I generally post this kind of thing right around the new year, but I’m lazy (duh). 2015 was another great year for books, albeit not quite the potential year 2016 is shaping up to be. However, I read a LOT of amazing books, and a large quantity of books in general – 104 of them, in fact. Some were amazing, some not so much; but the majority were pretty damn good – 76% of the books I read, I gave 4 or 5 stars to. Part of that is that I’m a fairly generous grader, and part of it is that I just read really great books this year.
I broke down my reading in 2015 by the numbers a couple weeks ago, so for this I’m going to do the classic “Top 10” lists, and break it down into some sub-categories. Because everyone cares what I think, right?
Without further pageantry…
T.I.T.C.’s Top 10 Books Read in 2015:
Specifically, books I read in 2015 that came out in 2015.
10) Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson (review)
I’ve been eagerly awaiting the sequel to Alloy of Law for seemingly forever, especially based on Brandon’s readings at his signings earlier in the year. The wait was worth it – the novel was much deeper and more involved than Alloy was, with a lot of older Mistborn tie-ins and some really awesome writing.
9) The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan (review)
McClellan’s books have found a spot in my yearly top-10s almost perennially at this point. I adore this series; the creativity, the writing style, the characters, and the fact that he gives me lots of lore and backstory via additional novellas (which we all have established that I love). The conclusion to his debut trilogy is a home run, and a terrific read.
8) Half the World by Joe Abercrombie (review)
If I were making a “Mount Rushmore of fantasy authors”, Joe Abercrombie’s sculpted, gorgeous face would most definitely be adorning the cliff. I read every book he publishes as soon as I possibly can. This year, we were graced with TWO novels in his Shattered Sea series, and I found the first of those two to be the superior novel. It picked up where Half a King left off, and continued forward with intensity, wit, and glory, in true Abercrombie fashion. I actually felt that he fell off a bit for Half a War – while I liked it, it was maybe my least favorite book of his to date. That’s not saying much, cause it’s still better than 98% of what I read.
7) Golden Son by Pierce Brown (review)
Speaking of gorgeous, sculpted faces… Pierce Brown wrote one of my top 3 books of 2014 in the breakout hit Red Rising, a book which I could not possibly say enough positive things about. With Golden Son, Pierce avoids a sophomore slump by continuing in the mold of the first book, while improving upon nearly everything. His prose is gorgeous – I always liken it to Mark Lawrence – and his characters are vibrant and visceral. Everything is amplified in this novel, and it’s a much more ‘adult’ package than Red Rising was.
6) The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis (review)
Tregillis caught my heart with his wildly creative and brilliant Bitter Seeds, and the rest of the Milkweed Triptych. With The Mechanical, he goes in a completely different direction – towards a more sci-fi and steampunk feel to things. That’s an area that can easily go sideways and feel cliched, but Tregillis keeps things on point. The creativity is boundless in this novel, and his writing has continued to show dramatic improvements with each novel. This one was a TON of fun.
5) The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett (review)
Peat got a lot of flak for some decisions made in the third book of his groundbreaking series, titled The Daylight War. I, personally, agreed with some of these sentiments, but there were also elements of that book that I loved, and the overall package was enjoyable. With The Skull Throne, Brett is much more focused, keeping the story flowing and setting up the big finale. Sometimes the 4th book in a series can get lost, but with this one, it turned out to be a standout novel, and I think second only to The Desert Spear for best in the series.
4) Beacon 23 by Hugh Howey (review)
I’ve been a pretty fervent follower of Howey since I fell in love with a little, largely unpublicized $0.99 self-pub called Wool – you may have heard of it by now (/hipster). While I have found most of his works to be great, Beacon 23 takes things to a new level. The story of an astronaut suffering from some weapons-grade PTSD, and his trials and tribulations aboard a small space-lighthouse, or “beacon”. A must-read.
3) The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence (review)
Anyone who follows me knows that I love Mark Lawrence. I love his prose, his characters, style, action, every gods-damned thing. So when I say that I feel this is his best book to date, I do NOT say that lightly. It’s outstanding in every way.
2) The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin (review)
Having said what I said above, it takes an incredibly special book to finish ahead of Mark Lawrence, and Jemisin delivers just such a book. I’m very rarely so moved by a book, or find a book with so many elements of social commentary – race, sexuality, caste, abuse, incredible and strong female and male characters both, and every single element needed for an amazing story. The Fifth Season proved to me why I need to read more female writers in this genre, and showed what an outstanding author NK Jemisin is right now.
1) Knights Shadow by Sebastien de Castell (review)
The winner this year is the second book by Sebastien de Castell in his outrageously good Greatcoats series. When I first read his debut novel, Traitor’s Blade, I was blown away – an adventure story that moved quickly, but was jam-packed with drama, history, worldbuilding and action. I had high expectations for Knight’s Shadow, almost unfairly so, and was chomping at the bit for it’s release date. To say that it delivered would be the understatement of the century – it was mindblowingly good. It was the book equivalent of cuddling with 12 puppies while eating my favorite foods and drinking my favorite beers good. It’s an especially uncommon day when a book elicits an out-loud reaction from me of any kind, and this book was one after the other. It had some of the hardest chapters I’ve ever read, full of intense imagery and crippling mental abuse – but it moved me so much because I care that much about the characters, about their wellbeing, about them continuing the story and succeeding. Chapters that made me curl up in a ball while reading, forcing me to take breaks in between chapters to compose myself.
Knight’s Shadow is a singular book – one that inspires me to stand on the rooftops and scream it’s praises. It’s that good.
And that’s that. My favorite full-length books of the year. Below I’ll throw out a few other categories. Firstly:
Honorable Mention, 2015 Full Novel:
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (review)
End Of All Things by John Scalzi (review)
Court of Fives by Kate Elliott (review)
2015 Books That I Did Not Read, But Could Have Been On This List:
Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Clash of Iron by Angus Watson, The Labyrinth of Flame by Courtney Schafer, Price of Valor by Django Wexler, Black Wolves by Kate Elliott, The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
That list could probably go on for a while. And now, my final category, and one near and dear to my heart…
Five Best Novellas or Short Stories of 2015:
5) The Shootout Solution by Michael R. Underwood
A fun and exciting little short, with a very interesting and unique concept.
4) Night Flower by Kate Elliott
Many shorts that are in-world can be a bit flat, but Night Flower had no shortage of substance, interest and drama. A really enjoyable piece.
3) Road Brothers by Mark Lawrence
Glorious, glorious collection of shorts that highlight each of the brothers of Jorg Ancrath in the Broken Empire series. Fantastic.
2) The Builders by Daniel Polansky
As if the mere concept of “Redwall for adults” wasn’t good enough, Polansky nails the story as well.
1) In Midnight’s Silence and Without Light Or Guide by T. Frohock
Teresa Frohock is a brilliant writer, and the two shorts she released this year were both staggeringly good. Full of beautiful writing, dark elements and story pieces, romance, social issues, angels and demons, and so much more. An incredible pair of stories, with more to come.
And with that, I will conclude this review. 2016 is already looking to be a banner year for SFF releases, with some of the biggest names in the industry expected to drop some blockbuster books. I am personally incredibly excited to get my hands on many of these novels. Thanks for a great first year of blogging, thanks to those of you who have stuck it out with me for all of 2015’s lumps and bruises, and hope to continue to see you as I continue to post.