Most Anticipated Books of 2015

It’s that time of year again, and I’m going to name my top 5 most anticipated books of 2015, and tell you why I’m so excited about them. I’m going to restrict myself only to books with a confirmed or highly likely 2015 release date. This means that Winds of Winter, Doors of Stone, and Stones Unhallowed, though they would unseat any book on this list, are not eligible.

Before I start the list, I’ve got two books I’m going to talk about. You’ll see why.

First, The Dinosaur Lords. This book didn’t quite make the cut for the top 5, but I felt I had to list it anyway. Even before I read anything about it, just from the title and that cover, I knew I was going to have to buy it. I mean, look at this cover, by Richard Anderson!

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You can read an official synopsis over here, and even though it’s seven months out, it’s already received quite high praise from no less than George R. R. Martin himself. I’m pretty much immediately sold on anything he recommends. I want to get my hands on this as soon as I can.

I also just received and finished reading an ARC of Gemini Cell by Myke Cole. It was utterly amazing, and I would definitely give it a place on this list (And it may have a place on 2015’s year-end, best-of list.), but it’s not one I was anticipating highly before I read it, and so I’m not going to give it a place on the official list. You should still check it out, because it’s amazing.

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5th most anticipated: Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley. (No cover released.)

I read Mirror Empire earlier this year, and I loved it. Oh, I felt that it had rough spots here and there, but the book lived up to a large part of its incredible potential, and I have every confidence that Hurley will continue to improve as a writer. Her world beats out many of Sanderson’s creations for its chilling inventiveness, and that is not praise that I give lightly. I have high hopes that, with the confusing overhead of introducing her characters and world out of the way, the second book in the trilogy will improve on the first and be an incredible read.

4th most anticipated: The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan

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I read and enjoyed McClellan’s Promise of Blood. I read and loved his Crimson Campaign. As the final volume of the trilogy, this book has a lot of threads to juggle, and some absolutely massive conflicts to resolve. It handles them all very, very well. Yes, I’ve read it already. It lived up to my quite high expectations, finishing out the trilogy in a satisfying way, while still leaving plenty of threads open for the next trilogy in the Powder Mage universe. McClellan, who writes at a rate to rival that of Sanderson, whom he once took writing classes from and is friends with, is an author to watch for years to come. His short fiction is quite excellent as well, but The Autumn Republic is a real Tour de Force.

3rd most anticipated: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

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You were wondering when the Sanderson would appear, wouldn’t you? Well, here it is. I’ve read this one too, and it is absolutely stunning. Steelheart was good. Someone forgot to tell Sanderson that the second book in a trilogy is supposed to be set-up for the third, and kinda boring. Firefight knocks it out of the park. I can’t say too much more without spoiling this one, but it’s Sanderson, and not only that, it’s Sanderson YA, so hopefully it’ll reach an even wider audience. Okay. I’ll say one more thing. This is the only book on the list (and one of very few ever) where I actually have a ship that I really like. That alone should tell you how good it is.

2nd most anticipated: The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

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(Richard Anderson really does some amazing art.)

I managed to get an ARC of Staveley’s debut novel, The Emperor’s Blades, last year, and it was absolutely AMAZING. The pacing was the best I think I’ve ever seen in an epic fantasy novel. This was, perhaps, the hardest book to put down that I have ever read. The sequel promises to be even better, even longer, and it delivers. Yes, I’ve read this one too. I had to go to some lengths to secure an ARC of this one, but it was completely and utterly worth it. While it slows down a hair from Emperor’s Blades, Providence still has some of the best pacing in epic fantasy. The characters grow even more, and even the inconsequential characters become surprisingly relevant. One of my biggest complaints with the first novel, the lack of female viewpoint characters, is remedied in this novel: Adare becomes even more important, as do several other characters you wouldn’t expect. A note: Don’t read the blurb that is on the back of the book. It spoils half of the book. And yes, this book beat out a Sanderson for the 2nd spot on the list. It’s that good.

Most Anticipated: Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson. (No cover yet.)

It’s Sanderson. It’s Cosmere. It’s Wax and Wayne, Mistborn world, etc. How can I not want it more than anything else? Let me put it this way. I have received and read ARCs of #4, #3, and #2 on my list, and I’m scheduled to receive one for #5 as well. I think I would trade all of them for an ARC of Shadows. I want it that badly. (If you know of any way to read this early, let me know. I will do whatever it takes.) I’ve gotten even more excited about this one lately, with the announcement of the sequel, Bands of Mourning, for January 2016. It’s amazing how quickly Sanderson writes these things. Also, if you’ve not read the Mistborn trilogy yet, they are absolutely amazing.

