I read five big fat fantasy series this year! A few years ago I read the first books of a couple of big fat fantasy series, and this year I finally finished those two series, Greg Keyes’ Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone and Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet. I also read Patty Jansen’s Icefire Trilogy and C. S. Friedman’s Magister Trilogy, and I’m going to count Lindsay Buroker’s Emperor’s Edge series even though I read most of those books in 2012.

I enjoyed the first book of Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, The Briar King, and was really looking forward to the rest of the series. Uh oh. The next two books were pretty good too, but the final book was sheer WTFery. A major plot thread was abandoned, and the ending was rushed and inconclusive. I have no idea what happened. Did the author get tired of the book? Did he need more time? It’s really disappointing when a series crashes.

The Magister Trilogy ended on a disappointing note also. The first book raised a major question about the morality of fueling magic with people’s lives, and the subject was completely dropped at the end. Now that the protagonist was recognized as a mage (nothing unexpected there, huh?), everything was hunky dory. Maybe that was the point of the series — that the rules change when you’re the one with the power — but if so the point was extremely subtle, so subtle I’m more likely to believe the author forgot the question raised in the first book. Bah.

I enjoyed the Long Price Quartet much more than the other two I just mentioned. I had forgotten much of what happened in A Shadow in Summer (but I still remember all the seeds dropping loudly on the stone floor; that was a great scene full of sensory detail), but there was just enough recap that I was able to recall events and people. The author let his characters remain true to themselves; they weren’t pushed to change to conform to story needs, and they aged naturally in body and personality. It was sad that a certain army got whupped, but what else can you really expect from someone with no military background and untrained and unarmed recruits? And this series contains the morality missing in the Magister Trilogy.

The Icefire Trilogy was fun to read, and I had to download the next book immediately finishing the one previous. The trilogy had a mostly satisfying ending. The romance of the older couple was a little abrupt and struck a false note; their actions felt forced to fit the need for a happy ending. I also was disappointed not to see a reconciliation between the brothers. What!? After all that build-up of their past conflict? That’s what I wanted to see, not some obligatory romance.

The Emperor’s Edge comprises seven books, nine if you count Encrypted and Decrypted, which really are necessary to read to enjoy the ending. Normally I’m done with a story that drags out over more than four books. I don’t know if it’s because these books were released so close together or because they were so tightly focused and didn’t keep adding plotlines and characters, but I didn’t get that “Okay, we’re done now” feeling I get midway through a never-ending series. The author pulled off a couple of tough accomplishments: (1) She managed to rehabilitate the assassin without stretching him into something unbelievable. He was emotionally stunted and remains emotionally stunted. The protag is a fixer, just about OCD with her need to clean, and he became her project. Those two people together work. (2) The boy who’s a dreamer didn’t automagically become a decisive leader. I was really primed for that to happen — it does in all the other BFFs! — but nope, the leader turned out to be someone who actually knew how to lead.

All in all, 2013 was a good year for reading BFFs.

  • Greg Keyes, The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone: The Briar King, The Charnel Prince, The Blood Knight, The Born Queen
  • C. S. Friedman, The Magister Trilogy: Feast of Souls, Wings of Wrath, Legacy of Kings
  • Daniel Abraham, The Long Price Quartet: A Shadow in Summer, A Betrayal in Winter, An Autumn War, The Price of Spring
  • Patty Jansen, The Icefire Trilogy: Fire & Ice, Dust & Rain, Blood & Tears
  • Lindsay Buroker, The Emperor’s Edge: The Emperor’s Edge, Dark Currents, Deadly Games, Conspiracy, Blood and Betrayal, Forged in Blood I & II, Encrypted, Decrypted