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. 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. Book cover links are affiliate links to Bookshop, and I earn from qualifying purchases.

There are three books from last week and one from the week before, and I’m highlighting the two books my husband gave me for our anniversary last week. One of these is a book I have not covered here before, and the other is one that did not yet have a cover image when I highlighted it earlier this year.

You can read more about the two books I recently purchased here:

There have been no new posts since the last one of these features, but there is a review scheduled for tomorrow morning!

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia - Book Cover

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This fantasy romance novel, which was first published in 2017, was re-released earlier this year. The publisher’s website has an excerpt from The Beautiful Ones.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia mentioned that her books tend to cross different genres and have rather different styles on Goodreads. She wrote that The Beautiful Ones is “very much a novel of manners and a romance, much closer in tone to Gods of Jade and Shadow than some of my other work and very far from Mexican Gothic.”

I enjoyed both the creepiness of Mexican Gothic and the Mayan-inspired mythical expedition in Gods of Jade and Shadow, and I’m excited to read this one too!


From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a sweeping romance with a dash of magic.

They are the Beautiful Ones, Loisail’s most notable socialites, and this spring is Nina’s chance to join their ranks, courtesy of her well-connected cousin and his calculating wife. But the Grand Season has just begun, and already Nina’s debut has gone disastrously awry. She has always struggled to control her telekinesis—neighbors call her the Witch of Oldhouse—and the haphazard manifestations of her powers make her the subject of malicious gossip.

When entertainer Hector Auvray arrives to town, Nina is dazzled. A telekinetic like her, he has traveled the world performing his talents for admiring audiences. He sees Nina not as a witch, but ripe with potential to master her power under his tutelage. With Hector’s help, Nina’s talent blossoms, as does her love for him.

But great romances are for fairytales, and Hector is hiding a truth from Nina — and himself—that threatens to end their courtship before it truly begins.

The Beautiful Ones is a charming tale of love and betrayal, and the struggle between conformity and passion, set in a world where scandal is a razor-sharp weapon.

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid - Book Cover

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

Ava Reid’s debut novel was just released last month. has an excerpt from The Wolf and the Woodsman, and the publisher’s website has both text and audio samples.

For a list of content warnings, see the book’s page on the author’s website.

I’ve been excited about The Wolf and the Woodsman for a while and started reading it last night (and am indeed enjoying it so far!).


In the vein of Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestseller Spinning Silver and Katherine Arden’s national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale, this unforgettable debut— inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology—follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant. 

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.

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. 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.

There have not been any new posts since last weekend’s feature, and I’m very excited about this week’s book, so let’s get straight to it!

The Boy with Fire by Aparna Verma - Book Cover

The Boy with Fire (The Ravence Trilogy #1) by Aparna Verma

Aparna Verma’s debut novel will be released on August 31.

I was immediately intrigued by The Boy with Fire when I saw a tweet by the author mentioning that you might want to read it if you like the following:

  • morally grey protagonists
  • corruption & redemption arc
  • Indian mythology

Aparna Verma discussed these aspects of the book and more in an interview at one of my favorite book blogs, The Quiet Pond:

The Boy With Fire is, at its heart, a story about madness. It shows a world teetering on the edge of war, and the people who push it over. The book is DARK. It’s written in three character POVs, and each character must make cruel decisions. There’s genocide, terrorism, vengeful gods, and man’s battle against fate. In short, the book is not for the faint of heart.

But, there are lighter moments! There is a subtle romance subplot, fast-paced dojo scenes, and an amazing BIPOC cast. Elena, the heir to the throne, is perhaps the most relatable character; Leo, the tyrant, is a secret favorite; and Yassen, the assassin, will break your heart.”

You can read more about the book and its inspirations in the interview/cover reveal and in a post Aparna Verma wrote on Goodreads.


Dune meets The Poppy War in Aparna Verma’s The Boy with Fire, a glorious yet brutal tour-de-force debut that grapples with the power and manipulation of myth in an Indian-inspired epic fantasy.

