In November, the Fantasy Café Patreon account, which has a reward tier that allows voting on blog content for a post during the next month, was launched. Last month’s book was The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip, a wonderful stand alone fantasy nominated for the Mythopoeic Award. The February theme was a book not published by a large publisher, and the winner is…

Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

An alluring new collection from the author of the New York Times Notable Book, Midnight Robber

Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring, The Salt Roads, Sister Mine) is an internationally-beloved storyteller. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as having “an imagination that most of us would kill for,” her Afro-Caribbean, Canadian, and American influences shine in truly unique stories that are filled with striking imagery, unlikely beauty, and delightful strangeness.

In this long-awaited collection, Hopkinson continues to expand the boundaries of culture and imagination. Whether she is retelling The Tempest as a new Caribbean myth, filling a shopping mall with unfulfilled ghosts, or herding chickens that occasionally breathe fire, Hopkinson continues to create bold fiction that transcends boundaries and borders.

I’ve wanted to read more by Nalo Hopkinson since reading Sister Mine so I’m looking forward to reading this collection! It will be read and reviewed later this month, and next month I’ll announce the March winner, a recent SFF debut (“recent” being a book published within the last four years) by a new-to-me author.

Ash and Silver
by Carol Berg
496pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 4.7/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.5/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.26/5

Book Description from Goodreads:

In Dust and Light, national bestselling author Carol Berg returned to the world of the award-winning Flesh and Spirit. Now she continues the saga of a man whose past is veiled in shadows….

Ever since the Order of the Equites Cineré stole his memory, his name, and his heart, thinking about the past makes Greenshank’s head ache. After two years of rigorous training, he is almost ready to embrace the mission of the Order—to use selfless magic to heal the troubles of Navronne. But on his first assignment alone, the past comes racing back, threatening to drown him in conspiracy, grief, and murder.

He is Lucian de Remeni—a sorcerer whose magical bents for portraiture and history threaten the safety of the earth and the future of the war-riven kingdom of Navronne. He just can’t remember how or why.

Fighting to unravel the mysteries of his power, Lucian must trace threads of corruption that reach from the Pureblood Registry into the Order itself, the truth hidden two centuries in the past and beyond the boundaries of the world…

Carol Berg is one of my favorite fantasy authors, mainly because of her rich worlds and memorable characters. Those were both reasons I very much enjoyed Dust and Light, the story of a sorcerer with mysterious gifts that’s epic in scope yet personal. After reading this excellent novel, I was very much looking forward to Ash and Silver, the second half of the Sanctuary Duet—and despite a slow start, I ended up enjoying it very much indeed.

It did take longer for Ash and Silver to pull me in than the previous novel, or at least it took longer for it to consistently make me want to keep reading. Though life with the Order and some of the new characters were quite compelling, there was a lot of focus on Lucian trying to regain some of his memories. At times, this included learning some new information, but it seemed like there was a lot of time spent discussing knowledge Lucian used to have. It didn’t exactly keep me on the edge of my seat to read about his rediscovery of basic information about himself, his family, and his magic that had already been covered in the first book!

Once it got further into the story and Lucian was knee deep in mysteries that hadn’t been answered in the previous book, such as who in the Order could be trusted, I couldn’t put it down. I also enjoyed that it explored how a lack of memory of key events in one’s life might affect them and that this was woven into the story naturally. Of course, Lucian struggles with missing various parts of his own memory, but it also examines how not remembering certain information about one’s own past might influence aspects of their personality.

Though it is quite different from the first book since Lucian’s been uprooted from his former life, Ash and Silver is a satisfying conclusion to the story begun in Dust and Light. I wasn’t quite as fond of it as the previous book since it did take longer for it to continue to hold my interest, but once it did get to that point, it was nearly impossible to stop reading! Its excellent characters, world, and reflection on memory made it a highlight of the 2015 releases I read.

My Rating: 8/10

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

Reviews of Other Book(s) in This Series:

  1. Dust and Light

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.

