The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit

By: J.R.R. Tolkien

Synopsis: Whisked away from his comfortable hobbit-hole by Gandalf the wizard and a band of dwarves, Bilbo Baggins finds himself caught up in a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon…

Format: The Hobbit is the prequel to the Lord of the Rings series. It follows the adventure of Bilbo Baggins as he grows from humble homebody to the barrel-riding burglar of the Lonely Mountain. My edition was printed in 1999 by HarperCollinsPublishers.  It is 310 pages long.

My Thoughts: What can you say about this book that is not positive? This book, as well as the Lord of the Rings, literally redefined the fantasy genre. This book at once takes you away on a magical journey, yet leaves you with the feeling that everything that happens in it is real and true. Despite the dangers in the world of Middle-Earth, you yearn to be there and experience this world in-person. You wish to meet these characters, face to face, and have long discussions about anything with them.

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I really like The Hobbit. This was the book that brought me into the fantasy world (one I haven’t left since!). The characters feel like family to me. As I picture myself having created a novel, I always wish I would have written something half as compelling as this book.

I know the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have been adapted into movies (I watch them often) but please, read this book. Not only is it better than the movies, it is also better than the movies! If you want an adventure involving the noble battle of good versus evil, with epic heroes and terror-inspiring villains, this is the book for you. This book will make you feel like you have learned something while dreaming. If you want more information about this just do a quick google search. They use this book to teach in schools for crying out loud!

Check it out and let me know if you loved it as much as I have!!

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The King’s Bastard By Rowena Cory Daniells

The King’s Bastard

By: Rowena Cory Daniells

Synopsis: Only seven minutes younger than Rolencia’s heir, Byren has never hungered for the throne. He laughs when a seer predicts that he will kill his twin. But the royal heir resents Byren’s growing popularity. Across the land the untamed magic of the gods wells up out of the earth’s heart. It sends exotic creatures to stalk the wintry nights and it twists men’s minds, granting them terrible visions. Those so touched are sent to the Abbey to control the gift, or die. At King Rolen’s court enemies plot to take his throne, even as secrets within his own household threaten to tear his family apart.

Format: The King’s Bastard is the first novel in the King Rolen’s Kin trilogy. It introduces us to the royal family of Rolencia, after a long period of peace, as the court intrigues begin taking darker turns. My copy is 640 pages long, and was printed in 2014 by Solaris.

My Thoughts: Honestly, this was a book that I had purchased long ago because the synopsis was intriguing, then I forgot I had purchased it! It sat on the shelves, patiently waiting its turn for my attention. Now that I have read it, I regret waiting so long. Strongly, strongly regret. This book manages to keep you in suspense even when it is introducing you to the world and the people in it. There is a beautiful tension that keeps building throughout the book, even into the last pages. I literally could not put this book down. The characters were fascinating. Even the ones doing “evil” things were compelling and felt like whole people.

I fully believe everyone thinks they are the good guys. And the interesting thing about this book is that one of the characters you follow closely shows all of the traits of being the good guy. Not ambitious, or greedy, this character (Byren) just wants to help his family and friends. The more evil characters conspire to use that against him, and it really shows how much you feel for a character when you get the same reaction to the scenario as the character. That is truly masterfully written.

Another interesting dynamic is the magic in the world. Being touched by the gods, or gaining Affinity, is not seen as a good thing. In the kingdom of Rolencia it means you either go to an Abbey or you leave the country forever. Having magi almost becomes a weakness, and is seen as a fault in the characters that do have it.

A really good, one-word, description for this book is intriguing. A lot of the elements of this book are intriguing, as well as the story keeps you curious and in suspense. If you have not read this book, or have not heard of it, you have no more excuses! Go and pick it up now!

Let me know what you think of it in the comments!

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Gunslinger

By: Stephen King

Synopsis: On my edition, there is no synopsis. There is a fantastic introduction by Stephen King, and a foreword. Both of these features really add to the novel, and I recommend reading them! As for a homemade synopsis, The Gunslinger introduces us to Roland Deschain and his pursuit for the Dark Tower. So we join Roland as he introduces us to a world that has moved on, and things routinely go from straightforward to downright weird in a matter of seconds.

Format: The Gunslinger is the first book in The Dark Tower series. I have a revised and expanded edition, whereas before my edition was released there was a previous edition. My copy is 300 pages long, and was published in 2003 by Signet.

My Thoughts: If you have never read any Stephen King novels, and are looking for something great to start with, I am hard pressed to recommend this book more. I have read other works of Stephen King, and this is still my favourite series. Stephen King is known for horror, and this definitely has dark and gruesome elements, but it is more of an adventure than a horror.

