Here’s my list of the books I’m most excited to read in 2010. The first three are not released yet, and are possibly the most highly anticipated fantasy novels slated for (potential) release in 2010. Picks 4-6 are historical fiction, or some twist on the sub-genre. Books 7-9 are continuations, if not necessarily in the same series, of authors I’ve already read at least once. And my final pick is a classic thrown in for good measure.
A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
I know its been five years since A Feast for Crows. But Pat over at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist has this book slated for release in 2010, and he knows George R.R. Martin personally. Coincidence? Hopefully, for legions of A Song of Ice and Fire Fans, its a bit more.
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
The first two books in Scott Lynch’s fantasy debut series have redefined the meaning of action fantasy. Saying the third book in this seven book series is highly anticipated is like saying Tiger Woods made a boo-boo. In other words, its going to be huge.
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Patrick Rothfuss delivered a home run with his first novel, The Name of the Wind, and rightfully earned himself a seat among the top dogs in the fantasy novel industry. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that we’ll see this one drop in 2010.
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
With a degree in anthropology, Steven Erikson’s ability with characterization should be fantastic. Gardens of the Moon is the first book in the ten book Malazan Book of the Fallen series. With historical fiction gaining traction in the industry and the popularity of the later novels in this series recently, I’m interested to get Erikson’s take on fantasy novels.
Acacia by David Anthony Durham
Durham has traveled the world, and lived in Scotland for a number of years, before landing in California as a Creative Writing professor at California State University. He’s made a name for himself writing novels involving The American Civil War, Carthage and the war with the Roman Republic. Acacia is his first attempt in the epic fantasy genre, and has made some noise in the industry.
Happy New Year! With everyone either on vacation or still in hangover mode, the fantasy book blogosphere is expectantly slower than usual. Still, we’ve got a few reviews including books by Scott Lynch and Steven Erikson, along with a review of the classic first novel in George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series, A Game of Thrones. Cheers!
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.
Book review of Scott Lynch’s Red Seas Under Red Skies
Lynch’s debut as a fantasy novelist made some waves in the industry, and his sequel had a big name to live up to. This is not just accomplished with Red Seas Under Red Skies. This time, the stakes are higher. I gave The Lies of Locke Lamora 8 out of 10 stars; it was a very quality debut. Lynch has managed to out-do himself with Red Seas Under Red Skies. I believe Lynch is defining a new genre: action fantasy. Sure, there are plenty of other action novels out there, and Lynch’s fantasy books remind the reader of such other great page-turners as Dan Brown’s works. The difference is that Lynch’s novels are huge – Red Seas Under Red Skies in paperback is just over 760 pages. Lynch’s ability to pack over 700 pages with non-stop page turning action is simply unmatched.
Red Seas Under Red Skies has all the elements you would expect from a great action novel: gambling, fighting, and pirates. I’m actually not sure what else I’d add if I had the option. Both Locke and Jean are back, this time moving their thievery to another city, after taking Camorr for all it was worth. The book moves from a deviously named casino, the Sinspire, to the complex of the Archon, general of the city of Tal Verrar’s military, out to the open seas where we find our two main characters impersonating yet another duo, this time a captain and his first mate.
The dialog is great. Lynch has a special ability with business transactions, when one character tries to haggle the price of an item with another. There was a great passage in The Lies of Locke Lamora that I didn’t note; luckily I noted the page when I found another such argument over purchasing pears in Red Seas Under Red Skies:
“A full volani?” Locke feigned outrage. “Not if the archon’s favorite whore held them between her legs and wiggled for me. One centira is too much for the lot.”
“One centira wouldn’t buy you the stems. At least I won’t lose money for four.”
“It would be an act of supreme pity,” said Locke, “for me to give you two. Fortunately for you I’m brimming with largesse; the bounty is yours.”
“Two would be an insult to the men and women who grew these, in the hot glass gardens of the Blackhands Crescent. But surely we can meet at three?”
“Three,” said Locke with a smile. “I have never been robbed in Tal Verrar before but I’m just hungry enough to allow you the honor.”
I don’t even really need to discuss the pace of this novel. Its action, at its best. Here you’ll find Locke and Jean impersonating nobles and gaming against terribly attractive women in some of the most high-stakes card games you’ve ever seen. You’ll discover plots against the government and the private sector, pitting them against one another. You’ll come across insane sea adventures, creatures that lurk just under the surface of the ocean, strange voices that call to you from the water, and death-defying leaps from cliffs and the tallest buildings in the city. In other words, it moves.
Naturally, the fast paced nature of such a novel comes with an outstanding serving of captured moments, like this:
The first notion Jean had that the floor had opened up beneath his feet was when the view of Tal Verrar suddenly seemed to move up toward the ceiling; his senses conferred hastily on just what this meant, and were stumped for a split second until his stomach weighed in with nauseous confirmation that the view wasn’t doing the moving.
and this classic:
It seemed to Locke that sweat was now cascading down his face, as though his own treacherous moisture were abandoning the premises before anything worse happened.
Combined with Lynch’s ability to conjure up imagery via delicious description:
As she flew past, Jean—his rope work quite forgotten—felt his stomach flutter. She had it. She wore it like a cloak. The same aura that he’d once seen in Capa Barsavi, something that slept inside until it was drawn out by anger or need, so sudden and so terrible. Death itself was beating tread upon the ship’s planks.
and you’ve got a knockout combination for some of the most in-your-face action fantasy that I’ve ever read.
The cast of characters in Red Seas Under Red Skies is fantastic. Not only are Locke and Jean back, but we’re introduced to a daring couple, heads of the Sinspire, Requin and his lover Selendri, a woman who’s face and arm are half covered in brass due to burn marks. The other large new character is Maxilian Stragos, the Archon of Tal Verrar. He’s surrounded by his “Eyes”, super efficient guards who wear full brass masks. And finally, you’ll get to meet Zamira Drakasha, captain of the Poison Orchid, and her first mate, Erzi Delmastro; two strong female characters who rule their ocean domain. In the background are the Bondsmagi, still upset for what Locke and Jean did to one of their own in The Lies of Locke Lamora. And as usual, you’ll find Locke and Jean taking on so many personas you’ll wonder how they keep them straight.
Red Seas Under Red Skies is a fantastic addition to the Gentlemen Bastards Cycle, and anyone who is a fan of either epic fantasy or action films should grab both Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Lies of Locke Lamora soon, so you can catch up before The Republic of Thieves is released in 2010.
We’ve got a very healthy swath of reviews this week, maybe due to the fact that I spent the weekend in Serra do Cipo, so a few of these may reach back to before last weekend. Either way, you can’t lose with reviews of books by Scott Lynch, Ken Scholes, Janny Wurts, Dan Brown and plenty more. A pair of interviews with R.A. Salvatore and Andy Remic are featured, with Remic discussing his most recent novel Kell’s Legend.
Ever want to have your name featured in a fantasy novel? Patrick Rothfuss is giving fans this opportunity. Check out the link below for more details.
We’ve got quite an assortment from the fantasy blogosphere this week. From Scott Lynch news to an interview with Chris McGrath, the artist most famously noted for his Dresden Files cover art, it was a busy week:
Book review of Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora
Let the sun shine down. On the other hand, if its looking overcast, there’s always the Falselight.
The Lies of Locke Lamora is an action-packed romp through high-society, with characters masquerading as everything from the lowest low-life to the most regal dandy and everyone else in between. With hints of the fast-paced nature of The Da Vinci Code, the book jacket describes it as one part Robin Hood and one part Ocean’s Eleven, and the tale more than lives up to this description. This book has all the best of the thieving lifestyle, from scaling towers six stories high, to impersonations of city officials, to some really sticky fight scenes. While the accessibility of this book will appeal to just about anyone, there are definitely a few moments that would be hard to swallow for a younger crowd. This is an extremely fast-paced action adventure, broken up by flashbacks that somehow don’t hinder the pace in any way but only heighten the anticipation of getting back to the main storyline.
Locke Lamora and his band of Gentleman Bastards roam the streets of Camorr, taking part in all kinds of fantastic city intrigue. Its no wonder that the rights to the film have already been picked up by Warner Brothers. There are so many good one-liners and situational scenes in this book, its hard to imagine it not translating to the big screen.
Lynch does an above average job of characterization with the different members of the band, as well as the other citizens and denizens of Camorr. The hero Locke is anything but; he’s your average Joe, or at least he appears to be. Not having above average physical qualities certainly can have its advantages when theiving is your main source of income in a major port city. His supporting band of Gentleman Bastards are the cream of Camorr’s thieving crop. The background of each character is painted nicely, with new aspects and details of their training surfacing throughout the novel. While you come to love Locke and his band of thieves, the mob bosses (which Lynch refers to as “Capas”), and other various characters truly bring this novel to life.
The various escapades take place to the backdrop of the city of Camorr which is original as it is deadly. From true beauty to obscene brothels, this book runs the gambit of city life. Scenes range from the most miniscule, dingiest bar you could imagine to the grandest of the grand stages. From new takes on ancient Roman Colosseum-style fighting, to an intricate network of towers and lavish festivals, Lynch paints a vivid picture of an ancient (or modernly regressed?) city in its prime.
What really shines in Lamora’s first effort is his ability to constantly build up the sense that there’s absolutely no way Locke and his fellow thieves are going to be able to accomplish their current task at hand, only to have them weasel their way out, around, or straight through whatever seems to be in their way. Coupled with fantastic dialogue, this is a one-two punch that can’t miss. One scene in particular stands our where we find Locke is haggling with a store merchant. Its simply some of the best fast-paced dialog I’ve read in years. Lynch captures moments like I’ve never read on paper. They range from the intense:
Let’s start wobbling, shall we? said Locke’s knees, but this offer was met by a counterproposal from his better judgment to simply freeze up and do nothing, like a man treading water who sees a tall black fin coming straight at him.
To the just plain hilarious:
“What?” Sofia squeaked like a girl of eight. A particularly squeaky girl of eight, much accustomed to squeaking, loudly.
Note to self: Use the same word three times in two sentences the next time I’m trying to be funny.
Rarely does a novel come along that is as brilliantly woven as Scott Lynch’s first venture into the fantasy genre. The Lies of Locke Lamora truly sings a sweet symphony of subterfuge. I have to say that this is the most complete action fantasy novel I have ever read. It will be interesting to see where Lynch takes it for the next six novels. If there are as many twists and turns as he’s delivered in his first book, this is one reader who will be back to join the Gentleman Bastards on many, many adventures to come.