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 I just got one book that I ordered shortly after finishing the previous book in the series.

The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima

The Crimson Crown (Seven Realms #4) by Cinda Williams Chima

This is the fourth and final book in the Seven Realms series (young adult fantasy). An excerpt from The Crimson Crown is available on the author’s website.

The first three books in the series are:

  1. The Demon King (My Review | Read Chapter One)
  2. The Exiled Queen (Read Chapter Two)
  3. The Gray Wolf Throne (Read Chapter One)

I just finished The Gray Wolf Throne and loved it, mainly because of the two main characters. I need to know what happens to Han and Raisa!

There are some spoilers for the previous three books in the description below.

 

A thousand years ago, two young lovers were betrayed–Alger Waterlow to his death, and Hanalea, Queen of the Fells, to a life without love.

Now, once again, the Queendom of the Fells seems likely to shatter apart. For young queen Raisa “ana’”Marianna, maintaining peace even within her own castle walls is nearly impossible; tension between wizards and Clan has reached a fevered pitch. With surrounding kingdoms seeking to prey on the Fells’ inner turmoil, Raisa’s best hope is to unite her people against a common enemy. But that enemy might be the person with whom she’s falling in love.

Through a complicated web of lies and unholy alliances, former streetlord Han Alister has become a member of the Wizard Council of the Fells. Navigating the cut-throat world of blue blood politics has never been more dangerous, and Han seems to inspire hostility among Clan and wizards alike. His only ally is the queen, and despite the perils involved, Han finds it impossible to ignore his feelings for Raisa. Before long, Han finds himself in possession of a secret believed to be lost to history, a discovery powerful enough to unite the people of the Fells. But will the secret die with him before he can use it?

A simple, devastating truth concealed by a thousand-year-old lie at last comes to light in this stunning conclusion to the Seven Realms series.

Have you read any of the books in this series? If so, what did you think?

Gunmetal Magic, written by the wife and husband team known as Ilona Andrews, is an urban fantasy novel set in the same world as the Kate Daniels series. It’s about Andrea Nash, Kate’s best friend, and a novella about Kate titled “Magic Gifts” is also included with the novel. “Magic Gifts” overlaps with the timeline in Gunmetal Magic, and there is a part in the novel that comes after Kate’s adventure and ties in with it. While it’s not necessary to read “Magic Gifts” first, it does provide more details on what happened to Kate, and I think it would be better to read it first.

Gunmetal Magic is enough of a stand alone story that it could be read without reading the five Kate Daniels books first, but I’d recommend readers new to this world begin with the Kate Daniels series. The first book, Magic Bites, is not quite as good as this one (or, for that matter, the rest of the series, especially books 3 and 4). However, Gunmetal Magic does reference events from the first five Kate Daniels books, and I think would be more fun to discover previous occurrences by actually reading about them as they happen in the books. For those new to the books, this review will not include spoilers for the previous books in the Kate Daniels series other than a little about what happened to Andrea recently.

Private Investigator Andrea Nash, formerly of the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, has had better days. First, she awakens from a nightmare about a dreadful event from her past to a neighbor frantically pounding on her door. Her blind husband is missing, and a former Knight of the Order seems like a prime candidate for finding missing persons. Andrea does rescue the man from terrible creatures and bring him home, but she can’t even finish cleaning the icky creature goo off herself without being called in to conduct another larger investigation. Four people from the Pack were murdered the night before, and Andrea is asked to learn what happened to them. She agrees to help, even after she finds out the business they were working for is owned by her ex-boyfriend Raphael and investigating this case will mean dealing with him—and his new drop-dead gorgeous, tall, blond fiancée—after a very bad breakup.

The deeper Andrea becomes involved in the case, the more apparent it is that Raphael is the least of her problems. Andrea has only begun to move forward with her life, but it may be over before she can pull the pieces together if she can’t prevent the killer from carrying out bigger plans.

The Kate Daniels series is one of my favorite, if not my very favorite, urban fantasy series. When I heard that 2012 would bring a book about Andrea instead of a continuation of Kate’s story, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed because one reason I love the series so much is Kate herself. Her sense of humor shines through her narrative voice, and she changes so much over the course of the series, only slowly opening up to both the reader and the other characters about her history. In particular, I find the story that ties in with Kate’s secret especially compelling, and given the note the last book ended on, I was eager to discover where it went next.

