The Poppy War, R. F. Kuang’s fantastic debut novel and the first book in an epic fantasy trilogy inspired by Chinese history, is partially based on the Second Sino-Japanese War, particularly the horrific massacre that came to be known as the Rape of Nanjing. As such, it’s a story that unflinchingly examines how war shapes and changes people, for better and worse—with heavy emphasis on worse.

The heart of The Poppy War is Rin, a war orphan determined to avoid the fate her guardians plan for her: marriage to an older man whose position would benefit their opium smuggling business. Rin’s only viable alternative is doing well enough on the Keju to be accepted into a prestigious military school. It’s a long shot for a young peasant woman who has not been preparing for the test since a young age, but she steals drugs from her foster parents, hides her theft through bookkeeping, and convinces a local tutor to help her study in exchange for her stolen goods. For two years, Rin spends every spare moment and many sleepless nights immersed in the Four Noble Subjects, and her dedication pays off: she receives the highest score in the entire province, securing herself a spot in the academy.

Rin quickly discovers that getting into the school was the easy part, despite the amount of effort it took. Approximately 20% of the students are rejected as unfit to become a master’s apprentice after their first year, and Rin has a large disadvantage given that she has not been training for this throughout her entire life like her noble-born classmates. To make matters worse, the Combat Master despises peasants like her who pass the test and refuses to teach her—and she knows that none of the masters will want to mentor a student lacking martial arts skills.

Nevertheless, she persists, even managing to become a top contender in her classes. Though she struggles with teaching herself martial arts, her attempts come to the attention of Jiang, the eccentric opium-growing Lore Master most of the school views as a joke, who agrees to instruct her. She learns that he knows the secrets of the gods she once believed to be mere legends, and Jiang discovers that Rin has an affinity for shamanism but also fears her connection to the wrathful Phoenix.

But Rin’s education at the military academy is cut short when the Federation of Mugen attacks the Empire and all students and masters are needed to fight in the Third Poppy War. Rin’s god could save her and her people—but at what cost?

The Poppy War is one of the better 2018 releases I’ve read. It’s well paced and engrossing from the very first page, plus it features an intriguing main protagonist, some engaging—and at times amusing!—dialogue and narrative, and a world with a rich history. Although I found it to lag very briefly once or twice and had a couple of other minor issues with it, I enjoyed the book immensely overall and especially appreciated the boldness of Rin’s character progression.

As compelling as I found it, I do want to be clear that it seems like a major understatement to write that The Poppy War gets really dark toward the end. R. F. Kuang’s description of the book on Goodreads discusses some of its influences and what can be expected, including the following statement that sums up the novel’s core:

This book is primarily about military strategy, collapsing empires, mad gods, and the human ability to make awful, ruthless decisions. It’s about how dictators are made.

To be entirely frank, if you’re turned off by violence, I might pick up a different book.

It also includes abuse, rape, genocide, and human experimentation, among other topics that many may prefer to avoid in their reading. The author’s blog includes a full list of content warnings.

The earlier part of the novel serves as a sharp contrast to what follows, even though it does touch on some of the aforementioned subjects (such as discussions of a past genocide). This section shows Rin’s sheer grit and determination as she conquers her classes through hard work and aggressively removing any obstacle that could potentially get in her way (and, on one occasion, smuggling out a library book that first year students are not allowed to read). She makes a friend and a nemesis, and like the rest of the academy, becomes captivated by their star apprentice, the last of the Speerly people and an undefeated warrior whom the teachers wish other students would emulate—who, she later learns, is hiding a lot of baggage despite his many accomplishments.

Then Rin’s classes are interrupted when her nation is once again attacked by the Federation of Mugen, and she discovers that no amount of learning can truly prepare one for actual war: the fear that comes with being in the heat of battle and killing another soldier for the first time. There’s a huge difference between theoretical discussions about strategy that take place in the safety of a classroom and making decisions that will impact a country’s people. Suddenly, Rin’s epic rivalry seems inconsequential, and both she and her rival immediately turn to working together against their common enemy. (I rather loved the development of their relationship as it moved from adversarial to friendly, from wanting to kill each other to wanting to save each other’s lives.)

