Posts Tagged ‘Mark Lawrence’

So here we are, after one year of reviews and Reading the lists of the top books of the years have started appearing all around and, since my first post was the top five books of 2013 (all of them amazing, read them right now), with the top five books of 2014 I celebrate a year on Thelordbaelish’s blog, again, thank you for taking the time to read my posts and thank you for the follows, the likes and the favorites.

Well, Time to get down to business! This year has been filled with wonderful books and deciding which ones were the best books of the year hasn’t been easy. Several times I have been tempted to make a top 8 instead of a top 5, but these lists’ aim is to choose a few books among many, so sacrifices must be made!

So, with a Spanish beer on my hand, a hat in my head to I can take it off to honor the writers in this list and my mouth stuffed with Christmas pastries (you have to try the Spanish ones [of course you would say that (shut up)])I present you 2014’s Top Five Books for Thelordbaelish blog!

5) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuinn

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This position has been the toughest to decide, but, after much thought, I think The Left Hand of Darkness deserves to be named one of the greatest books I have read this year.

Ursula K. LeGuinn brings us the story of First Contact completely reversed. A human diplomat named Ai is sent by an intergalactic alliance to convince the inhabitants of the frozen planet Gethen to join after they have been deemed prepared to do so. What Ai can’t suspect is that this action will destroy the fragile political balance between Gethen’s most powerful nations, endangering both himself and every potential ally he may find.

The Left Hand of Darkness is an impressive, dark and well written political thriller which takes place in an unknown world, filled with wonders and with cultures so well created and developed that you will feel as if you were reading history rather than science fiction. As the story advances, we witness how these cultures change and become more radical in a wonderful cause-effect scenario, always answering to the stimuli provided by Ai’s presence, which creates a dynamic world subjected to constant change. By the end the reader will have witnessed several allusions to our own 20th century political situation: from the rise and fall of a radical, race-centered movement similar to Nazism to the political development of a nation similar to Stalin’s Russia.

I also enjoyed Ai’s figure, a man bent into doing the right thing even when he knows that it may have tragic consequences for himself and those who defend him, but I admit that I personally would have preferred for him to have a bigger internal conflict. Though it is true that he spends the novel trying to decide who can be trusted, it may have been interesting to see a darker side of his personality, or at least to see some preoccupation about his own well-being beyond the need to complete his mission.

If you enjoy political science fiction, vivid, beautiful and ever-changing worlds and well-written books, then The Left Hand of Darkness is the book for you.

4) The Postmortal by Drew Magary

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I feel that the idea Immortality and what it may entail for the human race is a subject which can produce really interesting debates just as long as it is not discussed in YouTube (seriously, when I am feeling adventurous I read YouTube comments and by the end I always feel that 90% of them are written by crack addict monkeys having a particularly bad day). How would it affect us? Would we be able to function as a productive society or would we sink into utter chaos? Drew Magary offers his own thoughts on this debate and the image he creates is not a pretty one.

The story takes place over 73 years, in which we witness the utter self-destruction of the human race from the point of view of John Farrell, a divorce lawyer whose life is changed forever from the moment he decides to become immortal. John Farrell will try to survive and find meaning to his life in a society without morals, ambition, decorum and, finally, without resources.

Let me tell you now, The Postmortal may be a tragic and depressing story, but it is also a deeply satisfying one due to its great quality and the amazing character work, which makes John Farrell vividly human, a character in whom the reader can see himself and with whom we feel connected.

The Postmortal is, at its core, a tale about humanity, and an intensely fatalistic one, at that. But it also shows us really beautiful moments which give us hope and provide some lights in the great ocean of darkness which is The Postmortal’s society.

If you enjoy dystopian societies, fatalistic futures or original apocalyptic stories, then The Postmortals is the book for you. A book which does not only entertain, but also gives the reader something to think about

 

3) Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

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You know a book is good when you read it on January and in December you still considering it one of the best books of the year. It can also be due to a bad reading year, but since that is not the case, we are going to agree that Emperor of Thorns is an amazing book filled with unforgettable characters and spectacular moments. Of course it is not only the story, but also the writer, Mark Lawrence has managed to be on this list for two years in a row (Prince of Thorns, the first installment to the trilogy, was one of my favorite books for 2013), and he has done it through his intelligent, sometimes witty, dialogue, his beautiful world and his great writing style

Emperor of Thorns offers closure to the Broken Empire trilogy and to Jorg’s story, and it does it masterfully, staying loyal to its main character without trying to make him more sympathetic or a better person. Jorg is still a complete bastard, a horrible human being who is one step away from being considered a psychopath (or maybe he is one by this point, not quite sure) and who sees almost everyone else as pieces to be played with to protect those he loves and to reach the throne.

