of Liars who applauds her deception and only wants to help.

Then there is the little matter of the God of Music’s magical totem that has been stolen…and how this theft may undo the universe.

Powerful magics, byzantine politics, sweeping adventure, and a couple of juicy love stories thrown in for good measure, The Lyre Thief is classic Fallon that is sure to appeal to her fans.

The Lyre Thief, Jennifer Fallon’s latest novel, is the first book in the War of the Gods, the third Hythrun Chronicles trilogy in both publication and chronological order. Although I suspect it would have been helpful to have read the Wolfblade and Demon Child trilogies beforehand, enough background was provided that I didn’t feel lost starting here—but I do want to read them now anyway because I found The Lyre Thief thoroughly enjoyable and want to read more of these books!

From the book description, I had a feeling The Lyre Thief was going to be my type of book since I love both tropes involving false identities and meddling gods, and both of these make it delightfully fun to read. When Princess Sophany realizes the secret she’s been hiding for over twenty years—that her daughter Rakaia was not fathered by the King of Fardohyna—may soon be revealed, she ensures that Rakaia is the princess chosen to wed a Hythrun noble in exchange for trade concessions. Sophany plans for Rakaia’s slave Charisee, an illegitimate but true daughter of the king, to pretend to be Rakaia after they leave the harem, allowing her daughter to escape before the truth about her parentage is discovered. Charisee, quite understandably, has some reservations about this idea, but after Rakaia flees in the middle of the night she decides she may as well make the best of pretending to be a princess and asks Jakerlon, the God of Liars, to keep her safe. To her surprise, she later receives a personal visit from her new god, who is quite pleased by her service, and Charisee does her best to follow his advice—after all, her life now depends on everyone believing her to be Rakaia.

Although The Lyre Thief follows several characters, Charisee and Rakaia are the two most prominent, and I enjoyed their stories the most, especially Charisee’s. She tends to blurt out what’s on her mind even when it may not be wise to do so, but she’s also quite clever and learns to use some of this honesty to her advantage when pretending to be Rakaia: as Jakerlon taught her, “the best lies are the stone cold truth.” Her tale is fun but also heartbreaking since she does have to keep up this pretense and sometimes the absolute truth is the one thing that will not be believed when she does try to open up.

Rakaia is a little more difficult to sympathize with in the beginning, especially given that shortly after she’s introduced she’s being condescending toward Charisee and they don’t spend enough time together before being split up to really show the friendship the other characters reference, but her sections ended up being my favorite after Charisee’s. At first, she’s hesitant to even eat tavern food after being used to palace cuisine, but she quickly accepts that she needs to deal with things like this if she wants to survive and discovers she quite likes not being a princess.

Even though I found the book as a whole quite readable, some of the other storylines were not as compelling as Rakaia and Charisee’s. I also very much enjoyed reading about High Princess Adrina and her stepbrother Kiam Miar, an honorable assassin charged with getting “Rakaia” safely to Hythria, but I didn’t find R’shiel quite as compelling in the present (her past sounded interesting). Her goal was finding a character from the previous books so this may have been more engaging had I read them and known more about the person she was so desperate to be reunited with. There are a couple of additional viewpoint characters in addition to those mentioned, and I did find it a little difficult to see how some of those not immediately connected to Rakaia or Charisee fit in at first; I think some familiarity with the previous books may have helped that come together sooner as well. There was also a tendency to tell instead of show a lot in the writing (and sometimes tell what was already obvious), but I was so drawn in by the story and the characters’ conversations that this didn’t bother me too much.

The Lyre Thief is incredibly entertaining and currently one of my favorite 2016 releases. The first thing I did after finishing it was check to see when the next book would be following, and Retribution is a 2017 release I’m very much looking forward to.

