Every once in a while, I find a random fantasy or sci-fi book at a used bookstore and read it, simply based on the name or how the cover looks.
Sometimes this only ends in disappointment – for example, Klein’s Starmaster’s Gambit I found to be bland and not particularly cohesive.
My last random purchase was Mickey Zucker Reichert’s The Last Renshai. The first book was not incredibly impressive at first, but I sometimes have overly high standards. By the time I reached the end, there were more than a few twists that completely blindsided me, and I really enjoyed it.
I found out the book was part of a trilogy, and picked up the other two, The Western Wizard and Child of Thunder. I actually read through them quickly enough I don’t really remember where the one left off and the next started. In any case, they were all three enjoyable yet not like most fantasy. I’ve read some of George R.R. Martin’s incredibly dark and depressing works, where a character will as soon die as become a hero, and the old villains will become the new heroes. Likewise, I’ve read Salvatore’s intoxicatingly positive Icewind Dale, where all the main characters seem impervious to all challenges. The Renshai trilogy strikes a good medium – most characters are in fact not invincible (with the exception of one of the main characters). The narrative changes characters often, giving a good idea of what is happening on different sides of the continent. Though occasionally cheesy (honestly a necessity for me to enjoy any fantasy novel), it’s a really fun read. I would like to talk about the characters, but that would spoil much of the first novel – suffice it to say almost everyone is refreshingly three-dimensional.
Though I would hesitate to recommend it over, say, Brust’s Vlad Taltos chronicles, or Zelazny’s Amber series, The Renshai series is definitely up there.