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 (the latter of which are mainly unsolicited books from publishers). 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 an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

There are no new reviews since last weekend, but I am hoping to finish the one I have in progress over the next couple of days.

On to last week’s book arrivals!

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett - Book Cover

Shorefall (The Founders Trilogy #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett

The second book in Robert Jackson Bennett’s Founders Trilogy will be released on April 21 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The Penguin Random House website has an excerpt from Shorefall.

Their website has an excerpt from Foundryside, the first book in the series, as well. I also wrote a brief review of Foundryside, which I found to be fun with a creative magic system but also lighter on character development and heavier on exposition than I’d like.


As a magical revolution remakes a city, an ancient evil is awakened in a brilliant new novel from the Hugo-nominated author of Foundryside and the Divine Cities trilogy.

A few years ago, Sancia Grado would’ve happily watched Tevanne burn. Now, she’s hoping to transform her city into something new. Something better. Together with allies Orso, Gregor, and Berenice, she’s about to strike a deadly blow against Tevanne’s cruel robber-baron rulers and wrest power from their hands for the first time in decades.

But then comes a terrifying warning: Crasedes Magnus himself, the first of the legendary hierophants, is about to be reborn. And if he returns, Tevanne will be just the first place to feel his wrath.

Thousands of years ago, Crasedes was an ordinary man who did the impossible: Using the magic of scriving—the art of imbuing objects with sentience—he convinced reality that he was something more than human. Wielding powers beyond comprehension, he strode the world like a god for centuries, meting out justice and razing empires single-handedly, cleansing the world through fire and destruction—and even defeating death itself.

Like it or not, it’s up to Sancia to stop him. But to have a chance in the battle to come, she’ll have to call upon a god of her own—and unlock the door to a scriving technology that could change what it means to be human. And no matter who wins, nothing will ever be the same.

The awe-inspiring second installment of the Founders Trilogy, Shorefall returns us to the world Robert Jackson Bennett created in his acclaimed Foundryside . . . and forges it anew.

The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood - Book Cover

The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1) by A. K. Larkwood

A. K. Larkwood’s debut novel was just released last week (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). has an excerpt from The Unspoken Name.

I’ve been hearing great things about The Unspoken Name, and I’m rather intrigued by A. K. Larkwood’s description of its origins from its announcement:

The Unspoken Name grew out of my long-standing curiosity about villains’ sidekicks: what might it take to stay loyal to a boss who is clearly bad news? What do you owe to someone who saves your life, and what do they owe to you? That, and I wanted to write a sweeping adventure with all the wizard’s towers, giant snakes and awful undead things I’ve always loved.

Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together also has a wonderful interview with A. K. Larkwood.


A. K. Larkwood’s The Unspoken Name is a stunning debut fantasy about an orc priestess turned wizard’s assassin.

What if you knew how and when you will die?

Csorwe does―she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.

But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin―the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.

But Csorwe will soon learn―gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.

Crush the King by Jennifer Estep - Book Cover

Crush the King (Crown of Shards #3) by Jennifer Estep

The conclusion to Jennifer Estep’s Crown of Shards trilogy will be released on March 17 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook). Although this completes Evie’s story, there are plans for more books set in this world.

Jennifer Estep’s website has an excerpt from Crush the King, and the Harper Collins website has excerpts from the previous books in the series:

  1. Kill the Queen
  2. Protect the Prince

A fierce gladiator queen must face off against her enemies in an epic battle in this next thrilling installment of New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep’s Crown of Shards series—an action-packed adventure full of magic, murderous machinations, courtly intrigue, and pulse-pounding romance.

Queen Everleigh Blair of Bellona has survived the mass murder of the royal family, become a fearsome warrior trained by an elite gladiator troupe, and unleashed her ability to destroy magic. After surviving yet another assassination attempt orchestrated by the conniving king of Morta, Evie has had enough. It’s time to turn the tables and take the fight to her enemies.

There is no better opportunity to strike than during the Regalia Games, a time when warriors, nobles, and royals from all the kingdoms come together to compete in various sporting events. With the help of her loyal friends, Evie goes on the attack at the Regalia, but things don’t turn out the way she hopes. Soon, she is facing a terrifying new threat, and she will have to dig deep and learn even more about her growing magic if she has any chance of defeating her foes.