From here, Rin is immersed in the war, and I really admired that R. F. Kuang did not play it safe when it came to Rin’s choices: they are clearly horrible, but they are completely hers. They are not brushed off as having been influenced by higher powers. They are not made in ignorance since she’s not only been warned but has also come to better understand the reasons behind these warnings by the time she gets to the point of no return. Her decisions have consequences and change her relationships, both creating new bonds and tearing old ones apart.

The Poppy War is a gutsy fantasy novel that increasingly delves into the grimmer side of humanity: the involvement of gods adds to the story and raises the stakes, but it’s ultimately about people’s capability to create horrors all on their own. Though I didn’t quite LOVE this book—I thought some of the secondary characters could have had more depth and that the writing could have been stronger at times—I came close to it, and I’m looking forward to the next installment in the trilogy.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

Read Chapter One of The Poppy War

Read R. F. Kuang’s Women in SF&F Month Essay “Be a Bitch, Eat the Peach”

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I discuss books I got over the last week—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (often these are unsolicited books from publishers). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This week’s feature covers books that came in the mail during the last couple of weeks. There have been no new reviews since the last of these posts, but I’m nearly finished with a review of The Poppy War that I’m hoping to have up this week!

The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman

The Mortal Word (Invisible Library #5) by Genevieve Cogman

The fifth book in Genevieve Cogman’s delightful Invisible Library series will be released on November 27 in the US and November 29 in the UK (trade paperback, ebook).

The Invisible Library is an incredibly fun series following the adventures of Irene Winters, who collects books from various alternate worlds for an organization that exists outside of time and space known as the Library. (Collecting books often involves spying and stealing.)

The publisher’s website has excerpts from each of the previous books in the series, all of which I’ve reviewed here:

  1. The Invisible Library (Excerpt | Review)
  2. The Masked City (Excerpt | Review)
  3. The Burning Page (Excerpt | Review)
  4. The Lost Plot (Excerpt | Review)

In the latest novel in Genevieve Cogman’s historical fantasy series, the fate of worlds lies in the balance. When a dragon is murdered at a peace conference, time-travelling Librarian spy Irene must solve the case to keep the balance between order, chaos…and the Library.

When Irene returns to London after a relatively straightforward book theft in Germany, Bradamant informs her that there is a top secret dragon-Fae peace conference in progress that the Library is mediating, and that the second-in-command dragon has been stabbed to death. Tasked with solving the case, Vale and Irene immediately go to 1890s Paris to start their investigation.

Once they arrive, they find evidence suggesting that the murder victim might have uncovered proof of treachery by one or more Librarians. But to ensure the peace of the conference, some Librarians are being held as hostages in the dragon and Fae courts. To save the captives, including her parents, Irene must get to the bottom of this murder–but was it a dragon, a Fae, or even a Librarian who committed the crime?

Timeless by R. A. Salvatore

Timeless (A Drizzt Novel) by R. A. Salvatore

A new book beginning a new trilogy about Drizzt Do’Urden will be released on September 4 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

Check out the publisher’s website for tour events. There is currently one scheduled for Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, NH, on September 7.

It’s been years since I read a Drizzt book, but I have fond memories of reading them around the same time I was playing through the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games.


At long last, New York Times bestselling author R. A. Salvatore returns with one of fantasy’s most beloved and enduring icons, the dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden, in an all-new trilogy full of swordplay, danger, and imaginative thrills.

Centuries ago, in the city of Menzoberranzan—the City of Spiders, the city of drow—nestled deep in the unmerciful Underdark of Toril, a young weapon master earned a reputation far above his station or that of his poor house.


The greater nobles watched him, and one powerful Matron—Malice—decided to take him as her own. She connived with rival houses to secure her prize, but it was ultimately the roguish Jarlaxle who caught him.

Thus sparked the birth of two key moments in Menzoberranzan: the coupling of a noble and weapon master that would produce Drizzt Do’Urden…and the friendship between Zaknafein and Jarlaxle.