My Rating: 8/10

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

I don’t usually do this, but since it’s for a good cause and features some great authors I’m passing along a press release about the upcoming book Unfettered II. This anthology is being published by Grim Oak Press, with all proceeds going to medical debt relief and cancer research. Contributors include:

  • Bradley Beaulieu (Song of Shattered Sands)
  • Terry Brooks
  • Jim Butcher (Dresden Files)
  • Rachel Caine
  • Sarah Beth Durst (The Queens of Renthia)
  • David Farland
  • Charlaine Harris
  • Mark Lawrence (Gunlaw)
  • Erin Lindsey (Bloodbound)
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Aidan Moher
  • Naomi Novik
  • Peter Orullian (Vault of Heaven)
  • A. Pitts
  • Anthony Ryan (Raven’s Shadow)
  • Brandon Sanderson
  • Scott Sigler
  • Shawn Speakman (Annwn Cycle)
  • Michael J. Sullivan (The Legends of the First Empire)
  • Django Wexler
  • Janny Wurts
  • Todd Lockwood (Cover Artist)
  • Don Maitz (Interior Illustrator)


Proceeds going to cancer research and author medical debt

SEATTLE, WASH., July 19, 2016—Grim Oak Press, the small press that published the bestselling anthology Unfettered, will publish Unfettered II in November 2016.

Without health insurance and diagnosed with cancer in 2011, Grim Oak Press owner Shawn Speakman accrued massive medical debt while treating the disease. Rather than declare medical bankruptcy, he reached out to fellow authors and received donated short stories in return—many from New York Times bestselling writers. The stories were collected and became Unfettered, the proceeds from the sci-fi/fantasy anthology eliminating his debt burden.

To pay forward the aid he received—and to memorialize his mother who passed away earlier this year from Stage 4 stomach cancer—Speakman has again collaborated with celebrated scifi/fantasy authors to publish Unfettered II. “My mother first put books into my life as a child. Later she helped me survive two different cancers,” said Speakman. “Having lost her to cancer, I will focus my sorrow in a way that will make a difference. Unfettered II is the beginning of that.”

All proceeds from Unfettered II will go toward ending medical debt for other authors as well as be donated in partnership to the Cancer Research Institute in New York, NY.

Such notable New York Times bestselling authors as Terry Brooks (“The Shannara Chronicles”), Charlaine Harris (“True Blood,” “Midnight, Texas”), Brandon Sanderson (“Wheel of Time,” “Stormlight Archive”), Jim Butcher (“Dresden Files”), and Naomi Novik (“Temeraire,” Uprooted) are contributing short stories to Unfettered II.

Cover art will be supplied by renowned artist Todd Lockwood, who contributed the artwork for Unfettered. Interior art duties will be handled by Hugo Award-winning illustrator Don Maitz.

Unfettered II will be available for pre-order on July 19, 2016 at the Grim Oak Press website.

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

Before this week’s books, a few brief updates:

  • A couple of days ago, I announced the July Patreon book: The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason.
  • I’m currently working on a review of The Lyre Thief by Jennifer Fallon, which I liked a LOT. It’s one of my favorite 2016 releases I’ve read, and I now very much want to read more by Jennifer Fallon!

On to the latest books!

Supernova by C. A. Higgins

Supernova (Lightless #2) by C. A. Higgins

Supernova will be released on July 26 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Entertainment Weekly has excerpts from both Supernova and the previous book, Lightless.


C. A. Higgins’s acclaimed novel Lightless fused suspenseful storytelling, high-caliber scientific speculation, and richly developed characters into a stunning science fiction epic. Now the dazzling Supernova heightens the thrills and deepens the haunting exploration of technology and humanity—and the consequences that await when the two intersect.

Once Ananke was an experimental military spacecraft. But a rogue computer virus transformed it—her—into something much more: a fully sentient artificial intelligence, with all the power of a god—and all the unstable emotions of a teenager.

Althea, the ship’s engineer and the last living human aboard, nearly gave her life to save Ananke from dangerous saboteurs, forging a bond as powerful as that between mother and daughter. Now she devotes herself completely to Ananke’s care. But teaching a thinking, feeling machine—perhaps the most dangerous force in the galaxy—to be human proves a monumental challenge. When Ananke decides to seek out Matthew Gale, the terrorist she regards as her father, Althea learns that some bonds are stronger than mortal minds can understand—or control.

