And we’re off! The first post of this month’s Book Meme requires me to choose the best book I read last year.
Oh boy. I shall have to find a definition for “best.” Great.
Well, considering how many of the other meme topics are about my “favorite” this or that, I shall define “best” in a more objective way. So, which of the books I read in 2010 was artistically the most accomplished? There are three competitors that stand out: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay, Taliesin by Stephen Lawhead, and Airman by Eoin Colfer. It might be easier if I had the literary equivalent of a gladiatorial arena where I could just throw the books in and let them fight it out, but unfortunately, as it stands, I have to do some actual thinking.
For convenience in narrowing them down, let me try to use three main categories, corresponding to the way I think about stories: excellence of the writing craft, thematic depth, and moral resonance. In my notes, I have given each book a rating from 1 to 10 in these categories and then added them together and divided by 3, giving each book a number out of 10. This number will allow easy comparison of each book’s overall quality. (Whoa there, did I just willingly do math?)
And to that I will add my utterly subjective whim.
The winner is Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay!
I gave the book a fairly low mark in morals, because Kay’s treatment of sexuality really bugged me to an extreme. Taliesin almost beat it out because of that issue. But in the end, it is Tigana that stands as the towering achievement in fantasy literature. Kay’s writing style and plot depth is just about perfect. Tigana revels in its author’s ability to make the labyrinthine plot both relatable and passionate. Characters are not shortchanged, but all highly developed. Tension is common and action is satisfying. The magic is sprinkled in key places like a potent spice, all the better for its relative rarity.
Airman delighted me with its enthusiastic, old-fashioned adventure. Taliesin warmed me with its strong treatment of religious themes and the interweaving of Arthurian legend and Greek myth. But only Tigana caused my jaw to drop in amazement at, it seemed, every other chapter, and my mind to boggle at the sublime balance being so confidently trod on the pages before me.
Read my review of Tigana here.