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 covers and some titles are affiliate links to Bookshop, and I earn from qualifying purchases.

It has been a while since one of these posts, both because there weren’t new books to discuss until somewhat recently and because an overwhelming amount of things have been going on, particularly moving preparations. Today I’m highlighting the books that I received in the mail or downloaded since the last one of these posts that sound most interesting.

There is a review from earlier this month, in case you missed it:

  • Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh —  Although I didn’t find the characters terribly compelling, I found the speculative aspects and questions explored in this science fiction novel interesting to consider.

On to the newest books added to the TBR!

The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart - Book Cover

The Bone Shard Emperor (The Drowning Empire #2) by Andrea Stewart

This sequel to The Bone Shard Daughter will be released on November 9 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

I’m incredibly excited to find out what happens after the first book in this epic fantasy trilogy, which is set in an archipelago controlled by an emperor who uses bone shard magic. As I mentioned in my review of The Bone Shard Daughter, I particularly enjoyed reading about the emperor’s daughter as she tried to uncover her father’s secrets and the secretly-soft-hearted smuggler with his adorable animal companion.

Andrea Stewart also discussed a couple of the characters, a governor’s daughter and a commoner, and exploring their already-established romance in her 2020 Women in SF&F Month guest post, “Happily Ever Aftermath.”


In this action-packed magical fantasy epic, a heroine at the head of a powerful empire confronts a raging battle as she’s forced to do whatever it takes to restore peace.

The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.

Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the north-east of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force.

Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga–the powerful magicians of legend–have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin will need their help in order to defeat the rebels and restore peace.

But can she trust them?

Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi - Book Cover

Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi

This science fiction book, Tochi Onyebuchi’s first published adult novel, will be released on January 25, 2022 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

Tochi Onyebuchi is also the author of the award-nominated YA science fiction novel War Girls, the Nommo Award–winning YA fantasy novel Beasts Made of Night, and the science fiction novella Riot Baby. The latter won the New England Book Award for Fiction, and it is a  Hugo, Nebula, Word Fantasy, NAACP Image, Locus, Nommo, and Goodreads Choice Awards finalist.


In his adult novel debut, Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and NAACP Image Award finalist and ALA Alex and New England Book Award winner Tochi Onyebuchi delivers a sweeping science fiction epic in the vein of Samuel R. Delany and Station Eleven

In the 2050s, Earth has begun to empty. Those with the means and the privilege have departed the great cities of the United States for the more comfortable confines of space colonies. Those left behind salvage what they can from the collapsing infrastructure. As they eke out an existence, their neighborhoods are being cannibalized. Brick by brick, their houses are sent to the colonies, what was once a home now a quaint reminder for the colonists of the world that they wrecked.

A primal biblical epic flung into the future, Goliath weaves together disparate narratives–a space-dweller looking at New Haven, Connecticut as a chance to reconnect with his spiraling lover; a group of laborers attempting to renew the promises of Earth’s crumbling cities; a journalist attempting to capture the violence of the streets; a marshal trying to solve a kidnapping–into a richly urgent mosaic about race, class, gentrification, and who is allowed to be the hero of any history.

Additional Book(s):

Do You Dream of Terra-Two?
by Temi Oh
544pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 3.9/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.27/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.7/5

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Book Description:

An NPR favorite book of 2019
Winner of the ALA/YALSA Alex Award

When an Earth-like planet is discovered, a team of six teens, along with three veteran astronauts, embark on a twenty-year trip to set up a planet for human colonization—but find that space is more deadly than they ever could have imagined.

Have you ever hoped you could leave everything behind?
Have you ever dreamt of a better world?
Can a dream sustain a lifetime?

A century ago, an astronomer discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star. She predicted that one day humans would travel there to build a utopia. Today, ten astronauts are leaving everything behind to find it. Four are veterans of the twentieth century’s space-race.

And six are teenagers who’ve trained for this mission most of their lives.

It will take the team twenty-three years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years locked in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong.

And something always goes wrong.

