The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound like they may be interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (the latter of which are mainly unsolicited books from publishers). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

This week’s new books include an upcoming science fiction novel and two Gothic fantasy novels, all of which sound fantastic!

There haven’t been any reviews since last weekend, but I’m hoping to wrap up the one I’ve been working on and post it this week. In any case, there will be a guest post and book giveaway tomorrow!

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson - Book Cover

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

The Space Between Worlds, Micaiah Johnson’s science fiction debut novel, will be released on August 4 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

There doesn’t appear to be an excerpt available online yet, but Del Rey has a free ebook containing samples from this and other 2020 book releases (including the third book mentioned in this post).


An outsider who can travel between worlds discovers a secret that threatens her new home and her fragile place in it, in a stunning sci-fi debut that’s both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging.

Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.

On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.

But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson - Book Cover

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

The Year of the Witching, Alexis Henderson’s debut novel, will be released on July 21 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). A sequel is scheduled for release in 2021.

An excerpt from The Year of the Witching is available on the Penguin Random House website.


A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself in this stunning, feminist fantasy debut.

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia - Book Cover

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s next novel, Mexican Gothic, will be released on June 30 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). I very much enjoyed her novel Gods of Jade and Shadow, which merged 1920s Mexico with Mayan mythology, and am excited to read more of her work!

Entertainment Weekly has an excerpt from Mexican Gothic.


An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic artistocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .

From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico—“fans of classic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca are in for a suspenseful treat” (PopSugar).

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound like they may be interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (the latter of which are mainly unsolicited books from publishers). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Last week I purchased a book that sounds fantastic, and I reviewed one of my new favorite books since the last time there was one of these posts:

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron - Book Cover

Kingdom of Souls (Kingdom of Souls #1) by Rena Barron

Kingdom of Souls is currently available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook (with the paperback coming on August 11), and the ebook is currently $1.99 on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I’ve had my eye on this one so I couldn’t resist getting a copy!

Epic Reads has an excerpt from Kingdom of Souls, and there is a website with more information on this YA fantasy series and world.

Reaper of Souls, the second book in the series, is scheduled for release on February 16, 2021.


A girl with no gifts must bargain for the power to fight her own mother’s dark schemes—even if the price is her life.

Crackling with dark magic, unspeakable betrayal, and daring twists you won’t see coming, this explosive YA fantasy debut is a can’t-miss, high-stakes epic perfect for fans of Strange the Dreamer and Children of Blood and Bone.

“Magnetic and addictive. This book is black girl magic at its finest.”—New York Times bestselling author Dhonielle Clayton

Heir to two lines of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. Yet she fails at bone magic, fails to call upon her ancestors, and fails to live up to her family’s legacy. Under the disapproving eye of her mother, the Kingdom’s most powerful priestess and seer, she fears she may never be good enough.

But when the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, Arrah is desperate enough to turn to a forbidden, dangerous ritual. If she has no magic of her own, she’ll have to buy it—by trading away years of her own life.

Arrah’s borrowed power reveals a nightmarish betrayal, and on its heels, a rising tide of darkness that threatens to consume her and all those she loves. She must race to unravel a twisted and deadly scheme… before the fight costs more than she can afford.

Set in a richly imagined world inspired by whispered tales of voodoo and folk magic, Rena Barron’s captivating debut is the beginning of a thrilling saga about a girl caught between gods, monsters, and the gift and the curse of power.

“Masterful.”—SLJ (starred review)

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro
by K. S. Villoso
496pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: 4.1/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.25/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.86/5

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

“They called me the Bitch Queen, the she-wolf, because I murdered a man and exiled my king the night before they crowned me.”

Thus opens The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, the first installment in K. S. Villoso’s Chronicles of the Bitch Queen trilogy. Both this and the second book in this series, set in an epic fantasy world whose “worldbuilding is a love letter to the Philippines,” were originally self published, and the entire trilogy is now being traditionally published with this novel currently available, The Ikessar Falcon coming in September, and the brand new conclusion scheduled for release next year.

