Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
I just finished Warbreaker, and the words that keep coming to mind are "That was so good!" This is the first Brandon Sanderson novel I've read, and it certainly won't be the last. Warbreaker combines highly original world-building with an exciting plot that kept me on the edge of my seat.
The novel begins with the introduction of two major characters: Vivenna and Siri, princesses of the tiny kingdom of Idris. You may think you've seen these archetypes before — the stiff, elegant princess and the feisty, rebellious princess — but the way the two women develop is unexpected and realistic. Neither is prepared for what awaits them in the neighboring kingdom of Hallandren. The royal line of Idris once ruled Hallandren, and everything about present-day Hallandren is vilified in Idris, especially its magic, its... Read More
Stand-AloneThese are stand alone novels (not part of a series). They’re listed by rating (5 star novels at the top).
Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
William Goldman is better known for his screenplays than his novels. The two-time Oscar award winning author wrote the screenplays for The Stepford Wives, All the President's Men, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He is probably most recognized among current audiences for writing the screenplay for Read More
Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
Joe Abercrombie is the new master of dark, gritty, realistic fantasy, and Best Served Cold might well be the masterpiece that represents that subgenre. Monza Murcatto is a renowned and very successful mercenary … or was until she was stabbed, beaten, and thrown from a mountainside by her employer. Monza wants revenge, so she contracts a party of unsavory characters to aid her. Monza’s story goes from dark to black to “a wet match in the bottom of a dark cave” — everyone suffers, lots of people die, and the trail of blood and tragedy that Monza leaves in her wake is unprecedented.
Abercrombie takes what appears to be a simple tale of revenge and twists it into a sanguine journey of self-discovery on the part of each character. The heart of Best Served Cold is how Abercrombie strips our... Read More
The Laurentine Spy by Emily Gee
Saliel is in over her head. Masquerading as a noble lady in the fortress of Laureant’s greatest enemy, she sneaks into the old disused catacombs every other night to meet One, Two, and the Guardian, other Laurentine spies whose true identities she doesn't know.
After foiling an enemy plan to take over another fought-over land, Saliel learns that the Prince and his consort know there are spies in the fortress and have hired a notorious and feared spycatcher. Saliel and the other spies still have work to do however, and must stay one step ahead of him in order to accomplish their goal. All the time Saliel must play a part — a part she know she has no business playing — and longs to be back home in Laureant, independent and finally free from playing roles. And free from her past.
I could not put down The Laurentine Spy. From the fi... Read More
Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip
The first time I read Patricia McKillip, I didn’t get very far. The book was the Riddlemaster of Hed, and I was completely unprepared for her complex use of language. But there must have been something in her style that intrigued me, because I tracked down Winter Rose not long afterwards, and since then have been a big fan of all her work. Out of all Patricia McKillip’s books (at least the ones I’ve read) Winter Rose is perhaps the most opaque. McKillip’s language has always been eloquent and atmospheric, often obscuring both plot and characterization, but in this case the plot itself is also rather vague and ambiguous. Based on the ballad of Tam Lin, this is a dreamy and mysterious tale of family secrets, unrequited love and the allure of faerie... Read More
To Ride Hell's Chasm by Janny Wurts
At the start of To Ride Hell's Chasm, an outstanding standalone fantasy by Janny Wurts, Princess Anja of the tiny isolated kingdom of Sessalie has gone missing on the eve of the ceremony for her betrothal to the Crown Prince of Devall. Since Anja is beloved by her people, and the alliance with Devall represents potentially big trade increases, it doesn't take long for many people to be involved in the search, from Mykkael, a foreign-born former mercenary now in charge of the city's garrison, to Taskin, the military commander for the kingdom.
Over 650 pages covering about 5 days, Janny Wurts delivers a story filled with almost non-stop action that's at times impossible to put down. One of the odd and wonderful things about this novel is the contrast between the tight pacing and the lush language. Again, those 650 pages cover just a h... Read More
Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente
The first thing that strikes you about Palimpsest is the gorgeous prose. Every sentence is crafted with the utmost care, resulting in a novel that almost reads like poetry. It simply begs to be read out loud. I've read many books that attempt this kind of lush prose, but Palimpsest is one of the most successful and most beautiful.
Palimpsest is a sexually transmitted city. People who have been there have a small tattoo — a piece of the city's map — somewhere on their body. Sleep with them, and you are transported there. When you wake up, back in the real world, you will find a small tattoo of another part of Palimpsest on your body — and you will want to go back.
