Book of Iron is a novella-length prequel to another one of Elizabeth Bear’s novellas, Bone and Jewel Creatures. These books are set in the same world as her Eternal Sky trilogy consisting of Range of Ghosts, Shattered Pillars, and the upcoming Steles of the Sky. Book of Iron is a self-contained story and it is not necessary to read any of these other books first.

Bijou the Artificer and her two companions, Prince Salih and Kaulus the Necromancer, have made a name for themselves in the city of Messaline and are often sought after for assistance with special problems. However, the reputation of the three adventurers has spread beyond Messaline, particularly tales of their time spent in Ancient Erem. When three foreign adventurers come seeking Erem, they first approach the prince and the two Wizards to ask permission to continue their journey.

Led by the legendary 600-year-old necromancer Maledysaunte, the travelers have come seeking the mother of one of the other party members, the Wizard Salamander. Salamander’s mother is a rare wizard with a gift for order, permanence, and resistance to change. She has gone into Erem, and the consequences of a Wizard with her power mastering the artifacts in this ancient place could be disastrous. Once Bijou and her associates hear their story and learn the importance of their mission, they decide to accompany them: after all, six are better than three, especially when three of them have lived to tell the tale of their experiences in dangerous Erem.

While Book of Iron has a lot in common with Eternal Sky in addition to the setting, it is also quite different from this series. Like Eternal Sky, it’s beautifully and intelligently written, engaging, and populated by an intriguing cast of characters. Due to its much shorter length, Book of Iron doesn’t share the same rich detail yet it manages to have a lot of impact despite being a short book. It’s largely an adventure story, and it’s more straightforward and fun than any of Elizabeth Bear’s other books I’ve read, yet it also has depth, particularly in Bijou’s characterization.

One aspect of the setting that I particularly enjoyed were the combinations of traditional epic fantasy with technology and magic with science. Book of Iron is a quest adventure story with wizards and princes, but Bijou and her fellow adventurers get to their destination by automobile… and then ride into dangerous Erem astride the bones of horses, an ass, and a camel. Aeroplanes and pistols also exist in this world, and while it’s not unusual to combine even more modern technology than in this book with a fantasy setting, I haven’t read many books that do so as naturally as this one (though, admittedly, there’s very little technology other than what I just mentioned).

One of the things I loved so much about Eternal Sky was that the wizards used scientific knowledge together with magic, in a complete reversal of the science vs. magic trope. The wizards who were healers didn’t just concentrate hard and magically cure their patients but used their powers in combination with their knowledge of human anatomy. Since it is shorter, Book of Iron doesn’t have as much detail on Wizardry or as clear a picture of the scientific thinking involved, but magic and science are still intertwined. There’s a lot of thought and hard work that go into magic, and Bijou thinks of her Wizardry as science when she’s pondering what dissection could teach her about fate and necromancy:


This is not the time for science, she told herself, knowing it for a lie. As far as she was concerned, thinking about Wizardry was a constant. [pp. 39]

A couple of the Wizards are Necromancers, but there are some unusual schools of Wizardry as well. Bijou is an Artificer gifted at animating bones. She can simply animate them with her will, or she can make her own amazing creations like Ambrosias. Ambrosias was crafted into a bejeweled centipede from the bones of horses and cats and the skull of a ferret and given a personality. There are also wizards of chaos and order, and the Wizard sought by Bijou and her companions is one of the latter, a precisian. Precisians are rare and dangerous because their gift is making permanent creations that are stubbornly resistant to change.

Other than Bijou, whose personal journey is a significant part of the story, the characters are not terribly deep, which is not surprising given the length of the book. However, I’d love to read more about some of the other characters given the glimpses I did get from this novella. I suspect Kaulus, a necromancer who is afraid of death, may have an interesting history. Maledysaunte, an immortal who looks nothing like the rumors of the “Hag of Wolf Wood” made her sound, also seems like a character with potential for an intriguing backstory. I’m now hoping for more books about the different characters, but I’m also quite happy to know that I can read more about Bijou in Bone and Jewel Creatures.