R. A. Salvatore reveals the Underdark anew through the eyes of this unlikely pair—offering a fresh take on the intrigue and opportunities to be found in the shadows, and providing a fascinating prelude to the journeys that have shaped the modern-day Forgotten Realms. There, Zaknafein and Drizzt are joined together in a series of trials that parallel those of centuries long past, even though their paths no longer seem to be aligned. How will a father, so long constrained by the vicious and conservative world of the drow, be able to reconcile his ingrained prejudices with the world and companions of his enlightened son?

The answer lies in their desire for peace over chaos. And as long as the scourge of the goddess Lolth’s ambitions still remain, both are determined to keep her dark will at bay. But the Spider Queen is powerful, and now demons have been unleashed on the unwitting denizens of the surface world. United in purpose—and through their mutual friendship with Jarlaxle—Zaknafein and Drizzt will need to put aside their differences in order to keep the ones they love safe.

Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar

Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar

Unholy Land, the latest book by World Fantasy Award and John W. Campbell Award–winning author Lavie Tidhar, is scheduled for release on November 6 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook). (Some sites do show some formats of the book as being available earlier.)


The author of the critically acclaimed, Campbell Award-winning Central Station returns with a subversive, entertaining new novel evoking The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and The City and the City.

When pulp-fiction writer Lior Tirosh returns to his homeland in East Africa, much has changed. Palestina―a Jewish state established in the early 20th century―is constructing a massive border wall to keep out African refugees. Unrest in the capital, Ararat, is at fever pitch.

While searching for his missing niece, Tirosh begins to act as though he is a detective from one of his own novels. He is pursued by ruthless members of the state’s security apparatus while unearthing deadly conspiracies and impossible realities.

For if it is possible for more than one Palestina to exist, the barriers between the worlds are beginning to break.

Additional Books:

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I discuss books I got over the last week—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (often these are unsolicited books from publishers). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This was a big week for book mail, plus I purchased a couple of books (including the first one featured here, which I’ve been excited about for awhile!). But first, here’s the latest book review in case you missed it last week:

Now, for the latest arrivals!

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

This Rumpelstiltskin-inspired novel became available last month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Unbound Worlds has an excerpt containing the first 50 pages from Spinning Silver.

I absolutely loved Uprooted so I’m excited to read another fairy tale by Naomi Novik!


With the Nebula Award–winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik opened a brilliant new chapter in an already acclaimed career, delving into the magic of fairy tales to craft a love story that was both timeless and utterly of the now. Spinning Silver draws readers deeper into this glittering realm of fantasy, where the boundary between wonder and terror is thinner than a breath, and safety can be stolen as quickly as a kiss.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty—until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.

When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk—grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh—Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.

But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.

Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again.

The Book of Magic edited by Gardner Dozois

The Book of Magic: A Collection of Stories edited by Gardner Dozois

This anthology, which includes stories by George R. R. Martin, Megan Lindholm/Robin Hobb, Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch, Kate Elliott, and more, will be released on October 16 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).


A new anthology celebrating the witches and sorcerers of epic fantasy—featuring stories by George R. R. Martin, Scott Lynch, Megan Lindholm, and many others!

Hot on the heels of Gardner Dozois’s acclaimed anthology The Book of Swords comes this companion volume devoted to magic. How could it be otherwise? For every Frodo, there is a Gandalf . . . and a Saruman. For every Dorothy, a Glinda . . . and a Wicked Witch of the West. What would Harry Potter be without Albus Dumbledore . . . and Severus Snape? Figures of wisdom and power, possessing arcane, often forbidden knowledge, wizards and sorcerers are shaped—or misshaped—by the potent magic they seek to wield. Yet though their abilities may be godlike, these men and women remain human—some might say all too human. Such is their curse. And their glory.

In these pages, seventeen of today’s top fantasy writers—including award-winners Elizabeth Bear, John Crowley, Kate Elliott, K. J. Parker, Tim Powers, and Liz Williams—cast wondrous spells that thrillingly evoke the mysterious, awesome, and at times downright terrifying worlds where magic reigns supreme: worlds as far away as forever, and as near as next door.


