The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound like they may be interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (the latter of which are mainly unsolicited books from publishers). 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. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Last week brought two books in the mail, but first, here’s the latest review in case you missed it:

  • A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen — This is a hopeful story about found family set in an alternative (I hope) near future, six years after approximately five billion people died in a worldwide pandemic. It wasn’t what I’d call a bad book but also wasn’t exactly my cup of tea since I didn’t find the world or characters to have a lot of depth, and the story is told via plain, straightforward prose.

Now, the latest book arrivals!

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso - Book Cover

The Obsidian Tower (Rooks and Ruin #1) by Melissa Caruso

The Obsidian Tower, the first book in a new series set in the same world as the Swords and Fire trilogy, will be released on June 2 (trade paperback, ebook). It takes place about 150 years after the previous series and follows new characters.

This is one of the 2020 book releases I’ve been most excited about reading since I loved Melissa Caruso’s debut series. It starts with a young noblewoman inadvertently becoming bound to a powerful fire mage when trying to prevent the city from burning down, and as much as I enjoyed the first book, the next two books are even better.

They feature:

  • Problems involving love vs. duty
  • A heroine taking a role she wouldn’t have chosen for herself and making it her own
  • Friendships
  • Governments that aren’t monarchies
  • A setting with gender/LGBTQ equality
  • An actual competent villain
  • A blunt, foul-mouthed fire mage
  • An intense vote
  • Danger and destruction
  • A Witch Lord who has an affinity for crows and lives for playing games (and also likes to make dramatic or sneaky entrances that do not involve just using the front door)
  • A love triangle that does something a bit different
  • Women being badass in a variety of ways
  • Difficult choices
  • Powerful magic (that often leads to danger and destruction)
  • Celebrations with sinister schemes afoot
  • Excellent pacing
  • Fun dialogue
  • A satisfying conclusion
  • And much more!

I’ve reviewed the entire series, and each book was on my favorites list for the year of its release. If you want to check those out while waiting for The Obsidian Tower, the Swords and Fire trilogy is as follows:

  1. The Tethered Mage (My 8/10 Review | Excerpt)
  2. The Defiant Heir (My 9/10 Review)
  3. The Unbound Empire (My 9/10 Review)

The Obsidian Tower begins a bold new epic fantasy trilogy in which the broken magic of one woman will either save an entire continent-or completely destroy it.

As the granddaughter of a Witch Lord of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige. But a childhood illness left her with broken magic that drains the life from anything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers. So Ryx has resigned herself to an isolated life as the warden of Gloamingard, her grandmother’s castle.

At Gloamingard’s heart lies a black tower. Sealed by magic, it guards a dangerous secret that has been contained for thousands of years. Until one impetuous decision Ryx makes leaves her with blood on her hands-and unleashes a threat that could doom everything she loves to fall to darkness.

The Queen's Bargain by Anne Bishop - Book Cover

The Queen’s Bargain (Black Jewels #10) by Anne Bishop

A new book set in the Black Jewels world will be released on March 10 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Anne Bishop’s website has an excerpt from The Queen’s Bargain, and the Penguin Random House website lists some book tour events around the time of its publication.

The Black Jewels books have been recommended to me multiple times as dark fantasy I’d probably like, but I’ve not (yet) read any of them. It sounds as though The Queen’s Bargain can be read as a standalone with its own story arc, but Anne Bishop’s website does suggest reading the other books first on her page about the series, which includes the recommended reading order.



Return to the dark, sensual, and powerful world of the Black Jewels in this long-awaited new story in the New York Times bestselling fantasy saga.

After a youthful mistake, Lord Dillon’s reputation is in tatters, leaving him vulnerable to aristo girls looking for a bit of fun. To restore his reputation and honor, he needs a handfast–a one-year contract of marriage. He sets his sights on Jillian, a young Eyrien witch from Ebon Rih, who he believes has only a flimsy connection to the noble society that spurned him. Unfortunately for Dillon, he is unaware of Jillian’s true connections until he finds himself facing Lucivar Yaslana, the volatile Warlord Prince of Ebon Rih.

Meanwhile, Surreal SaDiablo’s marriage is crumbling. Daemon Sadi, the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan, recognizes there is something wrong between him and Surreal, but he doesn’t realize that his attempt to suppress his own nature in order to spare his wife is causing his mind to splinter. To save Daemon, and the Realm of Kaeleer if he breaks, help must be sought from someone who no longer exists in any of the Realms–the only Queen powerful enough to control Daemon Sadi. The Queen known as Witch.

As Jillian rides the winds of first love with Dillon, Daemon and Surreal struggle to survive the wounds of a marriage turned stormy–and Lucivar has to find a way to keep everyone in his family safe…even from each other.