Friday, January 31, 2014

Review of The Emperor's Blades (#1 Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne)-Brian Staveley

The Emperor's BladesThe Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Writing 4/5
Imagination 4.5/5
Plot 4/5
Setting 5/5
Characters 3.5/5

My Overall Enjoyment 4.5/5

The Emperor's Blades largely lives up to the massive hype surrounding it as well as my own as I was have been anticipating it for months. It must be very difficult to be a debut author with that much to live up to because it was on so many ”best upcoming fantasy” lists even though the author is mostly unknown. After finishing this book I do see why many were excited about it. Also, Macmillian put on a masterclass in book advertising that all authors and publishers should look at to be more successful in getting their own books in the public eye.

When taken as a whole or broken down into smaller elements of a story, this book is extremely good. This is a very epic story, with world building similar in scale to A Game of Thrones, Gardens of the Moon, and The Way of Kings. There are 3 points of view, all by children of the emperor, 2 sons off training and the sister as a minister in the capital city. Secondary characters are very minimal which I like. I enjoyed the plot-lines almost equally and no one character really stuck out at me in a way some have in other books. The 2 brothers take up most of the scenes with the sister having a smaller, yet important part. The author used the 480 pages very well; it didn't seem too long and a lot happened. It was a pretty quick read with the beginning 1/3rd a little slow but that is the case in nearly all epic fantasy I have experienced. The plot starts to advance much quicker and stay pretty steady for the rest of the book.

The religious system is excellent. There are numerous different “cults” and bits and pieces of world history sprinkled throughout referring to ancient races, gods and goddesses, and kings of old. This makes a very rich, believable world that I enjoyed learning about. Learning about a world's history (lore/myth/back-story or whatever you want to call it) is one of my favorite parts in epic fantasy and there is no shortage here yet there are no parts that were just huge “info dumps” or “council of Elrond” scenes which bother some readers (I love those kinds of scenes). Magic is not introduced introduced until well into the story and then very gradually and it just kind of creeps up but by the end I thought it really worked well for the story. There are also a couple different beasts/monsters in this book, all of which were well executed and add depth and flavor.

The whole ending sequence was great and has me looking forward to the next installment in this series. Rating this was hard and I dislike the 5 point rating scale. For me, it falls a little short of a 5 because while I really liked this book I didn't love it as I have a few other books. However, I enjoyed it better than a lot of 4 star books too so I give it a 4.5/5 for personal enjoyment. Having read hundreds of fantasy books this is in the top tier of epic fantasy.

As for grimdark elements, it definitely has some of the violence and types of characters that stand out in grimdark but this is more of a standard epic fantasy book. At times dark and gritty but it didn't exude grittiness like most of the other books that fall into the grimdark genre. Being a grimdark lover, I can recommend this for those readers as well as those looking for a new epic fantasy series.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A review of Nameless: The Darkness Comes (The Bone Angel Trilogy #1)-Mercedes Yardley

Nameless: The Darkness Comes (The Bone Angel Trilogy, #1)Nameless: The Darkness Comes by Mercedes M. Yardley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Writing 4/5
Imagination 4/5
Plot 4/5
Setting 4/5
Characters 3.5/5

My Overall Enjoyment 4/4

Shape-shifting wolf demons, references to Children of the Corn and Cthulhu, a character named Sparkles and an angel named Demon Patrol, along with clever and snarky dialogue and a super fast-paced action filled plot. I enjoyed this urban fantasy/paranormal book a lot, a genre I don't read much of due to the YA feeling I often get. While this is definitely a book for adults, I believe that mature YA readers would also enjoy this. I read it in just a few sittings and the pages kept turning quickly. Nameles is dialogue driven book, something that can annoy me or even cause me to put a book down as I strongly prefer narration but when done right and cleverly, as is the case here, it can be a pleasure to read. There were multiple twists and turns in the plot which came largely unexpected to me and it kept me anticipating what the author would throw in next. I enjoyed the dark and creepy overall tone and how it was mixed in with lighter, funnier parts and I actually laughed out loud on the first page of the epilogue. Decent character development and although I didn't have a major connection with any of the characters I felt like I was reading about real people. This is an excellent debut and I am excited to see what Mercedes Yardley does in the future. The ending, brutal and macabre as it was , was handled well and has me excited for the next Bone Angel novel.