“The Return of the Pig” by K. J. Parker
“Community Service” by Megan Lindholm
“Flint and Mirror” by John Crowley
“The Friends of Masquelayne the Incomparable” by Matthew Hughes
“The Biography of a Bouncing Boy Terror: Chapter Two: Jumping Jack in Love” by Ysabeau S. Wilce
“Song of Fire” by Rachel Pollack
“Loft the Sorcerer” by Eleanor Arnason
“The Governoer” by Tim Powers
“Sungrazer” by Liz Williams
“The Staff in the Stone” by Garth Nix
“No Work of Mine” by Elizabeth Bear
“Widow Maker” by Lavie Tidhar
“The Wolf and the Manticore” by Greg Van Eekhout
“The Devil’s Whatever” by Andy Duncan
“Bloom” by Kate Elliott
“The Fall and Rise of the House of the Wizard Malkuril” by Scott Lynch

Plus George R. R. Martin’s classic story “A Night at the Tarn House” and an introduction by Gardner Dozois

Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews

Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels #10) by Ilona Andrews

The tenth and final book in the Kate Daniels series, which began with Magic Bites, will be released on August 28 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

The authors’ website has an excerpt from Magic Triumphs, and the publisher’s website has the authors’ book tour schedule. They will be in Texas, Kentucky, Michigan, and Georgia in August–September.


Mercenary Kate Daniels must risk all to protect everything she holds dear in this epic, can’t-miss entry in the thrilling #1 New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series.

Kate has come a long way from her origins as a loner taking care of paranormal problems in post-Shift Atlanta. She’s made friends and enemies. She’s found love and started a family with Curran Lennart, the former Beast Lord. But her magic is too strong for the power players of the world to let her be.

Kate and her father, Roland, currently have an uneasy truce, but when he starts testing her defenses again, she knows that sooner or later, a confrontation is inevitable. The Witch Oracle has begun seeing visions of blood, fire, and human bones. And when a mysterious box is delivered to Kate’s doorstep, a threat of war from the ancient enemy who nearly destroyed her family, she knows their time is up.

Kate Daniels sees no other choice but to combine forces with the unlikeliest of allies. She knows betrayal is inevitable. She knows she may not survive the coming battle. But she has to try.

For her child.

For Atlanta.

For the world.

Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews

Iron and Magic (Iron Covenant #1) by Ilona Andrews

Iron and Magic, the first book in a new trilogy set in the world of Kate Daniels, became available in June (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook). The authors’ website has an excerpt from Iron and Magic, and they also have a page with some information on this new series and how it ties in with Kate Daniels. The first Iron Covenant book is set before the final book in the main series, and the next two books will be set after the end of the Kate Daniels series.

This novel came about due to an April Fool’s Day joke: the authors never actually planned to write a story about villainous Hugh d’Ambray, but so many fans were excited by this “news” that they ended up doing just that! I’d been on the fence about whether or not to read it, but it sounded like it might be best to read it before Magic Triumphs so I bought a copy to read first.


No day is ordinary in a world where Technology and Magic compete for supremacy…But no matter which force is winning, in the apocalypse, a sword will always work.

Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers, served only one man. Now his immortal, nearly omnipotent master has cast him aside. Hugh is a shadow of the warrior he was, but when he learns that the Iron Dogs, soldiers who would follow him anywhere, are being hunted down and murdered, he must make a choice: to fade away or to be the leader he was born to be. Hugh knows he must carve a new place for himself and his people, but they have no money, no shelter, and no food, and the necromancers are coming. Fast.

Elara Harper is a creature who should not exist. Her enemies call her Abomination; her people call her White Lady. Tasked with their protection, she’s trapped between the magical heavyweights about to collide and plunge the state of Kentucky into a war that humans have no power to stop. Desperate to shield her people and their simple way of life, she would accept help from the devil himself—and Hugh d’Ambray might qualify.

Hugh needs a base, Elara needs soldiers. Both are infamous for betraying their allies, so how can they create a believable alliance to meet the challenge of their enemies?

As the prophet says: “It is better to marry than to burn.”

Hugh and Elara may do both.

