The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss 4.5 Stars
A coming-of-age story. But it avoids being cliche and is very well written. Avoiding the grim-dark of Abercrombie and GRR Martin but far from "high fantasy" this strikes a unique balance. Told in the heroes own voice - he was once the greatest mage and swordsman of the age, but apparently killed a king and started a war and now lives as an anonymous innkeeper.
Why you'd read it: It's simply one of the top 10 fantasy books. Period. I only deducted a star as I'm sick of waiting for the third in the series and I bet it annoys others as well.
Why you'd leave it: It's quite deliberately (i.e. slow) paced in places. Rothfuss released the sequel in 2011 but nothing since then bar the unspeakably awful
Prince of Thorns - Mark Lawrence 5 Stars
Another gritty fantasy trilogy but a very very good one. Once a happy, privileged son of a Prince, tragedy has turned Jorg of Ancrath into a immoral, vicious boy who leads a band of outlaws. The world is bleak but interesting. The dead are rising but Jorg fears no one, living or dead - and he will sit on the Imperial Throne if he has to step over the body of every friend and foe to do it.
Why you'd read it: Very well written. Gripping story. Interesting world. A driven,yet sympathetic anti-hero. Also, it's a trilogy with a definite ending - something all to rare when authors tend to milk a cash cow series to the point of tedium. All the books are good.
Why you'd leave it: It's quite bleak, and the vicious anti-hero might not be to everyone's taste. Also, you may prefer the more likeably, roguelike hero of his new series, Prince of Fools.
The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson 4 Stars
Brandon Sanderson is a prolific and imaginative writer who has excellent world building skills - every series has unique magic, cultures, and legends. He has many different series and standalone books, but this is his best. It will be an epic in the Wheel of Time mold, but it's simply much much better. The Knights Radiant are gone, but their weapons and armour remain. There is a fascinating world to explore, where "spren" (small, apparently non-sentient will-of-the-wisp like beings) are attracted by abstract concepts like hate, love, glory and pain.
Why you'd read it: Imaginative world, good action, and "wow, cool" moments. This will be Sanderson's magnum opus and it shows. It's a big series, but I bet he actually finishes it. Heck, the dude finished the Wheel of Time and I thought that would never end.
Why you'd leave it: It's frickin huge! It takes hundreds of pages to get into it. I think it's totally worth it in the end, but others would disagree. The first book (singular) is about the size of the complete LOTR trilogy. Which is kind of ridiculous. Plus, Sanderson has heaps of other books you can use to "dip your toes in" with first. Apparently 10 books are planned. Yikes!
The Dragon's Path - Daniel Abraham 3.5 Stars
This isn't Daniel Abraham's best work, but it's pretty darn good. He's one of the most skilled writers out there, and his characterization is absolutely first class. There's much scheming, and it's not often that a banker is a hero. Economic warfare is not conventional fantasy! But mix in regicide, truth-seeking cultists with spiders for blood, and lost legends come to life.... The series builds rather slowly (just like Abraham's sci fi series Leviathin Wakes) but really starts to pay off in books 4 and 5 with some cool and startling revelations. It starts out plodding and gets awesome. The first book was a 3, the last one a 4.5.
Why you'd read it: You like great books, skilled writing, and don't mind waiting for your payoffs if they're good - which Abraham delivers. You like scheming as much as blood spattered action.
Why you'd leave it: You don't want to read two large books before the action heats up. Which is pretty slow paced, I admit. I initially was very disappointed with this series, and stopped at book 2, but then thought it might improve like his other series did. I was right, and I'm eagerly anticipating the next book.
Half a King - Joe Abercrombie 5 Stars
Whilst Abercrombie is pretty much my favourite author (it's like GRR Martin, but more badass - stripped back to the cool bits with less long-winded nattering and less than a zillion viewpoints) I admit he can be a bit "grim" despite having laugh-out-loud passages. Half A King dials back the grimdark a bit - which strikes a great balance. The books in the series (two so far) are standalone but subtely linked. The hero swears to regain a throne he never wanted. Born a weakling, he must use his wits in a world where viking virtues are paramount. A few interesting twists.
Why you'd read it: You'd like to try Abercrombie, but want something lighter than his usual. You want to read a great book. Humor, violence, and interesting plot twists.
Why you'd leave it: Not sure, really. Maybe because it has a teenage protagonist? Nah, not a good enough reason. Just go read it.