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

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of, and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

This is a day late due to household chores and needing to make some blog upgrades over the weekend, but I wanted to highlight the two books that came in the mail last week. They are both debut novels that I’m very excited about—in fact, they were both featured in my Anticipated 2023 Speculative Fiction Book Releases post!

Cover of The Surviving Sky by Kritika H. Rao

The Surviving Sky (The Rages Trilogy #1) by Kritika H. Rao

Kritika H. Rao’s epic science fantasy debut novel will be released in the US and UK on June 13 (paperback, ebook). has an excerpt from The Surviving Sky, and the Titan Books website has information on where to buy it depending on location.

The author discussed the themes and trying to summarize all that went into The Surviving Sky in her Women in SF&F Month 2022 guest post, “In Defense of Questions”:

I always knew I was writing science fantasy, but in the early days of writing The Surviving Sky, when people asked me what my book was about, I—like many writers—fumbled the answer magnificently. After all, I was spending an entire book’s worth of words to answer that very question. If I could tell you what it was about in a few pat lines, I wouldn’t need to write that book.

Of course, since then, I’ve learned my loglines and my tropes, my tweet-length synopses and my clever metaphors. It’s a story about a husband-wife duo who are trying to save their marriage while they try to save their flying plant city from crashing into jungle storms. It’s a meditation on power and privilege, who we love, why we love, and the cost of love. It’s a critique of capitalism, a story about duty and shared human society, a reflection on our relationship to survival and our damaged environment, and an exploration into the way all of our actions impact our very consciousness. It’s very epic, very awesome, and it has EVERYTHING AAAA!

She also delved into the dynamic between the two main characters and the challenges presented by the married couple’s differing worldviews in her guest post:

I think this, in the end, was my favorite part of writing this book; the fact that I could pose questions, often from two very opposing perspectives with Iravan and Ahilya who are on opposite sides of the spectrum, without making a judgement call on the answer. While all the plot questions are answered, deeper questions like this are explored with many possible answers; and that answer, dear reader, is up to you.

My job as a writer is merely to incite curiosity—whether it is on theories of power or of consciousness. The way I see it—questions are far more interesting than answers. We forget the role of dialectics in knowledge-building when we engage in competitive debate—and my hope with The Surviving Sky is that readers are caught in the passions of the two characters and their opposing viewpoints so much that it makes them question their own point of view when it comes to the above themes amongst others.

I just love the sound of this book with its focus on a couple with different views, floating cities, and exploration of so many different things: capitalism, power and privilege, society, relationships with each other and the environment, and more. Plus it’s science fantasy!


Enter a lush world of cataclysmic storms, planet-wide jungles, floating cities and devastating magic in this first book of an explosive new science fantasy trilogy, perfect for fans of N.K. Jemisin, Tasha Suri and Martha Wells.

High above a jungle-planet float the last refuges of humanity—plant-made civilizations held together by tradition, technology, and arcane science. Here, architects are revered deeply, with humanity’s survival reliant on a privileged few. If not for their abilities, the cities would plunge into the devastating earthrage storms below.

Charismatic and powerful, Iravan is one such architect. His abilities are his identity, but to Ahilya, his archeologist wife, they are a method to suppress non-architects. Their marriage is thorny and fraught—yet when a jungle expedition goes terribly wrong, jeopardizing their careers, Ahilya and Iravan must work together to save their reputations. But as their city begins to plummet, their discoveries threaten not only their marriage, but their entire civilization.

Cover of The Jasad Heir by Sara Hashem

The Jasad Heir (The Scorched Throne #1) by Sara Hashem

Sara Hashem’s political fantasy debut novel will be released in the US on July 18 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook). It’s coming out in the UK on July 20 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

Gizmodo has an excerpt from The Jasad Heir.

I’ve wanted to read this Egyptian-inspired epic fantasy novel ever since I saw the acquisition announcement at Orbit Books, which says:

The Jasad Heir is an epic tale of scorched kingdoms, forbidden magic, and cunning royals. Sylvia is the heir of the shattered kingdom, Jasad. Forced into hiding after her family is massacred, she knows to keep her head down, remain alone, and never use her magic. But one act of kindness changes everything and Sylvia is thrust into a game with her fallen kingdom’s greatest enemy—a game that could resurrect her kingdom or leave it in ashes forever.

It has so many elements I love: forbidden magic, someone with a secret identity, a game between foes, and enemies who find they might actually not hate each other after all.


A fugitive queen strikes a bargain with her greatest enemy and becomes embroiled in a complex game that could resurrect her scorched kingdom or leave it in ashes forever In this unmissable Egyptian-inspired epic fantasy debut. 

Ten years ago, the kingdom of Jasad burned. Its magic was outlawed. Its royal family murdered. At least, that’s what Sylvia wants people to believe. The Heir of Jasad escaped the massacre, and she intends to stay hidden, especially from the armies of Nizahl that continue to hunt her people.

But a moment of anger changes everything. When Arin, the Nizahl Heir, tracks a group of Jasadi rebels to her village, Sylvia accidentally reveals her magic—and captures his attention. Now Sylvia’s forced to make a deal with her greatest enemy: Help him hunt the rebels in exchange for her life.

A deadly game begins. Sylvia can’t let Arin discover her identity, even as hatred shifts into something more between the Heirs. And as the tides change around her, Sylvia will have to choose between the life she wants and the one she abandoned.

The scorched kingdom is rising, and it needs a queen.

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

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of, and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

One book I’m very excited about came in the mail last week, plus I’m finally catching up on some birthday books from April! But first, a couple of things:

On to the new book in the mail and the birthday books! (Most of them. I also got a copy of the new edition of Cagebird by Karin Lowachee, which is a book I love and reviewed here. I already have a copy, but I was gifted another one since there is something different about it: my review is quoted on the back cover!)