There are some books that sound quite interesting this week! I started working on a review of Ash and Silver by Carol Berg last week (which was really good!), but due to being sick all week long, I was having trouble writing coherently. I’m hoping to finish it up this week.

Now, for the new books!

Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown

Morning Star, the conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Red Rising trilogy, will be released on February 9 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). As mentioned on Suvudu, the first three chapters can be read online.

The first two books in the series are Red Rising and Golden Son.

Although I had some issues with it, I did enjoy Red Rising. Golden Son is one of the books I really wanted to read last year that I haven’t yet, but I might end up being glad I didn’t read it until I had the next one. I heard there is a huge cliffhanger at the end!


Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied – and too glorious to surrender.

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows (A Darker Shade of Magic #2) by V. E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows, the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, will be released on February 23 (hardcover, ebook). An excerpt from it is available on

Victoria Schwab recently announced that A Darker Shade of Magic television series is in development, and she is writing the script for the pilot.

I haven’t read the first book, but I’ve heard it’s excellent so I may have to acquire a copy of it!


Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

This short story collection was released in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook last year and will be available in paperback on February 9.


The first new collection in almost a decade from a bewitchingly original writer hailed by Michael Chabon as “the most darkly playful voice in American fiction.”

One of today’s most celebrated short story writers, Kelly Link creates brilliantly detailed, layered fictional worlds pulsing with their own energy and life. The situations are at first glance fantastical, but the emotional insights are piercing and the characters vividly real. In “The Summer People,” a young girl in rural Florida serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In “I Can See Right Through You,” a one-time teen idol movie vampire takes a disturbing trip to the set where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a bizarre new reality show; in “The New Boyfriend,” a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present, a new animated doll. Funny, uncanny, always deeply moving, these stories demonstrate a writer of wondrous gifts operating at the height of her powers.

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

This debut YA fantasy will be released on February 16 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).


It was the kind of August day that hinted at monsoons, and the year was 1774, though not for very much longer.

Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveller. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times – although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix’s father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix’s existence rather dangerously in question…

Nix has grown used to her father’s obsession, but only because she’s convinced it can’t work. But then a map falls into her father’s lap that changes everything. And when Nix refuses to help, her father threatens to maroon Kashmir, her only friend (and perhaps, only love) in a time where Nix will never be able to find him. And if Nix has learned one thing, it’s that losing the person you love is a torment that no one can withstand. Nix must work out what she wants, who she is, and where she really belongs before time runs out on her forever.

Additional Books:

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.

Last week brought some books that sound pretty interesting, including two of my most anticipated books of 2016! First, here are last week’s posts in case you missed them:

  • A not-as-mini-as-I’d-planned mini review of Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. I found the first quarter of the book difficult to get through, and although it got a lot more readable later, it still wasn’t a book I found particularly memorable.
  • The January Patreon review of a fantasy book at least fifteen years old: The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip. I loved everything about it, and it’s my first 10/10 book of 2016 (and the first since Robin Hobb’s last release!).

On to last week’s books!

Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip

Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip

Patricia McKillip’s latest novel will be available on February 2 (hardcover, ebook).

This was one of my most anticipated books of 2016, and after recently reading The Changeling Sea, I’m even more excited about starting it!


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.

The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells

The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells

The Edge of Worlds, the first book in a new duology set in the same world as The Books of the Raksura, will be released on April 5 (hardcover, ebook).

This is another of my most anticipated books of the year since I love the fascinating, unique world of The Books of the Raksura and wanted more novels in this setting after reading those three (The Cloud Roads, The Serpent Sea, and The Siren Depths).


An expedition of groundlings from the Empire of Kish have traveled through the Three Worlds to the Indigo Cloud court of the Raksura, shape-shifting creatures of flight that live in large family groups. The groundlings have found a sealed ancient city at the edge of the shallow seas, near the deeps of the impassable Ocean. They believe it to be the last home of their ancestors and ask for help getting inside. But the Raksura fear it was built by their own distant ancestors, the Forerunners, and the last sealed Forerunner city they encountered was a prison for an unstoppable evil.

