Military fantasy books reviewed

Featuring Steven Erikson, James Barclay, Glen Cook, David Gemmell, Joe Abercrombie and others. All the best military fantasy books read and reviewed. So what is military fantasy? In our opinion it is any work of fantasy in which soldiers, and the armies they come together to form, play a significant role.

Recommended Reading

Bled dry by interminable warfare, infighting and bloody confrontations with Lord Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, the vast, sprawling Malazan empire simmers with discontent. Even its imperial legions yearn for some respite. For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his Bridgeburners and for Tattersail, sole surviving sorceress of the Second Legion, the af...

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
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In a chamber overlooking the nighttime waterways of a maritime city, a man looks back on his youth and the people who shaped his life. Danio Cerra's intelligence won him entry to a renowned school, though he was only the son of a tailor. He took service at the court of a ruling count - and soon learned why that man was known as The Beast.

Danio's fate changed the moment he recognized Adria Ripoli as she entered the count's chambers one night - intending to kill. Born to power, Adria had chosen a life of danger - and freedom - instead.

Other vivid figures share the story: a healer determined to defy her expected lot; a charming, frivolous son of immense wealth; a religious leader more decadent than devout; and, affecting these lives and many more, two mercenary commanders, whose rivalry puts a world in the balance.

"Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Brightness Long Ago is a masterpiece; perhaps the finest work of one of the world’s greatest living storytellers." Adam Weller, Fantasy Book Review

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
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For centuries the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by a god known as the Raven. But in their hour of need, the Raven speaks nothing to its people. It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo - aide to the true heir to the throne - arrives. In seeking to help his master reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven's Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself... and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.

"The Raven Tower is a magisterial tour de force of subverted narrative expectations that wrestles with what it means to find identity as a human, and as a god. Unlike anything being written, Ann Leckie will likely be remembered as a literary pioneer, and not as similar to someone else. A masterpiece of storytelling that leaves a willing reader humbled, The Raven Tower is quite simply the best book of the year – mighty, subtle, captivating, unputdownable."

The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
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According to mythology mankind used to live in The Tranquiline Halls. Heaven. But then the Voidbringers assaulted and captured heaven, casting out God and men. Men took root on Roshar, the world of storms. And the Voidbringers followed . . . They came against man ten thousand times. To help them cope, the Almighty gave men powerful suits of armor and mystical weapons, known as Shardblades. Led by ten angelic Heralds and ten orders of knights known as Radiants, mankind finally won. Or so the legends say. Today, the only remnants of those supposed battles are the Shardblades, the possession of which makes a man nearly invincible on the battlefield. The entire world is at war with itself - and has been for centuries since the Radiants turned against mankind. Kings strive to win more Shardblades, each secretly wishing to be the one who will finally unite all of mankind under a single throne. On a world scoured down to the rock by terrifying hurricanes that blow through every few day a young spearman forced into the army of a Shardbearer, led to war against an enemy he doesn't understand and doesn't really want to fight. What happened deep in mankind's past? Why did the Radiants turn against mankind, and what happened to the magic they used to wield?

"The Way of Kings is epic in every sense. Sanderson has built a world that leaps to life, a cast of varied characters and a vast history that slowly unfolds. While Sanderson cuts from the familiar cloth of fantasy, his narrative impetus and meticulous world building bode well for future volumes." The Guardian

"It is, in every sense of the word, an epic beginning to what I can only guess (and hope) will be an epic story told over, apparently, ten books with the second one nowhere near being published. In essence, Sanderson has just begun the next Wheel of Time-like series." Fantasy Book Review

The Faithful and The Fallen by John Gwynne
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Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will come all too soon. Only when he loses those he loves will he learn the true price of courage. The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Although the giant-clans were broken in ages past, their ruined fortresses still scar the land. But now giants stir anew, the very stones weep blood and there are sightings of giant wyrms. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. Sorrow will darken the world, as angels and demons make it their battlefield. Then there will be a war to end all wars. High King Aquilus summons his fellow kings to council, seeking an alliance in this time of need. Prophesy indicates darkness and light will demand two champions, the Black Sun and the Bright Star. They would be wise to seek out both, for if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind’s hopes and dreams will fall to dust.

"If you follow the frequency of my reviews then you will be able to analyse that I have devoured the stories from John Gwynne's fantasy epic saga, The Faithful and the Fallen, at an inhuman pace, and the reason for this is that they are spectacularly envisaged works of art."