Because to secure her throne and ensure her kingdom’s survival, Evie must think like a true Bellonan: she must outsmart and outwit her enemies . . . and crush the king.

Scarlet Odyssey by C. T. Rwizi - Book Cover

Scarlet Odyssey (Red Plains #1) by C. T. Rwizi

C. T. Rwizi’s debut novel, the first book in a fantasy series drawing inspiration from sub-Saharan Africa’s cultures and myths, will be released on July 1 (hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook).

io9 has an excerpt from Scarlet Odyssey.


Magic is women’s work; war is men’s. But in the coming battle, none of that will matter.

Men do not become mystics. They become warriors. But eighteen-year-old Salo has never been good at conforming to his tribe’s expectations. For as long as he can remember, he has loved books and magic in a culture where such things are considered unmanly. Despite it being sacrilege, Salo has worked on a magical device in secret that will awaken his latent magical powers. And when his village is attacked by a cruel enchantress, Salo knows that it is time to take action.

Salo’s queen is surprisingly accepting of his desire to be a mystic, but she will not allow him to stay in the tribe. Instead, she sends Salo on a quest. The quest will take him thousands of miles north to the Jungle City, the political heart of the continent. There he must gather information on a growing threat to his tribe.

On the way to the city, he is joined by three fellow outcasts: a shunned female warrior, a mysterious nomad, and a deadly assassin. But they’re being hunted by the same enchantress who attacked Salo’s village. She may hold the key to Salo’s awakening—and his redemption.

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 (the latter of which are mainly unsolicited books from publishers). 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 an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

There are a couple of books that look rather intriguing to highlight this week, but first, here’s last week’s review in case you missed it:

Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie - Book Cover

Bonds of Brass (Bloodright Trilogy #1) by Emily Skrutskie

This space opera about a pilot and a secret prince is scheduled for release on April 7 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

I’ve had my eye on Bonds of Brass ever since I saw Emily Skrutskie’s trope list on Twitter, which includes “forbidden love,” “best friends PINING,” “scary empress moms,” “the inherent DRAMA of empire,” and much more. It sounds like a lot of fun so I was pretty excited when a copy arrived yesterday!


A young pilot risks everything to save his best friend—the man he trusts most and might even love—only to learn that his friend is secretly the heir to a brutal galactic empire.

“Riveting, wildly fun, and incredibly smart.”—Emily A. Duncan, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked Saints

Ettian’s life was shattered when the merciless Umber Empire invaded his world. He’s spent seven years putting himself back together under its rule, joining an Umber military academy and becoming the best pilot in his class. Even better, he’s met Gal—his exasperating and infuriatingly enticing roommate who’s made the academy feel like a new home.

But when dozens of classmates spring an assassination plot on Gal, a devastating secret comes to light: Gal is the heir to the Umber Empire. Ettian barely manages to save his best friend and flee the compromised academy unscathed, rattled that Gal stands to inherit the empire that broke him, and that there are still people willing to fight back against Umber rule.

As they piece together a way to deliver Gal safely to his throne, Ettian finds himself torn in half by an impossible choice. Does he save the man who’s won his heart and trust that Gal’s goodness could transform the empire? Or does he throw his lot in with the brewing rebellion and fight to take back what’s rightfully theirs?

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R. R. Martin - Book Cover

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (A Song of Ice and Fire) written by George R. R. Martin and illustrated by Gary Gianni

This illustrated collection of three prequels to A Song of Ice and Fire is coming out in paperback on February 25. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is already available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

The Penguin Random House website has an excerpt from A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, which includes the following novellas about Dunk and Egg: “The Hedge Knight,” “The Sworn Sword,” and “The Mystery Knight.”


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Taking place nearly a century before the events of A Game of Thrones, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms compiles the first three official prequel novellas to George R. R. Martin’s ongoing masterwork, A Song of Ice and Fire.


