All You Need Is Love – 25 Perfect Love Quotes In Fantasy

aion_love_by_nitro_killer-992x591

Fantasy art by Sergey Lesiuk, Ukraine.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. Fantasy books are not usually considered the best places to look for love. With the constant sword fights, dragons, and grim dark plot lines there is often not a lot of room for love. However, there are still tons of instances of beautiful affection to be found if you know where to look. To celebrate the holiday of love I have compiled a list of 25 of my favorite quotes from fantasy that express love to use on your significant other (or to acquire one). All of them are guaranteed to cause hearts to explode with affection and increase the happiness of all involved. I hope it brings a little bit of love to each and everyone of you, and have a wonderful day.

  • “Love is not about conquest. The truth is a man can only find true love when he surrenders to it. When he opens his heart to the partner of his soul and says: “Here it is! The very essence of me! It is yours to nurture or destroy.” -David Gemmell, Lord of the Silver Bow
  • “You are the harbor of my soul’s journeying.” -Guy Gavriel Kay, Tigana
  • “Quit being so hard on yourself. We are what we are; we love what we love. We don’t need to justify it to anyone… not even to ourselves.” -Scott Lynch, The Republic of Thieves
  • “At first glance, the key and the lock it fits may seem very different. Different in shape, different in function, different in design. The man who looks at them without knowledge of their true nature might think them opposites, for one is meant to open, and the other to keep closed. Yet, upon closer examination he might see that without one, the other becomes useless. The wise man then sees that both lock and key were created for the same purpose.” -Brandon Sanderson, The Well of Ascension
  • “In many ways, unwise love is the truest love. Anyone can love a thing because. That’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite. To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.” -Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear
  • “I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
  • “And he took her in his arms and kissed her under the sunlit sky, and he cared not that they stood high upon the walls in the sight of many.” ―J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
  • “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” -Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
  • “You have made a place in my heart where I thought there was no room for anything else. You have made flowers grow where I cultivated dust and stones.” -Robert Jordan, Shadow Rising
  • “Love doesn’t sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all of the time, made new.” -Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven
  • “There is a primal reassurance in being touched, in knowing that someone else, someone close to you, wants to be touching you. There is a bone-deep security that goes with the brush of a human hand, a silent, reflex-level affirmation that someone is near, that someone cares.” -Jim Butcher, White Knight
  • “It was well for him, with his chivalry and mysticism, to make the grand renunciation. But it takes two to make love, or to make a quarrel. She was not an insensate piece of property to be taken up or laid down at his convenience. You could not give up a human heart as you could give up drinking. The drink was yours, and you could give it up: but your lover’s soul was not you own: it was not at your disposal; you had a duty towards it.” – T.H. White, The Once and Future King
  • “She did not think it was love. She did not think it was love when she felt a curious ache and anxiety when he was not there; she did not think it was love as she felt relief wash over her when she received a note from him; she did not think it was love when she sometimes wondered what their lives would be like after five, ten, fifteen years together. The idea of love never crossed her mind.”  -Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Stairs
  • “Love is not a whim. Love is not a flower that fades with a few fleeting years. Love is a choice wedded to action, my husband, and I choose you, and I will choose you every day for the rest of my life.” -Brent Weeks, The Blinding Knife
  • “A marriage is always made up of two people who are prepared to swear that only the other one snores.” -Terry Pratchett, The Fifth Elephant
  • “I guess each of us, at some time, finds one person with whom we are compelled towards absolute honesty, one person whose good opinion of us becomes a substitute for the broader opinion of the world. And that opinion becomes more important than all our sneaky, sleazy schemes of greed, lust, self-aggrandizement, whatever we are up to while lying the world into believing we are just plain nice folks.” -Glen Cook, Shadow Games
  • “Love is like recognition. It’s the moment when you catch sight of someone and you think There is someone I have business with in this life. There is someone I was born to know.” Daniel Abraham, Rogues
  • “All of us are lonely at some point or another, no matter how many people surround us. And then, we meet someone who seems to understand. She smiles, and for a moment the loneliness disappears.” -Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni
  • “I have known you since the world was born. Everything you are is what you should be. Everything you should be is what you are. I know all of you, and there is nothing in you I do not love.” -Matthew Woodring Stover, Caine’s Law
  • “He’d told me the world could be the most lovely place you could imagine, so long as your imagination was fueled by love.” -Sebastien de Castell, Knight’s Shadow
  • “The heart is neither given nor stolen. The heart surrenders.” -Steve Erikson, House of Chains
  • “How can you regret never having found true love? That’s like saying you regret not being born a genius. People don’t have control over such things. It either happens or it doesn’t. It’s a gift – a present that most never get. It’s more like a miracle, really, when you think of it. I mean, first you have to find that person, and then you have to get to know them to realize just what they mean to you – that right there is ridiculously difficult. Then… then that person has to feel the same way about you. It’s like searching for a specific snowflake, and even if you manage to find it, that’s not good enough. You still have to find its matching pair. What are the odds?” -Michael J. Sullivan, Heir of Novron
  • “He wondered how it could have taken him so long to realize he cared for her, and he told her so, and she called him an idiot, and he declared that it was the finest thing that ever a man had been called.” -Neil Gaiman, Stardust
  • “Well,” she said, “I should think it would do every man good to have a wife who isn’t as in awe of him as everyone else is. Somebody has to keep you humble.” – Brandon Sanderson, Warbreaker

