I’m back and ready to kick off 2014 with lots more great books, but first, here are my top 10 books published in 2013:
10. Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson
A rip-roaring debut – funny, action-packed and full of viking-based mayhem.
9. Herald of the Storm by Richard Ford
Ford’s second novel (but first in the Steelhaven series) was epic, gritty fantasy with a little difference. The whole thing is set in one city. Ford brings a great cast of characters and lots of humour to a very accomplished novel.
8. Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins
The debut novel from Peter Higgins was unlike anything else on this list. A bizarre, alterni-Russian new-weird spy thriller with sentient rain and Russian folk monsters, it had some of the best writing I’ve seen this year. If not for the terribly abrupt and frustrating ending, it would have ranked higher. But still, it all bodes well for the next book in the series…
7. Promise of Blood by Brian Mclellan
Another debut and another absolute blast of a reading experience. Firmly in the Sanderson camp of epic fantasy, with several magic systems and lots of political maneuvering, Mclellan’s debut was sheer blockbuster entertainment from start-to-finish. The sequel, The Crimson Campaign, is a Day One purchase for me. Very exciting stuff.
6. The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood
A much more literary experience than most of this list, Grimwood’s first foray out of the SFF genre was, for me, a superb reading experience. The style of writing captured the oddness of pre-revolutionary France, along with a protagonist who easily sits in the memory as one of the most enigmatic in fiction this year.
5. The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
I still can’t quite believe I finally read this in 2013. The Republic of Thieves was ultimately a very different novel to both The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies (one might even argue none of the novels have been alike to one another) and felt like Lynch really hadn’t lost any of his flair for telling a good story. Locke and Jean were as fun to be around as ever, and Sabetha’s arrival on the page lived up to my expectations; she felt real. Let’s hope Scott is back on track and we see Book 4, The Thorn of Emberlain, sooner rather than later.
4. A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
The end of one of the biggest series in all fantasy finally came at the beginning of the year, and for me, delivered. It capped off an absolutely superb showing from Brandon Sanderson in his final ‘trilogy’ for the series, and tied up most of the threads in as satisfying a way as was realistically possible.
3. Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton
Well, this was a bit unexpected. I hadn’t read anything by Mark Newton before, but this book proved to me I should have. Drakenfeld was one of the most original novels in the genre this year, without doubt. A locked-room mystery/detective novel, hidden among an Ancient Roman-esque setting, it was an astonishing book. And for the record, Leana takes my prize for Best Character of 2013.
2. NOS4R2 (NOS4A2) by Joe Hill
This was a close thing for me. NOS4R2 capped off an amazing year for me in discovering Joe Hill. I read Horns, his entire Locke and Key saga (so far…) and then NOS4R2 in the Summer. NOS4R2 is a phenomenal horror novel – one that canquite easily stand toe-to-toe with the best Stephen King has to offer. If there is one out-and-out genre novel I’d recommend from 2013, it’s this.
1. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
This books is just so much more than it seems at first glance. At its heart, this is a mystery novel set in the heart of goldrush-era New Zealand. But beyond that, it plays with structure and form in ways I’ve not personally seen before. Characters stories are told in seemingly chaotic order; but the further in we get, the more sense it makes. It has the barest hints, whiffs, of genre in there. It may have won The Man Booker Prize, but this is far from the oft-expected stuffy, literary exercise in style over substance. At over 800 pages, The Luminaries could give most epic fantasies a run for its money. It is a truly outstanding novel, and one of the rare few that will go on my list of Best Ever, and I can’t see it ever being taken off.
So, there you have it. That’s my Best of 2013 post, and hopefully 2014 brings us some great new books – there are certainly plenty to look forward to. I’ll do a Most Anticipated list sometime soon, but until then – Happy New Year!