In 2020 I read 3 fantasy series and I’m in the middle of one now. Since they occupied a bunch of my time, lets talk about them. I’m going to force you to listen to me talk about fantasy.
Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks
(The Black Prism, The Blinding Knife, The Broken Eye, The Blood Mirror, The Burning White)
Where do I begin with this series? In the world of the Seven Satrapies, magic is based on colors of light. It’s a bit like green lantern rings, but each color has different properties of matter and evoke different emotions. Some colors are liquid, some solid, gaseous, etc. Each magic user, or drafter, can only use so much magic before they go crazy and it takes them over. The Seven Satrapies themselves represent the seven recognized colors. Their emperor is called the Prism, who can use every kind of magic without limit. His primary job is to balance the colors in the world. There’s a lot going on here. I absolutely loved this world, which only seemed to get more complex the further I got.
Lightbringer follows both a world war over control of magic and a saga of the Guile family, of whom Gavin Guile is the Prism, and whose illegitimate son Kip drives a lot of the action. It’s a series that traffics in not only complex magic and treacherous politics, but absolutely insane plot twists and revelations. Not everybody ends up liking Lightbringer. There’s a TON of divisive stuff in this series. There’s even a plot twist that is a straight-up retcon, revealing the author himself as unreliable. I can understand that pissing people off, but I love that kind of shit. Are you messy enough for Lightbringer’s drama? And that last book! Holy shit! There so much going on just in that last book. Whatever you end up thinking of Lightbringer, it’s an achievement. That incredible world and wild plot are something to marvel at.
Book of the Ancestor trilogy by Mark Lawrence
(Red Sister, Grey Sister, Holy Sister)
Book of the Ancestor goes small-scale compared to Lightbringer, following primarily one character and her hero’s journey in an equally interesting, but far smaller world. Nona Grey is an unwanted girl from the margins, coming from absolute destitution. And by margins, I mean the world’s inhabitable area has actual margins before the ice begins. The planet Abeth is frozen over, except for a strip of land called The Corridor, which circles the planet. It’s only kept open because of the Focus Moon, an orbital mirror that focuses the rays of their dying sun. Abeth was settled by 4 tribes with very different abilities. Hunska are super-fast, Gerants are giants, Quantals can use reality altering Path magic, and the Marjal have elemental magic. The four bloods are muted in most people and have interbred extensively over time.
Nona goes from facing execution, after accidentally killing a noble, to being taken to the Sweet Mercy convent to train as a nun. But Sweet Mercy also teaches combat, magic, and spy-craft, as their nuns double as warrior assassins. Over 3 books, Nona becomes one of the baddest motherfuckers in the world. But it’s not just about Nona. It’s about the Sweet Mercy family, a set of characters who will go from mysterious strangers to old friends, and how they navigate the messed up politics of a dying world.
The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
(The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, Last Argument of Kings)
The First Law is a grim trilogy that centers on The Union, a Britain-esque empire and it’s wars in the North and South, to keep its imperial holdings and defend themselves. But it’s more about a collection of some of the most well-defined and distinct characters I’ve ever read about. These guys feel so real and larger-than-life, that I couldn’t help getting sucked into their lives. It mainly follows:
Logan Ninefingers: A stoic and pragmatic barbarian and one of most feared people in the North. He’s really tired of fighting, but can never seem to escape having to fight.
Jezal Dan Luthar: A young noble being trained in fencing, who is spoiled, arrogant, and dumb. But with the right motivations, Jezal can imagine a more noble, more selfless version of himself he’d like to embody. Maybe.
Inquisitor Glokta: A former war hero, San Dan Glokta was tortured for two years and is now a physically mangled and cruel inquisitor. Glokta acts as an investigator and interrogator for the kingdom, and has an incredible gift for scheming. He’s also darkly hilarious and has become one of my favorite fictional characters ever.
Bayaz, First of the Magi: Bayaz is one of the last of the original wizards in a world where magic is dying. He’s also a self-assured prick who’s going to upend all their lives.