I make no bones about announcing that Brian Staveley is my go-to-author when it comes to reading some seriously crunch-worthy fantasy books, that are original, thought-provokingly jarring ( and I mean like bone-deep!) and swathed in enough grim-dark to keep it dialed way beyond 'just interesting' for me. His first series, that started with The Emperor's Blades was suitably epic but didn't exactly set things on fire. But the amazing follow up in the next couple of books, really blew things over in a true-blue kettral-style explosion, concluding a fantasy series in one of the best possible manners.
His writing is modern in it's sensibilities. With the first series books that feature an expansively rich world with a hefty twist to it's history, epic in it's sheer scale (Gods, men both mortal and immortal, empires clashing and the world balanced on a knife's edge), we knew there were more stories lurking in the depth of this beautiful world.
Mark Lawrence's name springs to mind, two of the bloodiest and the most enthralling protagonists sketched in modern fantasy. Jorg, the prince of thorns, a cunning and deadly player of politics and Jalan, the laid-back self-centered young man forced to the ways of magic and politics to save an empire.
Both these series are very dear to me. For numerous reasons but the special manner in which Mark writes about the grim truths of life laced with dry acerbic wit and fantastically violent action is just amazingly compelling. And it's his dramatic departure from using the tropes of this genre, spinning his own original stamp on the twists and turns of the events in these remarkable stories that makes him stand tall above others writing today.
With Red Sister, the first in the Book of Ancestors, Mark's chosen protagonist is a young girl, growing up in a convent, learning the ways of faith and war simultaneously and also discovering truths about herself amidst all the brutal cold …
I only picked up Signal to Noise because I had got approved for Silvia Morena Garcia's second book, Certain Dark Things review copy - and when I did a quick search, Signal to Noise surfaced as her debut - highly acclaimed, a literary work with splashes of supernatural magic and copious references to popular music. Intrigued, I went ahead and got myself a copy - but got around to reading it at a stretch only a few days back. Suffice to say that retro Mexico, birthday mix-tapes and vinyl records drew me in, like a magical spell, not unlike the ones that play out in the book itself; a magic that resided in the musical records that the protagonists of Signal to Noise kept obsessing over.
So the story is set in parallel time-lines, 1988/89 and 2009 - ping-pongs back and forth building on the suspense and the emotional resonance - building on the life and times of Meche, Mercedes Vaga who has come back to mexico city to attend her father's funeral in 2009. And being back in that h…