2015 was a really great year for me reading-wise. It was my first full year out of full time education. The year I could finally read all those books I’d been hauling from university halls to my first home. Weirdly, the first 6 months I was in a bit of a slump. I read some really great books but it just took me foreeeever to get through them. Around June, I remembered I LOVED fantasy. I remembered that Game of Thrones was fantasy. I remembered that other fantasy series exist and I should probably try to read them. I remembered that I loved YA. I hadn’t read a YA book since I was a teen. I soon remedied the fantasy/YA shaped hole in my life. I finally had my reading groove back. I devoured books again. And it made me a much happier person. I’d forgotten how much I’d missed the ‘it’s midnight and I need to get up in 5 hours but I can’t put down this book’ feeling; that feeling of escapism after a really crappy day. And finally, I discovered some amazing authors who have become my new favourites! I am very excited to read more of their work in 2016; their back-catalogues and new releases alike!
Here are my 2015 highlights.
Ryan bought me the first novel in Sansom’s Shardlake series for Christmas. He’d mentioned that I’d like them before but I’d heard that Thomas Cromwell was involved and that really put me off. Don’t get me wrong, I adore historical fiction and crime AND the Tudor period but for some reason I felt like I would’t like them. Boy was I wrong. It seems he really does know me! I loved Dissolution and proceeded to buy the rest in the series and read them one after the other. I cannot wait to read the next one but sadly it doesn’t have a release date. Sad face. The series begins not long after the fall of Anne Boleyn and although set in London, the protagonist Matthew Shardlake, is taken all over the country during his investigations, from England’s south coast to York, and even on boats! This world and all the characters are vividly brought to life. Shardlake is a hunchbacked lawyer who worked his way from the bottom up, and earned a good reputation. His discomfort over his back really affects his personality, which in turn affects the way he judges and interacts with others. I really enjoy this aspect of Shardlake; he’s flawed, and that makes him very real. It is his reputation, and slightly reformist religious views, that brings him to the attention of Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell takes advantage of Shardlake’s loyalty and uses him to solve mysterious problems that are too delicate to make public knowledge. Sansom writes really well and has a knack for writing really great characters. They are all well developed and interesting. The plots are all complex and gripping, I loved not knowing where the story was going or who committed the crime. I enjoyed recurring evil characters who were also real historical people. It’s fun to imagine them this way and it really brings the past alive. You can read my review of the first two novels in this series Dissolution and Dark Fire. I also have a review up of one of his stand alone novels, Dominion.
I am soo in love with Robin Hobb’s writing. She writes really great epic fantasy with kickass characters and world building. I read the first three books of her Realm of the Elderings series last year; Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin and Assassin’s Quest as well as the prequel, of sorts, The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince. The story begins with a young boy being presented at the gates of Buckeep, the royal residence of the Six Duchies, by a man who claims that he is the illegitimate son of Prince in waiting, Chivalry Farseer. The married, Chivalry Farseer… This trilogy deals with Fitz’s struggle to feel accepted into the royal family after his father abdicates and flees to the countryside. The castle is not always the safest place to be, especially once he realises he’s inherited the family magic, the Skill. Honestly, the character development is incredible. Once I started reading I was hooked. After I had finished this trilogy I read The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince which is the story of one of the legends of the Six Duchies. It was really nice to read the story in full as it is often alluded to in the trilogy, and makes it easier to understand why some react to Fitz in different ways in light of one of his particular characteristics. I won’t say what as I don’t want to spoil it for you. Apparently it is also important in the later stories set in the Realm of the Elderlings so I’m glad I’ve read it. I didn’t think it was as good as novels but it was good to understand what the characters were referring to.
