A Dance with Dragons teeters on the brink of release, and the fantasy blogosphere is flooding with reviews now that the embargo on reviews is lifted. Also this week, we found reviews of books by authors Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Adrian Tchaikovsky and R. Scott Bakker, as well as an interview with Lev Grossman. Some cool fantasy art appeared this week as well, with the cover for the Game of Thrones dropping, and a really cool new map of Westeros. Photos from The Hobbit movie are starting to cross the blogosphere as well. Enough to get excited about yet?
Reviews of books by all-star authors Brandon Sanderson, Tad Williams, Terry Pratchett, the amalgamation that is Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm, Mark Charan Newton, Peter Orullian, and others. Also first pics from The Hobbit film.
The biggest news of the week for me is definitely the first real action promos for the HBO Game of Thrones series. Its great to see Sean Bean and crew in action, I’m so pumped for this series! Also really excited to see that Sanderson has sold another Mistborn novel, definitely looking forward to seeing that series extended. Reviews this week of newer novels from some of my favorite authors: Joe Abercrombie, Tad Willians, Jim Butcher and more. And please don’t miss the hilarious xtranormal video on publishing. If you have anything you’d like to share here on FBN, feel free to create a group and post your thoughts.
We’ve got reviews of Mistborn, The Name of the Wind, and Leviathan this week, along with a great post over at SF Signal that features a great summary of quality sword & sorcery novels. GRRM fans should get ready to have scenes with Dani in the new A Game of Thrones HBO series shine as its rumored that they’re breathing life into the dothraki by creating a language to be used on the show. We’ve also found a few great author blog posts this week, from both Pat Rothfuss and Guy Gavriel Kay. And finally, check out the cool box set of art inspired by Stephen King novels.
If our last Fantasy Blogosphere post was the most eclectic yet, then this is the most abundant. Chock full of review goodness, this post features reviews of books by Robin Hobb, David Anthony Durham, Ken Scholes, George R.R. Martin, Guy Gavriel Kay, Daniel Abraham, James Barclay and Terry Pratchett, and a triage of Jim Butcher reviews from NextRead. Pat’s got a fresh interview with Joe Abercrombie, and there’s exciting news all around; its looking like we’re really going to see A Game of Thrones as an HBO series, R.A. Salvatore signs for 6 additional Forgotten Realms books, and the movie rights for Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy have been optioned. What a great time to be a fantasy fan!
Okay, so I want to make sure we’re clear before diving in: this is not a list of the best fantasy books released in 2009, but rather the top books read and reviewed here at Fantasy Book News in 2009. That said, there are some newer books, and some classics, but overall this is an elite list of fantasy novels that any avid reader should check out. And away we go.
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
While this series is going on fifteen years, I gave a re-read to the first novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series in 2009, in audio book format. The book still has the same enchanting effect as the first time I read it, and is still the standard to which I compare most other fantasy books, and absolutely any epic fantasy books. Check out the full review of A Game of Thrones.
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
The second book in Lynch’s seven book Gentlemen Bastards series delivered what many creative people struggle to accomplish time and time again: give the audience a better experience than the original. Red Seas Under Red Skies upped the stakes from The Lies of Locke Lamora, and hit ended up hitting a grand slam. Read the full review of Red Seas Under Red Skies.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
This whopping freshman fantasy novel by Rothfuss completely transports you to another world, which is one of the goals that every fantasy novel aspires to. Believe me, I read most of it while lounging poolside in Araxa, Brazil, and I can’t tell you how many times I forgot my beautiful surroundings for the world that Rothfuss creates. Check out the full review of The Name of the Wind.
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
The quintessential fairy tale, The Last Unicorn is simply a beautiful story. Get lost in a world of fantasy and magic, complimented with a fantastically original plot and a genuine sense of humor. Read the full review of The Last Unicorn.
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Mistborn is an absolutely beautiful novel. Its got everything that a fantasy reader looks for: insanely original devices, characters you can identify with, tons of action, and wholesome undercurrents. We have a full review of Mistborn over here.
Mistborn has been getting quite a bit of publicity recently, and came highly recommended to me by a close friend who has recommended other gems in the past such as Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. With Brandon Sanderson co-authoring the final novels in the Wheel of Time series due to the passing of Robert Jordan, its no wonder his earlier works would fall under scrutiny. While not his first fantasy novel, Mistborn: The Last Empire, commonly referred to as just Mistborn, is the first novel in a trilogy of novels titled the Mistborn Trilogy. The subsequent books are The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages. I feel this needs a little clarification, as from reading the book jacket and inside covers, it can be rather confusing as to the order of the novels. For instance, the inside cover of my paperback edition lists three books: Elantris, Mistborn and The Well of Ascension, making it look like Mistborn is the middle book in a trilogy. Also, the preview chapter at the end of the book is from The Hero of Ages, book three in the series, leading to more confusion. Maybe Tor should reevaluate for subsequent editions.
The novel takes place mainly in the city of Luthtadel and the lands surrounding it. Luthtadel is a city harshly divided into an upper and lower class; a government rules with an iron fist over the nobility and the lower class “skaa”. Sanderson deals masterfully with the theme of ruling governmental bodies, the politics both within that ruling body and their relationships with external parties. Mirroring this are the novel’s main themes of belief, trust, and hope that live in the spirit of the lower class. We find these themes recurring frequently throughout the novel. Here are a few samples:
“Belief isn’t simply a thing for fair times and bright days, I think. What is belief – what is faith – if you don’t continue in it after failure?”
“Once, maybe I would have thought you a fool, but…well, that’s kind of what trust is, isn’t it? A willful self-delusion? You have to shut out that voice that whispers about betrayal, and just hope that your friends aren’t going to hurt you.”
A good portion of the action in the novel takes place in the houses of the nobility, throwing balls which are attended by the nobility and overseen by the royal “obligators”. Other scenes include the palace of the Lord Ruler, the hideouts of the rebel skaa located throughout the city, and at night, when the entire city stays indoors and mist blankets the city.
The characters that make up Mistborn’s band of rebel skaa are unforgettable. Vin and Kelsier take center stage, with Marsh, Kelsier’s brother, and Kelsier’s assembled crew fleshing out the rest of the group. When the rest of Kelsier’s group is first introduced, I felt like I was reading a fantasy novel spiced with great characters from the world of comic books, each having their own special power. The difference with Sanderson’s Mistborn characters, and many of the characters I read about in my childhood in comics, are that Sanderson’s are believable. The system of magic created in Mistborn is unsurpassed in its impressive originality and astounding authenticity. It makes you feel like the 40-foot-high jumps and acrobatic maneuvers from games like Assassin’s Creed are real; they have real consequenses if the user of the magic does not know enough about it, or miscalculates to a small degree. It also has limits. If the user of the magic “burns” up his or her resource, they have no more. I won’t get into too much more detail, of which there is plenty, but suffice to say the magic system in Mistborn is a true gem.
Sanderson moves the plot of Mistborn along at a pace perfect for the unfolding story. While there are a lot of scenes that recur in a similar setting (the balls), there is always enough new story, whether its the character Vin learning about the politics taking place, or just plain action, the time spent in these pages is well worth it. The plot idea of a band of underground thieves working against the nobility brings Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora to mind, and the overarching theme of overthrowing an all-powerful being has definitely been done before.
Mistborn is an extremely satisfying stand-alone novel, even though its only the first in a trilogy. If you haven’t read any of Sanderson’s work, I would highly recommend you go out and pick up Mistborn. Action-packed, with great underlying themes and a rowdy bunch of characters with truly original powers, this is certainly not one to miss.