Since the last couple of Patreon book selections were fairly recent, the August book poll theme was science fiction and fantasy from the ’70s and ’80s. The choices were as follows:

The August book is…

Forerunner by Andre Norton

Forerunner by Andre Norton

Andre Norton was one of the best known writers of science fiction in the genre’s history, and the subject of especially fervent loyalty and enthusiasm. One of her greatest triumphs is the Forerunner series, which has earned a place of legend among fans with such books as The Time Traders, The Galactic DerelictSargasso of Space, and many more. Forerunner is the definitive novel in that series. It also holds a special place in the history of Tor, as it is the first book Tor ever published.

“Kuxortal has always been,” Forerunner begins. This ancient port was established in the time of antiquity and has built and rebuilt itself on the ruins of former civilizations. Kuxortal is inhabited by a lowly race of Burrowers, who tunnel and excavate beneath the city’s towers and sometimes discover artifacts from the past. Simsa is a Burrower who has spent her entire life in the service of an older, crippled mentor, Ferwar, who had reputedly rescued Simsa from a trash heap when she was an infant. Simsa, with her blue-black skin and platinum hair, clearly comes from different stock than the other Burrowers, but Ferwar never revealed her origin.

When scavengers attempt to loot the treasures that Ferwar had left behind, it becomes clear that Simsa must flee. Especially when they discover that the scavengers consider Simsa one of the treasures that they have come to steal….

 

Book Description:

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

The Star-Touched Queen, a young adult fantasy with inspiration from the story of Persephone and Hades and Indian mythology, is Roshani Chokshi’s debut novel. A companion novel about the main character’s younger sister Guari, A Crown of Wishes, will be released in March (side note: it has a gorgeous cover!).

Both the mythological influences and the story sounded wonderful, and I’ve wanted to read The Star-Touched Queen ever since I first heard about it. Though I did enjoy the fantasy aspects, I thought the highlight of the novel was Maya’s personal journey. When she lived in the harem, she was despised and blamed for any ill luck due to her horoscope, and shortly after she learns of the special regard her father has for her intellect, he informs her that “even a favored daughter is still just a daughter” (pp. 28). He still sees her as a political pawn, easily sacrificed for his kingdom.

Then, just as it seems that her fate is sealed and she’s ready to accept that her horoscope is coming true in an unexpected way, she’s presented with a new possibility: escape, and a life with a new husband who wishes her to rule as his equal. She goes from having very little freedom and choices to having some power over the lives of others as the queen of a mysterious realm. Soon after she’s beginning to learn the extent of her abilities, she makes a huge (but understandable) error—and without hesitation does her best to rectify it.

That strong determination makes it easy to want to see Maya succeed, especially when coupled with the weight she felt when making decisions affecting the lives of others. It’s not a responsibility she takes lightly, and I thought her wish to know the names of those concerned spoke volumes about the type of person she was:

 

“Wouldn’t it be easier keep [sic] your victim faceless?”

I shuddered. “Not a victim.”

“What else do you call one hemmed in by fate?”

“Human,” I said, bitterness creeping into my voice.

“What about guilt, then? Why open yourself to pain?”

“Guilt is what makes you accountable.”
-pp. 108

I also enjoyed the thread of hope that ran through Maya’s story. She feels constrained by her fate, but she loves stories and finds an uplifting message even in the darkest of them because it shows that there can be other interpretations and ways of thinking about a problem that seems impossible to solve. When faced with a large obstacle, no matter how insurmountable it may seem, she perseveres.

The writing was often beautiful and evocative, but at times, I thought it was stylistically beautiful without conveying a full picture. Nevertheless, it was rarely a distraction and I found the first two thirds of the novel quite engaging even though I never quite loved it. However, the last third of the novel was a mixed bag for me, and I now must confess an unpopular opinion about why: Kamala.

I know. A flesh-eating demon horse sounds like an amazing addition to any novel, and I seem to be very much in the minority on this one, but I found her dull, overdone, and repetitive. She kept repeating similar sentiments, and I felt that her dialogue was trying much too hard to be humorous and failing to be amusing. Despite having some good moments toward the end, the novel started to lose me after Kamala became Maya’s companion.

