Recently, Jessica from the wonderful blog Sci-Fi Fan Letter invited me to contribute to her Recommended Reading by Professionals column at SF Signal. My assignment was a difficult (but fun!) one: recommending 2-3 books that I believe should have received more recognition than they have. There are so many books I think deserve more readers and discussion that it was hard to limit my recommendations to just 3 of them! To see which books I eventually decided to recommend, read the post at SF Signal.

Women in SF&F Month Banner

April is once again going to be Women in SF&F Month on Fantasy Cafe! Three years in, I can now officially say it’s an annual event and the most fun thing I do on the site (even if it’s also the most work)!

Throughout April I set aside my normal reviews and coverage of book news to turn over the mic to some of the many women doing wonderful work in the speculative fiction genres. As with the last two years, I am quite happy if they want to talk about issues related to being a female author or fan, but my goal is simply to gather a bunch of women invested in the genre in one place at one time and showcase the work they are doing. Contributions have ranged from women discussing their own work and process to what they find best about the works of other women to issues of representation and equity in fandom. In the last two years, over 100 women have been either featured as guests or mentioned as inspirations to the guests who have written posts (with links to many more).

There will be much more to come as we get closer to April, so stay tuned!

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 a huge pile of books. Well, actually, it only brought five books, but one of these is massive and another is also unusually long so it looks like a large pile of books. Four were ARCs and review copies and the other was a purchase influenced by one of the review copies that showed up.

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson

Words of Radiance, following the New York Times bestselling novel The Way of Kings, will be released on March 4 (massive hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The book tour dates and locations are listed on if you want to find out if there is an event near you. Some excerpts from Words of Radiance can also be read on

This books is HUGE. It’s almost 1100 pages in hardcover.


In the first volume, we were introduced to the remarkable world of Roshar, a world both alien and magical, where gigantic hurricane-like storms scour the surface every few days and life has adapted accordingly. Roshar is shared by humans and the enigmatic, humanoid Parshendi, with whom they are at war. Among those caught up in the conflict are Highprince Dalinar Kholin, who leads the human armies; his neice Jasnah, a renowned scholar; her student Shallan, a brilliant but troubled young woman; and Kaladin, a military slave who, by the book’s end, was beginning to become the first magically endowed Knight Radiant in centuries.

In Words of Radiance their intertwined stories will continue and, as Sanderson fans have come to expect, develop in unexpected, wonderfully surprising directions. The war with the Parshendi will move into a new, dangerous phase, as Dalinar leads the human armies deep into the heart of the Shattered Plains in a bold attempt to finally end it. Shallan will come along, hoping to find the legendary, perhaps mythical, city of Urithuru, which Jasnah believes holds a secret vital to mankind’s survival on Roshar. The Parshendi take a dangerous step to strengthen themselves for the human challenge, risking the return of the fearsome Voidbringers of old. To deal with it all, Kaladin must learn how to fulfill his new role, while mastering the powers of a Windrunner.

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson

I wasn’t really planning to buy it quite yet, but the first book of The Stormlight Archive was on my wish list, and I bought it after the second book appeared in my mailbox. Since I was sent a hardcover, I needed another massive hardcover to match because I’m like that, and I saw there were only 11 copies left on Amazon as bargain books. With the second book coming out soon, I was afraid that would be the end of the hardcover copies so I bought one while I could (and was a little dismayed that it didn’t match as well as I’d hoped since it’s not quite as tall as the second book, but oh well, it’s closer to matching than the paperback would have been).

An excerpt from The Way of Kings can be read on


Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soiless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Thief's Magic by Trudi Canavan

Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule #1) by Trudi Canavan

Thief’s Magic, written by Aurealis Award winning and Sunday Times bestselling author Trudi Canavan, will be released in May (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The next two books in the trilogy, Angel of Storms and Successor’s Son, are scheduled for release in 2015 and 2016.


In a world where an industrial revolution is powered by magic, Tyen, a student of archaeology, discovers an sentient book in an ancient tomb. Vella was once a young sorcerer-maker, until she was transformed into a useful tool by one of the greatest sorcerers of history. Since then she has been gathering information, including a vital clue to the disaster Tyen’s world faces.

