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Friday, May 16, 2014

Three Upcoming Titles (Ilona Andrews, Anthony Ryan & Rob J. Bennett) To Watch Out For (by Mihir Wanchoo)

Since I'll be reviewing all three of them closer to their release dates. I thought it would be a good idea to post my Goodread thoughts on Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan, Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews and City Of Stairs by Robert J. Bennett. These are my informal thoughts and the main reason for posting them is that I believe that these three have been the standout SFF reads for me so far in 2014...

First up is Tower Lord and I've been anticipating this book since 2012. So here's what I thought:

I would love to rate this one six stars if GR would allow me! In my review for Blood Song, at the end I had written "give this book a read if you want to read a story that’s closest to those written by David Gemmell." With Tower Lord, he not only proves that in spades by giving the readers a siege situation similar to that in Legend and also many more memorable events and characters. This book easily is the best heroic fantasy of 2014 (bettering the high of City Of Stairs by a hairsbreadth) and now all others have to overcome it.

Let's begin with the story, in Tower Lord, we get 3 new POV characters besides Vaelin who was the sole narrator in Blood Song. Another funny aspect of the story is that this book also follows the same narrative format as Blood Song wherein the events begin in the near past and interspersed between five accounts of the royal Alpiran chronicler Verniers Alishe Someren. As to why the story is set in such a format and what is Verniers doing will be up to the fans to RAFO, safe to say it's quite shocking to meet Verniers.

We find Vaelin Al Sorna back to the Unified realm and seeks to find his relatives who might be surviving. The 2nd POV character is Reva a young woman with tremendous martial skills who seeks revenge on Vaelin for a past crime. She's not Asraelian and seeks his death single-handedly, who she is and why she hates Vaelin is spoiler material and so I won't comment on it. Safe to say for people wanting to know her identity can take guesses and I might just give you tell if you are correct or not in the comments...

The other two POV characters, I won't name until closer to the book release, safe to say there are characters from the first book and I, as a fan was expecting them to be POV characters. This book also enlarges the world situation by showcasing the continent east of the Alpiran & Unified realms, namely the Volarian empire. The story begins by detailing an attack on the unified realms from many fronts. Vaelin is faced with a new responsibility when he's made Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches by King Malcius.

Another highlight of this book is that nearly every character who made a major & minor impression in its predecessor is back in this one (except the dead ones). We get to see all of them & see different shades to them, this was an extremely pleasurable thing to read, a couple of mysteries from Blood Song, namely who attacked Vaelin in the Test Of the Wild as well as who was behind it get clarified. Many other bigger revelations also abound but that's a topic for the full review.

Secondly going on to the characterization, Anthony Ryan shines brighter in his sophomore effort by giving us many brilliant characters. Lastly the pace and action sequences are amplified across all the four POV sections, we get to see our favorite characters face odds that they have never thought of and the fun is seeing how it all ends.

Coming back to my original statement of this book being similar to Legend, David Gemmell's epic debut. We get a siege wherein legends are forged and this was a highlight to read. Lastly the climatic chapter ends on a such a note that you might not want to wait a whole year for Queen Of Fire, Rest assured I'll be diligent to ask Anthony about Queen Of Fire and many other questions in his forthcoming FBC interview.


Next up is Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews. Now this book was originally going to be climax of the series, but that's no longer the case (and thankfully so). The authors had previously announced that this book will be the end of the first arc of Kate's journey and would also introduce Roland. Safe to say this book didn't disappoint but also managed to overcome my sky-high expectations and Roland got an epic introduction:

For all Ilona Andrews fans, this has been the book that we have been waiting for. Magic Breaks is the first time when Roland makes an appearance and is about the introduction/confrontation of him & Kate. However this is not the FINAL book in the series, we are assured of three more (atleast)...

Magic Breaks is set after the tumultuous events seen in Magic Rises and after the cross-Atlantic journey, Kate is not sure what to expect next. Things have settled comfortably with the Atlanta pack as Curran goes to work with Panacea and is able to fortify his territory. Things are going well as much as they can but when Curran is suspiciously called away for a hunt, Kate is forced to attend a conclave meeting with the People. The plot thickens when a high ranking master of the dead is found murdered. With all signs pointing towards a shape-shifter, things get tense as Kate's most hated adversary returns to give her 24 hours to hand over the murderer or Roland's war comes to Atlanta. From then on it's a race against time as Kate and the pack have to figure what really happened and how to clear this mess.

What can I say, Magic Breaks has been a very fast-paced & superbly satisfying read. Infact I'll go ahead to say this book will be in my top 3 of my year end lists. If you love the previous books then prepare to have your mind blown. This book has all the positive attributes of the series that we all love. Awesome action sequences, terrific characterization and a great cast of characters, lastly the humor never truly fails to stop the story from becoming abysmally dark. Kate and all of our favorite characters are back in this one and so many others from the previous works make some memorable appearances. Their presence however is entirely justified and unlike the last Sookie Stackhouse book, wherein everyone just showed up to bid adieu. The authors make sure that the tension is never completely resolved and the readers will be flipping pages to see what all is encompassed within this tale.

