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

This week brought a few finished copies. I’m very curious about the first one listed below, which sounds amazing!

Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

Full Fathom Five (Craft Sequence #3) by Max Gladstone

Full Fathom Five is available now in hardcover and ebook. You can read the first five chapters on

This novel is set in the same world as Max Gladstone’s debut, Three Parts Dead, and there is one other novel that takes place in this setting, Two Serpents Rise.


The third novel set in the addictive and compelling fantasy world of Three Parts Dead.

On the island of Kavekana, Kai builds gods to order, then hands them to others to maintain. Her creations aren’t conscious and lack their own wills and voices, but they accept sacrifices, and protect their worshippers from other gods—perfect vehicles for Craftsmen and Craftswomen operating in the divinely controlled Old World. When Kai sees one of her creations dying and tries to save her, she’s grievously injured—then sidelined from the business entirely, her near-suicidal rescue attempt offered up as proof of her instability. But when Kai gets tired of hearing her boss, her coworkers, and her ex-boyfriend call her crazy, and starts digging into the reasons her creations die, she uncovers a conspiracy of silence and fear—which will crush her, if Kai can’t stop it first.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner Inside the Maze Runner

The Maze Runner (The Maze Runner #1) by James Dashner & Inside the Maze Runner: The Guide to the Glade

With the upcoming release of the movie The Maze Runner on September 19, movie tie-in editions of the book are being released on August 5 (hardcover, trade paperback). A movie companion book containing over 100 color photos from the film with a little information on places and characters, Inside the Maze Runner: The Guide to the Glade, is also being released on that date (trade paperback).

There are two more books in The Maze Runner trilogy, The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure, and a prequel, The Kill Order.

A sample chapter from The Maze Runner is available on the publisher’s website.


Perfect for fans of Divergent and The Hunger Games, this special movie tie-in edition of the New York Times bestseller The Maze Runner features an eight-page full-color insert with photos from the film. The Maze Runner movie, featuring the star of MTV’s Teen Wolf, Dylan O’Brien, as Thomas; Kaya Scodelario as Teresa; Aml Ameen as Alby; Will Poulter as Gally; and Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt, hits theaters September 19, 2014! And look for James Dashner’s newest novel, The Eye of Minds, book one in the Mortality Doctrine series.

If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Everything is going to change.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.

Stolen Songbird, a young adult fantasy, is Danielle L. Jensen’s debut and the first book in The Malediction Trilogy. The next book, Hidden Huntress, was scheduled for release in March 2015, but since its publisher was recently discontinued that date may no longer apply—although the author has stated that the sequel will be published one way or another. This is a great relief since Stolen Songbird is a wonderful story, and it would be terrible not to be able to read the rest of the series!

On her seventeenth birthday, Cécile is preparing to leave her father’s farm behind to join her mother Genevieve, a famous singer, in the city. A few years ago, Genevieve made a rare visit to the village and requested that Cécile sing for her. After discovering her daughter also had talent, Genevieve decided to provide singing lessons from tutors of her choice until Cécile turned seventeen. At that point, she would accompany her mother to begin her own career as a singer, and Genevieve promised her, “When you stand on stage and sing, the whole world will love you” (pp. 10).

Unfortunately, their plans are not meant to be and Cécile is captured by Luc, a man from her village, on the way to her going away party. He brings her under the mountain, claiming that he has discovered the lost city of Trollus. The trolls want Cécile and offered to pay him her weight in gold in return for delivering her to them. Before they reach their destination, Cécile and Luc are nearly eaten by one of the giant slug-like creatures that live in the tunnels, but their survival is small comfort to Cécile, who has heard tales of humans eaten by trolls.

It turns out the trolls do not intend to dine on Cécile but rather wed her to their prince, Tristan. Five hundred years ago, a witch broke the mountain and cast a spell preventing the trolls from leaving, and it had been foretold that this union would break the curse they have endured for centuries. Cécile is brought to the troll prince, an exquisitely handsome man who reminds her of Prince Charming—until he opens his mouth and shatters any illusion of resemblance to this romantic figure. The two are bonded under the full moon, and as a result, Cécile can feel Tristan’s emotions and vice versa. Cécile is puzzled to sense relief from Tristan when the curse is not broken after their marriage, and the more time she spends in Trollus the more she wonders what he is hiding—and how she might be able to help the people of Trollus who are treated unfairly by those who believe themselves to be superior.