Note: You may want to read this review on the website instead of by email or feed reader. There are spoiler tags that should be hidden on the website but may be visible elsewhere. (Although I do not consider this line to be specific enough to be a big spoiler, I hid it because it references something that doesn’t come up until closer to the end of the book.)

Before reading Do You Dream of Terra-Two?, Temi Oh’s debut novel, I had heard that it was mainly about the characters and had seen some disappointment that there wasn’t more focus on the science fiction aspects. That didn’t deter me one bit since characterization tends to be my favorite part of reading, but to my surprise, the characters were easily the part I found least compelling. I was more intrigued by the ideas and scenarios Temi Oh explored in this story, and the speculative aspects were what I appreciated most about her novel.

Despite the fact that something does indeed go wrong as mentioned in the book description, Do You Dream of Terra-Two? is not really an adventure story. It mainly focuses on the 30 hours before the space launch and the next several months in space, and a lot is left open-ended since it closes about a year into the 23-year journey. It does not end abruptly with characters hanging on the brink of disaster or anything like that, but it does open up some questions for speculation that are left unanswered. Personally, I enjoyed that, but I wanted to mention this since I don’t know whether or not a sequel is planned.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? is a difficult to define book since it explores a lot, but what stood out to me most was the love for learning and the sciences that permeated its pages. I particularly appreciated that Temi Oh set this story in a setting very similar to our own in 2012, the year the space launch happened, but with one difference: space exploration is far more advanced, and several space programs have been vying to be the first to send a crew to a planet that could become a new home for humanity.

Though this version of Earth has many of the same problems as ours—like climate change, a major reason people are so eager to settle on a new planet—this divergence from our own makes it feel like a more optimistic place. This is in part because this story follows people who loved their respective fields and the idea of space exploration enough to succeed in a grueling academic program, but it also seems like the world in general has more respect for education and knowledge.

Through the perspectives of the six astronauts, aged 18–19 at the time of the launch, it shows how study and aptitude tests can’t determine whether or not someone is truly cut out for such a mission: they can’t foresee how someone will react when suddenly faced with the unexpected, and they don’t take into account all the variables of how a group of people with different personalities, backgrounds, and internal crises will (or won’t) work together. It seemed to be largely about the messiness of humanity, and the large range of our capabilities from our very best to our very worst.

There is a strong sense of wonder that comes through the crew’s dreams of Terra-Two and the new society they might create, but it’s not all glorious with tragedy occurring shortly before the space launch. Loss, grief, and change add additional obstacles to their mission from the very beginning, and though they still experience intense feelings about the marvels of being in space, they also soon discover that as long as everything goes as planned, much of life on a spaceship is kind of…dull. The routine, the not-so-thrilling meals while waiting for food grown via hydroponics, being stuck with the same nine people in a confined area, having nowhere else to go and no real concept of “day” anymore quickly grows stale. Their communications specialist deals with depression, which is not just difficult for her but also for the small crew depending on her to do a job, and boredom just adds fuel to the flames of conflicts. (And there are some dramatic conflicts!)

Yet I found the idea of throwing these six different people together more engaging than the individuals themselves. Their third-person perspectives were perfectly readable and even included some lovely prose at times, but I found the details of their world, the past, and everyday life in space more engaging than the characters themselves since they didn’t seem all that fleshed out to me. A couple of them did have decent arcs—especially Astrid, who literally dreamed of Terra-Two just like the woman who discovered it—but their actual development seemed rushed. There was a pattern of them dealing with a problem only to have their actual growth brushed away as the story changed focus, which could have also been due to the sheer amount these characters were dealing with and that it touched on a lot: death, depression, trying to belong and finding one’s place, an eating disorder, religion and spirituality, and past family trauma.

