One night recently, I was thinking about Duchess Meghan. I was thinking about when her wedding was, and when her baby was announced and how far along in her pregnancy she is. The wedding was just a few months ago, I thought to myself. Was she pregnant during the wedding? And then my thoughts ground to a halt when I realized… that Meghan and Harry’s wedding was in May. (For those keeping track at home, guesses on the internet put conception in July.)
All of this is a way to illustrate that I have a poor grasp of how time passes. May was not “just a few months ago.” Somehow, even though there have been days that seemed to last an entire week, the year flew by. There have been some struggles this past year, things that will continue to spill over into years to come, but there have been some great things too: one of my oldest friends married his partner of 15 years and I got to be there to witness it; I spent a long weekend in Portland, OR with two of my favorite humans, and we all went to our first polo game; and of course, I won NaNoWriMo with 50,039 words.
This year I mostly focused on rereading books I’d already read, but this list is made up of books I read when I deviated from that plan. They happen to be As always, these books are listed in the order that I read them.
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
Holly Black and faeries. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say more than that for everyone to know immediately that I loved this book. It seems like Tithe was the first book I read about faeries (rather than fairies) and now they’re one of my favorite supernatural subjects. While I wasn’t as big of a fan of her non-faerie books, all of Holly Black’s fae books have ranked high on my list of Things I Like. (It’s an extensive list.) This book was no different, and I’m delighted that we’re getting a few of them! I can’t wait to see how Jude and Cardan get through all the things they do to each other. Luckily for me and other fans, the next book, The Wicked King, will be published in early January.
Last Dragon Standing by Rachel Aaron
There is no way to write a blurb for this final book without spoiling all of the others. Suffice it to say, mysteries resolve, dragons war, pigeons abound, and Julius must risk himself in ways he never dreamed possible as Bob’s grand plan finally comes to fruition.
But the Great Seer of the Heartstrikers isn’t the only one whose schemes are nearing completion. The Nameless End is coming, and even the machinations of the world’s most brilliant dragon seer might not be enough to stop it. As the world comes crashing down, it’s up Julius to prove what he’s always known: that seers can be wrong, and Nice Dragons don’t always finish last.
I think every book in this series was on my “Best of” lists. With everything that Rachel Aaron built up in the first four books, how could book five not be on this list? Like the blurb says, it would be impossible to talk about this book without spoiling something, but what you can expect in this book is to hit the ground running, and not really stop until the end. There’s so much action that happens in this book, but at the same time Rachel Aaron does a really good job of balancing all that tension so that the reader isn’t on the edge of their seat the entire time. Despite the previous books setting everything up, I found that there were still things that surprised me—whether it was the way the author did something I was expecting, or something I wasn’t expecting entirely. The end of a series is always sad, but Rachel Aaron has already released Minimum Wage Magic, the first in a new series set in the same world. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m looking forward to it in the new year.
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.
Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.
Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.
Maybe I’m a little biased—and really, aren’t all “Best Of” lists in some way biased?—because Emily is a friend, but this book was lovely. It’s somewhat of a departure from my usual reads, but that’s not a bad thing. And I loved this book. It brought me to tears at least twice—and also self-righteous anger on behalf of Leigh at least twice. One of Emily’s biggest strengths is in her descriptions. I felt like I could have been in Taiwan alongside Leigh, learning about the culture and eating the food. Emily is currently working on her next book, another YA standalone, and I know that I’ll be picking that up as soon as it’s available.
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.
Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.
Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.
Welcome to the Sixth World.
I don’t put these book in any order except the one I read them in because putting them in order of how much I liked them would be too tricky. If I did put them in some other order though, this book would certainly be very close to the top. This was one of my favorite books of the year. Urban Fantasy is probably my favorite fantasy subgenre, and this book was an explosive addition to said subgenre. I was hooked on page one, and by the end of chapter two—a chapter which prompted me to text a friend who was also reading the book and was slightly ahead, “Holy shit, this book goes hard.”—I knew I would read everything Rebecca Roanhorse wrote.
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?
