I rarely pick up a sci-fi or fantasy book without some element other than just the genre recommending it to me. This is not because I do not enjoy these worlds and the stories set within them. It's more because the worlds all strike me as far too similar. Too many authors seem to be trying to recreate the greats and in so doing failing to find their own voice. If I want to read George Martin, I'll read George Martin. No one else can quite do what he does and get away with it.
I am therefore quite pleased to report that from the first pages, Joshua Grasso's _The Count of the Living Death_ exceeded all my expectations of what I might find in an "unknown" author of fantasy. This book captured me like few other fantasy books do, and it did not let go. In all fairness, the plot is not completely original, but it is delivered in such a way that even a cynical reader like me barely notices. The writing is incredibly crisp, the dialogue (where so many authors fail) is frankly brilliant, particularly for a work that, at least when I was first exposed to it, is marketed as a children's book. I was never acutely aware I, as a middle-aged man, was not the target audience. I am quite pleased to see an author not hold his readers in contempt and trust them to "get it." It makes the journey through this novel all the more pleasurable.
Most of all, Grasso has created a world I want to explore further. I can give no greater recommendation to a book than to say I feel it was too short, that I was not ready for it to end, and that I hope the author continues to roam around in that universe and let us see more of its secrets.