Highly recommended for urban fantasy and horror readers who enjoy a fast paced book with lots of action and great writing.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

A Short Review of The Penitent Damned (#0 in The Shadow Campaigns) -Django Wexler

The Penitent Damned (The Shadow Campaigns #0)The Penitent Damned by Django Wexler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very good! If you enjoyed The Thousand Names and are anticipating The Shadow Throne, book 2 in The Shadow Campaigns, this may help bridge the gap (a little). It makes me want to learn more about this unique world and the black, red, and blue priests. Especially the black, featured here. Hopefully some more shorts will come out soon!

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Review of Lord of the Silver Bow By David Gemmell

Lord of the Silver Bow (Troy, #1)Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Writing 4/5
Imagination 4/5
Plot 4.5/5
Setting 4/5
Characters 5/5

Overall Enjoyment 3.5/5

David Gemmell is one of my all time favorite authors so it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed this book. This book is a bit different than most of his other works such as the Drenai series(Legend)in that it falls better into the historical fiction genre rather than gritty epic fantasy. Although the historicity of the city of Troy is much disputed as are the stories The Iliad & The Odyssey I don't see this as historical fantasy, 1) because of the lack of magical and supernatural elements and 2)the largely geographically and anthropologically accurate elements. That being said, this is an excellent story about events before The Iliad and icludes many of the wonderful characters from that story including Odysseus, Kings Priam and Agamemnon, Paris, Hektor, Helikaon (Aeneas), Andromache, and Helen comes in near the end. Two of the main story lines include that of Andromache and Helikaon, the latter I enjoyed much more. Perhaps that is because I loved The Aeneid so much it was fun to learn more about Aeneas. Odysseus was an excellent character but his story ended about halfway through; too soon. As usual, the character building was excellent and it was interwoven with battles and violence but I thought this book was slower going than past Gemmell books. It really took me quite awhile to get into this story but to be fair I just started my blog and that took up a lot of time. The last 1/3 was action packed, filled with Gemmell trademark violence and action.

An interesting conversation took place between Helikaon and Gershom. This is the highlight of that conversation-"Osiris is the hero god, the lord of light. Set is his brother, a creature vile and depraved. They are in a constant war to the death. My grandfather told me of them when I was young. He said that we carry Osiris and Set struggling within us. All of us are capable of great compassion and love or hatred and horror. Sadly, we can take joy from both.”
“I know that is true,” said Helikaon. “I felt it as those sailors burned. The memory of it is shameful.” The sentence "Sadly, we can take joy from both”, as does the whole conversation, speaks volumes to me about the grimdark genre and why it plays on a readers emotions so strongly as compared to other works of fantasy. There is a conflict between good and evil, love and hate, which we play out on a daily basis and this conflict is a feature I have seen in most of the grimdark books I have read. While it's obvious grimdark leans heavily toward the "hatred and horror" aspects, they also contain elements of the heroic, and the good.

Recommended for historical fiction, historical fantasy, ancient mythology, and The Iliad and Odyssey fans. Grimdark readers should enjoy this but I recommend they start with the Drenai books first.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2014 Top 10 Most Anticipated

I should probably complete a best of 2013 list before an anticipated 2014 book list however there were so many to choose from that I have been struggling with the ranking. I am considering just a top 10 with no ranking. My 2014 top 10 anticipated books list is not much easier. There are a ton of amazing looking books coming out this year! I have nearly 50 marked on my Goodreads Fantasy Not Yet Released Shelf. Narrowing it down to 2014 30 Most Anticipated was difficult enough. That being said, here goes.