Book of Iron is both thoroughly entertaining and thoughtfully written. While it’s largely a quest adventure, it doesn’t ignore the setting and characterization, and I especially liked that Bijou learned throughout the book and had a different outlook by the time the book was over. My only complaint about it is that the book is too short, but such is the nature of novella length fiction, and I don’t really find wanting more stories about these characters to be a terrible reaction (it’s certainly better than the opposite!).

My Rating: 8.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

Read an Excerpt

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration. Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This week brought four books, two of which I’ve talked about in one of these features before. These two books are:

Before continuing on to the other books, a quick update: It’s almost November, which means it’s Sci-Fi Month! It’s a month-long event celebrating science fiction organized and hosted by Rinn from Rinn Reads. I’ll be discussing plans for that on Friday. I only have a few things planned right now, but I might end up doing more science fiction book reviews if there’s time. It was tough to pick just a few books from my to-read stack, and I’d like to read more of them.

For other reviews, I’m currently working on one of Book of Iron by Elizabeth Bear (which was awesome!). I’m hoping to get that up next week.

On to the books!

Copperhead by Tina Connolly

Copperhead (Ironskin #2) by Tina Connolly

Copperhead, the second book in a trilogy, was released earlier this month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). It’s a sequel to 2012 Nebula Award nominee Ironskin, which I’ve heard was a steampunk retelling of Jane Eyre. The next book, set about 18 years later, is scheduled for release in fall 2014.

An excerpt from Copperhead is available on


The sequel to Tina Connolly’s stunning historical fantasy debut.

Helen Huntingdon is beautiful—so beautiful she has to wear an iron mask. Six months ago her sister Jane uncovered a fey plot to take over the city. Too late for Helen, who opted for fey beauty in her face—and now has to cover her face with iron so she won’t be taken over, her personality erased by the bodiless fey.

Not that Helen would mind that some days. Stuck in a marriage with the wealthy and controlling Alistair, she lives at the edges of her life, secretly helping Jane remove the dangerous fey beauty from the wealthy society women who paid for it. But when the chancy procedure turns deadly, Jane goes missing—and is implicated in the murder.

Meanwhile, Alistair’s influential clique Copperhead—whose emblem is the poisonous copperhead hydra—is out to restore humans to their “rightful” place, even to the point of destroying the dwarvven who have always been allies.

Helen is determined to find her missing sister, as well as continue the good fight against the fey. But when that pits her against her own husband—and when she meets an enigmatic young revolutionary—she’s pushed to discover how far she’ll bend society’s rules to do what’s right. It may be more than her beauty at stake. It may be her honor…and her heart.

Generation V by M. L. Brennan

Generation V (American Vampire #1) by M. L. Brennan

Generation V came out earlier this year (mass market paperback, ebook). The second book in the series, Iron Night, is scheduled for release in January 2014.

An excerpt from Generation V is available on the publisher’s website. I’ve heard that Generation V is quite good, so I’m excited to read it.


Reality Bites

Fortitude Scott’s life is a mess. A degree in film theory has left him with zero marketable skills, his job revolves around pouring coffee, his roommate hasn’t paid rent in four months, and he’s also a vampire. Well, sort of. He’s still mostly human.

But when a new vampire comes into his family’s territory and young girls start going missing, Fort can’t ignore his heritage anymore. His mother and his older, stronger siblings think he’s crazy for wanting to get involved. So it’s up to Fort to take action, with the assistance of Suzume Hollis, a dangerous and sexy shape-shifter. Fort is determined to find a way to outsmart the deadly vamp, even if he isn’t quite sure how.

But without having matured into full vampirehood and with Suzume ready to split if things get too risky, Fort’s rescue mission might just kill him.…


Chimes at Midnight is the seventh book in Seanan McGuire’s October Day series. The first six books in this urban fantasy series involving Faerie are as follows:

  1. Rosemary and Rue
  2. A Local Habitation
  3. An Artificial Night
  4. Late Eclipses
  5. One Salt Sea
  6. Ashes of Honor

The book titles above are links to reviews, as I’ve become a big fan of this series and have reviewed all the previous books. I’d recommend skipping this review if you do not want any events from any of the previous books in this series spoiled. If you are starting with reading about the first book, I’d like to add that the series does keep getting better, and books 4-6 are particularly wonderful!

