Eight books by award-winning fantasy author Robin McKinley will be published as ebooks on November 18. These books include her Newbery Award-winning book The Hero and the Crown, as well as her other beloved young adult fantasies Beauty and Rose Daughter. Also included is Sunshine, recipient of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature—and I’m delighted to have an excerpt from this novel to share with you today to celebrate its upcoming ebook release!

About Sunshine

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature: In a world where darkness threatens, there is Sunshine . . .

Although it had been mostly deserted since the Voodoo Wars, there hadn’t been any trouble out at the lake for years. Rae Seddon, nicknamed Sunshine, head baker at her family’s busy and popular café in downtown New Arcadia, needed a place to get away from all the noise and confusion-of the clientele and her family. Just for a few hours. Just to be able to hear herself think.

She knew about the Others, of course. Everyone did. And several of her family’s best regular customers were from SOF-Special Other Forces-which had been created to deal with the threat and the danger of the Others.

She drove out to her family’s old lakeside cabin and sat on the porch, swinging her feet and enjoying the silence and the silver moonlight on the water.

She never heard them coming. Of course, you don’t when they’re vampires.

When I was ten the Voodoo Wars started. They were of course nothing about voodoo, but they were about a lot of bad stuff, and some of the worst of them in our area happened around the lake. A lot of the cabins got burned down or leveled one way or another, and there were a few places around the lake where you still didn’t go if you didn’t want to have bad dreams or worse for months afterward. Mostly because of those bad spots (although also because there simply weren’t as many people to have vacation homes anywhere any more) after the Wars were over and most of the mess cleared up, the lake never really caught on again. The wilderness was taking over—which was a good thing because it meant that it could. There were a lot of places now where nothing was ever going to grow again.

It was pretty funny really, the only people who ever went out there regularly were the Supergreens, to see how the wilderness was getting on, and if as the urban populations of things like raccoons and foxes and rabbits and deer moved back out of town again, they started to look and behave like raccoons and foxes and rabbits and deer had used to look and behave. Supergreens also counted things like osprey and pine marten and some weird marsh grass that was another endangered species although not so interesting to look at, none of which seemed to care about bad human magic, or maybe the bad spots didn’t give ospreys and pine martens and marsh grass bad dreams. I went out there occasionally with Mel—we saw ospreys pretty often and pine martens once or twice, but all marsh grass looks like all other marsh grass to me—but I hadn’t been there after dark since I was a kid.

The road that went to what had been my parents’ cabin was passable, if only just. I got out there and went and sat on the porch and looked at the lake. My parents’ cabin was the only one still standing in this area, possibly because it had belonged to my father, whose name meant something even during the Voodoo Wars. There was a bad spot off to the east, but it was far enough away not to trouble me, though I could feel it was far enough away not to trouble me, though I could feel it was there.

I sat on the sagging porch, swinging my legs and feeling the troubles of the day draining out of me like water. The lake was beautiful: almost flat calm, the gentlest lapping against the shore, and silver with moonlight. I’d had many good times here: first with my parents, when they were still happy together, and later on with my gran. As I sat there I began to feel that if I sat there long enough I could get to the bottom of what was making me so cranky lately, find out if it was anything worse than poor-quality flour and a somewhat errant little brother.

I never heard them coming. Of course you don’t, when they’re vampires.


I lay there, breathing, listening to my heart race, but feeling this weird numb composure. We were still by the lake. From where I half-lay I could see it through the trees. It was still a beautiful serene moonlit evening.

“Do we take her over immediately?” This was the one who had noticed I was awake. It was a little apart from the others, and was sitting up straight on a tree stump or a rock—I couldn’t see which—as if keeping watch.

“Yeah. Bo says so. But he says we have to dress her up first.” This one sounded as if it was in charge. Maybe it was the Breather.

“Dress her up? What is this, a party?”

“I thought we had the party while …” said a third one. Several of them laughed. Their laughter made the hair on my arms stand on end. I couldn’t distinguish any individual shapes but that of the watcher. I couldn’t see how many of them there were. I thought I was listening to male voices but I wasn’t sure. That’s how weird sucker voices are.

