Since for 2011 we have not done an extensive list of anticipated books as in the other years - though we have both the Upcoming Releases Page which tries to be comprehensive and the usual Monthly Spotlights which are closer to what we review here but still somewhat generic - I like to present some of the interesting upcoming releases that I had a chance to look into and even read sometimes, but for which full reviews are still some time off, these being books about which I can comment pertinently.
I also try and update these posts once I finish a book listed here and before I post a full review which supersedes the early and sometimes "rough" impressions, since I think continual feedback is useful and I see way too many posts: "oh, look at this exciting book that is coming soon" only not to be followed up with a review or even early impressions based on actually trying/reading the book.
First on the list: "Sword of Fire and Sea" by Erin Hoffman
Just hot from my inbox, I barely had a chance to look at this Pyr author and series debut that will come in June and just like some weeks ago with The Falling Machine below, this book really hooked me from the one page I browsed, so despite having quite different reading plans this will most likely be the next novel I will focus on.
I still cannot say why some books are just like that and upon reading a page, or even 2 paragraphs and I *know* I want to read it asap - and generally that is not a matter of "mood" since once in a while I experiment and take one of those books much later and open them and usually they hook me again despite reading them at least once and usually several times.
Here is the blurb:
Three generations ago Captain Vidarian Rulorat's great-grandfather gave up an imperial commission to commit social catastrophe by marrying a fire priestess. For love, he unwittingly doomed his family to generations of a rare genetic disease that follows families who cross elemental boundaries. Now Vidarian, the last surviving member of the Rulorat family, struggles to uphold his family legacy, and finds himself chained to a task as a result of the bride price his great-grandfather paid: the Breakwater Agreement, a seventy-year-old alliance between his family and the High Temple of Kara'zul, domain of the fire priestesses.
The priestess Endera has called upon Vidarian to fulfill his family's obligation by transporting a young fire priestess named Ariadel to a water temple far to the south, through dangerous pirate-controlled territory. A journey perilous in the best of conditions is made more so by their pursuers: rogue telepathic magic-users called the Vkortha who will stop at nothing to recover Ariadel, who has witnessed their forbidden rites.
Together, Vidarian and Ariadel will navigate more than treacherous waters: Imperial intrigue, a world that has been slowly losing its magic for generations, secrets that the priestesshoods have kept for longer, the indifference of their elemental goddesses, gryphons—once thought mythical—now returning to the world, and their own labyrinthine family legacies. Vidarian finds himself at the intersection not only of the world's most volatile elements, but of colliding universes, and the ancient and alien powers that lurk between them.
Edit 4/3 - as expected I finished fast this one and it was fun end to end; here are the Goodreads raw thoughts with a full review in due course:
This is another fun page turner from Pyr that came unexpectedly two days ago and took over my reading; high magic adventure this time, but the same relentless action, exuberance and occasional over the top scenes that work well here.
Sword of Fire and Sea is also a book that flows well despite that it changes its balance and focus at least twice - so for example the blurb while accurate as it goes is a bit misleading - , the transitions are done so well you really do not notice until you think a little and say "but the book was supposed (and started) to be about *** and look now it's actually ***"
The novel is also so packed with stuff that in its short under 300 pages length, it has more than quite a few recent books double its size or more. No superfluous details here...
Prepare to enjoy the ride and do not expect lengthy explanations or detail, but things cohere well and I never felt the book in danger of descending into farce or incoherence - which are the main pitfalls for books with its structure, where you just hang on your seat end to end so to speak
Sword of Fire and Sea offers a reasonably full package so while there is ample scope for more - in which I am definitely interested - the novel stands well on its own.
Here is one of the major-league fantasy releases of 2011, the highly awaited "White Luck Warrior" by Scott Bakker, second book in the Aspect Emperor trilogy and fifth in the series that started with The Darkness that Comes Before.
Love them or hate them, but nobody can deny the powerful nature of those books and while it's true that sometimes they get a bit too pretentious and invite nitpicking, I think that overall they enriched the potential of the fantasy genre quite a lot.
Personally I loved the first two Prince of Nothing books - with the occasional nitpicking mentioned when the author started pontificating a bit too much - but the trilogy ending The Thousandfold Thought while very good and indeed closing the series well, was way too predictable and brought very little new and that was an issue for me; the ending was awesome though and I wish more series would end like that rather than "hero marries the princess and they live happily ever after" or the other way around if there is a heroine instead...
So I was very excited when The Aspect Emperor started with The Judging Eye (FBC Rv) only to be mildly disappointed by what turned to be a huge prologue novel except in one of its main 3 threads. Hopefully this one will remedy that aspect and advance the story considerably more. Upon a quick glance at the novel - which I got several days ago but for which I really need some extended chunks of reading time since Scott Bakker is not an author you can read 50 pages, put back and read 50 more three days later - I can say that it starts in the same vein as the others and I expect it will compete hard for my number one spot in 2011 fantasy, currently sort-of-shared by two very exuberant novels.
Note that the novel is slated for a May USA release according to my review copy, not the April 14 claimed on Amazon and I will monitor the situation and adjust the timing of the full review accordingly since I am pretty sure I will read this by the 14th...
From Pyr, another author and series debut, this time a steampunk Manhattan adventure cca 1880: The Falling Machine from Andrew Mayer starring a girl, a robot, reluctant companions and assorted villains. You can see that on the wonderful cover actually.
As with the Hoffman novel, this was a very unexpectedly compelling book that leaped at me from the first page and moved to the top of my reading pile at the time. Upon finishing it, I put some thoughts on Goodreads with a full review here to come in due course and I enjoyed it tremendously end to end with the one niggle that it stops when the action gets really heated, but that's a reason to mark the sequel as a big asap.
Here is the blurb:
"In 1880 women aren’t allowed to vote, much less dress up in a costume and fight crime...
But twenty-year-old socialite Sarah Stanton still dreams of becoming a hero. Her opportunity arrives in tragedy when the leader of the Society of Paragons, New York’s greatest team of gentlemen adventurers, is murdered right before her eyes. To uncover the truth behind the assassination, Sarah joins forces with the amazing mechanical man known as The Automaton. Together they unmask a conspiracy at the heart of the Paragons that reveals the world of heroes and high-society is built on a crumbling foundation of greed and lies. When Sarah comes face to face with the megalomaniacal villain behind the murder, she must discover if she has the courage to sacrifice her life of privilege and save her clockwork friend.
The Falling Machine (The Society of Steam, Book One) takes place in a Victorian New York powered by the discovery of Fortified Steam, a substance that allows ordinary men to wield extraordinary abilities and grants powers that can corrupt gentlemen of great moral strength. The secret behind this amazing substance is something that wicked brutes will gladly kill for and one that Sarah must try and protect, no matter what the cost."