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.

It’s been a little while since one of these posts, and there are a few new things you might have missed since the last one:

Now, on to the latest book—which was featured in my Anticipated 2023 Speculative Fiction Book Releases post!

Cover of Outlaw Mage by K. S. Villoso

Outlaw Mage (The Dageian Puppetmaster #1) by K. S. Villoso

I backed K. S. Villoso’s newest novel on Kickstarter, and my signed hardcover came in the mail a few days ago. This epic fantasy novel was released on August 1 and is now available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook.

I’ve been excited about this book ever since I heard about it, largely because I LOVED K. S. Villoso’s Chronicles of the Bitch Queen trilogy (The Wolf of Oren-YaroThe Ikessar FalconThe Dragon of Jin-Sayeng). It’s a fantastic character-driven epic fantasy series that gets more complex with each book, and though it has a voice all its own, its intense first-person perspective makes me think it might appeal to those who love that about Robin Hobb’s Fitz books and its reflective passages make me think it might appeal to those who enjoy that about Guy Gavriel Kay’s work. It also has morally gray characters and is one of the rare series that made me like a character I didn’t much like at first.

I’m excited to read more set in the same world as Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, especially after reading a blog post K. S. Villoso wrote about Outlaw Mage‘s protagonist in relation to its main character:

I loved writing Talyien, and I loved people’s responses to her. She still remains the badass my heart wants to be. But Rosha is going to hit a little closer to home for me, and maybe for a few others out there who aren’t particularly athletic or at the very least, smart enough to know when NOT to go running into a battle, swords swinging. (I’m sorry, Tali). Sometimes the quiet ones want to set the world on fire, too. And that’s just as badass in my opinion.

One of my favorite character types is “quiet ones [who] want to set the world on fire,” and I’m so excited to see what K. S. Villoso did with Rosha.


Despite Rosha’s efforts, she will never fit in. To her classmates, she is forever an outsider, a girl from the fringes of the empire just lucky enough to have well-off parents. To her teachers, she is either a charity case or an exception to the rule that Gorenten just aren’t capable of performing complex magic. Worse, still, she is nothing but a status symbol to her father—a child gifted with magic to show his powerful friends that even people like them could belong in the empire. As if she doesn’t have enough problems already.

Haunted by the invisible rules that pull her dreams just out of grasp, she walks out on the eve of her final exams, throwing away her one chance at becoming an official mage of the empire. She practices magic outside the mage council’s grasp, one of the worst crimes anyone could commit.

Years later, her father’s shoddy business deals have finally landed him in trouble and he disappears without a trace. Rosha reluctantly enters the services of a rich sorcerer, his last known connection. The sorcerer’s sudden death leaves her stranded in a sea of enemies—and the knowledge that the man is the voice behind the ageless, faceless emperor. To protect herself and her family, Rosha must impersonate the most powerful man in the empire. As she becomes everything she has ever hated, she stumbles upon conspiracies that seek to break the empire from within…