Best of 2011

Monday, January 9, 2012

For a third year, I will share with you my best moments in the year in several categories. I have mentioned a couple of times that 2011 was a great year in Fantasy so I will leave it at that.  Some might be surprised by the lack of A Dance with Dragons but if you read my review, you'll understand that even though I liked the book, I was also a bit disappointed.  Here's to 2011!

Best from the past ...(2010 / 2009)


Best novel

The Heroes
Joe Abercrombie

2011 was an amazing year in term of big names releases. One of them, even if it wasn't the most awaited of them all (with the dance of dragons making an appearance), was ahead of the crowd for me.  The Heroes is the best you can get in one of the new trends of Fantasy that is usually labelled with term like grittiness, violence, black humour and even brutality. Why is it so?  Simply put, aside from the style, it's a well-woven character driven story (with an amazing cast) set in a condensed period of time, in the midst of a battle where unlikely heroes become the legends of the day. Moreover, the author is stepping up his game when the pressure to deliver again and again must be a concern. Here's an extract of my review :
In conclusion, don't forget that it's a novel by Joe Abercrombie. If you don't like realistic descriptions of bloody warfare creating a lot of gore, dirty talk and moral ambiguity in a fascinating tale about a dubiously necessary battle fought by would-be heroes who come short of their goals, don't pick the book but realize that you're missing something. In this unforgiving story, you're not only getting juicy meat on the bone but also a nice layer of tasty fat!

Runners-up for best novel

The Wise Man's Fear
Patrick Rothfuss

Even though I really liked The Name of the Wind, I wasn't totally mesmerized by it. Some portions of the book were dragging the pace down.  However, The Wise Man's Fear is almost everything I expected and more from Rothfuss (I remember that I couldn't put it down). Kvothe is more interesting than ever.  The world built by the author is vivid, the credit going to his writing skills.  Here's a glimpse of my review: 
Taking all this into consideration, something came to my mind in trying to resume why I like this novel so much.  I think that it's mostly because it shows through the author's writing that he had fun writing it.  And so did I, reading it. This novel was polished and the time to write it was worth it.
The Crippled God
Steven Erikson

The Malazan Book of the Fallen is probably one of the biggest projects undertaken in Fantasy.  The decalogy is over and although I'm glad that it's actually complete, I yearn for more from Erikson's and Esslemont's world. The final novel was not the best of the series (Memories of Ice will remain my favorite) but it was close enough.  The conclusion for the dearest sappers the Fantasy world has ever seen is a delight.  After that much pages, story arcs and characters, I'm still amazed at what Erikson pulled off with this ultimate book.  From my review:
If you're into intelligent, sometimes philosophical, often war centered, surprising and complex series that gets completed in due time, where you will find a score of great characters among a huge cast, one of the most amazing magic system and a large scale world, you really have to pick up the Malazan Book of the Fallen. And even though you might struggle in some passages, you'll probably end up being quite satisfied that you went through the ten books.

Best new author / Fantasy debut

Douglas Hulick
Among Thieves

Among Thieves came as a surprise this year.  With so many great new voices in Fantasy these days, I think that Hulick was the one who was really able to stand out.  With a book set in an empire controlled dark world with godlike intrigues where a thief/spy tries to make a difference, to emerge from the crowd you need to have something special. Aside from the very interesting cant, the fabulously written first person perspective of Drothe, combined with a great story is testament enough of Hulick's talent. An extract from my review? Sure :

Among Thieves' story is a blast; it's a furious ride from an ordinary day job for a thief of Drothe's experience to becoming a key player in schemes endangering the whole Kin and the empire itself. The whole book plays out in only a couple of days for the hero or I should say the heroic anti-hero. The only interludes or slowing in pace are when he gets knocked out, which is still kind of often. 
Drothe's a funny realist and cunning swindler and the chosen perspective by the author, the first person, is what the character deserves. He may not be as cynical as Croaker or making as much witty remarks as Eddie LaCrosse but he is his own star and makes the tale more than entertaining.

Runner-up for best new author / debut

Mark Lawrence
Prince of Thorns

Mark Lawrence's novel, Prince of Thorns, generated a lot of talk simply because of the age of his main character and the violence he perpetrates. I found that these elements were actually well integrated in a twisted and intense tale, creating a page turner without mercy. I expect great things to come from Lawrence. Here's a bit of what I have observed about his writing :
The narrative Mark composed for his book is furious, sometimes frenetic, sometimes resolute. The action is fast and constant, without having a break-neck pace but with a satisfying dose of flashbacks to explain the coming of this harbinger of death seeking power. The plot is moving at a stupendously perfect rhythm, without being too descriptive and skipping the going from point A to point B when it's not essential, this being actually an achievement since it could be seen as carelessness toward the 'complete' telling of the story to the reader but it's not. Jorg being the way he is, he deserves a writer who can get into the action and synthesize.


Most beautiful map

In the Shadow of Swords by Val Gunn
created by Chris Gonzalez

Runner-up for most beautiful map

The City of Avel
Spellbound by Blake Charlton
created by Rhys Davies


Most beautiful cover

The Scar

Sergey and Marina Dyachenko
Cover art by Unkown

Runners-up for most beautiful cover

The Winds of Khalakovo
Bradley P. Beaulieu
Cover art by Adam Paquette


Kick ass moment of the year

Even though my list of kick ass moments is not in great expansion, I still have a favorite this year.

Steven Erikson
The Crippled God


Best genre blog
 (in my humble opinion)

In 2011 again, two new bloggers caught my eyes, Civilian Reader and Staffer's Musings.  The two guys behind these blogs are doing quite a good work, you should give them a try if don't already follow them. They are also very talkative on Twitter!

Civilian Reader

Staffer's Musings
Justin Landon


Bonus time!

Best cover art with an infamous hooded assassin

Perfect Shadow (Sub Press limited edition)
Brent Weeks
Cover art by Raymond Swanland


Best audiobook narration

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Narrated by Nick Podehl


Best novel I read this year that came out before 2011

Red Seas Under Red Skies
Scott Lynch

Since The Republic of Thieves was rumored to be released in 2011 (when the year started), I wanted to be able to pick it up as soon as possible. So, I had to read Red Seas Under Red Skies, the follow-up to the great debut of Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora. I enjoyed the ride and I was glad to confirm that Lynch still delivered after a debut so special. An extract from my review:
If you have a knack for pirates, fell in love with Locke and Jean in Lynch first novel and look forward to a Sword and Sorcery (should say Sword and Deception since there's not much sorcery) tale, you will get a blast again with Red Seas Under Red Skies. I felt various emotions while reading and was glad for several grins, some heartfelt scenes and a good dose of action. For the newcomers, I would strongly recommend to start with The Lies of Locke Lamora. It may not be a stupendous evolution for the author versus his debut but it's engaging enough to keep the appetite up for the Gentlemen Bastard sequence.



Cursed Armada said...

"Best cover art with an infamous hooded assassin" lol great category!

Civilian Reader said...

Thanks for the mention - very, very nice of you!

Brad Beaulieu said...

Thanks for the mention of Adam Paquette's wonderful artwork. Though I might have given it the edge over The Scar, I'm a touch biased. Plus there's no denying the artwork for The Scar is stunning.

Adam Paquette said...

Thanks! I'm honored :) The cover for the scar looks like the work of Rich Anderson (aka flaptraps) though I could be mistaken :) Its a stunning piece! Thanks for the mention and also the tip off to some new material to add to my wishlist!

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