The secondary characters are not much better, from his wife, a plotting young woman who could go toe-to-toe against Lady Macbeth in ruthlessness, to his men at arms. The book soon becomes a mix of complex, unpredictable characters that play to fulfill their own goals and ambitions.

The Broken Empire trilogy has been an amazing treat, a dark and thrilling tale which has given me hours of enjoyment, a vivid proof that the Eragon’s effect doesn’t always apply to book sagas with great first books.

I would recommend Emperor of Thorns, and the Broken Empire trilogy as a whole, to anyone who enjoys an original dark fantasy saga set in an enormous and dynamic world filled by possibilities and unpredictability.

2) The Thousand Names by Django Wexler

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As I said when I was reviewing this book, I love it whenever I find a strong female protagonist capable of staying away from overused clichés and who doesn’t need a man in her direst hours. Female characters and fiction have had a complicated relationship, and usually we find the so-called Trinity Syndrome, strong female protagonists who end up helplessly depending on the male hero in the final part of the story. Therefore, it was a great surprise when I read The Thousand Names and found that not only it has a strong female character, but she also keeps her strength throughout the novel.

The Thousand Names is a tale of survival set on a colonist-like period in a fantasy world. Trapped on the middle of a religious uprising, the imperial army stationed in a faraway colony tries to stay alive by any means necessary while the wait for the ships which will get them home. To their surprise, they are not to abandon the colony, but try to retake it following their new commander in chief, the mysterious and eccentric coronel Janus. By his side, Janus will have Captain D’Ivory, a man struggling with his own sense of self-worth, and private Winter, a girl posing as a man who would rather not being noticed.

The author manages to create a set of unpredictable, likeable characters and an entertaining and carefully-built world which offers a realistic reflection on our own colonial period. All of it while managing to develop one of the most enthralling stories I have read this year. The Thousand Names is a book I could read over and over again without getting tired of it, a book I recommend to anybody who enjoys a good fantasy story.

1) The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

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This year has been filled by marvelous books and unforgettable stories, but sadly only one can be considered the Top 1 book of the year. That honor belongs to Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear.

An amazing tale of adventure, worthy of classical heroes such as Conan or the Company of the Ring, The Wise Man’s Fear continues the story of Kvothe as he remembers the incredible adventures which led to his tragic and mysterious downfall.

Patrick Rothfuss has managed to create a breath-taking world which will entrap the reader because of its enormity and the detail by which it has been created. Once you put down the book, you feel as if you had just contemplated the work of a master craftman, who has managed to pour life into an inanimate object, transforming it in a spectacular work of fiction filled with humane characters and magical situations.

As I said while reviewing this book several months ago, The Wise Man’s Fear is an ambitious tale which will provide any reader with hours of enjoyment, whether they usually read fantasy or not. If you are looking for a book to start 2015 on a high note, look no further: This is it.

So, those are, in my opinion, the best five books I have read on 2014, but I do not want to finish my post without three honorary mentions to the runner-ups which didn’t make it: The Scorpio Races, Steelheart and One Second After.

Now all that is left is wishing you a Happy New Year and I shall see you on 2015

¡Hasta la próxima!

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In Spain we have a saying: “at the third try you will succeed”. But if the first and the second try have already been huge successes, what do we say? When it comes to applying this saying to Mark Lawrence, author of the delightful Broken Empire trilogy I believe that it should be changed to “at the third try you shall get a result that will blow the readers’ minds”.

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Strong points: The characters, the setting, the development of the story

Weak points: it contradicts some small details given in prince of thorns

Emperor of Thorns is the final chapter of the Broken Empire, a trilogy that tells us the story of Jorg Ancrath and his quest for power whatever it may cost. In this third installment Jorg, now a father-in-waiting, must attend Congression, a meeting between the rulers of the Broken Empire that occurs every four years and which objective it’s to try to designate a new emperor. While this happens other powers are preparing their hands for the final stage of the game: the power of the Dead King is growing and his armies are laying waste to the continent; the data ghosts created by the Builders war among themselves, divided before the question of what to do with humanity; The church of the White Christ sends its assassins to carry out their dark deeds, seeking revenge for bishop Murillo’s fate and the Mathmagicians seek the future in their numbers, their influence in Ibn Fayed’s court rising.

