One of the side effects of moving from reviewing to publishing, was that outside of Fox Spirit titles my reading plummeted. Like really dropped through a hole into the deepest oubliette. This year has been better. It’s not been multiple books a week, but it has been multiple books, so here is a round up of my reading this year. Yes it’s very positive, that’s because my reading has become extremely selective and I move on from things that don’t grab me quickly.
Raising Fire by James Bennett
James has written a number of short stories for Fox Spirit, is a dear friend from our shared days in Leicester and will always hold a special place in my reading heart because dragons. The Ben Garston series is fantastic. The pace builds over the three books, which travel all over the world, drawing myth, fairy tales and folklore together in a modern setting. Raising Fire is the third book and the series ended in an amazing climax. For fans of Dragons, fae, myths, old gods, history, King Arthur, gold, heroes getting beaten up a lot.
Blood Bind the Pack by Alex Wells
This is book 2 of I think just a pair. It picks up pretty much where the first leaves off. These are great novels, set on a planet that is colonised and blending the high tech of the planet owners with the day to day wild west on motorbikes vibe of our sort of heroes. I loved the world building, I loved the characters and these books have put Wells firmly on list for future purchases. Look out for these if a) you loved Firefly, b) you really wanted to love Firefly but needed it to be better, c) you like good book. Or any combo of those really.
The Hunter by Andrew Reid
Andrew has also done the odd short story for Fox Spirit and we have a shared affection for whimsical death and amazing female MMA fighters. The latter is what put this book on my TBR. Also the fact that Andrew is a great writer. It’s a thriller romp of the highest order. Tremendous fun, the lead character is everything I want from my MMA fighters and this book beats its way to the truth goddammit and into my heart.
For fans of Haywire, MMA, thrillers, drama and fun, the tense and violent kind of fun.
Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
If you haven’t heard of Pinborough yet you have to choose, go back under your rock or come blinking into the light? She started in horror and has written fantastic YA and some brilliant twists on fairy tales. Cross Her Heart is, so far, the only book I have read that doesn’t expose her genre core. It’s none the less excellent for that. Hidden pasts, people with secrets, spoilers, spoilers, spoilers. This is deep, gripping thriller on the intimate level of individual lives, rather than a grand Bondesque international platform.
For fans of thrillers, Killing Eve, personal drama, missing their stop because they were reading.
Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows, Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows
I got halfway through the first and ordered the second so I didn’t have to stop reading. Which worked well as they pick up book 2 pretty much where book 1 leaves off. There is a lot to unpack in these books. They are portal world fantasy, but rich and involving and Foz created a phenomenal cast of character who I was genuinely sorry to leave behind. I could have lived here for many more books, but this story was told at least and it was satisfying.
Lots of representation here too, because if you are creating a fantasy society it doesn’t have to follow in the worst traditions of old white guys writing what they deem to be ‘historically accurate’ medieval style worlds. #justsaying
Pick these up if you like action, adventure, portal worlds, Sarah Connor (no fate but what we make).
The Poison Song by Jen Williams
I feel emotional just talking about this series of books. I want to be Vintage when I grow up. Pleeeease? Last in the series, was a year for them it seems. The Winnowing Flame trilogy is a phenomenal set of characters, the world building is fantastic (pun not intended but I stand by it) and the story telling will leave you cheer sobbing by the end. A lot of what is in these books has a comfort factor for regular fantasy readers, we have all seen elves and forests and evil Queens before, but Jen brings something new to each of them. Please read these so we can talk about all our favourite bits forever. Jen has done one story for Fox Spirit.
For people with a soul, animal lovers, warriors, poets, readers and pretty much anyone really.
The Hyena and the Hawk by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Another finale, and Adrian brings his YA(?) at least YA appropriate trilogy to a close. I put off reading this briefly because I was terrified of how it would all end. It was amazing. The series is brilliant, and I fell in love with Many Tracks early, partly because she is a bit snippy and not sure what she is doing and overwhelmed a lot of the time, so very relatable.
Adrian has done a number of short stories for Fox Spirit and is a super and prolific writer. If shapeshifting (sort of) adventures and battles for the soul of every sentient thing in the world doesn’t appeal to you, then check out the award winning Children of Time, or his Empire of Black and Gold books or anything of the other SF or Fantasy he has done.