Elsewhere, in an land ruled by the priests since a terrible war depleted all but a little magic, Rielle the dyer’s daughter has been taught that to use magic is to steal from the Angels. Yet she knows from her ability to sense the stain it leaves behind that she has a talent for it, and that there are people willing to teach her how to use it, should she ever need to risks the Angels’ wrath.

Further away, a people called the Travellers live their entire lives on the move, trading goods from one world to another. They know that each world has its own store of magic, reducing or increasing a sorcerer’s abilities, so that if one entered a weak world they may be unable to leave it again. Each family maintains a safe trading route passed down through countless generations and modified whenever local strife makes visiting dangerous. But this is not the only knowledge the Travellers store within their stories and songs, collected over millennia spent roaming the universe. They know a great change is due, and that change brings both loss and opportunity.

Pillar to the Sky by William R. Forstchen

Pillar to the Sky by William R. Forstchen

Tor Books is publishing NASA-Inspired Works of Fiction to advance interest and education in STEM fields. The first of these books, Pillar to the Sky, was released in February (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). An excerpt is available on


From William Forstchen, the New York Times bestselling author of One Second After, comes Pillar to the Sky, a towering epic to rank with Douglas Preston’s Blasphemy and Michael Crichton’s Prey…

Pandemic drought, skyrocketing oil prices, dwindling energy supplies and wars of water scarcity threaten the planet. Only four people can prevent global chaos.

Gary Morgan—a brilliant, renegade scientist is pilloried by the scientific community for his belief in a space elevator: a pillar to the sky, which he believes will make space flight fast, simple and affordable.

Eva Morgan—a brilliant and beautiful scientist of Ukranian  descent, she has had a lifelong obsession to build a pillar to the sky, a vertiginous tower which would mine the power of the sun and supply humanity with cheap, limitless energy forever.

Erich Rothenberg—the ancient but revered rocket-scientist who labored with von Braun to create the first rockets and continued on to build those of today.  A legend, he has mentored Gary and Eva for two decades, nurturing and encouraging their transcendent vision.

Franklin Smith—the eccentric Silicon Valley billionaire who will champion their cause, wage war with Congress and government bureaucracy and most important, finance their herculean undertaking.

The Goddard Space Flight Center—the novel’s pre-eminent hero, it’s enormous army of scientists, engineers and astronauts will design, machine, and build the space elevator. They will fight endless battles and overcome countless obstacles every step of the way.

This journey to the stars will not be easy—a tumultuous struggle filled with violence and heroism, love and death, spellbinding beauty and heartbreaking betrayal.  The stakes could not be higher.  Humanity’s salvation will hang in the balance.

House of the Rising Sun by Kristen Painter

House of the Rising Sun (Crescent City #1) by Kristen Painter

The first book in a new series by the author of the House of Comarre books will be released in May (paperback, ebook).


Augustine lives the perfect life in the Haven city of New Orleans. He rarely works a real job, spends most of his nights with a different human woman, and resides in a spectacular Garden District mansion paid for by retired movie star Olivia Goodwin, who has come to think of him as an adopted son, providing him room and board and whatever else he needs.

But when Augustine returns home to find Olivia’s been attacked by vampires, he knows his idyllic life has comes to an end. It’s time for revenge—and to take up the mantle of the city’s Guardian.

As far as I know, The Silvered by Tanya Huff is one of those rare creatures that at times may seem like a myth in itself—a stand alone fantasy book. While I love reading some books that tell a complete story on their own, I am hoping that this one does end up having a sequel or two. I thought The Silvered was delightful, and I would love to return to this setting and characters.

The Silvered combines mages and werewolves in a secondary fantasy world. The Kresentian Empire, led by an emperor enamored of science and technology, abhors the Aydori with their beastmen, whom they consider to be abominations. Their war is largely a backdrop for the story of four courageous characters—Tomas, brother of the Pack Leader; Mirian, a young woman who flunked magic school; Danika, a powerful air mage married to the Pack Leader; and Captain Sean Reiter of the Kresentian Empire, tasked with capturing six mages who prophets claimed would impact the empire.

As her family is fleeing the city before an impending invasion by the Kresentian army, Mirian witnesses the seizure of Danika and four other mages by Reiter and his men. To her mother’s great dismay, Mirian leaves her family behind in order to find Lord Hagen and inform him of the capture of his wife and the other women. However, this doesn’t turn out quite as planned, and Mirian herself along with Tomas may be the only ones who can rescue the Mage-pack from the Empire: a task made more difficult by Reiter’s search for the sixth mage of prophecy, whom he believes to be Mirian.