From the first book Mark Lawrence has been able to demonstrate time and again his amazing skill when it comes to creating and developing his characters, and Emperor of Thorns is not exception to the rule. From the newly introduced characters to those we already know and (may) love since Prince of Thorns, all of them are masterfully created, showing us a complex and deep behavior that will make the reader feel as if they were reading about real people, with their faults and their qualities. Their actions and their feelings don’t seem imposed by the author; instead it feels as if they really came from within the character. Jorg may not be as evil as he was in Prince of Thorns, but he stills being the charming murderous bastard I know and love and the changes of his conduct are the result of a careful evolution that has been taking place from the first pages of the first book until Emperor of Thorns. Some scenes, such as the one when he is trying to find his cousin among the Gildean Guard, are simply a treat to read, giving us a glimpse of how complex this character has become. Other secondary characters, such as Miana, Makin, Red Kent, Rike or Chella are further developed in this novel, making them surprising and difficult to predict, some of them, such as Rike, bring us really surprising moments that, only by themselves, would have made a book worth reading.

I felt in love with the setting and its subtlety from the first moment I started reading this series. Though it is never completely explained how this society came to be, the book is full with hints that allow the readers to come to the conclusion by themselves. Now, in Emperor of Thorns, this setting is expanded even further than King of Thorns, taking us to the poisoned land of Iberico, the deserts of Liba or the capital city of Vyene, all of them described in their unique ways, managing to create different cultures and architectural styles with such a completion that it will remind readers to Steven Erikson´s own creations. Mark Lawrence has created a complex and complete world and will leave the reader thirsting for more adventures in this amazing society that the author has managed to create.

Finally, the story has followed a constant and well-built development from the beginning of the series to its end; it is amazing how scenes that I didn’t give much importance in the first or second books become important for the plot in the third book, such as Justice’s torture in King of Thorns. The constant evolution of the general plot is fluid and makes sense; as with the characters, this time the events of the book don’t feel forced by the author in an attempt to create drama, which was my main complain about some small happenings in King of Thorns. The building of the climax and the ending twists are truly amazing, forcing the reader to stand on his or her guard, never knowing where the next surprise may come from.

Mark Lawrence continues with the style he already used in the second book of the series, using two timelines and a second person’s point of view to complete the information the reader gets about the story. The point of view of Jorg is divided between the present and five years in the past, picking this last timeline exactly where King of Thorns past’s timeline finished. The second point of view this time is Chella’s, from whose eyes we get to understand the court of the Dead King and its true nature.

I have to say, this book was perfect even if there were small details that contradicted some information given in Prince of Thorns. These details were mostly unimportant, such as the fact that in the first book it was hinted that Makin had helped Jorg to torture Bishop Murillo while in Emperor of Thorns when Jorg recalls the episode it is set before Makin joint the brotherhood.

Broken Empire has been a hell of a ride, I have enjoyed every minute spent reading this books. It saddened me to finish Emperor of Thorns, with so many enjoyable characters such as the Queen of Red who had only been named or appeared briefly and had left you wanting for more. Thankfully I have just learned Mark Lawrence is writing his fourth book: Prince of Fools, which is the first installment of a new trilogy, set in the same world as the Broken Empire series.

And yes, I take my metaphorical hat for the third time, Mr. Lawrence, and I am looking forward to do it again soon

FINAL SCORE: 9/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

If you have read my first post, you may remember I mentioned my distrust for long running series due to some too recent experiences of total disappointments. So from the moment I decided the time had come to continue reading about the adventures of Jorg Ancrath until the moment I turned the last page I was suffering, ready to be disappointed. Now that have put down the book and have given myself some time to think about it, I must say I didn’t like it, I loved it.
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Strong points: The writing style, the setting of the novel, the characters

Weak points: some events feel forced or improvised on the spot by the autor

King of Thorns tells us the already well known story of a broken empire, a heartbroken hero who suffers when he sees the conditions in which the people live, a prophesy, a decision to make the empire whole again and a selfish villain who reigns over one of the states whose ambition won’t let him step down from the throne. There is one difference, however, between King of Thorns and the rest of these stories: We live it from the point of view of the evil king who stands in the hero’s way.

