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!

Talon of the Silver Hawk by Raymond E. Feist

Talon of the Silver Hawk

By: Raymond E. Feist

Synopsis: Evil has come to a distant land high among the snow-capped mountains of Midkemia, as an exterminating army wearing the colours of the Duke of Olasko razes village after village, slaughtering men, women, and children without mercy. And when the carnage is done, only one survivor remains: a young boy named Kieli. A youth no longer, there is now but one road for him to travel: the path of vengeance. And he will not be alone. Under the tutelage of the rescuers who discovered him, Kieli will be molded into a sure and pitiless weapon. And he will accept the destiny that has been chosen for him… as Talon of the Silver Hawk. But the prey he so earnestly stalks is hunting him as well. And Talon must swear allegiance to a shadowy cause that already binds his mysterious benefactors – or his mission, his honour, and his life will be lost forever.

Format: Talon of the Silver Hawk is the first book in the Conclave of Shadows trilogy, which is part of the larger Riftwar Cycle. My copy is 374 pages long, and follows Talon of the Silver Hawk on his transformation from a young boy in a mountain village, to the beginning of his vengeance. It was first printed in 2003 by Eos.

My Thoughts: This is a truly fantastic introduction to Raymond E. Feist’s work if you have not read any of his other works. It demonstrates his fantastic ability to create realistic characters with real emotions and motives. The characters in any of the Riftwar Cycle are all very complex. However, nothing compares to Talon’s character arc in my mind. Talon started out as a young boy that already had some remarkable qualities, yet through the crucible of suffering he is forged into something much greater. Yet despite the fantastic things he encounters, Talon never loses sight of his true self, and his true goals. This is what I find makes him a remarkable character.

Another thought if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of the Riftwar Cycle, the worldbuilding that occurred for Midkemia is astonishing. Midkemia has fully formed cultures, which influence political climates and characters lives, as well as functioning economies and trade pathways to various parts of the world. Combine this level of detail with the influence from other planets in this universe as well as magic and you have a world that is startlingly realistic and still magical and amazing.

As for this particular book, you have everything you could possibly want in a story. A strong plot purposely avoiding the use of magic, to a character who must plot an improbable vengeance. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, even though it is the first book in the trilogy and gives you a lot of background information so you can understand Talon’s world of intrigue.

While I don’t want to appear like I am begging, but you need to read this book. I love it, you will love it, everyone loves it! Do yourself a favour and read this book!

Leave any thoughts you have on this book below!

ShadowMarch by Tad Williams

Shadowmarch

By: Tad Williams

Synopsis: For generations the misty Shadowline has marked the boundary between the lands of men and the lost northern lands that are the lair of their inhuman enemies, the ageless Qar. But now that boundary line is moving outward, threatening to engulf the northernmost land in which humans still live – the kingdom of Southmarch.

For centuries the Eddon family has ruled in ancient, forbidding Southmarch Castle, guarding the border against the Qar’s return, but now this powerful royal line has been dealt a devastating blow. The monarch, King Olin, is being held captive in a distant land, and it falls to his inexperienced heirs to lead their people in a time of growing danger and dread.

It is on the two youngest Eddons that the heaviest burdens fall. The twins Barrick and Briony, who in such evil times have only each other, may lose even that bond as darkness closes over them. As the Qar’s power reaches out across their land, will Southmarch Castle, the only home they’ve ever known, become in fact what it has long been called – Shadowmarch?

Format: Shadowmarch is the first book in the Shadowmarch series. It is 762 pages long, and follows a compelling cast of characters through great upheaval. It was first published in 2006 by DAW Books Inc.

My Thoughts: Well first, and most important, WOW. This book is as compelling as they come. You get to follow a cast of characters as their world is changing, and not necessarily for the better. Each of these characters is interesting and relatable, and has wants and desires that change how they act and interpret actions of the other characters. You get to watch multiple characters grow in response to their changing environment, and it makes everything seem so real!

To continue the realism, Tad Williams is just descriptive enough to really let you imagine the world he has created, while always maintaining the suspense of the plot. I honestly felt like I have been to Southmarch, and that is pretty amazing! The differing peoples in this book are intriguing, as is the use of more esoteric items and magic, but none of them are a crutch to hold a slow plot. No, not at all. The plot is what will keep you awake at night reading this book. You will be left breathless, aching to know what happens next, yet also slightly dreading it. In a masterful twist, Tad Williams lets us connect to his characters, and then slowly makes us worry for their well-being.

My favourite part of this book however, is it almost felt like I was reading a historical account of what happened in a far off land. Obviously, there is some perspective differences between an actual historical account and this book, but I just felt so connected with the place and the characters it felt real. Very exciting and enthralling, and I recommend having the next book in the series, Shadowplay, easily available for when you have finished Shadowmarch!

Let me know your thoughts on this book below!