The Alloy of Law reviews are pouring in, but sadly the biggest news is the passing of Anne McCaffrey. We have lost one of the greats. Her craft will be continued by the current crop of talented fantasy authors, and you can check out interviews with a few current greats like R.A. Salvatore, Patrick Rothfuss, Lev Grossman, Terry Brooks and Daniel Abraham below. Also, Brandon Sanderson talks about writing the Infinity Blade novella. Cool stuff.
Best Fantasy Books with an onslaught of reviews of some of my favorite books: The Lies of Locke Lamora, The Blade Itself, A Game of Thrones, and more. The reviews don’t stop there though, with reviews of books by Brent Weeks, China Mieville, Stephen King, R. Scott Bakker, Peter Orullian and more. Pat of Fantasy Hotlist posts part one of an interview of R. Scott Bakker. Rockin’.
Like I did last year, I’m going to recap the top 10 fantasy novels of 2010. Unlike last year, this time I’m splitting the difference. Five novels in the top 10 are the favorites I read over the past year, and the other five are novels that I haven’t read, but spent a good deal of time on the Amazon top 5 fantasy bestseller list. If you’re looking for a gift, its likely that any book from this list will delight the recipient.
Lamentation was one of my favorite fantasy reads of 2010. A vibrant new world, painted with colorful, unique characters, all wrapped into a story with heart, makes for a fantastic package. This first installment promises a quality series to come in The Psalms of Isaak. Check out my full review of Lamentation.
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie was the best fantasy novel I read in 2010. Gritty, fast-paced, and filled with action, this first novel in a new epic fantasy series solidifies Abercrombie as one of the premier new authors in fantasy literature. The characterization isn’t just top-notch, the characters in The Blade Itself are unforgettable. Not only does Abercrombie deliver a quality novel, but there are moments of hilarity contained in these pages. Abercrombie is an honest, open-minded author, and these qualities shine in The Blade Itself. Check out my full review of The Blade Itself.
Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Yet another fantastic first novel in a series discovered in 2010. Empire in Black and Gold kicks off at a frantic pace, in the middle of a battle, and doesn’t relent for the rest of the novel. Absolutely blistering pace is combined with a truly original idea for characterization: all the characters in this novel are some derivation of what Tchaikovsky describes as kinden, which are half-human and half fill-in-the-insect. This makes for some truly unique elements in fighting, and opens up the opportunity for all kinds of historical backgrounds among the different kinden in novels to come. As if to match the blistering pace of the novel itself, Pyr has been releasing the novels in The Shadows of the Apt series every three months or so since this novel’s original release date. Looks like I’ve got some catch up reading to do. Check out my full review of Empire in Black and Gold.
Daemon by Daniel Suarez
Daemon was, hands down, the most addictive novel I’ve ever read. While blending elements of fantasy and sci-fi (something I normally don’t enjoy), this techno-thriller beats the pace of a Dan Brown novel into a quivering pulp and delivers a novel that you can’t help but devour in a week or so. The hook: a computer game design company founder writes a code that monitors news headlines online. When he dies, it triggers a series of events that attempt to takeover the economy and portions of the government. Oddly, the DDOS attacks on large corporate web sites recently in relation to the WikiLeaks site are eerily reminiscent of the themes discussed in this novel. Scary. Check out my full review of Daemon.
Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
I’ve read a few Sanderson novels at this point, and Elantris is, if not tied for favorite with Mistborn, my favorite Sanderson novel. This novel contains similar themes as Mistborn, but was written prior, and I believe Sanderson had an insatiable appetite for writing fantastic fiction at the time. This is a beautiful story, self-contained in one volume, that is definitely worth going back and reading for any Sanderson fans who have tasted his more recent work. Check out my full review of Elantris.
