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

This week some books showed up in the mail, plus a friend brought me back a book she thought I might like from a conference she recently went to (I hadn’t heard of this book before but now I’m really excited about reading it!).

For reviews, I’m working on a review of Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear, a phenomenal book. I’m not sure yet what I’ll pull out of the to-review pile after that one.

On to the books!

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy #1) by Sherry Thomas

This young adult fantasy will be available in hardcover and ebook in September. It’s the first young adult fantasy by Sherry Thomas, who is known for her historical romance novels. The first two chapters can be read on the author’s website. The few paragraphs before chapter one begins have me quite intrigued:


Just before the start of Summer Half, in April 1883, a very minor event took place at Eton College, that venerable and illustrious English public school for boys. A sixteen-year-old pupil named Archer Fairfax returned from a three-month absence, caused by a fractured femur, to resume his education.

Almost every word in the preceding sentence is false. Archer Fairfax had not suffered a broken limb. He had never before set foot in Eton. His name was not Archer Fairfax. And he was not, in fact, even a he.

This is the story of a girl who fooled a thousand boys, a boy who fooled an entire country, a partnership that would change the fate of realms, and a power to challenge the greatest tyrant the world had ever known.

Expect magic.

I have a soft spot for the girl dressed as a boy plot, plus “a girl who fooled a thousand boys”? And “a boy who fooled an entire country”? Sounds like fun!


It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he’s also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to revenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

Robert the Bruce by Jack Whyte

Robert the Bruce (The Guardians #2) by Jack Whyte

This historical fiction novel about Robert I will be available in hardcover/ebook on August 6th. It is the second book in a series, but the series seems to be a set of stand alone books about Scottish history. The first book, The Forest Laird, focused on William Wallace.

Robert the Bruce has also been published in Canada as The Renegade: A Tale of Robert the Bruce, and an excerpt from that is here.

I am curious about this one since I really enjoyed the Dreams of Eagles/Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte starting with The Skystone. They were a fascinating retelling of the legend of King Arthur.


Robert I, or as he is known to a grateful Scottish nation, Robert the Bruce, was one of Scotland’s greatest kings, as well as one of the most famous warriors of his generation. He spearheaded the valiant Scots in their quest for freedom, leading his people during the Wars of Scottish Independence against the Kingdom of England. His reign saw the recognition of Scotland as an independent nation, and today Bruce is remembered in Scotland as a national hero.

It was by no means a fair and easy road for this indomitable fighter. As a young man he saw the English king Edward I award the vacant Crown of Scotland to John Balliol. The nation quickly splintered into factions and this spurred Robert and his father to at first side with Edward and then against John, whom many of the nobles did not feel was the correct person to guide the nation. Thus began a decades-long path for Scottish freedom. To achieve this goal, Robert sometimes had to delicately balance the power of the nobles against the might of the English. He was a tireless campaigner and after a full life of battle and diplomacy, in May 1328, King Edward III signed the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, which recognized Scotland as an independent kingdom and Bruce as its king.

A passionate man. An incredible warrior. And one of Scotland’s finest.

Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

Blood of Tyrants (Temeraire #8) by Naomi Novik

The next-to-last Temeraire novel will be released in hardcover and ebook on August 13. Chapter One from Blood of Tyrants can be read online.

Naomi Novik is a New York Times bestselling author and the recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her Temeraire series has been optioned for film by Peter Jackson. I’ve heard this series is wonderful but haven’t read the first book (though I plan to, especially after going to a reading in New York last year in which she read from the first chapter!).

The previous books in the Temeraire series are as follows:

  1. His Majesty’s Dragon
  2. Throne of Jade
  3. Black Powder War
  4. Empire of Ivory
  5. Victory of Eagles
  6. Tongues of Serpents
  7. Crucible of Gold

Shipwrecked and cast ashore in Japan with no memory of Temeraire or his own experiences as an English aviator, Laurence finds himself tangled in deadly political intrigues that threaten not only his own life but England’s already precarious position in the Far East. Age-old enmities and suspicions have turned the entire region into a powder keg ready to erupt at the slightest spark—a spark that Laurence and Temeraire may unwittingly provide, leaving Britain faced with new enemies just when they most desperately need allies instead.

For to the west, another, wider conflagration looms. Napoleon has turned on his former ally, the emperor Alexander of Russia, and is even now leading the largest army the world has ever seen to add that country to his list of conquests. It is there, outside the gates of Moscow, that a reunited Laurence and Temeraire—along with some unexpected allies and old friends—will face their ultimate challenge…and learn whether or not there are stronger ties than memory.

Naomi Novik’s beloved Temeraire series, a brilliant combination of fantasy and history that reimagines the Napoleonic wars as fought with the aid of intelligent dragons, is a twenty-first-century classic. From the first volume, His Majesty’s Dragon, readers have been entranced by the globe-spanning adventures of the resolute Capt. William Laurence and his brave but impulsive dragon, Temeraire. Now, in Blood of Tyrants, the penultimate volume of the series, Novik is at the very height of her powers as she brings her story to its widest, most colorful canvas yet.

A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood

A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood

This horror debut novel will be released in the US (hardcover/ebook) in September. It was released in the UK last year, and it was a Richard and Judy Book Club selection. An excerpt from A Cold Season can be read on the publisher’s website.


Cass is building a new life for herself and her young son Ben after the death of her soldier husband Pete, returning to the village where she lived as a child. But their idyllic new home is not what she expected: the other flats are all empty, there’s strange graffiti on the walls, and the villagers are a bit odd. And when an unexpectedly heavy snowstorm maroons the village, things get even harder. Ben is changing, he’s surly and aggressive and Cass’s only confidant is the smooth, charming Theodore Remick, the stand-in headmaster. Not everyone approves of Cass’s growing closeness to Mr Remick, and it soon becomes obvious he’s not all he appears to be either. If she is to protect her beloved son, Cass is going to have to fight back. Cass realises this is not the first time her family have been targeted by Theodore Remick. But this time, the stakes are immeasurably higher…