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.
The Malazan series is a towering achievement: Brave, ambitious and skilfully executed. This is history. Fiction unlike anything we’d ever encountered. Sure, Glen Cook had gone before and done something similar, and decades earlier than that J. R. R. Tolkien had come along and given us a complete world, languages and archaeology included. But Erikson went that one step further. He took what he’d learnt from both Cook and Tolkien, and then ran with it, bringing along moral inquisitiveness and a mirror to humanity as he went.
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 aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, still holds out - and Empress Lasseen's ambition knows no bounds. However, it seems the empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister forces gather as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand...
"Steven Erikson is an extraordinary writer. I read Gardens of the Moon with great pleasure. And now that I have read it, I would be hard pressed to decide what I enjoyed more: the richly and ominously magical world of Malaz and Genabackis; the large cast of sympathetically-rendered characters; or the way the story accumulates to a climax that hits like machinegun fire. My advice to anyone who might listen to me is, treat yourself to Gardens of the Moon. And my entirely selfish advice to Steven Erikson is, write faster." Stephen Donaldson
"I stand slack-jawed in awe of The Malazan Book of the Fallen. This masterwork of imagination may be the high water mark of epic fantasy. This marathon of ambition has a depth and breadth and sense of vast reaches of inimical time unlike anything else available today. The Black Company, Zelazny's Amber, Vance's Dying Earth, and other mighty drumbeats are but foreshadowings of this dark dragon's hoard." Glen Cook
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."
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
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."
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."
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
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
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 Great Reawakening has left Latent people with a stark choice: either use their newfound magical powers in the service of the government, or choose the path of the Selfer, and be hunted down and killed by the Supernatural Operations Corps. For Lieutenant Colonel Jan Thorsson ' call sign Harlequin ' the SOC is the closest thing to family he's ever known. But when his efforts to save thousands of soldiers leads to the impeachment of the President, he's suddenly cut off from the military and in the same position as his rival Oscar Britton, an outcast criminal who is leading the fight for Latent equality. This latest schism is perfect for the walking weapon known as Scylla, who is slowly but surely building a vast and terrible army. The Selfers and the SOC will have to learn to work together if they are to have any chance of preventing a massacre. Because this time they won't be facing her on a dusty battlefield far from home. This time, Scylla is bringing the fight to the streets of New York.
"From the small beginnings in Control Point where a young man suddenly manifests a weird (and prohibited) magic, to the Earth-shattering events of Breach Zone where a powerful witch instigates a full-scale invasion of New York from a parallel dimension, Cole has shown he has the guts to go big or go home. He went big with Breach Zone, and from my point of view he knocked it out of the park."
In the city of stairs, nothing is as it seems.
You've got to be careful when you're chasing a murderer through Bulikov, for the world is not as it should be in that city. When the gods were destroyed and all worship of them banned by the Polis, reality folded; now stairs lead to nowhere, alleyways have become portals to the past, and criminals disappear into thin air.
The murder of Dr Efrem Pangyui, the Polis diplomat researching the Continent's past, has begun something and now whispers of an uprising flutter out from invisible corners.
Only one woman may be willing to pursue the truth - but it is likely to cost her everything.
"The Divine Cities trilogy is quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It treats its audience with the same respect and consideration as it shares with its cast. It is a rich, lovingly-crafted world that is both thematically complex and wonderfully entertaining. Shara, Mulaghesh and Sigrud have all been ensconced in my personal Fictional Character Hall of Fame, and I will miss them dearly. If you’re looking to discover something new, something original, and something memorable, then this is the series you’re looking for."
"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
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."
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 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
Legend 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.
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
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 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!"
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."
The war is over.
The war has just begun.
Three times throughout its history, Nikan has fought for its survival in the bloody Poppy Wars. Though the third battle has just ended, shaman and warrior Rin cannot forget the atrocity she committed to save her people. Now she is on the run from her guilt, the opium addiction that holds her like a vice, and the murderous commands of the fiery Phoenix—the vengeful god who has blessed Rin with her fearsome power.
Though she does not want to live, she refuses to die until she avenges the traitorous Empress who betrayed Rin’s homeland to its enemies. Her only hope is to join forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who plots to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new republic.
But neither the Empress nor the Dragon Warlord are what they seem. The more Rin witnesses, the more she fears her love for Nikan will force her to use the Phoenix’s deadly power once more.
Because there is nothing Rin won’t sacrifice to save her country . . . and exact her vengeance.
"This is a story of self-worth and determination, of finding value in life when your strengths are stripped away. It shines a light on some of the worst aspects of humanity which are sadly still reflective of our current society. It is a story of tragedy and loss, of anger and hypocrisy, of perseverance and triumph. Kuang excels at wreaking emotional havoc while delivering a powerful meditation on war and survival. It is a compelling follow-up to a landmark debut, so make sure you visit The Dragon Republic."
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
Wrath of Storms
A girl with terrifying powers. An assassin battling his bloodlust. And an ancient evil stirring…Serena’s fearsome power is growing stro...
The Wolf's Call
VAELIN AL SORNA RETURNSAnthony Ryan's debut novel Blood Song—the first book of the Raven's Shadow series—took the fantasy world by stor...
The Magician's Land
Quentin Coldwater has lost everything. He has been cast out of the secret magical land of Fillory and now, friendless and broke, he returns to where his story began: Brakeb...
A Little Hatred
War. Politics. Revolution. The Age of Madness has arrived... The chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep a...
The Dragon Republic
R F Kuang
Rin’s story continues in this acclaimed sequel to The Poppy War—an epic fantasy combining the history of twentieth-century China with a gripping world of g...
Six Sacred Swords
It doesn’t take a legendary sword to make a legendary swordsman, but it certainly helps.Keras Selyrian is already well on the way to cutting his name into the ...
The Divine Cities Trilogy
Robert Jackson Bennett
A special omnibus edition, collecting all three books of Robert Jackson Bennett’s acclaimed Divine Cities trilogy in a single volume. &nbs...
The Raven Tower
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 unres...
Priest of Lies
Tomas Piety has been many things: soldier, priest, gangster...and spy. As Tomas's power grows, the nobility better watch their backs, in this dark and gritty epic fanta...
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Explore the ancient Roman Empire
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