Okay, so James over at Speculative Horizons has listed his top 5 potentially hot fantasy debuts. It's a great list, and I'm hoping to get my hands on all of them through any means necessary before long. It got me to thinking that this year is shaping up to be pretty good on all fronts for 2010 - we have several very entertaining debuts on their way, and, in addition, some of the fantasy greats (and some of the fantasy probably-going-to-be-greats and, heck, some of the fantasy great-only-to-me) are also releasing books this year. Here is the lowdown on ten of the books I will definitely be picking up before the end of the year (with, no doubt, more and more and more to be added with every read of my favourite blogs!)
1. Under Heaven - Guy Gavriel Kay
Publisher's blurb: An epic historical adventure set in a pseudo 8th century China, from the author of the 2008 World Fantasy winner, Ysabel. Under Heaven is a novel of heroes, assassins, concubines and emperors set against a majestic and unforgiving landscape.
I'm very excited about this book - I have enjoyed all of GGK's books that I've picked up, and I think it's unusual for China to be used as the setting for a fantasy book, which should make this feel far removed from the usual fantasy tropes. Expect to see this in the UK on 29th April - well, that's one of my birthday presents sorted out...
2. The Midnight Mayor - Kate Griffin
Publisher's blurb: It's said that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, then the Tower will crumble and the kingdom will fall. As it happens, that's not so far from the truth ...One by one, the magical wards that guard the city are failing: the London Wall defiled with cryptic graffiti, the ravens found dead at the Tower, the London Stone destroyed. This is not good news. This array of supernatural defences - a mix of international tourist attractions and forgotten urban legends - formed a formidable magical shield. Protection for the City of London against ...well, that's the question, isn't it? What could be so dangerous as to threaten an entire city? Against his better judgement, resurrected sorcerer Matthew Swift is about to find out. And if he's lucky, he might just live long enough to do something about it ...
Kate Griffin's first book about Matthew Swift - A Madness of Angels - received high praise on its release, but I do feel it didn't get the attention it deserved. I loved it - really must get around to writing review. The mixture of urban magic and the mundane gives it an almost de Lint-ian flavour (for me, the highest praise of all). This is incoming on 4th March 2010.
3. Dragon Haven - Robin Hobb
Publisher's Blurb: The dragon keepers and the fledgling dragons are forging a passage up the treacherous Rain Wild River, in search of the mythical Elderling city of Kelsingra, and are accompanied by the liveship Tarman, its captain, Leftrin, and a group of hunters who must search the forests for game with which to keep the dragons fed. With them are Alise, who has escaped her cold marriage to the cruel libertine Hest Finbok in order to continue her study of dragons, and Hest's amanuensis, Bingtown dandy, Sedric. Rivalries and romances are already threatening to disrupt the band of explorers: but external forces may prove to be even more dangerous. Chalcedean merchants are keen to lay hands on dragon blood and organs to turn them to medicines and profit. Their traitor has infiltrated the expedition and will stop at nothing to obtain the coveted body parts. Will the expedition reach their destination unscathed? Does the city of Kelsingra even exist? Only one thing is certain: the journey will leave none of the dragons nor their human companions unchanged by the experience.
I confess that I have not yet read Dragon Keeper - since this duology was being released relatively quickly I decided to hold off and try them back to back (something I am quite released about going by some of the reviews where people complained about the fact that the ending of the first was very abrupt. In early March I am anticipating sitting down with both hefty volumes and enjoying some more time in the world of the Liveship Traders.
4. The Desert Spear - Peter V. Brett
Publisher's Blurb: Continuing the impressive debut fantasy series from author Peter V. Brett, The Desert Spear is book two of the Demon trilogy, pulling the reader into a world of demons, darkness and heroes. The Deliverer has returned, but who is he? Arlen Bales, formerly of the small hamlet of Tibbet's Brook, learnt harsh lessons about life as he grew up in a world where hungry demons stalk the night and humanity is trapped by its own fear. He chose a different path; chose to fight inherited apathy and the corelings, and eventually he became the Painted Man, a reluctant saviour. But the figure emerging from the desert, calling himself the Deliverer, is not Arlen. He is a friend and betrayer, and though he carries the spear from the Deliverer's tomb, he also heads a vast army intent on a holy war against the demon plague...and anyone else who stands in his way.
The Painted Man was another book that, universally, people seemed to enjoy but that somehow missed out on all those top ten lists released by various bloggers. Sure, some of it seemed to be derivative fantasy - especially when you realised that yet another young boy was going off to seek his destiny. However, Brett managed to turn this around and produce an excellent start to a trilogy that I think will be compared to the best by the time it's complete. Look for it early April 2010.
5. Naamah's Curse - Jacqueline Carey
Publisher's Blurb: Far from the land of her birth, Moirin sets out across Tatar territory to find Bao, the proud and virile Ch'in fighter who holds the missing half of her diadh-anam, the divine soul-spark of her mother's people. After a long ordeal, she not only succeeds, but surrenders to a passion the likes of which she's never known. But the lovers' happiness is short lived, for Bao is entangled in a complication that soon leads to their betrayal.
I love Carey's work! Yes, there is a lot of sex. Yes, sometimes her characters are too good to be true. Yes, the world she imagines is just an idyllic version of Europe. But despite all that and every other complaint levelled towards her, it is always a great day when I have a new Carey book to read. I cannot wait for this one! Just one complaint - I now have Carey's books in several different styles, which just don't look good on my bookcase. Wish they would all be picked up by one publisher and re-released in one format (but that's probably just me being a little strange!). Got to wait til June for this one.