So, that’s what I’m looking forward to in 2015. It’s a very epic fantasy heavy list, but then, that’s what I love. I also apparently love trilogies, as every book on the list is either the second or third book in a trilogy. I have no problem with this; longer forms of storytelling allow for more build-up, more character growth, and, ultimately, more payoff in these stories. I love it, and I’m not ashamed of it.

What are you looking forward to (And by extension, should I be looking forward to) reading in 2015?

Review: The Emperor’s Blades

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I have been incredibly lucky this year in the books I’ve been able to read. So much so, in fact, that my luck has spilled over into next year. The Emperor’s Blades, which I’ve had the chance to read, by Brian Staveley, will be released January 14, 2014.

This book tells the story of three siblings, Adare, Valyn, and Kaden, the children of the Emperor of Annur.

Well, they were his children. The Emperor has been assassinated. The Emperor’s Blades, the first book in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy, investigates what happens to each of them immediately after his death.

Adare, living in the capital, has to deal with the most immediate effects of her father’s death, and attempt to hold the empire together until the heir to the throne can return and become emperor. At the same time, she attempts to hunt down her father’s murderer.

Kaden, Adare’s brother, is the heir to the throne. He has spent the past eight years in a remote monastery on the edge of the empire, training in the ways of the monks, yet never understanding why. He must now try to figure out what he was sent to learn before it is too late–it will be crucial to his success as emperor.

Vayln, separated from his siblings by an ocean, is learning to be a Kettral; an elite soldier who, working with a team, flies into battle on the back of giant hawks. But before he can return home and grieve for his father, Vayln must pass the grueling but mysterious test to become a full Kettral, as well as avoid possible attempts on his life.

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There are a lot of decent books being published these days. I have read, and enjoy a large number of these, even if they don’t make me incredibly excited.

There are even a good number of good books being published, ones that I truly enjoy and would recommend to my friends, and give high ratings to. These are not as common, but they are not too hard to find if you look through the reviews.

And then there are great books. Books that will blow your shoes off and leave you stunned because the author has done such a magnificent job in their craft. These are the books that you recommend to all of your friends, and are often annoyed if they haven’t read them.

The Emperor’s Blades falls firmly into the third category. I read the book during the semester, with my full load of classes. My copy comes in at 476 pages, and it’s certainly not a short book by any means. I have been rationing myself this semester, forcing myself to read slowly so that I have time for schoolwork and other activities that I need to finish.

I read The Emperor’s Blades in 4 days. Once I started, I could not put the book down. The pacing and tension that Staveley builds throughout is incredibly well done. The chapter switches, from viewpoint to viewpoint, quickly reached the part where, at every single viewpoint switch, I thought “No! I want to stay with this character!” even though I had thought the same thing when I left the character I was returning to. It takes a skilled writer to make you feel this way about all of the characters in a book, and Staveley has done it magnificently well. The pacing will leave you breathless as you tear through the book, so be warned.

The book was not perfect. I would have preferred to see more from Adare’s viewpoint (She definitely did not have 1/3 of the screen time.), and some of the plot devices and world-building (the monks in particular) felt well worn.

However, those shortcomings are greatly outshone by the rest of the book. In addition to the pacing, the characters were compelling. While I would not classify any of them as “lovable”, they are relatable, and that, perhaps more than anything, is the most important thing. Vayln, in particular, seems to just want to leave his island and get back to the kingdom, but must struggle through various trials first. Because I, too, wanted him to be able to leave, I sympathized with him.

The ending was well executed, bringing various threads together into a satisfying and brutal climax, which left a lot open for the next two books. This book is not a “fun” book, the amount of death and other brutality is high, but it gives a very realistic sense to the world, and I wouldn’t want it even a notch lower.

The world-building was interesting. There is, obviously, a lot going on behind the scenes here that we don’t know about yet, which I assume we will find out a lot more about in the next two books. I am going to with-hold judgement on the full extent of the world-building until more of the world is revealed, but what I have seen–including the chilling prologue–is excellent.