Because Kate is such a highlight of the books for me, I was torn about reading Gunmetal Magic, but in the end I decided there was no way to pass up a related story—and I’m glad I did. It may not have been focused on Kate, but it had the other things I enjoy about Ilona Andrews’ books—the sense of humor, the vibrant three dimensional characters, the interweaving of myth, and action-packed scenes. Gunmetal Magic is a tale of one woman’s journey toward self-acceptance, a love story, and a fun mythical mystery adventure based on Egyptian lore.

As can be expected from a book by Ilona Andrews, Gunmetal Magic is highly entertaining, and the highlight of the book for me was the characters. I love how most of them have a sense of humor and don’t follow common archetypes. Even the secondary characters stand out as individuals, and one of my particular favorites is Roman, a volhv of Chernobog (otherwise known as the god of “Everything Bad and Evil” if you ask Kate). Being a servant to the dark god is sort of the family business, and Roman’s father is the Black Volhv himself. Roman has to maintain a certain appearance (he looks menacing, according to Andrea) and has some scary powers. Yet he is a rather jocular, personable fellow capable of having fun (and not in a darkly humorous my-idea-of-fun-is-destroying-the-world sort of way). Andrea observes that he seems to think of being the servant of darkness as a 9 to 5 job and that he seems to be trying to make the most out of life when he doesn’t have to be in that role. While I love my darker characters, I also like to see characters who aren’t easily summed up by a single aspect of their personality, and I think this combination of a dark side with a lighthearted side makes Roman very intriguing and unusual.

On the subject of characterization, I also appreciated that Andrea and Kate were very different characters despite some similarities. Both of them have the tough, badass attitude so common in urban fantasy, but they also manage not to seem like yet more kickass women just like every other one out there because they have different aspects to their personalities. They’re both good with weapons; Kate with her sword and Andrea with a gun. They have differences on the surface, like Kate’s upbringing that means she’s a treasure trove of mythical information and Andrea’s love of romance novels, but their differences go deeper than that. Each of them has had tragedies in their pasts, but they seem to deal with them very differently. Andrea gave me the impression of being much more open than Kate since the very opening scene shows her waking up from a nightmare, hiding in her closet clutching a butcher knife. Kate, on the other hand, took three whole books to open up to the reader enough to even share the full story of her past (which is very much in keeping with her upbringing and how it’s influenced her character). Andrea’s perspective seems a bit more introspective than Kate’s, and she seems more prone to showing how wounded she actually is. That’s not to say she mopes and dwells on her misfortunes without taking any action in this book. She does quite the opposite since she does take control of her life. She just seems to feel her inner turmoil more keenly than Kate does, and I appreciate the differences in these two characters who may seem similar on the outside.

In general, Ilona Andrews does a wonderful job of keeping their books interesting by combining action and character development/interaction and spreading them out so they are well-balanced. This particular book seemed uneven to me for awhile, but I really can’t say it started slowly since there was plenty of action as early as the very first chapter. I’ve come to the conclusion that there was too much setup that wasn’t advancing the plot. Andrea’s rescue in the first chapter seemed more of an excuse to show her in action and share her past as part of the Order than integral to the storyline, and some of the fast-paced action of the early investigation seemed ultimately pointless other than to show the dangers of magic. There were quite a few infodumps in the beginning as well so I do think part of my trouble with staying engaged with the story early on was that I already knew a lot of what was being told already. Once the investigation began to go somewhere and more of the other characters were involved, I had a lot of fun with it.

While I didn’t enjoy it as much as most of the Kate Daniels books, I really enjoyed Gunmetal Magic for all the same reasons I read the series—the combination of purely entertaining storytelling, humor, drama, three-dimensional characters, the right amount of romance, snappy dialogue, and mythology. It’s also very satisfying to see Andrea’s evolution as a character as she comes into her own and learns to accept herself, and the novella “Magic Gifts” covering the story of Kate and the Vikings is a great additional bonus.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

Read Chapter One from Gunmetal Magic

Other Reviews of Gunmetal Magic:

Today I have one copy of Myth-Quoted by Jody Lynn Nye, the latest book in the Myth series begun many years ago by Robert Asprin and handed off to Nye several books ago, to give away (and an interview with Jody Lynn Nye is forthcoming). I haven’t read the Myth series yet, but this humorous fantasy series is among my husband’s favorites. He’s read all the books except this one, several of them often enough that he’s had to buy multiple copies.

