An absolute tempest of fantasy fiction this week, with reviews, interviews and top 10’s forming the perfect storm. Reviews of a pair of new novels, and a pair of classics, interviews with a few new authors, and a classic, and top 10 lists from a new author and a classic. At the eye of the storm you’ll find George R.R. Martin and Tad Williams live at the Fox Theater. Batten down the hatches and dig in.
George R.R. Martin’s 4-novel set drops out of 5th place, making room for the fourth book in the series, A Feast for Crows. A top five filled with the first five books in your series? Not bad, Mr. Martin, not bad.
Interviews galore this week, featuring everyone from old hands like R.A. Salvatore and Neil Gaiman, to relatively fresh talent like Lev Grossman and Mark Charan Newton. A couple of Game of Thrones scripts set for charity auction were heisted this week, and we get a first look at the new free MMO based on Tad Williams’ Otherland. It looks absolutely sick.
George R.R. Martin retains an iron grip on the top 5 this week, with all 5 books retaining their positions. Noteworthy: Lev Grossman’s The Magicians ranked in 7th this week, following the release of the second book in the series last week.
Lev Grossman’s The Magician King hit stores this week, and created an appropriate amount of buzz in the blogosphere. While Grossman owned the week, there’s a lot going on overall, from interviews with George R.R. Martin, Peter S. Beagle and Patrick Rothfuss to a great article on the NY Times discussing fantasy’s place in the modern world. Fantasy is mainstream, people. Rejoice.
The Stormcaller is the third in a flurry of books I’ve read by publisher Pyr – the other two so far being The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie and Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky. I thoroughly enjoyed the other two Pyr books I’ve read so far, so I was expecting nothing less from The Stormcaller.
The Stormcaller is primarily a coming of age book about a boy who starts out with nothing, rejected by even his own father, and rises to a place of power and significance. I can’t say this is a story we haven’t all heard before: rags to riches, overcoming all odds, the list goes on. In addition to the rather typical plot, characters in The Stormcaller rise to power with super-human abilities, which in a way reminded me of Sanderson’s most recent work: The Way of Kings. Unfortunately for Lloyd, I like The Way of Kings more. While fantastic, Sanderson’s characters were just more believable.
While suffering a bit in the plot and character categories, The Stormcaller is still an enjoyable read. Tom Lloyd is a crafty wordsmith, and his prose flows with an ease that makes flipping these pages a joy. He’s not to shabby with description either, as evidenced in this excerpt:
Now he saw a powerful man with a harsh face, solid features all sharp lines and blunt corners. His brow was thick and strong, and his nose, but his features had an abrupt look, as if a craftsman had been interrupted in his work. The shape was there, the basic lines hewn with skill, but there had been no time to smooth the edges.
While I can see The Stormcaller doing well and gaining quite a fan base, this was a novel that just didn’t do it for me. The elements all seem to be there, but they didn’t mix quite well enough this time around to form the perfect fantasy brew that I believe Lloyd is capable of. I think a big challenge for me is characterization: when I don’t connect with the characters, I lose interest, and the rest of the novel suffers. However, this may be something that other readers don’t struggle with, and for those readers, I would recommend The Stormcaller.
A chance for Faramir, captain of Gondor, to show his quality. Quality is the name of the game this week, with fantastic stuff like Pat Rothfuss interviewing Jim Butcher, Daniel Abraham on writing the Game of Thrones comic, and Lev Grossman on wizards and orcs getting their due respect. Wait, Daniel Abraham on the GoT comic? That’s like the geekiest triple-combo ever.
Winterbirth is the first book in The Godless World trilogy, which has gained popularity recently with the release of the third novel in the series, Fall of Thanes. I was hoping for a dark romp through a medieval world, as Winterbirth has received high praise from both traditional publications and blog reviewers like myself. Unfortunately for me, Winterbirth didn’t deliver.
I’ve discussed the importance of characterization here on Fantasy Book News numerous times, and what stands out most about Winterbirth is its lack of memorable characters. There are a few characters we follow in Winterbirth, adding variety without being overwhelming. Unfortunately I found it difficult to stay interested in any of them for very long. When the characters in a fantasy novel start to blend in with generic characters from other fantasy novels, it makes getting into a novel very difficult indeed.
Winterbirth does offer a look into the lives of men at war, travelling and fighting for their families back home, and Ruckley is very adept with description, and painting a vivid image of life on the road. The other overarching plotline follows one of the main characters, Orisian, on a long voyage, my favorite part taking place during a trip through snow-capped mountains. This was probably the only part of the novel I felt immersed in, and went into that wonderful mode where a novel takes you away to another place. It was great while it lasted, unfortunately for Ruckley, it wasn’t a very large part of the novel.
I have heard that the subsequent novels in this series are good, so I can hope that the characterization and overall quality improves from here on out, but getting through Winterbirth was a tough job for me.