The Silvered is my third book by Tanya Huff and my favorite (although The Fire’s Stone is really good too!). There’s an objective side of me that realizes there are some problems with this book, mainly that it is the opposite of subtle and starts a little slowly, but I don’t really care that much because I loved it. The characters, their interactions, the subversion of some of the werewolf and fantasy tropes, and the sense of humor in the narrative and dialogue all worked very well for me.

The characters were the highlight of this novel. The main protagonists were all decent individuals, though capable of making mistakes or possessing beliefs that needed to be unlearned. They were all people trying to do the best they could in a bad situation. Despite the capture of several of the women, there were no damsels in distress in The Silvered. Sure, Danika and the other women were upset and frightened when they were captured, but as Reiter noted there was “a distinct lack of weeping and wailing” (pp. 83). These women were clever and resilient, and they did what they could to resist and plan for possible escape opportunities.

While all four main characters were interesting, my favorite was sensible and brave Mirian. When Mirian witnesses the capture of part of the Mage-pack, she doesn’t sit idly by and leave the city safely as planned but goes out and does something about it—first by trying to find the Pack Leader, then by trying to rescue them herself. Along the way, she and Tomas also rescue each other, and she never lets him forget it if he mentions he rescued her. I also found her reaction to the typical werewolf dominance struggle when she and Tomas run into another wolf particularly refreshing and unexpected:


Mirian didn’t have the patience to put up with it.

“Enough!” She used the wind to whip the word between the two of them, then, as they scrambled apart, put herself there bodily. “We’re no threat to you,” she told the stranger, “and you’re not threat to us, so just stop it! Tomas!” [pp. 337]

Mirian is an incredible character with a lot of inner strength and determination, and she has to face some tough choices throughout her journey as she comes to master her unusual magic. In many ways, Mirian is a nearly perfect character and I can see some readers feeling that she is too flawless. I felt that she underwent enough hardship and had a big enough disadvantage that she wasn’t too perfect, but she is closer to perfection than I generally like to see in my characters. She’s written in such a way that I enjoyed reading about her and found her very likable, though.

One other element I appreciated about The Silvered was how realistic it was. There is a war taking place, and people die. Certain expectations set up at the beginning did not come to be because of war. When Mirian is traveling for days, it is acknowledged that she is dirty with messy hair and not particularly attractive to look at (even if she smells amazing!).

This brings me to my biggest issue with The Silvered: a lack of subtlety and repetition. Wolves are attracted to mages primarily by smell, and it’s difficult to forget that Mirian smells amazing because it is mentioned constantly. This can lead to amusing situations, and it seems like something that would come up a lot since it’s portrayed as being very distracting to Tomas. However, this amazing smell, the lines of the prophecy, and how shocked the men of the Empire were to discover the beastmen seemed like people were repeated so many times I felt like these points were hammered into my brain far more than necessary. This did seem to be better in the second half of the book (or maybe I was just so absorbed in the story I didn’t notice as much then), but there were still some similar annoyances. Mirian frequently reflected on how her adventures were not like in the novels, another pet peeve of mine. Also, there is a scene at the end that is set up very obviously and the line uttered before it makes this worse.

While The Silvered suffers from one of my biggest pet peeves with its constant need to remind readers about the obvious, its advantages far outweighed any issues. It contains a cast of characters I truly cared about, and one of the best “strong” female protagonists I’ve read about recently. In addition, I enjoyed reading about the world Tanya Huff created, and I appreciated the dialogue and the occasional humor. While the beginning was a bit slow, it was not long before I was absorbed in this story, and I would be thrilled if I ever heard news of a sequel.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I was sent the UK edition by its publisher.

Read an Excerpt

Other Reviews of The Silvered:

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 ARCs, including one of my two most anticipated releases of this year.

For reviews, I had a mini-review in the works, but I think one of the book reviews in it may turn out to be longer than that so I may have a review of The Silvered by Tanya Huff next instead of the mini reviews. It is a wonderful book and is one of my favorites read last year.

On to this week’s books!

Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold

Artemis Awakening (Artemis Awakening #1) by Jane Lindskold

Artemis Awakening will be released on May 27 (hardcover, ebook). Jane Lindskold is currently working on the sequel, tentatively titled Artemis Invaded.

I have yet to read any books by this author, but her work has been on my wish list for awhile now and I love the sound of this book!


Artemis Awakening is the start of a new series by New York Times bestseller Jane Lindskold. The distant world Artemis is a pleasure planet created out of bare rock by a technologically advanced human empire that provided its richest citizens with a veritable Eden to play in. All tech was concealed and the animals (and the humans brought to live there) were bioengineered to help the guests enjoy their stay…but there was always the possibility of danger so that visitors could brag that they had “bested” the environment.

The Empire was shattered in a horrific war; centuries later humanity has lost much of the advanced technology and Artemis is a fable told to children. Until young archeologist Griffin Dane finds intriguing hints that send him on a quest to find the lost world. Stranded on Artemis after crashing his ship, he encounters the Huntress Adara and her psych-linked companion, the puma Sand Shadow. Their journey with her will lead Dane to discover the planet’s secrets…and perhaps provide a key to give unimagined power back to mankind.

Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear

Steles of the Sky (Eternal Sky #3) by Elizabeth Bear

Steles of the Sky is scheduled for release on April 8 (hardcover, ebook). This is one of my most anticipated books of this year since I LOVED the first two, Range of Ghosts and Shattered Pillars. This is an amazing, beautifully written and characterized series, and I’m looking forward to finding out how it ends.


Elizabeth Bear concludes her award-winning epic fantasy Eternal Sky trilogy in Steles of the Sky.

Re Temur, legitimate heir to his grandfather’s Khaganate, has finally raised his banner and declared himself at war with his usurping uncle. With his companions—the Wizard Samarkar, the Cho-tse Hrahima, and the silent monk Brother Hsiung—he must make his way to Dragon Lake to gather in his army of followers. But Temur’s enemies are not idle; the leader of the Nameless Assassins, who has shattered the peace of the Steppe, has struck at Temur’s uncle already. To the south, in the Rasan empire, plague rages. To the east, the great city of Asmaracanda has burned, and the Uthman Caliph is deposed. All the world seems to be on fire, and who knows if even the beloved son of the Eternal Sky can save it?

California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout

California Bones (Unnamed Trilogy #1) by Greg van Eekhout

California Bones will be released on June 10 (hardcover, ebook).


When Daniel Blackland was six, he ingested his first bone fragment, a bit of kraken spine plucked out of the sand during a visit with his demanding, brilliant, and powerful magician father, Sebastian. Then, when Daniel was twelve, he watched Sebastian die at the hands of the Hierarch of Southern California, devoured for the heightened magic layered deep within his bones.

Now thirty, Daniel is a petty thief with a forged identity. Hiding amid the crowds in Los Angeles—the capital of the Kingdom of Southern California—he is trying to go straight. But his crime-boss uncle has a heist for Daniel to undertake: break into the the Hierarch’s storehouse of magical artifacts and retrieve Sebastian’s sword, an object of untold power.

Daniel assembles a trustworthy team of his closest friends from the criminal world. Moth, who can take a bullet and heal in mere minutes. Jo Morales, illusionist. The multitalented Cassandra, Daniel’s ex. And, new to them all, the enigmatic, knowledgeable Emma, with her British accent and her own grudge against the powers-that-be. The stakes are high, and the stage is set for a showdown that might just break the magic that protects a long-corrupt regime.

Extravagant, inventive, and shot through with moments of intensity as bright as the California sun, Daniel’s story is an epic adventure set in a city of canals and secrets and casual brutality—different from the world we know, and yet also familiar and true.

Iron Night is the second book about Fortitude Scott, following M. L. Brennan’s debut Generation V. A third book, Tainted Blood, is scheduled for release in November 2014—and I, for one, cannot wait since I’ve decided these books need to be added to my list of favorite urban fantasy series along with Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews, Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs, and October Daye by Seanan McGuire. I loved both Generation V and Iron Night.

