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.

Since I haven’t done one of these posts in awhile with April’s series, this week I’ll just be discussing some of the books that came in since this feature has been on hiatus. I’m going to cover the books that look most intriguing and next week I’ll resume as usual.

There’s also a lot of catching up to do on reviews, and some of the books I still need to review are ones I thought were very good indeed (Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear, Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson, and River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay, to name a few).

Onward to some books I’m quite looking forward to reading!

Tankborn by Karen Sandler Awakening by Karen Sandler

Tankborn and Awakening (Tankborn #1-2) by Karen Sandler

These books are in a young adult science fiction trilogy by Karen Sandler, who also writes romance and mystery books. Awakening, the second book in the Tankborn trilogy, was just released in April. The final book in the trilogy, Rebellion, will be released next spring. Both Tankborn and Awakening are available in hardcover, and Tankborn appears to also be available as an ebook.

I’m intrigued by the premise of this series, plus I saw some of my Goodreads friends seemed to really like these books, so I’m excited to read them.

About Tankborn:


Best friends Kayla and Mishalla know they will be separated for their Assignments. They are GENs, Genetically Engineered Non-humans, and in their strict caste system, GENs are at the bottom rung of society. GENs are gestated in a tank and sent to work as slaves as soon as they reach age fifteen.

When Kayla is Assigned to care for Zul Manel, the patriarch of a trueborn family, she finds secrets and surprises; not least of which is her unexpected friendship with Zul’s great-grandson. Meanwhile, the children that Mishalla is Assigned to care for are being stolen in the middle of the night.

After weeks of toiling in their Assignments, mystifying circumstances enable Kayla and Mishalla to reunite. Together they hatch a plan to save the disappearing children. Yet can GENs really trust humans? Both girls must put their lives and hearts at risk to crack open a sinister conspiracy, revealing secrets no one is ready to face.

A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway

A Study in Silks (The Baskerville Affair #1) by Emma Jane Holloway

I was basically sold on reading this book the moment I saw it was a novel about the niece of Sherlock Holmes. The cover quote by Jacqueline Carey didn’t hurt, either!

A Study in Silks will be released in mass market paperback and ebook in September. The next two books in the series will be following it closely with A Study in Darkness in October and A Study in Ashes in November. A two paragraph long excerpt from A Study in Silks is on the author’s website, but it will be replaced with a longer excerpt once the book has been copyedited.


Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, is poised to enjoy her first Season in London’s high society. But there’s a murderer to deal with—not to mention missing automatons, a sorcerer, and a talking mouse.

In a Victorian era ruled by a council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch, and sorcery the demon enemy of the empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines—something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty’s secret laboratories. What’s a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she’s never found out?

But then there’s that murder. As Sherlock’s niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask.

The City by Stella Gemmell

The City by Stella Gemmell

The first solo novel by Stella Gemmell (David Gemmell’s wife) will be released in hardcover and ebook on June 4. Dark epic fantasy featuring an immortal evil emperor—I’m definitely interested!


In her debut solo novel, Stella Gemmell, coauthor of the “powerful” (Booklist) conclusion to David Gemmell’s Troy series, weaves a dark epic fantasy about a war-torn civilization and the immortal emperor who has it clutched in his evil grasp.

The City is ancient, layers upon layers. Once a thriving metropolis, it has sprawled beyond its bounds, inciting endless wars with neighboring tribes and creating a barren wasteland of what was once green and productive.

In the center of the City lives the emperor. Few have ever seen him, but those who have recall a man in his prime, though he should be very old. Some grimly speculate that he is no longer human, if he ever was. A small number have come to the desperate conclusion that the only way to stop the war is to end the emperor’s unnaturally long life.

From the mazelike sewers below the City, where the poor struggle to stay alive in the dark, to the blood-soaked fields of battle, where few heroes manage to endure the never-ending siege, the rebels pin their hopes on one man—Shuskara. The emperor’s former general, he was betrayed long ago and is believed to be dead. But, under different aliases, he has survived, forsaking his City and hiding from his immortal foe. Now the time has come for him to engage in one final battle to free the City from the creature who dwells at its heart, pulling the strings that keep the land drenched in gore.

Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone

Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone

Two Serpents Rise is set in the same world as Max Gladstone’s debut, Three Parts Dead. While I wasn’t madly taken with it, I did think Three Parts Dead was a very good debut so I’m curious about the author’s second book. Two Serpents Rise will be released in hardcover and ebook in October.


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

Shadow demons plague the city reservoir, and Red King Consolidated has sent in Caleb Altemoc — casual gambler and professional risk manager — to cleanse the water for the sixteen million people of Dresediel Lex. At the scene of the crime, Caleb finds an alluring and clever cliff runner, crazy Mal, who easily outpaces him.

But Caleb has more than the demon infestation, Mal, or job security to worry about when he discovers that his father — the last priest of the old gods and leader of the True Quechal terrorists — has broken into his home and is wanted in connection to the attacks on the water supply.

From the beginning, Caleb and Mal are bound by lust, Craft, and chance, as both play a dangerous game where gods and people are pawns. They sleep on water, they dance in fire… and all the while the Twin Serpents slumbering beneath the earth are stirring, and they are hungry.

A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington

A Taste of Blood Wine (Blood Wine #1) by Freda Warrington

I love Freda Warrington’s Aetherial Tales so I’m thrilled about the re-release of her vampire series starting with A Taste of Blood Wine! It became available again in the UK earlier this month, and the other two books plus a brand new book in the series will follow.

I have been particularly curious about this book since seeing it reviewed on my local library’s blog. Currently, I am running a giveaway for a signed copy of A Taste of Blood Wine and there is an extract from a related short story by Freda Warrington with the giveaway post.


Karl von Wultendorf, though a vampire himself, is completely under the power of his maker, Kristian, who demands total servitude.

Charlotte Neville is the daughter of a Cambridge professor. She has grown up questioning all that she sees. Because of this, she is seen as a wallflower by British society. She lives with her father and assists him with his experiments at their home.

When Karl meets, and falls in love with, Charlotte, he realizes that he must find a way to kill Kristian, for Kristian has decided to teach Karl a lesson in power, by devouring Charlotte.

Today I am very excited to be participating in the blog tour for Freda Warrington’s A Taste of Blood Wine! This first book in her Blood series was re-released earlier this month, and the other two books plus a brand new book in the series will be following. Since I’ve become a big fan of Freda Warrington’s writing because of her Aetherial Tales, I’m looking forward to reading these. I’m thrilled this particular series is being re-released since I’ve wanted to read A Taste of Blood Wine since reading a review on my local library’s blog.

As part of the blog tour today, there is a giveaway for a signed copy of A Taste of Blood Wine, plus I have an extract from Freda Warrington’s new short story set in the same world as the Blood series, “Little Goose.” The next part of the story will be posted tomorrow, and the details on how to find it are at the end of the story excerpt. I hope you enjoy reading the beginning of “Little Goose”!

A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington

From award-winning British fantasy author Freda Warrington, A Taste of Blood Wine (Titan Books, May 2013) is the first novel of a gothic vampire melodrama.

To celebrate the return of the critically acclaimed Blood Books in collectable paperback and e-book edition, Titan Books and Freda Warrington are serialising two rare and risqué stories set within the universe of the Blood Books across a series of websites and blogs. 

We’re publishing the first part of a short story called “Little Goose.”

Little Goose: Part 1
By Freda Warrington

Spring was swelling the land, the night I met her. Sap was jumping like clear blood through the veins of leaves, flowers slithering yolk-yellow from fat white bulbs, lambs somersaulting in the moist red wombs of their mothers. In the city, tourists revealed plump limbs to the sun. So much fecundity, so much insolent life, and I picked my way through it like a journalist stalking a battlefield. I, vampire, outcast, voyeur. Like a skeleton I tiptoed, bone-white, bone-dry, infertile, looking upon this rich green egg of a season with a mixture of revulsion and tongue-lolling appetite.

