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 (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 brought a couple of books that sound quite interesting, but first, here are a couple of things that will be happening this week:

  • A review of Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews
  • A giveaway of a book by two of my favorite authors that I’m quite excited about

On to the new books!

Without Light or Guide by T. Frohock

Without Light or Guide (Los Nefilim #2) by T. Frohock

Without Light or Guide, the second Los Nefilim novella, will be released on November 3 (ebook). Both this and the first book in the series, In Midnight’s Silence, are only $0.99 on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

The first chapter from each book can be read online:

  1. In Midnight’s Silence
  2. Without Light or Guide

I thought T. Frohock’s debut novel Miserere was fantastic and unique so I am excited that she has a new series!


The fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind…

Always holding themselves aloft from the affairs of mortals, Los Nefilim have thrived for eons. But with the Spanish Civil War looming, their fragile independence is shaken by the machinations of angels and daimons…and a half-breed caught in-between.

For although Diago Alvarez has pledged his loyalty to Los Nefilim, there are many who don’t trust his daimonic blood. And with the re-emergence of his father—a Nefil who sold his soul to a daimon—the fear is Diago will soon follow the same path.

Yet even as Diago tries to prove his allegiance, events conspire that only fuel the other Nefilim’s suspicions—including the fact that every mortal Diago has known in Barcelona is being brutally murdered.

The second novella in T. Frohock’s Los Nefilim series, Without Light or Guide continues Diago’s journey through a world he was born into, yet doesn’t quite understand.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace #1) by Erin Bow

The Scorpion Rules was released last month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The first chapter can be read online.

I’ve not read any of Erin Bow’s other books, but I’ve heard good things about both Plain Kate and Sorrow’s Knot.


A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace – sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals – are raised together in small, isolated schools called Preceptures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war.

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Precepture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace, even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive.

Enter Elián Palnik, the Precepture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Precepture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages.

What will happen to Elián and Greta as their two nations inch closer to war?

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 (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 discussing the two books I ordered and the others that came in last week, here’s what happened last week.

I finished reading Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews over the weekend and will be starting on a review of it soon.

On to the books!

Serpentine by Cinda Pon

Serpentine (Book #1) by Cindy Pon

This young adult fantasy novel was released in September (hardcover, trade paperback, ebook). An excerpt from Serpentine is available at Good Choice Reading, and you can read more about it in Cindy Pon’s Big Idea post at Whatever.

This book sounds great so I couldn’t resist adding it to my recent latte-supplies-and-Saga order!


SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.

Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.

When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.

Autumn Moon by Jan DeLima

Autumn Moon (Celtic Wolves #3) by Jan DeLima

This third book in a romantic urban fantasy series just came out last week (mass market paperback, ebook). I’ve read the previous books in the series and enjoyed them both, and I’m especially excited about reading Elen’s story since she was one of my favorite characters in the previous books. (Full Disclosure: Jan is a friend; we used to meet for coffee during our lunch breaks when I lived in Maine.)

The second book in the series, Summer Moon, was nominated for a RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award last year.

The first chapter from all three books in the series can be read online:

  1. Celtic Moon
  2. Summer Moon
  3. Autumn Moon

The heart of a warrior, the soul of a wolf, and the desires of a man…

For centuries, Cormack has lived between worlds—a man trapped in the body of a wolf, shunned by humans and shifters alike. Only one person has ever welcomed his company: Elen, a kindred outcast who is feared by others of her ancient Celtic race for her strange healing abilities.

Cormack has always valued Elen’s kindness and understanding, but after a desperate act of friendship causes Elen to free him from his curse, he realizes he wants more. He wants all of her—completely and forever.Except before Cormack can win Elen’s heart, Pendaran, the evil leader of the Guardians, captures her, determined to manipulate her incredible power to aid him in his twisted war against the shapeshifting tribes.

Now Cormack must use all of his skills as a warrior and a wolf to save the woman he loves—before Pendaran’s vile schemes destroy them all…

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch (Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch, the first book in a new young adult fantasy series, will be released early next year: January 5 in the US and January 16 in the UK. The US cover is shown above since the cover for the UK edition has not been revealed yet.

I’ve been hearing a lot of advance praise for this one so I’m pretty excited about reading it!


On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Saga: Volume 5

Saga: Volume 5 written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples

Saga: Volume 5 is now out! I already read this one and am now impatiently looking forward to volume 6 and more Lying Cat.


Multiple storylines collide in this cosmos-spanning new volume. While Gwendolyn and Lying Cat risk everything to find a cure for The Will, Marko makes an uneasy alliance with Prince Robot IV to find their missing children, who are trapped on a strange world with terrifying new enemies. Collects Saga #25-30.

