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Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2019 Review/2020 Preview — Peter McLean

2019 Favorites

I’m so pleased to say it has been another phenomenal year for Fantasy fiction! There’s been some really, really great stuff released again this year. In no particular order, these are some of my personal favourites.

1. Crowfall, by Ed McDonald. The third and final instalment in the Raven’s Mark trilogy, Crowfall is raw and emotional in a way I didn't expect. It's a very different book to its action-heavy predecessors, yet is still an almost inevitable conclusion to Captain Galharrow's character arc. Watching him fall apart through his own narrative brings a fresh edge of pain to the storytelling. This series is ultimately a story about love and remorse, culminating in one last moment of desperate defiance. And then, at last, there is hope. It’s splendid stuff, and a series that I’m sure to re-read in the future.

2. The House of Sacrifice, by Anna Smith Spark. Another series-ender, The House of Sacrifice concludes the glorious, thundering black metal opera that has been Smith Spark’s Empires of Dust trilogy. This is everything I could have hoped for and more. Smith Spark's soaring operatic prose really hits the high notes here, a pitch-perfect paean to death and corruption and ruin. Anyone who's been reading these books quietly to themselves as fantasy novels is missing out, in my opinion. This isn't modern fiction, this is the ancient mythology of a dead world. Empires of Dust deserves to be read aloud, to be performed even, in the epic poetry tradition of the tales of Achilles and Gilgamesh. There really is honestly nothing else quite like this series, and it has already become one of my all time favourites.

3. We Are the Dead, by Mike Shackle. From series ends to new beginnings, this is the first of a debut series from Shackle. In a world reminiscent of Warring States period Japan crossed with WWII Occupied France, the revolution is coming. This book has everything you could want from that premise: The Resistance. A Samurai general's disgraced daughter forced to face up to her responsibilities and become a hero. Faceless enemy stormtroopers and sadistic magic SS officers. A single mother forced into the Resistance against her will. Nightmarish genetically-engineered monsters. A teenage terrorist leading a cadre of suicide bombers. The choice between duty and starvation in a civilian reality where the Resistance are every bit as dangerous as the enemy. If you took Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds, crossed it with David Gemmell and dropped it into a quasi-Asian fantasy setting this is what you’d get. Highly recommended.

4. A Little Hatred, by Joe Abercrombie. As a huge fan of the First Law series I must admit I was a bit nervous going into this one. What if the magic had died in the intervening years? Well I’m very glad to say it did nothing of the sort – this was splendid! I've always been impressed by Abercrombie's ability to switch from laugh-out-loud hilarity to utter horror and back again in the space of a few pages, but in this book it's stronger than ever. Never knowing which you're going to get next makes for an emotional rollercoaster ride that I can only liken to channel-flipping between Blackadder III and something by the Marquis de Sade. This is a splendid opening salvo in the new trilogy, and I'm eagerly looking forward to the next one.

5. The Bone Ships, by RJ Barker. Another series opener here, from the author of The Wounded Kingdom series. I liked those a lot, but this takes it to the next level. Imagine the naval sagas of Patrick O'Brian (the Aubrey–Maturin series, Master and Commander) in a fantasy world with a triumvirate of goddesses, avian wind-mages, and a fully matriarchal society. Imagine it told in the language of the sea, in rolling, rhythmic prose that crashes over you like breakers. Imagine the mythic grandeur of the last sea dragon, and the dragonbone ships that set out to hunt it - or to save it. Barker has created a living, breathing society here, with every turn of phrase and nuance of expression hand-crafted to draw you on and on into this world of women and men on the high seas; into an epic tale of duty and obligation and honour, and what bravery really means. It is truly magnificent, and I can't recommend it enough.

Looking Forward to in 2020

I’ve already managed to read a couple of 2020 releases, and enjoyed them both hugely:

There’s Highfire, the adult fantasy debut from Eoin Colfer of Artemis Fowl fame, for one. It’s a charming, funny, sometimes brutal look at poor Cajun life and crime in the Louisiana bayou – with a dragon in it. Yes, an actual live dragon. Called Vern. Trust me, it’s worth it.

I was also lucky enough to get an advance copy of The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold (yes, the actor) which is a splendidly bleak, noir thriller set in a high fantasy world where the magic has not so much gone away as been brutally murdered. It’s a great premise and the hardboiled voice is absolutely spot on. 

I’m really hoping the next Bone Ships book makes it out in 2020 as well, as I can’t get my hands on that quickly enough!

On the Horizon for Peter McLean

Ah this is a difficult one - I’ve got lots of things going on at the moment, and I can’t talk about any of them just yet! Rest assured though I’m still working away on the third War for the Rose Throne book, which I expect will be out in 2021. The working title is Priest of Gallows, but don’t hold me to that as the title hasn’t had final approval from Our Lady of Eternal Editing yet. There will also probably be more Warhammer of some sort, as it’s just so much fun to write!

About the Author

Peter McLean was born near London in 1972, the son of a bank manager and an English teacher. He went to school in the shadow of Norwich Cathedral where he spent most of his time making up stories.

He has since grown up a bit, if not a lot, and spent 25 years working in corporate IT. He is married to Diane and is still making up stories.

He is the author of the War for the Rose Throne series, beginning with Priest of Bones.

His is represented by Jennie Goloboy at DMLA.



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