Red Rising, a debut novel by Pierce Brown, is a dystopia set on Mars and the first book in a trilogy. I’ve seen it being referenced as a young adult book a few times, but as far as I can tell, it is not being sold as a young adult novel. The publisher’s website does not list it as such so if you are looking for it in a bookstore, I don’t think it will be found in the young adult section.


I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war. [pp. 1]

As a Red, Darrow spends his life underneath the surface of Mars, mining for helium-3. The Earth is dying, and as humankind is finding new homes on other planets, the Red miners are performing a vital role by providing the element necessary for terraforming Mars. The Golds, the highest group in their society, tell them that their sacrifice will allow other humans to someday join them, and they will be able to live on the surface of the planet where the Reds will be revered for the toil and suffering that made this new home possible.

Darrow works hard and takes risks in order to win the Laurel, a prize given to the team that mines the most helium-3 in a quarter. Another team always wins it, gaining prestige, food, and extra luxuries for their families. Darrow manages to give his team the lead during a quarter, but his dreams of glory and tasty treats are dashed when the award is still given to the same group as always. At first Darrow is upset by this injustice, but he soon decides it doesn’t matter. After all, he has his wife and his family, he’s not on the doomed Earth, and he’s content to pave the way for future generations to live on the planet. However, Darrow’s wife Eo is not content with their situation, claiming they live as slaves and urging Darrow to act toward freeing them. Darrow disagrees with her assessment and doesn’t see why he should do any such thing; his own father was hanged for rebellion, and it didn’t change anything other than leaving him fatherless.

After a great tragedy, Darrow is recruited by the Sons of Ares, a rebel group that shows him how deeply the Reds have been misled by taking him to the surface of Mars and showing him that it is already populated. The Sons have a plan for Darrow and he agrees to be forged into a Gold—and if he is one of the few who survives the process, they hope that he will be accepted to the Institute and succeed, eventually rising to a position that will allow him to serve Ares from within.

Red Rising is an absorbing novel from start to finish. It begins with a brief glimpse of Darrow’s infiltration of the Institute before telling his story linearly beginning with his time as a Red, and it keeps getting better and better until it reaches its conclusion. While I thought it could have been better in some areas—namely characterization, especially of secondary characters, and world-building—I very much enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the next book.

I thought one of the things that made Red Rising so compelling is that life isn’t great for anyone, even those close to the top of its hierarchical structure. The Reds risk their lives mining helium-3 and are forbidden from certain activities, everything from visiting certain places to singing a specific song to burying those hanged for such actions. However, as Darrow discovers, Golds inhabit a brutal world, particularly those trying to achieve any sort of status. Many of the young people at the Institute belong to important families, but that doesn’t always protect them. There is a literal culling at the Institute, in which some students are killed by others since they’re told a limited number of spots are available in class. After this, the students are divided by their Houses and must win by conquering the others. Although killing is discouraged at this point, it’s also expected that there will be some casualties—as long as they don’t exceed a set number of deaths, no one will get too upset over this.

There is a large Roman influence in their society, and I would have loved to have learned more of the details of the shift that lead to this. While I was glad there wasn’t a lot of awkward infodumping, I also would have liked to have seen this developed further and I’m hoping the remaining books delve more into the history of the worlds. As it was, it seemed more like Roman influence was added because it was familiar rather than because it was an integral part of the society.

Darrow’s situation is quite unbelievable, and he seemed too perfect. I found it quite implausible that someone who spent his entire life of 16 years isolated from those on the surface of the planet could not only adapt so quickly but do exceptionally well on the test for their prestigious Institute. It is clear that the test is focused more on solving problems involving innate intelligence rather than facts, and it is also mentioned that Darrow took some sort of potion that allowed him to “wake knowing three thousand years of literature and legal code and history” (pp. 92). Even with the ability to technomagically gain knowledge, I find it hard to believe that one could just integrate into an unfamiliar society, fit in, and excel no matter how intelligent they were. He’d barely even socialized with Golds, and the biggest point that kept coming up as a difference between the Reds and Golds was that Darrow had to keep remembering to say “gorydamn” instead of “bloodydamn,” which seemed like it should be one of the smaller differences he’d have to deal with to me.