Five Reasons Why You Should Be Reading The Expanse

corey_babylonsashes_hcI recently finished Babylon’s Ashes (which was fantastic), by James S. A. Corey, and was moved to take a moment to talk about The Expanse in case there is anyone out there not currently reading it. For those of you unfamiliar with The Expanse, it is a mega space opera set over nine books that are still being published, of which Babylon’s Ashes is the sixth. The series is one of my favorites, and below I am going to simply outline a list of reasons that you should be reading it so that it can be one of your favorites too. For those of you looking for a Babylon’s Ashes review, I do not have one for reasons outlined below, but it is suffice to say that it is excellent.

 

  • It is basically Game of Thrones in Space – This is a gross oversimplification, but an analogy that is actually useful in this instance. The Expanse is a space opera, which essentially means that the sci-fi is window dressing. The story is all about the excellent characters that litter the books. Much like GoT, the books are all about the individual stories of the people who make up a larger world, and their personal struggles bring the plots to life. It is very accessible to all readers as it appeals to both readers who don’t like science fiction and those looking for an introduction to the genre – making it a series for everyone.
  • The aforementioned characters are amazing – As mentioned in the previous reason, these books are about people – and boy is there a diverse cast. The Expanse has someone for everyone and one of the most eclectic and interesting casts I have ever encountered. There are multiple POV’s per book, with only one carried over from novel to novel. This allows the story to give you a center-thread to orient yourself from, while also exposing you to a huge cast with tons of different perspectives and identities. In addition, not only is the cast diverse, it is also extremely memorable – creating some of my favorite characters of all time. If you read these books and don’t like Chrisjen Avasarala I am going to assume you are a robot.
  • The books are all self contained, but also have a continuous plot – Several people have mentioned to me that the reason they haven’t picked up The Expanse is that it is not complete. Starting unfinished series can blow when you are left with cliffhangers every year, but The Expanse gives you a satisfying and self-contained story every time. Each of the books is about humanity tackling a new and interesting problem thrown at it. These include: war, the unknown, politics, poverty, new frontiers, the military, terrorists, and almost always some sort of extinction level threat. Each book feels distinct from the rest, but also passes the touch of an overarching backbone of the plot. While the series isn’t finished yet, each year I get a book that leaves me satiated, but excited for the sequel.
  • They are consistently on time and consistently good in quality – Speaking of release schedules, these books almost always come out annually. There has only ever been one delay, and it was just for a few months while one of the authors finished a different series. The books are published on one of the the most predictable schedules I have seen and it keeps me pumped for their release month every year. More importantly, all the books are excellent. Babylon’s Ashes was probably in my bottom half of the six books released so far, and I still would give it at least a 9/10. It is unbelievable how these authors can continuously deliver quality time after time and I trust that they will be able to finish up the final three in the same pattern.
  • James S. A. Corey is a pen name for two authors, and they both bring their A game to the story – Corey is actually two people, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Abraham is an extremely creative writer who is known for his strange book premises and unpredictable plot lines. However, his writing can also be occasionally a little dull and slow, making it hard to appreciate his creativity. Ty Franck is a sci-fi author known for his action sequences and pulse pounding scenes, but can occasionally let the action get in the way of story. Together, the two of them eliminate their weaknesses and amplify their strengths, creating some of the best prose I have read in the genre.

These books are good, really good, to the point where I can never bring myself to review them after I finish because the post would just be “yea it’s still amazing”. On top of being an amazing, huge, and engrossing book series – there is now a TV show on Syfy that does it justice and expands the world further. On top of that, Corey regularly releases novellas and short stories from the universe – sometimes for free – that expand it further and are great reads. So if you have reservations of reading The Expanse, or were holding off for some reason, or simply haven’t picked up the most recent book – go check it out. The world is getting bigger and better and I want all of you to experience the joy and wonder of exploring the unknown with Corey as your co-pilot.

the20expanse20books20and20series

The Waking Fire – An Interview with Anthony Ryan

25972177The Waking Fire was my number three choice for books in 2016, so it is safe to say I enjoyed it. Thus, when an opportunity to talk to Anthony Ryan about his story and world arose, you can be sure I pounced on it. I got to speak with Anthony about why and how he created this new fantasy classic, and he provided me with some of the best answers of any author I have spoken with. If you are curious about my review for the first installment of his new series you can find it here. If you want to read the additional things Anthony has to say about his creation you can look below:

With both The Waking Fire and City of Blades this year, I am really digging the early 1900’s fantasy feel of The Waking Fire. What made you want to choose this particular setting compared to the more traditional fantasy time period? Or what was your general inspiration for the story?

