I've been thinking about doing a post or two (or three) like this for a long time and at this point I'm just tired of thinking about it, so here goes. I always have something I am reading, occasionally something baseball or some kind of computer/technical manual, but more often than not I am reading some sort of DnD-type fantasy story. There are certainly enough of them in print these days and I do enjoy wandering the halls of my local brick and mortar book store where I can peruse the front and back cover, read the blurb, and maybe take a risk and try something that might appeal to me. These are some authors and books I have come across over the past few years that I have taken a chance on and have really enjoyed. Caveat: I don't necessarily know what's good literature but I do know what I like, so buyer beware.
I just finished Theft of Swords by Michael Sullivan and just started the second book of the Riyria Revelations trilogy, Rise of Empire. It looked interesting, it read well, so I picked it up a few weeks ago. Each book of the trilogy consists of two smaller books. The books are a very easy read and the author uses a light touch with his writing style. The main protagonists bicker and pun much like any good game night group, and the author does a good job of closing out each of the smaller stories while still leaving plenty of red meat for the next portion of the story to feed off of.
In most stories of almost any genre you usually know who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, and you know there will be some surprises along the way as the story takes you from beginning to end. After about 100 pages into the first book I still wasn't sure who the good guys were, or who the bad guys were, and every time I thought I had it figured out I was quickly proven wrong. By this time there were so many false leads out there I didn't know what to believe so even as the different story lines began to coalesce I was still never 100% sure who the bad guys were until almost the very end. As I have moved deeper into the series I now know who the bad guys are ... no, no, I really don't.
Patrick Rothfuss has completed the first two books of the Kingkiller Chronicle Trilogy, The Name of the Wind, and The Wise Man's Fear, and I eagerly await the conclusion sometime in the next year or two. Similar to the previous books the first book of the series looked interesting so I took a chance. After sitting down and starting to read the first book I was at first unimpressed. It was kind of slow, ponderous, mysterious, and I wasn't sure it was ever going to go anywhere. The next thing I knew I was coming to the realization that I was at page 600 and there was so much that I still wanted to know and that the mystery wouldn't be resolved in the final 30 pages ... and that I would have to wait about a year for the second book to be released (mid-2011).
When the time came I re-read the first book and then dutifully bought the second and plunged right in and was not disappointed. The author writes in a deeply immersing style that sucked me in and made me feel like I was right there along side the characters in the story. But even at the end of the second book there was still so much left unexplained. Exactly who is the girl, and why does she keep showing up wherever our hero is and then disappearing again? Is she just a repeating character, or is she part of the larger plot? There are a lot of open threads still dangling out there and I eagerly await the conclusion.
Another author I really like is Joe Abercrombie. Many of the DnD-type books fall into the category of "high fantasy" ... the heroes kill the evil villain and save the day kind of stories. Not these books. These books consist of more of a "low fantasy" type of story in that every vice known to man is encountered, often repeatedly. Backstabbing, black mail, plotting, scheming, double-crossing, lying, stealing, torture, cheating, murder and assassination, religious zealotry, anti-religious zealotry, ignorance, mud, blood, and guts. Did I mention murder? And then once the story moved out of the houses of nobility it really got rough.
But as foul as the people of the story are it really was a rollicking good read. I picked up the first book of the First Law trilogy, The Blade Itself, and didn't put it down until I finished it, at which point I picked the second book (Before They Are Hanged) and eventually the third book (The Last Argument of Kings) and did the same. I was surprised at how well the author could keep me interested with characters that were so contemptible but for all the heavy veil of corruption he managed to maintain a steady writing style that provided the level of background and humor that kept me riveted to the pages.
The author has produced two more books, Best Served Cold and Heroes, both stand-alone books from the same story setting and using many of the same characters from the First Law trilogy. I must say that by the time I finished these two stories I was tired of sloughing through the muck though. Cruel, foul characters with no redeeming characteristics can only go so far I guess, at least until his next book comes out.
And yes, I am aware of the confusing dichotomy of my personal insistence on buying books at a brick and mortar store but then providing Amazon.com links in this post. Alas poor Borders, I knew them well.