The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail 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, along with series information and the publisher’s book description.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of, and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Last week brought an ebook I’m rather excited about—after all, it was featured as one of my anticipated 2024 speculative fiction book releases.

In case you missed it last week, I posted a review of The Serpent & the Wings of Night by Carissa Broadbent. This was a bit of a frustrating book for me because I loved the beginning, thought the ending was intriguing, and enjoyed the father/daughter relationship, but was underwhelmed by everything else (especially the dull trials and the central relationship in this fantasy romance, which were rather rushed).

On to the latest book, which sounds amazing!

Cover of The Mountain Crown by Karin Lowachee

The Mountain Crown (The Crowns of Ishia #1) by Karin Lowachee

The Mountain Crown, the first book in a trilogy of fantasy novellas with dragons, will be published on October 8 (trade paperback, ebook).

In an interview about her upcoming novella on Transfer Orbit, Karin Lowachee discussed colonialism, dragons, her growth as a writer, and more. I love so much of what she said here, especially about why she writes and what hasn’t changed for her as a writer, and here’s a bit about what she wanted to do with this particular novella:

Specifically with The Mountain Crown, I wanted to write a woman who is grounded in her spirituality, who is contained, who is purposeful in her movements, who outsiders might consider stoic, who is capable without being flashy, who (Western) readers might consider passive as if it’s a fault (it isn’t). I wanted to write about her culture that seeks other avenues besides war, that is connected to nature on an atomic level in a conscious way. I wanted this story to unfold in its own way, with a character who wasn’t pushing to be pigeonholed as a specific type of personality. I think my focus on these aspects of both character and story are because I’ve become interested in narratives that explore people and ways of living that aren’t the commonly considered Western narratives of “active” protagonists and constant “action” to drive a plot.

I’m particularly excited about this book because Karin Lowachee’s Warchild Mosaic is my favorite science fiction series. As I wrote in a post highlighting it during this year’s Women in SF&F Month, “Karin Lowachee has the gift of creating characters that are more complex, flawed, compelling, and real than most fictional people.”


An epic dragon-rider quest where Empress of Salt and Fortune meets Temeraire

Méka must capture a king dragon, or die trying.

War between the island states of Kattaka and Mazemoor has left no one unscathed. Méka’s nomadic people, the Ba’Suon, were driven from their homeland by the Kattakans. Those who remained were forced to live under the Kattakan yoke, to serve their greed for gold alongside the dragons with whom the Ba’Suon share an empathic connection.

A decade later and under a fragile truce, Méka returns home from her exile for an ancient, necessary rite: gathering a king dragon of the Crown Mountains to maintain balance in the wild country. But Méka’s act of compassion toward an imprisoned dragon and Lilley, a Kattakan veteran of the war, soon draws the ire of the imperialistic authorities. They order the unwelcome addition of an enigmatic Ba’Suon traitor named Raka to accompany Méka and Lilley to the mountains.

The journey is filled with dangers both within and without. As conflict threatens to reignite, the survival of the Ba’Suon people, their dragons, and the land itself will depend on the decisions – defiant or compliant – that Méka and her companions choose to make. But not even Méka, kin to the great dragons of the North, can anticipate the depth of the consequences to her world.

The Serpent & the Wings of Night
by Carissa Broadbent
480pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.31/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.33/5

As an Amazon Associate and Bookshop affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

The Serpent & the Wings of Night is the first book in The Nightborn Duet, the first of three related fantasy romance duologies in The Crowns of Nyaxia series. After seeing a lot of praise for this novel and reading a bit of the beginning, I was looking forward to it. (I may have also been a bit more intrigued by vampire books than usual due to my favorite character from Baldur’s Gate 3.)

Yet, as much as I loved its beginning, I was underwhelmed by almost everything between its earliest chapters and its intriguing conclusion. There wasn’t much depth to the worldbuilding and characterization, and the overall story seemed rushed, especially the early stages of the romance and the tournament. (Seriously, I never realized trials to the death could be so dull.)

Set in a secondary fantasy world, The Serpent & the Wings of Night follows Oraya, the human daughter of a vampire king, as she competes in a four-month-long tournament honoring the goddess who created vampires. Held only once per century, the competition contains five trials that each represent a key part of the goddess’ life and ascension to divinity. Though only one contestant survives, there is no shortage of volunteers since the winner receives a favor from the goddess herself—and Oraya intends to become powerful enough that she’ll never need to fear being a human with tasty blood living among vampires ever again.