“Bo says our … guest is old-fashioned. Ladies should wear dresses.”

I could feel them looking at me, feel the glint of their eyes in the firelight. I didn’t look back. Even when you already know you’re toast you don’t look in vampires’ eyes.

“She’s a lady, huh.”

“Don’t matter. She’ll look enough like one in a dress.” They all laughed again at this. I may have whimpered. One of the vampires separated itself from the boneless dark slithery blur of vampires and came toward me. My heart was going to lunge out of my mouth but I lay still. I was, strangely, beginning to feel my way into the numbness—as if, if I could, I would find the center of me again. As if being able to think clearly and calmly held any possibility of doing me any good. I wondered if this was how it felt when you woke up in the morning on the day you knew you were going to be executed.

One of the things you need to understand is that I’m not a brave person. I don’t put up with being messed around, and I don’t suffer fools gladly. The short version of that is that I’m a bitch. Trust me, I can produce character references. But that’s something else. I’m not brave. Mel is brave. His oldest friend told me some stories about him once I could barely stand to listen to, about dispatch riding during the Wars, and Mel’d been pissed off when he found out, although he hadn’t denied they happened. Mom is brave: she left my dad with no money, no job, no prospects—her own parents had dumped her when she married my dad, and her younger sisters didn’t find her again till she resurfaced years later at Charlie’s—and a six-year-old daughter. Charlie is brave: he started a coffeehouse by talking his bank into giving him a loan on his house back in the days when you only saw rats, cockroaches, derelicts, and Charlie himself on the streets of Old Town.

I’m not brave. I make cinnamon rolls. I read a lot. My idea of excitement is Mel popping a wheelie driving away from a stoplight with me on pillion.

The vampire was standing right next to me. I didn’t think I’d seen it walk that far. I’d seen it stand up and become one vampire out of a group of vampires. Then it was standing next to me. It. He. I looked at his hand as he held something out to me. “Put it on.” I reluctantly extended my own hand and accepted what it was. He didn’t seem any more eager to touch me than I was to touch him; the thing he was offering glided from his hand to mine. He moved away. I tried to watch, but I couldn’t differentiate him from the shadows. He was just not there.

I stood up slowly and turned my back on all of them. You might not think you could turn your back on a lot of vampires, but do you want to watch while they check the rope for kinks and the security of the noose and the lever on the trap door or do you maybe want to close your eyes? I turned my back. I pulled my T-shirt off over my head and dropped the dress down over me. The shoulder straps barely covered my bra straps and my neck and shoulders and most of my back and breast were left bare. Buffet dining. Very funny. I took my jeans off underneath the long loose skirt. I still had my back to them. I was hoping that vampires weren’t very interested in a meal that was apparently going to someone else. I didn’t like having my back to them but I kept telling myself it didn’t matter (there are guards to grab you if the lever still jams on the first attempt and you try to dive off the scaffold). I was very carefully clumsy and awkward about taking my jeans off, and in the process tucked my little jackknife up under my bra. It was only something to do to make me feel I hadn’t just given up. What are you going to do with a two-and-a-half-inch folding blade against a lot of vampires?

I’d had to take my sneakers off to get out of my jeans, and I looked at them dubiously. The dress was silky and slinky and it didn’t go with sneakers, but I didn’t like going barefoot either.

“That’ll do,” said the one who had given me the dress. He reappeared from the shadows. “Let’s go.”

And he reached out and took my arm.

The Golem and the Jinni
by Helene Wecker
N/App (Audiobook)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.21/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.09/5

(Note: Hi! I’m John. Not Kristen. Sorry. I used to contribute to this site a while ago, but then grad school happened. And then grad school happened again. Now they’ve run out of degrees to give me, so I’m back to having some time to write here! It probably won’t be very often, but I’ll pop in from time to time.)

