Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Books with Magical Schools

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday participants are given a School Freebie to with what they will.  That means its up to me to come up with any sort of list about a school, which left me pretty open to list the best books with one of my favourite settings, a magical school.

I have long had a great love of the magical school setting in fantasy fiction (just check out the name of this blog).  In many ways, magical schools are the absolute backbone of some of the better examples of fantasy out there, and who doesn’t love a fun and wonderful story set within the halls of a magical environment.  There are so many cool stories and scenarios that can be imagined in these sorts of scenarios, and I have always had an amazing time with these sorts of settings from some of the earliest fantasy books I have read.  As such, I thought it only fitting to examine the absolute best examples of this setting here.

In order to appear on this list, the book in question needed to have either a school, academy or university of some description magic is taught or the school itself is magical and fantastic in nature.  This school must be a major setting of a descent part of the plot and must feature some sort of magical teaching or some variety of magical education in it.  I have been a little lenient in places throughout this list and I have included a few examples where rather than the traditional magical school, you have a bit of an interesting or dark reimagining, which can often be quite fun.  I ended up with an interesting collection of books in the end that I was able to whittle down to my top ten.  All these books are really fun, and I think that they use their magical school setting extremely well.

Honourable Mentions:

The Witches of Eileanan series by Kate Forsyth

Dragonclaw Cover

All the books in Kate Forsyth’s fantastic The Witches of Eileanan series featured some cool magical learning and school elements in them, and the author sets some impressive storylines around them.  However, I would probably recommend the first book in the series, Dragonclaw, as the best example of this magical training.  Not only are their multiple scenes of the protagonist learning magic, but it also features a fantastic magical trial scene at her initial place of learning.

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Master of Sorrows by Justin Call

Master of Sorrows Cover

Features an interesting ninja school where the participants learn to recover magical items.

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Magician by Raymond E Feist

Magician Cover

Many of Feist’s Riftwar Cycle books featured a magical school of some description, but nothing compares to the various magical learning scenes that occur in the fantasy classic Magician.  The protagonist learns from several schools and teachers in this book before starting the path to create his own magical school.

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The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

The Tethered Mage Cover

A fun recent fantasy book that revolves around a fantasy nation where all magicians are captured and leashed so that they aren’t in complete control of their faction.  Known as Falcons, these mages are sent to the Mews, where they learn to control their magic for the greater good of the nation.  An interesting, if darker, take on the magical school system that worked really well.

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Top Ten List:

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

The Order of the Phoenix Cover

Let’s face it, it would be impossible to write a list about magical schools without featuring the Harry Potter books here.  J. K. Rowling created something very special with Hogwarts, and it is now the magical school setting that all others are measured up against, for very good reasons.  All seven books in this series used the Hogwarts setting extremely well, from the introduction in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to the epic final battle in Harry Potter in the Deathly Hallows.  It is honestly very hard to single out one in particular for their use of the magical school setting, however, if I had to, I would probably go with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, because it had some great scenes where the protagonist took over teaching, as well as the extended sequence with the O.W.L.S test.

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The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind Cover

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss gets a lot of credit from fantasy fans for many of its elements, but one of my favourites is the setting of the University, where the protagonist winds up is as a teenager.  The centre of knowledge for this fantasy world, the university teaches many subjects, including various forms of magic, including runic metalworking, sympathy (magic that links one object to another for manipulation), and the ultimate magic, naming, where one calls something’s true name (for example the wind) and takes control of it.  This proves to be an exceptional setting for much of this book, and the protagonist spends a substantial amount of time with some great narrative results.  While the University is also a major setting of the sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, I think that it was used a little better in The Name of the Wind and is one of the better magical school settings out there.

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Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

Moving Pictures Cover

Yeah, there was no chance I wasn’t going to feature a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett here.  So many of his books feature the epic and entertaining setting of the Unseen University, where the world’s wizards gather to learn magic and get up to all manner of other shenanigans.  Most of the books feature the Unseen University as a setting, however, I’m going to limit myself to two entries on this list, the first of which is Moving PicturesMoving Pictures is one of the more entertaining Discworld novels Pratchett wrote, and part of the reason is how he utilises the Unseen University in the plot.  After several books with a rotating cast of senior wizards, Pratchett settles on a permanent staff for the university in Moving Pictures (helped by the introduction of an unkillable Archchancellor) and starts strongly developing their various members here.  There are many brilliant scenes set around the university, especially ones that show the eccentric new Archchancellor setting in and upsetting the delicate wizards with his wild ideas.  This book has some of the funniest scenes set in the Unseen University, and this book is a major favourite of mine.