Mark Lawrence brings us an amazing story that contributes with something fresh an original to the already very developed fantasy genre. The author manages to surprise us time and again with a novel full of unexpected twists and with one of the darkest settings you will manage to find nowadays. Some of said twists make for delightful surprises that shall keep you reading until the moment you finish it; during the last seventy pages of the book it is virtually impossible to put it down, as Mark Lawrence manages to entrap the reader by masterfully building a climax which shall capture your attention completely. The final twists of the story will literary leave you gasping for air.

The narrative choice of the author has been carefully studied and designed to give small rations of information to the reader, Mark Lawrence doesn’t fall in the irritating error of many writers who give you all the information you need to know from the very beginning, instead he unravels the story step by step with the precision and timing of a real genius, knowing just which answers give to the reader and in which moments so they are left avid for more. He has chosen to use three timelines to tell this story: The present during the final battle between Jorg and the Prince of Arrow; four year before just three months after the ending of the third book and a third timeline which starts before the ending of Prince of Thorns and is narrated from Katherine´s Point of view in the format of a diary. Each of the three timelines is full with details that unravel the mysteries of the other two.

The characters are one of the strong points of this novel. When we read about them we get the feeling that we are getting to know real human beings, with their imperfections and their qualities. King of Thorns brings us a set of characters much richer than the first book of the saga, that we really get to know and fall in love with as the story advances. Jorg continues being an antihero as dark as they get: cruel, selfish and with a total disregard for the life of others; still he is subjected to an evolution way bigger than that which he experienced on the first book, showing us a rich character full of internal conflicts and with an interesting duality which will be appreciated by the reader. The secondary characters are full of surprises: Katherine and Coddin, both of them much more developed in this second book, are responsible for some of the most touching moments in King of Thorns; Sageous makes for one of the best fantasy villains I have had the pleasure of reading about; though it’s true that he is missing some depth, and the newly introduced characters such as Egan, Orrin, sir Robert or Miala bring new inputs to an already rich story, and will rise in the reader’s esteem as high as the old ones

Sadly, there is also a downside to the narrative in this novel. Some events feel forced and fortuitous, without real need or just not well introduced in the story. Also, some of the solutions Jorg gives to his problems seen improvised on the spot by the author, such as the end of the battle of the Marsh, which is won by a detail that has never been hinted or talked about before or the moment in which Jorg magically produces a false letter that he is supposed to have written months before but which existence we don’t know until the moment that it needs to be used
There are also two characters who are reintroduced in King of Thorns that were hinted death during a Prince of Thorns. Their return seemed to answer more to a necessity of the author to carry on some of the scenes he may have planned than to the real need of the story. We don’t even get to learn how they survived the events of the first book and, in the case of one of them, why would he want to return to Jorg’s side.

Robin Hobb defined this book as “A two-in-the-morning page turner”, well, allow me to add: “Even if next morning you need to wake up at 6”. King of Thorns makes for an intense and interesting reading that shall delight readers who enjoy a good fantasy story. This book has been a real treat from beginning to end keeping me awake until two of the morning for five days I have been reading it and allowing me to enjoy each of the events that built the road to the final and impeccable climax. Mr Lawrence, I take my metaphorical hat off for the second time.

FINAL SCORE: 8/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

Ps: since vacations are at an end, from now on new reviews will take a little longer to be uploaded, but you can be sure they will keep coming this way.

So, here we are, saying good bye to a whole year and preparing ourselves to greet the next one that may come this way, which we certainly hope will come. If a new year doesn’t come, would it be the end of the world? or would we be suspended in a timeless universe just hibernating until 2014 decides to come along? Maybe this has happened before and we just don’t know it! Or maybe we wouldn’t age and, therefore, not die!

Most of us take reckless decisions on New Year, such as promising ourselves we will start doing exercise more often, stop smoking, drink less alcohol (why would you do a thing like that?) or, in my case, start a blog. The idea has been on my head for quite some time already, a blog about those wonderful pieces of universe we call books.

