Last year wasn’t as strong a year for books as 2017 in terms of quantity or quality of those read, but there are still plenty of books worth highlighting! (And, although there may not be as many books finished, there were many more sampled and set aside.)

About half the books I read last year are ones I enjoyed and would recommend without reservation, but there are eight of those that stand out to me as being especially notable. Without further ado, here are my very favorite books of 2018!

Book of the Year

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

1. Empire of Sand (The Books of Ambha #1) by Tasha Suri
My Review

Though I read three books that I absolutely LOVED this year, Tasha Suri’s wonderful debut is the one that stands out to me as the most memorable and deeply affecting. Inspired in part by Mughal India, Empire of Sand is the story of a young woman who is forced into an arranged marriage and bound to serve the Empire because she possesses magic that is rare even among other descendants of the gods’ children like herself. It’s also the story of the ways in which she and her new husband fight back against evil and injustice—not with the strength of force and weapons, but with the strength of hearts and minds—while gradually falling in love. It’s a fantastic, elegantly written, character-driven book that explores themes of resistance and oppression, choice, and the strength of bonds between people, and as much as I appreciated all of that, my favorite part is the main character at its heart. Mehr shapes her own tale not just because of what she can do with her extraordinary gifts but because of who she is: her decisions, her hope, her courage, and her determination all play important roles in the story’s course and eventual outcome.

Book of the Year Runners-Up

The Defiant Heir by Melissa Caruso

2. The Defiant Heir (Swords and Fire #2) by Melissa Caruso
My Review

Melissa Caruso’s debut novel, The Tethered Mage, was one of my favorite books of 2017 (also, That Book That Kept Me Reading Until 2:00 AM). Given that, I had rather high expectations for The Defiant Heir—which actually exceeded my expectations and took the series to the next level in every way. While the first book introduces the Raverran Empire and its system of weaponizing mages after Amalia accidentally bound herself to the fire mage Zaira, the second one shows more of a neighboring country ruled by powerful mages with connections to their lands. Each of these Witch Lords steals the show any time they’re present, and the one that plays the biggest role is my favorite new character: Kathe, who doesn’t seem entirely trustworthy but is so charismatic that neither Amalia nor I could help but like him anyway. Amalia and Zaira’s friendship has also developed delightfully, and the banter, camaraderie, amusing dialogue, and KATHE made for the most fun reading experience I had in 2018—although The Defiant Heir also contains high stakes, difficult choices, and DEVASTATING CONSEQUENCES.

Starless by Jacqueline Carey

3. Starless by Jacqueline Carey
My Review

Although Jacqueline Carey has written many wonderful books, Starless is my favorite of hers I’ve read so far. It’s a beautifully written story told from the perspective of Khai, revealed to be a desert god’s chosen and soul’s twin to a princess as a baby. Like all of the rare soul’s twins to a member of the royal family, Khai is trained to be the princess’ protector within the desert god’s Brotherhood—even though he would have been raised as a girl had it not been for this destiny and its long-held traditions. It begins with Khai’s early life and training (which I think is the best part partially because of Brother Yarit, chosen for a special role by the desert god to his great chagrin) and expands into an epic journey after he meets the princess. This thick standalone novel explores this world of gods and prophecies but also gender identity, honor, fate, love, redemption, and the necessity of change and progress—and while I felt that the phrase “Love as thou wilt” from Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel books was applicable here, Starless would be best summarized as “Be as thou wilt.”

Additional Favorites

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

4. Mirage (Mirage #1) by Somaiya Daud

I don’t yet have a review to link since I’ve been struggling to write one that I feel does this book justice. Mirage, Somaiya Daud’s debut, is heart wrenching and gorgeously written with a voice that reflects the main protagonist’s poetic soul. It’s narrated by Amani, a young woman who is suddenly ripped away from her family and her home moon without any explanation. The servants of the conquering Empire who abducted her take her to Princess Maram, and Amani discovers that she looks like the Emperor’s daughter—and is expected to pretend to be the princess at potentially dangerous public functions. My favorite part of this book is Amani, who does not have any special abilities but ends up in an unusual situation merely because she resembles the princess, yet manages to have an impact on those around her because of her deep inner strength and compassion. (I love these types of characters.) The growth of Amani’s complicated relationship with the princess is the highlight of the book, and I also very much appreciated the depiction of Amani’s faith.