This relatively short wait between books makes me happy since The Wolf of Oren-Yaro hooked me from that very first sentence and ended up being exactly what I love to read: a character-driven novel with a vivid voice and suspense involving characters’ pasts and what shaped them. The main character has some secrets and learns of some, and much about her and the world are gradually revealed over the course of the novel.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is narrated from the first person perspective of Queen Talyien (Tali), a warlord’s daughter whose birth and near-immediate betrothal to the young son of her father’s enemy was instrumental in ending a civil war. The night before Tali and her husband were to be crowned, he fled, leaving her and their two-year-old son behind. Tali was crowned queen without her king, left to shoulder the responsibility of ruling and keeping the warlords from tearing her country asunder without him, hounded by guilt with her son wishing to know when his father will return. Though her people do not know what happened between their queen and her husband, rumors spread and Tali is blamed for his departure—for not being more feminine, more subtle, more pleasing, more in every way so her prince would never so much as dreamed of leaving her side.

Five years after becoming queen, Tali receives a message from her husband requesting that she meet him in a land across the sea. Her adviser suggests that she ignore his request: it must be a trap, and it’s hardly reasonable for her husband to ask her to travel so far to see him after abandoning her for five years. But Tali believes it’s worth considering, realizing that the warlords will see it as proof that it’s her fault he left and claim she wants the crown all to herself if they hear she refused to meet with him. She decides to go regardless of any potential danger when her son asks her to bring back his father.

After the sea voyage, everything seems to go wrong. Tali just barely makes it to the meeting with her husband—a rather uncomfortable dinner filled with barbed comments and accusations regarding whose father started a war and whose uncle released a mad dragon into their land—and things only get worse when assassins attack during their awkward reconciliation. Tali escapes, but she finds herself separated from her guards and traveling companions, all alone in a country with very different unspoken rules from her own, not knowing who attempted to take her life or why—or if her husband or anyone else made it out alive.

Voice can make or break a book for me. It’s usually voice that pulls me into a story and makes me want to keep reading, and I’m finding more and more that I rapidly lose interest in reading stories that don’t have strong voices. The number one reason I put down a book and pick up another in its stead is bland writing that lacks any sort of personality or style bringing its characters, world, and events vividly to life.

It’s difficult to put into words just what precisely makes a voice work, but The Wolf of Oren-Yaro has one that works—one of the best I’ve ever encountered. Tali’s expressive, often poetic, flowing narrative carried me into the story and her psyche, made the world and surroundings real, and were a big part of what made this novel so engaging. It contains quite a bit of telling and flashbacks, but I actually enjoyed those parts most of all: they made the story richer by showing glimpses into the culture and events that shaped Tali, and they never seemed overlong or dull because of her compelling voice and the way they tied into her characterization.

Tali is a complex, messy character who is in a difficult position after inheriting her father’s domain and problems. She’s had to be more ruthless to maintain a fearsome reputation and hold the realm together, but that’s not who she is at heart—that was her father’s nature, not hers, even if she ended up stuck with the consequences of his warmongering and ambitions. Most fascinating of all, Tali didn’t seem completely reliable as a narrator. Other than holding back the details of the murder and fallout with her husband until close to the end, she bares her heart through her narrative, yet I found myself questioning just how much of what she thinks and feels is true—and just how much she’s keeping hidden from herself in order to cope with the path laid out for her shortly after she was born. She often reflects on her love for Rayyel, her husband, but she also thinks of him as being “about as charismatic as the bottom of a chamber pot” in one of her earlier reflections. Of course, it’s possible she can love someone while recognizing they have flaws, but the more I read, the more I wondered: Does she love him? Or has she just convinced herself she loves him because she had to marry him whether she liked it or not? What else might she be lying to herself about? I found Tali all the more captivating because I felt like she thought she was being truthful, but I was unsure about just how self-aware and honest with herself she was being.

As a rash and reckless person, Tali makes some questionable (ok, fine, terrible) decisions, but I thought that her choices fit with her personality, how much she values duty and family, and all that she has to try to balance as a ruler, wife, mother, and the bearer of her father’s legacy. Plus, sometimes she doesn’t have a lot of great choices, having been attacked by mysterious assassins and left to fend for herself in a foreign country without any friends or money. Tali is resourceful and a total badass with a sword, and she proves to be good at getting herself out of trouble—and then getting herself right back into trouble, starting the cycle of disaster all over again. Her tendency to dive headfirst into things may be anxiety-inducing, but it does create excitement and drama that make for a riveting reading experience.

