City of Lies
by Sam Hawke
560pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 4.2/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.92/5

Sam Hawke’s debut novel, City of Lies, is the first book in The Poison Wars series. Though it’s mostly set in one city, this thick epic fantasy novel becomes increasingly large and sweeping, beginning with mysteries involving sudden deaths and an unexpected siege that lead to deeper discoveries about the past. It’s also an intimate, character-driven story narrated by two siblings who face deeply personal stakes—from their own survival to that of their friends, their family, and their people—while tenaciously pursuing truth and justice. Despite some slow pacing in the middle, I found City of Lies to be one of this year’s standout novels and am looking forward to the release of the sequel, Hollow Empire, next year.

On the surface, Silasta appears to be peaceful. Its nobility consider themselves to be quite civilized given their disdain for violence and turmoil. However, it’s not exactly uncommon for them to be hiding murderous intent underneath their polite veneers—and long ago, one family dedicated themselves to discreetly protecting the Chancellor from subtler methods of dealing death, handing down their knowledge from generation to generation.

On the surface, Jovan’s uncle appears to be the Chancellor’s dearest friend, just as Jovan appears to be the Chancellor’s heir’s dearest friend. Though these friendships are genuine, Jovan’s uncle is also an expert in poisons who proofs the Chancellor’s food and drink—and Jovan is his apprentice, openly training to follow in his footsteps as an experienced chef while secretly training to follow in his footsteps as the next Chancellor’s poison detector.

Jovan and Tain, the Chancellor’s heir, are thrust into their uncles’ roles sooner than expected when both older men suddenly die from an unfamiliar toxin. However, it soon becomes clear that assassination was only the first part of the scheme: an “accident” freed all the messenger birds used to send news outside the city, and the funeral is interrupted by attackers surrounding the city walls.

What’s not clear is why they are under assault—presumably by their own people—and the army is not interested in discussion when approached by a negotiator bearing a peace flag, whom they immediately shoot down. Jovan and his sister, Kalina, are determined to prevent the new Chancellor from meeting the same fate as the last and to make peace with the rebels—but to succeed, they must unravel the web of treachery and deceit before it’s too late for their city…

Given that the plot involves betrayal, murder, and war, City of Lies may sound grim, but it’s ultimately an optimistic novel with sincere characters at its heart: as they work together to get to the bottom of the upheaval within their city, they also work to mend divides between their people out of a true desire to listen, learn, and address any grievances. It’s also a wonderful, well-executed book that I enjoyed immensely. Though I did find the pacing to be a bit slow at times, especially around the middle, I found it nearly impossible to put down throughout the tension-fueled last 30%—and that, combined with the fact that I loved the story and the characters, more than made up for a bit of slowness.

The challenges the characters confront range from navigating new duties to trying to survive during a tumultuous time, but the plot is largely a mystery with the characters questioning whom they can trust. Stories focusing heavily on investigation do not always appeal to me, but this one worked for me since resolving it mattered to main protagonists I cared about and I thought it was well done. Although readers discover the answers plus more about their people’s past and ancient magics along with the characters, it’s logical that they’re misinformed in this case and it does not feel like an authorial tactic intended to keep readers in the dark. This is partially because they make discoveries related to long-forgotten history, but it’s also realistic that the comfortably wealthy and powerful would be oblivious to the concerns of the common people—not due to malicious intent, but due to being isolated and narrow-sighted.

As engaging as I found the story and themes centered on humanity, I thought the highlight was the characters. Both Jovan and Kalina have similarly refined narrative voices befitting nobility, but their perspectives are each their own. Jovan’s point of view largely focuses on poisons (of course!) and his approach to managing his obsessive compulsions. Earlier in the book, I preferred reading his sections largely because of his area of expertise and his close friendship with Tain, a carefree, fun-loving, charismatic person who accepts his new responsibilities with a gravity unexpected by many. Jovan and Tain’s new positions also cause some discord between them, as Tain is troubled by Jovan’s constantly risking his life for him and sometimes disregards his lectures on food intake. It’s also largely through Jovan’s eyes that we see one of my favorite characters later in the book, Hadrea: an undiplomatic, blunt commoner who does not mince words when it comes to what she thinks and feels.

