Saturday, January 8, 2011

My Top Independent Novels of 2010 (by Liviu Suciu)

In my highly recommended list of 25 + 30 novels from 2010 - which turned out to be 59 with the last addition here - there were six titles that were independently published and which I wish to highlight since this field is exploding right now with the proliferation of reading devices and the advantageous terms offered to authors who go independent by Amazon and others.

I do not want to enter in the debates surrounding this topic since I think that only the future will shed a clear light on these matters and I only want to note that since for me content is the dominating factor in deciding to look at a book, I am very happy to try any book that interests me and I am also happy to ignore books that do not sound of interest barring other compelling reasons.

So give me secondary world novels, preferably non-pseudo-medieval, future sf that is not pulp-like and those will get priority, while almost anything contemporary, near-future, portal fantasy or pulp sf will get ignored. Alt-history depends on the topic...


So back to independent books published in 2010, the clear leader is:

1. The Ryria Revelations by Michael Sullivan of which volumes 4 and 5, The Emerald Storm and Wintertide were published in 2010 while the concluding volume Percepliquis due in 2011 is one of my highest expected books of the year. These two novels ranked as #7 in my Top 25 of 2010, among the first traditional fantasies on the list and on par with #6 ranked The Black Prism by Brent Weeks.

I have reviewed all five novels so far and you can read my reasons for liking them there while I will add only that the series starts with a lighter almost standalone adventure novel in The Crown Conspiracy, ramps up in the second semi-standalone Avemapartha and then it takes off with the core of the series that form an uninterrupted long novel starting with Nyphron Rising.

To gauge my appreciation I want to mention that like with few other books that have an approximate but not fixed date for an ebook release (eg Baen e-arcs of David Weber or 163*) I started checking the appropriate e-listing of Wintertide daily around the expected date and despite being sure of receiving a review copy, I bought the ebook on its first listed day and read it that night...


Then there are four series debuts from three authors which have great potential to become big time favorites depending on how the sequels will turn out and one standalone novel, second in an universe I want more of. In alphabetical order of the authors:

The Hawk and His Boy by Christopher Bunn debut of the Tormay trilogy of which the second book is expected to go live soon. I have reviewed this one two days ago so I will not add more here.

The Sword and the Dragon and The Royal Dragoneers from MR. Mathias, the first debuting a very traditional fantasy series with a twist, while the second debuting a more YA series, though with quite dark overtones too. Both series have expected sequels in 2011.

Lovers and Beloveds: An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom by MeiLin Miranda, a series debut with very strong Kushiel Legacy vibes, though set in a world at the cusp between the pre-industrial and the modern. The second installment is expected in 2011 too.

Ironroot by SJA Turney, a standalone set 20 years after his excellent Interregnum in the late-Roman like secondary universe of his that is very compelling. A very personal book this one.


I also would like to mention six more books from four series:

Field of Fire and Skywatcher by Jon Connington, a complete duology. I loved the debut a lot, but was a little let down by the concluding volume for reasons expounded in the review linked above.

The Last King's Amulet and The Key to the Grave by Chris Northern another duology with a reasonable ending though the author plans to continue the series. I liked a lot the first book despite having a little too much of "my magic is bigger than yours" syndrome, while the second book was a good conclusion but did not bring anything new.

The Labyrinth by Cristian Zarioiu, a contemporary tale of the fantastic and a standalone which I enjoyed more than I expected.

Second Sight by Greg Hamerton, the second Tale of the Lifesong, a beautifully written very traditional fantasy that in a way represents the most tradeoff between style and content for me since only the author's wonderful style kept me interested in a tale I would otherwise avoid with eternal beings, creation and destruction of the world and such. In "mainstream" genre a great analog are NK Jemisin wonderful novels The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms which again are at the utmost limit of my interest but the author style makes them so compelling I can ignore my utter dislike of a world living under an eternal dictatorship of the gods...