It’s hard to be an effective writer without being an effective reader. One of my favorite things about writing is there’s always something to learn from other authors. I’m not the only one working hard on their novels. Other people are doing crazy stuff with characters and world building and style. Always fun to learn and gain knowledge from their efforts. Here are the three books I’ve read recently:
- Prince of Thorns – Mark Lawrence
A really nasty, dark kind of fantasy read. Jorg Ancrath is right up there amongst the dirtiest and darkest characters I’ve ever read. Mark Lawrence delivers a world as cold and fascinating as what we see in George R.R. Martin’s work, though without the multi-perspective writing style. His writing delivers incredible punch with a ton of meaningful, dark one-liners. He also plays with some cool world building, using a consistent reference to The Builders. We find out that this world appears to exist after ours, meaning it drifted into chaos or apocalypse, and has now recovered its way to a primitive, medieval sort of society. Very well-written, but you have to be prepared for a dark and relentless story with a quick pace.
2. The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison
My favorite read of this month. Addison delivers a welcome addition to the very popular lists of court intrigue in fantasy. Maia is the unwelcome fourth son of the ruling Emperor. When the Emperor and the other heirs perish in a horrible accident, it is Maia who must step in and fulfill the role of Emperor. I say this book is welcome, because unlike the other works with court intrigue, it doesn’t dip down into chaos and darkness as much. Maia has some sincere fears and doubts about his rule, but we don’t have beheadings and incest around any corners in this novel. Instead, we get a compelling world with a rich fantasy system, all funneled through the lens of one of the most enjoyable characters I’ve read in some time. Authentic, charming, and still suspenseful. Definitely my favorite read of this month and definitely something traditional fantasy readers will love.
3. The Wrath and the Dawn – Renee Ahdieh
An inspired retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, this book does a wonderful job of ushering a classic story into a more modern and interesting narrative. Every night, a cruel emperor takes a new wife. Come the dawn, she’s dead and the city watches the cycle continue, helpless to stop it. Until Shahrzad volunteers to be the emperor’s next wife. Using storytelling, wit, and ferocity, she causes a stir by surviving the night. The story follows this plot and a few others, all connected by tightening threads between the various characters. It’s a great example of how rich and vast inspirations from other cultures are. I’ve read one too many books that can’t escape from European inspiration and European knights and European kings. The Wrath and the Dawn not only escapes those tropes, but it pushes us into a gripping story filled with a real fear of what might come on the next page.
So those are my reads over the past few weeks. Coming up:
The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson
Lock In – John Scalzi
Uprooted – Naomi Novik
Time Salvager – Wes Chu