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Sunday, December 20, 2020

2020 Review / 2021 Preview - Alexander Darwin

2020 Review / 2021 Preview – Alexander Darwin 

I think everyone is ready to put 2020 behind us. Despite the world-burning flavor of this year, I think we got a whole lot of great SFF content; from the Mandalorian to Picard to the upcoming Expanse Season 5. And as a huge martial arts fan I binge watched the entirety of ‘Warrior’ Seasons 1 and 2, which are based on Bruce Lee’s writing and are absolutely fantastic. 

And though I didn’t bite into my TBR as nearly as I’d like, I did read some fantastic books: 

Sword of Kaigen 

I’d heard so much about the previous year’s SPFBO winner, but really knew nothing about what sort of book it was. I was pleasantly surprised and even moved by Kaigen. Once I was about twenty percent in I couldn’t stop reading – the intertwining familial themes really struck a chord with me and combined with the samurai style action, I simply loved it. I thought M.L. Wang really created a uniquely fleshed out and deeply personal world here. 

Never Die 

I have a strong affinity for anything Samurai related, and so I’d been meaning to read Rob J. Hayes’ Never Die (also a SPFBO finalist from last year). I thought Rob did a fantastic job integrating both well-worn Samurai tropes and Japanese folk lore into this novel story. The action was superb, but more importantly Mr. Hayes built the tension for the battles through in-depth backstories of redemption and revenge. I’m extremely excited to start reading the second in the Mortal Techniques series, Pawn’s Gambit, which is due out in January (I’ve received an ARC which I’ll dig into before end of year). 

The Fires of Vengeance 

The anticipated sequel to Evan Winter’s ‘Rage of Dragon’s’, Fires of Vengeance picks up on Tau Solarin’s story of revenge, set in a vibrant and violent African-influenced world. Fires matches the action-packed pages of Rage and even one-ups it with some extraordinarily epic battle scenes. As a childhood fan of Drizzt Do’Urden, I have a particular place in my heart for dual-sword-wielding underdog heroes, so these books hit just the right spot for me. Also, it’s worth mentioning Evan Winter is a fellow long-time Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner and the influence of the martial arts pervades the training mentality through this series. 

Jade City 

I’d been meaning to pick up Fonda Lee’s Jade City for quite a while, and boy was I glad that I did. This Hong-Kong inspired gangster story is both deeply textured and unique. It follows the story of a powerful family in the city of Janloon who can harness the awesome power of Jade, and their ongoing battle against the other big rival hang. The characters really shine in ‘Jade City’ – I felt attached to several of the POVs and I’m excited to jump into ‘Jade War’ next. 

Kings of the Wyld 

This one was just pure fun. I highly recommend it if you need a palette cleanser from any dark or serious reads. I didn’t really get the ‘band’ analogy and what the big hoopla was about KotW until I read the first chapter. I felt like I’d returned to my childhood playing AD&D and reading books out of Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms; author Nicholas Eames both paid great homage to the many tropes that are dear to so many fantasy readers as well as paved way for a gripping narrative with memorable characters. I’m excited to jump into the sequel, Bloody Rose. 

What I’m looking forward to in 2021: 

I’ll need to carve out time to read Rhythm of War for sure and probably re-read the previous book of Stormlight Archive. I’m also hoping Pierce Brown releases the sixth book in his Red Rising saga, which I’m a giant fan of. I also am so excited to read the other SPFBO6 finalists that I haven’t had a chance to get to yet! I also plan on reading Bloody Rose and Jade War, sequels to books I loved in 2020. 

Current Projects: 

I’m well into drafting book three of the Combat Codes saga (title to be determined). We’re aiming for an early release in summer 2020. I’m also excited to announce that we’ll be re-doing the covers for the entire Combat Codes series with one of my favorite artists – Felix Ortiz – and cover creator extraordinaire Shawn King. You’ll be sure to hear more about those releases as they’re approaching! 


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