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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mihir's Top Reads of 2012

With the start of the New Year, we tend to look back at the past year & all that it presented. I was a bit late with this post due to work but better late than never and so here are my top picks amongst all the books I read this year. Almost all of the reviews are from the FBC site done by Liviu, Robert or me, and similar to couple of years ago, I have linked a couple of reviews of books that I loved but could not review over here. [The reviews are from a site that I regularly visit and whose reviews resonate with me]. The basic reasons for me choosing these titles are the varied milieu of the plots, the richness of the prose and the overall enjoyment they provided. And so without further adieu, here are my choices...

TOP TEN NOVELS OF 2012:


1] Blood Song by Anthony Ryan   This was simply the best book I’ve read in this year by a long way and as far as debuts go, it stands proudly among those by Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss. The book has a narrative structure that is similar to The Name Of The Wind and also a protagonist whose talents propel him in his military school setting. However that’s not the only shining point, there are several mysteries that are present in the story and the world settings and not to mention there’s also the devious narrative voice that makes it hard for the reader to decide on the veracity of the tale being narrated. Lastly I think Anthony Ryan might be the next best thing to come out of the Indie market and hopefully time will tell if he will be the successor to David Gemmell’s rich fantasy legacy.

2] The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis This book was the find of the year for me. Featuring a cold war scenario but with wizards, assassins, magic, and a sadistically devious antagonist. The story was terrific on so many levels and showcases some terrific plotting skills on the author’s part as certain parts in the first book make so much sense. Excellent characterization, terrific storytelling and a flair for combining magic with history makes Ian Tregillis an author to watch out for with utmost glee.

3] Pines by Blake CrouchSince the last couple of years, Blake Crouch has pretty much been at the top of thriller lists everywhere. This year with Pines, he took his sales and storytelling abilities to a whole another level. Featuring a plot that mixes Twin Peaks, X-files and something else, Blake hit a terrific home run with this one and with the recent news of a possible F/X adaptation, things are simply looking better and better.

4] Mage’s Blood by David Hair Mage’s Blood was a surprisingly great read for me. It was epic fantasy done correctly and had world settings that were a bit different from the pseudo European ones that have become a cliché unto themselves. David Hair transitioned nicely from his YA books onto the epic fantasy scene with this series opener and if it is any indication of the events to come then I can only anticipate the thrills to be read ahead.

5] The King’s Blood by Daniel Abraham – Daniel Abraham had noted the less than enthusiastic reader response to his debut series and had announced that this series would be more traditional and give his version of all the classical fantasy tropes. With the second volume he gave the readers another reason for his fame to spread further. Expanding the story and character cast, Daniel is writing a series that will be known for its exceptional prose as well as terrific characters.

6] Red Country by Joe Abercrombie – Joe Abercrombie returns with a bloody fantasy western tale and so does another famous creation of his. This book was highly anticipated and barring a couple of small issues, it delivered on all of its promises. Ripe with bloody battles, dark humor and a certain less-than-ten-fingered warrior, Red Country is Joe Abercrombie at his visceral and cruel best, a standalone tale that is not to be missed.

7] Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews What do I say about this author duo, with every book, they top reader anticipation and hopes while delivering a quality story. This book is a standalone with a different narrator however for fans this is no hiccup and the storyline further expands the world of Kate Daniels while leaving readers eagerly awaiting Magic Rises. An excellent effort and a must read for all urban fantasy readers.

8] Spirit’s End by Rachel AaronThis was the conclusion to Rachel Aaron’s debut series and what a conclusion it was. Featuring revelations that were world shattering along with some truly mind boggling action sequences. Featuring a wide character cast along with those characters that we have come to love, Rachel skillfully brought each character arc to a poignant conclusion. Rachel Aaron shows that she is here to stay and the fantasy genre is richer because of it.

9] The King Of Thorns by Mark Lawrence – Mark Lawrence is a revelation to the field of dark fantasy. With his debut he single handedly showed what a sinister and twisted imagination he possessed. With the sequel volume he shows his plotting skills and further growth on his protagonist’s part. King of Thorns is a better sequel and one that opens up the story by introducing further complications in to Jorg’s lovelife as well as imperial ambitions. I for one can’t wait to read the conclusion to Jorg’s ambition and plans in Emperor Of Thorns.

