Just the other day, I featured Blake Charlton’s Spellwright as a book to keep an eye on. It’s got neat cover art, great early buzz and an interesting (if slightly typical) setup.

Spellwright by Blake Charlton

Imagine a world in which the written word can leave a page to physically lift a man into the air, sharpen his pitchfork, or stop his beating heart.

Such a world is home to Nicodemus Weal, a young wizard with tremendous talent for forging the magical runes which can create spells. Indeed, throughout his adolescence, Nicodemus was thought to be the Halcyon, a powerful magic-user prophesized to save the land from a coming apocalypse known only as the Disjunction.

There was only one problem: runes must be placed in an exact order to create a spell. Any deviation results in a “misspell”–a flawed spell that behaves in an erratic, sometimes lethal, manner. It so happens that Nicodemus is a “cacographer,” one unable to correctly reproduce even simple texts.

Now twenty-three, Nicodemus lives in the devastating aftermath of having failed to live up to prophecy. His magical talent is restricted to the kitchen, where he cleans pots and scrubs walls with childish language. Life slips by one aggravating day at a time until a visiting author identifies an ancient curse infesting the young wizard’s mind. The malicious text has, in fact, stolen his ability to spell. Suddenly, the two wizards closest to Nicodemus are murdered violently and he is forced to flee his home in a desperate quest to recover the stolen part of his mind.

SPELLWRIGHT is the first volume of Nicodemus’ journey across the kingdoms of Faragard, his encounters with monsters and gods who distort language to their own ends, and his internal struggle to accept himself as whole without his ability to spell.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Charlton has made the prologue at the first four chapters of the novel available to read for free on his web site. Just be warned that they are early drafts, and may not totally represent the final published novel.

You can find the sneak peek of Spellwright HERE.

Despite loving to post new Cover Art for novels, I don’t do a whole lot of posts about videogame Box Art. When I saw the artwork for Borderlands the upcoming FPS/RPG hybrid from Gearbox and 2K Games, I knew I had to go out on a limb.

Borderlands Box Art

So rad. It’s nice to see some publishers still willing to take a chance with their box art, instead of just resorting to the same lame-o designs we see all over the place. 1up.com has a nice preview, if you’re interested in learning more about Borderlands.

The New Yorker is about as uppity and high-brow as it gets, so imagine the shock when they ran an online article about the best jumping in points for our great genre. And, you know what, the list is pretty damn good.

I’ve read a few best-selling fantasy series – Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials, Twilight, Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, The Dark Is Rising – but I would never describe myself as an aficionado. First because all these books are on about a fourth-grade reading level, and second because I read them for their best-sellerness, not their fantasy-ness (to stay in the loop, I tell myself).

[…]

I asked [a friend] what he would recommend for someone like me – a beginning fantasy reader ready to graduate to more serious (but not too serious) fare. Here are his picks, complete with explanations of their greatness. He sent them to me with the reassurance that ‘there is no shame in being a real fantasy reader.’

The List

The Dragonbone Chair by Tad WilliamsThe Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams

This is the stereotypical epic fantasy that begins with a young, inexperienced, immature youth toiling away as a kitchen boy in a castle, daydreaming his life away. […] And it’s easily the best in the genre’if you want to read a classic epic fantasy series that is not the Lord of the Rings, start here. Williams has several other books (the Otherland series, “The War of the Flowers”) that are also worth reading.

Considering Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is my favourite completed work of Epic Fantasy, I’d say they hit the nail on the head with their first choice. It’s a slow burn in places, but a great look at what can be achieved with the basic framework laid down by Tolkien.

Tigana by Guy Gavriel KayAnything by Guy Gavriel Kay

For those who don’t want to jump into a long series right away, Kay has written a number of standalone novels that take place in alternate worlds with a similar geography and history to our own, and they are all excellent. His strengths are strong characters and fantastic set pieces […] Kay also has a rather flowery writing style, which in most cases adds to the romance of the novel, although in some books (not listed here) he can get a bit carried away. Two of the books in the Fionavar Tapestry were the last books that I can remember making me cry.

Kay is a personal favourite of mine, and it’s nice to see he author of the article not confining his choice to only one of Kay’s novels. He’s an author who I save for a rainy day, when I feel like I’m beginning to become jaded on the genre, and he always sucks me right back in. His novels probably hold the most appeal for those who don’t read within the genre.

Wizard's First Rule by Terry GoodkindWizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind

A fabulous single-volume epic fantasy. […] Sadly, Goodkind did so well on this completely self-contained fantasy that he wrote ten sequels, each one worse than the one before and more prone to excruciatingly long Ayn Randian monologues from the main characters. Read this book, and then pretend the others don’t exist.

