The Warded Man has all the components that make it a great first book of a Fantasy series. There is a focus on character building, multiple interesting magic systems exist, and the world itself faces a threat that immediately grabs your attention. Things are bleak in this world ruled by fear as every night when the sun falls demons rise from the core to prey upon any human foolish enough to be caught outside of their protective wards. The reader is slowly exposed to this ravaged world through the progression of three different story lines, each one detailing the events that shape the lives of one of the main characters. All of the characters start young and naive until the demons force them to each make a fateful decision that will shape the entirety of their remaining existence.
The Prince must slay a dragon to win the hand of the Narcheska in marriage which will bring together two kingdoms that were recently at war. That is pretty cliché for a fantasy book but Robin Hobb finds a way to rise above the ordinary and shows how it should be done. Two factions have formed as the dragon-slaying quest builds to a conclusion and many members of the expedition now openly oppose the Prince's goal to slay Icefyre. Many additional mysteries remain as well but none more important than the true motivation behind the Narcheska's original challenge to Prince Dutiful. All of this keeps the reader engaged and eagerly awaiting the outcome which surprisingly comes well before the end of the book leaving plenty of time to explore the consequences of everyone's actions.
There are so many fantasy books available these days that it is quite difficult for an author to be unique and tell a tale that hasn't been told in some form already. There are also cases where an author doesn't even try to be unique and thus we have The Innkeeper's Son. This book is packed full of standard fantasy clichés and it comes with a big dose of "deus ex machina" to make matters worse. The characters themselves are pretty typical and when you combine them with a tired premise it all adds up to an experience that has very little unique about it.
Book two of the Tawny Man series finally ties the events happening in the Six Duchies to those that occurred in the earlier Liveship Traders series. Now that Prince Dutiful has been rescued from the Piebalds he must face the fact that his life is not his own. He has been promised in marriage to the Narcheska Elliania of the Out Islands in the hope that such a marriage might heal the wounds between their kingdoms after the recent war. The two of them do not hit it off when they finally meet and neither of them wants to follow through on the arrangement. This angst leads to Dutiful carelessly offending the Narcheska and in return she publicly challenges him to prove he is worthy of her. She demands that Dutiful slay the Dragon Icefyre that legends say sleeps beneath the ice back in her lands. Before anyone can stop Dutiful he agrees to the challenge to show that he is worthy of this bride that he doesn't even want. Kids.
The Wit is both a blessing and a curse. This low magic enables a human to form such a close bond of kinship with an animal that the two share thoughts and even start to take on each other's personalities. Such an enriched life does come at a price though as the lifespan of most beasts is much shorter than that of their human companion and the death of the animal is a devastating loss. This magic becomes the focus of Robin Hobb's Tawny Man series as her story telling returns to the Six Duchies where it all started. Fifteen years have passed since the end of the Farseer Trilogy and it is time to catch up with our old friends Fitz and the Fool.
After thoroughly enjoying the Farseer Trilogy I was pretty excited about reading more of the books that take place in the Realm of the Elderings created by Robin Hobb. My enthusiasm was quickly dampened when I discovered that Ship of Magic was full of bratty kids, over-bearing parents, and a heavy dose of family squabbles. Normally fantasy literature is an escape from such mundane and stressful topics but not so with the first book of the series. Luckily some interesting magic systems and concepts intrigued me enough to continue on...
The Night Angel trilogy tells the tale of Azoth, a young orphan who barely gets by from day to day as a member of the Black Dragon thieves guild. Azoth and his friends must find a way to steal enough coin each day to pay their dues to the guild enforcer, Rat, and still have some money left over for food. One night Azoth stumbles upon Durzo Blint, the best assassin in the city, as he flees the scene of a just completed job. Street smart and a good judge of character, Azoth asks to apprentice under Durzo but he is instantly rejected by the master assassin. When Azoth's best friend is beaten and raped by Rat, he becomes more determined to apprentice under Durzo so that he can learn to stick up for himself and his friends. Azoth encounters Durzo a second time and threatens to kill him if he won't take Azoth on as an apprentice. Durzo sees something in the boy and agrees to take him on only if he kills Rat by himself before the end of the week.
The Farseer family rules the Six Duchies as they have for many generations but dire times are at hand. The Red Ships are raiding the coastal cities and King Shrewd's health is failing. He has many sons so the line of succession is well defined and with the King in poor health Prince Verity does the majority of the ruling. Of course that doesn't sit well with Prince Regal, a selfish and cruel individual who is the son furthest down the line of succession and unhappy with his station. Sound familiar?
The Summoner trilogy, by Taran Matharu, is a YA series that combines classic rpg video game elements, a Hogwart's like academy, and the teen vs teen survival trials of the Hunger Games. Fletcher is an orphan who finds, and successfully uses, a demon summoning scroll in a world where the human battlemage summoners support the army in an endless conflict with the orcs.
Brandon Sanderson's magnum opus continues with Words of Radiance (Book 2 of The StormLight Archive) clocking in at 1088 pages which makes it the biggest book ever printed by Tor Books. I only wish it were bigger - it's that good. The world is rich and deep, the characters are complex, and the magic systems are true Brandon Sanderson - well defined, unique, and interesting. All of the main characters are back and the story just gets bigger and bigger. For most authors the end of this book would be a satisfying conclusion to any series but it is obvious that this one is just getting started. Sanderson set the bar so awfully high with the Mistborn series that I am truly impressed he was able to surpass himself with the Stormlight Archive.