Today I am giving away two copies of Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs! This is the first novel in the Alpha and Omega series, which was introduced with “Alpha and Omega” in the anthology On the Prowl. Cry Wolf is followed by Hunting Ground and Fair Game with the fourth book, Dead Heat, releasing next week. Patricia Briggs is one of my favorite authors of urban fantasy because of her wonderful series—and character!—Mercy Thompson, and Alpha and Omega is set in the same world as her other series. Giveaway details are below (this one is US only).

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

ABOUT CRY WOLF (read an excerpt):

Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack… and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’d learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then Charles Cornick, the enforcer—and son—of the leader of the North American werewolves, came into her life.

Charles insists that not only is Anna his mate, but she is also a rare and valued Omega wolf. And it is Anna’s inner strength and calming presence that will prove invaluable as she and Charles go on the hunt in search of a rogue werewolf—a creature bound in magic so dark that it could threaten all of the pack.

Courtesy of Penguin Random House, I have two copies of Cry Wolf to give away! This giveaway is open to US residents 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 “Cry Wolf Giveaway.” One entry per household and one winner will be randomly selected. Those from the US are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Friday, March 6. Each 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 winners. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

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

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 (often 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 I get to this week’s books, a quick review update: I’m working on a review of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. Even if I finish it soon, it might not be up right away since there are a couple of other planned posts coming up next week, but I want to give it a shout out now since The Invisible Library is currently at the top of my list of favorite books read this year. The heroine is a spy who collects books from different alternate worlds for the Library, which exists outside of time and space, and it is so much fun. I’m really looking forward to the next two books.

One book showed up this week that I’ve already discussed, but in case you’ve been waiting for the paperback release, here it is:

On to the new books!

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

The Girl at Midnight (Book #1 of 3) by Melissa Grey

Genre: Fantasy (Young Adult)
Release Date: April 28 (Hardcover, Ebook, Audiobook)
View Upcoming Book Event(s)

I hadn’t heard of this debut novel before it showed up in the mail this week, but I’m quite curious about it after seeing multiple Goodreads reviews comparing it to Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (my favorite YA author and one of my favorite authors ever).


For readers of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, The Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

The Doll Collection edited by Ellen Datlow

The Doll Collection edited by Ellen Datlow

Genre: Horror
Release Date: March 10 (Hardcover, Ebook)
Read the Introduction

Book Events:
Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, New York (March 10)
The Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico (March 15)

Ellen Datlow, recipient of the 2014 World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, edited this anthology of stories about dolls that are dark and creepy without using the “evil doll” trope. Authors include Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn, Mary Robinette Kowal, Jeffrey Ford, Pat Cadigan, Genevieve Valentine, Tim Lebbon, Joyce Carol Oates, and more.


The Doll Collection is exactly what it sounds like: a treasured toy box of all-original dark stories about dolls of all types, including everything from puppets and poppets to mannequins and baby dolls.

Featuring everything from life-sized clockwork dolls to all-too-human Betsy Wetsy-type baby dolls, these stories play into the true creepiness of the doll trope, but avoid the clichés that often show up in stories of this type. Master anthologist Ellen Datlow has assembled a list of beautiful and terrifying stories from bestselling and critically acclaimed authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn, Pat Cadigan, Tim Lebbon, Richard Kadrey, Genevieve Valentine, and Jeffrey Ford. The collection is illustrated with photographs of dolls taken by Datlow and other devoted doll collectors from the science fiction and fantasy field. The result is a star-studded collection exploring one of the most primal fears of readers of dark fiction everywhere, and one that every reader will want to add to their own collection.

The Exile by C. T. Adams

The Exile (The Fae #1) by C.T. Adams

Genre: Fantasy (Paranormal/Urban)
Release Date: March 10 (Paperback, Ebook)
Read Chapter 1

This will be C. T. Adams’ first solo novel. Together with Cathy Clamp she is USA Today bestselling author Cat Adams (Blood Singer series).


Brianna Hai runs an occult shop that sells useless trinkets to tourists—and real magic supplies to witches and warlocks. The magical painting that hangs in Brianna’s apartment is the last portal between the fae and human worlds.