1) Prince of Fools (The Red Queen's War #1)

Prince of Fools (The Red Queen’s War, #1)
Anyone who knows me or has read this blog should be aware by now that The Broken Empire (Prince of Thorns) is my favorite series and Mark Lawrence is my favorite author. The series ended with Emperor of Thorns, which was the highlight of my year in books. He's back with a brand new trilogy, set in the same world. From the Goodreads blurb-

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.

The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.

After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.
I have no doubt this will live up to expectations, which from what I have seen, are insanely high.

2) Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archives #2)

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive, #2)The Way of Kings, book 1, was a highlight of my reading year. The first 8 chapters are released and there is already a lot of discussion about this book. It is also on many 2014 lists as the first was on many "best of" lists the year it came out. Not grimdark, but I still loved it. The writing, lore, characters, plot, and magic were all phenomenal. Even at over 1000 pages, it didn't seem overly long. Here's the Blurb-

In the first volume, we were introduced to the remarkable world of Roshar, a world both alien and magical, where gigantic hurricane-like storms scour the surface every few days and life has adapted accordingly. Roshar is shared by humans and the enigmatic, humanoid Parshendi, with whom they are at war. Among those caught up in the conflict are Highprince Dalinar Kholin, who leads the human armies; his neice Jasnah, a renowned scholar; her student Shallan, a brilliant but troubled young woman; and Kaladin, a military slave who, by the book’s end, was beginning to become the first magically endowed Knight Radiant in centuries.
In Words of Radiance their intertwined stories will continue and, as Sanderson fans have come to expect, develop in unexpected, wonderfully surprising directions. The war with the Parshendi will move into a new, dangerous phase, as Dalinar leads the human armies deep into the heart of the Shattered Plains in a bold attempt to finally end it. Shallan will come along, hoping to find the legendary, perhaps mythical, city of Urithuru, which Jasnah believes holds a secret vital to mankind’s survival on Roshar. The Parshendi take a dangerous step to strengthen themselves for the human challenge, risking the return of the fearsome Voidbringers of old. To deal with it all, Kaladin must learn how to fulfill his new role, while mastering the powers of a Windrunner
3) The Thorn of Emberlain (Gentleman Bastards #4)

No cover but all 3 previous covers were beautiful. This book is promised for late 2014 (November) however many think it won't come out because of past delays with Scott Lynch's books. I do. His first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, was a huge success and a personal favorite. I plan a reread soon. The next book, Red Seas Under Red Skies was a bit of a letdown for me but I plan to try it again. The Republic of Thieves, the third in the series was one of my top 10 of the year, and I reviewed it here Review. Scott Lynch is one of the most imaginative a best writers in fantasy today. From Goodreads, a very short description of this book-

A kingdom torn by civil war.

A breakaway republic, outnumbered on all fronts.

Two thieves caught between avarice and admiration.

Things change forever.
4)The Crimson Campaign (The Powder Mage Book #2) 

The Crimson Campaign (The Powder Mage, #2)
Brian McClellan's debut book, considered "flintlock" or "gunpowder" fantasy has made most 2013 top 10's I have seen. I read it early and was blown away. I have been anticipating book 2 since I was halfway through book 1. Here's the description-
'The hounds at our heels will soon know we are lions' Tamas's invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy's best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god. In Adro, Inspector Adamat only wants to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers might come too quickly. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself alongside the god-chef Mihali as the last line of defence against Kresimir's advancing army. Tamas's generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye.
5) Half a King (Untitled Trilogy #1)

Half a King
Normally, Joe Abercrombie would be number 2 on this list. I have read 4 of his 6 books and loved them all. However, this book is geared at younger readers and while I have had some good experiences with YA books, I don't read many these days. Because Joe Abercrombie is such a good writer and storyteller I expect I will enjoy this book a lot, despite its YA designation. The description has me very interested as well-