Kalina, however, is a more intriguing character than her brother even though it took longer for me to find her chapters as riveting as Jovan’s. As the elder of the two siblings, Kalina was actually supposed to be their uncle’s heir, but health limitations cut her instruction short. Her respiratory problems and tendency to become ill easily made it impossible for her to build an immunity to poisons without risking her life, and she nearly died when beginning her apprenticeship. Since then she’s covertly trained as a spy and observer, and she uses the fact that people often underestimate her to her advantage. Kalina is determined and resourceful with amazing reserves of inner strength, and it was she who stole the show in the end.

Though these characters are primarily confined to a single small area throughout the novel, the world seems vast given the rich development of this one place’s culture and (eventually) history. Their main governmental body consists of six inherited positions and six Guild heads appointed by merit, who may or may not be from a noble family. These leaders can be men or women, and their family structure is matrilineal. Though they exist in other parts of the world, marriage and fatherhood are not part of their tradition, and young children are generally raised by their mothers and their mothers’ brothers.

City of Lies is a fantastic book with a great premise, enthralling mystery, and compelling three dimensional characters. Even though it lags in places, the last third delivers and the positives far outweigh that one minor negative, making it one of my favorite books of 2018 so far.

My Rating: 8/10

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

Read an Excerpt from City of Lies

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 is the third week in a row of catching up on coverage of new book arrivals, but this feature should resume normally next week (assuming nothing too unexpected happens again!).

There were no new reviews last week; however, I did nearly finish one last week so I expect a new one to be up soon.

Now, here are the rest of the ARCs/review copies that came in while things were unusually chaotic.

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan

The Gutter Prayer (Black Iron Legacy #1) by Gareth Hanrahan

This debut fantasy novel about three thieves will be released on January 22, 2019 (trade paperback, ebook).

A sequel titled The Divine Machine will follow.


A group of three young thieves are pulled into a centuries old magical war between ancient beings, mages, and humanity in this wildly original debut epic fantasy.

The city has always been. The city must finally end.

When three thieves – an orphan, a ghoul, and a cursed man – are betrayed by the master of the thieves guild, their quest for revenge uncovers dark truths about their city and exposes a dangerous conspiracy, the seeds of which were sown long before they were born.

Cari is a drifter whose past and future are darker than she can know.

Rat is a Ghoul, whose people haunt the city’s underworld.

Spar is a Stone Man, subject to a terrible disease that is slowly petrifying his flesh.

Chance has brought them together, but their friendship could be all that stands in the way of total armageddon.

The Dream Gatherer by Kristen Britain

The Dream Gatherer: A Green Rider Novella by Kristen Britain

This collection, which contains the novella “The Dream Gatherer” plus two additional short stories set in the Green Rider world, is out now (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

The publisher’s website has an excerpt from The Dream Gatherer.


Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the New York Times bestselling Green Rider series, this short volume introduces readers to new sides of Sacoridia in two new short stories and a novella.

In The Dream Gatherer, Kristen Britain presents a novella and two short stories set in the universe of her best selling Green Rider series in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the publication of her first novel, Green Rider.

The Dream Gatherer
Dreams can be dangerous. A visit with the eccentric Berry sisters turns dangerous when an arcane device is discovered in their house that can summon dreamers through their dreams, and one of them is a nightmare.

Finding peace during the Long War. Raised in an orphan camp, Green Rider Danalong has known only war and strife, until a shipwreck leaves him stranded on a mysterious island.

Linked, on the Lake of Souls
A story of friendship within a story of friendship. In the sixth volume of the Green Rider series, Firebrand, a wounded Karigan G’ladheon asks her friend Estral to tell her a story to take her mind off her pain. This is that story.

The book includes illustrations and backstory on the creation of Green Rider by the author, and a special introduction by award-winning science fiction and fantasy author, Julie E. Czerneda.

The Way of the Shield by Marshall Ryan Maresca

The Way of the Shield (Maradaine Elite #1) by Marshall Ryan Maresca

The beginning of the fourth series set in the world of the Maradaine Saga is out now (mass market paperback, ebook).

The publisher’s website has an excerpt from The Way of the Shield.


The first novel in the Maradaine Elite series blends fast-paced high fantasy and political intrigue.

Dayne Heldrin always dreamed of being a member of the Tarian Order. In centuries past, the Elite Orders of Druthal were warriors that stood for order, justice, and the common people. But now, with constables, King’s Marshals, and a standing army, there is little need for such organizations, and the Tarian Order is one of the last remnants of this ancient legacy. Nevertheless, Dayne trained his body and mind, learned the arts of defense and fighting, to become a candidate for the Tarian Order.

