Ghost Story is just a few months away, but for many of us the wait’s just unbearable. What’s a superfan to do?
Read something else, of course. I like my stuff pretty dark; so here’s what I’d recommend to fellow Jim fans looking in that direction, both by authors who I fully believe deserve a wider audience.
Harry Connolly’s Child of Fire: This is dark stuff (Changes dark, and maybe darker still), but so worth it. If you’re wondering what Harry’s adventures would look like in a more horror-inflected series where magic is an even surer route to pain, this is it. Jim Butcher has said that the writing here tells him he’s got to up his game, and you can see why. The plot is propulsive, the twists and turns are sharp, and the hero’s got some serious stuff darkening his door. This is part of the “Twenty Palaces” series, followed by Game of Cages and the upcoming Circle of Enemies.
While you’re at it, consider checking out Chuck Wendig’s collection of short stories, Irregular Creatures. Chuck runs an awesome, bizarre, profane writers’-advice blog over on Terrible Minds (good reading on its own!), and his e-collection of short stories here follows in that vein. He also has an upcoming novel about a vampire who returns to waking in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, Double Dead, which I’m betting will be up your alley as well.
So what are you reading while waiting on Ghost Story? Whose stuff would you recommend? Chime in in the comments, below! (Please avoid spoilers while making your recommendations!)
110 Responses to “What To Read While Waiting For Ghost Story?”
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Since Changes I’ve been searching far and wide in a subject I didn’t care about before The Dresden Files. I don’t like most female protagonists or authors UF because they seem too often sex driven stories. I recommend Old Haunts by Emmett Spain, Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter (only read the first one so far), The Greywalker series by Kat Richardson (read the first three with #4 high in my queue to be read), John Levitt’s Dog Days (read the 1st, own the 2nd), Connor Grey series by Mark Del Franco. Didn’t like the first book of Rob Thurman’s Cal series as much as many here have (only read the first book).
Old Haunts is about a spirit talker who is just learning about his powers and who has a very dark event in his immediate family past. Pluses – main character reminds me of Harry, an obviously recurring bad guy is very cool and twisted, lots of promise as Jack grows in his power, all painted cover, left me wanting more. Negatives – everywhere in London is always within running distance of where they need to be? Spirit talker who’s never heard of a poltergeist?
Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock #1) Jane is a Skinwalker. A native American half-human that can change into any animal. Jane is a special case (besides the fact all the other SWs seem to have died out, because she shares her mind with Beast, a mountain lion. She is a Vamp Hunter but in her first book is hunting a Vamp for Vamps. Positives – sexual tension but doesn’t ever go beyond that and they feel genuine, great action, cool back story and mythology, lots left to explore. Negatives – didn’t truly feel like a person, though that could just be part of said back story being revealed. looks like the sex ramps up in volume two. *sigh* Hope it doesn’t take over as it has in many UFs.
The Greywalker series follows Harper Blaine, a P.I. who got beaten to death by someone when confronted with her findings. She was dead for only 2 minutes but can now see, travel through, and otherwise interact with the world between ours and the straight physical. Pluses – she’s a detective first, very cool cast of supporting characters, has a ferret, possibly handles vamps even better than Butcher, strong stories and a plot that is going somewhere longterm, very real feel to ALL characters. Negatives – can’t think of any.
I expected Dog Days to be my least favorite based on the synopsis but it surprised! Morgan is a magician and jazz player. He prefers the jazz player part so he dropped out of the group he jokingly refers to as the Magical Bureau of Investigation that regulated the magic users in San Fransisco. He is lazy and is fine with getting by or he could be Great at either magic or jazz, instead he’s very talented but not reliable. He has an Ifrit (magical being that takes animal shape), or perhaps Louie has him? He gets pulled back into the world when magicians and Ifrits start to disappear and former light weight magicians start to superpower. Pluses – the interactions between characters (particularly when they dislike but respect/trust one another) are very realistic, cool system of magic, great story. Negatives – do I really like Morgan? Still to be decided. He lacks Harry’s driven nature for certain.
Connor Grey is a Druid. They look human but have magic and are from another dimension (along with everything else fey) that combined with ours around WW2. He was a star in The Guild, a magic FBI run by faeries and a few Druids, before he got seriously hurt and his powers stunted. He now helps out a local cop with jobs that involve magic but are below the notice of The Guild. Pluses – very cool idea of having a former power down on his magic but still trying to matter, very complex and interesting cast, Connor has had his world shaken and it has straightened out his priorities, very complex and interesting world. Negatives – sometimes confusing since this world diverged from ours back when the Nazis were a power, though I’m not sure that’s a real negative. Didn’t like all the time dealing with faerie prostitutes and that world, though i did like someone standing up for them.