The Golem and the Jinni is a melting pot-era urban fantasy released in 2013 and Helene Wecker’s debut novel, which makes it all the more remarkable that it was nominated for this year’s best novel Nebula as well as many other honors. I would describe it as a gentle story, well-crafted and familiar, and in this case marvelously performed by George Guidall on audiobook.

The Golem Chava’s first vision of the world was from the inside of a crate, deep in the hold of an ocean liner steaming toward America. Her master, gravely ill, had woken her well before they and the rest of the ship full of immigrants were to make land in New York City. By the time the ship arrived Chava was alone, masterless, and without any experience of the world or idea what to do with herself; she only knew the one thing her master had told her, that nobody could ever learn she was a golem. Though she looked human she could not act human and was quickly identified by a New York rabbi who–presented with the choice of destroying a dangerous creature or saving an innocent mind–decided to teach her how to live.

The Jinni Ahmad also arrived in New York City at around the same time, though his history went back far further than Chava’s. Trapped in an anonymous lamp for a thousand years, he was accidentally released by a tinsmith who thought he was just patching an old heirloom. Though Ahmad was freed from the lamp he was shocked to find he was not truly freed: he remained bound in human form by an artifact and a wizard of whom he had no memory. Like Chava, Ahmad had to be taken in by the tinsmith and taught the ways of the world he hadn’t seen for centuries.

The Golem and the Jinni is a well-crafted tale that has earned the accolades that have been lauded upon it over the last year. I do mean crafted, too; the writing is beautiful and incredibly appropriate for the story being told. The writing style adds to the level of immersion in both the turn of the century (er, last century) setting and the mythological nature of urban fantasy. It is a story that is meant to be comfortable, and it would not have worked nearly so well without Wecker’s excellently polished language.

Since I listened to the audio book I also had the privilege of listening to George Guidall read Wecker’s words. Here again, the performance was so good and so fitting to the content of the story that it made the entire experience of the book better. I don’t listen to that many audio books, but some of the ones I have heard have been dragged down by a poor reading that masked the quality of the story itself. If anything, the opposite was true in this case. Guidall’s reading was so masterful that I keep wondering if my impression of Wecker’s writing has been artificially boosted by his voice and that maybe I’d think it less well crafted if I’d read it on the page. Either way, the presentation of the story as I heard it was great, and one of the strongest parts of the book.

I’d say that the story itself was somewhat less developed than the presentation, though. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with it, but it was what I assume it was meant to be: comfortable, familiar, and non-threatening. Those are all valid choices that resulted in a good book, and not every book needs to set out to deconstruct the genre, but I prefer books that have a bit more of an edge to them. In the same way that many books that are marketed as young adult feel like they are aimed at or best appreciated by more mature readers, this book felt like an adult novel in its themes and references but was wrapped in language and narrative that seemed like they’d be better appreciated by readers who were less familiar with the genre. It just wasn’t narratively challenging in the way that I, as someone who knows the tropes and has been bathed in fantasy and myth for most of my life, might have preferred.

This might have bothered me less if I had seen less opportunity to push at those edges. For instance, I can see Wecker playing at the edges of some interesting thoughts about gender roles at the turn of the century. The female golem, designed from the ground up to be a good wife (read: servant), who has to figure out how to live for herself with nobody to serve; the male jinni, captured and chafing for freedom but lacking compassion or a sense of responsibility; the supporting characters who all come across as well pegged into their respective spots in society–all of them are archetypical characters who walk through the stories you’d expect them to walk through over the course of the book. They learn the things you’d expect them to learn, both about themselves and about the world, and then wrap things up in time to get home for supper. Their need to blend and remain hidden comes with the requisite rebellion against the roles that have been chosen for them. All of this absolutely fits the time, place, and immigrant experience that forms the core of the book, but I can’t help but feel like there was a missed opportunity to go against the grain and use the symmetries Wecker creates between the golem’s and jinni’s tales to tell a tale that would stick with readers for a long time. As is, while it was pleasant to listen to, I’m not sure that The Golem and the Jinni will stay in my thoughts for all that long.

