Two novels read this past month demonstrate an ongoing dichotomy in fantasy fiction. Anthony Ryan’s much heralded first novel, Blood Song, was a run away success as a self-published novel before it was bought by big publishing. It is, for all intents and purposes, a classic epic fantasy structurally reminiscent of Patrick Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind, with a texture more comparable to Brent Weeks’s Night Angel trilogy. Juxtapose it with Chris Willrich’s The Scroll of Years, which Scott Andrews described as Fritz Lieber meets Catherynne M. Valente, and the two faces of fantasy go to war.
But, the conflict doesn’t start or end with the fact that one echoes epic fantasy and the other a more literary style. Rather it’s a sense of going somewhere new, beyond traditional narratives that have for decades been a staple in the genre. A few sentences from Willrich’s blurb will begin to illustrate that,
Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone are a romantic couple and partners in crime.
… Read the rest
Generation V by ML Brennan
So I spent two hundred pages of this novel waiting for Five to show up. I’m thinking there’s five members of the main family? Nope, four. There’s five victims of murder? Nope. And you know what I decided? ML Brennan is just a liar. Nothing in this novel has anything to do with FIVE. One star.
Oh, the V is for vampire? Yikes. This is embarrassing. The novel makes a lot more sense now. But, the vampires don’t sparkle and they’re not even particularly Gothic. Are you sure it’s a vampire novel? Huh. Here I thought I was reading a story about a barista with a creepy family who has to solve a murder with the help of a smoking-hot shape changing fox. Nope. It’s a vampire barista with a creepy vampire family who has to solve a murder with the help of a smoking-hot kitsune!… Read the rest
If I was put on the spot right now, on this blog, with all of you listening, to name the most important science fiction and fantasy series of the last decade I couldn’t give you an answer. If you asked for my top five, well. . . I could probably do that. I’m not going to, but I could. All I will say is that Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire Trilogy would be on the list. It may not be first, but it would be in the discussion. I finished Emperor of Thorns recently and I feel privileged to have read it.
By now most everyone has heard what the Broken Empire Trilogy is about. Young Jorg Ancrath had a shitty childhood. He watched his mother and younger brother butchered by his uncle’s men. His father lit his dog on fire, and subsequently tried to kill Jorg. Eventually, he ran away from home in the company of some of the most villainous hooligans who he eventually came to lead before the age of 14.… Read the rest
First up, #1 New York Time Bestseller Divergent from HarperCollins and Skulk from Strange Chemistry. Skulk attempts to capitalize on the catching quality that the fiery logo in the sky communicates on Divergent. Unfortunately, the silhouettes running in the Subway tunnel doesn’t seem to be nearly as epic feeling as the Big City skyline of the bestselling inspiration. I’m reminded more than anything of the movie poster for 1988′s The Rescue.… Read the rest
Wheel of epic fantasy turn, turn, turn
Tell us the lesson that we should learn
And now on to the part of the blog where I present five novels that look. . . well. . . damn near identical. I’m sure there are all kinds of nuances that make them unique, but each clearly references that epic fantasy je ne sais quoi. Which one do you figure as the most likely to succeed?
#1) The Black Guard by A.J. Smith (August)
The Duke of Canarn is dead, executed by the King’s decree. The city lies in chaos, its people starving, sickening, and tyrannized by the ongoing presence of the King’s mercenary army. But still hope remains: the Duke’s children, the Lord Bromvy and Lady Bronwyn, have escaped their father’s fate.
Separated by enemy territory, hunted by the warrior clerics of the One God, Bromvy undertakes to win back the city with the help of the secretive outcasts of the Darkwald forest, the Dokkalfar.
… Read the rest
With Andre Norton’s aged novel Star Guard, Tom Holt’s new novel Doughnut, and Howard Andrew Jones’ Pathfinder tie-in novel Plague of Shadows, I’ve found three authors and books to review that have almost nothing in common. We all have our crosses to bear, do we not?
Andre Norton, a great forerunner (get it? Because she wrote Forerunner.) of science fiction, and considered by many to be the Grande Dame of SF, wrote a novel in 1953 titled Star Guard. It was actually the second novel in a world later dubbed Central Control, in which Terrans, considered to be the ideal mercenaries of the galaxy, are forced to pay for access to the stars with blood. Of course, the two novels in the ‘series’ have almost nothing to do with one another, making the ending of Star Guard unduly incomplete.
Told from the perspective of Kana Karr, a newly enlisted Swordsman sent to an un-extraordinary planet to quell a common rebellion, Norton spins a story that reminds me of legendary marches across hostile territory from the ancient world.… Read the rest
Of the one-hundred books I read in 2012, nearly one quarter of them were first time authors. I read slightly more last year (28), which makes some sense considering that 2011 was a far better year for debuts than 2012. Regardless, I would happily stack up this year’s Juice Box short list against last year’s. Oddly, none of this year’s best debuts were written by women, a fact that surprised me after reading so many excellent debuts from women a year ago. I’ll chalk it up to noise, especially considering my 2013 reading thus far has included numerous excellent debuts from female authors.
Interestingly, despite some of the harsh criticisms I’ve levied toward Night Shade Books’ 2012 list, two of their debuts make the cut here, matching last year’s number. I lauded them a year ago for their outstanding new author program, and I hope it’s something they can continue to champion.… Read the rest
The Ramal Extraction by Steve Perry
In the 24th Century, the Galactic Union’s Army is stretched thin and mercenary units fill in the gaps. Headed up by retired Colonel R.A. Cutter, the Cutter Force Initiative is a multi-species contractor for training, protection, extraction, or assassination. If the price is right, and it won’t run them afoul of the real Army, they’re game. This time around it’s a kidnapping. Rags’ and his crew are called in to find and rescue the daughter of the New Mumbai rajah. Rest assured, things are a little more complicated, both militarily and politically, than a simple rescue operation.
Unfortunately, Ramal Extraction is about as entertaining as a tooth extraction. That isn’t to say there isn’t a lot of action, or things going on, it’s all just very conventional–a small squad military thriller that just happens to be set in science fictional milieu. There’s the expected banter between different members of the squad, some secrets about its leader, and a green recruit or two to contrast how hardened the veterans truly are.… Read the rest
I recently detailed the intricacies of the Shadow Ops magic system over at Fantasy Faction. In that post, I hinted that there was more to magic than the basic authorized and Probe school system I laid out in Control Point.
In this article, I’ve decided to gives a glimpse into the more esoteric, one might even say singular, magical categories, arcane arts so rare, so unique, that they can only be channeled by the writing style of a particular person.
Sam Sykes — Author of The Skybound Sea
A special sub-species of Hydromancy. Sykes has the ability to cause any person to find themselves suddenly moving across the surface of the ocean, where they shall remain for at least 150 pages.… Read the rest
I hear two main complaints among those who read Myke Cole’s debut novel, Control Point. First, the novel’s protagonist Oscar Britton was an indecisive and unlikable whiner. Second, that the writing and dialogue lacked polish. Personally, I didn’t find either of those items to be true, but I can say without a shadow of doubt that both are improved in Cole’s second novel, Fortress Frontier.
Given the ending of the first novel, I anticipated that the story of Oscar Britton taking on the establishment to bring rights to Latents — a Magneto figure, if you will — would continue. While Oscar does make an appearance, Fortress Frontier isn’t about him. Instead, Cole replaces him with Col. Alan Bookerbinder, an Army bureaucrat who comes up latent, tearing him away from his comfortable suburban life and throwing him to the wolves. . . or goblins as it were. The novel is better off for it.… Read the rest