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A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

A Deadly Education Cover

Easily the series that has been featuring magical schools the best recently is the Scholomance books by acclaimed author Naomi Novik.  This series in the deadly Scholomance, an automated enchanted school where vulnerable magical teenagers are educated and partially protected from various monsters who want to eat them.  Introduced perfectly in the first book, A Deadly Education, you soon get to know all the unique quirks of this fantastic school, as the protagonist tries to survive the lethal lessons, killer fellow students, and multiple monsters living within.  I have so much love for the setting in A Deadly Education, and the exquisite story that Novik set around it made it one of my favourite books of 2020.  The sequel, The Last Graduate, also featured the school extremely well, but I think that A Deadly Education is the best example for this list.

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Van Horstmann by Ben Counter

Van Horstmann Cover

You can’t be too surprised that I managed to slip a Warhammer novel in here somewhere.  Van Horstmann was an awesome Warhammer Fantasy novel that explore the origin and problems of the human magical colleges that sprouted up in the heart of the Empire.  In particular, Van Horstmann explores the College of Light through the eyes of enigmatic new student, Egrimm van Horstmann, who has his own nefarious reasons for journeying to the school.  This is an excellent and captivating take on the classic magical school setting, as you get to watch this obvious villain learn everything about the school, all so he can gain ultimate power and gain revenge for a past wrong.  A very clever Warhammer Fantasy novel that makes perfect use of its magical school setting.

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Cold Iron by Miles Cameron

Cold Iron Cover 1

Another great fantasy book from recent years that featured a cool magical university setting is Cold Iron by Miles Cameron.  Much the narrative of Cold Iron takes place in The Academy and its surrounding city and follows the protagonist as he excels as a student, while also attempting to unravel a massive conspiracy that threatens the lands.  I deeply enjoyed the use of the Academy setting in Cold Iron, and while there is a substantial focus on learning sword work, the character does spend time learning magic, which comes in help during this book.  I loved many of the more classic fantasy elements featured in Cold Iron, especially the cool school setting, and this is a must-read book for all fantasy fans.

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Homeland by R. A. Salvatore

Homeland Cover

I had to slip something in from R. A. Salvatore on this list, and naturally that book ended up being one of my favourite Salvatore novels, Homeland.  Set in the Drow city of Menzoberranzan, Homeland follows the childhood of Salvatore’s long-running protagonist Drizzt Do’Urden.  While there are a lot of excellent settings and locations in, I loved the multiple scenes that take place in the combat school of Melee-Magthere.  While technically not a magical school per say, it is filled with dark elves with inherent magical talent, who often use magical techniques to complement their swordcraft, so I think it deserves to be on this list.  Personally, I just love the various tournament scenes set in this school, and it was a fantastic and epic setting for this great fantasy book.

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It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts

It Ends in Fire Cover 2

Another fantasy book that had a great alternate take on the magical school concept is It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts.  Featuring a compelling fantasy world where wizards rule over the non-magical, this book follows a rebellious young magic user who infiltrated the premier magical school, Blackwater Academy, to burn it down from the inside.  This was a fun and compelling read with many fantastic homages to Hogwarts, and it was an outstanding book to check out.

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Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Hogfather Cover

The other Discworld book that I had to include here was Hogfather, which makes fun of many aspects of Christmas.  While there is a focus on Death and his granddaughter, quite a lot of the book takes place in the Unseen University and shows the eccentric faculty attempting to understand the constant creation of multiple new minor gods around their grounds.  The outrageous antics of the senior faculty blends well with the more education focused ambitions of the students, all with the Archchancellor watching on in exasperation.  I loved all the university scenes in Hogfather and it was one of the better uses of it in the Discworld series.

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Eldest by Christopher Paolini

Eldest Cover

The final book I want to include on this list is Eldest by Christopher Paolini, the second book in his Inheritance Cycle.  While the first book from Paolini, Eragon, featured a lot of magical tutelage, it didn’t really feature a school setting.  The sequel though, Eldest, does, as it shows the protagonist journey to the homeland of the elves to learn magic there.  The protagonist spends a substantial chunk of the book there expanding his magical knowledge and skills.  While most of this tutelage does occur one-on-one, there is enough alternate teachers and characters to qualify it as a magic school in my mind, and I feel that Paolini did a great job introducing it and using it to expand the character’s knowledge.  An overall epic book that made really great use of the magic school concept.

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Well, that’s the end of this latest list.  As you can see there are some great books out there that feature a fun magical school concept in their plot.  It is no surprise that many of my favourite books of all time feature a magical school in some capacity and there are so many exceptional stories that can be set around it.  All the above books come very highly recommended and if you love magical schools, all of them are worth checking out.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Books Written Over Ten Years Ago

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday, participants had to list their top books that were written over ten years ago. 

This is a very intriguing, if difficult, topic to look at, as there are an absolute ton of amazing books released over 10 years ago (written before 2012) that I can think about for this list.  I kind of did a similar list on this subject a few years ago, with my list that looked at books written before I was born, however, there are a lot more intriguing entries that could be featured here, so I am going to have to think long and hard about what to include.

To limit my potential choices down (or make the decision harder), I chose to limit my entries to one book from each series or author, which will save me listing multiple Discworld novels for a start.  I also chose to exclude any comic book series from this list, mainly because pretty much every entry on my previous favourite comic series list ran or started more than 10 years ago.  Even with some of these restrictions, there were still an amazing number of books that I wanted to feature on this list, and I had to make some very hard decisions and cuts to figure it out.  However, I am very happy with how the final list turned out and I think it represents the absolute best books written over ten years ago that I have read.  So let us see what made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling – 2003

The Order of the Phoenix Cover

A classic from childhood and my favourite book in the series.

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World War Z by Max Brooks – 2006

World War Z Cover 2

I only recently read this, but it is pretty damn epic, especially in the full-cast audio adaption with some amazing actors behind it.

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Fire in the East by Harry Sidebottom – 2008

Fire in the East Cover

Still one of the best historical fiction books I have ever read with an awesome siege premise behind it.

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The Gray Man by Mark Greaney – 2009

The Gray Man Cover

The debut book from Mark Greaney, this was a very cool novel which the movie adaption honestly didn’t do justice to.

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Top Ten List:

Magician by Raymond E. Feist – 1982

Magician Cover

There were multiple books from Feist written more than 10 years ago that I could have featured on this list, including The Empire trilogy he cowrote with Janny Wurst.  However, I had to feature the book that started it all, MagicianMagician sets the entire universe up perfectly and has one of the strongest stories in the series.  A truly iconic fantasy read, Magician has inspired generations of fantasy fans and is well worth checking out.

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Legend by David Gemmell – 1984

Legend

Another fantasy classic I had to include, Legend was a brilliant and iconic debut from the legendary David Gemmell that I checked out a few years ago.  Easily one of the best siege novels of all time, Legend sees an impossibly large army besiege the world’s best fortress, defended by a small number of heroes.  Powerful, action-packed, and wildly addictive, this was an outstanding read that you will fly through.

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Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett – 1989

Guards! Guards! Cover

Since pretty much the entirety of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series was written before 2012 (only Raising Steam and The Shepherd’s Crown were released after), I could have filled this list with Discworld novels and left happy.  Instead, I had to feature just one book from the series, which was pretty impossible, as nearly all of them rank amongst my favourite books.  I decided in the end to feature Guards! Guards!, not only because it is one of the strongest books in the series, but because it introduced the City Watch sub-series, which feature many of my favourites.  Guards! Guards! has a brilliant story to it that perfectly combines comedy, fantasy and crime fiction elements into one epic read, when the maligned Night Watch of Ankh-Morpork have to solve a series of murders caused by dragon.  Hilarious, clever, and impossible to put down, this is an incredible read that will make you a Pratchett fan for life.

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Homeland by R. A. Salvatore – 1990

Homeland Cover

Another author who I could have featured multiple books from, R. A. Salvatore is one of the best fantasy authors in the world for a reason and he has a ton of great reads released more than 10 years ago.  However, I limited it to my favourite book of his, Homeland, which expands on the early life of his standout character Drizzt Do’Urden.  Taking place in the Drow city of Menzoberranzan, this book shows the character’s complex youth in the treacherous Dark Elf society and helps to established Drizzt as one of fantasy’s most distinctive and likeable protagonists.  This was a truly impressive novel I have read multiple times, and its impacts can still be felt in Salvatore’s more recent books, such as Timeless, Boundless and Relentless, which show alternate perspectives to events of Homeland through other character’s eyes.

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The Third Day, The Frost by John Marsden – 1995

The Third Day, the Frost Cover

I have long talked up the epic Tomorrow series by Australian author John Marsden, and it remains some of the best books I have ever read.  Following a group of teenagers as they attempt to survive a foreign invasion of Australia, the Tomorrow series is a powerful and deeply addictive young adult series that should be compulsory reading for all Australian kids.  I have so much love for this series that I had to feature one of the books from it here.  I ended up choosing the third (and probably the best) book, The Third Day, The Frost, which sees the protagonists attempt their biggest attack yet, only to suffer from some major consequences.  Not only is this one of the most actions packed and intense novels in the series, but it is also one of the most emotional damaging as the characters you have grown to love, go through some major events that leave them deeply traumatised.  An epic read that I cannot recommend enough.

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The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch – 2006

The Lies of Locke Lamora Cover

Few books have ever caught my imagination and attention than the brilliant fantasy heist book, The Lies of Locke Lamora.  The first book in Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastards series, The Lies of Locke Lamora is an insanely good read that sees a group of conmen get dragged into a battle for a corrupt and dangerous city’s soul and must try to survive while also getting their score.  Perfectly balancing great characters with cool fantasy and impressive thriller elements, The Lies of Locke Lamora is so much fun to read and I would strongly recommend it to any fantasy fan.  I could have also featured the second book Red Seas Under Red Skies (released in 2007) here, as it was also extremely good, but I do think the first book was the best.  Highly recommended!

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The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – 2007

The Name of the Wind Cover

I had to include The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss on this list as it is honestly one of my favourite fantasy books of all time.  Following a legendary figure as he recounts the early days of his life, you find yourself getting dragged into the tale of Kvothe, a man destined to kill a king and become infamous.  The Name of the Wind perfectly introduces the character and sets you deep into his intense and massive life story, which features tragedy, triumph, music, and an epic amount of time spent in a cool magic school.  I love this book so much, and I really need to read it again and give it a proper review.  The sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear is just as good, but I think the first book is a better one to include here.

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Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie – 2009

Best Served Cold Cover

I honestly could have featured any of the three books from Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy on this list, as all three are a masterclass in dark fantasy fiction.  However, I decided to go with the third and final book in the trilogy, Best Served Cold, as I think it was the best book.  Not only did it bring together all the epic storylines from the first two novels perfectly, but all the main characters who you have been getting extremely close to, have their defining moments here.  There is so much awesomeness crammed into this book, and its impacts will be felt from years to come, as the sequel Age of Madness trilogy (made up of A Little Hatred, The Trouble With Peace and The Wisdom of Crowds), follows on from it perfectly.

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The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry – 2010

The Dragon Factory

I had to feature an entry from the epic Joe Ledger series here on this list, and luckily a couple of fun entries were released more than 10 years ago.  While I could have gone with the first book, Patient Zero (modern zombies) or the fantastic third release, The King of Plagues (a world-ending cabal in action), I went with the second book, The Dragon Factory, which I think was one of Maberry’s best.  The Dragon Factory takes damaged protagonist Joe Ledger on a deadly mission to save the world from two warring teams of advanced genetic engineers who have their own insidious plans.  Intense, action-packed, and featuring some heart-rending tragedy, The Dragon Factory was an instant favourite of mine, and I cannot talk it up enough.

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The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – 2010

WAY OF KINGS MM REV FINAL.indd

The final book I want to highlight on this list is the massive and deeply impressive The Way of the Kings by impossibly talented Brandon Sanderson.  This was the first book in Sanderson’s iconic The Stormlight Archive and follows several impressive and highly developed characters on an epic journey throughout a bold new fantasy world.  This novel has everything you could possibly want, and I cannot emphasise the sheer level of creativity and universe building it contains.  There is so much to love about this book, especially the complex and highly damaged characters, and I would recommend this to all fantasy fans.

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That’s the end of this latest Top Ten Tuesday.  As you can see, I have had the great pleasure of reading several outstanding novels that were published more than ten years ago, and some of them are counted amongst my favourite all-time books.  All the novels featured above are extremely epic and I would recommend all of them to readers looking for their next obsession.  I had a lot of fun pulling this list together, and this might be one I revisit in the future, especially after I go back and read some more older novels.

Relentless by R. A. Salvatore

Relentless Cover

Publisher: Harper Audio (Audiobook – 28 July 2020)

Series: Generations – Book Three

Length: 15 hours and 9 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Legendary fantasy author R. A. Salvatore brings his latest trilogy of novels to an epic conclusion with his 2020 release, Relentless, the third and final book in the Generations trilogy.

War has once again come to the Forgotten Realms, as the Drow hordes of Menzoberranzan march to reclaim the soul of one of their own, the previously dead sword master Zaknafein Do’Urden.  Centuries ago, Zaknafein sacrificed his life to save his son, Drizzt Do’Urden, allowing him to become the greatest hero the lands had ever seen.  Thanks to the help of a mysterious Drow priestess, Zaknafein has been returned to life and finally reunited with his son.  However, their reunion has been far from perfect, as Zaknafein has trouble understanding some of his son’s choices, including his unusual companions and his marriage to a human.  Worse, Drow fanatics, utterly loyal to the dark god of Chaos, Loth the Spider Queen, have declared war on the surface, determined to capture and kill Zaknafein and Drizzt and everyone who stands with them.

A massive army of demons has invaded the dwarven kingdom of Gauntlgrym, trapping Zaknafein, the rogue Jarlaxle, Drizzt’s life-long friends and the legendary Companions of the Hall inside, while dark forces attack their allies on the surface.  At the same time, the massed armies of the Drow city of Menzoberranzan have been forced to war and now occupy the tunnels surrounding Gauntlgrym, cutting off any chance of escape.  However, all of this pales in comparison to the greatest tragedy that has occurred in the lands outside of Gauntlgrym, where a demonic device of great power tracked and disintegrated Drizzt as he tried to destroy the mechanical creature.

While things seem dire, the Companions of the Hall are far from defeated, and every man, dwarf, halfling and rogue dark elf is ready to fight.  As Zaknafein, Gauntlgrym’s dwarf king Bruenor and their allies attempt to hold back the hordes besieging them by any means possible, the barbarian warrior Wulfgar works to reclaim the city of Luskan with a small force of warriors.  As the battle begins in earnest, heroes will rise, empires will fall, and the world will change forever.  However, the fate of everyone involved in this battle may lay in Zaknafein’s secret history, as demons from his past come back to haunt him once again.

R. A. Salvatore has produced another incredible and wonderful fantasy read that takes several of his most iconic characters on a dark and dangerous journey. Salvatore is one of my favourite fantasy authors, having produced an immense and awesome collection of novels over the years. While he has written several series, such the novels set in his Corona universe (including his other 2020 release, Song of the Risen God), his main body of work is set within the shared Forgotten Realms fantasy universe and primarily follows the adventures of the Drow ranger Drizzt Do’Urden and his heroic companions.  Relentless is the third entry in the latest Drizzt Do’Urden trilogy of books, known as the Generations trilogy, which includes the preceding novels Timeless and Boundless.  This series continues the adventures of Drizzt and his companions, but features an intriguing new angle in the return of Drizzt’s father, who died in the 1990 novel, Homeland.  This has so far proven to be an impressive and exciting trilogy from Salvatore that contains an intriguing new narrative and pays homage to his earlier novels in the overarching series.  I have been looking forward to Relentless for some time, especially after the really cool cliffhanger that Salvatore featured at the end of Boundless.

In this latest book, Salvatore tells a complex and action-packed story that makes use of multiple character perspectives to tell an epic and exciting tale, especially after establishing so many excellent plot points in the previous two novels.  As he did in the other entries in this series, Salvatore features two distinct timelines throughout this impressive book.  Relentless is broken up into four separate parts (not including the prelude), with two of these parts set during in the universe’s modern era, depicting the current day battle for Gauntlgrym and the lives of the author’s beloved protagonist, while the other two parts of the novel are set deep in the past.  These two parts of the novel are set hundreds of years before the current events and follow Zaknafein, Jarlaxle and several other Drow characters during their younger days.  Both of these distinctive storylines have their own appeals, and I had a fantastic time reading both of them.

I probably enjoyed the prequel storylines the most, as I really enjoyed the deeper look at Zaknafein’s past and its intriguing implications on the events of Salvatore’s earlier books.  These prequel storylines are loaded with fantastic depictions of life in the chaotic and evil Drow city of Menzoberranzan, and it was extremely entertaining to see all the backstabbing, politics and brutal battles for supremacy that are a distinguishing feature of day-to-day Drow life.  These prequel storylines also contain some of the best action sequences in the book, mainly because they focus on the character of Zaknafein, the greatest sword fighter in the world, and Salvatore always portrays his epic fight sequences in intricate detail, capturing the sheer majesty of the character’s fighting ability.  I also quite enjoyed seeing more of the young, up-and-coming version of the Drow mercenary and conman, Jarlaxle, as he manipulates the entirety of the city, and all of his scenes are extremely fun.  This earlier storyline in Relentless is a great continuation of the other prequel storylines that appeared in the previous entries in the Generations trilogy, and I really enjoyed how this entire expanded storyline concludes.  It was fascinating to see how the events of Zaknafein’s past impacted the main storyline, and I felt that this was an outstanding addition to Relentless’s story.

While I did prefer the prequel storyline, the contemporary story contained within the other two parts of the book is still pretty epic in its own right, as it features a desperate fight for survival against the antagonists of the series.  Salvatore goes big for these parts of the book, featuring massive battles for supremacy, major character moments and some universe-changing twists and turns.  Like the prequel storyline, this main narrative thread flows on extremely well from the previous Generations books, and the author provides a satisfactory conclusion to the war which was set up in the last two novels.  The author more strongly utilises multiple character perspectives in these parts of the book, which I felt helped to tell a richer and more exciting story, especially as you got to see the action unfold from the eyes of many established characters.  A lot of the plot points established in the prequel storylines were masterfully exploited throughout these main parts of the book, and I think that the combination of time periods worked extremely well to create a powerful and memorable narrative.  The major events that occurred at the end of Relentless were rather interesting, and it looks like Salvatore has some intriguing plans for any future novels set in this universe.  Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable tale filled with some great action, well-established characters, and an incredible combination of compelling and varied storylines.

While I usually find all of Salvatore’s books to be extremely accessible to general fantasy fans who are unfamiliar with his prior works, Relentless is book probably best enjoyed by people who have read the rest of the entries in the Generations trilogy and who have some decent knowledge of the other Drizzt Do’Urden novels.  This is mainly because Relentless serves as the conclusion to the connected storylines established in Timeless and Boundless, and the story has gotten quite complex at this point, especially with the prequel storyline focusing on the young Zaknafein, which was carefully cultivated in the prior two novels.  While new readers can probably still follow and enjoy Relentless, fans of Salvatore’s work are going to be the ones who get the most out of it, especially as this latest book ties into some of the author’s earliest works.  For example, the prequel storyline has some extremely strong connections to one of the author’s earliest books, Homeland.  The Generations trilogy’s past-based storyline has primarily served as a compelling prequel to Homeland, and this latest book contains several scenes that shed new light on this previous book.  Indeed, some of the best scenes in Relentless serve as a direct precursor to key events of Homeland or provide alternate viewpoints to them, allowing for some fascinating new context and information.  I personally have always had a lot of love for Homeland, which is one of Salvatore’s best novels, and I really appreciated seeing this new take on the plot.  As a result, this is a must-read for fans of Salvatore’s fantastic series and readers are in for a real treat.

Another great part of this book were the excellent characters featured throughout the various time periods.  As has been the case with the other books in the Generations trilogy, much of the character development revolves around Zaknafein, as both time periods have a fascinating focus on him.  Salvatore continues to explore various parts of Zaknafein’s character throughout Relentless, both in the past and present, and it was great to see how he has evolved throughout the course of the trilogy.  I particularly enjoyed seeing Zaknafein’s development in the prequel storyline, especially as you get several extra scenes discussing Zaknafein’s conflicted feelings when Drizzt was born.  Salvatore spends a lot of time establishing how Zaknafein became the person who would eventually sacrifice his own life for his son, and it was great to see this whole new side of this iconic and fantastic character.

Several other characters featured throughout Relentless really stood out to me.  Foremost of these is of course the rogue Drow criminal and conman, Jarlaxle, who is a prominent character in both timelines.  Jarlaxle is so much fun to see in action, whether he is manipulating someone or getting involved in a fight with his fantastic arsenal of insane magical weapons and tools.  Drizzt, who is nominally the main character of this trilogy, and indeed most of Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms novels, was notably absent throughout this book, having been disintegrated at the end of Boundless.  Salvatore works his apparent death into the story extremely well, creating some emotionally deep moments as his friends mourn his passing and try to work out how to move on.  I think that Salvatore utilised his absence from the story to full effect, especially as it allowed other characters to have their moment to shine.  Drizzt’s eventual resurrection, which was so predictable it is not even really a spoiler, was set up beautifully and I really liked how it tied into some of the more mystical events of some previous Salvatore novels.  Aside from these Drow characters, the rest of the Companions of the Hall have major moments throughout Relentless, and each of them has a key storyline set around them.  Bruenor, Wulfgar, Regis, Catti-brie, Artemis Enteri and more are all utilised throughout the story, and it was great to see all of them in action.  Salvatore also focuses on several other side characters who have appeared in prior novels, and there are some notable storylines and character arcs scatter amongst them that will no doubt bear fruit in future Drizzt Do’Urden novels.  Overall, Relentless continues Salvatore’s exceptional character work, and it was fantastic to see all these complex personalities come to life.

Rather than grab a physical copy of Relentless I ended up getting this cool fantasy novel on audiobook, which was a fantastic way to enjoy Salvatore’s latest release.  The audiobook format of Relentless has a run time of just over 15 hours, which, while fairly substantial for an audiobook, is easy enough to get through once you become engrossed in the excellent narrative and is definitely worth the time investment.  I really enjoyed listening to this great book and I found that it was the perfect way to absorb all the unique fantasy elements and Salvatore’s intriguing twists.  Part of the reason why I enjoyed this format so much was the excellent voice work from narrator Victor Bevine.  Bevine is a veteran audiobook narrator who has provided his vocal talents to a huge number of Salvatore’s previous novels, including the other two entries in the Generations trilogy.  It is cool having the continuity of Bevine’s voice after enjoying so many Salvatore audiobooks, and I really enjoy the tone that he uses for this story.  Bevine moves Relentless along at a quick pace, and the listener never finds themselves stuck in a slow part of the novel.  I also quite enjoyed the excellent voices that Bevine utilised throughout the book.  Not only did these voices perfectly fit the characters they were assigned to, helping to bring them to life, but I loved all the fun accents he used for the various races featured within the book, such as the Scottish brogue that each dwarven character had.  All of this really enhanced my enjoyment of Relentless and this is a fantastic novel to check out on audiobook.

Relentless is another exceptional and epic read from the master of fantasy fiction, R. A. Salvatore, as he wraps up another amazing trilogy with a remarkable and memorable bang.  Salvatore remains at the top of his game for Relentless, providing the reader with a complex, multifaceted storyline, studded with intense action, fantastic characters and some really clever story elements.  I had an outstanding time reading this awesome book and I cannot wait to see what magic and mayhem Salvatore comes up with in his next captivating read.  Highly recommended.

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Top Ten Tuesday – Books Written Before I was Born

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  In the latest Top Ten Tuesday, participants have been given the intriguing task of listing their favourite books that were written before they were born.  This is one of the more interesting Top Ten Tuesday topics that I have had the opportunity to complete, and I was rather intrigued to see how many great novels I love were written before I was born.

While I am still very much young at heart, I do have to admit that I was born some 30-odd years ago in 1991, which, now that I have written it down for all the world to see, is starting to make me feel a tad old.  Nonetheless, I really want to complete this list, so I have moved on and scoured through some of the best books I have read in my long life to see how many of them were written before 1991, which should hopefully open up an excellent list of great reads for me to talk about below.

This ended up proving to be a rather difficult and interesting list to come up with, especially as it quickly became obvious that I really have not read a great variety of novels written before 1991.  While it did require me to feature multiple books from several authors, I was eventually able to come up with 10 impressive entries for a complete list, as well as some great honourable mentions.  Each of the novels below are particularly good novels and comics, and most of them were written by some of my absolute favourite authors, whose early work I have gone back to check out.  This ended up becoming quite an intriguing and varied list, and I am rather pleased with the entries featured below.

 

Honourable Mentions:

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 1: The Ronin by Stan Sakai – 1987

Usagi Yojimbo The Ronin Cover

 

The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett – 1971

The Carpet People Cover

 

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien – 1937

The Hobbit Cover

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 3: The Wanderer’s Road by Stan Sakai – 1989

Usagi Yojimbo The Wanderer's Road Cover

 

Top Ten List:

 

Legend by David Gemmell – 1984

Legend

Let us start this list off with a novel that is epic in every sense of the word.  Legend is the debut novel of the impressive and exciting fantasy author David Gemmell and features an intense and massive siege that sees a gigantic, unbeatable army attempt to conquer the world’s greatest fortress.  Serving as the first entry in Gemmell’s The Drenai Saga, this is an amazing and awesome novel filled with action, adventure and outstanding characters, including Gemmell’s major series protagonist, Druss the Legend, who has a particularly poignant and memorable tale.  This is an exceptional must-read for all fans of the fantasy genre.

 

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett – 1989

Guards! Guards! Cover

Considering the name that I chose for this blog, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I am a major fan of the late, great Terry Pratchett’s iconic and hilarious Discworld series.  I could have honestly filled this entire list with the 10 Discworld novels that were eligible entries.  However, I have shown some remarkable restraint and only featured my absolute favourite earlier novels from this long-running series.  The first book I am featuring on this list is Guards! Guards!, which came out in 1989.  Guards! Guards! is an extremely fun and fantastic novel that expertly and effortlessly melds fantasy, murder mystery and comedy elements into an exceptional and awesome novel that follows a seemingly useless city watch as they attempt to solve the biggest case of their careers: who is summoning a dragon to attack their city?  This was an absolutely captivating and hilarious novel that I could read time and time again without getting bored in the slightest, especially as Guards! Guards! sets up my favourite Discworld sub-series.  An incredible, outrageous and highly recommended read.

 

Magician by Raymond E. Feist – 1982

Magician Cover

Another pre-1991 epic debut that is essential reading for fans of the fantasy genre is Magician, the first novel in Feist’s long-running Riftwar Cycle.  This is an exciting and clever fantasy classic that I have had the great pleasure of reading several times.  Not only does it contain an inventive and compelling tale set across two separate worlds that find themselves at war with each other but it also serves as the first novel in a massive major fantasy series that ran for over 30 years.  I have a lot of love for Magician and I am still a major fan of Feist, especially as he continues to write great fantasy novels like King of Ashes and Queen of Storms.