Cover of The Sun and the Void by Gabriela Romero Lacruz

The Sun and the Void (The Warring Gods #1) by Gabriela Romero Lacruz

This fantasy debut novel will be released on July 25 in both the US and the UK. The US edition will be available in trade paperback, ebook, and audiobook, and the UK edition will be available in hardback and ebook.

The author’s website has content warnings and character artwork.

SciFiNow has a chapter one excerpt from The Sun and the Void.

This novel appeared on my most anticipated books of 2023 post. In part, that’s because the Orbit acquisition announcement says the following about it:

Full of twisted family politics, dark magic, and fantastical beings, THE SUN AND THE VOID transports readers into a lush world inspired by the history and mythology of 1800s South America.

I love the sound of the historical and folkloric inspirations, family politics, and the dark god with tempting magic.


Two women embark on a unforgettable quest that draws them into a world of dark gods and ancient magic in this sweeping fantasy debut inspired by the history and folklore of colonial South America.

Reina is desperate.

Stuck on the edges of society, Reina’s only hope lies in an invitation from a grandmother she’s never met. But the journey to her is dangerous, and prayer can’t always avert disaster.

Attacked by creatures that stalk the mountains, Reina is on the verge of death until her grandmother, a dark sorceress, intervenes. Now dependent on the Doña’s magic for her life, Reina will do anything to earn—and keep—her favor. Even the bidding of an ancient god who whispers to her at night.

Eva Kesaré is unwanted.

Illegitimate and of mixed heritage, Eva is her family’s shame. She tries to be the perfect daughter, but Eva is hiding a secret: Magic calls to her.

Eva knows she should fight the temptation. Magic is the sign of the dark god, and using it is punishable by death. Yet it’s hard to ignore power when it has always been denied you. Eva is walking a dangerous path. And in the end, she’ll become something she never imagined.

Cover of The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi (Amina al-Sirafi #1) by Shannon Chakraborty

This novel is the beginning of a new trilogy set about 1,000 years before The Daevabad Trilogy. It was released in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook, and both the US publisher and the UK publisher have text and audio samples on their websites.

Shannon Chakraborty’s previous series (written under the name S. A. Chakraborty) made her an international bestseller and an Astounding Award nominee, and it was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Series. The City of Brass, the first book in the trilogy, was a finalist for several awards, including the World Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the Locus Award.

The second and third books in The Daevabad Trilogy were among my favorite books of 2019 and my favorite books of 2020, respectively, so of course I’m excited that there’s a new book set in the same world!


Shannon Chakraborty, the bestselling author of The City of Brass, spins a new trilogy of magic and mayhem on the high seas in this tale of pirates and sorcerers, forbidden artifacts and ancient mysteries, in one woman’s determined quest to seize a final chance at glory—and write her own legend.

Amina al-Sirafi should be content. After a storied and scandalous career as one of the Indian Ocean’s most notorious pirates, she’s survived backstabbing rogues, vengeful merchant princes, several husbands, and one actual demon to retire peacefully with her family to a life of piety, motherhood, and absolutely nothing that hints of the supernatural.

But when she’s tracked down by the obscenely wealthy mother of a former crewman, she’s offered a job no bandit could refuse: retrieve her comrade’s kidnapped daughter for a kingly sum. The chance to have one last adventure with her crew, do right by an old friend, and win a fortune that will secure her family’s future forever? It seems like such an obvious choice that it must be God’s will.

Yet the deeper Amina dives, the more it becomes alarmingly clear there’s more to this job, and the girl’s disappearance, than she was led to believe. For there’s always risk in wanting to become a legend, to seize one last chance at glory, to savor just a bit more power…and the price might be your very soul.

Cover of In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power

In a Garden Burning Gold (The Wind-up Garden #1) by Rory Power

This novel by New York Times bestselling author Rory Power came out in paperback earlier this year and is also available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook. The Penguin Random House website has an excerpt from In a Garden Burning Gold.

The conclusion to this duology was just released earlier this month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The publisher’s website also has an excerpt from this novel, In an Orchard Grown from Ash.

I somehow missed In a Garden Burning Gold until I heard some good things about it earlier this year that prompted me to look it up. A family with magic power sounded intriguing, so I added it to my wishlist—and was happy to receive a copy for my birthday!


Twins imbued with incredible magic and near-immortality will do anything to keep their family in power—even if it tears the family apart—in the first book of a mythic epic fantasy duology from the New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls.


Rhea and Lexos were born into a family unlike any other. Together with their siblings, they control the seasons, the tides, and the stars, and help their father rule their kingdom. Thanks to their magic, the family has ruled for an eternity, and plan to rule for an eternity more.

But Rhea and Lexos are special: They are twins, bonded down to the bone, and for the past hundred years, that bond has protected them as their father becomes an unpredictable tyrant—and his worsening temper threatens the family’s grip on power.

Now, with rival nations ready to attack, and a rebel movement within their own borders, Rhea and Lexos must fight to keep the kingdom—and the family—together, even as treachery, deceit, and drama threaten to strand the twins on opposite sides of the battlefield.

In a Garden Burning Gold is a vividly written, atmospheric saga that explores the limits of power and the bonds of family—and how far both can be bent before they break.

The Bone Shard Emperor
by Andrea Stewart
560pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 8.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.24/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.12/5

As an Amazon Associate and Bookshop affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Note for readers new to this series: This review covers the middle book in a trilogy and contains spoilers for the previous book in the series. You may prefer to read my 8/10 review of the first book, The Bone Shard Daughter, especially if you are interested in the following:

  • Asian-inspired secondary fantasy worlds and/or island settings
  • Multiple perspectives
  • People growing and doing their best
  • Cute (really cute!) animal companions
  • Magic that comes with a cost, involving sewn-together corpses animated by commands written on bone
  • A palace full of secrets and mysteries, related to the bone magic and the Emperor who wields it
  • An already-established f/f romance between a commoner and a noble struggling with class differences

The Bone Shard Emperor is the middle book in Andrea Stewart’s Asian-inspired epic fantasy trilogy, The Drowning Empire, falling between The Bone Shard Daughter and The Bone Shard War. It continues the stories of the same characters from the first book, and it deals with the aftermath of Lin assuming her father’s place as Emperor of the archipelago.

