Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Year of Our War (Fourlands, #1)” as Want to Read:
The Year of Our War (Fourlands, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Year of Our War

(Fourlands #1)

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  1,321 ratings  ·  101 reviews
Unique among his fellow immortals and mortal folk alike, Jant Comet can fly. His talent is a gift and a curse that has earned him a place in the Castle Circle as Messenger to the Emperor San -- soaring high and free above the bloody battlefields of his world, carrying word back to his master of progress and regress in the ever-escalating conflict between man and the awful ...more
Paperback, 385 pages
Published January 18th 2005 by Voyager (first published April 2004)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Year of Our War, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Year of Our War

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.62  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,321 ratings  ·  101 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Year of Our War (Fourlands, #1)
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites

All this talk of "Game of Thrones" is making feel a little jealous. No, I don't want to read them yet, they're too fat and Martin doesn't look like he's going to finish anytime soon and there's so many other things to read. Tempted? Yes. I want swords and battles and magic and weirdness. Fine let's look at some fantastic literature on the interwebs…

Miriam has this book on her Goodreads shelf. I have this book, too. That's right, I wanted to read this many
Daniel Roy
May 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
Boy, does Steph Swainston's first book come with a lot of hype. The quotes on the cover and back of the US edition include such cutting-edge authors as Richard Morgan and China Miéville himself. After reading these glowing quotes and finishing this book, I have a theory about cover quotes: writers give them only to authors that don't threaten their supremacy.

I read the book based on a short but positive recommendation from Emerald City, having otherwise been totally oblivious to any kind of
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookshelf

The Year of Our War is a second world fantasy series set in a medieval like country, that is ruled over by an emperor who grants immortality to 50 of the worlds best. These immortals rule their lands and lead the fight against the invading insects. The novel follows Jant, the immortal court messenger, and drug addict.

To start with, this was a book that took me a bit to get into, but maybe half way through I suddenly started really enjoying it and rushed through. The writing is fun, the
Apr 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shaphron by: My Husband
This is one of my all-time favoutrite books - the characters are intersting and develop thorught the book and then the series - my Husband is of the opinion that the trilogy is in fact about Lightning and not Comet at all, and any book which has such good character progression in someone who is not (at least nominally) the main character shows fantastic care from the author.

Along with the character development, the world itself, as well as the concept of a select immortal few (no spoiler here,
Pavlo Tverdokhlib
The Fourlands are locked in a bitter struggle with Insects- a generic Zerg-like entity that came from nowhere and is devouring the land, killing its inhabitants- Humans and the winged Awians alike- and turning the occupied territory into Paperlands, based on the appearance of the dwellings they build everywhere they go.

To counter them, the Immortal Emperor uses his Circle of the Immortals- individuals granted immortality for being the best examples of the different Aspects of war to assist the
Althea Ann
Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book came highly recommended to me by a friend, AND it had a blurb from China Mieville on the front cover. So I fully expected to love it.
But - I just couldn't get into it.
I suspect that the aspects of the book that many readers interpreted as 'highly original' and 'weird' I just saw as poorly delineated usual fantasy.
It took a long time to be told who the characters are, where they are, what's going on, what their motivations are... and I didn't really see a point, narrative-wise, to be so
Aug 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book features some terrific prose. The writing is honed to a level rarely displayed in debut novels. Features a unique idea, and a very well developed protagonist.Miss Swainston offers some very interesting insights into the mentality of a junkie. Although there is an inherent flaw to her unique idea of having giant insects as the enemy; they aren't all that interesting and they can't have a point of view either.
I Liked this one considerably apart from the weird secondary world. I have a
Joey Woolfardis
Sep 18, 2011 rated it did not like it
The premise seemed quite good, and I'm sure that's what pulled me toward it in the first place, but the execution terrible. I couldn't really keep up with the plot and found all the characters to be two-dimensional and quite difficult to get to know. They were just names on a page. I also didn't like the odd, blasè way the protagonist's drug addiction was handled. He took drugs, spaced out for about five minutes and then was absolutely fine and could have conversations straight after? The drug ...more
Apr 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: e-books, read-2012
2 Stars

I tried to enjoy this highly imaginative fantasy by Step Swainston, but it never got a hold of me. The setting is awesome and the landscape and world building are all top notch. The war with the insects could have been amazing but only was just ok for me. The characters are colorful and a plenty but unfortunately I never identified with or even cared about the main protagonist.

