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Wednesday, December 25, 2019

2019 Review / 2020 Preview - Jonathan French

2019 Favorites

Confession: I read very little this past year. When I’m writing (all the time now), I tend to avoid fiction-- especially Fantasy--focusing on History and Biography to keep my creative soup from becoming too incestuous. This year was a particularly sparse harvest as I’m still adjusting to the deadlines and promotional frenzy of “Big” publishing, leaving little time for reading, which is entirely my failing. However, I wasn’t a total slacker!  


1) The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft. Like many, I was completely enthralled by Senlin Ascends (Book 1 of Bancroft’s Books of Babel quadrilogy) and made a point to pre-order this third installment. Bancroft is the best writer of my generation and that’s a hill I will die on. The epigraphs that open each of his chapters are a bag of writing gems, and an achievement of voice that most writers (including Yours Truly) can’t manage in an entire career. The Hod King continues to weave heartbreaking adventure with breath-stealing prose in the uniquely decadent and decaying Tower. 
2) Empire of Grass by Tad Williams. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn possessed my middle school years. So, having a chance to return to the world of Osten Ard made me embarrassingly giddy in 2017 when The Witchwood Crown hit the shelves. This year, I got that fix again. Being a sequel in a sequel series, Empire of Grass is impossible to describe to the uninitiated, so I’ll just say that any Osten Ard fans that have hesitated to begin this new era: GET ON IT!
3) A Chain Across the Dawn by Drew Williams. Apparently, I read nothing this year that wasn’t a continuation of something else! This is the second book in Williams’ The Universe After sci-fi series. Sci-fi is rarely my bag (too much, ya know…Science), but the blurb on the back cover of the first book, The Stars Now Unclaimed, compared it to Firefly/Serenity, so I took the chance. And was glad I did! Gritty, often profane (huge plus for me!), and just damn fun. A Chain Across the Dawn delivers heavy doses of spaceship warfare, universe shattering adversaries and a galaxy load of snark.  


I figure there’s a healthy amount of overlap between Sci-fi/Fantasy readers and tabletop gamers, so…
1) Kings of War: Vanguard by Mantic Games. I love a good skirmish-sized miniature wargame and Mantic delivered with this one! Easy to learn rules let you pit small numbers of warriors against each other using either Mantic’s own range of models or any suitable fantasy models already in your collection (*cough* War *cough* Hammer). Rules are free to download, too!
2) Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition by Cubicle 7. Technically, this launched in December 2018, but I think it counts since the game is just now gaining momentum. The Old World will always be my favorite setting to play in and it’s good to see it survive in this newest edition. All the grimdark adventure with underpowered heroes you could ask for! Your amoral Rat Catcher and his “small, but viscous dog” will be contracting horrible diseases and gaining Insanity Points while battling the minions of Chaos in no time. Long live the Old World!
3) Eberron: Rising from the Last War by Wizards of the Coast. Dungeons & Dragons is more popular now then it was in the 80s (and I should know: I rolled my first d20 in ’87). Eberron was my favorite setting during the 3rd edition days, so it’s nice to see this book detailing the world for the current (and very popular) 5th edition. I loved the new playable races when they hit the scene in ’04, so having Shifters, Changelings, Kalashtar and Warforged as options for my D&D characters is very exciting!

Looking Ahead to 2020

 I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman and I’m excited for its launch. I think readers are going to love it!  
Otherwise, I’m not too hip to what’s coming out, but I look forward to being surprised.

On the Horizon for Jonathan French

The third installment in my Lot Lands series (aka The Grey Bastards books) is coming, though I can’t say precisely when since I’m still writing it. But I’m 70k words into the manuscript and I can say the half-orcs remain foul-mouthed and hog-riding.

About the Author

Jonathan French is the author of “The Grey Bastards” and “The True Bastards”. Originally self-published, he gained the attention of an editor at Penguin when “The Grey Bastards” won the 2nd annual Self-Publishing Fantasy blog-off. Jonathan is an avid player of tabletop roleplaying games and wargames, hobbies he hopes to pass on to the joy of his life, his son. For more, please visit his website ( or Twitter (@JFrenchAuthor). 



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