Daniel Abraham, one of the two authors that write The Expanse series under the name James S. A. Corey, offers up an epic fantasy series featuring a rich, complex world worthy of your attention. Unfortunately, it might not seem that way at first. The opening chapters jump around from character to character and right when you start to get your bearings then a new chapter starts and you find yourself completely lost all over again. This feeling of confusion is compounded by the fact that there are a myriad of different humanoid races and you are exposed to the history of the world along with the present day. This is a lot to absorb all at the same time which makes it easy to lose track of things, especially when you don't know what is important and what is not. Luckily it is all worth the effort in the end because The Dagger and the Coin is an excellent series once you get settled into it.
To anyone who enjoys fantasy RPG games, including old school paper Dungeons & Dragons, the premise of this book is an interesting one. Why are there so many dungeons around just sitting there waiting for a party of adventures to come and plunder them? How did they get there and where did the monsters come from? What do those monsters in each room do all day long when the dungeon is not being raided? How can a rat drop a helmet twice its size as loot after it is killed? Well this book attempts to explain all of that and while a tongue in cheek book about the illogic of fantasy RPG video games may sound like fun, let me tell you why you might want to avoid this one.
All the main characters are back (at least the ones that are still alive) and Peter V. Brett finally brings his epic story to a conclusion. Sharak Ka is nigh and it is time to find out if humanity has what it takes to survive the threat. Despite the many advances in warding skills and demon fighting techniques that have occurred since the series started, mankind still remains ill prepared for what is coming. The Krasians and Thesans must put aside their differences if they are to survive until dawn. Whether you believe in the Creator, Everam, or neither, it matters not as the demons are ready to swarm and every living person must do their part or be prepared to walk the lonely path.
It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. So begins Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. Nona Grey lives on an ice world where humanity huddles around the equator and jealously guards its remaining resources. Nona is a slave sentenced to hang for murdering a nobleman. She's ten years old. Abbess Glass of the Sweet Mercy Convent rescues her and Nona becomes a novice. There are ultimately three paths the nuns can choose, but for ten years Nona and the other novices learn the basics of combat, magic, and prayer. Political fallout from Nona's rescue, assassination attempts, and an ancient prophecy combine to add intrigue to a tale of friendship, growing up, and kick ass nuns.
If you've burned out on the political machinations of Westeros, or real world politics in general, and are looking to lose yourself in something relaxing, then you need The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. It's the fully realized world building and personal storyline that sets this book apart from other recent works. The story follows young Maia, half-elven and half-goblin, as he struggles with his sudden ascension to the throne of Ethuveraz, the elflands. The obvious themes of racism, youthful insecurity, and the power of a good heart could easily become too sweet but Addison carefully blends them into the story.
New author James Islington brings back epic doorstop fantasy with The Shadow of What Was Lost. On the surface this is another fantasy about a young man discovering his strengths as he does a lot of walking around while trying to save his world. But with everyone around him keeping secrets the group dynamic is always shifting as the characters learn more about each other and themselves.
The events at the end of the Daylight War were destined to have a ripple effect, especially in Krasia, and this entire book is dedicated to that purpose. This means that this book is actually more focused on the daylight war than the last one, despite the respective titles. For many readers this is a disappointing turn of events as it does put the story arc regarding the Demon War mostly to the side but the significant events that occur with many of the main characters still makes for good story telling. The ending of the last book was a cliff hanger so don't proceed with reading the rest of this review unless you have already finished that one...
Sticking to his successful formula from book two, Peter V. Brett once again elevates some of his existing characters to PoV status right off the bat. This time around it is Inevera and Abban that get the upgrade and the reader experiences some of the key events, both new and old, from their perspectives. When this happened in book two, The Desert Spear, I was slow to embrace the choice but now I have really come to appreciate the manner in which this many layered story is being constructed. Elevating such characters allows for additional perspectives and insights to be offered up on pivotal events and the characters all turn out to be very engaging. Understanding the histories and motives of all of these individuals adds even more anticipation to the inevitable confrontation that must take place between Arlen and Jardir - one that will likely decide the ultimate fate of mankind in the Demon War.
As the book's title implies, book two of the Demon Cycle series focuses a bit more on the people that live in the desert city of Fort Krasia, also known as The Desert Spear. These battle hardened warriors have fought against the demons for hundreds of years and have created a society, and a religion, completely around that endeavor. Ahmann Jardir, the Krasian who we know well from his interactions with Arlen in the first book, is now elevated into a PoV character and his back story is explained in great detail. Context is given to his rapid rise to power among his people as well as the extreme actions that he took in book one where Arlen was concerned.
This fictional world created by Alexey Pehov is full of standard fantasy fare but it also has some interesting quirks mixed in along the way that give it some uniqueness. However, this being the first work of Pehov's to be translated from his native Russian into English you can tell that some of the charm has been lost in the translation. It all starts with the King making Shadow Harold (a thief) an offer he can't refuse - either Harold goes into an ancient tomb and retrieves a powerful artifact needed to save the kingdom or he gets thrown in prison for the rest of his life. Harold, being the practical sort, agrees to go on the quest because it at least offers him a small chance of survival, unlike the prison. A standard fantasy party of adventurers is put together and the quest begins...