The nights were frost-bound still and left the blossom burned brown at the edges and curling. All along the walkway to the museum, petals were falling like wistful confetti on a bridal bower. I love museums and galleries by night, when the visitors have gone, when birds have pecked every last crumb from beneath the green trees and gone to roost in the branches. (Above my head I imagined their tender nests full of eggs.) I love the stillness inside; the exhibits, frozen effigies in a great, taut silence through which a footfall snaps like gunshot. The tremble of a questing torchbeam, the terrified face of the security guard as his eyes meet mine…

I have learned not to set off alarms, nor to appear on security cameras. Such diversions have afforded me amusement in the past but the excitement palls. What I seek is that exquisite vast stillness, and all that treasure spread out for my eyes alone.

This night, though, the museum was not quite deserted. They had been setting up a new exhibition – jewellery design of some kind, the poster said, though I had only half-glanced at it – and accompanied by the fading sounds of people calling goodnight, locking up, leaving, one woman still remained.

The display cases looked tiny in the grand vaulted hall. It was a corridor for the gods, going on forever. And in this half-lit sepulchre a small figure remained, her dark head poised over the sloped glass of the cases; perusing, moving on in a slow, slow reverie; pausing again. Her knuckles were taut, her breath unsteady. Her scent and body heat came enticingly to me, and all her coiled emotion.

I was loath to interrupt, so for a while I only watched. There was something compulsive in this secret intercourse. Her, I mean, with the exhibits… and me with her.

Points of light winked in the cases, tiny enamel gleams. Drawing closer, I saw that the exhibition was on a theme, and one appropriate to the time of year. In each case, nested upon crushed velvet of darkest purple-blue, sat eggs of every scale; quail-eggs, duck-eggs, goose-eggs. But fashioned for emperors were these, of nacre and diamond, of ivory, jet and heavy silver, eggs hinged and lined with sapphires, eggs crowned with gold flame and circled with rubies.

I moved from one case to the next, shadowing the woman. Here were eggs of green jade and of crystal, so exquisite you would wish to touch your tongue to them, to feel the cool ice of them sliding and melting. Quartz, clear as glass, and the polished greens of turquoise and chrysocolla, clasped in webs of silver, set with amethyst and pearl. How deliciously the fruits of the sea and the earth blended, clinging like lovers.

I opened my lips, wanting to taste their coldness, wanting it as badly as the soft heat of a victim’s throat under my lips. I smiled. Their solid perfection made me want to laugh with simple joy

‘Fabergé,’ I whispered, because they called to mind the famed maker of jewelled eggs, the only one whose name I knew. I did not mean that I thought these were his; they were too modern, too different in style. But the woman heard me.

In the background was the throb of machinery; heating, plumbing, or some such in the museum’s underworld. Against this metallic heartbeat she turned to me, her face waxen, her eyes huge shadows.

‘Not Fabergé, of course not,’ she said, startled to see me, and angry. Her expression read, who is this ignoramus?

From the tail of my eye, with my marvellous vampire eyesight, I took in the gist of a poster that was curled around a pillar yards away. Rebirth. A journey in jewels by Bartholomew de Grise.

‘I meant,’ I said, lifting one eyebrow, ‘that de Grise is surely the only natural heir of Fabergé.’

Really, I sicken myself sometimes. But it worked; my words threw her on the back foot, yet pacified her.

‘You’re not the first to make that observation,’ she retorted. She had a strong look; big nose, intense Cleopatra eyes, masses of earth-coloured hair. She wore a white pashmina and ropes of garnets around her neck. Jeans underneath. Too much driving lifeforce for such a small frame. Her energy washed me in red waves, drew me in.

‘You must like his work,’ I said. ‘The exhibition is not even open yet.’

‘He is my father,’ she snapped back. ‘And no, the exhibition is not open.’

‘I’m over from a Dublin museum,’ I lied glibly. ‘Forgive the intrusion, Miss de Grise. But it was too much of a temptation to see all this before the crowds come. And a great honour to meet you.’

