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. 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 three books, including a book by one of my favorite authors and a book I hadn’t heard about that sounds pretty interesting. That makes it a very good week for books!

A Dance in Blood Velvet by Freda Warrington

A Dance in Blood Velvet (Blood Wine #2) by Freda Warrington

The first book in this series, A Taste of Blood Wine, is one of my two favorite books I’ve read this year so I’m pretty excited about this one! The Blood Wine books were first published in the 1990s and were out of print. The original trilogy is being reprinted with revisions by the author, and a new fourth book in the Blood Wine Sequence (The Dark Arts of Blood) will be released in 2014. The third book, The Dark Blood of Poppies, will be re-released sometime before that; the cover was recently revealed.

A Dance in Blood Velvet is now available in the UK (ebook, paperback). It will not be available to purchase in the US until April 2014, but A Taste of Blood Wine just became available in the US earlier this month (excerpt).

There are spoilers for the end of book one in the description of A Dance in Blood Velvet below.



For the love of her vampire suitor, Karl, Charlotte has forsaken her human life. Now her only contact with people is when she hunts them down to feed. Her thirst for blood repulses her but its fulfilment brings ecstasy.

The one light in the shadows is the passion that burns between her and Karl. A love that it seems will last for eternity – until Karl’s former lover, the seductively beautiful Katerina, is rescued from the Crystal Ring. For nearly fifty years she has lain, as dead, in the icy depths of the Weisskalt. Now she wants to reclaim her life… and Karl.

In despair, Charlotte turns to the prima ballerina Violette Lenoir, an ice maiden who only thaws when she dances. Charlotte is fascinated as she has been by no other human, longing to bring joy to the dancer. But her obsession opens the floodgates to a far darker threat than the vampires could ever have imagined. For Violette is more than human and if she succumbs to the vampire’s kiss it could unleash a new terror.

Masks by E. C. Blake

Masks by E. C. Blake

Masks, the first book in a new series, will be released on November 5 (hardcover, ebook). The prologue and first chapter can be read on the author’s website.


Masks, the first novel in a mesmerizing new fantasy series, draws readers into a world in which cataclysmic events have left the Autarchy of Aygrima—the one land blessed with magical resources—cut off from its former trading partners across the waters, not knowing if any of those distant peoples still live. Yet under the rule of the Autarch, Aygrima survives. And thanks to the creation of the Masks and the vigilance of the Autarch’s Watchers, no one can threaten the security of the empire.

In Aygrima, magic is a Gift possessed from birth by a very small percentage of the population, with the Autarch himself the most powerful magic worker of all. Only the long-vanquished Lady of Pain and Fire had been able to challenge his rule.

At the age of fifteen, citizens are recognized as adults and must don the spell-infused Masks—which denote both status and profession—whenever they are in public. To maintain the secure rule of the kingdom, the Masks are magically crafted to reveal any treasonous thoughts or actions. And once such betrayals are exposed, the Watchers are there to enforce the law.

Mara Holdfast, daughter of the Autarch’s Master Maskmaker, is fast approaching her fifteenth birthday and her all-important Masking ceremony. Her father himself has been working behind closed doors to create Mara’s Mask. Once the ceremony is done, she will take her place as an adult, and Gifted with the same magical abilities as her father, she will also claim her rightful place as his apprentice.

But on the day of her Masking something goes horribly wrong, and instead of celebrating, Mara is torn away from her parents, imprisoned, and consigned to a wagon bound for the mines. Is it because she didn’t turn the unMasked boy she discovered over to the Night Watchers? Or is it because she’s lied about her Gift, claiming she can only see one color of magic, when in truth she can see them all, just as she could when she was a young child?

Whatever the reason, her Mask has labeled her a traitor and now she has lost everything, doomed to slavery in the mines until she dies. And not even her Gift can show Mara the future that awaits her—a future that may see her freed to aid a rebel cause, forced to become a puppet of the Autarch, or transformed into a force as dangerous to her world as the legendary Lady of Pain and Fire.

Bastion by Mercedes Lackey

Bastion (The Collegium Chronicles #5) by Mercedes Lackey

Bastion was just released in the UK earlier this month (paperback, ebook, audiobook). It’s currently available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook in the US. An excerpt from Bastion can be read on the US publisher’s website.