Stolen Songbird is an engaging book that is difficult to put down since it is entertaining and well-paced. I did think it was too quickly paced at the beginning since there is not much time spent on background or characterization before Cécile’s kidnapping. While I appreciated that there was no meandering at the start and that the book quickly got to the point, I am the type of reader who enjoys some details about the setting and characters and I was wondering how much I would like the book at first since non-stop action does not tend to work for me. Fortunately, once Cécile got to the troll kingdom it contained more of the elements I like: some background on the fairy-tale-like history of the kingdom of Trollus, some mystery about characters and their motivations, and some insight into the world as Cécile discovers the magic and culture of Trollus.

This is a book I consider to be fairly predictable and full of tropes, but it is also one I consider to be an example of familiar elements done well. Of course, there is a romance between Cécile and Tristan, and their emotional connection through the bond adds some tension since they know enough to have a general idea of what the other is feeling but do not know why. While both characters are narrators, Cécile narrates most events in the story and she’s an open book from the beginning. Tristan is more mysterious, and his motivations and true feelings remain murky to Cécile after the reader has gotten a handle on his character, which is fun. I loved Tristan from the moment he was introduced with his properly spoken but amusing conversational style, and I did love how their romance unfolded without seeming too sudden. Their conversations and chemistry kept this part of the story engaging even if many of the situations that drove them toward or away from each other seemed typical and orchestrated at times.

The most unusual aspect of this book was the trolls, who are different from the norm. Some of them are unique in appearance while others are similar to humans but usually with an unearthly beauty (I did find it quite convenient that Cécile’s new husband was one of the unbelievably handsome ones). They also have magic and a power structure based on these abilities, especially since this strength is important to keeping their kingdom from collapsing under the weight of the rock; those who have weak magic, such as the ones who have a significant amount of human blood, are not treated very well. The pieces that are revealed about their origins and the witch’s curse gives the story a fairy tale flavor, and I’m interested in finding out more about the mythology in subsequent books.

Many of the characters did not have a lot of depth, but despite that, I was pleasantly surprised by some of them. In particular, there was one character who could be seen as Cécile’s rival yet she did not seem villainous or despicable. In fact, I found her quite a sympathetic and admirable character by the end. Cécile herself isn’t particularly three dimensional, but she is likable due to her determination and resilience. If she saw an opportunity to make her situation better, she’d take advantage of it, and I loved her strong will and refusal to give up. Her own journey of self-discovery is another predictable element of the story since chapter one hints at her own nature, but this is another case of tropes utilized in a fashion that makes them riveting rather than dull. The most intriguing character is Tristan due to his aforementioned mysterious nature and delightful conversational style. He and Cécile are opposites since she tends to seize the moment and he tends to plan in advance, and it’s a delight to read about the two of them together.

There are some aspects of this story that some may find difficult to read about, such as Cécile being kidnapped and forced to not only marry but bond with someone against her will. The unsavory parts of the book are portrayed accordingly, and I didn’t feel like Tristan and Cécile’s bonding was romanticized even if their marriage did lead to a love story.

Other than the troll mythology, Stolen Songbird is not a book that is terribly unique but it is one that shows why familiar elements are often used in a story: when utilized well with the right combination of characters and storytelling, they can add suspense and excitement to the journey. Despite often knowing what would happen or feeling like certain parts followed a familiar pattern, it was a truly enjoyable book that kept me riveted and made me wish there was more once I was done with it.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

Read an Excerpt from Stolen Songbird

Read “The Songbird’s Overture” (a short story set 4 years before the novel)

Other Reviews:

Today I have one copy of The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory to give away! This fantasy novel, the first in a new series, will be released on August 5. More information on the book is below, including a link to an excerpt—and, of course, you can fill out the form at the end to enter the giveaway!