I told her my name; she extended a wary hand, bent like a ballerina’s, to clasp mine. Ah, how I love the slow dance of seduction! I added, for I was already in love with these wondrous objects, ‘Your father seems to have had a great change of style… from the use of classic materials, gold and silver, enamel and gems, to these…’ I indicated the semi-precious ones, those of sea-green and pearl, held in nests of jet, stabbed with great chunks of amethyst. ‘These, which have a more contemporary feel.’

Tiny muscles tensed in her cheeks. ‘My father’s style has developed over the years. But the ones you are pointing to, those are mine.’

‘Of course,’ I breathed, and caught the small print just in time. ‘Rebecca de Grise. Forgive me, I’ve had a long day.’

She arched the firm black bows of her eyebrows. ‘You’ve heard of me?’

I hadn’t, but I could dissemble for Ireland. ‘You mind, that your name is in much smaller type than your father’s?’

She smiled. Her eyes flashed rusty fire. ‘Naturally I don’t. He is the world-famous jeweller; I am, as yet, only his apprentice.’

Her modesty seemed genuine, not bitter. ‘He must be very proud of you.’

‘He is the finest of teachers.’

‘He had better look to his crown,’ I said softly. ‘The king is dead. Long live the queen.’

She gave the tiniest gasp of shock. ‘Sacrilege,’ she said. But she was pleased, and embarrassed by the fact. Relaxing, she took my arm, and took me on a tour of her father’s work, pointing out the skill, the attention to detail, his artistry, his mastery. See this one, all gold leaf, garnets and rubies, an egg within an egg; the inner one rising on a tiny mechanism when the outer one is opened, like a smooth little womb. Marvellous. Her father had made the outer shell, Rebecca said, and she the inner.

‘Are these Christian eggs or Pagan eggs?’ I said, halting her flow.


‘Rebirth. Do they symbolise the resurrection of Our Lord, or the rebirth of the land in spring? Or something else… more personal?’

She paused, staring aggressively at me with her head cocked on one side. Then a spiky whisper. ‘Whichever you want. They are just eggs.’

The first book in Freda Warrington’s Blood series, A Taste of Blood Wine, is out now from Titan Books, £7.99. To read the next instalment of “Little Goose” click here:

© Freda Warrington

Courtesy of Titan Books, I have one signed copy of A Taste of Blood Wine to give away! This giveaway is open to those with a mailing address in the US, UK, or Australia.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Blood Wine Giveaway.” One entry per person and one winner will be randomly selected. Those from the US, UK, or Australia are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Saturday, May 25. The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book).

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

Good luck!

(Now that the giveaway is over, the form has been removed.)

Women in SF&F Month Banner

Like last year, I just wanted to add a few thoughts in closing now that Women in SF&F Month is over (don’t worry, I promise this won’t be as long as last year’s final post!).

First, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who participated in this past month’s event! I had such a great time reading all the articles and recommendations, and I now don’t think I will ever run out of books to read (not that I was really in danger of that anyway!). Also, a big thank you to John for making graphics last month and for helping me set up the text and images in posts, especially during the 2 weeks of April I was really sick.

We’ve still got the list of favorite books by women that Renay is working on coming up. Thank you to everyone who contributed some of their favorites! There was a bigger response than anticipated so it is going to take longer to put together than expected, but the fact that so many books were added to the list is AWESOME! I am so excited to see it.

I think if there was a theme that kept coming up this past month, it’s that the conversation about women writing science fiction and fantasy is nothing new even though women writing SFF is not new. Frankenstein, considered the first science fiction book, was written by Mary Shelley. Sherwood Smith discussed women’s involvement in fandom and the great number of women attending SFF conventions along with her in the 1970s. Patricia McKillip expressed her delight at the sheer volume of women in SFF—both as authors and characters—by the middle of the 1980s after growing up mostly reading books by and about men. Yet, even today, there are still comments that women don’t write science fiction or fantasy or that women are not interested in science fiction and fantasy, which is simply not true. Both this April and last we’ve heard from several women who are writing science fiction and fantasy or are blogging about science fiction and fantasy (or doing both since the two are not mutually exclusive and many writers began as fans as Sherwood Smith noted!). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg that is female fandom in speculative fiction.

