As I have said before, my “25 Series To Read In 201x” reading challenge is meant to allow me to touch base with trilogies (and longer series) that are out in publication currently and have proven to be big successes while also going back to read some classics, especially a few favourites that I have not revisited in the longest time. For this year’s challenge, one of the series that found its way to my list is the Empire trilogy by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts, a trilogy that stands as one of the best fantasy series I’ve read to date, for far too many reasons. And going back to it last month proved to be a blast.
The Empire trilogy is set on the world of Kelewan in the Empire of Tsuranuanni. In his Riftwar Saga trilogy, Raymond introduced us to the worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan which became locked in a grand war across time and space. In this particular trilogy with Janny, he tells us of the events happening on the other side of the conflict, as the Riftwar novels mostly focus on Midkemia. The books focus on young Mara of the Acoma, the last scion of her family as she struggles to rebuild her family’s fortunes and carves out her own political identity in a world of strict social mores and ruthlessly cunning rivals.
A new year means a new reading challenge of the “25 Series I Want To Read” variety. You can find a list of authors and series (the original post for the challenge that is) over here. In the past two years that I’ve been doing this, I kinda-sorta completed the challenge in 2013, and I definitely completed it last year. It is a really fun challenge to do, and allows me to pick and choose from a wide variety of genre greats and genre debuts (relatively speaking), which is one of the many reasons that I do it all. Plus, as a consequence, it also exposes me to a wider variety of fiction out there and gets me to connect with it all on a very different level, even series that I’ve read before becoming a blogger.
One of the first books I’ve read this year is the first Planeswalker novel for the Magic the Gathering setting from Wizards of the Coast, Agents of Artifice. This is pretty much an intro novel to the setting, and it definitely has a lot of typical Ari Marmell flavour, which I’ve experienced before in his Widdershins novels from Pyr Books, as well as his Darksiders novel from Del Rey. Following the Planeswalkers Jace Beleren and Liliana Vess, this novel explores the wonderful plane of Ravnica and is a fairly good read, though not without its flaws.
Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series was a part of my 25-in-14 reading challenge where I attempted to, and succeeded in, reading at least the first novels in 25 different series, across a multitude of genres. Reading Dauntless proved to be quite a fun experience actually because I went in expecting some serious military SF, and the experience was much different to that expectation. It had some nice hard-SF elements to it, but they were sufficiently explained for a layman and the writer kept his focus on the characters and the story itself.
Fearless is the second novel in the series and carries on over from the events at the end of Dauntless with Captain John “Black Jack” Geary and his ragtag Alliance fleet scoring a resounding victory against the Syndics. It was definitely a great moment to end the novel on and Jack Campbell ups the stakes and everything else in the sequel. John has been fighting for unity and discipline and cooperation between the various ships of the fleet since he took over, massively disadvantaged in a lot of ways, and Fearless is just another major test for him as he continues to lead the fleet out of the Syndic Worlds and back home to the Alliance.
Garrosh Hellscream is perhaps one of World of WarCraft‘s most contentious characters. Introduced as part of a quest line that eventually saw the Orcs of Outland reuniting with their brothers and sisters on Azeroth, he is the son of Grom Hellscream, he who first partook of the Pit-Lord Mannoroth’s blood and paved the way for the curse of his race. And yet, he is also the son of Grom Hellscream, he who avenged his people on Mannoroth by slaying the demon. Garrosh has been torn between two extremes since we first saw him and in recent years, as he took on the mantle of Warchief from Thrall, he has slid further and further into his own games and illusions, leading to one of the most momentous moments in World of WarCraft history.
For towards the end of the Mists of Pandaria expansion, players were witness and participants to a raid on Orgrimmar itself, whether they were from the Horde or the Alliance, in a bit to stop Garrosh in another of his apocalyptic schemes. The insane Warchief was defeated and would have died at Thrall’s hand but for the intervention of none other than King Varian Wrynn. And now, in Mists of Pandaria: War Crimes, we are all witness to Garrosh’s trial, an unprecedented event that draws in all the leaders of Azeroth’s various races to Pandaria. Christie Golden recaps much of her previous WarCraft work in this novel, and goes to show that Garrosh is a far more complex than anyone believed him to be, and that contradictions are in his very nature. Needless to say, this was a most fascinating read.
Doing one of these posts often takes a lot out of me because of all the linking and checking and verification and formatting and everything, but lists like this also help me crystalize my year in reading, so I value them quite highly. Thankfully, I’m able to get this list out in time and most of the books on the list have already been reviewed as well, so that’s something too.
With the year 2014 now done and over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st July to December 31st. I didn’t read as many books this time as I wanted to, primarily because I got married in the first week of July itself, and things have changed a fair bit. But life remains exciting and interesting in equal measure, and my reading also happens to match that rather closely, so I’ll take that in full indeed!
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
Anthony Reynolds has been writing for Black Library for quite a good while now. I first came across him with his Word Bearers novels, which proved to be a most fascinating and weird read, and then continued on with some of his other work as he branched out of writing Word Bearers for 40K and delivered some occasional Horus Heresy stuff as well. I haven’t checked out his Warhammer Fantasy stuff however outside of a novella he did a few years back, The Questing Knight, which proved to be a good decent read. But, he hasn’t had a full novel published in a while, I don’t think, which was slightly disappointing as I consider him to be one of the better writers writing for Black Library.
And then came Khârn: Eater of Worlds, a post-Horus Heresy novel that looks at how the XIIth Legiones Astartes, the World Eaters, are degrading down into warbands, how the Legion has changed in the aftermath of the failed Siege of Terra, and the other changes affecting it now that Angron has gone and become a mighty Daemon Prince of Khorne, leaving them all behind to do whatever it is they will. Anthony writes a pretty typical World Eaters novel, with all the gory violence you’d expect from it, and it also presents some intriguing characters, especially Khârn himself, the most infamous World Eater character ever, and also a major lore character. Suffice to say, I loved this novel.