Yeah, yeah, Terry Goodkind sucks. I know… but so does the author of the list. But, he’s right that Wizard’s First Rule (and a few of the following books) was a decent novel, and an easy starting off point for anyone looking to get into Fantasy. Plus, it only barely hinted at the tripe that Goodkind would start trying to sell.
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Pat’s recent post reminded me that I meant to make a similar post that I’ve been wanting to point out Blake Charlton‘s Spellwright.

Spellwright by Blake Charlton

Imagine a world in which the written word can leave a page to physically lift a man into the air, sharpen his pitchfork, or stop his beating heart.

Such a world is home to Nicodemus Weal, a young wizard with tremendous talent for forging the magical runes which can create spells. Indeed, throughout his adolescence, Nicodemus was thought to be the Halcyon, a powerful magic-user prophesized to save the land from a coming apocalypse known only as the Disjunction.

There was only one problem: runes must be placed in an exact order to create a spell. Any deviation results in a “misspell”–a flawed spell that behaves in an erratic, sometimes lethal, manner. It so happens that Nicodemus is a “cacographer,” one unable to correctly reproduce even simple texts.

Now twenty-three, Nicodemus lives in the devastating aftermath of having failed to live up to prophecy. His magical talent is restricted to the kitchen, where he cleans pots and scrubs walls with childish language. Life slips by one aggravating day at a time until a visiting author identifies an ancient curse infesting the young wizard’s mind. The malicious text has, in fact, stolen his ability to spell. Suddenly, the two wizards closest to Nicodemus are murdered violently and he is forced to flee his home in a desperate quest to recover the stolen part of his mind.

SPELLWRIGHT is the first volume of Nicodemus’ journey across the kingdoms of Faragard, his encounters with monsters and gods who distort language to their own ends, and his internal struggle to accept himself as whole without his ability to spell.

Like most of the hyped-up debut novels of the last few years (The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V.S. Redick, etc…) Spellwright doesn’t sound like a bastion of new, uncharted ideas, but what’s getting me excited about it are the list of authors who have been providing nice blurbs about it.

Blake Charlton has not only invented a fascinating world and peopled it with realistic people and wonderful, grisly monsters, but he has also created one of the few truly original magical systems we’ve seen in fantasy fiction. The lucid complexity of the magic reminds me of Jack Vance, which is high praise indeed. I’m fascinated to see what happens next and will be following every word with the absorption of an apprentice spellwright. You will be, too. –Tad Williams

Nicodemus Weal is a protagonist that all of us can identify with. SPELLWRIGHT features a unique system of magic and characters that are genuine inhabitants of that world. SPELLWRIGHT is a letter-perfect story: an absorbing read and recommended. –Robin Hobb

SPELLWRIGHT is exactly the kind of book that got me into fantasy in the first place. Blake Charlton has built a world that his as new as it is classic, and a story that kept me reading late into the night. Blake Charlton is a talent to watch. –Daniel Abraham

Blake Charlton’s novel is, quite literally, a magical and spellbinding adventure about overcoming the sort of odds that many in our own world struggle with. –Tobias Buckell

I usually don’t give a whole lot of thought to author blurbs, but I can’t really ignore when the list includes so many of my favourite authors. Whether Spellwright will set the world on fire or not remains to be seen, but it has certainly done enough (hey, the beautiful Todd Lockwood artwork on the cover helps, despite the lame font) to make sure I keep an eye on it.

You can find Charlton’s website HERE and his (entertaining) blog HERE.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. He’s a senior in high school, and a certifiable genius, but he’s still secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a kid, about the adventures of five children in a magical land called Fillory. Compared to that, anything in his real life just seems gray and colorless.

Everything changes when Quentin finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the practice of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. But something is still missing. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he thought it would.

Then, after graduation, he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real.

Early buzz for the novel has been strong, since it’s UK release in March, gathering favourable quotes from authors like George R.R. Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire:

These days any novel about young sorcerers at wizard school inevitably invites comparison to Harry Potter. Lev Grossman meets the challenge head on… and very successfully. The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea. Solidly rooted in the traditions of both fantasy and mainstream literary fiction, the novel tips its hat to Oz and Narnia as well to Harry, but don’t mistake this for a children’s book. Grossman’s sensibilities are thoroughly adult, his narrative dark and dangerous and full of twists. Hogwart’s was never like this.

and Junot Diaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao:

Stirring, complex, adventurous – from the life of Quentin Coldwater, his slacker Park Slope Harry Potter, Lev Grossman delivers superb coming of age fantasy.

Certainly enough to get me to give it a good, close look the next time I’m at the bookstore. You can find Grossman’s website HERE.