While the quickness and convenience of Darrow’s entry into Red society had me rolling my eyes, Darrow didn’t end up being quite as flawless as I’d initially feared after reading about how amazing he did on the test since he did make mistakes—and he learned from them as he went, and part of the reason he got by was a bit of luck and other people. This made the book more exciting and Darrow more compelling than I expected since I was anticipating he was going to be one of those characters who outsmarted everyone else with ease. I still had issues with too much perfection and the willingness of others to follow him, but it at least kept him from being overwhelmingly better than everyone.

There were not a lot of standout characters and most of the secondary characters did sound somewhat alike instead of having distinctive personalities and voices. Eo with her determination and ideals was one of the more memorable characters, and she wasn’t even present for most of the book. The only other secondary character I felt was at all memorable was Mustang, a young woman at the Institute, but she doesn’t appear until later in the book so I’m not going to say anything more about her.

Red Rising required a lot of suspension of disbelief on my part, especially when it came to the main character’s quick rise from a helium-3 miner with no knowledge of the Golds on Mars to one of their best and brightest. However, it completely succeeded as a well-paced, entertaining novel with a storyline that grew more intense throughout. Despite my reservations, I found it compulsively readable and do really want to read the rest of the trilogy once it’s available.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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

Read an Excerpt

Other Reviews of Red Rising:

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.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker

The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker

When I first heard of this book in the spring of last year, I thought it sounded wonderful and have wanted to read it ever since, especially after seeing it show up a lot on end of the year reading lists. I’m not much of an ebook reader, but I couldn’t resist purchasing the ebook when it was really cheap a few days ago.

The Golem and the Jinni is available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook. The author’s website contains a lot of information on the book, including an excerpt.


Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.

The Golem and the Jinni is their magical, unforgettable story; unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures – until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

La Santisima by Teresa Frohock

La Santisima by Teresa Frohock

I didn’t exactly buy this short story since it is free but I read it so I’m including it. “La Santisima” can be read on the author’s website or downloaded from Smashwords. I loved Teresa Frohock’s debut novel Miserere so I of course had to read this story after I found out about it. It’s very well-crafted, and despite its short length, I had a good sense of the characters. It also has some lovely prose and a lot of emotional impact.


Sebastian’s friend Carlos claims that La Santa Muerte watches over the poor, the ones that the Church abandons. He promises Sebastian that La Santa Muerte will be his patron saint, that she will protect him and grant his wishes.

Death comes for us all. Keep her as your friend.

Sebastian is disappointed as prayer after prayer is rejected by the saint, and he loses faith. One night his sister Lucía joins him, and La Santa Muerte answers their prayer to bring their brother home …

Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier

Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier

This is one of my most anticipated books of 2014 because I loved Rachel Neumeier’s last published book, House of Shadows. Black Dog, the first book in a duology, will be released on February 4 (paperback, ebook). You can read or download an extract on the author’s website.


Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge – the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases – like for Natividad’s father and older brother – Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.

But before Natividad’s mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.

In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.

Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister’s Pure magic. Natividad’s twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.

But, first, they must all survive the looming battle.

The Waking Engine by David Edison

The Waking Engine by David Edison

This debut will be released on February 11 (hardcover, ebook). An excerpt from The Waking Engine is available on


Welcome to the City Unspoken, where Gods and Mortals come to die.

Contrary to popular wisdom, death is not the end, nor is it a passage to some transcendent afterlife. Those who die merely awake as themselves on one of a million worlds, where they are fated to live until they die again, and wake up somewhere new. All are born only once, but die many times . . . until they come at last to the City Unspoken, where the gateway to True Death can be found.

Wayfarers and pilgrims are drawn to the City, which is home to murderous aristocrats, disguised gods and goddesses, a sadistic faerie princess, immortal prostitutes and queens, a captive angel, gangs of feral Death Boys and Charnel Girls . . . and one very confused New Yorker.