City of Lies by Sam Hawke

5. City of Lies (The Poison Wars #1) by Sam Hawke
My Review

City of Lies, Sam Hawke’s debut novel, is a wonderful fantasy mystery with an intriguing premise and compelling three-dimensional protagonists. It follows two siblings—one who is secretly a poison detection expert and the other who is secretly a spy—as they try to uncover who poisoned their uncle and the Chancellor and why, as well as why their city is under siege by what would appear to be their own people. Given that it revolves around murder, war, and betrayal, City of Lies may sound grim, but it’s actually an optimistic book with main characters who sincerely want to listen, learn, and address any grievances their people may have. As much as I loved the two main characters and their close friend, the Chancellor’s heir, my favorite character of all was one introduced later in the story: Hadrea, who does not mince words about she thinks.

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

6. The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1) by R. F. Kuang
My Review

The Poppy War, R. F. Kuang’s debut novel, is partially based on the Second Sino-Japanese War; as such, to call it “dark” is a bit of an understatement. It follows Rin, a war orphan who determines to score highly enough on a test to get into an elite military academy and does so—but finds that, as difficult as mastering the Four Noble Subjects was, getting into the academy was the easy part compared to her classes and (later) actual war. It examines how war changes people, for better and worse—with heavy emphasis on worse—and I especially appreciated the handling of Rin’s choices. No matter how horrible they are, they are completely hers: they aren’t brushed off as being influenced by the gods or made in ignorance, and they have consequences. This disturbing, gutsy book is definitely one of my most memorable reading experiences of 2018.

Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence

7. Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor #2) by Mark Lawrence
My Review

Red Sister, the First Book of the Ancestor, was my Book of the Year Runner-Up last year (and That Book I Kept Recommending Throughout 2017). Though I didn’t feel that Grey Sister was quite as compelling as the previous installment, I still enjoyed continuing Nona’s story very much and absolutely loved the second half. In particular, I appreciated the focus on strength and power taking a variety of forms and how the nuns exhibit these in different ways: though Abbess Glass isn’t a badass warrior like many of the others, she is just as badass as any of them due to her inner steel. I’ve become very invested in Nona, Abbess Glass, and some of the other characters, and I also loved the emphasis on friendship and the strength that comes from people working together.

Circe by Madeline Miller

8. Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe is a powerfully, beautifully written novel told from the perspective of the titular Greek goddess. It covers a huge span of time, chronicling her childhood, her discovery of her abilities with transformation, her exile to the island, and various encounters with gods and heroes. Especially earlier in the novel, Circe doesn’t always see the world around her clearly, and her gradual understanding of the reality of the way things are and her desire to belong and connect are sympathetic and palpable. Most of all, I loved the lyrical writing and the feminist exploration of Circe’s story, goddesses within the Greek pantheon, and other women from Greek mythology.

 

Book Description:

In the latest novel in Genevieve Cogman’s historical fantasy series, the fate of worlds lies in the balance. When a dragon is murdered at a peace conference, time-travelling Librarian spy Irene must solve the case to keep the balance between order, chaos…and the Library.

When Irene returns to London after a relatively straightforward book theft in Germany, Bradamant informs her that there is a top secret dragon-Fae peace conference in progress that the Library is mediating, and that the second-in-command dragon has been stabbed to death. Tasked with solving the case, Vale and Irene immediately go to 1890s Paris to start their investigation.

Once they arrive, they find evidence suggesting that the murder victim might have uncovered proof of treachery by one or more Librarians. But to ensure the peace of the conference, some Librarians are being held as hostages in the dragon and Fae courts. To save the captives, including her parents, Irene must get to the bottom of this murder–but was it a dragon, a Fae, or even a Librarian who committed the crime?

The Mortal Word is the fifth book in Genevieve Cogman’s delightful Invisible Library series, in which the Library that exists outside of space and time maintains balance throughout the multiverse via book hoarding. These novels follow one of the organization’s agents, Irene Winters, whose position involves collecting (i.e., stealing) rare titles and one-of-a-kind editions from various alternate worlds and adding them to the Library’s stockpile (though she does also read many of them, as someone who appreciates a good book). In the course of her work as a spy and thief, Irene uses her quick wits and skill with the Language—which allows Librarians to alter reality to an extent via precise phrasing—to navigate unfamiliar worlds and effectively manage unexpectedly absurd situations.

