The Hero of Ages is exactly as epic a conclusion as I remembered. I feared that knowing all of the big twists and reveals might lead to it not being as powerful upon rereading as it was when I experienced it the first time, but those concerns were unwarranted. My anticipation of said reveals made for a reading journey that was just as fulfilling as my first read-through. Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy isn’t quite a perfect series, but it’s very, very close. With fantastic world building, high stakes and palpable tension, mysteries to be solved and a whole plethora of wonderful characters to root for, philosophical musings on belief and hope balanced with brilliant action scenes and some of the most cinematic and interesting magic systems I’ve ever encountered, I don’t think it’s at all a stretch to call Mistborn a masterpiece. …
Between 1st January 2021 and 27th June 2022, I’ve read 39 novels + 55 manga/manhwa volumes (31k pages).
Please read this first. There will be three rules I set in this list in order for me to give appreciation to more authors rather than having only a few authors hoarding this list. These rules allow me to highlight more authors, and at the same time, I’ll also be able to include both new and older books (many of them still need attention) that I read within this year.
Rereads aren’t included.
One book per author.
The books listed here are not all exclusively published this year; the list consists of the top books I read for the first time within this year. Non-2022 published books on this list will have their first date of publication included.
Do note that although there’s a rank to this list, I HIGHLY recommend every book/series listed below because I loved all of them immensely, and they received a rating of 4.5 or 5 out of 5 stars from me. Without further ado, here are the top 10 books I’ve read this year so far! (All full reviews of the books listed can be found on Novel Notions and my Goodreads page.) …
Series:The Bound and the Broken (Book #2.5 of 4 or 5)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Pages: 184 pages (Kindle edition)
Published: 19th May 2022 by Ryan Cahill (Self-published)
Incredibly action-packed, engaging, and surprisingly emotional, The Exile is hands down the best installment in The Bound and The Broken series so far.
“War is no different to peace. It is simply more honest. Do not hesitate, do not contemplate mercy. Remember everything I have taught you.”
I know that sounds crazy, especially considering how relatively small The Exile is compared to the main novels. But I have to give my praises to Cahill on this. He’s one of the few fantasy authors I know who can pull off not writing not only big-sized novels but novellas as well. Technically, at almost 200 pages long, The Exile can be considered a short novel. But regardless, I stand by my point. The Exile is an impressive novella about Dayne, my favorite character in the series that appeared for the first time in Of Darkness and Light, and he immediately left an impact on me. In a way, it’s even more impressive that Cahill could pack this much content and emotions as efficiently and effectively into a novella. After reading Of Darkness and Light, I wanted more of Dayne, and I certainly got what I wanted here. This isn’t me saying I don’t want more of him, though. If The Exile became a novel, I won’t complain. But for now, I’m content with this until Of War and Ruin is released.
“We will always want for time, Dayne. That is the human way.”
The story in The Exile revolves around Dayne’s vengeance against those responsible for taking everything from him. His family, his home, his people. The Lorian Empire took them from him, and Dayne is determined to carve a bloody path through Epheria to kill the perpetrators. By blade and by blood. In Of Darkness and Light, the beginning of Dayne’s story revolves around him coming home to Valtara after being away for twelve years. In that novel, we never know the details of what happened to him. The Exile tells the main points of Dayne’s exploits and journey in these twelve years. And yes, twelve years is a long time. It was never possible for the narrative to tell all of Dayne’s past in one novella or even one novel. I mean, his story could’ve easily worked as a trilogy! And I will not complain about it if that end up happening. However, I think Cahill did a great job telling the main points of his exploits by dividing the novella into four parts with different timelines.
“He had not found peace in a single death, not even the slightest of joys. Though any man who took joy in killing was a man worth killing.”
