Blood Song by Anthony Ryan
Blood Song is my all time favourite novel. It’s the book that reignited my love for writing and inspired me to try and write a novel of my own. Anthony Ryan has done a wonderful job creating a new world revolving around the main character, Vaelin Al Sorna, a brother of the Sixth Order. Ryan creates an excellent cast of characters. Characters who at first seem only to weigh the story down quickly develop into your favourites by the end of the book, (Frentis is one of the best written and most interesting characters I have ever come across). Magic is an incredibly difficult trope to overcome when writing fantasy and Ryan overcomes it with ease. Magic throughout this book is both hugely influential and yet very subtle. Ryan writes such vivid fight scenes that you can physically feel your heart quicken as the characters fight for their lives. Ryan’s combination of magic, politics, armies, love and brotherhood make for one of the best adventure novels you can buy. The rest of the trilogy fall away somewhat, but Blood Song is such a heroic display of fantasy fiction writing that any sequel will seem paltry in comparison.
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Where Anthony Ryan creates amazing characters and dynamic fight scenes, Robin Hobb is a pure storyteller. I’d consider Hobb to be one of the greatest story tellers of our time. When reading the Assassin’s series I never once thought to myself “I don’t like this character”, or “I would have had him do something differently here”, I was so completely engrossed in her story that I never questioned a single element of it. It flowed so naturally, it was so real that it felt like it was happening as you read it. I read books to escape and dive into a new world and no author has ever had me as completely engrossed as Robin Hobb. There are no moments that feel like breaks in the action, or lapses in the story, the whole story flows perfectly. There are very few books that are harder to put down than Robin Hobb’s Assasin’s series.
The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
There are several tropes in the fantasy world that it’s important you avoid. Wise old wizards, brave young princes, evil warlords, you get the picture. Those fantasy cliches that have been done so many times before. Well in the world of fiction writing, Bernard Cornwell himself is a trope. Cornwell is the undisputed king of historical fiction and it’s almost boring to add him to lists like this because it’s so expected. But he truly he is a master of his craft. His Sharpe series is a fascinating journey through the 19th century with such a wonderfully gritty and human view of life in the army. However, I am a sucker for a good Arthurian tale, (king of tropes I know), and Bernard Cornwell’s re-imagination, The Winter King, of this famous story is the greatest of its kind in modern times. One of Cornwell’s greatest gifts is his ability to write a villain. When writing a villain in a story it’s difficult to make the reader root against them completely, without making them boring, uninteresting and unnecessarily evil. Cornwell’s bad-guys are interesting, deep, conflicting and evil in the most subtle and terrifying ways. You completely root for the hero of the book, but you look forward to the villain based chapters.
The Wolf by Leo Carew
I picked up The Wolf as my brother and I were doing some last minute Christmas shopping. I wasn’t really looking for a book for myself, but I pulled this book off the shelf, saw the cover, I mean look at it, and read the title and I was immediately sold.
The book ended up being one of my favourite I’ve ever read. So much for never judging a book by its cover. It’s Leo Carew’s first novel, and the next book in this series will be out middle of 2019 (can’t wait). At times it is obvious that he is new on the scene. Where Cornwell writes his stories with elegance, excitement and confidence, there were sections when The Wolf slowed down a little too much or became a tad too predictable. But where The Wolf comes into it’s own is the vast world Carew has created and the epic and massive battles that take place inside it. The main characters in the book aren’t human, they’re a race of people larger, faster and stronger than any human, with an armor of bone plates protecting them, while they do lack the civility and written word of humans their society and the internal battles within are fascinating.