2015 has been a pretty damned epic year for grimdark fiction. Our team has spent the last year reading about hundreds of gritty anti-heroes fighting their way through plenty of dark worlds. In our downtime, though, we still love to read and review works by those authors we idolise. In the team's view, these are the authors who've really hit it out of the park this year.
Sean Grigsby | Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher
Beyond Redemption is the grimdarkest book of 2015, and arguably, the decade. The characters are selfish, bloodthirsty, and fun as hell to read.
You can find our review of Beyond Redemption on our blog.
You can find our review for The Liar's Key in GdM #5.
The Mechanical is a grimdark orgy of sci-fi, steampunk, fantasy, and historical fiction. The year is 1926, and the Dutch control Europe with alchemically powered, sentient robot soldiers. The French have moved their government into exile in the New World and hope to uncover a secret that can help even the odds in the battle for Empire. Psychologically complex, sympathetic, fucked up characters fuck and kill each other, and only the robots seem sane in this tour de force SFF novel.
You can find our review for The Mechanical in GdM #5.
The book has everything you’d expect from Abercrombie, with a large cast of interesting characters that undertake a year-long voyage. The story is told through the eyes of Thorn and Brand, two teenage warriors who couldn’t be more different. The changes they undergo throughout the journey are never what you’d expect, and the plot is always captivating. However, for me, the best part of the book was seeing the development of Father Yarvi, the protagonist from book one, who has become a ruthless manipulator that you like despite yourself. Much of the story is used to set up Half a War, the final book in the trilogy, which promises to give a hugely satisfying payoff to several interweaving stories. Lord Grimdark does it again.
Because it gave me the 'holy wow's... I sat for a long time afterwards thinking "Shit. You've ruined my soul!", and cursed like a sailor at Dickinson, for being the true master of maniacal evil. I actually annoyed people reading it with child-like badgering of "where you up to?" and "have you finished yet?" interspersed with "hurry up! hurry up!" , so I wasn't the only person to have experienced it. I'm usually a very solitary reader, but this I needed to nut out with others so I could let it go! I haven't been so excited about a series in a long time, and yet I'm slightly scared of it. Will I get through it unscathed? The path it's on is so ominous, I don't know if I'm emotionally equipped to handle it! Explosive, diverse, progressive, brutal, beautiful.. Just 'holy wow!'
You can find Kristy's review of The Traitor Baru Cormorant on her blog.
Though it may be on the lighter side of grimdark ever since I read The Last Wish on my brothers behest two years ago, it was inspiring to me, and with Swords of Destiny just coming out in the US, I have been avidly reading it since day one.
The story is not perfect and, by virtue of its brevity, has a modest scope. But, I have found that it's stuck with me. The story is written by a Scotswoman and involves Scottish culture and language, which I found very intriguing. It also handles a rape scene central to the story in a challenging, some might say "shocking," way. I enjoyed the story while reading it, but have found that it left an out-sized impression on me. The stories that I still find myself thinking about months after reading them are the ones I enjoy most.
Purchase links: Kindle
Nearly all the stories in this anthology are good and grimdark fans will love the diversity of the pieces. My favorite stories were Irindai by Bradley P. Beaulieu and The Secret by Mark Lawrence. The world building, culture and characters of Irindai was beyond anything I've seen before in a short piece. A pit-fighting teenager who gets sucked into the world of a desert god, and an assassin with a secret and a lie that truly must love each target he erases. Best story-telling in the Grimdark subgenre I've read all year.
You can find our review of Blackguards on our blog.
This book hit all the right grimdark notes and provided a cracking start to the author's works under the pseudonym Alex Marshall. I especially liked the way drugs in society and sexuality were melded into the author's world. The Devils, the Villains, and princess's grab for power, all written in a Joe Abercrombie / Luke Scull style of prose really hit the mark for me. I'm eagerly awaiting the second in this series. Though long overdue, keep an eye out for our review in late 2015 / early 2016.
That'll do it for 2015! There are plenty more authors out there kicking arse. It's a bit of a bugger that I haven't hit the lofty heights of 50 books a year that I used to be able to hit pre-GdM, but them's the breaks. Keep reading, keep reviewing, and keep supporting the people creating these awesome gritty worlds.