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. As a Bookshop affiliate and Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

It’s been a while since the last one of these features since I was working on some time-consuming posts and other things that are in the works, but I’m back with a couple of books today!

Here are the most recent posts since the last Leaning Pile of Books in case you missed any of them:

  • Review of The Final Strife (The Ending Fire #1) by Saara El-Arifi Both thoughtful and fun with amazing worldbuilding, oral stories, and epigraphs, this was my favorite book I read last year.
  • Favorite Books of 2022 & Year in Review This includes links to all the Women in SF&F Month 2022 guest posts and discussion of my 10 favorite books of 2022.
  • Anticipated 2023 Speculative Fiction Book Releases I scoured the internet for books coming in 2023 and put together a list of 24 that sounded especially intriguing to me. This includes fantasy inspired by various mythologies and histories, space opera, foes having to work together, a couple of books featuring animals (including a giant bird of prey), stories with dark magics, dark academia and a dragon academy, a couple of creepy houses, and more.

Also, keep an eye out for a guest post by Jane Yolen and a giveaway of her upcoming book The Scarlet Circus later this week!

This week’s book highlights are an upcoming book that came in the mail and an ebook I purchased a little while ago. (Since my time is a bit limited this weekend, I’ll cover holiday gift books in a later feature.) There are also a couple of ARCs that showed up since the last feature, but both of these were covered in my latest post on 2023 releases: Witch King by Martha Wells and The Bone Shard War by Andrea Stewart.

Cover of City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky

City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky

This standalone epic fantasy novel by British Fantasy and Arthur C. Clarke Award–winning author Adrian Tchaikovsky will be released in the US on May 2 (hardcover). This novel is out in the UK, and it is already available in the US in some formats (audiobook, Kindle ebook).

Amazon US and Amazon UK have excerpts from City of Last Chances. The first chapter, which is titled “Yasnic’s Relationship with God,” is actually the main reason I want to read this novel. It’s about the last priest of a nearly-forgotten deity, and it begins with “That morning, God was complaining again.”


Arthur C. Clarke winner Adrian Tchaikovsky’s triumphant return to fantasy with a darkly inventive portrait of a city under occupation and on the verge of revolution.

There has always been a darkness to Ilmar, but never more so than now. The city chafes under the heavy hand of the Palleseen occupation, the choke-hold of its criminal underworld, the boot of its factory owners, the weight of its wretched poor and the burden of its ancient curse.

What will be the spark that lights the conflagration?

Despite the city’s refugees, wanderers, murderers, madmen, fanatics and thieves, the catalyst, as always, will be the Anchorwood – that dark grove of trees, that primeval remnant, that portal, when the moon is full, to strange and distant shores.

Ilmar, some say, is the worst place in the world and the gateway to a thousand worse places.

Ilmar, City of Long Shadows.

City of Bad Decisions.

City of Last Chances.

Praise for Adrian Tchaikovsky:
‘Brilliant science fiction and far out worldbuilding’ James McAvoy
‘Entertaining, smart, surprising and unexpectedly human’ Patrick Ness
‘A refreshingly new take on post-dystopia civilizations, with the smartest evolutionary worldbuilding you’ll ever read’ Peter F. Hamilton

Cover of The City of Dusk by Tara Sim

The City of Dusk (The Dark Gods #1) by Tara Sim

I purchased the ebook edition of The City of Dusk, Tara Sim’s first adult novel, during a sale. (It actually looks like this may still have a sale price since it is currently $4.99 on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.)

The publisher’s website has an excerpt from The City of Dusk, and the author’s website has the option to view trigger warnings.

The author also wrote about her journey as a reader and writer, including the influence Alanna: The First Adventure had on the type of girl she wanted to write in this novel, in her Women in SF&F Month 2022 guest post:

I was still in college when I first came up with the idea for The City of Dusk. All I had was something along the lines of: noble houses all descended from the monarchy, contending for the throne. I gave it the codename Lastrider, the last name of who I perceived would be the main character, or at least one of them. It wasn’t until later that I began to seriously plan it, bringing in vengeful gods, multiple realms and magic systems, and demons.

Still, it was simply called Lastrider for ten years. For a decade I held on to that name and wondered who exactly it belonged to. From the beginning I knew it would be a girl, but what kind of girl?

I think reading Alanna at such an impressionable age steered me into the answer.

It would, of course, be a girl with a sword. A girl who has so many deep flaws but nonetheless perseveres until she gets what she wants, or thinks she wants. A girl who fights first and thinks later. A girl who loves her family and hates the system she was born into. A girl with muscles and shadow magic and a crass sense of humor.

The second book in The Dark Gods series is scheduled for release on August 22 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook), and the cover of The Midnight Kingdom was recently revealed.


“Tara Sim’s adult debut is a glorious tapestry of magic and murderous gods and a perfect entry for anyone looking for a new series starter.” —BuzzFeed News


The Four Realms—Life, Death, Light, and Darkness—all converge on the City of Dusk. For each realm there is a god, and for each god there is an heir.

But the gods have withdrawn their favor from the once vibrant and thriving metropolis. And without it, all the realms are dying.

Unwilling to stand by and watch the destruction, the four heirs—Angelica, an elementalist with her eyes set on the throne; Risha, a necromancer fighting to keep the peace; Nikolas, a soldier who struggles to see the light; and Taesia, a shadow-wielding rogue with a reckless heart—will become reluctant allies in the quest to save their city.

But their rebellion will cost them dearly.

Set in a world of bone palaces and shadow magic, of vengeful gods and defiant chosen ones, The City of Dusk is Tara Sim’s crackling adult fantasy debut.