42. (42) – The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss

The second book, in a trilogy we’ve been waiting to conclude for going on two decades.  Rothfuss takes his time, but when he writes he delivers. There are some clear faults in The Wise Man’s Fear, but the writing is so wonderful, and the characters so brilliantly realized that it is easy to look past them.

The biggest fault is that 2/3rds of the way through The Kingkiller Chronicles there is still no indication of the overall plot.  At best, we get the impression the story is about the rise and demise of a hero who became a legend at a very young age. Most of his “heroic” feats happen in a series of seemingly random events. Kvothe (our hero) moves throughout Rothfuss’s world from University, to the house of a major political power, to the woods, and to the school of a group of warrior people. His adventures are always interesting, and the characters/places are well realized. The 950+ pages move at an incredibly quick pace.

Yet, we still leave with a general lack of understanding of where the story is exactly heading. Oh, we know where will be ultimately get, but the overall direction of the story and how Kvothe’s actions affect the larger world are still largely a mystery despite being 2 books into a 3 book series. I think The Wise Man’s Fear is every bit as good as The Name of the Wind at least in terms of how easily it reads, the characters it builds and the world he creates. That said the faults of The Name of the Wind become more glaring in this story largely because it seems we are running out of time. Despite its faults I continue to be a big fan of the series. I know it will likely be a few years before the series concludes but I will be first in line to get the book when it happens. And really that is a good sign for an excellent book.

43. (43)- The Human Division, by John Scalzi

See…more Scalzi…and this time the highest ranking Scalzi novel on my list.  This was probably the most unique book Scalzi has put out.  It was initially serialized and is really 13 short stories in the Old Man’s War universe that tell a reasonably coherent story.  I didn’t expect that much, despite enjoying everything I’ve read from Scalzi. 

I was wrong.  This was great.  Harry Wilson is probably my favorite character in the Old Man’s War universe, and he really gets to shine.  I also particularly appreciated the complicated moral dynamics of the Colonial Union, the Conclave and alien relations in the universe.  Scalzi really developed the entire dynamics of his universe in a compelling way, taking the series far beyond the entertaining military science fiction this series began as. 

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

44. (44) – The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi; The Last Emperox, by John Scalzi

I’ve already reviewed the middle novel in this series…I’m combining these two because I view them as near equals and I added The Last Emperox after I began creating this list, so it’s a new addition and this lets me keep the rankings the same.  (I make the rules). 

                Depending on the day, I could rank either of these books (and the next book on my list) as my favorite Scalzi Novel.  The Collapsing Empire throws the reader headfirst in a brand new Scalzi series, premised around a galactic civilization thriving because of the Flow.  The Flow is a really cool idea, and the setup of the Interdependency is the perfect setup for the central problem it creates. Scalzi as usual writes compellingly entertaining characters. Kiva Lagos is now my all-time favorite Scalzi character. She’s vulgar in all the best ways, but incredibly capable. This novel flew by and made me eager to purchase the next two. 

                The Last Emperox concludes the Interdependency Series.  It hit all the right notes and rewarded the reader with an interesting resolution. Old Man’s War brought Scalzi to the scene and he’s written thoroughly entertaining novels in that universe since then, but I truly believe this series captured the best of Scalzi-style Space Opera. If you’re looking for fun modern space opera with interesting ideas, and engaging characters, but a relatively simple and easy-to-follow style, Scalzi is as good as there is. I’ve never been disappointed in one of his novels. I always fly through them and enjoy the ride.

The Last Emperox was no exception and rivals anything he’s put out. I’m going to miss the characters of the Interdependency from the Emperox, to scientists, to the compelling antagonists. And I’m especially going to miss Kiva Lagos, one of the all-time great supporting characters.

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

45. (45) – The Scar, by China Miéville

The Scar is more accessible and easier to get into from the beginning than Miéville’s Perdido Street Station. Once again Miéville delivers a book full of vivid, descriptive, and engaging pros. He shows us several more creative races and creatures. The Cray, the Grindylow, the Anophelii are all fascinating in their own way. The idea of possibility mining and the ridiculously awesome Uther Doul all added immensely to this story. 

While I really enjoyed The Scar, I still think Perdido is a more unique, superior work for a number of reasons. For one, I think the tension was not as earned here as it was in Perdido. In Perdido, you understood the threat…it was freaky…it was fascinating.  In the Scar you never really got a sense of what the tension was about. The battles were cool, the idea of the Scar itself was great, but it never resonated at the same level with me.

I also did not find the city of Armada as engaging as New Crobuzon (which is an impossible standard because I have yet to find a city in fantasy/science fiction that is) and there certainly was no entity to match The Weaver.  The Scar is a fabulous novel and worthy successor to Perdido Street Station. However, for me Perdido Street Station is still Miéville’s best work. 

