Froi of the Exiles, Melina Marchetta
The second book in the Lumatere Chronicles (the first being Finnikin of the Rock). In Finnikin, Froi was a street urchin with no moral compass. In Froi he has become a model student and an efficient assassin in waiting, devoted to his code of conduct and to the Queen of Lumatere. When Froi is sent to Charyn to assassinate the king it seems like an opportunity to prove his worth, but he finds himself embroiled in a chaotic uprising reminiscent of the French Revolution (hangings instead of the guillotine), and in a mysterious curse whose repercussions reverberate around Charyn, and appear to be knocking on the door of Lumatere.
This book is wonderful and epic (600 pages, but you’ll hardly notice). At its heart are really real characters, great dialogue, keen observations of the way people are, and an awesome rag tag group of wanderers that reminded me rather a lot of Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca etc. from Star Wars. Plus: there’s a very twisty twist at the end (third book due next year).
Blood Red Road, Moira Young. A fantastic futuristic journey through a wasteland world, with land yachts, cage fighting, an epic quest, and a cool bird. Made me think of the Mad Max movies. Good thing that it’s going to be a movie then, by Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator…).
The Floating Islands, Rachel Neumeier. A really successful, original fantasy world (with a mystical, Eastern element): had to try not to think of the movie Avatar with the floating islands idea, because it’s quite different. The potential romanceyness was well restrained, which is nice for a bit of a change.