I didn’t find out until quite late that because of narrative reasons, Jean Johnson had split the fourth and final novel in her fantastic Theirs Not To Reason Why series into two novels, Hardship and Damnation. Not until a few weeks back when I finally got around to reading Hardship that is. And finishing that short-ish novel, I wanted to read the final book as soon as I could, since I love the series a LOT and because the way that Jean ended Hardship, I knew that whatever was next for Ia, it was going to something big, big, BIG. And it was.
Damnation brings to a close a grand saga that Jean kicked off a few years ago with A Soldier’s Duty, the first novel in the series. The end of the Second Salik War is around the corner, and while the frogtopi aren’t going out without a fight, they are definitely on the out and out here. But the Salik aren’t the only antagonists at large for the galaxy’s greatest psychic, since the ancient Greys are also coming back and Ia has to end both wars in such a way that when an even more ancient hostile race comes to the galaxy, the legacy she leaves behind is going to be enough to give the entire galaxy a fighting chance against them. And I’ll also mention here that despite all the different scenarios I had come up with for how Damnation would end, I still got a nice jolt of surprise on the final pages.
Mists of Pandaria is the World of WarCraft expansion prior to the current one, Warlords of Draenor, and is one that I’ve played for only a very, very small while. About a year and a half back or so I got some free-time from Blizzard and was allowed to play one level up so that I could be enticed into purchasing the full thing. It proved to be a great experience, but I was unable to go back. But I do remember the first zone being quite a good one, and the quests were indeed great too. I always get this immense sense of nostalgia when I play the game on free-time, knowing that I won’t be able to play it properly at level, but then, that’s why I read the novels, to make up for that.
Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde is set in the opening stages of Mists of Pandaria and it has Garrosh betray the Troll leader, knocking down one of his many opponents in the Horde. From there on, we see how Vol’jin recovers at the Pandaren Shado-Pan Monastery under the supervision of his friend Chen Stormstout and how he defends this new land against its enemies, enemies which include the returned mogu, ancient enemies and slave-masters of the Pandaren, and also a resurgent Zandalari Troll Empire. It is a fairly good story, but there were definitely some parts where I think the story dragged on and on and dropped down into the tedium of connecting to the larger story of World of WarCraft.
I’ve been a fan of Judge Dredd for a good while now, which for me translates into about a three-year period. It all started with the horrible 1980s movie with Sylvester Stallone, but then extended into the audio dramas range from Big Finish Audios, and then into the comics from IDW Publishing, and then the new movie with Karl Urban, and so on. Back in 2012 I also read the Dredd Omnibus from Abaddon Books which contained three stories from the perspective of a veteran Judge Dredd and which proved to be a really fun collection with some really strong stories.
And now we have this year’s Judge Dredd: Year One, which collects three more short novels, but the twist being that they focus on a Judge Dredd who is just a year out from the Academy, and is thus still finding his feet in the mess that is life in Mega-City One. Each novel does something different with the character, with the third one, Wear Iron by Al Ewing, which contains quite a bit of misdirection. But still, each novel here is pretty excellent and the stories told are definitely a lot of fun too, such as the first novel City Fathers which shows the Mega-City 5000 race. Great stuff!
I read Dredd Omnibus back in 2012, just a few short months after Dredd, starring Karl Urban in the titular role, debuted on movie screens around the world, and unfortunately flopped. It was a great movie, truly, but I can see why it lacked a certain mass appeal, not to mention the other decisions taken with it. And then came this omnibus, which collected three novels featuring the titular character and proved to be one hell of a read when put together. The omnibus explored the culture of Mega-City One from many different angles and it also proved to be a great look into Dredd as a character, as he went about the city on patrol and dispensed justice to criminals.
This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.
Erin M. Evans’ Brimstone Angels series has proven to be quite a good one as it has progressed. These novels feature the tiefling twins Havilar and Farideh as the main characters, with a great cast of supporting chracters, each of whom is different from the other. And as great as the characters are, the plots themselves have been fairly engaging on a minimal level. I love reading the adventures of these two, with Farideh struggling to learn more about her warlock pact with the cambion devil Lorcan, and Havilar falling in love with a fellow young adventurer Aubrin Crownsilver, and both of them managing all of that while also taking down the bad guys one by one.
In the recently released Fire In The Blood, the fourth novel in the series, we pick up from where we left off at the end of The Adversary last year. The characters have all made their way to the city of Suzail, the capital of the Cormyr empire where Aubrin happens to be a noble, and even one with a half-strong claim to the throne itself. Things have been pretty rough for everyone, and Erin M. Evans revisits the concept of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. Each character has to face a great many personal challenges as they are assaulted by tons of things on all sides, and have to figure out what they really want out of their lives and the events around them. Goes without saying really that Fire In The Blood is a pretty damn good novel and is certainly the best in the series so far.
The Adversary is the third novel in both the Brimstone Angels series and in the crossover The Sundering series which was the big event for Forgotten Realms last year. Massive upheavals on a multiversal scale aside, the novel also featured some major changes to the status quo when Lorcan’s sister Sairche tricked Havilar and Farideh into a bargain that sent them forward in time almost a decade, time which they lost and never recovered from. But that wasn’t everything of course and as The Sundering progressed in the other novels, with many old heroes returning all over the multiverse, the tiefling twins also took their place in the grand scheme of things with a climactic twist that changed them completely. The Adversary also made it to my “Best of 2013 Part 2” list at the end of last year, a deserved spot.
This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.