Giveaway: Myth-Quoted by Jody Lynn Nye

About Myth-Quoted:

 

A CAMPAIGN OF MYTH-INFORMATION

Since it was founded, M.Y.T.H. Inc. has dealt with all manner of vile and evil creatures. But not even a magician of Skeeve’s caliber is prepared to face the most duplicitous monsters of all: politicians. Emo Weavil and his cousin Wilmer Weavil-Scuttil have been running for governor of the island of Bokromi—for five years. Their magickal mudslinging (literal and otherwise) strategies continue to postpone the election leaving the realm in a state of leaderless chaos.

Hired to moderate a fair and balanced race between the candidates, Skeeve and Bunny attempt to clean up the dirty politics, only to become targets of the tabloids and paparazzi, who are more interested in innuendo than the facts…

To learn more about Jody Lynn Nye, visit her website. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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 “Myth-Quoted.” One entry per person and a 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, January 19. 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: The contact form has been removed now that the giveaway is over.

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 I just got one book, a late Christmas present from my husband. Yes, it’s another signed book by Patricia McKillip, and that makes me very happy!

Cygnet by Patricia A. McKillip

Cygnet (Cygnet #1-2) by Patricia A. McKillip

Even better than one book by Patricia McKillip is an omnibus containing two books by her. Cygnet includes both books in the Cygnet Duology, The Sorceress and the Cygnet and The Cygnet and the Firebird. These two books were originally published in the early 1990s.

From what I’ve heard, these books aren’t the easiest to read but are really good. After Christmas, I seem to have a pretty good start to the McKillip book collection so I can continue my recently begun quest to read all her books! (Not that I will read them all immediately since there are a lot of them, but that’s okay since all the unread McKillip books give me something to look forward to.)

In the realm of fantasy, one name stands out from the crowd. For many years, Patricia A. McKillip has charmed readers with her “unique brand of prose magic” (Locus). Now, for the first time in one volume, she offers two of her classic tales-The Sorceress and the Cygnet and The Cygnet and the Firebird-which delve into the fate of the Ro family and an otherworld rich in myth and mayhem, magic and adventure

Have you read Cygnet or the first book in the duology? If so, what did you think?

Now that the year is over and I’ve read everything I’m going to read in 2012, it’s time for some favorites of 2012!

I actually didn’t manage to read quite as many books this year as a typical year, partially due to the time involved with organizing and running the Women in SF&F event in April, which took up most of my time not at my full time job for several weeks. (Not that I am complaining about the time involved! It was a highlight of the year for me to have so many amazing guests here, and I am thinking about doing a similar event in April 2013 to highlight women who write and blog about science fiction and fantasy books.)

Despite the number of books read being lower than normal and not having read many books I loved during the first half of the year, it ended up being a quality year overall. Of course, I read books I didn’t like and even didn’t finish two books (not finishing is rare for me), but there were a lot of books read that I did enjoy.

Many books in this post were already mentioned in my Smugglivus post, but this post does include more books and is split up by books published in 2012, 2012 debuts, and books published before 2012. The order may also be different than in my guest post at The Book Smugglers since I hadn’t quite figured out the order yet other than my top 3 and just picked a few of the 5 that came after them to write about.

Favorite Books Released in 2012

Nearly 3/4 of the books I read this year were released this year, which is more than normal for me. Here are the ones I loved the most.

The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin

1. The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin
My Review

N. K. Jemisin’s debut, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, made me an instant fan of her work, and The Killing Moon is her best book I’ve read so far. This is one of those books that excels at everything (writing, storytelling, world-building, and characterization are all fantastic). The opening chapter detailing a night in the life of a ninja priest completely hooked me, and it only got better from there. There’s a lot of depth to the main characters, and I appreciate that each seemed shaped by their life events. I could understand the different perspectives of each, even when they differed from each other. The setting based on Egypt was well-developed, and I just loved everything about this book. It’s a definite keeper.