The first book in this series was one of my favorite books of 2020 with creepy bone magic that animated creatures made from pieces of corpses, a palace full of mystery, an adorable animal companion, and characters who grew into better people. The second book was also one of my favorites of its publication year, though it did take longer to hook me than the first book did. But once it got going, it was difficult to put down, and I ended up enjoying it every bit as much as the previous installment. It just didn’t have the same immediate, gripping tension as the first book, which thrusts readers into Lin’s challenges with her father, learning his magic, and trying to recover her memories—and begins Jovis’s story with his flight from an island that rapidly starts sinking for unknown reasons.

However, I reread The Bone Shard Emperor to prepare for the conclusion that came out in April, and I found it was even better on the second read. I was riveted from start to finish, plus I had a great time with it for all the same reasons as the first read: the fantastic world, the engaging characters, and the (re)discovery of the past events that made people fear the return of Alanga magic. (While many revelations were predictable even on the first read, having an idea of what was coming worked for me in this case. It didn’t seem like the author was expecting to shock readers after dropping a bunch of hints, and it was fun to see precisely how everything unfolded and the characters’ reactions to it all.) Although Jovis and Lin remained my favorites, the second book had me more interested in all the characters’ stories than the previous one. Their sections are more compelling even when separate from the others, but they’re also more closely connected than in the first book, so there’s more insight into what they thought of each other.

I also appreciated this novel’s focus on the aftermath of replacing a terrible ruler with someone who actually cared about the people. Lin has a lot to deal with in her quest to do better than her father: the people who don’t know her and assume she’s just another version of the old ruler, the governors of the various islands who have their own individual ambitions and concerns, a rebel group that wants to remove her from power, and an army of the previous Emperor’s bone shard creations. (Oh, and there’s also her personal struggle with the realization that she’s not actually her father’s daughter but a replica he made in an attempt to recreate his dead wife. It’s a lot to take in.)

But in addition to all these challenges, there are systemic problems that can’t be resolved quickly or easily, and sometimes trying to make improvements causes new issues or upsets people resistant to change. For instance, Lin ends the Tithing Festivals that required people to sacrifice a piece of bone that would then be used to power a bone shard creature, and she destroys whatever constructs she can find. This is necessary because using someone’s bone shard for this purpose drains their life, but at the same time, not having creatures under her command makes it harder to protect her people from the destructive army sweeping through the islands. Also, some governors are reluctant to end the practice of mining witstone despite the fact that it may be linked to the sudden sinking of islands: it brings in money and allows quicker travel, and it’s not like mining has caused their islands to sink so it’s probably fine. It can be difficult for Lin to determine the right thing to do when there are so many conflicting interests and pressures to weigh, and she can’t trust or rely on anyone other than the intelligent animal she found and bonded with.

Phalue and Ranami’s story has some similarities to Lin’s since Phalue took her father’s place and the newly married couple is governing their island together. Their situation isn’t quite the same since they only need to worry about a single island’s people and at least they have each other—plus, it helps that their people actually like Phalue. But they can’t just make systemic problems go away through good intentions, either, and they also have problems with the rebel group, who has a strong presence on their island. Though Ranami was once involved with them, she has not been on good terms with them since they tried to assassinate her wife, and their methods of trying to force change hurts the common people. I found the challenges of governing and the focus on wanting to help the homeless orphans facing the same problems Ranami once had made for a more compelling storyline than they had in the first book. As much as I appreciated the exploration of a relationship between people with different worldviews in the previous installment, they could also be frustrating characters. Ranami was obviously right about the need to do better for their people, but the way she went about getting Phalue to pay attention by leading her to believe she’d been kidnapped by the rebel group seemed like a terrible idea. I preferred their story progression in this book, when they were working together and on the same page about the bigger things, even if they do have some differences of opinion as humans will—like how much to trust an orphan Phalue befriends.

In general, the main characters are people trying their best despite bad circumstances. Jovis—being, well, Jovis—got himself into yet another sticky situation by spying for the rebels as Lin’s new Captain of the Guard, and he finds himself more and more torn by this position. He didn’t need to remove the Emperor since Lin already took care of that, and Lin is actively making changes for the better: there’s no longer any need for him to save children from the Tithing Festivals. The more he gets to know Lin, the more he wants to trust her, and Lin finds herself in the same position. It’s hard for either of them to be open with anyone since they each have secrets that make them vulnerable, but they also share a secret that slowly brings them together: their bond with their animal companions that gives them powers. I loved both of their overlapping stories, reading what they thought of each other, and the potential for romance. (And even though Mephi is bigger now, Jovis’s animal companion is still the cutest. He has no boundaries, is always after food, and doesn’t yet realize that he can’t just take whatever he wants.)

The one exception to “main characters doing their best” is Nisong, the leader of the construct army, who has her own chapters but not as many as the others. As with Ranami and Phalue, I found her chapters more compelling in this book than the first, largely because of the parallels between her and Lin. Both were created as replicas of the Emperor’s late wife, and they’re both determined people who refuse to give up. Yet Lin tends to lead with her compassion, and Nisong puts her goals before those she loves in her quest to install herself as the new Emperor. It’s interesting to consider the experiences and choices that set these two apart and ultimately make them who they are.