A shocking magical assault on her home reveals to Brianna that her father, High King Liu of the Fae, is under attack. With the help of her gargoyle, Pug, her friend David, and Angelo, a police detective who doesn’t believe in magic, Brianna recovers what was stolen from her and becomes an unwilling potential heir to the throne.

A suspenseful urban fantasy with a hint of romance, The Exile is the first solo novel by C. T. Adams, who is half of USA Today bestselling author Cat Adams. Like the Cat Adams Blood Singer novels, The Exile is set in a world where magic is real and contains Adams’s trademark blend of suspense, action, humor, and strongly emotional writing.

The Hollow Queen by Elizabeth Haydon

The Hollow Queen (The Symphony of Ages #8) by Elizabeth Haydon

Genre: Fantasy (Epic)
Release Date: June 30 (Hardcover, Ebook)

Previous Books in the USA Today bestselling series, The Symphony of Ages:

  1. Rhapsody: Child of Blood (Read an Excerpt)
  2. Prophecy: Child of Earth
  3. Destiny: Child of the Sky
  4. Requiem for the Sun
  5. Elegy for a Lost Star
  6. The Assassin King
  7. The Merchant Emperor

Acclaimed author Elizabeth Haydon returns with a heartbreaking tale of love and valor in The Hollow Queen, the eighth installment of her USA Today bestselling Symphony of Ages series that began with Rhapsody.

Beset on all sides by the forces of the merchant emperor Talquist, the Cymrian Alliance finds itself in desperate straits. Rhapsody herself has joined the battle, wielding the Daystar Clarion, leaving her True Name in hiding with her infant son. Ashe tries to enlist the aid of the Sea Mages. Within their Citadel of Scholarship lies the White Ivory tower, a spire that could hold the key to unraveling the full extent of Talquist’s machinations. Achmed journeys to the reportedly unassailable palace of Jierna Tal, to kill emperor Talquist—all the while knowing that even if he succeeds, it may not be enough to stop the momentum of the war.

As they struggle to untangle the web of Talquist’s treachery, the leaders of the Cymrian alliance are met with obstacles at every turn. Rhapsody soon realizes that the end of this war will come at an unimaginable price: the lives of those she holds dearest.

Shadow by Will Elliott

Shadow (The Pendulum Trilogy #2) by Will Elliott

Genre: Fantasy (Contemporary)
Release Date: February 24 (Hardcover, Ebook)
Read an Excerpt

Previous Book:

  1. The Pilgrims (Read an Excerpt)

Will Elliott is also the award-winning author of The Pilo Family Circus, which won the Australian Shadows Award and the Golden Aurealis Award for Best Novel. It tied with another novel for the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel.


Eric Albright was a luckless journalist living in London. He had a so-so life…until the day he opened a battered red door that appeared on the graffiti-covered wall of a local bridge, and entered Levaal, a magical world between worlds. A place populated by power damaged mages, stone giants, pit devils—and dragons, Levaal’s possible creators, who are imprisoned in a sky prison. It is also where the mad Lord Vous rules with an iron fist and is busy working on a scheme to turn himself into a god. Vous has been defeated so far because Levaal has been contained by the great Wall at World’s End.

But the Wall at World’s End has been brought down, war is coming to the land, and Eric and his newfound friends are caught in the thick of it. They are forced to flee from the Tormentors, dreadful creatures that have poured through the breach, and there are rumors that one of the great dragons has escaped its sky prison.

Worse yet, Vous’s journey to godhood is almost complete, and a mysterious being called Shadow (who is not but looks remarkably like Eric) is wandering Levaal with great power but no purpose it yet understands.

The end might be coming faster than anyone thinks.

Shadow is the second title in Will Elliott’s fantasy Pendulum Trilogy.

Steelheart is the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s young adult series The Reckoners. The second book in the trilogy, Firefight, was recently released and joined the ranks of the first book as a #1 New York Times bestseller. The conclusion, Calamity, doesn’t appear to have a release date yet.

Even though he was only eight years old at the time, David vividly remembers the day Steelheart appointed himself emperor of Chicago—and changed his life forever.

