From Cold Ashes Risen is the third book in the War Eternal fantasy series by Rob J. Hayes. As the concluding volume, it follows an angry sorcerer, named Eska. After losing everything important to her, Eska discovers dark secrets about her world and sets out for revenge against those who have wronged her.
This is the first time I’ve finished an independently published fantasy series. It won't be the last. With this trilogy, Rob cemented his place as one of my favourite authors. Not just of 2020, but of all time. While this third book doesn't reach the emotional heights of book two, it is an immensely satisfying, well-written conclusion.
Red Seas Under Red Skies is the second book in the Gentlemen Bastards sequence by Scott Lynch. Continuing from The Lies of Locke Lamora, we follow master conmen Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen as they attempt to steal from a deadly and decadent Casino, set in a fantasy world similar to Renaissance Italy.
Seasons of War is the 13th book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy, and book number four in phase two of this series. The world of this series can loosely be described as urban fantasy on an epic scale, populated by magicians who live for hundreds of years and have powers ranging from controlling elements to having sentient monsters that erupt from their chest. In this 13th instalment, our protagonists enter a parallel dimension where Mevolent – dead in their reality, but long held to be the world's most feared sorcerer – is still alive and rules the world. The mission of Valkyrie Skulduggery, and the rest of the gang is simple: they have to kill Mevolent before he can lead his army into their dimension.
Shadows of Self is the second book in Sanderson’s Mistborn Series Two, which picks up several hundred years after the original Mistborn trilogy. The characters from that original trilogy have become mythical figures, incorporated into the world’s historical, social, and spiritual beliefs. Book One in this second series (The Alloy of Law) was essentially ‘magic meets cowboys in a fantasy wild west.’ I loved this premise. It was especially cool to take Sanderson’s innovative allomancy magic system – where people gain different powers from burning metals within them – and then transpose this into a kind of 1850s American Wild West aesthetic, where you had these magicians, doing train robberies and flying around proto-skyscrapers in the city. And with Shadows of Self – a detective thriller about magicians racing to stop a shape-shifting assassin – he improved on The Alloy of Law in every way.
Sixth of the Dusk is a short fantasy novella by Brandon Sanderson, set in the Cosmere (his interconnected story world, which includes Mistborn and the Stormlight Archive). It’s set on the dangerous island of Patji, where birds give humans magical talents and predators can sense the thoughts of their prey. After an expedition of scientists and scribes tries to colonise Patji, a solitary trapper discovers that the island is not the only thing out to kill him. When he begins to see his own corpse at every turn, he doesn’t have to just defend himself – but also his entire culture’s way of life.
I’ve described The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentlemen Bastards #1) by Scott Lynch as ‘The Godfather meets Renaissance Venice - with magic!’ If that premise made you excited, stay like that. The book is every bit as amazing as it sounds, and then some.
The Lies of Locke Lamora follows the Gentlemen Bastards, highly skilled con artists who steal from the rich nobles of Camorr (not to give to the poor, but because the rich are the only ones worth stealing from). Two plotlines interweave: in the present, the Gentleman Bastards struggle against a mysterious Grey King, who’s trying to take over Camorr’s criminal underworld (hence The Godfather allusions). This alternates with interludes describing Camorr’s rich history and the backstories of the Gentleman Bastards.
Well, it’s official. Rob J. Hayes is the best author I’ve discovered in 2020. Now, it’s still early, so that could change - but it’s going to take a big effort to change that after The Lessons Never Learned.
The Lessons Never Learned is book 2 in The War Eternal. It’s a grimdark fantasy trilogy about Eska, a young magician struggling to reconcile her urges for revenge with her longing for human connection. It follows on from book 1, Along the Razor’s Edge, and while the characters, themes, and plots continue, it couldn’t be a more different book. Along the Razor’s Edge is set in an underground prison. It’s claustrophobic, tense, and at times I found it a little slow. The Lessons Never Learned, however, opens the world up. We follow a much older Eska - fleeing from ruthless hunters - who takes refuge in a flying city and reluctantly agrees to do a dangerous mission for the god that rules it.
Words of Radiance (the previous book in this series) was the best fiction book I had the privilege of reading last year (2019), out of the 49 books I read. Even though I knew Sanderson (my favourite author) probably couldn't top the sheer epic awesomeness of WORD ... I kind of expected him to. And the signs were promising! I loved how this book begun. Simple sequences of characters reuniting with loved ones massively upped the stakes, making me care so much more about the overall characters' goal of stopping the destruction of the world. There were some excellent moments throughout, and I really enjoyed the story as a whole.
This is where the dragons went. They lie ... not dead, not asleep, but ... dormant. And although the space they occupy isn't like normal space, nevertheless they are packed in tightly. They could put you in mind of a can of sardines, if you thought sardines were huge and scaly. And presumably, somewhere, there's a key...
You have heard the story before - of a young boy, orphaned through tragic circumstances, raised by a wise old man, who comes to a fuller knowledge of his magic and uses it to fight the great evil that threatens his world. But what if the boy hero and the malevolent, threatening taint were one and the same?