As much as I appreciated how The Bone Shard Emperor deepened the world and characters, it doesn’t have quite as much depth as I would have liked. There’s certainly some complexity since it acknowledges that multiple things can be true at once, like how someone can be a good father but a bad governor or how someone can like Lin as a person but want to abolish the position of Emperor. But it also tends to keep the focus on a couple of main things without fully delving into the complications of various individuals or the social structure. This is not a bad thing since it’s largely why this novel is accessible and absorbing; it’s just why this wasn’t a 5-star book for me personally even though I very much enjoyed it and have an overall high opinion of it.

In any case, The Bone Shard Emperor does what the second book in a trilogy should do: it expands on the world and characters, answers some questions but leaves room for more speculation while waiting for the conclusion, and provides a fantastic reading experience. It absolutely succeeded in making me want to find out what happened next, and I dove right into the final book in the series right after my reread.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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

Read an Excerpt from The Bone Shard Emperor

Read “Happily Ever Aftermath” by Andrea Stewart

Reviews of Previous Book(s) in The Drowning Empire Trilogy:

  1. The Bone Shard Daughter

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

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of, and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

An intriguing book came in the mail last week, plus I went to the bookstore and bought a book yesterday. A couple of books I’m excited for showed up in the mail yesterday, too, but I actually just highlighted those in my latest post:

  • The Essential Peter S. Beagle Excerpts & Giveaway This has some information on the two volumes in The Essential Peter S. Beagle, including one story excerpt from each volume. I’m also giving away two copies through May 26: a digital copy of both volumes (anyone can win) and a print ARC of Volume 2 (US only).

On to this week’s featured books!

Cover of The Battle Drum by Saara El-Arifi

The Battle Drum (The Ending Fire Trilogy #2) by Saara El-Arifi

Although I found a copy in the bookstore yesterday, this book’s official release date is May 23 in the US and May 25 in the UK (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The Penguin Random House website has a text excerpt from The Battle Drum, as well as a sample of the audio version narrated by Dominic Hoffman and Nicole Lewis.

The Final Strife, the Sunday Times bestselling first book in the series, was my 2022 Book of the Year. Here’s some of what I wrote about in that post:

Simultaneously thoughtful and fun, The Final Strife explores injustice amidst storylines about uncovering mysteries about the world, a newfound friendship with potential for romance, and a tournament that’s about a variety of types of strength, not just who can fight the best. This fantasy setting feels real and lived in due to having a rich history that’s fleshed out through the characters’ perspectives, oral stories, and epigraphs. With a prologue that drew me in immediately and wonderful worldbuilding, storytelling, protagonists, and pacing that kept me hooked, The Final Strife is easily my favorite book of 2022.

Given that, of course the next book in this epic fantasy trilogy inspired by Ghanaian folklore and Arabian myths was one of my most anticipated releases of this year.

If you want to check out the first book in this series, the publisher’s website also has a text excerpt and audio sample from The Final Strife. (And if you missed it before, Saara El-Arifi wrote “Routes to my roots” for Women in SF&F Month 2022.)


Murder. Secrets. Sacrifice: Three women seek the truth of the empire’s past. And the truth they find will have the power to ignite a war, in the sequel to The Final Strife, the continuation of a visionary fantasy trilogy inspired by the myths of Africa and Arabia.

Anoor is the first blue-blooded ruler of the Wardens’ Empire. But when she is accused of a murder she didn’t commit, her reign is thrown into turmoil. She must solve the mystery and clear her name without the support of her beloved, Sylah.

Sylah braves new lands to find a solution for the hurricane that threatens to destroy her home. But in finding answers, she must make a decision: Should she sacrifice her old life in order to raise up her sword once more?

Hassa’s web of secrets grows ever thicker as she finds herself on the trail of crimes in the city. Her search uncovers the extent of the atrocities of the empire’s past and present. Now she must guard both her heart and her land.

The three women find their answers, but not the answers they wanted. The drumbeat of change thrums throughout the world.

And it sings a song of war.

Ready we will be, when the Ending Fire comes,
When the Child of Fire brings the Battle Drum,
The Battle Drum,
The Battle Drum.
Ready we will be, for war will come.

Cover of Godkiller by Hannah Kaner

Godkiller (Godkiller #1) by Hannah Kaner

This novel was released in the UK earlier this year, where it became a #1 Sunday Times bestseller. The publisher’s website has an excerpt from Godkiller, and it is coming to the US on September 12 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

Hannah Kaner discussed her novel a bit toward the end of “Don’t damsel your fury,” her Women in SF&F Month guest post:

So, writing Godkiller, I wanted to write a woman who never learned how to be small in a world that didn’t expect it of her. The challenges and limits of gender and expectation, queerness and nuclear families are still important stories to explore, but in Godkiller I threw those challenges to the wind. Kissen is everything Electra or Lady Macbeth, Clytemnestra and Scheherazade may have, in my imagination, desired. She is furious at the world and not afraid to voice it. She doesn’t need permission to be aggressive, bloody-fists forward, stubborn as a donkey and larger than life.

She is everything that I wanted to read when I was young.

Godkiller is the first book in a trilogy and Hannah Kaner’s debut novel.


“Epic and intimate, tender and sharp, Godkiller is a triumph of storytelling and the beginning of a story that I can’t wait to follow.” – Hannah Whitten, New York Times bestselling author of For the Wolf

Enter a land where all gods have been banned, and one young woman is paid to kill those who still hide in the shadows—the explosive #1 internationally bestselling fantasy debut in a new trilogy for fans of The Witcher and American Gods.

You are not welcome here, godkiller…

As a child, Kissen saw her family murdered at the whim of a fire god. Now, Kissen makes a living killing gods, and she enjoys it. That is until she discovers a god she cannot kill: Skedi, a small god of white lies, has somehow bound his life to that of a young noble girl, and they desperately need Kissen’s help.