Yassen Knight was the Arohassin’s most notorious assassin until a horrible accident. Now, he’s on the run from both the authorities and his former employer. But when Yassen seeks refuge with an old friend, he’s offered an irresistible deal: defend the heir of Ravence from the Arohassin, and earn his freedom.

Elena Ravence prepares to ascend the throne. Trained since birth in statecraft, warfare, and the desert ways, Elena knows she is ready. She only lacks one thing: the ability to hold Fire. With the coronation only weeks away, she must learn quickly or lose her kingdom.

Leo Ravence is not yet ready to give up the crown. There’s still too much work to be done, too many battles to be won. But when an ancient prophecy threatens to undo his lifetime of work, Leo wages war on the heavens themselves to protect his legacy.

The first of The Ravence Trilogy, The Boy with Fire is the tale of a world teetering on the edge of war and prophecy, of fate and betrayal, of man’s irrevocable greed for power — and the sacrifices that must come with it.

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. 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. Book cover links are affiliate links to Bookshop, and I earn from qualifying purchases.

This week’s Leaning Pile of Books features two of five books added to the TBR over the last couple of weeks. One is a book I purchased, the other is an electronic ARC, and neither are ones I’ve covered here this year. But before highlighting those, here are the latest posts in case you missed either of them:

This post doesn’t contain details on the review copy and two purchased books that I’ve already highlighted here this year, all of which can be found on this list of 30 Anticipated 2021 Speculative Fiction Book Releases:

More about the other new books is below!

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor - Book Cover

Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer #2) by Laini Taylor

Muse of Nightmares, the sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel and Printz Honor Book Strange the Dreamer, is available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook. The publisher’s website has excerpts from both Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares.

I love Laini Taylor’s writing, and Strange the Dreamer was wonderful. When I was looking to spend some of a gift card on a book that hadn’t just come out this year—one that I was excited to read but hadn’t gotten yet because it is impossible to keep up with all the amazing books—I chose Muse of Nightmares. It was the only one of Laini Taylor’s novels I didn’t have yet, so I had to remedy that—and I ended up with an unexpected signed copy!

The book description below does contain spoilers for Strange the Dreamer.


The highly anticipated, thrilling sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer, from National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy.

Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.

She believed she knew every horror, and was beyond surprise.

She was wrong.

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.

Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice–save the woman he loves, or everyone else?–while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.

As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki - Book Cover

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

A new science fiction/fantasy novel by Lambda Award finalist Ryka Aoki will be released on September 28 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).


Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in Ryka Aoki’s Light From Uncommon Stars, a defiantly joyful adventure set in California’s San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts.

Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.

When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate.

But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.

As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found.

I’m delighted to welcome Leanna Renee Hieber to the blog! Her work includes the Strangely Beautiful, Eterna Files, and Spectral City series—plus the one she is discussing today, Time Immemorial, a trilogy of timeslip novellas coming out over the next few weeks. Set in the same universe as her Prism Award–winning space opera novella Dark Nest, the books in this series are being released in ebook and audiobook formats. Time Immemorial, the first book, is out today with Time Inescapable scheduled for release on June 22 and Time Indivisible following in July. Read on to learn more about the series and see the covers of all three books by series co-creator Thom Truelove!

Time Immemorial by Leanna Renee Hieber with Thom Truelove - Book Cover
(click to enlarge)
Read Time Immemorial or Listen to the Audiobook

Greetings Fantasy Café friends!

This delightful Café has been a part of my life and historical fantasy career since the very beginning. What a delight and honor it is to be here to showcase and cover-reveal a brand-new novella series that ties all my works together in an innovative way, beginning with Time Immemorial, arriving in digital and audio formats today thanks to Scrib’d / Bryant Street Publishing.

Time Immemorial, Time Inescapable and Time Indivisible are novellas that follow the lives of Elizabeth Marlowe, a woman living in 4 concurrent timelines and in each one, someone wants to kill her. Whether Iron Age Britain, 1882, World War II or the 24th century, something is hunting her. There’s a force working to take down not only her, but everyone she’s ever cared about through time.

