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user Stupid cockwomble
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Started reading The Magicians because I was watching the SYFY show.

Looks like to make the show they took the book and stuffed it into a salad shooter.
Neither is particularly bad. Think I like the books better.
<sigh> My penalty for being an early adopter, I guess. My second book in as many months for which I already have and read in dead-tree form.

The March 2019 Tor.com's free ebook of the month is Walkaway by Cory Doctorow. I wrote an enthusiastic review which you can read here. The usual restrictions and limitations apply. Available for downloading until 11:59 EDT on April 19th.
Time for the May edition of the Tor Books free (for the cost of signing up for their newsletter) e-book: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz. The usual restrictions and limitations apply. Available for download until 11:59 pm EDT on Friday, May 17th.
https://www.goodreads.com/series/42152-alex-benedict

I like this series. It's set thousands of years in the future and is ilke Agatha Christie wrote the screenplay for National Treasure.
An out-of-schedule free e-book offer from Tor Books, and one which does not require signing up for their newsletter: "Download Tor.com Publishing’s 2019 Debut Sampler for Free!"

This is a collection of sampler chapters from recent books by new authors. It is available through links at the above link via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books and Indie Bound (though I just tried each of them: the Barnes & Noble and Indie Bound links are not yet working). There appears to be no time limit on this deal (yet).

Personally I am not inclined to pick up any such samplers mostly because all too often I have read either chapters or short stories by some authors that I simply didn't like for whatever reasons, but I post this here for anyone who is so inclined to give this a try.
Two-fer bundles of LGBTQ+ e-books for June, one from Tor Books and another from StoryBundle:

The Tor Books collection is In Our Own Worlds, a set of novellas by four authors, specifically:

The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion by Margaret Killjoy
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

The usual restrictions and limitations apply: available for download in epub (Apple) and mobi (Kindle) formats only in the US and Canada; free to people who have or will sign up for the Tor Books monthly newsletter; must be downloaded by 11:59 EDT on June 7th; may be withdrawn at any time.

-----

The "LGBT+ Fantasy Bundle" was assembled by Melissa Scott for StoryBundle. As usual this is a two-tiered offer: for a minimum of $5 you can get a base set of 4 specific books on this theme, but for a minimum offer of $15 you can get a total of 9 books (oddly the linked page has different numbers of books at two places, but I believe my numbers are correct). At the link you can click on a book cover to get a note about the book by Melissa Scott, some reviews and an excerpt from the text. Available in epub (Apple) and mobi (Kindle) formats.

This offer can be downloaded after purchase through 12:59 am EDT on June 28th.
A SECOND free e-book from Tor Books for June: The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson. This is the first book in a to-be-series because the second book in the series, The Survival of Molly Southbourne, is set to be released on July 9th.

The usual restrictions and limitations apply. Downloads must be completed by 11:59 EDT on June 28th though this offer may be withdrawn at any time.

I have not read anything by Tade Thompson mostly because he is a relatively new writer than anything else.
Time for July's Tor Books free e-book: The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley. Unlike most other offers this is NOT the first book in a series, to-be or otherwise. The usual restrictions and limitations apply, with this book available for download which must be completed by 11:59 pm EDT on July 19th.

As far as I can recall I have not read anything by Staveley.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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I'm trying to find the time to read Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan.
The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross (2018).

This is the latest and ninth book in Stross' series "The Laundry Files". As such, I cannot recommend reading this novel by itself as it is highly dependent upon details from the previous novels in the series.

Wow. Just wow.

Mind you: this is the novel which Stross had started but then Brexit happened which caused him to toss out much of what he had written, AND THEN he did that again when Trump was elected president in 2016. Presumably because the earlier forms of "The Labyrinth Index" weren't weird enough compared to how the world now stood.

Well, with the current text Stross has achieved THAT. I do wonder if at sometime in the future Stross might release the those previous incantations just so that his readers might see how Brexit and Trump had caused him to drastically revise the novel.

The primary narrator of this somewhat Lovecraft-based novel is Mhari Murphy who had appeared in previous novels (the original series narrator, Bob Howard, makes only a short appearance). It is difficult to fully explain what Mhari is without having replicate the whole series, so let me summarize by explaining that Mhari had contracted (through mathematics) PHANG syndrome, i.e., she is a vampire, although it should be noted that Stross' vampires in the The Laundry Files differ from the usual depictions. Just a small example of the differences: vampires here cannot see only him-/herself in the mirror thus making this a mental aberration rather than any sort of violation of physical laws. Thus there is a scene where Mhari complains to the reader how this limitation means that she MUST use her smartphone in video mode in order to apply her make-up.

Mhari assignment from the British Prime Minister: rescue the president of the United States. There are complications, not the least of which is what fate Mhari will have by rescuing him, she being only a tiny piece through which the fate of the wide multiverse hangs NOT in balance.

Highly recommended though with that caution that a reader should read the rest of The Laundry series before starting this novel.
It is past time for Tor Books' month free e-book: The Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick.

Sorry, but I had neglected to check my GMail account for a few days which is the reason why the time remaining for this book's availability is so short.

The usual restrictions and limitations apply. The download must be completed by 11:59 pm EDT on August 16th. As far as I can tell this is NOT any book in a continuing series (although it CAN be the first one).

As far as I can recall I have not read anything by Palwick.
maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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I finally got around to reading "The Murders of Molly Southbourne", and I was pleasantly surprised. It is a short, fast, read, but very well done IMO. I will cop to figuring out the ending by the middle of the second chapter, but it definitely didn't take anything away from the book. There were plenty of surprises left to go. I was also particularly pleased by the fact that the book mixes what feels, at times, like supernatural and sci-fi themes so seamlessly.

I hope the author continues to write this well. I would like to read more like this. :up:
TOS
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fall and rise: the story of 9/11

a very detailed retelling of the events of that day, focusing on the human stories -- he doesn't just give someone's name and describe what happened to them, he tells you about who they were and what their lives were like before the attack

needless to say, it's a fairly intense read

(i'm only halfway through ... the south tower just collapsed)
The Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick (2007).

TL;DR: a pleasant read, although perhaps not recommended for anyone who is troubled by our current times.

"Beggar" is superficially about parallel universes where there are humans in both. It begins in Lémabantunk, the "Glorious City" where life in general seems to be roughly parallel to a Mid-Eastern city at the height of the Moslem expansion but without (much of?) the poverty that must have existed there and then. Zamatryna is a 7-year-old girl in a family whose business is the selling of handmade carpets, but then her uncle Darroti is accused of murdering a highborn woman who had been serving her year as a mendicant. He offers no defense to the accusation, so his FAMILY is to be sent through a "blue door" which is a standard punishment for such an egregious crime. There is no explanation of how or why these blue doors exist. The only guarantee that anyone making such a transit has is that the world on the other side of the blue door is hospitable to life AND that there is no return.

Zamatryna's family goes through their blue door...to a version of America which is close to but not quite our world. There America has suffered a recent traumatic incident similar to our 9/11, but that event is so commonly known that no one ever discusses it. Zamatryna and family find themselves in the common detention yard of refugee camp stuck out in the Nevada desert somewhat close to Reno, so somewhat fortunate for them there are many families there who do not speak any English. They are processed being entered into the camp, but lacking any papers and even any comprehensible language it is assumed by the camp's staff that Zamatryna's family had been picked up by their version of ICE but their paperwork had gotten lost in the administrative shuffle, and that the camp simply did not have anyone who spoke their obscure language assumed to be from some remote corner of Afghanistan. It is up to Zamatryna and her cousins (she is the eldest of the four) to more quickly pick up English and serve as translators for the family.

Thereafter follows the story of how the family is treated in the camp, how they escape (with the aid of a camp volunteer) to the outside world of Reno, and their PARTIAL integration into American society and culture.
Finally got around to reading The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu. It's definitely a headthink, with the concept of a future alien invasion written from a perspective I haven't really seen before.
Time for Tor Books' free e-book for September. This time it is New Spring by Robert Jordan. This is a prequel to Jordan's 15-book "Wheel of Time" series. "New Spring" was originally published in 2004, almost a decade-and-a-half after "The Eye of the World"--the first book of "Wheel of Time"--was originally published in 1990. In terms of publication date "New Spring" falls in between Crossroads of Twilight (book 10 of the series published in 2003) and Knife of Dreams (book 11 published in 2005).

Tor Books also used the free e-book announcement to note that Robert Jordan will be publishing through them "Warrior of the Altaii"--a NEW book (I think) NOT part of "Wheel of Time"--to be released on October 8th.

As it happens I am in the middle of reading "The Eye of the World" so I may not be able to say how in(ter)dependent "New Spring" will be from reading the other books in the series. I had picked up "Eye" because it had been a previous free Tor Books e-book. I am tempted to start into "New Spring" as soon as I finish "Eye".

The usual limitations and restrictions apply. Downloading this book must be completed before 11:59 pm EDT on September 19th.
I did check around into "New Spring" but there is NO forward or preface suggesting when it would be appropriate for a reader to read this book since it is a prequel to the entire "Wheel of Time" series.

Given the above, presumably one could actually begin reading with "New Spring" (called "Book 0" for "Wheel of Time" in some lists for that series).
maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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I decided to catch up on some of the previous books that I've downloaded from Tor, but never got around to actually reading. Over the last couple of days, I have read the first two novellas in the short anthology "In Their Worlds" (where the conceit is that every story is queer in some way). I have found the stories so far to be mildly frustrating in an almost standard way. The authors let the spirit of "southern baptist preacher" get riled up, and the lose some of the subtlety that is displayed elsewhere. It's not quite Ayn Rand levels of repeating the same crap over, and over, and over, and over, and over (ad nauseum), but it does feel like the political hammer gets dropped repeatedly and not terribly gracefully.

The first book, "The Lamb will Slaughter the Lion", is actually a great read. If you read between the lines, you get the feeling the author was once a proponent of anarchy, but has refined (or even changed) their thinking on the subject. The book seems like an apologia for anarchism until you realize that the only thing holding things together is, literally, a deus ex machina that acts as the backstop for human nature. I actually really liked this book, even if I winced at a few of the early lines - especially when, later on, the author very deftly, and very subtly, reveals things about the characters in such a way as to almost create a plot twist. It was still a great read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the previous comments.

The second book, "Passing Strange", has a similar problem. The author does a superb job of setting the tone and helping you visualize San Francisco. The same care is given to the characters, and by the end of the book, I had a feeling for their individual personalities and quirks. I was emotionally attached to the troubled couple, and to my surprise, what I assumed would happen wasn't even close. It was, IMO, a brilliant ending. However, once again, the author can't seem to stop from bringing in a very heavy political sledge hammer. I don't have an issue with the fact that San Francisco's vice laws from the 1920's was a thing, but the way the author brought it up felt almost out of place - as if the characters had to stop what they were doing to break the fourth wall and explain these things. It was especially galling because, in the background, the author makes the emotional hit anyway, in the side story of a character named Jack. The injustice visited to her very nicely did what all the (IMO) unnecessary exposition was intended to do, except it kept it in-story. That said, I enjoyed the second book as well. Ignoring the heavy political overtones, it was a well done romance with a great twist ending. I also like the low-key supernatural element in the book. While I did feel like there was a bit of a jump where this was concerned, the thread was ever-present and made the final conclusion less jarring than it might have otherwise.
I just checked the Tor Books link and they changed the date that limits when "New Spring" can be downloaded, but hurry: downloads must be completed by 11:59 pm EDT today, September 20th.
arkayn Aaarrrggghhhh
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As I already have that book, it does not do anything for me this month.
The Eye of the World (1990) and New Spring (2004) by Robert Jordan.

TL;DR: worth your time as the START of an interesting fantasy book series (15 books in all). It should be noted that "Eye" is book 1 for "The Wheel of Time" series while "Spring" is considered "book 0" (zero) for that series. While one COULD start with Spring, I think it would be better for a new reader to start with Eye and then add Spring at any time after that including immediately following Eye which is what I did. I do suggest that reading the glossary at the end of "Eye" FIRST would be helpful to any new reader to Jordan's Wheel.

Sorry but this will be a longer than usual review more because these are complex books.

The Wheel of Time series is set in a bucolic but troubled world, one with a limited degree of magic. Technologically this would be roughly equivalent to Middle Ages Europe and sharing in many aspects including how the people are still recovering from the fall of the last great kingdom/empire which once spanned the entire map of the world as shown here:

Image

(at the link there are other versions of this map). To get a sense of scale: the distance between Tar Valon and Tear (the city, not the land) is about "500 leagues" or roughly 2000 miles. There are a few tales told throughout both books about lands to the east far beyond the Spine of the World and to the west across the Aryth Ocean (both the same? Unclear) with a bit of commerce coming from those places via the rare ships that have ventured in either direction.

But there is an immediate danger: to the north is a mostly unsettled--by humans--land which is under the control of the trollocs--a collection of various inhuman tribes--and other fiendish creatures all of whom make attacks into those northern kingdoms. The lands to the east belong to the Aiel, a mostly disorganied set of tribes which occasionally attack across the Spine of the World. New Spring begins at the end of a very serious incursion by the Aiel which had overrun the capital city of Cairhien and moved towards Tar Valon.

But the BIGGER danger is the threat imposed by the Wheel of Time. There has been an ongoing cycle of rises and falls in mankind's fate where that last great kingdom had arisen over a milliennium ago only to be overcome/corrupted by the human representatives of Shai'tan, the great evil one. It has taken nearly that entire intervening time for humanity to recover and re-organize NEW kingdoms in the place of that last one which had fallen.

"The Eye of the World" begins in the tiny farming village of Emond's Field, which is in the Kingdom of Andor but being so remote from the capital of Caemlyn the Emond's Fielders think of themselves as practically independent. The primary characters are:

Rand al'Thor, the son of a farmer whose house is some distance outside of the village.

Perrin Aybara, the son and apprentice to the village blacksmith.

Matrim "Mat" Cauthon, the son of another farmer and among these boys the practical joker.

Egwene, who many consider to be Rand's sweetheart by the way they awkwardly act around each other.

Nynaeve al’Meara, the village Wisdom who usually gets apprenticed to the previous Wisdom because she had proven to have some skill and magical power at healing. While Nynaeve is considered to be a bit young to take on the full responsibilities of a Wisdom, nonetheless she is the head of the Women's Circle and is thus the equivalent to the village mayor.

All of these characters are of an age of about 16 with Nynaeve being just a bit older.

Emond's Field is about to celebrate Bel Tine (Beltane or May 1st or May Day in our world, about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice), but it had been a bad winter and so far an awful spring with snow persisting for much longer than usual especially for a location as far south as Emond's Field. Still, it is time for a celebration and all the spring rituals that entails.

Added to this comes Moiraine with her Warder, Lan. The rumor is that Moiraine is an Aes Sedai, one of the group of women who is based in and controls Tar Valon, and in general Aes Sedai are held in various degrees of awe and fear because they have magical powers (to some ALL magical powers are by definition evil). As her Warder, Lan is rumored to share some magical bond with Moiraine in which they are always aware of where the other is among other aspects. It had been a long time since the last Aes Sedai had come into the village. Moiraine specifically befriends each of the boys, giving each of them a large silver piece pressed with an image that none of them recognize (a symbol for Tar Valon). A short blonde, Moiraine is estimated to be in her mid-30s and considered to be very beautiful by all. She carries herself in a detached manner that is also a legendary characteristic of all Aes Sedai. In one description Lan is described by Rand as a tamed wolf--under control but still very dangerous.

Also all three of the boys are troubled by their recent sightings of a distant cloaked rider, all in black. Most often each of them will spot the rider for only an instance when something will cause them to be distracted like Rand stumbling on a rock while he is accompanying his father on the road to Emond's Fields, and then when he looks again over his shoulder to where the rider was, he seems to have vanished completely without having ridden the considerable distance to the nearest trees. Each of the boys are told that they are imagining their rider or at least their sinister assumptions about this rider, but they find some confirmation when they tell each other what they each had seen.

The boys' fears come true the night before Bel Tine when Emond's Field is attacked by a band of trollocs under the control of Fades--beings that are eyeless humans but can see very well in the dark. Neither of such had been seen locally since the Trolloc Wars about two centuries ago. The boys' dark riders were some of those Fades.

After Moiraine fully reveals herself with spectacular Aes Sedai magic and Lan proves himself to be that wolf that he is by leading the defense of the village, Moiraine convinces the boys that THEY are the targets of the Dark One (Shai'tan), and by leaving Emond's Field they can draw the trollocs and Fades away. In part they are also convinced by the recent nightmares they had been having and--it turns out--more sinisterly SHARING. The girls had listened to this explanation, and saying that the boys "shouldn't be off their mothers' apron strings" they both tell Moiraine and Lan that they are coming with them.

Thus begins their long journey towards Tar Valon with many detours, meetings with allies and friends new and old, encounters with enemies of many kinds, and separations from each other into smaller groups and reunions.

-----

"New Spring" begins 16 years earlier (not coincidentally) and tells the tale of how Moiraine and Lan first met, and how Lan became Moiraine's Warder.

Moiraine Damodred is a daughter of the King of Cairhein with 2 uncles in her way in the line of succession, but she is not concerned with that because she is an Accepted within the Aes Sedai of Tar Valon. This is a rank just barely above Novice and still far below becoming a Sister of Aes Sedai. Being relatively close to Tar Valon she got tested early and was discovered to be a good prospect of becoming a powerful Aes Sedai (among the Sisters there is a wide range of power and competence). As a going-away present she received a ball in her honor before going off to Tar Valon.

Moiraine is far different from her best friend at Tar Valon and also an Accepted, Siuan Sanche. Siuan comes from the Sea Folk of Tear and only by chance was tested early for any powers, being sent away immediately to Tar Valon by her relatives who are frightened of any magic. She arrived at Tar Valon within days of Moiraine's arrival.

Both Siuan and Moiraine rose quickly together through the ranks of Novice--some women will be still be stuck in their 20s as Novices--and Accepted such that they are serving as the personal servants to the Amyrlin--the leader of the Aes Sedai--within her private chambers when Gitara, the Keeper of the Chronicles for Aes Sedai and who is known for having the very rare gift of Foretelling and also is working there, is struck by a terrible and frightening prophecy:
Quote:
He is born again!...I feel him! The Dragon takes his first breath on the slope of Dragonmount! He is coming! He is coming! Light help us! Light help the world! He lies in the snow and cries like the thunder! He burns like the sun!

at which point Gitara falls into Moiraine's arms. Tamra, the Amyrlin, rushes over to administer Healing but to no avail.

Realizing the danger held within that Foretelling, Tamra demands silence from both Siuan and Moiraine: they are not to tell anyone else of Gitara having a Foretelling before her death. They are to even LIE to any Sister if they must. It is considered a great sin to lie to another member of the Aes Sedai, but such demands from the Amyrlin are commandments that allow no leeway...

...but both being mischievous young women, they figure that they CAN speak to each other about the Foretelling since they can speak to no one ELSE about it.

Perhaps I should explain some aspects of that prophecy:

Dragonmount is a large dormant volcano to the immediate west of Tar Valon.

The Dragon is the name given to the man who will lead the forces of good against the forces of evil by being gifted with the magic that the Aes Sedai have, but the Wheel of Time also foretells that the Dragon eventually will go mad with that power and cause the doom of that victory of good over evil.

There are naturally some boys who are gifted with SOME Aes Sedai powers, but usually they are weak and--when discovered early enough--such a boy can be taken to Tar Valon to have his powers curtailed which can drastically alter him. On occasion one will escape detection and--if extremely lucky or somehow gaining the attention of a Wisdom who deigns to train him--will NOT go mad from that power. Through demonstrations of that power he will be proclaimed the New Dragon by some and go on to gather followers, though eventually the Amyrlin will send a contingent of Aes Sedai to control the now-declared False Dragon to be taken to Tar Valon for frankly disposal.

But when the True Dragon comes, he will require no training from anyone, nor will he be controllable by any number of Aes Sedai.

Meanwhile...

There is a war with the Aiel going on close to Tar Valon. Lan Mandragoran is leading a contingent of troops from the northern kingdoms against the Aiel when a rumor starts to flood the Alliance of Kingdoms encampment: the Aiel are withdrawing. All are cautious but it appears to be true. Eventually only the troops of the eastern kingdoms remain to chase the Aiel back to their Wastes while the those from the other lands return to their kingdoms. Having no particular place to go to Lan decides to head north towards the Kingdom of Kandor.

More properly he can be addressed as al'Lan or King Lan, but he himself denies that title when he given it by others because his land of Malkier simply no longer exists (on the map it is that region noted as "The Blasted Lands"). While Lan was still a swaddled babe, he was escorted by a contingent of 20 fighters southward to Fal'Dara while his father and others failed to defend Malkier from the trollocs. While he dreams of re-taking Malkier, he realizes that now the Blight which covers it is too strong despite whatever enthusiasm he can find among the people in those northern kingdoms.

Back in Tar Valon...

The Amyrlin decides to act upon that Foretelling by having the Accepted go out with soldiers to protect them to survey the encampments surrounding Tar Valon to locate all the women who had given birth to a child within sight of Dragonmount from the time the defense of Tar Valon started to its end. In thanksgiving for the safety of Tar Valon they are to be granted a very handsome bounty of 100 gold crowns each. This is highly unusual because normally the Novices and Accepted are forbidden to exit the Tower of Aes Sedai much less go out of the city of Tar Valon, but the Amyrlin must act quickly before more of the troops and their camp followers abandon their encampments and she cannot recall enough Sisters quickly enough to do this.

At first Moiraine and Siuan are excited by the prospect of being able to ride out of the Tower grounds AND out of the city, but this quickly dulls into the drudgery of writing down names and the circumstance of the birth of their child and having to listen to women who have children who are obviously much too old to have been born within the allotted time (less than a year). Also their time to be tested to become one of the Sisters of Aes Sedai is coming soon, so instead they are given the chore of copying some of the more sloppy penmanship of some Accepted. This enables them to read ALL the lists coming in and to collect a list of the more likely candidates since they know the exact time of Gitara's Foretelling, and because Moiraine has a plan, one that is contingent upon their becoming Sisters of their order.

-----

There is an implication that "Eye" is in a way the direct follow-up to "Spring" in that it had taken 16 years for Moiraine to track down all the other candidate babies between the end of "Spring" to Emond's Field at the start of "Eye", but I am not sure about that. Perhaps somewhere else in The Wheel of Time Jordan answers that question.
Time for the next free Tor Books e-book: The Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera which is the first book in Rivera's Ascendant Trilogy. Not coincidentally Tor used this to announce the final book of that trilogy "The Warrior Moon", so at least you can start this trilogy knowing that all parts have been published.

The usual limitations and restrictions apply. Downloads must be completed by 11:59 EDT on October 18th.
TOS
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i pre-ordered "catch and kill" by ronan farrow
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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I just bought Me the Elton John biography, but i won't be starting it for a bit.
macnuke Afar
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started reading the Witcher series.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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I started Me.
Time for Tor Books' free e-book of the month: Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire. The usual limitations apply. Download this book by 11:59 pm EST on November 15th.

Curiously, the above is the SECOND book in McGuire's Wayward Children series, although after reading the descriptions it appears that each book could be read independent of the series (but I do NOT know that for certain having not read any of them). Tor Books also used this to announce that they will be publishing McGuire's fifth Wayward Children book, "Come Tumbling Down", on January 7, 2020.
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