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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mihir's Top Reads of 2013

As seen across the blogosphere, we all enjoy various lists of 2013's favorite books. This year was a rough one in terms of my dad’s health and so I wasn't able to match my earlier reviewing output. Thankfully he’s well on the way to recovery from cancer and all of its vast complications. So to all those authors whose books I read and couldn't review (after saying I would do so), kindly accept my deepest apologies. All I can say is that I really did try to write the reviews but medical matters took precedence. Moving on here are my top picks among all the books which I did manage to read this year.

As has been the case with previous lists, almost all of the reviews are from this site and are done by Liviu, Casey, Cindy or me. I have linked a few reviews of books which I enjoyed but could not review over here for the aforementioned reasons. The main reasoning for choosing these titles are the varied milieu of the plots, excellence in prose, characterization and the overall enjoyment they provided. And so without further ado, here are my choices... 


TOP TEN NOVELS OF 2013


1) The Colour Of Vengeance by Rob J. HayesThis book was another indie gem after Blood Song in 2012. This book reminded me a lot of Joe Abercrombie’s early work, as it had the same grittiness that was present in Joe’s debut but also had more than equal amounts of strong characterization along with copious dollops of black humor. Kindly ignore the staid cover as The Color Of Vengeance isn't simply a revenge saga, no more than The Lies of Locke Lamora was simply a story of a gang of thieves. It's a must read for all lovers of Joe Abercrombie, Glen Cook and Mark Lawrence.

2) The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett What can I say about The Daylight War, I was in awe of this book and it managed to combine the strengths of the first book, with the emerging complexity of the second and also had a fast-paced plot to make it a strong contender for the first place. Peter V. Brett excels with the characters and the cultures that he showcases within it. However this book has its share of detractors, for me though I couldn't stop turning pages till the very end and after finishing can't wait to get my hands on The Skull Throne.

3) Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole Fortress Frontier was a revelation as a urban fantasy and military fantasy hybrid. It managed to blast open the urban fantasy subgenre in the same way Tolkien did to epic fantasy decades ago. Myke Cole has to be lauded for writing a series that showcases the effects of magic on a global level and to add to that, he also writes about terrific action sequences and fascinating characters

3) Emperor Of Thorns by Mark LawrenceThere was a tie for third place and between Myke Cole’s second book and Mark Lawrence’s third. Mark’s book ended the story of a dark character in a way that was not only hard to predict but ended it on an empathetic note. You might not like or love Jorg but by the end you did admire him in an odd sort of way.

4) Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff Boy Nobody is one of those rare YA books that was a thriller and a YA story. It managed to showcase themes of alienism, identity, and family in a compelling thrilling story. Allen Zadoff conveniently gives us an unnamed narrator who is re-discovering himself as the readers discover more about him as well. A highly addictive read and possibly one of the best series openers.

5) Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews I’m a fanboy when it comes to this author duo, they write stories that feature action, humor, romance, and a whole bunch of stuff that is simply too good to put down. Magic Rises featured a different storyline from the preceding volumes and managed to satisfy almost everyone in their huge fanbase. It is another cracking volume in a madcap series and heralds a rather grim outlook for Magic Breaks later this year.

6) The Scarlet Tides by David Hair For all epic fantasy fans out there, take note, this is one of the best epic fantasy sagas currently being written. This Kiwi author is doing all the right things and giving us a complicated story involving multiple magic systems, spy factions, nations and a long list of characters who are all struggling to get what they want. This is epic fantasy done right and also in a finite number of books (planned tetralogy) to say the least.

7) Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach I loved this book, featuring a tough, but funny mercenary who does things her own way, Rachel Bach showed that you can write good stories focusing on female protagonists and make it an absolute standout one. Mixing action, romance and humor in all the right amounts, Fortune's Pawn had me chuckling along as I raced through the story. Can’t wait to read what Devi encounters next.

8) The Tyrant’s Law by Daniel Abraham – Daniel Abraham is a quiet sort of a person and this series of his is anything but quiet. The third volume further expanded the character cast while keeping the narrative focus tight and featured a Chekhov’s gun of sorts which when it went off, has made the next volume a must read. Another iteration of epic fantasy that is rich in characterization and deserves more attention than what it's currently receiving.