And on that note… Ninja assassins on giant flying hawks? Why has no-one written that before? The Kettral are flat out awesome. I can’t even begin to describe how totally cool they are; you have to read yourself to get the full impact. And I highly recommend that you do so.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and recommend it to everyone. Brian Staveley is an author to watch, and I predict this will be one of the best debuts, if not the best, of 2014. You can actually read the first seven chapters right now, here. If you want to pre-order your copy, you can do so from Amazon, here. I know I’ll be getting another copy when it is released. This is an incredible book, and the author deserves my money.

Without question, I give The Emperor’s Blades five stars, and a high recommendation. Go read it!

You can find Brian Staveley’s website here.

Book Review: The Burning Dark

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher, and I’ve just finished reading it.

Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland, called Ida, was a hero. While he was captain, he led a fleet into battle against the spiders, AIs than can eat planets, and even stars. And, against all odds, he won the battle. Now, left with an achy robotic knee as a memento of the battle, Ida has been sent to oversee the last stages of the disassembling of the U-Star Coast City, a Fleet space station. He doesn’t know why he’s been sent to the station, and neither do the remaining crew members, none of whom have heard of his exploits, which should be legend, even in this backwater system. Ida is very frustrated by these events.

The U-Star Coast city sits in the same solar system as the star Shadow. That’s why it was put here in the first place–to study the strange, potentially deadly, purple star. The light from the star begins to mess with Ida almost as soon as he is in the system, and soon it shuts down the standard lightspeed communications, and appears to be playing havoc with the station’s internal systems, particularly those for lighting and atmosphere. This gives the station an eerie feel, and sets almost everyone, who, to the last man, want to be done with this job and gone, on edge.

Cut off from the rest of the galaxy, with the crew beginning to hate him, Ida turns to his hobbies, creating a radio that he quickly uses to listen to illegal frequencies. The only problem is, he doesn’t know why they’re illegal. When he finds a hypnotizing distress call echoing on one of the frequencies, he becomes obsessed with the origin. Things just get stranger from there, as crew start to disappear, and the mysteries, such as the location of the station’s commandant, seem to multiply.

It took me nearly a month to read this book, but that’s my fault. I simply haven’t had much time to read lately. I enjoyed the book. It’s not my usual fare; I’m much more into fantasy than sci-fi, and longer rather than shorter books (At 336 pages, this is by no means a short book. I’m just used to 900+). Never the less, I enjoyed this one. It proves that good writing transcends genres, and can be enjoyed regardless of what your tastes are.

This book is not without its flaws, though. The characters often feel one dimensional; every hobby and bit of back-story that I can remember is only there because it serves the plot in some way, and I don’t know anything about the characters apart from that.

The characters can also be dense, sometimes. There were parts of the book where I was frustrated at the characters because I had realized something of what was going on, and the characters did not for another fifty or hundred pages. However, much of this may have been because of the way the book jumps from viewpoint to viewpoint, including teaser viewpoints that show some of what is going on behind the scenes, or something that happened years ago that will be instrumental to the plot in a few chapters.

However, the characters, despite their flaws, are also convincingly real. While I would have loved to see more back story and quirks from them, I thought they were psychologically well done. Not only do they have an authentic gritty feel to them, the sense of impending despair that sets in as the star’s light affects them, and other events happen in the second half of the book, is very convincing. There were several times, when I stopped reading, that I had to remind myself that it was the characters in mental anguish, not myself, and that I needed to relax. I love it when a book can immerse me so fully in the character’s mentalities that I have to remind myself that I’m not them.

The pacing of the book seemed a hair slow, but keep in mind, I read it over the course of the month, and I’m used to reading 1000+ page books in 3 days. Given the length of the book, and the amount of action, I’m going to say this was a misperception on my part. I’m guessing that if I’d read this book at my normal pace, and it had taken me a day, or at most two, then I would have thought it very quickly paced. The tension throughout is constant, and there aren’t dull moments. However, because of the number of mysteries and amount of confusion, I would recommend against reading too hastily, and instead reading a little more carefully.

The ending was satisfying and well fore-shadowed, with no deus-ex-machina or other surprises that can ruin endings. I liked it, and felt that it held the book together well, making the read worth it.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 of 5 stars, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading, if you can handle the darker side of things, as the book is quite dark. Also, a content warning: Lots of swearing, and while the descriptions not graphic, there is at least implied sex/nudity.

The Burning Dark will be out in March of 2014 (Sorry to tease you so far ahead of time.) from Tor. Links:

Amazon

Goodreads

Adam Christopher