I knew I wanted to write something about dragons but didn’t want a cod-Medieval setting as it didn’t really fit the themes I wanted to explore, particularly politics and economics. A post-industrialised setting seemed to offer the most opportunities. The 19th century is a period that offers a great deal of story fodder for a writer; competing empires, enormous technological and geo-political change as well as recurrent revolutions and shifting social norms. Making dragons the central component of the economy of such a world enabled me to tick all the boxes I wanted to tick.

How did you balance the different types of stories (spy, adventure, military) between Liz, Clay, and Hilemore so well?

It’s always best to write what you love so I was careful to choose three of my favourite genres when assembling my cast of characters: the spy story for Lizanne, military adventure for Hilemore and the western for Clay. I also made sure the different story types were interconnected so it seemed plausible that all three could play out in this world. The idea of the Blue trance – in which characters can communicate telepathically across huge distances – was key to ensuring the book doesn’t come across as three separate stories in one.

Who was your favorite character to write of the three? Who was the most difficult (and why)?

I didn’t really have a favourite for this one, all the characters have their pluses and minuses. Clay is a thief and occasional murderer but also brave and fiercely loyal to his friends. Lizanne has her selfless moments but she’s also a cold-blooded killer when the need arises. Hilemore is the most admirable of the three, at least on the surface, but he can be a bit of a stuffed shirt and he’s steeped in a military/conservative outlook. On the whole I think Lizanne presented the biggest challenge because she has the biggest emotional journey.

The dragons of your world are varied and interesting beyond simply being “giant fire lizards”. Were you inspired by specific animals or other sources when you were writing the various species of dragons?

There’s a reason why you can’t keep crocodiles or Komodo dragons as pets (unless you’re mad of course). Reptiles have often struck me as one of the purest examples of nature’s indifference, they kill when they’re hungry and display none of the traits humans find so endearing in fellow mammals. Although I was keen to reflect this in conceiving the drakes, presenting them as real world wild animals rather than anything mystical, it would have been boring if they were just mindless killing machines. It also made for another level of interest to the plot if the humans were to discover that there was a great deal more to the animals they had been exploiting for centuries.

Can you give a brief rundown of how you envision the Ironship Trading Syndicate and the Corvantine Empire? Will we be seeing them more fleshed out in the second book?

The template for the Ironship Trading Syndicate came from the British East India Company of the 18th-19th Century which operated its own army and navy in controlling much of the Indian sub-continent. At the height of its powers this company was probably the richest single entity on Earth, outstripping the governments of the day. Therefore it wasn’t too much of an imaginative leap to conceive of a scenario in which companies like this had simply taken over in the wake of a socio-economic upheaval. I conceived the Corvantine Empire as a bulwark against the rise of corporatism. In some ways it’s of a mix of Victorian Britain and Tsarist Russia, being both territorially ambitious and decadent to the point where it’s constantly beset by revolt and internal division. We’ll be seeing more of the internal workings of the Syndicate and a lot more of the Corvantine Empire in the second book.

What did you learn from writing your earlier series. The Raven’s Shadow, that you applied to your work on the Draconis Memoria?

My planning and editing processes have become a lot more efficient as a result of writing the Raven’s Shadow books, however, the actual writing itself never seems to get any easier. I think the main lesson I learned is the importance of deadlines – no book ever wrote itself and making sure you deliver on time requires constant and regular effort.

Without giving away spoilers, where does the second book in the Draconis Memoria take us and what are some of the themes?

Revolution is a much more prominent theme in the second book (which is called The Legion of Flame). The characters will be journeying far and wide so we’ll be seeing more of the world beyond the continent of Arradsia, we’ll also learn what the White Drake has in store for humanity and it’s hardly a spoiler to say that it’s not good.

One of my desires from The Waking Fire was to hear more from Hilemore, will he be getting a larger part in book 2?

Hilemore has a prominent role in The Legion of Flame but his overall screen time is about the same as in The Waking Fire. It looks like he’ll have an enlarged role in book 3 though.

Do you think there will be any additional perspectives in the future books, or will you be sticking with our three current leads?

There is one additional point of view character in The Legion of Flame who we’ve met before, but I won’t say who because it’s a massive spoiler. Clay, Lizanne and Hilemore are all back though.

What are you reading in your spare time right now, and do you have any current recommendations of things you have read recently?

I recently finished The Mirror’s Truth, Michael R Fletcher’s sequel to Beyond Redemption which more than lived up to its predecessor – neither are for the faint-hearted though. I also just completed Max Hastings’ The Secret War which is an excellent history of espionage and codebreaking in World War II. Currently, I just started The Judging Eye by R Scott Bakker and Reel History by Alex von Tunzelmann, an often hilarious comparison of Hollywood versus real history.

It is a common refrain of fantasy writers that they “don’t read fantasy”. Is that the case with you, and if not what other fantasy writers would you recommend, personally?

I do still read fantasy but think it’s important to explore other genres as well as reading non-fiction. Fantasy writers I enjoy include the already mentioned Michael R Fletcher and R Scott Bakker, whilst the works of KV Johansen and Django Wexler were a recent happy discovery. I’ll also probably read anything by Mark Lawrence, Robin Hobb, China Mieville and the late great David Gemmell.