Ruin by John Gwynne
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The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures. At his back stands the scheming Calidus and a warband of the Kadoshim, dread demons of the Otherworld. They plan to bring Asroth and his host of the Fallen into the world of flesh, but to do so they need the seven treasures. Nathair has been deceived but now he knows the truth. He has choices to make; choices that will determine the fate of the Banished Lands. Elsewhere the flame of resistance is growing - Queen Edana finds allies in the swamps of Ardan. Maquin is loose in Tenebral, hunted by Lykos and his corsairs. Here he will witness the birth of a rebellion in Nathair's own realm. Corban has been swept along by the tide of war. He has suffered, lost loved ones, sought only safety from the darkness. But he will run no more. He has seen the face of evil and he has set his will to fight it. The question is, how? With a disparate band gathered about him - his family, friends, giants, fanatical warriors, an angel and a talking crow - he begins the journey to Drassil, the fabled fortress hidden deep in the heart of Forn Forest. For in Drassil lies the spear of Skald, one of the seven treasures, and here it is prophesied that the Bright Star will stand against the Black Sun.

"This is one of the top 15 books I have ever read. It did everything that an author should aspire to present to a reader. Mythical, magical, intense, brutal, poignant. If you are reading this and have not started The Faithful and the Fallen, stop being silly."

Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook
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Darkness wars with darkness as the hard-bitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must. They bury their doubts with their dead. Then comes the prophecy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more...

"With the Black Company series, Glen Cook single-handedly changed the face of fantasy - something a lot of people didn't notice, and maybe still don't. He brought the story down to a human level, dispensing with the cliche archetypes of princes, kings and evil sorcerers. Reading his stuff is like reading Vietnam fiction on Peyote" Steven Erikson

"There are no larger than life characters to be found in The Black Company, all contain frailties and failings that are found in all humans. This book is beautifully amoral and contains no two-dimensional characters. As I've already mentioned, The Black Company is a wonderfully amoral book, often dark and containing violent battles and fantastic characters. Glen Cook changed the face of the fantasy genre forever - and for the better." Fantasy Book Review

The Macht by Paul Kearney
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On the world of Kuf, the Macht are a mystery, a seldom-seen people of extraordinary ferocity and discipline whose prowess on the battlefield is the stuff of legend. For centuries they have remained within the remote fastnesses of the Harukush Mountains. In the world beyond, the teeming races and peoples of Kuf have been united within the bounds of the Asurian Empire, which rules the known world, and is invincible. The Great King of Asuria can call up whole nations to the battlefield. His word is law. But now the Great King's brother means to take the throne by force, and in order to do so he has sought out the legend. He hires ten thousand mercenary warriors of theMacht, and leads them into the heart of the Empire.

"A terrific writer, one of the best working in epic fantasy." SciFi.com

"But that is nothing compared to the overarching splendour that is The Ten Thousand. Kearney captures all the best parts of fantasy - the young nobodies destined for glory, the gathering of a team, mercenaries, and exotic races and places - and combines them together with grit and realism and enough blood to drown a horse." Fantasy Book Review

Shadow Ops series by Myke Cole
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Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer. Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze. Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military’s Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one. The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down–and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he’s ever known, and that his life isn’t the only thing he’s fighting for.

"As a military officer myself, I feel like I can really relate with Cole and the book he has written. It is a book that accurately portrays military life on a military base, while enhancing it using the fantasy elements I love to read about. Whether you are a military buff or not, this is an entertaining book packed full of intense action sequences – a modern interpretation of the fantasy genre that you should have no hesitations in reading." Fantasy Book Review

The Divine Cities Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett
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The Rigante Novels by David Gemmell
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"In my pantheon of literary greats, David Gemmell stands alone. I read his first book, Legend, when I was fourteen and knew even then that I had found the kind of writer I wanted to be. Like Julius Caesar himself, Gemmell wrote with a spare elegance, racing along with characters and events until I found it was dawn and I had to get up for work. Gemmell is the only writer who ever stole my nights in such a way. I read Ghost King when I was at university. I was studying Arthurian literature at the time and somehow missed the references to Gian Avur and the Lancelord. It's difficult to recall a last line of any book that was more of a shock to me than that one. Gemmell was superb at endings. Some of them were so powerful that I could only stare at the ceiling with tears in my eyes." Conn Iggulden

"In short, a book by David Gemmell is about morally grey heroes, who fight for what they believe in, and regularly get kicked in the nuts by fate. A Tavern brawler who selflessly stands up when faced with injustice. A Drunkard that, without a moment of hesitation, sacrifices his life in favor of an innocent family. A Burly woodcutter that travels to all corners of the world to rescue his captured crush. A pacifistic priest forced to slay numerous enemies. These tales tell of honor and glory, duty and loyalty, courage and resolve, all coated in a wonderful blend of action, black humor and suspense." Fantasy Book Review

The Poppy War by R F Kuang
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When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising. But surprises aren’t always good. Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school. For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away... Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

"Simply put, R.F. Kuang’s “The Poppy War” is a towering achievement of modern fantasy. Kuang writes in a descriptive and narrative style that presents many sides of an issue without trying to persuade the reader into thinking which path is the “correct” one, if one such exists. As the book descends into its bleak final act, the connection we’ve built with Rin and her companions is put to the test. It is a testament to Kuang’s skill as a writer to establish such a strong connection with her protagonists that the impact of the events in third act hit as hard as they do. There aren’t any real complaints I have about this book, which is wholly impressive considering how early it is in the author’s young career. This story weaves recent Chinese history into an emotionally chaotic, brilliantly-told grimdark fantasy that is impossible to forget. Read it."

