Feeling like I should be getting to my end-of-2017 lists, and since I haven’t talked much about what fiction books I’ve read this year (because it’s been a pretty light year for me and reading, alas), here are the six standouts that I both enjoyed and would heartily recommend to anyone.
1. Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastien De Castell
The epic conclusion to this Three Muskateers reenvisioning (is that a word?) was spot-on perfect. It brought us to a nail-biting conclusion as the ragged Greatcoats faced off against a mirror foe, with plenty of surprises, fist-pumping lines, memorable characters, and amazing moments abounding. With this book, the Greatcoats series has become one of my all-time favorite fantasy series, and the second I finished it I wanted to start reading it all over again.
Right now for $10 you can get two of the most incredibly imaginative and surprising works that I’ve encountered in quite some time. A blend of fantasy, steampunk, and sci-fi, The Books of Babel take us into the titular city where a seemingly milquetoast schoolteacher plumbs hidden depths of personality while ascending the tower to find his wife (who vanished for some reason on the first day of their honeymoon). I kept thinking that these books were going to be about one thing and then they would suddenly juke hard and be something completely different.
4. Blackwing by Ed McDonald
I deeply respect fantasy authors that use their God-given imaginations and come up with something much different than the standard tropes. McDonald drafts up a “weird fiction” world that’s straddling the apocalypse with Deep Kings fighting against Unnamed, all with squishy humans in the middle. There’s a grizzled mercenary who is compelled to seek out and protect his old fianceé, but the actual plot turns out to be much more than expected. It’s gritty and grim, but not gruesome and grimdark, if that makes sense, and I had a blast going through this tale. Packs six books’ worth of plot into one, and well worth it.
5. Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
Another thing I respect? A sense of humor and a willingness to tweak mythology. Despite a somewhat-childish name, Kings of the Wyld brings us into a world where fame-seeking bands of adventurers have grown soft in gladiator pits, but one of the most famous bands of yesteryear has reassembled for a last-ditch rescue mission against a horde of monsters. Loads of great characters, classic fantasy monsters, an ogre with two heads and the most heartbreaking tale ever, and a geeky charm that pervades the whole ordeal. It never took itself too seriously but simply focused on the pleasure of a pulp fiction tale, and that made for a great read.
6. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
There were a few titles vying for the sixth spot here, but I like having a straight-up scifi tale on this list and the tale went down very smoothly. It’s all about a wormhole-creating starship that gets a contract to head out to a planet populated by very alien xenophobics. I wasn’t completely sold on the plot; there isn’t a strong narrative or conclusion so much as a series of somewhat connected accounts as the ship makes the journey. But I did find the look at humanity in a sea of alien cultures very gripping, especially with the well-thought-out races that populate the ship. I haven’t jumped on board with the sequel yet, since it doesn’t seem to involve the original cast, but I suppose I’d be amiable with it sooner or later.