2018 in Books
Updated: Jan 6, 2019
I thought I would share my reading list of 2018, a bit of a retrospective of the year gone by before we start the new year, it's not a "top 10 books" as such as I can't compare them to books I haven't read, but I am only including books I have enjoyed and think you might too.
Some of the books I have reviewed, and I will link to the reviews if they are online, others I have read and enjoyed and are likely to get a review in the future, others are ones that I am still intending to read, but am excited to do so. The books are not in any particular order and were not necessarily published in 2018.
I will include Amazon affiliate links so you can buy them if you would like. Using the links does not cost you extra but pays a few pennies to us if you make a purchase.
Blood of Assassins (reviewed in concatenation.org) is the second book in the Wounded Kingdom series after Age of Assassins written by RJ Barker. These books are a gritty medieval fantasy with a likeable protagonist in Girton Club-foot.
In a similar sub genre are The Last Namsara by Kirsten Cisserelli and The Tethered Mage by Mellissa Caruso, but if you want interesting female protagonist then these should absolutely be on your new year reading list.
The Last Namsara (reviewed in concatenatio.org) has Asha as a dragon killer and storyteller who has to reevaluate everything in her life to work out who she can trust and what her life means. Her struggle with cultural, class and gender restrictions has significant analogues in today's world.
The Tethered Mage (reviewed on concatenation.org) and the Defiant Heir (also reviewed on concatenation.org) are heavy on the politics as the protagonist Amalia and her titular Mage navigate their way balancing the good of the realm with the freedoms of the individual as well as coming into her own as the heiress of a powerful family.
Another series of classic fantasy novels is Trudi Canavan's Millennium Rule (the third book, Successors Promise, reviewed for concatenation.org). A setting perhaps reminiscent of Raymond Feist's Riftwar Saga as they move between worlds using magical portals.
I do love retellings of well known fairytales, Sarah Pinborough and Gregory Maguire have written some of my favourites and now Naomi Novick's Spinning Silver (reviewed in the BFS Journal) joins the list. A novel loosely based on Rumplestilskin and the Snow Queen with Russian or Polish influences it is a beautifully spun tale.
I also received a preview copy of The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston, a continuation of her Cinderella based novels, so I am looking forward to reading that before it's launch in the spring.
Supernatural love stories are also a bit of a thing for me and The Discovery of Witches series on TV is just the kind of thing I like, so I was delighted to have an opportunity to review Times Convert (review on concatenation.org). This is the book that comes after the trilogy that the series is based on. It's an absolutely lovely tale.
Supernatural tales often wander into the world of urban fantasy, which is where you would find Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and particularly his second collection of short stories Brief Cases (reviewed for concatenation.org). This is a lovely look at the world of Harry Dresden from a different perspective or two.
Ian Irvine's series The gates of Good and Evil is set in the same world as his earlier View from a Mirror series (The Fatal Gate, book 2, reviewed on concatenation.org). Irvine's novels are incredibly dark and totally grim and yet for some reason avoid the appellation of Grimdark.
Mentioning grimdark, of course, summons to mind Anna Smith Spark's Empires of Dust series, Court of the Broken Knives (reviewed in the BFS Journal), the second novel, The Tower of Living and Dying, was released in 2018. These novels are beautifully written, evocative, tales of violence and woe. The lyrical flow of the narrative contrasting starkly with the gore of the content.
I have read Runelight (review to be in the forthcoming BFS journal), Testament of Loki (reviewed on Concatenation.org) and A Pocket Full of Crows by Joanne Harris (which I thought I had reviewed, but I appear to have dreamt it). Harris is an author of such versatility that she frequently defies genre definition. Her Norse tales originally started as a bedtime story for her daughter and some consider these novels to be young adult, the author herself is content to allow the reader to define this. A Pocket full of Crows, along with The Blue Salt Road, are beautifully illustrated folk tales with layers of meaning and narrative.
Hannu Rajeniemi has also crossed genres from his previous series of hard science fiction detective stories to his new novel, Summerland (reviewed in concatenation.org), which is part science fiction, part supernatural, part horror and all espionage spy tale.
Adrian Tchaikovsky is another master of crossing genre boundaries, Dogs of War ( reviewed on Concatenation.org) is a military science fiction, that pulls at the heart strings. Rex, the titular Dog, is a loveable genetically engineered killing machine with a heart of gold.
Other science fiction this year was Too Like the Lightning (reviewed on concatenation.org) from Ada Palmer, a really interesting novel, set in the future, but written almost as a memoir for those even further in the future looking back to the time of the story. It's complex but carefully written prose winning it the 2017 Compton Crook Award for debut novels and a shortlist nomination for the Hugo of the same year.
Gender based politics abound in Naomi Alderman's The Power, (reviewed in the forthcoming BFS Journal) the tale of a changing political power as women find they have a new skill. Again, set in the future, but written as a historical account, the novel shows how one small biological change could bring society as we know it crashing down.
Of course if you want innovative and prize winning science fiction then NK Jemsin's Broken Earth series, which I assume broke some sort of record by winning three Hugo awards in consecutive years, has to be on your list. This fascinating story set in such a unique world concept is essential reading.
Provenance (reviewed in concatenation.org) is a novel for a young adult audience from award winning novelist Ann Leckie, but it is well worth a read for people of any age. The appealing space opera adventure has enough twists and turns to keep your attention, but in a style that is clear and accessible.
Sudden Appearance of Hope (reviewed in the BFS Journal and reprinted on this blog) was, perhaps, a departure for me from my usual genre reads to something which is more magical realism than classic fantasy. I read this in preparation for Claire North attending as Guest of Honour at Fantasycon 2018. I really enjoyed the premise of the tale, but also the primary character of Hope. I think we can all relate to the occasional feeling of being forgettable in a crowd, although for Hope it is taken to a whole new level.
On a completely different note and to bring this list to an end, if you have children aged eight or younger then I heartily recommend Buffy the Vampire Slayer - A Picture Book (reviewed on this blog).
I hope you also read some good books in 2018, if you did please do let me know below and I hope some of the above find their way into you bookshelves and e-readers!
Have a Happy New Year from the HWS team.