No. I know I cannot vote for my own book! I’m aware of that.
Anyway! It has been a wonderful year of reading for me! I pledged to read 25 books this year, and I managed it. To be fair on this list, I will count books I’ve read this year, and it does not matter when they debuted!
Just because a book I read is not in my Top 5, does not mean that it is not good! I’ve read so many good books this year that it’s been nearly impossible to narrow it down to a Top 5. But I am gonna do it anyway!
There are also countless books that did not make my list simply because I have not read it. If I haven’t read it, I cannot count it. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
There are a few titles I have not completed that would probably have made it onto my list. Deadhouse Gates, The Court of Broken Knives, Age of Assassins and Red Sister are primary candidates. Maybe for 2018, hmm?
Onto my top 5 anyway!
5. Malice by John Gwynne
The sheer scope of this book is frankly impressive even for a veteran fantasy author. To do it on your debut, well, I’m blown away, and inspired for my upcoming series Counterbalance. It takes a lot of “easy” fantasy tropes but builds them up so well it is a riveting read. I understand why this is so well received. There really isn’t any problems with the book at all apart from a slow buildup and Corban not stabbing Rafe through the balls with his own spear, but it is an excellent read and builds up to something truly gut-wrenching. If you love Vikings, demons, giants and Norse mythology or indeed fantasy, you’ll like this. A solid coming of age tale that keeps getting better. I’m on Ruin, and wow.
4. The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley
An amazing example of how to do non-human characters.
Raised up to be a machine of war, the last stone golem Task is recruited by a rather large dickwaffle commander called Huff to end the brutal civil war that has brewed for years. Reading a novel largely from a non-human point of view is very rare in fantasy (Unless it’s elves or dwarves. Which turn out to be virtually the same as humans. Go figure). And it does it well. I genuinely enjoyed this book, and it performs well on all accounts.
Lesky, Alabest Flint, Ellia and Task steal the show on countless occasions, and character design by Ben is overall incredibly well done. Lesky I feel was a bit too smart and snappy for a child, but her young nature and her bond with Task is a growing part of the book. I legit felt for her suffering on the battlefield and loved it whenever Task defended her. I usually hate spunky teen characters on principle, let alone children, but Lesky was done just well enough to keep me liking her character. Alabest is a wonderful disgraced knight trying to get out of the hellhole, and every one of his scenes had me cheering for him and laughing. Fayne is the wonderful double agent, completely bonkers at times and her nature kept me guessing all the way through.
I just couldn’t stop smiling throughout. The prose is comfortable to read but not too simple, the worldbuilding is solid and it has some great character interactions.
3. The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson
I do like Mistborn’s second Western era more then the first, but I am a big fan of Mistborn in general in spite of some of its issues (admittedly few!) But I adore this book, and I would say it is the strongest of the Mistborn books so far.
After the brutal climax to Shadows of Self which made me hate Sazed as a god, this book really hits it home with a solid steampunk setting, continued great characters and the evolution of Brandon working on his humor. He also finally nailed female characters in this book, with the wonderful Steris really pulling the punches and her relationship with Waxillium Ladrian is the cornerstone of the book. Wayne continues to be hilarious and the plot overall is quite solid, with a little cooldown in filler. The Allomancy infodumps are also thankfully reduced in this book. While the ending was a bit weak, I’ll wait for the finale book before I pass judgement on it. Overall, I really enjoyed it, and were it not for two exceptional reads in 2017, this could have hit my top spot this year. It really could have.
2. Faithless, by Graham Austin King
What a way to debut by King!
It pulls no punches and has some pretty dark themes. However, I will say that neither POV character is really lovable, and I must say I wanted to reach into the book and strangle both of them. Wynn for being incredibly naive and constantly out of touch with the violent underworld of the mines, and Kharios for…well…saying so would spoil too much. But his choices at every turn are cruel at best, brutal at worst. Be warned when you delve into this. It is not for the faint-hearted. There are some incredible moments throughout the book and one particular scene which just blew my mind. It is borderline genius.
What Faithless completely sold for me was its realism. Every decision the characters make is just that, realistic. Not once did I see anything which I didn’t believe. The worldbuilding is also fantastic, on par with the best up there. It really blew me away delving into the violent, underground world of the mines, and the polished shit that was the Temple (I mean that in its grimy nature underneath the sheen, not that it was bad). A brilliant book, and held my no.1 spot for most of the year. . .until a certain Michael R. Fletcher ruined everything for me!
1. Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher
Holy shit this book!
Book one of the Manifest Delusions series, Beyond Redemption is really that; a grim, gritty and realistic look into grimdark fantasy.
Set in a grim-painted realm of constant war and grief, Beyond Redemption explores consequences of magic, the power of religion and the stability of a soul as it slowly fractures. The magic system is solid, especially when dealing with consequences, something not many fantasy books either does well, or they just ignore consequences completely!
The book really highlights characters quite well, and it pulls no punches in its brutality. The main cast, a trio of dangerous, ill-redeemable killers; Wichtig the Swordsmen and master manipulator, the vicious Kelptic and killer Schelten, and their “leader” and often sick Bedeckt, were a brilliant joy to read, despite them being borderline evil. Their relationships were believable and relatable, and despite all of their many vices and problems with each other, they got along…just. They are all such shits, and I love every one of them.
Michael R. Fletcher’s Beyond Redemption is a joy to read. It is in depth, and it flows without going through the purple prose crap that plagues so many generic fantasy novels. The action scenes are fast and crisp but don’t over-extend, and the prose is extensive but not flowery. All I can say is…well done. Picking my favorite book of the year was extremely tough, but Fletcher just takes it. He will be so pleased, him and his bloody doppels.
It’s been a wonderful road of reading this year, and I cannot wait to continue! Stay tuned for more.