Juliet McKenna wrote a thorough analysis of the inequality of the visibility of women writing science fiction and fantasy, and I’d like to refer you to that if you haven’t read it already since it is a very detailed look at the situation from the statistics on frequency of reviews of women’s books when compared to men’s to the circular nature of increased visibility for books by men (such as bookstore employees who are not familiar with SFF finding lists online dominated by men and making prominent bookstore displays composed of only SFF books by men). While there certainly are some who deliberately avoid SFF written by women, there are also a lot of people who just read the books they are recommended by friends. If they’re not told about great books by women, they’re not going to be able to read great books by women and tell their own friends in turn to read these books. Heidi gave an example of this in her guest post. She was shocked to find out her boyfriend didn’t read books by women, but she learned he wasn’t intentionally avoiding them, he just didn’t know about books written by female science fiction authors until she gave him one to read. I’ve talked before about it being so important to me to read and recommend SFF by women because I realized I wasn’t reading very many of them when I saw them mentioned, and I found all the names that jumped to my mind first were male authors and it was harder to think of books by women. I knew of women, but not as many, and their names were whispered while the men’s were often shouted.

As Kate Elliott noted, it’s important to keep speaking up about the amazing women whose work we do read. There are many women writing science fiction and fantasy books that have inspired others to become fans of SFF or writers of SFF. It’s sad that there are still comments about women not writing or being interested in SFF, and I’m always glad when I see others discussing the women who write SFF they love. Harry Markov spent April sharing some women in genre who have inspired him personally. Kari Sperring started the #Womentoread tag on Twitter to spread the word about books by women that we love. By shouting their names, hopefully someday there will no longer be amazement at the very thought of women being a big part of the SFF world.

Finally, I do want to address the response to one of the posts that went up toward the end of the month.  I have said since it began that one of the biggest reasons I put in the work of hosting Women in SF&F Month is because I want to have a place where interesting people can come together and talk about the great things they do in the SF&F world.  Their perspectives vary, but Sarah’s post in particular seems to have set off an energetic response.  I would point out two things on that post.  First, it is part of a spectrum of experiences and – while it may have been more bluntly stated than other posts here and around the blogosphere – aspects of her argument are being made by many people in many places.  That she disagrees with other people I have hosted this month is not reason to silence her.

Second, when a post with a different take on things appears, how is the community to respond?  My hope, with everything that I’ve hosted this month, is that it would be seen as an opportunity to have a productive discussion about the differences in the perspectives.  The goal of the month is not to create an echo chamber in which we all hold and reinforce the same opinions, the goal is to show that there are women out there doing interesting things that are often overlooked.  Some of them will disagree with each other about the larger issues faced by women in SF&F, but when that happens I think we can still talk about the good work to be done.  Except in extreme circumstances, I don’t moderate comments for the same reason that I don’t moderate posts, but the danger of that is that sometimes what starts out as a good discussion will get rough.  In this case it did, which was not my goal but was bound to happen eventually.  I take the fact that it happened once in 60-odd posts about an emotional issue as a very good sign indeed and can only hope that my friends and allies across the blogosphere will understand the value I put on allowing people to speak their mind.  One argument does not cancel out the many great discussions that have appeared throughout the month.

Women in SF&F Month has been a great experience for the last two years.  If I saw a collection of essays with names on the cover like Lois McMaster Bujold, Jacqueline Carey, Patricia McKillip, Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Bear, N.K. Jemisin, Carol Berg, and the many other authors who have stopped by I’m pretty sure it would be an insta-buy for me.  I’m looking forward to hearing from even more great authors and bloggers next year, and I hope you’ll come back to read them with me!  Oh, and you can stick around in between as well, I do do this whole review and commentary thing myself the rest of the year!

Women in SF&F Month Banner

It’s not April anymore, but there was a giveaway I wanted to do that I didn’t manage to squeeze into the month so I am doing it now! I am giving away two books I love, one science fiction novel and one fantasy novel: Beggars In Spain by Nancy Kress and Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear. It was hard to figure out which books I wanted to give away so I ended up narrowing it down to the ones I was thinking of with some awesome women in them.