These never-before-collected adventures recount an age when the Targaryen line still holds the Iron Throne, and the memory of the last dragon has not yet passed from living consciousness. Before Tyrion Lannister and Podrick Payne, there was Dunk and Egg. A young, naïve but ultimately courageous hedge knight, Ser Duncan the Tall towers above his rivals—in stature if not experience. Tagging along is his diminutive squire, a boy called Egg—whose true name is hidden from all he and Dunk encounter. Though more improbable heroes may not be found in all of Westeros, great destinies lay ahead for these two . . . as do powerful foes, royal intrigue, and outrageous exploits.

Featuring more than 160 all-new illustrations by Gary Gianni, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a must-have collection that proves chivalry isn’t dead—yet.

Additional Books:

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The Secret Chapter is the sixth book in Genevieve Cogman’s delightful Invisible Library series, which follows the adventures of Librarian Irene Winters. Irene is an agent of the Library—the one that exists outside of time and space, where its vast collection of books from alternate worlds maintains balance throughout the multiverse.

Although this organization is known for its neutrality (at least, to the few aware of its existence), its Librarians also have a reputation for being a bit nefarious (again, to the few aware of their existence). Preventing a world from descending too far into chaos or order is a critical task that requires a book from that specific world—the more unique it is to that world, the better. But owners of uncommon versions with secret chapters and the like aren’t always willing to part with them, so Librarians are trained as spies and thieves for the good of the worlds. Those who have seen firsthand a Librarian’s proficiency with the Language, which allows them to use carefully crafted words to alter reality, tend to be even more suspicious of them: whether they believe the Language to be sorcery, witchcraft, or just plain old trickery.

These rumors of Librarians’ special skills work in Irene’s favor when a world she holds dear is in danger in The Secret Chapter. The book that would save it belongs to the mysterious Mr. Nemo, a criminal collector presiding over his own personal villain lair on a private Caribbean island, and he’s willing to give it to her: if she and her colleague will join the team he’s assembled to steal a 368-square-foot painting from a museum with top-notch security. (And if their heist is successful and they bring the artwork back to him, of course.)

Irene doesn’t exactly have a choice in the matter: even if she didn’t desperately need this particular book, the first potential team member to refuse Mr. Nemo’s “offer” is immediately fed to the sharks. But getting a crew composed of four Fae, two dragons, and one Librarian to work together may be even more impossible than actually absconding with the gargantuan artwork. The Fae and dragons distrust each other as always, no one trusts Irene besides her dragon associate, the two dragons loathe each other, and it’s not like any of them have a good reason to trust strangers who were not exactly selected for being honest, law-abiding types…

The Invisible Library series is incredibly fun and especially well suited to bibliophiles with a fondness for genre fiction. Although it is light on character development, the narrative and dialogue add some personality, and I love Irene’s bookish bent. I also appreciate that she is a competent, quick-thinking protagonist quite adept at getting herself out of zany situations—which comes in handy as a book thief/spy/alternate world traveler.

As much as I enjoyed the first four books in this series, I did feel that the fifth book (The Mortal Word) was disappointing in comparison: the setting was generic, and it was lacking much of the banter and high jinks that make this series entertaining. Though I didn’t think the voice and dialogue were quite as strong as I recall them being in the first four books, I did think The Secret Chapter was superior to the previous installment. Irene is in her element with all the excitement of visits to a secret villain lair in a nineteen-eighties-era world’s Caribbean, run-ins with criminals and dragons, and (of course) the big art heist in an alternate early twenty-first-century world’s Vienna.

In addition to being filled with daring exploits, The Secret Chapter has themes revolving around the people and experiences who shape one into the person they are. We finally meet Irene’s parents and see firsthand that their relationship with her is somewhat strained and distant, and there’s also a little reflection on how she became the Librarian she is because of their influence, as well as discussion of the importance of her time attending school on the world she’s hoping to save. We also learn more about Kai’s draconic family and some of their secrets, and some intriguing mysteries about the history of dragons arise.

A minor issue I’ve had with the series more recently is that the last couple of installments have been closer to standalone adventures than books building upon threads from earlier books. Although I do wish that we knew a little more about that revelation from the end of book three by this point, The Secret Chapter did seem less standalone. It keeps being hinted that there’s more to the Library than Irene knows, and with this book also showing that there is more to the dragons’ past than is commonly known, I’m hoping that means the major forces in this universe will start being explored more. I don’t want all the answers immediately, of course, but I would like there to be less hinting and more revealing—even if that’s just little bits of new information to theorize about, as in this novel, rather than solid answers.