Drawn back toward Earth by the quest, Althea and Ananke will find themselves in the thick of a violent revolution led by Matthew’s sister, the charismatic leader Constance, who will stop at nothing to bring down a tyrannical surveillance state. As the currents of past decisions and present desires come into stark collision, a new and fiery future is about to be born.

Additional Books:


The July Patreon book poll theme was science fiction and fantasy books involving competitions or tournaments. The choices were as follows:

The July book selection is…

The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason

The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason

One seat on the intergalactic Sakien Empire’s supreme ruling body, the Council of Seven, remains unfilled, that of the Empress Apparent. The seat isn’t won by votes or marriage. It’s won in a tournament of ritualized combat in the ancient tradition. Now that tournament, the Empress Game, has been called and the females of the empire will stop at nothing to secure political domination for their homeworlds. Kayla Reinumon, a supreme fighter, is called by a mysterious stranger to battle it out in the arena.

The battle for political power isn’t contained by the tournament’s ring, however. The empire’s elite gather to forge, strengthen or betray alliances in a dance that will determine the fate of the empire for a generation. With the empire wracked by a rising nanovirus plague and stretched thin by an ill-advised planet-wide occupation of Ordoch in enemy territory, everything rests on the woman who rises to the top.

I bought a copy of this a little while ago after hearing great things about it and am looking forward to reading it!

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

After getting caught up last weekend, I’m back on track so this just covers books from the last week.

In case you missed it, I posted two reviews discussing four books last week:

Now, the latest books!

Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire

Once Broken Faith (October Daye #10) by Seanan McGuire

The tenth book in the October Daye series will be released on September 6 (mass market paperback, ebook). It also includes a new novella about Arden Windermere, “Dreams and Slumbers.”

October Daye is one of my favorite urban fantasy series, and I especially love books 4-6. The books in the series are as follows:

  1. Rosemary and Rue (my review)
  2. A Local Habitation (my review)
  3. An Artificial Night (my review)
  4. Late Eclipses (my review)
  5. One Salt Sea (my review)
  6. Ashes of Honor (my review)
  7. Chimes at Midnight (my review)
  8. The Winter Long (my review)
  9. A Red-Rose Chain

Politics have never been October “Toby” Daye’s strong suit. When she traveled to the Kingdom of Silences to prevent them from going to war with her home, the Kingdom of the Mists, she wasn’t expecting to return with a cure for elf-shot and a whole new set of political headaches.

Now the events she unwittingly set in motion could change the balance of modern Faerie forever, and she has been ordered to appear before a historic convocation of monarchs, hosted by Queen Windermere in the Mists and overseen by the High King and Queen themselves.

Naturally, things have barely gotten underway when the first dead body shows up. As the only changeling in attendance, Toby is already the target of suspicion and hostility. Now she needs to find a killer before they can strike again—and with the doors locked to keep the guilty from escaping, no one is safe.

As danger draws ever closer to her allies and the people she loves best, Toby will have to race against time to prevent the total political destabilization of the West Coast and to get the convocation back on track…and if she fails, the cure for elf-shot may be buried forever, along with the victims she was too slow to save.

Because there are worse fates than sleeping for a hundred years.

Urban Allies edited by Joseph Nassise

Urban Allies edited by Joseph Nassise

This urban fantasy anthology containing ten stories will be released on July 26 (trade paperback, ebook). Two authors collaborated on each story, featuring characters from both authors’ books. For example, “Tailed” by Seanan McGuire and Kelley Armstrong is about both Verity Price from InCryptid and Elena Michaels from Otherworld.


In this impressive anthology, 20 of today’s hottest urban fantasy writers—including Charlaine Harris, Jonathan Maberry, Kelley Armstrong, Larry Correia, and C. E. Murphy—are paired together in ten original stories featuring their favorite series characters.

Urban Allies brings together beloved characters from two different urban fantasy series—Peter Octavian and Dahlia Lynley-Chivers, Joanne Walker and Harper Blaine, Joe Ledger and Agent Franks, Sabina Kane and Ava—in ten electrifying stories. Combining fictional worlds in one dual adventure, each of these stories melds the talents of two high-profile authors, many working together for the first time—giving readers a chance to see their favorite characters in an imaginative and fresh way.

