Best Fantasy Books of 2012
Something happened about 12 hours ago… Something that was never meant to happen in fact – we reached 2013. So, I think I speak for us all when I say: **** You Mayans! =)
Anyway, what a great year it has been for fantasy! So many awesome books. We’ve had titles from authors who we can rely on to turn out top quality content time and time again (Robin Hobb, Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson, Mark Lawrence, N.K. Jemisin, Trudi Canavan and John Scalzi) and we’ve had some incredible debuts too (Lou Morgan, Myke Cole, Gaie Sebold, Tom Pollock and many more too!).
Firstly, a disclaimer: This year, I haven’t read everything, so – if something you’ve read isn’t on the list, please use the comments to let me know what I’ve missed off. That said, I think I’ve read the majority of ‘BIG’ titles this year and my fair share of debuts, so hopefully I can put a list together that most of you will agree on.
So, without further ado, let us get down to the top 5 fantasy books of 2012, the top 5 debuts of 2012, the best cover of 2012, the biggest surprise and the biggest disappointment. Actually… I’m going to start with the disappointment first. It’d be pretty damned cruel to finish a post with a ‘disappointment’ after so much guaranteed awesomeness! 😛
Biggest Disappointment of 2012: The Long Earth
SORRY GUYS. I know there are people who enjoyed this book, but for me it was totally flat. The book didn’t know what it was or where it was going. Essentially, it is the story of a discovery that enables humans to cross into alternative dimensions. Each dimension is slightly different to the one before it. Our protagonist finds out that he can go further than most through lateral dimensions and so sets out (with a talking vending machine) to explore what is out there. I wouldn’t say it was the worst book of the year by a long shot, but when you see two authors of Pratchett and Baxter’s calibre joining forces, you expect far better than what we got.
Pleasant Surprise of 2012: The Blinding Knife was… AWESOME!
Brent Weeks captured a HUGE fanbase with his first series: The Night Angel trilogy. However, his first novel in The Lightbringer Series: The Black Prism got more varied reviews. Certainly, yours truly wasn’t sure whether Brent was a ‘multiworld’ writer. After reading The Black Prism I felt that there was wayyyy too much exposition and setting up. In order for that first book to be worth while – book 2 would have to be absolutely brilliant. Well, it was fricken awesome! Seriously… it was one of the best examples of modern fantasy writing that I have read. The pace was breakneck, the characters are incredibly well-rounded and the story twists and turns in many unexpected ways. Also, the book ends in a spot that leaves you wanting so, so much more. WELL DONE BRENT!
Best Fantasy Book Cover of 2012: King of Thorns
Mark Lawrence is a talented writer and, no doubt about it, every single person who picks up his work is going to have a strong reaction to it. Most will be captivated and drawn into one of the most unique fantasy experiences modern literature has to offer, whilst some will find Mark’s work too disturbing to handle. Mark’s publisher, Voyager done an amazing job of marketing Mark’s work and getting his name out there in the early days. However, I do think that a ton of people will pick his books up on the cover art alone. The, Jason Chan, takes the ‘best cover’ award with ease this year: the dark, charismatic Jorg sitting upon his thorne takes my breath away every time I see him. Stunning.
Top 5 Fantasy Debuts of 2012
5. The City’s Son
What makes this book so amazing is the mind of Tom Pollock. Pollock seamlessly crafts an alternative version of London. A London that literally lives and breathes. From creatures made of litter through to wolves made out of scaffolding, inanimate objects are given life and breath, and somehow it feels completely believable. The narrative is wonderful and although it is classified as a YA Novel, and therefore has those recognisable young adult themes, it never condescends the reader.
4. The Alchemist of Souls
When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods–and a skrayling ambassador–to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital? In The Alchemist of Souls, Anne Lyle brings us historical fantasy with a fresh approach, blending just the right amount of fantasy elements, alternate history and pure old-fashioned intrigue to tell a story that will appeal to a wide range of readers.
3. Shadow Ops: Control Point
Control Point is a furious ride on the front line where every action has consequences and people’s lives depend on the decisions one takes. Oscar Britton is a Lieutenant in the Supernatural Operations Corps, a new branch of the military tasked to deal with anyone developing latent supernatural powers. Magic has been allocated to those that are legal and those that are not. Peter V. Brett describes it as “Black Hawk Down meets the X-Men,” and that says it all. Bunker down as the fireballs fly with the bullets and enjoy one of 2012’s most exciting debuts.