Joe Abercrombie is one of the hottest new authors in the fantasy genre, and The Blade Itself was his first published work, originally published in London in 2006, with the copy I read having been published by Pyr in 2007. He has since completed The First Law Trilogy, and written two standalone novels, Best Served Cold (June 2009), and The Heroes (forthcoming). I’ve seen countless reviews surrounding The Blade Itself series, garnering praise from other fast-paced fantasy authors such as one of my personal heroes, Scott Lynch. I have to give a shout out to author Sarah Darmody, who not only recommended The Blade Itself to me, but stated we have similar taste in fantasy novels – excellent taste, that is. Let’s just say that with The Blade Itself, I was ready for a smashing good romp.
And a smashing good romp does Abercrombie deliver. What stands out immediately with The Blade Itself is Abercrombie’s talent with pacing a story. The Blade Itself is as good, if not better, from a pacing perspective, than Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastards Cycle. When compared with fast-paced novel in other genres, like Dan Brown’s novels or maybe Daemon by Daniel Suarez, The Blade Itself holds its own.
Where The Blade Itself can’t quite keep up a Dan Brown novel in terms of sheer pacing, it more than makes up for it in hilarity. I found myself literally laughing out loud more at this novel than probably any other fantasy novel I’ve ever read. Abercrombie is just a downright funny guy. While there are definitely better examples in the novel, here’s one I noted while reading:
Hoff glared back at him for a very long while. “Seek it wherever you like,” he growled, “and with as much persistence as you please. But not here. Good…day!” If you could have stabbed someone in the face with the phrase “good day”, the head of the Guild of Mercers would have lain dead on the floor.
Its brutally honest statements like this, that appear when you least expect them, that had me rolling with laughter. Speaking of brutality, The Blade Itself has some fantastic bloody fight scenes. This is definitely not a novel for the faint of heart. Abercrombie has created a wonderfully crude, yet highly intelligent, barbarian character in Logen Ninefingers, a.k.a. The Bloody Nine. Couple him with an extremely powerful, yet smart-alecky wizard, The First of the Magi, Bayaz, and you’ve got a quality core duo of characters for the novel. The Blade Itself also follows two other main characters, Inquisitor Glokta, and Captain Jezal dan Luthar, whose stories I found myself equally engrossed in.
The Blade Itself is driven by its quality characters, its fast pace, and Abercrombie’s natural tendency to spice up a situation with comedy. I could easily recommend it for these qualities, or the strikingly realistic fight scenes. But The Blade Itself has more to offer yet. You’ll find sprinkled throughout this novel nuggets of truth, as I typically quantify in some of my favorite novels:
“If a man seeks to change the world, he should first understand it…the tree is only as strong as its root, and knowledge is the root of all power.”
Abercrombie even manages to work in a moment that reminds me of some of the Kerouac novels I’ve read:
South then, and become a wanderer. There was always work for a man with his skills. Hard work, and dark, but work all the same. There was an appeal in it, he had to admit. To have no one depending on him but himself, for his decisions to hold no importance, for no one’s life or death to be in his hands. He had enemies in the south, that was a fact. But the Bloody Nine had dealt with enemies before.”
Overall, The Blade Itself more than lived up to its expectations, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next novels in this series, and Abercrombie’s standalone works that follow. If you’re up for a a fast-paced action fantasy with a good sense of humor, they don’t come more highly recommended than The Blade Itself.
With Comic-Con San Diego 2010 wrapping up, a lot of interviews from the event are starting to pop up online. Check out Suvudu’s interviews with Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, and Michael Scott, among a slew of other interviews crossing the fantasy blogosphere this week. The Blade Itself gets a makeover, grab a fantasy role-playing iPhone app, and never forget Thieves’ World.
Four reviews kick off our fantasy blogosphere roundup this week, with reviews of books by Tad Williams, Joe Abercrombie, Ian C. Esslemont and Seressia Glass. Following this is the fantastic news that HBO has approved A Game of Thrones, so we’ll be seeing something more than a static image soon. A few covers were released this week, for Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, and Brent Weeks’ The Black Prism. Check out the interview with Brandon for his comments on his new series. I’m not sure I’m into the new photo realistic cover as exhibited on Weeks’ novel; we’ll have to keep an eye on this and see if it becomes a trend. And last but not least, some sort of explanation as to why Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter made the Amazon top 5 yesterday.