Currently, there are three trilogies and a quadrilogy set in this realm. She also has the first two books of the fifth series out at the moment. The first series focuses on Fitz and the Fool and follows their story through many years, the second The Liveship Traders trilogy is set a few years later and is set on the south coast and follows a new set of characters, the third The Tawny Man trilogy goes back to Fitz and the Fool and the quadrilogy, The Rainwild Chronicles, goes to the Rainwilds, a legendary part of the realm that is often mentioned in the other books. The work-in-progress trilogy, The Fitz and the Fool is, as the title suggests, back with Fitz and the Fool. I have already read The Ship of Magic this year which is the first of the Liveship Traders series and it promises to be just as good as the first series! These books are epics, be prepared to read some hefty sized books. But they are so worth it. The magic system is subtle and original and her character development is insane. I’ve never read anything like it. Some criticism of her writing is that she is very character focused as opposed to action action action. I don’t see this as a negative at all. She has created characters who are still interesting even when they are going about their daily routines. She slowly lets characters develop and that makes them more intriguing. I could read about these people doing nothing all day, every day, as their thoughts are so cool. And don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of action too! She writes so well and I honestly couldn’t recommend this series highly enough. I read Pat Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear last year and I found his novels far too long and felt bored when he focussed on his protagonist’s day to day life. I found the complete opposite with Hobb. I cannot wait to get stuck in and read the rest of her novels in this world. I also want to get her other series, The Soldier’s Son and her short story collection that is set in the Realm of the Elderlings too. The former is not set in the same world though but I am sure it will be just as well written. Start with the Farseer Trilogy and enjoy. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Okay, I don’t know where to start with Brandon Sanderson. Oh my god. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to discover him. He’s one of those authors who has so many books out that they look intimidating on the bookshop shelves. I had picked up The Final Empire so many times to put it back again. I don’t know why, maybe this was in my slump/university days when big books were off putting in the face of work/studying. I finally took the plunge when Lucy Richardson on Youtube started a read-along. I read all three of the Mistborn trilogy in a matter of weeks. And the books are huge. That’s how good they were. I have done a review of them here. I have since read two of his novellas, Legion and The Emperor’s Soul and loved them. They weren’t as good as Mistborn but they were far far shorter and still very good. Sanderson is known for writing stories in his Cosmere. All of his novels are set in the same universe (the Cosmere) but all have different types of magic and origin stories. This is a really good article discussing Sanderson’s Cosmere, it explains it far more succinctly than I could, and I have only read one series set in it so I’m not exactly an expert http://www.tor.com/2015/07/21/lets-talk-about-brandon-sandersons-cosmere/. I have already bought a couple of his stand alones, Warbreaker and Elantris and the first in his Stormlight Archive series, The Way of Kings Part 1. He writes big books, so be prepared. But then again, if you love fantasy than you should be used to this. He has written a lot of series, some YA and some adult, and as I’ve said some novellas and some stand alones. He is the King of fantasy/sci-fy. His world building is beyond incredible and all the characters are so deep and complex. I felt so attached to every one of them and even the world they inhabited. I can’t wait to read the rest of his works this year. I really have my work cut out though, that’s soo many pages. For those who have read and loved his Mistborn series *eyes all of you as if you should all have…* he has just released an ebook novella called Mistborn: Secret History, which naturally I have already purchased. Apparently it contains spoilers for the original trilogy. He is currently writing some Mistborn sequels, set many years after the Hero of Ages (The third in the trilogy). Already out is The Alloy of Law, Shadows of Self and Bands of Mourning (just released). I haven’t started them yet as I am very pedantic and want to wait until they are all out in paperback so they match… Another cool thing about Sanderson is that he writes really good fan newsletters. They’re always really long and personal and tell his subscribers which book he is working on and what is coming up. This is really great as he is juggling so many unfinished series at the moment as well as wanting to write sequels to his stand alones.. It’s just nice to know where he’s up to in them and you get to find out before anyone else/having to frantically search the internet for new releases. That’s how I found out about the new Mistborn novella. I don’t know about you, but I can feel overwhelmed trying to keep up to date with my favourite author’s new releases so this is really great. I wish all my favourite authors did this (although I totally understand that they’re busy writing, but if Brandon can do it…) If you’ve read any Brandon Sanderson let me know, I’d love to chat more!
I discovered these three authors in 2015 and I am SO glad I did, in case you couldn’t tell from my gushing over their work. Please let me know if you have read any of them or are interested to learn more about them, I’d love to discuss them. Fortunately, the last two authors have a huge collection of books for me to read, and if the books I’ve already read by them are a clue, they’re going to be amazing.