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Grimdark Defined

The Iliad
The Count of Monte Cristo
Grimdark fantasy has been heavily discussed across the internet (I provide links at the bottom of this page to articles I agree with and ones I don't), especially in 2013 when a bunch of essays for and against it came out. My purpose here is not to "defend" grimdark fantasy. Does grimdark need defenders? Possibly. But that has been done, most brilliantly by Lord Grimdark himself, Joe Abercrombie, in his essay, The Value of Grit, which should be read by anyone considering a foray into this genre or an understanding of it. I simply want to write about why I love reading grimdark and how I understand it. I'm not really sure if there is any consensus on what exactly grimdark is. I will add my two cents here because just as I have gained understanding through some writers and not others, there will certainly be readers who will come to a better understanding through this piece. Will everyone enjoy reading grimdark fantasy books? Of course not. Just as everyone doesn't like to read about politics, or classic Russian literature, or cooking, or hundreds of other genres/topics. Should everyone appreciate grimdark fantasy. I would like to think so. This leads me to the first of the reasons I read grimdark. Themes.

One of the reasons classic literature like The IliadThe OdysseyThe Aeneid, and the hundreds of other enduring works resonate so strongly yet today, some dating back thousands of years, is because they tell real stories about the human condition. When I think of the many classic literature books I have read, most touch on or involve major themes about the worst sides of human nature; jealousy (Othello, Persuasion, Tess of the D'urbervilles), murder (Crime and Punishment, Macbeth, Agamemnon), adultery (The Scarlet Letter, Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary), pride (The Illiad, Pride and Prejudice, The Crucible, Faust, Antigone), human suffering (Crime and Punishment, The Odyssey), warfare (The Illiad, The Aeneid), temptation (Paradise Lost, The Odyssey, Great Expectations, Lord of the Rings) and the big one, revenge, which I am most familiar with The Count of Monte Cristo, Hamlet, The Illiad, and Wuthering Heights. Many grimdark works I have read have major revenge themes including the apt title Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie, George R.R. Martins series, A Song of Fire and Ice, has many revenge story lines, (Arya Stark's revenge list prayer- "Weese," she would whisper, first of all. "Dunsen, Chiswyck, Polliver, Raff the Sweetling. The Tickler and the Hound. Ser Gregor, Ser Armory, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, King Joffrey, Queen Cersei.") and my favorite series ever written, The Broken Empire (Prince of Thorns), by Mark Lawrence, is largely about Jorg's revenge. The Illiad, FaustRomeo and Juliet, Oedipus Rex, Dracula, Frankenstein, and Shakespeare's whole catalog, are about as dark as you can get. Most of these works are considered "tragedies" and most grimdark books are very, very tragic. Really, if you made up a world and put the story of Hamlet in it, I think you would have grimdark fantasy. All the other themes I mentioned above and many more are woven thickly in grimdark. Grimdark gives fantasy the themes of classic literature tragedies but sets them in fantastical worlds.

Game Thrones Song Ice Fire
Gunslinger Dark Tower I love the focus on character rather than world building. Most grimdark books I have read focus much more on the character; their likes, dislikes, motivations, past, and most notably to me, how they see themselves. Off the top of my head, I vividly remember many grimdark characters; from Mark Lawrence's Broken Empire I remember most Jorg, The Nuban, Gorgoth, and Sir Makin; from Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie there is Nicomo Cosca and Monza Murcatto and from his The First Law Trilogy (The Blade Itself), I clearly remember Logan Ninefingers, Glokta, Black Dow, and Dogman; from Glen Cook's The Black Company, I remember Croaker and Silent; from Gardens of the Moon, I remember Whiskeyjack and Quick Ben; Roland from Stephen King's Dark Tower Series (The Gunslinger); many from A Song of Fire and Ice (A Game of Thrones) most notably Sansa, Arya, Ned Stark, Jon Snow, Robert Baretheon, Tyrion Lannister, Jamie Lannister, Sandor (The Hound) and Gregor Clegane, Littlefinger, Daenerys; from David Gemmell, there is Waylander and Druss (Legend); Michael Moorcock gave us Corum (The Knight of the Swords) and Elric, and Conan is a very dark series of books and he is a very memorable character to me. Of the thousands of books I have read, I can't remember names or traits of many characters, especially outside of classic literature. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Hunger Games, The Alchemist and many other good books I have no idea what the names were and I don't recall many details at all about these books. They were largely plot driven and I just flew through them, was entertained, but didn't really give it any thought afterwards and I don't recall really caring about any of the characters much or at all. And if a main character happened to die, it didn't really affect me. But with grimdark characters, I became heavily emotionally and intellectually involved. And that is a real hook for me.