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

46. (46) – Dark Age, by Pierce Brown

This is my second favorite book in the Red Rising Saga (and the most recent one, so much of this review deals with references to characters you’ll only know from reading the prior novels).  It’s probably because while I enjoy nearly all of Brown’s characters to varying degrees, Mustang is the one I look forward to the most. She’s not even a huge part of this novel, but when she is on the page, she is great.

There is some early Darrow/Lysander stuff that felt like you were just thrown into a ton of action sequences (that are really fun, but I was waiting to see where we were heading). Once we joined with the other characters things really started to work for me. The great thing about this series is that it is relentless.  The plot never slows down, something new is always happening.  Sometimes early I wanted a little more time to breathe, but as the story started to really form, the breakneck pace just makes you want to keep going. Few books have that kind of momentum. The only real disappointment is waiting for the next one.

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

47. (47) – The Deadhouse Gates, by Steven Erikson

For me, this is the first of two big leaps that get us into what I view as the truly elite Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels on my list.  Gardens of the Moon was a great start to Malazan Book of the Fallen and threw readers into the series with no handholding, forcing readers to trust Erikson to get them somewhere special.  It was entertaining and a worthy start but didn’t make my top 100.  Deadhouse Gates is where Erikson’s greatness starts to become undeniable.   

It’s a sequel, but it could be frustrating in that he leaves the continent and most of the characters of Gardens of the Moon behind.  Instead, he takes us to an entirely new setting, with seven cities on the brink of war, awaiting a prophesized uprising called “The Whirlwind”.  Against this backdrop, a great military leader must lead a group of refugees across the continent, protecting them the entire way.  This group, known as the Chain of Dogs, and their journey create one of the most unique stories in fantasy literature.  I can’t say enough about this novel and from here on this series continues to leap off the page in new and exciting ways. 

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

48.  (48) – The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkein

Speaking of Fellowship, the opening Lord of the Rings novel comes in just above the concluding one.  This is a quintessential start the journey/quest novel that for decades nearly every fantasy novel tried to emulate.  I love the symmetry with The Hobbit, starting with a party (this time an expected one).  Almost immediately, we know this will be much different than The Hobbit.  The tone much more serious, the stakes much higher. 

The journey parts of these quest fantasies are usually my least favorite, but Tolkein handles it deftly, though with some digressions I could do without (I’m talking about you Tom Bombadil).  And once we enter the Mines of Moria the novel takes off to an incredible conclusion that had me needing to immediately start The Two Towers (which you probably guessed by now is my favorite of the trilogy).  

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

49.  (49) – The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkein

The conclusion to Tolkein’s epic trilogy that is the foundation of modern fantasy, The Return of the King brings all the plot threads to an epic conclusion.  The corrupting power of the ring looms over the entire story as Frodo tries to finish his quest.  To do so he gets the help of his companions who draw attention away from Mt. Doom and Sam who remains by his side throughout.  The payoff with Gollum is perfect and there is plenty of great action the reader gets to enjoy.  I have this third among the LotR novels mainly because the Scouring of the Shire feels like a separate novella, creating a second climax that is unnecessary.  Though I like much of the book more than Fellowship which started a bit slower. 

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

50.  (50) – Mistborn: The Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson

This was the first fantasy novel I read after finishing Erikson’s Malazan series and it was a really nice change of pace from the sheer size and scope of the Malazan. There is a lot in this novel that is formulaic (person finds out about special abilities, is uniquely good at them, has to save the day) but it’s just so done well and so damn interesting that the familiar tropes don’t matter. Sanderson outlines a complex but well thought out system of magic that the reader picks up fairly easily.

The characters are well developed, and the story comes together perfectly, with plenty of surprises along the way. The book is self-contained, but hints at bigger things to come.  I appreciated the unique twists on the typical hero’s journey trope Sanderson managed to throw into this story.  It’s the first Mistborn novel and for me it’s still the best. 

51. (51) – American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

I’m not as big a Neil Gaiman fan as many seem to be (no knock on them, he’s clearly a great writer just not always to my taste) and quite frankly, I put this book off for a while, because I really didn’t like Anansi Boys (which I foolishly read first).  American Gods, as least for a while, was widely considered Gaiman’s best novel and it lived up to all of the hype. The fantastical elements of the story worked well.  There were a ton of very interesting characters (Gods and Human) who our narrator met throughout the novel.

The big reveal at the end is perfect. Looking back to early in the book it really made some scenes at the time I thought were kind of minor seem much more important. There were a ton of small touches Gaiman added that I really appreciated, such as explaining that the lame tourist traps (like world’s largest Carousel) are strong places for the Gods. Just an all-around terrific read.