Irene’s adventures, practical approach, and logical-yet-amusing observations make the Invisible Library series incredibly fun, and I enjoyed the first four books immensely. However, I did feel that The Mortal Word did not play to the series’ strengths as well as the previous novels and is therefore the weakest of the five, despite the readability of the first and final few chapters.

In this installment, Irene is charged with investigating a murder that occurred during a clandestine peace conference. The Library has been secretly mediating an agreement between the orderly dragons and the chaotic Fae that would result in an unprecedented peace between these two opposing powers. But their tenuous truce may be exchanged for all-out war after the leading dragon king’s assistant is killed. As part of a small team with renowned human detective Peregrine Vale, a dragon investigator, and a rakish Fae, Irene must not only find whoever is responsible for the dragon’s death but conduct the search in a way that will not further escalate tensions—or the ensuing conflict could literally shatter the world(s).

Though The Mortal Word sounds exciting with a story revolving around (successful and attempted) dragon assassinations and Fae machinations, it dragged at times. The opening chapter, in which Irene deliberately gets herself imprisoned by a witch hunter in order to swipe a book from his private library, is quite entertaining, and events do become more consistently interesting throughout the last 80 pages or so. Yet the middle parts are very uneven with a large focus on investigation and discussion of the investigation without enough charming banter or character interactions to keep it from getting tedious. There are occasionally some good parts sandwiched between the beginning and end (such as events during the dinner party), but it does seem as though this section’s pacing is slow overall.

There are three main reasons I did not find this novel as compelling as its predecessors:

  1. There is a distinct lack of covert operations and undercover shenanigans.
    Irene is most in her element when spying and thieving—and when she’s having fun facing these challenges, I’m having fun reading about them! This is probably why I found the first chapter to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the entire book.
  2. The setting was generic and had little impact on the story.
    This alternate world’s Paris was not particularly fantastic and didn’t stand apart as its own version of the city, possibly at least partially because Irene spent a lot of time at the various delegation’s hotels. Though it makes sense that this particular location may not be the most extraordinary given why it was selected, this also means that it’s missing part of what makes these books so engaging: spending time in a variety of worlds.
  3. It rehashed themes and questions from the previous book without developing them further.
    The fourth book had some focus on whether or not the Library could truly be impartial and neutral given that it’s composed of individuals with biases and weaknesses. While this installment largely approached this concept from a different angle with a new Rogue Librarian Character, it was still a major part of it, plus it’s still asking the same questions about That Revelation from the end of the third book. Even though I suspect I have a general idea about where this is heading, I’m ready for some answers—or at least some progress toward getting some answers!

The Mortal Word is my least favorite installment in the Invisible Library series to date since there are some rather dull parts, but it had enough intrigue to keep me interested in reading the sixth volume (especially since, at this point, I am invested in finding out what happens to Irene!).

My Rating: 6/10

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

Read an Excerpt from The Mortal Word

Reviews of the Previous Books in the Invisible Library Series:

  1. The Invisible Library
  2. The Masked City
  3. The Burning Page
  4. The Lost Plot

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

One finished copy and two ARCs showed up last week—all of which sound fantastic! But first, here’s last week’s new review in case you missed it (I LOVED this book):

  • Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri — “Empire of Sand, Tasha Suri’s fantasy debut novel inspired by Mughal India, is magnificent. Though there is plenty of darkness within its pages, there is also an abundance of light as the main characters fight back against evil and injustice—not with the strength of force and weapons, but with the strength of hearts and minds. It’s a wonderful exploration of themes like choice and connection, and it’s also a treasure trove of rich storytelling with its vibrant characters and relationships, fascinating world, and beautiful writing.”

And now, the latest book arrivals!

The Unbound Empire by Melissa Caruso

The Unbound Empire (Swords and Fire #3) by Melissa Caruso

The final book in the Swords and Fire trilogy will be released on April 30, 2019 (trade paperback, ebook).