Although I found the characterization underwhelming, there were a lot of other aspects of Do You Dream of Terra-Two? that stood out to me. It seemed different given the amount covered in this story with its collection of people and problems and its focus on their lives and journey rather than one big arc that was neatly tied up. It didn’t present a clear picture of the characters, the academy, and the space program from the beginning but parceled information as it became relevant, which meant learning new things that didn’t feel like huge revelations all the way up to the end. And even though it showed the mundane side of space travel, I found dreaming of the possibilities for this new world more wondrous than many adventures set in far-flung corners of the universe—a story that seemed like a prelude to these and what could be.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased 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.

It may be a bit quieter than usual here for the next couple of months or so, since I recently learned that I need to move. But for now, there’s one new book I added to my Kindle last week, and there was one new review since the last one of these features:

On to the latest book!

Dark Rise by C.S. Pacat - Book Cover

Dark Rise (Dark Rise #1) by C.S. Pacat

Dark Rise, the first book in a YA fantasy trilogy by USA Today bestselling author C.S. Pacat, will be released on September 28 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

I’ve heard a lot about C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince trilogy, and I was rather intrigued by some of the early reviews of Dark Rise that I saw on Goodreads.


In this stunning new fantasy novel from international bestselling author C. S. Pacat, heroes and villains of a long-forgotten war are reborn and begin to draw new battle lines. This epic fantasy with high-stakes romance will sit perfectly on shelves next to beloved fantasy novels like the Infernal Devices series, the Shadow and Bone trilogy, and the Red Queen series.

Sixteen-year-old dock boy Will is on the run, pursued by the men who killed his mother. Then an old servant tells him of his destiny to fight beside the Stewards, who have sworn to protect humanity if the Dark King ever returns. Will is thrust into a world of magic, where he starts training for a vital role in the oncoming battle against the Dark.

As London is threatened and old enmities are awakened, Will must stand with the last heroes of the Light to prevent the fate that destroyed their world from returning to destroy his own.

Like V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic and Shelby Mahurin’s Serpent & DoveDark Rise is more than just high intrigue fantasy—it’s fast-paced, action-packed, and completely surprising. Readers will love exploring the rich setting of nineteenth-century London. This thrilling story of friendship, deception, loyalty, and betrayal is sure to find a passionate audience of readers.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Spoiler Warning for Book One: This review covers the second book in a series, and there are some spoilers for the end of the first book. These are in the book description for The Archer at Dawn and are primarily related to where the main protagonists stand with each other and which sides they are on at the end of the first book. If you want to avoid this information but learn more about this trilogy, you can read my review of the previous book here.

The Archer at Dawn is the middle book in The Tiger at Midnight trilogy, following Swati Teerdhala’s debut novel with the same title as the series. Inspired by Indian history and Hindu mythology, this YA fantasy trilogy is set during the aftermath of a rift between two nations, a kingdom and a queendom once bound and mutually thriving because of magic the gods gave both royal families long ago: a rite requiring the blood of a man descended from one twin and a woman descended from the other.

About a decade before the beginning of the series, this bond was torn asunder when the king’s younger brother murdered the other royal family and took their queen’s throne for himself. Without a woman to contribute blood to the rite over the years, the former queendom’s land has been deteriorating, and the drought will soon spread to the neighboring kingdom. The only hope of restoration for both lands is finding the princess rumored to have escaped the massacre—and when the Blades, a rebel group seeking to remove the usurper, discover evidence that the treacherous king is hiding someone who must be she in The Archer at Dawn, they plan to rescue her.

The upcoming Sun Mela celebration provides an opportunity to liberate the princess—as does the fact that Kunal, the enemy soldier who pursued Esha in her guise as the legendary rebel known as the Viper, has joined the Blades. His mission is to return to his post at the Fort like nothing has changed after his failure to capture the Viper, allowing him to search for records with details on the princess’ location. When the rebel group discovers it would be useful to have someone in the area designated for competitors in the traditional tournament, Kunal also enters the games, a test of archery, combat, and chariot-racing skills. He is tasked with doing well enough to remain in the competition but not so well that he attracts attention to himself, but that plan goes awry when he is blackmailed: he must win the games or else Esha will pay the price.