Joined by a disillusioned knight on a secret quest, the trio must travel to the ruined city of Blenraden, where the last of the wild gods reside, to each beg a favor.

Pursued by assassins and demons, and in the midst of burgeoning civil war, they will all face a reckoning. Something is rotting at the heart of their world, and they are the only ones who can stop it.

Today I’m thrilled to have a couple of excerpts from The Essential Peter S. Beagle to share with you—plus a giveaway! Peter S. Beagle’s fiction includes The Last Unicorn, A Fine and Private Place, The Innkeeper’s Song, In Calabria, the Mythopoeic Award–winning novels Tamsin and The Folk of the Air, and the Hugo and Nebula Award–winning novelette “Two Hearts.” He has also written screenplays, including those for the 1978 animated film The Lord of the Rings, The Last Unicorn, and the Star Trek: Next Generation episode “Sarek.” His plethora of work has earned him both the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award and SFWA’s lifetime achievement award, being named a Damon Knight Grand Master.

Containing illustrations by Stephanie Law, both The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume I: Lila the Werewolf and Other Stories with an introduction by Jane Yolen and The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume II: Oakland Dragon Blues and Other Stories with an introduction by Meg Elison were released yesterday. (These are also available in one volume as signed limited editions.) Keep reading for more information and one excerpt from each volume beginning with the author’s story notes—and click below for a chance to win a digital copy of both volumes (open internationally) or a print ARC of the second volume (US only)!

Note: The giveaway link has been removed since it is now over.
Cover of The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume I Cover of The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume II
Click each cover for more information, including the Table of Contents


These essential volumes of bestselling author Peter S. Beagle’s (The Last Unicorn) short stories demonstrate why he is one of America’s most influential fantasists. With his celebrated versatility, humor, and grace, Beagle is at home in a dazzling variety of subgenres, evoking comparison to such iconic authors as Twain, Tolkien, Carroll, L’Engle, and Vonnegut. From heartbreaking to humorous, these carefully curated stories by Peter S. Beagle show the depth and power of his incomparable prose and storytelling. Featuring original introductions from Jane Yolen (The Devil’s Arithmetic) and Meg Elison (Find Layla), and gorgeous illustrations from Stephanie Law (Shadowscapes), these elegant collections are a must-have for any fan of classic fantasy.

Story note from Peter S. Beagle

“Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros” is still one of my favorites of my own stories. René Auberjonois, a splendid actor and a good friend, always wanted to play Professor Gottesman, if it ever became a movie. When I mentioned that the Professor is Swiss-born, René responded immediately, “Well, I’m Swiss!” I borrowed the character’s name from a dentist who had his office in the Bronx building where I grew up. A very nice, funny man who didn’t believe in Novocain. Scarified my entire childhood, he did. . . .

Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros

Professor Gustave Gottesman went to a zoo for the first time when he was thirty-four years old. There is an excellent zoo in Zurich, which was Professor Gottesman’s birthplace, and where his sister still lived, but Professor Gottesman had never been there. From an early age he had determined on the study of philosophy as his life’s work; and for any true philosopher this world is zoo enough, complete with cages, feeding times, breeding programs, and earnest docents, of which he was wise enough to know that he was one. Thus, the first zoo he ever saw was the one in the middle-sized Midwestern American city where he worked at a middle-sized university, teaching Comparative Philosophy in comparative contentment. He was tall and rather thin, with a round, undistinguished face, a snub nose, a random assortment of sandy-ish hair, and a pair of very intense and very distinguished brown eyes that always seemed to be looking a little deeper than they meant to, embarrassing the face around them no end. His students and colleagues were quite fond of him, in an indulgent sort of way.

And how did the good Professor Gottesman happen at last to visit a zoo? It came about in this way: his older sister Edith came from Zurich to stay with him for several weeks, and she brought her daughter, his niece Nathalie, along with her. Nathalie was seven, both in years and in the number of her there sometimes seemed to be, for the Professor had never been used to children even when he was one. She was a generally pleasant little girl, though, as far as he could tell; so when his sister besought him to spend one of his free afternoons with Nathalie while she went to lunch and a gallery opening with an old friend, the Professor graciously consented. And Nathalie wanted very much to go to the zoo and see tigers.

“So you shall,” her uncle announced gallantly. “Just as soon as I find out exactly where the zoo is.” He consulted with his best friend, a fat, cheerful, harmonica-playing professor of medieval Italian poetry named Sally Lowry, who had known him long and well enough (she was the only person in the world who called him Gus) to draw an elaborate two-colored map of the route, write out very precise directions beneath it, and make several copies of this document, in case of accidents. Thus equipped, and accompanied by Charles, Nathalie’s stuffed bedtime tiger, whom she desired to introduce to his grand cousins, they set off together for the zoo on a gray, cool spring afternoon. Professor Gottesman quoted Thomas Hardy to Nathalie, improvising a German translation for her benefit as he went along:

This is the weather the cuckoo likes,
And so do I;
When showers betumble the chestnut spikes,
And nestlings fly.

“Charles likes it too,” Nathalie said. “It makes his fur feel all sweet.”

They reached the zoo without incident, thanks to Professor Lowry’s excellent map, and Professor Gottesman bought Nathalie a bag of something sticky, unhealthy, and forbidden, and took her straight off to see the tigers. Their hot, meaty smell and their lightning-colored eyes were a bit too much for him, and so he sat on a bench nearby and watched Nathalie perform the introductions for Charles. When she came back to Professor Gottesman, she told him that Charles had been very well-behaved, as had all the tigers but one, who was rudely indifferent. “He was probably just visiting,” she said. “A tourist or something.”

The Professor was still marveling at the amount of contempt one small girl could infuse into the word tourist, when he heard a voice, sounding almost at his shoulder, say, “Why, Professor Gottesman—how nice to see you at last.” It was a low voice, a bit hoarse, with excellent diction, speaking good Zurich German with a very slight, unplaceable accent.