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
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Spensa's world has been under attack for hundreds of years. An alien race called the Krell leads onslaught after onslaught from the sky in a never-ending campaign to destroy humankind. Humanity's only defense is to take to their ships and fight the enemy in the skies. Pilots have become the heroes of what's left of the human race.

Spensa has always dreamed of being one of them; of soaring above Earth and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with her father's - a pilot who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, placing Spensa's chances of attending flight school somewhere between slim and none.

No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, but she is still determined to fly. And the Krell just made that a possibility. They've doubled their fleet, making Spensa's world twice as dangerous... but their desperation to survive might just take her skyward...

"Skyward captivated me unlike any other book has in the past decade. It not only left me wanting more, but left me concerned for people who, in my mind at least, truly exist and who are beautifully special. Skyward is Brandon Sanderson’s greatest work in years, possibly ever, and reminds us of his capacity to inspire us to aspire to be more, to be better – to claim the stars."

The First Law by Joe Abercrombie
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Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and increasingly bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer extraordinaire, is trapped in a twisted and broken body - not that he allows it to distract him from his daily routine of torturing smugglers. Nobleman, dashing officer and would-be fencing champion Captain Jezal dan Luthar is living a life of ease by cheating his friends at cards. Vain, shallow, selfish and self-obsessed, the biggest blot on his horizon is having to get out of bed in the morning to train with obsessive and boring old men. And Logen Ninefingers, an infamous warrior with a bloody past, is about to wake up in a hole in the snow with plans to settle a blood feud with Bethod, the new King of the Northmen, once and for all - ideally by running away from it. But as he's discovering, old habits die really, really hard indeed... especially when Bayaz gets involved. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Glotka, Jezal and Logen a whole lot more difficult...

"Abercrombie's talent for developing believable characters and changing the tone and voice of each chapter according to the point of view is a joy to read. Although he takes familiar fantasy staples, he manages to avoid coming off as a cheap hack reinventing Tolkien." Fantasy Book Review

The Ascendants of Estorea by James Barclay
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The Estorean Conquord has stood for 850 years. Its Advocate, Herine Del Aglios, knows that she presides over the greatest civilisation in history. But she wants more. And in Estorea's recently conquered territories dissent is brewing. Forced to fight old friends and neighbours in the cause of the ever-growing Conquord, they face brutal choices and savage demands for money and men to be fed into Estorea's wars - demands made by Paul Jhered, head of the Gatherers and the iron hand of the Advocate, With Jhered by her side, Herine believes that nothing can go wrong. Until a disastrous and bloody reversal in the war to overrun the Kingdom of Tsard puts Estorea's armies on the back foot and has Tsardon troops flooding into the Conquord. As the empire trembles, far from the war four unique children are discovering their powers. They are the first true Ascendants, in touch with the elements, able to shape the world. An empire descending into war is about to discover the wonder and terror of magic...

"The large scale battles are detailed and exhilarating. Cry of the Newborn is a satisyingly self-contained fantasy blockbuster.. set against a more thoughtful, realistic background." SFX

"With his Raven series, James Barclay made himself a cult hero. With the Ascendants of Estorea, Barclay stepped away from the action adventure realm and settled into a very fantasy style book. More character focus and interestingly enough styled after the Roman Empire, Cry of the Newborn - the first in the series - makes for an interesting introduction to a new realm for Barclay to play in." Fantasy Book Review

The Drenai Novels by David Gemmell
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The Legend Druss, Captain of the Axe: the stories of his life were told everywhere. Instead of the wealth and fame he could have claimed, he had chosen a mountain lair, high in the lonely country bordering on the clouds. There the grizzled old warrior kept company with snow leopards and awaited his old enemy death. The Fortress Mighty Dros Delnoch, protected by six outer walls, the only route by which an army could pass through the mountains. It was the stronghold of the Drenai empire. And now it was the last battleground, for all else had fallen before the Nadir hordes. And hope rested on the skills of that one old man...

