The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound 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.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of, and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

An intriguing book came in the mail last week, plus I went to the bookstore and bought a book yesterday. A couple of books I’m excited for showed up in the mail yesterday, too, but I actually just highlighted those in my latest post:

  • The Essential Peter S. Beagle Excerpts & Giveaway This has some information on the two volumes in The Essential Peter S. Beagle, including one story excerpt from each volume. I’m also giving away two copies through May 26: a digital copy of both volumes (anyone can win) and a print ARC of Volume 2 (US only).

On to this week’s featured books!

Cover of The Battle Drum by Saara El-Arifi

The Battle Drum (The Ending Fire Trilogy #2) by Saara El-Arifi

Although I found a copy in the bookstore yesterday, this book’s official release date is May 23 in the US and May 25 in the UK (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The Penguin Random House website has a text excerpt from The Battle Drum, as well as a sample of the audio version narrated by Dominic Hoffman and Nicole Lewis.

The Final Strife, the Sunday Times bestselling first book in the series, was my 2022 Book of the Year. Here’s some of what I wrote about in that post:

Simultaneously thoughtful and fun, The Final Strife explores injustice amidst storylines about uncovering mysteries about the world, a newfound friendship with potential for romance, and a tournament that’s about a variety of types of strength, not just who can fight the best. This fantasy setting feels real and lived in due to having a rich history that’s fleshed out through the characters’ perspectives, oral stories, and epigraphs. With a prologue that drew me in immediately and wonderful worldbuilding, storytelling, protagonists, and pacing that kept me hooked, The Final Strife is easily my favorite book of 2022.

Given that, of course the next book in this epic fantasy trilogy inspired by Ghanaian folklore and Arabian myths was one of my most anticipated releases of this year.

If you want to check out the first book in this series, the publisher’s website also has a text excerpt and audio sample from The Final Strife. (And if you missed it before, Saara El-Arifi wrote “Routes to my roots” for Women in SF&F Month 2022.)


Murder. Secrets. Sacrifice: Three women seek the truth of the empire’s past. And the truth they find will have the power to ignite a war, in the sequel to The Final Strife, the continuation of a visionary fantasy trilogy inspired by the myths of Africa and Arabia.

Anoor is the first blue-blooded ruler of the Wardens’ Empire. But when she is accused of a murder she didn’t commit, her reign is thrown into turmoil. She must solve the mystery and clear her name without the support of her beloved, Sylah.

Sylah braves new lands to find a solution for the hurricane that threatens to destroy her home. But in finding answers, she must make a decision: Should she sacrifice her old life in order to raise up her sword once more?

Hassa’s web of secrets grows ever thicker as she finds herself on the trail of crimes in the city. Her search uncovers the extent of the atrocities of the empire’s past and present. Now she must guard both her heart and her land.

The three women find their answers, but not the answers they wanted. The drumbeat of change thrums throughout the world.

And it sings a song of war.

Ready we will be, when the Ending Fire comes,
When the Child of Fire brings the Battle Drum,
The Battle Drum,
The Battle Drum.
Ready we will be, for war will come.

Cover of Godkiller by Hannah Kaner

Godkiller (Godkiller #1) by Hannah Kaner

This novel was released in the UK earlier this year, where it became a #1 Sunday Times bestseller. The publisher’s website has an excerpt from Godkiller, and it is coming to the US on September 12 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

Hannah Kaner discussed her novel a bit toward the end of “Don’t damsel your fury,” her Women in SF&F Month guest post:

So, writing Godkiller, I wanted to write a woman who never learned how to be small in a world that didn’t expect it of her. The challenges and limits of gender and expectation, queerness and nuclear families are still important stories to explore, but in Godkiller I threw those challenges to the wind. Kissen is everything Electra or Lady Macbeth, Clytemnestra and Scheherazade may have, in my imagination, desired. She is furious at the world and not afraid to voice it. She doesn’t need permission to be aggressive, bloody-fists forward, stubborn as a donkey and larger than life.

She is everything that I wanted to read when I was young.

Godkiller is the first book in a trilogy and Hannah Kaner’s debut novel.


“Epic and intimate, tender and sharp, Godkiller is a triumph of storytelling and the beginning of a story that I can’t wait to follow.” – Hannah Whitten, New York Times bestselling author of For the Wolf

Enter a land where all gods have been banned, and one young woman is paid to kill those who still hide in the shadows—the explosive #1 internationally bestselling fantasy debut in a new trilogy for fans of The Witcher and American Gods.

You are not welcome here, godkiller…

As a child, Kissen saw her family murdered at the whim of a fire god. Now, Kissen makes a living killing gods, and she enjoys it. That is until she discovers a god she cannot kill: Skedi, a small god of white lies, has somehow bound his life to that of a young noble girl, and they desperately need Kissen’s help.

Joined by a disillusioned knight on a secret quest, the trio must travel to the ruined city of Blenraden, where the last of the wild gods reside, to each beg a favor.

Pursued by assassins and demons, and in the midst of burgeoning civil war, they will all face a reckoning. Something is rotting at the heart of their world, and they are the only ones who can stop it.