I myself enjoy a good fantasy story, with clear preference for dark fantasy and political fantasy (yes, Game of Thrones is my favorite book, I am not very original when it comes to favorites), but I may from time to time read and comment different genres such as science fiction (right now I find myself reading The Rediscovery of Man) and the odd thriller book that may land on my hands.

So, as my way to saying good bye to this year, I would want to share with you my top five favorite books/ book series that I have had the pleasure of reading. They may have not been published this year.

#5  Empress by Karen Miller

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Dark, thrilling and delightful. Those are the three adjective I would use to describe the fascinating work of Karen Miller. Empress, first book of the Godspeaker trilogy,  tells us the story of a child who becomes the chosen one of a dark, violent god and of how she goes from being a nameless slave to become a ruthless and murderous empress. Deep characters and rich descriptions fill this book with endless wonders that kept me reading from beginning to end, always seeking to know what would happen next. If I must choose a strong point for this book it would be the masterful writing of its main character and her relationships with everyone that surrounds her, especially her relationship with Vortka. You can’t help but understanding Hekat as she struggles to fulfill what she sees as her destiny and that’s the magic of this book, it doesn’t matter what Hekat has done, she will have your sympathy without using the cliché excuses of good intentions and difficult choices that plague many books and movies.

The main weak point of this story, as I feel the need to try to be a little bit objective, is the fact that the book goes through more or less 25 years of the life of Hekat, so of course it focus only in the key moments of the life of its character while others are just mentioned without much details. Sometimes I missed a more in-depth description of some of those moments, specially towards the end, where the entire development of a character that will become a key figure in the trilogy is summarized in a couple of paragraph

Why is it the fifth in a top five? Even though Empress was a real treat to read, the second and third book of the trilogy, The Riven Kingdom and Hammer of God, were kind of a disappointment. That’s not to say they were bad books, nothing farer from reality, but they didn’t reach the level of Empress. Hekat becomes a secondary character and the story is centered in Rhian, a princess struggling to become queen by her own right and not by marriage.

Even though Rhian makes for an interesting character, she is not as charismatic as Hekat. The construction of the character in The Riven Kingdom feels a little bit naïve. Something I have nothing against, but it offers such a contrast with the construction and development of Hekat that makes you wonder if you are really reading the same trilogy. I am not talking about the characters themselves, I am referring to the writing style, much less precise making the characters less human and more an embodiment of an stereotype allowing you to easily predict their actions.

Hammer of God picks up where The Riven Kingdom finishes. The complex character development and how they interact with the world that surrounds them remind us of Empress. Unlike The Riven Kingdom, the impulses feel as if they came from the character, not as if they were forced upon them. In general, this book is almost as delightful as the first one in the trilogy, masterfully building the momentum, step by step, towards the end. Sadly it’s the mentioned ending what prevents this book to be on the same level than Empress. The ending is written rapidly, giving us a small taste of what it could have been, not letting us really have an in-depth intake of the feelings and reactions of the characters toward the enormity of what is happening.

Don’t let my words deceive you. I really enjoyed the three books of this trilogy and would readily recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy story. This three books will provide you with quite an enjoyment, but when it comes to deciding which one would I keep to read over and over again my choice would be, undoubtedly, Empress

#4 Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

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Violent and Dark, Prince of Thorns is one of those odd treats provided by an author who isn’t afraid to offer us something new and risky. We are not talking about a novel who provide us with grey characters in a world where god and evil doesn’t exists, we are talking about a world where evil is real and the main characters embodies it. Welcome to The Prince of Thorns, a book where the main character brutally murders innocents, allows his men to rape women (and does his fair share of raping too), and is prepare to sacrifice or just murder any man he has shared road and friendship with if they dare to second guess him. Oh, and he is one heck of a charismatic little bastard.

Prince of Thorns tells us the story of Jorg Ancrath, a fourteen year old prince who, after a traumatic experience in which he saw his little brother butchered and his mother raped and murdered, he elopes with a band of outlaws and makes of crime and viciousness his trade. Don’t go into this book thinking you are going to find the morally ambiguous but good-hearted company of robbers. The book opens with the mass-murder of an entire village, every man, woman and children murdered by the orders of Jorg.