"In my pantheon of literary greats, David Gemmell stands alone. I read his first book, Legend, when I was fourteen and knew even then that I had found the kind of writer I wanted to be. Like Julius Caesar himself, Gemmell wrote with a spare elegance, racing along with characters and events until I found it was dawn and I had to get up for work. Gemmell is the only writer who ever stole my nights in such a way." Conn Iggulden

"The is the kind of book that the term fire-side reading was invented for. This book is far from perfect, this was Gemmell's first foray into the realm of writing fantasy and his skills are from as honed as they would later become. But this is where it all began, the book in which Gemmell stamped his trademark on the fantasy genre. This showed just how enjoyable heroic fantasy could be and in Druss, invented an unforgettable figure able to overcome insurmountable odds." Fantasy Book Review

The Aspect Emperor by R Scott Bakker
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A score of years after he first walked into the histories of Men, Anasurimbor Kellhus rules all the Three Seas, the first true Aspect-Emperor in a thousand years. The masses worship him as a living god, though a few dare claim he's a walking demon. With Proyas and Saubon as his Exalt-Generals, he leads a holy war deep into the wastes of the Ancient North, intent on destroying Golgotterath and preventing the Second Apocalypse. His wife and consort, Esmenet, meanwhile, remains in Momemn, where she struggles to rule not only his vast empire, but their murderous children as well. And Achamian, who lives as a Wizard in embittered exile, undertakes a mad quest to uncover the origins of the Dunyain. But Achamian, of all people, should know that one must be very careful what one seeks...

"This first book is a very strong lead in to the second trilogy of Eärwa. I believe it is meant as a standalone series, but I feel that if I hadn't read the first series The Prince of Nothing, I would really have had a lot of questions and not enjoyed my reading as much. So I was happy that I didn't have to drag through the first hundred page recap where everyone talked about what happened last week, but felt that a new reader may have been a bit lost." Fantasy Book Review

The Winter Road by Adrian Selby
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The greatest empire of them all began with a road.

The Circle – a thousand miles of perilous forests and warring clans. No one has ever tamed such treacherous territory before, but ex-soldier Teyr Amondsen, veteran of a hundred battles, is determined to try.

With a merchant caravan protected by a crew of skilled mercenaries, Amondsen embarks on a dangerous mission to forge a road across the untamed wilderness that was once her home. But a warlord rises in the wilds of the Circle, uniting its clans and terrorising its people. Teyr’s battles may not be over yet...

All roads lead back to war.

"This story grabbed me from the first page and completely hooked me until the last. The plot never stopped moving forward. It’s a brilliantly well-balanced story with an ending that was electric in all its dramatic intensity. Bravo Mr Selby!"

The Healer's War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
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Lt. Kitty McCulley, a young and inexperienced nurse tossed into a stressful and chaotic situation, is having a difficult time reconciling her duty to help and heal with the indifference and overt racism of some of her colleagues, and with the horrendously damaged soldiers and Vietnamese civilians she encounters during her service at the China Beach medical facilities. She is unexpectedly helped by the mysterious and inexplicable properties of an amulet, given to her by one of her patients, an elderly, dying Vietnamese holy man, which allows her to see other people’s “auras” and to understand more about them as a result. This eventually leads to a strange, almost surrealistic journey through the jungle, accompanied by a one-legged boy and a battle-seasoned but crazed soldier—as McCulley struggles to find herself and a way to survive through the madness and destruction.

"The Healer’s War is only very distantly a fantasy novel and yet it contains so many of the things that I personally love in fantasy. An alien and difficult setting, a flawed, human protagonist having to cope with a situation outside their control without the benefit  of superpowers, even a very strange new way of looking at the world. Yet at the same time, it's still a damn good story, told with poise, humour and character. Despite a few issues with its final section and the way it handles its one fantasy element, it was a truly amazing story and one which definitely earned its Nebula award."

Chronicles of the Raven by James Barclay
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The Raven have fought together for years, six men carving out a living as swords for hire in the war that has torn Balaia apart, loyal only to themselves and their code. But when they agree to escort a Xesteskian mage on a secret mission they are pulled into a world of politics and ancients secrets. For the first time The Raven cannot trust even their own strength and prowess, for the first time their code is in doubt. How is it that they are fighting for one of the most evil colleges of magic known? Searching for the secret location of Dawnthief; a spell that could end the world? Aiming not to destroy it but to cast it...

"Every now and again you come across an author who manages to write unlike any other. This is not something that will happen often, and I've personally only ever come across a handful (Tolkien, Pratchett, Hobb and Erikson). But one author who manages to write such a compelling story that you never want to put the book down is James Barclay." Fantasy Book Review

The Elenium by David Eddings
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"Sparhawk is the best-realized hero in modern fantasy" Daily Telegraph

"Eddings has a marvellous storyteller style" Anne McCaffrey

"It is a fantasy book of the old school, with its sword fights and magic, but it is more than that. The novel changes direction many times: from action to politics, magic to a buddy road movie. These changes keep the reader interested, and you’re never quite sure what is going to happen next." Fantasy Book Review

After a long spell of exile, Sparhawk, Pandion Knight and the Queen's champion, returns to his native land to find it overrun with evil and intrigue - and his young Queen grievously ill. Indeed, Ehlana lies magically entombed within a block of crystal, doomed to die unless a cure can be found within a year. But as Sparhawk and his allies -- who include Sephrenia, the ageless sorceress, and Flute, the strange and powerful girl-child - seek to save Ehlana and the land, they discover that the evil is even greater and more pervasive than they feared!

Prince of Nothing by R Scott Bakker
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A score of centuries has passed since the First Apocalypse and the thoughts of men have turned, inevitably, to more worldly concerns... A veteran sorcerer and spy seeks news of an ancient enemy. A military genius plots to conquer the known world for his Emperor but dreams of the throne for himself. The spiritual leader of the Thousand Temples seeks a Holy War to cleanse the land of the infidel. An exiled barbarian chieftain seeks vengeance against the man who disgraced him. And into this world steps a man like no other, seeking to bind all - man and woman, emperor and slave - to his own mysterious ends. But the fate of men - even great men - means little when the world itself may soon be torn asunder. Behind the politics, beneath the religious fervour, a dark and ancient evil is reawakening. After two thousand years, the No-God is returning. The Second Apocalypse is nigh. And one cannot raise walls against what has been forgotten...

"I found Mr. Bakker's writing style to be extremely satisfying. When I was finished a reading session I felt like I had just exercised or jogged a couple miles. This is not light weight reading my friends, but it is also not a Mervyn Peake. Except for my occasional name problem, I found the philosophical bent and the very personal emotional descriptions to be captivating. Not only is Drusas Achamian one of the most tortured heroes I have come across, every character is given the same respect, if not depth. There are no one dimensional advance the plot and disappear characters in this series. Enjoy them all." Fantasy Book Review

Elves Trilogy by James Barclay
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The elves have fled to Calius, seeking to escape the overwhelming power of the demonic Garonin. A desperate last stand in their own dimension saved the race, at the cost of 100,000 elves lost to the Garonin. The elf who led that fight, Takaar, is blamed for the losses and has gone into hiding. Now the weakened elf race is tearing itself apart in civil war, human mercenaries have arrived in Calius and are ripping the continent apart. Only one elf can unite the elves. And only one elf believes in him. A young warrior named Auum sets out to bring back the shamed hero and save the elven race.

"I loved this book. I loved the characters and the journeys that they took and are to take, and I love the hints of what will come; things that we'll know of in passing and get to see in full and other things which are totally new. Barclay has managed to return to the world of Calaius and not leave us disappointed. Barclay is back and he might very well be better than ever." Fantasy Book Review

Legends of the Raven by James Barclay
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Another action-packed adventure from the new master of fantasy launches Legends of The Raven, a new trilogy starring the cult heroes made famous in Chronicles of The Raven. The Raven travel to a new continent in search of mages to help the ruined college of Julatsa rebuild . . . and find themselves in the midst of an ancient curse - a curse that has unleashed a plague that threatens to wipe out the elven race. Barclay excels with another tale that pitches The Raven against the clock and unseen foes. Full of desperate fights and secret betrayals the story also fills in more of Balaia's history and delves deeper into the ancient emnities between the colleges. Barclay has created a wonderfully appealing group of heroes and with every book their history grows and the land they live in becomes wider and richer. This is landmark fantasy in the making.

"If you like high-fantasy and haven't read James Barclay, you are doing yourself a disservice." Fantasy Book Review 

The People of the Black Circle by Robert E Howard
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Conan the Cimmerian: he rose from boy-thief and mercenary to become kingof Aquilonia. Neither supernatural fiends nor demonic sorcery could oppose the barbarian warrior as he wielded his mighty sword and dispatched his enemies to a bloody doom on the battlefields of the legendary Hyborian Age. Collected together for the first time anywhere in the world, in chronological order, are all Robert E. Howard's definitive stories of Conan, exactly as he wrote them, as fresh, atmospheric and vibrant today as when they were first published in the pulp magazines more than sixty years ago.

"There is never a dull moment or wasted moment. Never so much as a modicum of tedium. The writing is fluid, exciting and simple. Robert E. Howard has a style that writes itself, a quality that stands, like his creation, a head and shoulders above the rest. There are times when you feel the bones crunch, the sword sing through the air, the flesh rend under steel. I could go on and on, this is a book like no other. If you love the swords and sandals, style of fantasy then you simply must read this. This is the birthplace of many a hero. Many have tried to write Conan stories but none can hold their own against the might of Robert E. Howard." Fantasy Book Review

Raven's Shadow by Anthony Ryan
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Vaelin Al Sorna's life changes for ever the day his father abandons him at the gates of the Sixth Order, a secretive military arm of the Faith. Together with his fellow initiates, Vaelin undertakes a brutal training regime - where the price of failure is often death. Under the tutelage of the Order's masters, he learns how to forge a blade, survive the wilds and kill a man quickly and quietly. Now his new skills will be put to the test. War is coming. Vaelin is the Sixth Order's deadliest weapon and the Realm's only hope. He must draw upon the very essence of his strength and cunning if he is to survive the coming conflict. Yet as the world teeters on the edge of chaos, Vaelin will learn that the truth can cut deeper than any sword.

A Time of Dread by John Gwynne
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The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient enemy may not be as crushed as they thought. In the snowbound north, Drem, a trapper, finds mutilated corpses in the forests - a sign of demonic black magic. In the south, Riv, a young, tempestuous soldier, discovers a deadly rift within the Ben-Elim themselves. Two individuals with two world-changing secrets. But where will they lead? And what role will Drem and Riv play in the Banished Land's fate? Difficult choices need to be made. Because in the shadows, demons are gathering, waiting for their time to rise...

"I was so happy to venture back into Gwynne's world and mind. Gwynne is a master of his craft and one of the best fantasy writers around right now. With likeable characters, it hits so much harder should bad things happen to them but unfortunately, they do. This is a great place to start or an unmissable next step in Gwynne's majestic tale of Good vs Evil. A Time of Dread is epic, unpredictable and exhilarating with action galore and characters worth rooting for."

The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French
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Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon
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A bounty hunter with a death wish. An orphan with her head in the clouds. A conspiracy with the power to bring down a kingdom.

Serena dreams of leaving her harsh desert home behind in her very own airship. But when an assassin's knife meant for Serena kills her friend instead, the rebellious orphan ventures into the corrupt heart of Dalthea to discover who put a price on her head. With each new turn, she edges closer to uncovering the awful truth... And the mystical powers brewing deep within her.

After his fiancée’s death, soldier-turned-bounty hunter Tyson Gallows is eager to sacrifice his life in the line of duty. When a foreign enemy assassinates a high-ranking official, he vows to bring them to justice. On the hunt for a killer, Gallows exposes a sinister plot that proves his fiancée’s death was no accident.

Driven by revenge, Serena and Gallows must join forces to take down the conspiracy before the kingdom falls to ruin.

"I’ve been trying to think of some critical things to say about the book as this early SPFBO round as we tend to judge quite harshly, but in the high of just finishing, I can’t think of much. Other than the first two chapters not really engaging me and maybe that some scenes could be tightened up a bit. Technically, this has been done exceptionally well, it read like something that had been traditionally published, skilfully written and decently edited. Regardless of how far this book goes in the competition, it deserves more readers. Honestly, I flat out loved it and I’m looking forward to the next instalment already. In the meantime, there’s a prequel novella called The Fury Yet To Come which is free if you sign up to the author’s newsletter- it won’t be staying on my TBR for long."

War for the Rose Throne by Peter McLean
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'Sixty-five thousand battle-shocked, trained killers came home to no jobs, no food and the plague. What did Her Majesty think was going to happen?'

Tomas Piety takes his duties seriously: as a soldier, as a priest of Our Lady of Eternal Sorrows and as a leader of men. He has come home from the war to reclaim his family business, to provide for his men and to ensure the horrors of Abingon can never happen in Ellinburg.

But things have changed: his crime empire has been stolen and the people of Ellinburg - his people - have run out of food and hope and places to hide. With his best friend Bloody Anne, his war-damaged brother Jochan and his new gang, the Pious Men, Tomas sets out to reclaim what was his.

And as Tomas is dragged into a web of political intrigue by the sinister Queen's Men, forced to work against the foreign infiltrators lurking in the backstreet taverns, brothels and gambling dens of the Stink, one thing becomes clear.

The war has just begun.

"This is a compelling blend of historical style fiction, gangland, and magic, with a fascinating main character in Thomas Piety and a voice that's thrillingly original. I have been lucky enough to read some cracking books this year, but I have no doubt this will sit high in my best-of-2018 list."

Shadow by KJ Parker
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A man wakes in the wilderness, amid scattered corpses and inquisitive crows. He has no memory of who he is or how he came to be there. The only clues to his former existence lie in his apparent skill with a sword and the fragmented dreams that permeate his sleep. Alone in a hostile world he moves from village to village, masquerading as a god to obtain food and shelter. But the shadow of his past pursues him relentlessly. It whispers to him a riddle far more complex than he could ever have imagined - and a truth he may not wish to believe.

"Shadow by K.J. Parker, is an interesting story, especially for people who enjoy having a lot of mystery in their books and also for those who like action, adventure, a plethora of intriguing characters, and a challenge." Fantasy Book Review

Godblind by Anna Stephens
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There was a time when the Red Gods ruled the land. The Dark Lady and her horde dealt in death and blood and fire. That time has long since passed and the neighbouring kingdoms of Mireces and Rilpor hold an uneasy truce. The only blood spilled is confined to the border where vigilantes known as Wolves protect their kin and territory at any cost. But after the death of his wife, King Rastoth is plagued by grief, leaving the kingdom of Rilpor vulnerable. Vulnerable to the blood-thirsty greed of the Warrior-King Liris and the Mireces army waiting in the mountains...

"Godblind is a thrilling, unrelenting and a brilliantly presented debut that lets readers walk on the darkest plains visited in the fantasy genre. Highly recommended. It is not for the faint-hearted but definitely for fans of Abercrombie’s The First Law and for fans of ASOIAF’s structure, characterisation, and most brutal moments."

The Mirror's Truth by Michael R Fletcher
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The Glass Dagger by M D Presley
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The Sword of Kaigen by M L Wang
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Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
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They burned her home. They stole her brother and sister. But vengeance is following. Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she'll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she's not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old stepfather Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb's buried a bloody past of his own, and out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried. Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust... The past never stays buried...

"If you can’t stand - or don’t like your kids - to read a story in which there is plenty of, gritty violent scenes, swearing, questionable characters and sexual relationships then this isn't your book. Abercrombie’s style is to write a fantasy story in which the characters react like realistic people. You’ll never see a ‘teenage-prodigy’, heroes are non-existent or in for the cash, and there are plenty of crooked and corrupt characters, just like the real world." Brian Herstig, Fantasy Book Review

The Thousand Names by Django Wexler
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The King of Vordan is dying, and his daughter, Raesinia, is destined to become the first Queen in centuries – and a ripe target for the ambitious men who seek to control her. But politics knows no loyalties, especially for Duke Orlanko. He will bow his knee to no Queen. Freshly returned from their recent victories abroad, Colonel Janus, Marcus d’Ivoire and Winter Ihernglass must defeat the Duke, using muskets, magic and every weapon at their command.

"The Thousand Names by Django Wexler is a great book, one you should definitely pick up the moment you have a free moment. Brilliant characters, majestic control of the story, and a fascinating world make this one of the best books I’ve read in a while."

Priest of Bones by Peter McLean
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City of Kings by Rob J Hayes
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Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
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The Tamuli by David Eddings
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At the conclusion of The Elenium the company of Pandion Knights led by Sir Sparhawk, having freed Queen Ehlana of Elenia from the spell which threatened her life, had marched on Zemoch, routed their enemies and defeated or destroyed the evil god Azash. Sparhawk returned to Elenia, where he and Ehlana were married. But their peaceful reign is destined not to last long. A few years later, in the Tamul Empire far to the east, unrest is brewing which threatens the nation's stability. Investigations show that the trouble is clearly of paranormal origin, and suspicion at first falls upon the Styrics. These suspicions prove unfounded, and indeed it is the pre-eminent Styric magician Zalasta who suggests that the Empire look westwards for assistance in solving their problems! specifically, to the legendary warrior Sparhawk.

"It is a cross between a road movie and a romance novel. Two beloved characters from the first trilogy finally decide to marry, and this brings its own complications that could hinder the bigger picture. David Eddings’s craft fully intertwines the simple character pieces with the big political stuff. His descriptions of cultures also come to the fore here, as the reader is finally introduced to how the Styrics live." Angela, Fantasy Book Review

The First Collected Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach by Steven Erikson
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Set in the awe-inspiring world of the Malazan Empire, three tales of the enigmatic and eccentric necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach collected in a single, readily available volume.

"This collection of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novellas is an ideal companion pieces for fans of The Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence. It is also a great entry point for those contemplating reading the series. Definitely recommended." Fantasy Book Review

Bleak Seasons by Glen Cook
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Having risked their lives and souls to capture the fortress of Stormgard, a band of weary soldiers known as the Company witnesses their commander's descent into madness and await the reemergence of their ancient gods.

"Glen Cook has the reputation he has today for a reason; he’s a marvellous storyteller with an eye for detail that captures the attention rather than bores it, and focuses the attention down onto ground level where the hardest choices are made. You’ll be exhausted, emotionally drained, and probably really sad, but Bleak Seasons is definitely worth the read." Joshua S Hill, Fantasy Book Review

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall
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Twenty years ago, feared general Cobalt Zosia led her five villainous captains and mercenary army into battle, wrestling monsters and toppling an empire. When there were no more titles to win and no more worlds to conquer, she retired and gave up her legend to history. Now the peace she carved for herself has been shattered by the unprovoked slaughter of her village. Seeking bloody vengeance, Zosia heads for battle once more, but to find justice she must confront grudge-bearing enemies, once-loyal allies, and an unknown army that marches under a familiar banner.

"A Crown for Cold Silver reminded me a little of The City by Stella Gemmell in its structure and construct and Joe Abercrombie books in its dark motifs. If you like your Sanderson, Gemmell and Abercrombie then this is the book for you."

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan
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Vaelin Al Sorna's life changes for ever the day his father abandons him at the gates of the Sixth Order, a secretive military arm of the Faith. Together with his fellow initiates, Vaelin undertakes a brutal training regime - where the price of failure is often death. Under the tutelage of the Order's masters, he learns how to forge a blade, survive the wilds and kill a man quickly and quietly. Now his new skills will be put to the test. War is coming. Vaelin is the Sixth Order's deadliest weapon and the Realm's only hope. He must draw upon the very essence of his strength and cunning if he is to survive the coming conflict. Yet as the world teeters on the edge of chaos, Vaelin will learn that the truth can cut deeper than any sword.

"Beautifully written, wonderfully cast and populated, Anthony Ryan does indeed seem to be placing himself as one of the next master storytellers. Book two in his series, ‘Tower Lord’ comes out in the first half of 2014, and given how much I’ve enjoyed Blood Song, immediately steps into the category of ‘Most Anticipated’." Joshua S Hill, Fantasy Book Review

American Craftsmen by Tom Doyle
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In modern America, two soldiers will fight their way through the magical legacies of Poe and Hawthorne to destroy an undying evil—if they don’t kill each other first. US Army Captain Dale Morton is a magician soldier—a “craftsman.” After a black-ops mission gone wrong, Dale is cursed by a Persian sorcerer and haunted by his good and evil ancestors. Major Michael Endicott, a Puritan craftsman, finds gruesome evidence that the evil Mortons, formerly led by the twins Roderick and Madeline, have returned, and that Dale might be one of them.
Dale uncovers treason in the Pentagon’s highest covert ranks. He hunts for his enemies before they can murder him and Scherie, a new friend who knows nothing of his magic. Endicott pursues Dale, divided between his duty to capture a rogue soldier and his desire to protect Dale from his would-be assassins. They will discover that the demonic horrors that have corrupted American magic are not bound by family or even death itself.

"American Craftsmen is a solid debut from an author with a lot of talent. Based on the cover and the synopsis I did not expect to enjoy this book so much, but I had a great time reading this book, and I'm glad I didn't pass on it. If you like Urban Fantasy, Military Fantasy or Occult magic, I think you will enjoy this book."

A Novel of the Malazan Empire by Ian C Esslemont
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The empire is named for the tiny island and city of Malaz, now a sleepy, seedy backwater port. Tonight however, a once-in-a-generation Shadow Moon brings demon hounds and darker beings. Also, a prophecy promises the return of long missing Emperor Kellanved to the contended imperial throne. This night will determine the fate of the world.

"With characters we have come to love, and new ones to love, returning to the Malazan world is as joyous as I could ever have hoped."

Art of War: Anthology for Charity by Petros Triantafyllou
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"War, my friend, is a thing of beauty." 

How do you get forty fantasy authors to contribute short stories for a war-themed anthology without paying them? It sounds as if there should be a good punchline to that, but all Petros Triantafyllou did was twist the moral thumbscrews and tell them all the profits would go to Doctors Without Borders, a charity that works tirelessly across the world to alleviate the effects of conflict, sickness and poverty. 

So, with clear consciences, several busloads of excellent and acclaimed fantasy authors have applied themselves to the task of penning a veritable mountain of words on the subject of The Art of War, expect bloodshed, gore, pathos, insight, passion, and laughs. Maybe even a wombat. Who knows. Anyway, as the original blurb said: "It's good. Buy it." 
-Mark Lawrence

Featuring: Mark Lawrence, Ed Greenwood, Brian Staveley, Miles Cameron, John Gwynne, Sebastien De Castell, Mitchell Hogan, Stan Nicholls, Andrew Rowe, C.T. Phipps, Rob J. Hayes, Nicholas Eames, Mazarkis Williams, Ben Galley, Michael R. Fletcher, Graham Austin-King, Ed McDonald, Anna Stephens, Anna Smith Spark, RJ Barker, Michael R. Miller, Benedict Patrick, Sue Tingey, Dyrk Ashton, Steven Kelliher, Timandra Whitecastle, Laura M Hughes, J.P. Ashman, M.L. Spencer, Steven Poore, Brandon Draga, D. Thourson Palmer, D.M. Murray, Anne Nicholls, R.B. Watkinson, Charles F Bond, Ulff Lehmann, Thomas R. Gaskin, Zachary Barnes & Nathan Boyce. With a Foreword by Brian D. Anderson. Print version includes 40 black & white interior art pieces.

"Out of 40 stories with the setting being war it's guaranteed some of them are going to be similar. Perhaps if this was limited to 20 stories it could have been even more enjoyable, however, if I personally wasn't engaged by, or didn't enjoy a certain tale that isn't to say it will not be someone else's favourite. Arguably it could have been streamlined yet, I'd have given this book 4 or 5 stars after only reading 20 of the stories, therefore, it would be unfair to penalise this anthology for presenting me with more stories for the same value. This could be the finest fantasy anthology around and I believe it will be a long time before I see one that is as complete, well-produced and brimming with as many quality tales. Petros deserves a lot of credit for what he has composed with Art of War: Anthology for Charity."

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