The Star-Touched Queen tells a lovely, mythic tale about fate and a queen whose choices have great consequences, for better or worse. Although I found later parts of the book less compelling, I enjoyed the novel overall and look forward to Roshani Chokshi’s next book.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

Today I’m giving away one ebook copy of the first book in The Split Worlds series, Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman! It’s followed by Any Other Name, All Is Fair, and the newly released fourth book, A Little Knowledge. For some more information on the books, check out Emma Newman’s guest post from Women in SF&F Month earlier this year. Though it is largely about the obstacles women writing science fiction and fantasy face, she also touched on exploring feminism in the series.

This giveaway is open worldwide; more details are below.

Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman

ABOUT BETWEEN TWO THORNS:

Beautiful and nuanced as it is dangerous, the manners of Regency and Victorian England blend into a scintillating fusion of urban fantasy and court intrigue.

Between Mundanus, the world of humans, and Exilium, the world of the Fae, lies the Nether, a mirror-world where the social structure of 19th-century England is preserved by Fae-touched families who remain loyal to their ageless masters. Born into this world is Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver, who escapes it all to live a normal life in Mundanus, free from her parents and the strictures of Fae-touched society. But now she’s being dragged back to face an arranged marriage, along with all the high society trappings it entails.

Crossing paths with Cathy is Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds treaty with a dislocated soul who polices the boundaries between the worlds, keeping innocents safe from the Fae. After a spree of kidnappings and the murder of his fellow Arbiters, Max is forced to enlist Cathy’s help in unravelling a high-profile disappearance within the Nether. Getting involved in the machinations of the Fae, however, may prove fatal to all involved.

Courtesy of Diversion Books, I have one ebook copy of Between Two Thorns to give away! This giveaway is open worldwide.

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 “Thorns Giveaway.” One entry per household and one winner will be randomly selected. Those from anywhere in the world are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Monday, August 15. 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 giveaway has ended so 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 (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Last week was super busy, mainly due to looking for a new place to live for the third time in about two years, so I didn’t get to write everything I had hoped, but I did put up some thoughts on Dragon Bones by Patricia Briggs and Magic Stars by Ilona Andrews (one of the two books I read from start to finish in Dublin!).

A few books came in the mail last week, and I did kill some time at the bookstore in between looking at places, which of course led to a few purchases…

Lady of Magick by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Lady of Magick (Noctis Magicae #2) by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

The first Noctis Magicae novel, The Midnight Queen, was the Patreon book selection from the March poll of recent debuts. I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable story with likable main characters and fun family secrets so of course I picked up the next book when I found it in the bookstore!

The author and publisher’s websites have excerpts from both Noctis Magicae novels:

  1. The Midnight Queen
  2. Lady of Magick

The third book, A Season of Spells, is scheduled for release in December.

 

Sylvia Izzo Hunter brought “both rural Brittany and an alternative Regency England to vivid life”* in The Midnight Queen, her debut novel of history, magic, and myth. Now, in her new Noctis Magicae novel, Sophie and Gray Marshall are ensnared in an arcane plot that threatens to undo them both.

In her second year of studies at Merlin College, Oxford, Sophie Marshall is feeling alienated among fellow students who fail to welcome a woman to their ranks. So when her husband, Gray, is invited north as a visiting lecturer at the University in Din Edin, they leap at the chance. There, Sophie’s hunger for magical knowledge can finally be nourished. But soon, Sophie must put her newly learned skills to the test.

Sophie returns home one day to find a note from Gray—he’s been summoned urgently to London. But when he doesn’t return, and none of her spells can find a trace of him, she realizes something sinister has befallen him. With the help of her sister, Joanna, she delves into Gray’s disappearance, and soon finds herself in a web of magick and intrigue that threatens not just Gray, but the entire kingdom.

*National Bestselling Author Juliet Marillier

Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening written by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Sana Takeda

The first issue of Monstress is gorgeous and an intriguing beginning to Maika’s story so I’d been looking forward to this volume, which collects the first six issues. I’d been putting off getting it since I knew I’d probably be moving soon and didn’t want to add to the books to move, but I couldn’t resist when I actually had a copy in front of me in the bookstore…

I read it last night, and now I can’t wait for volume 2! It’s excellent.