Late of Manhattan, Cooper finds himself in a City that is not what it once was. The gateway to True Death is failing, so that the City is becoming overrun by the Dying, who clot its byzantine streets and alleys . . . and a spreading madness threatens to engulf the entire metaverse.

Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

Broken Homes (Peter Grant #4) by Ben Aaronovitch

Broken Homes was released in the UK last year, and it will be released in the US on February 4 (mass market paperback, ebook). An excerpt is available on the publisher’s website.

The previous books in the series are as follows:

  1. Midnight Riot (US) / Rivers of London (UK)
  2. Moon Over Soho
  3. Whispers Under Ground

My name is Peter Grant, and I am a keeper of the secret flame — whatever that is.

Truth be told, there’s a lot I still don’t know. My superior Nightingale, previously the last of England’s wizardly governmental force, is trying to teach me proper schooling for a magician’s apprentice. But even he doesn’t have all the answers. Mostly I’m just a constable sworn to enforce the Queen’s Peace, with the occasional help from some unusual friends and a well-placed fire blast. With the new year, I have three main objectives, a) pass the detective exam so I can officially become a DC, b) work out what the hell my relationship with Lesley Mai, an old friend from the force and now fellow apprentice, is supposed to be, and most importantly, c) get through the year without destroying a major landmark.

Two out of three isn’t bad, right?

A mutilated body in Crawley means another murderer is on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil, who may either be a common serial killer or an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man — a man whose previous encounters I’ve barely survived. I’ve also got a case about a town planner going under a tube train and another about a stolen grimoire.

But then I get word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on a housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans, and inhabited by the truly desperate. If there’s a connection to the Crawley case, I’ll be entering some tricky waters of juristiction with the local river spirits. We have a prickly history, to say the least.

Just the typical day for a magician constable.

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 is the last holiday post, and it’s only sort of a holiday post since only the first 3 are holiday gifts. This one includes the signed books, including my favorite gift of all, and ARCs/review copies from the last week.

Warchild Limited Edition

Warchild (Warchild #1) by Karin Lowachee

Warchild became one of my favorite books of all time after I read it as part of Sci-Fi Month. I didn’t even know there was a hardcover signed limited edition, but my husband got it for me for Christmas (along with Burndive and Cagebird, the other two books in the series). I love it.


When Jos’ parents are killed in an attack on their trading ship, the boy is kidnapped by the attackers and then escapes – only to fall into the alien hands of humanity’s greatest enemies. He is soon coerced into becoming a spy against the human race.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Confession: While I have read 4 books by Le Guin, this isn’t one of them. I will have to remedy that at some point, especially considering this one sounds like one I’d really like.


A groundbreaking work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an alien world whose inhabitants can choose -and change – their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter’s inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters.

Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction.

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

My husband got me a signed copy of this book for Christmas, which I’d never heard of before opening it. It sounds like something I would enjoy as a fan of fairy tales, though.

An excerpt from The Tale of Despereaux can be read online.



Kate DiCamillo introduces a hero for all time!

Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other’s lives. And what happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: Reader, it is your destiny to find out.

From the master storyteller who brought us BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE comes another classic, a fairy tale full of quirky, unforgettable characters, featuring twenty-four stunning black-and-white illustrations by Timothy Basil Ering, in an elegant design that pays tribute to the best in classic children’s books and bookmaking traditions.

The beloved author of BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE enlightens us with a tale of adventure, despair, love, and soup.

Arcanum by Simon Morden

Arcanum by Simon Morden

Arcanum will be released on January 28 (trade paperback, ebook). An excerpt is available on the publisher’s website.

I hadn’t really heard much about this one, but after taking a look at it I’m rather intrigued by it—even if it is a massive book that would take me forever to read all the way through.


Rome was the center of the most powerful empire the world had ever seen, but that didn’t stop it falling to Alaric the Goth, his horde of barbarian tribesmen and their wild spell-casting shamans. Having split the walls with their sorcery and slaughtered the inhabitants with their axes, the victors carved up the empire into a series of bickering states which were never more than an insult away from war.

