Update: 11/18/13 -Series consolidated into one post.
It wouldn’t be a fantasy review blog without year end awards! God knows we don’t want to disappoint, but with two reviewers, how do we do a ‘best of’ list? We are rarely reading the same things. So we will do this our own way.
Starting Christmas Day, at a one-a-day pace, we will present the first annual Barneys. Please be prepared for complete irrelevancy, as we scan our pre-blog reads and highlight a few books that haven’t been reviewed here before.
Day 1- The Barney for best mix of a mythological creature and a library goes to..
One of the best YA books I have ever read, and it should be enjoyable for any adult lover of fantasy. A clever take on the trip through fairyland, this is a YA book that made me break out the dictionary at one point.
At one time Valente could be considered underrated, but I doubt there are many who are not aware of her wonderful works at this point, the sequel even got a short article in Time Magazine. Hopefully I will read and review the sequel very soon.
Day 2- The Barney for best jolly caper involving an assassin and a cop goes to…
This is a really fun read, set in an atmospheric wintry steam-punk setting. Lots of humour, lots of action, no gore or graphic anything, some splendidly baroque characters and a likeable heroine (who’s the cop, actually – sort of). The assassin is surprisingly likeable, too. And it’s free, as the first of a series.
Day 4- The Barney for best use of a magically evil shrub goes to…
Day 5- The Barney for best monster made entirely from trash goes to……
With a lot of similarities to Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere,” this is one of the more enjoyable urban fantasy novels I have read. I felt the book is worth reading for the prologue alone, which even alone would have been short story. Mathew Swift and the Angels from the title have a relationship completely unique in my reading. While the first in a series, the book can be read as a stand alone.
Babylon Steel by Gaie Sebold
‘Gods Behaving Badly’ by Marie Phillips.
Not my usual read, an urban fantasy with romantic elements. But show me Greek gods in the modern world and I am intrigued. A tight, mostly light hearted story in which Gods mess with mortals, mess with each other, and almost kill the world. Geeky, mortal love may be needed to save the day. Good stuff all around.
So this is YA, it’s a romance, it’s about a princess who doesn’t quite fit in, it’s a fairy tale, it’s written in first person present tense and it features a talking horse… it only lacked zombies to hit all my not-for-me buttons. And guess what, it turned out to be one of my most enjoyable reads of the year. Some great characters, who behave believably and a brilliantly unexpected and intelligent ending, and it addresses some profound questions, too. If all YA fantasy is like this, I need to read more of it.
‘Eisenhorn’ by Dan Abnett.
I am not above reading the occasional tie-in or trash fiction novel. Once in a while an author really stands out from the pack though. Dan Abnett writes real smart sci-fi under the Warhammer 40k name. The ‘Eisenhorn’ omnibus and its follow up, ‘Ravenor’ are the best books I have read in the world of tie-ins by quite a long ways. Expect a review of the follow up to these two series in the near future, I always keep an eye on Abnett’s growing library.
Day 10- The Barney for most amusingly self-centred characters goes to…
If you like your fantasy characters to be the most devious, crafty, selfish, scheming bastards imaginable, this is the book for you. Double-dealing and treachery abound, but while the humans are focused on their political games, the dragons have plans of their own… A breathtaking pace, great fun and totally awesome dragons. Just don’t get too attached to any of the characters, the survival rate is very low.
‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’ by Sussanna Clarke!!
Really not much I can say, it is one the the best books I have ever read. But if you pick it up on the Kindle, beware!! This book is loaded with footnotes, and going back and forth using an arrow pad sucks, sucks, sucks.
Day 12- The Barney for most imaginative use of a dragon goes to…
This has a fabulous premise – imagine the Napoleonic Wars, but with dragons. And, astonishingly, it works. Temeraire, the dragon of the title, is also the most interesting character in the book, who has his human handler reading works like ‘Principia Mathematica’ to him for entertainment. The dragons are deployed as battleships of the air (sort of) which leads to swashbuckling fun with swords and pistols and boarding parties in mid-air. Great fun.