10] The Tainted City by Courtney Schafer – Courtney Schafer is another author that jumped on my radar last year with her fantastic debut. In The Tainted City, Courtney does more and reveals a strong mystery storyline while introducing the readers to Ninavel and the entangled relationships of blood mages. With a captivating storyline and equally captivating character cast, Courtney wowed readers all over again. The stage is set for an epic conclusion to the Shattered Sigils trilogy and I have every hope that Courtney will deliver in a big way.

10] Blood Of The Underworld by David Dalglish – David Dalglish continues to wow with his action packed, twisted fantasy stories and a similar case is present in the first installment of his new trilogy. David unleashes a new storyline featuring his most beloved character The Watcher, with the caveat that this trilogy will be less of a standalone nature and more congruent in its overall plot arc. This book made for some terrific reading and has me hooked for its sequels. As far as such stories go, you simply can’t ask for anything better from newer, talented writers.

Honorable mentions: With so many great books, I of course had to consign two-three good books from this list. Those titles that didn’t make the list are Sharps by K.J. Parker, Demon Squad: Echoes Of The Past by Tim Marquitz and Cold Days by Jim Butcher. While Cold Days was a great return to form by Jim Butcher, K. J. Parker and Tim Marquitz continued to showcase their excellence in their respective genres.

TOP TEN DEBUT NOVELS:


1] Blood Song by Anthony Ryan Hands down a debut for the decades, this one was worthy of the acclaim that was awarded to Scott Lynch, Pat Rothfuss and Joe Abercrombie. I feel A. Ryan will gain further multitudes upon his traditional Publishing re-release in July later this year and for me this book simply heralded a talent that will join Joe Abercrombie’s heights and perhaps eclipse him as an icon of British fantasy.

2] Daughter Of The Sword by Steve Bein If not for Anthony Ryan, Steve Bein’s debut would be my top choice for the debut of the year. Combining historical fiction within a thriller setup with the addition of enchanting POV characters, Bein has written a debut that mixes genres with ease and yet manages to proclaim its uniqueness. Daughter Of The Sword is an epic story that cannot be precisely defined by genre settings or its blurb. Read it for what it is; an epic tale that proclaims the emergence of a major talent.

3] Govinda by Krishna Udayasankar This was a debut that wasn’t read widely due it being released only in the Asian subcontinent. However this just is a loss for most international readers who want to read about fantasy set in different regions and times. This is socio-political fantasy retelling of the Indian epic of Mahabharata. For a tale that is so widely known, the author managed to rewrite in such a way that it seemed fresh to most of the well-versed readers. Tantalizing in scope and with a wide character cast, this debut is another one for the charts for the author’s audacity to present a rather unique take on an epic that easily qualifies as the longest epic ever.

4] Throne Of The Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed  This was another debut that eschewed the typical pseudo-European settings to give us a strong sword & sorcery story. Saladin Ahmed has been known for his eclectic short stories and here he thoroughly showcased his excellence at the longer format as well. Throne Of The Crescent Moon was another winner from the DAW stable and this debut managed to pack a strong punch in lieu of its slim size. Very much recommended and I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel volumes to see where Saladin takes the story next.

5] Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole – Myke Cole is a revelation, simply put he’s a gift that urban fantasy needed badly. With his debut he managed to bring the complex geopolitical real-world scenario to an often-myopic urban fantasy landscape. Control Point is the first salvo in a world that is experiencing turmoil unlike any other and we get a close-in look at these bombastic happenings. The sequel promises to further widen the character cast and world settings, thereby making it an eagerly awaited book to see how Myke develops the story further.

6] The Rook by Daniel O’Malley This was an oddball book that dripped charm in an unconventional way and with a strong mystery at its heart, managed to keep me captivated and often chuckling to its wry and spirited climax. Daniel O’Malley marked himself out with this enterprising story and shed the clichéd trappings of the urban fantasy genre thereby earning full marks for his wonderful debut effort. I hope to read the sequel whenever the author gets to it and will be reading whatever the author writes next.

7] The Dead Of Winter by Lee Collins This was a late surprise for me as I nearly missed this one. I read it very late in the year however I was very enamored by this historical horror story. Lee Collins has to be applauded for trying out such a twisted storyline within the western settings, also helping is the narrative voice and we get another awesome character in Cora Oglesby. I’ll be reading the sequel soon to see how the author develops the series and characters further, but as far as debuts go this was a cracking read.

