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 (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Last week was a terrific week for books in the mail since both of these new arrivals appeared on my anticipated speculative fiction releases of 2018 list.

Also last week, I posted a review of The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco. I loved Tea, the main character, and how Rin Chupeco told her story through two different perspectives and timelines—showing just how much can change in five years and adding fascinating dimension to Tea’s character.

And now, on to the latest books!

The Defiant Heir by Melissa Caruso

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

The second book in the Swords and Fire trilogy will be released on April 24 (trade paperback, ebook).

This will also be Melissa Caruso’s second published novel, and I’m very excited about it since The Tethered Mage is an exciting, compulsively readable book that kept me up reading until 2:00 AM. I loved the world and characters, and The Tethered Mage was one of my favorite books of 2017.

The publisher’s website has an excerpt from The Tethered Mage. And if you missed it, Melissa Caruso recently wrote an excellent Twitter thread on fighting in ballgowns (with Disney princess examples!).


Across the border, the Witch Lords of Vaskandar are preparing for war. But before an invasion can begin, they must call a rare gathering of all seventeen lords to decide a course of action.

Lady Amalia Cornaro knows that this Conclave might be her only chance to smother the growing flames of war, and she is ready to make any sacrifice if it means saving Raverra from destruction.

Amalia and Zaira must go behind enemy lines, using every ounce of wit and cunning they have, to sway Vaskandar from war. Or else it will all come down to swords and fire.

City of Lies by Sam Hawke

City of Lies (The Poison Wars #1) by Sam Hawke

This epic fantasy debut novel will be released on July 3 (hardcover, trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

Editor Diana Gill wrote a Behind the Bookshelf essay on the Tor-Forge blog in which she discusses what makes a book stand out from the rest using City of Lies as an example—and it sounds fantastic!


I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me… 

Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he’s a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state.

But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising…and angry.

Rin Chupeco’s novel The Bone Witch, the first book in a young adult fantasy trilogy, is the story of a powerful necromancer named Tea who was told her destiny was not to save the world but to change it—for better and for worse. Tea herself is introduced through the viewpoint of a bard, who finds her in exile about five years after she first discovered her magic, and his perspective alternates with hers as she relates her tale to him. As much as I enjoyed her narrative, the lovely writing, and exploring the world, it’s this storytelling structure and the dimension it adds to Tea’s characterization that truly make The Bone Witch a standout novel: at seventeen years old, she seems hardened compared to her younger self, yet it seems as though she has the same core personality traits and her values have simply shifted with her experiences.

The first glimpse of Tea seen through the eyes of the bard is a young woman effortlessly exerting control over one of the giant undead daevas capable of wreaking havoc throughout the world. She appears confident and mighty, and the scars she bears and the look in her eyes show she’s been through a lot, especially considering her age. After this brief scene showing the bard’s first impressions of Tea and a conversation in which she agrees to tell her tale, she begins her story. As a young girl, she never seemed particularly extraordinary and neither she nor anyone else realized she had power over the Dark—until the day twelve-year-old Tea unwittingly resurrected her older brother during his funeral.

Her first bout with necromancy left her rather drained, but fortunately, she was aided in her recovery by a woman named Mykaela, an experienced bone witch who became her mentor. Mykaela whisked Tea away from her quiet country life, along with her undead brother, and Tea began the journey to becoming an asha, a politically savvy woman who knows how to wield her magic, fight, use fashion to her advantage, and entertain through various arts such as dancing and music. However, she has a bigger challenge ahead of her than most asha due to being a rare bone witch, who are feared and hated by many.

Through her interactions with the bard, it’s revealed that much has changed since Tea first learned of her abilities. It’s fascinating to see just how different she is while simultaneously seeing how her nature combined with her background could have led to these changes. I loved that though Tea initially has a little bit of hesitation about being a bone witch, she’s quickly forced to admit to herself that she liked the taste of power—and that she continues to be self aware as she embraces her power and learns what she can about it, whether others would approve of her methods or not. Though she’s ultimately much harder and less merciful, she also still seems to be motivated by the same sense of justice exhibited by her younger self, and as her tale advances it demonstrates her increasing bitterness about the treatment of bone witches and the rigidity of asha traditions. Knowing where Tea ends up makes this novel far stronger than if it followed a linear path, and it also creates some suspense as it gradually fills in details about what happened in the past—as well as what exactly Tea has been planning while in exile, since that story is not yet finished, either.

