Two Very Different Kinds of Fantasy

Published on September 17, 2010 by

The two most recent books I’ve read were both fantasy novels published by Tor. They were two very different kinds of fantasy, but I highly recommend them both.

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson has pretty much everything I want in epic fantasy: a wide range of characters from kings to commoners, magical powers, mysterious prophecies, ancient artifacts, terrifying monsters, unstoppable assassins, desperate battles, honor, treachery, thievery, and treasure. I’ll admit it took me a while to really start to like Kaladin, the first of the major characters to be introduced, but by the end of the book I admired all of the major viewpoint characters, and many of the minor ones, too.

The book is the first in a series of ten books, so naturally it leaves several plot threads open at the end.   But there were also several story arcs that reached some form of resolution by the end, so the book felt satisfying.

The fate of the world is not at stake in Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. The novel is best described as “Jane Austen, with magic.”   The stakes are typical of Austen novels: marriage and social status.   The main character, Miss Jane Ellsworth, is considered rather plain and believes herself destined to be a spinster aunt to the children of her sister Melody, who is young and attractive and sure to marry well.   Jane does have one advantage over Melody: she is adept at glamour–the magical art of creating illusions. And that skill just might allow her to win the affections of one of the gentlemen she encounters.

Readers familiar with Jane Austen’s novels will recognize homages to them, but the plot is still unpredictable enough that I did not know until near the end how things would work out.

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