Epics, people with superpowers, had appeared a couple of years before that occasion. While many considered them to be dangerous, others—like David’s father—still believed that heroes would arise to stand against the villains back then. On the day Steelheart took over Chicago, David and his father were at the bank when the Epic Deathpoint strode in and began destroying people with a simple gesture. David’s father managed to get a hold of a dead security guard’s gun, but before he could shoot Deathpoint, he was noticed by the Epic. As the deadly finger was being raised in his direction, Steelheart’s appearance and displeasure distracted the other Epic.  The people thought they were saved—until Steelheart made it clear his problem wasn’t an aversion to murder but rather an aversion to others having the audacity to think they could do as they pleased to the people in his city.

David’s father was unable to comprehend that this majestic Epic was not there with heroic intentions, and he shot Deathpoint when it looked like he may harm Steelheart. Unfortunately, the bullet grazed Steelheart and drew blood even though no other weapon in the room had left so much as a scratch on him. Every Epic, even the seemingly indestructible, has a weakness and David’s father unknowingly stumbled upon Steelheart’s. Steelheart’s reaction to this was to destroy the bank and remove everyone who had witnessed his wounding. Only David escaped, but not after seeing Steelheart shoot his father—and he swore that someday Steelheart would pay for that.

Ten years later, David has concocted a plan to capture the attention of the Reckoners, a group of ordinary people who kill these villainous Epics. David has been studying the Epics for his entire life, and he believes both his knowledge of various Epics and Steelheart’s injury can be a great asset to the rebels. Together he thinks they may have a chance to figure out Steelheart’s weakness and eliminate him once and for all—if he can just convince the Reckoners to accept him into their group and set their sights on a major Epic instead of the minor ones they normally target.

Steelheart is pure entertainment. It’s not the type of book I normally enjoy since it’s light on character development, yet I had fun reading it. It was exactly what I was in the mood for when I picked it up during the busy holiday season—a straightforward book with lots of action and dialogue that jumped headfirst into the story. While it did start to lose my interest for a few chapters in the middle that were leading up to the grand finale, it more than made up for this with an exciting ending that left potential for more complexity in the next two books.

Steelheart is an easy book to pick up and become immediately interested in reading since it begins with the experience that shaped David’s life and his desire for revenge against the titular Epic. It’s easy to feel sympathy for David as someone who saw his father killed at a young age and has been living in a world dominated by unstoppable evil tyrants with superpowers ever since. It’s about the desire for vengeance but also about hope—the belief that just maybe there is something ordinary people can do to fight back against the Epics after all. It’s a simple premise but a powerful one since it is so easy to relate to.

It is also an uncomplicated story in other ways. The lines between good and bad are not blurred since the Epics are universally terrible (although the end does leave some room for more blurred lines in future books). There are some moments throughout that serve as clues to revelations in the end, but they’re about as subtle as a flashing neon sign. It’s obvious which occurrences are important, and this just makes the fact that David seems oblivious to what they mean stand out. He’s supposed to be smart, and he’s studied Epics his whole life—in fact, he has figured out things that an entire group of people dedicated to taking them out were unaware of, yet he can’t see what’s right in front of his face sometimes. I found this hard to believe, and these weren’t the only times I found characters’ actions unbelievable. It also seemed far too convenient to me that the Reckoners accepted David into their group as easily as they did, especially since he was very quickly quite influential. There were reasons for this, but it still seemed like a rebel organization should have been harder to infiltrate than it was.

None of the characters are incredibly deep, even the main protagonist. David is primarily defined by his desire for revenge, his love of weaponry, his in-depth knowledge of Epics, and his terrible metaphors. Personally, I thought the metaphors were overdone to the point of annoyance, although some of them were amusing. He’s always trying to come up with good metaphors but fails miserably by coming up with something terrible. This happens in both his narrative and dialogue with other characters, sometimes leading to conversations about why he thinks his mangled metaphor actually makes sense. It seemed as though these were supposed to be funny, but I thought this was trying too hard to be clever and failing most of the time, especially when this happened over and over again. The other characters are also rather thinly developed, and the more interesting aspects of them involve information revealed at the end of the story. Many of these revelations are not terribly surprising, but it did still make for a very exciting, well-executed ending that may be setting up deeper exploration of the Epics in the next books.