Although the main protagonist and her characterization were my favorite parts, the lovely writing was another strength, especially in the bard’s more poetic sections. His perspective can be a bit melodramatic, but I found it quite readable and enjoyed how it often tied into the next part of Tea’s narration.

The world was also captivating, but I did feel that this is where the book faltered the most. It simultaneously provided lots of information about magic and history while not explaining enough, and it also seemed as though some elements were added because they were interesting or created tension rather than because they made sense in-world. For instance, everyone—from kings to common people—wears a heartsglass around their neck that shows their essence. To most, this just gives a general idea of who they are, but those with magic can learn to understand the subtle changes that most do not see. Though this can be useful in some situations, such as determining why someone is ill and how to cure them, it can also make people rather vulnerable when they interact with someone who can read what they’re truly feeling or exchange heartsglasses with a spouse. Perhaps I’ll feel differently once the trilogy has been finished, but right now, it seems as though the disadvantages far outweigh the benefits, making it hard to believe people would follow this system even though I rather like the general concept. Additionally, parts of the mythology could have been fleshed out a bit more, such as the Faceless and their operations. It would have improved one of the subplots to have a better idea of their place in the world and their goals beyond Being Evil.

Despite any quibbles, I loved The Bone Witch mainly because of its heroine and the storytelling structure that enhanced her characterization. The way it skillfully built up both parts of Tea’s story was mesmerizing, and I can hardly wait to continue both threads of her tale in The Heart Forger (coming March 20).

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

Read an Excerpt from The Bone Witch

Read Rin Chupeco’s Women in SF&F Month Essay on Heroines (including Tea!)

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 (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Some rather intriguing books came in the mail recently, but first, here is the previous post in case you missed it:

  • Review of Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra, a novel set in post-apocalyptic Asia focusing on a heroine belonging to one of the Orders of Peace that upholds justice throughout the land. I absolutely loved the world, but I thought the characters and story were held back by mechanical plot devices.

I’m almost finished with a review of Rin Chupeco’s The Bone Witch that should be going up in the next day or two. (You may have already seen that I rather liked this one and am looking forward to the sequel.)

And now, some upcoming releases!

84K by Claire North

84K by Claire North

This dystopian novel by award-winning author Claire North will released on May 22 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

I’m rather curious about this one since I’ve been hearing great things about Claire North’s books, including The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and her 2017 World Fantasy Award–winning novel A Sudden Appearance of Hope. Claire North is also Carnegie Medal–nominated author Catherine Webb and Kate Griffin.


From one of the most powerful writers in modern fiction comes a dystopian vision of a world where money reigns supreme, and nothing is so precious that it can’t be bought….

The penalty for Dani Cumali’s murder: £84,000.

Theo works in the Criminal Audit Office. He assesses each crime that crosses his desk and makes sure the correct debt to society is paid in full.

These days, there’s no need to go to prison – provided that you can afford to pay the penalty for the crime you’ve committed. If you’re rich enough, you can get away with murder.

But Dani’s murder is different. When Theo finds her lifeless body, and a hired killer standing over her and calmly calling the police to confess, he can’t let her death become just an entry on a balance sheet.

Someone is responsible. And Theo is going to find them and make them pay.

Perfect for fans of speculative fiction such as The Handmaid’s Tale and Never Let Me Go, Claire North’s moving and unnerving new novel will resonate with readers around the world.

A Veil of Spears by Bradley P. Beaulieu

A Veil of Spears (Song of Shattered Sands #3) by Bradley P. Beaulieu

This epic fantasy novel will be released on March 20 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

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

  1. Twelve Kings in Sharakhai
  2. With Blood Upon the Sand

There is also an excerpt from Of Sand and Malice Made, a companion novella.


The third book in The Song of Shattered Sands series—an epic fantasy with a desert setting, filled with rich worldbuilding and pulse-pounding action.

Since the Night of Endless Swords, a bloody battle the Kings of Sharakhai narrowly won, the kings have been hounding the rebels known as the Moonless Host. Many have been forced to flee the city, including Çeda, who discovers that the King of Sloth is raising his army to challenge the other kings’ rule.

When Çeda finds the remaining members of the Moonless Host, now known as the thirteenth tribe, she sees a tenuous existence. Çeda hatches a plan to return to Sharakhai and free the asirim, the kings’ powerful, immortal slaves. The kings, however, have sent their greatest tactician, the King of Swords, to bring Çeda to justice for her crimes.

