"It’s most definitely a good time to be a fantasy fan." – Paul Goat Allen
2012 was a surprisingly strong year for fantasy. Even though two highly anticipated novels did not hit the shelves as hoped in ’12 (Brandon Sanderson’s as-of-yet untitled second installment of his Stormlight Archive and Requiem, the fourth volume of Ken Scholes’ five-volume Psalms of Isaak saga), this year was chock full of solid releases from established writers and more than a few impressive offerings from debut novelists.
In fact, several debut novels made my year’s best fantasy list: John R. Fultz’s Seven Princes, Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, Myke Cole’s Control Point, and Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards.
Set in Northern Ireland in 1977, And Blue Skies from Pain is simply a superbly crafted novel. A highly palatable blend of elements from historical fantasy, paranormal fantasy, and noir fiction, the subtle way in which Leicht immerses readers in the realm of Fairie is simply brilliant. While the first novel only hinted at the twilight realm on The Other Side, And Blue Skies from Pain opens up the veil and reveals much more information about the ongoing war between Fey factions, Liam’s heritage, and the connections between the bloody conflicts in the twilight and the mortal realm.
From my review: “Both of these novels are extraordinarily deep thematically and written with such darkly lyrical style… There is a sequence in And Blue Skies from Pain where Liam swallows a shot of whiskey. Leicht describes it as smooth, sweet, and tasting “of molten sunshine with an edge of chocolate.” That is precisely what it is like to read Stina Leicht – it’s not just one (literary) flavor but a combination of several enticing ones. For example, Leicht complements her already exceptional world building of Belfast in 1977 by injecting musical references to The Rolling Stone’s Sticky Fingers album, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Sweet, etc.”
The sheer diversity of fantasy releases this year was impressive. From the epic fantasy sagas of Fultz, Weeks, and Lawrence to the glorious sword-and-sorcery adventure of Howard Andrew Jones and Saladin Ahmed to the military-powered fantasy of Myke Cole and Joe Abercrombie, the releases of 2012 were as diverse as the realms in which they were set.
It’s most definitely a good time to be a fantasy fan.
But before moving on to the new releases of 2013, here is my list of the best fantasy releases of the year that was 2012:
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. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulgoatallen and get all the latest Barnes & Noble book news from @BNBuzz.