The Burning Isle – An Interview With Will Panzo

burning-isle-coverRecently I had the pleasure of reading one of the more interesting debuts this year, The Burning Isle by Will Panzo. In a stroke of luck, I actually got to meet Will (he was lovely in case you were wondering) at New York Comicon. I got the chance to talk with Will about his new book and ask a panoply of questions about the future of the series. I was sad to discover that it was not the first part of a trilogy, but a standalone. Although there will be additional books in the world and with the same characters. If you are interested in The Burning Isle, or have read it and want to find out more, check out our conversation below:

 

How has your time as a Comic book writer influenced your writing of fantasy? What are the key strengths, weaknesses, and differences between the two formats for you?

I was an editor at Marvel comics for a few years. I worked mainly on the X-Men family of books, which was a huge thrill for me as the X-Men were my favorite characters growing up. In terms of direct influence, I always appreciated how fearless and boundary pushing comics could be, particularly mainstream superhero comics in their formative years. Pick up any issue of Lee and Kirby’s Fantastic Four run and you’ll find a dozen ideas in there, each worthy of their own story. I try to emulate some of that fearlessness in my own writing, but aside from that, comic book writing and prose writing are so fundamentally different it’s hard to compare the two.

The Burning Isle feels like it could be larger than a trilogy by the end. Do you have a set number of books planned out?

The Burning Isle is a standalone story. The book I’m working on now takes place in the same world, but in a different location. Cassius is one of the main characters in the story, but not the only main character/ I’m writing it in such a way that you won’t need to have read The Burning Isle to read this new book, but if you have, they’ll be some deeper layers to the story. If possible, I’d like to continue writing books this way, as standalones that together deepen the lore and scope of this shared world. I don’t have a set number in mind. But I have the rough idea of three to four more stories.

Do you think revenge stories are more difficult that other plot types?

I’ve always loved revenge stories. There’s a part of me that can’t help but root for someone on a quest for revenge, even though I know that quest never ends well. There are certain difficulties inherent in a revenge story though. It can be hard to portray someone as sympathetic when their driven by the need to settle a score. Revenge is a dark quest, and it takes a toll on those who seek it. Fortunately, I like stories with morally ambiguous characters and there feels like a groundswell movement in the fantasy world towards those types of stories right now. So it seems the perfect time to tell this kind of story.

We only spend a brief time with Cassius at the Isle of Twelve. Will we get to learn more about his time at his magical school in future novels?

Absolutely. The masters of the Isle of Twelve are nothing if not cruel. They don’t forgive, they don’t forget. The manner in which Cassius left the school was a great insult to them, an insult they’ll seek to remedy by any means necessary. Cassius knows the masters will stop at nothing to hold him accountable and he’s certain a reckoning is in his future.

Cassius’s rune magic is one of the best parts of the book for me, what was the inspiration for the system?

There were two, sort of, abstract ideas that I wanted to incorporate in the magic of this world. First, I wanted Rune magic to be a relatively recent magic development that borrowed from older traditions, while also greatly upsetting those traditions. Antioch is a kind of fantasy version of ancient Rome. And we know Romans often appropriated and modified aspects of other cultures to suit their own needs. They took the idea of democracy but discarded the parts they didn’t like, added their own ideas and made Roman Republicanism. They took the phalanx, modified it, and made a professional army that conquered half the world. They stole the Greek pantheon and recast them to reflect Roman values. If magic had existed in the ancient world, Rome would have appropriated it and bent it to suit Roman needs. That’s exactly what Antioch has done.

Secondly, I wanted magic to be a commodity. A thing that could be traded and sold. That’s where the gems came from. I liked the idea that if you defeated a spellcaster in battle, you could reach down, pluck his gauntlets off his body and, in an instant, have all of his power at your fingertips. Literally. I really liked the idea that magic was a product instead of something esoteric. It makes it a little more crass, a little more street level, and allows for magic users to be unlike the wizards and sorcerers we’re used to.

One of the strongest things that The Burning Isle has going for it is the complicated and delicate political situation you have designed that is balanced on a sword point? How did you plan out and create this criminal ecosystem?

The novel’s structure borrows from stories where a mysterious stranger arrives in town, finds it controlled by two rival gangs and plays them against one another for fun and profit. We see this in Sergio Leone’s western A Fistful of Dollars and Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. There are other elements to my story though, particularly the revenge angle, which required some more depth to the political structure. And given that this is a novel, instead of a movie, I had some time to elaborate on the world a bit and explain how we came to have an island ruled by rival crime bosses.

In order for criminals to openly steal control of an island like Scipio, there hard to be a power vacuum, because a functioning government isn’t going to let that happen. In asking why government doesn’t function in Scipio, I came up with the idea of a city with no laws, but one purposely designed that way so that the seedier, but still profitable, activities that a lawful society doesn’t want to tolerate could be contained in one place. Once I had that nailed down, I had to figure out how these two particular bosses came to power and what drove a wedge between them. Without spoiling too much, I came to a solution that involved the subjugation of the island’s native population, which also incorporated the Antiochi legion present on the island, as well as laying the groundwork for our revenge tale.

