Anticipation is already building ahead of what promises to be a huge year for fantasy, with a slew of big novels slated for release (several of which were meant to surface this year). As readers and bloggers are already starting to discuss which titles they're looking forward to, I thought I may as well do the same. Here then are some 2009 releases that have got me rubbing my hands together in an unnerving manner and giggling slightly hysterically...
A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
The big one. I don't think anyone can deny that this is the release of 2009. That's if it gets released of course. Several years in the making now, this next volume in the Ice and Fire saga perhaps carries even more weight given that its predecessor, A Feast for Crows, was not received as well as the series' previous instalments.
For many readers - myself included - Feast was a bit of a disappointment, with the exclusion of several major characters and plotlines a controversial sticking-point. For the first time, some readers began to express doubts: was Martin getting bogged down in the storyline? Was he including two many POV characters? Was the series losing focus? To some extent, Martin is the victim of his own success: A Storm of Swords is arguably the finest epic fantasy ever written, so it was inevitable that the follow-up would fail to reach this lofty height.
With Dance, Martin has a chance to set the record straight and show that he's still in control of the series. Fortunately, this novel will focus on characters and events in the Summer Sea and beyond, as well as up in the bitter north, all of which were sorely absent from the previous novel. Hopefully Martin will deliver a belter of a book and get the best epic fantasy series of all time firmly back on track.
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
Make or break time for Scott Lynch. The Lies of Locke Lamora was a brilliant debut novel; an imaginative and amusing veneer, concealing a steel centre. It was quite simply excellent entertainment. Red Seas Under Red Skies, by contrast, was over-long with a clumsy plot that plodded along for several hundred pages before being resolved in a mere twenty or so at the end. Flashes of Lynch's imagination were revealed here and there, but the novel was - for many - a disappointment.
So, one excellent novel and one average novel. This third instalment should give us some indication of which way the series is going to go. The horrifically amateurish blurb that surfaced a while ago gave away a number of needless spoilers, so we have some idea of the storyline (too much of an idea, in truth) but hopefully Lynch can spring some surprises. Republic was due out this year but Lynch was late with the manuscript, so it's been delayed. Hopefully it will be worth the wait...
Dragonfly Falling by Adrian Tchaikovsky
As mentioned in my recent review, I really enjoyed Tchaikovsky's epic fantasy debut Empire in Black and Gold, which combined solid world-building with strong characters and a well-worked plot. The next book in the Shadows of the Apt sequence is already written and due for release next year. It could well cement Tchaikovsky's place as one of the UK's most exciting new fantasists.
Some other books (that as of yet don't have front covers!) that I'm looking forward to:
Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton
This is Tor UK's epic fantasy debut release for 2009, and having been fortunate enough to read the first few chapters I can say that it sounds very promising. Somewhere between Erikson and Miéville in terms of style, it's a more literate fantasy than many offerings we see these days. It's due out around June and is definitely one to watch. Mark talks a bit about his upcoming novel on his blog.
The Cold Commands by Richard Morgan
The sequel to The Steel Remains, which I thought was a really decent fantasy. Am looking forward to perhaps seeing a bit more of a plot in the second one, as well as plenty of sex and violence. :)
Starfinder by John Marco
Marco's first book aimed at a younger demographic, Starfinder has a really intriguing premise and promises a rich, dynamic world. Marco is one of fantasy's more innovative writers, so I'm looking forward to see what he serves up with this one.
Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
Abercrombie is one of fantasy's most recent and significant success stories, with his The First Law trilogy receiving much critical acclaim. But the question now is can he replicate this success with a stand-alone novel? Will his new cast of characters prove to be as enthralling as his last bunch? Should be interesting to see how this one turns out.
Feel free to comment on your own anticipated reads for 2009!