Fresh Fiction Senior Reviewer Debbie Wiley
Fantasy novels are magical with their ability to transport you to other worlds. Worldbuilding is crucial to the success of any fantasy novel as we need to believe in these imaginary and sometimes quite fantastical worlds. Character development is important as well since we have to care about the fates of the characters. Despite the fact that both elements are important to any genre but particularly the fantasy genre, most readers have a preference for one or the other and I have to admit I prefer complex worldbuilding over character-driven novels. Here are some of my recent favorite fantasy novels in which the authors do a marvelous job at balancing both character development and worldbuilding.
Who doesn’t love a series featuring a Library in charge of the world? Rachel Caine’s brilliant series, The Great Library, recently concluded with the fifth and final book, SWORD AND PEN. SWORD AND PEN showcases all of the characters we’ve grown to love and cheer for putting it all on the line in hopes of finally creating a world of peace and information, where the Library doesn’t squelch knowledge it doesn’t like. The worldbuilding is phenomenal, as we have automatons, a library filled with vast and hidden knowledge, and even a few diabolically clever puzzles thrown in to keep the characters on their toes. And the characters… Rachel Caine is sure to both break your heart and give you reason to cheer in The Great Library series.
Marshall Ryan Maresca is one of my recent favorite authors in the fantasy genre, as he’s crafted four different novels all set in the world of Maradaine. SHIELD OF THE PEOPLE is part of his Maradaine Elite series and focuses primarily on one of the last remaining warrior orders in the country. We meet Dayne Heldrin and Jerinne Fendall, two Taurians who are devoted to their Order and striving to reach the level of Adept. Marshall Ryan Maresca digs deep into the political conspiracies underlying everything in the Maradaine Elite series and it’s fascinating to see how he is drawing the events of the four series together.
HOW RORY THORNE DESTROYED THE MULTIVERSE by K. Eason is more science fiction than fantasy but deserves special mention because some of the elements are similar to fantasy. We’ve got fairies (and fairy curses), princes, assassinations, and political betrothals all set amongst space as the overall backdrop. HOW RORY THORNE DESTROYED THE MULTIVERSE is the kind of outrageous fun reminiscent of the movie The Princess Bride.
THE RISE OF MAGICKS by Nora Roberts concludes her phenomenal Chronicles of One series. Nora Roberts has created a world where magick has re-emerged after a virus, called Doom, wipes out most of civilization. Fallon Swift has emerged as a leader, using her magick to protect and defend others against dark magick as well as the Purity Warriors who believe all magick is evil. Nora Roberts proves with the Chronicles of One series that she is a master at any genre she sets her pen (or computer!) to and THE RISE OF MAGICKS is a tale any fantasy lover will appreciate and enjoy.
In addition to traditional fantasy novels, there are several phenomenal urban fantasy novels out recently. Urban Fantasy still incorporates many of the elements of a traditional fantasy novel but uses the modern world as the setting. Two of my recent favorites are SHARPEST STING and WICKED HOUR. SHARPEST STING by Jennifer Estep is the 18th book in her Elemental Assassin series and chock full of action, intrigue, and magic. The heroine, Gin Blanco, is an assassin and I love her loyalty to her friends and her willingness to sacrifice for those she cares about. WICKED HOUR by Chloe Neill is the second book in her Heirs of Chicagoland and features Elisa Sullivan, the first-born vampire in history. I love how we’re getting more insight into the shifters’ mythology as well as the interactions between the two species.
What are some of your current favorites in the fantasy genre? And do you prefer complex worldbuilding or character-driven tales?
BOOKS RECOMMENDED IN THIS ARTICLE:
With the future of the Great Library in doubt, the
unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone must
decide if it’s worth saving in this thrilling adventure in
the New York Times bestselling series.
The corrupt leadership of the Great Library has fallen. But with
the Archivist plotting his return to power, and the Library
under siege from outside empires and kingdoms, its future is
uncertain. Jess Brightwell and his friends must come
together as never before, to forge a new future for the
Great Library. . . or see everything it stood for crumble.
Young Adult Fantasy [Berkley, On Sale: September 3, 2019, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9780451489241 / eISBN: 9780451489258]
Buy SWORD AND PEN: Amazon.com | Kindle
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The second novel in the Maradaine Elite series blends fast-paced high fantasy and political intrigue.