A thousand years later, and Europe has become an almost civilized place. The rulers of the old Roman palatinates confine their warfare to the short summer months, trade flourishes along the rivers and roads, and farming has become less back-breaking, all due to the magic, bestowed by gods, that infuses daily life.Even the barbarians’ gods have been tamed: where once human sacrifices poured their blood onto the ground, there are parties and picnics, drinking and singing, fit for decent people and their children.But it looks like the gods are going to have the last laugh before they slip quietly into ill-remembered obscurity…

Iron Night by M.L. Brennan

Iron Night (Generation V #2) by M.L. Brennan

Iron Night was just released earlier this month (mass market paperback, ebook). An excerpt is available on the publisher’s website.

I’m really excited to read this since I liked the first book, Generation V, a LOT. It was one of the best openings to an urban fantasy series I’ve read so I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next, especially since I’ve been hearing the second book is even better than the first.


Underemployed by day. Undead by night.

Underachieving film theory graduate and vampire Fortitude Scott may be waiting tables at a snooty restaurant run by a tyrannical chef who hates him, but the other parts of his life finally seem to be stabilizing. He’s learning how to rule the Scott family territory, hanging out more with his shapeshifting friend Suzume Hollis, and has actually found a decent roommate for once.

Until he finds his roommate’s dead body.

The Scott family cover-up machine swings into gear, but Fort is the only person trying to figure out who (or what) actually killed his friend. His hunt for a murderer leads to a creature that scares even his sociopathic family, and puts them all in deadly peril.

Keeping secrets, killing monsters, and still having to make it to work on time? Sometimes being a vampire really sucks.

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

Sparrow Hill Road (Ghost Stories #1) by Seanan McGuire

Sparrow Hill Road, the first book in a new series about Rose Marshall, will be available on May 6. I love Seanan McGuire’s books so I was pretty excited to see that this will be coming out this year in addition to another InCryptid book and the next Toby Daye!


Sparrow Hill Road is the first volume in the story of Rose Marshall, who was the first victim of the man called Bobby Cross, although she was far from the last — and unlike most of them, she did not go easy into that good night. Sixty years down the line, she’s still kicking ass, taking names, and more than a little bit pissed off about the way that she died.

You want a good little ghost who’ll stay where she’s put and only haunt the people who deserve it? Go to a sleepover. You want the real story of the American ghostroads? Come and have a word with Rose.

Transformers: Retribution by David J. Williams and Mark S. Williams

Transformers: Retribution by David J. Williams and Mark S. Williams

This prequel to the television series will be available on January 28 (mass market paperback, ebook). It’s possible to read some of the beginning of Transformers: Retribution on the publisher’s website.


For decades, Transformers fans across the globe have marveled at the mighty clashes of Megatron and Optimus Prime, and speculated about their arrival on planet Earth. Now, in Transformers: Retribution, the prequel to the Transformers animated series, the epic odyssey of these two great warriors is finally revealed as Autobots and Decepticons battle one another . . . and the most diabolic foe they’ve ever encountered.

Aboard the Ark, Optimus Prime leads his Autobots through deep space, searching for the AllSpark so vital to their home planet, Cybertron. Megatron’s not far behind, and his Decepticons are itching for war. But a mysterious planet conceals an enemy far more cunning and powerful: the Quintessons. Masters of tyranny, technology, and twisted double crosses, the Quintessons are out to enslave both Autobots and Decepticons. Their deadly bag of tricks includes fiendish trials and a secret link all the way back to Cybertron, where Shockwave is wreaking havoc with supercomputer Vector Sigma. In the coming conflagration, Star Seekers, Wreckers, Alpha Trion, and Sharkticons all have their parts to play. For none can dodge the Quintesson juggernaut of evil, and none will escape the cataclysmic life-and-death battles that will catapult Autobots and Decepticons to Earth.

M.L. Brennan’s debut, Generation V, is the first novel about Fortitude Scott. The second book, Iron Night, was released earlier this month, and there will be at least one more book in the series after that one.


