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Monday, January 25, 2016

Mihir's Top Reads Of 2015

I know, I know I'm quite late with posting this list . The last year was a big one for me. We had our firstborn, brought our first house and my book reading kind of went downhill because of lack of time. I wasn’t able to review many of the titles I read but I did enjoy them a lot. I wasn’t sure I was going to do this list but changed my mind due to an email from an Indian reader. So thank you Pradeep B. for your kind email and for spurring my lazy ass.

As has been the case with previous lists, a few of the linked reviews are from this site. I have linked most of the others from trusted sites, because I could not review them over here for the aforementioned reasons. The main reasoning for choosing these titles is 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...


1) Station Eleven by Emily St. John MandelThis is a gorgeously written story about a post-apocalyptic world and a group of actors who struggle to retain art and Shakespeare. Featuring a varied cast, and some brilliant plotting, this 2014 book has me stumped with its ingenuity & the author's exquisite prose. Give it a shot if you love beautifully written stories and are passionate about literary arts.

2) One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron I must confess I'm a BIG fan of Rachel Aaron's work & after writing more than ten books; she has yet to disappoint me. OGDDA is the second volume of her genre-confounding Heartstrikers series and while OGDDA reads like a thriller, it’s an urban fantasy, SF mashup in its plot and is a fantastic read overall. If you haven't read any of her works, start with the Heartstrikers series as you are definitely in for a fun time.

3) The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence When it comes to devious dark epic fantasy, perhaps there is none better than Mark Lawrence. With The Liar’s Key, we are reacquainted with Jalan & Snorri as they further stumble upon various ungodly magical machinations. The Liar’s Key is one of those rare sequels that completely outshines its predecessor and all previous books by Mark. It’s so good that I’m genuinely worried as to how The Wheel of Osheim might overcome it.

4) A Song Of Shadows by John Connolly – John Connolly is a maverick, and with his most recent book A Song Of Shadows, he successfully reinvigorates his series and gives further clues about the nature of the honeycomb world within his books. Focusing on a wounded Parker, we get a great look at his daughter as a possible main character in the offing. Plus there are more revelations about the things hunting Parker. A must read title if you are a fan of the Charlie Parker series.

5) The Labyrinth Of Flame by Courtney SchaferThis is the concluding volume of the Shattered Sigils trilogy & a book that was hugely awaited. I just got done with it a few days ago and as Ria mentions in this review, this book is just SPECTACULAR. Kudos to Courtney Schafer for writing such a fantastic ending. Make sure that this is one book that you do read if you don't plan to read anything else.

6) Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Six Of Crows is a tricky book, at first it appears to be catering to the YA audiences however those readers unbiased enough to give this book a shot will love its combination of a heist storyline mixed with memorable grey characters. Leigh Bardugo showcases tremendous flair and gumption with this fast-paced book set in the world of the Grisha and doesn’t hesitate to showcase the dark side of her characters.

7) Twelve Kings In Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu – Brad Beaulieu is known to build intriguing and exquisite worlds & magic systems. With his debut trilogy he gave a quasi-Russian culture and with this book he further ups his world-building ante. Set within a city in the deserts and with twelve immortals presiding over it. Twelve Kings in Sharakhai was a mesmerizing story that left me spellbound and made its sequel a must-read in 2016.

8) Chapelwood by Cherie PriestThis is the concluding volume of the Borden Dispatches & according to Cherie completes the Lovecraftian celestial angle. We are reacquainted with an older Lizzie who now comes to Alabama to deal with a true-life crime that has some other-worldly origins. A fascinating story that melds horror & a crime procedural feel, Chapelwood is Cherie Priest at her imaginative best.

9) Those Above by Daniel Polansky Those Above is a dark little gem of a story and is Daniel Polansky’s polemic on Elves and their position in fantasy literature. This story has a grand storyline that focusses on four different human characters and the alien-like immortal elvish overlords that rule the world. Simmering with violence and dark acts, Those Above sets the stage magnificently for Those Below and a reckoning that is sure to change the fate of this world.

10) Hounacier by Seth SkorkowskySeth Skorkowsky's Hounacier is a lovely sort of quasi-sequel that while set in the same world as its predecessor Dämoren, focusses on a new protagonist and immortal weapon. Set in the city of New Orleans, the author brilliantly gives us a tale dripping in horror and mystery, which while much different from Dämoren, is no less weak. I thoroughly enjoyed this new direction taken by the author and can’t wait for the third volume Ibenus

10) Disciple Of The Wind by Steve BeinDisciple Of The Wind is the ending volume of the Mariko trilogy as described by the author and as far as endings go, has more literal bang to it than any Michael Bay movie. Mixing urban fantasy with magical swords but by taking a GRRM-esque route with it. Steve Bein finishes the trilogy while leaving the readers desperately wanting more stories set within his world.