The Secret Chapter is another diverting tale in the Invisible Library series. Although I didn’t think it had quite the same charm as the first four books in the series, it’s a better book than the previous installment that left me pondering the puzzle of dragons—and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in Irene’s saga!

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.

Read an Excerpt from The Secret Chapter

Reviews of the Previous Books in the Invisible Library Series:

  1. The Invisible Library
  2. The Masked City
  3. The Burning Page
  4. The Lost Plot
  5. The Mortal Word

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 (the latter of which are mainly unsolicited books from publishers). 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 an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Last week brought two books in the mail, but first, here’s the latest review in case you missed it:

  • A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen — This is a hopeful story about found family set in an alternative (I hope) near future, six years after approximately five billion people died in a worldwide pandemic. It wasn’t what I’d call a bad book but also wasn’t exactly my cup of tea since I didn’t find the world or characters to have a lot of depth, and the story is told via plain, straightforward prose.

Now, the latest book arrivals!

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso - Book Cover

The Obsidian Tower (Rooks and Ruin #1) by Melissa Caruso

The Obsidian Tower, the first book in a new series set in the same world as the Swords and Fire trilogy, will be released on June 2 (trade paperback, ebook). It takes place about 150 years after the previous series and follows new characters.

This is one of the 2020 book releases I’ve been most excited about reading since I loved Melissa Caruso’s debut series. It starts with a young noblewoman inadvertently becoming bound to a powerful fire mage when trying to prevent the city from burning down, and as much as I enjoyed the first book, the next two books are even better.

They feature:

  • Problems involving love vs. duty
  • A heroine taking a role she wouldn’t have chosen for herself and making it her own
  • Friendships
  • Governments that aren’t monarchies
  • A setting with gender/LGBTQ equality
  • An actual competent villain
  • A blunt, foul-mouthed fire mage
  • An intense vote
  • Danger and destruction
  • A Witch Lord who has an affinity for crows and lives for playing games (and also likes to make dramatic or sneaky entrances that do not involve just using the front door)
  • A love triangle that does something a bit different
  • Women being badass in a variety of ways
  • Difficult choices
  • Powerful magic (that often leads to danger and destruction)
  • Celebrations with sinister schemes afoot
  • Excellent pacing
  • Fun dialogue
  • A satisfying conclusion
  • And much more!

I’ve reviewed the entire series, and each book was on my favorites list for the year of its release. If you want to check those out while waiting for The Obsidian Tower, the Swords and Fire trilogy is as follows:

  1. The Tethered Mage (My 8/10 Review | Excerpt)
  2. The Defiant Heir (My 9/10 Review)
  3. The Unbound Empire (My 9/10 Review)

The Obsidian Tower begins a bold new epic fantasy trilogy in which the broken magic of one woman will either save an entire continent-or completely destroy it.

As the granddaughter of a Witch Lord of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige. But a childhood illness left her with broken magic that drains the life from anything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers. So Ryx has resigned herself to an isolated life as the warden of Gloamingard, her grandmother’s castle.

At Gloamingard’s heart lies a black tower. Sealed by magic, it guards a dangerous secret that has been contained for thousands of years. Until one impetuous decision Ryx makes leaves her with blood on her hands-and unleashes a threat that could doom everything she loves to fall to darkness.

The Queen's Bargain by Anne Bishop - Book Cover

The Queen’s Bargain (Black Jewels #10) by Anne Bishop

A new book set in the Black Jewels world will be released on March 10 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Anne Bishop’s website has an excerpt from The Queen’s Bargain, and the Penguin Random House website lists some book tour events around the time of its publication.

The Black Jewels books have been recommended to me multiple times as dark fantasy I’d probably like, but I’ve not (yet) read any of them. It sounds as though The Queen’s Bargain can be read as a standalone with its own story arc, but Anne Bishop’s website does suggest reading the other books first on her page about the series, which includes the recommended reading order.



Return to the dark, sensual, and powerful world of the Black Jewels in this long-awaited new story in the New York Times bestselling fantasy saga.