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 2: Samurai by Stan Sakai – 1989

Usagi Yojimbo Samurai Cover

There was no way I could do this list without featuring one of the Usagi Yojimbo comics that I have been having so much fun re-reading and reviewing over the last couple of months.  There were three separate volumes that I could have included on this list, but I decided to promote the second volume, Samurai, which features a captivating and detailed examination of the titular character’s backstory.  Filled with an amazing story and some excellent artwork, Samurai is one of the best entries in my favourite comic series and is a fantastic and wonderful read.

 

Streams of Silver by R. A. Salvatore – 1989

Streams of Silver Cover

Another author who was bound to appear on this list is fantasy legend R. A. Salvatore, who has authored a metric ton of novels since his debut in 1988.  There were several good options from Salvatore that I could have featured on this list, including all three novels in his debut series, The Icewind Dale trilogy, but the first one I decided to go with was his second novel, Streams of Silver.  While I love Salvatore’s debut, The Crystal Shard, I felt that Streams of Silver was the stronger novel, so I included on this list.  Featuring some intense action sequences, a deeper dive into the characters introduced in the first book, an outstanding antagonist and a fantastic cliffhanger conclusion, Streams of Silver is great novel from Salvatore that still really holds up.

 

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett – 1990

Moving Pictures Cover

The next Pratchett Discworld novel I included on this list was the comedic masterpiece, Moving PicturesMoving Pictures is a deeply impressive novel that sees the ancient art of moving pictures return to the Discworld and then promptly drive everyone crazy.  This entertaining and captivating read serves as an incredible parody to the film industry and is loaded with so many jokes and witty observations that you will be laughing yourself silly for days.  One of the strongest Discworld novels written before 1991, this one is very much worth reading.

 

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli, Todd Klein and Richmond Lewis – 1987

Batman_Year_One

While there were a number of great comics written before 1991, one of my favourites is the 1987 classic, Batman: Year One by graphic novel icon Frank Miller and his talented team of artists.  This is an outstanding read that re-imagined Batman for an entire generation and ended up being the character’s key introductory comic for one of the best periods of DC comics.  Serving as the main inspiration for the Batman Begins film, Batman: Year One is an exceptional comic that any true Batman fan will love and adore for years to come.

 

Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts – 1987

Daughter of the Empire Cover

While Magician served as a particularly impressive introduction to the Riftwar Cycle, one of my favourite entries in the entire series was Daughter of the Empire, which Feist cowrote with Janny Wurst.  Set on an Eastern-culture inspired fantasy planet, Daughter of the Empire is the first book in the Empire trilogy, a captivating companion trilogy to the Riftwar novels.  While all three books in this series are great, the best is easily Daughter of the Empire, which sees a noble-born daughter forced to survive and lead her house after her family is murdered by a powerful rival who wishes to crush her.  Thanks to its enjoyable and dramatic narrative of survival against all the odds, Daughter of the Empire is a particularly amazing novel that has a very special place in my heart and which I have gone back and re-read several times.

 

Homeland by R. A. Salvatore – 1990

Homeland Cover

My second Salvatore novel on this list is Homeland, the first book in the Dark Elf trilogy, which explores the early life of Salvatore’s most iconic character, the dark elf ranger Drizzt Do’Urden.  Homeland follows the birth of Drizzt and follows some of his earliest experiences living with his race, the evil Drow, in their homeland underground, where murder, betrayal and personal ambitions are the natural way of life.  Watching the noble and selfless character of Drizzt grow up amongst murders, cowards and fanatics is just fantastic and Homeland is easily one of my absolute favourite Salvatore books of all time.

 

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett – 1989

Pyramids Cover

The final book on this list is another Pratchett novel, Pyramids, a subtly clever and hilarious read.  Set in a parody version of ancient Egypt, Pyramids follows a modern king as he attempts to bring plumbing, feather beds and progress to his decaying country, only to face opposition from his priests, his fellow gods and his greatest adversary, geometry.  With some major laugh-out-loud moments, including one scene where multiple Egyptian-inspired gods engage in a football-style match to control the sun, and some amazing original characters, Pyramids is an incredible read and the perfect note to end this list on.

 

I rather liked how this list turned out and I was so glad that I was able to find several great books to feature above.  I do wish I had a bit more variety when it came to authors, and I might have to think about going back and checking out some earlier entries from authors I am fans of, especially if they published novels before 1991.  Each of the novels I mentioned above is really exceptional, and I would strongly recommend them all to anyone looking for a fantastic read.  Hopefully, some of the authors I mentioned won’t be too disconcerted about the fact that they have been writing for a longer period than I have been alive, and if they are I apologise deeply.  Let me know what your favourite novels written before 1991 are in the comments below and I will be interested to see if there are any great books that I missed.