What are your personal favorite fantasy authors and books, and did you draw any inspiration from them for The Burning Isle?

I’m a huge fan of Robert E. Howard, who is most famous for his Conan stories, although he wrote much more than that. I also love Michael Moorcock, Glenn Cook, David Gemmell, Fritz Leiber, George RR Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, Richard Morgan. This list can go on and on.

In writing, I think you draw inspiration from everything you’ve read, consciously or unconsciously. It’s probably easier to connect the dots from me to some of those names than it is to others, but they’re all there. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if I hadn’t read each of them.

In addition, what are your favorite comic books?

I think everyone’s favorite comics are the ones they grew up reading. For me that was early nineties Marvel superhero stuff, with the X-men at the top of that list. For me, Wolverine the way Larry Hama and Barry Windsor-Smith wrote him will always be the real Wolverine.

As you get older though, your taste tends to change and you seek out more complex stuff. It’s easier to name creators than it is individual titles, so I’ll just say I really enjoy Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction. Also I’m a little late on this one, but I recently discovered Jonathan Hickman’s work on Fantastic Four and New Avengers and thought it was great. But right now I’m reading his Black Monday Murders and it’s pure genius.

The Best of 2016

It has not been a great year on a lot of fronts, with a lot of people citing 2016 as the worst year in memory. However, despite the general trend in other areas, 2016 has been a pretty damn good year for books. There have been a few disappointments, but for the most part I have had great reads all year. Throughout this year I have been taking painstaking notes to map my top books this time around. With The Quill to Live reading more and more new releases sent to us, we are expanding our top 10 list to a top 15, and the book titles have links to their full reviews where applicable. So without further adieu, let’s pay tribute to some of the amazing books this year and the incredible authors who wrote them!

of-sand-and-malice-made-med-115) Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P. Beaulieu – Beaulieu is an up and comer in the fantasy world that I have my eye on. So far he has consistently made tales that are fun, mature, and exciting. His newest short novel, Of Sand and Malice Made, is a prequel to his major release last year Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. Twelve Kings was a strong book, but it suffered from a lackluster opening. Of Sand and Malice Made fixes this by providing the intro and back story I was looking for when I read Twelve Kings. The novel is fast, immediately engrossing, and continues to build the world nicely without disrupting the original story. I give Bradley a lot of credit for fixing the issues I had with his writing in the previous book, and I am even more excited for the sequel to Twelve Kings next year.

518jwaozhyl-_sx331_bo1204203200_14) Written In Fire by Marcus Sakey – I was extremely disappointed with the second book in the Brilliance Saga, A Better World, that came out two years ago. The trilogy is based around mutants who gain superpowers along the lines of super accounting. It was a unique take on superhuman abilities and it was one of the most refreshing series I have read in years. A Better World dumped a lot of that uniqueness when it became the standard mutant vs. human stand off that these stories always seem to gravitate to, but Written in Fire brought the series full circle. The series finale emphasizes all the great things that have made the body of work as a whole stand out amongst the landscape, delightfully stepped up the action, and took the plot to unexpected, but great, places. I was ready for the series to be over after the second book, but now I want an entire slew of sequels to keep the party going. The novel’s conclusion was slightly open ended and I hope Sakey takes that opening and keeps the story going.

51o88go-xhl-_sy344_bo1204203200_13) In The Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan – I honestly can’t get enough of this series. Brennan has reached down inside of me, torn out my inner most fantasies, and brought them to life. There is not much whimsy left in me these days, but what little there is wants nothing more than to be born into Brennan’s world. In The Labyrinth of Drakes continues to deliver on the idea of a meticulously build world with dragons. The stylistic prose and illustrations continue to bring the world to life in a way that very few novels achieve and the latest entry builds out an entire new piece of the world. This book is also basically a romance novel with dragons, and it is not often I am as invested in a relationship as I was in this one. I originally thought this was the final book in the series, but delightfully it seems that the conclusion comes next year (and I eagerly await it).

2685010012) Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja – One of my favorite sayings is I have never disliked a book that made me laugh. Mechanical Failure follows the story of a delinquent army officer trapped on a spaceship out of Catch 22. The book is laugh out loud funny, something extremely hard to achieve for a novel, and is all around a fun time. The plot is not particularly original, but you won’t notice it through the tears rolling down your cheeks as you try not to pee yourself a little. The characters are fun, the scenes are memorable, and the book is endlessly re-readable. While it wasn’t the best written book I read this year, it was definitely one of the most fun.

 

2503639511) Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst – The book is probably getting a small artificial boost in ranking from having a great magical school – but it still is easily one of the best books I have read this year. This book is aimed at younger teenage girls, a demographic I could not be further from, and I still could not put it down. The plot follows a young girl who is sent to a magic school to learn to protect the world, and finds that she must use hard work and tenacity to overcome her lack of talent. Books that exemplify hard work over talent are badly needed in the fantasy genre, and the book does so much else right at the same time. It treats men and women both as people, not alienating either gender of reader. It has a simple plot (traditional for YA) but does not treat its readers as if they are immature or simpletons. The novel feels like a great gateway for younger readers moving from YA to more adult books – but is still fun for everyone. The genre needs more of these and hopefully Durst can give us a sequel to equal it.

