Best Fantasy Novels of 2014 - So Far

So what's out so far?

With 2014 behind us, all the most anticipated fantasy books of the year have been published. However, there have also been quite a few others, with some gems in the mix.

This list is now historical, and a new list for 2015 will be started shortly, as more books come out. In the mean time, you can find the most anticipated 2015 releases here.

Brian Staveley – The Emperor's Blades
Brian Staveley – The Emperor's Blades

The Emperor's Blades

(Unhewn Throne #1)

– Brian Staveley

Probably the best reviewed fantasy novel of the first quarter, The Emperor's Blades will likely be in the running for top debut of the year. I found it a good read, though the plot was both a bit simple and slow to advance. Characterization could also use some work in the rest of the series – to which at least two more parts have been planned. As it was, most of the characters didn't really develop through the story, or did so only in a single, giant leap.

If you prefer a self-contained story this book may not be for you, but if you enjoy waiting for next part in fantasy epics like A Song of Ice and Fire or maybe one of Sanderson's, this initial book does make the series look promising. You can read the first few chapters for free on Amazon.

The Emperor has been murdered, leaving the Annurian Empire in turmoil. Now his progeny must bury their grief and prepare to unmask a conspiracy.

Miles Cameron – The Fell Sword
Miles Cameron – The Fell Sword

The Fell Sword

(Traitor Son #2)

– Miles Cameron

When I first read part one of the series, The Red Knight, I found myself wondering what the hell was going on and who all the characters were, and this was a drag until almost halfway through the book everything sort of clicked. I was hoping the same wouldn't be true in The Fell Sword, when the characters had already been introduced, but if anything it started off worse. Both novels would rate much higher in my... book... if they weren't so difficult to read.

That said, it's still an enjoyable book once you slog through the beginning, and I would recommend it to all who've read The Red Knight.

In The Fell Sword the Red Knight and his company go across the mountains to the Morea and Thrake - those are the kingdoms to the east of Alba - to put down what appears to be a local rebellion and proves to be larger.

Fell Sword author shoots an arrow through his book

David Edison - The Waking Engine
David Edison - The Waking Engine

The Waking Engine

– David Edison

"Interesting idea, but" is probably the most common way for me to begin a negative fantasy review, but The Waking Engine had a lot more going for it, including some high quality writing. Ultimately, I have to say the book was simply too weird and difficult for me to fully enjoy. That doesn't mean others won't like it or that I might not grow to enjoy it more after a reread, but you have been warned.

Contrary to popular wisdom, death is not the end, nor is it a passage to some transcendent afterlife. Those who die merely awake as themselves on one of a million worlds, where they are fated to live until they die again, and wake up somewhere new. All are born only once, but die many times . . . until they come at last to the City Unspoken, where the gateway to True Death can be found.

Doublas Hulick – Sworn in Steel
Doublas Hulick – Sworn in Steel

Sworn in Steel

(Tales of the Kin #2)

– Douglas Hulick

The second part of Tales of the Kin was delayed a couple of times and finally came out in May 2014. Hulick got unlucky with his protagonist's name in the first book, having chosen Drothe before The Name of the Wind came out with Kvothe. Having read some chapters into Sworn in Steel I couldn't help noticing the parallel of a theater troupe as a plot device, this times soon after Republic of Thieves. However, it ended up not being too much of a distraction, since the plots were nothing alike otherwise.

This is an action packed book, almost reminiscent of Jim Butcher's writing. Drothe can never seem to have a chance to catch his breath. That said, there were some places Hulick could have slowed down the pace a bit and justified some decisions better. Also, there were some revelations, especially towards the end of the book, that should in my opinion not have left Drothe so unfazed.

With barely the beginnings of an organization to his name, Drothe is already being called out by other Gray Princes. And to make matters worse, when one dies, all signs point to Drothe as wielding the knife. As members of the Kin begin choosing sides – mostly against him – for what looks to be another impending war, Drothe is approached by a man who not only has the solution to Drothe’s most pressing problem, but an offer of redemption. The only problem is the offer isn’t for him.

Jim Butcher - Skin Game
Jim Butcher - Skin Game

Skin Game

(Dresden Files #15)

– Jim Butcher

Butcher keeps an impressive pace with Dresden Files, both in terms of writing them and in terms of the story. Dresden's now been with us for more than a decade, both in real life and the world of the series. What that means, though, is that most who've read through the first 14 will read this regardless of reviews and few will be convinced to pick up the series on the strength of the fifteenth novel if they wouldn't otherwise.

That said, this is yet another high quality Dresden novel, after the in my opinion weaker Changes and Ghost Story. There is a heavy dose of cliché in some of the, let's say, familial parts, but with Dresden's emotions a storm due to the winter mantle, that is justified. A lot of action and some interesting characters from the past; I only wish we'd have seen more of Molly.

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day. Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful. He doesn’t know the half of it…

Anthony Ryan – Tower Lord
Anthony Ryan – Tower Lord

Tower Lord

(Raven's Shadow #2)

Anthony Ryan

The first part of the series, Blood Song, was my favorite fantasy novel of 2012, when the edition I read came out. It was the story of Vaelin's coming of age and rise to fame, framed by a story of the historian Verniers that gave it structure and foreshadowing.

Had Tower Lord been the story of Vaelin's return to the Unified Realm, I would have been happy. Had it been the story of another character, like Reva, it could also have been excellent. However, it was a story of not only those two, but Lyrna, Frentis and Verniers (whose was not a real frame story this time), each from a different point of view.

That can be done very well (cf. GoT/ASoIaF), but I didn't enjoy Ryan's attempt at it as much as I did his first book of the series. With five shorter stories there was not as much room for character development, and what happened felt a bit abrupt in comparison. The timeline was also somewhat confusing. Further, while Blood Song had a very satisfying ending that let it stand on its own, the ending of Tower Lord was too much of a cliffhanger for my taste.

Still, Tower Lord is one of the best novels of the year so far, perhaps even the best. Saying it didn't reach the level of Blood Song does not make it bad, only imperfect.

Which of the above do you like or want to read the most?

  • The Emperors Blades
  • The Fell Sword
  • The Waking Engine
  • None of the above, but another one. (Please leave a comment.)
  • None, there haven't been any good books this year.
See results without voting

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