The Great Way (The Way Into Chaos, The Way Into Magic, The Way Into Darkness), by Harry Connolly
The Genome, by Sergei Lukyanenko
Brief reviews follow.
Do not be fooled by the packaging into three files or physical objects: The Great Way is a single book, and reviewing less than the complete thing does it less than it deserves. And The Great Way deserves a lot. Despite the thousand-plus pages, it is tightly written. The plot concerns the destruction of the Peradaini Empire as it is invaded by nasty purple-furred monsters sent, presumably, by the elf-like Evening People. The Evening People had previously divulged a dozen or so magical spells to their allied humans; the reason for the assault is unclear.
Connolly’s genius is in asking “how would a conventional epic fantasy novel go here?” and then doing something original at each turn. His viewpoint characters are not a young hero and a clever princess, but an middle-aged senior royal guard and a clever hostage-girl who might, technically, be a princess. They do not lead a rearguard action, followed by convincing once-allies to band together and defeat the forces of evil; the empire is destroyed most thoroughly and it soon becomes clear that the survival of humanity on the entire planet is at stake.
All questions are answered, all threads are tied up, with remarkable internal consistency and a gleeful sense of wonder.
Go buy it at his website
The Genome is also a single-book story, but it’s a combination of space opera and locked-room (spaceship in transit) mystery. The background universe seems to be deeper than strictly required for one book, and deeper than the characters. Indeed, that might be Lukyanenko’s point: the spaceships and the government and the planets are all well-rounded, but the people all seem to have their destinies established by the genetic engineering that makes them hyper-competent at particular occupations.
Available via the usual commercial places.