Prior to the groundlings’ arrival, the Indigo Cloud court had been plagued by visions of a disaster that could destroy all the courts in the Reaches. Now, the court’s mentors believe the ancient city is connected to the foretold danger. A small group of warriors, including consort Moon, an orphan new to the colony and the Raksura’s idea of family, and sister queen Jade, agree to go with the groundling expedition to investigate. But the predatory Fell have found the city too, and in the race to keep the danger contained, the Raksura may be the ones who inadvertently release it.

The Edge of Worlds, from celebrated fantasy author Martha Wells, returns to the fascinating world of The Cloud Roads for the first book in a new series of strange lands, uncanny beings, dead cities, and ancient danger.

Daughter of Blood by Helen Lowe

Daughter of Blood (The Wall of Night #3) by Helen Lowe

Daughter of Blood was released last week (mass market paperback, ebook). The first book in the series, The Heir of Night, won the 2012 Gemmell Morningstar Award, and the second book, The Gathering of the Lost, was on the 2013 Gemmell Legend Award shortlist.

SF Signal has an excerpt from Daughter of Blood.


A Gemmell Award-Winning Series

Malian of Night and Kalan, her trusted ally, are returning to the Wall of Night—but already it may be too late. The Wall is dangerously weakened, the Nine Houses of the Derai fractured by rivalry and hate. And now, the Darkswarm is rising . . .

Among Grayharbor backstreets, an orphan boy falls foul of dark forces. On the Wall, a Daughter of Blood must be married off to the Earl of Night, a pawn in the web of her family’s ambition. On the Field of Blood, Kalan fights for a place in the bride’s honor guard, while Malian dodges deadly pursuers in a hunt against time for the fabled Shield of Heaven. But the Darkswarm is gaining strength, and time is running out—for Malian, for Kalan, and for all of Haarth . . .

Feverborn by Karen Marie Moning

Feverborn (Fever #8) by Karen Marie Moning

The latest book in the New York Times bestselling Fever series was released on January 19 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The previous seven books in the series are as follows:

  1. Darkfever
  2. Bloodfever
  3. Faefever
  4. Dreamfever
  5. Shadowfever
  6. Iced
  7. Burned

In Karen Marie Moning’s latest installment of the epic #1 New York Times bestselling Fever series, the stakes have never been higher and the chemistry has never been hotter. Hurtling us into a realm of labyrinthine intrigue and consummate seduction, FEVERBORN is a riveting tale of ancient evil, lust, betrayal, forgiveness and the redemptive power of love.

When the immortal race of the Fae destroyed the ancient wall dividing the worlds of Man and Faery, the very fabric of the universe was damaged and now Earth is vanishing bit by bit. Only the long-lost Song of Making—a haunting, dangerous melody that is the source of all life itself—can save the planet.

But those who seek the mythic Song—Mac, Barrons, Ryodan and Jada—must contend with old wounds and new enemies, passions that burn hot and hunger for vengeance that runs deep. The challenges are many: The Keltar at war with nine immortals who’ve secretly ruled Dublin for eons, Mac and Jada hunted by the masses, the Seelie queen nowhere to be found, and the most powerful Unseelie prince in all creation determined to rule both Fae and Man. Now the task of solving the ancient riddle of the Song of Making falls to a band of deadly warriors divided among—and within—themselves.

Once a normal city possessing a touch of ancient magic, Dublin is now a treacherously magical city with only a touch of normal. And in those war-torn streets, Mac will come face to face with her most savage enemy yet: herself.