The story follows four people who are all newcomers to Palimpsest — a young Japanese woman, a beekeeper, a locksmith, a bookbinder. They all have lost s... Read More
Skellig by David Almond
Michael is living in a stage of upheaval and transition in his life: his parents have just moved to a rather derelict house, his unnamed baby sister is drastically ill, and the house is often visited by 'Doctor Death', the doctor sent to check up on his sister. On top of this, he now has to bus for school; the previous occupant of the house was dead for a week before anyone found him, and the outside garden is a wilderness. The garage in particular is a nightmare — slumping over, filled with junk and dead creatures, and liable to fall over any second. But Michael decides to have a peek inside, and finds an amazing discovery...
What is the strange creature hidden beneath the cobwebs and the dead flies? Is it a human, a bird or something else entirely? Calling itself Skellig, the strange being seems near death, and Michael longs to help it, feeling that in some strange way its fate is wrapped u... Read More
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman's Stardust chronicles the origin and life of the young Englishman Tristran Thorn, in particular his quest to retrieve, for the woman he fancies, a star that has fallen in the land of Faerie, which begins just beyond his village of Wall. But Tristran isn't the only one who seeks the star, and the star itself is much more than he imagined ...
Gaiman weaves a quickly paced, beautifully structured adult fairy tale — 'adult' because it doesn't neglect the human experiences of sex, death and time. His language is that of the gifted storyteller — clear, concise and lyrical, resonant with mythic lore and archetypes. I highly recommend this book (even as a new purchase) for fans of fantasy, fairy tales, mythology, and/or romance, as well as for those who simply enjoy a well-told tale.
It would be a disservice to an interested reader to make th... Read More
Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
When the infamous mercenary captain, Monza Murcatto, seems to be getting too powerful, her employer, Duke Orso, attempts to have her and Benna, Monza’s next-in-command, killed. Short work is made of Benna, but, by a cruel twist of fate, Monza survives, just barely. And her quest for vengeance sets a spark to the powder-keg that is the country of Styria during the Years of Blood.
Best Served Cold is a stand-alone novel that takes place in the same world as Joe Abercrombie’s acclaimed The First Law series. To his many fans (of which I’m certainly one), I say: you’ll be more than pleased with Best Served Cold. Along with a colorful array of new characters — criminals, henchmen, assassins, power-hungry nobles, and ... Read More
The Master of Whitestorm by Janny Wurts
I love the characters that Janny Wurts builds because they are always flawed. The obsession and drive that Korendir feels are tangible, and as you come to know his past, it makes more and more sense.
The Master of Whitestorm is exciting and has plenty of adventure. Ms Wurts deftly walks the line between spending too
much time in trivial details and giving you a clear understanding of how the magic system works. Great read, and if you are a Janny Wurts fan, The Master of Whitestorm is a must!
To Ride Hell’s Chasm by Janny Wurts
Due to its remoteness, the kingdom of Sessalie has enjoyed generations of peace while other parts of the world have been ravaged by war with sorcerers. That tranquility is shattered when their beloved Princess Anja goes missing on the night on her betrothal. Now her fate, and the kingdom’s, rests on two men. Dealing with unfamiliar evils, Taskin, the iron-disciplined commander of the Royal Guard, must depend on the worldly experience and unfathomable character of a foreigner and sell-sword: garrison captain Mykkael, who could just as likely be involved in Anja’s disappearance as her sole chance of rescue.
This was my first time reading Janny Wurts, and I now understand her very dictated and enthusiastic following. To Ride Hell’s Chasm is the perfect fantasy story. It contains some traditional fantasy elements like an endangered princess in a far... Read More
To Ride Hell's Chasm by Janny Wurts
To Ride Hell's Chasm was my first Wurts novel. I actually have a copy of the first book of The Wars of Light and Shadow saga which I started (and liked so far), but I got a bit intimidated by the time commitment (and the fact that WoLaS is unfinished...), so I decided to try this stand-alone first to get a feel for Janny Wurts' style before I leapt into a mega-epic. Along that line, I was also interested to see how she would affect an actual ending, since WoLaS doesn't actually have one yet (at least not in print).
It took me a while to get used to Ms Wurts' style. I haven't had a lot of reading time lately, so the last several things I've chosen to read have purposely been a bit... light. Like chocolate mousse. Wurts is not li... Read More
Sleepless by Charlie Huston
CLASSIFICATION: Sleepless is a classic crime/mystery story set in a post-apocalyptic milieu afflicted by a unique illness. Think Dennis Lehane meets José Saramago’s Blindess and P. D. James’ The Children of Men meets Richard K. Morgan.
