Thursday, 21 January 2010

So...what's going to be the 'hot' fantasy debut of 2010?

Every year there's one debut fantasy novel that garners more online hype/buzz than all the others: The Lies of Locke Lamora in 2006, The Name of the Wind in 2007, The Painted Man in 2008 (though some might argue Brent Weeks' The Way of Shadows was equally hyped) and Nights of Villjamur in 2009. This then raises the inevitable question - what debut is going to be the 'hot' release of 2010?

I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up being one of these five novels...

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

By N. K. Jemisin

(Orbit, 4 February 2010)


"Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky - a palace above the clouds where gods' and mortals' lives are intertwined. There, to her shock, Yeine is named one of the potential heirs to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with a pair of cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history. But it's not just mortals who have secrets worth hiding and Yeine will learn how perilous the world can be when love and hate - and gods and mortals - are bound inseparably."

This one's already received a very positive review over at Fantasy Book Critic. So far it's not yet received the coverage of some of the other debuts, but I have a feeling that might change. One thing that Robert's review praises is the prose, which I find encouraging - far too many fantasy books, especially debuts, are marred by wooden, dull writing. The premise is nothing new, but certainly sounds like it has potential. If I can get hold of a review copy, I'll be giving this one a go. The early release date is another aspect the book has to its advantage - plenty of time to generate buzz and generate a fan base before the enevitable 'Best of' lists at the end of the year.

One thing though - what's with the series title? Calling it The Inheritance Trilogy is a not a great idea, and one you'd have thought the editors would have changed (I certainly wouldn't want people to see my book and immedaitely think of Paolini's much-maligned series of the same name).


By Blake Charlton

(HarperVoyager, 8 July 2010)


"In a world where words can come to life, an inability to spell can be a dangerous thing. And no one knows this better than apprentice wizard Nicodemus Weal. Nicodemus is a cacographer, unable to reproduce even simple magical texts without 'misspelling' - a mistake which can have deadly consequences. He was supposed to be the Halcyon, a magic-user of unsurpassed power, destined to save the world; instead he is restricted to menial tasks, and mocked for his failure to live up to the prophecy. But not everyone interprets prophecy in the same way. There are some factions who believe a cacographer such as Nicodemus could hold great power -- power that might be used as easily for evil as for good. And when two of the wizards closest to Nicodemus are found dead, it becomes clear that some of those factions will stop at nothing to find the apprentice and bend him to their will!"

This one will probably prove popular, though I don't think it's for me. I read the opening chaper and it did nothing for me at all - I found the prose uninspiring and the dialogue rather wooden (I'm aware this was an unedited version, but even so...). Aidan enjoyed the book, but his review pretty much put me off the novel - he indicates that fans of Brooks, Williams and Feist will probably enjoy the novel, but fans of Lynch, GRRM and Abercrombie most likely wouldn't. That's the feeling I had as well, and since I'm firmly entrenched in the latter's camp, I doubt that Spellwright is going to work for me.

Yet plenty of readers love this more sort of traditional fantasy (boys with mysterious powers they can't control, demon hordes, etc) and so this book will probably prove popular, especially because the premise hints at some fresh ideas, mixing them up with one or two classic cliches tropes - Peter Brett's The Painted Man did something very similar, and look how popular that book was. So I therefore expect this to be - if not the 'hot' novel of the year - a success nonetheless. Which is certainly more than can be said for the horrific UK artwork, which really is a piss-poor effort.

Tome of the Undergates

By Sam Sykes

(Gollancz, 18 February 2010)


"Lenk can barely keep control of his mismatched adventurer band at the best of times (Gariath the dragon man sees humans as little more than prey, Kataria the shict despises most humans and the humans in the band are little better). When they're not insulting each other's religions they're arguing about pay and conditions. So when the ship they are travelling on is attacked by pirates things don't go very well. They go a whole lot worse when an invincible demon joins the fray. The demon steals the Tome of the Undergates - a manuscript that contains all you need to open the undergates. And whichever god you believe in you don't want the undergates open. On the other side are countless more invincible demons, the manifestation of all the evil of the gods, and they want out. Full of razor-sharp wit, characters who leap off the page (and into trouble) and plunging the reader into a vivid world of adventure this is a fantasy that kicks off a series that could dominate the second decade of the century."

Gollancz have a good track record with debuts, releasing both The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Blade Itself to critical acclaim in recent years. Tome of the Undergates is their big debut release of 2010 and they seem to have pretty high hopes for it. From flicking through my ARC, I was quickly reminded of Abercombie and Lynch, and that's certainly no bad thing. I think this debut will be aimed firmly at fans of those two writers, though whether it can replicate their respective success obviously remains to be seen. Wert's assessment was decidedly lukewarm, while another review is a little more positive but also mentions flaws that Wert picked up on - I'm interested to see if I think the same way. I certainly intend to read this one at some point, though given the size of the damned thing it's not going to be easy lugging it on my daily commute... Certainly a strong contender for 'hot' novel of the year - though will readers be expecting too much, given the quality of new talent that has emerged from the Gollancz stable in recent years?