The previous books in this series are as follows:

  1. Foundation
  2. Intrigues
  3. Changes
  4. Redoubt

Mags returns to the Collegium, but there are mixed feelings–his included–about him actually remaining there. No one doubts that he is and should be a Herald, but he is afraid that his mere presence is going to incite more danger right in the heart of Valdemar. The heads of the Collegia are afraid that coming back to his known haunt is going to give him less protection than if he went into hiding. Everyone decides that going elsewhere is the solution for now. So since he is going elsewhere–why not return to the place he was found in the first place and look for clues? And those who are closest to him, and might provide secondary targets, are going along. With Herald Jadrek, Herald Kylan (the Weaponsmaster’s chosen successor), and his friends Bear, Lena, and Amily, they head for the Bastion, the hidden spot in the hills that had once been the headquarters of a powerful band of raiders that had held him and his parents prisoner. But what they find is not what anyone expected.

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews Magic Strikes

After I reviewed Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews, I was asked if I wanted to participate in an interview discussing the Kate Daniels series at Fantasy Book Critic. Of course, I said yes since this series has become one of my favorites and is one I love to discuss!

The multi-blogger interview went up yesterday so you can now read it to see what Maja from The Nocturnal Library, Melissa from My World…in words and pages, Bastard from Bastard Books, and I had to say. We discuss our favorite books and characters, theories about Roland, and more! (Of course, there are some spoilers so I would suggest reading the books in the series instead of the interview if you haven’t read the Kate Daniels books yet!)

Today I have one ebook copy of Cobweb Empire by Vera Nazarian to give away! It’s the second book in the Cobweb Bride Trilogy, following Cobweb Bride. I haven’t read these yet, but they’re on my to-read list since I have read (and loved!) another one of Vera Nazarian’s books, Lords of Rainbow. Also, I have been hearing that these books are wonderful!

Cobweb Empire by Vera Nazarian

About Cobweb Empire:

In a world where no one can die, she alone can kill…

Cobweb Empire (Cobweb Bride Trilogy #2) is the second book of the intricate epic fantasy flavored by Renaissance history and the romantic myth of Persephone, about death’s ultimatum to the world.

Now that she’s Death’s Champion, what will Percy do?

In a world where all death and dying has ceased, and only one person can kill, everyone can only expect a miracle. But what if it’s just the tip of the iceberg?

Percy Ayren must make her way south, despite all odds, to the place where the death shadow of the Cobweb Bride calls her. With the help of her companions and the invincible black knight, Lord Beltain Chidair whose enigmatic presence disturbs her in a way she cannot explain, Percy must continue her quest, while the mortal world falls apart around them….

Meanwhile, the Marquis Vlau Fiomarre faces the truth of his impossible feelings for Claere Liguon, the Emperor’s daughter. He had cruelly taken her life, and now he must serve her until his last dying breath—it is no longer a matter of honor but secret passion.

And now, the world itself is changing…. A new dark witch rises, and she will make your heart freeze with her beauty and power….

Empires clash, kings and emperors and gods vie for supremacy, the living and the dead are at war, while love stories play out in amazing directions, and new mind-blowing mysteries are born.

Experience the stunning continuation of the epic story in Cobweb Empire.

Courtesy of the author, I have a copy of Cobweb Empire to give away! This giveaway is open to anyone, and the winner can choose to receive their ebook in one of the following formats: PDF, Mobi, or Epub.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email with your preferred ebook format to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Cobweb Giveaway.” One entry per person and one winner will be randomly selected. This giveaway is open worldwide. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Saturday, October 26.

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!

(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. 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 two books in the mail and an ebook. I also downloaded an ebook I was sent a little while ago earlier this week, but since I have a giveaway for this same book scheduled in a few days, I’ll just discuss it then!

Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond edited by Bill Campbell and Edward Austin Hall

Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond edited by Bill Campbell and Edward Austin Hall

This anthology with a focus on diversity in speculative fiction will be available on October 18 (hardcover, paperback, ebook). The list of authors involved is quite impressive and includes N. K. Jemisin, Lauren Beukes, Junot Diaz, Tobias Buckell, Kiini Ibura Salaam, Nisi Shawl, and many more. More information on the anthology and the authors can be found on the original crowdfunding campaign page for the book.


Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond sets a bold new course by showcasing work from some of the most talented writers inside and outside of speculative fiction. These authors in this anthology (including Junot Diaz, Lauren Beukes, Victor LaValle, N.K. Jemisin, S.P. Somtow, Tobias Buckell, and more) have earned such honors as the Pulitzer Prize, the American Book Award, the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Bram Stoker, among others. They have garnered numerous accolades and have sold millions of copies around the world. Many of their names are likely to be new to you; Mothership is your invitation to get acquainted with them and their incredible writing.

A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5) by George R. R. Martin

A Dance with Dragons will be available in paperback for the first time on October 29. The edition I received is mass market paperback, but it appears the trade paperback will be on sale starting that day as well. There is a brief excerpt from The Winds of Winter at the end of the book.

Warning: There are spoilers for the previous books in the book description below.


In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance—beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has thousands of enemies, and many have set out to find her. As they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.

Fleeing from Westeros with a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way to Daenerys. But his newest allies in this quest are not the rag-tag band they seem, and at their heart lies one who could undo Daenerys’s claim to Westeros forever.

Meanwhile, to the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone—a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, will face his greatest challenge. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.

From all corners, bitter conflicts reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all.

Esrever Doom by Piers Anthony

Esrever Doom (Xanth #37) by Piers Anthony

The 37th (!) Xanth book will be released on October 22 (hardcover, ebook). An excerpt from Esrever Doom can be read on


Piers Anthony’s 37th adventure in Xanth changes the Mood to one of Doom!

Kody woke up in a hospital bed, not knowing how he got there. Before his questions could be answered, he was told that he was about to undergo surgery, and that there could be some side effects…. And then he woke up again, this time in Xanth.

Kody is the only person in Xanth who has not been affected by a dreadful spell that reverses how people see each other. What was adorable is now loathsome. What was ugly is now beautiful. What was loved is now hated. Kody has clearly arrived just in time! Only he has any hope of reversing the spell, turning Esrever Doom into Reverse Mood.

In attempt to get through the huge stack of books to review, I am going to do some “mini” reviews of some of these books using the book description instead of writing my own. (I put mini in quotes since it still ended up being about 1,000 words long in the end.)

Cold Steel is the concluding volume in Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker trilogy, following Cold Magic and Cold Fire. The author’s website describes this series as “an Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency fantasy adventure with airships, Phoenician spies, the intelligent descendents of troodons, and a dash of steampunk whose gas lamps can be easily doused by the touch of a powerful cold mage.” With a description like that, I had to read it—and I’m glad I did since it was every bit as wonderful as it sounded! Cold Magic started a bit slowly, but the second half drew me in; Cold Fire had me riveted from start to finish and remains my favorite of the three books. Like the first book, Cold Steel took awhile to get me interested in what was happening, but once it did get going, I found it thoroughly enjoyable.

Since this review does cover the final book in the trilogy, there will be spoilers for the first two books. If you want to remain unspoiled, you will not want to read the rest of this review.

Description of Cold Steel:

Trouble, treachery, and magic just won’t stop plaguing Cat Barahal. The Master of the Wild Hunt has stolen her husband Andevai. The ruler of the Taino kingdom blames her for his mother’s murder. The infamous General Camjiata insists she join his army to help defeat the cold mages who rule Europa. An enraged fire mage wants to kill her. And Cat, her cousin Bee, and her half-brother Rory, aren’t even back in Europa yet, where revolution is burning up the streets.

Revolutions to plot. Enemies to crush. Handsome men to rescue.

Cat and Bee have their work cut out for them.

Cold Steel is a wonderful ending to an excellent trilogy that makes me simultaneously sad and happy that I’d never read any of Kate Elliott’s books before this series (sad because I’ve been missing out on books by an amazing author and happy because I now get to discover all her other books for the first time). The Spiritwalker trilogy contains many of the qualities that I love to see in a fantasy novel—a richly detailed, vivid world; well-developed characters with unique personalities and histories; and a first person narrator whose sparkling words bring the story to life. Books like these are why I read speculative fiction, and the three books in the Spiritwalker trilogy are keepers.