9) Vicious by V.E. SchwabThis book has been recently optioned and as a fan of the story, I can’t wait to see its silver screen adaptation. Featuring a Kane vs Abel scenario between two former friends who have superpowers, Vicious upends most superhero tropes and gives us a tale that is unnerving and yet so enthralling at the same time.

10) Drakenfeld by Mark C. Newton – Mark C. Newton is a writer who so far hasn't gotten the acclaim and praise that his writing deserves. I feel with Drakenfeld, this will change and quite notably so. Focusing on a mystery in a secondary world, the author laid out a rich story with a fascinating narrative voice and a solid character cast. Drakenfeld is a gem of a book and should see Mark’s star rising rapidly in the fantasy genre.

Honorable mentions to the following titles that narrowly missed out on this list:
 - Wayward by Blake Crouch
 - The Wrath Of Angels by John Connolly
 - Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis
 - The Woodcutter by Kate Danley
 - Manifesto UF edited by T. Marquitz & T. Mauermann

Also a tip of our hats to Blood Song (Anthony Ryan) and A Dance Of Mirrors (David Dalglish), who would have easily made this list but didn't as they have graced a previous edition of this list and were traditionally published (re-released) last year.


TOP TEN DEBUT NOVELS:


1) The Grim Company by Luke Scull After a lot of thinking, I came to the conclusion that this debut by Luke Scull was my top choice among all the debuts that I read in 2013. Partaking elements from the school of Grimdark and then giving them a twisted epic fantasy feel, The Grim Company is one heck of read featuring fascinating characters, SF elements and a complex magic system that begs to be explored. An absolute must have and must read, Luke Scull's debut will leave you hooked!

2) No Return by Zachary JerniganYou got to hand it to Zachary Jernigan, he knows how to catch your attention. Featuring a very curious mix of science fiction and fantasy, Zack showcased an alien world with its myriad characters and races and customs. No Return is a stellar book that straddles fantasy and SF genres seamlessly and makes itself into a jewel faceting both fields.

3) The Thousand Names by Django Wexler – Django Wexler has written a fabulous story that along with Promise Of Blood have heralded a new type of fantasy; Flintlock Fantasy. With The Thousand Names, Django gives us a epic story viewed by two extremely likable protagonists and so I’m hooked for the future volumes of this series.

4) Generation V By M.L. Brennan Generation V is a very frank and different take on Vampires that is obviously different from the crowded urban fantasy sub-genre. With some terrific touches of horror to the story, M. L. Brennan presents a tale of a vampire who doesn't want to be one. Extremely charming and with a rich world settings, this story was a vastly different urban fantasy that deserves special attention.

5) The Lives Of Tao by Wesley Chu – Wesley Chu was the hidden surprise from Angry Robot books, giving us a story that mixes comedic, UF, thriller and SF elements into a smooth cocktail. The Lives Of Tao would have been in my top two if not for the extremely exciting predecessors.

6) Promise Of Blood by Brian McClellan Promise Of Blood along with The Thousand Names is going to be a future classic and easily showcased why Brian McClellan is rare talent who will only get better with time. Featuring a gorgeous cover and a complex narrative, this debut is another one that shouldn't be missed.

7) The Heresy Within by Rob J. HayesThis indie debut is one that I wish had gotten more coverage, following in the footsteps of Joe Abercrombie, Rob J. Hayes gives us a lurid storyline focusing on three characters who are as grey as they come. Topping the story with a multivariate cast of psychotic and sociopathic characters, Hayes excels with deft characterization and makes the reader care for them. As far as I’m concerned this guy is another gem like Anthony Ryan and the sooner the publishing world & fantasy readers discover him, the better it would be for the fantasy genre.

8) The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch This was an interesting debut which I couldn't review due to time and family constraints. The author gave us a unique world wherein promises and knots share an enigmatic bond and focusing the story on a young warrior, Amy McCulloch completely enthralled with this story set in a desert landscape. Highly looking forward to the sequel and the epic conclusion that is promised.