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3) by Ann Leckie

The final book in the Imperial Radch trilogy will be published on October 6 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook). An excerpt from Ancillary Mercy is available on the publisher’s website.

Ancillary Justice, the first novel in this trilogy, won the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and the BSFA Award, among others. The middle book, Ancillary Sword, won the BSFA Award and was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula.


The stunning conclusion to the trilogy that began with the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke award-winning Ancillary Justice.

For a moment, things seem to be under control for the soldier known as Breq. Then a search of Atheok Station’s slums turns up someone who shouldn’t exist – someone who might be an ancillary from a ship that’s been hiding beyond the empire’s reach for three thousand years. Meanwhile, a messenger from the alien and mysterious Presger empire arrives, as does Breq’s enemy, the divided and quite possibly insane Anaander Mianaai – ruler of an empire at war with itself.

Anaander is heavily armed and extremely unhappy with Breq. She could take her ship and crew and flee, but that would leave everyone at Athoek in terrible danger. Breq has a desperate plan. The odds aren’t good, but that’s never stopped her before.

Other Books:

Courtesy of Tor Books, I have one ARC of Dragon Coast by Greg van Eekhout to give away! This conclusion to the Daniel Blackland trilogy, which follows California Bones and Pacific Fire, was just released a couple of weeks ago. For more information on the series, check out these character sketches and this video of Greg van Eekhout and John Scalzi discussing bones and magic at!

Dragon Coast by Greg van Eekhout

ABOUT DRAGON COAST (read an excerpt):

Dragon Coast: the sequel to Greg Van Eekhout’s California Bones and Pacific Fire, in which Daniel Blackland must pull off the most improbable theft of all.

Daniel’s adopted son Sam, made from the magical essence of the tyrannical Hierarch of Southern California whom Daniel overthrew and killed, is lost-consumed by the great Pacific firedrake secretly assembled by Daniel’s half-brother, Paul.

But Sam is still alive and aware, in magical form, trapped inside the dragon as it rampages around Los Angeles, periodically torching a neighborhood or two.

Daniel has a plan to rescue Sam. It will involve the rarest of substances, axis mundi, pieces of the bones of the great dragon at the center of the Earth. Daniel will have to go to the kingdom of Northern California, boldly posing as his half-brother, come to claim his place in the competition to be appointed Lord High Osteomancer of the Northern Kingdom. Only when the Northern Hierarch, in her throne room at Golden Gate Park, raises her scepter to confirm Daniel in his position will he have an opportunity to steal the axis mundi-under the gaze of the Hierarch herself.

And that’s just the first obstacle.

Courtesy of Tor Books, I have one ARC of Dragon Coast to give away! This giveaway is open to residents of the US or Canada only.

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 “Dragon Coast Giveaway.” One entry per household and one winner will be randomly selected. Those from the US or Canada are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Thursday, October 8. 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!

Update: Now that the giveaway has ended, the form has been removed.

I’m delighted to welcome Ilana C. Myer to the site today! Her fantasy debut novel, Last Song Before Night, was just released today, and she’s sharing some thoughts on cover art—both regarding fantasy cover art in general and the beautiful cover of her new book. If you want to check out a sample, you can also read an excerpt from Last Song Before Night at

Last Song Before Night Cover
Deconstructing the Cover Art of Last Song Before Night

When the time came to talk about cover art for my first novel, Last Song Before Night, there was an uneasy feeling about the topic verging on post-traumatic stress. This for a simple reason: I am a longtime fantasy fan. And as a fan of books coming out in the 80s and 90s, fantasy covers had tended to become synonomous with one word: embarrassing.

There were exceptions, of course. Covers by Michael Whelan were never embarrassing. I especially loved his work for Tad Williams’s Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, and a close runner-up would be the cover of Melanie Rawn’s The Ruins of Ambrai. And if I’m going to gush about covers I loved, props also to one of my favorite covers ever, the original art for The Harp of Imach Thyssel by Patricia C. Wrede, which did not inspire my book consciously but—who knows?

But most of the time, the covers of the fantasy novels I loved so much were a cause of embarrassment at school, on the bus, and at home when I was trying to convince my parents that the novels I was reading weren’t junk. This last was hard to do when the cover featured a He-Man lookalike being vamped at by a woman in a gauzy gown-bikini. No one would ever believe me that these were great books with great characters. I’m not sure I blame them.

