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.

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One soon-to-be-released dark fantasy novel came in the mail last week: a sequel that I’m very excited about!

Cover of Two Twisted Crowns by Rachel Gillig

Two Twisted Crowns (The Shepherd King #2) by Rachel Gillig

The second book in The Shepherd King duology will be released on October 17 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

One Dark Window, the first book in this series, was one of my favorite books of 2022. It was one of the most fun, difficult-to-put-down books I read last year, plus I enjoyed the lore, the ending, and the monster/maiden dynamic. Rachel Gillig discussed the latter in her Women in SF&F Month 2022 essay, which begins as follows:

The monster/maiden dynamic is a familiar one. It wears many faces. It lives in all genres, particularly fantasy, dispersing itself throughout the subgenres. It’s been a favorite trope of mine since I watched Beauty and the Beast at the ripe age of five. But this blog won’t be about romance or tension between the monster and maiden. Rather, I’d like to reflect on, in writing my own monster/maiden book, the built-in constraints of the maiden, and how the foil of the monster can help undo them.

Part of why the monster/maiden dynamic is so successful is because it comes with integrated conflict—light against dark. The maiden and the monster are natural foils. Her virtue and beauty stand in contrast to the monster’s atrocities—physical or moral. Over the span of the story, it is often the maiden’s virtue that wins the day. Her goodness erodes the monster’s darkness.

Don’t get me wrong—I love these stories to my core. But in the world of fantasy, where a reader can escape so thoroughly into a book, I wanted to experience a different kind of maiden. One whose contribution is not merely to redeem others. A maiden who does not deliver the monster, but becomes one herself.

The rest of “Maidens, Monsters, and the Lines That Blur Between Them” can be read here.


In the dark, spellbinding sequel to One Dark Window, Elspeth must confront the weight of her actions as she and Ravyn embark on a perilous quest to save the kingdom—perfect for readers of Hannah Whitten’s For the Wolf and Alexis Henderson’s The Year of the Witching.

Gripped by a tyrant king and in the thrall of dark magic, the kingdom is in peril. Elspeth and Ravyn have gathered most of the twelve Providence Cards, but the last—and most important—one remains to be found: the Twin Alders. If they’re going to find the card before Solstice and set free the kingdom, they will need to journey through the dangerous mist-cloaked forest. The only one who can lead them through is the monster that shares Elspeth’s head: the Nightmare.

And he’s not eager to share any longer.