But when she makes a temporary alliance with one of her rivals, she ends up falling for him and starts to question her father’s ways, complicating everything.

The Serpent & the Wings of Night was a strange, frustrating book for me. It had such potential and there were a couple of things I loved about it, but other than the beginning and ending, I found it uninteresting. I thought this may have been due to reading it while I had a really bad cold and that I might have enjoyed it more if I’d felt better when I read it. However, I went through it again in order to write this review and was able to confirm that illness had nothing to do with my prior experience.

As I mentioned previously, the opening did hook me. One of my biggest disappointments with this book is that it introduces a couple of really compelling relationships in the prologue and first couple of chapters—that between Oraya and her father as well as her friendship with an older human woman—and the romantic relationship pales in comparison to these. I loved the prologue, which shows the vampire king Vincent finding Oraya, a lone orphaned child so fierce and determined to survive that he saw some of himself in her and wanted to protect her.

The father/daughter bond was by far the best part of this novel, and though neither of these characters were even close to the most complicated characters I’ve encountered, they had an interesting dynamic with at least some complexity. Even though the ruthless vampire king wasn’t a good person or a good father, he did truly care about his daughter and wanted what he thought was best for her, and his fears for her were valid. I appreciated that this wasn’t a simple, easy-to-define relationship, especially as Oraya had to reckon with the parts of her father she didn’t know about after having spent her entire life seeing him as the only one she could trust. (Unfortunately, the aforementioned friendship with the human woman isn’t as prominent and only comes up occasionally in memories after the opening.)

Much of the novel covers the span of the four-month-long tournament that has five trials spread throughout that period, and I thought the lack of worldbuilding and rushed pacing made everything related to the competition rather dull. Most of the individual trials only get a short couple of chapters or so, and they’re accompanied by brief infodumps about how they tie into the goddess’ life without making the mythology and her backstory feel like a big part of it.

That may be due to this being in the fantasy romance category rather than fantasy with romance, but even the central relationship seemed hastily developed. After Oraya and her love interest forge an alliance, it just glosses over all the training they do together, skipping over a lot of their getting to know each other. These two had a promising dynamic as a human raised as a vampire who didn’t really understand humanity and a vampire who used to be human and still tries to retain that side of himself, but though sweet, it wasn’t fleshed out enough to be interesting. (And I agree with those who think “There she is” was used far too much.)

Another reason I was underwhelmed by this was the lack of subtlety and depth given to Oraya’s competitors, making it quite clear who is trustworthy and who is not. Maybe my expectations were just all wrong, but given that this novel featured a tournament to the death, I was anticipating glittering danger, betrayals, and questions about different characters’ motivations. But it’s not about who Oraya can trust or whether or not she should trust some people—that’s far too obvious—but whether or not she can learn to trust after spending her entire life mistrusting and fearing everyone but her father. Maybe this would have worked for me if I liked Oraya more, but even though I admired her fierceness and determination at first, she didn’t have much dimension. Her characterization was limited to a small number of traits that kept coming up throughout the story, and these weren’t fleshed out enough to make up for these limits.

The writing was a bit odd for me, and I had such mixed feelings about it. It drew me in during the short prologue showing Vincent finding Oraya, which set up the melodrama of his greatest love being his downfall and how he should have known to protect his heart above all as a vampire. (What can I say, I love a good tragedy.) However, the fragmented prose that worked for me as part of an interlude did not work as well for me throughout a novel, and though there were some lovely parts on occasion, the prose felt rushed to me like everything else. It had a quality I don’t quite know how to describe since it was an unusual reading experience: it made me want to move ahead and not spend time focusing on it. This might sound like a positive aspect, but it just seemed to immediately slip away from me, and I prefer prose that makes me pause and reflect.

Although Oraya needed to stop and think about what she was doing more in the end, the conclusion did intrigue me since it seemed to be setting up more of the dangerous court politics I’d been hoping for. However, I doubt I’ll read the sequel since there’s still no real ambiguity or mystery surrounding character motivations by the end, and this didn’t have enough characterization or worldbuilding for my personal taste.

My Rating: 5/10

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

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail 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, along with series information and the publisher’s book description.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of, and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

This past week brought new editions of the books in The Dark Elf Trilogy by R. A. Salvatore, which were rereleased on May 21. More of The Legend of Drizzt books will follow, starting with a rerelease of The Icewind Dale Trilogy in September.