The concept of Captain Liz Marlowe, co-created by my business partner Thom Truelove, began as a character sketch for a TV pilot. We’d begun work on a script and did some concept photos of the character in some of her different timelines, a character who was intended to be played by yours truly. Most folks know me as a novelist but I trained in theatre and my artistic career began and spanned many years on the professional stage.

During those early concept days, the awesome artist, writer and photographer Sebastian Crane staged and took these shots of me as Liz in several of the character’s different timelines. L’Bet is a druidic priestess, Lizzie is a Victorian scientist, explorer and Spiritualist, Captain Liz is a starship captain in the 24th century.

Leanna Renee Hieber as L'Bet, Druidic Priestess Leanna Renee Hieber as Lizzie Marlowe Leanna Renee Hieber as Captain Liz Marlowe
(click to enlarge)
Pictured (left to right):

L’Bet, Druidic Priestess, wielding ley line energy – Leanna Renee Hieber, photographed by S. Crane. Additional effects by Thom Truelove

Lizzie Marlowe, 19th Century adventurer & Spiritualist – Leanna Renee Hieber, photographed by S. Crane

Captain Liz Marlowe, 24th Century starship captain – Leanna Renee Hieber, photographed by S. Crane

The original project Liz was created for fell through, but the character was too good not to keep and run with. Some of Liz’s iterations had already begun popping up in my novels; Lizzie Marlowe “The Visitor” shapes Clara Templeton’s life in my Eterna Files trilogy. Marlowe’s starship captain self understandably would tie into my existing Dark Nest Chronicles of psychic space opera.

Liz stays connected from one life to the next by harnessing an ancient, mysterious energy. The concept of “ley lines” is a bit like thinking of Earth’s magical, spiritual and/or life-force energy having latitude and longitude. It was a concept re-popularized in 19th century mysticism and Spiritualism. By manipulating ley lines, Liz can assert a certain power and control over her environment. This becomes increasingly important as she’s trying to survive.

In writing this Time Immemorial set of novellas, sites and connections from my other books organically came into play. One doesn’t have to have read any of my work prior to jumping into this new series, so don’t worry if you haven’t. But if you are familiar with my work and remember a place called Athens Academy from my Strangely Beautiful series, I hope you’ll be glad to see it again. The building plays a key role in protecting our heroes, just as it always has. And just as Lizzie, “The Visitor”, played a vital part in Clara becoming the woman she is in The Eterna Files, Clara shows back up in Time Immemorial to help Lizzie in turn.

Writing a woman living in multiple timelines, time-slipping from one to the next in shifts of consciousness, was a huge puzzle and a unique challenge. The trick was, just like Liz has to master, staying in the moment. Liz takes her life one important moment at a time and that’s how I had to come to this narrative. That’s also how I read the audio books! The chance to perform Captain Liz after all, as the audio book narrator, was so gratifying.

Working with talented and insightful editor Julia O’Connell on this series was a huge help. Her blog, The Gothic Library, has well-established her eye for analysis and she helped me keep a sharp focus on what worked in the draft and what didn’t, honing in on Liz Marlowe’s core emotional needs, motivations and trajectory across the set of novellas. With a character as overwhelming as Liz, editorial guidance was critical.

Time Inescapable by Leanna Renee Hieber with Thom Truelove - Book Cover Time Indivisible by Leanna Renee Hieber with Thom Truelove - Book Cover
(click to enlarge)

I truly love the blend of mystical and astrological imagery Thom Truelove created as the cover artist for the series. Here’s Thom’s note about his choices for these covers:

“Sacred geometry almost accidentally occurs when rendering the Celestial. The arcs and stars in the covers of the Time Immemorial series were initially adapted from a page of an 1880 star atlas. The representation may be even older. Astronomers have lifted their heads to comprehend the Heavens since… time immemorial. And our hero in this saga was created to explore them. Astrologers looked upward for clues about ourselves and perhaps our fates; the incarnations of Liz are collectively on a comparable – if not parallel – journey, from her perspective in a far more practical and urgent manner. These covers are meant to capture all this thinking and as an invitation for you to join her.”