Again, though, that is not to say it is not a good novel or that it is not worth reading. Any disappointment comes from comparing the novel as written to the novel I imagine could have been. I’d still recommend The Golem and the Jinni as a tender tale to read and an even better one to listen to. Since it was her first book, I’m interested to see where Wecker goes from here and if she brings the level of immersion and craft demonstrated in The Golem and the Jinni to a deeper world in the future.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my review copy: Purchased the audio book

Read an Excerpt

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration (often unsolicited). 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.

This week brought one book in the mail. It’s from a fantastic series!

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

Raising Steam (Discworld #40) by Terry Pratchett

Raising Steam was released in the UK last year and was made available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook in the US earlier this year. This national bestseller will also be available as a trade paperback in the US on October 28. An excerpt from Raising Steam is available on the publisher’s website.

This is one of only two novels in the main Discworld series I have not yet read. It’s a wonderful series—sharp and funny. Since this is number 40 in the series and some of the books focus on different characters, it can be difficult to know where to start if you are new to it. Here’s one suggested reading order guide. Since some of the earlier books are not as good as many of the later ones, it is often suggested that it’s best not to start with the first book published. I started with a couple of the more stand alone books in the series then went back and read them starting in publication order, and I’d agree it’s better not to start with the first book until trying some of the others. My personal recommendation would be one of the first ones I read, Small Gods, since it’s one of the best books in the series and also works pretty well as a stand alone.


Steam is rising over Discworld. . . .

Mister Simnel has produced a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all the elements—earth, air, fire, and water—and it’s soon drawing astonished crowds. To the consternation of Ankh-Morpork’s formidable Patrician, Lord Vetinari, no one is in charge of this new invention. Who better to take the lead than the man he has already appointed master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank?

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work—unless it is dependent on words, which are not very heavy and don’t always need greasing. He does enjoy being alive, however, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs, and some very angry dwarfs if he’s going to stop it all from going off the rails.


The Young Elites is the first book in a new series by Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of the Legend trilogy (Legend, Prodigy, Champion).

A few years ago, a plague swept through the world and forever changed it. Every adult who became ill died, but there were children who survived this illness. Some of the survivors bore marks afterward and became known as malfettos, and a few of these displayed unusual powers. There are rumors of dangerous Elites who can create fire from nothing, control animals or the wind, or become invisible.

While many people fear the Young Elites, Adelina is in awe of their abilities. Both Adelina and her younger sister Violetta caught the plague as children. Violetta recovered without any permanent changes, but Adelina lost her eye during her illness. Her hair also turned silver, marking her a malfetto, and her mother died leaving the two sisters with just their father. Though Adelina is beautiful, her father realizes no man will want to marry a malfetto and turns his attention to Violetta—except for when he tries to provoke Adelina, hoping she will exhibit a power of her own and become a useful daughter to him after all. However, Adelina never shows any signs of abilities regardless of the abusive tactic employed and her own attempts to bring forth some sort of power.

One night, Adelina overhears her father and a man doing business. The cost of the transaction is Adelina herself, whom the man does not deign suitable for a wife but believes would be an acceptable mistress. This is not acceptable to Adelina, who decides it’s a good time to act on her plans to run away from home and does so. When Adelina’s father catches up to her on horseback, she finds something within herself for the first time and creates dark, terrifying illusions. Her father is killed by his frightened horse, and Adelina continues to run until she is caught by the Inquisition and imprisoned, both for the murder of her father and the crime of being a malfetto with otherworldly powers.

On the day Adelina is to be executed, two things happen: she is able to call on her illusions for the second time, and she is rescued by a group of Young Elites like herself. If she can pass their tests, she may become one of them—but her biggest obstacle to belonging with them may be herself and the darkness within.

The Young Elites is an entertaining book that initially seemed like a mish-mash of tropes from other books I’d read before. Of course, the main premise has been done many times before: a small subset of people develop superpowers, making them outcasts feared by the rest of society. Many of the powers they developed are also quite common in these types of stories, and many of the character types are familiar as well. However, the end of the book made me rethink this opinion since some rather unexpected events occurred, and one storyline in particular did not follow the predictable path I’d expected at all. The epilogue was also excellent with the introduction of an intriguing new character and some great setup for the second book—and now I am quite eager to read the next book in this series!