By Col Buchanan

(Tor, 5 March 2010)


"The Heart of the World is a land in strife. For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation. Their leader, Holy Matriarch Sasheen, ruthlessly maintains control through her Diplomats, priests trained as subtle predators.

The Mercian Free Ports are the only confederacy yet to fall. Their only land link to the southern continent, a long and narrow isthmus, is protected by the city of Bar-Khos. For ten years now, the great southern walls of Bar-Khos have been besieged by the Imperial Fourth Army.

Ash is a member of an elite group of assassins, the Rōshun - who offer protection through the threat of vendetta. Forced by his ailing health to take on an apprentice, he chooses Nico, a young man living in the besieged city of Bar-Khos. At the time, Nico is hungry, desperate, and alone in a city that finds itself teetering on the brink.

When the Holy Matriarch’s son deliberately murders a woman under the protection of the Rōshun; he forces the sect to seek his life in retribution. As Ash and his young apprentice set out to fulfil the Rōshun orders – their journey takes them into the heart of the conflict between the Empire and the Free Ports . . . into bloodshed and death."

There's more than a whiff of Steven Erikson about this novel, which is no bad thing in my opinion. Again, while the premise is fairly standard for an epic fantasy, it hints at some rich worldbuilding and a decent story. I've certainly got my eye on this one, though as of yet it's generated very little online buzz. Could turn out to be the sort of novel that snowballs in popularity as word spreads. It's certainly helped by a solid commercial cover. I expect to receive a review copy of this one, and will certainly give it a go.

The Left Hand of God

By Paul Hoffman

(Michael Joseph, 7 January 2010)


"The Sanctuary of the Redeemers on Shotover Scarp is named after a damned lie for there is no redemption that goes on there and less sanctuary. The Sanctuary of the Redeemers is a vast and desolate place – a place without joy or hope.

Most of its occupants were taken there as boys and for years have endured the brutal regime of the Lord Redeemers whose cruelty and violence have one singular purpose – to serve in the name of the One True Faith.

In one of the Sanctuary’s vast and twisting maze of corridors stands a boy. He is perhaps fourteen or fifteen years old – he is not sure and neither is anyone else. He has long-forgotten his real name, but now they call him Thomas Cale. He is strange and secretive, witty and charming, violent and profoundly bloody-minded. He is so used to the cruelty that he seems immune, but soon he will open the wrong door at the wrong time and witness an act so terrible that he will have to leave this place, or die.

His only hope of survival is to escape across the arid Scablands to Memphis, a city the opposite of the Sanctuary in every way: breathtakingly beautiful, infinitely Godless, and deeply corrupt. But the Redeemers want Cale back at any price… not because of the secret he now knows but because of a much more terrifying secret he does not."

This book has probably generated the most online hype so far, probably because it's already been released and so has a few reviews to its name (although it's also possible that the accompanying promotional media, like the YouTube video, may have helped). Early opinion seems split. Some readers loved it, while others criticised it for being fantasy-by-the-numbers. I was - and am - quite interested in this book, though some readers have slated the prose, and this is always a turn-off for me. If a book has bland prose, I usually really struggle to enjoy it. Still, the premise sounds interesting and there's something about this book that appeals to me, though I'm not sure exactly what it is. An outside bet for the 'hot' debut release of 2010? Possibly.

So, there we have it - five debut novels that, to varying degrees, will make waves this year. But which one makes the biggest wave remains to be seen...


The Flying Halftrak said...

Very nice write-up. None of those summaries really jump out at me, but neither did Lies of Locke Lamora, and that was fantastic.

It's very strange that, being a guy who is very much in the GRRM, Lynch camp and very much NOT in the Brooks, Feist, Williams camp, that Spellwright sounds the most appealing. I guess the idea of someone being derided for NOT living up to a prophecy sounds potentially interesting.

Neth said...

We'll see - I think what it'll be most important is just how wide the distribution is. Some of these are UK releases this year and some are smaller presses that won't be able to get the book out as much.

Though I haven't read any (yet), I'm pulling of for the Jemisin book - I think it'd be really great if a female author of color were to have the big breakout book of the year. Early buzz is looking promising and it's an Orbit book so it'll be widely available. (I'm hoping the snow storm I'm getting doesn't hold up it's delivery too much - I want to read it next).

But, this post has pointed out a few books that I need to look into getting.

Paul D said...

When you talk about the Williams camp, are you referencing Tad Williams? I wouldn't put him that far from Martin.

Aidan Moher said...

Yeah, I was referencing Tad Williams. He's not far (in some respects) from Martin (and is, in fact, a direct influence on ASoIaF), but is very different in tone and much more traditional than Martin.

Of those releases (excepting, Spellwright, I suppose, having read it), Jemisin's is the one I'm looking forward to the most, far and away. Hopefully the recent io9 coverage of The 100k Kingdoms gives her a boost in pre-release popularity.

Iain said...

Hello James,

I am just about to finish my marathon ASOIAF catch up. Euron Crows-Eye has just despatched Victarion to Slaver's Bay to bring him back a beautiful, silvery haired wife...who could that be???