1757053810) The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks – Although breaking the top 10 is a serious accomplishment, I was expecting to put this book higher on my list this year. Lightbringer is an astounding series that is easily in my top picks of all time. If you are unfamiliar with it, I recommend you check out our guest review and pick up The Black Prism quickly. The latest addition to the series, The Blood Mirror, is an amazing book – but probably the weakest of the four that have come out so far. It truly feels like a bridge book, adding tons of flavor to all the things you already love, but having trouble standing as it’s own self defined book. While reading it I was having a ball, but upon finishing I had trouble identifying any truly memorable scenes. However, while The Blood Mirror was not the best book I read this year, it did succeed at getting me extremely excited for the finale of the Lightbringer series.

51rrwwieqcl-_sx335_bo1204203200_9) The Rising by Ian TregillisThe Alchemy Wars series keeps surprising me and crawling higher in the list each year. A historical fiction about a steampunk war between The Netherlands and France, The Rising continues the story from The Mechanical last year. Everything in the sequel is bigger and better and the plot is going in an interesting direction. Tregillis is a master of prose and has used his poetic voice to stoke my interest in The Netherlands. I have lost nights on wikipedia reading up about subject matters from these books. This historical fiction/fantasy/science fiction series defies categorization and appeals to fans of all categories. The one issue that kept the book from placing higher was an extremely predictable, though satisfying, ending. Hopefully we will see the third book reach even greater heights next year.

spider8) The Spider’s War by Daniel Abraham – I honestly can’t believe how well Abraham pulled of the ending to the Dagger and Coin series. One of two books on this list about dragons and the economy, things were looking grim for The Spider’s War at the end of the previous book. I felt that while the series had been great, Abraham had backed himself into a corner with his plot and that the book could only end one way that made sense. As usual, Abraham defied my expectations and crafted an ending that was unexpected, memorable, and utterly fitting for his fantasy series. This quintet is one of the few fantasy stories that has to do with the economy, and it is fascinating how interestingly money can be instead of magic. I am sad to be leaving this world so soon with its multiple well defined cultures, twelve distinct races, and huge cast of characters. Despite having some of the best worldbuilding I have read, the world feels unfinished and I want Abraham to just give me an info dump about all the nooks and crannies of his world that we have not seen. While I am sad the series is over, I am excited that this will mean we get installments of The Expanse series back on a more regular schedule.

9780230769496night20without20stars7) A Night Without Stars by Peter Hamilton –  The only book I read this year for which I had to plan out my reading schedule. Hamilton books are huge and time consuming, an issue when one is trying to read a book a week for reviews. But Hamilton is always worth the weight, delivering his consistent science fiction brilliance once again with A Night Without Stars. No author better makes me feel like I am staring into the future of our race, and makes anything seem possible. A Night Without Stars was weaker than its predecessor, The Abyss Beyond Dreams, but I almost always find it hard to leave a Hamilton world at the end of a series. A Night Without Stars once again finds a way to raise the stakes higher than the death of the universe, and I can’t wait to see how Hamilton tops this book next. If you have a month’s worth of free time, I recommend you plan out a read of any of this series (or the previous ones).

271544276) The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence – Lawrence does not choose easy characters to write. Jalan is a self serving, womanizing, dick but Mark Lawrence used skilled characterization and deft context to build a story in which you can be a terrible person and a hero at the same time. Jalan is the perfect balance of endearing and repulsive in The Wheel of Osheim, and his character growth makes the book an emotional rollercoaster. The finale of the Red Queen’s War goes out with a bang, as Lawrence does an impressive job of tying his second trilogy in with his first, without making either the lesser for it. The book had a few slow patches and felt like it ended too early but otherwise rounded out as one of the strongest book of the year, narrowly missing the top five slots.

176648935) Age of Myth by Michael J Sullivan – I give a lot of credit to books with unique stories, but there are also some books that do classic stories well. There is something extremely clean and polished about Age of Myth that puts it a cut above Sullivan’s earlier work. The main antagonist is a bear, who is terrifying, and anyone who can make a bear seem as scary as an angry deity or the death of the universe is doing a good job. One of the best character writers I have read, Sullivan has also brought his A-game to improve upon the previously weaker areas he had. With such a strong start to a five book series, this is rising to the top of my watch list as one of the best new series around.

 

253325664) Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay – Anyone familiar with Kay should be utterly unsurprised with him being near the top of this list. Children of Earth and Sky was powerful and moving like all Kay novels, leaving me thinking about it for weeks after I finished it. As usual, Kay has chosen an artist as his stories vehicle, and as always Kay has brought that art to life and made it magical. Children of Earth and Sky inspired me to break out my old art supplies and try and capture some of the beauty of the world on paper. That is not a sentence I would normally say ever, but there is something about every Kay novel that makes you want to get up and change the world. Earth and Sky had some POV balancing problems, but made up for it with some incredibly poignant scenes that are burned into my memory.