The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

About The House of the Four Winds:

This summer, Tor Books is pleased to publish the first of brand new series from bestselling coauthors Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, The House of the Four Winds. The team that produced the USA Today bestseller, To Light a Candle, and the New York Times bestsellers When Darkness Falls and The Phoenix Transformed, now bring romance to the fore with their tale of the twelve princesses of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard who must find their own fortunes.

Princess Clarice disguises herself as Clarence and sets sail for the New World – but her skills with the rapier and dagger are soon put to use when the crew rebels against the cruel captain and she sides with Dominick, the handsome navigator. Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret House of the Four Winds, but they find trouble when they encounter the sorceress Shamal. She claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight.

A charming, swashbuckling adventure, The House of the Four Winds is full of high seas adventure and buoyant magic. This is a lighthearted fantasy romp by a pair of bestselling writers that you won’t want to miss.

Read an Excerpt

Courtesy of Tor Books, I have one copy of The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory to give away! This giveaway is open to North American residents.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Four Winds Giveaway.” One entry per person and one winner will be randomly selected. North American residents are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Friday, August 1. The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book).

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

Good luck!

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

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

This week brought some ARCs/review copies, but there’s an event I want to mention before discussing the books.

Last year, Rinn from Rinn Reads hosted Sci-Fi Month, which was dedicated to celebrating all things science fiction. I participated in it and had a lot of fun (especially since it got me to pick up some science fiction books I’d been meaning to read for awhile, including Karin Lowachee’s Warchild, a new favorite of mine). Rinn recently announced that she is hosting it again this November with Kelley, Asti, and Leanne from Oh, the Books! Anyone can participate; check out Rinn’s announcement for more details. I’m already thinking about which science fiction books I should read this year…

On to the books!

The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope

The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubín

This graphic novel, a companion to Battling Boy, will be released on September 30 (hardcover/paperback). An excerpt from The Rise of Aurora West can be viewed on


The extraordinary world introduced in Paul Pope’s Battling Boy is rife with monsters and short on heroes… but in this action-driven extension of the Battling Boy universe, we see it through a new pair of eyes: Aurora West, daughter of Arcopolis’s last great hero, Haggard West. A prequel to Battling Boy, The Rise of Aurora West follows the young hero as she seeks to uncover the mystery of her mother’s death, and to find her place in a world overrun with supernatural monsters and all-too-human corruption. With a taut, fast-paced script from Paul Pope and JT Petty and gorgeous, kinetic art from David Rubin, The Rise of Aurora West (the first of two volumes) is a tour de force in comics storytelling.

A Plunder of Souls by D. B. Jackson

A Plunder of Souls (Thieftaker Chronicles #3) by D. B. Jackson

This historical fantasy novel became available earlier this month (hardcover/ebook/audiobook). An excerpt from A Plunder of Souls is available on

The previous books in this series are as follows:

  1. Thieftaker (Excerpt)
  2. Thieves’ Quarry

Boston, 1769: Ethan Kaille, a Boston thieftaker who uses his conjuring to catch criminals, has snared villans and defeated magic that would have daunted a lesser man. What starts out as a mysterious phenomenon that has local ministers confused becomes something far more serious.

A ruthless, extremely powerful conjurer seeks to wake the souls of the dead to wreak a terrible revenge on all who oppose him. Kaille’s minister friends have been helpless to stop crimes against their church. Graves have been desecrated in a bizarre, ritualistic way. Equally disturbing are reports of recently deceased citizens of Boston reappearing as grotesquely disfigured shades, seemingly having been disturbed from their eternal rest, and now frightening those who had been nearest to them in life. But most personally troubling to Kaille is a terrible waning of his ability to conjure. He knows all these are related…but how?

When Ethan discovers the source of this trouble, he realizes that his conjure powers and those of his friends will not be enough to stop a madman from becoming all-powerful. But somehow, using his wits, his powers, and every other resource he can muster, Ethan must thwart the monster’s terrible plan and restore the restless souls of the dead to the peace of the grave. Let the battle for souls begin in A Plunder of Souls, the third, stand-alone novel in Jackson’s acclaimed Thieftaker series.