Longest post ever? Ha! Hope this helps!
Kylie Chan Dark Heavens Trilogy
Australian Author and very gifted she puts Chinese Mythology in a modern HK setting then throws a heap of action, martial arts and even a little bit of romance in as well to create one of the best stories i have ever read!!!
I’ve been reading Simon R Green’s Nightside books, which I’ve enjoyed, but when I started to reread “Changes ” today, I realized how much I love Harry’s voice and his story. July cannot come soon enough!
I’ve read quite a few books while waiting for the new Dresden book. The first was PanDEMONium by Daryl Gregory. It was great and I’m only sad it is not a series but a stand alone.
After that book I read the Sandman Slim series was is a superb series. Although it is short right now, the third book coming out in October, it is an amazing series so far and pretty original as well.
Finally I started reading The Song of Ice and Fire series. The series is radiant to say the least. So much plot and character development it is a treat to read. I would equate it to the Lord of the Rings, minus the walking.
Also I read Side Jobs and March in Country by EE Knight.
I read the Song of Ice and Fire, and while I didn’t get as into it as most of the fantasy books I read, it was readable. What disappointed me was how long you have to wait in between books. That killed me.
First, a thank you to everyone who recommended Sanderson’s Mistborn. I finished it a couple of days ago and it was very good.
One book I do not recommend is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I posted some derogatory remarks about her on FB (“Ayn Rand is Nietsche for stupid people”) and then guilt set in. I’d never read any of her books and was relying on Wikipedia for info about her philosophy. So I’m slogging through it. So far (180/1150 pp), its wretched.
If you do want to read some literature – to see what its like, to say you’ve done it, to see if authors people still read after 100 years actually knew something about writing – I’d recommend War and Peace by Tolstoy. Free version online, IIRC. It has some interesting battle scenes and interesting things to say about human nature. I like Tolstoy’s eye for detail on human interaction.
Note that its still, well, War and Peace. Not a modern sci fi / UF novel. Just as Foyle’s War is a good show but it isn’t Die Hard. And yeah, there’s a 50 page essay about philosphy of history and human events that Tolstoy wanders into just before the book ends. I should confess I read W&P twenty years ago. I’m much less patient now and not sure I could make it through it again.
Two more months!
Try Anthem- which is close to 1984, or the Fountainhead for Ayn Rand. Anthem is creative and creepy and the Fountainhead gets to the point of her philosophy with more of a plot. The only thing I can say is that the main character in Fountainhead is more Dresdenish with his don’t cage me, I’ll do it my way attitude and may be more appealing. Ayn Rand is a true anarchist and worth reading to see what all the fuss is about.
I’m exclusively an audiobook listener and Marsters is awesome. I’m no itunes or amazon but if you like Dresden and Codex Alera, you might also like:
Peter Brett: The Warded Man, The Desert Spear (Post Demon Apocalypse)
Richard Morgan: Takeshi Kovacs Trilogy (Detective/Dark Sci-Fi/Mature audiences only)
Jonathan Maberry: Patient Zero (Detective/Zombie Terrorists)
J L Bourne: Day by Day Armageddon, Beyond Exile (Straight up Zombies/journal style)
John Steakley: Armor (kind of dark sci-fi about a guy fighting on a bug planet)
Joe Hill: Heart Shaped Box (Horror Novel w/ Rock star and Evil Ghost)
Garth Nix: Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen (Necromancy narrated by Tim Curry)
John Ringo/David Weber: Prince Rogers Series (Military Sci-Fi at its best)
Ditto the other recommendations
Joe Abercrombie: The First Law Series
Larry Correia: Monster Hunter International
Sergei Lukyanenko: Watch Series
Not a fantasy, but I recommend the two book series by Daniel Suarez: Daemon and its sequel Freedom™ about a distributed, persistent computer application, known as The Daemon, that begins to change the real world when its programmer dies.
Basically a what could happen if we rely to much on computers tell us.
One of the things that I’ve been reading while waiting for Ghost Story, is the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. The first book, Name of the Wind was so good, that I bought the second when it came out in hardcover, (something that I do only when an author has proved he can entertain for more than one book). It follows the adventures of Kvoth, now an innkeep waiting to die, and is told by him to the Chronicler. It tells of his early years, and adventures, as he goes to the university searching to learn real magic, and naming. It was gripping, and I have actually re-read both the first and second books several times in a row.
