Thursday, August 16, 2012

Extensive Sci-fi/Fantasy Book Reviews

I have read 56 or so digital novels since November 17, 2012 and I think it is time to build a list of recommendations. Do professional readers exist? I think that would be awesome. (And it’s what my company pays me to do while I’m waiting to do actual work anyway.) I am only going to list my absolute must reads, and the very few “don’t bothers” that slipped through my extremely picky, “I only read good books” filter. I will include a full list of what I read at the end for the morbidly curious.

I expect that the must read list will be listed by author. Most of them were series that I devoured the way a dog eats, well, just about anything. More inhalation than mastication. Two of the series I’ve already inhaled twice. Court Ellyn’s books are likely next on the re-reading list, in spite of the fact that I just finished the second book yesterday.

So, in no particular order, a few authors I demand. . . err, highly recommend you go read. Also, I buy everything on Kindle for PC, so it is fairly reasonably priced, if not amazing. (Ellyn’s books are worth way more than she charges.)

While I am a huge fan of Brent Weeks and Orson Scott Card, I am going to start with a few I think of as lesser known.

Go read The Name of the Wind. Right now. You can thank me later. Patrick Rothfuss creates a vivid fantasy world full magic, music, and some swordplay. The story is framed by a “humble” innkeeper name Kvothe. Kvothe hasn’t always been humble, however. He’s in hiding and a wandering storyteller has hunted him down and convinced him to tell his true story. Kvothe, his adventures and misadventures, love for music and a woman he thinks he could never have, his friends and enemies are all so human that it doesn’t feel like you’re reading a fantasy novel. I read this book straight through, finished, downloaded the sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear and read it straight through. I did very little else until I was finished. Less than six months later I read them both straight through again. I am anxious for the third installment.

When you’re done with Rothfuss’ novels, I hope you’re into epic science fiction. In Her Name: Redemption, by Michael R. Hicks was the first honest to god straight sci-fi novel I’ve read in ages that won me in a heartbeat. It begins in medias res in the middle of an intergalactic war between a race of alien warriors and humankind. The war, which appears to all intents and purposes to have no reason but the genocide of the human race, is truly a battle seeking the redemption and salvation of a species a hundred thousand years old. The main character of the original three books is captured as a child and is raised by the aliens, becoming the first human not only to understand, but to become one with their people. The trilogy chronicles the end of the war and his part in it.

I later read In Her Name: First Contact, which tells the story of the beginning of the war. It had me asking questions that were never answered, like, “Is the main character of the first three a descendant of Ichiro?” Hicks introduces us further into the culture and mind of the aliens, exploring their intentions versus those of humanity. After I finished this trilogy I went back to read Redemption again. Less than three months after I first read it.

I want to introduce Court Ellyn to you next. She’s a Kindle author and as I mentioned before, I finished reading the second volume of her first efforts yesterday. Her Blood of the Falcon books are already on the top 100 epic fantasy list on Amazon and it’s easy to see why. The story follows (mostly), a set of twins, one who becomes a mage and the other a knight. It is a high fantasy epic, with warring kingdoms and intrigue at a level that I personally find much more palatable than George R. R. Martin’s. There are elves, dwarves, humans, dragons and ogres, but they exist in a familiar but unique fashion. One of my favorite things about Ellyn’s books is her unapologetic magic system. Mages, or avedrin, as she calls them, have the potential to be nigh omnipotent. Kieryn, the mage-twin, calls upon fire, lightning, tears the earth asunder, and never misses a mark with an arrow. But neither does it make him invincible. He’s powerful, but he can be hurt and he can be dangerous, even to himself and his compatriots. I would read (and will read) her novels again before I ever consider touching Dance of Dragons.

Finally, I consider The Legend of Eli Monpress another must read. Rachel Aaron creates a world where magic is a form of animism and wizards speak and bond with the spirits of the world. Eli, the protagonist, is a quirky, unique wizard-thief whose main goal is to achieve a 1,000,000 gold bounty on his head. He usually turns into a hero in the process of trying to steal the world from under your feet. It is a fun series, with loveable characters and fascinating interactions with the physical and spiritual aspects of its fantasy world.

I wish there was more from The Galactic Mage by John Daulton. Magic literally meets space age science. It was interesting and fun to read. Especially when the spaceship encounters the teleporting space-travelling castle. . .

Some honorable mentions, though if I don’t mention it all, it’s still worth reading:

-       If you like graphic, dark sci-fantasy, try Heroes Die. Fascist future Earth and alternate fantasy world abused for entertainment of the masses.
-       The Lies of Locke Lamora and sundry are another fun fantasy story about con-men and their misadventures. Well worth the read.
-       Kevin Hearne’s series about Atticus the last living druid is a easy-going, conversational urban fantasy full of old world gods, monsters, and their general quest to kill him. He gets in trouble, even when he doesn’t mean to. I don’t really like Urban Fantasy. Especially since it’s fully of nauseous romance between leather clad witches and their vampire lovers or detective stories. Not for me. But Hearne’s books are fun to read. Full priced though, even on Kindle.
-       Jonathan Moeller is a Kindle author who needs an editor but still writes good books. I like his Ghost series, about a woman who belongs to a secret group of assassin/spies who work for the good guys. À la Robin Hobb, Brent Weeks.
-       I offered to be a beta reader for the sequel to Vaetra Unveiled, so I would be remiss not to mention it. A soldier who discovers late in life he’s a mage. Whoops.