Additional Books:

A Study in Honor is the first book in the Janet Watson Chronicles, a new series by RT Reviewers’ Choice Award–winning author Beth Bernobich writing as Claire O’Dell. This reimagining of Sherlock Holmes is set in a not-too-distant future America during a second civil war and recasts the detective and Dr. Watson as two black women living in Washington, D.C.

This novel, told through Janet Watson’s first person perspective and journal entries, starts with her journey to and arrival in the nation’s capital before she meets enigmatic Sara Holmes. After having served as a surgeon in the New Civil War, Janet was forced to return to civilian life and begin anew after a bullet shattered her arm. Though another surgeon supplied her with a mechanical limb, he had limited options available to choose from and had hoped the VA would be able to set her up with a better replacement after her honorable discharge. However, Janet soon learns that they do not consider this to be a priority—and she will not be able to perform surgical procedures until she has been set up with an improved apparatus.

While in the midst of searching for a new job and a permanent residence, Janet runs into a friend at the VA who tells her that his friend Sara Holmes is seeking a roommate. He warns her that Sara can be difficult, but Janet meets with her anyway—and regrets it when their first encounter abruptly ends with her fleeing from Sara’s blunt observations about her innermost fears. After receiving an apologetic note from her, Janet decides to give her a second chance and view the apartment, which turns out to be so lovely that she is swayed into agreeing to live there with Sara.

In the course of her new job as a medical technician at the VA, Janet becomes concerned about the condition of a particular patient, and shortly thereafter, sees that an upcoming appointment with her was canceled because she’s deceased. When Janet attempts to look into the circumstances of her death further, she discovers that this patient’s records were mysteriously deleted from their system. With Sara’s resources and aid, Janet soon realizes she’s stumbled into something more than the death of a single veteran, something that someone is willing to kill to keep secret—and the two are determined to solve the case.

A Study in Honor is one of those books that I thought had a great concept but could have been far better executed. Though Janet’s characterization was well done and Sara was intriguing in theory, it was also slow and the promising dynamic between the two main characters never quite gelled. That said, science fiction mysteries that focus on the plot more than the speculative fiction aspects often do not entirely work for me, and a lot of people have enjoyed this far more than I did—so if this sounds like a book you might like, you may want to take my opinion on it with a large grain of salt!

This is Janet’s story, and I thought she herself was the strongest part of the novel. When she first returns to DC, she doesn’t have much of a personal support system—her parents are dead, her sister moved across the country, and the woman she loved is now engaged to another—plus she has PTSD from her wartime experience in addition to the missing arm. Her fear and rage are quite palpable, and earlier parts of the story particularly do a fantastic job of showing her sheer grit and determination as she keeps moving forward: not only the process of finding employment and housing but also managing everyday activities like eating and just getting herself from day to day. Since she can no longer perform surgery, she ends up taking a lesser-paying job as a medical technician for which she’s overqualified. This new role involves asking patients a few routine questions before they meet with a doctor, and the way she goes above and beyond the outlined job description to help and fight for them brings to life her compassion and devotion to justice.

Sara had potential to be fascinating but was a little too mysterious in this first installment to be truly compelling, even though I liked the bones of her personality. As usual for Holmes, she can be uncomfortably direct, and she has a tendency to think she knows the best way of handling things without having any need to consult others. These traits lead Sara to make mistakes that cause friction with Janet, but it also does seem as though she’s a caring person whose heart is usually in the right place.

The seeds were certainly sown for Janet and Sara’s relationship to become interesting, but I felt like most of the interactions between the two main characters bordered on engaging without quite getting there. In particular, I thought that Sara’s inclination to leave notes for Janet instead of speaking to her face to face meant there were some missed opportunities for memorable scenes between them (such as when Sara expressed her regrets about how their first meeting ended). It seemed reasonable for her to do this, but it didn’t have the same impact that dialogue between them could have had.

