The OF Blog: Inaugural Gemmell Award finalists announced

Monday, April 13, 2009

Inaugural Gemmell Award finalists announced

Taken from here:

ABERCROMBIE, Joe – Last Argument of Kings (Gollancz)
MARILLIER, Juliet – Heir to Sevenwaters (Tor UK)
SANDERSON, Brandon - The Hero of Ages (Tor US)
SAPKOWSKI, Andrzej - Blood of Elves (Gollancz)
WEEKS, Brent - The Way of Shadows (Orbit)

The winner from this list will be determined by online voting, from what I understand. Registration and all that (I believe it's free) can be done at the site I linked to above.

As for these finalists? Well, they are all certainly fantasies that (mostly) fit the epic/secondary-world mode. I've read all of three (Abercrombie, Sanderson, Sapkowski) and the first 200 pages of another (Weeks). I have the Marillier but haven't read it.

Which one would I select out of this list? Well...I reviewed the Abercrombie book for Strange Horizons last year and while there were certainly strong points about it, there were also many deficiencies in the prose and characterizations. Sanderson's book was pretty good, but I still have problems with his prose and characterizations as well. Sapkowski's first book in The Saga of Geralt contains some of the better stories in this bunch and was the one that I enjoyed the most. I stopped after 200 pages in Weeks' first book because I wasn't in the mood then to read epic fantasies. It wasn't bad, but rather something I wasn't in the mood to read at the time. Might return to it later, but it certainly wouldn't be the one that I'd support, if I were to vote on this.

So out of this bunch, Sapkowski would get my vote, followed by Sanderson and Abercrombie in that order. Not that I'm particularly enthused about this shortlist, as only the Sapkowski has made either one of my 2007 or 2008 End of Year lists. But it certainly is a book (collection of novellas, really) that I would recommend for those who are both new to and are experienced in the epic fantasy genre. It and the Weeks are the only entrants remaining which are first volumes, making it harder for some to read and judge the remaining three without being familiar with that author's writing and setting.


Unknown said...

In Spain there are published six books of Geralt's saga (plus one with the alternate ending) of a total of seven, and that series sells almost as much as ASOIAF.

I would like to see Sapkowski succeeding in the anglosaxon market too =).

MatsVS said...

I thought the nominees were supposed to be stories that were somehow related to the "spirit of Gemmell" or some-such. Pretty vague, I realize, but has that concept been discarded completely?

Granted, I think Weeks and Branderson are both hacks, I am quite indifferent to Marillier, and find Abercrombie and Sapkowski but mildly entertaining, so I may be biased when it comes to my opinion here, but surely, none these qualify in that particular regard!

Liviu said...

I was underwhelmed by The Last Wish, but I will give Blood of Elves a try when they publish it here later this month.

For me it's Way of Shadows all the way since I truly had fun with that series and when they open the voting I will vote it asap. In the first round I voted Engine's Child since I loved that one a lot, but I almost did vote Way of Shadows. or The Ten Thousand - to decide I threw "a loaded dice" with 3 numbers for EC, 2 numbers for Kearney, and 1 for Weeks and the odds won

I sort of agree with your review on LAOK - for me it was a good series ending but a bit of a let down after the much better second volume - Joe's strength are intrigue and dialogue, battles and tons of magic while ok, there are everywhere, so LAOK read like a standard epic

I never could read Sanderson and Celtic fantasy does not interest me in the slightest

Alan said...

This award seems a bit ridiculous. Just a big online poll really, open to the abuses of the internet. I saw a comment on Aidan's blog - why increase the profile of already popular authors?

Liviu said...

Did you check the Hugo novel list? if that is not about online popularity more than anything else, I do not know what is...

Actually considering this shortlist and the names missing compared to the Longlist I would say that the 5500 or so people that voted - almost 10x the Hugo number btw - did not quite vote in a popularity poll

Mihai A. said...

I liked Andrzej Sapkowski a lot. I haven't read Brandon Sanderson & Brent Weeks yet, but I believe I cast my vote for Sapkowski.
I liked that he made it to the short list, because it is nice to see how others authors outside English language explore the Fantasy genre. They can bring their culture influences on this wonderful genre. And I get the chance to see others too, because I just received Max Frei's "The Stranger" and I am waiting to the translation of Pierre Pevel's "The Cardinal's Blades" to be published.

Lsrry said...


I've read the six main ones published there (costs me about $50/book to import, unfortunately) and I too am eagerly awaiting news as to when La dama del lago will be published.


I personally think this is a fucked up award, as I'm not convinced that the awards committee themselves know what they truly want to do with this, other than maybe to compensate for very few epic fantasies winning the "major" awards. But yes, your opinion is close to mine, other than that I like Sapkowski much more than I did Abercrombie or the rest :P


I really think Sapkowski's best Geralt stories are in the second collection, which I read as La espada del destino. His connection with Yennefer is much more developed there, plus reading it strengthens one's understanding of what took place earlier. Oh, and Ciri's backstory is quite important. Didn't have "fun" at all with the Weeks, but I'm willing to admit it could be that I tried to read it when I was tired and I put it down and promptly forgot almost everything about it; not a good sign. Close in agreement on your comments on the others.


I agree, but then again, some might accuse me of being "biased" against epic fantasy writers ;)


That was my thought as well when I saw Sapkowski made the shortlist. Will have to look into the Frei later, perhaps next month when my school year ends.

Alan said...

Liviu - the Hugo isn't online voted, it's voted for by members of Worldcon - those who care so much about the detail of genre that they travel hours to the big convention. It's like a massive panel of reasonably well-informed judges.

Online polls are ridiculous. This does not represent the best book - it represents the author who has the most active fanbase.

MatsVS said...

Larr, in regards to Sapkowski, that's fair enough. His prose is definitely leaps and bounds beyond that of Abercrombie, but I felt that Sapkowski put too much emphasis on creating political and social tensions that were meant to mirror those of our own world as closely as possible. In that respect, it seemed to me that he deliberately sacrificed some of the subtlety of the story to make more room for his own (narrative's) political agenda, ambivalent though it may be.

But I suppose I am not disagreeing with you, with neither the writers nor the award. :P

Liviu said...

Well actually if you are willing to pay for a supporting membership to the Hugo's you can vote from what I know, so it's not only "people who travel"

Buying and promoting the books of your favorite author is more important than "travel" to show you care and the people who can afford to travel to sf conventions - unless they have a professional interest - happen to be well off ones with both time and money on hand, so they represent a very, very narrow slice of the sff public

So again, in what way is the Hugo novel list of 09 not a poll on online popularity of the authors?

Let's put it like this: if Saturn's Children and Zoe's Tale are the best of anything, Way of Shadows is a one in thousand years masterpiece. And now that W. is out of office, Little Brother is just a mediocre artifact of already receding times

Unknown said...

Hey Larry, I have just read your answer xD.

Well, regarding "Dama del lago", people are quite mad on some spanish fantasy boards, because the publishing house has decided to publish another Sapkowski book called "Narrentum" (part of a trilogy not related with Geralt). And the fans are pissed because they have been waiting for that seventh book for almost three years. I really don't understand why they have done that... but if you want to read some more about this, start here:


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