Initially, I was concerned that Cold Steel was not going to live up to my expectations. While there were some good moments and important occurrences in the first 100 – 150 pages, this part of the book was largely slow. Early parts of the book did contain a lot of infodump and discussions about what had gone on in the previous books with some travelogue and plans to rescue Vai from the Master of the Wild Hunt. Frankly, I was bored through much of this, but once Cat made it to Europa it started to become more interesting and soon I was once again excited to be reading about Cat’s adventures.

On the subject of Cat, her voice and character remain one of my favorite aspects in the final book. I love that she is a character one can root for without being unbelievably perfect. She is outspoken, loyal, brave, compassionate, and determined, but she also has a tendency to act before thinking. Because her father is the Master of the Wild Hunt, Cat has some unusual abilities, yet they do not make her so powerful that they solve all her problems. Furthermore, I love that Cat is supposed to be special and important to the course of fate without being the center of the world that all the other characters revolve around. Her cousin and closest friend Bee is also sought after for her ability to dream the future, and Bee has adventures of her own when she and Cat are separated and has an important role to play as a prominent speaker for the revolution. I think this story would have been every bit as fascinating were it focused on Bee instead of Cat.

Truly, I loved all the characters and how each had their own background, story, and personality. Each seemed to be crafted with care, making them seem more real than mere words on a page. Rory, Cat’s brother from the spirit world, has a blunt naivete concerning human sensibilities that often leads to amusing situations. Vai is both charming and irritatingly arrogant, with the latter rooted in his past and his struggles with belonging in the mage house. I didn’t quite know what to think of Camjiata, who was mistrusted by Cat. Though she had good reasons, Bee seemed to think it was more complicated than Cat thought and that he had better intentions than she believed. I could see the case for either of their beliefs, and I love when there are enough complexities involved that I don’t know what to think of a character.

Cold Steel had the same qualities that I enjoyed about the first two books in the trilogy—the detailed world, the dialogue and natural camaraderie between the characters, and the characters themselves. While I didn’t love it as much as the middle book in the trilogy due to a slow start, it does become nearly impossible to put down after that point. I imagine Cat will go on to have new adventures since I can’t picture her doing otherwise, but the story begun in Cold Magic seemed complete by the final page, making it a satisfying conclusion to the Spiritwalker trilogy.

My Rating: 8/10

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

Read an Excerpt

Other Reviews of Cold Steel:

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. 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, I bought 2 books from my wishlist (or, rather, convinced my husband to buy them when he told me he was ordering something online that required spending more money to order) and received 3 more books in the mail.

It’s been a busy week so I didn’t quite finish the book review I was working on last week. However, I hope to finish it soon and put it up this week!

Now, for this week’s books!

Obsidian & Blood by Aliette de Bodard

Obsidian & Blood: The Collected Acatl Novels by Aliette de Bodard

When I read this year’s Hugo nominated novellas, novelettes, and short stories, I read Aliette de Bodard’s writing for the first time and loved it. I’ve been interested in reading the first book in her Obsidian and Blood trilogy for awhile, and reading her short story “Immersion” and novella On a Red Station, Drifting convinced me to buy the omnibus edition containing her entire fantasy trilogy:

  1. Servant of the Underworld (Read an Excerpt)
  2. Harbinger of the Storm
  3. Master of the House of Darts

It’s available in ebook and gargantuan trade paperback (about 1,000 pages long).


A massive fantasy omnibus containing all three novels in the Obsidian and Blood series:

Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan – the capital of the Aztecs. The end of the world is kept at bay only by the magic of human sacrifice. A priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. Acatl, high priest, must find her, or break the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead.

The year is Two House and the Mexica Empire teeters on the brink of destruction, lying vulnerable to the flesh-eating star-demons – and to the return of their creator, a malevolent goddess only held in check by the Protector God’s power. The council is convening to choose a new emperor, but when a councilman is found dead, only Acatl, High Priest of the Dead, can solve the mystery.