“I’m mostly human. But that leaves me a little vampire.” [pp. 15]

Fortitude Scott is a young, low level vampire nearly indistinguishable from humans: he has to drink blood every once in awhile, but he doesn’t yet have fangs, an aversion to daylight, the ability to heal, or great strength. That’s fine with him since Fort is a gentle soul who dreads the day he becomes a full-fledged vampire like his mother and two older siblings. He wonders if all the terrible things they do will continue to bother him then and finds the thought that they may not terrifying. He resists going home to feed, preferring to feel as close to human as possible.

Yet Fort needs blood and his mother does become insistent he return home eventually. When he is forced to finally visit his mother for a family dinner, she informs him that his presence will be required the following evening. At first, Fort resists, but she manages to pique his curiosity by informing him that they will be entertaining another vampire visiting from Naples, and this will give Fort a chance to see if other vampires act like his nearest relations, the only ones he’s ever known.

Unfortunately, Fort discovers their European visitor is morally reprehensible. Fort is appalled by his treatment of humans he keeps in captivity, tries to stand up to him, and fails miserably, earning himself a kitsune bodyguard courtesy of his concerned mother. When he reads that the woman the visiting vampire had with him is dead the next morning and sees an article about two young girls who went missing, he is convinced this visitor is responsible for the kidnapping—and determined to stop him even when those far more powerful than he believes it to be a fool’s errand.

Generation V is one of the best opening volumes to an urban fantasy series I’ve ever read. In fact, I thought it was a stronger start to a series than any of the first volumes in my current favorites in this speculative fiction subgenre. It’s both funny and heart-warming, and it’s an incredibly entertaining story. By the end, I was surprised by just how attached I’d become to the various characters and how much I wanted to read more about them.

It did start a bit slowly since it took some time to introduce Fort’s situation in life and the unique vampire mythology. The beginning introduces all the problems in Fort’s human life—a not-particularly-useful college degree, a terrible job at a coffee shop making equally terrible beverages, a roommate who refused to pay his share of the rent, and a girlfriend who didn’t respect him—while introducing his family and filling in some of his history. Fort’s first visit home did read a bit too neatly as an introduction to the characters and a lesson in how vampirism works in this world, but it was important to know and interesting to learn about how vampires are created. Fort himself has been kept in the dark about many of these details so I’m sure there will be more to discover in future installments, and some rather intriguing hints have been dropped about his own creation being a bit different from that of his siblings. With his calculating mother, I’m quite curious about what her motivations may have been and find it curious that each of her children seems to harbor more good qualities than the previous one.

I also liked that Generation V had some other differences from common vampire lore, like how it handled immortality. While vampires do live for a very long time, they do die eventually and they are not ageless. Fort’s mother is old and wrinkled, and his oldest sister appears middle-aged. His older brother is young and beautiful as a full-fledged vampire who isn’t too old, but it also keeps from glamorizing the life of a vampire. Fort is horrified by their coldness, and even handsome Chivalry doesn’t seem too incredibly wonderful, especially considering what he has to do to survive and the consequences for his wife.

The book moves at a decent pace, especially once Fort attempts to stand up to the foreign vampire, but the highlight for me was the various characters. Fort himself is endearing. Despite his impending vampire-hood, he’s mostly an ordinary person. He’s not yet powerful, and he’s not even particularly smart or exceptional by human standards. Yet he’s incredibly compassionate and empathetic and has a drive for justice that makes him compelling: he’s determined to do whatever he can, no matter how ill-advised, to try to help others.

The other characters grew on me quite a bit throughout the book as well as they were revealed to have more dimensions. In particular, I’m intrigued by Chivalry. He’s the first character Fort interacts with in the book, and my first impression was not a good one. He commands Fort to come home and they have a rather unpleasant interaction, but it turned out he wasn’t as bad as he initially seemed. He’s certainly not an angel by any means, but he also seems to truly have a soft spot for his brother and is the only one in his family who seems to look out for Fort. I also enjoyed the dynamic between Fort and Suzume, his kickass kitsune bodyguard. She’s a carefree spirit and very much Fort’s opposite in personality, and she was a character I became quite fond of.

