Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY – SFF Series starters that were instant hits

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here.  This week’s topic is a genre freebie, so I decided to showcase my favorite first books in a series.

 

 

The vast majority of stories being published these days consists of series: a minimum of three books in most cases, while some run for a longer span, and sometimes it’s difficult to keep track of them all or manage to finish them because – let’s face it – how many of us are able to resist the lure of a new saga, especially when the core concept calls us with a siren song?

So, instead of dissuading you from adding any more sagas to your already busy TBRs, I will share the series openers that caused me to get embroiled into more long-term commitments. Trust me, they were worth it…

(The titles are numbered on a casual basis, just as they came to my attention when I looked at my virtual shelves – I loved them all with the same level of intensity)

 

The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie (1st Law Trilogy)

This first book in the series that probably started the “grimdark” trend in fantasy languished for a long time on my TBR and finally found its way on my e-reader after I had the opportunity to read Abercrombie’s new series starter, A Little Hatred, whose story was an ideal continuation of this one.  This world, and its amazing characters, took hold of my imagination in no time at all: it’s an ugly, dirty and nasty world, but also a compelling one…

 

The Tethered Mage – Melissa Caruso (Swords and Fire)

What a discovery this was, indeed! It’s rare for a debut work to turn me into an instant fan, but that’s exactly what happened with this book, set in a context reminiscent of 17th Century Venice, where cut-throat politics, winds of war and magic (in a very unusual declination) shape an intriguing story peopled by remarkable characters. Even the slight touches of romance turned out to be an agreeable element in the story, and for me that means a great deal.

 

Age of Assassins – R.J. Barker (The Wounded Kingdom)

Here goes another book that became a favorite, and a compelling read, from the very first chapters – and like the previous one it was a debut work, which makes it even more exceptional.  The Wounded Kingdom has been ravaged by the misuse of magic in the past, so that now everyone suspected of wielding it is instantly put to death: the main character is not only one of those magic-marked people, he’s in training to become an assassin for hire. If this does not pique your curiosity, I don’t know what would, indeed.

 

Kings of the Wyld – Nicholas Eames (The Band)

Also a debut novel like the two previous novels, and an instant success not only for me but for every other fellow book blogger who reviewed this title. A delightful balance between adventure, drama and humor carried by a group of former comrades in arms who get together once more to help one of them rescue his daughter from a city under siege. This novel made me laugh and also kept me on the edge of my seat, but above all it held me in thrall from start to finish, because it had everything I like to find in a book.

 

Embers of War – Gareth Powell (Embers of War)

From Fantasy to Science Fiction: I picked this one up because the synopsis spoke of a sentient ship and that’s one of the themes that never fail to get my attention. What I found here was much more than I bargained for, because the ship Trouble Dog does not only enjoy sentience but is also one of the narrative’s points of view, and we are made privy to its past story and feelings, the massive burden of guilt it carries for its past actions in a bloody war and its desire to atone for them by helping those in need. What’s not to love?

 

Outpost – Michael W. Gear (Donovan)

Another of my favorite SF themes is that of the colonization of alien planets, and few get to be as alien as Donovan, a lush, promising world that has all the numbers to be a new home for humanity – besides being rich in precious metals, that is. But there is a catch, and it’s a deadly one, because everything on Donovan, flora and fauna alike, is out for blood and will kill the unwary at the slightest opportunity.  The battle of the colonists for their survival first, and then against the corporation that wants to gain from its investment, makes for most of the action here, while the descriptions of this beautiful but cruel planet fire the imagination in a delightful way.

 

Dreamer’s Pool – Juliet Marillier (Blackthorn & Grim)

To say that this book bewitched me would only be the truth. In my review I called it “a book with many souls” and it’s true that while presenting a captivating story of injustice, revenge and redemption, it also offers an in-depth look on two amazing characters trying to rebuild their life by helping each other while being quite unlikely friends and allies on the surface. I loved both crusty Blackthorn and silent Grim and they still hold a special place in my heart, and they helped in making Juliet Marillier a favorite author from this very first book I read.

 

A Time of Dread – John Gwynne (Of Blood and Bone)

Epic fantasy can sometimes be overwhelming with its scope and huge number of characters, but John Gwynne has a way of drawing his readers in a little at a time, revealing his world with an unhurried pace – and once you start to see the bigger picture, you discover you’re committed to it, and have started to care for the people inhabiting it.  In my reviews of his works I have often likened this author to a storyteller of old, recounting his sagas around a campfire, and that’s what happened to me with this first (but certainly not the last!) book in his sweeping series: for me there is nothing I enjoy as much as sitting close to that “fire” and keep listening…

 

Illuminae – Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman (The Illuminae Files)

Who would have thought that I would fall so hard for a story featuring mainly YA characters? Before this book I would have scoffed at the notion, but Kristoff and Kaufman have created such believable, relatable young people that my heart went out to them as I read of their hardships and desperate endurance after a brutal attack on their colony left few survivors on a handful of ships. What’s more, this novel is presented in a peculiar form, adding found footage, messages and memos to the story, and enhancing it in a very unusual way.

 

Velocity Weapon – Megan O’Keefe (The Protectorate)

An interstellar war; two old enemies bent on mutual annihilation; sentient AIs running ships that elude human control. These elements alone would turn this into a compelling read, but there is much more in Velocity Weapon, because the story follows different timelines and also hides many surprises and unexpected twists, not to mention a female main character who is both strong and compassionate, determined and playful and managed to engage my sympathy in no time at all – just as the ship’s AI did.

17 thoughts on “TOP TEN TUESDAY – SFF Series starters that were instant hits

  1. I’m really looking forward to sinking my teeth into Velocity Weapon. I can’t believe that of all the Juliet Marillier books I inherited from my grandma, I don’t seem to have kept (if she had them) the Blackthorn & Grim books. What a mistake!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent list! Lots of these are favorites of mine too, and some are books I keep seeing repeated around the blogosphere that I need to make time for, like A Time of Dread and Dreamers Pool😁

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Haha yes, I also have about eleventybillion series going on at the moment. 🙂
    Two of these are my favorites! I LOVED that Melissa Caruso series although I admit that book one felt kind of average but books two and three blew me away, especially that finale!!! And the Marillier–Blackthorn and Grim has my heart. ❤ Great list!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Embers of War and The Tethered Mage were some of my fave reads of the past couple of years! I haven’t got round to finishing the series yet but I thought The Defiant Heir was even better, so I have high hopes for The Unbound Empire. And the whole Embers of War series was just fantastic, though Fleet of Knives was my favourite. I’m planning on starting Velocity Weapon soon too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Both series have turned out into great discoveries, and they have progressively become even better from one book to the next, while Velocity Weapon was a total amazing surprise, not least for a couple of narrative twists I would never have expected… 🙂
      Happy reading!!!

      Liked by 1 person

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