I just came across a post over at OF Blog of the Fallen from back in December, in which Larry commented on why a number of books would not be included in his year-end “best of” list for 2011. Many of the books on the list were the biggest epic fantasy releases of 2011, and I was surprised to find how neatly in sync with my own feelings a few of his comments were:
Joe Abercrombie, The Heroes (it was a dull and tedious read replete of the same old tired clichés that I’ve seen executed better by other authors; happened to be my least favorite work by him)
I like Abercrombie’s work, but I don’t understand the rave reviews of The Heroes. It was his weakest book so far, and people seem to be lauding it as his best. I found it overlong and ultimately a bit dull. The only real zing of excitement I felt came during the few scenes that revealed more about the world at large and the possible fates of more memorable characters from earlier books. Ultimately what I’m waiting for from him is a true sequel to The First Law trilogy (me and everyone else, I think). We want to know if Logen is alive, damn it. I appreciate the cleverness of how he is slowly building the world of the First Law and advancing its overarching story with these standalone volumes, but I’m just not that interested in bloated genre exercises about vengeful she-warriors who seem to do little more than hack people up while quipping cynically or grizzled soldiers bemoaning a life spent in the trenches. And while we’re on the subject, not every secondary character from the original trilogy needs his or her own novel. There, I’ve said it.
Daniel Abraham, The Dragon’s Path (a bit light for a new series opener, although there is hope for the sequels to be stronger, as in his previous series)
For some reason this just brings to mind my general confusion over Abraham. He seems to be a talented writer, but I made it part-way into the second book of his first fantasy series, The Long Price Quartet, before putting it down for something else. I’ll probably go back to it eventually, but I felt that the first book of that series, A Shadow in Summer, while good overall, managed to distract the reader away from a weak plot with novel worldbuilding and an original magic system. It makes me hesitant to try his Dagger and Coin series, which is by all accounts a more traditional epic fantasy setting.
George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons (parts of it were wonderful, but much of it was dull)
Couldn’t have said it better myself. Some parts were great, others were just Martin maneuvering characters to set up the board for his next act. The long wait after A Feast for Crows managed to gear up the hype, but ultimately most of the book was exactly what Martin said it was years ago: the other half of A Feast for Crows.
Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear (I’ve had the book for nine months now and still can’t muster the enthusiasm to read it, so it certainly won’t appear on the list)
Kvothe’s story is somehow a page-turner even when it’s just objectively not that exciting, but I don’t know whether it will stand the test of time. This second volume was underwhelming despite being very readable — quaffable, like a good house chardonnay, but not something you’d buy a case of. Absent the bildungsroman feel of the first book, the story is seeming less and less original, and the frame story’s central conflict — what happened to his powers?!? why is he inhiding1?!/1? — is becoming more annoying than intriguing.
Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law (It was light-adventurish enough to divert, but not solid enough to linger in my memory)
This was a one-off a la Abercrombie, and I still have little to no desire to read it, despite how entertaining the gunfights are supposed to be. I enjoyed Mistborn despite its flaws, and I appreciate his prolificness and his ability to execute an idea so quickly, but it probably won’t be until the next Stormlight Archive book comes out that I read another Sanderson original. Too much other good stuff on my list.