Dayne instantly became my favorite character in the series despite his relatively brief appearances in Of Darkness and Light. Obviously, it’s easy to say that it goes without question that Dayne was the highlight of the novella for me. Seeing the tragedy that visited him changed him dramatically has made me care for him even more. And yet, he still tries his best to stay true to his ideal of justice and virtue. Kindness for the innocents and his loved ones, no mercy for his enemies. But although this novella kinda works as an origin story for Dayne, it will be a mistake to think that you can just jump into The Exile without reading the other books in the series first. As the author mentioned, this is a companion novella, and it will be hugely beneficial for you to read the other two novels and one novella first before reading it. This is to get you interested in Dayne first, and more importantly, important supporting characters from the main series appear in The Exile. If you haven’t read the other books first, I think their appearance here will lose their impact.
“Part of me did die that day. Unfortunately for you, it was the kinder part.”
Cahill is an author that keeps getting better with each book. And one of the ways he exhibited this is through how fast he hooks his readers into being attached to a new character. It’s true that Cahill’s action scenes improved significantly from the time of The Fall and Of Blood and Fire. His action scenes felt vivid, brutal, and fast-paced. He’s not there yet, but at the fast rate he’s improving his craft, he might even reach John Gwynne’s and Joe Abercrombie’s level. But personally, it’s worth noting that great combat scenes lack substance if an author fails to make their readers care about the characters, especially the ones involved in the combat, first. And this, similar to what occurred to Dayne in Of Darkness and Light, is what I experienced again in The Exile for the new character named Belina.
“What idiot isn’t afraid of the dark? Did you not hear me? Nothing good happens after dark. You’re a storyteller. You, of all people, should know this. Tell me one happy story that takes place on a mountainside at night in an abandoned fortress.”
The passage above is spoken by Belina, and I won’t even be surprised if fans of the series think of her as their favorite character. Belina is a riot; not only hilarious but having her in the novella gave Dayne’s story opportunities for more emotional displays other than wrath, rage, and killings. Plus, I genuinely think Dayne and Belina have one of the best friendships I have ever read in a fantasy novel. This kind of thing is what made this revenge-centered novella even more powerful. The themes of family, justice, grief, love, and friendship drove the narrative. They act as the oil that powers the vehicle of Dayne’s vengeance. Similar to Abercrombie’s famous “You can never have too many knives.” Belina told Dayne that you can never have too many blades. But we’re also accompanied by beautiful passages about love and grief. For example, this lovely quote about love reminded me of the famous quote from The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. You will know what it is if you have read The Wise Man’s Fear.
“Love, my son, cannot be quantified by how and why. It is the intangible tether that connects your heart to others. It holds no conditions or rules, for if it did, it would not be love, but simply convenience. It is not found in the ‘because’, it is found in the ‘and yet’. Your father is strong, compassionate, and understanding, but it is not because of those things that I love him. Rather, they are why I admire him. He is also foolhardy, pig-headed, and he always says the wrong things. And yet, I love him anyway.”
As a novella, The Exile is easily one of the best fantasy novellas published. With this, I am finally caught up with all of Cahill’s published works, and I can safely say Cahill is on his way toward becoming one of my favorite authors. On top of telling a heartfelt and epic story in the series so far, he has laid a lot of groundwork for an epic convergence in the third main novel of the series, Of War and Ruin, and I am seriously excited to find out how he will execute it. If he succeeds in transforming Of War and Ruin into a book that top Of Darkness and Light and The Exile, then you will see me praising him as one of my favorite authors. Honestly, though… it’s only a matter of time until that day transpired. If you have not read The Bound and The Broken series, get to it ASAP! By the time I have access to the ARC of the next book, I will be reading it immediately.
“It is never weak to grieve for the ones you love… To hide your tears is to do them a disservice. They have earned your love. Let them have it.”
Published: 29th November 2018 by Quaintrell Publishing (Self-Published)
The Fall of Neverdark was a great start to the second trilogy in The Echoes Saga.
