For obvious reasons, I have been able to catch up somewhat with my TBR pile, and with that, I have a few book recommendations for you. Bear in mind I’m not good with scales, so I will share just my opinion on the book and links as to where to get it.
Raven Steals the Light
By Bill Reid (Author, Illustrator), Robert Bringhurst (Author), Claude Levi-Strauss (Foreword)
I’ve always thought that a fantasy writer should read as much as possible of history and mythology books from different cultures, if any, to help their world-building and learn from other cultures. I fell in love with this book (and the Haida culture) when I visited Vancouver a few years ago, but for many reasons, I couldn’t get it until last year that a friend that lives in Canada got it for me as part of our group of friends’ Secret Santa, but I digress…
Bill Reid’s life history on its own is pretty interesting and inspiring and this book is a reflection of his life work, as he rescued the Haida oral myths and put some of them in a book he illustrated as well. Most of the myths talk about the Raven, the trickster deity of the Haida, and its escapades both before and after the creation of the world and humankind, a time when dreaming and reality were one and the same. Beautifully written, it’s evocative of a world beyond our imagination, of possibilities. The Raven is a charming rogue that sometimes gets its comeuppance and sometimes helps to create the world as we know it while looking to satiate its appetites. Most tales in the (admittedly very short) book pertain to the Raven, but there are a couple about shape-shifting bears.
This book is a must, mostly for the heart of it and for the opportunity to know more about the First Nations’ beliefs.
Tales of Aerothos: Knights of the Wolf
By Robert Nugent (Author), Christopher Wagner (Editor)
Knights of the Wolf is one of the finest indie books for grounded fantasy. It was my introductory book to the world of Aerothos and in that regard, it’s the perfect place to start. I want to keep reading more stories in this world.
Rob Nugent is an accomplished writer, and this book proves three things he does really well: characterization, plot twists, and battle description. It’s really easy to picture this book as a movie or a mini-series. It’s an entertaining read for those that are looking for well-done fantasy and/or filling a GoT shaped hole in their hearts, like me.
Wrath of the Fury Blade
by Geoff Habiger (Author) and Coy Kissee (Author)
This is the mystery thriller the fantasy genre needed to expand its horizons. This is the book Sam Vimes would read. It’s the mystery story I was looking for.
Mixing genres is becoming a staple of today’s SFF. Doing it right is not so common yet. This is where Wrath of the Fury Blade by Geoff Habiger and Coy Kissee excels. It takes the popular genre of a detective story, with all its basics: an odd couple of detectives, a mystery with twists and turns, and social critic to the current world. And places it in a fantasy world where every detail is accounted for, to make believable how in a setting with magic and divination, it is still possible to attempt the perfect murder. Actually, how it would be easier to do it. Reva and Ansee, our pair of intrepid detectives are well characterized and written. I identified more with Reva, because let’s be honest, you can be good at what you do and still hate to have to do it, which to me feels like actual life. And seeing their friendship growing is a welcomed reward. But what I think is the most valuable aspect of the book is how it takes standard fantasy tropes and turns them on their head to make a social commentary. Addiction, segregation, political backstabbing… all of them prove that the usually perfect elves of standard fantasy, are more similar to humans than they would like to acknowledge. Their foibles prove more cumbersome to solve the mystery than the clever murderer’s plot.
While the descriptions can be at times a tad longer than expected, that’s logical as is the first book of a series and is setting the table for the adventures to come. With that in mind, I can only recommend the book to everyone who is looking for a new, different kind of fantasy reading, and eagerly wait till the sequel is out.
A Twist in time
By Brent A. Harris (Author)
Full disclaimer: I cheated a bit because I had the opportunity to read the ARC of the book before it’s upcoming release.
A great work by an upcoming star in the realm of alternate history narratives. In his second novel, Brent A. Harris has brought Dickens to the 21st century. A Twist in Time is fast-paced, action-packed, and still a heartfelt tale of a young man returning to his roots to provide others like his former self a new future amidst the intrigue and corruption that populates this steampunk version of the Dickensian London.
The book has a cinematic sense to it, in the vein of Guy Ritchie’s hectic camera work and forays into adapting classic tales to modern sensibilities. Actually, this book could easily be adapted by Ritchie. However is the characterization of the main three characters: Oliver Twist, Nell Trent, and their antagonist, the Artful Dodger (here in a female version of the character). The three of them feel like real persons with a complicated backstory between them, that resembles at times a tragic romantic triangle. But this ain’t a love story. Rather is the tale of a young man that decides to become the hero he didn’t have to look up when he was a child, using wondrous contraptions to move around a city peril. Main among said objects is a mysterious pocket watch that allows Oliver to bend and twist the flow of time to his will, giving him the chance to correct things that went wrong and… I won’t say more because it would a spoiler.
Let’s just say that this book showcases Harris’ skills as an author: layered plots, well-defined themes, and great characterization. If you are into steampunk, YA, or new takes on old classics, this book is for you. It’s the adventure of a lifetime.