Best Fantasy Books of 2014

Our Picks for the Top 25 Fantasy Novels for 2014
Best Fantasy Books of 2014

These our our picks for the best fantasy books of 2014. 

2014 was a phenomenal year for fantasy and there was a stack of highly anticipated book released by some of the biggest authors in the genre, including Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, Lev Grossman, Brent Weeks and Robin Hobb.

There was also a slew of awesome debut fantasy books that are the start of some great new fantasy series and a showcase of serious new talent in the genre.

And 2014 also brought some great sequel books to us as well (if anything, I would call 2014 the year of the 'Sequel' with many of the best books in fact sequel books NOT debut fantasy.

The general trend, as has been the same the past few years, was the grimdark aesthetic. Most of the 'big' fantasy releases this year, be they categorized as grimdark or not, at least borrow or adopt some of the grimdark elements. Not all books are supremely dark like say  The Dark Defiles (Richard Morgan) or The Barrow (Mark Smylie), but most do mix in something dark.

Of course, in a genre gone mad for dark and gritty, there were a few standout exceptions like The Goblin Emperor (Katherine Addison) and Traitor's Blade (Sebastien de Castell) that were entirely more positive in nature, heralding back to some of those happier fantasy days of classic fantasy where the heroes don't all have a strong streak of evil (or selfishness) running through them. It's a refreshing change I might add, very much so.

When The Magicians (the first in the trilogy) was released a few years ago, it received wide critical acclaim from magazines, newspapers and high-brow critics, but was (somewhat) panned by actual readers. This had to do with the characters who were for the most part completely self-absorbed for the entire novel. But it was an interesting subversion of the Harry Potter and Narnia books with all the cute animals made into monsters and the cast of heroes all suffering from serious depression.But oh what a clever piece of writing. Besides the obvious subversions of Narnia and Harry Potter, there are references works ranging from Hawkings A Brief History of Time to famous poets (Yeats for one). The entire trilogy is self-aware, from the characters, the world, and even the plot -- there's design behind the drudgery of Grossman's characters as they fight, fail, learn, and ultimately find a sort of redemption and peace with the world.With the final book, Magician's Land, finally released this year, the trilogy came to an end and all old wrongs righted. The characters finally grow up, the plot threads are tied up, and one can look at the entire story as a whole and marvel and the brilliance of it. And besides all this clever literary stuff, it's a pretty damn entertaining tale. There's adventure, friendship, betrayal, romance, tragedy, coming of age, and redemption at the end of the lane.At its core, The Magicians is a coming of age story about a boy who goes to magic school and learns, ultimately how to master his power AND himself. If you are a fan of the talented boy goes to magic school conceit (Harry Potter, Rithmatist, A Wizard of Earthsea, The Name of the Wind), you'll love The Magicians which takes this theme and completely subverts it, but does so oh so cleverly.Superbly written, this is one of the sharpest takes on the fantasy genre and gets my vote for one of the best fantasy series in the out there. It's a trilogy where each book is actually better than the last.  One of my top three reads this year.

Books in Magicians Trilogy Series (0)

Robert Jackson Bennett is one of the most talented writers in the genre but who has, for whatever reason, been mostly overlooked by the average reader. His best book (in a string of awesome books) is his newest book City of Stairs which will hopefully bring him the acclaim and recognition he rightfully deserves.City of Stairs was one of the best fantasy books of 2014 -- a sharp, startling, and wonderful mix of epic fantasy, mystery, and good old fashion adventure.It's a work that combines a fiercely unique setting with some outstandingly realized characters and a sharp plot that starts slow but picks up some serious steam partway through the book. While the basic elements of the story are not necessary unique it's how the author perfectly blends everything together -- story, characters, setting -- into a something special. Bennett has also managed to create my favorite fantasy character of all time with his delightful Sigrid who absolute steals the show with some of the very, very best scenes ever in a fantasy book.Serious action. Check. Magical and mysterious setting. Check. Indelible characters that will stay with you long after you finish the book. Check. Check and double check.My only complaint with the novel is that it can take over one hundred pages before the story unfolds and things get kicking, but hell, once it does, hold on tight for the ride!If you pick up one book this year, make it this one. 

