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.

This week brought one book in the mail, a recent release that you may recognize from my anticipated 2022 releases list. I love reading about characters with animal companions, and I couldn’t resist getting this one while the first edition with the exclusive designed case was still available!

Cover of Monsters Born and Made by Tanvi Berwah

Monsters Born and Made by Tanvi Berwah

Tanvi Berwah’s YA fantasy debut novel was just released earlier this month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). has an excerpt from Monsters Born and Made.

During this year’s Women in SF&F Month, Tanvi Berwah shared about her love for monster companions and characters bonding with dangerous fantasy creatures that led her to create her own for this novel:

I did not understand how deeply this narrative–and Sean [The Scorpio Races] and Jon [A Song of Ice and Fire]–affected me until I found myself scribbling the idea of “WATER MONSTERS???” in my journal in 2018. I spent a lot of time scouring myths and folklore for monsters and discarding them. From the idea of monstrous water horses and wolves to krakens typically seen in pirate lore, I tried a lot of these creatures until I realized maybe I should try making up a whole new one. Which is how I ended up making a monster creature–a maristag–from scratch in my debut novel MONSTERS BORN AND MADE. Maristags are vicious and fanged and clawed. They have the body of a velociraptor and the head of a stag with multi-tined antlers that could rip anyone apart. They are angry and irritable and the kind of monsters that I loved growing up. And Stormgold the maristag is a perfect companion for my main character, Koral–another teen struggling for her place in a world that is bent on breaking her.

You can read all of “A Girl and Her Maristag” here.


She grew up battling the monsters that live in the black seas, but it couldn’t prepare her to face the cunning cruelty of the ruling elite.

Perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and These Violent Delights, this South Asian-inspired fantasy is a gripping debut about the power of the elite, the price of glory, and one girl’s chance to change it all.

Sixteen-year-old Koral and her older brother Emrik risk their lives each day to capture the monstrous maristags that live in the black seas around their island. They have to, or else their family will starve.

In an oceanic world swarming with vicious beasts, the Landers—the ruling elite, have indentured Koral’s family to provide the maristags for the Glory Race, a deadly chariot tournament reserved for the upper class. The winning contender receives gold and glory. The others—if they’re lucky—survive.

When the last maristag of the year escapes and Koral has no new maristag to sell, her family’s financial situation takes a turn for the worse and they can’t afford medicine for her chronically ill little sister. Koral’s only choice is to do what no one in the world has ever dared: cheat her way into the Glory Race.

But every step of the way is unpredictable as Koral races against competitors—including her ex-boyfriend—who have trained for this their whole lives and who have no intention of letting a low-caste girl steal their glory. As a rebellion rises and rogues attack Koral to try and force her to drop out, she must choose—her life or her sister’s—before the whole island burns.

Perfect for fans of:

  • Dystopian Fantasy
  • Sea Monsters
  • Exes-to-Rivals-to-?
  • Golden Boy x Pariah
  • Deadly Competition
  • Rebellion
  • Angsty Teenagers
  • Fans of Chloe Gong
  • Female Friendship