Honestly, I decided not to finish this book as I lost my interest in it. Maybe I will come back to this book and
Nov 18, 2017 rated it liked it
I spent much of my time with Year of Our War kind of annoyed and disappointed, but now that I've finished it I find myself looking back more fondly than I expected. It's a clever dark fantasy with a vaguely punk sensibility and some New Weird elements, somewhere between Perdido Street Station and The Crimson Empire, though not quite as pronounced as either. There are a lot of things going for it, but they're consistently undermined by things working against them. The character work is compelling ...more
Simon Mcleish
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in May 2005.

The Year of Our War, Steph Swainston's debut, does everything a genre novel should: it brings new life to familiar ideas, and has something unusual about it. The unusual aspect is not the plot, which is typical of the genre: the empire under attack from faceless hordes (known as Insects, which on occasion gives the story the air of a fifties B-movie) and can only be saved by the heroic acts of a small number of people. There are some interesting
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I read the first two Fourlands when they came out, but they fell off my radar somehow, which is annoying, because I really liked them, and now I like them all the more after years of Grimdark fantasies all over the place. So it's great to revisit the Castle and the Circle and rediscover what made them so fresh and exciting. Set in a world under attack from hordes of giant insects, united by an emperor who grants immortality to fifty individuals chosen for excellence in a particular field or ...more
Hannah M
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Larry Crawford
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
“The Year Of Our War” is the debut fantasy novel by British author Steph Swainston. It is a highly impressive book, even ignoring the fact that this is her first novel. It is highly original, entertainingly plotted and very well written.
It is set in “The Fourlands”, a setting which is unusual mix of medieval society with some early-20th Century trappings such as semi-industrialised cities and tabloid newspapers. The population is divided into two categories, the immortal Eszai and the mortal
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I didn't think I'd like this book at first, but the longer I read, the more it started to grow on me.

The basic premise is a world overrun by ant-like Insect creatures. God has left the world to men, but before he left, he gave an Emporer immortality. In turn, the Emporer granted a few mortals immortality. Their job is to fight the insects.

The main protagonist, Comet Jant Shira, is an Immortal, who because of his ability to fly, is named The Emporer's Messenger. Oh, and Comet's also addicted to
Steen Ledet
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gloriously imagined world but the story fails to grab me until the end.
Doris Raines
Dec 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Sadie Slater
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
I remember picking up and putting down Steph Swainston's debut novel, The Year of Our War, several times when browsing the SF section in Borders back when it first came out and was being talked about and reviewed; I thought it looked interesting, and I wanted to read more SFF by women, but I wasn't quite sure if I would actually enjoy it enough to give it shelf space. I eventually bought it on Kindle last year, and having now read it I agree that it was interesting, and it's good to read more ...more
Salman Mehedy Titas
Bought this for $2 at a book sale (mint condition, hardcover.) Now I'm thinking of ways I could've better spent that money.
Aug 19, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
In the distant past, god created the Fourlands, and then left the immortal emperor San in charge while it journeyed elsewhere. Two thousand years before the story opens, the world was invaded by the Insects, pony-sized ants (basically) which devour everything in their path and cover conquered territory with giant papery nests. In turn, San created the Circle, 50 individuals granted immortality for each being the best of the best at their specialty (thus we have the Sailor, the Archer, the ...more
Jul 18, 2015 rated it did not like it
No summary of the plot, because I didn't finish. I hardly managed to get through more than the first 50 pages, and that was a slog.

