Today marks my 1 year twitter and blog anniversary!
I’ve read almost 50 books since then (and DNF a few on top of that which I don’t tend to make public…)
This post will be showcasing a selection of my favourite books of the year in award categories. I think this makes it a bit more fun and readable too in comparison to a top 5 or a top 10, which I had originally drafted.
The only rule is that a book can only enter one category – this stops the same book winning across the board if it features themes from multiple categories.
The Relaxed Read Award
This award is for books that were an easy read, or a comfort read. Books that didn’t stress me out or require me to concentrate hard – just lie back and enjoy the story. And put the book down feeling happy and refreshed.
The Gatewatch – Joshua Gillingham
The Gatewatch was such a pleasure because this book took me back to the childlike yearning for adventure and discovery and was fun and exciting without needing to be too mature in its themes. There are plenty of nods to Norse mythology and some story elements reminded me of The Hobbit – in the ways that The Hobbit is brilliant. This is a real comfort read that I know I will read again in future.
Dragonslayer – Duncan M. Hamilton
Dragonslayer was a book that just flew by. It isn’t too complicated – it’s a traditional fantasy quest adventure with enough of its own originality to keep it fresh. I particularly liked the faux French setting and getting to experience the POV of the dragon. It was a real page turner and didn’t require too much concentration to enjoy.
The Last Wish – Andrzej Sapkowski
I loved the Witcher 3 videogame so much and really enjoyed the show on Netflix too. It’s safe to say before reading any of the books I was already a huge fan of Geralt and the world Sapkowski has created. This gave The Last Wish a real comfort read feel, and knowing I already loved the world and was familiar with many of the aspects of the Witcher and it was actually a relief in a way to enjoy it so much – it was confirmation that the game is so good because the book is so good. The Sword of Destiny, its sequel, gave the exact same feelings of escape, familiarity and adventure.
The Grimdark Award
This award is pretty self explanatory – it’s for books with Grimdark themes, darker reads with mature content through most of the book.
The Court of Broken Knives – Anna Smith Spark
The city of Sorlost – beautifully imagined and breathed into life. A bone shatteringly visceral command of language, using sentence structure and literary techniques I’m not clever enough to describe, to make you think and feel. I love Anna Smith Spark’s writing style and the world and characters she has created. This book really blew me away and I can’t help but speak passionately about it every time I mention it. A real work of art.
Priest of Bones – Peter McLean
This was one of the first books I reviewed and remains a favourite. I loved the dark, gritty gangster vibe in a more medieval/tudor-esque setting with a backdrop of soldiers returning from war. I think Peter McLean nails the dynamics between the characters in the group and really sets the mood and atmosphere of the city to immerse you in his story.
The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie
This was one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read – and a really quick read. Yet not a lot actually happens! It admittedly feels a little like a set up for the books that follow it, but the characters are just so captivating, as are the chess pieces being lined up around the board, that I couldn’t help but fall in love with it and to know from the finish that I am going to love the series.
The Mystery Award
This award is for books with mystery elements running through them. Something isn’t quite as it seems – revealing the truth is part of the story.
Kalanon’s Rising – Darian Smith
I was pleasantly surprised by Kalanon’s Rising in that it was one of my first few review requests and hadn’t got loads of reviews to base my reading decision on. I thought it was intriguing so gave it a go, and the story really gripped me. It’s a really well written book with a great mystery running through it that keeps you guessing and changing your mind at who is doing what and who you can trust.
The Lost War – Justin Lee Anderson
The Lost War is one of my favourite reads since I started blogging – I love the medieval Edinburgh inspiration and how cleverly a lot of the book is done. There are also some fantastically written characters and I genuinely cared for them. One of the main plus points of this novel is the revelation that hits you out of nowhere, that has been hinted at and worked through the book whilst pushing you through an exciting and rich storyline full of everything I love about fantasy.
The Devil and the Dark Water – Stuart Turton
This book was a great maritime mystery that had so many clever revelations towards the end that you kick yourself for not spotting. I like how there are loads of horror elements (the author did set out to make this more of a horror book initially) as well as interesting characters. This is more of a mystery book than the other two nominations in that you follow a sort of Holmes and Watson duo and are actively trying to work things out yourself at every turn.
The Space Award
This award is for books set in space/another planet.
Embers of War – Gareth L. Powell
Embers of War was one of the first books I added to my virtual wish list, yet took ages to get round to it. My first instinct was correct – Powell creates such an intelligent, intriguing story full of interesting characters and vibrant worlds. The sci-fi elements are really well done and what struck me particularly was how well he is able to paint a picture in your head with his descriptions. His writing style just flows and you find yourself taken along for the ride before you can say Trouble Dog.