One of the things I really loved about this book is how Mark Lawrence’s Mastery in writing allows him to unfold a story in which we fall in love with such a gang and with such a main character without making us feel sympathetic towards him. The traumatic experience is just the start point of the character development, not an overused excuse to try to make Jorg more human in our eyes. There are very few books that I have read where the brutality of the characters is showed as in this book, and all of those boks had a strange obsession with redemption or doom. Prince of Thorns is not interested in moral lessons, is not interested in creating a warm fuzzy feeling in the reader’s gut that tells him/her that good has triumph again. This provides fresh air to a genre where few people dare to take risks anymore.

The construction of the characters is delightful, and the author has an amazing sense of timing, knowing exactly how and when to provide small details that endear us to the characters. These shining dots in a sea of darkness, these small details that Jorg remembers about his road brothers from time to time, are what really make the characters human in our eyes and allow them to surprise us. Their decisions, their impulses, are born from within the character and the development of those characters is plausible, it gives us the impression that the author just let story unfold by itself.

Other detail that amazed me was the choice for the age of the main character. Jorg starts the book being thirteen years old. The age of the character and his viciousness offer us a contrast that helps to entrap us inside the story. I take off my metaphorical hat, Mr. Lawrence, you risked and you won. My own experience has left me with the feeling that writing a child is as difficult for an adult as it is for a child to write about a realistic adults. But I didn’t even think of second-guessing the age of the character at any point of the story, there was something in the character that kept reminding us he was just starting to be considered an adult in his society even if he was as charming and as wise as any adult character can be

Finally, I want to acclaim the subtlety of the story. The author doesn’t fall into the irritating habit of explaining every single detail to the readers; he just fills the book with small details, subtle hints and allows the reader to come with an answer by himself, to really discover the story behind the political and historical background inside Prince of Thorns.

Why is it the forth? Firstly because I still have to read the other two books of this trilogy: King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns (They are in my Bookshelf ready to be enjoyed) Recent experiences have left me distrustful of book series endings. I am not talking about the Godspeaker trilogy but about the Inheritance Cycle which I decided to finish reading this year and I still haven’t fully recovered from the experience. Secondly, and I feel I need to find some weak points, is the fact that the ending feels rush in, not in the same sense as Hammer of God. Prince of Thorns offers you a climatic finale that keeps you reading up until the last page. But this ending leaves a lot of questions open. You never know who lives and who dies through the final battle. The action suddenly disappears and we are left with a summary of what happened, which closes the main points but does nothing to satisfy our curiosity for secondary details… I guess I will have to read King of Thorns to find out. Mark Lawrence, you old rogue

#3 The Red Knight by Miles Cameron

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This year I have had the impressive delight to read several debut novels of real promising authors whose careers I shall follow with special attention. Two of those novels have made it into this list: Prince of Thorns and The Red Knight.

As soon as you open this novel you realize Mr. Cameron knows his business. The amount of detail that he puts into each item of the story (the armor, the breed of the horses, the weapons and how do they work) allows you to really submerge into this new world which tells us a story of a war between men and The Wild (home to magical creatures). Though the story allows us to know several points of view, its main focus is in a gang of mercenaries who are trying to protect a convent from an army of the Wild. This men and women remind us of the robbers we met in Prince of Thorns, though a bit more goodhearted they still being brutal outcasts with a liking to battle and money.

This gang, leaded by the young but talented Red Knight, who is the main character of the story, are easy to like and equally easy to mourn. Each has his/her well-defined personality and, while brutal, the have a human side that you grow to appreciate. It’s not only a story of war, it is a story of how men react to it.

What really attracts me of this story is the world where it takes place, the society, which has been carefully designed and feels alive. Its magic has its own rules and they are established, though it is also pointed that humans don’t know the full extent of how it works. This is something that is not common, for we usually get a very limited magic system in which the options and consequences are defined to the reader. Here we learn the magic system as the author unveils it for us, but we don’t have the sensation that he is improvising it.

As Mark Lawrence, Miles Cameron doesn’t give us every answer and doesn´t let us know everything from the beginning. The Red Knight is a mystery to us during most of the book, and that adds a little spice to keep us reading until the very end

#2 Hawkwood and the Kings by Paul Kearney

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The first volume of The Monarchies of God offer us a wide and rich story filled with subplots and additional information that create a wonderful world that pulls you into the pages of this delightful piece of art.