The publisher’s website has excerpts from the first two books in the series:

  1. The Tethered Mage (2018 Gemmell Morningstar Award Finalist)
  2. The Defiant Heir

The Unbound Empire is one of THE 2019 releases I am most excited about since The Defiant Heir is one of my absolute favorite books of 2018. I have reviewed both of the previous novels:

  1. The Tethered Mage — “The Tethered Mage is a fantastic first novel that particularly excels at characters, worldbuilding, and telling the type of compelling story that leads to late-night-to-early-morning binge reading.” (I stayed up until 2:00 AM reading it because I HAD to know how it ended!)
  2. The Defiant Heir — “The Tethered Mage is an excellent debut novel that set a high bar for its followup, but The Defiant Heir takes the series to the next level in every way.” (Kathe, a character introduced in this installment, made things very interesting…)

I was also pretty excited to see the recent news that Melissa Caruso is writing another trilogy set in this world!

 

The final volume of the Gemmell Morningstar Award-shortlisted Swords and Fire fantasy trilogy, in which political scion Amalia and her bound fire warlock Zaira must save the Empire from a ruthless, magical enemy. Perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce, The Queen of the Tearling, and Uprooted.

While winter snows keep the Witch Lord Ruven’s invading armies at bay, Lady Amalia Cornaro and the fire warlock Zaira attempt to change the fate of mages in the Raverran Empire forever, earning the enmity of those in power who will do anything to keep all magic under tight imperial control. But in the season of the Serene City’s great masquerade, Ruven executes a devastating surprise strike at the heart of the Empire – and at everything Amalia holds most dear.

To stand a chance of defeating Ruven, Amalia and Zaira must face their worst nightmares, expose their deepest secrets, and unleash Zaira’s most devastating fire.

Terran Tomorrow by Nancy Kress

Terran Tomorrow (Yesterday’s Kin #3) by Nancy Kress

The conclusion to the Yesterday’s Kin trilogy, which grew from Nancy Kress’ Nebula Award–winning novella Yesterday’s Kin, is out now (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

The publisher’s website has excerpts from all three books in the series:

  1. Tomorrow’s Kin
  2. If Tomorrow Comes
  3. Terran Tomorrow

This is another series I’ve rather enjoyed, and I’m curious to see how it ends. I’ve reviewed the previous two books in the series, plus the original novella (which is also the beginning of the first book in the trilogy):

  • Yesterday’s Kin — “Yesterday’s Kin is a wonderful science fiction book, and it’s impressive how full the story is despite its succinctness.”
  • Tomorrow’s Kin — “Though I did feel that the first third was stronger than the new additions, Tomorrow’s Kin as a whole is both smart and engaging—once I started reading it, I had a difficult time putting it down!”
  • If Tomorrow Comes — “If Tomorrow’s Kin has some flaws…but it has its strengths as well and offers an intriguing look at how a society like Kindred’s could have come to be—and how they could have reacted to an existential threat.”
 

Nancy Kress returns with Terran Tomorrow, the final book in the thrilling hard science fiction trilogy based on the Nebula Award–winning novella Yesterday’s Kin.

io9―New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books You Need to Put on Your Radar for Fall

The diplomatic mission from Earth to World ended in disaster, as the Earth scientists discovered that the Worlders were not the scientifically advanced culture they believed. Though they brought a limited quantity of the vaccine against the deadly spore cloud, there was no way to make enough to vaccinate more than a few dozen. The Earth scientists, and surviving diplomats, fled back to Earth.

But once home, after the twenty-eight-year gap caused by the space ship transit, they find an Earth changed almost beyond recognition. In the aftermath of the spore cloud plague, the human race has been reduced to only a few million isolated survivors. The knowledge brought back by Marianne Jenner and her staff may not be enough to turn the tide of ongoing biological warfare.

The Unicorn Anthology edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman

The Unicorn Anthology edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman

The Unicorn Anthology will be released on April 19 (trade paperback, ebook).

It includes stories by Peter S. Beagle, Patricia A. McKillip, Jane Yolen, Garth Nix, Carrie Vaughn, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Margo Lanagan, and more. The publisher’s website lists the table of contents.

 

Unicorns: Not just for virgins anymore. Here are sixteen lovely, powerful, intricate, and unexpected unicorn tales from fantasy icons including Garth Nix, Peter S. Beagle, Patricia A. McKillip, Bruce Coville, Carrie Vaughn, and more. In this volume you will find two would-be hunters who enlist an innkeeper to find a priest hiding the secret of the last unicorn. A time traveler tries to corral an unruly mythological beast that might never have existed at all. The lover and ex-boyfriend of a dying woman join forces to find a miraculous remedy in New York City. And a small-town writer of historical romances discovers a sliver of a mysterious horn in a slice of apple pie.

