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The Blinding Knife is the second entry in Brent Weeks’ Lightbringer series which began with The Black Prism two years ago, in August 2010. Having set out of write a piece of epic fantasy with an intricate (and flashy) magic system, grand action, yet very human characters, Weeks’ had impressed at least this reader with his flair for entertaining storytelling. This second volume sees him stick to much the same formula, with increased interest in character development, but not less thrills and magic – one could say a more mature version of its predecessor.

Mark Lawrence dropped onto the fantasy scene with a splash in the summer of 2011 with his brutal debut, Prince of Thorns. The eponymous cruel brat, Jorg, returns - in form - with the second novel of Lawrence’s Broken Empire series, King of Thorns. Staying true to the path down which he ventured a year ago, Lawrence serves us a second helping of his ferocious prose, and blood-thirsty characters. Delving deeper into Jorg’s psyche as the young king progresses on his path to world-dominance, King of Thorns expands the world of the Broken Empire without sacrificing any of the lurid storytelling or sublime characterization.

Up to now, reading Mark Charan Newton’s Legends of the Red Sun series has very much been a look into his evolution as a writer. From his debut, Nights of Villjamur, and continuing through the next two volumes his growth was easily observable, with the third book in the series, The Book of Transformations, being in this reviewer’s mind, the jewel in the crown. With The Broken Isles, Newton brings his thrilling quartet to a close no unsatisfying way, but certainly in a less daring form than we’ve seen him before. This apart, The Broken Isles is still a fine showing of what epic can be when done well. Stirring and socially relevant, it remains a level above the average fantasy lot.

Some Kind of Fairy Tale might just be the most apt title for any book published this year (or ever, for that matter). Because Graham Joyce’s latest novel is exactly what its title describes it to be. This is the first encounter I’ve had with any of Joyce’s work, and it did not leave me wanting. His worked generally being well reviewed, it was my interest in the slightly unusual plot description that led me to pick up Some Kind of Fairy Tale. Drawing heavily on traditional folklore, and a strong sense of setting, Joyce builds an entrancing tale of family, life and contradicting realities.

Dan Wells instantly became one of my favorite authors with his quirky debut novel I Am Not A Serial Killer, and further established himself as a writer to respect with its sequels. After indulging a side-jaunt into post-apocalyptic territory with his Partials novel, Wells returns with The Hollow City. After the psychopathy of John Cleaver (of I Am Not A Serial Killer), this latest novel delves into the confused mind of a suffering schizophrenic. With the same touches of dark humor as have become associated with him, Wells introduces us to a engaging character, and through him, to unique narrative perspective. Coupled with conspiracy-thriller and science-fiction overtones, The Hollow City emerges as a stand-out novel.

As much as it may feel like I’m repeating myself, now starting my eighth review of this series, I still cannot deny the greatness of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s books. Returning with The Air War, the start of the final segment of the story, he continues to impress with his volatile imagination, knack for characterization, and appreciation for the truly epic. Despite a meandering start, The Air War eventually showcases Tchaikovsky at the top of his form, and a story more action-packed and exhilarating than ever. With war against the Wasp Empire breaking out once more across the continent, we are treated to the finest battles and intrigue yet seen in the Shadows of the Apt series.

After first plunging into the literary universe of Christopher Priest with his latest novel, 2011’s cryptic yet fabulously entertaining The Islanders, I took a keen interest in exploring some of his other works. First came 1981’s The Affirmation (now one of Gollanz’s ‘Science Fiction Masterworks’) from which part of the concept behind The Islanders sprung, and then only recently I delved into The Separation. I can’t say quite what attracted me to this rather than any of his other books - though availability certainly played a part. Perhaps it was the link with the Olympic games that are currently enthralling the world, but I’m more inclined to think it’s because I’m a bit of a history nut. I relished the thought of a clever alternate history, and I was indeed rewarded with what is probably my favorite Priest book to date...