Revenant by Kat Richardson

Revenant (Greywalker #9) by Kat Richardson

This urban fantasy novel will be released on August 5 (hardcover/ebook). The author’s website has an excerpt from Revenant.

The previous books in the Greywalker series are as follows:

  1. Greywalker (Excerpt)
  2. Poltergeist
  3. Underground
  4. Vanished
  5. Labyrinth
  6. Downpour
  7. Seawitch
  8. Possession

Harper Blaine was your average small-time PI until she died—for two minutes. Now Harper is a Greywalker, treading the thin line between the living world and the paranormal realm. And these abilities are landing her all sorts of “strange” cases….

Turmoil, sickness, and destruction are sweeping through Europe—and its effects are being felt all the way across the world in Seattle. Harper Blaine and her lover, Quinton, suspect that Quinton’s father, James Purlis—and his terrifying Ghost Division—are involved.

Following a dark trail of grotesque crimes and black magic across the Old World, the pair slowly draws closer to their quarry. But finding and dismantling the Ghost Division won’t be enough to stop the horror that Purlis has unwittingly set in motion.

An ancient and forgotten cult has allied with Quinton’s mad father. And their goals are far more nightmarish than Harper and Quinton—or even Purlis—could ever imagine.

The pursuit leads to Portugal, where the desecrated tomb of a sleeping king and a temple built of bones recall Harper’s very first paranormal case and hold clues to the cult’s true intentions. Harper and Quinton will need all the help they can get to avert a necromantic cataclysm that could lay waste to Europe and drag the rest of the world to the brink of war.

Shadows by E. C. Blake

Shadows (Masks of Aygrima #2) by E. C. Blake

This fantasy book, the sequel to Masks, will be released on August 5 (hardcover/ebook). The first two chapters from Shadows are available on the author’s website, as well as the prologue and chapter one from Masks.


In Masks, Mara Holdfast’s life changed forever. As the daughter of the Autarch’s Master Maskmaker, she had a clearly defined future: a quiet, ordered life in the capital, making Masks with her father and doing work important to the ruling Autarch. But when her Mask, specially made by her own father, cracked and fell to pieces during her Masking ceremony, Mara was exiled from everything she once knew. Soon, she becomes part of an underground rebellion, rejecting the unjust rules of a Masked society and uncovering a horrifying plot of mind control over the entire population of the empire.

In a moment of crisis, Mara finds herself possessed of a volatile magical power that neither she nor any of her allies can truly control. In Shadow, Mara faces terrifying new challenges and dangers as she struggles to understand her unprecedented ability to use all types of magic—and to tear magic from the living bodies of those around her. With the arrival of Chell, a young man from across the sea, the world beyond the borders of the Autarchy of Aygrima begins to make itself felt. Then an act of brutality tips Mara dangerously close to madness…and in the midst of a desperate and bloody battle, she discovers just how horrifying her power can be…

The Gloomy Ghost by David Lubar

The Gloomy Ghost (A Monsterrific Tale #5) by David Lubar

A new hardcover edition of this children’s book was recently released, and it is also available as an ebook. The six books in this series are as follows:

  1. Hyde and Shriek
  2. The Vanishing Vampire
  3. The Unwilling Witch
  4. The Wavering Werewolf
  5. The Gloomy Ghost
  6. The Bully Bug (available September 2, 2014)

Acclaimed author David Lubar’s Monsterrific Tales return to life with this new edition of The Gloomy Ghost that is sure to appeal to fans of his Weenies short story collections.

There’s something strange going on at Washington Irving Elementary School. Kids are turning into monsters—literally!

First it was Sebastian, then Angie. Now it’s little brother Rory’s turn to be “monsterized!” One minute he’s a normal kid hanging out in his backyard. The next, he finds himself walking through stuff: the back porch, walls, even people! What’s a ghostly kid to do?

