Last year I started a seasonal “Best of…” list that focused on some of the best covers I saw that year, whether for novels or comics. And now, it being the same time of the year in the new year, it is an opportunity to bring the list back, more so since it was really popular when I started it.
The first of these “Best of…” book covers is actually a tie between William King’s Terrarch Chronicles #2: The Serpent Tower and Django Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns #1: The Thousand Names. None of these two are 2014 publications, which is usually how I do these lists, but I wasn’t particularly taken with the covers of the two 2014 books I did read, so here we are (Though, it should be mentioned that the mass paperback of The Thousand Names came out in July’14). I’ve long been a fan of William’s work for Black Library, and Terrarch Chronicles was his first self-published work, the first novel in the series being one of my favourites last year. And with Django’s debut from last year, I’ve become a big fan of his work too and will be reading the sequel in a few days, hopefully. Looking forward to that!
The first of these “Best of…” comics covers is another tie, owing more to how many more comics I began to read this year compared to previous years, each week. And the picks are the covers for Witchblade #172 by Stjepan Sejic and for Black Widow #2 by Phil Noto. The Witchblade is a character I’ve long been a fan, specifically its bearer Sara Pezzini and with Ron Marz coming back on the title last year, it proved to be a new fun era for the title in all respects. And on Black Widow, I’ve seen some of the best content from Marvel all-year, with the new title being matched in consistency only by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s Ms. Marvel.
So without further ado, hit the break to see both the covers in all their glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.
I started reading Django Wexler earlier this year and he has quickly become one of my favourite authors to read, thanks to his first fantasy novel, The Thousand Names and his cyberpunk-urban fantasy novella John Golden: Freelance Debugger. The latter is about a tech-guy named John Golden who pulls out pixies and other urban fantasy junk out of computer systems. Freelance Debugger was one hell of a story with a winning premise, and I loved it from the get go. Which is why I wanted to read the follow-up as soon as it was available, which happened a few weeks back.
Heroes of Mazaroth sees John tackle the MMORPG of the same name, the most popular such game in the industry. And the premise is simple: due to some pixie magic-wrangling and some idiocy at some point, Heroes has a pixie problem in that one of its greatest villains, the current top-end raid boss, has become self-aware and has left the game for a place where he isn’t repeatedly killed and looted by bands of adventurers. But things aren’t always as they seem and John has a really tough fight ahead of him now, one that only his masterful duo with his friend and partner Sarah can help him get through.
This post is coming in at a slightly later time than I’d prefer, about two weeks late at least, but I guess I can’t really “complain” when the lateness is due to my own wedding which took place exactly two weeks ago on the 5th. It has certainly been a very busy and intense time, what with being engrossed in all the marriage stuff and then even after that there’s been one thing after another. Reading time has definitely suffered greatly, which makes me a little sad considering how much I love reading, but eh, all for a good cause really.
With half the year now over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st January to 30th June. There’s been a ton of books that I’ve read in this period as usual, and I made a very strong effort to read more tie-in fiction than I usually do, so the list is most assuredly going to reflect that. Tie-in fiction is a very important part of the publishing industry I feel and it always deserves some recognition. Now if we could only get an award started that celebrated tie-in fiction and all would be alright with the world. Or so my thinking goes.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names, which is the first book in his flintlock military fantasy series The Shadow Campaigns, is one of my favourite reads of 2014 so far. It presents a bold new world, adds to the flintlock fantasy genre, and has some great characters, not to mention a great story of course. With the sequel, The Shadow Throne, supposed to be coming later this year in late summer, the wait to get back into this world is long of course, but fortunately I had a short story to tide me over. Released last year (on both Amazon and still available for free on geek site io9), the short story presents some new characters, but adds to the overall setting, and that is the charm of it.
In The Penitent Damnedi, we meet Alex, a thief in the Vordanai capital Vordan City. She is a completely different character to those that I read about in The Thousand Names, but she is no less impressive than either of them. She has some… special abilities, entirely fitting with the world that Django created in The Thousand Names, and the use of these powers and what follows from there is the driving force behind this short story. And we see some more, bigger, characters too, such as the Last Duke, who was a major behind-the-scenes villain of The Thousand Names. So, the setup for this story is pretty good!
Django is one of the authors that I discovered through Twitter. And I meant to read his debut last year itself, but didn’t really get a chance to do that. Which is why The Thousand Names is one of the first books that I read this year. I’d long been interested in it, especially given the premise and since it had been getting a lot of positive buzz in the part of the blogosphere that I frequent. And that’s actually quite important to me. If my friends like something, then I am much more liable to check it out, just because of all that buzz.
And with The Thousand Names, the first in Django’s The Shadow Campaigns series, I was quite impressed with it. I’ve been noticing, among all the debuts I’ve been reading in the last two years, that the quality is often quite high indeed. Some really talented authors are making themselves known and I feel really excited to say that Django is right up there too. The Thousand Names is easily one of the best novels that I’ve read since becoming a reviewer and thinking about books and stuff critically. So that’s quite an achievement on a personal level, all things considering.