Hawkwood and the Kings contains Hawkwood´s Voyage and The Heretic Kings, the first two books of The Monarchies of God series. And they center in three separate plots: Captain Hawkwood arduous journey to reach a continent which no one has heard from, the fight of three kings against the tyranny of a corrupted pontiff even under the threat of excommunication and the discovery of two monks, which could change the world forever.

In the mist of those three stories we find a world that breathes, that lives. We get the impression that we are just reading a small portion a thousand of years of history. This world didn’t begin with the first page and doesn’t finish on the last, it lives on. And that is something I have learn to appreciate.

The characters are complex, hard to predict and all of them ready to surprise you. Paul Kearney’s detail on secondary characters matches George R. R. Martin´s and Steven Erikson’s own. Even the smallest character has something to tell you. They, as the world they live in, are alive, and react to the circumstances they are given. Nothing in them looks forced just for the plot’s sake. All the changes each character experiments give us a sensation of harmony with the action that can only be found in the greatest authors.

The stories unfold with an amazing sense of timing, each detail is given when is due, there is not rush but neither doe the author slow the pace too much. He keeps his writing active, original, fresh and surprising through 702 pages of the book. Furthermore, the ending leaves you in a tremendous cliffhanger which I can’t wait to unravel on the next book of the series

#1 The Crippled God by Steven Erikson

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As I said before, certain experiences have left me distrustful of long running book series. So imagine my terror when I picked up and purchased the last book of The Malazan Book of the Fallen, a fantasy book series of ten books which have accompanied me through my whole college experience.

I finished reading it and it was so good that no other book as been able to fill the hole that this series has left in my heart. Not many books can keep you reading from beginning to end, forcing you to commit every little bit of free time you find on your hands into unraveling its mysteries, especially when said books are more than 1100 pages long. Well, the Crippled God has that gift. It is the no-so-secret fantasy of every adept reader, to find a book series which its grand finale makes you cry.

It is difficult to talk about the Crippled God to people who haven’t read the other nine books that come before. But I will try to give an overview

As with Paul Kearney, Steven Erikson’s world is alive. The story takes us all over a continent plus several dimensions from which the mages draw their powers. This continent has deserts, ruins, oceans, kingdoms and nomadic people, all of them put together so beautifully that you could be reading history instead of a work of fiction. All feels so natural that you really allow it to surround you and pull you into the story. Steven Erikson has even composed poems, songs and created quotes by which he opens every one of his chapters.

The characters are not heroes; individually they are not worth more than any human being. Even the most badass characters need to team up to achieve their goals and here lies the real magic of the book. The main character is the Malazan Army, the collective being that all those men and women who we meet during the book and learned to love form.  We learn about it from numerous points of views, such as the soldiers, officials, the quartermaster and their allies and we come to love it as a whole. By the end of the book it doesn’t matter who survive and who doesn’t. It is no longer the army you knew, it has achieved its purpose of existence and therefore it disintegrates, and you mourn for it.

There are probably more than a hundred characters in this book and all their backstories have been carefully designed to fit their behavior. There are not two characters that are alike, none of them respond to stereotypes, making them human, with their qualities and their faults and also with their fragilities and the terror that knowing they can die at any moment gives the reader. You think George R. R. Martin is a sadistic, heartless murderer? Steven Erikson kills in one of his books as many characters and Martin has killed in the complete A Song of Ice and Fire series. And you mourn almost every single one of them, even if you hated them when they were alive. Those small details, in my opinion, shows the mark of a talented writer who is capable of really make the reader become involved with his characters.

Also the timing to show us their back story is perfect. He waits until the precise moment where it will really affect us readers, not necessarily the old Death-moment-cliché, but other more subtle moments which allows us to really sympathize with the suffering of the character we are getting to know. Which is another little trick Mr. Erikson seems to have mastered, we never finish knowing the character. They surprise us until the last page, doesn´t matter if they are new characters or if we have known them from the very beginning of the story. This surprise is positive, it is something that really comes out of the character and is not forced upon it by the author, Mr. Erikson has created beings that after ten books are capable of surprising us and he has earned my respect and devotion for that

These are my top five for the year. There has been many other books in 2013 and some of them are really up there, on the top, with those five fabulous books, such as The Dragon Reborn (from the Wheel of time), Valiant or Red Country. I plan to continue posting reviews of future books I read. The next one, The Rediscovery of man should be up quite soon

¡Hasta entonces!