But the once-unified front of the kings is crumbling. The surviving kings vie quietly against one another, maneuvering for control over Sharakhai. Çeda hopes to use that to her advantage, but whom to trust? Any of them might betray her.

As Çeda works to lift the shackles from the asirim and save the thirteenth tribe, the kings of Sharakhai, the scheming queen of Qaimir, the ruthless blood mage, Hamzakiir, and King of Swords all prepare for a grand clash that may decide the fate of all.

Additional Books:

Rati Mehrotra’s debut novel, Markswoman, is the first book in a duology set in the world of Asiana, a post-apocalyptic Asia in which Orders of Peace uphold justice throughout the land. This book primarily follows Kyra, a nineteen-year-old belonging to the Order of Kali, as she learns more about herself, her world, and being a Markswoman while honing her abilities so she can avenge her mentor. Though it can be entertaining and has a likable main protagonist, I did ultimately feel that prophecies and mysterious instructions were overused as a means of driving the plot and Kyra’s actions—and if I do read the next book, it will not be because of a desire to find out how the cliffhanger ending resolves but because I want to explore more of the fascinating world Rati Mehrotra has created.

Centuries ago, the Great War poisoned the earth and water and changed the world forever. Out of the death and destruction left in its wake was born the Order of Kali, a group of women wielding blades forged from a telepathic metal that the Ones had brought from the stars. Only these Markswomen could lawfully take a life, and they only killed those guilty of the worst crimes in order to maintain harmony. Approximately 850 years after this system was first conceived, five Orders of Peace operate throughout Asiana (though, even 400 years after its foundation, some do not consider the newest of these Orders to be valid given that it’s composed of Marksmen).

After the murder of the rest of her clan when she was five years old, Kyra was discovered by the Mahimata of the Order of Kali, who became a second mother to her, and trained to become a Markswoman. Fourteen years later, the Mahimata has decided it’s time for Kyra to attempt the final rite of passage for all Markswomen: taking her first life. Though she faces difficulty in completing the task, Kyra succeeds in the end and is promoted from apprentice to Markswoman. However, upheaval in the Order of Kali shortly thereafter forces her to leave it all behind on a quest to follow where the Mahimata leads her—seeking both the good of her Order and vengeance.

Markswoman has a fantastic premise and world, and the first few chapters are an intriguing introduction to the characters and setting. We first meet Kyra when she’s just found the man who will become her first mark if she passes the test. Though Markswomen are supposed to remain neutral in their pursuit of justice, Kyra has long wished to kill this particular person: the bloodthirsty son of the one who murdered the rest of her clan. However, Kyra quickly learns that her dreams of vengeance did not prepare her for the guilt she feels when she sees the terror in her mark’s eyes, and she hesitates—nearly failing her mission.

In the end, Kyra succeeds with the help of her telepathic blade, forged from a special metal brought to the planet by the Ones from the stars. In addition to having been changed by the Great War hundreds of years ago, the world was also shaped by this and other alien technology even older than that, though the Ones have long since returned to their home, and Kyra’s assignment shows some of this influence firsthand. While sneaking out of the camp after completing her task, Kyra hears the telepathic guns that enabled these people to destroy her clan in the first place, calling to her to use them to kill them all for what they did to her family. These weapons were created in an attempt to replicate the metal brought by the ones since they forbade people from using it to create guns, and though they managed to imitate its abilities, it was twisted and evil—and, unfortunately, indestructible. Fortunately for Kyra, her knife helps her resist their temptation, and it also allows her to use the Transport Hubs (another ancient gift from the Ones) to teleport to another Hub closer to the caves of the Order of Kali.

After the first couple of chapters about Kyra, we meet the second main character, Rustan. Though the story is primarily about Kyra and told from her third person perspective, there are also a significant number of chapters dedicated to Rustan’s viewpoint (and some about others from the Order of Kali, but not many). Like Kyra, we first see Rustan encountering difficulties in his role as executioner; unlike Kyra, this is not Rustan’s first or even second time killing a mark, although it has been some time since his last. Rustan finds it unusually difficult to ignore this man’s pleas and declarations of his innocence, but he reminds himself this man committed patricide, hardens his heart, and does his duty. However, after he returns to his Order, he learns that the man was telling the truth: he was framed for another’s crime.