After a youthful mistake, Lord Dillon’s reputation is in tatters, leaving him vulnerable to aristo girls looking for a bit of fun. To restore his reputation and honor, he needs a handfast–a one-year contract of marriage. He sets his sights on Jillian, a young Eyrien witch from Ebon Rih, who he believes has only a flimsy connection to the noble society that spurned him. Unfortunately for Dillon, he is unaware of Jillian’s true connections until he finds himself facing Lucivar Yaslana, the volatile Warlord Prince of Ebon Rih.

Meanwhile, Surreal SaDiablo’s marriage is crumbling. Daemon Sadi, the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan, recognizes there is something wrong between him and Surreal, but he doesn’t realize that his attempt to suppress his own nature in order to spare his wife is causing his mind to splinter. To save Daemon, and the Realm of Kaeleer if he breaks, help must be sought from someone who no longer exists in any of the Realms–the only Queen powerful enough to control Daemon Sadi. The Queen known as Witch.

As Jillian rides the winds of first love with Dillon, Daemon and Surreal struggle to survive the wounds of a marriage turned stormy–and Lucivar has to find a way to keep everyone in his family safe…even from each other.

A Beginning at the End
by Mike Chen
400pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 5/10
Amazon Rating: 3.9/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.92/5

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

A Beginning at the End, Mike Chen’s second novel after his Goodreads Science Fiction Choice Award–nominated debut Here and Now and Then, is a post-apocalyptic tale about found family and starting over after the world didn’t exactly end, but rather paused and changed. It’s mainly set in San Francisco in 2025, six years after a worldwide pandemic killed approximately five billion people. Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder (PASD) has become common, and nearly everyone lost someone—or more likely, several someones—to the global disease.

With the resulting 70% drop in the US population, the Family Stability Board ensures that the children who remain are raised by those who meet their criteria for “social normalcy,” and people are encouraged to prioritize stability over love when choosing a spouse. But dating and meeting new people is difficult when many are hesitant to attend large social gatherings, shake hands, or do anything that could increase their chances of catching an illness like the one that caused so much death around the globe—especially after news of recent bouts of flu in Florida begins to spread.

This is the story of three survivors who had been carrying on without supportive relationships becoming each other’s support. Rob, a widowed single father, faces the scrutiny of the Family Stability Board when his seven-year-old daughter begins acting out at school. Fearing that his child will be taken from him, Rob finds himself sharing his problems with Krista, a wedding/event planner with financial problems, when the two are stuck in an elevator during a power outage. As a result, Krista begins babysitting Rob’s little girl while he attempts to prove he’s socially normal by attending speed dating sessions and PASD support group meetings. At the latter, Rob comes to better know one of his coworkers, Moira, and both Rob and Moira find someone they can open up to in each other—a bond of trust Rob has not had since his wife’s death, and one Moira has never had with her fiancé, whom she’s primarily marrying for security. And when Rob’s daughter is in trouble, he can turn to not only Moira but also Krista, who has come to care for the little girl she’s been watching in spite of herself.

A Beginning at the End is a straightforward, feel-good story told from the third person perspectives of Rob, Krista, and Moira (with occasional brief chapters from the perspective of Rob’s daughter, Sunny). Though various articles and presidential speeches provide more insight into the world than what is shown through these characters’ flashbacks and present circumstances, I didn’t feel that it delved particularly deeply into the post-apocalyptic society: it’s mainly about the everyday lives of these three people as they move forward and form their own family ties. Yet, like the world-building, I thought the characterization was too limited to be compelling. These three were clearly shaped by their pasts and personalities (a bit too clearly for my taste, as a lot is spelled out without leaving room for subtlety), but they seemed closer to caricatures than real people given the amount of focus on a few key traits and main issues.

For Rob, this is in the form of his loneliness and social awkwardness, and his major problems are keeping his daughter and fixing the mess he made when he didn’t know how to get two-year-old Sunny to accept that her recently deceased mother was never coming back. Krista is a firm believer in getting over things (even the end of the world as they knew it!) and looking forward, never back. Her cynicism and attitude serve her well in some ways since she refuses to put up with toxicity, but she’s also quick to cut people off when differences arise rather than trying to work through them—even decent people who genuinely care about her. Moira was a nineteen-year-old pop star when the world fell apart, and she fled that life and the domineering father who made her live it the first chance she got. She’s been running from her past and hiding her identity ever since, and she even became engaged to a man who does not know who she truly is.