Professor Gottesman turned quickly, half-expecting to see some old acquaintance from home, whose name he would inevitably have forgotten. Such embarrassments were altogether too common in his gently preoccupied life. His friend Sally Lowry once observed, “We see each other just about every day, Gus, and I’m still not sure you really recognize me. If I wanted to hide from you, I’d just change my hairstyle.”

There was no one at all behind him. The only thing he saw was the rutted, muddy rhinoceros yard, for some reason placed directly across from the big cats’ cages. The one rhinoceros in residence was standing by the fence, torpidly mumbling a mouthful of moldy-looking hay. It was an Indian rhinoceros, according to the placard on the gate, as big as the Professor’s compact car, and the approximate color of old cement. The creaking slabs of its skin smelled of stale urine, and it had only one horn, caked with sticky mud. Flies buzzed around its small, heavy-lidded eyes, which regarded Professor Gottesman with immense, ancient unconcern. But there was no other person in the vicinity who might have addressed him.

Professor Gottesman shook his head, scratched it, shook it again, and turned back to the tigers. But the voice came again. “Professor, it was indeed I who spoke. Come and talk to me, if you please.”

No need, surely, to go into Professor Gottesman’s reaction: to describe in detail how he gasped, turned pale, and looked wildly around for any corroborative witness. It is worth mentioning, however, that at no time did he bother to splutter the requisite splutter in such cases: “My God, I’m either dreaming, drunk, or crazy.” If he was indeed just as classically absent-minded and impractical as everyone who knew him agreed, he was also more of a realist than many of them. This is generally true of philosophers, who tend, as a group, to be on terms of mutual respect with the impossible. Therefore, Professor Gottesman did the only proper thing under the circumstances. He introduced his niece Nathalie to the rhinoceros.

Nathalie, for all her virtues, was not a philosopher, and could not hear the rhinoceros’s gracious greeting. She was, however, seven years old, and a well-brought-up seven-year-old has no difficulty with the notion that a rhinoceros—or a goldfish, or a coffee table—might be able to talk; nor in accepting that some people can hear coffee-table speech and some people cannot. She said a polite hello to the rhinoceros, and then became involved in her own conversation with stuffed Charles, who apparently had a good deal to say about tigers.

“A mannerly child,” the rhinoceros commented. “One sees so few here. Most of them throw things.”

His mouth dry, and his voice shaky but contained, Professor Gottesman asked carefully, “Tell me, if you will—can all rhinoceri speak, or only the Indian species?” He wished furiously that he had thought to bring along his notebook.

“I have no idea,” the rhinoceros answered him candidly. “I myself, as it happens, am a unicorn.”



Story note from Peter S. Beagle

My late friend Pat Derby (with whom I wrote my one as-told-to book, The Lady and Her Tiger) was forever rescuing half-starved wolves, bears, and mountain lions, kept as guardians of their compounds by drug dealers all over hidden wilderness camps in northern California, mostly to ward off, not so much the police and the FBI, as their fellow dealers. I lived in the Santa Cruz area for twenty-two years, during which time it became one of the major sources of marijuana and—far worse—crystal methedrine, which, by the time you read this, may have been officially recognized as the leading cash crop of the state. I knew Trinity County in those days less well than I knew Santa Cruz, Alpine, El Dorado, and Monterey, but the underground economy was the same, and everyone from Sacramento officialdom to boardwalk hippies knew it. This story merely takes the hidden world that Pat Derby showed me a notch further: what if drug dealers employed dragons, instead of lions. . . ?

Trinity County, CA: You’ll Want to Come Again and We’ll Be Glad to See You!

“This stuff stinks,” Connie Laminack complained. She and Gruber were dressing for work in the yard’s cramped and makeshift locker room, which, thanks to budget cuts, was also the building’s only functional toilet. To get to the dingy aluminum sink, she had to step around the urinal, then dodge under Gruber’s left arm as he forced it up into the sleeve of his bright yellow outer coverall.

“You get used to it.”

“No, I won’t. They let me use my Lancôme in school. That smells human.”

“And has an FPF rating that’s totally bogus,” Gruber said. “Anything you can buy retail is for posers and pet-shop owners. Won’t cut it out here.”

Laminack unscrewed the top from the plain white plastic jar on the shelf below the mirror, and squinted in disgust at the gray gloop inside. “I’m just saying. Gack.”

Gruber smiled. Stuck with a newbie, you could still get some fun out of it. Sometimes. “Make sure you get it every damn place you can reach. Really rub it in. State only pays quarter disability if you come home Extra Crispy.”

“Nice try, but some of us actually do read the HR paperwork we sign.”

“Oh, right,” Gruber said. “College grad.” She gave him a hard look in the mirror, but dutifully started rubbing the D-schmear on her hands and arms anyway, then rolled up her pants legs to get at her calves.

“Face, too. Especially your face, and an inch or two into the hairline. Helps with the helmet seal.”

“Just saving the worst for last.”

Gruber laughed wryly. “It’s all the worst.”

“You’d be the one to know, wouldn’t you?”

“Got that right, trainee.”

By the time they headed out to the Heap, he was throwing questions at her, as per the standard training drill, but not enjoying it the way he usually did. For one thing, she’d actually done a good job with the D-schmear, even getting it up into her nostrils, which first-timers almost never did. For another, she seemed to truly know her shit. Book shit, to be sure, not the real-world shit she was here to start learning . . . but Gruber was used to catching new kids in some tiny mistake, then pile-driving in to widen the gap, until they were panicked and stammering. Only Laminack wasn’t tripping up.

It had begun to bug him. That, and the fact that she bounced. Like he needed perky to deal with, on top of everything else.

