Generally, the first time we humans do something, we don’t do it well. My college roommate’s first time doing laundry on his own?
“But my mom put bleach in all the time.”
“No. No, she really didn’t.”
“ I can make that yellow light at the top of the hill.”
“No, you can’t. And it’s good practice to shift on a—”
Acceleration. Horns. Squealing. Maybe a scream.
“See? Told you I could make it.”
First time… well, we’ll stop there. The main point is, doing something well usually takes practice. And we see that in many of the first-time novels we get here at Fantasy Literature. Maybe it’s a too well-trod path of fantasy tropes and characters. Maybe it’s some clumsiness in world-building. They aren’t “bad” books, but you can tell they’re written by someone still learning their craft.
But sometimes, debut authors surprise us, as has happened recently to me with R.S. Belcher with Six-Gun Tarot, Rachel Hartman with Seraphina, or more recently, James L. Cambias with A Darkling Sea. All authors with accomplished debuts that made me eager to see where they were going next.
So we were curious. What debut authors have you read recently, let’s say in the past two years, who seemed writing-wise beyond their years (writer’s years if not literal age years)? And what was it that they did surprisingly well? What first-time books made you file away an author’s name to keep an eye out for in the future?
As always, one of our commenters will receive a book from our stacks. Maybe even a debut…
Ramez Naam’s Nexus. That was a brain bending (literally) piece of science fiction married to thriller sensibilities making for an excellent novel. It had interesting new technology, social reaction and antagonists with logical reasons for what they did. All in all, a great book.
Brian McClellan’s Promise of Blood was one of the best debuts I’ve read. Aside from the amazing cover which demanded that I buy it, the story starts you off not in the middle of the action, but in it’s immediate aftermath. The story continues forward at a great pace while filling you in on the background of the world at the same time. The characters were dynamic, the system of magic with powder mages incorporating gun powder and weapons into a magic setting was extremely well thought out and tremendously entertaining. There were no lulls and the story arc concluded nicely well setting the stage for the remaining volumes in the series. I love this book.
I read Sharon Lynn Fisher’s Ghost Planet and was blown away. She’s definitely an author I’ll keep up with. I also was impressed with Richard Ellis Preston, Jr’s Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders. I thought it was a great debut and enjoyed the second book even more.
I recently read “Three Parts Dead” by Max Gladstone. He did great job building a world and history that the reader can understand without it getting too bogged down with details. I just started his second book, and his third comes out later this year.
Those are exactly the two books I wanted to say, too; Seraphina and The Six-Gun Tarot. (I haven’t yet read A Darkling Sea, but it’s on my list.) Let’s see what else I’ve got … oh, I know! Wolfhound Century, by Peter Higgins. I really thought that, because of the setting, this book was going to be stodgy and political, if not downright boring, but it wasn’t. The characters were fascinating and the hints of magic were tantalizing.
I’ve liked quite a few debut books – many of the above included – but I think the two that really created a big fan from nothing with that first book were Patrick Rothfuss and Jim Butcher with The Name of the Wind and Storm Front respectively because I’ve been reading whatever they produce since then.
Lately though, it is hard to say – I liked Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice but I don’t know if I’ll like the second book because I liked that book more for the unique and interesting plot rather than the worldbuilding and characters.
I was in love with Susanna Clarke when she debuted, but perhaps the most recent author that has swept me off my feet is The Quick, by Lauren Owen. Just when you thought the vampire novel was dead, she infuses it with fresh blood (yep, I went there.)
While the book is more than two years old, I just read it last year (I would have read it sooner had Tor not screwed up getting books 2 and 3 out on time) – Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis. What a wonderful book, and showed how advanced he is as a writer by how well he handled the rest of the series. The second book might have been the best second book of a trilogy I’ve ever read.
I recently read Benjamin Jacka’s Fated. I felt that his pacing and character building was above par for an first time author. His characters felt very real and the book had a wonderful page turning pace to it.
Tad Ottoman, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks.
Please contact me (Marion) with your choice and a US address. Happy reading!