**Note: In the interest of consistency, I’m sticking solely to books written after 1900. So while some of my other reads, like Les Mis or Count of Monte Cristo would certainly make the cut I want to make sure to give the spotlight to more recent authors.
10: Dolor and Shadow by Angela B. Chrysler
I was immediately entranced with the premise of the book, since it envisions Viking/Norse mythology from the perspective of the elves. I knew, going in, that there would be a lot to love about the world being built and, in that aspect, I was not disappointed in the least. The worldbuilding here is magnificent and, once you get used to the onslaught of names and places, you can really begin to feel immersed in the world. Things are just so well-developed in this book that it feels reminiscent of the wholeness that Tolkien brought together with Middle-Earth in his books. This is one of the greatest strengths a book can have, that synergy with the wholeness of the world that allows for complete immersion, and is one of the things I love the most about reading fantasy novels. Continue Reading
9: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
The trio of stories in this collection are absolutely fantastic in every way. In spite of the stories taking place nearly a century before A Game of Thrones, there are many familiar house names and sigils to remind you that you are immersed in the same bloody, conflict-driven world of Westeros that the other books inhabit. Martin is a master at weaving in realistic details of the Medieval world and culture, ranging from the depictions of tourneys to the clothing and armor to the food they ate at the table. Continue Reading
8: King of Ages: A King Arthur Anthology
This is an excellent collection of stories that re-imagine King Arthur through various time periods and acting in various situations. Some of the tales take on a traditional feel, while others are extremely innovative in their approach. Arthur and Merlin are the constants in every tale, although not always with those exact names, and many other gems of Arthurian legend are scattered throughout the thirteen stories in this anthology. It was almost as much fun picking out those references as it was reading the stories themselves, but that is my own love of Arthurian legend talking. Continue Reading
7: Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova
I love books with dragons in them, and I love it even more when an author does something nontraditional with them. It was why Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina struck a chord with me, and why this book does the same thing. It has dragons, but not in the way you would ever expect. It is interesting how separate the dragon society is from those operating on Loom, yet how critical they are to the magic and technology on Loom. Two thumbs up based solely on the usage of dragons in this book. Continue Reading
6: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld
Short version: I loved this book. It is exactly the series I needed to read before getting to finish reading Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners series because I realize now I need a steady flow of new YA superhero novels to keep coming. Because they are awesome and exciting and full of fun in a way that is completely different from watching the latest Marvel movie or binge watching their latest TV show. If this isn’t a thriving subgenre already, Sanderson and Westerfeld will have breathed life into that subgenre. Continue Reading
5: Siren’s Song by Mary Weber
I was so torn for half of this book. I wanted to read this book, because I loved the characters and the world and wanted to know what would happen. Yet part of me wished to delay reading this book even longer in order to prevent my time with Nym and Eogan and Myles and Rasha and the rest to come to an end. This book has seriously sat on my shelf since March, ignored because I didn’t want to conclude this trilogy. Yet, as with all good things, it eventually had to come to an end. And now, looking back, I am so glad I finally got around to reading this book.
I absolutely love Mary Weber’s writing and her fun, engaging characters. The imaginative world. The overwhelming sense of impending doom and dread that casts an overtone upon everything going on. Those things carried through in all three books, each in its own unique way. Yet the sense of despair is at its peak in this book. They even have a timeline, given early on, about when they can expect Draewulf to make his appearance for, what will amount to, their final battle to destroy him and, should they fail, the world will be subjected to his evil plots and armies of wraiths for who in hulls knows how long. Litches, this book still has me hooked. Continue Reading
4: The Prince Warriors/The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion by Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler (Yes, this is two books)
Do not let the ages of the protagonists of this book fool you, this is not just a book for kids. While it is certainly a Middle Grade fantasy fiction book, it excels at being something that people of all ages should be able to read and enjoy. This book’s premise is centered firmly around Ephesians 6:10-18, the Armor of God, but it contains so much spiritual and scriptural depth within these pages that even an experienced Christian could absorb some great insight and practical application from this book.
I absolutely love a good Middle Grade book, and this one rates right up among the highest. The group of protagonists are all easy to identify with, and all of them have both their flaws and their strengths. Not only will a reader be able to identify with at least one of these main characters in the book, it is geared as well to allow an inward reflection and invites you to personally consider yourself within the scope of the world as a Prince Warrior or a Princess Warrior. Continue Reading and don’t miss my review of Book Two as well.
3: The Wind Rider Chronicles by Allison D. Reid (Yes, this is three books! Review snippet from Journey to Aviad, the first book)
The writing in this book is beautiful, elegant, and masterful. It was enchanting and kept me riveted to the tale. The story came alive as I was reading the words, filling my mind and my soul with the poetical prose laced with Christian themes. This is everything I have always sought for in a Christian fantasy book, and something I have rarely seen pulled off with such excellence.
The main character, a young girl name Elowyn, is one of the best young female protagonists that I have read in quite some time, and I thoroughly enjoyed following her on these early adventures in the book. She is at home among the beauty of nature, marveling at the hand of Aviad in shaping all of the things around her and blessing her with beautiful scenes. She has an awe and reverence that is both child-like and mature, something that places well with the Christian themes. Her inner struggles with not being worthy of being in Aviad’s presence is something we all, as Christians, can relate to. Continue Reading, and don’t miss my review of the sequel, Ancient Voices, as well as her companion novella, Into the Shadow Wood.
2: Calamity by Brandon Sanderson
I wanted to read this book like a kid wants to eat a giant lollipop. I was excited to read the book just like the kid gets excited about lollipops, but I didn’t want it to end too soon just like the kid who gets the giant lollipop so they can savor the experience a little longer. Yes, this series will be full of intentionally bad metaphors, and Calamity certainly had some memorable ones in there. The humor that Sanderson laced into this book, as well as the previous books, makes this a fun read while the action and intrigue makes it an entertaining romp through a world where superpowers don’t go to the good guys. Or, rather, it seems that everyone who gets superpowers turns bad, and they are known as Epics.
It is difficult to write a spoiler-free review of the final book in a trilogy like this, but I want this to be a comprehensive review for more than just this one book. I want someone to read this and go pick up the entire trilogy (Steelheart, Firefight, Calamity) plus the short between the first two (Mitosis). The Reckoners are back in action in this finale that certainly lives up to every expectation that it promised. The showdown that has been coming is epic. And Epic. Continue Reading
1: Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien
A man who is as thorough in his revisions as Tolkien was will inevitably leave behind tales that never quite reach that state of completion. It is no surprise that there are many stories from The Silmarillion that Tolkien attempted to expand upon and never quite reached the end. After all, he was notorious for not only going through a manuscript thoroughly to revise it if there was any indication of interest in publishing it, but he also would start at the beginning of a tale every time he picked it back up to work on it. This habit led to many great beginnings to work that never quite reached that status of being complete. And thus they find life in this publication, alongside various essays on topics such as the Istari and Palantiri, and that is a great thing for fans of Tolkien and of fantasy.
The collection in here ranges from fascinating narratives to a genealogical listing of the kings written in a style that you would expect to find within a history book. There are some items that will interest certain readers more than others, and the impulse of the reader may be to skip ahead to the things of interest and leave the others unread. Which, in many cases, would be to skip over all of the First Age and most of the Second Age stuff. That, I believe, would be a tragic mistake. The best of the tales appear in those two ages, being longer narratives that, while incomplete, give a flavor of the epic nature of the characters rooted in Middle-Earth history. Fans who have read The Silmarillion will certainly enjoy getting a deeper dive into the adventures of some of these familiar figures, such as Túrin Turambar, and even a reader who has not enjoyed The Silmarillion will still find much to enjoy in some of those tales. I’d argue that they are presented in a far more compelling manner than The Silmarillion, having more development and storytelling than appears in the other work. Continue Reading
So there you have it, my ten favorite books from 2016. What are some of your favorites? Have you read any of the books that appeared on my list?