One thing quickly became clear: I need to read more novels. Not all the novels I’ve read have appeared here for the simple reason that some of them were not fantasy or historical adventure. I’ve decided to keep the science fiction separate (which is why I started Futures Past and Present), and after one review, I’ve not blogged about any mysteries or detective stories.
6. The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi and The Executioness by Tobias S. Buckell. Okay, if you want to get picky, these are two books, not one, and they’re novellas rather than novels. I”m going to stretch the definitions a little because they were written in a unique collaborative manner, take place in the same world, were marketed together, and were published at the same time. They discuss a world filled with something called bramble, which I described in my review as kudzu on steroids. Bramble is the side-effect of using magic and is slowly taking over the world. And it’s a world I want to see more of.
5. Hawkwood’s Voyage by Paul Kearney. This one is the first of a series of five. It’s in print in an omnibus volume entitled Hawkwood and the Kings along with the second installment, The Heretic Kings. I’ve read both of them, although I haven’t gotten to the remaining three yet (I will). I think I prefer Hawkwood’s Voyage to The Heretic Kings simply because of the way it’s structured. There are several viewpoint characters, and in the first book, the viewpoint alternates between chapters. In the second, the book is divided into sections with each section telling the story from a particular character’s viewpoint. This is epic fantasy on a dark and bloody scale, with action, intrigue, heroism, villainy, and mystery. They’re both much better than average, and if you haven’t read them, you should. My reviews of both are here and here.
4. This book will be discussed later. You’ll see why. Trust me.
3. The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells. This is the first in a series of at least three. Martha Wells has been posting snippets of the next volume on her blog, but I’ve not had a chance to read them yet. This series could turn out to be science fiction at some point, but for now I’m considering it fantasy for two reasons. One, Martha has only written fantasy so far. Two, it reads like a fantasy. But it has that sense of wonder you get with the best science fiction that seems to be missing these days. It’s the story of a young man (but not a human man) you discovers who his people are and what his purpose in life is. It has some of the best aerial combat sequences I’ve read in a long time. Here’s what I thought of it in detail.
2. Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick. This one is a great novel about an honorable thief who finds himself trying to save his kingdom. The sword fights go on for pages, yet Hulick, an accomplished fencer, makes them seem like only a couple of paragraphs, they flow so naturally. Beginning writers should study him to learn how to write a fight scene. Loads of fun. The complete review is here.
4. Thirteen Years Later, 1. Twelve by Jasper Kent. Vampire hunting during the Napoleonic Wars. Evil, repulsive vampires, not the sweet, sexy kind meant to appeal to the necrophilic fantasies of teenage girls. The vampires in these books are pure evil and not to be trusted at all. This is vampire hunting for the intelligent reader. I’ve put these two books together because they are part of a greater story arc. While you can read Twelve as a standalone, Thirteen Years Later is very much dependent on the previous book. I put them together on the list because I think of them as part of the same work. How to rank them, along with The Cloud Roads and Among Thieves was tough. I loved each of these four books, but for different reasons. In the end, I decided to use the vampire books to bookend (so to speak) the other two. This pair of books is intelligent, fresh, and surprising. A high water mark in vampire fiction. Reviews are here and here.
And that’s it. The best six novels I’ve read in the first six months of the year. If you’re looking for a good read, you can’t go wrong with any of these. I’ve put a widget up at the top of the page in case anyone decides to take a closer look at one of these books. It will probably stay up for the next month or so.
I’m looking forward to what the next six months will hold.