259721773) The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan – For the bronze medal this year we have the first book of Anthony Ryan’s new series, The Waking Fire. The Waking Fire is Ryan’s best work yet, and feels like a maturation of his earlier work. The book is all around phenomenal, but it earns the third place spot for its ability to tell three stories from different genres simultaneously, and have them be supportive instead of detracting. This book has adventure, spycraft, and military action all boiled down into one book and it makes it feel bigger and better than almost anything else I have read this year. Ryan still needs to work a little harder on his initial worldbuilding (as I felt in the dark in a bad way for the first 20%), but the ending of the book is epic and I am frothing at mouth for the sequel.

bennettrj-2-cityofbladesuk2) City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett – We really need more fantasy set around the 1900’s. City of Blades does something truly impressive. After all the work put into building up the plots, characters, and places in City of Stairs (which was amazing) – Bennett chose to drop most of his previous established flow and build a sequel from the ground up. I thought it was a bad idea when I first started reading, but Bennett as usual has defied all my expectations and created a second masterpiece. The story gives a touching tribute to the trials and tribulations of war, and how it ruins everything it touches. With just as much emotional impact as Stairs, Blades turns the action up to 11 and comes in solidly as my second best book of the year.

238991931) Saint’s Blood by Sebastian De Castell – I knew Saint’s Blood was going to be my #1 book of the year the second I finished it and started reading it a second time. Castell’s Greatcoats gets better and better every year, and Saint’s Blood is one of the best books I have ever read. The books you read as a child and YA shape the person you become, but Saint’s Blood was impactful enough that it changed how I see the world as an adult. The stylistic prose format of the book as a duelist’s manual gives the storytelling a differentiating flare and the dialogue continues to be some of the funniest I have ever read. The story also has some themes that I have rarely, if ever, seen in fiction. One of these themes is tenacity – as Saint’s Blood is all about getting back up when you fall and continuing to push forward. To me there has been no better incarnation of what I needed to hear this year, as this, along with all its other merits, is why Saint’s Blood is The Quill to Live’s #1 book of 2016.

Reading for Love – Kavalierly

A guest post by Quill To Live editor Sean Burns:

We all have that person in our lives. A family member, a good friend, a co-worker, or a significant other. One who loves reading and can’t wait to recommend another one of their favorites to you, and that’s great! You smile as you accept the book, but somehow it comes out looking like a bit of a grimace. You bring the book home and decide to bite the bullet immediately, well maybe not immediately, maybe after opening up a craft brew or some wine, anything to help you relax a little bit. You read the back cover to make sure you know what you are in for, then you take a big gulp of your drink of choice, and you crack the cover. Then, just as you suspected, just as you feared, the book is terrible. Empty. Flavorless. Your loved one has recommended another dud.

I guess I am taking a leap here, I don’t know if everyone has someone like this in their life. Maybe all you get is recommendations like The Greatcoats, Lightbringer, or Malazan. If so, you are one of the lucky ones. I have been blessed with relatively few people who have managed to consistently maintain a stellar recommendation list for me (*ahem*the-owner-of-this-blog*ahem*), but I have had close friends and significant others recommend me some of their #favorites to which I sigh internally, grimace, and prepare for the dark work of appeasing them.This post is an ode to the many times I have endured suffering for a loved one, specifically when my most recent girlfriend recommended the book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, and I hope you enjoy the telling of my journey.

51o-jqnlkil-_sy344_bo1204203200_My girlfriend had just finished The First Law Trilogy on my recommendation, and wanted to return the favor (perhaps sadistically so?). So she walked over to her bookshelf and reverently drew forth a large red paperback and handed it to me. A Pulitzer Winner, and the premise was intriguing, something about superheroes, young misfits, and comic books. Needless to say, it was enough to pique my interest. My to-read list has never been short, but when your significant other gives you a book with special meaning to them, it gets a free pass to the top. So I brought Kavalier and Clay home with me, and started the book. I read before bed, which usually leads to a tiring morning because I am up too late turning the pages of my latest paper-based love, but let me tell you this, I was as rested as I’ve ever been the first week I tried to get through this book. There were some great, young misfits named Kavalier and Clay with some character driven moments that countered the droop in my eyes, but then I would turn the page and there would be two full pages of description about a partially run down building in New York that served only as a monument to the author’s descriptive ability. And then it would happen again. And again. And then all of a sudden I would wake up with the sun shining through my windows, and the book lying on the floor, where it had fallen from my limp grip after sleep claimed me.

So I quietly hid the book under the rest of my to-read pile, and got back to books that filled me with wonder and joy, all the while making vague obfuscations to my girlfriend about my progress in her beloved book. The guilt of not finishing it began to build up, and soon she and I were headed out on a weekend camping trip. I decided to take a drastic step. I brought no reading material with me EXCEPT for Kavalier and Clay. Gods help me. It had been long enough that I began again from the beginning, and I quickly learned to skip the excessive descriptives. In doing so I began to see some extremely well-written and realistic characters. There are great moments of darkness, light, and the shades in between during the story of two kids becoming friends and eventual business partners. There is a great dichotomy of the successful Kavalier and the failure Clay that brings about questions of friendship. But soon the weight of the prose, and a too slow buildup of the actual story continued to tear at what little interest I had managed to garner.