I got this book years ago, shortly after it was first published and then… never read it. Not for any real reason, I just read other things. I didn’t know the author then, except a YA series I’d seen her name on (The Archived) but hadn’t read. Then I read A Darker Shade of Magic and its two sequels, and then I followed V.E. Schwab on Twitter and Instagram, and I got to have a little glimpse into her world. A world which included rewriting the sequel to Vicious, Vengeful. She got my hyped for that book, and by extension the first one. This book got bumped up, up, up the list. I read this (and the second one) right before I got to see the author in Denver on her US book tour, and she’s every bit as delightful in person as she is on the internet. And this book. This book. I think I liked this book slightly better than the sequel, which I think is partially a product of reading them back-to-back, and partially a product of my particular preferences. The author has already said that she’s toying with ideas for further books in this world, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.
Vengeful by V.E. Schwab
Magneto and Professor X. Superman and Lex Luthor. Victor Vale and Eli Ever. Sydney and Serena Clarke. Great partnerships, now soured on the vine.
But Marcella Riggins needs no one. Flush from her brush with death, she’s finally gained the control she’s always sought―and will use her new-found power to bring the city of Merit to its knees. She’ll do whatever it takes, collecting her own sidekicks, and leveraging the two most infamous EOs, Victor Vale and Eli Ever, against each other.
With Marcella’s rise, new enmities create opportunity—and the stage of Merit City will once again be set for a final, terrible reckoning.
While I might have liked Vicious slightly better than Vengeful, this book was still an amazing read. (Obviously, it made it onto this list.) Victor and Eli took center stage in the first book, but they share the stage with some badass ladies in the second one. Marcella is one badass lady, and though she plays the part of the villain in this book, it’s hard not to sympathize (or empathize) with her. That’s one of V.E. Schwab’s strengths: making you feel for all of her characters, even the ones you might not like. Schwab is one of the busiest authors I follow, and while she’s said that another book in the Villains series is in the works, it’s going to be a long wait for it, as she’s got other things on deck. I’m perfectly happy to wait—especially since it means that I’ll have other things by V.E. Schwab to read in the meantime.
The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera
Since she was a child, the divine empress O Shizuka has believed she was an untouchable god. When her uncle, ruler of the Hokkaran Empire, sends her on a suicide mission as a leader of the Imperial Army, the horrors of war cause her to question everything she knows.
Thousands of miles away, the exiled and cursed warrior Barsalyya Shefali undergoes trials the most superstitious would not believe in order to return to Hokkaran court and claim her rightful place next to O Shizuka.
As the distance between disgraced empress and blighted warrior narrows, a familiar demonic force grows closer to the heart of the empire. Will the two fallen warriors be able to protect their home?
This book took me a while to get through. I thought that I was just reading slowly, or that I was distracted (I read this in October when I was trying and failing to plot for NaNoWriMo). However, since I do all my reading on my Kindle, I didn’t realize while I was reading that this is kind of a long book. The first book was written as a letter. Now that the lovers have been reunited, the letter scheme wasn’t going to work a second time. Instead, Shizuka tells Shefali how the years passed while she was away. A lot happens in this book. Revelations are had, plans are hatched and executed and new plans are made, monsters are slain. At the same time, the ending snuck up on me because I thought more would happen. There’s a whole other book where that “more” will likely occur, and you’d better believe I will be getting the next book as soon as it’s available—which might be summer 2019, and might be sometime in 2020. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing both how this story ends, and the format in which it’s told.
Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…
With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.
And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.
As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.
Like Last Dragon Standing, this is the last book in the series. And like that one, this is a lot of action, right from the start. There were a bunch of things that I didn’t expect in this book, which is doubly surprising for me! I like to be able to predict things that will happen, even if I don’t know how they will happen. I think this gets easier in a series, because the books set up the pieces for the reader. Recognizing those pieces and patterns as a reader is a way that I can learn as a writer. But this book surprised me! I was already sad to leave this world when I started reading this book, but it was a fun read!
You can find all my “Best Of” lists here. Enjoy!