There were some aspects of Steelheart that didn’t appeal to me—an overused narrative device that was more tiresome than funny, predictability and a lack of subtlety, and two-dimensional characters—but it is a (mostly) fast-paced, fun book with an epic conclusion. Despite the issues I had, I’d recommend it to those looking for an entertaining book and do plan on reading the sequel myself when in the mood for a light, uncomplicated book.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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

Read an Excerpt

Other Reviews:

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 (often 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 week brought a few books, including a couple I’ve already covered. In case you’ve been waiting for them (or missed them), here are some links to read more about them:

On to this week’s books!

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This fantasy novel will be on sale on May 19 in the US and May 21 in the UK (hardcover, ebook). An excerpt from Uprooted can be read on

Naomi Novik is the New York Times bestselling author of the Temeraire series (starting with His Majesty’s Dragon) and the graphic novel Will Supervillains Be on the Final? She has also won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the Locus Award for Best New Writer, and the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, plus His Majesty’s Dragon was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Uprooted sounds amazing, and it is easily one of my most anticipated books of 2015!


Naomi Novik, author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Temeraire novels, introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Pacific  Fire by Greg van Eekhout

Pacific Fire (Daniel Blackland #2) by Greg van Eekhout

This sequel to California Bones is available now (hardcover, ebook). An excerpt from Pacific Fire can be read on

Greg van Eekhout is also the author of Norse Code and the MG novels Kid vs. Squid and The Boy at the End of the World, an Andre Norton Award finalist.


Pacific Fire: Another thrilling ride through Greg van Eekhout’s wildly imaginative world of California Bones, featuring entertaining new characters and a dangerous magical plot unfolding in Los Angeles.

I’m Sam. I’m just this guy.

Okay, yeah, I’m a golem created from the substance of his own magic by the late Hierarch of Southern California. With a lot of work, I might be able to wield magic myself. I kind of doubt it, though. Not like Daniel Blackland can.

Daniel’s the reason the Hierarch’s gone and I’m still alive. He’s also the reason I’ve lived my entire life on the run. Ten years of never, ever going back to Los Angeles. Daniel’s determined to protect me. To teach me.

But it gets old. I’ve got nobody but Daniel. I’ll never do anything normal. Like attend school. Or date a girl.

Now it’s worse. Because things are happening back in LA. Very bad people are building a Pacific firedrake, a kind of ultimate weapon of mass magical destruction.  Daniel seemed to think only he could stop them. Now Daniel’s been hurt. I managed to get us to the place run by the Emmas. (Many of them. All named Emma. It’s a long story.) They seem to be healing him, but he isn’t going anyplace soon.

Do I even have a reason for existing, if it isn’t to prevent this firedrake from happening? I’m good at escaping from things. Now I’ve escaped from Daniel and the Emmas, and I’m on my way to LA.

This may be the worst idea I ever had.

Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

Seeker (Seeker #1) by Arwen Elys Dayton

Seeker, the first book in a young adult trilogy, is available now (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The second book, Traveler, is scheduled for release in spring 2016.

An excerpt from Seeker can be read on Suvudu. Arwen Elys Dayton will be visiting Minnesota, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York as part of her book tour. Check out the event schedule to see if she’s coming to a city near you!

Even though the book was just released, it has already been optioned for film.


The night Quin Kincaid takes her Oath, she will become what she has trained to be her entire life. She will become a Seeker. This is her legacy, and it is an honor.

As a Seeker, Quin will fight beside her two closest companions, Shinobu and John, to protect the weak and the wronged. Together they will stand for light in a shadowy world.

And she’ll be with the boy she loves–who’s also her best friend.

But the night Quin takes her Oath, everything changes.

Being a Seeker is not what she thought. Her family is not what she thought. Even the boy she loves is not who she thought.

And now it’s too late to walk away.

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 (often 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 I get to this week’s books, a reminder: there’s still time to enter to win Steelheart and Firefight by Brandon Sanderson! The giveaway ends on Thursday.