After stopping Tharek Pell and saving the Druth Parliament, Dayne Heldrin and Jerinne Fendall find themselves on the margins of the Tarian Order: lauded as heroes in public but scorned and ignored in private, their future in the Order hazy. Dayne is given an assignment that isolates him from the Order, and Jerinne is hazed and bullied at the bottom of the initiate rankings.
But it’s a grand holiday week in the city of Maradaine, celebrating over two centuries of freedom and the foundation of the reunified modern nation, and with that come parades, revelry… and protests and demonstrations. A dissident group called The Open Hand–and their mysterious, charismatic leader, Bishop Ret Issendel–seeks to disrupt the Parliament elections with their message of secession and dissolution.
Despite orders to stay out of the public eye, Dayne and Jerinne are drawn into the intrigue of the Open Hand and kept apart by dark powerful conspiracies that brew around them. Dayne and Jerinne must fight for their own principles, and protect the will of the people as the election is thrown into chaos.
The Thorne Chronicles #1
First in a duology that reimagines fairy tale tropes within a space opera–The Princess Bride meets Princess Leia.
Rory Thorne is a princess with thirteen fairy blessings, the most important of which is to see through flattery and platitudes. As the eldest daughter, she always imagined she’d inherit her father’s throne and govern the interplanetary Thorne Consortium.
Then her father is assassinated, her mother gives birth to a son, and Rory is betrothed to the prince of a distant world.
When Rory arrives in her new home, she uncovers a treacherous plot to unseat her newly betrothed and usurp his throne. An unscrupulous minister has conspired to name himself Regent to the minor (and somewhat foolish) prince. With only her wits and a small team of allies, Rory must outmaneuver the Regent and rescue the prince.
How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse is a feminist reimagining of familiar fairytale tropes and a story of resistance and self-determination–how small acts of rebellion can lead a princess to not just save herself, but change the course of history.
The #1 New York Times bestselling author ofnYear One and Of Blood and Bone concludes her stunning new trilogy praised as “A match for end-of-the-world classics like Stephen King’s The Stand.”
After the sickness known as the Doom destroyed civilization, magick has become commonplace, and Fallon Swift has spent her young years learning its ways. Fallon cannot live in peace until she frees those who have been preyed upon by the government or the fanatical Purity Warriors, endlessly hunted or locked up in laboratories, brutalized for years on end. She is determined to save even those who have been complicit with this evil out of fear or weakness–if, indeed, they can be saved.
Strengthened by the bond she shares with her fellow warrior, Duncan, Fallon has already succeeded in rescuing countless shifters and elves and ordinary humans. Now she must help them heal–and rediscover the light and faith within themselves. For although from the time of her birth, she has been The One, she is still only one. And as she faces down an old nemesis, sets her sights on the enemy’s stronghold, and pursues her destiny–to finally restore the mystical shield that once protected them all–she will need an army behind her. . .
The truth won’t set me free–but it will probably get me killed. . .
As Gin Blanco, aka the assassin the Spider, I’m used to having a target on my back. But ever since I started investigating the secret society known as the Circle, that target seems bigger than ever.
Still, I’m trying to relax and enjoy the events leading up to my friends’ wedding when I learn that an old enemy has returned to Ashland. And that’s the just beginning of my latest nightmare. Soon, I have Circle goons watching my every move, but I have no choice but to continue searching for a key piece of evidence against the evil group.
The deeper I dig, the more horrifying secrets I uncover, and the more dangerous things become for me and my friends. Just when I think I finally have a handle on things, a shocking revelation shatters my heart and leaves me with an ugly realization–that betrayal is the sharpest sting of all. . .
In the second pulse-pounding novel in the USA Today bestselling Heirs of Chicagoland series, vampire Elisa Sullivan gets drawn into the shifting sands of Pack politics.
Vampires were made, not born–until Elisa Sullivan came along. As the only vampire child in existence, she grew up with a heavy legacy, and tried to flee her past. Then circumstances drew her back to Chicago, and she stayed to keep it safe. With shifter Connor Keene, the only son of Pack Apex Gabriel Keene, at her side, she faced down a supernatural evil that threatened to destroy Chicago forever.
After the dust from the attack has settled, Elisa is surprised when Connor invites her to a usually private Pack event in the north woods of Minnesota, and by the warm welcome she receives from some of Connor’s family, even though she’s a vampire. But the peace doesn’t last. The shifters tell tales of a monster in the woods, and when the celebration is marred by death, Elisa and Connor find themselves in the middle of a struggle for control that forces Elisa to face her true self–fangs and all.