The year is Three Rabbit, and the storm is coming…
The coronation war for the new Emperor has just ended in a failure, the armies retreating with a mere forty prisoners of war – not near enough sacrifices to ensure the favor of the gods. When one of those prisoners of war dies of a magical illness, ACATL, High Priest for the Dead, is summoned to investigate.

The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora by Stephanie Thornton

The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora by Stephanie Thornton

This is actually historical fiction, not speculative fiction, but I’ve been interested in reading more historical fiction lately and I’ve heard this debut novel about Empress Theodora is wonderful. It came out earlier this year and is available in trade paperback and ebook, and the first few pages from The Secret History can be read online.

(As an aside, what are some of your favorite historical fiction books?)


Where Theodora went, trouble followed…

In sixth century Constantinople, one woman, Theodora, defied every convention and all the odds, and rose from being a common theater tart to become empress of a great kingdom, the most powerful woman the Roman Empire would ever know. But the woman whose image was later immortalized in glittering mosaic was, in fact, a scrappy, clever, conniving, flesh-and-blood woman full of sensuality and spirit whose real story is as surprising as any ever told…

When her father dies suddenly, Theodora and her sisters face starvation on the streets. Determined to survive, Theodora makes a living any way she can—first on her back with every man who will have her, then on the stage of the city’s infamous amphitheater in a scandalous dramatization of her own invention. When her daring performance grants her a back-door entry into the halls of power, she seizes the chance to win a wealthy protector—only to face heartbreak and betrayal.

Ever resilient, Theodora rises above such trials and by a twist of fate, meets her most passionate admirer yet: the Emperor’s nephew. She will thrive as his confidant and courtesan, but many challenges lie ahead. For one day, this man will hand her a crown. And all the empire will wonder—is she bold enough, shrewd enough, and strong enough to keep it?

The Cusanus Game by Wolfgang Jeschke

The Cusanus Game by Wolfgang Jeschke

This award-winning science fiction novel by German science fiction writer and editor Wolfgang Jeschke will be available in English for the first time on October 15 (hardcover, ebook). An excerpt from The Cusanus Game can be read at


Biologist Domenica Ligrina fears her planet is dying. She might be right.

An atomic disaster in Germany has contaminated Northern Europe with radioactivity. Economic and political calamities are destroying the whole planet. Human DNA is mutating, plant species are going extinct, and scientists are feverishly working on possible solutions. It becomes increasingly apparent that the key to future salvation lies in the past. In 2052 a secret research facility in the Vatican is recruiting scientists for a mission to restore the flora of the irradiated territories. The institute claims to have time travel. When Domenica’s sometime-lover tells her that he knows her future but that she must decide her own fate, she enlists despite his ambiguous warning.

The Middle Ages hold Domenica spellbound. She immerses herself in the mysteries, puzzles, and peculiarities of a culture foreign to her, though she risks changing the past with effects far more disastrous than radiation poisoning. Perhaps there is more than one Domenica, and more than one catastrophe.

Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron

Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron

This young adult novel was just released on October 3 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). A brief excerpt from Man Made Boy is available on the publisher’s website.


Love can be a real monster.

Sixteen-year-old Boy’s never left home. When you’re the son of Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride, it’s tough to go out in public, unless you want to draw the attention of a torch-wielding mob. And since Boy and his family live in a secret enclave of monsters hidden under Times Square, it’s important they maintain a low profile.

Boy’s only interactions with the world are through the Internet, where he’s a hacker extraordinaire who can hide his hulking body and stitched-together face behind a layer of code. When conflict erupts at home, Boy runs away and embarks on a cross-country road trip with the granddaughters of Jekyll and Hyde, who introduce him to malls and diners, love and heartbreak. But no matter how far Boy runs, he can’t escape his demons—both literal and figurative—until he faces his family once more.

This hilarious, romantic, and wildly imaginative tale redefines what it means to be a monster—and a man.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown

Red Rising, the first book in a trilogy, will be available for purchase on January 28, 2014 (hardcover, ebook). More information, including an excerpt, can be found on the Red Rising website.


Darrow is a miner and a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he digs all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of the planet livable for future generations. Darrow has never seen the sky.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better future for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow and Reds like him are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow joins a resistance group in order to infiltrate the ruling class and destroy society from within. He will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.