Books in The Divine Cities Series (1)

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More Works by Robert Jackson

City of Stairs is Jackson's best work, but check out his next best American Elsewhere and his wonderfully written The Troupe. His other books are a dime too, rich in deep themes and exploration (through fantastical tale) about the American dream.

The Mirror Empire 

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley explores some of the same themes as does City of Stairs; it's not the same type of narrative or story, but there are some loose overlap in  themes. Both do explore themes of colonialism and power and of the oppressed becoming the oppressors

American Gods

American Gods by Neil Gaimen. Recommended because besides being quite literary in theme, it's about old vanished god's fighting for their survival, sort of mirroring the old dead god's coming back idea of City of Stairs.

The Grim Company

The Grim Company is, I fully admit, not at all similar in style to City of Stars being a gritty grimdark in the style of Joe Abercrombie, but the themes of overthrowing and killing the gods only to find out such an action has had catestrphic consequences after the fact, does mirror loosely the theme of old dead gods coming back into the world explored in City of Stairs

The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne

Starts with The Emperor's Blades. On the list here, this is the most traditional epic fantasy tale, but it does explore the idea of dead vanished gods coming back into the world of men as a very bad thing.

The emperor is dead and the empire in turmoil. With these dark scenes, Stavely’s series opens, and things don’t let up from there. A son and heir, Valyn is training with a renowned mercenary force, but even then, he isn’t out of reach. In danger from assassins as well as his training, his life is difficult, but his point of view remains captivating. For Stavely, however, one school fantasy thread isn’t enough. While Valyn presents a gripping story about military growth, Kaden brings a philosophical aspect. Training with the Shin monks, there are questions of faith and discipline as his character develops. Meanwhile, a third sibling, Adare, is tasked with keeping the empire together. 21-years-old and caught in a complex political web, she presents a more mature viewpoint, but also a more bookish one. Despite this multitude of perspectives, the series gives life to every character. They’re complex and vulnerable, spurring emotion in interlinking but physically distant stories.

Books in Chronicle Of The Unhewn Throne Series (5)

This first installment in the Worldbreaker Saga (the second came out last October) is an epic fantasy with intriguing world(s), an engaging plot, and complex characters. Throughout the 500 plus page novel, Hurley takes world-building to a new level, and challenges the norms of the fantasy genre with her discussions of gender fluidity, alternative marriage and family structures, all within a fascinating and dynamic setting that is a character itself. The book's actual characters, in large part multifaceted women who are neither flawless nor strictly evil, struggle through everything from a world rife with ethnic tensions to the very basic desire of a girl to be reunited with her mother. Be forewarned: this book is dense; after all, it packs in the histories of multiple nations spanning more than one world (don't worry, it comes with a glossary and character guide). And don't get too attached to the characters either… think a Game of Thrones style approach to character safety. But if you're searching for a knock-out novel that pulls you into a magical world of doppelgangers, assassins, blood sacrifices and a whole lot more, pick up The Mirror Empire. You won't be disappointed. Read if You Like: multiple points of view, deep world building, epic fantasy, political plots

Books in Worldbreaker Saga Series (1)

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One of the more interesting fantasy debuts this year by a well-established pedigreed author (she's won some serious awards with two previous HUGO's). It's an interesting take on the epic fantasy genre with solid writing and a highly imaginative world.

The Mirror Empire is one of those few fantasy books that comes along every few years and pushes the boundaries of the genre into a slightly different direction. And for that alone, this book should be lauded.

The author's mashup of a number of different ideas, genres, and even universes, is a breath of fresh air.

However, there are shortcomings a plenty present too. The shift between the two main POV's happens quite often and out of the blue. It's jarring and it ruins the flow and you are left feeling mildly confused as to where you are and what character you are following now (you'll get what I mean when you read the story). Not all the POV's are as well developed as the others. The author does flesh out a few of the characters, but the other characters are really left by the wayside. And by golly, there is an astounding amount of blood, violence, and mayhem. This may or may not be your cup of tea, but the warning is there.

Overall, I must wax lyrical about this book. One of the more interesting and best fantasy books to come out this year -- in my personal top 5. The Mirror Empire holds nothing back, it's a brutal heavy take on the violence and atrocity of warfare: People die, characters die -- often horribly. There are few books I've read with a body count that runs into the hundreds and the thousands -- and this is one of those books. But there is method to all this violence; the book is a sharp look and critique at the horrors of war and all the evils founded on it -- genocide, ethnic cleansing, and brutality. You can certainly read this book and see many real world parallels, especially in the Middle East conflicts and the genocides occurring in Africa.

For a novel that does the novel things and pushes the boundary and spins the genre on its head, for a novel that takes a smart look at the hard things about ware, for a fantasy with a message, and for a fantasy that holds nothing back and combines different genres, ideas, with some serious action and worldbuilding ideas, the Mirror Empire must be read.

Subversion gone over the edge is how you can describe Richard Morgan's anti-fantasy series A Land Fit For Heroes. Morgan writes some of the blackest grimdark you'll ever read and manages to break just about every fantasy convention ever created over the three books that make up this series.It's a sweet, sweet, but bloody read. Just bring along a towel or four when you read it, you'll need them to wipe the blood spurting from the pages,

Books in A Land Fit For Heroes Series (3)

If you like your epic fantasy big in the style of Wheel of Time, the closest you'll find to that style is The Storm Light Archive -- written by the same man who's finishing The Wheel of Time series. You really won't find any other books close to the style of Jordan. As of 2015, we are sitting at two massive books in what will be a ten book series. Words of Radiance, book 2 in the series, was by all measures a success. It was a very good read for the most part with plenty of "ohhh shiiittt' moments going on (Sanderson has made his career on 'Holy Shit' moments where action and drama perfectly intersect with showdowns between heroes and bad guys).The Stormlight Archive is Sanderson's own vision of an epic fantasy series, his own take on The Wheel of Time (and he's determined to do it right this time and not make the mistakes Jordan made) and folks, it is indeed epic -- the fantasy tale spans millennia and includes a cast of larger than life characters, from humble slaves, magical assassins, female scholars to the leaders of great armies. The magic system, like all of Sanderson's works, is very well thought out and the action scenes, when they happen, are explosive and powerful. Keep in mind that this is a huge book and it takes hundreds of pages to get into the flow of the story. But keep reading till the end and the action comes to an explosive head -- it's worth the wait.

Books in The Stormlight Archive Series (4)

This has been a good year for sequels. For some reasons, the dreaded 'second in a series' syndrome has been mostly avoided by sequel books so far. Words of Radiance by Sanderson was a good read -- maybe not better than the first, but not a disappointment -- The Shadow Throne was a different book than the first, but in many ways just as good  and The Crimson Campaign was better in every way over the first in the series.I was on the fence about this fantasy until this book; now I'm a serious fan of McClellan and feel his gunpowder series is some of the best fantasy to come out in a few years.There's some serious action in this one -- if you want well written, fantasy with a darker bent, with a seriously unique magic system with lots and lots of action, mayhem, and dead bodies, then The Crimson Campaign is your book. Of course, if you've already read the first book, you will definitely read this sequel. If you haven't read the first book, then get on it, because even better things await in the sequel.
Mark Lawrence's newest 2014 release in his new The Red Queen's War trilogy, set in the same world as his Broken Empire trilogy. This time around he focuses his efforts on a different sort of anti-hero, a prince who is a cowardly fool. For the most part, Lawrence's effort works. The anti-hero is interesting and empathetic and funny to read about. This is no comedy though -- it's grimdark in the style of Lawrence's Broken Empires, though with more humor.Absolute a must read if you want some awesome antihero stuff.

Books in The Red Queen's War Series (4)

The Lightbringer is Brent Weeks best series so far. I was never that impressed with his Night Angel trilogy which was all action and setting but of little substance. However, Weeks has greatly matured as a writer and his next effort, The Lightbringer series, has shown his talent as an author in a big way. Book one of the series was disappointing, but the second book completely blew me a way. It was one of the best examples of the second book being so much better than the first. The Blinding Knife (book 2), was pretty much my favorite fantasy read of 2013 -- yes, it was that good. Book three (which was released in the middle of 2014) was also a good read, though not as good as book two (it had more character development which is good thing by far and large, but at the cost of a plot that really did not move very far the entire book).Overall though, if you want an awesome coming of age fantasy, a completely unique magic system, lots of action and a cast of likable heroes, then defiantly pick this one up. Fans of Brandon Sanderson, Douglas Hulick, and David Gemmell will particularly find themselves right at home here.

Books in Lightbringer Series (6)

An outstanding debut novel and a strong contender for Best Fantasy Debut of 2014. If Alexandre Dumas has a fantasy doppelganger, well, we've just found him in Sebastien de Castell. Traitor's Blade is one long love poem to The Three Musketeers and like it, packed with action -- a virtuoso of galloping adventure, intrigue, and thrill from start to finish; a blend of alternative history, sword swaggering heroes. This is low fantasy with plot and characters taking the forefront and worldbuilding shoved to the back, so don't expect a huge world that's fully fleshed out. No, this one is about the characters, the intrigue, and most of all, the powerfully detailed swashbuckling action scenes!If you are in the mood from some fast paced lighter fantasy, fantasy with some real swashbuckling heroes, lots of action, and detailed fight scenes, this is a book for you. Certainly fans of Dave Duncan's Sword series would love this. But it will appeal to anyone who wants a non-strop romp of action and intrigue, and a seriously likable hero (something missing these days in a genre mostly filled with grimdark releases). Traitor's Blade is the first in a series and signals some serious talent has arrived in the genre. The next book can only be even better. I look forward to what else this author can bring to the table in the future. But in the meantime, feast on this one.
Epic fantasy meets medieval historical fiction.And about fucking time.No more cutting off heads with butter knives, riding days in full plate armor without feeling a scratch of discomfort, fighting for hours and hours at a time without getting tired, etc.No, in The Traitor Son Cycle, you are going to feel the pain, weariness and complete discomfort the heroes of the story endure. And trust me, here's a lot of that to go around here. This epic fantasy stands above many of its peers because of the sheer realistic detail built into the world. The author is actually an expert on medieval history and weaves realism -- from the armor weight, the way knights sit on the saddles, the structure of fortresses, to the cultures based on different European countries.There's also a lot of action, excitement and general mayhem stuffed into the pages. Brutal bloody battles with men and brutal bloody battles with monsters.There's a good deal of military strategy, tactics, and squad combat dynamics going on here in this series as well, so much in fact that I'd even label this series military fantasy.A refreshing and promising addition to the epic fantasy genre. Try this series out -- you may just find yourself in love.

Books in The Traitor Son Cycle Series (6)

One of those books that takes you with the sheer imagination of it all. If you want something different that blends together a number of genres (though if I had to choose one to shove it in, I'd say it fits under the Urban Fantasy umbrella). It's a wonderful debut and one of the better fantasy books of 2014. While there are a few flaws that hold the novel back, the strengths definitely outweigh the weaknesses. The story is basically a wild twist on the whole 'I died and now face a strange afterlife' conceit. In some ways, it reminds me of Sean Williams’ The Crooked Letter, though not as infused with horror. Either way, the protagonist ends up somewhere he wasn't expecting to go -- and a good thing for us too, the place is captivating. I was quite surprised the different elements of the story all just worked together as a cohesive whole -- and worked very well indeed -- when you toss a number of vastly different genres into the same story with many disparate elements, it's an easy thing for the book to get lost. But these many different things make The Waking Engine an interesting, and eclectic read indeed.This is a book with some strong worldbuilding -- those of you who like their worlds so large where the borders are only vaguely defined or completely unknowable, will find themselves right at home. The strange afterlife, the different residents, the eclectic world, it's bizarre yet utterly fascinating place you just want to linger in. The prose too is strong indeed. It's lyrical and compelling. This is an author who knows how to write and write beautifully. And it's a good thing indeed -- the powerfully large (and precise) vocabulary he uses is needed to fully define and flesh out the strange world. For a rather strange yet very much scintillating novel -- one that, by the last page will have you feeling like you just came back from a very, very far, and very strange journey to distant, exotic lands -- this is a novel to really sink your teeth into. Good things will be coming from this author in the future, mark my words.
This is one of those books you didn't know you needed until you actually start reading it. Kind of like that old friend you don't realize how much you really missed and liked until you have a reunion. Fool's Fate showcases Hobb's master of the character-driven fantasy. This is one of her better books. Of course, there is no point to start reading Fool's Assassin until you've taken down her two previous trilogies about the characters, but if you have, Fool's Assassin is a welcome return to her world. I still love her original The Farseer trilogy as her best with the strong coming of age themes present and wonderful new world that Hobb deliciously explores the boundaries of during those first three books. Fool's Fate is a different sort of book, the character is now a middle-aged man, wealthy, successful and retired. His unexpected return to his former role brings a new perspective with it this time -- one of patience and wisdom, not the untamed passions of youth.Don't expect a book of action though. This is a very slow paced novel with Hobb slowly revealing the edges of the plot and delightfully lingering about the day-to-day events. It's clear she's writing this one for the fans. And to that, she succeeds. If you loved her previous works and how she tells her stories, then you'll enjoy this one immensely. If you didn't, then you won't. Simple enough.

Books in The Farseer Books Series (4)

I was quite impressed with the first book, The Boy with a Porcelain Blade which told an awesome coming of age tale set in a dark, twisted Italian Renaissance world gone wrong. It combined a macabre setting, The Three Musketeer's level of awesome sword action, political scheming, with a likable hero. The second book was released January 2015.For a solid coming of age tale, awesomely unique setting, and a story where a lot of horrible depressing shit happens, pick this one up. And did I mention there's almost a pedantic detail given to fencing? 
Five books in now, this series is turning out to be one of the best in the genre. If you are expecting another sort of Wheel of Time or Stormlight Archive, Game of Thrones, or Mazalan Book of the Fallen, look elsewhere. Abraham writes an entirely different sort of book then these others. The plot is slower paced, there's a lot about economics and banking, there's detailed scheming that takes place slowly over hundreds (even thousands) of pages. And first and foremost, it's completely character driven.But IF you have the patience for a deep, plodding, yet ultimately richly rewarding series, then The Dagger And the Coin is some of the best fantasy in the genre. But it takes a few books into it before things start happening and the action starts to build.

Books in The Dagger And The Coin Series (6)

I read the fist in the series, Scourge of the Betrayer, late 2014 and was blown away with how good Salyards' tale was. A sort of a cross between The Black Company, The Blade Itself, and Prince of Thorns, Scourge of the Betrayers impressed the hell out of me. And the sequel, which was released in 2014 was even better than the first book.So if you have any love of gritty grimdark, you owe it to yourself to pick up Scourge of the Betrayer and the even better sequel Veil of the Deserters. Even more, if you love Glen Cook, Joe Abercrombie, Luke Sculls, or Mark Lawrence, you are going to have a serious hard on for Salyards.

Books in Bloodsounder's Arc Series (4)

This series (2 books so far) is an awesome read if you like gritty fantasy about the underside life of a city. We're talking about thieves, crooks, spies, gangs, pimps, and the like. Tossed into the middle of a rat-infested slum area is Drothe our likable but rather un-extraordinary protagonist. This is a fast-paced series pretty much from the get go and has our hero trying to stay alive from the start till the very end of the book.If you are fan of Week's Night Angel trilogy, the Vlad Taltos books, or the Thieve's World books, you are going to love Tale of the Kin. Heck, even if you are not a fan of those books, you'll still probably love Tale of the Kin.Book two is even better than the first book, so as of 2015, the very high standards set by the first book have been maintained.

Books in Tales Of The Kin Series (1)

The first book, Six Gun Tarot, was an impressive debut fantasy and a must read if you like an ambitiously dark novel that pushes the boundaries. It's wasn't an interesting blend of different genres -- a sort of Deadwood meets Vampire fiction set in a steampunkish Weird West world. And there's a strong Lovecraftian feel to the whole thing. I don't even want to guess how many genres and subgenres this novel blends together; but it all actually works.The sequel takes all that was good about the fist novel, and ramps it up. It's a delicious return to the world and completely intoxicating. Without a doubt The Shotgun Arcana is even by far much more spectacularly ambitious and imaginative than the first and a stronger book overall. If you are a fan of Weird Westerns, Urban Fantasy, Lovecraftian stories, strange steampunk or vampire fiction with a coming-of-age story tossed in, you'll love this novel. With so many genres mashed together here, there's bound to be something for every reader to be found in it. And you know, it's also a pretty damn fun swashbuckling ride from start to finish.

Books in Golgotha Series (1)

Reading a new Abercrombie book is just like going to a fancy restaurant, it doesn't happen very often, but when it does, you relish every moment of the experience. Half a King is the author's first YA effort, and for the most part, it works. He takes his now-patented take on the fantasy genre (I call his version of grimdark 'aberdark') and trims it down a bit for a younger audience. There's less savagery, less sarcasm, less violence, but the feeling you come to expect from his writing is still there, strong as ever. The setting, loosely influenced by Scandinavian / Norse culture, is an interesting one and a good choice for a new world to start a new tale in.Overall, well worth reading. I don't feel it stands over the other great works that have come out this year by other authors AND it's a lesser work to his more adult storytelling (his best of which is The Heroes), but it's a book that's true to his form and an outstanding read.

Books in Shattered Sea Series (5)

This was a pretty good follow up to his amazing first The Thousand Names which set a new standard for colonial military fantasy. It was a compelling read and had a cast of interesting characters. The magic system was well done and there were some brutal action scenes. The setting was interesting as well with the imperial soldiers engaged in a life-or-death march through the desert, hounded on all sides by the enemy. If you liked Glen Cook's military fantasy or Erikson's Mazalan (especially Bone Hunters which deals with armies marching through the desert), then you'll love this one -- it has a somewhat similar feel. However, it's MUCH easier to read, the characters are more relatable for the most part. Overall, the first book was one of those novels you pick up and finish shortly and demand the sequel right away. Certainly one of the best fantasy releases of 2013.How does the sequel The Shadow Throne stack up? Very good, though a very different kind of read. While the first book was about several companies of soldiers (and individual squads) trying to survive in the desert while fending off hostile natives and magical menaces, the sequel books moves things into the city. It's more a book about internal city politics than a pure military fantasy. I suspect if you like books like Among Thieves where individuals must navigate among the different power structures in a city, you'll really get a kick out of this one. Personally, while I respected the author doing something new, I much preferred the previous setting. However, The Shadow Throne is by no means a bad book -- it's a great read overall. I just didn't like it nearly as much as the first.
If Harry Dresden has a doppelganger in the genre, it's probably Alex Verus. Take all the elements of Harry Dresden, then make the hero less powerful and lot more ruthless and you have the Alex Verus series.This is my new favorite Urban Fantasy. I love Jim Butcher, but his work has gone a bit downhill with his series lacking focus at this point. Alex Verus (for now) is a sharper read. What's also interesting is Verus' magical power, which is only his ability to see into the near future. Outside of this power, he's completely helpless against the more regular magic types. But the way Verus uses his power (and strategy) to beat impossible odds make these books wildly entertaining.If you love Dresden, you absolutely have to start reading Alex Verus.
A powerful coming of age tale about a rejected half-goblin, half-elven prince who comes unexpectedly to power when an accident kills his father, the emperor, and half brothers. It's a tale about a young prince who finds the confidence to lead his people as emperor and perhaps that he's even good at the job.Addison's world is fascinating -- complex, richly drawn, with regal customs, regulations, and social orderings. It's a strange foreign hierarchy bound by even stranger social norms, from rituals to language patterns. But it all works together to form a highly detailed setting that you just never want to leave.Unlike much of the other modern fantasy being released that's always grim and dark with unlikable amoral heroes, The Goblin Emperor returns to some of the older fantasy classic norms with good heroes you can really get behind and root for -- heroes who always take the high road, even though they have suffered through many injustices. It's thoroughly refreshing and sorely missed in a genre now mostly populated with unhappy.This made our Top 25 Best Fantasy Books of 2014 list and we consider it one of the best fantasy books of 2014.
Tad Williams has been doing some good stuff in the Urban fantasy subgenre the past couple years. His Bobby Dollar novels are a refreshing addition to the genre and a unique twist on the heaven and hell conceits. Heaven is cast as this hypocritical power grabbing bureaucracy while Hell as a selfish, maniacal prison for unlucky souls with minions from both places pressured by their higher-ups into fighting over the recruitment of human souls.  As you find out as the series goes on, Heaven and Hell is not White and Black.A lovable character, good action, good adventure, great prose, and right up your alley if you love The Dresden Files style fantasy.

Books in Bobby Dollar Series (4)

A huge disappointment. Doing everything wrong that The Bone Song did right. The Tower Lord wasn't a bad book by any means and I'm sure many of you will still enjoy it. But it lacked the power of the first one. Particularly, the complaint most people seem to have is that the Vaeilin story line is weak and very little focus is given to him, as in the first book. There's new POV's too, but most people are interested in the original hero. It's akin to Patrick Rothfuss writing Book 3 of The Kingkiller Chronicles and making the first couple chapters about Kvothe, then spending the rest of the book on a couple other characters. No, just no. At this point, I'm not sure if Ryan Anthony is a one hit wonder. Let's hope he gets back on track with the next book.

Books in A Raven Shadow Series (1)

In an era when fantasy was about honorable farm boys with magic swords and a noble destiny, Glen Cook said 'fuck that mess; let's have some amoral pricks doing bad deeds in a dark world, that's way cooler'. And you know what? I believe he may just have been right. The Black Company is about the titular band of mercenaries simply doing their jobs and, well, killing people for coin. It just so happens that the person supplying said coin is the sort of dark lord that, in any other story, would be the arch-villain. But why should the Black Company give a shit? They get paid either way. The writing is unremarkable and to the point, which reflects the points of view of the grunts whose stories we follow. None of the characters are nice, and the combat is never glorified. It's all in a day's work for these sorry bastards, and the epic conflicts of the god-like figures they fight for and against are far above their pay-grades. Gritty humour also abounds, and reading the book is entertaining, and fun, even if the characters are having the most miserable times of their lives. The world is dark as hell, and made darker by the exploits of the Black Company and their masters. Read this book if: you're pissed about fantasy heroes always taking down the dark lord and leaving thousands of good, hard-working grunts unemployed.

Books in The Chronicles Of The Black Company Series (10)

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Instrumentalities of the Night

If you like Black Company, you should definitely read his other fantasy series, The Instrumentalities of the Night. It combines an ancient evil coming-back-into-the-world plot, a military genius hero, plenty of conflicts between worldly powers, political scheming, all filtered through Cook's military narrative. The closest you'll find to The Black Company in style and form. And duh, it's by the same freaking author. How much closer CAN you get?

Bloodsounder's Arc

Starts with Scourge of the Betrayers. About as close as you are going to get to Cook -- the narrator is even an archivist and the tale is told in first person. There's a LOT of similarities and the Bloodsounder books are gritty gritty grimdark dark. Delicious and some of the best fantasy to come out the past couple years. Do NOT pass this series by if you want something similar to The Black Company. It's the best of the similar recommendations I can give.

Malazan Book of the Fallen

For another "dark" military fantasy, you should read Malazan Book of the Fallen. It's more epic in scope than The Black Company, but there are enough similarities that you'll find yourself right at home. Steven Erikson has even stated that Glen Cook's books were an influence on his own writing, so there you have it.

The Dagger and the Coin

You may want to give Daniel Abraham's The Dagger and the Coin series a good go at it. Books one and two are out and they are seriously good -- some of the best epic fantasy that's come out. Abraham's work is a good mix of epic and military fantasy with some smart writing and a cast of compelling characters (some which are anti-heroes). Both are character driven, though Black Company has a hell of a lot more action and angst while The Dagger and the Coin is far more about the characters. It can be somewhat plodding and slow at times. However, if you like Black Company, and military fantasy with strong characters, you may just like this series. 

The Ten Thousand

Paul Kearney's The Ten Thousand is a superb military fantasy by a much underrated author. If you like Black Company, you'll dig this one hard. 

The Way of Kings

Sanderson's awesome The Way of Kings is also another book you might want to read (it's first in the Stormlight Archive series). The main character (Kaladin) has a few basic similarities to The Black Company main character (Croaker). Both are retired physicians who've given up their profession to become soldiers. Both lead a squad of men (and there is the squad dynamics). Cook's work is more gray and his style more dry, however. The narrator (Croaker), is not a crazy badass super hero, while Sanderson's work is more heroic in nature as is the character. So don't get the idea that The Way of Kings is anything like The Black Company as a whole, but as stated there are some similarities.

Heroes Die

Heroes Die by Mathew Woodring Stoover. Dark and gritty world. Check. An anti-hero character who ends up working for the bad guys most of the time? Check. Explosive and brutal action? Check. Strong characterization. Check and Check. Heroes die is MORE about a singular hero than a company of characters, as is The Black Company, but there's enough that you'll probably love it if you like Glenn Cook's work.

The Darkness That Comes Before

The Darkness that Comes Before. Ah, grimdark epic fantasy at it's best, but not your standard epic fantasy: this shit is deep and philosophical. Lots of wars and grand military battles and dark gods taking over the world. There's nothing else quite like it to be honest, but ignoring all the philosophy sprinkled between the chapters, there's a hell of a lot of bloody action, gratuitous sex, character development, and political intrigue to keep you turning the pages. Oh and there's a world-ending apocalypse coming. 

The Coldfire Trilogy

Black Sun Rising is a different sort of work. But it's a very dark and grim world featuring an anti-hero character and side kick heroes that are all flawed individuals. One of the best fantasy books in the genre. You'll probably like it, even if it's about a couple characters solving a quest rather than a military band caught up in incessant warfare.

The Thousand Names

The Thousand Names by Django Wexler. This is a new series that came out in 2013 with two books out so far (the last one was out a few months ago, mid 2014). If you like large scale battles and the story of a squad/company facing extreme survival odds in a foreign country, you'll love this series. It's one of the better fantasy books to come out the past few years. And it's certainly one of the best military fantasy series since Erikson's Mazalan. If you like Black Company, you'll love this series.


Legend by David Gemmell. A classic, but one all about a hero fighting an endless war against endless odds. There's something of beauty in this heroic treatment of an old washed up hero who's pressured by the need of his people to come back from retirement to kick some ass.

The Red Knight

For a very medieval fantasy with magic and monsters and knights, Miles Cameron's The Red Knight. This was one of my favorite reads of 2013. There's a lot of military battles and squad/company warfare against foes with superior numbers. It's not as dark, on a whole, as The Black Company, but it's a stellar read. If you like might and magic and battles and warfare, this is one for your.