Best of 2013

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

b8e26-swords_of_good_men_jk

A rip-roaring debut – funny, action-packed and full of viking-based mayhem.

9. Herald of the Storm by Richard Ford

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

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

Promise_of_Blood

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

last banquet

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

1ffc9-the-republic-of-thieves1

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

2013-01-08-memoryoflightsmall

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

3aa08-drakenfeld-cover-art

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

NOS4R2 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

the_luminaries_a_p

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!

White Night by Jim Butcher

whitenighthuge

 

Warning: Likely spoilers ahead for Books 1-8 of The Dresden Files…

Fool Moon and Blood Rites still take the ‘crown’ for my least favourite Dresden books, but this certainly wasn’t Butcher’s finest hour. Unlike Fool Moon, it wasn’t boring. So there’s a tick. And unlike Blood Rites, it wasn’t silly, convoluted and full of very eyebrow-raising twists. The biggest problem I had was that we are now 9 books into this series, and White Night felt almost entirely like a stop-gap. Like Butcher wanted to hit his one book per year quota (or had to) and so came up with White Night.

Most of the ongoing plotlines are barely touched upon in favour of a tenuous and thinly stretched mystery involving the return of Elaine (a character who Butcher seems to have randomly decided he’d rather didn’t stay in Harry’s past, and yet is entirely dull and predictable) and some past villains, including one that I still don’t know what was doing there, and the White Court, who are generally a lot of fun, but were involved in one of the longest and most confusing climaxes in the series so far.

There are twists anyone would see coming a mile off, returning friendlies who add very little and could ultimately have had their roles filled by almost any of Harry’s allies, and nowhere NEAR enough progression of the stuff I want to be reading about at this stage, namely: the Black Council, Molly’s apprenticeship, the Outsiders and/or anything involving the Knights of the Cross. The only ongoing plotline to really get any form of conclusion – Lasciel – is disappointing and probably not really the conclusion. And the final scene of the book is cringe-inducingly bad, though luckily not a game-changer – just another pithy, throwaway attempt at humour.

It may sound like I hated this book, but that’s not true. It was still a fun read (or rather, listen – as always, James Marsters was fantastic) and some characters are getting better and better (Harry himself, Molly, Marcone and, surprisingly, Murphy) but it really is a filler book, and if I’d have been reading these books as they were released, I can’t help but think I would have been even more bitterly disappointed.

Apparently Small Favour is a series high point and things really take off from there – I can only hope that is the case.