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Sunday, January 12, 2020

2019 Review / 2020 Preview - Levi Jacobs


I spent most of my reading time this year buried in the Wheel of Time, trying to finally finish the thing I started as a youth, and also to learn a little more about my own roots as a fantasy author.

One of the things I learned is the value of brevity.



That said, I did find some other stellar reads this year. In no particular order:

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. Yes, this book has tight plotting and engaging characters and cool magic, but what I couldn’t get over was the setting. Mark seems to have a thing for post-apocalyptic novels disguised as regular fantasy, which is not always a welcome twist for my particular proclivities, but his one is awesome: a planet entirely covered by ice with a single strip of habitable land kept melted by the last satellite still orbiting the sky. And hints that people with the right heritage might be able to control it and other mysterious artifacts buried in the ice—completely awesome. Red Sister doesn’t even really get to the promise of the setting, but I loved getting lost in it anyway.

Burning White by Brent Weeks. Full disclosure, this book came out a few weeks ago and it’s almost a thousand pages, so I’m not done with it yet. But the design of this series has been brilliant from book one, with every major character relationship optimally posed for conflict and revelation. And better yet, Weeks actually delivers on that potential as the series goes on—just when you think this character couldn’t get more wretched, or that one have more secrets to uncover, he peels another layer off the onion, and you tear up in all the right ways. At the signing for Burning White he handed us all a packet of tissues that said ‘Don’t open till Epilogue 1,’ so I’m guessing this one’s no different. Can’t wait.

Unsouled by Will Wight. You can’t pay attention to the epic fantasy chart on Amazon without wondering who the (heck) Will Wight is and how he ascended to godhood. Fortunately, his books are a tidy answer to that: clear and accessible prose, lovable characters, tight pacing, and that LitRPG thrill of leveling up character ability without the annoying stats, with the conflict perfectly ramping to match it. This is a long plane ride kind of read, but the kind where when you get there and you only have twenty pages left you’re going to let everyone else get off first because you have to know what happens. That’s what I did anyway.

Children of the Nameless by Brandon Sanderson. I almost blush including this, because FBC called me out for showing an embarrassing amount of Sanderson influence. I’m going to own it, and go a step deeper: I’m also a Magic: The Gathering nerd, so when Sanderson released a novella set in an MTG world I was already sold. Add to that his peculiar brand of quirky characters and inevitably revelation-laden plotlines, and fold it up into bite-size novella format? Delicious. The best part is you don’t have to be a Magic geek to understand it, and it’s a great entry point into the author if his chihuahua-killing fantasy novels (let alone his Labrador-slaying end to the Wheel of Time series) have always felt daunting.

Never Die by Rob J. Hayes. Rob feels like another star in the very spangled sky of indie fantasy, someone using the freedom of self-publishing to put out stories that are probably too weird for a traditional publisher to pick them up, but are all the more awesome for it. Never Die is traditional Asian mythology meets Street Fighter II Turbo, with undead heroes caught in a conflict where someone has to lose. Awesome. And, a fellow contender in this year’s SPFBO!

What I’m Looking Forward to in 2020:

Bookwise, I’m excited to see who else finals in the SPFBO contest. [disclaimer: Levi sent us this write-up before all of the finalists were announced!] I loved some of the finalists from last year’s contest, and it’s sort of a proxy curation service for those of us who want to read more indie fantasy but don’t necessary enjoy wading through the Kindle slush pile. Other than that, I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been too deep in my TBR pile to pay much attention to what I’ll surely be piling on top of it next.

Current Projects:

I’ve just wrapped up a novella set in my Resonant Saga universe, in which a bounty hunter sets out to bring justice to a runaway murderer… only to fall in love with her. Readers familiar with the series will recognize that runaway murderous daughter from the main series, and this felt like a fun way to give a snapshot into who she was before the main story gets started. It’s also my first crowd-sourced story idea—I bought the cover without having a story in mind, then bounced a few story ideas off my brain and had my mailing list vote on which one they thought would be the most fun. Turned out they were right.




I’m about ten thousand words into book four as I write this, a fun project because it’s my first all-female book, in terms of main characters, and probably my first true mystery (well, epic fantasy mystery). Hoping to have that out in January, plus another crowd-sourced novella and book five later in the spring. Then it might be time to see how many of my other thousand scribbled notes I can fit into a new series and world.

About the Author: 

Levi Jacobs is the author of the near-future science-fiction novel ACHE, as well as the fantastical Resonant Saga and forthcoming Water of Night series. He has received the Colorado Gold award in Speculative Fiction, taken first place in The Zebulon Fiction Contest for Science Fiction, and had shorter work published in Spark: A Creative Anthology, Jungle Crows and Perihelion SF. Hailing from North Dakota, with much of his formative years spent in Japan and Uganda, Levi has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and sells fruit in the oil fields to make a living. Learn more at www.levijacobs.com.

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