When reading grimdark, I have hope for a characters redemption. Because I begin to care about them, even if not identifying with their murderous actions but with them as fallible humans who have a choice to do good or evil. When they go to a village and have to make a decision on how to treat the people I expect it may end in a violent, bloody massacre but I still hope it won't. That compassion will be shown. In most of the grimdark I have read, there is some indication of a character wanting to change and knowing he is evil, even if he thinks he can't or won't change. Caul Shivers, Logan Ninefingers ,Waylander, and Jorg come immediately to mind although there are many others. After s/he falls short again, it reminds me of all the times I have wanted to make a change and couldn't do it. And I am not coming from a background of a lifetime of inflicting pain on others and having it inflicted on me. How hard must it be for these characters to do what's right when you have the power and authority to do whatever you want. When a character meets his ultimate end unreedemed, it resonates with me because its so real and possible. Grimdark stands out to me because of the shocking ends of many major characters, many passing on unredeemed. I have felt overwhelming emotions upon many of these situations. As mentioned earlier about not remembering the characters from many popular books, I also can't remember how many of them end except in very vague and general terms. I enjoyed reading Dan Brown's books, especially Angels & Demons and The Davinci Code but really all I remember is that the hero scientist saved the world both times from evil forces. But with grimdark, I remember very specific scenes and situations which occurred and I remember how I felt when reading them. Some that come to mind are ****Spoiler Alert****do not read if you have not read A Song of Fire and Ice, The Broken Empire Trilogy, and The First Law Trilogy.
Ned Stark's killing, the bloody wedding scene in ASoIaF, the terrible agonizing death of The Nuban in The Broken Empire, and Rudd Threetrees killed by Fenris the Feared in The First Law Trilogy.

So often in traditional coming-of-age and quest epic fantasy, the hero character completes his quest and goes on to live a wonderful life. If he dies, it's honorable and usually after completing his duty. But not in grimdark. Just as in life, anyone can die at any time, regardless of being redeemed or completing their mission. And I like that. I like reading books where anything can happen; where everyone is at risk. Where characters I hope for can unexpectedly die. Not that I want them to die but there's a suspense reading novels where you know a character can die regardless of completing their mission or being redeemed.

Another reason I read grimdark is because to me, it resonates with the view of humans that I have that they are fallible and human nature is corruptible as in Lord Acton's brilliant quote, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". I find a huge underlying moral philosophy in grimdark that I don't often find in other books of fantasy or other genres. Furthermore I have come across so many aphorisms and other philosophical bites that it reminds me of my philosophy addiction days reading Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Marcus Aurelius. A few grimdark authors I have found to be particularly insightful have said these things;

“Nothing of real worth can ever be bought. Love, friendship, honour, valour, respect. All these things have to be earned.” David Gemmell
"Warriors fear surrender. They are proud and defiant. They will fight to the death for what they believe in. They will struggle to conquer. Love is not about conquest. The truth is a man can only find true love when he surrenders to it. When he opens his heart to the partner of his soul and says: 'here it is! the very essence of me! It is yours to nurture or destroy." David Gemmell
"Man is capable of greatness, love, nobility, compassion. Yet never forget that his capacity for evil is infinite. It is a sad truth, boy, that if you sit now and think of the worst tortures that could ever be inflicted on another human being, they will already have been practiced somewhere. If there is one sound that follows the march of humanity, it is the scream" David Gemmell
"Memories are dangerous things. You turn them over and over, until you know every touch and corner, but still you'll find an edge to cut you." Mark lawrence
"This is where the wise man turns away. This is where the holy kneel and call on God. These are the last miles, my brothers. Don't look to me to save you. Don't think I will not spend you. Run if you have the wit. Pray if you have the soul. Stand your ground if courage is yours. But don't follow me. Follow me, and I will break your heart." Mark Lawrence
"There is no sound more annoying than the chatter of a child, and none more sad than the silence they leave when they are gone." Mark Lawrence
"I have learned all kinds of things from my many mistakes. The one thing I never learn is to stop making them." Joe Abercrombie
"The truth is like salt. Men want to taste a little, but too much makes everyone sick." Joe Abercrombie
This is but a tiny sample. There are hundreds, even thousands of these gems throughout the grimdark books I have read.  I have hundreds of bookmarked pages on my tablet because there are so many amazing passages. I like to stop reading when I come across something like the above and relate it to my life. Through grimdark, I learn more not only about fellow humans, but about myself.

