I read a couple of books in January: The first four volumes of Jim Butcher's Codex Alera, The Great Explosion by Eric Frank Russell, and Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson, so let's get to it.
I read Jim Butcher's Dresden Files three years ago, and while I liked them (well done urban fantasy is something I'll always fall for), they were nothing spectacular. They grew to repeat the jokes, and felt a bit like serialised TV shows in trying to have both a multi book arch (try keeping tension for >10 books) and a story that just happens in one book.
Nothing in that prepared me for Calderon. The Calderon books, as far as I have currently read them, take place on an entirely different level. This is good fantasy! It has history, it has logistics, it has tradition, it has different races that have traditions and ways of thinking that make sense to none of the others – unless they try. No "well, they are an evil/primitive/… race and we have to fight them".
It's a bit predictable at times as to where the big story arch is going to go, but the details are much more interesting and much less predictable. We're given a range of great characters, each with some flaws, each evolving over the books. (Unless they die. Well.) Tavi, the protagonist, is likeable in different ways in each book, and we see him grow up a lot. Keep in mind I've only read four of the six books so far, but I'm confident that the remaining two will not disappoint me. Highly recommended if you're into fantasy in any way.
The Great Explosion
A British SciFi novel by Eric Frank Russell that is weirdly paced. It shows us two worlds that were not very interesting to me at all – a savagely criminal society where everybody fends for themselves, and an overly concerned purist nudist society. Whatever? They helped establish the crew, but didn't do much else. The last world (clearly Russell's favourite, and it got about half of the book) though was loads of fun, depicting an anarchist society and how the crew (fails to) deal with them. Unrealistic as it may be, boy, was it fun.
Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson (who can make amazing things out of ideas) is the second part to Legion, which I enjoyed a lot. Legion introduces a protagonist who lives with multiple personalities/characters he makes up, and who stay with him. As he is Batman style rich, they all have rooms, an their own lives. They help him channel his super genius powers. I know it sounds Mary Sue-ish, but it isn't!
Skin Deep is a follow up adventure, and as such, didn't manage to interest me as much. It's still a good piece, but since we already know large parts of the setting, it's less "woah" and more "ok, what next?". The story is ok, the pacing is solid, Brandon knows what he's doing. But unless you really really liked Legion, or you just want some nice, action filled reading, I wouldn't see Skin Deep as a Must Read.