2. Throne of the Crescent Moon
Throne of the Crescent Moon is a refreshingly different book in so many ways. For a start, its setting is a mythical Arabia rather than a version of medieval Europe. The hero is not a young, handsome variation of the Eternal Champion. He is, instead, an old, fat man called Doctor Adoulla Makhslood who is the last, real ghul hunter in Dhamsawaat, a bustling city that totters on the brink of a civil war between the Khalif and a mysterious man known only as The Falcon Prince. Adoulla, rather than a thirst for adventure, has grown tired of the life that God has given him. All he really wants to do is drink cardamom tea, eat pastries and watch the world go by. Unfortunately, for the good Doctor, God still has work for him to do…
1. Bitter Seeds
It’s not often a book comes along that is so refreshingly different as Ian Tregillis’ Bitter Seeds. Starting with the simple thought of, “What if Superheroes and magic existed in World War 2?”, he’s created a complex tale that is thought-provoking as it is exciting. Far more than just the classic battle between good and evil, it gets into the nitty-gritty of the realities of war. It shows the blood on everyone’s hands and the heavy price, not just of victory, but of simply trying to stay in the fight.
Top 5 Fantasy Books of 2012
5. Babylon Steel
When you’ve been reading within the fantasy genre for a while, you tend to familiarise yourself with the tropes and even find yourself looking for them as you read through a new novel. Well, if you try that with Babylon Steel you will find that you’ve set yourself an almost impossible task. Babylon Steel is a book that takes a number of popular tropes in fantasy and puts a great twist on them. This results in a book that feels unique and is able to keep you guessing as the plot continually twists and turns. In addition, having a female character that enjoyed sex and violence was something that felt very fresh to me and something I’d like to see more of.
4. Tomorrow The Killing
Tomorrow, The Killing, the excellent second entry in Daniel Polansky’s Low Town series, isn’t about heroism. Or antiheroes. It isn’t about any of the things one normally finds in a fantasy novel–good, evil, magic, dragons, etc. It isn’t about war (although there is war). It isn’t about love (although that’s in there, too). It isn’t about death (believe me, death abounds). Picking up three years after the events of The Straight Razor Cure, the Warden finds himself still running his minor criminal empire from The Staggering Earl, his Low Town inn and domicile. He is still nasty, still haunted, still huffing Pixie’s Breath to get through the day. His temperament has, perhaps, soured. His razor tongue and inclination toward verbal abuse are as present as ever.
3. King of Thorns
The first book in this series, Prince of Thorns, was phenomenal. The protagonist’s elegance and charisma is used as the perfect juxtaposition to his brutal behaviour and Mark Lawrence’s prose serve as a tantalising contrast to a novel that will disturb even the most seasoned readers. King of Thorns, the sequel, solidifies Mark Lawrence’s place as one of fantasy’s most talented authors. Rather than follow a proven formula, Mark Lawrence has taken a risk by introducing new concepts, new characters, evolving the protagonist’s abilities and throwing a dash of empathy into his profoundly evil character. And you know what? He pulled it off and then some.
2. A Red Country
If you’re a fan of the current trend towards darker fantasy, you should have already sent your thank you card off to Joe Abercrombie. Often hailed as the father of gritty fantasy – that is fantasy with dark characters, questionable heroes, bloody battles, realistic sexual relationships and plenty of swearing – Abercrombie has not only attracted the attention of the vast majority of genre-fiction readers, but also managed to reach beyond this group and earn himself a place on the general fiction bestseller lists. The bottom-line is that A Red Country is Abercrombie’s best book to date. His writing is sharper than the swords his characters wield and the new setting allows gritty fantasy’s father to ramp up the pace!
1. The Blinding Knife
Well, it takes a special, special book to knock Abercrombie off the top spot and that’s exactly what The Blinding Knife is. Now, if you’ve read The Night Angel Trilogy and/or The Black Prism, don’t even begin to think you know roughly what to expect from The Blinding Knife. Brent Weeks takes his character development to a whole new level, the plot gets deeper than you ever thought possible and the magic system is brought to the forefront in a way that makes perfect sense. When the end of the novel comes you’ll be distraught with the idea of waiting another year for the sequel. If Brent Weeks keeps up this level of writing, it’s going to be hard to stop him taking the book of the year title again next year too!
Ta-Ta & A Thank You
Well, that just about wraps us up for 2012! Later this week we’ll be doing our ‘Fantasy Films of 2012 Round-up’ and, of course, don’t forget to check out our most anticipated books of 2013 list… Ah, and our most anticipated books of 2013 by female writers list too! And, again, if I missed off a book you think deserves to be on here – please let me know in the comments.
OH! Finally, I know-I know… I’ve said that already (twice!). Yesterday, Fantasy-Faction was voted the best Fantasy Blog Site by readers of Reddit.com. We narrowly beat Justin (Staffer’s Book Review) a blogger who I really like and see as one of the best critical reviewers out there. So, suffice to say, this means a huge deal to me personally and I’m sure to each and every staff member who has contributed to the site over the past 12 months. Thank you so much to all of those who voted and we promise to keep the same quantity of quality content coming your way, guys. You rule. We love you. HAPPY NEW YEAR!