Generation V is a strong start to a new series and is one of the better urban fantasy books I have read. It seems as though it’s building a foundation for later books so there is a lot of introduction and setup, but there are some hints dropped that leave the impression that there’s a lot more to unearth in later books. This promise of further exploration of the world combined with characters I loved and want to read more about makes me very eager to read the next book.

My Rating: 8/10

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

Read an Excerpt

Other Reviews of Generation V:

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 is the third part covering books received as gifts during the holidays, and next’s week will be the last one since there are just a few signed books left. Three finished copies also showed up in the mail, and two of those are at the end. The other book was already discussed in one of these posts, and I was actually already reading the ARC when the finished copy showed up. I’m planning to review it closer to the release date, but in the meantime, here’s the previous post containing more information:

For reviews, I’m almost finished with a review of Generation V by M.L. Brennan so that should be up soon. Preview: I liked it A LOT.

On to the books!

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

I saw this book on quite a few lists of favorite books of 2012, and it sounds excellent (of course, I am easily intrigued by books about gods and goddesses, especially if it includes a trickster!). An excerpt from chapter one of Vessel is available on the author’s website.


Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. She will dance and summon her tribe’s deity, who will inhabit Liyana’s body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But when the dance ends, Liyana is still there. Her tribe is furious–and sure that it is Liyana’s fault. Abandoned by her tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.

Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. The desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.

The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice–she must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate–or a human girl can muster some magic of her own.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer

I’ve heard great things about Cinder and its sequel Scarlet. It will be a four book series: Cress will be released next month and Winter in 2015.

An excerpt from Cinder is available on the author’s website.


Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Tales of Neveryon by Samuel R. Delany

Tales of Nevèrÿon (Return to Nevèrÿon #1) by Samuel R. Delany

I’ve never read anything by Samuel R. Delany, but I’ve heard that this series is excellent. The rest of the books are as follows:

2. Nevèrÿona
3. Flight from Nevèrÿon
4. Return to Nevèrÿon


In his four-volume series Return to Nevèrÿon, Hugo and Nebula award-winner Samuel R. Delany appropriated the conceits of sword-and-sorcery fantasy to explore his characteristic themes of language, power, gender, and the nature of civilization. Wesleyan University Press has reissued the long-unavailable Nevèrÿon volumes in trade paperback.

The eleven stories, novellas, and novels in Return to Nevèrÿon’s four volumes chronicle a long-ago land on civilization’s brink, perhaps in Asia or Africa, or even on the Mediterranean. Taken slave in childhood, Gorgik gains his freedom, leads a slave revolt, and becomes a minister of state, finally abolishing slavery. Ironically, however, he is sexually aroused by the iron slave collars of servitude. Does this contaminate his mission – or intensify it? Presumably elaborated from an ancient text of unknown geographical origin, the stories are sunk in translators’ and commentators’ introductions and appendices, forming a richly comic frame.

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

Earth Girl (Earth Girl #1) by Janet Edwards

I’ve wanted to read this ever since seeing it discussed as part of Sci-Fi Month. The second book in the series, Earth Star, has been released in the UK and will be available in the US in April 2014. Earth Flight, the third book, will be available in the UK in August 2014.

A sample chapter from Earth Girl is on Pyr’s website.


2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. Eighteen-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an “ape,” a “throwback,” but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.

Jarra makes up a fake military background for herself and joins a class of norms who are on Earth for a year of practical history studies excavating the dangerous ruins of the old cities. She wants to see their faces when they find out they’ve been fooled into thinking an ape girl was a norm. She isn’t expecting to make friends with the enemy, to risk her life to save norms, or to fall in love.

Dragonfield and Other Stories by Jane Yolen

Dragonfield and Other Stories by Jane Yolen

I’ve wanted to read Dragonfield and Other Stories after hearing that this and a few other books by Jane Yolen were re-released as ebooks. Not being a big fan of reading ebooks, I added the paperback to my wishlist and got a used copy. I’m not normally a short story reader, either, but I have high hopes for this one: it was a World Fantasy Award nominee and it has an introduction by Patricia McKillip (and I LOVE her short stories!). Plus I’ve wanted to read more by Jane Yolen since reading her Pit Dragon books.

