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. Cover images are affiliate links to Bookshop, and I earn from qualifying purchases.

One book came in the mail last week, and it’s another novel on my 30 Anticipated 2022 Speculative Fiction Releases list!

There have not been any new posts since last weekend’s feature (although I have been working on a review), but there is a Gothic novel cover reveal coming up on Tuesday!

Cover of The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi

The Final Strife (The Ending Fire Trilogy #1) by Saara El-Arifi

The Final Strife, the first book in an adult epic fantasy trilogy, will be released in the US on June 21 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). It will be published in Canada on the same date, and it will be available in the UK on June 23.

Saara El-Arifi discussed her upcoming debut novel a little on Goodreads, saying that it contains the following:

Friends to lovers (F/F)
A drug addicted chosen one who TOTALLY misses her calling
A tournament with awesome armour
A desert landscape with giant lizards that you can ride
Blood magic…that uses…blood
An insular world plagued by a nightly hurricane called the ‘tidewind’
A cruelly divided Empire where red-blooded reign, blue-blooded labour and translucent-blooded are maimed servants

She also wrote a bit about it last month in “Routes to my roots,” her Women in SF&F Month guest post highlighting Phillis Wheatley:

These are the challenges Phillis Wheatley faced, the ripples of which still permeate through writers of the diaspora today. My battle with my conflicting identities led me to creating a world that is wholly me. The Final Strife is set in a land that is both beautiful and broken. Plagued by issues of empire, while also celebrating arab and afro culture, queerness and gender non-conformity, it is the product of my lived experience. To truly know me is to walk a day in the Wardens’ Empire—the ruling country in The Final Strife.

If you’d like to try a sample, the publisher’s website has an excerpt from The Final Strife.


In the first book of a visionary fantasy trilogy with its roots in the mythology of Africa and Arabia that “sings of rebellion, love, and the courage it takes to stand up to tyranny” (Samantha Shannon, author of The Priory of the Orange Tree), three women band together against a cruel empire that divides people by blood.

The Final Strife is the real deal: epic fantasy turned on its head in the most compelling way imaginable.”—Kalynn Bayron, bestselling author of Cinderella Is Dead and This Poison Heart


Red is the blood of the elite, of magic, of control.
Blue is the blood of the poor, of workers, of the resistance.
Clear is the blood of the slaves, of the crushed, of the invisible.

Sylah dreams of days growing up in the resistance, being told she would spark a revolution that would free the empire from the red-blooded ruling classes’ tyranny. That spark was extinguished the day she watched her family murdered before her eyes.

Anoor has been told she’s nothing, no one, a disappointment, by the only person who matters: her mother, the most powerful ruler in the empire. But when Sylah and Anoor meet, a fire burns between them that could consume the kingdom—and their hearts.

Hassa moves through the world unseen by upper classes, so she knows what it means to be invisible. But invisibility has its uses: It can hide the most dangerous of secrets, secrets that can reignite a revolution. And when she joins forces with Sylah and Anoor, together these grains of sand will become a storm.

As the empire begins a set of trials of combat and skill designed to find its new leaders, the stage is set for blood to flow, power to shift, and cities to burn.

Book One of The Ending Fire Trilogy