I read a bunch of The Legend of Drizzt books a long time ago and found them to be great fun, but The Dark Elf Trilogy are actually the ones I remember most fondly. The Underdark and drow characters were most compelling to me, and I had actually already been thinking about rereading this trilogy since I can’t stop playing Baldur’s Gate 3. (I’m excited to revisit these partially because I don’t remember enough about the different houses that come up in the game and partially because I want to refresh my memory before doing a run as a cleric of Lolth.)

Cover of Homeland by R. A. Salvatore

Homeland (The Dark Elf Trilogy #1) by R. A. Salvatore

The Penguin Random House website has an excerpt from Homeland.

I just love seeing Guenhwyvar on the cover.


Discover the origin story of one of Dungeons & Dragons’ greatest heroes, drow ranger Drizzt Do’Urden, in the thrilling first adventure in The Dark Elf Trilogy.

As the third son of Mother Malice and weaponmaster Zaknafein, Drizzt Do’Urden must be sacrificed to Lolth, the evil Spider Queen, per the tradition of their matriarchal drow society. But the unexpected death of his older brother spares young Drizzt—though he is still at the mercy of his abusive sisters.

As Drizzt grows older and proves himself to be a formidable warrior at Melee-Magthere Academy, he realizes that his idea of good and evil does not match that of his fellow drow, who show only cruelty to the other creatures of the Underdark. Can Drizzt stay true to himself in a such an unforgiving, unprincipled world?

Cover of Exile by R. A. Salvatore

Exile (The Dark Elf Trilogy #2) by R. A. Salvatore

The Penguin Random House website has an excerpt from Exile.


Drizzt Do’Urden fights for survival in the labyrinthine Underdark in the second book of The Dark Elf Trilogy.

Ten years have passed since we last saw Drizzt Do’Urden and his magical feline companion, Guenhwyvar—and much has changed. Exiled from Menzoberranzan, the city of his childhood and the hub of drow society, Drizzt now wanders the subterranean maze of the Underdark in search of a new home.

But loneliness is not the only thing that preys on Drizzt: His drow enemies, including his own siblings, would like nothing more than to see him dead. With murder on their minds, they begin their own search of the Underdark tunnels, forcing Drizzt to watch his back at every turn.

Cover of Sojourn by R. A. Salvatore

Sojourn (The Dark Elf Trilogy #3) by R. A. Salvatore

The Penguin Random House website has an excerpt from Sojourn.


Lone drow Drizzt Do’Urden emerges from the Underdark into the blinding light of day in this epic final chapter of The Dark Elf Trilogy.

After years spent in the ruthless confines of the Underdark, Drizzt Do’Urden has emerged from the subterranean society of his youth to start a new life. Accompanied by his loyal panther, Drizzt begins exploring the surface of Faerûn, a world unlike any he has ever known. From skunks to shapeshifters, Faerûn is full of unfamiliar creatures and fresh dangers, which Drizzt must learn to navigate if he is to survive.

But while Drizzt acts with the best intentions, many of the surface dwellers regard him with fear and mistrust. Can he find faithful allies in this foreign land—or is he doomed to be a lonely outsider, just as he was in the Underdark?

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail 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, along with series information and the publisher’s book description.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of, and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

It’s actually been a little while since I’ve done one of these posts, largely because I was working on the two big annual posts and then getting Women in SF&F Month together. (If you missed any of the guest posts or book recommendations from last month, you can find links to all of them here.)

One book showed up in the mail last week, and I’m also covering one that arrived the week before last. Both of these books appeared on my list of anticipated 2024 speculative fiction book releases.

Cover of Goddess of the River by Vaishnavi Patel

Goddess of the River by Vaishnavi Patel

Vaishnavi Patel’s second novel, a reimagining of the Mahabharata and Ganga’s story, will be released on May 21 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

I’ve been looking forward to reading more by Vaishnavi Patel since reading her debut novel, Kaikeyi, which reimagines the story of the titular queen from the Ramayana. As I wrote in my review:

Kaikeyi is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I appreciated its focus on a compassionate but flawed heroine determined to carve a place for herself in a society that didn’t want her to be her true self as a woman with ambition: a queen and a warrior, a mother and a political adviser, an advocate for other women, and ultimately, someone who had a profound impact. It’s a fantastic debut—from the protagonist’s story and voice to the depth of her familial relationships to the more epic scenes involving gods and other supernatural beings—and I’m eagerly anticipating Vaishnavi Patel’s next novel.

