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So, it’s that time again. 2014 is in the rear-view mirror and we’re all puking nostalgia for the year gone by. Below is a list of some of my very favourite things from 2014.

This is very intentionally not a Hugo ballot (because who likes being strapped down by those rules if they don’t have to be), as I wanted some freedom to group things as I feel they should be grouped, and because I want to be able to celebrate stuff that I enjoyed immensely, but isn’t quite right for the Hugo Ballot (*coughFantasyLifecough*). My Hugo nominations will come later, but this should give you a hint of what’s to come.)

So, without further adieu, let’s jump into my favourite things of 2014!

My Favourite Novel

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Buy City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Who would have thought that Robert Jackson Bennett, author of quirky horror/urban fantasy mash-up novels, would write the best secondary world fantasy of the year? City of Stairs is an absolute delight from beginning to end. It’s a chain-smoking, edge-of-your-seat, snarl of a novel with a wonderfully grizzled cast. The broken city of Bulikov, decimated when its gods were killed, is one of the most tragic and fascinating examples of “setting as character,” and its an absolute joy to explore its mysteries as Shara and Sigurd (an odd couple that you can’t help but love) unravel its mysteries. To top it off, Bennett wraps things up with a conclusion so satisfying and epic that you can’t hardly believe the novel’s only 450 pages. Other authors only manage to fit half so much into novels twice as long.

Even as I was startled by its twisted depth, I adored every moment I spent with City of Stairs. Colonialism lies at the centre novel’s centre, and RJB handles it with equal parts boldness and delicacy. The ruined beauty of Bulikov and its fallen gods haunted me long after I turned the final page. Read More »

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“John Rhys-Davies has been cast as King Eventine Elessedil, one of the most important characters in The Elfstones of Shannara,” announced the official Terry Brooks website, reporting on news posted by The Hollywood Reporter. The Welsh actor is best known for playing Sallah in the Indiana Jones films, and… Gimli the Dwarf in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Yes. Jonathan Rhys-Davies will not only appear in screen adaptations of two of the most successful fantasy IPs of all time, but he will portray a dwarf in one and and elf in the other. What is this sick reality I’ve fallen into?

I’m… not sure what to think of this. I like Rhys-Davies, have since I was a kid and he was bouncing around alternate realities on Sliders, but his M.O. is exactly the opposite of the version of Eventine Elessedil that lives in my head. And, let’s be honest here, going from playing a dwarf to playing an elf is just too difficult for my brain to parse without getting a headache.

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Ever had one of those grey, rainy days where you needed to escape to somewhere magical? Where the rules and pressures of your daily life don’t apply? I’m sure we all have. Veronique Meignaud has discovered how to capture that plane of existence and lay it on paper (or, in pixels, at least.) The French artist, based out of Montreal, might best be known for her work creating artwork for Magic: The Gathering, but her body of work goes well beyond the bounds of Zendikar.

From her incredible use of colour, to her style that manages to straddle that line between esoteric and magical, Meignaud is responsible for some of my favourite pieces of fantasy artwork in recent years. More of her art can be found on her official website, and her Tumblr feed.

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Back to the Future II (or, the best Back to the Future film) is set, mostly, in 2015. It’s full of hover boards, self-drying jackets, and self-tying shoes, and generally seems pretty damn awesome. Well, the film might have got a few things wrong in its projection of the psychedelic and futuristic society we now live in, but we can dare to dream about what the next decade will bring, right?

To celebrate the film trilogy, artist Andy Fairhurst has created “88 MPH”, a triptych of posters that beautifully illustrate the power of everyone’s favourite DeLorean. When you’re done drooling at “88 MPH”, the rest of Fairhurst’s DeviantArt gallery is full of beautiful custom illustrated movies posters.

ivana-baquero-4Another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place for MTV’s adaptation of Terry Brooks’ The Elfstones of Shannara. Ivana Baquero, best known for her leading role in Guillermo del Toro’s haunting 2006 fantasy film, Pan’s Labyrinth.

Baquero has grown up a lot in the nine years since filming Pan’s Labyrinthe, but her youthfulness is sure to breathe life into Eretria, adopted daughter of the Rover Cephelo. Eretria is the more fiery counterpart to the measured elf Amberle, portrayed by Poppy Drayton. Predictably, the two of them form two of three points in a love triangle with the story’s protagonist, Wil Ohmsford (played by Austin Butler).

Eretria is one of the last major roles needing to be filled, but many minor and important roles still exist, including the Rover Cephelo, Eventine Elessidil, and the witches, Morag and Mallenroh. Baquero joins an international cast that also includes actors from Britain, New Zealand, Australia, and the USA.