When a failed rescue puts Dayne at fault for injuring the child of a powerful family, his future with the Tarians is in jeopardy. The Parliament controls the purse strings for the Order, and Dayne has angered the wrong members of Parliament. He returns to the capital city of Maradaine in shame, ready to be cast out of the Order when the period of his candidacy ends.

Dayne finds Maradaine in turmoil, as revolutions and dark conspiracies brew around him, threatening members of Parliament and common people alike. Dayne is drawn into the uproar, desperate not to have one more death or injury on his conscience, but the Order wants him to stay out of the situation. The city threatens to tear itself apart, and Dayne must decide between his own future and his vow to always stand between the helpless and harm.

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.

As mentioned last week, I am limiting this to 5 books today. I will continue to cover 5 books per weekend until I catch up on the new books I want to feature of those that have arrived since I went on an unplanned hiatus.

(Last week ended up being yet another super busy week with some unexpected problems cropping up so I still haven’t had a chance to finish a review.)

This time I’m featuring three early 2019 releases and the first two books in a series that a friend gifted me (the first of which I’m reading now since I know she’s eager to discuss them!).

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

New York Times bestselling author Ann Leckie’s first published fantasy novel will be released on February 26, 2019 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie’s debut novel and the first book in the Imperial Radch trilogy, won the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke, Locus, and BSFA Awards; was nominated for other prestigious awards; and was selected for the James Tiptree Jr. Award Honor List. The other two books in this science fiction series, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy, were also both award winners and Hugo and Nebula Award finalists, as well as nominees for other honors. Provenance, which is set in the same universe, was a BSFA Award nominee and a James Tiptree Jr. Award Long List selection.


Gods meddle in the fates of men, men play with the fates of gods, and a pretender must be cast down from the throne in this breathtaking first fantasy novel from Ann Leckie, New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.

For centuries, the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by the god known as the Raven. He watches over his territory from atop a tower in the powerful port of Vastai. His will is enacted through the Raven’s Lease, a human ruler chosen by the god himself. His magic is sustained via the blood sacrifice that every Lease must offer. And under the Raven’s watch, the city flourishes.

But the power of the Raven is weakening. A usurper has claimed the throne. The kingdom borders are tested by invaders who long for the prosperity that Vastai boasts. And they have made their own alliances with other gods.

It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo–aide to Mawat, the true Lease–arrives. And in seeking to help Mawat reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven’s Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself…and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.

The Beast's Heart by Leife Shallcross

The Beast’s Heart: A Novel of Beauty and the Beast by Leife Shallcross

The Beast’s Heart, a retelling of the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast” from the Beast’s perspective, is currently available in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. It is scheduled for release in the US on February 12, 2019 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

Avid Bibliophile has an extract from Chapter One of The Beast’s Heart.


A luxuriously magical retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in seventeenth-century France–and told from the point of view of the Beast himself.

I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both.

I am the Beast.

He is a broken, wild thing, his heart’s nature exposed by his beastly form. Long ago cursed with a wretched existence, the Beast prowls the dusty hallways of his ruined château with only magical, unseen servants to keep him company—until a weary traveler disturbs his isolation.

Bewitched by the man’s dreams of his beautiful daughter, the Beast devises a plan to lure her to the château. There, Isabeau courageously exchanges her father’s life for her own and agrees to remain with the Beast for a year. But even as their time together weaves its own spell, the Beast finds winning Isabeau’s love is only the first impossible step in breaking free from the curse . . .

The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan

The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan by Caitlín R. Kiernan

World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, and James Tiptree Jr. Award–winning author Caitlín R. Kiernan’s upcoming short story collection will be released on February 19, 2019 (trade paperback, ebook).

The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan includes her World Fantasy Award–winning short story “The Prayer of Ninety Cats” and about half a dozen stories published in her World Fantasy Award–winning collection The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories—plus several other stories and an introduction by Richard Kadrey. The publisher’s website lists the full table of contents.