He waved back to Manny Portola, the shift dispatcher, who always stood in the doorway to see the different county crews off. It was one of Manny’s pet superstitions, and in time it had become Gruber’s as well, though he told himself he was just keeping the old guy happy.

Laminack waved to the dispatcher as well, which irritated Gruber, even though he knew it shouldn’t. He slapped the day-log clipboard against his leg.

“Next! Name the three worst invasives in Trinity.”

“Trick question.”

“Maybe, maybe not.”

“No,” she insisted. “Definitely. You didn’t define your terms.” Her bland smile didn’t change, but Gruber thought he heard a tiny flicker of anger. Maybe he was finally getting to her. “Are we talking plants or animals here? ’Cause Yellow Star Thistle and Dalmatian Toadflax and Kamathweed are hella invasive, even if the tourists do like the pretty yellow flowers. And if we are talking animals, not plants, do you want me to stick to the Ds, or do you want me to rattle off the three worst things that have ever crawled or flown or swum in here from somewhere they shouldn’t? Which I could. And what do you mean by ‘worst,’ anyway? Because for my money, jet slugs are about as yucky as it gets, and there are a lot more of them up here now than there are China longs. So yeah, I call trick question.”

Gruber definitely wasn’t ready for two weeks of this. “Nobody likes a show-off, Laminack.”

“No, sir.”

“We’re not County Animal Control, and we’re damn well not the State Department of Food and Agriculture or the California Invasive Plant Council. So what do you think I wanted to hear when I asked that question?”

Reaching the Heap, Laminack opened the driver’s-side door for him and stepped back. She didn’t exactly stand at attention, but near enough.

“I think you wanted me to tell you that last year’s baseline survey put quetzals, China longs, and Welsh reds at the top of the list in Trinity, but winter was rough, so it’s too early to know yet what we’ll be dealing with this season. Especially with the pot growers and meth labs upping their black-market firepower.”

“Hunh.” Without meaning to, he found himself nodding. “Not bad, Laminack.”

“Call me Connie, okay? My last name sounds like a duck call.”

Great, Gruber thought. She even bounces standing still.

First scheduled stop of the day was more than thirty miles out of Weaverville, up 299 into the deep woods of Trinity National Forest, almost all the way to Burnt Ranch. Despite everything eating at him, Gruber always found the views in this corner of the county restful, an ease to the soul, and he enjoyed watching Connie begin to get clear on just how big the place was, even in this first tiny taste: 3,200 square miles by outline, same size as Vermont on the map—or all of Texas, if ever God came along and stomped the Trinity Alps out flat—and only 13,000 people to get in the way, the majority of whom lived in Weaverville and Lewiston and Hayfork. The rest were so spread out that words like “sparse” and “isolated” didn’t do the situation justice. Gruber had been on the job for sixteen years, and he knew there were people living in corners of these woods so deep he still hadn’t been there yet.

They turned off onto a tributary road that wasn’t shown on the state-supplied map, and wound uphill for five snaky miles before Gruber stopped the Heap and killed the engine.

“Welcome to your first block party. Another mile or so up, we’re going to do a little Easter egg hunt. You want to guess what kind?”

For the first time this morning, Connie hesitated. Then she caught herself and said, firmly, “Belgian wyverns. I thought maybe doublebacks, for a minute, but that would have been a couple of weeks ago at this latitude. Right?”

Gruber nodded. “Almost all the other Ds are late-summer, early-autumn layers, but wyverns and doublebacks—and Nicaraguan charlies, only we don’t have those up here, not yet, thank God—they lay their eggs in the spring, so they’ll hatch and be ready in time to eat the other Ds’ eggs. Just this side of parasites, you ask me. But some elements of the Asian community think ground-up prepubescent wyvern bones are an aphrodisiac, so there’s always some idiot in the woods willing to try and raise the little bastards. We got an anonymous tip on this place a week ago.”

“So let’s go. I’m ready.”


Peter Soyer Beagle is the internationally bestselling and much-beloved author of numerous classic fantasy novels and collections, including The Last Unicorn, Tamsin, The Line Between, Sleight of Hand, Summerlong, In Calabria, and The Overneath. He is the editor of The Secret History of Fantasy and the co-editor of The Urban Fantasy Anthology. Beagle published his first novel, A Fine and Private Place, at nineteen, while still completing his degree in creative writing. Beagle’s follow-up, The Last Unicorn, is widely considered one of the great works of fantasy. He has written widely for both stage and screen, including the screenplay adaptations for The Last Unicorn, the animated film of The Lord of the Rings, and the well-known “Sarek” episode of Star Trek. As one of the fantasy genre’s most-lauded authors, Beagle has received the Hugo, Nebula, Mythopoeic, and Locus Awards as well as the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire. He has also been honored with the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award and the Comic-Con International Inkpot Award. In 2017, he was named 34th Damon Knight Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association for his contributions to fantasy and science fiction. Beagle lives in Richmond, California.

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

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of, and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

It has been some time since the last one of these posts since last month was the twelfth annual Women in SF&F Month! If you missed it, April was dedicated to highlighting some of the many women doing fantastic work in speculative fiction genres and featured a series of guest posts. This included discussions related to women in science fiction and/or fantasy and more general discussions about the genre(s) and what makes them special, as well as sharing about experiences and influences, writing, and creating stories, characters, and/or worlds. All of the 2023 guest posts can be found here.

My birthday is also in April, which means I received some books as gifts. I might cover those next weekend, but due to time constraints, I am just highlighting ARCs and finished copies that came in the mail since last time today. Here are some upcoming releases I’m very excited about!

