Hey folks. It’s that time of year. The time of year when I tell you about the books that have touched my soul this year, whether they came out this year or not, and hope you go buy them so these writers can make more sweet, sweet words. You ready?
The Light Brigade – Kameron Hurley
Let’s start with a book that I think is a super important read for our times. The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley, is a near future tale that honestly felt like the author hitting her stride. It is, like all of Hurley’s work, grungy and gory and mind-bending. It’s also incredibly compassionate in its way, looking closely at the ways that systems of power break us into cogs, the traumas of war, and how propaganda and advertising can subvert the truth. Go check it out. (Science Fiction, Near Future, LGBTQ, Time Travel)
Snow White Learns Witchcraft – Theodora Goss
The only short story collection on the list this year and possibly ever, I read Theodora Goss’ Snow White Learns Witchcraft almost in one sitting. It’s a lovely book of tales that surpass being merely fairy tale retellings, and become instead fairy tale reclaimings. I hope every woman who has ever dabbled in dreams reads this book. (Short Story Collection, Fairy Tales)
The Disasters – M.K. England
This was one of my few young adult reads this year, and it was a fun one. It’s a great, light-hearted space adventure (though there are definitely some dark bits) which is sometimes exactly what we need. I won’t get too into the details of the work, except to say that it involves a ragtag group of kids far from home navigating bureaucracy, corruption, and their own identities. If you liked Firefly back in the day and are looking for something that hits many of the same beats with some new twists, this might be your book. (Young Adult, Science Fiction, LGBTQ)
Empress of Forever – Max Gladstone
Speaking of space romps, we can’t leave out Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone. This book is an example of an author just straight up having fun. Gladstone has been a favorite of mine ever since I discovered the Craft Sequence for his smart prose, rigorous world-building, twisty plots, and exceptional language. Basically he’s just cool. You can find all of those elements in Empress of Forever plus some really great meditations on power, friendship, the nature of identity, and Buddhist philosophy. (Science Fiction, LGBTQ)
Sweep of the Blade – Ilona Andrews
This one is just pure fun, similar to The Disasters. Vampires in space. Political intrigue. Romance. The Innkeeper series is a little hard to describe, genre-wise, as the whole thing rests on the assumption that magic is just technology taken to its logical end. Most of the other books take place on Earth, but this one follows Maude into outerspace, and it’s an excellent, genre-mashing adventure. Also, interestingly enough, all of the Innkeeper novels are originally released as a free serial before they are officially published. The revisions from that free version to the final were excellent and taught me a lot about writing. (Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Romance)
Middlegame – Seanan McGuire
One of the themes for me this year in favorite books was definitely unusual story structure, and no book exemplifies this more than Middlegame. Like both The Light Brigade and Ninth House, Middlegame plays fast and loose with time in the structure of the tale. However, it does it in a way that is totally different from either of these other books. McGuire deftly weaves this tale with bone-chilling tension to the last. This is probably my favorite book this year just in terms of technique. Also, there’s evil alchemists and a glory hand, so you know – it’s got a lot going for it. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re missing out. (Urban Fantasy, strong Horror elements, Time Travel, LGBTQ)
Kingdom of Needle and Bone – Mira Grant
We all know that Mira Grant is actually Seanan McGuire? Right? You’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise because McGuire is incredibly prolific. This novella was released in the early parts of this year through Subterranean Press, and it’s the only novella on the list this year. It’s also a highly disturbing near future mad science tale, as all of the titles published under this pseudonym are. The villain? The measles. (Near Future, Horror, Science Fiction)
Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo
I’ve talked about this one a lot (twice even), including a whole blogpost poking at some of the themes of this story. Needless to say, I enjoyed it. I’ll let you check out what I’ve written elsewhere, but definitely check out this book if you like urban fantasy. (Urban Fantasy, strong Horror elements)
The Gods of New Asgard – Tessa Gratton
Last but not least, we have the New Asgard trilogy. These books didn’t come out this year, and I’m totally cheating by putting the whole series on here. That said, the rules are arbitrary and I doubt you’re here for them. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I absolutely loved these books. (Norse Mythology, Urban Fantasy, YA)
And that’s a wrap for this year! I’ve got so many more books to read from this year that can’t jump on this list because of timing, so I promise to review them if they really tickle my fancy.
What are you still doing here? Go read!