So even though fantasy covers have improved in leaps and bounds in recent years, I still approached cover art for my book with trepidation. As is obvious from the result, I need not have worried. My editor had the superb concept for a cityscape, which perfectly sets the tone for the book, set to a great extent in the capital city of Tamryllin. While I was not involved in the process to a large extent—most authors are not—I was encouraged to send a description of Tamryllin to the cover artist, the amazing Stephan Martiniere.

What I told him was to be more influential than I would have guessed. I said that the Tamryllin in my imagination was a cross between Paris and Jerusalem. This had evolved naturally in the telling: I wrote the first draft of Last Song Before Night in the serene Jerusalem neighborhood of Katamon. The golden light, the pale stone, and the ever-present honeysuckle and jasmine infiltrated my senses and engulfed my conception of an invented world.

At the same time, the story is partly inspired by the troubadours, and my first visit to Paris—the culmination of a long-held dream—was also that same year. I fell in love with Paris, as of course one must, and that found its way into the writing too, into the shaping of Tamryllin as a place of grandeur and sophistication.

What I would not have predicted—and what I am so grateful for now—is how much of his own passion the artist brought to the project. There is a fire of inspiration in the art that is stunning to see. A framed print hangs on our wall now. And while I can’t predict what future covers will hold (two more books in this series are forthcoming!), this first, for me, is magic.

Ilana Myer

Ilana C. Myer has written about books for the Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and the Huffington Post. Her first novel, Last Song Before Night, is forthcoming from Tor/Macmillan in September 2015.

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 (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.

This past week brought a few books, and I somehow hadn’t even heard that the first of these was coming out soon before I found it in the mail!

In case you missed it, my review of The Best of Nancy Kress was posted last week. It’s an impressive collection of short stories, novelettes, and novellas that will be released in limited edition hardcover and ebook next week.

On to the books!

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R. R. Martin

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (The Tales of Dunk and Egg #1-3) by George R. R. Martin and illustrated by Gary Gianni

This volume contains the three Dunk and Egg novellas set about a hundred years before the beginning of A Game of Thrones: “The Hedge Knight,” “The Sworn Sword,” and “The Mystery Knight.” It will be available in hardcover and ebook on October 6.

These stories have been published in anthologies, but this is the first time they’ve been collected in the same volume.


Taking place nearly a century before the events of A Game of Thrones, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms compiles the first three official prequel novellas to George R. R. Martin’s ongoing masterwork, A Song of Ice and Fire. These never-before-collected adventures recount an age when the Targaryen line still holds the Iron Throne, and the memory of the last dragon has not yet passed from living consciousness.

Before Tyrion Lannister and Podrick Payne, there was Dunk and Egg. A young, naïve but ultimately courageous hedge knight, Ser Duncan the Tall towers above his rivals—in stature if not experience. Tagging along is his diminutive squire, a boy called Egg—whose true name (hidden from all he and Dunk encounter) is Aegon Targaryen. Though more improbable heroes may not be found in all of Westeros, great destinies lay ahead for these two . . . as do powerful foes, royal intrigue, and outrageous exploits.

Featuring more than 160 all-new illustrations by Gary Gianni, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a must-have collection that proves chivalry isn’t dead—yet.

Cover Not Yet Available

Judgment Day: The Science of Discworld IV by Terry Pratchett with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen

The fourth and final Science of Discworld book will be released in the US in December. It will be available in trade paperback and audiobook (and I’d imagine ebook as well since the previous Science of Discworld books are available in that format, but that format isn’t listed on the publisher’s website or Amazon at the moment).

The description below is from a different edition since this particular one doesn’t yet have a cover or description.


The fourth book in the Science of Discworld series, and this time around dealing with THE REALLY BIG QUESTIONS, Terry Pratchett’s brilliant new Discworld story Judgement Day is annotated with very big footnotes (the interleaving chapters) by mathematician Ian Stewart and biologist Jack Cohen, to bring you a mind-mangling combination of fiction, cutting-edge science and philosophy.

Marjorie Dawe is a librarian, and takes her job — and indeed the truth of words — very seriously. She doesn’t know it, but her world and ours — Roundworld — is in big trouble. On Discworld, a colossal row is brewing. The Wizards of the Unseen University feel responsible for Roundworld (as one would for a pet gerbil). After all, they brought it into existence by bungling an experiment in Quantum ThaumoDynamics. But legal action is being brought against them by Omnians, who say that the Wizards’ god-like actions make a mockery of their noble religion. As the finest legal brains in Discworld (a zombie and a priest) gird their loins to do battle — and when the Great Big Thing in the High Energy Magic Laboratory is switched on — Marjorie Dawe finds herself thrown across the multiverse and right in the middle of the whole explosive affair.