I tried to hold on to my goal of finishing this book for the sake of love, this book that I would normally have never looked at again after my first attempt. However, after reaching nearly the halfway point I must have let slip one too many sighs into the tent, as my girlfriend looked upon my brow, sweated with the effort of ploughing through the book, and asked if I wanted to stop. I shamefacedly admitted I did, but luckily she cared enough for me to take the book from my hands, set it down, and suggest we go out of our tent on an Amazing Adventure of our own.

All in all, I think it’s wonderful to get book recommendations from loved ones, even if you do have to struggle through them on occasion. The great thing about loved ones is that you can (usually) be honest with them, and they won’t love you one iota less. The same goes for giving recommendations. If your loved one hates City of Stairs, well, surely they have some other redeeming qualities, right? I sure hope they do.

Rating for Kavalier and Clay: Did Not Finish (DNF) ~50% (but 100% love)

The Drenai Saga – Part 4/4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Drenai part four, the Drenale. We have come to the end of our journey, and what a journey it has been. The final two Drenai books are a duology about a new character, Skilgannon the Damned. Skilgannon is Gemmell’s take on a hero tormented by his past, and a wrap up character to tie off the entirety of the series. So let’s talk about the final two books of the series: White Wolf and The Swords of Night and Day.

n48612Book 10 – White Wolf The story of Skilgannon begins with him abandoning his people and becoming a rogue warrior. Haunted by his choices as the preeminent general of a warrior queen, Skilgannon decides to leave everything behind and search for inner peace in the world. Skilgannon is less than successful in his search for tranquility, and is soon thrust back into the center of happenings. He eventually meets up with Druss, and they team up to go on a quest.

The story has many strengths, but one of my favorites is how Gemmell depicts Skilgannon’s childhood. On top of being compelling and heartwarming, Gemmell continues to hammer home the concepts of acceptance and love for all people regardless of who they are or where they come from. In addition, I found Skilgannon to be a refreshing take on the tormented hero front. He feels crippling regret for his past actions, and but he does not wallow in it. It is very easy to see how that regret profoundly changes and shapes Skilgannon, but Gemmell never falls into the trap of making him whine about what he did every two seconds. Skilgannon remains a deeper character than just his remorse, and it makes him one of the best tormented heroes I have read.

Rating: White Wolf – 9.0/10

07fc35a0637c9d0a2d7695b745034994Book 11 – The Swords of Night and Day The final book of Drenai is very different than the other 10. This is both the final book chronologically and in publishing order, taking place over a thousand years later than the other novels. Swords follows a magically resurrected Skilgannon, brought back from the dead to fight a rising menace in the future. The magics, and the magic users, from the earlier books have gotten more and more degenerate over the years until they threaten to engulf the world. As a last ditch effort, a small group of mages attempt to resurrect heroes from past ages to see if they can provide solutions to stopping the magic.

The Swords of Light and Day serves three major purposes in the Drenai saga, the first of which is to give a satisfying end to Skilgannon’s story. Tormented for his sins from White Wolf, Skilgannon has been burning in purgatory and seeking redemption. Swords gives Skilgannon a great ending and cements him in my mind as one of the best characters to come out of the saga. The second purpose is to bring together many different plot lines and characters throughout the entire saga. Much of Drenai consists of independent characters from different ages, and Swords brings many of them together for one last party. The final, and likely most important, purpose of Swords is to reaffirm the cyclical nature of history that Gemmell has been preaching since Legend. The final book of the series shows that nothing really ever changes and there will always be shitty tyrants who will try to selfishly rule the world. However, the book also drives home that for every dictator that tries to rule the world, there will always be a hero who stands in their way – no matter how feeble it may seem. Those heroes will keep standing up for what’s right and striving to make the world a better place regardless of the odds, and that through the act of standing up they make a difference. This message is the crux of the Drenai story, and it is one I can get behind with all my heart.

Rating: The Swords of Night and Day – 9.0/10

Reading the Drenai Saga is an incredible experience that I think every fantasy fan should go through. Gemmell is an exemplar of character building, heroic storytelling, and powerful sub-themes that I think every author could earn from. The man wrote the most compelling prologues I have ever read, sucking me into each book by page four every time. Despite each of the books following similar plot structure, having a chaotic timeline, and introducing a new cast every few books, I never got tired of them or felt fatigued by the story. It is easy to see how Gemmell has shaped the current fantasy landscape, as hundreds of authors try to emulate his exciting, touching, and deep characters. My favorite book ended up being the one I thought I would like least, The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend, but I enjoyed every single book in the saga more than most of the other things I have read this year. There are hundreds of quotes from the series now embedded in my memory, and I want to sell this series to every person I meet. If you have not had a chance to read Drenai, I highly recommend you do and find out why a generation of authors turn to it for inspiration.