Caitlín R. Kiernan is widely acknowledged as one of dark fantasy and horror’s most skilled and acclaimed short fiction writers. Here in this retrospective volume is her finest work, previously only collected in sold-out limited editions. Kiernan’s tales are visceral, sensual, devastating, and impossible to resist: a reporter is goaded by her girlfriend into watching people morphing into terrifying art; a critic interviews an elderly model from a series of famous mermaid paintings; a moviegoer watches a banned arthouse film only to discover exactly why it has been banned.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses, the first book in New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas’ series of the same name, is currently available in hard cover, trade paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

Teen Vogue has an excerpt of the first chapter.



Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R.R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin–and his world–forever.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas

The second book in the Court of Thorns and Roses series is also currently available in hardcover, trade paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

Entertainment Weekly has an excerpt from A Court of Mist and Fury.

A Court of Wings and Ruin, the third book in the series, is also out now. A related novella, A Court of Frost and Starlight, is also available and is one of this year’s Goodreads Choice Award nominees in the Best YA Fantasy & Science Fiction category.


The # 1 New York Times bestselling sequel to Sarah J. Maas’ spellbinding A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court–but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms–and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future–and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

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.

Sorry it’s been quiet here for so long. I’ve been extremely busy lately between work projects and many things breaking and needing to be replaced all around the same time (including my car, my laptop, and my iPhone so it’s been quite an irritating few weeks!).

I’ve been attempting to work on a review of Sam Hawke’s City of Lies (which I really, really liked), but I’ve just had too much going on to make much progress. I’m hoping to have more time to work on it soon!

Since it’s been a little while since I wrote one of these posts and about 10 (!) books showed up in the mail last week, I just picked 5 books that look especially compelling to highlight today and linked to the books that I’ve already covered in one of these posts. However, there are more recent books I want to feature so I’ll pick 5 more books next time (and so on, until I’ve caught up on all the books I want to highlight).

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto

Crown of Feathers (Crown of Feathers #1) by Nicki Pau Preto

This young adult fantasy debut novel will be released on February 12, 2019 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

This is one of five books that arrived last week in a #ShelfQueens package from Simon & Schuster focused on “tales of literary ladies who rule,” and my eye was immediately drawn to this book because of the gorgeous cover. The colors are beautiful, plus animals on covers tend to pique my interest—especially if they are birds, cats, or horses!

Then I read the description and was even more intrigued. Crown of Feathers sounds right up my alley, and I’m now pretty excited about reading it!


An Ember in the Ashes meets Three Dark Crowns in this lush debut fantasy novel about a girl who disguises herself as a boy to join a secret group of warriors that ride phoenixes into battle.

I had a sister, once…

In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders—legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire—until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.

I promised her the throne would not come between us.

Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders—even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.

But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.

Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.

Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken.

Crown of Feathers is an epic fantasy about love’s incredible power to save—or to destroy. Interspersed throughout is the story of Avalkyra Ashfire, the last Rider queen, who would rather see her empire burn than fall into her sister’s hands.

Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell

Sky Without Stars (System Divine #1) by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell

This young adult science fiction novel, a reimagining of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, will be released on March 26, 2019 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

Sky Without Stars is another book from the #ShelfQueens package that I thought sounded particularly intriguing.


In the tradition of The Lunar Chronicles, this sweeping reimagining of Les Misérables tells the story of three teens from very different backgrounds who are thrown together amidst the looming threat of revolution on the French planet-colony of Laterre.

A thief.
An officer.
A guardian. 

Three strangers, one shared destiny…

When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. A new life for a wealthy French family and their descendants. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.

Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…

Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spy on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.

Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a renowned traitor. In training to take command of the military, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when his father dies and leaves behind a cryptic message that only one person can read: a girl named Alouette.

Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.

All three have a role to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.

Power, romance, and destiny collide in this sweeping reimagining of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, Les Misérables.

The Cold Is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale

The Cold Is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale

This young adult dark fairy tale partially based on the story of Medusa is scheduled for release on January 22, 2019 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

The Cold Is in Her Bones is another #ShelfQueens title that caught my eye since I enjoy dark fairy tales and reimagined myths.


One girl must uncover secrets of the past to save her friend from a terrible curse in this dark and mesmerizing story of love, revenge, and redemption inspired by the myth of Medusa.

Milla knows two things to be true: Demons are real, and fear will keep her safe.

