Theft of Swords, by Michael J. Sullivan, is just such a book.
I absolutely love the tagline from the back cover: "They killed the king. They pinned it on two men. They chose poorly."
Theft of Swords tells the story of two men who form the most unlikely of partners. Royce Melborn is a skilled thief and assassin who trusts no one and love nothing; Hadrian Blackwater is former mercenary with a soft heart for those in need. Together they are Riyria, an infamous duo who make their living carrying out impossible missions for those with the coin to pay. But in the course of their work, they are swept up in the currents of "an ancient mystery that has toppled kings and destroyed empires."
What makes Theft of Swords so good is not its unique setting or characters or plot, although these are all excellent. Indeed, Sullivan admits that he purposely uses a quasi-European medieval setting complete with dwarves, elves, magic swords, dragons, and the like - all the staples of modern fantasy. But what makes Theft of Swords so good is the author's ability to tell a good story. Royce and Hadrian are larger-than-life, capable of handling almost anything thrown at them. Yet, as a reader I was fascinated both by their own internal struggles to understand themselves and their ability to figure out what is really going on and how to come out ahead in the end. Additionally, Sullivan has the ability to layer plot on top of plot with great intricacy and skill. Like an onion, just when you think you've got a handle on what's really going on, another deeper layer is revealed. It's clear that the trilogy is really designed to tell one big story; yet the events of the first book (and even the individual parts within) have a satisfying arc all of their own. Finally, I found Sullivan's prose to be quite refreshing. Rather than the deep, complex, or just plain wordy style that characterizes a lot of modern fantasy, Theft of Swords reads more like a movie or screenplay. His style is decidedly light or minimalistic, giving you just enough to visualize what's going on without any extraneous detail. This makes what could otherwise be a long read into a real page-turner.
I greatly enjoyed this book, and I strongly recommend it. Pick up a copy on Amazon today. You won't regret it.