Bradley’s Lays of Anuskaya series was on my radar this year thanks to all my Night Shade Books reading last year and it ended up going on my “25 Series To Read In 2013” challenge. When I read the first book earlier this year in February, I was quite struck with the scope of the world-building and with the characters. Not to mention the fact that I loved the (inspired-by) Russian setting, despite sometimes getting lost with the names and the familiar names. The Winds of Khalakovo is definitely one of my favourite books of the year and Bradley one of my favourite authors.
The second novel, set some time after the events of the first novel, goes further with the world-building and deals in concepts and cultures and locales that we did not see in the first book. That gets some automatic points from me, for sure, because I love that aspect in a second or third novel. Fleshing out the setting created and introduced in the first book is one of the most important things in a sequel that I look for, and Straits of Galahesh is enjoyable for that fact. But, some of the characterisation and the pacing did suffer this time around, so it wasn’t as smooth sailing as the first book.
In recent years, C. L. Werner has emerged as one of my favourite Black Library authors, especially through his short fiction. Primarily writing in the Warhammer Fantasy setting with an occasional foray into Warhammer 40,000 I think of him as one of the more technically sound authors and someone who can tell complex stories and complex characters really well. He showed that with Dead Winter last year, his first Black Plague novel for the Time of Legends meta-series. It was political epic fantasy at its best and showed a cross-section of the Empire and its enemies at one of the lowest points in the former’s history.
Earlier this year the second novel in the trilogy was released, which I got to read last month. I’ve been really neglectful of my Black Library reading this year, so I haven’t had a chance to read all the books that I’ve wanted to. But what little I’ve read has been quite good and Blighted Empire is a great example of that.
I’ve talked before about Matt’s super-crazy plan to write a dozen novels last year, a project that he called 12-for-12 which specifically called for him to write one 50k novel a month for every month of 2012. He didn’t quite get to complete the project, since he also undertook comic gigs and wrote novels as work-for-hire, aside from other events, but it was still a superhuman feat. He’s been working on the novels this year as well and has already released nine of the novels, three separate trilogies with different themes and settings, to great fanfare and a hell of a reception. While I loved his Brave New World trilogy and his Shotguns & Sorcery trilogy was another good one, its really his Dangerous Games trilogy that I have really, really enjoyed.
Set at the premier gaming convention in the West, GenCon, this trilogy is a thriller/crime novel that makes full use of Matt’s experiences as a tabletop/board/card game designer and his attendance of the convention itself for the last several years. If ever you needed a window into a geek con through the lens of a contemporary novel, this is the trilogy you need to be reading.
Just about a year and a half ago, I read my first ever books from Wizards of the Coast: Paul S. Kemp’s excellent The Erevis Cale Trilogy (review). Set in WotC’s highly popular Forgotten Realms setting, these books took me for a great ride through a setting incredibly rich with characters and diversity. It was a… bold new world for me to explore, as someone who had never read any Forgotten Realms novels before, and who was heavily invested in Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy setting. Paul’s books proved to be a great turning point and they inspired me to read more from WotC, and I soon followed up his novels with various others, such as the War of the Spider Queen series and Erin M. Evans’ Brimstone Angels series.
This year, I haven’t read nearly the same number of Forgotten Realms novels sadly, but I’ve started to change that around. I read R. A. Salvatore’s The Companions (review) just last month and a couple weeks ago I finished up Paul’s second Erevis Cale trilogy, Twilight War, constituting the novels Shadowbred, Shadowstorm and Shadowrealm. This trilogy proved to be even better than the first, and I’m really glad that I read it. Now I’m finally caught up with this series, right in preparation for reading Paul’s next Forgotten Realms novel, The Godborn, which is the seventh novel in this series and is the second novel that ties in to the current Forgotten Realms event, The Sundering.
A few days ago I came across a review of Mark Lawrence’s second Broken Empire novel, King of Thorns (link), which is up for nomination for the David Gemmell Legend Awards in the Legend category. The Legend Award is given to the Best Novel of the previous year. On Twitter and Facebook, I talked about how that review justified all my reasons and fears for not reading further into this series after my experiences with the first novel, Prince of Thorns (review).
My tweets eventually spawned off a discussion about negative reviews, which led into the review that forms the basis and reason for this entire post. In January last year, reviewer Liz Bourke wrote about Michael J. Sullivan’s first Riyria Revelations novel, Theft of Swords (link). This review was brought to my attention by a friend on Twitter who had taken exception to the way that Liz Bourke took potshots at the author and his editors at Orbit Books.
Going through the review and the comments thread, some things become apparent to me as to the intent of the review, the tone it is written in, and what, ultimately, were the reactions. However, what really ended up happening was that it all sparked off some self-examination about negative reviews. And that’s what this post is all about.
So welcome to another Publishing and Marketing blogpost.
Earlier this year, in January, I set myself a very particular reading challenge. The goal of this reading challenge was to read through 25 different SFF series (link), from across the genres and across times. To be specific, I wanted to read through at least 12 of these various series, to get a start on them. I hit that mark sometime in July, with Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy #1: The Assassin’s Apprentice (review). As of last month, I added another notch to that reading challenge by reading Jaye Wells’ first Sabina Kane novel, The Red-Headed Stepchild.
Throughout the year, I’ve read all sorts of novels, good, bad, decent, meh, everything. Fortunately, Jaye’s novel proved to be one of the better ones. Urban Fantasy wasn’t all that big a genre for me until late last year and since then I’ve had a lot of fun with the genre. For me, The Red-Headed Stepchild stands as one of the better examples of the genre, a really fun and interesting story throughout, with a hell of a lot things to recommend itself.