About Time Immemorial: A Dark Nest Adventure (via Scrib’d):

A masterful tale of multiple timelines; one woman, split between four lives…

Elizabeth Marlowe has always known she was different—even from others with psychic abilities. She doesn’t merely glimpse past or future lives, she lives multiple lives concurrently. She is L’Bet, a druid priestess holding out against the Roman invasion. She is Lizzie, a headstrong Victorian plumbing the depths of both science and Spiritualism. She is Beth, a Women’s Royal Air Force pilot fighting in World War II. And she is Captain Liz, a starship commander forging a path through the stars.

But being different comes with danger. Liz is determined to make it on her own, hiding her unusual ability from all but one trusted companion in each life. Yet, she is haunted by an ominous warning from her old mentor, Saire: Someday they’ll fear you. People fear what they cannot understand, and it is only a matter of time before those with psychic powers are targeted for their difference. When that happens, Liz will have to choose between her life of independence and saving the community she rejected long ago.

Return to the Prism Award-winning world of Leanna Renee Hieber’s Dark Nest trilogy with the start of a new series that spans eras and galaxies!”

We hope you’ll take us up on that invitation to join Liz and live in the moment, across time and space, taking life one critical choice at a time.


Leanna Renee Hieber

The Jasmine Throne
by Tasha Suri
576pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 10/10
Amazon Rating: 4.6/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.5/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.35/5

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Description of The Jasmine Throne:

A ruthless princess and a powerful priestess come together to rewrite the fate of an empire in this “fiercely and unapologetically feminist tale of endurance and revolution set against a gorgeous, unique magical world” (S. A. Chakraborty).

Exiled by her despotic brother, princess Malini spends her days dreaming of vengeance while imprisoned in the Hirana: an ancient cliffside temple that was once the revered source of the magical deathless waters but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

The secrets of the Hirana call to Priya. But in order to keep the truth of her past safely hidden, she works as a servant in the loathed regent’s household, biting her tongue and cleaning Malini’s chambers.

But when Malini witnesses Priya’s true nature, their destines become irrevocably tangled. One is a ruthless princess seeking to steal a throne. The other a powerful priestess seeking to save her family. Together, they will set an empire ablaze.

The Jasmine Throne, the first book in The Burning Kingdoms trilogy, was one of my most anticipated books of this year. Although I imagine I’d have wanted to read it based on the description alone, the biggest reason I was so excited for this book was that it was written by the author of Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash, Tasha Suri. Her first two novels were both beautifully written, emotional stories, and I wrote that she’s “a master of crafting poetic, quietly sharp introspection that cuts deep” in my review of her second book.

And The Jasmine Throne only made me feel even more strongly that this is the case—because as much as I loved her other books, I somehow loved her latest even more.

The Jasmine Throne is a bit different from her previous books since it explores the epic fantasy world from multiple perspectives, and it doesn’t have the same feel of hope shining through the darkness with its morally ambiguous main characters. Yet, The Jasmine Throne also has a lot in common with Tasha Suri’s earlier works. It’s a story about people who have had pieces of themselves stolen by an empire, and it has exquisite worldbuilding, both in the construction of society and the fantastic, magical aspects. It explores characters and a variety of interpersonal relationships with depth and nuance, and it has some of the most piercing, gorgeous prose I’ve ever read.

It’s epic fantasy at its very best, so devastatingly excellent and complex that it’s difficult to sum up in a mere book review. But I’ll do what I can…

Inspired in part by Indian epics like the Mahabharata and a conflict for a throne during the Mughal period, The Jasmine Throne is largely about different characters surviving and influencing their world despite the perils of the Empire, with a heavy emphasis on the additional obstacles of patriarchy for the women who are the heart of this story. It’s about the dangers of underestimating these women, even—or maybe especially—when they appear to have been stripped of their power. It’s about the different, subtler ways they navigate their world and how they can use being underestimated to their advantage: whether they are a maidservant, an imprisoned princess, or a wife and mother-to-be with a reputation for being gentle.