9) Six-Gun Tarot by R. S. Belcher Six-Gun Tarot is an epic debut if you consider all of its ingredients. Author Rod Belcher really deserves all the credit for attempting such a complex storyline in his debut and nearly pulling it off in the end. The author has to be saluted for enmeshing plotlines and character arcs in a confusing and addictive mosaic that the writers of Lost often aspired to but ultimately failed.

10) The Red Knight by K. T. DaviesOkay this book originally was published in 2012 but I only read in 2013 and because of its narrative strength and deft characterization, I believe it’s a strong contender for this list. The author’s strength is her characterization and it shows in this debut vehicle in regards to her main protagonists. If you enjoy a good medieval fantasy story that is smoothly written, you shouldn't’t miss this one.


NEW AUTHORS TO LOOK OUT FOR -

Every year I’m on the lookout for newer authors who match my reading interests. This year was an exciting one especially in the epic fantasy genre. As I've discovered many authors and quite a few excellent books. So here are the authors whom I'm most excited to have discovered within the last year (in random order):

Luke Scull This guy is quietly flying under the radar but for me he was the one whose debut wowed me entirely. Mixing high magic with solid characterization, his Grim Company series is a fabulous one for which I have very high expectations for the future volumes to come.

Rob J. HayesThere’s something about the British, last year there was Anthony Ryan and this year there are Luke Scull and Rob Hayes. His books take grey-toned characters three steps further than Joe Abercrombie does and yet they retain their vitality. Highly addictive reads that showcase a gritty world, I’m shocked as to how he has not been noticed by the SFF world so far.

Victoria (V.E.) Schwab – While this lovely lady is no debutante, I was only recently introduced to her work and what an effort Vicious was. Simply put, her characterization skills would cause most others to swoon. I’ll be sure to start on her Archived series and I’m hoping many others do so as well.

Allen Zadoff Another writer who is not a debutante but based on the amazing book he wrote, he’s fast becoming one to watch out for. If you haven’t read Boy Nobody yet then you are missing out on one of the best thrillers released this year & the kicker it’s a YA book that manages to enthrall an adult audience along with the young readers. Seriously give Boy Nobody a shot to see why Sarah (Bookworm Blues) and me are such raving fans of Allen Zadoff.

Zachary Jernigan I was simply amazed at the epic scope of No Return, it was a story that simply mixed science fiction and fantasy elements and out came a story that was true to both. The world created within is a complex one but the author doesn't make it obtuse. This dude is seriously talented & I’m very interested to see where he takes his career next.

Kate DanleyI've read only The Woodcutter but that book utterly captivated me and now I count myself as a fan of her eclectic work. She has a previous urban fantasy series that I plan on reading but top most on my reading horizon is her newest book focusing on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and the most mercurial fairy of them all, Queen Mab! Give her work a try if you like read books that are hard to define genre wise and have stunning stories.

Lastly I would like to highlight an author for his amazing online presence; be it Goodreads, Reddit, Facebook or any other mediums. He’s been a shining example of how to be friendly and courteous without being overzealous IMHO and so a special shout-out goes out to Michael J. Sullivan for his online efforts and overall amiable nature in dealings with one and all. Kudos to you sir.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Being slightly pedantic but I do think it is worth pointing out that Django is not a debut author. It might have been a lesser cotillion as it were, but he has two really good books already on his dance card. I got both in a used bookstore so they may be hard to find. They were published by Medallion Press. Not sure if he has the rights to them so they can be re-published even in an ebook form. Both really good reads imo.

The Reader said...


@ Anon.

You are correct in pointing that out while being slightly pedantic :)

I knew about those 2 titles and asked Django in his FBC interview. Since TTN was his traditional publisher debut and those were from an Independent publisher. I included it in this debut list.

Mihir

John Wiswell said...

Splendid read! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Fortress Frontier sounds so good that I feel like rushing through the original...

az060693 said...

You should try forging zero and its sequel, zero recall. Amazing sci-fi epic that came out this year.

Robert Stone said...

I would also highly recommend looking out for John Benedict and picking up his outstanding works Adrenaline and On The Edge Of Death. http://johnbenedictmd.com/
They are great medical thrillers but also excellent fantasy novels. Easily the best books I read last year and still unmatched so far this year.

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