FORMAT/INFO: Sleepless is 368 pages long divided over thirty numbered chapters and an Epilogue. Narration is in the first-person via a sixty-year-old, ex-military freelance mercenary named Jasper, and in both the third and first-person (in the form of journal entries) of undercover cop, Parker “Park” Haas. Sleepless is self-contained. January 12, 2010 marks the North American Hardcover publication of ... Read More
The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding
If you enjoy the atmosphere and imagination of Philip Pullman, Garth Nix, or Philip Reeve, then you're sure to like Chris Wooding, a YA fantasy author who does not feel the need to fill his fantasy world with elves, dwarfs, wizards, dragons and every other fantasy cliché that's been done to death since Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings.
Some authors are willing to explore new territory, and Wooding is one of these. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray Read More
Tigerheart by Peter David
Whether you’ve read the original J.M. Barrie play or novel, seen the Disney film, eaten the peanut butter, or been exposed to any of the other countless adaptations out there, most people are probably familiar with the tale of Peter Pan and Neverland, and because of this familiarity, readers should be able to immediately connect with Peter David’s Tigerheart which is an homage to, an original retelling, and a sequel to the classic bedtime story.
As an homage, Tigerheart liberally borrows from J.M. Barrie’s classic including characters, places, and themes — names and certain elements have been changed such as The Boy instead of Peter Pan, Anyplace instead of Neverland, Captain Hack for Captain Hook, Vaga... Read More
Nation by Terry Pratchett
When much is taken, something is returned. That is the theme of Nation, a stunningly beautiful, thought-provoking and at times heart-breaking new novel by Terry Pratchett. This is not a Discworld novel. It is the tale of Mau, a boy just about to undergo his coming of age ritual on a small island in the Great Pelagic Ocean when a tidal wave destroys everything and everyone around him. But when so much is taken, something is given in return and, in this case, the tidal wave also strands the Sweet Judy, a ship of the British Empire, and its one surviving occupant, a young woman who answers to the name of Daphne.
As Mau and Daphne struggle to rebuild some semblance of a life and a community and understanding between two very different cultures, Pratchett has the opportunity to explore the meaning of family, cultural belong... Read More
The City & The City by China Mieville
It’s impossible to discuss China Mieville’s The City & The City without discussing its premise. I don’t consider this much of a spoiler, as the reader is pretty fully confronted with the premise about 20-30 pages in, but it is led into with hints here and there so before hitting the premise, I’ll offer a very short summation and recommendation in the next two paragraphs, followed by the full discussion which includes the premise.
Despite the title’s promise of more urban New Weird fantasy along the lines of Perdido Street Station, anyone coming to The City & The City expecting more Bas-Lag fantastical settings and inhabitants, or the wild abundance of imagination that was the city in Un-Lun-D... Read More
King of Morning, Queen of Day by Ian McDonald
I knew, just by reading the back cover blurb, that King of Morning, Queen of Day was right up my alley. Women with mystical powers? Check. Faeries? Check. Ireland? Check. In fact, I think the only reason I didn't discover this book earlier is that it was published in 1991, and I only started reading fantasy sometime in the late nineties.
The story begins with Emily, a bratty but endearing girl of fifteen, poised on the edge of adulthood in the early 20th century. Emily knows she is special — set apart — and when she sees the faeries in the wood by her family's home, she knows she will never be satisfied with ordinary life. Emily makes a colossal mess of things, as bratty fifteen-year-olds will do, and sets in motion events that will affect generations to come.
What follows is a fairy tale, but not preci... Read More
The Prodigal Troll by Charles Coleman Finlay
Although many cultures have a similar story, the most famous prodigal is that of the parable of Jesus told in Luke 15:11-31. In it, a young man takes his inheritance, leaves his family, and seeks his fortune in the wider world. He soon learns that the world is a cruel place and ends up returning to his father. The term “prodigal” eventually came to mean one who returned after a long absence, usually after finding trouble apart from their families.
The prodigal in Charles Coleman Finlay’s The Prodigal Troll is Maggot, a young man heir to power who ends up being reared by a lowly troll. Similar to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes, Maggot is a human reared by a more bestial race. Finlay’s trolls are what we expect: although not savage, they live a primitive, subsistence life, and ... Read More