Also, I’ve been reading the Tales of the Malazan, Book of the Fallen, a ten book series by Steven Erikson, which puts Glen Cook’s Black Company to shame, and I loved the Black Company. This one is a little harder to describe, as the story itself is so massive, with so very many plotlines, that to describe a few of them would take entirely too much time. What grabbed me was the style of magic in the books, where anyone who reaches a certain amount of notoriety, can apparently ascend to an almost godlike state, and in some cases become gods, though this isn’t limited to the magic users alone, but they do seem to have an easier time of ascention. I haven’t been able to get the last book in the series yet, though I am getting it this week.
Hope this was helpful. Other than that, I’ve been re-reading the Dresden files, and the Dragon Reborn series. 🙂
Just for a bit of difference try Scott Lynch (Gentlemen Bastard series) more fantasy but Urban for sure great characters and a story that keeps you reading till the wee hours (or at least me)
If you like urban fantasy, try the “Rivers of London” series by Ben Aaronovitch.
British author, set in London, bit edgier than Harry.
I spent a whole weekend prowling around the public libraries trying to get the 3rd book in the series; worth it.
You won’t regret reading Kim Harrison’s Hollows’ Series. Her writing causes you to become totally invested in the characters! Be prepared to lose some sleep, laugh out loud or shed a few tears. Rachel, Ivy and Jinx feel like old friends and I miss them as much as Dresden when I am waiting for new installments.
I love those books. I started reading them at around the same time I discovered The Dresden Files.
I find it funny that you say “Please avoid spoilers while making your recommendations!” considering that the first time I ever decided to visit Jim-Butcher.com a few months ago the FIRST bit of info I read at the top of the website told me what happens to Harry at the end of “Changes” before I even got to read the book. I’ve never felt so upset and outraged while visiting a website and to think I was only trying to see what I was missing. I’ve been so damn scared of you guys spoiling the end of Ghost Story I haven’t re-visited the site until now and I did so with more hesitation than I’d have facing any of the nightmares that Harry does in his books!
Glad to see you’re trying to keep the spoilers away now though… hope it sticks!
I’ve actually just bought a Kindle when dropping by here for an update regarding Jim’s new book, so I went on a bit of a spending spree with it. Here’s what I’ve read so far and my take on it (I’m starting with the least impressive series up to what I liked best):
Child of Fire and Game of Cages: Both were a quick read and the setup seemed interesting enough at first. But as the series progresses, it feels a bit too bombastic—the characters seem a bit one-dimensional and after finishing the second book, I’m not really eager to start with the third. Yes, it’s darker, true. But there’s little development to the main character(s) and I’ve felt no more engaged with them after two books as I’ve felt starting out. Some might say it’s a Dresden Files knock-off, but aside from there being a “hidden, magic world” it’s really not. Probably won’t get the 3rd book, not until I start showing seriuos Harry Dresden Deficiency Symptoms again. Still,
The Nightside series of books: I’ve read Something from the Nightside, Agents of Light and Darkness, Nightingale’s Lament, Hex and the City and Paths not Taken, all in relatively quick succession. It’s, again, a quick read as the books themselves are quite short. However, the author seems to have a bit of a hard-on for his own descriptions of the worlds and keeps re-explaining it to the reader over and over again using the same phrases and imagery (like the definition of Nightside traffic, a la “not all cars are cars and some are hungry”—seriously, after you read that for the 10th time, you’ll get annoyed, too), which—along with the pretty simple formula—put me off the series (at least for a while). If you absolutely have nothing else to read, and ok way to spend an a couple of hours.
The KingKiller Chronicles, with The Name Of The Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. The characters are likable and the story setup (switching between the present and the past—as being told by the protagonist) allows for nice breaks in pace. However, the first book seems a tad more coherent with the second trying to cover a lot of ground (~600 vs ~900 pages). In never gets boring, aside from, er, the parts that Penny Arcade refers to as the Learnings of Sexomancy (see http://art.penny-arcade.com/photos/1247464133_Q5635-L.jpg 😉 ) and I am actually looking forward the 3rd book. The only worry I have is that—should the 3rd book be the closing of the series—the build-up that’s been done so far will make it hard for the author to complete the character’s development _and_ tie up all the loose ends. I hope he does better than Codex Alera. In any case, a recommended read for fans of fantasy.
The Demon Cycle, with The Warded Man and The Desert Spear. Interesting setup (no “real” magic per se, just wards and the demons those wards should be protecting against) and likeable characters, all of which develop nicely throughout the two books. The world is painted in enough detail to be engaging and the story never gets dull—even the side-stories are always effectively used to explain the various societies and settings and never drag on for too long. What’s interesting as a whole is the concept of demons that keep appearing every night—it keeps the tension up without becoming the “everything-is-evul” caricature that the Nightside is. Looking forward to the next book in the series and to a re-read later this year.