Marie Lu stated on Twitter that the basic premise of The Young Elites is “What makes someone fall to the dark side?” She has also said, “THE YOUNG ELITES is an origin story of a villain, and Adelina is essentially Darth Vader or Magneto as a teenage girl.” This is a dark novel, and Adelina can be a sympathetic character but is not always one, especially as the book nears the end and becomes even grimmer. It’s not surprising she has some problems, given her background. Her father was a cruel man, and he was especially terrible to his older daughter. If not for her emergence from the plague with the silver hair that marked her a malfetto, men would have been lining up to marry her, but since they’re not he doesn’t find her a particularly useful daughter—and he tries every tactic he can think of to force her into using a power since the only way he can see her becoming of use to him is if she develops one.

While she despises her father, Adelina is also well aware that she is in many ways her father’s daughter. She is glad to discover she has a special ability, and there are times when she even embraces the darker side of it. Earlier in the book, she makes mistakes, but I think it’s easy to understand her motivations and behavior even while feeling that she is making the wrong choices. She’s certainly not completely unsympathetic: Adelina seems to just desperately want a place to belong, and she also does seem to care very much about her sister and some of the Elites she comes to consider friends. Later in the story, her actions become more terrible and unsympathetic, although she remains an interesting character even as she turns closer to the evil side.

I had mixed feelings about the writing. There was occasionally some lovely phrasing, but the first person present tense of Adelina’s narrative did seem stilted at times. I also felt there was too much telling, and that Adelina’s first test with the Young Elites was too simple and served as a shortcut for characterization. The Elites can see which attributes their energy aligns with through gemstones; for example, Adelina is found to have a strong affinity for ambition, wisdom, passion, fear, and fury when she is tested by one of the Elites. The time spent in a room with gemstones tells the others a bit about her and seems to be a way to make others react to her without judging her by her actions. After this, Adelina often thinks of what she is doing or feeling as being a reflection of her alignment with one of these, which I found irritating since it fit her into a box of personality traits and emotions instead of letting her live and breathe as a character. The other Elites are often discussed in terms of their alignments instead of as people with personalities outside of what’s gleaned from this test, making this appear as a convenient way to tell about their characters without having any actual character development.

While there is a romantic storyline, the most complex and memorable relationship in the book was that between Adelina and her sister. Adelina’s feelings about her sister are complicated. She certainly shows that she cares about Violetta, but she also resents her sister for both not being a malfetto and being their father’s favorite (even if she is aware that her father was not kind to Violetta, either). Adelina also underestimates her sister, and I was glad Violetta had a lot more depth than she seemed to in the beginning.

The Young Elites is a fast-paced, enjoyable story despite its tendencies toward telling instead of showing, particularly using the Elite test to bypass actual character development. The ending really took this novel to a whole new level with its surprises and intriguing epilogue, and I was also pleased that Violetta was given more depth that made the relationship between the two sisters quite compelling. I also liked that the author did not shy away from a dark ending as I love to see authors take risks even when events may be unpopular with some. Due to the overall entertainment value and the strong finish, I am very much looking forward to the next book in the series despite the issues I had.

My Rating: 7/10

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

Read an Excerpt

Other Reviews:

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration (often unsolicited). 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.

This week brought some books that sound rather interesting, including a book purchase. That’s the first of these and one of my most anticipated books of 2014!

Stories of the Raksura: Volume One by Martha Wells

Stories of the Raksura: Volume One by Martha Wells

Stories of the Raksura: Volume One, a book containing two novellas and two short stories set in the same world as the Books of the Raksura, was recently released (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook). Volume Two is scheduled for release in April 2015.