Even though there was much I liked about the foundations of the novel, the whole never quite came together for me in many ways. A Study in Honor could be mildly entertaining at times, but I thought it dragged at other times. There were more journal entries than I thought were necessary, and there were far too many mundane details about Janet’s new job that could have been cut, such as the specifics of how she logged in to the system. Furthermore, I just wasn’t that interested in the hows or whys of the mystery or the investigation other than wanting to see Janet and Sara get to the bottom of it to prevent further deaths from occurring. The setting was also very much like the present other than the civil war and some of the technology—which is not necessarily a bad thing for a near future setting, but at the same time, I didn’t find a backdrop so similar to the world in which I already live all that captivating.

A Study in Honor is composed of some artful elements, particularly the recreation of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson through a feminist lens, and I did think the character of Janet Watson was a success. However, I found the novel was ultimately missing that difficult to define, deeply personal “spark” that would have made me eager to keep turning the pages (though I did finish reading it!).

My Rating: 5/10

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

Read a Sample from A Study in Honor

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I discuss books I got over the last week—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (often these are unsolicited books from publishers). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This covers the last couple of weeks since only one book came in the mail the week before. There are no new reviews since the last weekend feature, but I have one in progress that I’m hoping to have up in a couple of days!

Noumenon Infinity by Marina J. Lostetter

Noumenon Infinity by Marina J. Lostetter

This science fiction novel will be released on August 14 (trade paperback, ebook).

The publisher’s website has an excerpt from Noumenon, a previously published novel set in the same world as Noumenon Infinity.


Travel to the remotest reaches of deep space in this wondrous follow-up to the acclaimed Noumenon—a tale of exploration, adventure, science, and humanity with the sweep and intelligence of the works of Arthur C. Clarke, Neal Stephenson, and Octavia Butler.

Generations ago, Convoy Seven and I.C.C. left Earth on a mission that would take them far beyond the solar system. Launched by the Planet United Consortium, a global group formed to pursue cooperative Earth-wide interests in deep space, nine ships headed into the unknown to explore a distant star called LQ Pyx.

Eons later, the convoy has returned to LQ Pyx to begin work on the Web, the alien megastructure that covers the star. Is it a Dyson Sphere, designed to power a civilization as everyone believes—or something far more sinister?

Meanwhile, Planet United’s littlest convoy, long thought to be lost, reemerges in a different sector of deep space. What they discover holds the answers to unlocking the Web’s greater purpose.

Each convoy possesses a piece of the Web’s puzzle . . . but they may not be able to bring those pieces together and uncover the structure’s true nature before it’s too late.

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

This young adult fantasy novel, a retelling of the story of King Midas focusing on his daughter, will be released on August 14 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

Hypable has an excerpt from A Touch of Gold.


Gold is wealth. Wealth is power. Power is a curse.

King Midas once had the ability to turn all he touched into gold. But after his gift—or curse—almost killed his daughter, Midas relinquished The Touch forever. Ten years later, Princess Kora still bears the consequences of her father’s wish: her skin shines golden, rumors follow her everywhere she goes, and she harbors secret powers that are getting harder to hide.

Kora spends her days locked in the palace, concealed behind gloves and veils, trying to ignore the stares and gossip of courtiers. It isn’t until a charming young duke arrives that Kora realizes there may be someone out there who doesn’t fear her or her curse. But their courtship is disrupted when a thief steals precious items from the kingdom, leaving the treasury depleted and King Midas vulnerable. Thanks to her unique ability to sense gold, Kora is the only one who can track the thief down. As she sails off on her quest, Kora learns that not everything is what it seems—not thieves, not pirates, and not even curses. She quickly discovers that gold—and the power it brings—is more dangerous than she’d ever believed.

Midas learned his lesson at a price. What will Kora’s journey cost?

From author Annie Sullivan comes A Touch of Gold, the untold story of the daughter King Midas turned to gold, perfect for fans of Cinder and The Wrath and the Dawn.

Additional Books:

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I discuss books I got over the last week—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (often these are unsolicited books from publishers). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

It’s been a couple of weeks since one of these features because I was trying to wrap up a book review last Sunday. There was just one book purchase that came in that week, and it’s the first book included below (and it’s one I couldn’t resist buying since I’ve been excited about it ever since I first heard about it!).