If you have been following my reading journey this year, you will see that I have enjoyed my time reading through one book in The Echoes Saga by Philip C. Quaintrell each month. The Fall of Neverdark signaled the beginning of the second trilogy in the nine-book series, and I think it’s a more solid start to a series compared to Rise of the Ranger. It is always a risky move to continue writing a new story in a series after it has reached its completion. But in the case of The Echoes Saga, as the author stated himself, he has planned the series to be nine books long divided into three trilogies since the first and second books of the series. And I am gladdened by this decision. The new storyline here felt seamlessly connected to the first trilogy; it never felt forced. Once again, similar to the previous three books, The Fall of Neverdark provided another entertaining reading experience.
The story in The Fall of Neverdark takes place thirty years after the end of The War for the Realm in Relic of the Gods. The Third Age of Verda might end soon with the rise of a new powerful race of enemies, the orcs, and the new generation of heroes will have to take a stand in this overwhelming fight. As you can probably guess if you have read the previous book, a time skip is needed for the rest of the series to shine more, and Quaintrell delivered what I wanted and more. Most of the storylines in this book featured new main characters taking the central stage, but the narrative is also balanced with plenty of returning characters from the first trilogy. Although I was immediately immersed with The Fall of Neverdark, I was slightly afraid the new story would end up feeling forced or like a cash grab. However, I’m glad this fear was unfounded after the first 35% of the novel. The Crow, the orcs, necromancy, and The Dragon Knight made the conflicts in The Fall of Neverdark so compelling. Seeing our new and returning characters doing their best to struggle against surprisingly overwhelming odds was the direction the new trilogy needed.
“As Dragorn, we carry the most precious gift and the most powerful weapon. With it, there is nothing we cannot accomplish… Can you not feel it, wingless one? It has passed down the generations of our order for thousands of years. We carry hope.”
Maybe it is not fair to compare the quality of writing to Rise of the Ranger, the first book in the series, but I feel it’s necessary to mention that as a new start to a new trilogy, the prose in The Fall of Neverdark is vastly superior. The author mentioned in the acknowledgment section that this is the book he first wrote after he transitioned into a full-time author, and I think the cohesive quality of the plot, battle scenes, and characterizations can be felt in it. The new characters, like Inara, Alijah, The Crow, Vighon, and more, can hold up their end against the returning characters. I admit I am not a fan of Alijah yet; he’s prone to anger, although understandably, and he’s the kind of character who keep secrets and feelings to himself while thinking that his actions are correct. But the direction that his story took was, without a doubt, intriguing. And the same can obviously be said for the returning characters, especially Master Dragorn, all the dragons, Galanor, and Doran Heavybelly. Doran Heavybelly, in particular, received a LOT of development which makes me happy because I’ve always liked his character since his first appearance in Empire of Dirt.
I am limited in what I can say in my review because, technically, this is the fourth book of the series, and many things or names I mentioned could end up being interpreted as spoilers. Overall, despite my doubts and the slow start to the novel, The Fall of Neverdark is an engaging fourth novel in The Echoes Saga series. It continued superbly from Relic of the Gods while also starting something new in the world of Veda without sacrificing its characterizations. Based on everything set up in the series so far and the literal cliffhanger of this novel, I feel like this is the last installment before The Echoes Saga escalates to a higher level in Kingdom of Bones. My time with the series so far has been, for sure, captivating, and I am looking forward to whether the halfway point of the series will be able to turn The Echoes Saga into something special for me.
Amazingly, I found my Book of the Month for May right at the very beginning of the month, but that’s not to say that the books that came after that were not good. Most of them were great reads (in fact, only one book disappointed me), and I’m happy to say that the series conclusion that I was looking forward to delivered very satisfactorily. I did start to feel a slight burn-out from reading almost non-stop fantasy (albeit mostly Middle Grade) and ended the month with two crime/mystery thrillers.
NB. Books are rated within its genre. For avoidance of doubt, rereads are not considered for Book of the Month.