Edited by acclaimed bestselling author Joseph Nassise—who is also a contributor—this outstanding collection showcases the brilliant storytelling talents of some of the most acclaimed fantasy writers working today, among them seven New York Times bestselling authors, two USA Today bestselling authors, and multiple Bram Stoker Award winners.

Contributors include:
Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden • Carrie Vaughn and Diana Rowland • Jonathan Maberry and Larry Correia • Kelley Armstrong and Seanan McGuire • Joe Nassise and Sam Witt • Steven Savile and Craig Schaefer • David Wellington and Weston Ochse • Stephen Blackmoore and Jeff Somers • Catie Murphy and Kat Richardson • Jaye Wells and Caitlin Kittredge

Additional Book(s):

Book Description:

Steampunk meets Kaiju in this original fantasy epic for mature readers, as young Maika risks everything to control her psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, placing her in the center of a devastating war between human and otherworldly forces.

Monstress #1 is bleak, violent, and absolutely gorgeous. Sana Takeda’s artwork is a visual feast with beautiful color palettes and exquisite details, and the illustrations were my favorite part (except for the gorier ones since I am incredibly squeamish!). The story is intriguing, too, but it is difficult to assess at this point since it is an introduction that leaves a lot of unanswered questions about the world and Maika herself. I don’t read a lot of graphic novels, and when I do, it’s normally a volume containing multiple issues and even this triple issue seemed very short to me. However, it definitely piqued my interest about Maika’s past and her connection to the monster, and I do very much want to read the first volume containing issues one through six that is being released later this month.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from a publicist.

Book Description:

The eagerly awaited new fantasy from the multiple award-winning “storytelling sorceress” – Peter S. Beagle.

Hidden away from the world by his mother, the powerful sorceress Heloise Oliver, Pierce has grown up working in her restaurant in Desolation Point. One day, Heloise tells her son the truth about his father, a knight in King Arden’s court; about an older brother he never knew existed; about his father’s destructive love for King Arden’s queen; and, Heloise’s decision to raise her younger son alone.

As Pierce journeys to Severluna, he learns that things are changing in that kingdom. Ancient magic is on the rise. The immensely powerful artifact of an ancient god has come to light, and the king is gathering his knights to quest for this profound mystery, which may restore the kingdom to legendary glory—or destroy it.

Although enjoyable, Kingfisher is my least favorite of Patricia McKillip’s books I’ve read. It’s inspired by Arthurian legends but it’s a unique story rather than being a straightforward retelling like the other books based on these tales that I’ve read. The world is a meld of the fantastic and contemporary, as it seems very much like a secondary world fantasy complete with magic and knights, but those knights ride around in limos and talk on cell phones. There’s much that I admired about Kingfisher—there is some beautiful writing, a great sense of humor runs through it even though it’s not a comedy, and it has a great ending—but I never really came to care about any of the characters and found it rather meandering since it did focus on several different peoples’ stories, some of which were more interesting than others.

I would recommend those new to Patricia McKillip’s work start elsewhere, perhaps with her excellent, fairly short book The Changeling Sea (my favorite book I’ve read so far this year).

My Rating: 7/10

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

Book Description:

With shades of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and Game of Thrones, debut author Pierce Brown’s genre-defying epic Red Rising hit the ground running and wasted no time becoming a sensation.

Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within.

A life-or-death tale of vengeance with an unforgettable hero at its heart, Golden Son guarantees Pierce Brown’s continuing status as one of fiction’s most exciting new voices.

Since I had some reservations about Red Rising, I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed Golden Son. Like its predecessor it does require some suspension of disbelief and the writing is sometimes rather dramatically overwrought, but I didn’t find myself caring as much when reading this one since it’s an intensely exciting book—dark and suspenseful, a page-turner that kept me wanting to learn what would happen next and what various characters’ true motivations were. It’s a stellar middle book that’s far superior to the first, and I loved every twist and turn. Though it has some flaws and it’s not my favorite book I’ve read this year, it is the most thrilling book I’ve read this year as well as one of the most thoroughly engaging.

My Rating: 9/10

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