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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...

The Traitor Queen is the concluding volume in Trudi Canavan’s Traitor Spy Trilogy and, we are to assume, the final chapter of our adventures in Kyralia, a world first introduced in her Black Magician Trilogy. Six books deep into the story of Sonea and the Magician’s Guild (not counting The Magician’s Apprentice, a prequel novel), one could have hoped for more from this novel. Canavan’s characters and prose are as endearing as ever, but the whole The Traitor Queen delivers a shallow plot with little development. As a fan of her work I was still taken in by her writing and the fast pace of the novel, yet I would still have hoped for more.

Last year’s The Dragon’s Path was Daniel Abraham’s answer to the familiar epic fantasy saga à la Eddings or Jordan. After having taken us to lands never before travelled with his excellent Long Price Quartet, Abraham consciously sought to craft the ‘perfect’ epic fantasy by pulling together all sorts of tropes, characters, and themes from fantasy, history and beyond.  And, in my own words the first book of The Dagger and the Coin was ‘one of the very best “classic” epics.’ Needless to say, expectations for The King’s Blood - as with any Abraham book - were high. However, once again Abraham sweeps us up in his world, his finely crafted characters giving us one of their very best performances. Yet another strong example of Abraham’s mastery.

Sea of Ghosts marks the beginning of a new fantasy series, The Gravedigger Chronicles, for Alan Campbell, previously known for his Deepgate Codex. Originally published last year, it was only with this year’s paperback release that the book finally caught my eye (blue covers more attractive than beige?). Sea of Ghosts turned out to be a startlingly original novel, at least with regards to it’s worldbuilding, and as one who often goes on about that sort of thing, it was a welcome surprise. With a clear intent to mix science with fantasy, Campbell creates a world of harsh conditions, and peoples it with characters who do not always possess the most depth, but are nonetheless very endearing. Coupled with a somewhat classic narrative of ‘world-defining’ proportions, this results in a fine offering on Campbell’s part.

The Pack is a werewolf thriller imported from US writer Jason Starr, better known for his crime fiction. I feel it will be difficult to say anything very conclusive about The Pack, mostly because I realize about half way through that it really wasn’t my cup of tea. Now, I’ve not shied away from reading outside my comfort zone in the past, in fact I’ve often enjoyed exploring new literary venues, but still The Pack really wasn’t for me. I can see what Starr was going for with this book, but for a genre fan like me, his half-hearted attempt to blend mythological elements with a thriller plot-format came out thoroughly muddled - a creaky amalgamation of genres which has difficulty holding itself together.

T.C. McCarthy appeared without warning on the genre scene with a thought-provoking and extremely well-written debut in the form of Germline. This military SF set in a somewhat-far future delivered unto readers a bold, emotionally insightful, and dark narrative more reminiscent of a real-life veteran’s memoirs than a science fiction book. But it was more than that, because it grounded you in the immediacy of war, in characters’ desperation. So, it was really good. Exogene is the sequel which had to fill those big shoes and, without a doubt, it did. Approaching the same conflict from a different perspective, McCarthy demonstrates once more a talent for writing the kind of gritty, unrelenting narratives we long for.

via Tor Blog

If I'm honest, I have no idea exactly how 'new' these two covers are, but having stumbled across both in the space of 24 hours, I felt they would be worthy of a post.

The first of the covers is for the upcoming eighth Shadows of the Apt volume, The Air War, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. This is a series which Tor UK has recently been revising the look of, having already re-issued the first three novels with brand-new cover art and with the others to follow. It's given them a chance to unify the look of the series, which had already gone throne a number of artistic directions before. I was, however, under the impression that the final three books in the series would be initially released with covers from long-time series artist, Jon Stewart. This doesn't seem to be the case, as The Air War is all decked-out with Alan Brooks' rather eye-catching art.

Even before his debuted novel was chosen for publication, Saladin Ahmed was being praised for his efforts in short fiction, where he introduced to readers his own particular brand of fantasy, one with a touch of the Arabian Nights. With Throne of the Crescent Moon, his first full-length novel and start to a new series, it seemed he wished to continue in the same vein, providing us with a well-plotted, richly transcribed tale of ghul-hunters, holy warriors and lion-men. More importantly, the story remains set in the cadre of a decidedly Arabic culture, a welcome change from the often monotonous setting of your average fantasy fare.

Usually, after having read three books from any one author (in this case, all the books he’s published) I feel I can safely say that I’m starting to get an idea of what he or she is all about. With Robert Jackson Bennett, this is far from being the case. His first two offerings, Mr. Shivers and The Company Man, were vastly different books; one a sublime horror tale set in America of the Great Depression, the other a twisted noir investigation. With his third work, Bennett takes us somewhere else again, setting-wise of course, but more notably, thematically. At times dazzling, eerie, touching, but always captivating, The Troupe is Bennett continuing to prove his mettle as a writer of fine fiction, and redefining the notion of ‘versatile writer’ as we know it.

Though I gave the first of Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations volumes - Theft of Swords - a review back in November, I never did get around to sharing my thoughts on the second installment, Rise of Empire. In fact, I haven’t really gotten around to review much in the past... two months. This changes today. Lucky you. As I was saying: I never got around to saying anything about Rise of Empire. For the purposes of discussing the final volume of Sullivan’s initially self-published, old-school fantasy epic, let me just say it was a solid follow up to its predecessor. With Heir of Novron, Sullivan brings the ever-enticing tale of Royce and Hadrian to an end with two final adventures that blow the four that came before out of the water. Everyone loves and epic ending to, well, and epic fantasy - Sullivan proves how well he can deliver just such an ending.