I loved the three Books of the Raksura, The Cloud Roads, The Serpent Sea, and The Siren Depths. The Cloud Roads hooked me immediately with the story of Moon, a shapeshifter who had never met others like him, but my favorite of the three books is the last one, The Siren Depths. I’m excited there are more stories set in this unique world, especially since some of them feature the same likable and interesting characters as the three novels! (And this reminds me I still need to read more by Martha Wells, whose backlist includes the Nebula-nominated novel The Death of the Necromancer and other books that I’ve heard are wonderful such as Wheel of the Infinite and The Wizard Hunters.)


Martha Wells returns to the Raksura with a pair of brand-new novellas!

In “The Falling World,” Jade, sister queen of the Indigo Cloud Court, has traveled with Chime and Balm to another Raksuran court. When she fails to return, her consort, Moon, along with Stone and a party of warriors and hunters, must track them down. Finding them turns out to be the easy part; freeing them from an ancient trap hidden in the depths of the Reaches is much more difficult.

“The Tale of Indigo and Cloud” explores the history of the Indigo Cloud Court, long before Moon was born. In the distant past, Indigo stole Cloud from Emerald Twilight. But in doing so, the reigning Queen Cerise and Indigo are now poised for a conflict that could spark war throughout all the courts of the Reaches.

Stories of Moon and the shape changers of Raksura have delighted readers for years. This world is a dangerous place full of strange mysteries, where the future can never be taken for granted and must always be fought for with wits and ingenuity, and often tooth and claw. With two brand-new novellas, Martha Wells shows that the world of the Raksura has many more stories to tell . . .

Time Roads by Beth Bernobich

The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich

The Time Roads will be released on October 14 (paperback, ebook). I enjoyed Beth Bernobich’s debut novel, the Romantic Times Best Epic Fantasy winner Passion Play, and The Time Roads also sounds quite interesting.

An excerpt from The Time Roads is available on the author’s website.


A fantastical nineteenth century alternate historical steampunk romp from Beth Bernobich, the critically acclaimed author of the River of Souls trilogy.

Éire is one of the most powerful empires in the world. The Anglian Dependencies are a dusty backwater filled with resentful colonial subjects, Europe is a disjointed mess, and many look to Éire for stability and peace. In a series of braided stories, Beth Bernobich has created a tale about the brilliant Éireann scientists who have already bent the laws of nature for Man’s benefit. And who now are striving to conquer the nature of time.

The Golden Octopus: Áine Lasairíona Devereaux, the young Queen of Éire, balances Court politics while pursing the Crown’s goals of furthering scientific discovery. When those discoveries lead to the death and madness of those she loves, Áine must choose between her heart and her duty to her kingdom.

A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange: Síomón Madóc is desperately trying to discover who is killing the brightest of Éire’s mathematicians. The key to saving lives lies in the future…and Síomón must figure out a way to get there.

Ars Memoriae: Éireann spymaster Aidrean Ó Deághaidh goes to the kingdom of Montenegro to investigate rumors of great unrest. But Ó Deághaidh is tormented by visions of a different timeline and suspects that someone in his own government is playing a double game….

The Time Roads: Éire stands on the brink of the modern age, but old troubles still plague the kingdom. An encounter with a mysterious stranger near death holds the clue to both the past and the future of the nation.

A Play of Shadow by Julie Czerneda

A Play of Shadow (Night’s Edge #2) by Julie Czerneda

A Play of Shadow will be released on November 4 (trade paperback, ebook). The first book in this series, A Turn of Light, recently became the second of Julie Czerneda’s books to win the Aurora Award for Best Novel. The first of these Aurora Award winners, In the Company of Others, also won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, plus Julie Czerneda was a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. I haven’t read any of her books yet, but I have been wanting to read the first book in this series as well as some of her science fiction!

Some excerpts from A Play of Shadow are available on the author’s website, as well as the first chapter from A Turn of Light. You can also read more about the development of the cover art for A Play of Shadow here on Fantasy Cafe since Julie Czerneda and cover artist Matt Stawicki shared some insight into this creative process with the cover reveal earlier this year!


What would you risk for family?

