So I can’t sit on this any longer, and it’s looking unlikely that I’ll have time to add anything to this list with only two and a half days left in the year. So it’s time to present the list of my absolute favourite reads of 2019!
(In no particular order, because otherwise I’d be preparing this post ALL DAY and into the night…)
The Swords and Fire trilogy – Melissa Caruso
Have you ever encountered a fantasy novel or series, read a little bit about it and thought “meh, sounds like the same old”, only to give it a try later and be absolutely floored and delighted by how wrong you were?
Marketing is not always your friend, folks. But if you trust the word of excitable and positive-leaning SFF bloggers, then let me tell you – if you haven’t given this trilogy a try, please do. For a debut novel, The Tethered Mage is outstanding – Melissa Caruso’s worldbuilding, characters and various relationships (and all of the delicious political intrigue they bring along) are wonderfully captivating. And it only gets better and better. I defy you not to fall for Amalia, Zaira and company (to say nothing of La Contessa or Lord Kathe).
Where Oblivion Lives (Los Nefilim #4) – T. Frohock
Speaking of fantasy books which might have flown under the radar – I have let my nerd flag fly for this series since the release of the first novella in its original trilogy, and I will continue to do so for as long as we keep getting more Los Nefilim stories. From the Spanish Civil War setting to the charmingly realised gay relationship/family unit at its heart, everything about it speaks to me: queer characters, intriguing (and political!) setting, dark magic, themes of redemption, and just enough horror to give me chills. I want more.
Tiamat’s Wrath (The Expanse #8) – James S.A. Corey
It’s difficult to really talk about why I loved this book so much without going deep into spoiler territory, but if you’ve been reading this series and loving it as much as I do, no doubt you know all the reasons why Tiamat’s Wrath blew me away (and made me cry) this year.
Damn you, spoilers. But trust me, this is one epic science fiction series you don’t want to have to say you missed out on.
The Folk of the Air trilogy – Holly Black
I’ll be honest – if any end-of-year list I post here doesn’t have some urban fantasy featured on it somewhere, then I’ve gone horribly wrong with my reading habits. But for real – this trilogy absolutely nails everything I enjoy about urban fantasy. It’s got faeries, folklore, and family drama, and none of it is sugarcoated. From start to finish, these books are dark, but never without a spark of something bright to guide you through. Even if Ms Black does seem to delight in making that brightness the glowy bit of an angler fish, metaphorically speaking. Then again, I did say I was here for all of it. And I am. For life.
Read these books.
To Be Taught, If Fortunate – Becky Chambers
The Wayfarers novels put Becky Chambers firmly on my list of ‘auto-buy’ authors, and this novella helped to keep her there. It has all the aspects of her work so far that I love – big ideas, fascinating detail where it counts, intimate focus and a heartfelt message (in this case, literally) to humanity. Another one for the Unforgettable pile.
All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) – Martha Wells
Another one for the “why did it take me so long?!” pile.
I finally cracked open this series of SF novellas this year, as part of my SciFi Month reading effort, and oh my GOD you guys. Everybody told me. I should have listened harder.
If I had an actual list of unforgettable characters whose first impression was both astounding and immediate, Murderbot would be damn near the top. (You know, if I was into ranking these things.) There is too much flailing to fit into this post, so I will simply say that I plan to pick up the second book ASAFP.
The Winnowing Flame trilogy – Jen Williams
I’ve always had an especially fond place in my heart and on my shelves for Jen’s work, but never more absolutely than I do now that I’ve read her second complete trilogy.
I get wrapped up in good books very easily. I laugh, I scream, I sigh and rage and bite my nails. Sometimes I even cry, though that’s a rarer effect than all the others. The place where my ugly crying comes from is even harder to reach. The Poison Song, the final volume in this trilogy, finally not only reached it but hammered it to pieces, then gave me a hug and told me everything would be all right. And it managed it after it had made me feel all the other emotions too.
I’m still not over it. It’s just amazing.
This Is How You Lose The Time War – Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
Speaking of AMAZING.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, there’s probably no chance you haven’t at least heard of this SF rock-star event of a book. Two of today’s most talented SFF writers, teaming up to write an epistolary SF queer romance novella? It sounds niche, but if you know anything about either of them it probably also sounds utterly awesome, right?
Damn right it is.
I’m personally calling this one, when next year’s SFF awards come around. If this doesn’t win big, we should all go and sit in a corner and think about what we did.
So there you have it: my class of 2019. I came for the ideas and stayed for the explosions of feelings, but how do you feel about my choices? Let me know! Share your own picks with me! Did I miss something you think I’d like? Also let me know!
Roll on 2020.