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The 1998 MacLaurin Fat Fantasy Awards
by Wayne MacLaurin

Click on any of the covers below for a larger image.

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1998 witnessed the publication of over a thousand pieces of literature that generally fell into the categories which the SF Site covers. Some were good, a few were great and perhaps one or two might eventually earn that rarefied adjective "classic."

But my personal favourites still tend to fall into what I call "big fat fantasy". You know the type; massive hardcovers that weigh more than the phone book, and tend to be part of a even bigger series that tests the structural properties of the most sturdy bookcase. I love good, big fantasy -- especially when it involves complex plots, broad, detailed backgrounds and great casts of great characters.

As expected, 1998 had its share of great stuff so, for those out there looking for something to fill a week long blizzard-enforced vacation or, better yet, something to do on that 27-hour flight to Tahiti... here is my list of favourites from 1998.

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Art: Liz Kenyon
Shards of a Broken Crown (432 pages) and Krondor: The Betrayal (384 pages) - Raymond Feist (Avon/Eos)

Any year that sees a new Feist novel is better than most but, two novels in the same year? That's serious celebrating! First off we had the final chapter in the Serpent War Saga, and then a return to past history and the start of a new chapter in the saga that Feist has been crafting. Both are great reads and definitely tip the scales with their page counts.

Runelords - David Farland (480 pages, Tor)

Great work with a really nifty underlying premise, Runelords is either an exceptional (if slightly unfulfilling) standalone work, or the start of what could be a great series.

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Keepers of the Hidden Ways - Joel Rosenberg (1088 pages in three volumes; Avon/Eos)

I was delighted to discover this series, which includes The Fire Duke, The Silver Stone, and Crimson Sky. The three books (so far) stand-out from run-of-the-mill fantasy with an intriguing plot and some really great characters.

She is the Darkness - Glen Cook (The Glittering Stone, Book II; 480 pages, Tor)

She Is The Darkness
Ok, I admit it, I'm cheating... She is the Darkness was actually first published in 1997 but the paperback came out this year so I'm slipping it in. For anybody out there that hasn't read Glen Cook's The Chronicles of the Black Company... run, don't walk, to the nearest decent bookstore and get a copy. In fact, buy as many in the series as you can find (there are eight so far) 'cause they slip in and out of print. The Black Company books are probably the most gritty and uniquely written examples of great fantasy I can think of. While the plot might not look very interesting at first glance (overmatched underdogs vs. nasty bad evil sorcerers) it's just not that simple.... Trust me, go give it a read.

Ship of Magic - Robin Hobb (The Liveship Traders, Book 1, 685 pages, Bantam Spectra)

Hobb's Farseer trilogy ranks amongst my favourites, and it looks like this new series will do it again. To quote from my review:

"Oh boy... pirates, talking ships, magic, sea serpents, slave revolts, dashing heroes, bloody battles and lusty maidens... Ship of Magic has all of this and a whole lot more. If it sounds like a cross between Xena Warrior Princess and The New Adventures of Sinbad, that is about right. Except, you have George Lucas directing a cast of Academy Award winners instead of cheesy Saturday afternoon "Action Pack" TV."

The Dark Elf Trilogy - R.A. Salvatore (816 pages, TSR)

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Yep, I admit it. I read TSR novels. I even like most of them.... 1998 finally saw the publication of something Salvatore's fans had been clamoring for, a hardcover omnibus edition of his Dark Elf Trilogy, which includes Homeland, Exile, and Sojourn. This is the trilogy that really launched his career and spawned several sequels. This is good solid fantasy, and Salvatore's work is always wonderfully enjoyable.

Honorable mentions....

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Art: Hal Just
The Death of the Necromancer - Martha Wells (368 pages, Avon/Eos)

The Gilded Chain - Dave Duncan (352 pages, Avon/Eos)

Neither of these books are exactly "big." In fact, both are just over 350 pages (Robert Jordan uses more than 350 pages up in an introduction.) But, these are fine, fine works. The Death of the Necromancer may very well by my favourite book of 1998, and The Gilded Chain could be the start of a really interesting series if Duncan chooses to pursue the possibilities. Actually, Martha Wells left herself ample room for a sequel if she desires as well...

Robert Jordan

I'm sure many people are wondering why I haven't included Jordan's massive, book-shelf shattering epic The Great Wheel of Time in this list (although I did refer to his tendency to be verbose). To put it simply... I don't like it. Sorry. I've even tried to start the series twice, and only barely got through the first book. The raw sales numbers do speak for themselves, many readers do like Jordan and they are welcome to him. Put it this way: there are people out there that argue that Wayne Gretzky isn't the best hockey player that has ever lived. They don't get dragged out into the streets and beaten, do they?

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1999

So, what's in store for 1999? Well, it promises to be another shelf-shattering year. We have new works on the way from Glen Cook, J.V. Jones, George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb, Raymond Feist and lots more... Now, if I can only convince my better-half that spending entire weekends reading is a productive use of my time, I might be able to actually read everything I'm waiting for!

Wayne MacLaurin

A Senior Reviewer with the SF Site, Wayne MacLaurin has been publishing reviews of genre material on the Web since well before the SF Site existed. A staunch fan of the thick fantasy novel, Wayne day-lights with an Ottawa high-tech firm when he isn't jury-rigging shelf supports for his bookcases or fending off book-eating dogs.

Copyright © 1999 by Wayne MacLaurin


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