Another grimdark element I love is magic. It's so subtle (usually, not always). It is kind of like intermittent reinforcement for my taste in magic.  There are just small samples that make me crave to find out more as does my other favorite element, lore. I love world background information and in the grimdark I have read, there is lots of character background information woven into the story through reminiscing and chapter flashbacks. We learn to understand the characters through this device and why they act in the ways they do. This not only relates to character building but it helps create a rich, imaginative world, which grimdark certainly does, even if the heavier focus is on character development.

The Black Company The prose I have read in grimdark is as good and sometimes better than any I have read in any other genre. Mark Lawrence has the strongest and most elegant prose I have ever read. Joe Abercrombie is amazing with wordplay. Aaron Dembski-Bowden writes wonderfully. George R.R. Martin is a wizard with a pen. David Gemmell, Glen Cook, Michael Moorcock are all so fun to read. I think these three have a similar style, very succinct. For pure literary value, I have found that grimdark authors lead the way.

As for violence, misogyny, racism, and the other negative and politically incorrect behaviors characters sometimes exhibit in grimdark, I say so what. Those things are also part of life and they happen. I don't read grimdark because they have these elements but I certainly would find it odd if in the middle of a war, a character who lacks moral courage would not be tempted to rape and pillage. I don't believe that authors who write grimdark set out to use shock for its own sake. In reading these disturbing scenes, I am able to experience some emotions I would not otherwise. I don't like to run and bury my head in the sand when anything disturbing happens. I like to take in the pain, focus on it, and release it. I think that experiencing some pain and discomfort helps me be a stronger person, better to empathize with those around me.

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #1) In closing, as perhaps it's not obvious to everyone, I am making generalizations and these points could be argued against one by one. In my own mind, I have many counter arguments; What about all crazy magic in Malazan's Gardens of the Moon? You said the magic in grimdark is subtle? Wasn't Ned Stark a "hero"? I thought you said grimdark is about flawed characters? Wasn't Romeo and Juliet a love story? Is Mark Lawrence really a better writer than Charlotte Bronte or F. Scott Fitzgerald? Obviously, the debate about grimdark can go on forever. As I mentioned in the beginning, its not my purpose to defend or even define grimdark. I enjoy different aspects of it than others and view it through my own experience. I have not included every single element I enjoy about it either; that would be tedious and boring to read.  I hope some readers come to understand Grimdark a little better and understand why one reader enjoys these type of books. And for the record, I love many other fantasy books outside grimdark. I read all the Harry Potter books (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone), the Twilight books, The Hunger Games, I very much enjoyed The golden Compass, I loved The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Patricia Mckillip's beautiful book The Forgotten beasts of Eld. They all have much to offer readers. Just like Grimdark. Also, to help those new to the genre, as well as those familiar with it, I have used the books I believe best represent the genre. There are loads of other grimdark books out there to explore and hopefully soon I will be able to start making lists.