This giveaway is international and open to anyone from any country on this list of places the Book Depository ships to.

Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

About Beggars In Spain:
In this future, some people need no sleep at all. Leisha Camden was genetically modified at birth to require no sleep, and her normal twin Alice is the control. Problems and envy between the sisters mirror those in the larger world, as society struggles to adjust to a growing pool of people who not only have 30 percent more time to work and study than normal humans, but are also highly intelligent and in perfect health.

The Sleepless gradually outgrow their welcome on Earth, and their children escape to an orbiting space station to set up their own society. But Leisha and a few others remain behind, preaching acceptance for all humans, Sleepless and Sleeper alike. With the conspiracy and revenge that unwinds, the world needs a little preaching on tolerance.

About Range of Ghosts:
Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.

Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Ghosts in Spain Giveaway.” One entry per person and one winner will be randomly selected. Those from a country on this list are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Saturday, May 18. The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the books).

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

Good luck!

(Now that the giveaway is over, the form has been removed.)

Women in SF&F Month Banner

There have been some books discussed this year that sound amazing, and my wishlist has grown by leaps and bounds because of it! Like last year, I wanted to discuss some books by women that I’ve enjoyed. Last year’s book recommendation post was great books I hadn’t seen talked about during last year’s series. After some consideration about how to narrow down the books to talk about this year, I was inspired to write about some of the earlier science fiction and fantasy books I read that played a role in making me into a fan after reading what Janice and Angie wrote this year. My experience with discovering SFF was a lot different from theirs since I didn’t really become a science fiction and fantasy reader until college (even though I loved fairy tales, The Chronicles of Narnia, A Wind in the Door, and A Wrinkle in Time as a child).

At first, I wasn’t sure how many books I’d have to write about since I did realize very few of the books I heard about and read because of recommendations were written by women a few years ago. Looking back, I think I actually read more books by women during my college years (though not as many as books written by men) and fewer once I got most of my recommendations online. I realized there were a few books I read by women when first discovering fantasy and science fiction that contributed to making me want to keep reading SFF, and those are the books I’d like to discuss today.

Beggars In Spain by Nancy Kress Beggars and Choosers by Nancy Kress Beggar's Ride by Nancy Kress

The Sleepless Trilogy by Nancy Kress

My husband is the person who started giving me science fiction and fantasy books to read, and these books are among his favorites. He’s read them and reread them, and one day he gave me Beggars In Spain to read, telling me it contained fascinating social and economic ideas. At this time, I was still rather skeptical about reading science fiction, but I found this book really easy to be interested in since it hooked me with “What if?” At this point, I was mostly reading classics and had not read many books that explored “What if?” scenarios at all so I found it interesting to consider what might happen if genetics ever advanced to the point where humans could be created without the need to sleep. Already intelligent, these genetically advanced people could become even more knowledgeable since they could use those hours other people spend sleeping. It explored the consequences of the development of the Sleepless both for society and for the Sleepless main character and her sister, who was not one of the Sleepless. I found the first book the most compelling of the trilogy, but I did read the rest and enjoyed the third book nearly as much.

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones is one of my husband’s favorite authors, and he would often point them out to me in the bookstore and say I should read them. Of course, when he pointed them out to me, I noticed their placement in the children’s section and thought he was insane for suggesting I, an adult, should read them. I had quit reading those children’s books long ago! He kept telling me that some of the best stories were young adult, and eventually he gave me his copy of Dogsbody and convinced me to read it. And I’m glad he did since I enjoyed this charming story about Sirius, the dog star, condemned for a crime to live life on Earth in a dog’s body until he can complete a mission. This is probably the first book I read that qualifies as contemporary fantasy and I enjoyed the mixture of myth and the world I know. The relationship between Sirius and the young girl who takes him in is also quite heartwarming, and it’s just an overall good story.

Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb Fool's Errand by Robin Hobb

The Farseer/Liveship Traders/Tawny Man Trilogies by Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb is the only female author whose books I picked up because I did see them recommended all over the place, and her books were some of the most influential in making me a fan of epic fantasy. I picked up Assassin’s Apprentice one day and was immediately sucked in by the story of Fitz, a royal bastard with some special abilities who becomes an assassin-in-training. I was quite invested in the main character and his animal companion. I was a little hesitant about reading the middle trilogy, Liveship Traders, since it had different main characters but once I got past the slow start, I loved those as well. The Tawny Man trilogy returns to Fitz’s story and I remember being so impatient for the final volume that I paid more for the UK version since it came out before the US version.

Beauty by Robin McKinley The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley Beauty by Robin McKinley

Beauty, The Hero and the Crown, Spindle’s End, and Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley

Robin McKinley is the only fantasy author I can remember reading during my tween years. I picked up a copy of Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast at the library and loved it. It became the book I measured all Beauty and the Beast tales by, including the Disney movie. I never forgot this book, but since it was a book I picked up randomly from the library, I never remembered the title or author. Once I started reading more fantasy, I started thinking about this fairy tale retelling some more and asked around until I figured out what it was. I read it again and was just as enchanted by the tale of a Beauty who was not in fact supposed to be beautiful, but got her nickname because her father tried to describe the meaning of her name, Honour, to her when she was young—her response to this was that she’d rather be called Beauty. Even reading it years later, I loved the enchanted castle and the way her relationship with the Beast slowly evolved. After rediscovering this book, I went on to devour The Hero and the Crown, Spindle’s End, and Rose Daughter by McKinley. Beauty remains my favorite, but The Hero and the Crown is also quite good!

Transformation by Carol Berg Revelation by Carol Berg Restoration by Carol Berg

The Rai-kirah Trilogy by Carol Berg

Transformation, the first book in this trilogy, is one of a very few books I picked up only because it was an Amazon recommendation based on other books I’d enjoyed. No one recommended it to me other than a computer algorithm, but I’m very glad I picked it up since Transformation is a favorite. From page one, I was absorbed by the plight of the slave Seyonne, a Warden who fought demons, and I just loved reading the development of his friendship with the arrogant Prince Aleksander. The next two books were really good thematically and delved more deeply into the world, but I loved the story in the first one the most. I’ve read a few more of Berg’s novels since then, and I have enjoyed them all.

Women in SF&F Month Banner

Today’s guest is fantasy and science fiction author Kate Elliott! She has written several books, including those in the Crown of Stars, Jaran, Crossroads, and Spiritwalker series. The first two books in the latter, her most recent series, are the only ones I’ve read so far, but they have made me a die-hard fan. Cold Magic and Cold Fire (Spiritwalker 1 and 2) feature a fascinating world brimming with history and culture, an endearing heroine with an engaging narrative voice, adventure, well-drawn character relationships, excellent dialogue, an entertaining story, and even laugh-out-loud moments. I love them wholeheartedly and can hardly wait for the conclusion, Cold Steel, to be released in June.

That’s why I am so happy to have the opportunity to give away the books in this fantastic series today—and I’m absolutely thrilled that Kate Elliott is also joining us today, especially since I can’t think of a better way to end this series of posts than her examination of review coverage for women in SFF and concluding thoughts!

King's Dragon by Kate Elliott Jaran by Kate Elliott Cold Steel by Kate Elliott

Fantasy Book Cafe’s month-long series of posts by and about women in sff is a delight this year as it was last year. When Kristen asked me if I would write a post (as I did last year) I said “yes” at once. Yet for some reason this year I struggle with having anything to say that I feel hasn’t already been said.

Recent posts by Lady Business and Strange Horizons discuss review statistics in the field, broken down by gender.

Strange Horizons observes:


“As in previous years, in the majority of the SF review venues surveyed, disproportionately few books by women were reviewed, and disproportionately few reviews by women were published.”

Lady Business includes a sub section titled “Observations on Claims of Progressive Reading Choices.”