Milla’s whole world is her family’s farm. She is never allowed to travel to the village and her only friend is her beloved older brother, Niklas. When a bright-eyed girl named Iris comes to stay, Milla hopes her loneliness might finally be coming to an end. But Iris has a secret she’s forbidden to share: The village is cursed by a demon who possesses girls at random, and the townspeople live in terror of who it will come for next.

Now, it seems, the demon has come for Iris. When Iris is captured and imprisoned with other possessed girls, Milla leaves home to rescue her and break the curse forever. Her only company on the journey is a terrible new secret of her own: Milla is changing, too, and may soon be a demon herself.

Suspenseful and vividly imagined, The Cold Is in Her Bones is a novel about the dark, reverberating power of pain, the yearning to be seen and understood, and the fragile optimism of love.

Roar of Sky by Beth Cato

Roar of Sky (Breath of Earth #3) by Beth Cato

This final volume in the Blood of Earth trilogy was released last week (trade paperback, ebook).

The publisher’s website has a sample from Roar of Sky, plus samples from the first two books in this historical fantasy series:

  1. Breath of Earth
  2. Call of Fire

In this stunning conclusion to the acclaimed Blood of Earth trilogy—a thrilling alternate history laced with earth magic, fantastic creatures, and steampunk elements—geomancer Ingrid must find a way to use her extraordinary abilities to save her world from the woman hell-bent on destroying it.

Thanks to her geomantic magic, Ingrid has successfully eluded Ambassador Blum, the power-hungry kitsune who seeks to achieve world domination for the Unified Pacific. But using her abilities has taken its toll: Ingrid’s body has been left severely weakened, and she must remain on the run with her friends Cy and Fenris.

Hoping to learn more about her magical roots and the strength her bloodline carries, Ingrid makes her way across the Pacific to Hawaii, home to the ancient volcano goddess Madam Pele. What she discovers in this paradise is not at all what she expects—and perhaps exactly what she needs.

But Ambassador Blum comes from the same world of old magic and mythic power. And if Ingrid cannot defeat her once and for all, she knows Blum will use that power to take the lives of everyone she holds dear before escalating a war that will rip the world to pieces.

Gates of Stone by Angus Macallan

Gates of Stone (Lord of the Islands #1) by Angus Macallan

This epic fantasy novel will be released on February 19 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

Like Crown of Feathers, Gates of Stone largely caught my eye at first because of the cover. The description also sounds interesting, but I’m really hoping that the book actually features at least one tiger!


In a world of blood and magic, a powerful epic fantasy begins…

Just before her sixteenth birthday, Princess Katerina is refused her rightful place as heir to the Empire of the Ice-Bear—solely because of her sex. Determined to regain her inheritance, she murders the foreign lord she’s been ordered to marry and embarks on a perilous voyage to the lush, tropical islands of the Laut Besar in search of the vast wealth and power she needs to claim the Empire for herself.

On a small island kingdom, Prince Arjun’s idyllic life is shattered when a malignant sorcerer invades, slaughters his people and steals the sacred sword of Jun’s ancestors. With his royal father dead and his palace in ruins, Jun reluctantly tracks the sorcerer and the magical blade far across the pirate-infested waters of the Laut Besar.

Long ago the powerful relics known as the Seven Keys were used to safely lock away the terrifying evils of the Seven Hells. With Jun’s ancient sword in his grasp, the sorcerer Mangku has claimed the first Key, and begun his mission to unleash catastrophe upon the land.

As the destinies of these three entwine in the lawless islands of the Laut Besar, the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. For if the sorcerer cannot be stopped, the world itself will be unmade…

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 covers two weeks since I was away for a few days and traveling home all day last Sunday, and there are some rather intriguing books that have shown up in the mail lately to cover today! I also went on a book shopping adventure during my trip and, of course, I couldn’t resist buying a few books I saw…

How Long 'til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin

How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin

This collection of short stories by N. K. Jemisin will be released on November 27 (hardcover, ebook).

N. K. Jemisin won the Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in a row for each book in her Broken Earth trilogy, and her story “The City Born Great” was nominated for a Hugo Award (and is included in this book!). She’s also one of my favorite authors so I was pretty excited when this one showed up!


Three-time Hugo Award winner N. K. Jemisin’s first collection of short fiction challenges and enchants with breathtaking stories of destruction, rebirth, and redemption.

N. K. Jemisin is one of the most powerful and acclaimed speculative fiction authors of our time. In the first collection of her evocative short fiction, Jemisin equally challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption.

Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

This middle grade space opera will be released on January 15, 2019 (hardcover, ebook).

I love the sound of this with its mix of science fiction and fantasy based on Korean mythology, plus I’ve wanted to read more by Yoon Ha Lee after enjoying “The Coin of Heart’s Desire” in the anthology Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales.


Rick Riordan Presents Yoon Ha Lee’s space opera about thirteen-year-old Min, who comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her.

To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.

When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.

Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.

This sci-fi adventure with the underpinnings of Korean mythology will transport you to a world far beyond your imagination.

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

Mirage (Mirage #1) by Somaiya Daud

This young adult science fiction novel was released last month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Entertainment Weekly has an excerpt from Mirage.

This was on my list of anticipated books of 2018 so I had to buy it when I found it on display in a store.


In a world dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated home.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty―and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.

Banewreaker by Jacqueline Carey

Banewreaker (The Sundering #1) by Jacqueline Carey

One of Jacqueline Carey’s earlier fantasy novels, Banewreaker is currently available in ebook and audiobook but is more difficult to find in print. I love Jacqueline Carey’s writing and am particularly fond of all her epic fantasy books I’ve read (especially her newest, Starless!) so I bought this when I came across it in a used bookstore.

Jacqueline Carey’s website has a sample from Banewreaker. Godslayer is the second half of The Sundering duology.


Following the triumphant success of her Kushiel series (Kushiel’s DartKushiel’s ChosenKushiel’s Avatar), Jacqueline Carey now turns her hand to another startling fable, an epic tale of gods waging war in their bid to control an entire universe and the mortals they use as chess pieces in a most deadly game.

Once, the Seven Shapers dwelled in accord. First-born among them was Haomane, Lord-of-Thought and with his brother and sister gods, the Seven drew upon of the power of the Souma, claimed a race of beings for their own and began Shaping the world to their will.

But Haomane saw the ways of this new world and was displeased. For in his younger brother Satoris, once called the Sower, Haomane thought too prideful and in his gift, the quickening of the flesh too freely to the races…and to that of Man in particular. Haomane asked Satoris to withdraw his Gift from Men but he refused. And so began the Shapers’ War.

Eons have passed. The war that ensued Sundered the very world. Haomane and his siblings lay to one end of a vast ocean unable to touch their creations, Satoris and the races of the world on the other. Satoris has been broken and left adrift among the peoples of the world and is reviled, with most of the races believing that it was he alone who caused the rift and depriving them of the balm of the Seven. He sits in Darkhaven, controlling his own dominion–seeking not victory but neither vengeance.

But still Haomane is not content. Through Haomane’s whispers in the minds and hearts of the races of the world come a prophecy that if Satoris were defeated, the world could be made whole and all would bask in the light of the Souma again. And the few who stay by Satoris are viewed as the ultimate evil. And so the races come together to defeat Satoris, a being who helped engender them all but who is caught in his elder brother’s warp.

Strong storytelling with evocative, compelling, and unforgettable characters, Banewrecker ultimately asks the question:

If all that is considered good considers you evil, are you?

Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories by Diana Wynne Jones

Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories by Diana Wynne Jones

This collection of short stories and one novella by Diana Wynne Jones was another used bookstore purchase. I couldn’t resist getting it when I found a hardcover copy in decent condition, but it is currently available in mass market paperback and ebook.


Master storyteller Diana Wynne Jones presents ariveting collection of unpredictable tales, including:

  • A cat tells how the kindhearted wizard she owns is suddenly called upon to defeat a horrific Beast.
  • When Anne has mumps, her drawings come to life, and she must protect her home from them.
  • Four children become involved in the intrigue surrounding an innocent prince, an evil count, and a brave outlaw.

These fifteen stories and one novella will enchant, startle, and surprise!

Search Image by Julie E. Czerneda

Search Image (Web Shifter’s Library #1) by Julie E. Czerneda

Julie E. Czerneda’s newest science fiction novel will be released on October 2 (hardcover, ebook). Search Image is the first book in a new series about Esen from the Web Shifter trilogy, which begins with Beholder’s Eye.


The first book in the Web Shifter’s Library series returns to the adventures of Esen, a shapeshifting alien and member of an ancient yet endangered race, who must navigate the perils of a hostile universe.