Although this is a character-driven novel, I did feel like Tali’s adventures moved too quickly sometimes and didn’t allow enough space to give the other characters much depth, despite them being well done for the amount we saw of them. This is true to Tali’s character since she’s not the type to sit back and wait for things to happen, but I think that’s part of why I was partial to stories from her past over the more recent timeline. Even though Rayyel rarely appears outside of Tali’s memories, he’s one of the better developed characters in the story, and the only other character who seemed particularly fleshed out was a man Tali met after being separated from her people: Khine, a self-confessed con man with a moral code who is actually the most innately kind person in the book.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is an excellent fantasy novel and a new favorite of mine, largely because of its protagonist and her superb voice—and the way the details of the world and events come to life through her perspective. I absolutely loved it, and I can hardly wait for The Ikessar Falcon later this year.

My Rating: 9/10

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

Read an Excerpt from The Wolf of Oren-Yaro

Read K. S. Villoso’s Women in SF&F Month Essay on Queen Talyien

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound like they may be interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (the latter of which are mainly unsolicited books from publishers). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Last week brought two books I added to the TBR—one of my most anticipated 2020 releases and an ebook deal that I couldn’t resist!

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow Book Cover

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Alix E. Harrow’s sophomore novel, which is about three suffragette witch sisters in the late 1800s, will be released on October 13 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

The Orbit website has an excerpt from The Once and Future Witches.

I was incredibly excited when this book showed up since Alix E. Harrow’s debut novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, was my favorite book of last year. It’s an ode to stories and imagination, outsiders and dreamers, and daring to write one’s own story, and it’s a beautifully written, memorable novel that I cannot recommend highly enough. (And if you missed it during last year’s Women in SF&F Month, Alix E. Harrow wrote about the gift she was given by growing up with stories by and about women in “My Mother’s Sword.”)


In the late 1800s, three sisters use witchcraft to change the course of history in Alix E. Harrow’s powerful novel of magic and the suffragette movement.

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters — James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna — join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote — and perhaps not even to live — the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

For more from Alix E. Harrow, check out The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

The Tiger at Midnight Cover

The Tiger at Midnight (The Tiger at Midnight #1) by Swati Teerdhala

This YA fantasy novel inspired by Indian history and Hindu mythology is now available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook—and the ebook version is currently $1.99 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I couldn’t resist buying a copy!

Bustle has a text excerpt from The Tiger at Midnight, and Harper Collins has an excerpt from the audiobook. Swati Teerdhala also discussed “unlikable” heroines and writing Esha, the main character in The Tiger at Midnight, in her Women in SF&F Month guest post last year.

The second book in this trilogy, The Archer at Dawn, is coming out in a couple of days (May 26!) and will be available in hardcover, ebook, and paperback. Hypable has an excerpt from The Archer at Dawn.


The first book in an epic heart-pounding fantasy trilogy inspired by ancient Indian history and Hindu mythology, perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir and Renée Ahdieh.

* A Book Riot Most Anticipated Novel of 2019 * B&N Top 50 Most Anticipated Novels *

A broken bond. A dying land. A cat-and-mouse game that can only end in bloodshed.

Esha lost everything in the royal coup—and as the legendary rebel known as the Viper, she’s made the guilty pay. Now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.

Kunal has been a soldier since childhood. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has only been growing more volatile.

When Esha and Kunal’s paths cross one fated night, an impossible chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces.

As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and the sins of the past meet the promise of a new future, both the soldier and the rebel must decide where their loyalties lie: with the lives they’ve killed to hold on to or with the love that’s made them dream of something more.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound like they may be interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (the latter of which are mainly unsolicited books from publishers). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

This is the first week that’s brought new book arrivals since April ended (both because a book came in the mail and because I bought a new one!). But first, here’s the latest review in case you missed it last week:

On to the latest books!

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart Book Cover

The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire #1) by Andrea Stewart

Andrea Stewart’s epic fantasy debut novel, the first book in a new series, will be released on September 8 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

I’ve been excited to read The Bone Shard Daughter ever since I first heard about it, and everything I’ve heard about it since then has just made me want to read it even more. When the ARC showed up a few days ago, I read the first page and was immediately intrigued.

If you want to read a sample, io9 has an excerpt from The Bone Shard Daughter as part of the cover reveal. Andrea Stewart also wrote an essay for this year’s Women in SF&F Month titled “Happily Ever Aftermath,” in which she discussed fiction and fairy tales, exploring what happens after a couple gets together, and writing an established relationship between two of the women in her novel.


In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne. The Bone Shard Daughter marks the debut of a major new voice in epic fantasy.