Rory decides to find some other spirits and ask them how to get “un-ghosted.” So he heads up to the local haunted house to give it a try. What Rory doesn’t know is that if he doesn’t get the answer soon, he’ll only have a ghost of a chance of ever being a kid again…

The Hienama by Storm Constantine is the first book in a series of novellas set in the Wraeththu universe. Other books set in this world include the original Wraeththu trilogy beginning with The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, the Wraeththu Histories trilogy, and some short story collections by various authors (Para Kindred, the most recent of these, was released just a few months ago).

For those unfamiliar with the Wraeththu universe, it is set in a future in which humanity is dying out and being replaced by the Wraeththu. The blood of the first of these people was found to turn men into a being like him, a hermaphrodite with abilities far more advanced than a human’s. The Wraeththu pride themselves on being wiser than humanity, but they still struggle with many of the same problems—after all, many of them were at one time human themselves. Wraeththu, the omnibus containing the original trilogy, is one of my favorite books in all the world for its gorgeous prose, memorable characters, and the thoughtful way it explores the concept of Wraeththu. These books are very focused on the lives of the characters and their relationships and may be too dramatic and angst-filled for some readers, but I loved every bit of it, as well as the first two Histories. I actually keep putting off reading the final Histories novel since I don’t want these stories to end, and for this reason, I was thrilled to learn about the two novellas and the three short story collections. The Hienama is different from these in that it is a shorter book focused on the concerns of more ordinary Wraeththu living in a small village, but it was a very engaging story even if I didn’t enjoy it as much as the full length novels.

The Hienama is narrated by Jassenah, who became one of the Wraeththu at an unusually late age and proved to have particularly strong magic. Because of his abilities, he was encouraged to travel to the village of Jesith to train with the renowned hienama, Ysobi. Jassenah follows this advice and is accepted as one of Ysobi’s students. He starts a new life in the village, working in the vineyard and making friends when he is not studying with his teacher. When his lessons turn to the practical application of magic through aruna (sex), he becomes enamored of Ysobi despite the hienama’s businesslike attitude toward this aspect of his student’s education. Ysobi, who has had bad experiences with student relationships in the past, initially resists Jassenah’s attentions, but before long he admits the feeling is mutual. The two soon enter into the the close bond of chesnari and are happy together until Ysobi accepts a new student—Gesaril, a troubled young Wraeththu who desires Ysobi’s affections for himself.

While The Hienama could be read as a stand alone, I think it would be better to at least read the original Wraeththu trilogy first (and, as I mentioned, I prefer both these and the Histories). Like these other books, I do think it shows the very interesting struggles of the Wraeththu; in particular, this book gives a small glimpse into the reasons so many become Wraeththu at a young age. Jassenah underwent inception as a twenty-two year old, which is considered a rather old age for joining their ranks since the longer one has been around, the more they have ingrained preconceptions that make it difficult for them to adapt.

The Hienama is a short, entertaining book that is largely a character/relationship drama about love, lust, and jealousy. It also has some focus on everyday life for Wraeththu in a small town as well as storylines involving Wraeththu reproduction and children. Even though I didn’t love it nearly as much as the full-length original novels with their poetic prose and intensely memorable characters, I still enjoyed it and found it difficult to put down. I’ll certainly be reading the sequel, Student of Kyme, but I would recommend that readers new to these books begin with The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit.

My Rating: 7/10

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

Thief’s Magic is the first book in the Millennium’s Rule trilogy by bestselling fantasy author Trudi Canavan. The next books in the series, Angel of Storms and Successor’s Son, have not yet been released.

This novel tells the story of two people, Tyen and Rielle. Tyen, a student at the Academy, discovers a magical book on an archaeological trip. At first, he believes this book to be useless since it is blank, but soon words appear on the page. The book, Vella, was a woman until an infamous mage turned her into a book able to read the minds of those who touched her—and unable to hide the truth from them when questioned. Tyen, who hopes to one day be able to undo the spell that quite literally binds Vella, decides to hide her from the Academy but flees when she is discovered. Rielle has been taught all her life to hide her ability to see magic. Only specially chosen people, always men, are allowed to use magic; anyone else is stealing it from the Angels. When Rielle is taken captive by a magic user sought by the priests on her way home from the temple, she learns that there is someone who can teach magic—and becomes entangled with them, finding herself facing a dangerous choice that may be critical to her own happiness.