Lastly, and on a bit of a different note but still important, I believe the term grimdark should be embraced. I read that (I haven't verified this but it appears to be the case looking at Amazon's fantasy pages) novels falling in the grimdark category are by far the largest selling fantasy books now. When I started reading grimdark early in 2013 I had to do my own research to find books outside the most known ones like Mark Lawrence's Broken Empire books, Joe Abercrombie's books, and George R.R Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice. This included searching forums, Goodreads, and Google. I wonder if the millions of lovers of grimdark books would have an easier time if there was somewhere they could go and easily access a huge listing of books in this category. There are better lists out there since I started but there is a lot to be desired. That's the reason I started this blog. Until there is some general consensus on what the term means it would be difficult to have a grimdark category on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. But I think that there should be because people are searching for these books and a lot of authors could really blow up because of the thirst for these books. I think the tide will eventually turn against grimdark critics and they won't be able to use it against the authors and fans. It's been mentioned that the term grimdark is used pejoratively. Since when have words not been used this way? The terms liberal and conservative are used as pejoratives but most will proudly call themselves one or the other. The term Obamacare was once a pejorative until the tide slowly turned in 2012 when it became embraced by the laws supporters.  Perhaps the authors of these books feel that if they are classified grimdark, they will be losing a large potential audience of fantasy readers. I think that is why grimdark should be included in fantasy lists as well the sub-list grimdark fantasy. I think if someone is a reader and they love fantasy they will absolutely love many grimdark books. I also believe grimdark is a style that is not confined only to fantasy, it encompasses many genres, but for the sake of this essay, I have primarily explored grimdark in fantasy. Obviously I'm only one tiny voice among thousands or millions of voices who has an opinion on this. Most of the arguments against grimdark have appeared to me to be weak, out of touch, overly sensitive and emotional, and very shrill.

For more information

This is probably the best summation and defense of Grimdark or "gritty" fantasy available. By one of my favorite authors
The Value of grit

From author Daniel Abraham
Another World

A kind of crazy piece by Richard Morgan
Grim, Dark, And Straw

Several good articles about Grimdark here

Here is a blog that seems to condemn Grimdark fantasy on biblical grounds, I am going to read this again because I disagree with most of it and I also have a "Christian" worldview.
On Gritty Fantasy

A book review of Luke Scull's Excellent book The Grim Company which extrapolates about Grimdark
Review of The Grim Company-Luke Scull

Author Sam Sykes on Grmdark
Gritty People Gritty Problems

Lots about Grimdark here I haven't read the whole blog yet but it appears to be a condemnation
My Considered Contribution to Grit

What is Grimdark

This is kind of a lengthy post on Grimdark, I'm not sure yet how I like it. I only just skimmed it
Grimmy Grimmy Dark Dark

Last one for now
You Got Grit in My Fantasy Story

this is a brief but great article by popular author Elizabeth Bear
I Love a Good Tragedy As Much As the Next Guy

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A review of Django Wexler's Fantasy Book The Thousand Names

The Thousand Names (The Shadow Campaigns, #1)The Thousand Names by Django Wexler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Writing 4.5/5
Imagination 5/5
Plot 4.5/5
Setting 4/5
Characters 5/5

Overall Enjoyment 5/5

I actually finished this book the day before I started my new blog and then that took over my life for a week! I usually write reviews immediately after finishing a book so this will be short because of the wait. I loved this book! It falls under the new sub-genre "Flintlock Fantasy" which combines gunpowder and guns with magical elements and also falls under the category military fantasy. Everything was extremely well thought out with regards to plot and it was obvious the author did extensive research on warfare. I really enjoyed the character and world building and the magic system was phenomenal. I came to care about some of the characters and if an author can accomplish this, he has been successful as a writer. The prose was excellent. The pace was steady and solid, perfect to keep the reader wanting to find out what happens next. There was one sequence in the middle I felt the plot should have advanced quicker but that is my only minor complaint. There are no other criticisms of this book. While the obvious comparison will be to Brian McClellan's excellent book Promise of Blood, this book was just as good. Having read both, I can say that while they fall under the same sub-genre, they are very different reading experiences, both delightful. I can not wait for book 2 of The Shadow Campaigns The Shadow Throne.
Comes with my highest recommendation!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2 Huge Overlooks in 2014 Fantasy Releases