6. City of Ruin - Mark Charan Newton
Publisher's Blurb: Viliren: a city of sin that is being torn apart from the inside. Hybrid creatures shamble through shadows and barely human gangs fight turf wars for control of the streets. Amidst this chaos, Commander Brynd Adaol, commander of the Night Guard, must plan the defence of Viliren against a race that has broken through from some other realm and already slaughtered hundreds of thousands of the Empire’s people. When a Night Guard soldier goes missing, Brynd requests help from the recently arrived Inqusitor Jeryd. He discovers this is not the only disapearance the streets of Viliren. It seems that a serial killer of the most horrific kind is on the loose, taking hundreds of people from their own homes. A killer that cannot possibly be human. The entire population of Viliren must unite to face an impossible surge of violent and unnatural enemies or the city will fall. But how can anyone save a city that is already a ruin?
MCN's debut Nights of Villjamur was critically acclaimed and received glowing reviews (on the whole) from the blogosphere, so I doubt I am the only person to have this on my must-read list for 2010. His flowing, lyrical style of prose and the serious and innovative ideas gave his first novel a great deal of gravitas, and I'm looking for more of the same from the second. We're waiting until June for it though...
7. A Thousand Sons - Graham McNeill
Publisher's Blurb: Censured at the Council of Nikea for his flagrant use of sorcery, Magnus the Red and his Thousand Sons Legion retreat to their homeworld of Prospero to continue their use of the arcane arts in secret. But when the ill-fated primarch foresees the treachery of Warmaster Horus and warns the Emperor with the very powers he was forbidden to use, the Master of Mankind dispatches fellow primarch Leman Russ to attack Prospero itself. But Magnus has seen more than the betrayal of Horus and the witnessed revelations will change the fate of his fallen Legion, and its primarch, forever.
I accept this is very much a personal choice - not many people will have tie-in literature on their must-read lists of 2010. But I stand by my choice. I have recently started reading the Horus Heresy books, and the first two were exceptionally good. I have been told that McNeill's writing is becoming more and more assured, and so A Thousand Sons looks like being a real sci-fi treat. This is another March release.
8. Wolfsangel - M. D. Lachlan
Publisher's Blurb: The Viking King Authun leads his men on a raid against an Anglo-Saxon village. Men and women are killed indiscriminately but Authun demands that no child be touched, acting on prophecy. A prophecy that tells him that the Saxons have stolen a child from the Gods. If Authun, in turn, takes the child and raises him as an heir, the child will lead his people to glory. But Authun discovers not one child, but twin baby boys. Authun takes the children and their mother home, back to the witches who live on the troll wall, placing his destiny in their hands. Here begins a stunning multi-volume fantasy epic that will take a werewolf from his beginnings as the heir to a brutal viking king, down through the ages. It is a journey that will see him hunt for his lost love through centuries and lives, and see the endless battle between the wolf, Odin and Loki - the eternal trickster - spill over into countless bloody conflicts from our history, and over into our lives. This is the myth of the werewolf as it has never been told before and marks the beginning of an extraordinary new fantasy series from Gollancz.
This is a debut novel that hasn't been picked up by too many people as yet, but I think it has the possibility of being quite good! I like werewolves, anyway, and it will be interesting how they are dealt with in this novel. Vampires, seriously, are so last year people! Go out and get it at the end of May.
9. Black Magic Sanction - Kim Harrison
Publisher's Blurb: The latest stirring instalment of the urban fantasy-thriller series starring Rachel Morgan. A pacey and addictive novel of sexy bounty-hunting witches, cunning demons and vicious vampires. Having barely escaped being skewered by the criminal vampire overlord of Cinncinati, Rachel now has even bigger problems to contend with. The demon, Algaliarept, although banished back into the everafter has infected others of his kind with his interest in a witch who can channel demon magic. Rachel soon finds herself with not one but three hellions on her tail; and one of them is even crazier and more dangerous than all the fairy assassins, weres and vampires on the planet.
I am a sucker for a decent urban fantasy series, and I think Harrison is quietly working away on one of the best. So far we haven't descended into a poorly-written erotic story about how many men Rachel Morgan can sleep with, like other well-known urban fantasy series. Here we have a snarky heroine accompanied by one of my all-time favourite characters in the form of Jenks. You can read reviews of all Harrison's books by your truly by clicking here. Check out Rachel Morgan's latest adventures on 29th April 2010. (Hate the covers though!)
10. The Evolutionary Void - Peter F Hamilton (I don't have a pretty picture for this one!)
Publisher's Blurb: The Evolutionary Void is the concluding volume in the Void Trilogy. No details about the plot or release date have been announced yet.
Secretive, no? But we do know it'll be a doorstep of a book that pulls together all the different threads of the story so far and hopefully explodes in an unforgettable climax. August is too long to wait...
So those are mine! Well, ten of mine. I didn't think you'd want to read the other 40 or so that have also been jotted on my list of books I wouldn't mind reading this year. And that doesn't take into account all the books I missed last year and still want to catch up on. Sounds like I'm going to be busy! Of course, you will be hearing my thoughts on each of the above as I read them - and on the many other books I squeeze in.
I am officially excited about 2010!