Prepare yourself: I'm excited.
In the past few days no less than four books have come to my attention that are really off the beaten, mainstream path. They are all decidedly fantasy novels, yet none of them adhere to the mold of European history; European culture; Caucasian knight with a sword, kicking ass and saving the (blond) princess. While there is nothing wrong with the former, these other books I refer to represent something different
The Desert of Souls might just win the most evocative book cover ever award. It's gorgeous. As to the book itself, nothing in the reviews I've come across claim it's anything too far out of the norm but the setting--8th century Bagdad, not a secondary world, invented city name that acts as a place holder for a real world Western European city--is enough to get me interested. I can only hope that the author doesn't white wash the characters (unless of course they should be, hey it's his book not mine...) a la Disney's recent Prince of Persia film: Jake Gyhellhall looks only slightly more Persian than Zack Morris; and by "slightly" I mean not at all...
The Oracle of Stamboul has perhaps caught my attention more than any other book I'll mention here. Despite the similar cover to The Desert of Souls (color palate, font, and border) this one seems less likely to focus on fantasy and ass kicking and more on character development. Add in that I love Turkish history and I'm ready to read this one now.
How much do you know about the Mali Empire circa fourteenth century? I probably know less. Again, setting is my primary attraction here as the plot synopsis sounds all kinds of mundane, yet still The Timbuktu Chronicles, if only on the surface, appear to offer something different. How many pages have I read of fantasy author 'X' describing the carefully crafted world of 'Gwarhain' only to not be enchanted because said world was constructed on the same material as 99% of everyone else working in fantasy today? (Editor's note: statistics are as fictitious as Disney's attempt to include ethnically Persian actors in the aforementioned movie.) Reading this self published novel would also knock off another of my reading resolutions for the year.
The book I'm most excited to read on this 'list' is Nnedi Okorafor's Who fears Death which was released last year. I won't hype it, follow the link read all about it yourself. I can't say that I've heard of anything like it. It has also made many 'best of the year' fantasy list as well if I recall; for whatever that's worth.
Finally, NK Jemisin made a lot of noise last year with The Hundrend Thousand Kingdoms. I profess up front, on all works mentioned here, this is the one I know the least about. Ironically, it was very popular with readers. The only real reason I mention it here, is because the author is a woman of color, and the protagonist is of mixed ethic decent. Concerning the setting, and plot, it could be more conventional fair (please chip in if you know).
Understand that I'm not highlighting these books because I think they awesome: I haven't yet read a single one. The proof is on page waiting for my eyes to read... I'll let you know what I think of the quality then; right now I'm merely speaking of potential concept. Damnit, I think I just added five more books to my reading load... time to make a visit to the library.
On a completely unrelated note, I just finished The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte and started Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill (whom I love). The former was really good, and the latter--at a hundred pages in--is completely forgettable. Expect reviews of both soon.