“[In] our study last year, some claimed that gender blindness or related, completely imaginary skills freed them from any and all social, cultural, or internalized tendency to devalue or ignore women’s contributions, and therefore, freed them from needing to critically analyze their reading choices. And of course, if they are exempt from examining reading choices, they’re also exempt from examining reviewing choices.”

Lady Business then follows up with a further post about reactions to the post:


“[W]hat I think we need to start realising is that the literary world is an eco-system, where each different part of the industry contributes to the promotion of diversity. If one link in the chain doesn’t help out we are all lost. If someone reviews 100 book in a year and only 10 of those are by women, when there are 50 books available by women, that person is part of the reason why female authors aren’t as visible as male authors on SFF blogs. That person may not care if they are part of the problem. They may not have realised there was a problem before. They may even think the problem is unimportant. That doesn’t change the fact that the data shows their blog is part of a scene which does not represent women.”

A lively discussion of Strange Horizon’s post popped up on io9.

The comments include a link to an article about how literary journal Tin House examined and rectified its gender imbalance:


“Our staff is 50/50 male-female, and we thought we were gender blind. However, the numbers didn’t bear this out.”

So what can any one make of all this? Doesn’t it seem like this conversation is being had over and over again, with the same explanations and calls for action and the same protests and denials?

Last year coffeeandink offered a cogent comment on the issue:


“Again, I’m not trying to suggest that the men involved are deliberately excluding women writers. I am saying that when they do not think about it, they privilege criteria which cause them to select and promote male writers rather than female writers.”

Privileging criteria is a subtle and pervasive bias. It doesn’t mean overt sexism, although that can be present. It can be as simple as a show like Justified (whose 2nd season I enjoyed) highlighting the violence of men in repeated scenes that can be seen as tense and exciting (viewing by one criterion) and repetitive and predictable (viewing by another criterion). The verbal and physical dueling of men on opposite sides of crime and the law is valued (in the USA cultural mainstream) as dramatically interesting, even as entire episodes go by with women and people of color relegated to secondary roles mostly or solely defined by their relationships to (white) men. As long as criteria like this are privileged and its writing and plotting are not seen as flawed or problematic (in the sense that Justified has been renewed for a 5th season), then pervasive internalized privilege propagates in which stories about (usually white Western) men doing certain kinds of things in certain kinds of ways are deemed important as well as suitable for all viewers because they are seen to represent a universal drama whereas stories about other people(s) are seen as less universal and thus suitable for only a particularized audience.

But you already know this. What I’ve written above is just one aspect of a very complicated situation. How people read, how they review, how they approach any given work, comes with internalized biases and unexamined assumptions. I’m only noting the tip of the iceberg.

I have no answer. Talking, signal boosting, pushing back: It matters.
For example, check out the worthwhile Women to Read project by Kari Sperring.
And this blog’s Women in SFF Month.

It gets awfully tiring though. It’s like doing laundry; you just keep having to wash the same clothes over and over and over again.

But I do not want to end on a note of frustration, however frustrated I often feel. Certain forms of frustration can lead to bitterness, which brings me to a conversation I had the other day via Twitter with Australian novelist Alison Croggon.

We were talking about trying to avoid bitterness, about how corrosive bitterness can be.

She said, “Bitterness is the soul shriveling up. I guess it’s just the ungenerousness of it. Anger can be generous, make you larger.”

Maybe that’s one answer:
Be generously angry.
Seek to become larger by listening for the voices that are too often ignored.
Speak the story that only you can tell.

The Spiritwalker Trilogy

Courtesy of Orbit, I have a copy of the entire Spritwalker trilogy (Cold Magic, Cold Fire, and Cold Steel) to give away! (The giveaway is open to those with US and Canadian mailing addresses.)

Since the final book in this trilogy will not be released until June, these books will not be sent out immediately. For that reason, I’m going to let this giveaway run for longer than usual.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Spiritwalker Giveaway.” One entry per person and one winner will be randomly selected. Only those with a mailing address in the US or Canada are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Saturday, May 25. The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the books).

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

Good luck!

(Now that the giveaway is over, the form has been removed.)