For me, I loved how the authors melded a murder mystery, their version of "the mines of Moria sequence" which just simply will blow most reader minds and lastly a confrontation between a father and daughter. If you think that you can predict what will happen, I'll gladly inform you that you will be wrong. The action sequences are amped up and there's some new additions to the rich were mythology that the authors have built up so far. Then there are further revelations about Kate's past, Roland, her magic and some subjects that are highly spoilerfic to eve mention. Safe to say that this book does everything but bring you to the edge of a mental orgasm before tipping you over savagely of course.

This is truly Epic Urban Fantasy & Ilona Andrews are just the best (watch out Jim Butcher) when it comes to writing in this under-appreciated genre. Plus as a freebie, the authors have also included MAGIC TESTS, a short story about Julie which I have previously reviewed HERE.


Lastly there is City Of Stairs which just came out of nowhere and was the first standout out book of 2014 for me: 

This is one of those books that I was intrigued about when the author spoke about how history affects perception and the lives of those living in a city that previously affected the whole world, oh and also the bodies of dead gods being used as WMDs!

I'm usually a sucker for stories that sound weird and have cool blurbs such as the one above. To back it up, the author also spoke a bit more about the story's conception over HERE & HERE. Plus I had read the author's previous work which was excellent (American Elsewhere) & not-so-good (Mr. Shivers). This was the author's first stab at something other than what he had written so far.

The story is set in Bulikov, the aforementioned City Of Stairs and erstwhile de-facto capital of the world (or atleast that's what the citizens would have you believe). Bulikov is situated in the continent with several other divine cities, it however is conquered by Saypur, a crumbling outpost which nearly 80 years ago did something so outrageous that it shook the foundations of history and literally changed the world.

A man titled Kaj, slew a god via his machinations and thereby sailed onto the continent wherein he further slew the remaining gods besides the ones mixing from a long time ago. Thereby destroying the continent's rule on the world and establishing Saypur's ascendancy as the supreme power.

The story begins in 1719 wherein in Bulikov, the murder of Efrem Pangyui has caused upheaval and led to the coming of Shara Thivani, a middling diplomat who comes to the City of Stairs to find out the real reason behind the murder. She however is not one without any mystery of her own and should her real identity be revealed, then the continent will truly erupt.

The author has taken pains to create a world that is magical, technologically oriented and sincerely refreshing in more ways than one. Six gods there were Olvos, Kolkan, Jukov, Ahanas, Voortya, and Taalhavras, their wonders elevated the continent but now their age has gone and it left to diplomats and spies to manage the world. The world-building and the current state of the world is the remarkable part of the story possibly even better than the terrific characterization. Kudos to the author for eschewing pseudo-European templates and creating a world that's complex as our own and incredibly diverse.

Rob J. Bennett brings us down to the action as Shara and her secretary (this is a complete misnomer for him) Sigrud try to figure out what is happening behind the scenes. By the way Sigrud truly is a memorable secondary character, his actions and past truly make the scenes come alive whenever he's featured and I sincerely hope in the future books that the author dwells into his past and future. Shara is a remarkable protagonist as it's through her eyes we come to experience the disheveled state of diplomacy and the many sacrifices it demands. I honestly feel that this book has so many dimensions to it and the more you re-read, the more you find.

This book is the overwhelming favorite for 2014 (or was until I read the aforementioned titles) and all other will have a hard time to eclipse it in my list. I'm glad Robert J. Bennett is also writing a sequel to this, because I truly can't wait to read more about this strange world and the three-dimensional characters that inhabit it.


So you can look forward to all three of them and be assured that Liviu, Casey and me will do our best to further elaborate why we loved them so much in the full FBC reviews.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mihir,

This is AmethystOrator, longtime no speak. It was interesting to read your thoughts, as to various degrees I've been anticipating all 3 of these, though it sounds like not to the same degree that you enjoyed them. As always, it'll be interesting to see what I think of them, though on July 1st I'm more eager to read The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler before I get to the Tower Lord. And with Ilona Andrews I'll likely have to wait for the mmpb.

Btw, if you enjoy Gemmell influences (amongst others), then I have to ask if you've tried "The Barrow" by Mark Smylie, a March release from Pyr? It really caught my attention as a book that seemed both timeless, and extremely current, graphic in both sex and violence, and yet not so over the top (in the violence at least), that some in the grimdark category do. I found it quite stunning, with an ending that no one could ever predict and think that it might work it's way into at least some "Best of the Year" discussions.


The Reader said...

Hi AO,

Good to hear from you and yes it has been quite a while. How have you been?

I have a copy of The Shadow Throne & I'll be starting it soon. I profess though I was more inclined to read Tower lord first simply because of the extra enjoyment I derived from its predecessor.

I have a copy of The Barrow but never got around to it. Based on your thoughts though, I'll be giving it a shot. I read a guest post from the author on why he wrote it & that was an interesting read as well.

Thanks again for stopping by & hope to hear more from you.


bunny kingston said...

that cover of Magic Breaks is book #7 of Kate Daniels series. The review/synopsis is for book #8.

The Reader said...


The review/synopsis is for Magic Breaks (book 7) as well.


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