With my first “real post” coming in early January, I figure it’s only fitting to reflect on my year in books.
Firstly, some backstory: I really got “back into” fantasy in 2011 or 2012, with 2012 definitely being the year I got involved. I started following fantasy on the internet, started going to book signings more often, and met some great book people. In the time since, I’ve been considered one of the top posters on /r/Fantasy by my peers, started a somewhat popular 1500+ member Goodreads group, and have met countless authors and read hundreds of books. I’ve become a bit of a collector as well, amassing a fairly decent amount of books, signed books and special editions. I’m not a format nazi – I listen to more books on audio than I physically read, by a large margin in fact, but I also read paper books and use a kindle on a routine basis.
No one really cares about this kind of thing, so I’m going to go through right now and give my top ten books released in 2014. I did not read all the books I wanted to read this year, and mixed in a LOT of older books. This is a decent combination of fantasy and sci-fi, and I will rate both equally based on how much I loved them. Some of the best books I read this year weren’t from 2014, but they won’t be rated. So, without further ado…
Joel’s 2014 Top Ten Books!
- 10) Breach Zone by Myke Cole (review)
A wonderful ending to a wildly creative and engrossing series. Myke’s skill as a writer grew with every book, and Breach Zone showed that he’s ready to be a bigtime piece of the fantasy scene
- 9) The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan (review)
Speaking of authors who got better with their next book – Brian exploded onto the scene last year with the amazing Promise of Blood, the first in his flintlock-fantasy Powder Mage series. He proved he was definitely not a one-trick pony with this sequel, which expands greatly on the world he created, and shows a lot more writing craft. You can really tell at times that he is a student of Brandon Sanderson, but who can say that’s a bad thing? He brings a bit of edge and grit that Sanderson’s works lack, and it’s refreshing.
- 8) The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler (review)
Last year, Django caught me completely by surprise with the brilliant The Thousand Names , the first of his military/flintlock fantasy series. The sophomore effort in this series was far from a letdown – I love Django’s matter-of-fact prose, his unique character voices, his addition of magic, and his continued brilliance in depicting military life.
- 7) Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence (review)
I just want to say that Mark Lawrence is arguably my favorite fantasy writer – at the very least in my elite 5. So to put his book at #7 on my list is more indicative of how good of a year it was in SFF than it is a comment on where this book stands. Prince of Fools was a drastic change of pace from his Broken Empire trilogy. It felt as though Mark listened to all the criticisms he got, and set out to write a book that addressed those “problems”. What you got was a much more free-flowing novel, with a ton of humor, a more innocent and light-hearted protagonist, and a buddy relationship between the protagonist and a viking that was heart-warming, hilarious and an absolute blast to read. Mark is a truly amazing writer who can wear many hats, and he showed it with this novel.
- 6) The Martian by Andy Weir (review)
It honestly took a lot to convince myself not to put this book higher on my list – that’s how much I loved it. I only found it because it was on the Goodreads Sci-fi list, and am I ever glad to have read it. It’s got a lot of hard science in it, but it’s mixed with witty characters and dialogue, butt-clenching dramatic elements, and some really fantastic writing. “MacGyver on Mars” is how I often see it described, and I think it’s an apt description. I simply loved it.
- 5) Half a King by Joe Abercrombie (review)
Joe Abercrombie is a god amongst men. I mean seriously, my mancrush towards him is indescribable. After this hug, I did not shower or change clothes for several weeks. That said, Joe writes what is referred to as grimdark, which means his books are…let’s just say “adult”. Half a King was marketed and written as a YA novel, which scared me initially – would it neuter Joe’s normal style? Would he have to tone back so much that it would be boring? Luckily, none of my concerns were true. Half A King read like a normal Abercrombie book, except with less cussing and sex. There was violence, very smart dialogue and amazing action. It was an absolute blast to read and became an instant favorite of mine.
- 4) Veil of the Deserters by Jeff Salyards (review)
One of the bigger surprises in my 2013 reading list was Jeff’s Scourge of the Betrayer, a tight and interesting first-person novel following a scribe who signed on with a group of soldiers to document their exploits. I left that book wishing for so much more – more history, more characters, more of that brilliant dialogue. Luckily, Jeff came through (and how!) with Veil . I got a copy from him via a contest, and thought it took me a while to read it due to life responsibilities, the time I spent on it was some of the best I’ve spent this year. Veil expands on everything I wanted, and improved in every way over Scourge. I simply loved it.
- 3) Red Rising by Pierce Brown (review)
Oh man, speaking of mancrushes. Pierce is the kind of guy I’d love to hang out with, but also wouldn’t want to be around for long, as he would make me look so hilariously ugly next to him. I mean, look at the guy. Red Rising grabbed me initially by it’s absolutely breathtaking cover – simplicity in it’s finest, but so eye-grabbing. The combination of aspects from many other successful books, combined with prose that I can only describe as spectacular – it reminded me of a slightly less edgy cadence to Mark Lawrence in his Broken Empire. Short sentences, not many commas, matter-of-fact, but relentless. As I said in my review – the book is a masterpiece to me.
- 2) The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks (review)
There aren’t a lot of authors I can say I’m on a first name basis with, but luckily one of them is utterly brilliant and a NY Times Bestseller. Brent blew me away in 2012 with what was easily my favorite book of the year, the 2nd in the Lightbringer series The Blinding Knife. Brent is another author who gets more creative, more subtle, more artful with each book he writes. The Broken Eye was the pinnacle of this growth – not relying on action, magic, or antics, it holds it’s own with plot turns, dialogue, character conflict, and an incredibly deft hand with subtlety. I finished The Broken Eye and wanted to immediately re-read it, forget it and consume it all over again. Absolutely spectacular.
- 1) Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (review)
I was concerned, for a time, that Brandon had peaked as a writer. The works he had been putting out were lacking in growth, lacking in substantial writing and content. YA novels, short stories, etc. And they seemed to be stagnant. And then, Words of Radiance entered my hands, and all of that was thrown out the window. The growth as a writer he exhibited in this novel is staggering – his worldbuilding is on a herculean scale, the plot windings, the subterfuge and politics, the character growth. As good as he’s ever done with his characterization so far, an area always called out as a weakness. One of the most epic duels/battles I’ve EVER read. This book had it all. It could have been trimmed down a bit, but in the end, I can safely say that it is one of, if not the, best books I’ve ever read.
Best Of The Rest:
To say I only read ten amazing books this year would be unfair. I really deliberated over which books made it into my top 10, but here are more that I feel deserve mention.
– Sand by Hugh Howey (review)
– City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (review)
– The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley (review)
– Lock In by John Scalzi (review)
– The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (review)
With my next post, I will likely go over my 2015 want-list, what books I’m most excited about and want to read the most. For now, this post is plenty long enough – thanks for the 10 of you who will read it!