8] Land Of Hope And Glory by Geoffrey Wilson This was an alternate historical story wherein a certain tumultuous event in the history of Anglo-Indian relations is reversed brilliantly. Focusing on an England that has been colonized by the Rajthanan Empire, the author showcased a world that is discovering the effects of Sattva-Punk. With some rather nice twists and an enticing magic system, the author conveniently hooks the readers and makes sure that his debut will mesmerize most readers that dwell in to his curious world setup.

9] The Black God’s War by Moses Siregar This was an Indie debut that was released in 2011 but I got my hands on it an year later. Featuring a very intriguing world scenario with facsimiles of Greece and India, the author showcases a war from both sides along with an equally intriguing magic system and a diverse character cast. This debut is the first salvo in a world that is yet to reveal all of its secrets, with the pending release of the sequel trilogy, I’ll be among the first to see how Moses Siregar develops this world further.

9] Scourge Of The Betrayer by Jeff SalyardsAnother great debut from Night Shade who have continued from their great effort last year. Jeff Salyards’ debut was a different one in its approach and was more than a bit confusing. This was a ploy by the author as he immerses the reader as well as his protagonist in to a world and story that will shake his very foundations. With an Erikson-like approach, Jeff manages to put out a quality story and mark himself out as an author to watch for.

10] Blood Skies by Steven MontanoWriting a story that mixes military fiction, post apocalyptic themes, vampires and much more, Steven Montano distinguished himself rather quickly with his debut. Since then I’ve read the first three books of his debut series and I’ve to say that the promise shown in the debut volume is heartily developed. Another good indie debut that is eclectic in its approach and heartily summarized by the author in this wonderful post.

NOTE: All right I fibbed, there are more ten books in each list but in my defense, it was really hard to  narrow them down to ten each. So kindly overlook the odd numbers and  if you must, blame the authors for writing such good books.

NEW AUTHORS TO LOOK OUT FOR -

Every year I’m on the lookout for newer authors who match my reading interests. This year was again an exciting one for me in various genres. As I’ve discovered many authors and quite a few excellent books. So here are the authors whom I'm most excited to have discovered within the last year (in random order):

Anthony Ryan Simply the author of the year and a writer from whom I have very high expectations for his forthcoming books. With his excellent characterization, epic story style and twisting of familiar fantasy tropes, A. Ryan has really shown his talent and for me he remains the absolute find of the year.

Steve Bein Another author whose skills had let me slack jawed, combining an epic story featuring an LOTR like object with captivating characterization, Steve Bein is someone who I’ll follow diligently and with some rather high expectations.

Myke Cole A writer and a soldier who combines his love for the written word along with that of his job to create a story that manages to give the readers a series that will have them on tenterhooks.

Ian Tregillis Simply put he was a hidden gem even though he made his debut a couple of years ago. His books have left me stumped as to how such a talented author can be so under appreciated among the SFF crowd. I hope more readers discover his wonderful writing style and give the Milkweed Triptych trilogy a try as it’s simply ingenious to say the least.

Krishna Udayasankar A law professor by profession and with a penchant for mythology and folklore, Krishna Udayasankar showcased her versatility with her debut and what a terrific one it was. She’s another writer who wowed me with her writing skills and now I can only expect the best from her for the foreseeable future.

 Lastly it was a great year for me in terms of books and also since I was "Tuckerized" into a world that I very much love to read about. As far as fanboy moments go, this has to come in the top 5 for me. To find out which book was I featured in, you have to locate the one with the most salacious narrator/POV and therein you'll find me playing a small and hopefully significant part :)

4 comments:

Nayan said...

Great, even after reading over 80 books this last year I have managed to miss most of the ones on your list. Makes me wonder what I was up to :)

BTW, Frank Trigg is the most salacious character that I can think of and Tim Marquitz according to me deserves rich praise for creating someone so entertaining.

simon holland said...

Just bought Blood Song on the back of this recommendation, its nice and cheap for the kindle via amazon...

Fantasy Reader said...

I devoured a lot of these titles in 2012, but the best "fantasy" IMHO was the Wardstone Trilogy. Book three was 2012's greatest triumph.

Arcaris said...

Nice, I think I read a couple from that list. :)

Btw, your website is still showing copyright 2011 at the bottom. :(

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