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells Book Cover

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells

The ebook edition of the Hugo and Nebula Award–winning first novella in The Murderbot Diaries is currently $1.99 on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble so I bought a copy to read (and am enjoying it!). has an excerpt from All Systems Red, which was followed by three more novellas (Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy). Network Effect, the first full length novel about Murderbot, was also released earlier this month (read an excerpt).


Winner: 2018 Hugo Award for Best Novella
Winner: 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novella
Winner: 2018 Alex Award
Winner: 2018 Locus Award
One of the Verge’s Best Books of 2017
New York Times and USA Today Bestseller

A murderous android discovers itself in All Systems Red, a tense science fiction adventure by Martha Wells that interrogates the roots of consciousness through Artificial Intelligence.

“As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.”

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Book Description (from the Penguin Random House website):

A young pilot risks everything to save his best friend—the man he trusts most and might even love—only to learn that his friend is secretly the heir to a brutal galactic empire.
“Riveting, wildly fun, and incredibly smart.”—Emily A. Duncan, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked Saints

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

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

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

Bonds of Brass, the first book in Emily Skrutskie’s Bloodright Trilogy, piqued my interest when I learned it was a space opera with a prince in disguise from the book description and saw a graphic on Twitter stating that you might like it if you like forbidden romance, fake dating between PINING best friends, scary empress moms, galactic-level bisexual disasters, and the inherent DRAMA of empire, among various other components. It sounded like a recipe for a fun story with angst and secrets galore, and I was thrilled when a copy of the book unexpectedly showed up in the mail one day.

And it is an entertaining, fast-paced novel. It doesn’t take long to jump into the action with the attack on Gal and the revelation that he’s the heir to the Empire occurring within the first 20 pages, resulting in a rescue sequence showing that Ettian is indeed “one hell of a pilot” (another feature listed on the aforementioned Twitter graphic). There are a lot more exciting scenes throughout its pages and it does have a lot of fun parts, yet I only found myself truly immersed in it during the last few chapters and didn’t find it all that memorable once I finished reading it—mainly because I just wasn’t all that invested in the characters or their stories.

Bonds of Brass does make some time for character moments, but they didn’t end up entirely working for me, especially those between Ettian and Gal. At first, the palpable tension due to their feelings for each other was delightful, but the more I read, the less I understood why Ettian remained so fiercely loyal to Gal after learning he’s the heir to the Empire that destroyed his life. Certainly, Ettian is loyal to his friends and Gal won’t necessarily be the same type of ruler as his scary empress mom, but I didn’t feel that we were shown the better parts of him that Ettian reflected on: his best qualities and charisma mainly seemed to be in Ettian’s memories, not in the present. In fact, Gal often came across as a jerk—and not the type who has characterization and layers making him engaging to read about anyway—especially considering his jealousy and treatment of Wen, a character I found far more compelling and likable. I just kept thinking that Ettian seemed far too good for Gal and could find someone far worthier of his devotion.

Although I thought the romantic connection ultimately fell flat, I did like the platonic relationship that developed between Ettian and Wen, a girl he met when looking for a spaceship to buy and ended up befriending after everything exploded and went horribly wrong. Wen is a survivor—clever and “chaos incarnate,” as Ettian says of her—who makes everything more interesting when she shows up. Her friendship with Ettian largely builds from the shared experience of being children who have to scrape by on the streets all alone. They can understand each other in ways many others do not, and they look out for each other and have each other’s backs.

While Bonds of Brass is generally a quickly paced book, it’s also a bit of an oddly paced book: a lot happens, but there’s a lot of exposition and introspection that seems to drag because it just doesn’t have the narrative voice to carry it. The last chapters move at a breakneck pace as it reveals the big twist, which I not only predicted long before it happened but thought was too orchestrated (in ways I can’t discuss without spoilers, of course). Although I did enjoy reading how it unfolded, I also felt like it wasn’t especially gratifying compared to other books I’ve read that do similar things—I tend to love that sort of revelation even when I suspect it’s coming, but I didn’t find myself thinking about this one after closing the book.

Despite the issues I had with Bonds of Brass, some fun scenes, a great friendship, and curiosity about how it would end did keep me interested enough to read the entire book, even though it never got me terribly invested in the characters or made me want to stay up late reading “just one more chapter.” However, although the last few chapters did actually keep me glued to the pages, it didn’t end up being a novel that stuck with me enough to want to continue the series given the many other books I have yet to read.

My Rating: 6/10

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

Read an Excerpt from Bonds of Brass