There are at least ten October Daye books planned. The next book in the series, The Winter Long, is scheduled for release in September 2014 with the next two to follow in September 2015 and September 2016.

Concerned about the increasing availability of goblin fruit on the streets, Toby investigates the situation and learns that at least a dozen changelings have died after partaking of the faerie drug. Toby determines to put a stop to the deaths and feels that the best way to accomplish this goal is to tell the Queen of the Mists about the deaths of her people—even though the Queen hates Toby and may not listen to her concerns for that reason alone.

The Queen is quick to dismiss Toby’s wish that something be done about the changelings dying from goblin fruit, as she believes those foolish enough to do so are getting what they deserve and Faerie is better off without them. When Toby continues to plea that she reconsider, the Queen loses her temper and banishes Toby from the Kingdom for her insolence. She gives Toby three days to leave.

Devastated, Toby goes to the Luidaeg in case the sea witch has some knowledge that can help her find a way to remain in the Mists. While the Luidaeg is not able to tell her the details, Toby is at least able to ask the question that points her in the right direction: to the history of the Mists and the suspicious circumstances surrounding the Queen’s ascension to her throne. There may be an heir with a legitimate claim to the throne who remains in hiding, but can Toby learn the truth—and find the heir and overthrow the Queen if this claim is true— before her time is up?

It was with some trepidation that I started Chimes at Midnight even though October Daye has become one of my favorite urban fantasy series. Since the books in this series have been getting better and better, I was worried that it would be difficult for book seven to live up to my expectations. However, I need not have worried: I enjoyed Chimes at Midnight very much. It’s not my favorite book in the series for reasons I’ll explain later, but it has all the great qualities that made me love these books—interesting characters, a sense of humor, and a distinct lack of dull moments.

One of the reasons I keep reading these books is Toby herself. She has amazing heart and spirit despite all the difficult situations she’s been in throughout the series. That’s not to say she hasn’t struggled (she was certainly in a bad place at the beginning of the last book), but she has a strong drive to help others and she doesn’t give up. When she sees the changelings endangered, she does what’s necessary to try to help them even though going to see the Queen is pretty close to the top of her list of things she’d least like to do. Even after being banished by the Queen (and going through many other things I won’t recount to avoid spoilers), she keeps moving toward her goals. No matter how dark things get (and they do get pretty dark), her narrative and her sense of humor make me smile. It was also a treat to see her and Tybalt together (finally!) and see how happy they were together before everything went wrong, but even after things became difficult they were adorable together.

As much as I love Toby, there are occasions where she is unbelievably dense, and this book did have one of those moments where her failure to notice the obvious struck me as unreal. When the Luidaeg gave Toby instructions to ask people about the previous king, she had Quentin and Tybalt fill her in on the history. The whole affair surrounding how the Queen of the Mists showed up out of the blue claiming to be the King’s daughter sounded incredibly suspicious, yet Toby seemed shocked when someone claimed she was not actually his daughter. Of course, Toby’s rather distracted with her worries about being banished and she’s probably not had much cause to think about it before since she wasn’t alive when the Queen took the throne, but it still seemed very unrealistic to me that she couldn’t put two and two together after being told that story—especially considering she had an ability that should have made her particularly wary of this claim.

As mentioned, this book was very dark at times, yet it manages to be fun in spite of that. There’s a magical Library, which while not uncommon, appeals to the reading geek in me. Plus there is an invisible bookstore! I also enjoyed learning a little more about Faerie and its history. Chimes at Midnight did seem to me a bit more like a stand alone volume than some of the previous books in the series, and I think that’s why I didn’t like it quite as much as some of the other books in the series. It certainly has familiar characters and references past events, and it also seemed to me to be hinting toward next volumes (and perhaps learning more about Amandine, but maybe that is wishful thinking on my part!). While a lot happened in Chimes at Midnight, it wasn’t quite as memorable or earth-shattering to me as events in the last three books. Late Eclipses followed up on information from previous installments to reveal that Toby’s mother was a Firstborn and Toby was actually a completely different and new Fae. One Salt Sea had a heartbreaking ending with both Toby’s daughter and Connor leaving her life forever in different ways. And, of course, there was much rejoicing when Toby and Tybalt finally got together in Ashes of Honor. While each book does have a basic plot of its own, I did think this one had less payoff for long-term readers than the last few installments. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and I have a suspicion this book may have set events in motion for future books; I just tend to prefer stories that have threads that carry over from book to book or events I’ve been waiting/hoping for.