I’m currently working on a review of Steelheart, a very fun book, and I posted my review of the excellent Dust and Light by Carol Berg last week. Since I loved it, I was very excited to see the cover art for Ash and Silver a couple of days ago. The sequel to Dust and Light is scheduled for release in December. I can’t wait!

On to this week’s books!

Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson

Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson

This fantasy debut novel will be released on February 10 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The first three chapters of Finn Fancy Necromancy can be read on


Writers of the Future grand prize winner Randy Henderson presents a dark and quirky debut in Finn Fancy Necromancy.

Finn Gramaraye was framed for the crime of dark necromancy at the age of 15, and exiled to the Other Realm for twenty five years.  But now that he’s free, someone—probably the same someone—is trying to get him sent back.  Finn has only a few days to discover who is so desperate to keep him out of the mortal world, and find evidence to prove it to the Arcane Enforcers.  They are going to be very hard to convince, since he’s already been convicted of trying to kill someone with dark magic.

But Finn has his family: His brother Mort who is running the family necrotorium business now, his brother Pete who believes he’s a werewolf, though he is not, and his sister Samantha who is, unfortunately, allergic to magic.  And he’s got Zeke, a fellow exile and former enforcer, who doesn’t really believe in Finn’s innocence but is willing to follow along in hopes of getting his old job back.

The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett

The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle #4) by Peter V. Brett

This thick fantasy novel will be released on March 31 (hardcover, ebook). The previous books in the series are as follows:

  1. The Warded Man (US) / The Painted Man (UK) (Read an Excerpt)
  2. The Desert Spear (Read an Excerpt)
  3. The Daylight War (Read an Excerpt)

An excerpt from The Skull Throne is available on the author’s website.


The first three novels in New York Times bestselling author Peter V. Brett’s groundbreaking Demon Cycle series—The Warded Man, The Desert Spear, and The Daylight War—set a new standard for heroic fantasy. The powerful saga of humans winnowed to the brink of extinction by night-stalking demons, and the survivors who fight back, has kept readers breathless as they eagerly turned the pages. Now the thrilling fourth volume, The Skull Throne, raises the stakes as it carries the action in shocking new directions.

The Skull Throne of Krasia stands empty.

Built from the skulls of fallen generals and demon princes, it is a seat of honor and ancient, powerful magic, keeping the demon corelings at bay. From atop the throne, Ahmann Jardir was meant to conquer the known world, forging its isolated peoples into a unified army to rise up and end the demon war once and for all.

But Arlen Bales, the Warded Man, stood against this course, challenging Jardir to a duel he could not in honor refuse. Rather than risk defeat, Arlen cast them both from a precipice, leaving the world without a savior, and opening a struggle for succession that threatens to tear the Free Cities of Thesa apart.

In the south, Inevera, Jardir’s first wife, must find a way to keep their sons from killing each other and plunging their people into civil war as they strive for glory enough to make a claim on the throne.

In the north, Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn struggle to forge an alliance between the duchies of Angiers and Miln against the Krasians before it is too late.

Caught in the crossfire is the duchy of Lakton—rich and unprotected, ripe for conquest.

All the while, the corelings have been growing stronger, and without Arlen and Jardir there may be none strong enough to stop them. Only Renna Bales may know more about the fate of the missing men, but she, too, has disappeared. . . .

Carol Berg’s latest fantasy novel, Dust and Light, is set in the same world as her Mythopoeic Award-winning Lighthouse Duet (Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone). It will be followed by the second half of the Sanctuary Duet, Ash and Silver, later this year.

Lucian is an exceptionally rare pureblood. While most of these sorcerers have a single magical specialty, the gods granted Lucian gifts with both art and history. Those with dual bents normally have little ability with either, and the weaker of the two is excised when the sorcerer is a child since practicing both is believed to cause madness. However, Lucian proved to be equally strong with both his abilities, and he always followed the rules of pureblood discipline closely. His grandfather, the king’s historian whom Lucian admired and wanted to emulate, procured permission for Lucian to keep both of his bents until Lucian broke the rules by becoming too close to a woman who was not a pureblood. After this incident, Lucian’s grandfather removed his bent for history and never spoke to Lucian again—nor will he ever since he and most of the family were killed in a fire, leaving Lucian and his teenage sister alone.