For fans of shapeshifters, fantasy, YA, epic world ending stuff.
The Girl in Red by Christina Henry
Christina Henry has been working her way through old favourites and doing other stuff with them. In Alice we are moved to a world of horrific crime bosses and a girl in a mental facility with PTSD. Still a fantasy world, but Henry’s White Rabbit is very different. I have pretty much been on a grab everything I see by Henry since then and The Girl in Red Delivers. Fundamentally a story about a girl, trying to get to her grandmothers house, during a zombie apocalypse.
Buy this one if you enjoyed the others by this author, love a Zombie story, or just need something a bit different.
Three Mages and Margarita by Annette Marie (and three more in the series)
I actually chomped through the first four in this series in short order. Tremendous fun, light easy reading, playful, urban fantasy at their heart but no sexy times so if you prefer your books flirty but chaste these are good. It’s mundane stumbles into magic, in over her head, but wants to help her friends kind of stuff. Nothing groundbreakingly new but done well and perfect for an over taxed brain to escape for a bit.
For fans of Buffy, Lost Girl, urban fantasy that’s easy on the angst.
Chase the Dark by Annette Marie
As with the others, light fun adventurous fantasy. This didn’t click with me as well as the first series so I have left it at one for now. Still fun though. I really do think Marie gives a great fun read and you should check her out for when you need something with plenty of action and adventure but light on the angst.
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
This one blew me away quite honestly. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful and brilliant and I love it. It kicks off with a young noblewoman who is locked in a battle of wills with her step mother and doesn’t understand the stakes at play. By the time she realises, it is too late to stop her life moving totally out of her own control. I don’t know what else to say, it has angry gods, fierce women, magic, I just *babbles incoherently*. Buy it.
For fans of fantasy, romance, magic, political intrigue and awesomeness.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
This is a book about stories. It’s a book about many things. If you read the Night Circus you have some idea what is coming, but this one is more so. You can drive yourself mad puzzling as you go or you can throw yourself in and let it draw you through it’s wondrous twists and turns. I recommend that path. It all comes together in the end and the journey is a joy.
For fans of letting go, setting fire to bridges, boats and other dreary worlds….to borrow from The Cure.
The Family by Louise Jensen
A family thriller exploring relationships, particularly between mother and daughter. I picked this up after an event saw Louise speak at and it’s good fun, tense, has a few unexpected moments and is a solid read. It’s not something I would normally have picked up off the table, but it was a quick read and delivered on the promise of developing tension that I look for in a thriller and the unravelling of lies.
For fans of thrillers, family drama, psychological thriller.
The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet McKenna
Juliet has a few shorts with FS and is well established as a brilliant mind in SF & F both on the page and off it, as well as something of a sword wielding badass. The Green Man’s Heir is right up my street and possibly living in my shed. It’s rural contemp fantasy, bit of murder and mystery, some fantasy creatures, a bit of an understated hero getting into scrapes. Just lush and fresh and wonderful. The pacing, writing, worldbuilding, characters etc are all on point and the story engaged me pretty much instantly. This was an easy read and picking up the sequel was a no brainer.
For fans of dryads, druids, long walks in the woods, men who work with their hands and mysteries.
Gumiho, Wicked Fox by Kat Cho
I think this is YA again, certainly the key characters are that age group. It’s based around the mythology of women who are foxes and eat men’s livers to survive. I fundamentally approve of all these things. The story takes place largely in Seoul and as well as men’s livers Korean comfort food features memorably in this story. It’s sad and sweet and magical and a brilliantly written fantasy adventure. It peppers bits of mythology through the book between chapters building the feel of history to the events unfolding. It also had me wondering how many times my youthful drama’s would have been avoided if I had just been frank with my parents and them with me in return. I might owe my mum a bottle of something. Or several. I lost myself in this one happily.
For fans of foxes, mythology, YA adventure, fantasy, eating men’s livers.
I am currently reading Redeemer by C.E. Murphy who I love as a writer and read a lot in my reviewing days. It’s fab, I will try and pop back with a few words when I am done.