I have to say that on second read through AFFC is a lot better than I remembered. It does suffer from following on after ASOS (which is close to perfect) but I think it bears up rather well. Yes, you do expect to finish a chapter and then fly of to the Wall, or see where Tyrion has escaped to, or how Dany plans to rule Meereen, but as the cover recommendation from Time says -- it is tense, it is surging and it is insomnia-inducing.

Anyhoo, enough blabbering. I will soon be reading The Left Hand of God since santa was kind enough to leave a Waterstone's voucher beneath the tree for me.

One thing that does strike me though is the completely awful covers these books have, N K Jemisin excluded. Can we not come up with something other than a Painted Man -esque hooded figure on the cover??

If you follow this link (it will take you to a list of classic sci-fi and fantasy) and see what classic covers look like

Col Buchanan hails from these here parts so I will obviously be rooting for him to do well and the story seems appealing too. As for the others I'm with Neth. I read the review of Jemisin's book you mention in the blog and was hooked by the striking cover.

Sorry, I continued to blabber for a while there:).

Aidan Moher said...

Hooded figures on book covers is Fantasy's latest self-fulfilling prophecy, Iain.

Neth said...

The Conquerer's Shadow by Ari Marmell (Del Rey) is another fantasy debut that's been getting some good early buzz.

Mad Hatter Review said...

These are all on my to read list this year. In fact I've already devoured The Left Hand of God. It has its problems, but man it pulls you in. So in a big way the hype is holding true at least for me.

Aarti said...

I have the first two on my wish list, but I'll wait a bit on the other three. Should be a good year :-)

Jebus said...

I realise it must be a hard job but book blurbs, especially for fantasy novels, really do make me cringe sometimes. That's why these days I rely on blog reviews to see if I'd like any new authors.

Whatever did I do 2+ years ago when deciding to read some new fantasy? I think for the most part it was covers that made me pick up and buy a book.

I'll be waiting on more reviews as all of them sound kinda bland to me.

Aidan Moher said...

Oddly enough, the blurbs on novels aren't written by the authors and just as manufactured (by the marketing department, likely) as the rest of the cover. That's why they're (generally) so generic.

Sam Sykes said...

Aidan "Skunk Ape" Moher is quite right; I didn't write that blurb at all. To get a real feel for the book, you pretty much have to read it (or read something else by the author).

Also, is it fair to say, James "Dog Killa" Long, that you are...perhaps intimidated by its size? On a scale of one to ten, how much would it freak you out if I asked you that again whilst waggling my eyebrows suggestively?

James said...

Iain: I really must get around to reading ASOIAF again - I do expect AFFC to be better than I remembered it.

Sam: I've never killed a dog in my life, although I may have killed some in Baldur's Gate (they were rabid, you understand). To answer your would be a hefty 9/10 on the freak-out scale (a full 10/10 if you whisper the words hoarsely in my ear while manhandling me).

Gabriele Campbell said...

That's why I prefer to have a website where the author can post his/her version of a blurb, put up sample chapters and maybe add some background information. Since I live in Germany and can't browse English books in the store, I need sample chapters.

Because voice matters, and in case of Jemisin, the voice doesn't work for me. It's a first person POV, too, and that makes the voice even more important.

Reviews are helpful for me for that reason as well. I can compare them, look for elements that may be my triggers (if Hotlist Pat calls something 'reads like YA' I can be sure I won't like it) and I get better ones from the blogs than from Amazon. ;) So I rarely buy a book the moment it appears on, but after it has made its rounds through the review blogs I read. They are not good for my grwoing TBR pile, though, those blogs. *grin*

Unknown said...


After a long night with The Left Hand of God and a nice cup of tea to keep me sane, I think it's fair to say we can safely cross Hoffman's entry off the list. I'll have a more thorough review in a little while but for the moment: the characters are flat, uninteresting, the world is a mess, the pacing is shot to hell, and the prose is, yes, atrocious.

I still have maybe the last third to go but no rabbit in no hat is going to convince me otherwise. The Left Hand of God is Not Good.

ediFanoB said...

You want to read an excerpt of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms? Adain posted links to chapter one and two.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Thanks edi. I had found her website with some sample chapters a few days ago.

ediFanoB said...

You're welcome Gabriele. I understand why you want to read excerpts.

I just read the first chapter of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and I must say I really liked it. I will definitely read this book.

Beside this I really look forward to read Spellwright.

Gabriele Campbell said...

I hope you'll enjoy it. There's nothing wrong with her voice, it just doesn't work for me.

There are so many books and so little time anyway. I got a list of historical fiction novels to come out this year, besides the books all over the Fantasy blogs. :)

Neth said...

Well, my plans to check out at least a couple of these are moving forward. Unfortunately, Farlander is Tor UK and I see no mention of a US publisher yet. But I have requested a copy of it, so we'll see. I'm still (anxiously) awaiting The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but I'm confident it'll get here soon (we had a massive snow storm last week that has held up all mail and such). Talked with Dot over at Tor and have Spellwright and a couple others on the way.

I doubt I'll read them all this year, but I'll certainly read some.