 

Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steam punk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both and make them the target of both human and otherworldly powers.

A Darker Shade Of Magic by V. E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

I have been hearing that this and its sequel A Gathering of Shadows are fantastic, and Angie’s review of A Darker Shade of Magic convinced me I need this book in my life!

Tor.com has excerpts from both books:

  1. A Darker Shade of Magic
  2. A Gathering of Shadows

The third book, A Conjuring of Light, is scheduled for release in February 2017.

 

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London – but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman: Overture written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by J.H. Williams III and Dave Stewart

The Sandman graphic novel series is fantastic, and I haven’t read this origin story yet. Once again, it was impossible to resist picking it up when I came across the deluxe hardcover edition!

 

Twenty-five years since THE SANDMAN first changed the landscape of modern comics, Neil Gaiman’s legendary series is back in a deluxe edition!

THE SANDMAN: OVERTURE heralds New York Times best-selling writer Neil Gaiman’s return to the art form that made him famous, ably abetted by artistic luminary JH Williams III (BATWOMAN, PROMETHEA), whose lush, widescreen images provide an epic scope to The Sandman’s origin story. From the birth of a galaxy to the moment that Morpheus is captured, THE SANDMAN: OVERTURE will feature cameo appearances by fan-favorite characters such as The Corinthian, Merv Pumpkinhead and, of course, the Dream King’s siblings: Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, Destruction and Destiny.

Invasive by Chuck Wendig

Invasive by Chuck Wendig

This biopunk novel, set in the same world as Zer0es, will be released on August 16 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Tor.com has an excerpt from Invasive.

 

Michael Crichton meets Elon Musk in this gripping sci-fi tech thriller, set in the eye-opening, paranoid world of the electrifying Zeroes.

Hannah Stander is a consultant for the FBI—a futurist who helps the Agency with cases that feature demonstrations of bleeding-edge technology. It’s her job to help them identify unforeseen threats: hackers, AIs, genetic modification, anything that in the wrong hands could harm the homeland.

Hannah is in an airport, waiting to board a flight home to see her family, when she receives a call from Agent Hollis Copper. “I’ve got a cabin full of over a thousand dead bodies,” he tells her. Whether those bodies are all human, he doesn’t say.

What Hannah finds is a horrifying murder that points to the impossible—someone weaponizing the natural world in a most unnatural way. Discovering who—and why—will take her on a terrifying chase from the Arizona deserts to the secret island laboratory of a billionaire inventor/philanthropist. Hannah knows there are a million ways the world can end, but she just might be facing one she could never have predicted—a new threat both ancient and cutting-edge that could wipe humanity off the earth.

Additional Books:

Dragon Bones
by Patricia Briggs
304pp (Mass Market Paperback)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.99/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.03/5
 

Book Description:

A magical tale from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Iron Kissed.

Riding into a war that’s heating up on the border, Ward, the new lord of Hurog, is sure he’s on the fast track to glory. But soon his mission takes a deadly turn. For he has seen a pile of magical dragon bones hidden deep beneath Hurog Keep. The bones could prove to be dangerous in the wrong hands, and Ward is certain his enemies will stop at nothing to possess them.

Although I love Patricia Briggs’ renowned Mercy Thompson books, I hadn’t read any of her work unrelated to this series until Dragon Bones. It’s a fairly short, entertaining, somewhat traditional fantasy with warring kingdoms and magic, but the best part of all is the main character, Ward.

When the book begins, Ward has spent the last seven years playing a part. He pretends to miss the obvious and acts as though he doesn’t completely understand conversations, all because he’s terrified of his cruel father, the lord of Hurog. Ward’s father killed his own father in order to take his place as Hurogmeten, and after he beat Ward especially badly one day, he decided he had better not do anything to make his father believe he was a threat to his rule before he actually beat him to death. Soon after the book opens, Ward’s father dies and it may no longer be wise for him to hide his intelligence, although he’s not certain whom he can trust with the truth—and he has to prove himself capable of being lord of the place he knows he belongs.

