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’.
Brandon Sanderson is making the rounds, with The Way of Kings slated for release in August. He’s interviewed at The Dragon Page, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist and Tor.com over the past few weeks, and The Way of Kings sounds like its going to be a great one. Also reviewed this week is Swords & Dark Magic, an anthology in the classic sword & sorcery genre featuring tales by newer authors like Steven Erickson, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, and many others you’ll recognize. We’ve found reviews of books by Jim Butcher, Tad Williams, Scott Lynch, Stephen King, and Guy Gavriel Kay among other reviews that hit the fantasy blogosphere recently. Wrapping up this week don’t miss the cover art that was recently released for Scott Lynch’s forthcoming The Republic of Thieves; its a beautiful cover for what is likely to be an equally beautiful novel.
We’ve got a boatload of reviews this week, covering everything from more recent titles like The Gathering Storm and Dragon Keeper to young classics such as A Storm of Swords, The Hero of Ages and The Lies of Locke Lamora. The Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd also looks promising, having potentially been looked over in a year when other authors like Scott Lynch were making their big debuts. The Dragon Page recently intervieweed Gail Z. Martin, and Ursula K. Le Guin continues to fight for her rights against Google. We cap off a stellar week with news of an inmate in Wisconsin being prohibited from playing D&D in prison. What will inmates want next, a renaissance festival on prison grounds?
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 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.