Don’t get me wrong, reading this can leave you feeling slightly disgusted or scared at what the characters are doing or what the characters are facing. There are some situations in this book (and they get a bit darker as the series progresses) that assault the senses. Especially if you are sensitive to these things. However, everyone feels so real in this book. You can understand why Roland acts the way he does, and all of the situations in this book fit the characters and fit the world. The characters mention that the world has moved on, basically their world is ending, and we get to watch the last remaining pieces fight over what is left. It is truly a fascinating look into an apocalyptic situation.

The great thing about this novel is the way the author can anticipate what you think will happen, and do something different. The twists and turns that happen throughout the story keep you reading until you are done the book, whether you wanted to after the first chapter or not! Highly, highly recommend this book and series!!

Tell me what you think in the comments!

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Assassin’s Apprentice

By: Robin Hobb

Synopsis: Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated as an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz’s blood runs the magic Skill – and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family. As barbarous raiders ravage the coast, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.

Format: Assassin’s Apprentice is the first book in the Farseer Trilogy. This book introduces us to Fitz, a young bastard who it to train to be an assassin for the King. Despite all who oppose him, Fitz appears bent on living up to the expectations set out by the King. My copy is 435 pages long, and was published in 2014 by Del Ray. The book was originally published in 1995.

My Thoughts: To summarize how I feel about this book, it really gets stuck in your head. Upon finishing the book I couldn’t stop thinking about the story, the characters, and the magic in this book. It really is a breathtaking novel, and a grand introduction to the trilogy and fantasy in general.

The plot of this book while keep you reading until long after you should have been asleep. You have a variety of motives for each character, that can change the course of the story on the drop of a dime. It appears through the story that everyone is out to get Fitz, and he only develops closely with a few people. He feels easily betrayed, and takes his time trusting people due to the circumstances of his birth, but then he gets his ideas smashed by someone’s actions later on.  King Shrewd attempts to keep Fit loyal through his scheme to make him an assassin, but only truly succeeds in keeping him close to the royal family. It is the characters in the keep, through their thoughts and actions, that keep Fitz loyal. The plot feels organic, like you are watching a group of people as an invisible spectator, and their choices are drastically changing what is happening. This feeling leaves you on the edge of your seat, as your guesses on what is happening in the story can be wrong at any time.

There are only a few people in this world that can use magic, and Fitz happens to be one of them. This is an interesting development for all, and many would feel better if he did not have this ability. I will not give anything away, but the magic in this book is quite enthralling, it feels almost logical. Like it could happen in our world. It is almost like if you were to reach out in a certain way, it would be there to help you. This is one of the reasons I love this book, the stuff that makes that world interesting seems like it could fit in our world, and this concept leaves me lost in thought upon finishing the book, as well as giving me the greatest pleasure when re-reading or reading the next book in the trilogy. Truly fantastic writing, I highly recommend it!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!!

The Innocent Mage by Karen Miller

The Innocent Mage

By: Karen Miller

Synopsis: Being a fisherman like his father isn’t a bad life, but it’s not the one that Asher wants. Despite his humble roots, Asher has grand dreams. And they call him to Dorana, home of princes, beggars, and the warrior mages who have protected the kingdom for generations. Little does Asher know, however, that his arrival int he city is being closely watched by members of the Circle, people dedicated to preserving an ancient magic. Asher might have come to the city to make his fortune, but he will find his destiny.

Format: The Innocent Mage is the first book in the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker series. This book follows the journey of Asher as he attempts to make enough money to fund his dream life. Throughout this story that goal disappears as he gets caught up in event after event that slowly change whom he is. My copy is 640 pages, printed in 2007 by Orbit.

My Thoughts: This is not a fantasy book as some of the other books are on this list. In this book you are taking a character from the country, and learning of his adventures in the capital of the kingdom. While that description may seem bland, this is an amazing book. Like, go get the next book in the series before you have finished this one good.

The overall kingdom is smaller than some of the previous books I have reviewed, and this lends a specificity to the creation of the world that can sometimes lack otherwise. For example, in the capital city of Dorana some of the streets are individually described, as are some of the journeys through the countryside. You can’t beat the descriptive style of the prose, nor the imagery evoked for the reader. You will truly feel as if you are there.

The characters feel real, each of them having ideas about where their lives will take them, and honest reactions when those ideas get smashed. However, one of my favourite parts of the book is the 2 different peoples in the book. There are the Doranen and the Olken. The Doranen are the mages that feel entitled to rule. The Olken are the peasant class that are forbidden to use magic, and run the basic industries to allow the kingdom to function. While both peoples in this book are happy with the arrangement, you run into characters who despise the other people, and it definitely adds flavour to an already excellent plot.

The history of the world is also a major factor in the plot, and it is so well developed that it feels like it could have happened in real life. Not only is there an origin story for the kingdom, things that happened a generation or two ago are having direct impacts on the current plot and goings on of the kingdom. Add to that peoples rivalries and ambitions, and this book is truly enjoyable.