This was a book that I appreciated and enjoyed but found I admired even more after finishing it and reflecting on it.

The author also shared about a trope she wanted to challenge through Kaikeyi’s story in her Women in SF&F Month guest post from 2022, “Divorcing the Evil Stepmother.”


A powerful reimagining of the story of Ganga, goddess of the river, and her doomed mortal son, from Vaishnavi Patel, author of the instant New York Times bestseller Kaikeyi.

A mother and a son. A goddess and a prince. A curse and an oath. A river whose course will change the fate of the world.

Ganga, joyful goddess of the river, serves as caretaker to the mischievous godlings who roam her banks. But when their antics incur the wrath of a powerful sage, Ganga is cursed to become mortal, bound to her human form until she fulfills the obligations of the curse.

Though she knows nothing of mortal life, Ganga weds King Shantanu and becomes a queen, determined to regain her freedom no matter the cost. But in a cruel turn of fate, just as she is freed of her binding, she is forced to leave her infant son behind.

Her son, prince Devavrata, unwittingly carries the legacy of Ganga’s curse. And when he makes an oath that he will never claim his father’s throne, he sets in motion a chain of events that will end in a terrible and tragic war.

As the years unfold, Ganga and Devavrata are drawn together again and again, each confluence another step on a path that has been written in the stars, in this deeply moving and masterful tale of duty, destiny, and the unwavering bond between mother and son.

Cover of Saints of Storm and Sorrow by Gabriella Buba

Saints of Storm and Sorrow (The Stormbringer Saga #1) by Gabriella Buba

This Filipino-inspired debut novel will be out on June 25 (paperback, ebook). This sounds fantastic, and it’s described as being my sort of book: “perfect for fans of lush fantasy full of morally ambiguous characters.”

Gabriella Buba also discussed it in her Women in SF&F Month guest post last month:

But Fantasy can ask all the what ifs of history: what if all the victors destroyed and time has lost still remained? It can fill in the gaps between the lines of racist reports written by Spanish clergy—Spanish that I read with more fluency than my stumbling Tagalog.

And so reading and then writing Fantasy became the vehicle by which I could safely unspool and grapple with the history of colonialism and imperialism that created the war, want, and waste that sent my Filipino family across an ocean.

Taking this fragmented pre-colonial history together with re-imaginings of myths and folklore, Saints of Storm and Sorrow is a Filipino-inspired Fantasy in which Lunurin, a bisexual nun hiding a goddess-given gift, is unwillingly transformed into a lightning rod for her people’s struggle against colonization.

It is Lunurin’s efforts to protect those she loves from the crushing realities and abuses of colonialism and its twin tools of greed and religion that ultimately awakens her Goddess and forces Lunurin to act, to break the status quo, and finally face the past she’s become so good at running from.

You can read “Fantasy Safe Spaces: Facing the Specters of the Past Now They’ve Come Back to Haunt Us” in its entirety here.


In this fiercely imaginative Filipino-inspired fantasy debut, a bisexual nun hiding a goddess-given gift is unwillingly transformed into a lightning rod for her people’s struggle against colonization.

Perfect for fans of lush fantasy full of morally ambiguous characters, including The Poppy War and The Jasmine Throne.

María Lunurin has been living a double life for as long as she can remember. To the world, she is Sister María, dutiful nun and devoted servant of Aynila’s Codicían colonizers. But behind closed doors, she is a stormcaller, chosen daughter of the Aynilan goddess Anitun Tabu. In hiding not only from the Codicíans and their witch hunts, but also from the vengeful eye of her slighted goddess, Lunurin does what she can to protect her fellow Aynilans and the small family she has created in the convent: her lover Catalina, and Cat’s younger sister Inez.

Lunurin is determined to keep her head down—until one day she makes a devastating discovery, which threatens to tear her family apart. In desperation, she turns for help to Alon Dakila, heir to Aynila’s most powerful family, who has been ardently in love with her for years. But this choice sets in motion a chain of events beyond her control, awakening Anitun Tabu’s rage and putting everyone Lunurin loves in terrible danger. Torn between the call of Alon’s magic and Catalina’s jealousy, her duty to her family and to her people, Lunurin can no longer keep Anitun Tabu’s fury at bay.

The goddess of storms demands vengeance. And she will sweep aside anyone who stands in her way.

Women in SF&F Month Banner

Thank you so very much to all of this year’s guests for the amazing essays and making April 2024 another wonderful Women in SF&F Month! Also, thank you to everyone who shared their posts and helped spread the word about this year’s series. It is always very much appreciated!

