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. 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. Book covers and some titles are affiliate links to Bookshop, and I earn from qualifying purchases.

Since dealing with moving, I have been behind on these features (and everything else), but one ARC showed up a couple of weeks ago, and I purchased three more books:

All of these were covered in 30 Anticipated 2021 Speculative Fiction Releases if you’re looking for more information on them in one place.

In case you missed it, a new review was also posted last week:

On to the new ARC, which sounds amazing!

Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James - Book Cover

Moon Witch, Spider King (The Dark Star Trilogy #2) by Marlon James

Moon Witch, Spider King will be released on February 15 (hardcover, ebook, and audiobook; large print paperback scheduled for March 15).

The Dark Star trilogy is not a linear series, and each novel explores the same story from a different perspective with the second book focusing on the titular Moon Witch. Marlon James discussed why he did this in a fantastic interview with io9:

In several traditional African and diaspora stories, there is no authentic version, no director’s cut, no one truth to rule them all, which is very much a western thing to do, but also a reductive thing to do.

Then there is this—in a lot of African folk tales, the trickster is the one telling you the story, or it’s about him, which ties you to his perspective, his world view, even his biases and prejudices. Sometimes you are told different versions of the same story each night. The burden of truth is not on the tale itself, but in what you discern truth to be. I’ve always been interested in how two people seeing the same thing can come to very different conclusions— I can walk into a room and see somebody gobbling a bag of chips and think he’s starving, while you’ll think he’s greedy. It’s also pretty topical of the moment we’re in—even though I didn’t set out to be—where people really do think truth is a choice, and that choice is up for grabs. So in that spirit, I will never tell the reader which character or story to believe. I’m leaving the burden of truth up to the reader, so it will be interesting when this trilogy is done, seeing whose story they count as true.

He also mentioned that it’s not necessary to read the first published book before the second because of this structure. However, if you want to check out the book that’s already out, the publisher’s website has an excerpt from Black Leopard, Red Wolf—which was a New York Times bestseller, an LA Times Ray Bradbury Prize winner, and a National Book Award finalist.


From Marlon James, author of the bestselling National Book Award finalist Black Leopard, Red Wolf, the second book in the Dark Star trilogy, his African Game of Thrones.

In Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Sogolon the Moon Witch proved a worthy adversary to Tracker as they clashed across a mythical African landscape in search of a mysterious boy who disappeared. In Moon Witch, Spider King, Sogolon takes center stage and gives her own account of what happened to the boy, and how she plotted and fought, triumphed and failed as she looked for him. It’s also the story of a century-long feud—seen through the eyes of a 177-year-old witch—that Sogolon had with the Aesi, chancellor to the king. It is said that Aesi works so closely with the king that together they are like the eight limbs of one spider. Aesi’s power is considerable—and deadly. It takes brains and courage to challenge him, which Sogolon does for reasons of her own.

Both a brilliant narrative device—seeing the story told in Black Leopard, Red Wolf from the perspective of an adversary and a woman—as well as a fascinating battle between different versions of empire, Moon Witch, Spider King delves into Sogolon’s world as she fights to tell her own story. Part adventure tale, part chronicle of an indomitable woman who bows to no man, it is a fascinating novel that explores power, personality, and the places where they overlap.