Ranger's Apprentice-- The Ruins of Gorlan: John Flanagan's bestselling YA fantasy begins strong, showing he has the writing chops for anything. The story (a boy named Will is rejected from Battleschool, but is taken on as the apprentice of a Ranger) would break under the weight of cliche if Flanagan wasn't such a good writer. The third person omniscient viewpoint is used to dangerous effect here as well, switching from character to character sometimes after only a few paragraphs. Once again, this would fail if Flanagan was any worse than he is. But John Flanagan is a fantastic writer, and with Ranger's Apprentice he has created a world we want to return to in the sequel, The Burning Bridge. This series deserves all the publicity it gets.
My rating: 8.5/10
The Pit Dragon Chronicles-- Dragon's Heart: Jane Yolen has done the impossible. She has returned to her Pit Dragon trilogy of books (written in the 1980s!) for one last story, set immediately after A Sending of Dragons. Jakkin and Akki return home after a year in the hands of the murderous Trogs, with several dragons and secrets in tow. Akki wants to go to the Rokk to research the incredible change that came over them at the end of Heart's Blood (Book 2), attempting to ensure the information doesn't fall into the wrong hands. But when she sees a familiar and frightening face, she is kidnapped, and it is up to Jakkin to save her. All of the characters from the original Pit Dragon Trilogy return. Many have revelations. Others are killed off, something Yolen rarely did in the original trilogy. And this book gives a better ending to the series, which had ended too abruptly at the close of Sending. Finally, the encyclopedia entry at the end of the book serves as the perfect epilogue, giving a lot of fun facts away if you're paying attention. This is something I thought I'd never see, and now that I've read it, I can't help but wonder how the series did without it in the first place.
My rating: 10/10
Series rating: 9/10
The First Law Trilogy-- The Blade Itself: Joe Abercrombie bursts onto the scene with a wonderful debut novel. It's really quite impossible to talk about the story, but what really shines in this novel are the characters. There's Logen Ninefingers (or the Bloody-Nine), a barbarian who's been in one scrape too many. There's Jezal dan Luthar, a snobbish nobleman who only cares about winning this year's tournament. There's Inquisitor Glokta, the most intriguing and sympathetic torturer I may have ever seen. And there's Bayaz, First of the Magi, who brings them all together. The minor characters are both numerous and fleshed-out. This is the start of a trilogy in the vein of George R. R. Martin, bold, frank, and ruthless, and it is captivating right from the first chapter (The End). It's impossible to put down, and definately in contention for my "Best Debut" category this year.
My rating: 9.5/10
P.S. : In other news, Patrick Rothfuss has just returned from a trip to Europe, and The Wise Man's Fear is in manuscript form. Here's a size comparison:
Coming Soon: Blaze, The Dark Half, and Duma Key (a Stephen King special)