This was my first book by Trudi Canavan, and I decided to read it because I looked at the first chapter and was intrigued by Tyen’s discovery of the sentient book. Unfortunately, I did not find many of the pages that followed as compelling as its opening, and it alternated between mildly enjoyable and boring. However, once it got past the beginning section, heavily comprised of Tyen hiding and questioning Vella, it did become more interesting, and overall I found there were more times when it was somewhat interesting than dull—even if it never quite managed to be exceptionally engaging. At over 500 pages long, I thought Thief’s Magic was far longer than it needed to be since it largely seemed to be setting up the next two books in the trilogy.

Thief’s Magic is plainly written (which isn’t necessarily bad but is not my preferred prose style), and neither Tyen nor Rielle had engaging or unique voices. I sympathized with both of their plights—Tyen’s wish to protect Vella from the Academy and Rielle’s concerns about her magic—but neither of them were particularly deep or lifelike characters, and neither of their tales contained personality or nuance even though they were perfectly likable protagonists. Their stories dragged, and quite frankly, seemed largely pointless until the end when it seemed like they might each have finally arrived in the places they needed to be for the real story to begin.

Thief’s Magic is a readable book, but largely because it is so easy to read and forthright. Once I put it down, I found it rather forgettable and I’m not likely to read the next book in the series.

My Rating: 6/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC/finished copy from the publisher. (I read the finished copy.)

When We Wake is a young adult science fiction book by Karen Healey. A companion novel, While We Run, was released a couple of months ago.

In 2027, sixteen-year-old Tegan had just begun dating the boy of her dreams; however, their first official date ended in tragedy. As they arrive at the rally, Tegan is shot and killed by a sniper targeting the Prime Minister—only to be awakened 100 years later by a team of scientists. Prior to this incident, Tegan had donated her body to science in the event of her sudden death, and she became part of an experimental cryonic treatment. Years later, after everyone she knew and loved is dead, she became the first person to be successfully revived. As Tegan attempts to adapt to the changes that have taken place over the last century and resume a normal life by attending school and making friends, she starts to realize that she hasn’t been told the entire truth about the purpose of the experiment that brought her back—and begins searching for answers.

Technically, there was a lot I admired about When We Wake. The future shown in this story is eerily plausible, which makes its less rosy aspects rather terrifying. There are positive changes, such as the tremendous advances that have been made toward equality; however, climate change has taken its toll on the Earth and the future is bleak in many other believable ways. I also appreciated that Tegan was an opinionated character who cared about making her world a better place and that she was far from the only young person with a strong personality and drive to have a positive impact.

Despite this admiration for various elements, I did not find When We Wake terribly compelling. It was an addictive page-turner, but after I set the book down, I found it did not have qualities that made it truly memorable. The writing was not beautiful, and with the occasional exception, Tegan’s narrative voice did not draw me in. While I had sympathy for Tegan’s plight and found her a sympathetic, admirable protagonist, I also never really became all that attached to her as a character. Although I enjoyed When We Wake while I was reading it, I discovered that it was not a book I reflected upon once it was over nor did I care to read the companion novel to discover what happened next.

My Rating: 5/10

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

Today I’m delighted to have a guest post written by fantasy author Jaime Lee Moyer to share with you! She is here to discuss the ghosts in her Delia Martin books (Delia’s Shadow and the recently-released sequel A Barricade in Hell), particularly how they add shades of gray to these novels. Also, there is a chance to win one of two sets containing both of these books—fill out the form at the end to enter!

Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer A Barricade in Hell by Jaime Lee Moyer
Adding Shades of Gray

I’ve been asked a few times now—why use ghosts in these books?

The easy surface answer is because I could, and because that’s the way the story wanted to be told. As with most things in life, the real reasons are a bit more complicated. I’ll try to explain one.

