While waiting for the next George R. R. Martin book (latest official publisher's story-they hope for Fall, 2005), it was very nice to find a new epic fantasy series of comparable quality. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson ($24.95, $7.99 pb expected early January) is Volume One of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, which came out in England 5 years ago and has finally made it to U.S. publication. The publisher's salesman tells me that the series is 10 volumes, all finished, which will be coming out about 9 months apart. The second volume will be out in hardcover in February-Deathhouse Gates ($25.95).
The Malazan Empire was started by a sorcerer, who was then killed by a non-sorceress who grabbed the throne and is expanding the empire in such a way as to kill off as many sorcerers and soldiers as possible that she suspects may have been loyal to the former emperor. (And by now most of the surviving sorcerers and soldiers have figured out her game.) There are various non-human races involved, as well as various gods that periodically take over a human to help
gain points in conflicts between the gods. This results in a very rich, detailed story that still moves along smoothly and reaches a satisfactory conclusion at the end of the first book.
I recommended Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison ($6.99) as being the beginning of new series with a flavor similar to the early Anita Blake books. I received an advance copy of the second book in the series, The Good, the Bad, and the Undead ($6.99, due early February) about the same time I received an advance copy of the newest Anita Blake, and I was reading them both at the same time-the paperback of the Harrison slipped into my jacket pocket and the much more massive Hamilton book next to the bed at home. While I enjoyed the new Anita Blake, I loved The Good, the Bad, and the Undead. With much of the background material explained in the first book, the plot moved much faster and smoother in the second book.
Rachel Morgan, a witch, Ivy Tamwood, a vampire, and Jenks, a pixy, are partners in a private eye firm in Cincinnati, but Rachel is having trouble meeting her share of the expenses. So she takes a case looking into a serial killer of witches, hoping she can prove that Councilman Trent Kalamack (with whom she had major problems in the first book) is behind the killings. During the investigation, she finds out a lot about her own past, her deceased father's connection to Trent's father, Trent's background, and about the vampire-controlled illegal drug underground. The novel has lots of action and humor.