Thursday, 11 December 2014

My Top Ten Favourite Books (Of All Time) #10 - #6

Since it's Christmas, or at least the time at which supermarkets and television ads would like us to believe is Christmas, I figured I'd take the time out to look back at some of the books I've read this year as well as all those I've read further back. Sticking to fiction here, and you'll notice they're mostly fantasy novels.

The main rule that I'm enforcing here is one book per author, since otherwise this would just be a list of Pratchett novels...whiiich actually sounds like a fun idea.... I'll leave that for a later list. It may sound like a top ten authors list, but I'm ranking by book quality, so my top ten favourite authors could probably make a different list.

Anyway, let's get on with the list.

10. The Sword in the Storm (Rigante Series Book 1)  David Gemmel

I think The Sword in the Storm was the first adult fantasy book I picked up as a child, bar the less traditional Discworld Series. I must admit, Gemmel's books don't seem to have the same pull to me as they used to, but the ideas and stories in the book still resonate with me till this day. As far as I remember, it's a story about a honourable boy named Connovar, overcoming vast challenges to become leader of the Rigante. It is notable perhaps for it's clear Celtic tones and strong characterisation.

Many of Gemmel's other books are excellent reads, including most of his Drenai series, and the Troy series. He tends to create these noble, yet troubled heroes, often faced with overwhelming loss.

9. The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicles Book 2) Patrick Rothfuss

Rothfuss has an excellent talent for words - specifically how to craft them into uniquely enchanting sentences. He also has a clear love of storytelling in all its forms. Several times, I have been drawn into a story told within the novel, forgetting that it was being told by one of the characters, rather than the narrator - who is also telling his own story within the context of the novel. The main character at first seems a little cliched - the talented, recently orphaned boy who seems to be good at anything he tries his hand at - but it quickly becomes clear that Kvothe is an incredibly interesting individual. Many traditional fantasy elements are included, but approached in unique and nuanced ways.

The reason why this book is so low is that despite Rothfuss' clear talent, I have not yet invested myself into the world - I find the move from the present to the past a little jarring for one thing. The fact that we know fairly well where Kvothe's life is heading by the end of this book makes me almost reticent to read the next one, since in the past he had finally found himself in a place where he was content. I will read the next book though, and you should read these.

8. Mostly Harmless (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Book 5) Douglas Adams

 I'll not bother explaining much about the series, since you likely know enough about it already. (If you don't, I highly advise you leave my blog, buy an ebook edition of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, read it, then come back to me to agree how great it is). Mostly Harmless is probably my personal favourite, for reasons difficult to explain. Perhaps it's because Arthur Dent set himself up on a planet as the official sandwich maker for a small simple village. Or maybe it's my favourite because it's the one that I least associate with any tv or film version of the books.

What I do know is that it doesn't contain my favourite part from all the novels, the Cathedral of Hate, in which an unfortunate creature named Agrajag reveals that Arthur Dent had killed him many times, each time Agrajag reincarnating to a new body that Dent kills.

7. The Lone Drow (Hunter's Blades Trilogy Book 2) R. A. Salvatore

R.A. Salvatore's books have been extremely hit and miss to me, but I managed to read some of his best fare first of all. The Hunter's Blades trilogy has some of Salvatore's best character work to date. Set in the Forgotten Realms, the main setting for Dungeons and Dragons, and starring Drizzt Do'Urden, the dark elf that spawned a thousand online handles, as well as his friends.

The Lone Drow stands out for two reasons. First is it's excellent examination of the pain of loss. At the end of the previous novel, Drizzt thought he witnessed the death of all his friends in one swoop by the hands of an army of orcs and frost giants. They survived, of course, but Drizzt spends much of his time behind enemy lines, trying to find meaning and revenge. The second reason is the epic cliffside battle that Drizzt's friends face. One of my favourite setpieces in any novel I've read.

6. Last Will of Kings (First Law Trilogy Book 3) Joe Abercrombie

If you know me very well at all, you've probably heard me sing the praise of this series at least once before. It contains so many elements of traditional fantasy - the hidden heir to the throne, the wise old wizard, the noble barbarian. And yet, all are subverted before the end, in completely organic ways. Seemingly all the characters are assholes, perhaps more cynically flawed than in reality, but yet when it comes to the POV characters, I can't help but like them. Glokta, the crippled inquisitor is a particular favourite - cynical, darkly witted, almost enjoying torturing others, but still holding a vulnerability about him.

If you're looking for optimistic, happy-go-lucky fantasy, Abercrombie is a bad choice. But other than that, I barely have a bad word to say about this book, which makes my top 5 even more special.

#5-1 will come within a couple of days. Speculate as you will as to what will turn up in the top 5. Here's a list of some books that narrowly missed the top ten:
Conan the Barbarian Series by Robert E. Howard
J-Pod by Douglas Coupland
The Portable Door by Tom Holt
The Warrior-Prophet by R. Scott Bakker
Magician by Raymond E. Feist
Gardens of the Moon by Stephen Erikson
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

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