Esen’s back! And the dear little blob is in trouble, again.

Things began so well. She and her Human friend Paul Ragem are ready to celebrate the first anniversary of their greatest accomplishment, the All Species’ Library of Linguistics and Culture, by welcoming his family back. He hopes. Having mourned his supposed death years ago, understandably, feelings are bent.

Instead, they’ve unexpected guests, starting with an old acquaintance. Paul’s father has gone missing under dire circumstances.

Before he can convince Esen to help him search, a friend shows up to use the Library. A crisis on Dokeci Na is about to explode into violence. To stop it, Evan Gooseberry needs answers. Unfortunately, the artifact he brought in trade holds its own distracting secret. A touch of very familiar blue. Web-flesh.

The race is on. Paul, to find his father. Esen, to search for a mysterious legacy while helping Evan avert an extinction. What none of them realize is the price of success will be the most terrible choice of all.

Additional Book(s):

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.

Before covering the latest books, here’s what happened last week in case you missed it:

  • Review of Iron and Magic (Iron Covenant #1) by Ilona Andrews — After hearing that it was best to read the first book in this spin-off from Kate Daniels before reading the final book, I purchased a copy to read first. I did not like it.
  • Review of Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews and a Reflection on the Kate Daniels Series — This is a review of the final Kate Daniels book beginning with some context about the series as a whole, focusing on why I LOVE the earlier books and why the later books didn’t work for me nearly as well. Magic Triumphs was fun enough to read once (though not nearly as great as earlier books), but I thought it was horrible as a finale to this ten-book series. My experience with Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9), Iron and Magic, and the rushed wrap-up in this novel have led me to conclude I’m done reading any books related to this series— even though it was one of my favorites until around book seven. (I probably would have stopped reading after book nine if it had not been the penultimate installment.)

Now, on to the latest book arrivals!

The Antidote by Shelley Sackier

The Antidote by Shelley Sackier

This young adult romantic fantasy—with a rather lovely cover!—will be released on February 5, 2019 (hardcover, ebook).


From the author of The Freemason’s Daughter comes a lush romantic fantasy perfect for fans of Everless!

In the world of healers, there is no room for magic.

Fee knows this, just as certainly as she knows that her magic must be kept secret.

But the crown prince Xavi, Fee’s best friend and only source of comfort, is sick. So sick, that Fee can barely contain the magic lying dormant inside her. She could use it, just a little, to heal him. But magic comes at a deadly cost—and attracts those who would seek to snuff it out forever.

A wisp of a spell later, Fee finds herself caught in a whirl of secret motivations and dark pasts, where no one is who—or what—they appear to be. And saving her best friend means delving deeper into the tempting and treacherous world whose call she’s long resisted—uncovering a secret that will change everything.

Laini Taylor meets Sara Holland in this lavish fantasy from lauded historical romance author Shelley Sackier!

The Spectral City by Leanna Renee Hieber

The Spectral City (The Spectral City #1) by Leanna Renee Hieber

This gaslamp fantasy will be released on November 27 (ebook).

Leanna Renee Hieber has written a couple of guest posts here discussing Gothic fantasy that offer some insight into her type of story:

Penny Dreadful‘s Betrayal and the Complexity of Feminism in the Gothic Tradition

The Gothic as a Canary in Fear’s Coal Mine (from Women in SF&F Month 2017)


Solving crime isn’t only for the living.

In turn-of-the century New York City, the police have an off-the-books spiritual go-to when it comes to solving puzzling corporeal crimes . . .

Her name is Eve Whitby, gifted medium and spearhead of The Ghost Precinct. When most women are traveling in a gilded society that promises only well-appointed marriage, the confident nineteen-year-old Eve navigates a social circle that carries a different kind of chill. Working with the diligent but skeptical Lieutenant Horowitz, as well as a group of fellow psychics and wayward ghosts, Eve holds her own against detractors and threats to solve New York’s most disturbing crimes as only a medium of her ability can.

But as accustomed as Eve is to ghastly crimes and all matters of the uncanny, even she is unsettled by her department’s latest mystery. Her ghostly conduits are starting to disappear one by one as though snatched away by some evil force determined to upset the balance between two realms, and most important—destroy the Ghost Precinct forever. Now Eve must brave the darkness to find the vanished souls. She has no choice. It’s her job to make sure no one is ever left for dead.

Additional Books: