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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I am working on a review of one of my favorite debut novels of this year that I’m hoping to finish soon, but in the meantime, a couple of books I ordered showed up in the mail last week. These are both recent gothic fantasy books that appeared on my list of anticipated 2023 releases.

Cover of Starling House by Alix E. Harrow

Starling House by Alix E. Harrow

This contemporary gothic fantasy came out earlier this month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The Macmillan website has both text and audio excerpts from Starling House.

I absolutely adored The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow’s debut novel, for its beautiful writing and themes. Here’s a bit of what I wrote about it in my Favorite Books of 2019 post:

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a treasure. It’s not only a celebration of books and stories but also is itself a beautifully told story with two exquisitely written, unique bibliophilic voices between January’s first person narration and that of The Ten Thousand Doors (which is included in its entirety, complete with delightful footnotes!). It’s an ode to words, imagination, and stories, particularly the power they have to burrow into hearts and souls and show one something true, meaningful, and lasting—and it is in itself just that type of book. It’s also an ode to dreamers and outsiders, to being who you are and daring to write your own story despite society’s attempts to shape your path into one that doesn’t fit you, among being a book about so many other things—and it is magnificent.

It’s an indelible book that seems destined to be a classic, and The Ten Thousand Doors of January is my choice for Book of the Year in 2019.

Though it sounded like exactly my type of book, I didn’t feel the same about The Once and Future Witches, and I bounced off A Spindle Splintered (which also sounded like exactly my type of book) around the 25% point. But I love beautifully written gothic fantasy and had high hopes for Starling House knowing what Alix E. Harrow is capable of doing, and the sample made me even more hopeful that this might be closer to my experience reading The Ten Thousand Doors of January.


Starling House is a gorgeous, modern gothic fantasy from the New York Times bestselling author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

I dream sometimes about a house I’ve never seen….

Opal is a lot of things—orphan, high school dropout, full-time cynic and part-time cashier—but above all, she’s determined to find a better life for her younger brother Jasper. One that gets them out of Eden, Kentucky, a town remarkable for only two things: bad luck and E. Starling, the reclusive nineteenth century author of The Underland, who disappeared over a hundred years ago.

All she left behind were dark rumors—and her home. Everyone agrees that it’s best to ignore the uncanny mansion and its misanthropic heir, Arthur. Almost everyone, anyway.

I should be scared, but in the dream I don’t hesitate.

Opal has been obsessed with The Underland since she was a child. When she gets the chance to step inside Starling House—and make some extra cash for her brother’s escape fund—she can’t resist.

But sinister forces are digging deeper into the buried secrets of Starling House, and Arthur’s own nightmares have become far too real. As Eden itself seems to be drowning in its own ghosts, Opal realizes that she might finally have found a reason to stick around.

In my dream, I’m home.

And now she’ll have to fight.

Welcome to Starling House: enter, if you dare.

Cover of A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid

A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid

This YA gothic historical fantasy was released in September (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The Harper Collins website has a sample from A Study in Drowning.

There are three main reasons I want to read this one: it’s dark academia, it has scholarly rivals, and it’s influenced by Welsh mythology.


An instant Indie and #1 New York Times bestseller!

“Achingly atmospheric and beautifully sharp, A Study in Drowning will draw you in from the first page.” —Rory Power, New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls

Bestselling author Ava Reid makes her YA debut in this dark academic fantasy perfect for fans of Melissa Albert and Elana K. Arnold.

Effy Sayre has always believed in fairy tales. Haunted by visions of the Fairy King since childhood, she’s had no choice. Her tattered copy of Angharad—Emrys Myrddin’s epic about a mortal girl who falls in love with the Fairy King, then destroys him—is the only thing keeping her afloat. So when Myrddin’s family announces a contest to redesign the late author’s estate, Effy feels certain it’s her destiny.

But musty, decrepit Hiraeth Manor is an impossible task, and its residents are far from welcoming. Including Preston Héloury, a stodgy young literature scholar determined to expose Myrddin as a fraud. As the two rivals piece together clues about Myrddin’s legacy, dark forces, both mortal and magical, conspire against them—and the truth may bring them both to ruin.

Part historical fantasy, part rivals-to-lovers romance, part Gothic mystery, and all haunting, dreamlike atmosphere, Ava Reid’s powerful YA debut will lure in readers who loved The Atlas SixHouse of Salt and Sorrows, or Girl, Serpent, Thorn.