The truthseer who won Jenn Nalynn’s heart, Bannan Larmensu, learns his brother-in-law was sent as a peace envoy to Channen, the capital of the mysterious domain of Mellynne, and has disappeared. When Bannan’s young nephews arrive in Marrowdell during a storm, he fears that his sister, the fiery Lila, has gone in search of her husband, leaving her sons in his care.

The law forbids Bannan from leaving Marrowdell and traveling to Mellynne to help his sister. At least, in this world.

As a turn-born, Jenn Nalynn has the power to cross into the magical realm of the Verge—and take Bannan with her. Once there, they could find a way into Mellynne, if they survive.

The Verge is wild and deadly, alive with strange magic. Dragons roar and kruar wait in ambush, and the powerful turn-born who tend their world do not care for Jenn Nalynn. But Jenn is willing to try. Their friends Wisp and Scourge — and the house toads — offer their help.

But what none of them know is that Channen is rife with magic, magic that flows from the Verge itself. And not even a turn-born will be safe there.

Scarlet Tides by David Hair

Scarlet Tides (Moontide Quartet #2) by David Hair

This fantasy novel, which follows Mage’s Blood, was released in the US on October 7 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook) and has been available in the UK since last year. The print edition of the third book in this quartet, Unholy War, will be released in the UK on October 30 (hardcover, paperback). It appears at least the Kindle version of the ebook is available in the UK now. A second related series, The Lodestar Quartet, is planned to follow the Moontide Quartet.

An excerpt from Mage’s Blood is available on Tor.com, and Bookhounds has an excerpt from chapter 1 of Scarlet Tides with a US ARC giveaway that ends soon (October 15).

David Hair is also an award-winning author of young adult fantasy fiction. The first book in his Aotearoa series, The Bone Tiki, received the Best First Book Award at the 2010 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards. Pyre of Queens, the first book in The Return of Ravana series, was the recipient of the LIANZA Award for Best YA Novel in 2012.


The Moontide has come and the Leviathan Bridge stands open: now thrones will shake and hearts will be torn apart in a world at war.

A scarlet tide of Rondian legions is flooding into the East, led by the Inquisition’s windships flying the Sacred Heart, bright banner of the Church’s darkest sons. They are slaughtering and pillaging their way across Antiopia in the name of Emperor Constant. But the emperor’s greatest treasure, the Scytale of Corineus, has slipped through his fingers and his ruthless Inquisitors must scour two continents for the artefact, the source of all magical power.

Against them are the unlikeliest of heroes. Alaron, a failed mage, the gypsy Cymbellea and Ramita, once just a lowly market-girl, have pledged to end the cycle of war and restore peace to Urte.

East and West have clashed before, but this time, as secret factions and cabals emerge from the shadows, the world is about to discover that love, loyalty and truth can be forged into weapons as strong as swords and magic.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration (often unsolicited). 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.

This post is part two of the series started last week covering some of the books that I bought or received in the mail while this blog was on hiatus due to moving. The only books from the last week were one I have already talked about and one that I bought myself so only the one I purchased is included. The first three books are ones I bought at various bookstores, either on the way to Vermont or after moving here! Next week I’ll return to posting weekly about books bought or received the way I normally do.

The Faded Sun Trilogy by C. J. Cherryh

The Faded Sun Trilogy by C. J. Cherryh

This is a mass market paperback omnibus containing Kesrith, Shon’jir, and Kutath. I still haven’t read any books by award-winning author C. J. Cherryh, and I’ve been thinking about reading one to review during Sci-Fi Month this November. The first book in this trilogy, Kesrith, seems like it might be a good book to start with since it was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards.


They were the mri – tall, secretive, bound by honor and the rigid dictates of their society. For aeons this golden-skinned, golden-eyed race had provided the universe mercenary soldiers of almost unimaginable ability. But now the mri have faced an enemy unlike any other – an enemy whose only way of war is widespread destruction. These “humans” are mass fighters, creatures of the herd, and the mri have been slaughtered like animals.