A lot of the fantasy I’d read was written as head on battles between the forces of good and the forces of evil, the borders between the two crisp and easy to distinguish. The hero never had any moral qualms or questions about what he was doing, never saw the struggle in anything but absolute terms of right and wrong, and was never uncertain. He (it was almost always a “he”) was never really afraid or suffered a heart-rending loss, or if he did, he shrugged it off semi-immediately. There was never a moment, no matter how dire the situation, that the idea evil might actually win was ever seriously considered.

That’s not a completely fair summary of the fantasy I’ve read during my adult life, but it’s not totally unfair either. In any case, that wasn’t the kind of story I wanted to tell.

Ghosts were one way of adding a touch of uncertainty, and a few shades of gray, to the story. That might be even more true for Gabe than for Delia. As a cop, he’d spent his career solving cases by compiling evidence he could see and touch. He had to take Delia and Isadora’s word on faith that spirits existed, and for any ghostly involvement with his cases.

I never saw the ghosts as being wholly good or totally evil. The spirits Delia encounters, or that try to haunt Gabe are largely amoral, with their own agenda and reasons for what they do. Spirits in my world are unpredictable, dangerous, and at times, impossible to control. They will use the living to their own ends and not give a thought to the harm they cause. At other times these ghosts are lost, sad; tragic.

That all combined to keep Delia and Isadora from ever being sure they had the upper hand or that they’d win. They never knew what kind of challenge any one ghost presented, or what danger they might have to face from a spirit. That was true even if the original goal was to let a wandering haunt finally rest.

I decided from the start that shades of gray would extend to my heroes as well. Gabe, Delia and Dora all have a strong moral compass, but they aren’t perfect, and none of them see the world in absolutes, good or evil. They all suffer terrible losses, defeats, lose their temper, and have moments of real despair. The human foes Gabe faces are as unpredictable as the spirits confronting Delia and Dora. Winning is never a sure thing.

In other words, I did my best to make these characters human, with all that implies about frailty and strength and resilience.

So now you know one of my reasons for using ghosts. I’ll leave it up to the readers to decide if I succeeded.

About A Barricade in Hell:
In Jaime Lee Moyer’s A Barricade in Hell, Delia Martin has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with the ability to peer across to the other side. Since childhood, her constant companions have been ghosts. She used her powers and the help of those ghosts to defeat a twisted serial killer terrorizing her beloved San Francisco. Now it’s 1917—the threshold of a modern age—and Delia lives a peaceful life with Police Captain Gabe Ryan.

That peace shatters when a strange young girl starts haunting their lives and threatens Gabe. Delia tries to discover what this ghost wants as she becomes entangled in the mystery surrounding a charismatic evangelist who preaches pacifism and an end to war.  But as young people begin to disappear, and audiences display a loyalty and fervor not attributable to simple persuasion, that message of peace reveals a hidden dark side.

As Delia discovers the truth, she faces a choice—take a terrible risk to save her city, or chance losing everything?

About the Author:
JAIME LEE MOYER’s Delia’s Shadow won the 2009 Columbus Literary Award for Fiction. Moyer has sold short fiction to Lone Star Stories, Daily Science Fiction, and to the Triangulations: End of the Rainbow, and Triangulations: Last Contact anthologies, and edited the 2010 Rhysling Award Anthology for the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Moyer lives in San Antonio with writer Marshall Payne, three cats, three guitars, and a growing collection of books and music.

Twitter: @jaimeleemoyer

I have two sets of the Delia Martin books (Delia’s Shadow and A Barricade in Hell) to give away to two residents of the US or Canada! (Please note Canadian winners may need to provide an email address and/or phone number in addition to their mailing address in order to ship the books.)

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Delia Giveaway.” One entry per person and two winners will be randomly selected, and each winner will receive a paperback copy of Delia’s Shadow and a hardcover copy of A Barricade in Hell. Those from the US or Canada are eligible to win this giveaway; Canadian residents who win may need to provide their email address and/or phone number in addition to their mailing address in order to ship the book. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Friday, July 25. Each winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the books).

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

Good luck!

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