The description below is from the recent ebook edition since the paperback description I found isn’t very informative.


Award-winning author Jane Yolen transports readers to new realms of dragons, sprites, and rogues in twenty-seven magical stories and poems

“That’s what dragons are for, after all, to call forth heroes.”

Jane Yolen enchants and enthralls with an exquisite collection of short fiction and poetry brimming with sympathetic monsters, unlikely heroes, and all manner of magical amazements. Exploring the depths of human love, pain, and folly in these unforgettable tales, Yolen gives life to a cast of unforgettable characters: a selfless young woman whose sadness brings forth beautiful gifts, a deluded musician whose song spectacularly fails to soothe a savage beast, and an alien salvage crew mining gems from the mind of a dying poet. Here be dragons, outlaws, kings, mermen, and dream weavers, sprung from the unparalleled imagination of one of the world’s foremost fantasists.

This ebook features a personal history by Jane Yolen including rare images from the author’s personal collection, as well as a note from the author about the making of the book.

Burndive by Karin Lowachee

Burndive (Warchild #2) by Karin Lowachee

I may have gushed about Warchild quite a bit after reading it last year (it was one of my favorites, if not my very favorite, books I read last year), and my husband got me the next two books for Christmas.


From the author of the acclaimed and bestselling debut novel “Warchild” comes a new action-packed adventure about a young man’s journey into adulthood amid interstellar war. Original.

Cagebird by Karin Lowachee

Cagebird (Warchild #3) by Karin Lowachee

The last Warchild book! I wish there were more than 2 left to read.


Pirate Protege At age four, Yuri Kirov watched his home colony destroyed by the alien enemy. By six, he was a wounded soul, fending for himself in a desolate refugee camp, and still a child when the pirates found him. Now twenty-two, Yuri is a killer, a spy, an arms dealer, and a pirate captain himself-doing life in prison. That is until EarthHub Black Ops agents decide to make Yuri their secret weapon in a covert interstellar power grab. Released from jail, but put on a leash by the government, Yuri is more trapped than ever. Controlled by men even more ruthless than the brigands he’s ordered to betray, Yuri is back again in deep space where his survival depends on a dangerous act: trusting a stranger’s offer of help…

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson

I enjoyed Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson very much and was recommended this book when looking for suggestions for which one of her books to read next. I love the sound of it, and I’m also excited to see that she writes a lot of stand alone books since it seems to be difficult to find SFF books that aren’t part of a series.

A short excerpt from Midnight Robber can be read on the author’s website.


It’s Carnival time, and the Carribean-colonized planet of Toussaint is celebrating with music, dance and pageantry. Masked “Midnight Robbers” waylay revelers with brandished weapons and spellbinding words. But to young Tan-Tan, the Robber Queen is simply a favourite costume to wear at the festival–until her power-corrupted father commits an unforgivable crime.

Suddenly, both father and daughter are thrust into the brutal world of New Half-Way Tree. Here monstrous creatures from folklore are real, and the humans are violent outcasts in the wilds. Here Tan-Tan must reach into the heart of myth–and become the Robber Queen herself. For only the Robber Queen’s legendary powers can save her life…and set her free.

Maul: Lockdown by Paul Schreiber

Maul Lockdown (Star Wars) by Joe Schrieber

This Star Wars novel will be available on January 28 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).


Set before the events of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, this new novel is a thrilling follow-up to Star Wars: Darth Plagueis

It’s kill or be killed in the space penitentiary that houses the galaxy’s worst criminals, where convicts face off in gladiatorial combat while an underworld gambling empire reaps the profits of the illicit blood sport. But the newest contender in this savage arena, as demonic to behold as he is deadly to challenge, is fighting for more than just survival. His do-or-die mission, for the dark masters he serves, is to capture the ultimate weapon: an object capable of obliterating the Jedi and conquering the galaxy.

Sith lords Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious are determined to possess the prize. And one of the power-hungry duo has his own treacherous plans for it. But first, their fearsome apprentice must take on a bloodthirsty prison warden, a cannibal gang, cutthroat crime lord Jabba the Hutt, and an unspeakable alien horror. No one else could brave such a gauntlet of death and live. But no one else is the dreaded dark-side disciple known as Darth Maul.

The Wavering Werewolf by David Lubar

The Wavering Werewolf: A Monsteriffic Tale by David Lubar

This middle grade novel will be available January 14 (hardcover, ebook). The other Monsterrific Tales are Hyde and Shriek, The Vanishing Vampire, and The Unwilling Witch.

An excerpt from The Wavering Werewolf is available on the publisher’s website.


Acclaimed author David Lubar’s monsters series returns to life with this new edition of The Wavering Werewolf that is sure to appeal to fans of his Weenies short story collections

There’s something strange going on at Washington Irving Elementary School. Kids are turning into monsters—literally!

It happened to his best friend, Sebastian. Then to Sebastian’s sister, Angie. How many kids can get “monsterized” in one neighborhood? Norman finds out for himself after he takes a walk in the woods—and ends up turning into an overly fuzzy kid with a habit of howling at the moon.

There is a way for Norman to get back to normal. But there are two problems: He kind of likes being a wolf, and there are only a few more days until the next full moon….

Today I’m pleased to welcome Sandy Williams, author of the Shadow Reader trilogy! The final book in the series, The Sharpest Blade, was released about a week ago, which means that book two has been out long enough that she is sharing her favorite scenes from it. There is also an opportunity to win a SIGNED copy of either The Shadow Reader, The Shattered Dark, or The Sharpest Blade—and this giveaway is open internationally!

Sandy’s Favorite Scenes from The Shattered Dark


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Last year on my blog tour, I wrote about my favorite scenes from the first book in the series, The Shadow Reader. Now that The Sharpest Blade is on shelves, and The Shattered Dark has been out for over a year, I can write about my favorite scenes from the second book. Here are my top five.

1. The escape from Rhigh. This scene was so much fun to write. Writing action comes easy to me, and Aren was very Aren in this scene. He’s come up with a crazy plan that shouldn’t work, and it involves the reputation he’s built for McKenzie. The whole super scary shadow-witch thing entertains me, so any chance I get to weave it into the plot brings a smile to my face.

2. The fight in the theater in Chapter 15. Another action scene. This one I love because I can really feel myself in the midst of it. In fact, I drew on experience from this one. A few years back, my husband and I went to an Alice N Chains concert in London. It was packed. And while no one was swinging swords or daggers at us, the mosh pit was way too close and it was a tight squeeze. The other reason I love this part of the book is I love the little revelation, the little plot twist, that comes after the car chase. 🙂

3. Chapter 22. There’s another little plot twist in this chapter, but the thing I love best is the showdown between two secondary characters. I’ve been wanting revenge on that one guy since the end of the first book, and when I finished writing this chapter, I might have fist pumped the air.

4. Chapter 25. McKenzie and Aren are reunited in this chapter. I love the line about fae not believing in ghosts, and I love the intimacy that happens a little later. 🙂

5. The end of the book. Yeah, the part everyone wanted to kill me for. That little plot twist makes me so happy. I think it also makes me a cruel, cruel author.

I have several favorite scenes from The Sharpest Blade, too. Chapter 19, for example. I think you guys will like it as well. 🙂


Sandy WilliamsSandy is the author of The Shadow Reader novels. She worked as a librarian until her husband whisked her off to London on an extended business trip. She’s now back home in Texas, writing full-time, raising twin boys, and squeezing in time to play geeky board and card games like Settlers of Catan, Dominion, and Runebound.

Courtesy of the author, I have one copy of any of the three Shadow Reader books to give away—the winner can choose which book in the trilogy they would like. This giveaway is open internationally!

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 line “Shadow Reader” and which book in the series you would like if you win. One entry per person. This giveaway is open to anyone, and a winner will be randomly selected. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Saturday, January 18. 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 to).

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.

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