Both characters started with great potential, and I did find the parallels and contrasts between them interesting. They both end up having reasons to lose faith in their Orders with one being instructed to unjustly take a life and the other encountering betrayal within her Order. Though Kyra hesitated in the very beginning, she is largely steadfast and dedicated: she may no longer have faith in some individuals within her Order, but she continues to believe in the Order herself, the goddess Kali, and her teacher. Rustan, on the other hand, goes from being dutiful to struggling with his role: though he never completely gives up, he does sometimes try to run from his problems or, at the very least, considers doing so.

Despite being able to appreciate the world and character arcs as a whole, I did feel that the novel was hindered by its reliance on prophecy to drive the plot and Kyra’s actions. The Mahimata of the Order of Kali and the seer of Rustan’s Order of Khur both appear to have some knowledge of the future—when it’s convenient, such as the seer not realizing the man sentenced for patricide was innocent until after it was too late—and how they want it to play out. I ended up feeling as though the plot progression was following a cryptic instruction manual since Kyra’s larger actions were driven by secretive messages and lessons that will become useful later. This was frustrating to me because this manipulation was not at all subtle, keeping the story from unfolding naturally, and it also prevented Kyra from being a fully developed character in her own right when so much of what she did was influenced by others pointing her in a specific direction. Of course, she does have a choice about whether to follow a path or ignore it, and the fact that she so easily follows her teacher shows the trust and reverence she has for her, plus Kyra is clearly shown to be courageous and determined. However, having Kyra follow a course directed by others prevents us from learning which choices she’d make if left to her own devices and doesn’t allow us to see the full breadth of her personality—and frankly, makes the story less exciting.

My biggest issue was that this kept the characters from fully coming to life, but I also found the romantic subplots rather lackluster. Kyra’s journey takes her to the Order of Khur where she’s relentlessly pursued by a young Marksman who refuses to accept that she just wants to be friends, and of course, she and Rustan are attracted to each other. Rustan is charged with training Kyra in their ways of fighting (I did really like that each Order had different beliefs and ways of doing things), and there’s not a lot showing the development of those feelings before each of their thoughts are consumed with dreams of kissing the other. Though it’s not unrealistic since they did spend a lot of time together, I do prefer to read about relationships that show why two people are drawn together instead of seeming as though they are drawn together because they’re the two main characters (or because one of them doesn’t know any other women).

Markswoman is not at all a complete story so perhaps the second installment will address some of the problems I had, but as it is, I found it lagged at times after a strong beginning. The world is spectacular—my favorite parts were the brief sections between each part containing records of the Orders and world history—but the mechanical plot devices held back the characters and story. Though it was entertaining enough to finish reading, the setting was the only aspect that I found memorable—and if I do read the next book, it will mainly be because I want to spend more time in Asiana with its rich history and variety of Orders of Peace.

My Rating: 6/10

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

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 (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Before getting to the most recent books in the mail, here are last week’s posts in case you missed either of them:

Into the Fire by Elizabeth Moon

Into the Fire (Vatta’s Peace #2) by Elizabeth Moon

The second book in Nebula Award–winning author Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s Peace series, which follows her Vatta’s War series, will be released on February 6 (hardcover, ebook). The publisher’s website has an excerpt from Cold Welcome, the first Vatta’s Peace novel.

Goodreads also currently has a US only giveaway of Into the Fire running through February 6.


In this new military sci-fi thriller from the Nebula Award–winning author of Cold Welcome, Admiral Kylara Vatta is back—with a vengeance.

Ky beats sabotage, betrayal, and the unforgiving elements to lead a ragtag group of crash survivors to safety on a remote arctic island. And she cheats death after uncovering secrets someone is hell-bent on protecting. But the worst is far from over when Ky discovers the headquarters of a vast conspiracy against her family and the heart of the planet’s government itself.

With their base of operations breached, the plotters have no choice but to gamble everything on an audacious throw of the dice. Even so, the odds are stacked against Ky. When her official report on the crash and its aftermath goes missing—along with the men and women she rescued—Ky realizes that her mysterious enemies are more powerful and dangerous than she imagined.

Now, targeted by faceless assassins, Ky and her family—along with her fiancé, Rafe—must battle to reclaim the upper hand and unmask the lethal cabal closing in on them with murderous intent.

Child of a Mad God by R. A. Salvatore

Child of a Mad God (A Tale of the Coven #1) by R. A. Salvatore

The first book in a new fantasy series by New York Times bestselling author R. A. Salvatore will be released on February 6 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). has an excerpt from Child of a Mad God.


