Leo’s Best Reads of 2011

This isn’t a complete “top-ten” list, since many of the books I’ve read this year have been either back-dated instalments of a series (I’m looking at you, Dresden) or simply released between 2009-10. Nevertheless, the seven books here that will get a mention as being “Leo’s Best Books of 2011” damn well deserve the praise: each title here (more or less presented in preference order, from bottom to top (the last one essentially being my BEST book of 2011) is different from the next, and well deserving of a little extra praise than a simple review. Since we’re not yet at the end of 2011 and I’ve got the time to read another handful of books released this year in the meantime, I’ll include a little snippet about new releases I expect would have made the list if only I’d read them sooner.

We’re three books shy of a full top-ten, so we’ll start at my seventh most appreciated book of 2011

The Fallen Blade, by Jon Courtenay Grimwood  (Act one of the Assassini)

–       There’s a lot to be said about this book, and it’s here for two reasons: vampires, and Venice. It’s a damn good book that borrows from Shakespeare and mixes it with gritty fantasy to offer something dark and exciting and very new.



The Book of Transformations, by Mark Charan Newton (Legends of the Red Sun #3)

–          The penultimate book in the Legends of the Red Sun series was a damn good addition, but honestly and truly failed to live up to the sheer and unadulterated awesome that made Nights of Villjamur and City of Ruin such excellent reads.



Shadow’s Lure, by Jon Sprunk (Shadow Saga #2)

–          The second book in the Shadow saga, this instalment picked up the pace and took the story to a new level. Surpassing both my expectations and the excellence of the first book, Shadow’s Lure was an essential read for me this year, having  already been made into a Caim fan seconds after opening the first book.

Spellbound, by Blake Charlton (Spell #2)

–          Technically this is tied with Songs of the Earth for placement. I loved Spellwright, but this surpassed the first in the Spell series—and then some. Everything about this book is imaginative and insightful and just downright bloody awesome. It’s an excellent story with excellent characters and generally, the whole thing is a damn good read. It’s a fantastic book and a pleasure to read.

Songs of the Earth, by Elspeth Cooper (The Wild Hunt #2)

–          This debut blew me away. I freaking loved this book. Everything about it worked. I gave this book a stunning review because it’s how I felt about it straight after reading it, and if I were to follow-up review it, my opinion would not have changed. This has been one of the year’s absolutely best debuts—and there have been a few here and there.

The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicles #2)

–          This book should have been at number one, and it would have been at number one, if not for the goddamned Adem. Couldn’t stand them and Rothfuss spent FAR too long indulging them in this book. However, let me make it clear that I FREAKING worship Rothfuss. I don’t care what people say about Kvothe, or about Pat—he’s a god and the Kingkiller Chronicles are THE SHIT. If I were to stand in line for hours in the pouring rain, cold and freezing, just to get a measly signature with nary a word besides, for Pat Rothfuss, I would do it. He is my god. He rekindled all the hope and faith in my writing that depression made me lose. The Wise Man’s Fear wasn’t half a shade on The Name of the Wind. However, I’m a fae-fanboy, therefore, I’m crazy about Bast and the insights into Bast and the fae very, very and almost nearly made up for the Adem. That there’s a book rated higher than this in my list, is testament to just how amazing that book has to be.

Among Thieves, by Douglas Hulick (A Tale of the Kin #1)

–          This book topped The Wise Man’s Fear. Wow. Just, wow. This book was everything it needed to be and it was the best, the absolute best book I have read in 2011. I’ve seen it described as “fun” and this annoys the crap out of me: this book is not just “fun”. This book is absolutely and utterly amazing. Everything about this book is a pleasure. It’s well-written, funny, witty, exciting, and downright bloody awesome. Anyone who passes a book like this off as “fun” (you can sort of imagine the sniffing, too) might as well start down the slippery path that eventually leads to general fiction and lit-fic. This book is everything a fantasy book should be, and it’s damn brilliant besides. I ate this book in about a day and I regret nothing! Buy this book; love this book. (And pre-order Sworn in Steel, too!)
Books that get a special mention for 2011:

Ashes of a Black Frost, by Chris Evans (Iron Elves #3)
The Emperor’s Knife, by Mazarkis Williams (The Tower and Knife #1)
Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A Corey (Expanse Series #1)

These books are all sitting prettily on my shelves, waiting to be read, though I expect them to be some of the best books of the year, added to the ones above.


7 thoughts on “Leo’s Best Reads of 2011

  1. Of all those I’ve only read Among Thieves. It was ok. Certainly didn’t blow me away. A boys-own adventure, no depth, plenty of cliche, quite fun.

    1. I can’t help but wonder how a book, any book, can be ‘boys-own’ these days. My best friend (who happens to be female) read it and adored it. And I am sure there are plenty more female readers throughout the world who have read and enjoyed it. But I won’t go into the gender debate any further, I think it’s fairly pointless as when it comes to things like this, people are very stuck in their ways–my way is just to assume that every book is for everyone, it makes things easier.

      Now for the cliche part, I’d like to know what was cliche about the book. Now I view something as cliche if it can be proven that it has been done before, and enough times for it to become cliche. And try as I may, I can’t think of anything about Drothe’s story, what happens in it, the reasons behind it and so on that could be seen as cliche. (And hey, at the end of the day, if a good story has a few cliches in it, does it really matter?)

      As for the ‘no depth’, I won’t even justify it with an answer. If you can’t see the depth of the story and the characters, then you must have been reading a different book to me. But I guess everybody’s tastes are different, right?

  2. Everyone’s tastes are different. I don’t feel the conviction when you deliver that line, but it’s certainly true. This wasn’t a deep story. Many people have pointed that out. It was light, fluffy fun. If your tastes are such that you call that deep, all power to you. I and plenty of others I’ve talked to or seen review the book felt it was pretty shallow. Simply having a friendship that’s tested by conflict of interests is not the same as depth. For me this book was an emotional miss. I could easily have stopped reading at any point, but it wasn’t a chore to read. It’s easy fun that doesn’t tax the reader.

    Given your agressive response (I haven’t poured scorn on your opinions. There are no parts of your subjective judgements that I ‘won’t even justify with an answer’…) and your self-admitted fanatic and limpet-loyal tendencies (in the very next post) this is perhaps an unproductive inquisition.

    1. I would just like to point out that the above comments were made by my brother, Alek Cristea, and not by myself. Just in case this was not clear. : )

      –Thanks for your comments, by the way!

  3. Ah. My mistake.

    Perhaps you would like to tell your brother that ‘boy’s own’ refers to a style of writing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boys'_Own) that grew out of publications that folded before he was born. It’s not an ethical judgement and there’s no reason why girls (and indeed women) shouldn’t enjoy it. You might also point out to him that the basic engine at the heart of Among Thieves is the same one that beats in the centre of every buddy movie ever made (all of the Rush Hours, all of the Bad Boys etc etc) and it’s popularist rather than deep. That of course does not mean that it is not enjoyable, not worth your money, not fun.

    1. I apologise for not realising what ‘boy’s own’ was. I had never heard the term and I have heard a lot from people complaining that this book, or that book is ‘for boys’ and ‘for girls’ and it tends to get to me.

      Also, I didn’t mean to come across as aggressive, it just so happens that Among Thieves is one of my all time favourite books and I can’t stand people seemingly missing the point that it was more than a Rush Hour movie. Perhaps there isn’t any great enlightening moments about this, that, or the other, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t deep, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something more to the book, the story, and the characters than meets the eye: you just have to look for it.

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