Although this year’s series has ended, I wanted to make sure there was a way to find all of the guest posts from 2024 for anyone who missed them during April. This was the thirteenth annual Women in SF&F Month, which is dedicated to highlighting some of the many women doing fantastic work in speculative fiction genres. Guest posts have included both discussions related to women in science fiction and/or fantasy and more general discussions about the genre(s) and what makes them special, experiences and influences, writing, and creating stories, characters, and/or worlds.

You can browse through all the Women in SF&F Month 2024 guest posts here, or you can find a brief summary of each and its link below.

This year, I also shared about 5 series I love that I think deserve more readers and more discussion in bookish/SFF communities. These recommendation posts and their links follow the guest post list.

Through May 3, there is a US-only giveaway for one of two books from Seanan McGuire’s New York Times bestselling, Hugo Award–nominated InCryptid series: either Discount Armageddon (the first book) or Aftermarket Afterlife (the thirteenth and latest book).

Women in SF&F Month 2024 Guest Posts

Buba, Gabriella — “Fantasy Safe Spaces: Facing the Specters of the Past Now They’ve Come Back to Haunt Us”
Saints of Storm and Sorrow author Gabriella Buba shared about using fantasy fiction to dig into troubling topics and how she grappled with things that grieve her, including colonialism and the loss of women’s rights, in her debut novel.

Chan, Eliza — “Into the Retelling-Verse”
Fathomfolk author Eliza Chan wrote about the appeal of retellings, from different versions of Spider-Man to folktales, and why she chose to use and rework a familiar fairy tale and different mythologies in her debut novel.

Chen, Amber — “Using Fiction to Empower Girls in STEM”
Of Jade and Dragons author Amber Chen discussed fictional representation of girls and women in STEM and incorporating this into her YA fantasy novel (and recommended a few SFF books with girls in STEM or girls wreaking havoc in male-dominated worlds!).

Dimova, Genoveva — “Female mentors in fantasy”
The Witch’s Compendium of Monsters author Genoveva Dimova wrote about being drawn to older women in mentorship roles, writing one in Foul Days and Monstrous Nights, and older female representation in media.

Leow, Amy — “Villains, Grey Areas, and What Women Can and Cannot Be”
The Scarlet Throne author Amy Leow discussed her love of unhinged, messy women and shared about creating her debut novel’s protagonist to be an evil, irredeemable character.

Mills, Samantha — “The WIP of Theseus”
The Wings Upon Her Back author Samantha Mills wrote about the heart of story and some questions about change and transformation that made their way into her debut novel.

Mohamed, Premee — “Speculative War and Writing What You Cannot Know”
The Siege of Burning Grass author Premee Mohamed shared about how she keeps writing fiction involving war and why she chooses to explore it in speculative settings.

Samotin, Laura R. — “Writing Found Families With Two-Dimensional Characters”
The Sins on Their Bones author Laura R. Samotin wrote about one of her favorite tropes and how she made her cast of characters well-rounded when incorporating it into her novel.

Women in SF&F Month 2024 Recommendation Posts

The Books of Ambha Duology by Tasha Suri
There are many reasons I adore these beautifully written, deeply affecting fantasy novels, but the most memorable to me is the two women who are the heart of each story: sisters with some of the divine in their blood. (Each of these books also has a lovely romance.)

Chronicles of the Bitch Queen by K. S. Villoso
This trilogy about a queen grappling with her role(s) in the world has everything I want in an epic fantasy series. I especially appreciate the author’s masterful use of voice and skill with creating unusually real, complex characters.

The Mirage Duology by Somaiya Daud
This gorgeous young adult science fiction duology about a young woman forced to be a princess’ body double has a wonderfully developed, complex female friendship as its main relationship focus. In addition to that, I adored the protagonist for her bravery, insight, compassion, and poetic voice/soul.

Swords and Fire by Melissa Caruso
This is a well-paced, entertaining epic fantasy trilogy with heart, humor, and sharp dialogue, and it takes some common story beats and tropes and does something a little different with them. The first book kept me up reading until 2:00 AM, and the next two books were even better!

The Warchild Mosaic by Karin Lowachee
This is my favorite science fiction series, largely because Karin Lowachee’s characters are more complex, flawed, compelling, and real than most fictional people. She is a master of voice, characterization, and ripping my heart out.

