Ever since 2011 rolled about, I’ve been devouring books like a beast. Reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes apart from gaming and art, but in the recent months I’ve been going through books more ardently than usual because I’ve set a challenge for myself — to read 100 novels this year. Yeah, good luck to me!
Anyway, I’ve always admired other bloggers like Syp or Anjin for writing about the books they’ve read lately, and I realized it has been quite a while since I myself wrote a book post on this blog. The last time I considered writing one was late last year, for lack of a better explanation I changed my mind because I didn’t feel like I had enough good books to talk about. Ever since I set my reading challenge, however, there has been an abundance! I’ve been dying to talk about good books lately, and my favorite genre is fantasy, so I hope you won’t mind my sharing some of the better reads I’ve had so far this year:
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Second book in the Kingkiller Chronicle series and follow up to 1997’s The Name of the Wind. Admittedly, I didn’t get what all the fuss was about with these books until about a third of the way through WMF when I changed my attitude and finally stopped trying to make the book conform to my expectations of what should happen in a fantasy novel.
After that, following Kvothe around on his adventures became so much more enjoyable. We’ve all heard how he’s supposedly this badass hero who has done all these amazing things, but now he tells us the true story in his own words. Hopefully at some point, we’ll also get to find out how he came to wind up behind a bar as a simple innkeeper.
The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett
A really cool book about a world where demons rise at sundown from the Core and terrorize the nights. Humanity hides in the shadows, and their only means of protection are their wards that shield their homes and make them impenetrable to the Corelings — but only if their ward symbols hold. As a fan of modern fantasy, I enjoyed this one a lot. It had a character-driven story and just the right amount of action to keep the momentum going. However, I did feel that the second book of this series The Desert Spear was a little weaker, but regardless The Warded Man was still well worth the read.
The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
Weeks is probably better known for his Night Angel trilogy, but when I became curious about his work I decided to pick this one up instead. The book is about Gavin Guile, a powerful man attempting to complete five great purposes before his death in five years, meanwhile guarding a terrible secret that could unravel everything he has accomplished. Then there is Kyp, an orphan boy who suddenly finds himself a father figure in Gavin, and together they are drawn into a war that threatens to shatter their world.
Yeah, the story is kinda hard to explain. It was all right, but in the end it was the unique magic system that really made it memorable. Based on chromaturgy, some people in this world called “drafters” can harness light to create a substance called luxin which can take on different colors of their spectrum. Each color has unique properties, so drafters can construct many different things out of this substance. Interesting magic systems always stand out for me.
The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
Very rarely do I find a series, especially in a trilogy, where the later books actually outshine the first. I wasn’t sure I was going to like The First Law when I picked up the first installment The Blade Itself, but now I’m really glad I stuck with the series, reading Before They Are Hanged and finally Last Argument of Kings. I love being able to read an epic tale of war and magic, and yet still feel connected to amazingly well-developed characters that breathe and bleed.
And ugh, do they bleed. Joe A’s books are definitely not for the faint-hearted. I have a pretty strong stomach for violence and I don’t really consider myself squeamish, but even I cringed at some of the scenes of torture and bloody battle. The dark grittiness and cynicism in his books can sometimes be a little too much to take, and I had to give myself long breaks between the books instead of reading them back-to-back. I recently realized how tired I was of the dreariness after reading Best Served Cold, a sort of “spin-off” which takes place in the same world as The First Law books but stars a completely new character. Makes me think it will be a while before I’m ready to take on Abercrombie’s latest novel The Heroes.
Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick
I gave this new author and his debut novel a try, and I don’t regret it one bit. His style may still lack a bit of polish, but in the end this book delivered a great story that was full of action and interesting twists and turns. Drothe is a “Nose”, which is like an informer for the underworld. I was immediately thrust into his world of intrigue and betrayal, and the action seriously doesn’t let up. Even though the beginning was a bit confusing, the end managed to come together and all the subplots tied up nicely.
I can see myself reading something by Douglas Hulick again. With more time and experience, I think he can deliver some amazing stories
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
I confess, I was never big on urban fantasy. To put it mildly, so much of it out there is just utter crap. But I’d heard so many good things about The Dresden Files from so many people, I felt like I was the last person on earth to read this series. I finally took the plunge and picked up the first book Storm Front earlier this year, and was pleasantly surprised with what I read. These books center around the life of Harry Dresden, a wizard who is also a private investigator looking into paranormal disturbances in modern-day Chicago, striking a fine balance between fantasy and hard-boiled detective fiction.
I’m currently on book 5, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series because apparently these books just get better and better.
And speaking of Jim Butcher, I gave his Codex Alera series a try as well, but after reading Furies of Calderon, I think his Dresden stuff is clearly where his forte is.
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
I loved this book. When asked to describe LoLL, I always say it’s like Oliver Twist meets Ocean’s 11 meets The Godfather. It’s fantasy, but also reads like a dark action-adventure thriller, with its tales of thievery, gang wars, subterfuge, and themes of vengeance. I fell in love with the Gentleman Bastards right from the start, which made some parts of the novel hard to take whenever unfortunate events befell them.
Anyway, a great start to what looks to be a very fun series. I currently have the second book, Red Seas Under Red Skies already on my to-read list.
Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan
Yeah, this is not your typical werewolf story. If you’re into Vikings and Norse mythology, and are sick of the usual paranormal romance stuff that passes for werewolf fiction these days, then this book is for you. Wolfsangel begins with a Viking raid on a small village, the leader a king who has seen in a prophecy that he was to kidnap a child to be his heir. But what he finds is not one but two infants — twin boys whose origins and fates are entwined with the gods. Vali grows up as a Viking prince, while his twin Feileg is raised in the wilds with wolves to be the protector of a witch.
At times, this book was difficult to follow, but all in all I was impressed by the story and the writing, which invoked some very powerful imagery. A hauntingly decent read, some parts being downright bone-chilling.
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Just finished this book earlier this week, actually. A friend of mine who was not a fan of fantasy read it and ended up loving it, which made me curious to take a look.
It started off typically enough, a bastard son (my friend asked me why fantasy novels are always full of bastards…I honestly didn’t know what to say to that) of a prince is raised in the shadow of the royal court, secretly trained to be an assassin by the king. I found most of the novel rather average and predictable, until the end where the many plot twists and turns finally got me hooked. I was a little disappointed that the last chapters wrapped up so quickly, but luckily there is more to this trilogy so I can still follow more of Fitz’s adventures.
I am always on the look out for great books. Much of my to-read list is populated by fantasy, but I am open to all sorts of genres in fiction. So if you look at this list and can think of something you think I might enjoy, feel free to throw some recommendations my way!