Now, in the aftermath of war, the mri face extinction. It will be up to three individuals to save whatever remains of this devastated race: a warrior – one of the last survivors of his kind; a priestess of this honorable people; and a lone human – a man sworn to aid the enemy of his own kind. Can they retrace the galaxy-wide path of this nomadic race back through millennia to reclaim the ancient world which first gave them life?

House Immortal by Devon Monk

House Immortal (House Immortal #1) by Devon Monk

I’ve heard good things about Devon Monk’s books, and I thought this sounded interesting. House Immortal was just released last month in mass market paperback, ebook, and hardcover. An excerpt can be read on the author’s website.

The second book in the trilogy, Infinity Bell, is scheduled for release in March 2015.


One hundred years ago, eleven powerful ruling Houses consolidated all of the world’s resources and authority into their own grasping hands. Only one power wasn’t placed under the command of a single House: the control over the immortal galvanized….

Matilda Case isn’t like most folk. In fact, she’s unique in the world, the crowning achievement of her father’s experiments, a girl pieced together from bits. Or so she believes, until Abraham Seventh shows up at her door, stitched with life thread just like her and insisting that enemies are coming to kill them all.

Tilly is one of thirteen incredible creations known as the galvanized, stitched together beings immortal and unfathomably strong. For a century, each House has fought for control over the galvanized. Now the Houses are also tangled in a deadly struggle for dominion over death—and Tilly and her kind hold the key to unlocking eternity

The secrets that Tilly must fight to protect are hidden within the very seams of her being. And to get the secrets, her enemies are willing to tear her apart piece by piece.…


Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin

Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin

I haven’t read anything written by George R. R. Martin that wasn’t related to A Song of Ice and Fire or Wild Cards, but I do want to read some of his other books at some point and have heard this vampire novel is very good. An excerpt from Fevre Dream is available on the publisher’s website, and it is available in both trade and mass market paperback, ebook, and audiobook.


Abner Marsh, a struggling riverboat captain, suspects that something’s amiss when he is approached by a wealthy aristocrat with a lucrative offer. The hauntingly pale, steely-eyed Joshua York doesn’t care that the icy winter of 1857 has wiped out all but one of Marsh’s dilapidated fleet; nor does he care that he won’t earn back his investment in a decade. York’s reasons for traversing the powerful Mississippi are to be none of Marsh’s concern—no matter how bizarre, arbitrary, or capricious York’s actions may prove. Not until the maiden voyage of Fevre Dream does Marsh realize that he has joined a mission both more sinister, and perhaps more noble, than his most fantastic nightmare—and humankind’s most impossible dream.

The Free by Brian Ruckley

The Free by Brian Ruckley

This fantasy novel from the author of The Godless World trilogy beginning with Winterbirth will be released on October 14 (paperback, ebook). An excerpt from The Free is available on the publisher’s website.



Led by Yulan, their charismatic captain, the Free have spent years selling their martial and magical skills to the highest bidder – winning countless victories that shook the foundations of the world. Now they finally plan to lay down their swords.

Yet when Yulan is offered a final contract, he cannot refuse – for the mission offers him the chance to erase the memories of the Free’s darkest hour, which have haunted him for years.

As The Free embark on their last mission, a potent mix of loyalty and vengeance is building to a storm. Freedom, it seems, carries a deadly price.

War Dogs by Greg Bear

War Dogs by Greg Bear

This science fiction novel, the first book in a trilogy, will be released on October 14 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Greg Bear is a New York Times bestselling author and the recipient of two Hugo Awards and five Nebula Awards.



One more tour on the red.
Maybe my last.

They made their presence on Earth known thirteen years ago.

Providing technology and scientific insights far beyond what mankind was capable of. They became indispensable advisors and promised even more gifts that we just couldn’t pass up. We called them Gurus.

It took them a while to drop the other shoe. You can see why, looking back.

It was a very big shoe, completely slathered in crap.

They had been hounded by mortal enemies from sun to sun, planet to planet, and were now stretched thin — and they needed our help.

And so our first bill came due. Skyrines like me were volunteered to pay the price. As always.

These enemies were already inside our solar system and were moving to establish a beachhead, but not on Earth.

On Mars.