From R. A. Salvatore, the legendary creator of Drizzt Do’Urden, comes the start of abrand new epic journey.

When Aoleyn loses her parents, she is left to fend for herself among a tribe of vicious barbarians. Bound by rigid traditions, she dreams of escaping to the world beyond her mountain home.

The only hope for achieving the kind of freedom she searches for is to learn how to wield the mysterious power used by the tribe’s coven known as the Song of Usgar. Thankfully, Aoleyn may be the strongest witch to have ever lived, but magic comes at price. Not only has her abilities caught the eye of the brutish warlord that leads the tribe, but the demon of the mountain hunts all who wield the Coven’s power, and Aoleyn’s talent has made her a beacon in the night.

Additional Books:

Today I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for Beneath the Haunting Sea! This young adult fantasy debut novel was just released on January 9, and Joanna Ruth Meyer describes her new book as follows on Goodreads:

This book is for you if you like:
Betrayal, true love, heartbreak, adventure, a boy who plays piano, a mysterious library, an immortal tree, and an intensely malicious evil sea goddess. Basically, Jane Austen meets The Silmarillion, with kissing.

If that sounds like a book you want to check out, you can keep reading for an excerpt from chapter 9 of Beneath the Haunting Sea (and check out the lovely cover)!

Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth Meyer


Can’t you hear it, Talia?
Can’t you hear the waves singing?

Sixteen-year-old Talia was born to a life of certainty and luxury, destined to become Empress of half the world. But when an ambitious rival seizes power, she and her mother are banished to a nowhere province on the far edge of the Northern Sea.

It is here, in the drafty halls of the Ruen-Dahr, that Talia discovers family secrets, a melancholy boy with a troubling vision of her future, and a relic that holds the power of an ancient Star. On these shores, the eerie melody of the sea is stronger than ever, revealing long-forgotten tales of the Goddess Rahn. The more dark truths that Talia unravels about the gods’ history—and her own—the more the waves call to her, and it may be her destiny to answer.

The door opened again. A tall man stood there, dressed in a smart black coat and crisp cravat. He was somewhat past middle age, with the shockingly pale skin Talia was growing used to seeing in Ryn, and dark hair shot through with silver, tied back at the nape of his neck.

“Good afternoon,” he said, addressing the driver, though his glance rested briefly on Talia. “You have word from the empress? I’m Ahned, the baron’s steward.”

The driver jabbed his thumb at Talia. “Was paid to deliver her here. You did receive notice of her arrival?”

“We were expecting two ladies. Weeks ago.”

The driver shrugged. “There’s just her. Ship was delayed on account of weather.”

“I see.”

Talia kept chewing on her cheek, trying not to feel like an unwanted horse at an auction.

“Well then.” The driver handed Ahned the leather chest. “Payment, as promised. The annual installments will of course be forthcoming. You may inform the baron.”

“Of course.” Ahned looked at Talia again. “Do you have trunks? Any luggage to bring in?”

She shook her head.

“Ah, well. Best get out of the wet.” He opened the door wider.

The driver tipped his cap to Ahned and dashed back to the coach.

Talia took a deep breath and went into the house.

She stepped into a grand entrance hall made of stone, dim light slipping through the windows set high in the vaulted ceiling. It was just as cold in here as it was outside, if less damp. Talia shivered, dripping water on the floor like a half-drowned cat.

Ahned came in behind her and shut the door. “Welcome to the Ruen-Dahr, Miss Dahl-Saida. Give me a moment, and I’ll see if your room is ready.”

She nodded and he disappeared up the sweeping staircase on the far end of the foyer. Underneath the curve of the stairs was a large pair of double doors, the dark wood carved into shapes she couldn’t distinguish from this distance. Across the room to her left an open doorway led into a carpeted hall.

As she stood there waiting for Ahned, she became gradually aware of a faint thread of music, winding its way from somewhere deep in the house. She’d never heard anything quite like it: soft and sad and beautiful, too. The rain pounded overhead and the music seemed to twist into the scattered rhythm, like the melody was just as natural as the weather.

Minutes ticked by and Ahned didn’t return. Talia’s toes and fingers grew numb with cold. She fidgeted, anxious and impatient, wanting just to sit down with a cup of tea or curl up by a warm fire or—gods above—take a hot bath. She wished Ayah were here—she’d have found some way to get into mischief already.

Talia cast an irritated eye up the stairs, but Ahned still didn’t appear.