I found Ward quite compelling, although he’s by far the most fleshed out character in the book. In general, he’s kind and sympathetic and seems to go out of his way to help those who need it, and he does his best to look out for both his sister and his brother. He also seems to have a sense of humor, and often finds little ways to give people their just desserts while seeming completely innocent and oblivious to the effects of his actions. Because of this, I didn’t find it quite believable that so many believed his act, although I do think it can be justified as plausible since some did suspect and Ward also was aware that many people would expect someone who looked like he did to behave the way he did. However, I did find it completely believable that after playing a role for so many years, Ward struggled with being himself.

The beginning and the ending fit together well (although predictably given the emphasis on the meaning of “hurog”) and Dragon Bones is an enjoyable novel. It’s a great introduction to Hurog despite occasional slow pacing, and I do now want to read the sequel, Dragon Blood.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

Book Description:

From award-winning author, Ilona Andrews, an original novella, set in the New York Times #1 bestselling Kate Daniels World and featuring fan-favorites, Derek, and Curran and Kate’s very independent ward, Julie.

Scarred, solitary Derek Gaunt has separated from his Pack, and is truly a lone wolf. With no family he answers to no one; but is fiercely loyal to a chosen few. So, when several of those close to him are murdered, he’ll stop at nothing to hunt their killer through the magic-drenched streets of Atlanta.

Never one to be left on the sidelines, equally determined—some might say stubborn—Julie Lennart-Olsen soon joins in his pursuit; and what began as revenge turns into a race to save the city. Their search pits them against powers they never imagined and magic so old, it predates history. It may cost Derek his life, but there are things for which even he would risk everything.

Magic Stars, a novella set in the world of Kate Daniels, focuses on Derek and Julie. If you’ve read Magic Shifts and were wondering what exactly Julie was not telling Kate, this is the book to read to find out!

Although I didn’t find the plot of chasing down a murderous villain all that compelling, I did think Derek and Julie worked well together and there were both fun and touching moments between them. In particular, I enjoyed reading about Julie. I’m not going to spoil anything, but it was quite interesting to learn what secrets she’s been keeping from Kate! It’s a pretty quick read with some entertaining Ilona Andrews-style banter, but I didn’t think it was nearly as good as the full length novels even if it did provide some insight into Julie (which is the only reason I’m glad I read it).

My Rating: 6/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

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

Before getting to the latest books, here’s last week’s post in case you missed it:

  • Review of the July Patreon book, The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason (it had a fun premise with tropes I love, but I thought the world, characters, and writing were all rather bland)

Now, for the books of the week!

Eterna and Omega by Leanna Renee Hieber

Eterna and Omega (Eterna Files #2) by Leanna Renee Hieber

This gaslamp fantasy by Prism Award-winning author Leanna Renee Hieber will be released on August 9 (hardcover, ebook). An excerpt from The Eterna Files, the first book in the series, can be read on Tor.com, as well as an excerpt from Eterna and Omega.

If you’re from the US or Canada, you can enter to win a copy of Eterna and Omega on Goodreads. The giveaway ends on August 8.

There are a couple of book events in West Chester, Ohio, and New York City in August:

 

Leanna Renee Hieber’s gaslamp fantasy series continues and the action ramps up in Eterna and Omega.

In New York City, fearing the dangers of the Eterna Compound–supposedly the key to immortality–Clara Templeton buries information vital to its creation. The ghost of her clandestine lover is desperate to tell her she is wrong, but though she is a clairvoyant, she cannot hear him.

In London, Harold Spire plans to send his team of assassins, magicians, mediums, and other rogue talents to New York City, in an attempt to obtain Eterna for Her Royal Majesty, Queen Victoria. He stays behind to help Scotland Yard track down a network of body snatchers and occultists, but he’ll miss his second-in-command, Rose Everhart, whose gentle exterior masks a steel spine.

Rose’s skepticism about the supernatural has been shattered since she joined Spire’s Omega Branch. Meeting Clara is like looking into a strange mirror: both women are orphans, each is concealing a paranormal ability, and each has a powerful and attractive guardian who has secrets of his own.

The hidden occult power that menaces both England and America continues to grow. Far from being dangerous, Eterna may hold the key to humanity’s salvation.

Additional Book(s):