Women in SF&F Month Banner

This week I’m sharing about some series I love that I think deserve more readers and more discussion in bookish/SFF communities. Today I’m gushing about The Warchild Mosaic by Karin Lowachee, a science fiction series that currently contains the novels Warchild, Burndive, and Cagebird; the collection Omake: Stories from the Warchild Universe; and the novella Under the Silence. This is my favorite science fiction series, and Karin Lowachee is a master of voice, characterization, and ripping my heart out. (Yes, I consider the latter a positive quality.)

Cover of Warchild by Karin Lowachee Cover of Burndive by Karin Lowachee Cover of Cagebird by Karin Lowachee

Karin Lowachee’s Warchild Mosaic is character-driven science fiction at its very best. She’s adept at digging into the people she writes and making you feel deeply for them, and though they’re all dealing with traumas—sometimes similar ones, as they’re usually related to the war between humans and aliens and/or space pirates—they each have distinct voices, personalities, and reactions to all that they endure.

Each of the three novels in this universe has a different protagonist, but they do tie together with each expanding on the previous one(s) to show the bigger picture. Warchild, the first book in the series, has both my favorite story and my favorite protagonist in the series so far. This focuses on Jos, who was captured by the pirates that destroyed his merchant ship when he was eight years old. Although the captain of the pirate ship sold the other children he took, he decided to keep smart, pretty Jos for himself and mold him into someone whose attractiveness he can use for his own ends. Jos escapes about a year after his capture and is then trained by the assassin-priest who rescued him, who eventually sends him to spy on an enemy ship.

Warchild is an amazing work, largely because of Jos, his voice, and his complicated relationships with others on both sides of the war. The opening sequence starting with the attack on his ship is especially powerful, as it captures just how young he is, and the narrative choice to use second-person perspective for the earliest chapters set on the pirate ship adds urgency to the tenser parts while keeping Jos himself at a distance from the most horrific events of his life. Though this obviously deals with some heavy subjects, this is the least grim novel in the series: in part, because Jos would prefer not to remember what happened to him and therefore doesn’t go into detail about it, but also because there is some amusing banter among the ship’s crew and an emotionally satisfying (if somewhat rushed) ending.

The next book in the sequence, Burndive, took me longer to get into than the first book but still ended up being great (even if Ryan is my least favorite protagonist). Ryan is the son of a major character in Warchild, and he survives a horrifying shooting that he suspects was an attempt on his life due to his father’s actions at the end of the previous book. It’s largely about how this event affects him and his relationship with his father, who Ryan hasn’t actually seen much given that he’s usually in space. The highlights of this novel for me were the parts that tied in most with the previous book: seeing some of its characters and learning more about Ryan’s father. He’s hardened and ruthless but also compassionate, and I found him to be the most complex and fascinating character in this novel.

Cagebird, the rawest, most character-driven of the three novels, is my favorite after Warchild. Yuri’s story covers events that take place before, during, and after the previous two books, from how his planet was destroyed by war when he was a child to how he became the pirate captain’s new protégé after Jos escaped. Unlike Jos, Yuri is unaware of his situation on the pirate ship at first: he thinks he’s been hired to work on a merchant ship that seems far better than the planet for refugees he came from. Also unlike Jos, Yuri is candid about his painful experiences during his time on the pirate ship after he learns the truth about its captain and his plans for him, which start with geisha training. The work Karin Lowachee does with Yuri’s character study is phenomenal, and I loved that he started as rather unlikable (especially given the end of the previous book) and became more sympathetic: he’s been trapped and used, and this is a book that really digs into what shaped the protagonist.

Although I love the novels and their more in-depth focus on a few key individuals the most, Omake is also excellent. These stories showcase the author’s skill at writing a variety of people with distinct voices and making them feel real in a way few authors can manage. (The novels should be read first since many of these stories are character studies that will be missing some context otherwise.)

The recent novella Under the Silence, set after Burndive, is a lovely exploration of a changing relationship: one that’s delicate and difficult because of scars that make it impossible for someone to just be close to someone else, no matter how much they might want to be. Like with the other shorter stories, I didn’t love it the same way I did the novels, but I’m glad I read it. It has some gorgeous moments and beautiful lines that made me pause to admire them.

Karin Lowachee has the gift of creating characters that are more complex, flawed, compelling, and real than most fictional people. This is the main reason the novels in her Warchild Mosaic are some of my favorite books, and I’m eagerly awaiting Matryoshka and The Warboy.

Additional Reading on The Warchild Mosaic and Karin Lowachee: