The Non-Trad Christmas Gift Suggestion List (With Optional Trad)

Right, so this is pretty spontaneous. This morning, I woke to news on my feed of John Scalzi putting up a “Non-Trad Published Gift List” on his website. Curious, I clicked over.

Unfortunately, it was a little disappointing. It wasn’t actually a Gift List. What I had expected, especially titled such, was that Scalzi had actually read some Non-Trad books and was promoting a few of his favorites. But it wasn’t. Instead what the post turned out to be was Scalzi saying “Hey, non-trad writers, please use my comments to plug your books today.”

Predictably, the result is basically a lot like the “Self-Published Satuday” grab-bags on Reddit. Hordes of books from all over the spectrum, presented with no rhyme or reason.

So I immediately thought “Why not try that for real? Rather than create a self-advertising space, why not throw out one of my favorite non-trad pub books I read this year, and encourage others to do the same? Something not by me, but by someone else?”

Which, in turn, is where this post popped up from. Why not? After all, it’s my site. Why not use it for some real Christmas promotion?

So here’s the challenge. Look back on books you’ve read in the last, oh, two years. Pick out at least one that must be non-trad pub. An indie of some kind. If you’ve got a second that’s a lesser-known trad, then it can go up second, but the first must be indie. EDIT: Oh, and please no erotica or extreme content. This is a friendly site, but not that kind of friendly.

Then post about it! Tell us why you liked it, who you think the book might be a good gift for, and where we can find it! Then, if you’ve got a lesser-known trad-pub book you’d like to talk about, throw that one up too!

I’ll start us off! Here’s my two picks!


All right, for my non-trad pick, it’s easily going to be Shelley Adina’s Lady of Devices.

I don’t think I’ve ever been changed opinions on a book this hard. The back, after all, promised steam-punk adventure and crime in London. The first chapter? Well, it delivered the most by-the-book teen YA romance setup imaginable. So much so, and so cliche, that I actually decided to read the rest of the book just to make fun of it.

Yeah, sorry Shelley.

Thankfully, and to my relief, this cliche start is only so that the author could brutally rip the rug out from under both the reader and the protagonist before setting them out on adventure proper. Once that gets underway, it’s a fun adventure too! I found myself delightfully surprised with this gem, and blasted through the first three books in the series in short order.

So, what’s it about, and who might like it? Well, it’s about a young woman in an alternate-history steampunk England who has dreams of being an accomplished engineer. She’s fascinated by chemistry and mechanical engineering, and desires to go to a proper college so she can further her education. Unfortunately, her mother would rather her be a “proper” lady of the nobility. But when the majority of their family fortune is lost to bad investments (along with her father) and our protagonist finds herself suddenly out on the street and away from her mother’s control, she seizes the chance to get a job, save some money, and pay for her college tuition herself.

Oh, and there might be the accidental takeover of a street gang, and a mostly accidental war against the London underworld in there. Plus industrial espionage, some romance (not a triangle; at least, not from her perspective), kidnappings, threats to life and limb …

So, who would like this series? Well, folks that like a competent female protagonist but not one that’s simply flipped the action switch from “none” to “high.” Folks that like Steampunk, or drool at the idea of alternate history (what’s become of the Americas, especially by the third book, is quite a bit different from most steampunk). Folks that do enjoy romance but are getting tired of the traditional romance setups and plots.

Where can you find it? Amazon! And the author has a website as well.


For my trad-pub recommendation, I’m going to suggest McClellan’s Sins of Empire.

Yeah, that’s a Brandon Sanderson blurb on the cover. McClellan is a former student of his who followed Brandon into trad-pub. Sins of Empire is his … Sands, I’d say fourth book, but he has done a few novellas and a lot of short stories I’m not familiar with.

Anyway, Sins of Empire is also the fourth book in McClellan’s Powder Mage universe, and easily the best of the lot in my opinion.

What’s the plot? Where to start? What feels like a bunch of disconnected happenings on the edge of the “civilized” world start to come together, all wrapped around the mystery of a bunch of pamphlets being printed and distributed in an on-edge kingdom railing against the monarchy. You’ve got the secret police member hunting down the pamphlets. You’ve got a mercenary captain who has been hired to keep the peace among some of the locals (and possibly assassinate someone). You’ve got a former military commander recently released (or perhaps sprung) from prison for … something. Plus a fleet of odd ships at the mouth of the harbor …

There’s a lot going on in this book, but it all winds together in a very interesting and exciting manner. Be warned, however, that it is the first in a trilogy. Don’t expect everything to wrap up by the end. Do expect some fun characters, however, and some powder mage awesomeness (What’s a powder mage? I’ll let you find out).

Who’s this good for? Fans of fantasy and Napoleonic/industrial revolutionary war-era stuff will eat this up. Or fans of stories with an eye to war strategy, or worldbuilding.

Where can you find it? Amazon. Or a local library if you’re lucky.

That’s it for my suggestions. What are yours? I’ll be checking comments (in case any get snagged in approval) all day, so post away!

One thought on “The Non-Trad Christmas Gift Suggestion List (With Optional Trad)

  1. I’ll definitely have to check those out. Thanks!
    So if I’m not allowed to mention your books (*cough, cough* Shadow of an Empire *cough) then are we allowed to mention Fan Fiction? It’s not really non-trad and I almost hate mentioning it because of it possibly taking away from the real and significant contributions of non-trad Authors who expect and should see a profit from their labors, but if allowed, I would suggest maybe Bulletproof Heart by PaulAsaran over on I couldn’t put that one down once I started reading it, and getting to pre-read it was an absolute treat.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s