Saturday, December 27, 2008

Top 3 Novels of the Year, 2008

One thing I certainly get to partake in every business day is a lot of reading. I have a rather lengthy commute to the office, and I've found no better way to occupy my time than by reading some solid fiction.

So, without further delay, here are my top 3 novels of 2008!

3) Gears of War: Aspho Fields - Karen Traviss is the mistress of military sci-fi, and her latest effort is no exception to that rule. The Gears of War franchise is instantly recognizable as one of the key names for the Xbox 360, but one thing the series has always lacked was a really in-depth story and character development. Gears of War: Aspho Fields changes all of that, as Traviss truly explores the characters of Delta Squad, where they came from who they are, and what allows them to hold it all together in this time of genocidal warfare.

An excellent prequel to Gears of War 2, Gears of War: Aspho Fields leads right into the game, and continually flashes back to an earlier conflict, a war often hinted at of but never explored in the games themselves, the Pendulum Wars.

The depth and focus of Gears of War: Aspho Fields does not disappoint, and any fan of the games will walk away with a new respect for Marcus and co.

2) Troy: Fall of Kings - Historical fiction is fast becoming my new favourite genre, and Troy: Fall of Kings embodies much of what makes the genre itself so epic. Legendary battles, powerful heroes, and honourable morality abound.

The war for Troy has begun, and the kings of the west and east of the Great Green clash for land, wealth, and power. Odysseus is forced to ally himself with the kings of the west, along with the legendary Achilles, and fighting with Troy are the champion Hektor and the dread Helikaon who commands his massive flagship, the Xanathos.

Being the final chapter of the Troy trilogy, everything ultimately comes to a close in Troy: Fall of Kings, however the way the legend is presented is fascinating, and it's done in a different fashion than many films I've previously seen. The only major flaw to the novel is that the series' author, David Gemmell, unfortunately passed away during it's writing, and his wife took over to complete his work. This was a monumental task as the Troy novels are full of great detail and are not short works, and it's obvious that much of the style is different in this final book, which leads to many important characters not receiving the ending that they deserve.

Regardless, Troy: Fall of Kings is an excellent novel, and the above discrepancy is easily excused given the circumstance, and thus it places in my number 2 spot for Novel of the Year.

1) Templar Trilogy - Standard of Honour - Jack Whyte is the author who enabled me to appreciate historical fiction, and his skills are just as strong now as they were when I first began reading his works just under three years ago.

His most recent trilogy focus on the Crusades, and specifically the rise and fall of the Templar knights. Standard of Honour, the middle book of the trilogy, takes place just after the Second Crusade when the armies of Christendom loose the Holy Land to the Saracen hordes under the brilliant command of the Sultan, Saladin. A new army is raised, and once again the St. Clair family is involved in the monumental events that take place as young Andre St. Clair, recently accepted into the lofty ranks of the Templar Knights, must confront the truths of politics and honour as he marches with the army of Richard the Lionheart.

Like its predecessor, Standard of Honour examines in detail the motives of the Church and the champions of Christianity, and it also contrasts them with those of the Muslim "infidels" in which the armies of Christ fight against. Standard of Honour is a novel that makes you think, makes you feel, and educates you all at the same time. It is a novel that truly examines the basic moral fabric of what honour is, what a man is, and how complicated most "simple" black and white situations really are.

With Standard of Honour, Jack Whyte has put together another literary masterpiece that should not be missed, and it is with great pleasure that I award this novel first place as Arbiter's Judgement's Novel of 2008.

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