So please, read this book, and let me know what you think about it!

Homeland by R.A. Salvatore

Homeland

By: R.A. Salvatore

Synopsis: Station is the paradox of the world of my people, the limitation of our power within the hunger for power. It is gained through treachery and invites treachery against those who gain it. Those most powerful in Menzoberranzan spend their days watching over their shoulders, defending against the daggers that would find their backs. Their deaths usually come from the front.

                                                                                – Drizzt Do’Urden

Format: Homeland is the first book in the Dark Elf Trilogy, which is part of the larger series called The Legend of Drizzt. This book details the birth and raising of Drizzt Do’Urden, and the culture of the Drow. My copy is 343 pages long, and was printed in 2005 by Wizards of the Coast Inc.

My Thoughts: Let me get a quick admission out of the way. I have read a book with Drizzt Do’Urden in it before. I lied, I have read almost all of them. He is literally one of my favourite characters of all time. In this book, we get introduced to him as he is growing up and learning his place in his world, the Underdark. He has a great weapons teacher eventually, but most of his lessons come from the females in his family, and let us just say they are a little…formidable.

Despite the poisonous culture he is raised in, and through many hardships, Drizzt is able to maintain his beliefs, that run so counter to his culture, and begin a life he will eventually be proud of. While you cannot go wrong with any of the books in this series, the thing I like about Homeland, and why I return to read it, is more than just the character growth. While he is growing you can read about some of his internal thoughts and regrets, and some monologues that describe many differing ideologies in different cultures. Drizzt truly gains an ability to look at other cultures from a perspective that differs from the one he was raised with. He is able to objectively examine his actions and his peoples’ actions and determine if they were the moral ones or not. Definitely a fan of that!

This book also details an underground culture, the Dark Elves, and the fabulous and deadly beauty of their city and customs. This is a fully formed culture in an unchanging and bleak environment. This culture has mastered their surroundings, and is truly fascinating to learn of this world that is so different from ones we are used to.

I read this book for the first time after already being exposed to Drizzt in some of his later adventures. It was a very interesting read as it took a character who was this awe-inspiring figure, and brought him to his basic levels. This taught me that it takes work to develop into something amazing, you aren’t just born this way. For a younger man that was quite a lesson. However, if this is your first introduction to Drizzt, I believe it will be a very powerful one that will inspire the love I have for him in you as well. Honestly, get reading this book!

Let me know what you think in the comments!

The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker

The Darkness That Comes Before

By: R. Scott Bakker

Synopsis: Two thousand years have passed since Mog-Pharau, the No-God, last walked among Men. Two thousand years have passed since the Apocalypse. In a world wrenched by holy war and devastation, a sorcerer, a concubine, and a warrior find themselves captivated by a mysterious traveller from lands long thought dead, a man who makes weapons of insight and revelation. Unable to distinguish the passion that elevates from the passion that enslaves, they fall ever deeper under his thrall, while what begins as a war of Men against Men threatens to become the first battle of the Second Apocalypse.

Format: The Darkness That Comes Before is the first book in The Prince of Nothing trilogy. That trilogy is part of the larger Second Apocalypse series. This book introduces Kellhus, Achamian, and Esmenet in a world on the brink of Holy War. My copy is 622 pages long, published in 2004 by Penguin Canada.

My Thoughts: This book has changed the way I think. In the beginning of the book you are introduced to the concept of cause and effect. A relatively simple concept to grasp. However, the characters who study this have grasped the true meanings of that concept so deeply they can understand how the world around them will change before the changes even begin. This leads to great advancements of those characters agendas, as other people with the lack of this knowledge cannot help but be manipulated. I found this a fascinating concept, and quite an excellent diversion into something that appears magical, but is inherently logical instead.

Speaking of magic, this world contains many types of sorcerous “schools” all of which regular people consider blasphemous. In an interesting twist, these sorcerers can be virtually godlike in their power, but are still limited by other forms of authority like the kings and emperors around them.

Probably my favourite part of this book is the characters though. Each one has deep flaws, that are eventually ruthlessly exploited. None of the characters in this book are considered “good” or consider themselves to be good. They all have flaws that make them appear to be so real. Once the evil in this book is truly revealed, it is almost hard to distinguish the “bad” guys from the “good” guys, as each group is moving after their own goals in similar fashions. If you read the book you will notice obvious differences between the good and bad, but I am not giving things away in a review.

Finally, I found this book makes you consider what is going on in the world today from a different perspective. Instead of “[insert cause] is good and everything else is bad!” You get the idea that people are working towards what they think is right, regardless of whether that is an efficient or beneficial way. It makes you ponder the extent of your own ignorance (do you act any different than the others around you?) and if people are truly as dark as this book can make them out to be. I highly recommend this book and series, especially if you like your fantasy books to get you thinking!

Let me know what you think below!