Meanwhile, Esha attends the celebration as an adviser to the prince of her kingdom, who was invited to his traitorous uncle’s court for the festivities. There, she becomes acquainted with various nobles, trying to learn where their allegiances lie and which may be willing to aid in the fight to remove the usurper—but when she discovers the soldier who killed her ambassadorial parents is also attending the celebration, Esha’s desire for revenge threatens to get in the way of her other goals. And between her secrets and Kunal’s, both their blossoming romance and their team’s plans are put in jeopardy…

The Tiger at Midnight was an entertaining novel, and one that I felt showed the strength tropes can have in the hands of an author who understands what really makes them work. It left me with the impression that Swati Teerdhala was having great fun with familiar elements—like foes whose lives are complicated by their mutual attraction, the combination of a ruthless character and a softer one, and secret identities—and that was a large part of why it was great fun to read.

I felt much the same way about The Archer at Dawn. It has even more drama with even more secret identities and sneaking around, more about the second rebel group and how their goals differ from the Blades, a tournament with unexpected deadly twists to its games, and unfortunately, a love triangle. (I don’t always mind these, but the more prominent love triangle was the one thing that disappointed me a little about this installment. There are already plenty of obstacles for the two main characters, and I much prefer their dynamic to the one between Esha and her other romantic interest.) The ending was especially filled with tense moments and exciting revelations, and it left me curious about how everything will be resolved in The Chariot at Dusk, the final installment that was recently released.

I also appreciated that this book expanded the world by revealing more about its magic, history, and politics, and that the main characters—especially Esha—keep learning that the conflict between their nations isn’t as simple as they’d thought. More of the bigger picture is revealed, and though these are not books with great depth of character, they do continue to show the antagonists as people with some sympathetic qualities that keep them from seeming like evil caricatures (and make them the most interesting secondary characters to me). The first book showed that the usurper’s general did care for his nephew and protected him in ways he didn’t even realize until later, and when Esha meets the king for herself in this novel, she realizes he’s not as monstrous as she’d always imagined. She’s still enraged by what he did, but she also sees that despite his cruelty and anger, he’s loyal and protective of his men—and she recognizes the Viper in his particular mixture of strengths and flaws.

This combination is part of what makes Esha the more compelling of the two main characters. Although neither has a lot of dimension, Esha has the most since she’s still grappling with who she wants to be. She has to decide whether or not to keep dwelling on the past and her desire for vengeance, or if she wants to start looking ahead and work toward building her future. The latter prospect is difficult for her since it requires a different type of bravery than facing her enemies: the courage to dare to hope.

Her character is more in flux than Kunal’s. Although he has learned more about his country’s bloody history and seen enough of the effects on the land to want the king dethroned, his decisions have more to do with how he should handle things rather than grappling with himself. He’s killed people and it weighs on him, but he is ultimately the honorable type. While Esha rushes to kill captured enemies who may be able to hurt her and her team later, Kunal opposes taking any more lives.

Their different outlooks are part of what make them such a great duo: thoughtful, sensitive Kunal may be one of the only people who can convince Esha to break the cycle of meeting violence with more violence, and Esha can bring out the less serious, more playful side of Kunal that few people ever see. They have their disagreements, but they also balance each other well.

Even though it had more plots and did not have the game of cat and mouse, The Archer at Dawn seemed very similar in style to The Tiger at Midnight: fast-paced, fun, and compulsively readable. Just like the previous book, I enjoyed the mythology and appreciated that it moved quickly enough to hold my attention during times I had difficulty concentrating in 2020—and also like the first book, it didn’t have the type of notable prose or depth of character that would have made it particularly memorable to me, even though I found it to be an entertaining diversion.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from a publicist.

Reviews of Other Book(s) in The Tiger at Midnight Trilogy:

  1. The Tiger at Midnight

Read a Sample from The Archer at Dawn

Listen to an Audio Sample from The Archer at Dawn

Read “The Unlikeable Heroine” by Swati Teerdhala

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.