The Barney Award for best piking use of creative swearing in an epic fantasy:
The Light of Kerrindryr by H Anthe Davis
World-building is a fundamental part of fantasy. Some fantasy authors draw a squiggly-edged continent, add a few kingdoms, three rivers and a mountain range, decides how many gods are in the prevailing religion and – we’re done! On with the story! This author is not quite like that. You want to know where the highest rainfall is? Which are the best grain-producing regions? Where the stables are in the army camp? How the ogres count? (Seriously; in base six, if you want to know, which gives the mathematical module in my brain a frisson of pure delight.) And it goes without saying that there are languages and some creative swearing, which, by Morgwi’s balls, is piking awesome. [Notice that this award is for creative swearing, not simply repeated use of the f-word, otherwise Richard K Morgan would win, hands down.]
All the human characters here are fascinating, but there are non-humans, too; ogres and skinchangers, goblins and some really creepy beings called eiyet. Creepy oozes out all over the place, and there are moments of pure horror, in the Hitchcock sense of chills up the spine, rather than the more usual sense these days of grossness and spilled entrails. There are also magically enhanced – well, things, for want of a better word. There is a certain blurring of the distinction between alive and not-alive which gave me the heeby-jeebies, frankly.
The story is complex, subtle and many-layered. Compelling characters, a fully-realised world, an action-packed plot that zooms along at a rate of knots and never feels in the least contrived, and a wonderful ending with plenty of emotional resonance. A beautifully conceived and written book with real depth.
Footnote: this is a self-published gem. I posted about some of my other finds of 2013 here.
For more about the author’s incredible world-building, here’s the website.