In case you missed it last week, the aforementioned review was posted the next day:

  • If Tomorrow Comes (Yesterday’s Kin Trilogy #2) by Nancy Kress — I didn’t find this as engrossing as the first novel in the series and felt there were too many major characters accompanied by too little satisfying character development/arcs, but I did find the planetary setting interesting and enjoyed that this is science fiction in which science is a hero that makes progress possible.

And now, recent book arrivals!

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

Peng Shepherd’s debut novel, which appeared on my anticipated books of 2018 list, is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

The publisher’s website has a sample from The Book of M—and if you missed it on this site in April, Peng Shepherd wrote an essay about the time-traveling book that made her love SFF and introduced her to the magic of books (literally!).


Set in a dangerous near-future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.

One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears – an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.

Ory and his wife, Max, have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day, Max’s shadow disappears, too.

Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.

As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.

Like The Passage and Station Eleven, this haunting, thought-provoking, and beautiful novel explores fundamental questions of memory, connection, and what it means to be human in a world turned upside down.

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers #3) by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers’ third Wayfarer novel will be available on July 24 (hardcover, trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

The publisher’s website has a sample from Record of a Spaceborn Few, as well as the previously published Wayfarer books:

  1. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee)
  2. A Closed and Common Orbit (Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee and Hugo Award nominee)

Return to the sprawling universe of the Galactic Commons, as humans, artificial intelligence, aliens, and some beings yet undiscovered explore what it means to be a community in this exciting third adventure in the acclaimed and multi-award-nominated science fiction Wayfarers series, brimming with heartwarming characters and dazzling space adventure.

Hundreds of years ago, the last humans on Earth boarded the Exodus Fleet in search of a new home among the stars. After centuries spent wandering empty space, their descendants were eventually accepted by the well-established species that govern the Milky Way.

But that was long ago. Today, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, the birthplace of many, yet a place few outsiders have ever visited. While the Exodans take great pride in their original community and traditions, their culture has been influenced by others beyond their bulkheads. As many Exodans leave for alien cities or terrestrial colonies, those who remain are left to ponder their own lives and futures: What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination? Why remain in space when there are habitable worlds available to live? What is the price of sustaining their carefully balanced way of life—and is it worth saving at all?

A young apprentice, a lifelong spacer with young children, a planet-raised traveler, an alien academic, a caretaker for the dead, and an Archivist whose mission is to ensure no one’s story is forgotten, wrestle with these profound universal questions. The answers may seem small on the galactic scale, but to these individuals, it could mean everything.

Dragon's Code: Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern by Gigi McCaffrey

Dragon’s Code (Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern) by Gigi McCaffrey

Dragon’s Code is an upcoming new book written by Anne McCaffrey’s daughter, Gigi McCaffrey, that is set in the world of Dragonriders of Pern. It will be released on October 2 (hardcover, ebook).


A new hero emerges in a divided world as one of sci-fi’s most beloved series—Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern—relaunches with this original adventure from Anne’s daughter, Gigi McCaffrey.

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Dragonriders of Pern series, Gigi does her mother proud, adding to the family tradition of spinning unputdownable tales that recount the adventures of the brave inhabitants of a distant planet who battle the pitiless adversary known as Thread.

The last time Thread attacked Pern, the world was unprepared for the fight—until the Oldtimers appeared. These courageous dragonriders arrived from the past, traveling four hundred years to help their descendants survive. But the collision of past and present took its toll. While most of the displaced rescuers adapted to their new reality, others could not abide the jarring change and found themselves in soul-crushing exile, where unhappiness and resentment seethed.

Piemur, a journeyman harper, also feels displaced, cast adrift by the loss of his spectacular boyhood voice and uncertain of his future. But when the Masterharper of Pern sees promise in the young man and sends him undercover among the exiled Oldtimers, Piemur senses the looming catastrophe that threatens the balance of power between the Weyrs and Holds of Pern.

When the unthinkable happens, Piemur must rise to the challenge to avert disaster and restore honor to the dragons and dragonriders of Pern. Because now, in a world already beset by Thread, another, more insidious danger looms: For the first time in living memory, dragons may be on the verge of fighting dragons.

Additional Book(s):