As God, the Universe and, frankly, Everything Else is investigated by the trio, you can expect world-bearing elephants, quantum gravity in the Escher-verse, evolutionary design, eternal inflation, dark matter, disbelief systems — and an in-depth study of how to invent a better mousetrap.

Other Books:

The Best of Nancy Kress
by Nancy Kress
560pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: --/5
LibraryThing Rating: --/5
Goodreads Rating: 4/5

The Best of Nancy Kress, comprised of 21 short stories, novelettes, and novellas, will be released by Subterranean Press next week. This collection, which will be available as both a signed limited edition hardcover and an ebook, also contains an introduction and afterwords after each story, all written by the author. The stories within this volume are the author’s own personal favorites, other than a couple of novellas that were too long to include, and most of them are science fiction. The complete table of contents from The Best of Nancy Kress can be seen on the publisher’s website.

Before reading this collection, I had only read three stories shorter than novel length written by Nancy Kress, and I’d been especially impressed by a couple of her recent novellas, Yesterday’s Kin and After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall. Even though I only enjoyed about one fourth of these stories to the same degree as those two excellent books, I am now even more in awe of her ability to pack more intriguing ideas and characterization into her shorter fiction than I would have thought possible. It’s often difficult for me to read short stories, and this is easily the longest book containing them I’ve ever read—and yet, I found all but one of them compelling in some way. While the stories were not in publication order, I also thought it showed the progression of her writing skill over time. The end of the book listed each story with the year it was published, and I noticed that almost all of the ones I felt were weaker were the oldest stories in the book.

Although I love the way she tackles thoughtful questions and incorporates hard science into her stories without dry infodumps, I think much of what makes her stories so appealing is that they’re all very much about characters—and often, flawed ones. Some are decent people facing difficult circumstances, but most of them have a mixture of strong and weak personality traits with a few more terrible than others. One of my favorite stories was about a woman who got her vengeance with science in a most diabolical manner, and neither major character in that tale seemed like a good person! Even if they did some awful things, they were well-characterized with clear motivations.

Each character seems quite real, whether human, alien, or even a dog. When I first realized one of the two narrators in “Dancing on Air” was a doberman, I wasn’t sure it would work, but it actually did. Angel, a bioengineered dog, was not very intelligent, but this made him the perfect narrator for the part of the story viewed from his perspective. He was able to observe without having the analytical ability to piece together what was actually happening, allowing that part to begin as a mystery, and he also had a voice that fit. This was a great story about ballet and genetic engineering that showed parallels between two mothers of ballerinas and their daughters.

Perhaps the best example of Nancy Kress’ skill with combining examination of ideas with complex characters and relationships is her phenomenal Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novella, “Beggars in Spain,” my favorite in this volume. It is the longest story in this collection, but the amount contained within its pages is still incredible for this length: everything from examination of future developments in genetic engineering to the societal changes and philosophies resulting from both this and other technological advances to the more personal story of a family. The beginning is immediately gripping: a man and his wife are meeting with a doctor to determine the genetic engineering of their child. They end up with one daughter engineered to be exactly the way her father wanted—intelligent and joyful with no need for sleep—and an unexpected “twin” with no genetic engineering whatsoever, exactly what their mother had wanted. Neither parent even attempts to hide that they have a favored child, and Leisha and Alice have a complicated relationship, to say the least! It also shows the world’s reaction to Leisha and other “sleepless” like her, brilliant people who have more hours in their day than other people to devote to studies, professions, or athletic training. The ending also had unexpected emotional impact considering that I didn’t feel like the characters themselves were as compelling as their relationships and lives.

While I liked the longest story best, one of my other favorites was one of the shortest stories in the collection, “Margin of Error.” I don’t want to give away too much about what happened in those six pages, but they contained an excellent science fiction story that was mostly a conversation between two sisters. It gave a clear picture of their past, their relationship, and their characters, and the final lines they spoke to each other toward the end were perfect.

Besides having a variety of story lengths, this volume also contains a remarkable assortment of concepts. One is a reversal of the common time travel story—instead of characters going to the past to change it, they bring people from the past to their present, which is forever changed because of this. Another is a tale of people and their mission in the far future while another another tells what really happened in the Garden of Eden. Each story is unique, and even the two stories that both deal with a similar scenario (meeting an alien for the first time) are about very different situations and characters.

The Best of Nancy Kress is a superb collection by an outstanding writer who excels at telling a large story without a large word count. Although I did enjoy some stories more than others, I found nearly every story engaging on some level whether it was due to the strength of the ideas, characterization, or storytelling—or, in several cases, all of these!

My Rating: 8/10

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