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

2. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
My Review

I love Elizabeth Bear’s books, and this is my favorite by her I’ve read yet. It’s another book that does everything well from storytelling to writing to characterization to world-building. Range of Ghosts, set in a fantasy world based on Central Asia, starts with a power struggle. Temur’s uncle killed his family, and now he’d like to remove Temur, who comes before him in the line of succession for the title of Khagan. It’s mainly the story of Temur and the once-princess Samarkar, who bravely undergoes the sacrifice required to become a wizard. I loved how it defies some common tropes (I’m thinking of a particular scene but don’t want to spoil it for anyone!), and the magic with its basis in real-world knowledge was amazing. It’s one of those books that’s wondrous yet real, and it has a vivid world because of how it treads that line between wonder and reality.

The Tainted City by Courtney Schafer

3. The Tainted City by Courtney Schafer
My Review

The first book in this trilogy, The Whitefire Crossing, was enjoyable, but The Tainted City was spectacular! My top 3 books were easy this year since they’re all very different books but share a similar excellence when it comes to world-building, characters, and storytelling. Out of the three, this was the one with the most memorable characters, and I really appreciated that I understood the motivations for each character. I like to see villains who aren’t stereotypical people whose only thought is on being EVIL, and I loved the portrayal of one of the villainous characters in this book because he wasn’t that. He was ruthless and despicable, but he was also able to care about the well-being of those he considered his family. There was so much tension that kept me turning the pages in this book, and the contrast between the two main places it was set in were interesting (a desert in which mages were given freedom and another country where magic was highly restricted). This is a superb novel, and it’s only the second book by Courtney Schafer. She’s now joined the list of authors I will read anything by!

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

4. Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor
My Review

Speaking of authors I will read anything by… Laini Taylor has been one of them for awhile. Her writing is poignant and beautiful, and the second book in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy is alive with vivid imagination. This book is a dark examination of war between the seraphim and the chimaera showing the lives of some individuals on both sides of the conflict. The characters and the situations that drive them are complex, and each side in the war contains some people capable of goodness and some who are very evil indeed.

Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip

5. Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip
My Review

I usually struggle with short stories and lose interest in reading them after reading 2 or 3 so I never would have expected a short story collection to be on my list of favorite books during any year. That one is on my list is a testament to the beauty of Patricia A. McKillip’s writing! Wonders of the Invisible World has a wide range of stories from fantasy to science fiction and even contemporary, some more serious and some more light-hearted and even a bit humorous. She writes spare but beautiful prose, and her stories are thoughtful and reflective. This book made me want to read more of her huge backlist, and I’m hoping to made some progress with that in 2013!

House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier

6. House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier
My Review

Rachel Neumeier is another author whose work I’d never read before this year whose backlist I’d now like to read—and that’s all because of this book! House of Shadows is an enchanting, character-driven story with intriguing magic, secrets, and a bit of romance (but it has other types of relationships, like that between the sisters Karah and Nemienne). The writing is lovely, and two of the characters really shone. I loved Nemienne for her vast inner strength, courage, and sharp mind. She was the one of her sisters who seemed to have no talent in the world, but she finally found one when she set out to help save the family. Taudde, the bard with a secretive past, was a multifaceted character put to the test who ended up being the character I liked best of all.

The Siren Depths by Martha Wells

7. The Siren Depths by Martha Wells
My Review

Last year I discovered Martha Wells with the first book in this series, The Cloud Roads. This third installment in the Books of the Raksura is my favorite of the series since it answers some of the questions in the first book in a very satisfying way. The shapeshifting Raksura and their customs and roles are fascinating, and this is one of those series where the characters just become more endearing with each installment.

Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire

8. Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire
My Review

The October Daye series just keeps getting better and better, and this installment was so satisfying. It keeps up both pacing and character development, and it is humorous, emotional, and exciting. I was on the edge of my seat nearly the entire time I was reading it!

Banner of the Damned by Sherwood Smith

9. Banner of the Damned by Sherwood Smith
My Review

Sherwood Smith is the third new-to-me author I read this year that I now want to read much more by. This is a maturely written fantasy novel with richly detailed world-building. There’s a focus on the everyday lives of the characters, and there are a lot of quiet moments, but there are also some pretty intense scenes, especially toward the end. It had a wonderful narrative style that drew me in, and I also really enjoyed how it depicted the kingdom and other countries it had dealings with.