Honorable mentions to the following titles that narrowly missed out on this list: 


1) The Girl With The Ghost Eyes by M. H. BorosonThe Girl With The Ghost Eyes is a debut that almost slipped me by. Set in the cusp of the twentieth century San Francisco, and mixing Chinese mythology, Asian monster mythos and a very engaging protagonist, this debut just wowed me through and through. I can’t mention enough how enthralling this story is and once you are finished with the book, like me you will want to read this author post to read a sequel short story.

2) The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson – Seth Dickinson’s debut was a magnificent one for a couple of reasons; firstly the characterization that was top-notch and the protagonist held the reader’s attention throughout. Secondly this is a dark story and not just grimdark level but something that makes most dark fantasy seem light hearted fare. I’ve very high hopes for the sequel based on the promise shown here.

3) Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myers This was a surprise for me, Ilana Myers produced a stunning magic system that is intricate and reminds me slightly of Dan Abraham’s debut series. Mixing epic fantasy with striking characterization and a fascinating magic system. Last Song Before Night is easily a debut that heralds the arrival of  Ilana Myers as a major talent to watch out for.

4) The Library At Mount Char by Scott Hawkins This was another doozy of a debut, Scott Hawkins basically wrote a version of Hogwarts and the Harry Potter world as imagined by Cormac McCarthy of Road fame. It’s a solid gut punch of a story about a group of quasi-immortals who have been brought together by a scary “Father” figure who does his best to harden them for a task. What the task is and what is actually happening in the story is for you to find out but safe to Scott Hawkins marked himself out.

5) Beyond Redemption by Michael FletcherThis debut has to be possibly the debut with regards to the conceptualization of a magic system. Focusing on a world wherein magic arises from delusions, and other mind disorders, Michael Fletcher gives us a story about individuals who are borderline insane, very dangerous and wholly intriguing. Kudis to the author for coming up with such an original magic system and dark storyline.

6) The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClungThis was a debut which I came across via the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off. Combining Sword and sorcery elements but with a dark flair akin to Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard books, Michael McClung gives us Amra Thetys and the world she inhabits. A debut about a thief with morals and an impending apocalypse, I can’t recommend this debut enough and will be very excited to read the sequels forthcoming.

7) An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir A YA book that managed to outgrow it’s genre trappings and focused on compelling characters. Sabaa Tahir’s story of young characters caught in a maelstrom of freedom struggle, betrayal, revolution and kindness was a fun read and I look forward to the sequel to see where she takes the story.

8) The Rules Of Supervillainy by C.T. Phipps This was a superb debut that focuses on the authors love for comics and catch-22 situations most comic book villains find themselves in. Written as an ode to comic book stories in the 80s & 90s, C. T. Phipps manages to brilliantly combine compelling characters and superpowers to give us a story that will have you heartily cheering for a super villain who’s figuring out that he might not be one after all.

9) Grace Of Kings by Ken LiuGrace Of Kings was a solid epic fantasy entry based on Chinese medieval history and mythology. Ken Liu’s prose was lofty and the way he structured the story, it was hard not to get drawn into the fascinating struggles between human, immortals and the kingdoms they inhabit.

10) Sorcerer To The Crown by Zen Cho This debut imagines magic within a Victorian England and the effects of magic present within the world. Mixing Southeast Asian mythos with compelling characters (read Prunella), Zen Cho gives us a debut that will have you rooting for the plucky characters and think of this as a better-written and more accessible version Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.


CTPhipps said...

I'm honored to be on your list of best debut novels, Mihir. You're absolutely right to do these lists as they're one of the high points of my blog reading. I've only read the LIAR'S KEY and Mark Lawrence's work as a whole thanks to your recommendations of him. Likewise, I never would be acquainted with the work of Ragnarok Publications if not for your review so please keep up the work you do.

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Of those top ten novels, I need to get to several of those series. But, as you are seeing with the little one, life as taken over my reading time. Even as they get older, it doesn't get easier. lol. But we love every dang minute of it as parents. :)

Thank you for linking The Rules of Supervillainy. I really had fun listening to that book. :)

Take care, and enjoy that little one!

Unknown said...

I've read The Liar's Key, Those Above and Beyond Redemption from this list, many of the others are in my TBR. Great compilation!

The Reader said...

@ Charles,

Thank you for your kind words, Mark Lawrence is a absolute genius and I can't wait for his next.

I've very high hopes for your sequel sir and will be bugging you for a copy soon :)


The Reader said...

@ Mel,
Your review was just spot-on with all the high-points about the title.

Yup I love my kiddo but getting time to read is just hard ;)

Keep on the great work that you do Mel and I'm waiting to hear your thoughts on Charles' SV sequel.


The Reader said...

Thank you Leona, do let me know how you find the others whenever you get to them :)


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Thank you Mihir. :) I'm looking forward to SV sequel. It's in cue now and I'll get to it soon. :)

Take care!

Josh Redlich said...

Love your list, Mihir. There's quite a few titles on it I haven't heard of that look like they're exactly the sort of thing I would love. Excited to add them to my reading list.


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