So, reasons. The opening is the worst I've read in a long time. We begin with our protagonist buying a newspaper in the first sentence. Which he then reads for the next page. This is info-dump at a wince-worthy level (and to make matters worse, the article he's reading isn't even interesting). Why not start in the middle of---or at least closer to---the battle that
Daniel Fehrenbach
Jul 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Pretty good start to a new/weird fantasy series. Setting is a world (maybe continent?) made up of several semi-independent areas that are under siege from an ever increasing horde of massive killer insects. Timeframe seems vaguely Renaissance-ish. The flip is that 'god,' (not capitalized in the story) who made this world has left it, and left it in the hands of a 'circle' of immortal beings lead by an Emperor. The immortals are made up of each person who is the best is the world at a particular ...more
Malice De'Ath
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Efehan Elbi
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read "The Year Of Our War" years ago, borrowed from a friend, and then once again just recently. Its taken me a while to understand why I adore it so much. There are plenty of reviews that tackle the contents, which run a strange mix of fantasy and reality together, whimsy and shocking violence.

But for me, its Steph Swainston's style.

Whether by design or not, her writing keeps me consistently on edge, never quite able to expect what is coming in the next sentence. Its disconcerting, and
Tim Poston
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are so many things to praise in this book, that lovely bit parts are easily ignored:

"What was that?"
"Fibre toothed tiger. He can't bite you, it's like being mauled by fluff, but I've seen him pounce the length of the courtroom."
John Owen
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
I found this book hard going, and am delighted to have finally finished it. It very nearly ended up in the rubbish bin a few times. My trouble is that the basic premise of the book, a world constantly at war with vast implacable hordes of giant insects, is just lame. Rather like the similar premise of Robert Heinlein's STARSHIP TROOPERS, where the Bugs are extra-terrestrial hordes of implacable monsters, and just an excuse to riff on a militaristic theme. Swainston's world is a constant ...more
When you start to read this book, it's like someone spun you around and placed you in an unknown location, amongst a bunch of strangers. There are different species, but you don't know what they are or the differences between them, everyone seems to have several different names or titles, and you don't know what they mean or who is who...and so on and so forth.

This disorienting beginning, is a detterent from forging on. You do get a lot of answers in the end, but some things are left
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]My only substantial complaint is that I thought the book was too short for the large number of characters jostling for narrative attention. But various other bits worked really well for me; the narrator with his drug habit, the defenders against an inhuman menace turning on each other, the tension between mortals and immortals in a world where immortality is won by challenge. At first I feared that the habit of yet another unexpected ...more
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
Many of the inhabitants of the Fourlands have wings; Jant, unusually, can fly. He is also immortal (by the favor of the Emperor) and a junkie (by the grace of the needle). Nobody makes a fuss about the drugs, because a flying messenger is too valuable to the war effort. Invading waves of carnivorous, human-sized Insects, sort of thing.

The blurbs categorize this book as "weird fiction", which I don't think it is, really. The protagonist sometimes wears blue jeans, but it's straight-up epic
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Kings of Paradise (Ash and Sand #1)
  • The New Weird
  • Kings of Ash (Ash and Sand, #2)
  • The King in Yellow and Other Horror Stories
  • Teatro Grottesco
  • The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories
  • The Etched City
  • The House on the Borderland
  • Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe
  • The Pastel City
  • The Willows
  • The Wild Iris
  • Red Doc>
  • The Wendigo
  • Antigonick
  • One Secret Thing
  • Silently and Very Fast
  • The Hounds of Tindalos
See similar books…

Other books in the series

Fourlands (5 books)
  • No Present Like Time (Fourlands, #2)
  • Dangerous Offspring (Fourlands, #3)
  • Above the Snowline (Fourlands, #4)
  • Fair Rebel (Fourlands, #5)