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress

10. After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress
My Review

I was really impressed by how much was packed into this short book. It’s simply written, but it manages to create tension from the opening scene that doesn’t let up until the end. As the name implies, it’s the story of what happens before, during, and after an apocalypse, and there’s a lot of suspense about what exactly happened.

Favorite Debuts of 2012

I read 7 debuts published this year, and the one at the top of the list is the only one I loved. It was one I was considering for either the ninth or tenth spot on my favorites list, but I ended up deciding the other books were more memorable to me. There were 3 debuts from 2012 I read that were interesting enough that I’m curious about what the authors will write next, and I’m including those 3 here.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

1. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

I just finished this one within the last week and haven’t had a chance to review it yet, but I now understand why so many people have been talking about Seraphina. It’s a wonderful story about a heroine who carries a dangerous secret. It’s well-written, and it’s set in an interesting world where humans and shape-shifting dragons are technically at peace but still harbor animosity toward each other. Seraphina is easily my favorite debut of 2012.

The City's Son by Tom Pollock

2. The City’s Son by Tom Pollock
My Review

This is an incredibly creative, unique urban fantasy featuring the son of the Goddess of the Streets of London and two amazing young women, Beth and her best friend Pen. It’s dark and it got my attention because of its inventiveness and surprising ending. I think the author really took some risks with this one, and I also think they paid off and the book is memorable for that reason. Since I was bored at times for the middle part of the book, I didn’t LOVE this one, but I did find it well worth reading for its creativity and themes.

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

3. Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

This is another book that’s in my “to-review” pile, and another one that’s really unique. It’s an interesting world containing necromancers and gods, and I really appreciated the intelligent characters (who were actually intelligent, not just characters we were told were intelligent). This was another one with an unexpected, great ending that delighted me. Like The City’s Son, I didn’t love this one because it was a bit boring to me at times. BUT there’s a lot to appreciate about this book’s writing, characters, and world, and it’s just plain different so I think it’s another very good debut worth mentioning (and I would like to read Max Gladstone’s next book because it has so many strengths and stands apart from so many other books because of them).

Favorite Books Released Before 2012

There weren’t that many older books that I read that really stood out to me this year, but here are three that did (two of which really are older and one that’s not that old).

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

1. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

This is the last book I read in 2012 so it’s still languishing in to the “to-review” pile. It is one of my very favorites this year along with the first three on my 2012 list. Like the short stories I read by Patricia McKillip, this is a book of beautiful prose that is thoughtfully written and full of meaning. It’s not at all surprising to me that The Forgotten Beasts of Eld won the World Fantasy Award.

Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara

2. Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara
My Review

Translated from Japanese by Cathy Hirano, Dragon Sword and Wind Child is based on a Japanese myth from the Kojiki. It’s a simply told, somewhat quiet story, but I loved the mythical foundation of the book with the long war between Light and Dark. The main character Saya’s bravery and occasional lack of propriety also made her endearing, even if she isn’t one of the deeper characters I’ve read about.

River Marked by Patricia Briggs

3. River Marked by Patricia Briggs
My Review

I’m almost glad I had a cold earlier this year because my search for a comfort read prompted me to finally pick up the sixth Mercy Thompson book. This was a bit quieter than other installments since it’s so focused on Mercy’s character, but I think that’s why I loved this one so much. It delves more into her roots and her shapeshifting ability, and I enjoyed learning more about these.

What were your favorite books you read this year? Do you have any reading goals for 2013? I gave up on reading goals for the most part because they’re too restrictive, but I am hoping to read more older books next year by authors I can’t believe I haven’t read yet (like Andre Norton), read more by some authors I keep meaning to read more by (like Patricia McKillip and Tananarive Due), and get caught up on some books I’ve missed by some favorite authors (like Carol Berg’s most recent trilogy). And I’m hoping to read more books this year than last!

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.

Hope everyone who celebrates had a wonderful holiday! I did, except my vacation has gone by much too quickly!

This week’s edition is books from my wishlist that I received as Christmas gifts with one publisher-sent copy. One is from Angie’s list of books from Women in SF&F Month. Some of these books are ones mentioned by Courtney Schafer in her interview and a few are also from Rachel Neumeier’s list of essential fantasy authors. Others are just books by authors who have written other books I’ve liked, and some came from recommendations for more Patricia McKillip books I’ve gotten from a lot of people since discovering her writing recently. (I already read one of these and it was WONDERFUL!)