The main reason I kept reading this novel after the first few chapters was due to curiosity about how Moira’s hidden past would catch up with her, and although I never found it utterly captivating, I was somewhat interested in finding out how these three stories would converge and end at first. But I found it less engaging as I got further into it and probably would have left it unfinished if it wasn’t a fairly short, quick read. I prefer books that delve more deeply into characters and/or worlds, and I am also fond of lyrical prose with a distinctive voice rather than the plain style used in this novel. (That is not to say this is badly written—although I was not pausing to savor turns of phrase, I also wasn’t pausing to cringe at them! Although it’s not my preferred style, I believe it does take skill to write prose that’s easy to breeze through.)

A Beginning at the End wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but it may appeal more to those looking for an effortlessly readable, hopeful book about found family.

My Rating: 5/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.

Read an Excerpt from A Beginning at the End

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (most of which are unsolicited books from publishers). 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 an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

It’s been a while since I posted one of these features, mainly because it was extremely busy with the holidays, work projects, and a couple of large articles I was working on:

Since it has been some time, it would take far too long to go through all the books, so I’m highlighting three books that arrived since last time (one ARC and two Christmas gifts), followed by a link to last week’s one arrival.

Moontangled by Stephanie Burgis - Book Cover

Moontangled (A Harwood Spellbook Novella) by Stephanie Burgis

Stephanie Burgis’ delightful Harwood Spellbook series is set in an alternate magical version of England in which Boudicca’s rebellion against the Romans was successful—and led to a tradition of women handling politics and men handling magic. Moontangled, a novella about Juliana and Caroline set after the two books about Cassandra, will be released on February 3 (ebook, paperback).

The author’s website has an excerpt from Moontangled, as well as more information on The Harwood Spellbook. I’ve also reviewed the other books in the series:


Take one ambitious politician and one determined magician with wildly different aims for their next meeting.

Add a secret betrothal, a family scandal, and a heaping of dangerous fey magic in an enchanted wood…and watch the sparks fly!

For just one moonlit, memorable night, Thornfell College of Magic has flung open its doors, inviting guests from around the nation to an outdoor ball intended to introduce the first-ever class of women magicians to society…but one magician and one invited guest have far more pressing goals of their own for the night.

Quietly brilliant Juliana Banks is determined to win back the affections of her secret fiancée, rising politician Caroline Fennell, who has become inexplicably distant. If Juliana needs to use magic to get her stubborn fiancée to pay her attention…well, then, as the top student in her class, she is more than ready to take on that challenge!

Unbeknownst to Juliana, though, Caroline plans to nobly sacrifice their betrothal for Juliana’s own sake – and no one has ever accused iron-willed Caroline Fennell of being easy to deter from any goal.

Their path to mutual happiness may seem tangled beyond repair…but when they enter the fey-ruled woods that border Thornfell College, these two determined women will find all of their plans upended in a night of unexpected and magical possibilities.

Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan - Book Cover

Voyage of the Basilisk (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #3) by Marie Brennan

I adored A Natural History of Dragons (my review) and was excited to get the books in the series I didn’t have (#3–5) for Christmas. This entire series about a dragon naturalist and her experiences is complete, and a standalone sequel about Isabella’s granddaughter titled Turning Darkness into Light came out last year.

Marie Brennan’s website has more about the series with excerpts, including a sample from the first book.


The thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan’s Voyage of the Basilisk . . .

Devoted readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed―until now.

Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal.

Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella’s life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons.


The Lady Trent Memoirs
1. A Natural History of Dragons
2. The Tropic of Serpents
3. Voyage of the Basilisk
4. In the Labyrinth of Drakes
5. Within the Sanctuary of Wings

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern - Book Cover

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Erin Morgenstern’s latest novel, which came out toward the end of last year, was another Christmas gift—a signed copy, no less! I haven’t yet read The Night Circus despite owning a copy (I know, the shame!), but I have heard such wonderful things about this book and that it has some thematic similarities to Alix E. Harrow’s amazing debut novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

The publisher’s website has an excerpt from The Starless Sea.


From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world—a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

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