The 1999 MacLaurin Fat Fantasy Awards
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Last year, the SF Site introduced my Fat Fantasy Awards and I was surprised at the number of letters we received from readers who loved the idea. Obviously, there are quite a number of fantasy fans who love big fat books as much as I do.
A little more than a year has passed. Some months back, our esteemed Editor, Rodger Turner, asked if I would be doing the Awards again this year. "Sure, its a great idea. I'll have them done for the January 1st issue." A few weeks went by. "Oh, yeah... how about the February 1st issue". Once again, life intervened. For the last week I've been hiding behind the "Romance" isles at Chapters. That was about the only place Rodger wouldn't think of looking for me -- he really hates it when deadlines are missed. Apparently somebody recognized me and soon I realized what George R.R. Martin must have felt like in those last few days before the manuscript for A Clash of Kings was turned in. I figured I had a pretty good chance, but I was no match for the awesome force that is Rodger. The bad news is that Rodger and I have been banned from that Chapters. The good news is that there are three others in the city -- and Rodger got his Awards column.
For those of you who weren't around for last year's Fat Fantasy Awards, the concept is pretty straightforward. I like fantasy. I really like massive hardcovers. And I really really like fantasy that comes in several volumes of massive hardcovers. The bigger the better and, generally, the longer the better. Massive background, elaborate plots to shame Umberto Eco and lots of great characters (often with unpronounceable names).
1999 proved to be a terrific year for fat fantasy. Several great ongoing series saw new chapters added and, better yet, several promising new series have appeared on the shelves. So, without further delay, here are my personal favourite Fat Fantasy novels of 1999 (in no particular order).
A Cavern of Black Ice by J.V. Jones -- Warner Aspect
With this novel, J.V. Jones has started something that I believe will become a truly great series. Her previous books have been marvellous -- always a joy to read. A Cavern of Black Ice has a much darker tone to it than her earlier work, and only hints at the depth of the story that is being set up. It also wins the award for "The Most Indestructible Bad Guy."
A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin -- Bantam Spectra
What can I say. A Clash of Kings just might be better than A Game of Thrones, which I felt was one of the best and most original fantasy books ever written. For all of those out there who were despairing at the time it took to get A Clash of Kings to the local book store, rest assured it was time well spent. Martin builds on the foundations of A Game of Thrones but creates as many new threads as the ones he ties up. Characters are killed off nearly as quickly as new ones are introduced, and I defy anyone to guess beforehand which main characters just might be on the chopping block. I can't begin to imagine where A Storm of Swords is going to take us, but I wait with bated breath.
The Jackal of Nar by John Marco -- Bantam Spectra
Book 1 of Tyrants & Kings offers a slightly different take on the traditional fantasy novel. The Jackal of Nar uses the tried and true backdrop of a bloody war, tosses in some "science" based weapons of mass destruction and mixes in a tale of love, loyalty and the quest for immortality. The fact that this is Marco's first novel makes the achievement all the more impressive. Definitely a writer to watch for in the realm of the Fat Fantasy.
Mad Ship by Robin Hobb -- Bantam Spectra
A quote from my own review says it all:
"Oh boy... pirates, talking ships, magic, sea serpents, slave revolts, dashing heroes, bloody battles and lusty maidens..." That was my reaction to Ship of Magic, the first book in Robin Hobb's The Liveship Traders trilogy.Lord of the Fire Lands by Dave Duncan -- Avon/EOS
Dave Duncan is a constant source of amazement. Not only has he written an impressive array of novels, but he is continuously re-inventing his worlds. The King's Blades is a wonderful set of tales that owe more to The Three Musketeers than to Conan or Lord of the Rings. Lord of the Fire Lands is the second Tale of the King's Blades and neatly weaves in elements of the first one. A terrific addition to the growing body of work of a writer who's always worth reading.
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson -- Bantam UK
Our own Neil Walsh reviewed this a while back. His comments pretty well describe the captivating nature of the novel: "It's a world you'll be glad you weren't born into, but one that is so engrossing you'll be hard pressed to set it aside." You can almost smell the stench of battlefields and feel the electric power of magic. Better still, this is the first of a planned 10-book series, so there's plenty more to look forward to. Volume 2 should be available this summer in the UK, although North American rights are allegedly still up for grabs.
Salvatore cut his writing teeth in the book machine of TSR's publishing division. His Dark Elf novels are among TSR's all time bestsellers. His Demon Wars series for Del Rey is, by his own admission, an attempt to deal with more mature themes and has continued his bestselling tradition. Salvatore remains one of my favourite writers of light fantasy. His continued forays into more complex styles (such as with The Demon Apostle) promise great things in the future of fat fantasy.
Janny Wurts has become known for her large sweeping vistas of expansive storytelling. The Wars of Shadow and Light is a massive series in both size and scope. Grand Conspiracy is the 4th in the series and Wurts doesn't seem to be even close to done yet. The story continues to develop and draw towards its conclusion, but when that epic confrontation might occur is a secret Wurts has kept well hidden. Janny Wurts also does the cover art for her books, and since she is one of the foremost fantasy artists, this makes her books as impressive to look at as to read.
Krondor: The Assassins by Raymond E. Feist -- Avon/EOS
Raymond E. Feist is one of the bestselling authors in the genre. His Midkemia novels, which have spanned 15 years in the telling, rank amongst my personal favourites. The Krondor series is an intriguing glimpse into the known (and unknown) history that makes up the backdrop for his previous novels. Any year with a Feist novel is a good year.
Dawnthief by James Barclay -- Victor Gollancz
When I see "Book 1," I figure that's generally a good sign. Particularly when it appears on a novel as engaging as this one. Book 1 of the Chronicles of the Raven is a tale of betrayal and half-truths versus loyalty and honour. And it's only the first of what promises to be a many-tomed and interesting tale.
Glen Cook's latest is another Novel of the Black Company, Book 3 of the Glittering Stone. Thus it is the most recent chapter in one of the longest-running fantasy series, which is growing in popularity with each new release. So far, Cook has given us a very long, very dark and very strange tale. I really don't know what's next for the Black Company but I'm sure Glen Cook will make it at least as interesting as the story to date. The big question, however, is how long will it take him to do it?
Other Honourable Mentions
Finally, there are a few other series worthy of mention. Tad Williams's Otherland, Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth and Stephen Lawhead's epic Arthurian series (Avalon is the latest), David Farland's Brotherhood of the Wolf and Guy Gavriel Kay's The Sarantine Mosaic are all well worth a look.
So, there you have it: The 1999 MacLaurin Fat Fantasy Awards. With a bit of luck, somebody will discover something wonderful here.
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