Since a lot of these are older books (and because this is a long post and I still need to make my world famous chocolate cheesecake for New Years’ Eve), I’m not going to look for excerpts this time. Many older books don’t have them available online, although they can often be found for many of these books by browsing inside the book at Amazon and other online booksellers.

The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia A. McKillip

The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia A. McKillip

This is one of those books by Patricia McKillip that I’ve been recommended a lot. Angie’s Retro Friday review of it also piqued my interest.

Twenty years ago, the powerful mage Atrix Wolfe unleashed an uncontrollable force that killed his beloved king. Now, the Queen of the Wood has offered him one last chance for redemption. She asks him to find her daughter, who vanished into the human world during the massacre he caused. No one has seen the princess-but deep in the kitchens of the Castle of Pelucir, there is a scullery maid who appeared out of nowhere one night long ago. She cannot speak and her eyes are full of sadness. But there are those who call her beautiful.

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

Another Angie recommendation! This is one of those books I’ve heard very little about, but what little I’ve heard is that it’s wonderful.

In the class of the high school English teacher she has been haunting, Helen feels them: for the first time in 130 years, human eyes are looking at her. They belong to a boy, a boy who has not seemed remarkable until now. And Helen–terrified, but intrigued–is drawn to him. The fact that he is in a body and she is not presents this unlikely couple with their first challenge. But as the lovers struggle to find a way to be together, they begin to discover the secrets of their former lives and of the young people they come to possess.

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

I’d never even HEARD of this author or book before seeing it on Rachel Neumeier’s list, which seems like a shame. Margaret Mahy is well-known and respected author of children’s books in New Zealand. She has written over 120 books and won the Carnegie Medal and the Hans Christian Andersen Award.

When her little brother seems to become possessed by an evil spirit, fourteen-year-old Laura seeks the help of the strangely compelling older boy at school who she is convinced has supernatural powers.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Not science fiction or fantasy but a book I’ve wanted to read for awhile! I actually bought a copy years ago and started to read it before realizing it was the abridged version. Once I realized it was abridged, I stopped reading it since I wanted to read the full version.

A popular bestseller since its publication in 1844, The Count of Monte Christo is one of the great page-turning thrillers of all time. Set against the tumultuous years of the post-Napoleonic era, Dumas’s grand historical romance recounts the swashbuckling adventures of Edmond Dantes, a dashing young sailor falsely accused of treason. The story of his long imprisonment, dramatic escape, and carefully wrought revenge offers up a vision of France that has become immortal. As Robert Louis Stevenson declared, “I do not believe there is another volume extant where you can breathe the same unmingled atmosphere of romance.”

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

Crown Duel (Crown Duel/Court Duel) by Sherwood Smith

After reading Banner of the Damned earlier this year, I have decided I must read more books written by Sherwood Smith! This one is recommended a lot and sounds like something I would like. It is an omnibus containing Crown Duel and Court Duel, plus the short story “Vidanric’s Birthday Surprise.”

Young Countess Meliara swears to her dying father that she and her brother will defend their people from the growing greed of the king. That promise leads them into a war for which they are ill-prepared, which threatens the very people they are trying to protect. But war is simple compared to what follows, in peacetime. Meliara is summoned to live at the royal palace, where friends and enemies look alike, and intrigue fills the dance halls and the drawing rooms. If she is to survive, Meliara must learn a whole new way of fighting-with wits and words and secret alliances.

In war, at least, she knew in whom she could trust. Now she can trust no one.

The Firebird edition of Crown Duel combines the hardcover editions of Crown Duel and Court Duel-and features a never-before-published story by Sherwood Smith!

Devices and Desires by K. J. Parker

Devices and Desires (Engineer #1) by K. J. Parker

Ever since reading The Folding Knife, K. J. Parker has been an author I’ve wanted to read more by and I’ve heard really good things about this trilogy. The books in the Engineer trilogy are as follows:

  1. Devices and Desires
  2. Evil for Evil
  3. The Escapement

When an engineer is sentenced to death for a petty transgression of guild law, he flees the city, leaving behind his wife and daughter. Forced into exile, he seeks a terrible vengeance — one that will leave a trail of death and destruction in its wake. But he will not be able to achieve this by himself. He must draw up his plans using the blood of others…

In a compelling tale of intrigue and injustice, K. J. Parker’s embittered hero takes up arms against his enemies, using the only weapons he has left to him: his ingenuity and his passion — his devices and desires.

