With Christmas now less than a week away, Earl Grey Editing is shutting down for the year. I’ll be on holiday as of today until 6 January, making this my last post of 2016.
Before I go, I thought I’d share my favourite reads from this year. These are not books that were necessarily published this year, just read by me this year. There are some caveats:
- I’m excluding anything I’ve read as part of Aurealis judging, including related books published as part of the same series. You’ll get my thoughts on those once the awards have been presented.
- I realise the year hasn’t finished yet. However, I don’t anticipate having time to read anything that isn’t an Aurealis nomination (see #1).
Without further ado, and in the approximate order I read them:
Ancillary Sword & Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie. It’s not often the second book in a series impresses me more than the first. However, the middle book in the Imperial Radch trilogy had all the awesomeness of the first book without the long introduction. The third brought it all to a satisfying conclusion with a fascinating shift of tone. This is sci-fi at its best–and I’m not just saying that because it uses tea as a way to examine status, inequality and systematic oppression. Series reviewed here.
The Duchess War by Courtney Milan. This is a Regency romance about Minnie, a young lady seeking to flee the scandal of her past by being as bookish and mousey as possible. Unfortunately for her, the Duke of Clermont sees straight through her façade and has an agenda of his own that puts her at risk. I especially loved that while both characters came across as smart, there was also a significant difference in their levels of intelligence–a difference that was never used to make one character seem lesser.
Also by Courtney Milan, Trade Me. A contemporary romance about a poor university student from an immigrant background who falls in love with her classmate who’s the son of a billionaire tech company CEO. I tend to be a bit ambivalent about contemporary stories, but was impressed by Milan’s historicals and had heard good things about this book. It lived up to the hype. Intelligent, diverse and hot. It took immense willpower not to rush out and buy the next in the series.
Kings Rising by C.S. Pacat. The brilliant conclusion to Pacat’s fantasy m/m romance series Captive Prince. It was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it didn’t let me down. Reviewed here.
The Lyre Thief by Jennifer Fallon. The beginning of a new trilogy in Fallon’s Hythrun Chronicles. New readers may have to work a little, but it’s well worth it. This epic fantasy manages to have flawed characters without being all doom and gloom. Reviewed here.
Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold. A young country nobleman runs into some unexpected trouble on the way to his betrothal. A sweet fantasy novella that touches on the value of kindness and respect. Reviewed here.
Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani. The second in Khanani’s Sunbolt Chronicles. Young sorceress Hitomi must decide whether to stage a rescue or hide in safety when her mentor is unjustly imprisoned. An uplifting read that manages to be both fun and to challenge current trends in fantasy. Reviewed here.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. A powerful novella that looks at what it’s like to be an outsider both within one’s culture and as part of the wider world. Also featuring aliens and friendship.
Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan Mcguire. Nancy stepped through a doorway to an Underworld and was changed forever. Now she’s back in her own world and doesn’t want to be. She ends up at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a boarding school for children who have returned from other worlds. But the school doesn’t prove the safe haven it promises to be, as someone is murdering her fellow students. The murderer was a bit predictable, though the ending came as a surprise.
Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier. A historical fantasy and one of my most anticipated books of the year. Violence against women has always been a key theme of the series. Den of Wolves augments this by focusing on male privilege. It’s also slightly less discrete than it’s predecessors, so I recommend new readers start with Dreamer’s Pool. Series reviewed here.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. This book has been getting a lot of love and I can see why. A ragtag crew are sent on a long journey through space to create a hyperspace tunnel. The diversity and worldbuilding are amazing, with cultural and personal differences being a focus of the book. Each chapter is more or less constructed as its own episode. This was one of my favourite books this year and so was the sequel, A Closed and Common Orbit.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Part urban fantasy and part paranormal YA romance, with a strong sense of the mythic. This book really knows how to set a scene and does a good job of avoiding mawkishness. Reviewed here.
The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin. This series of stories follows the wizard Sparrowhawk through different stages of his life. I last read this classic a decade or two ago but it looms large and luminous in my teenage memory. Now that I’m in a place to see what Le Guin was trying to do with it, I appreciate it even more.
Those are my top picks for this year. What’s on your list?
I hope those of you who are celebrating at this time of the year have a wonderful holiday. May the new year bring you an abundance of tea and books. I look forward to seeing you in 2017.