The First Binding by R R Virdi My rating:5 of 5 stars Genre: Epic Fantasy, South Pacific Fantasy Pages: 830 pages (Hardcover Edition) Published: 16th August 2022 Tor Books (US), 18th Aug 2022 Gollancz (UK)
The poetry snuck up on me.
During a section of this book, there was a story within a story, a chapter-long tale that was written in regular narrative fashion… but then I started noticing how all the sentences were split in half, and those half-sentences started to rhyme. They weren’t written on the page in verse (although there were plenty of songs and poems found elsewhere throughout the book). No, this chapter had built-in rhyming couplets woven into the chapter’s narrative that were subtle, yet incredibly powerful. And it went on for an impressive length of time. Not all lines rhymed, but enough to feel like you’re reading some epic poem of yore, adding to the mystique of the ‘storyteller-telling-a-story-within-a-book’ vibe. A Russian doll of tales. An ouroboros of oration.
The First Binding is a massive undertaking. I’ve read trilogies shorter than its 800+ page length. And as I neared the end, I did not want it to finish. It is many stories in one: about present day Ari, ‘The Storyteller,’ who is on a mysterious mission far from home. It is intercut with Ari telling his life story to a mysterious stranger, where we learn about the legend of his youth, and how he became so powerful and infamous. And it is about the changing world surrounding Ari and this stranger, as turmoil and unrest may force Ari’s past to catch up with his present.
You may have heard this one before: a talented kid with a tragic beginning, telling his tale at a tavern to set the record of his infamy straight. The comparisons to Name of the Wind are deserved. Although I am a fan of Rothfuss’ series, I felt like Kvothe’s story often spun its wheels. Not once did I get that feeling while reading this book. Virdi packs an incredible amount of lore, memorable characters, hateful antagonists, complex magic systems, religious history, races, classes, geography, music, and of course, stories into one volume – yet by the end, it still felt like our time with Ari was just beginning.
There’s so much to unpack in this story: hidden clues, jarring mysteries, and nagging questions as to why certain things are the way they are. This book isn’t even out yet, yet I have to restrain myself on Twitter from bombarding the author on when he thinks book two is going to be published. Virdi is excellent at giving us just enough information to theorize a hundred different paths for the story to turn.
I think this is going to be a landmark book when it publishes. It might take some patience, as the first 10% or so is a bit slower than the rest, but once you lose yourself in this South Asian-inspired fantasy world, there’s no turning back. The First Binding is a grand, mesmerizing story that never ceases to unveil new layers of mystery and wonder throughout its epic scope. A rare treasure of a novel, and something truly special.
We have an exciting post today. Novel Notions will be hosting the cover reveal to Starbinder by Mark Timmony! Starbinder is an Eye of Eternity novella and a loose prequel to The Blood of the Spear. The author has mentioned that it is not necessary to have read Blood of the Spear first but you might get a bit more out of it if you have. The ebook for Starbinder is not available for sale, it’s an exclusive download for people who subscribe to my mailing list – which can be found here: https://marktimmony.com/signup/
There will be a physical version of the book available for sale via Amazon, etc, soon. Without further ado, here’s the cover reveal to Starbinder by Mark Timmony!
Brian McClellan’s return to the epic fantasy scene is a good one, but it didn’t feel as explosive as his Powder Mage universe.
In the Shadow of Lightning, the first book in The Glass Immortals series, was one of my most anticipated releases of 2022. It has been three years since Brian McClellan concluded his Powder Mage universe series with Blood of Empire, the third and final book in his God of Blood and Powder trilogy. I have read the entirety of the Powder Mage universe, and since then, I have wondered what kind of series and world will McClellan create next. When I saw the cover art to In the Shadow of Lightning being revealed, the illustration done by Dan Burgess, my interest in it was sparked immediately. Plus, Brandon Sanderson, Fonda Lee, and James Islington (all three are some of my favorite authors) gave their praises for this book made me even more excited to read this. Sanderson even said this is McClellan’s best work to date! Unfortunately, I have to disagree with him. The book didn’t click as much as I expected it would. …