The Iron Druid Series, with Hounded and Hexed. Man, what can I say. These two books were pure fun to read, especially for a geek. The protagonist is sympathic and likeable, doesn’t take himself too seriously (even if the world around him is dead serious), and the author seems like he’s out to give the reader an enjoyable time—not to prove a point, not to try and get anyone to think of him as the next Tolkien, allows the story and characters some space to breathe and not taking on chunks to big to handle in a single book without disturbing the flow too much. Even though the way it’s written (lighthearted entertainment) doesn’t allow for that much depth or backstory (yet?), it’s a must read as far as (geeky) urban fantasy goes.
I’ve tried and started George R. R. Martin’s Ice and Fire series (bought 4 books), but didn’t have enough patientce for it before switching back to the various books described here. I’ve bought a couple of others, but there’s nothing among it I would even remotely suggest reading.
Anyhow, going through all those books since this blog entry was posted made me realize a few things:
– Mr. Butcher really does manage to write engaging characters, and is striking a good balance when it comes to their development. The Twenty Palaces series comes up short (so far).
– The world of the Dresden Files is well thought out and complex enough to be believeable. The Nightside, for example, is the complete opposite.
– Proper Planning™ is important. I think it’s what makes the Dresden Files such fun to me—the books always feel “just about right” in most aspects, and never chaotic. Big Up to Mr. Butcher and his editors on this.
– KingKiller, Demon Cycle, Iron Druid all have shown that the best protagonists are those that are vulnerable, don’t take themselves too seriously and who keep evolving troughout the series, either in terms of back-story or character. That’s exactly how Harry Dresden is painted—and something that a bunch of authors still don’t get, it seems.
– Violence is part of life and part of storytelling, but, damn, if some authors aren’t just throwing it at the reader because they’re running out of ideas all the time.
– Jim Butcher should give writing workshops to fantasy writers.
Now, the Dresden files seem to be way more expensive than the rest (the average purchase I did was around 5 Euro, which is a “impulse purchase” price for books to me), but at least I will know what I’m getting into—and won’t regret the money spent.
I would like to add to this list the books by Mike Carey.
As a big Harry Dresden fan in England I went out looking for more hardboiled gunshoe detective fantasy noir and found ‘The Devil you Know’ by Mike Carey (known for his comics, hellblazer and lucifer spin off from neil gaimans sandman series) which is a supernatural crime novel set in a world filling up with zombies, ghosts, werewolves and demons
Set in London, the story follows Felix Castor reluctant magician and part-time exorcist as his financial woes lead him to take on a job in a career he thought he’d sworn off. It’s one last exorcism, Castor tells himself, just to pay the bills, but he quickly finds he’s taken on a great deal more when a haunted archive draws him into a sordid mystery. That is the start of the first book.
There are curently 5 books in the series and a sixth is on its way although I am unsure if the latter books are released in the US as well. (But 1-3 are)
The book is written in the first person, there are a lot of great characters, it is well written, fast fun and gripping. I hope you try it and enjoy them.
Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews
A Devil in the Details by KA Stewart
The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne
Check out the Lawson Series by Jon Merz. Interesting spin on the Vampire Mythology. In Merz’s world, vampires are a divergent branch of humanity. Incredible long lived, and with a low birth rate, they live at the margins of humanity. The vampire council wants all vampires to live a low profile life and John Lawson works as an enforcer of the vampire council. Lawson charge is to keep the vampires under control and the cost to breaking the rules is death!
Book of the Fallen is indeed a great series, however the sheer volume of characters and plotlines begins to work against the series. I really enjoyed them while I was reading each book in succession but once I started to have to wait for new books to come out, I began finding myself forgetting connections between characters and the world itself. I plan on starting the series back up once all the books have been released. Also placed in the world are two books not written by Erikson, Night of Knives and Return of the Crimson Guard. So if you’re enjoying the Malazan Chronicles, check those out.
I can’t endorse the Mistborn series enough, excellent, excellent books.
For all the paranormal urban romance lovers out there, I’d recommend Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, and Laurell K Hamilton’s books about Meredith Gentry. They’re almost as can’t-put-it-down good as Dresden.
The Night In Lonesome October – Roger Zelazny, try getting audio book where author is reading it. Fantastic piece – dark, gloomy and funny.
Benedict Jacka’s Fated, Cursed and Taken are all quite good for Jim Butcher fans. A mage investigator with the ability to see possible futures ( a chance/probability mage I guess). Great series so far. The first half of the first book was a bit slow but then it picked up and kept me up til i finished.
Also try anything by Kevin Hearne. Druid protagonist with all the wit and fun of a dresden novel.