Fort has always tried to embrace his humanity as much as possible, dreading the day his transition to a full-fledged vampire is complete and terrified that he’ll no longer be capable of compassion and empathy once the change comes. At the beginning of Generation V, Fort was mostly human, but his transition began before the end and he’s dealing with that at the beginning of Iron Night. While he still remains somewhat human, he is closer to becoming a vampire like his mother and siblings, and he has had to learn more about the family duties since that began. This makes it harder for him to ignore that side of himself, though he still lives apart from his mother by working in a restaurant and renting an apartment he shares with his new roommate.

Unlike Fort’s previous roommate, Gage is a decent person and he and Fort get along quite well—at least, until the night Fort is awakened by loud noises, checks Gage’s room, and finds his dead body, covered in blood with his hands neatly cut off. While Fort finds it suspicious that someone chose to murder a vampire’s roommate, his brother Chivalry brushes it off as a coincidence and believes that Gage just managed to upset the wrong people. Yet Fort refuses to just ignore the fact that Gage was brutally killed and enlists his friend Suzume’s help—and kitsune sense of smell—in tracking down the culprit, leading to the discovery of a plot that Fort’s vampire family will not want to ignore.

Generation V had the distinction of being one of the best openings to an urban fantasy series I’ve read, and I thought Iron Night was an even stronger book than the first. It has the same strengths as the previous volume—engaging characters and dialogue, a natural and humorous narrative voice, common myths with some unique differences, and an overall entertaining story—but since the first book handled the setup, the second succeeds at building on that foundation to give more depth to the world and characters.

M. L. Brennan skillfully parcels out information about her world, striking the right balance between too much detail and too little. When I read a series, I like to have a few tantalizing mentions to speculate on and a sense that there’s more to be learned about either the world or characters in future installments, but of course, not enough information can also be unsatisfying. At least so far, the amount of details is handled very well: there’s just enough that I feel like I understand the setting and characters, but there’s still enough held back that there are a few tidbits for me to wonder about. For instance, the first book covered the basics of vampire creation, but neither Fort nor readers know all there is to know about this subject. In this book, some of those questions are answered in a satisfying way, but not everything is neatly wrapped up, leaving more to explore in future installments. There’s also more to discover about the other main mythological peoples introduced, the kitsune and the elves, but there’s also new knowledge gained about them in this book.

While the world and mythological elements are well-developed, I think the biggest strength continues to be the characters and the way voice and dialogue bring them to life. As a vampire who would like nothing better than to be an average human, Fort is easy to sympathize with. He cannot escape that side of himself, and in this book, he’s moving closer to acceptance of the inevitable by learning more about how to be a vampire and a dutiful member of his family, yet he also cannot escape his humanity. He truly cares about others, and it’s difficult for him to deal with the fact that it can be dangerous to the humans he cares about to associate with him. Part of the power of his narrative is this realization and the difficulty he has in managing these two sides of himself. However, this book is far from serious and there are plenty of lighter, more humorous moments! My favorite character is Suzume, who is generally fun and light-hearted, though she also occasionally shows a more solemn side and is a great friend to Fort when he’s dealing with the murder of his roommate. I love how Suzume is confident and competent and the contrast between this and Fort’s gradual journey toward coming into his own. Also, I could just read an entire book containing nothing but conversations between Fort and Suzume, who are quite entertaining together.

While Fort and Suzume are my favorite characters, Fort’s vampire family remains interesting. He has a better relationship with his brother Chivalry than his sister Prudence, and Prudence plays a bigger role in this book than in the first. I was pleased that, like Chivalry, she was more complex than I initially thought. She’s still ruthless and calling her not very nice is a severe understatement, but I got the impression she had some fondness for her youngest brother and looked out for him in her own way even if she’s his polar opposite.

If there was one weakness with Iron Night, it was that the beginning spent too much time covering what had gone on in the previous book and what Fort had been doing since then with his new job, training and duties, and his new roommate. (It hadn’t been long at all since I read the first book so what had happened before was pretty fresh in my mind and I just wanted to continue with the story.) However, the narrative voice was strong enough to keep it from lagging too much, and by the end of chapter two, Gage’s body was found and the story picked up.

M. L. Brennan is an impressive new voice in the fantasy genre. Generation V was an excellent debut, and Iron Night manages to surpass it with its unique mix of myths, memorable characters, and amusing dialogue. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, and I hope there are many more books about Fortitude Scott after it.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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

Read an Excerpt from Iron Night

Reviews of Other Generation V Book(s):

Other Reviews of Iron Night: