Pardon the formatting on this post, it was maimed in the migration from Blogger to WordPress.

I’ve read about 25 books so far this year, which is pretty good for me, though after seeing people reading at multiple times my rate, I think I need to step my game up. A Bitter Draft is only around 2 months old, but I read several great books prior to launching the blog that I never got the chance to review or just didn’t think I could do the novel justice. I don’t think I can put them in an order, because it would take quite some time to determine and even then I’d probably have no result.

Each title can be clicked to lead to its Goodreads page where you can check it out and pick your favorite site to purchase from.

Anyway, here are my top 5 reads of the first half of the year:

The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett

“As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.”

I actually read the US version, The Warded Man, but I think the UK cover depicts the story better.  This was one of my first reads of the year and I’d only found it through the gift (or curse) of Goodreads, and it ended up being a great way to start off the heaviest year of reading in my life so far. Somewhat slow start, but it picks up quickly and never lets up with its intensity, excellent world-building, and characterization.
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson


“Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soiless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter. It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them. One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable”

The Way of Kings started very slow for me, and outside of the prologue and interludes with Szeth I couldn’t see anything special about the book outside of the cool Shard system and the unique magic system you always get with a Sanderson book. Kaladin’s continually suicidal thoughts were initially great for his development, but they happened so often that they seemed to do the opposite – though, since he’s a newly made slave it made sense to include bouts of depression. I also thought most of Shallan’s chapters were incredibly boring, but around halfway through the book, most of the pieces are in play and things really come together with the book proceeding at breakneck pace straight through the epilogue. The Way of Kings, standing at 1,007 pages, could definitely have been trimmed a few hundred pages and been without contest the best book I’ve ever read. At any rate, the latter 500 pages were outstanding and Sanderson fails again to prove that he is not a robot.

Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky – Review

“Seventeen years ago Stenwold witnessed the Wasp Empire storming the city of Myna in a brutal war of conquest. Since then he has preached vainly against this threat in his home city of Collegium, but now the Empire is on the march, with its spies and its armies everywhere, and the Lowlands lie directly in its path. All the while, Stenwold has been training youthful agents to fight the Wasp advance, and the latest recruits include his niece, Che, and his mysterious ward, Tynisa. When his home is violently attacked, he is forced to send them ahead of him and, hotly pursued, they fly by airship to Helleron, the first city in line for the latest Wasp invasion.

I had read the blurb and reviews for Empire in Black and Gold countless times for weeks before I finally gave it a shot. The insect-race idea sounded interesting, but not something that I thought I’d enjoy. Needless to say, I was more than pleasantly surprised. Great characters and world-building in a steampunk-style world that Tchaikovsky has yet to name highlight a surprisingly fast-paced book. I was tempted to name the sequel, Dragonfly Falling, in this spot due to the fact that Tchaikovsky improved everything and further stepped up his game in it, but I decided against putting sequels in this list.

Legend by David Gemmell


“Druss, Captain of the Axe, was the stuff of legends. But even as the stories grew in the telling, Druss himself grew older. He turned his back on his own legend and retreated to a mountain lair to await his old enemy, death. Meanwhile, barbarian hordes were on the march. Nothing could stand in their way. Druss reluctantly agreed to come out of retirement. But could even Druss live up to his own legends?”

As much as I wanted to review Legend, I decided against it because I didn’t think I could do it justice. Legend is the embodiment of what heroic (military) fantasy should be. Courage in the face of incredible odds, loyalty, honor, love, friendship and strength – Gemmell masterfully depicts all of these. You can’t call yourself a fan of heroic fantasy until you’ve at least tried Legend, whether you liked it or not.

Hawkwood’s Voyage by Paul Kearney

“In a land torn by religious war and chaos, rogue mariner Richard Hawkwood leads an expedition to find a lost continent where safe haven may be found. But before the explorers find sanctuary – they must first survive the journey.

The blurb only tells of half the story of Hawkwood’s Voyage and there doesn’t seem to be a full one in existence. While one major plotline follows Captain Hawkwood, there are others that follow King Abeleyn of Hebrion, a soldier in the Torunnan army named Corfe, and various others. Several people I’ve recommended the series to are turned off by the fact that religion plays a role in the novel. Since it’s clearly a parallel to the schism of the Christian church and the time around the fall of Constantinople – Aekir being Constantinople, Ramusian being Christianity and Merduk being Islam – religion plays a role, but that’s what makes the story so compelling. Kearney isn’t trying to convert his readers to one religion or another, we get points of view from both sides of the conflict and the story comes together really well. Kearney is masterful in his naval terminology and thus writes fantastic naval action scenes as well. He’s had some publisher issues lately, but I hope he continues to write because after reading the first two in the series I’m a big fan.
There you have it! In hindsight, I’d love to have actually reviewed all of these but some were read before the blog and some for reasons I can’t explain. I’ll certainly have reviews for my top 5 of the latter half of the year, because there are a ton of must-haves being released in the coming months and I share mine here.
5 Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2013
The Crimson Shield by Nathan Hawke

“Fantasy needs a new hero. Meet Gallow – Truesword, Griefbringer and trouble for anyone who crosses him.

I have been Truesword to my friends, Griefbringer to my enemies. To most of you I am just another Northlander bastard here to take your women and drink your mead, but to those who know me, my name is Gallow. I fought for my king for seven long years. I have served lords and held my shield beside common men. I have fled in defeat and I have tasted victory and I will tell you which is sweeter. Despise me then, for I have slain more of your kin than I can count, though I remember every single face.