Priya, who works in the regent’s household, is a trained badass with a soft heart. She does what she can to help local children who have the rot, a plant-based disease that would be lovely with its sprouting leaves and flowers—at least, if not for the fact that this causes problems for human bodies, interfering with functions like breathing and eventually causing death. Priya was raised at the temple but has to keep this part of her past hidden, since she and the others like her were growing too powerful and were supposedly all burned for their abilities, and she usually avoids facing these memories. Yet, she ends up deciding to become a maidservant at the temple when the chance arises since she’ll be able to earn more money to buy sacred wood for the orphans.

Malini, the Emperor’s sister, has mastered manipulation. She constantly evaluates people, looking for how she can use them, and she shows each person whichever side of herself she believes will make them act as she wants. She’s ruthless and scheming, she can convincingly cry at will, and she is enraged that her brother banished her to a temple for refusing to walk into a fire and burn to death. She spends her days isolated and drugged, unable to wield her clever tongue or clear her foggy mind, but she remains determined to find a way to escape. When she realizes one of the maidservants at the temple is more than she appears, Malini sees an opportunity to use her to do just that—and evokes enough sympathy to be allowed one companion, Priya.

Although Priya and Malini are the two most prominent characters, there are other notable viewpoints, including that of the regent’s wife, Bhumika. She has a reputation for gentleness since she often takes in orphans, and though she does use her status to save people, her meekness is a guise. Her goal is to save as many as possible, but she also has a harder heart than her sister Priya and puts the survival of her and hers first: she does not believe that saving a life is worth the risk of exposing their shared history as temple children. Bhumika is calculating with her own spy network of loyal maidservants, and she has the wisdom to know when she should keep fighting and when it’s time to move on to the next plan. It’s difficult to pick one favorite character since there are four I really loved, but if I were forced to pick just one, it would be Bhumika.

Each character’s motivations make sense when viewed from their own perspectives, and all of them have enough dimension to be at least somewhat sympathetic, even if they end up doing some dark things by the end. I really appreciated this aspect, and I also found seeing these characters through each other’s eyes deeply compelling. Their relationships are complex, and I especially loved Priya and Bhumika’s sisterly bond. They care about one another, but they’re not close and there is tension that simmers between them due to their personal history.

Many of these relationships are not static, including theirs, and the evolution of theirs is wonderfully done—as is the romance that develops between Priya and Malini as they bond over stories, wants and wishes, and (eventually) the definition of “monstrous.” Priya is drawn to the elegant princess from the start, and being Priya, she of course wants to help her. Malini thinks Priya is unusually interesting, someone who is overlooked by most people but is so much more than she seems. But, being Malini, she also resents having actual feelings for someone that give her pause about using them the way she thinks she should.

The way Tasha Suri brings these characters to life is phenomenal, and she also makes the sense of place and the fantastic elements exceptionally vivid. She made me feel the terror of the dangerous climb up the “mountain of the dead” to the temple, and she made me see the intermingling beauty and horror of the rot. She made me fear the eerily quiet forest, the home of the sacred wood that slowed the plant disease but also an area where time did not flow the usual way.

This is a novel that seems to be setting up larger events for the next two books in the series, and it really escalates toward the end (which is filled with memorable scenes!). Regardless of pace, I found the entire book completely immersive, and I think that those later events were all the more impactful for the foundation so carefully laid before them.

The Jasmine Throne comes with my highest recommendation to those who share my taste for beautifully written, character-driven epic fantasy. Although I tend to come across several books a year that are exceptional, it’s rare that I come across one like this—a book that seems perfect to me in every way, one that is not only technically wonderful but also one that has my whole heart.

My Rating: 10/10

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

Read an Excerpt from The Jasmine Throne

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. 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. Book cover links are affiliate links to Bookshop, and I earn from qualifying purchases.

This post technically should have gone up last weekend, but it was postponed since I hadn’t been expecting to have any books to highlight then. One of these books showed up in the mail on Friday and I purchased the other later the same day, but I had already planned to spend my weekend blogging time on a post for the following Monday.