For some reason, I have not seen any recent press on one of my favorite author's new series called Sanctuary of the White Friars. The first book in the series is called The Whispering Swarm, and from what I read, I am already overly excited for a book coming out in November! This is Michael Moorcock's first new trilogy in 10 years. From Goodreads:

Back in the Thirteenth Century, King Henry III granted a plot of land in the heart of London to an order of Friars known as the Carmelites. In return, they entered into a compact with God to guard a holy object. This sanctuary became a refuge for many of ill-repute, as the Friars cast no judgment and took in all who were in search of solace.
Known as Alsatia, it did not suffer like the rest of the world. No Plague affected it. No Great Fire burned it. No Blitz destroyed it. Within its walls lies a secret to existence – one that has been kept since the dawn of time – a bevy of creation, where reality and romance, life and death, imaginary and real share the same world.
One young man’s entrance into this realm sends a shockwave of chaos through time. What lies at the center of this sacred realm is threatened for the first time in human existence.
Moorcock, writer of the Elric of Melniboné and Corum series, is a legend among the ranks of Robert E. Howard, Jack Vance, and Roger Zelazny. He writes beautifully and tells wonderful stories, filled with lore and magic and tends to be very dark. He is one of my most read authors having read 20 of his books and even though his books fall on the shorter side in Sword and Sorcery style, they do not lack depth or world and character building. He makes every word count and everyone should try his work. I hope that with the advent of this information age this work will become heavily promoted for all audiences because I believe all fantasy readers will enjoy his style.

Another book to look forward to is by another legend, Glen Cook called Working God's Mischief, book number 4 in his Instrumentalities of the Night series. I have had this in my next to start pile for some time as I have read several Glen Cook books, all of which were excellent, especially his most known work, The Black Company. I have a feeling that the Instrumentalities series is very underrated based on his work I have already read. Hopefully, my anticipation for this release will inspire me to start this series sooner rather than later. Better yet; I win an ARC on Goodreads! The cover is also outstanding.

Monday, January 13, 2014

2014 Anticipated Books and My Reading Plan

2013 was a great year for catching up on my reading. And 2014 looks great! It should come as no surprise that by far my most anticipated book is by Mark Lawrence, called Prince of Fools , the first book in a new trilogy called The Red Queen's War. Another book I can't wait for is Joe Abercrombie's first book in a new series called Half a King. He recently released cover art (which is beautiful) and the first chapter and it can be found here Half a King Excerpt. I'm a bit worried as well about this as it is considered a "classic coming-of-age-tale" and also falls into the YA fantasy genre, neither to points which intest me much these days. However, I have loved all of the book I have read by him and he is such an excellent writer and storyteller that I don't think these books will disappoint.  I ended last year reading an ARC copy by one of my favorite authors, Andy Remic, whose new book is called The Iron Wolves; I LOVED it! It was one of the highlights of my reading year. Book 2 of The Rage of Kings comes out in July and is called The White Towers. Book 4 of the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch, called The Thorn of Emberlain, is scheduled for release later in the year. His last book, The Republic of Thieves, was in my top 5 for 2013. Another of the best books I read last year is Brandon Sanderson's book The Way of Kings, an author I have struggled reading, and whose 2nd book in The Stormlight Archive series, Words of Radiance, is due this year and I am super excited about that book.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

2013 Fantasy in Review; When I Discovered My Love of Grimdark and Gritty and Dark Fantasy

2013 was a great year of reading for me! I managed to open 350+ books and complete 253. About 8 years ago, I completed about 300 books and that's a record I will most likely never surpass; until retirement at least. This year, I had 2-4 hours down time at my job where I could read, until I was laid off in March. I spent the next 5 months on unemployment, being a stay at home dad, and full time job seeker. But after those responsibilities, I still managed to have ample time to read, and it helps that if I am enjoying a book, I can read very quickly, sometimes 100+ pages per hour. My reading has slowed a bit now that I am employed full time. My 2014 goal is scaled way back to 75 books due to planning on beginning a career as an electrician.