While it is not my favorite installment in the October Daye series since I didn’t feel that it advanced Toby’s story much despite some pretty major events or contained any surprising revelations, I had a great time reading Chimes at Midnight. It’s entertaining with some interesting tidbits about Faerie, fun adventures that kept me turning the pages, and a main character whose heart and sense of humor I continue to love.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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

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

This week brought three books, including a book by one of my favorite authors and a book I hadn’t heard about that sounds pretty interesting. That makes it a very good week for books!

A Dance in Blood Velvet by Freda Warrington

A Dance in Blood Velvet (Blood Wine #2) by Freda Warrington

The first book in this series, A Taste of Blood Wine, is one of my two favorite books I’ve read this year so I’m pretty excited about this one! The Blood Wine books were first published in the 1990s and were out of print. The original trilogy is being reprinted with revisions by the author, and a new fourth book in the Blood Wine Sequence (The Dark Arts of Blood) will be released in 2014. The third book, The Dark Blood of Poppies, will be re-released sometime before that; the cover was recently revealed.

A Dance in Blood Velvet is now available in the UK (ebook, paperback). It will not be available to purchase in the US until April 2014, but A Taste of Blood Wine just became available in the US earlier this month (excerpt).

There are spoilers for the end of book one in the description of A Dance in Blood Velvet below.



For the love of her vampire suitor, Karl, Charlotte has forsaken her human life. Now her only contact with people is when she hunts them down to feed. Her thirst for blood repulses her but its fulfilment brings ecstasy.

The one light in the shadows is the passion that burns between her and Karl. A love that it seems will last for eternity – until Karl’s former lover, the seductively beautiful Katerina, is rescued from the Crystal Ring. For nearly fifty years she has lain, as dead, in the icy depths of the Weisskalt. Now she wants to reclaim her life… and Karl.

In despair, Charlotte turns to the prima ballerina Violette Lenoir, an ice maiden who only thaws when she dances. Charlotte is fascinated as she has been by no other human, longing to bring joy to the dancer. But her obsession opens the floodgates to a far darker threat than the vampires could ever have imagined. For Violette is more than human and if she succumbs to the vampire’s kiss it could unleash a new terror.

Masks by E. C. Blake

Masks by E. C. Blake

Masks, the first book in a new series, will be released on November 5 (hardcover, ebook). The prologue and first chapter can be read on the author’s website.


Masks, the first novel in a mesmerizing new fantasy series, draws readers into a world in which cataclysmic events have left the Autarchy of Aygrima—the one land blessed with magical resources—cut off from its former trading partners across the waters, not knowing if any of those distant peoples still live. Yet under the rule of the Autarch, Aygrima survives. And thanks to the creation of the Masks and the vigilance of the Autarch’s Watchers, no one can threaten the security of the empire.

In Aygrima, magic is a Gift possessed from birth by a very small percentage of the population, with the Autarch himself the most powerful magic worker of all. Only the long-vanquished Lady of Pain and Fire had been able to challenge his rule.

At the age of fifteen, citizens are recognized as adults and must don the spell-infused Masks—which denote both status and profession—whenever they are in public. To maintain the secure rule of the kingdom, the Masks are magically crafted to reveal any treasonous thoughts or actions. And once such betrayals are exposed, the Watchers are there to enforce the law.

Mara Holdfast, daughter of the Autarch’s Master Maskmaker, is fast approaching her fifteenth birthday and her all-important Masking ceremony. Her father himself has been working behind closed doors to create Mara’s Mask. Once the ceremony is done, she will take her place as an adult, and Gifted with the same magical abilities as her father, she will also claim her rightful place as his apprentice.

But on the day of her Masking something goes horribly wrong, and instead of celebrating, Mara is torn away from her parents, imprisoned, and consigned to a wagon bound for the mines. Is it because she didn’t turn the unMasked boy she discovered over to the Night Watchers? Or is it because she’s lied about her Gift, claiming she can only see one color of magic, when in truth she can see them all, just as she could when she was a young child?