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

I already read this one, and it’s definitely one of my favorites I’ve read this year. It’s beautifully written and full of layers and meaning.

Sixteen when a baby is brought to her to raise, Sybel has grown up on Eld Mountain. Her only playmates are the creatures of a fantastic menagerie called there by wizardry. Sybel has cared nothing for humans, until the baby awakens emotions previously unknown to her. And when Coren–the man who brought this child–returns, Sybel’s world is again turned upside down.

Fortress in the Eye of Time by C. J. Cherryh

Fortress in the Eye of Time by C. J. Cherryh

A fantasy book by Hugo Award winning author C. J. Cherryh, probably better known for her science fiction books. She’s one of those authors I haven’t read yet, and I need to fix that at some point!

My husband got me a hardcover signed copy, which is pretty nice.

From the three-time Hugo Award-winner comes this “high fantasy” of the wizard Mauryl, kingmaker for a thousand years, and his shaping of a young man who would be king–if only the fates and wizard wars would let him.

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

The Game of Kings (The Lymond Chronicles #1) by Dorothy Dunnett

I’ve heard this series is challenging but rewarding. It’s been on my wish list for awhile, but seeing what Courtney Schafer said about it in her interview renewed my curiosity about it!

The books in the Lymond Chronicles are as follows:

  1. The Game of Kings
  2. Queens’ Play
  3. The Disorderly Knights
  4. Pawn in Frankincense
  5. The Ringed Castle
  6. Checkmate

For the first time Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles are available in the United States in quality paperback editions.

The first book in the legendary Lymond Chronicles, Game of Kings takes place in 1547. Scotland has been humiliated by an English invasion and is threatened by machinations elsewhere beyond its borders, but it is still free. Paradoxically, her freedom may depend on a man who stands accused of treason: Francis Crawford of Lymond.

Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillip

Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillip

It’s very rare that I have a short story collection on my wishlist, but since I loved many of the stories in Patricia McKillip’s Wonders of the Invisible World, I’m pretty excited about this one!

A fantasist without equal, Patricia A. McKillip has created worlds of intricate beauty and unforgettably nuanced characters. For 25 years, she’s drawn readers into her spell, spinning modern-day fables with a grace rarely seen. Now she presents a book of previously uncollected short stories, full of beautiful dragons, rueful princesses, and handsome bards, and written in the gorgeous – and often surprisingly funny – prose she’s known for. This is her world, wrapped up in the finery of fairy tales.

Inversions by Iain M. Banks

Inversions (A Culture Novel) by Iain M. Banks

Another Culture book! Reading The Hydrogen Sonata reminded me that I need to read more of these books, and this one sounded really interesting to me after reading about it online.

Iain M. Banks, the international bestselling author of The Player of Games and Consider Phlebas, is a true original, a literary visionary whose brilliant speculative fiction has transported us into worlds of unbounded imagination. Now, in his acclaimed new novel, Banks presents an engrossing portrait of an alien world, and of two very different people bound by a startling and mysterious secret. On a backward world with six moons, an alert spy reports on the doings of one Dr. Vosill, who has mysteriously become the personal physician to the king despite being a foreigner and, even more unthinkably, a woman. Vosill has more enemies than she first realizes. But then she also has more remedies in hand than those who wish her ill can ever guess.

Elsewhere, in another palace across the mountains, a man named DeWar serves as chief bodyguard to the Protector General of Tassasen, a profession he describes as the business of “assassinating assassins.” DeWar, too, has his enemies, but his foes strike more swiftly, and his means of combating them are more direct.

No one trusts the doctor, and the bodyguard trusts no one, but is there a hidden commonality linking their disparate histories? Spiraling around a central core of mystery, deceit, love, and betrayal. Inversions is a dazzling work of science fiction from a versatile and imaginative author writing at the height of his remarkable powers.

New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear

New Amsterdam (New Amsterdam #1) by Elizabeth Bear

I want to read everything Elizabeth Bear has written (which may be difficult since she’s rather prolific but maybe someday). This is one of those books I didn’t know much about other than that she wrote it, but it seems like each of these books is a collection of stories about PI Abigail Irene Garrett. There are 5 books altogether, and the recent one is the last planned.