 

Empire of Sand, Tasha Suri’s fantasy debut novel inspired by Mughal India, is magnificent. Though there is plenty of darkness within its pages, there is also an abundance of light as the main characters fight back against evil and injustice—not with the strength of force and weapons, but with the strength of hearts and minds. It’s a wonderful exploration of themes like choice and connection, and it’s also a treasure trove of rich storytelling with its vibrant characters and relationships, fascinating world, and beautiful writing.

In short: I loved Empire of Sand and found it deeply affecting.

Empire of Sand is the story of Mehr, a noblewoman by virtue of her father’s governorship and an outcast by virtue of her mother’s Amrithi ancestry. When Mehr was young, her mother taught her about their heritage: of the power that dwells in their blood as the descendants of the gods’ children, who once had children of their own with humans. She taught her to draw her own blood for protection against the gods’ children still roaming the land, who had vowed never to hurt one of their lineage; she taught her their stories; she taught her how to dance the rites of their people.

When Mehr was still just a child, her mother was exiled and returned to the desert, leaving her and her baby sister behind. Mehr grew up with a stepmother who despised her and did all she could to prevent Mehr from teaching her sister about Amrithi history and traditions. Largely isolated within her father’s home, Mehr had only one true friend with whom she could be herself, another Amrithi woman called Lalita who had looked after her in her mother’s absence.

Lalita, who has been hiding the fact that she’s Amrithi for years, visits Mehr one day bearing news that she believes her identity may have been compromised and that she must leave. However, a rare dreamfire storm—in which the dreams of the gods sleeping beneath the desert visibly shape the world—is imminent, and she cannot resist staying just a little longer so she and Mehr can dance the Rite of Dreaming together.

But when the dreamfire begins to fall, Lalita does not come. Knowing her friend must be in trouble to miss such an opportunity, Mehr sneaks out of the house to go to her, but having lived a rather secluded life, she does not know how to get there. She desperately begs the gods to take her to her friend’s home, and to her surprise, the dreamfire shows her the way. Though she finds blood and death, she does not find Lalita—but the Empire’s religious leader finds Mehr when she awakens her ability to control dreamfire, rare even among Amrithi.

Mystics come to her father’s household with a document signed by both the Maha, the head of the faith, and the Emperor, declaring they intend to honor Mehr with marriage to an esteemed man of their order. Enraged by the poorly disguised command and the certainty that this cannot end well for Mehr, her father arranges for her to flee. Mehr refuses: she realizes they’ll find her eventually and fears what they may do to her family, especially her young sister, in the meantime. She’s quickly wed to Amun, whom she was only allowed to meet once before their hasty wedding, and brought to the temple.

There, Mehr discovers the dark secrets of the Empire’s success and longevity—and the Maha’s plan to use both sides of her heritage to bind her to perform rites that are anathema to Amrithi. But her new husband has perfected the art of finding loopholes that allow him to resist the Maha’s orders, and with his help, Mehr believes she may be able to free them from their bonds and set things right with the gods…

Empire of Sand is an emotionally intense, memorable novel—one that I expect to be toward the top of my favorite books of 2018 list. I first read it a couple of months before its November release and found it captivating, but I waited to write about it since I didn’t want to review it too early. I actually ended up rereading much of it recently in hopes of better doing this wonderful book justice, and as compelling as I found it before, I found it even more compelling the second time. Those first 50–60 pages no longer seemed slow to me, and I appreciated how they showed a glimpse into Mehr’s early life and relationships, especially given that a major theme of the novel is the impact of connections between people. Though I still thought the occasional brief preludes interspersed between Mehr’s story were unnecessary (though not uninteresting), I loved everything else about it from the magic and mythology, to the lovely writing, to the characters, to the romance, to the themes—but, most of all, Mehr.