The music wound on, tugging at her strangely as she waited, and after a few more moments she couldn’t stand it any longer. She had to find out what it was. With one last glance at the staircase, she crossed the foyer and stepped into the hall. The music grew a little louder. She passed a doorway that looked into a small dining room and kept going. The hall turned to the right, drawing her past a few more doors, all shut, and then at last to the source of the music—a room in the back of the house spilling light and melody into the corridor. She stopped in front of the door and peered in.

The room was small, but comfortable. A pair of armchairs were pulled up to a small fire; a window in the back wall looked out into the rain. Haphazard shelves, overflowing with books and sheet music, lined the walls. Between them hung all kinds of instruments—viols and miniature harps, flutes and recorders of various sizes, a half dozen drums, and more that Talia had no names for.

Underneath the window stood another instrument she didn’t know. It looked like a harpsichord—same shape and strings, same black-and-white keys marching up and down its widest part—but it had a completely different sound.

A young man sat behind the not-harpsichord, lost in creating the mesmerizing music that Talia had heard from the entrance hall. He looked to be about her age, with a wiry build and arms too long for his sleeves. He had light brown hair and skin paler than Ahned’s. The inhabitants of Ryn clearly didn’t spend much time in the sun, although—Talia glanced at the rain running down the window—maybe there wasn’t much sun to spend time in.

She stood there and watched him play, his hands running so easily up and down the keys that she wondered whether the music controlled him.

And then he lifted his head and saw her in the doorway. His fingers froze over the instrument and the music cut off abruptly. He blinked at her, his bright blue eyes owlish behind a pair of silver spectacles, and seemed to grow paler than he already was.

He jerked to his feet, still staring, and slammed a cover over the keys so hard it made Talia jump. “Who are you?” he demanded.

She suddenly wondered what she must look like to him: a half-drowned stranger who hadn’t had a real bath in half a year.

“I’m Talia.” Her voice came out in an undignified high squeak. “Talia Dahl-Saida,” she added, more firmly, “heiress of Irsa.”

“No, no, no.” He shook his head, stepping around the instrument to come over to her. Up close he was several inches taller than Talia, his thatch of hair falling into his eyes and curling a little around his ears. A spattering of freckles ran across his nose and a cravat hung loose around his neck.

He grabbed her arms. “You can’t be here. You have to leave.” He turned her about and propelled her back into the hallway.

She jerked free. “I beg your pardon?”

He unhooked his spectacles and rubbed his eyes, pacing a few steps down the hall before coming back to her. He shoved his spectacles into his shirt pocket and swore, vehemently, by all nine gods and a handful of spirits Talia had never heard of before. “I don’t believe this.” He finally looked at her again.

She liked him a little better after all that swearing. “Who are you?”

He shrugged. “I’m Wen.”

That was not exactly enlightening.

“But you really can’t stay. You have to leave. Tonight, maybe. Tomorrow at the latest. It’s not safe, do you understand?”

No. No, she didn’t understand. She wanted to strangle him with his cravat. “Do you have any idea what I’ve been through to get here? Of course you don’t. How could you? In the last six months I was arrested, shoved onto a boat, and watched my mother die. I just got here and I am not leaving, damn you!”

His eyebrows lifted nearly to the top of his head and he took an involuntary step backwards. “I’m so sor—” he began.

But then Ahned stepped up beside her and offered her his arm. “Ah,” he said, his glance flicking between her and Wen, “I see you two have . . . met. Miss Dahl-Saida, your room is ready. So sorry for the delay.”

Talia took his arm and allowed him to lead her down the hall, casting a baffled look at Wen over her shoulder as she went.

Excerpted from BENEATH THE HAUNTING SEA © Copyright 2018 by Joanna Ruth Meyer. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Joanna Ruth Meyer About the Author

Joanna Ruth Meyer is a writer of Young Adult fantasy. She lives with her dear husband and son in Arizona, where it never rains (or at least not often enough for her!). When she’s not writing, she can be found teaching piano lessons, drinking copious amounts of tea, reading thick books, and dreaming of winter.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Visit the other stops on the Tour!

December 19: Mother Daughter Book Club
December 20: YA Books Central
December 21: Fantasy Book Critic
December 22: Brittany’s Book Rambles
December 27: SFFWorld
December 28: Short & Sweet Reviews
December 29: SciFiChick
January 2: The Cover Contessa
January 3: Seeing Double in Neverland
January 4: All Things Urban Fantasy
January 9: Mundie Moms
January 18: YA Interrobang