The Changeling Sea
by Patricia A. McKillip
144pp (Mass Market Paperback)
My Rating: 10/10
Amazon Rating: 4.7/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.13/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.06/5

I only discovered Patricia McKillip about three years ago. Of course, I’d heard of her long before then—she has won the World Fantasy Award and been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards, after all!—but I hadn’t actually read anything by her even though she’d been on my mental list of “authors to read someday” for quite awhile at that point. She might still be on that list had I not leafed through an ARC of Wonders of the Invisible World that showed up in my mailbox one day. I just meant to sample the writing since I often have a tough time reading short stories, but I was so enchanted by her spare but lovely prose, characters, and insight that I read it cover to cover—and then decided I simply must read all her books!

The Changeling Sea, a Mythopoeic Award nominee first published in 1988, is a perfect example of why I wanted to read all of Patricia McKillip’s books in the first place. This slim stand alone fantasy (less than 150 pages!) is lovely and just the right length for the story it tells: the tale of Peri, an islander who despises, curses, and then falls in love with the sea.

Ever since Peri’s father’s boat returned to shore without him, Peri’s mother has been lost to her as well, largely neglectful of the world around her as she gazes at the sea. Though Peri occasionally visits when she’s not working at the inn, she’s been residing by herself in an abandoned home. The old woman who used to live there vanished one day, but before she left she taught Peri some enchantments. These spells never seemed particularly effective, but Peri plans to hex the sea anyway—and when the prince, Kir, comes searching for the old woman, Peri tells him she intends to do so. Kir requests that she send the sea a message from him and gives her some items belonging to the king. One afternoon, she ties them into her hexes, casts them into the sea, and screams at the sea.


“I hex you,” she shouted, searching for words as bitter as brine to cast back at the sea. “I hate you, I curse you, I lay a hex on you, Sea, so that all your spellbindings will unravel, and all your magic is confused, and so that you never again take anything or anyone that belongs to us, and you let go of whatever you have—” [pp. 19]

At first, nothing happens, but then a sea dragon with a giant gold chain around its neck rises out of the sea. Soon Peri’s village is thrown into chaos as fishers plot to acquire this gold for themselves, visitors arrive dreaming of these riches, and the sea sends some messages of its own. Peri’s quiet life is also upended when she promises to help Kir find a path into the sea where he knows he belongs. In the process, she learns the truth about the king’s past and the identity of the sea dragon—and falls in love with Kir, though she’s vowed to help him become lost to her forever.

The Changeling Sea is every bit as enchanting as the sea that mesmerized some of its characters. I was captivated from the very first page, and I found myself rereading sections often and absorbing every word before moving on—and after I reached the end, I knew this was a keeper that I was likely to reread again someday. It’s beautifully written, achieving just the right balance between too much description and too little. Though not a fast-paced book, it’s never dull and it’s so vividly drawn that each scene is easy to envision. The end is more sweet than bitter, but there is some sadness that makes it seem as though happiness is earned rather than too easily and tidily accomplished.

Peri is a wonderful heroine who unknowingly has a huge affect on her world. At the beginning of the book she has a rather simple, quiet life aside from her anger at the sea. She’s a fisher’s daughter who cleans at the village inn, and the other villagers do not suspect that this unkempt girl whose hair looks as though “she had stood on her head and used it for a mop” (pp. 2) is right in the middle of the strange events happening in their midst. Yet she knows more about their prince, king, and the mysterious sea dragon that appeared one day than any of them, and it’s Peri who teaches two trapped between the earth and sea about being human. She discovers she has a greater gift than she or anyone around her ever realized, and I especially loved the scene in which she finally saw the influence she had.

At its heart, this is a tale of legendary proportions, and it’s also largely about love and loss. I especially enjoyed that it incorporated so much of ordinary life into such a mythic story. Though Peri spends her nights speaking with royalty, she spends her days working at the inn. Early in the book, much of the conversation she hears there is focused on gossip about the prince, but later it turns to the sea dragon and how to profit from its gigantic chain of gold. Even then, it still seems like such down-to-earth ordinary chatter with arguments abounding: how to get this chain, who created this chain, and whether or not its actually worth the risk of taking it from whoever created such a large chain for such a large creature.

