New fantasy novels mirror old: like an old mirror with the paint backing chipping off

Categories: Blogs,Staff Reviews










Queen of the Tearling, Blood Song, The Goblin Emperor, Traitor Baru Cormorant, The Red Queen…are all kind of the same. Substitute a young boy given to a brutal school; for a goblin, abused from childhood and suddenly thrust into the role of emperor; for a new queen, young and bereaved, but with amazing powers; for a savant lesbian imperial accountant ripped from her family; for…some other young adult embroiled in an alien world of political intrigue, conspiracy, and rebellion.

These are all well-written: some better, some worse. But I really couldn’t find much to choose between them. I wanted to, but they are mostly echoes of each other and of masters who have gone before. Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish series, Cherryh’s Foreigner series, Dune, Brandon Sanderson, and others have done all these things before, and, usually, with more imagination, better writing and exquisite creations.

Of the five new ones mentioned above, I think that Traitor Baru Cormorant and Blood Song are the best. The others weren’t too far behind. For most originality, I would have to go with Blood Song or possibly The Goblin Emperor.


The Goblin Emperor really failed, however, to make the most of its uniqueness. Here’s hoping Addison’s next book will discover the rich potential of her emperor. Traitor Baru Cormorant shocked me, but I think I must not have been paying attention—any reader ofDune should be well prepared for this book’s ending, if they don’t give up out of boredom during the battles. I know, it’s hard to believe, but the battles became quite tedious. Fantasy and science fiction is supposed to be edgy and original, not emulative and old hat. New worlds, not old tropes. Give Blood Song by Anthony Ryan and Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson a try, but the rest are simply optional. ~Tessa Various ratings March 2016

Author: The Jackson District Library

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