For my king I will travel to the end of the world. I will find the fabled Crimson Shield so that his legions may carry it to battle, and when Sword and Shield must finally clash, there you will find me. I will not make pacts with devils or bargains with demons for I do not believe in such things, and yet I will see them all around me, in men and in their deeds. Remember me then, for I will not suffer such monsters to live.

Even if they are the ones I serve”

Even if the blurb sounded terrible, I’d still grab The Crimson Shield because it has one of the greatest covers I’ve seen. Something about not having the title on the front makes me like it even more. Touted to be similar to a Gemmell novel, I’d do just about anything to get my hands on it.

Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton

“The monarchies of the Royal Vispasian Union have been bound together for two hundred years by laws maintained and enforced by the powerful Sun Chamber. As a result, nations have flourished but corruption, deprivation and murder will always find a way to thrive.

Receiving news of his father’s death Sun Chamber Officer Lucan Drakenfeld is recalled home to the ancient city of Tryum and rapidly embroiled in a mystifying case. The King’s sister has been found brutally murdered – her beaten and bloody body discovered in a locked temple. With rumours of dark spirits and political assassination, Drakenfeld has his work cut out for him trying to separate superstition from certainty. His determination to find the killer quickly makes him a target as the underworld gangs of Tryum focus on this new threat to their power.

Embarking on the biggest and most complex investigation of his career, Drakenfeld soon realises the evidence is leading him towards a motive that could ultimately bring darkness to the whole continent. The fate of the nations is in his hands.”

I’ve been meaning to read the first in Mark’s Legend of the Red Sun series, Nights of Villjamur for some time now and hopefully it goes on sale soon so I can grab it. Mark’s new series, Drakenfeld, looks to be even better than I’ve been told his first is, and he was kind enough to help out new bloggers by sending them review ARCs. The only problem is that I have to wait until slightly before its October release date to read and review it!

The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

“In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.”

Another awesome cover, this one for debut author Jason M. Hough’s novel The Darwin Elevator. I don’t read sci-fi nearly as often as I read fantasy or historical fiction, but there are just some novels that look too good to pass up, and acquiring an eARC from NetGalley helped even more.

Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

“The path to the throne is broken – only the broken may walk it.

To reach the throne requires that a man journey. Even a path paved with good intentions can lead to hell, and my intentions were never good.

The Hundred converge for Congression to politic upon the corpse of Empire, and while they talk the Dead King makes his move, and I make mine. The world is cracked, time has run through, leaving us clutching at the end days, the future so bright that those who see it are the first to burn. These are the days that have waited for us all our lives. These are my days. I will stand before the Hundred and they will listen. I will take the throne whoever seeks to thwart me, living or dead, and if I must be the last emperor then I will make of it such an ending.

This is where the wise man turns away. This is where the holy kneel and call on God. These are the last miles, my brothers. Don’t look to me to save you. Don’t think I will not spend you. Run if you have the wit. Pray if you have the soul. Stand your ground if courage is yours. But don’t follow me.

Follow me, and I will break your heart.”

I loved Mark’s debut Prince of Thorns but have yet to read its sequel, King of Thorns, so I’ve had to avoid reading this blurb for fear of spoilers. Shaping up to be one of the better series of the last several years, you’d be hard-pressed to miss Emperor of Thorns on any most-anticipated list.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

“Having pulled off the greatest heist of their career, Locke and his trusted partner in thievery, Jean, have escaped with a tidy fortune. But Locke’s body is paying the price. Poisoned by an enemy from his past, he is slowly dying. And no physiker or alchemist can help him. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmagi offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him – or finish him off once and for all. 

Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body – though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean’s imploring – and the Bondsmagi’s mention of a woman from Locke’s past . . . Sabetha. The love of his life. His equal in skill and wit. And now his greatest rival. 

Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow-orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha – or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend”

Because what most-anticipated list would be complete without The Republic of Thieves? I read The Lies of Locke Lamora a few years ago and was blown away. I thought I read most of Red Seas Under Red Skies shortly after, but I remember next to nothing about it and will have to reread it before I get a crack at The Republic of Thieves.
I was going to put Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names on here but it’s only a few days from release and I’m already reading it. Naturally I’m also excited for Words of Radiance, the second in Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, but the release date for that appears tentative. There are many other promising releases this year but these stood out to me while perusing the colossal Mount TBR.

2 thoughts on “Top 5 Reads of the First Half of 2013 and 5 Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half”

  1. I was going to reply on twitter, but then I saw all the books and just realized what I have to say will be much too long. I’ve read two of your top reads in first half of 2013 which I agree were both excellent. I’ve had Empire in Black and Gold on my TBR forever! One day I’ll get to it. Gemmell’s Legend has also been highly recommended to me, which I’ll have to check out. Never read Hawkwood’s Voyage or heard of it, but I’ve enjoyed the Macht books by Kearney.

    For anticipated reads, I have Drakenfeld, Emperor of Thorns and Republic of Thieves on my list too. Hopefully I’ll hear a reply on netgally soon on the last one. And The Darwin Elevator was great. Lastly, The Crimson Shield wasn’t on my radar, but it sure is now! Looks interesting!

    1. I’ve been meaning to read the Macht at some point as well. His publishers just told me that they’re releasing a series ‘never before seen in the US’ pretty soon. Maybe he finally got to finish the Sea Beggars series.

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