Despite avoiding Lucian’s company, his grandfather did arrange a contract for his grandson before his death. Lucian continues to work as a portraitist for the Pureblood Registry until the day he is summoned and informed that his contract will expire much earlier than planned: at midnight. Since he and his sister are financially dependent on this income, Lucian must find a new contract immediately and ends up in the service of Bastien, the city coroner. Bastien is quite pleased with Lucian’s lifelike portraits and is able to quickly identify the first man he draws, but he becomes suspicious when he sees Lucian flicker while doing his work. Having never heard of such an occurrence, Lucian dismisses this as his imagination, but he soon finds his own magic is behaving in unexpected ways—and that’s far from the only challenge he faces with a child’s murder to solve and the Registry’s apparent determination to make his life difficult.

Carol Berg is a phenomenal fantasy author. She excels at creating both richly developed worlds and realistic characters, and Dust and Light displays both of these strengths. Her latest book is wonderful with evocative, lovely prose and a plot full of mysteries—everything from a murder mystery to mysteries related to the past, magic, and the world. Like some of her other books, it includes the theme of discovering the truth after history has been rewritten, and it also contains an unlikely friendship between two individuals from completely different backgrounds (and Berg, as usual, puts her main protagonist through some tough situations!). These are only surface similarities, though—Dust and Light is completely fresh when compared to other books due to Lucian’s perspective and the way the story and magic interact with it.

As is usual for Berg, the biggest strength is her characters, particularly her main protagonist. Lucian is a decent and fair man who will go to great lengths for justice, but he’s far from perfect or simplistic. As Bastien observes shortly after meeting him, “he’s got a broom handle up his ass” (page 31), and he can be prideful and arrogant at times, but these fit with his upbringing and circumstances. Not only has he been raised to follow the strict rules established by the Pureblood Registry, but he’s had twenty-six years for those traditions to become ingrained. The one time he ignored these rules by removing those rigid pureblood barriers between himself and an ordinary in his history class, he was punished severely. His grandfather—the person he most admired and wanted to be like—excised his gift for history, dashing his dreams of using his preferred talent to follow in this same man’s footsteps, and severed their relationship forever. Furthermore, there’s no chance for reconciliation since Lucian’s family died except for his young sister, who has no one other than he for support. After all that, why wouldn’t he be serious and concerned about following the rules? And why wouldn’t he have some pride after being told he was not only gifted by the gods but exceptionally rarely gifted throughout his entire life?

Despite some uptight tendencies, I had no difficulty at all caring about Lucian. This is partially due to the challenges he faces throughout the story and the fact that he does change throughout, but I had sympathy for him from the beginning. He’s certainly had it rough since he’s lost nearly everyone he cared about, his preferred magical ability, and his hopes and dreams. In the first few pages, his contract is abruptly canceled, forcing him into a job even worse than the less-than-ideal job he had—and then his circumstances just keep getting worse! He’s also not a one note character who looks down upon anyone who is not a pureblood like him. His punishment did come about because he fell in love with an opinionated, articulate ordinary, after all, and he at least has some sensitivity and tries to be avoid making ungifted people feel inferior.

While Lucian is the most fleshed out character, all the characters seem like realistic people, but it’s not just the characters who have depth: the world does as well. It’s rich with history and myth, giving the impression that there are many stories that could be told in this setting (and I hope there are more than the two duologies!). In particular, I thought the magic was creative. Part of Lucian’s grandfather’s role as Royal Historian was helping the king win wars, but he did not do this through offensive or defensive feats—he did this by knowledge gained from his bent for history. Similarly, Lucian’s portraits were so lifelike that shrewd Bastien could glean information about their personality, and this art comes to reveal the truth in rather unexpected ways. The way his abilities unfold as part of the book’s mysteries is quite well done.

Dust and Light is exactly the type of fantasy book I particularly enjoy—one that is full of dimension when exploring its world and characters. It’s both an intimate story of one man’s trials and tribulations and a vast story showing the larger world of myths and legends. Since every aspect is detailed and carefully crafted, it can move slowly at times, but I usually found it quite absorbing and I’m looking forward to reading Ash and Silver.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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

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