Grudgebearer by J.F. Lewis. ★★
Grudgebearer is the start to an epic fantasy trilogy. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to my tastes. If I weren’t reading it for review, I wouldn’t have finished.
Grudgebearer is set in a world with a wide array of species, some of whom are immortal. Kholster is the first of the immortal Aern, a wolf-like, carnivorous warrior species with no qualms about eating other sentient beings. They were created as slaves for the Eldrennai but gained freedom six hundred years ago. Every hundred years the peace between the Eldrennai and the Aern must be reforged at the Grand Conjunction. But an Eldrennai prince has moved the armor the Aern left hostage, and if he’s going to follow his oath, Kholster must destroy them all. And if he doesn’t follow his oath, then he will no longer be an Aern.
The Initiate Brother by Sean Russell. ★★★1/2
After a plague ravaged the Empire of Wa, there’s a new dynasty on the throne. And many who were once powerful are out of favor with the Emperor. Among these are the Botahist Monks, who have a unique control over their perception of time and their internal energy. They’ve been spiritual advisers to the court for a thousand years, but now their position is threatened. However, the Emperor views his greatest enemy of all as Lord Shonto, the powerful head of a great house and adopted father of Lady Nishima, the last surviving member of the old dynasty. The Emperor has hatched a plan to rid himself of Lord Shonto, but he didn’t count on Lord Shonto’s new spiritual adviser, the Brother Shuyun.
Sea of Sorrows by Michelle West. ★★★1/2
Sea of Sorrows is the fourth book in Michelle West’s Sun Sword series, and you absolutely need to start from the beginning. If you aren’t familiar with the series, it’s a traditional epic fantasy series with plenty of female characters and begins with The Broken Crown.
Like all other installments in the series, Sea of Sorrows is long, numbering some 800 odd pages. My experience with this series has been that the beginnings might feel like they’re dragging, but by the half way mark things speed up. Unfortunately that wasn’t my experience with Sea of Sorrows. There were large sections that I felt like I was slogging through.
The Mountain of Kept Memory by Rachel Neumeier. ★★★★
The Mountain of Kept Memory is a stand alone fantasy novel that reminded me of City of Stairs. The gods died long ago, but the Kieba has retained some of their power, which she’s used to protect the people of Carastind… until the king manages to anger her. With the kingdom on the edge of invasion, the prince and princess of Carastind are desperately trying to salvage their kingdom’s independence from the forces arrayed against them.
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin. ★★★★
The Obelisk Gate directly continues where The Fifth Season left off and must be read in order. If you haven’t read The Fifth Season, go read it. Now. Seriously, it’s one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read.
When I say The Obelisk Gate directly continues The Fifth Season, I mean it starts in the very same scene where the last book ended, with Alabaster declaring that they had to get a moon. I ended up wishing that I’d reread The Fifth Season directly before hand, since I’d forgotten a lot of details and spent a while confused. I feel like I would have gotten a lot more out of The Obelisk Gate if I’d read it directly after The Fifth Season. As is, I plan on rereading the series at some point after its completion so I can more fully parse the various complexities.
An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows. ★★★★
An Accident of Stars is a queer feminist portal fantasy told from the point of views of four female characters. Saffron is a high school student in Australia who follows a strange woman through a portal and enters another world, Kena. While born on earth, Gwen has been traveling to Kena for over thirty years and considers it home. She even became involved in local politics and made an unwise choice in supporting a man called Leoden in his bid for the throne. Now Gwen and her allies are hunted by him, including Zech, the adopted granddaughter of an exiled matriarch, and Viya, Leoden’s runaway consort.
An Accident of Stars hits a lot of high points for me. For one, it has a greater focus on the relationships between female characters than almost any fantasy novel I’ve seen. I particularly loved the mentor/student relationship between Gwen and Saffron. While the official blurb frames Saffron as the protagonist, I think that’s belittling the role played by the other POV characters. Saffron serves as a clear reader insert but all four women have their own story lines and no one receives the clear majority of page time.
The Shining Court by Michelle West. ★★★★
Michelle West’s Sun Sword series is a six book long epic fantasy series starting with The Broken Crown. The Shining Court is the third book in the series, and you most definitely need to have read the previous books.
The third book returns focus to the Dominion. The focus is on Jewel as she travels south, the Voyani, the Shining Court, the conspirators, and Diora. The cast list that appeared in the beginning of the previous two books has mostly been removed, aside from two pages listing out the Voyani (many of whom are new characters). Perhaps you’re expected to know who everyone is by now? Or perhaps the list of characters got two long for a list.