“2011 was all about Patrick Rothfuss and his Kingkiller Chronicle.
I cannot overemphasize this: the two novels in Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle
are unarguably the best fantasy fiction that I have ever read…”
– Paul Goat Allen
The sheer amount of noteworthy fantasy debuts in 2011 was remarkable. Besides Buchanan and Sutter's stellar first novels, this year gave us The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones, Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns, Stina Leicht’s Of Blood and Honey, Courtney Schafer’s The Whitefire Crossing, Paula Brandon’s The Traitor's Daughter, The Emperor's Knife by Mazarkis Williams, Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick, Michael J. Sullivan’s Theft of Swords, and Teresa Frohock’s Miserere.
But although there were a fair share of deeply disappointing reads in 2011 – “big” novels that I was really looking forward to that failed to reach my level of expectation – this year was still a fantastic year for fantasy. For me, 2011 was all about Patrick Rothfuss and his Kingkiller Chronicle. I cannot overemphasize this: the two novels in Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle (The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear) are unarguably the best fantasy fiction that I have ever read. In my review of The Wise Man's Fear back in March, I wrote:
Rothfuss’ writing style is fluid, rich in detail, and self-controlled; he weaves a labyrinthine plotline effortlessly; his realm-building abilities are subtle and sublime; but the reason I absolutely adore these novels is because in a genre obsessed with size – shelf-bending series spanning eons and featuring a cast of hundreds – Rothfuss has done just the opposite and penned a profoundly intimate story about an unassuming innkeeper recalling the events of his life while working in a tavern. But – trust me – his story rivals that of any epic fantasy adventure…”
The Wise Man's Fear isn’t just the best fantasy release of 2011, it is one of the best fantasy novels ever released. After an interview with Rothfuss this spring, I called him the “next coming of J.R.R. Tolkien.” Yeah, I know that some of you are rolling your eyes at this statement but all I can say is that if you’re a skeptic, just pick up The Name of the Wind and prepared to be blown away…
Overall, 2011 was a solid year for fantasy – but I’m so excited about 2012, especially for the fourth installment of Ken Scholes’ Psalms of Isaak, entitled Requiem; the second installment of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive; and the second book in Brent Weeks’ Lightbringer saga (tentatively entitled The Blinding Knife); three much-anticipated releases that I’m hoping will hit the shelves sometime in the next year.
But that is in the future – here are my best fantasy releases of the past year…
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
Keep up with all of my blogs – as well as all of Barnes & Noble’s exclusive reviews, authors interviews, videos, promotions, and more – by following @BNBuzz on Twitter!