Cover of To Shape a Dragon's Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose

To Shape a Dragon’s Breath (The First Book of Nampeshiweisit) by Moniquill Blackgoose

This novel—one of my most anticipated books of this year—will be released on May 9 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

Moniquill Blackgoose wrote a guest post for this year’s Women in SF&F Month about representation’s impact on creativity and wanting to provide better indigenous representation than what she encountered as a young reader and writer:

Let me tell you a story about media representation and how it informs creativity.

I was born into a nerdy family. I attended renfaires while still in diapers, and got The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia as bedtime stories. I read Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet, and Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series, and Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown. I adored The Last Unicorn and The Neverending Story and Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal and Willow.

There were no indigenous people in these fantasy worlds, though.

If you want to read a sample from her book, the Penguin Random House website has an excerpt from To Shape a Dragon’s Breath.


A young Indigenous woman enters a colonizer-run dragon academy—and quickly finds herself at odds with the “approved” way of doing things—in the first book of this brilliant new fantasy series.

The remote island of Masquapaug has not seen a dragon in many generations—until fifteen-year-old Anequs finds a dragon’s egg and bonds with its hatchling. Her people are delighted, for all remember the tales of the days when dragons lived among them and danced away the storms of autumn, enabling the people to thrive. To them, Anequs is revered as Nampeshiweisit—a person in a unique relationship with a dragon.

Unfortunately for Anequs, the Anglish conquerors of her land have different opinions. They have a very specific idea of how a dragon should be raised, and who should be doing the raising—and Anequs does not meet any of their requirements. Only with great reluctance do they allow Anequs to enroll in a proper Anglish dragon school on the mainland. If she cannot succeed there, her dragon will be killed.

For a girl with no formal schooling, a non-Anglish upbringing, and a very different understanding of the history of her land, challenges abound—both socially and academically. But Anequs is smart, determined, and resolved to learn what she needs to help her dragon, even if it means teaching herself. The one thing she refuses to do, however, is become the meek Anglish miss that everyone expects.

Anequs and her dragon may be coming of age, but they’re also coming to power, and that brings an important realization: the world needs changing—and they might just be the ones to do it.

Cover of Cassiel's Servant by Jacqueline Carey

Cassiel’s Servant (Kushiel’s Legacy) by Jacqueline Carey

This novel, which tells the story of Kushiel’s Dart from Joscelin’s perspective, will be released on August 1 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

Joscelin’s characterization and relationship with Phèdre were some of my favorite parts of Kushiel’s Dart, so I’m excited to get his side of the story—especially after reading a blog post Jacqueline Carey wrote after turning in the draft. One part in particular that stood out to me was as follows:

Joscelin is a laconic character. That doesn’t change. But he’s also a complex and conflicted character. What he chooses to reveal is just the tip of the iceberg—he’s the embodiment of the phrase ‘actions speak louder than words.’ You’re going to see a lot more of what lies under the surface of those deep waters.

While waiting for its release in August, you can read an excerpt from Cassiel’s Servant on the Tor/Forge Blog.


The lush epic fantasy that inspired a generation with a single precept: “Love As Thou Wilt.”

Returning to the realm of Terre d’Ange which captured an entire generation of fantasy readers, New York Times bestselling author Jacqueline Carey brings us a hero’s journey for a new era.

In Kushiel’s Dart, a daring young courtesan uncovered a plot to destroy her beloved homeland. But hers is only half the tale. Now see the other half of the heart that lived it.

Cassiel’s Servant is a retelling of cult favorite Kushiel’s Dart from the point of view of Joscelin, Cassiline warrior-priest and protector of Phèdre nó Delaunay. He’s sworn to celibacy and the blade as surely as she’s pledged to pleasure, but the gods they serve have bound them together. When both are betrayed, they must rely on each other to survive.

From his earliest training to captivity amongst their enemies, his journey with Phèdre to avert the conquest of Terre D’Ange shatters body and mind… and brings him an impossible love that he will do anything to keep.

Even if it means breaking all vows and losing his soul.

Cover of The Blue, Beautiful World by Karen Lord

The Blue, Beautiful World by Karen Lord

This science fiction novel by Mythopoeic Fantasy Award–winning author Karen Lord is coming out on August 29 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

This is set in the same universe as the two previous Cygnus Beta novels, The Best of All Possible Worlds and The Galaxy Game. These are both getting new editions including some related short stories, and they are scheduled for release this summer.

I’m excited about The Blue, Beautiful World because of its connection to The Best of All Possible Worlds, winner of the Frank Collymore Literary Award and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Science Fiction. As mentioned in my review, I found it to be thoughtful, entertaining, and surprisingly optimistic given that it follows the aftermath of the destruction of a planet and most of its people—made possible by largely focusing on moving forward and bringing people together.

(If you’re wondering what I mean about The Blue, Beautiful World being connected to The Best of All Possible Worlds, Martha Wells discussed this book a little for Women in SF&F Month in “Deconstructing Epics” and mentioned it includes some familiar characters.)


As first contact transforms Earth, a team of gifted visionaries race to create a new future in this wondrous science fiction novel from the award-winning author of The Best of All Possible Worlds.

The world is changing, and humanity must change with it. Rising seas and soaring temperatures have radically transformed the face of Earth. Meanwhile, Earth is being observed from afar by other civilizations . . . and now they are ready to make contact.

Vying to prepare humanity for first contact are a group of dreamers and changemakers, including Peter Hendrix, the genius inventor behind the most advanced VR tech; Charyssa, a beloved celebrity icon with a passion for humanitarian work; and Kanoa, a member of a global council of young people drafted to reimagine the relationship between humankind and alien societies.

And they may have an unexpected secret weapon: Owen, a pop megastar whose ability to connect with his adoring fans is more than charisma. His hidden talent could be the key to uniting Earth as it looks toward the stars.

But Owen’s abilities are so unique that no one can control him and so seductive that he cannot help but use them. Can he transcend his human limitations and find the freedom he has always dreamed of? Or is he doomed to become the dictator of his nightmares?