This week has been pretty quiet since I was away for 3 days at the BEA Bloggers Conference and Book Expo America. It was a very busy time since I had a 6 AM flight Monday morning and then a 10 PM flight Wednesday night, and in that time I still managed to spend 1 day at BEA Bloggers Conference, spend 2 days at Book Expo, go to 1 author breakfast, go to the Strand, got to a breakfast event at Random House, and go to the SFF Event at the New York Public Library. Thursday I was capable of sitting on the couch and monitoring Twitter and not much else! (I tried reading at one point and failed miserably.)

BEA Bloggers

Since so many people have already covered the event and panels in addition to their thoughts, I’d rather talk about the overall experience than repeat that part of the coverage. If you want to know exactly what I did, I’d suggest reading Jessica’s post at Read React Review since we traveled to the conference together (Hooray! Fun!) and attended all the same panels (and were both part of the group that ate lunch on the floor in the hall rather than be pitched to by authors and both left the same panel). My own experience can be summed up pretty well by reading her post since we went to the same events and I had similar thoughts about what I saw.

For more detailed descriptions on what was covered during the conference, check out:

This was my third time at the book blogger conference, but this was the first one that has been held since it was bought by Book Expo America. I did not enjoy it as much as either of the previous conferences, which I was mostly glad I attended for the opportunity to meet other book bloggers. There has been very little about topics surrounding blogging that I’ve felt is new to me at any of the conferences. However, in previous years there has been enough of interest that I was glad I went, especially since I have had so much fun meeting and talking to other book bloggers. That is not the case this year and it comes down to a lot of what has already been said by the other bloggers I just linked to: bloggers were not the focus of this conference supposedly about book blogging.

This was not completely unexpected since there had been some concerns about the conference being bought by BEA this year. Confusion started early this year as for quite a while, there was no information on what this meant or what would happen at the conference (unlike past years). Some bloggers couldn’t register, or registered and then were rejected, or were told they had to pay more than was listed. Once the schedule was finally announced, it seemed strange that there were so few book bloggers on some of the panels (notably, the one about the blogger/publisher relationship only had one book blogger).

And then…there was the video. I can’t describe everything that was wrong with the video, so I’ll link to it even though it feels wrong to do so. Titled “Get Your Swag Bag On!”, it mostly consists of repeating a few of the names of authors that will be there and “Get your swag bag on.” Because free stuff is what we’re all going for. *sigh* (For the record, I didn’t take any of the free stuff this year or last simply because none of the books were ones I would read or review.)

Each year the conference has seemed to be moving a little more away from being about book bloggers and being more about bloggers working with publishers and authors, which has always concerned me a bit. I understand that this is at BEA and there is a huge industry presence, but some bloggers really aren’t interested in getting books from publishers and prefer to read books they bought themselves or borrowed from their local library. If a blogger decides to do that, I think it’s great. I completely understand the appeal of that, especially since I find myself reading fewer and fewer older books as I get more from publishers (and I don’t even get that many ARCs/review copies compared to a lot of bloggers).

But I’m always a little worried that those bloggers will feel unwelcome or left out when there is always some focus on being part of this industry. Having no relationship with publishers and publicists does NOT make one less of a book blogger. A book blogger is anyone who blogs about books, and all the talk about what bloggers “owe” to the industry we provide free publicity for is offputting (to put it mildly). Maybe this fear is unfounded since the panel that focused more on the publisher/blogger relationship was up against one on community engagement so there’s another option to go to, but I’d be really curious to see what someone who has chosen never to receive review copies thought of the event.

It is tough to have an event like this that works for everyone because all book bloggers are different. They blog for different reasons, have different goals, and are each drawn to different books. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen anyone who really seemed at all happy with this event since it was more about promoting books than book blogging. I go to the conference to meet and talk to other book bloggers. I go to learn more about book blogging from the panels and the speeches. I do not go to be constantly bombarded with someone trying to get me to read their book, which is what happened here. You can read more about it at the links above, but the ratio of marketing to genuinely interesting discussion was just depressing. Even the keynotes, which were entertaining, had very little to do with book blogging and both were by someone with a book to promote. (Although I will say I did not get a vibe from Jennifer Lawson of The Bloggess that she was really aggressively trying to promote herself and her book, unlike Jennifer Weiner.)

The book blogger and book creator relationship should not be all about what we book bloggers can do for publishers. It should be mutual. Bloggers review publisher’s books when they have books we are interested in reading and providing coverage for. We get lots of email from people trying to get us interested in a book for review, and most of us have day jobs and a very limited amount of time for reading and reviewing. A lot of us have to choose the books we review very carefully, and having someone shout their book at us is not the way to get our attention. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Maybe there’s some confusion about what book bloggers do. I can’t speak for everyone since I don’t think you can or should lump all book bloggers into one category, but a couple of the reasons I blog are:

1. The book blogging community. It is a great place full of people passionate about books. It is a great place to go for recommendations or just to talk about books. There are many in this community I consider friends, some of which I have met at BEA/Book Blogger Con and some I have never met. I like to meet some of these people at Book Blogger Con and hear what they have to say on some of the panels. Unfortunately, very few actual book bloggers were on panels this year and not one was moderated by a book blogger. (Correction: There was actually a panel moderated by a book blogger as pointed out in the comments.)

2. I love supporting authors who have written books I’ve enjoyed by talking about their writing. I have no problem with authors coming to a book blogger conference if they want to chat with bloggers and listen to the panels – but not if they are constantly going to be pushing their books and starting every conversation with a spiel about their book. (I do want to note that there were some authors present who did the former so I’m certainly not saying I think all authors should be kept away.)

I do not blog for all the review copies. I’d be a liar if I said there were not certain ARCs or review copies I enjoyed getting, but regardless, I blogged for a long time without getting review copies. More often than not, the books I am offered or sent unsolicited are not ones I am even interested in reading. There is a line between telling me about a new book I may not have heard of and shoving said book down my throat. Crossing that line is only going to waste an author’s or publisher’s time and make me even less interested in reviewing the work. Particularly after I’ve spent money to travel to a conference where I want to talk about blogging as a process, not find new books – that is what BEA itself is for (among other things), not the Blogger Con. I’d much rather spend money on books that are interesting to me than have free copies of books I’ll never read tossed into my bag. Those things get heavy, you know.

In any case, I felt that this year’s blogger conference was not worth the time and money and it definitely didn’t aid my main goal for attending: meeting and learning from other book bloggers. If I hadn’t abandoned the planned lunch to sit in the hall, there would have been almost no time at all to actually talk to the bloggers I really came to talk to. While I hope they listen to the actual book bloggers who would like something different and improve next year, I am not sure I will be attending. I definitely will not be if they show no signs of improvement, especially if some bloggers choose to organize the Book Blog UNCON again next year. It sounds like they had a fantastic time.

More posts on the BEA Bloggers Conference (not already linked to above):

Instead of writing one huge post of all the books I’m looking forward to in 2012 with info on them, I had decided to highlight some of these books in their own posts throughout the rest of 2011. I’ve decided to carry this feature forward into this year as I discover new books coming out this year that sound interesting and continue with books of 2013 as it gets closer to the end of the year.

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

This is just one of those books I love the sound of. Plus I find it appealing that it’s a self-contained book with less than 200 pages. While I do love long stories, sometimes it’s nice to read a story that doesn’t require a huge chunk of time to complete! The Emperor’s Soul will be released in trade paperback in November.

About The Emperor’s Soul:

From the bestselling author of the Mistborn Trilogy and co-author of the final three books of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series comes the tale of a heretic thief who is the only hope for the survival of an empire.

Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Though condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s scepter, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Despite the fact that her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead from the attack of assassins.

Delving deeply into his life, she discovers Emperor Ashravan’s truest nature—and the opportunity to exploit it. Her only possible ally is one who is truly loyal to the emperor, but councilor Gaotona must overcome his prejudices to understand that her forgery is as much artistry as it is deception.

Skillfully deducing the machinations of her captors, Shai needs a perfect plan to escape. The fate of the kingdom lies in one impossible task. Is it possible to create a forgery of a soul so convincing that it is better than the soul itself?

Other Books of 2012:

The Killing Moon
by N. K. Jemisin
404pp (Paperback/Ebook)
My Rating: 9.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.33/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.13/5

The Killing Moon is the first book of the Dreamblood, a new Egyptian-inspired fantasy duology by N. K. Jemisin, whose Inheritance trilogy has books that were nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. It was released in trade paperback and ebook earlier this month, and The Shadowed Sun (Dreamblood 2) will be available next month. Rest assured that despite the small wait between volumes, there is no cliff-hanger ending at the end of The Killing Moon, and the next book has a different set of main characters. This novel’s storyline feels resolved, but it also definitely leaves space for exploring what happens after this resolution.

Gujaareh is a land of peace devoted to the worship of the dream goddess Hananja. To maintain this peace and order, their warrior-priests (or Gatherers) are trained to kill, both by physical and magical means. Gatherers must be able to hold their own in a fight, and they must also be able to sneak into homes where they send those they have been ordered to kill to their favorite place in a dream – where they remain forever once the Gatherer has cut their ties to the waking world. In return, the Gatherer collects their dreamblood, which can then be used to help others, such as by healing those who are ill. Sometimes a Gatherer is sent to kill the corrupt and other times they are requested to bring peace to those who are suffering or dying, but a Gatherer does not question the rightness of his actions. He does what he must in the service of Hananja for the benefit of all Gujaareh, as have those who came before him.

Ehiru, the best of the Gatherers, has had to spend more of his nights gathering with the recent death of his mentor. On one such night, he has an experience he has never had before that shakes him to his core – he performs a Gathering that does not go well and does not end peacefully for the corrupted merchant he was sent to kill. While it does not have him questioning his faith or purpose of Gathering, it does have him questioning his abilities – at least until he is sent to kill Sunandi, a spy from neighboring Kisua. Sunandi has been investigating the circumstances of the death of her own mentor, and she is quite horrified when she uncovers the secrets he learned before his untimely death. When Sunandi mentions some happenings that correspond with Ehiru’s experiences on the night of his Gathering that went wrong, it makes him question the reality of Gujaareh’s structure and what is going on beneath the surface.

The Killing Moon is a fantastic book and my personal favorite I’ve read so far this year. It’s a book that excels on all levels – the writing, world, characters, and story all worked for me. In fact, I’m having trouble thinking of anything that I didn’t like about it. It was a little slow a couple of times, but it wasn’t really slow enough for long enough that it stands out as a flaw to me. It also didn’t have the same emotional impact that came with a single main character’s viewpoint in the Inheritance books, but that didn’t really bother me, either, since I thought this was a stronger book overall and it did still have memorable scenes.

First of all, The Killing Moon is very different from the Inheritance books in quite a few ways. It’s told from multiple perspectives in the third person instead of one first person viewpoint so it doesn’t have the intensely personal, chatty narrative style the previous books did. Also, there’s no romantic subplot and the world is much more ordered than the chaos of the godlings. For all its differences, there are some general similarities since Gujaareh is influenced by its goddess even though she and the other gods aren’t out walking among the people and there is a theme of history being rewritten by those in power. Even with the feeling of more distance from the characters, I found them more interesting than many of the ones in the Inheritance novels and I was still rather attached to some of them by the end.

From the very opening chapter, I was drawn in by the way it detailed a night of Gathering for Ehiru. It was very dark, but I enjoyed seeing this from Ehiru’s perspective, particularly as it introduced him as someone with the qualities Sunandi later noted – a blend of compassion and ruthlessness. Despite being a killer, the first time we see Ehiru kill is out of mercy for an old dying man who is perfectly content to leave his misery behind. Yet in the same chapter we also see him kill someone who doesn’t really want to die in the Gathering that goes wrong. Ehiru is one of those people who absolutely believes he is doing the right thing and has faith in what his religious system has told him. The assassin with a heart of gold is a common trope, but Ehiru isn’t doing it for money or survival but out of pure religious fervor. In spite of the way he holds fast to this belief system, he is very likable. He questions what he believes when presented with evidence, and he is kind with great strength of character. Throughout the book, he also has to fight his own internal demons since there is a struggle Gatherers must face against their own nature the longer they collect dreamblood in this manner.

While I’d call Ehiru the main protagonist, there are two other major characters, Ehiru’s apprentice Njiri and Sunandi, the ambassador from Kisua who discovers all is not right in the nation-state of Gujaareh. Both of them were great characters. Njiri is newly apprenticed to Ehiru and has to face a tough test under the circumstances. He is both naive due to his young age and wise for his young age and he has lots of resolve and inner strength. His relationship with Ehiru is complex, as Njiri seems to view him as a mixture of father, mentor, savior, friend, and someone he has romantic feelings for. Sunandi is a savvy spy who understands politics well, and like the other two she has lots of determination. All of them encounter tough situations that showcase just how much inner strength they all have. What I really enjoyed about getting the perspectives of all three of them is that Sunandi has completely opposing views from the two Gatherers, yet I could understand both perspectives and relate to all three of them. Sunandi finds the practice of Gathering and the way Gujaareh is run abhorrent while Ehiru and Njiri believe death is a natural part of the life cycle and not to be feared. Both viewpoints are a result of their cultural upbringings, and both of them make sense based on the experiences these characters had.

While these three are the main characters, there are several other perspectives, including one of the other Gatherers, the Superior of the Hetawa (Hananja’s temple), and the Prince. All the different characters were very believable with realistic motivations for behaving the way they did. The villain had no qualms about doing terrible things but also had some motives that made sense. There were reasons for being driven to the point of villainy, and it was not just due to an innate evil nature. This is the type of villain I like, one who is capable of evil but also didn’t set out on the path of evil until there was a motivation that set it in motion.

What continues to impress me about N. K. Jemisin’s writing is that it is simultaneously simple and complex. It’s easy to read and follow, but at the same time there is this huge, well-constructed world to discover over the course of the novel. This world with its social structure and rules is detailed and fully fleshed out, and between that and its characters, it seems vividly real. N. K. Jemisin has real skill in weaving this into the story – it’s very different from our world, but it’s also not told in one big infodump and it’s also not terribly confusing. It’s told by being immersed in the story, through living it, through the eyes of the characters. As the story continues, more is learned about the world and the rules of the Gatherers. Part of this is through some interludes discussing some myths and the few opening lines at the start of the chapters, but it all ties together beautifully to paint a picture of Gujaareh.

The Killing Moon has many familiar themes, including many of my own favorites such as power, corruption, religion, the pursuit of truth, and ingrained cultural societies that are not as ideal as they may seem on the surface. Taken by themselves, these are not incredibly original themes (although they are ones I am personally drawn to and love to read about), but both the story and the amazing world-building contribute to keeping them from feeling at all recycled or stale.

I loved The Killing Moon; it is exactly my sort of fantasy book. It’s dark, not all ends happily, and there is a price for magic. The characters are likable but face difficult decisions that put them to the test and exhibit what they’re made of. At the end of the book, they’re not at the same place they started from but have learned over the course of their journey. All this takes place in a well-built, detailed world that gradually unfolds and is vividly alive. Reading The Killing Moon was a treat and I can hardly wait to see what’s in store in The Shadowed Sun.

My Rating: 9.5/10

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

Read Excerpts from The Killing Moon:

Other Reviews:

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

This week brought 1 ARC and 3 review copies, 2 of which I’m VERY excited about. I’m already reading one of them now.

Sharps by K. J. Parker

Sharps by K. J. Parker

K. J. Parker’s latest book will be released on July 17 (trade paperback, ebook). I just started it this weekend. I haven’t gotten far yet since I’m trying to get caught up on reviews before going to BEA, but it’s very promising so far! Ever since reading The Folding Knife, I’ve wanted to read more by K. J. Parker so I’m really excited about reading this. The Folding Knife was fantastic and I’ve heard great things about Parker’s other books as well.

K.J. Parker’s new novel is a perfectly executed tale of intrigue and deception.

For the first time in nearly forty years, an uneasy truce has been called between two neighbouring kingdoms. The war has been long and brutal, fought over the usual things: resources, land, money…

Now, there is a chance for peace. Diplomatic talks have begun and with them, the games. Two teams of fencers represent their nations at this pivotal moment.

When the future of the world lies balanced on the point of a rapier, one misstep could mean ruin for all. Human nature being what it is, does peace really have a chance?

The Shadowed Sun by N. K. Jemisin

The Shadowed Sun (The Dreamblood #2) by N. K. Jemisin

The first Dreamblood book, The Killing Moon, was released earlier this month. I’m working on a review of it now that should be up sometime this week, but basically I loved it. It’s my favorite book I’ve read so far this year so I am really excited about reading the second book!

The Shadowed Sun will be released in trade paperback and ebook formats on June 12. Chapter One is available on the author’s website (she says that only chapter one is there right now because the following chapters have spoilers for The Killing Moon so it should be safe to read if you haven’t read that yet).

Gujaareh, the city of dreams, suffers under the imperial rule of the Kisuati Protectorate. A city where the only law was peace now knows violence and oppression. And nightmares: a mysterious and deadly plague haunts the citizens of Gujaareh, dooming the infected to die screaming in their sleep. Trapped between dark dreams and cruel overlords, the people yearn to rise up—but Gujaareh has known peace for too long.

Someone must show them the way.

Hope lies with two outcasts: the first woman ever allowed to join the dream goddess’ priesthood, and an exiled prince who longs to reclaim his birthright. Together, they must resist the Kisuati occupation and uncover the source of the killing dreams… before Gujaareh is lost forever.

Silver by Rhiannon Held

Silver by Rhiannon Held

This debut urban fantasy novel about werewolves will be released in trade paperback and ebook on June 5. According to the author’s website, this is the first book in a series although I can’t find the name of it there or on the press release that came with the book. An excerpt from Silver is available on

Andrew Dare is a werewolf. He’s the enforcer for the Roanoke pack, and responsible for capturing or killing any Were intruders in Roanoke’s territory. But the lone Were he’s tracking doesn’t smell or act like anyone he’s ever encountered. And when he catches her, it doesn’t get any better. She’s beautiful, she’s crazy, and someone has tortured her by injecting silver into her veins. She says her name is Silver, and that she’s lost her wild self and can’t shift any more.

The packs in North America have a live-and-let-live attitude, and try not to overlap with each other. But Silver represents a terrible threat to every Were on the continent.

Andrew and Silver will join forces to track down this menace while discovering their own power and their passion for each other.

Lethal Rider by Larissa Ione

Lethal Rider (Lords of Deliverance #3) by Larissa Ione

The first two Lords of Deliverance books are Eternal Rider and Immortal Rider. An excerpt from Lethal Rider is available on the author’s website. This book was released in mass market paperback and ebook formats on May 22 in the US and will be released on June 1 in the UK.

I’m not much of a paranormal romance reader so I don’t know much about this series, but readers on Goodreads seemed to like this installment quite a bit.

They’re here. They ride. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Born of a match between good and evil, four siblings stand between hell’s minions and everything they want to destroy. They are the Lords of Deliverance, and they have the power to ward off Doomsday…or let it ride…


Thanatos, the most deadly Horseman of the Apocalypse, has endured thousands of years of celibacy to prevent the end of days. But just one night with the wickedly sexy Aegis Guardian, Regan Cooper, shatters centuries of resolve. Yet their passion comes with a price. And Thanatos must face a truth more terrifying than an apocalypse-he’s about to become a father.

Demon-slayer Regan Cooper never imagined herself the maternal type, but with the fate of the world hanging in the balance she had no choice but to seduce Thanatos and bear his child. Now, as the final battle draws closer and his rage at being betrayed is overshadowed by an undeniable passion for the mother of his child, Thanatos has a life-shattering realization: To save the world, he must sacrifice the only thing he’s ever wanted-a family.

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. 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 got a belated birthday present, 3 review copies, and 1 ARC. There are some great-sounding books in this week’s pile!

God's War by Kameron Hurley

God’s War (Bel Dame Apocrypha #1) by Kameron Hurley

For some reason, this book took forever to show up when my husband ordered it for me for my birthday (which was over a month and a half ago now). But it’s here now, and I am really excited to read it since I’ve been curious about it for awhile. Plus I’ve been a little irritated at myself for not picking it up when I came across it during one of the Borders sales.

God’s War is one of this year’s Nebula Award nominees for Best Novel. This science fiction novel has one sequel, Infidel, and a third book entitled Rapture will be available in November. It is available in trade paperback and ebook, and there are some sample chapters available on Baen Ebooks.

Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn t make any difference…

On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there’s one thing everybody agrees on–

There’s not a chance in hell of ending it.

Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx’s ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war–but at what price?

The world is about to find out.

The City In the Lake by Rachel Neumeier

The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy author Rachel Neumeier kindly sent me some of her books this week. They all sound really good, but I am most curious about this one (and it’s signed, yay!). I read the first page and really liked the writing style, and I’ve been wanting to read this ever since reading this review at The Book Smugglers.

This young adult fantasy book is available in hardcover, mass market paperback, and ebook. The hardcover version is actually available as a $6 bargain book on Amazon right now.

An excerpt from The City in the Lake is available.

THE KINGDOM’S HEART is the City. The City’s heart is the King. The King’s heart is the Prince. The Prince is missing.

Ever since the Prince disappeared, nothing has been right in the Kingdom. Something has disturbed the strange, old magic that whispers around its borders . . . something cunning and powerful. And the disturbance extends to the farthest reaches of the Kingdom, including the idyllic village where Timou is learning to be a mage under her father’s tutelage.

When Timou’s father journeys to the City to help look for the Prince, but never returns, Timou senses that the disturbance in the Kingdom is linked to her—and to the undiscovered heritage of the mother she never knew. She must leave her village, even if it means confronting powers greater than her own, even though what she finds may challenge everything she knows. Even if it means leaving love behind.

This breathtaking first novel spins a web of magic, bravery, and the power of love.

The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier

The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier

This is another young adult fantasy book that sounds really interesting. It was a Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book of the Year, an ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Book, and an ALA Amelia Bloomer Recommended Title (for feminist literature).

The Floating Islands is available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats. An excerpt is available on the publisher’s website.

When Trei loses his family in a tragic disaster, he must search out distant relatives in a new land. The Floating Islands are unlike anything Trei has ever seen: stunning, majestic, and graced with kajurai, men who soar the skies with wings.

Trei is instantly sky-mad, and desperate to be a kajurai himself.  The only one who fully understands his passion is Araene, his newfound cousin.  Prickly, sarcastic, and gifted, Araene has a secret of her own . . . a dream a girl cannot attain.

Trei and Araene quickly become conspirators as they pursue their individual paths.  But neither suspects that their lives will be deeply entwined, and that the fate of the Floating Islands will lie in their hands. . . .

Filled with rich language, and told in alternating voices, The Floating Islands is an all-encompassing young adult fantasy read.

Land of the Burning Sands by Rachel Neumeier

Land of the Burning Sands (The Griffin Mage #2) by Rachel Neumeier

Books 1 and 3 in the Griffin Mage trilogy aren’t included in this post because I already received unsolicited copies of both when they came out. I’ve almost started book 1 a few times, but has always picked a different book from the list for me when it’s one I’ve been thinking about reading.

The first Griffin Mage book is Lord of the Changing Winds and the last is Law of the Broken Earth. There is also a paperback omnibus containing all three called The Griffin Mage Trilogy. All of these are available as ebooks, and the single volumes are mass market paperback.

These fantasy books are adult fantasy, not young adult. There are excerpts available from all three:

  1. Lord of the Changing Winds
  2. Land of the Burning Sands
  3. Law of the Broken Earth

Gereint Enseichen of Casmantium knows little and cares less about the recent war in which his king tried to use griffins and fire to wrest territory from the neighboring country of Feierabiand…but he knows that his kingdom’s unexpected defeat offers him a chance to escape from his own servitude.

But now that the griffins find themselves in a position of strength, they are not inclined to forgive and the entire kingdom finds itself in deadly peril. Willing or not, Gereint will find himself caught up in a desperate struggle between the griffins and the last remaining Casmantian mage. Even the strongest gifts of making and building may not prove sufficient when the fiery wind of the griffins begins to bury the life of Casmantium beneath the burning sands . . .

This Case Is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova

This Case Is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova

This new urban fantasy will be released in September 2012. It’s a debut novel, and after skimming the first few pages I am a bit curious about it.

What happens when The Firm meets Anita Blake? You get the Halls of Power—our modern world, but twisted. Law, finance, the military, and politics are under the sway of long-lived vampires, werewolves, and the elven Alfar. Humans make the best of rule by “the Spooks,” and contend among themselves to affiliate with the powers-that-be, in order to avoid becoming their prey. Very loyal humans are rewarded with power over other women and men. Very lucky humans are selected to join the vampires, werewolves, and elves—or, on occasion, to live at the Seelie Court.

Linnet Ellery is the offspring of an affluent Connecticut family dating back to Colonial times. Fresh out of law school, she’s beginning her career in a powerful New York “white fang” law firm. She has high hopes of eventually making partner.

But strange things keep happening to her. In a workplace where some humans will eventually achieve immense power and centuries of extra lifespan, office politics can be vicious beyond belief. After some initial missteps, she finds herself sidelined and assigned to unpromising cases. Then, for no reason she can see, she becomes the target of repeated, apparently random violent attacks, escaping injury each time through increasingly improbable circumstances. However, there’s apparently more to Linnet Ellery than a little old-money human privilege. More than even she knows. And as she comes to understand this, she’s going to shake up the system like you wouldn’t believe…. 

Bitterblue is the third novel from New York Times bestselling author Kristin Cashore, whose previous two young adult fantasies impressed quite a few readers. Like its predecessors, Bitterblue is set in the Graceling Realm. It’s a sequel to Graceling that takes place 8 years later with a different protagonist, and Fire is a companion to both that takes place before Graceling and has both a different location and a different protagonist. While I don’t think it matters if Graceling or Fire is read first, I do think reading these two before Bitterblue will make it a more satisfying book, although it’s not strictly necessary to understand the story.

There will be spoilers for Graceling in this review so if you have not yet read that book, you may not want to read on.

For 35 years, Monsea suffered under the tyranny of King Leck. Leck had a Grace (special ability) that allowed him to control people, fogging their minds with his words so they believed anything he said. Any lie Leck told became reality, at least to those who were under his spell. He could convince people they had committed wrongs against those they loved or even make them perform actions they would never do without his coercion. Even worse, he could make them truly believe they enjoyed it.

Eight years after his death, Leck’s villainy is still vividly remembered by the people he ruled, his former advisers, and his daughter Queen Bitterblue. The horrors they endured are not easily forgotten, and waking up from Leck’s control to truly realize what happened is shocking. For Queen Bitterblue, it means ruling a kingdom that needs to rebuild itself, but ruling mostly seems to mean having her advisers bury her under piles of paperwork or force her to preside over rather trivial court cases. Tired of it all, Bitterblue dons a hood to disguise herself and sneaks out of the castle one night. She wanders into a tavern and discovers people gathering to tell stories of the past. Increasingly intrigued by what she hears, Bitterblue continues to sneak out in the middle of the night and ends up meeting Teddy and Saf, two men who make Bitterblue start wondering just how much she doesn’t know about her own kingdom – and what her advisers are hiding from her and why. Bitterblue makes it her mission to discover what exactly happened in the past and what she can do to help her people.

Bitterblue was one of my most anticipated books of this year after reading Fire and Graceling, but I’m sorry to say it wasn’t everything I had hoped. I finished it with very mixed feelings because it is a very maturely written book that handles themes well, and the characterization and some of the dialogue are also wonderful. In many ways, it is better than both Graceling and Fire yet I didn’t love it the way I did Fire or eagerly devour it the way I did Graceling despite its many wonderful qualities. While it does have many strengths, Bitterblue had a major weakness in its plot, which is slow, meandering, and at times, quite dull.

One aspect of Bitterblue that I really appreciate is that it deals with the aftermath of eliminating evil from the kingdom. The story did not end with the removal of the great evil that plagued the land and ignore the long road to recovery after life dealing with a reign of terror as so many fantasy stories do. Monsea was enslaved by Leck for 35 years, and this had a huge impact on its people that they are still dealing with 8 years later. Leck was an incredibly cruel man who controlled people’s minds, and this kind of mad power is going to leave echoes even once he’s gone. Bitterblue undertakes a quest for knowledge about the past and the memories that are hiding from her due to the fog in her mind from Leck’s influence. The overarching themes of the power of knowledge, the convolution of memory, erasure of the past, and lies that grow from good intentions were all thoughtfully handled and well executed.

Likewise, the characterization was excellent. The characters were well-rounded and likable, and had a wonderful camaraderie with each other. Bitterblue herself is exactly the type of character I love, one with great inner strength and intelligence. Her strong will and determination made her shine, especially as she took it upon herself to go out and discover the secrets her advisers were hiding from her. Bitterblue had a love for truth that made her pursue it no matter how painful. Yet, she’s not perfect and she actually tells a lot of lies herself when trying to get to the bottom of happenings in her kingdom. Her reasoning is understandable, though, and she has enough self-doubt and worries to be a realistic young queen who is just learning what it means to be both an adult and a ruler. While Bitterblue is the most prominent character, each and every character comes alive – Katsa with her openness and vibrance,  Saf with his roguishness and secrets, Teddy with his love of truth and knowledge, and Death (pronounced “Deeth”) the dour librarian with a soft spot for cats.

However, the plot is a weakness that kept the book from being truly excellent in spite of having many fantastic qualities. Much of the plot is dedicated to Bitterblue solving the puzzles of the past, and there is too much time spent on all the details of how she does this and the various questions she keeps pondering. In spite of my admiration for the thought that went into this story, it was missing the forward momentum that was needed. That’s not to say it isn’t resolved by the end, because it is and there are some very satisfying scenes for fans of the other two books. It just moved so slowly that it was quite often boring, and it was hard for me remain interested in what was happening a lot of the time.

This particular feeling confused me because I am a reader who prefers character over plot. Yet when I think of all the books I loved for characters over plot, they are books where the characters and their personal journey were a big part of the plot. While Bitterblue does learn more about the world around her, have some new experiences, and lose some of her naivete over the course of this novel, she doesn’t make any discoveries that change the core of who she is. Her character is an important part of the story, but the book is still more about the story of the kingdom and Bitterblue’s discoveries and memories than a big personal transformation. Therefore, this book needs plot in addition to character to keep it engaging.

The romantic subplot is not as memorable as either Katsa’s or Fire’s was. I had mixed feelings about it in this book, but unfortunately, I can’t really discuss it without spoilers for the end.

Overall, Bitterblue was a well-written book with believable characters, relationships, and dialogue. It had some great themes about knowledge and memory that were very thoughtfully executed, and the entire book left me with the impression there was a lot of consideration put into it. Yet it didn’t have the same spark that Fire and Graceling did, and the slow-moving plot kept it from achieving its full potential. If only the plot were tighter, I think this could have been an excellent book. As it is, the plot was slow enough to be a big hindrance to my enjoyment of the novel, and this prevents me from recommending Bitterblue as strongly as I do Kristin Cashore’s other books (especially Fire!).

My Rating: 6/10

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

Read an Excerpt from Bitterblue

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