Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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The Runes of the Earth: A mostly welcome return

The Runes of the Earth by Stephen R. Donaldson

Fans of Stephen R. Donaldson’s earlier work in the Land will find much to like here. Much of what was so good in the first two trilogies is here: conflicted characters; examinations of power and guilt, sense of loss, familiar etc. That’s both a positive and a negative, however, as there is a distinct sense of been there done that. Not overpowering, as the story does expand, deepen, and in general differ in slight, subtle ways from its predecessors. But the sense remains through much of the book,


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Wolf Speaker: A great adventure

Wolf Speaker by Tamora Pierce

Wolf Speaker is the second of Tamora Pierce’s “Immortals Quartet” concerning fourteen-year-old Daine, a young woman who possesses “Wild Magic,” giving her the ability to communicate with animals, heal any animal wound, and in this book, to gradually change her form into any animal she wishes. Pierce jumps straight into the story without hardly any background information, so if you are unfamiliar with the fantasy realm of Tortall, I very highly recommend that you don’t begin your journey with this book: start with Wild Magic,


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The Death of the Necromancer: Intricate steam-and-sorcery mystery

The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells

Nicholas Valiarde is a man obsessed. Expertly assisted by a coterie of talented yet honorable thieves, he’s all but completed his master plan of revenge against Count Montesq, a corrupt nobleman who orchestrated the execution of Nicholas’s foster father on the basis of a false charge of necromancy. Nicholas’s plan is interrupted, however, by the appearance of the mysterious Dr. Octave, a professed medium who may or may not be a fraud, but who is somehow connected with the strange, magical spheres on which the false charge against Nicholas’s foster father was based. 


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The Phoenix Guards: Very nice change of pace

The Phoenix Guards by Steven Brust

The brief review: I had a slight smile on my face the entire time I read The Phoenix Guards. It is, as a reviewer of The Three Musketeers might have once said, “charming.”

To elaborate: Steven Brust is very well (some might say “over”) educated and knows how to turn a phrase. The plot moves along briskly; the characters, while not fleshed out too thoroughly, do have distinct and effective personalities. I was,


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So You Want to be a Wizard: First book in an impressive series

So You Want to be a Wizard by Diane Duane

So You Want to be a Wizardcame along well before the current trend of young fantasy so one shouldn’t dismiss it as “yet another Harry Potter follower.” Wizard centers on 13-yr-old Nita, a picked-upon young teen, and 12-yr-old Kit, another lonely young teen. Nita, taking refuge from bullies in the local library, stumbles across the reference book providing the title of the novel and into the world of wizardry. Shortly afterward, she meets up with Kit, who himself has just become a wizard.


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Stormchaser: Large improvement over the first book

Stormchaser by Paul Stewart

Stormchaser is the second book of the Edge series and it is a vast improvement over book one — Beyond the Deepwoods. The book picks up a few years after Twig’s adventures in Beyond the Deepwoods. He is now sailing aboard the skyship of his recently-discovered sky-pirate father and has exchanged the monster-horrors of the Deepwoods with the more human horrors of city-life, pollution, and corruption (though monsters still make the occasional appearance).


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Switchers: Slow start, but drastically improves

Switchers by Kate Thompson

Tess is a reasonably distant and lonely child, who takes long walks out into the forest and park lands each day, returning home each evening to somewhat bemused parents. They don’t believe anything is seriously wrong with their child despite the fact she has no friends — they just think she’s a loner that loves the outdoors. But it just so happens that Tess is very different from other teenagers, and harbors a secret that she keeps from every other person on the planet. She has had the ability from a very early age to change into any animal she desires,


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Kushiel’s Chosen: A painful but beautiful story

Kushiel’s Chosen by Jacqueline Carey

Jacqueline Carey returns to the lush and decadent world of Terre d’Ange in Kushiel’s Chosen, sequel to the strange but beautiful Kushiel’s Dart, and produces a sequel that unfortunately doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor.

Our masochistic heroine, Phèdre, leaves behind her comfortable new life as a country countess when she begins to suspect that all is not well in Terre d’Ange. She believes that Melisande Shahrizai, from her hiding place in La Serenissima (Venice),


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Mistborn: The Final Empire: So much to like!

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

I was a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s first novel, Elantris, though the novel had some pretty clear flaws. I’m an even bigger fan of his follow-up, Mistborn, a book that has all the plusses of Elantris without the problems.

Mistborn takes places in an ashen, devastated world where the “Skaa” are a brutally downtrodden majority who do all the work for the aristocratic minority of the Great Houses,


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Sabriel: Intoxicating reading

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel is one of the best fantasy books out there, full stop. Although not up to the deep literary analysis of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or Pullman’s His Dark Materials, it is a realistic, fantastical, intriguing and thought-provoking novel that’s right up there with the best of them. Garth Nix creates a dark, almost Gothic world that echoes with age and believability that is intoxicating to explore: the magically-imbued Old Kingdom that lies across the Wall from the more scientific-orientated Ancelstierre,


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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