Words of Radiance – Brandon Sanderson
Solid work from Sanderson as usual, a bit on the lengthy side, but it makes a great second chapter to his planned ten book series, The Stormlight Archives. At the end of the series debut, one was left wondering where it was going, but the sophomore addition has laid out the plot of the books to come with concrete inevitability. Although the book focused on only four characters, it did contain few single chapter mentions of other soon to be main characters. I look forward to hearing more of their story.
Promise of Blood – Brian McClellan
Granted the dude studied under the likes of Brandon Sanderson and Orson Scott Card, but I was still impressed at how killer his debut was. A underused setting, a tense opening, brutal action, and a lightning quick plot made this one of my favorites of the year. The first of the proposed Powder Mage trilogy, this guy made me remember his name and the name of his resident badass, Taniel. The prodigious son of a Field Marshall turned revolutionary, with a nasty gunpowder habit? Sign me up.
Blood Song – Anthony Ryan
Ryan had a bit of luck with his first full length novel Blood Song. Originally self published, he got some internet fame and eventually got a deal with Penguin books. Rags to relative riches story aside, the book contains some solid action with a strong message of brotherhood. I found the main character to be a little on the self righteous side, which dampened my enjoyment of it. I will still pick up the next addition to the Trilogy, but I will most certainly be hoping the main character sacrifices himself in a most righteous manner.
The Fionavar Tapestry(Trilogy) – Guy Gavriel Kay
Kay is my favorite fantasy author, hands down, Tigana and the The Sarantine Mosaic are my favorite fantasy books. I held off reading his first ever trilogy because I do not generally like the modern-day-turns-fantasy setting, that all changed when I found the entire trilogy in the used section of Seoul’s main English book store. Filled with the beautiful prose, and unforgettable characters, Kay’s work made me power through these three books in about 4 weeks. While the trilogy isn’t beating out his others, no other fantasy author conveys as much emotional power as Guy Gavriel Kay.
Lightbringer Series (first two) – Brent Weeks
I read his Night Angel trilogy a few years back, and found it mostly forgettable with the exception of the gratuitous use of the term “wetboy.” When I picked up this series though, I was immediately drawn to the magic system, and unique portrayal of the hero. Unlike Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker, he’s just a fat kid who kinda sucks at everything even with his amazing powers. The pudgy young man’s mentor is memorable and a bona fide badass. These two were packed with action, intrigue, humor, and a killer twist. His next is currently my most anticipated book.
Emperor of Thorns – Mark Lawrence
THIS ONE CONTAINS TONS OF SPOILERS. DONT READ UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THE BOOK OR DO NOT CARE ABOUT FANTASY AT ALL. Alright, this is the book that has been on my mind the most over the past year. I loved the first two entries into the trilogy, Jorg pulling the .45 on that fellow will stick in my mind forever. However, I was supremely disappointed with the finale. In the final book, Jorg solved most of his innumerable problems by killing the antagonists. I understand that a theme of the series is Jorg’s violence prone personality, but in the past books his killings were, for the most part, cleverly done and unique. In this book however, it was Jorg walking directly up to people and stabbing them, crossbowing them, stabbing them, or stabbing them. While I am generally very pro-pope murdering(pontifexicide?), I thought that Lawrence’s resolution to these conflicts came off as lazy. The ending also infuriated me, the assimilation into a computer to cast Jorg as a wise type was unacceptable to me. He was young man with a headcase, who was almost entirely filled with violence and spite, I wouldn’t want him talking to future generations in that world. Rant over, I will definitely pick up his next novel, the Prince of Fools.
American Gods – Neil Gaiman
After reading the back blurb about a character named “Shadow”, I was not optimistic about this hefty novel. It wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last time I was dead wrong. American Gods is fantastic, and Gaiman kicks it off with a bang. Without giving too much away, there are gods from different real religions living among humans, and our man Shadow is caught in the middle of it. Shadow’s conversations with some of these gods are rivetting. Gaiman rarely explicitly says what god each character represents, lending a hefty dose of intrigue to this modern day fantasy epic.
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
While I really enjoyed Blood Meridian and The Border Trilogy, I had not read his most famous novel, The Road. I finished the book in one sitting, granted it was an intercontinental flight, but it is a short and devastating read. The Man and the Boy slum it through the bleakest of apocalypses. Brutal prose, violence, and fear that almost leaks off the pages, a must read.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Robert Heinlein
I had never read the legendary Heinlein’s third hugo award winning novel. When a friend offered me a book trade, I jumped at the chance. This book exemplifies what I love about science fiction and fantasy, underneath all of the setting and world, they are about timeless humanity. The story is one of revolution, and it will resonate with the oppressed forever.
The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin
While I was underwhelmed with her Earthsea series, I absolutely adored this stand alone novel of first contact between two species. A wonderful and tragic tale of a people fighting for the common good of all. It has all the charm of classic science fiction, including some gender bending, which I assume is unique. I must read more of her work.
The Philip K. Dick Reader – Philip K Dick
A collection of short stories from one of science fiction’s most prolific writers. While I had read a few of the stories in this compilation before, there were still innumerable stories that had not snagged a place in my memory. I enjoy the bleakness in Dick’s work. Most of the time, the good people end up losing. The stories are filled with twists and leave you guessing as to who is the force of evil, sometimes even after you finish. Favorites of mine were The Second Variety, and The Turning Wheel.
The Dresden Files: Storm Front – Jim Butcher
When someone recommended this series to me, they described it as their guilty fantasy pleasure. I can see why; these are pulpy page turners that require strong suspension of disbelief. Thematically, I love noir and hardboiled PI’s. Thats my jam, so I hit it off immediately with wizard detective Harry Dresden. While I thought the book was hilarious in its theme, due to wise cracks and wizard noir setting, the execution fell through for me. I have heard that the books are getting progressively better, so I may have to give the others a try soon.
Gardens of the Moon – Steven Erikson
I finally went to crack open the Malazan series and I was left bitterly disappointed. Something just didn’t sit right with me about the first entry. Whiskeyjack was was cool and all and I’m sure the plot will begin to materialize after the second book. However, I was turned off by the style of magic and battles that were going on between gods. Just a personal preference. Not going to finish the series.
The Red Country – Joe Abercrombie
I’m a huge fan of Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy and the subsequent short stories set in the same universe. The Red Country was in a similar vein as the others and featured characters familiar to me in drastically changed settings. While I liked the novel, its forced western setting was a bit jarring and uninspiring compared to his other works. I look forward to picking up Half a King soon.