Courageous, determined Mehr is the heart and soul of Empire of Sand. Though it is her unusual magic that sets events in motion, it’s Mehr who primarily drives the story: not merely because of what she can do, but mainly because of who she is. Every single choice Mehr makes, no matter how seemingly small or constrained by terrible circumstances, influences the course—this is truly her story, one that could not have unfolded the same way were anyone else at its center. The calmer moments are often the ones that stand out the most—when Mehr chooses hope over despair, kindness and honesty over manipulation and distrust—because these choices clearly shape what follows and cascade to create the eventual outcome. Mehr’s choices affect her relationships with others, her ability to work with and learn from them, as well as how much support she receives when she does inevitably falter or make mistakes.

In particular, Mehr’s choices, determination, and optimism affect the development of her relationship with her new husband, Amun—as do his own choices and determination in return. Having been caught in the Maha’s web for longer than Mehr has been, Amun does not have her optimism. However, he does have cunning and fortitude, and his refusal to simply give in to the Maha’s commands—despite the high personal cost of fighting them—and his honesty with Mehr about their situation allow the two to begin building trust. There’s no immediate attraction between the two; instead, their romance grows naturally from their shared circumstances as they become allies and come to understand one another. Mehr and Amun are well matched since they both have vast reserves of inner strength, and they also inspire and help each other. Together, they discover ways to forge a new path for themselves even after it seemed as though their choices had been taken from them.

Though I found Mehr and Amun (both as individuals and as a couple) to be the highlights, Empire of Sand is an exquisite book overall. The prose is not especially dense, and it flows well and features some elegant descriptions of the desert, the gods’ children, and Mehr’s surroundings and feelings. Her third person perspective is straightforward without leaving room for subtlety, but I also felt as though it conveyed more about her childhood and how it molded her than what was stated through her narrative. The mythical world adds both beauty and darkness, and the expertly woven-in themes exploring oppression and resistance, choices, and the strength of bonds between people add depth and insight that make this book stand out even more.

Empire of Sand is an extraordinary debut, a phenomenal novel, and a wonderful feat of character-driven storytelling. I absolutely loved this unforgettable book, and I’m looking forward to reading more by Tasha Suri.

My Rating: 9/10

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

Read an Excerpt from Empire of Sand

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

Last week was a pretty good mail week with some very intriguing upcoming releases!

Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence

Holy Sister (Book of the Ancestor #3) by Mark Lawrence

The final installment in the Book of the Ancestor trilogy will be released on April 9, 2019 (hardcover and ebook).

The publisher’s website has excerpts from the first two books in the series:

  1. Red Sister
  2. Grey Sister

It made my day when I discovered this was the contents of a mystery package! This series has compelling characters I’ve become quite invested in, and I very much enjoyed both of the previous novels (particularly the first):

  1. Red Sister — 9/10
  2. Grey Sister — 8/10
 

The third book in the thrilling and epic Book of the Ancestor trilogy from international bestselling author Mark Lawrence.

Powerful novice Nona Grey must fight to survive in “a fantastic world in which religion and politics are dark and sharp as swords, with magic and might held in the hands of wonderful and dangerous women.”*

*Library Journal

The True Queen by Zen Cho

The True Queen (A Sorcerer to the Crown Novel) by Zen Cho

The True Queen, a new story set after events in Zen Cho’s Regency fantasy Sorcerer to the Crown, will be released on March 12, 2019 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

It appears to be too early for excerpts from the upcoming novel, but the publisher’s website does have an excerpt from Sorcerer to the Crown.

My reaction to Sorcerer to the Crown was a complicated one—though I liked it and thought it was well done, it seemed like I should have loved it and I’m not quite sure why I didn’t—but I did enjoy it and am curious about this new tale set in the same world (and discovering what Prunella has been up to!).

 

In the follow-up to the “delightful” Regency fantasy novel (NPR.org) Sorcerer to the Crown, a young woman with no memories of her past finds herself embroiled in dangerous politics in England and the land of the fae.

When sisters Muna and Sakti wake up on the peaceful beach of the island of Janda Baik, they can’t remember anything, except that they are bound as only sisters can be. They have been cursed by an unknown enchanter, and slowly Sakti starts to fade away. The only hope of saving her is to go to distant Britain, where the Sorceress Royal has established an academy to train women in magic.

If Muna is to save her sister, she must learn to navigate high society, and trick the English magicians into believing she is a magical prodigy. As she’s drawn into their intrigues, she must uncover the secrets of her past, and journey into a world with more magic than she had ever dreamed.

Tales from Plexis edited by Julie E. Czerneda

The Clan Chronicles: Tales from Plexis edited by Julie E. Czerneda

This anthology of stories set in Julie E. Czerneda’s Clan Chronicles universe (and edited by her!) will be released on December 4 (trade paperback, ebook).

The editor’s website has more information on the book and the table of contents, which includes stories by Tanya Huff, Karina Sumner-Smith, Fiona Patton, Violette Malan, and more—plus a story about Sira and Morgan written by Julie E. Czerneda!

The publisher’s website also has an excerpt from Tales from Plexis.

 

Authors explore new corners of the Clan Chronicles universe in an anthology that brings readers into the lives of the alien inhabitants of one of the sci-fi series’s most memorable locations

Welcome to one of the iconic settings of the Clan Chronicles: the infamous interstellar shopping extravaganza of the Trade Pact known as Plexis Supermarket! A market and meeting place, Plexis is where pirates rub shoulders with freighter crews, where the rich come to party and the out-of-luck chase that last opportunity, where anything can be bought or sold and only your airtag tells the truth. Most of the time.

Dock your starship, pay your parking fee, and enter. You’ll never know what you’ll find. Or who you’ll meet. Because here, for the first time, Julie E. Czerneda has opened the airlocks to her fellow scribes and lovers of all things Trade Pact to produce this anthology of remarkable, all-original stories.

Learn the beginnings (and kitchen secrets) of the famed Claws & Jaws: Interspecies Cuisine. Solve mysteries. Slip through service tunnels or shop with goldtags!

Want the truth about Turrneds? The Neblokans? How Terk met his partner? More of Raj Plexis and Bowman? The way to Ansel’s heart? Kurr di Sarc. Huido. Manouya. Those balloons.

Plexis awaits your pleasure.

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

After getting caught up last weekend, I’m now resuming regularly weekly updates so there are just a couple of books this week. However, if you missed it, I did (finally!) finish the review I’ve been trying to write for awhile now last week:

  • City of Lies (The Poison Wars #1) by Sam Hawke — Though it involves murder, war, and betrayal, City of Lies is ultimately an optimistic book with sincere main characters at its heart. I found it a little slow at times before that incredible last 30%, but it’s also a standout of 2018 for me because I loved the story and characters.

Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee

Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee

Astounding was just released last month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). In the prologue, Alec Nevala-Lee clarifies that it “is not a comprehensive history of the genre, and its focus on Campbell’s circle means that many other writers receive less attention than they deserve.”

The publisher’s website has a sample from Astounding.

 

Astounding is the landmark account of the extraordinary partnership between four controversial writers—John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard—who set off a revolution in science fiction and forever changed our world.

This remarkable cultural narrative centers on the figure of John W. Campbell, Jr., whom Asimov called “the most powerful force in science fiction ever.” Campbell, who has never been the subject of a biography until now, was both a visionary author—he wrote the story that was later filmed as The Thing—and the editor of the groundbreaking magazine best known as Astounding Science Fiction, in which he discovered countless legendary writers and published classic works ranging from the I, Robot series to Dune. Over a period of more than thirty years, from the rise of the pulps to the debut of Star Trek, he dominated the genre, and his three closest collaborators reached unimaginable heights. Asimov became the most prolific author in American history; Heinlein emerged as the leading science fiction writer of his generation with the novels Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land; and Hubbard achieved lasting fame—and infamy—as the founder of the Church of Scientology.

Drawing on unexplored archives, thousands of unpublished letters, and dozens of interviews, Alec Nevala-Lee offers a riveting portrait of this circle of authors, their work, and their tumultuous private lives. With unprecedented scope, drama, and detail, Astounding describes how fan culture was born in the depths of the Great Depression; follows these four friends and rivals through World War II and the dawn of the atomic era; and honors such exceptional women as Doña Campbell and Leslyn Heinlein, whose pivotal roles in the history of the genre have gone largely unacknowledged. For the first time, it reveals the startling extent of Campbell’s influence on the ideas that evolved into Scientology, which prompted Asimov to observe: “I knew Campbell and I knew Hubbard, and no movement can have two Messiahs.” It looks unsparingly at the tragic final act that estranged the others from Campbell, bringing the golden age of science fiction to a close, and it illuminates how their complicated legacy continues to shape the imaginations of millions and our vision of the future itself.

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