Whatever the reason, her Mask has labeled her a traitor and now she has lost everything, doomed to slavery in the mines until she dies. And not even her Gift can show Mara the future that awaits her—a future that may see her freed to aid a rebel cause, forced to become a puppet of the Autarch, or transformed into a force as dangerous to her world as the legendary Lady of Pain and Fire.

Bastion by Mercedes Lackey

Bastion (The Collegium Chronicles #5) by Mercedes Lackey

Bastion was just released in the UK earlier this month (paperback, ebook, audiobook). It’s currently available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook in the US. An excerpt from Bastion can be read on the US publisher’s website.

The previous books in this series are as follows:

  1. Foundation
  2. Intrigues
  3. Changes
  4. Redoubt

Mags returns to the Collegium, but there are mixed feelings–his included–about him actually remaining there. No one doubts that he is and should be a Herald, but he is afraid that his mere presence is going to incite more danger right in the heart of Valdemar. The heads of the Collegia are afraid that coming back to his known haunt is going to give him less protection than if he went into hiding. Everyone decides that going elsewhere is the solution for now. So since he is going elsewhere–why not return to the place he was found in the first place and look for clues? And those who are closest to him, and might provide secondary targets, are going along. With Herald Jadrek, Herald Kylan (the Weaponsmaster’s chosen successor), and his friends Bear, Lena, and Amily, they head for the Bastion, the hidden spot in the hills that had once been the headquarters of a powerful band of raiders that had held him and his parents prisoner. But what they find is not what anyone expected.

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews Magic Strikes

After I reviewed Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews, I was asked if I wanted to participate in an interview discussing the Kate Daniels series at Fantasy Book Critic. Of course, I said yes since this series has become one of my favorites and is one I love to discuss!

The multi-blogger interview went up yesterday so you can now read it to see what Maja from The Nocturnal Library, Melissa from My World…in words and pages, Bastard from Bastard Books, and I had to say. We discuss our favorite books and characters, theories about Roland, and more! (Of course, there are some spoilers so I would suggest reading the books in the series instead of the interview if you haven’t read the Kate Daniels books yet!)

Today I have one ebook copy of Cobweb Empire by Vera Nazarian to give away! It’s the second book in the Cobweb Bride Trilogy, following Cobweb Bride. I haven’t read these yet, but they’re on my to-read list since I have read (and loved!) another one of Vera Nazarian’s books, Lords of Rainbow. Also, I have been hearing that these books are wonderful!

Cobweb Empire by Vera Nazarian

About Cobweb Empire:

In a world where no one can die, she alone can kill…

Cobweb Empire (Cobweb Bride Trilogy #2) is the second book of the intricate epic fantasy flavored by Renaissance history and the romantic myth of Persephone, about death’s ultimatum to the world.

Now that she’s Death’s Champion, what will Percy do?

In a world where all death and dying has ceased, and only one person can kill, everyone can only expect a miracle. But what if it’s just the tip of the iceberg?

Percy Ayren must make her way south, despite all odds, to the place where the death shadow of the Cobweb Bride calls her. With the help of her companions and the invincible black knight, Lord Beltain Chidair whose enigmatic presence disturbs her in a way she cannot explain, Percy must continue her quest, while the mortal world falls apart around them….

Meanwhile, the Marquis Vlau Fiomarre faces the truth of his impossible feelings for Claere Liguon, the Emperor’s daughter. He had cruelly taken her life, and now he must serve her until his last dying breath—it is no longer a matter of honor but secret passion.

And now, the world itself is changing…. A new dark witch rises, and she will make your heart freeze with her beauty and power….

Empires clash, kings and emperors and gods vie for supremacy, the living and the dead are at war, while love stories play out in amazing directions, and new mind-blowing mysteries are born.

Experience the stunning continuation of the epic story in Cobweb Empire.

Courtesy of the author, I have a copy of Cobweb Empire to give away! This giveaway is open to anyone, and the winner can choose to receive their ebook in one of the following formats: PDF, Mobi, or Epub.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email with your preferred ebook format to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Cobweb Giveaway.” One entry per person and one winner will be randomly selected. This giveaway is open worldwide. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Saturday, October 26.

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.)