Part four, and the final installment of my toplist is below. However, I'd just like to thank (however briefly!) the blogs that inspired this one: firstly, A Dribble of Ink, then Graeme's Fantasy Book Review, Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, and finally, Fantasy Book Critic - thank you.
The Farseer Trilogy
Hobb's groundbreaking novel showed, for the first time, that character-driven fantasy really could succeed - and with Hobb, everything is about her novels' casts of developed, frighteningly-eclectic figures. But that's not to imply that another aspect of her book falls short. It doesn't. The plot holds firm; Hobb's setting is (almost) Abercrombie-gritty, but heavy with the stench of intrigue - her motivations are perfect, her machinations deadly, and the antagonists, only "sublime" will adequately describe. But what really holds the centre stage - where else? - are Hobb's characters - and to top them all, our protagonist. Fitz, a - the - royal bastard, occupies a precarious position in the court of the Farseer king, Shrewd, a position which teeters with every misstep of his child's feet - and misstep Fitz does. Possessed of the Wit, a despised magic blamed for the degeneration of men to little more than beasts, Fitz must struggle to survive: against Prince Regal, a brutal Skillmaster, against his own magic - and outside Buckkeep's walls, the Red Ships devastate the Six Duchies. Famine and war are coming, and Fitz must play his own part as an assassin in the deadliest war of them all. Hobb has flaws, indeed - a propensity towards narrative angst, a longer book than most (with equal reason) -, but Assassin's Apprentice is well worth the read.
The Lies of Locke Lamora
2006's debut novel, the Lies of Locke Lamora tells a fast-paced tale of robbery, clandestine war, and that rarest of virtues: honour among thieves. Breaking all of the rules of the genre - having a tendancy to halt in mid-chase to explain some novel nuance of Camorr's shady alleyways -, it nonetheless tells an engrossing story. Lynch's subtle humour and living city, paired with Locke's fascinating characteristic motivation, made Lies the read of 2006, despite touting a slight Deux-Ex-Machina (remember the names?) and some intricate coincidences. This, after all, is the epitome of that rare thieves' yarn - one that is nonetheless believable, developed and realistic. Some scenes are slightly graphic, but there's something in here for all, if you don't mind a few of these.