The Geomancer


RobWillReview: Counting Down My 11 Favorite Books of 2010

RobWillReview has just posted his year in round up. "Counting Down My 11 Favorite Books of 2010" has a whopping five titles.

The Office of ShadowMatthew Sturges places at #11 with The Office of Shadow. Rob writes:
"The Office of Shadow is the fantasy equivalent of cold-war-set spy-fi, detailing espionage occurring in Titania’s Seelie Kingdom as a means of protecting her people and lands from the wrath of the Unseelie Queen, Mab, and her weapon of mass destruction, the Einswrath....Through The Office of Shadow‘s fantasy construct, Sturges manages to examine a number of issues that affect our world, including nuclear weapons, the concept of mutually assured destruction, terrorism, and a needless war inspired by greed, not to mention a number of philosophical questions about such things as what defines a person, but what is most impressive about it is how he manages to never allow the parallels to seem heavy-handed or overwrought, through a combination of dazzling invention and meticulous, layered character development that keeps these fascinating people–or Fae, rather–from ever feeling flat or merely symbolic.  His Faerie–each different place and culture within it–is such a fully realized, magical dimension that it consistently transcends being a simple parallel for our world.  It comments on our world–on our wars, on our religion, on our mythology–but it is very much its own place."
Tome of the Undergates (The Aeons' Gate, Book 1)Sam Sykes' Tome of the Undergates comes in at #9:
"...most advance buzz I read seemed to revolve around its extended battle sequences, its grittiness, its pirates and sea monsters, and its dark and at least slightly warped sense of humor that includes references to bodily functions of various sorts. What has been getting less attention, as far as I’ve noticed, however, is how gorgeous Sykes’ prose can be.  There are passages here of astounding beauty–sometimes serious, sometimes funny, sometimes deliciously purple, sometimes all of these things at once–and the fact that they are sometimes accompanied by fart jokes makes them no less beautiful.  Even some of the fart jokes are delivered with rare eloquence.  Part of Tome of the Undergates‘ brilliance is that it can be epic, crude, dark, silly, scary, violent, and surprisingly tender–often many of these things at once–without ever collapsing in on itself.  In some respects, it reminded me of Farscape, constantly navigating between high, operatic fantasy and naughty indulgences, each aspect of which seems to strengthen the other by keeping it in check.  The former never becomes too self-important or pompous, as the genre can be in less skilled hands, because the latter consistently brings it down to earth, while the latter is somehow afforded a respectability it might not otherwise have thanks to the epic plot in which Our Heroes find themselves embroiled. ...Tome of the Undergates captures the extremes of high and low fantasy and does both aspects better than most.  I am more than stoked for the second tome."
The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire, Book 1)The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire Book One) by Clay and Susan Griffith, ranks # 7:
"I decided to read this novel, because I found the synopsis on the back cover intriguing, but it didn’t quite prepare me for how deeply in love with this book I would fall.  It has elements of alternate history, steampunk, war, politics, satire, adventure, action, graphic novel, romance, horror, suspense, and more, and yet all of these well-worn elements join together in a manner that is completely unique.  The pacing is perfect, the character development stunning, and the narrative twists and turns superb.  It also has an appealingly sly sense of humor that manages to infuse even its darkest sections with humanity and warmth.  It succeeds on every level and seems to invent whole new ones.  If you’ve grown tired of vampires and/or steampunk, The Greyfriar is the paradoxical cure for what ails you–a vampire steampunk novel that makes both genres feel shiny and new again."

The Silver Skull (Swords of Albion Book 1)The Silver Skull by Mark Chadbourn at #6:

"Faeries.  British Folklore.  Alternate Elizabethan History.  Magic.  Spies.  Political Intrigue.  Christopher Marlowe. If these fantastic components weren’t enough to get me excited about reading The Silver Skull, the first novel in the new Swords of Albion trilogy, the fact that Mark Chadbourn is the author sealed the deal.  An expert on British mythology and folklore, he is a master not only at crafting brilliant fantasy novels with complex characters and nail-biting suspense but ones which demonstrate the breadth of his knowledge without condescension or awkward exposition. Chadbourn is the rare sort of author who can layer a novel with history and mythology, teaching the reader a great deal along the way, without seeming as if he is delivering a lecture or lesson.  The information flows with the natural rhythms of dialogue.  His stories are rich from a plotting, characterization, mythological, and even philosophical standpoint, but he also never forgets that a good story’s first priority must be to entertain and then to enlighten."
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack (Burton & Swinburne in)Mark Hodder's The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack at #3:
"...a dazzling work of steampunk that introduces one of the cleverest twists to the subgenre I have seen yet–the explanation for what paved the way in this universe for steam technology, among other innovations, to be invented is gobsmackingly fantastic.  Furthermore, these other innovations include such extremely witty satire on modern science and plastic surgery as eugenics experiments being performed on animals and humans to make them more efficient, and a forerunner to modern-day botox that inorganically and poorly staves off the effects of aging, reducing peoples’ faces to frightfully immovable masks....I’ve never read anything quite like The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack before, and my guess is that neither have you.  Imagine the best time travel story you’ve ever read crossed with the greatest B-movie ever filmed crossed with one of the most intelligently crafted, richly detailed alternate histories ever composed crossed with any number of oddball delights and shrewd political and social satire to boot, and you might have some idea of how ingenious this novel is, but even then you might have a hard time guessing how it can possibly all be tied together with such complex metaphor, grace, ingenuity, and depth."
Given how much Rob reads, I'd say 5 out of 11 is pretty impressive!

Guess I'll have to update my Best of 2010 post yet again!

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