Alien: The Cold Forge – Alex White
Alien is one of the few movies or movie monsters that has genuinely horrified and fascinated me. I could go all day about why the (first two at least) films are so effective and it was brilliant to experience a book that recreates this and in which you can feel the author really gets it. If the movie producers know what could kick-start the franchise back into life, an adaptation of The Cold Forge would be a great place to start.
Bloodchild – Octavia E. Butler
Only a novelette, but packing the punch of a full sci-fi novel, Bloodchild stuck with me long after reading it. It’s such a clever story and Butler obviously understands humans both generally and on an individual level. She describes it as her pregnant man story – it is this and so much more. Enlightening, horrifying, groundbreaking. And a must read for sci-fi fans.
The Epic Fantasy Award
The award for those big, exciting fantasy books with epic, grand storylines. There were so many books I could have nominated for this category.
We Ride the Storm – Devin Madson
This is a book I went in for blindly after reading Petrik Leo say it was one of his favourite books he’d read and taking a look at his awesome review. I loved the East Asian inspired setting, the political manoeuvrings and the changing power shifts. Everything in this book is just so well thought out and the characters are a pleasure to spend time with – 3 POVs giving you an insight into the characters themselves and the magically written world around them. Everything just feels epic – there is no other word for it.
Northern Wrath – Thilde Kold Holdt
Northern Wrath is a Norse epic spanning nearly 650 pages and it just has everything, it really does. The Norse mythology and viking history is so well researched; there are so many subtle nods and less subtle nods that make you smile, and a really fantastic group of POV characters that all bring something different to the table. Vengeance runs through the book – The Northern Wrath is the name of a longship, but Northern Wrath is also a mindset that runs through the plot. I love how whatever reading mood I am in, I could pick this book up and find what I’m looking for – action, history, adventure, discovery, magic, mythology, gods, warfare, love, wrath, rivalry. A fantastic read.
Blood of an Exile – Brian Naslund
Dragons galore! Blood of an Exile is packed full of dragons, betrayals, power grabs, magic, mystery, alliances, and animals. I say animals because there is a focus on living bio diversity and the role dragons would play in a functioning ecosystem. I like that even though our main character is a dragon slayer, it is a reluctant role and he has a lot of respect for the animals – for all animals in fact. This is a big theme in the book and something I’m passionate about so it particularly resonated. Even without these elements though, the characters are fantastic and easy to become attached to, and the villains easy to hate whilst having believable motives. It’s such a brilliant read, as is its sequel, Sorcery of a Queen which is just as good fun.
The Spells & Spaceships Award
My chance to name a book that was one of my personal favourites in its own category.
Kingshold – D. P. Woolliscroft
Kingshold was a book that surprised me in how good it was. I first saw it on a facebook ad and nobody I knew at the time had read it. The synopsis looked good but I was wary at reading a book described as being mostly a political fantasy. Something within me decided I’d go ahead and give it a chance – maybe it was when I realised the author grew up nearby. Maybe I just wanted to experience the city on the front cover. Whatever the case, from the outset I knew I’d love Kingshold, a few pages in. The political aspects are actually really intriguing, and there to carry the plot along a world full of epic fantasy elements – not the dry political commentary I had half feared. The magic is well done, there are such vibrant characters all impacting the world, demons, high fantasy races and an immoral wizard who gets fed up of the rulers and decides to kill them with his brutal flying discs. I’ve since read Tales of Kingshold which complements this book with short stories and insights and this was really enjoyable too. I love spending time in the world D. P. Woolliscroft has created and I love the rare but brilliant bits of humour sprinkled through the writing too.
I had to choose the final three. It was really difficult and I changed my mind multiple times, but I knew it had to be done, so I present:
My 3 favourite books of my first year
The Court of Broken Knives – Anna Smith Spark
The Lost War – Justin Lee Anderson
Northern Wrath – Thilde Kold Holdt & We Ride the Storm – Devin Madson
That’s cheating, you can’t have two books in third place!
Yes, I can – my blog, my rules! In seriousness, I couldn’t choose between the two – Thilde’s meticulous Norse world of gods and vengeance or Devin’s captivating and superbly written game of fantasy chess.
So there we have it – I lasted a year. I’m still enjoying it, perhaps more than ever – and I’ve even made some great blogging friends in the process. I’m still learning, and sometimes it’s a steep curve full of challenges – but at the end of the day it’s a hobby and one that gets me reading and interacting with the community.
Thankyou to everyone that has ever given any words of encouragement, praise or constructive criticism. I hope you enjoyed my list; be sure to let me know if any of these are on your TBR or if you read any of these over the last year too.
All the best,