I’m not sure if it’s necessary to read these books in order (and it sounds as though they aren’t published in chronological order from Goodreads reviews), but here is the publication order:

  1. New Amsterdam
  2. Seven for a Secret
  3. The White City
  4. Ad Eternum
  5. Garrett Investigates

Abigail Irene Garrett drinks too much. She makes scandalous liaisons with inappropriate men, and if in her youth she was a famous beauty, now she is both formidable and notorious! She is a forensic sorceress, and a dedicated officer of a Crown that does not deserve her loyalty. Sebastien de Ulloa is the oldest creature she has ever known. He has forgotten his birth-name, his birth-place, and even the year in which he was born, if he ever knew it. But he still remembers the woman who made him immortal. In a world where the sun never sets on the British Empire, where Holland finally ceded New Amsterdam to the English only during the Napoleonic wars, and where the expansion of the American colonies was halted by the war magic of the Iroquois, they are exiles in the new world – and its only hope for justice!

The Safekeeper's Secret by Sharon Shinn

The Safe-Keeper’s Secret by Sharon Shinn

I’ve only read one book by Sharon Shinn and enjoyed it very much so I need to read more! This is one of her young adult books, and there are some other books in the same setting (The Truth-Teller’s Tale and The Dream-Maker’s Magic).

Damiana is Safe-Keeper in the small village of Tambleham. Neighbors and strangers alike come one by one, in secret, to tell her things they dare not share with anyone else, knowing that Damiana will keep silent. One late night, a mysterious visitor from the city arrives with an unusual secret for the Safe-Keeper–a newborn baby. Damiana, who is expecting her own child, names the foundling Reed and raises him side by side with her daughter, Fiona. As the years pass and the two children grow into teenagers and come of age, they must come to terms with who they are–and who they may be. Sharon Shinn’s many fantasy novels have won her a loyal following. This book, firmly in the tradition of Robin McKinley’s bestselling Spindle’s End and Shinn’s own Summers at Castle Auburn (an ALA Best Book for Young Adults), is thoughtful, warmhearted, and a sheer delight to read.

Song for the Basilisk by Patricia A. McKillip

Song for the Basilisk by Patricia A. McKillip

Another recommended McKillip book and another signed copy given to me by my husband.

During the wedding festivities of his king, Cyan Dag, a knight of Gloinmere, is sought out by a mysterious bard and told a terrifying tale: that the king has married a false queen — a lie cloaked in ancient and powerful sorcery. Spurred on by his steadfast honor and loyalty, Cyan departs on a dangerous quest to rescue the real queen from her tower prison, to prevent war, and to awaken magic in a land that has lost its way.

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

This is another book I was intrigued by after seeing it mentioned in Courtney Schafer’s interview.

New York City is subsumed in arctic winds, dark nights, and white lights, its life unfolds, for it is an extraordinary hive of the imagination, the greatest house ever built, and nothing exists that can check its vitality. One night in winter, Peter Lake, orphan and master-mechanic, attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side.

Though he thinks the house is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the love between Peter Lake, a middle-aged Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young girl, who is dying.

Peter Lake, a simple, uneducated man, because of a love that, at first he does not fully understand, is driven to stop time and bring back the dead. His great struggle, in a city ever alight with its own energy and beseiged by unprecedented winters, is one of the most beautiful and extraordinary stories of American literature.

Ice Forged by Gail Z. Martin

Ice Forged (Ascendant Kingdoms #1) by Gail Z. Martin

This first book in a new series will be released in trade paperback and ebook on January 8.

Condemned as a murderer for killing the man who dishonored his sister, Blaine “Mick” McFadden has spent the last six years in Velant, a penal colony in the frigid northern wastelands of Edgeland. Harsh military discipline and the oppressive magic of the governor’s mages keep a fragile peace as colonists struggle against a hostile environment. But the supply ships from Dondareth have stopped coming, boding ill for the kingdom that banished the colonists.

Now, McFadden and the people of Velant decide their fate. They can remain in their icy prison, removed from the devastation of the outside world, but facing a subsistence-level existence, or they can return to the ruins of the kingdom that they once called home. Either way, destruction lies ahead…