That post and the others that have gone up since the last one of these features are here in case you missed any of them:

  • Guest Post by The Promised Queen Author Jeffe Kennedy — Jeffe Kennedy discussed the illusion of “making it” as a writer and there being times career authors need to reinvent themselves.
  • The Best of World SF Giveaway and Excerpt — An excerpt from the introduction by editor Lavie Tidhar and a giveaway of a copy of this anthology, just released in the US last week. (Giveaway ends June 7; those from the continental US are eligible to win.)
  • Review of Hall of Smoke by H. M. Long — There were a lot of things that felt different to me about this story of a priestess of the Goddess of War trying to make things right after disobeying her goddess. I really appreciated that about it and enjoyed it overall, although there were a couple of stretches I found a bit dull in the first half and it didn’t have quite enough exploration of in-depth character relationships for my personal taste.

And now, the latest books!

The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker - Book Cover

The Keeper of Night (The Keeper of Night #1) by Kylie Lee Baker

Kylie Lee Baker’s debut novel, a dark YA fantasy about a soul collector in 1890s Japan, will be out on October 12 (hardcover, ebook). The Keeper of Night is the first book in a duology of the same name, and the second book is scheduled for release in fall 2022.

This book’s description intrigued me, and I only found it even more intriguing after reading an interview with the author at one of my favorite book blogs, The Quiet Pond. This Q&A was included with the reveal of the gorgeous cover created by Jessica Coppet and Kathleen Oudit, and Kylie Lee Baker discussed the cover art and the book’s inspirations, including Shinto mythology, Japanese folklore, and her own experiences:

“There are a lot of fantasy stories where someone is half human and half god, or half fairy, half monster, etc. As a biracial person, being torn between two worlds isn’t just a fantasy trope to me, but something I’ve dealt with my whole life. I wanted to create a character who was part of two different “species” (Reaper and Shinigami) but also two different races, in order to really intensely examine what it’s like to not belong anywhere. I wanted a protagonist who was powerful because of her mixed background, even if she doesn’t always realize it. So the idea for Ren Scarborough came first, and the rest of the book grew around her from my morbid love of stories about death and the afterlife, as well as the Reapers in Black Butler, one of my favorite shows.”

Read the interview on The Quiet Pond.


A girl of two worlds, accepted by none… A half Reaper, half Shinigami soul collector seeks her destiny in this haunting and compulsively readable dark fantasy set in 1890s Japan.

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death…only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

The Orchid Throne by Jeffe Kennedy - Book Cover

The Orchid Throne (Forgotten Empires #1) by Jeffe Kennedy

The Orchid Throne, the first book in a romantic fantasy trilogy by RITA and RT Reviewers’ Choice Award–winning author Jeffe Kennedy, is available in mass market paperback and ebook (excerpt).

The Forgotten Empires trilogy was recently completed with the release of The Promised Queen, which comes after The Fiery Crown.


In the Forgotten Empires magic is forbidden, dreams are destiny, and love is the greatest power of all…Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, the lush romantic fantasy world of the Forgotten Empires series will sweep you away.

As Queen of the island kingdom of Calanthe, Lia will do anything to keep her people free—and her secrets safe—from the mad tyrant who rules the mainland. Guided by a magic ring of her father’s, Lia plays the political game with the cronies the emperor sends to her island. In her heart, she knows that it’s up to her to save herself from her fate as the emperor’s bride. But in her dreams, she sees a man, one with the power to build a better world—a man whose spirit is as strong, and whose passion is as fierce as her own…

Conrí, former Crown Prince of Oriel, has built an army to overthrow the emperor. But he needs the fabled Abiding Ring to succeed. The ring that Lia holds so dear to her heart. When the two banished rulers meet face to face, neither can deny the flames of rebellion that flicker in their eyes—nor the fires of desire that draw them together. But in this broken world of shattered kingdoms, can they ever really trust each other? Can their fiery alliance defeat the shadows of evil that threaten to engulf their hearts and souls?