As I said before, if it isn’t mentioned, it’s still worth reading. I just wanted to highlight some of my favorites. I am going to warn you about the shitty books I had to wipe off my shoes next. Don’t read them. Or do. The smell takes a while to go away though. I warned you.

Don’t waste your time on Tracing the Shadow by Sarah Ash. Some anti-mage inquisition and a heroine who could have been awesome, but fell flat on her face, in my opinion. It is one of those books you put on the end of a bookshelf and keeps falling over because you don’t have book ends.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman can go do unmentionable things to itself. Grossman cornered Narnia in the wardrobe and went after it like a Catholic priest chasing an altar boy. The content of the book is about as graphic. If Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund met Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Summer Tree, went to a school of magic and got into drugs and turned into hapless ennui filled 20 something emo kids, you would have this book. Do yourself a favor and don’t.

Fire Mage and Sun Mage by John Forrester should have been one book, to begin with. Might still be decent for your preteen. But I would rather give my preteen (had I children) Tamora Pierce’s Alanna novels, because then we could both enjoy them.

The Scion of Abacus is a decent read. Better marketing ploy, but I lost interest because of its serial nature. Same reason I only like watching TV shows if they’re on DVD.

Karen Miller’s Empress was ok. I don’t think it’s for everyone, though. Read a sample and some reviews before you try it.

I don’t know that Tracy Hickman can write without Margaret Weiss. Embers of Atlantis is meant to be a new D&D urban fantasy setting with dragons, blah, blah, blah. Potential, unmet. C’est la vie.

That’s likely more review than you care to read in one sitting, but that’s what happens when I let all my reading stack up for eight months without writing about it. I hope you enjoy some of what I have recommended.

Surgeon General’s Warning: I can’t stand Stephen King or Robert Jordan, so if you’re a fan of either, consider taking some of what I didn’t like with a grain of salt. I still don’t recommend Tracing the Shadow or Fire/Sun Mage, though.

And a thousand words, goodnight.


Inheritance, Christopher Paolini
The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan
The Throne of Fire, Rick Riordan
Heroes Die, Matthew Woodring Stover
Blade of Tyshalle, Matthew Woodring Stover
The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss
The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch
Tracing the Shadow, Sarah Ash
Red Seas Under Red Skies, Scott Lynch
Empress, Karen Miller
Hounded, Kevin Hearne
Hexed, Kevin Hearne
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin
Hammered, Kevin Hearne
The Lost Gate, Orson Scott Card
Pathfinder, Orson Scott Card
The Black Prism, Brent Weeks
The Way of Shadows, Brent Weeks
Shadow’s Edge, Brent Weeks
Beyond the Shadows, Brent Weeks
The Magicians, Lev Grossman
Ender in Exile, Orson Scott Card
Songmaster, Orson Scott Card
Vaetra Unveiled, Daniel R. Marvello
Tricked, Kevin Hearne
Timecaster, Joe Kimball
White Shores, Jay Swanson
The Spirit War, Rachel Aaron
The Scion of Abacus Part 1-4, Brondt Kamffer
The Legend of Eli Monpress (3 book omnibus), Rachel Aaron
The Galactic Mage, John Daulton
Sun Mage, John Forrester
Stravaganza: City of Stars, Mary Hoffman
Stravaganza: City of Masks
Soul of Tyrants (Demonsouled), Jonathan Moeller
Raven’s Shadow Book One: Blood Song, Anthony Ryan
In Her Name: First Contact (3 book omnibus), Michael R. Hicks
In Her Name: Redemption (3 book omnibus), Michael R. Hicks
Ghost in the Storm (The Ghosts), Jonathan Moeller
Ghost in the Flames (The Ghosts), Jonathan Moeller
Ghost in the Blood (The Ghosts), Jonathan Moeller
Fire Mage, John Forrester
Embers of Atlantis, Tracy Hickman
Demonsouled, Jonathan Moeller
Child of the Ghosts, Jonathan Moeller
Blood of the Falcon, Volume 1, Court Ellyn
Blood of the Flacon, Volume 2, Court Ellyn


  1. Wow, this IS extensive. I'll be checking into some of these myself now. Most of all, thank you for your generous comments, Morgan, and for taking the time to read Falcons.

    Best to you!

    1. I hope you enjoy the ones you read! I don't know how anyone could not love The Name of the Wind, to be honest. I just re-read what I wrote and guess I complimented your work even more than I thought. . . Well, you deserve it. Thank you for giving me something to read worth my time. That sounds a lot more stuck up than it's supposed to. Heh.

      Safe journeys!