The Changeling Sea is a rare gem: a book that I loved from beginning to end. It’s deceptively simple on the surface but has depth, and that’s part of what makes it so memorable—along with the lovely writing, Peri herself, and its themes of love, loss, and humanity wrapped in a legendary tale. I don’t feel that anything I say can do this magical book justice, but it’s a new favorite book and yet another reason to read more written by Patricia McKillip.

My Rating: 10/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

This book is January’s selection from a poll on Patreon.

Book Description from Goodreads:

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Truthwitch, the first book in the Witchlands series by Susan Dennard, was released in both the US and the UK earlier this month. I started hearing that this book was amazing months before it was published and was incredibly excited about reading it. Despite having a fun plotline once it finally got going, I didn’t find the novel particularly memorable since the writing, world, and main characters did not work for me.

I almost didn’t even finish Truthwitch because I thought the first quarter of the book was badly done. It was both action packed and full of exposition as it introduced the world and characters, but neither of these were fleshed out enough to draw me in. I also found some of the dialogue and situations overdone and outright cheesy, like Safi putting on an act to get out of being searched by the guards. She gets away with it because gull droppings always end up landing on her and do at that precise moment—and the guards are too busy laughing at her to be concerned with doing their jobs. Although Safi and Iseult’s close friendship and status as total badasses who fight well together was compelling, it wasn’t enough to carry earlier parts of the book.

Despite their relationship being the only appealing factor for quite awhile, I started to find it more readable after Safi and Iseult separated for a little while. As a noblewoman, Safi is required to go to the emperor’s ball, and it soon becomes clear that something major is going to happen at this event. Though Iseult cannot go with her, she visits her people, which leads to learning more about her family, her magic, and her feelings about both. Their separation ends after both Safi and Iseult end up fleeing danger and then meeting up again, and by this point, I was more interested in finding out what happened to them—but even though I was driven to turn the pages, I found it rather unsatisfying after I finished the book and reflected more on what I’d read.

One reason I didn’t find it satisfying is that there’s a lack of subtlety, and this is especially apparent in the characterization of the four main protagonists. (Although the biggest focus is on Safi and Iseult, there are also parts from the point of view of two others: the Windwitch Prince Merik and the Bloodwitch Aeduan.) All their personalities are rather one dimensional without any nuance and their thoughts tend to come back to the same subjects repeatedly. The situations surrounding these characters are more interesting than the people themselves, and because of this, I actually found I’d be more likely to read the next book to learn more about some secondary characters whose motivations remain unclear than the main characters themselves.

Another issue I had is that the information supplied about the world is both too much and too little: there is a lot of exposition, but it’s light on the details of the world history. I didn’t find the world to be very original or well developed and thought there was an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to the magic. It seemed as though every type of common ability imaginable was present: fire, air, water, earth, blood, lie detection, illusions, and more. Though this has potential to be a fun setting, I didn’t think anything particularly creative was done with it and these powers seemed to exist for plot convenience and cool fight scenes. Additionally, there is a fantasy trope that is very obviously set up and predictable. Of course, not every book needs to have a unique setting or be free from tropes to be excellent, but I felt this was a large issue with this book since it did have other problems as well.

Despite those issues, the last three quarters of Truthwitch did keep me turning the pages to find out what happened next and I’ve had a hard time figuring out whether to rate it a 5 or 6 because of that. Immediately after finishing it, I thought I might like it enough to read the next book even though I wasn’t very impressed by it. However, I’ve changed my mind after thinking about it some more, rereading much of it, and realizing there wasn’t much to keep me invested in it other than finding out more about some of the secondary characters. The first quarter didn’t appeal to me at all, and even after it picked up more, the writing, main characters, and world didn’t do much for me in the end so the final verdict is: it’s okay.

My Rating: 5/10

Where I got my reading copy: Read an ARC from the UK publisher; rereading for this review was from a finished copy provided by the US publisher.