The Fantasy Inn’s best of 2017

2017 has been a great reading year for the entire Fantasy Inn team. That’s what prompted us to create this blog in the first place! We decided to each give a list of 5 books that defined our year in reading. You’ll notice similarities in the lists…we do have quite a few favourites in common! We recommend each and every one of these works and hope you’ll pick them up if you haven’t already. We’re looking forward to 2018, to more fantasy, more magic, more unputdownable stories and amazing characters. Happy New Year!


Sara

Sharade’s List

It has been a pretty good reading year (and it’s not over yet. I can still cram a few books in the upcoming days). Although I haven’t managed yet to read quite a few new releases that are on my TBR, I’m pretty satisfied with my list. It’s not going to be easy to pick only 5, but here goes:

1) Assassin’s Fate (The Fitz and the Fool #3), by Robin Hobb.

This final instalment left me with the usual Realm of the Elderlings afterglow (that is to say, a tear-streaked face). I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect temporary ending to the Realm of the Elderlings series (temporary because I am, of course, hoping for more).

2) Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3), by Brandon Sanderson

At the risk of sounding like a commercial slogan, Oathbringer was an experience. Tor did a weekly pre-release of the first 30 chapters, and the discussions and involvement within the fan community were extraordinary. I buddy-read it with Tam and Hiu, and we have a fair number of screenshots (“OH NO HE DIDN’T NOOO WHYYY”s, mostly) as a keepsake. The book itself is a (oh-so-many)-page-turner. It focuses on Dalinar Kholin, warrior-turned-diplomat, through visceral and sometimes heartbreaking flashbacks. Questions are answered, other questions are raised; the Stormlight Archive universe is expansive and Oathbringer leaves us craving for more.

3) Night Watch (City Watch #6), by Terry Pratchett

TerryPratchett.png

2017 is the year I finally dived into the Discworld universe (better late than never), and Night Watch was my favourite. It has Sir Terry’s trademark mix of heart and humour, spiced up with the “Vimes factor”. Night Watch is the perfect reward for readers who have been following Sam’s character development. The time-travel story with a Les Misérables vibe is Pratchett at his best, and the highlight of the City Watch subseries.

4) The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1), by Becky Chambers

A happy and optimistic book with unforgettable characters trying their best to be decent and to connect with their fellow sentient beings. This slice-of-life space opera is the ultimate cure for 2017.

5) Penric and Desdemona, by Lois McMaster Bujold

Is it cheating if I pick a series of novellas? Let’s say it’s not. Penric and Desdemona is set in the same universe as the Curse of Chalion, but years earlier. The stories (6 released so far, a hundred pages each) are about an earnest young scholar (Penric) and the sassy, worldly demon who possesses him (Desdemona). The unlikely pair has to face Gods’ whims and men’s plots. These novellas are simply a treat.


Tam

Tam’s List

2017 was the year I started reading books again. I had a friend who recommended me The Wheel of Time series. Naturally I took their recommendation to heart, did some google searching and promptly started reading The Stormlight Archive as my reintroduction to books. I did pick up WoT a bit later on.

Having not really picked up a book since Harry Potter, I’ve been a bit behind in terms of reading all the classical fantasy books most people have read. So far, I’ve read 50 books and short stories this year, and these are my top 5:

1) Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders #1), by Robin Hobb.

After a lot of begging, bribing and bullying from Sharade I eventually tried Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic, and I was not disappointed. Hobb does some absolutely amazing things with characters… and also my emotions… I haven’t made it onto the rest of the series yet, but I really enjoyed this book, and am planning on reading the rest of the trilogy soon. You can see my full review here.

2) Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel #1), by Josiah Bancroft


Senlin Ascends was an amazing book. I read the book over the course of a weekend, and loved every second of it. The Tower of Babel is a very unique setting, and fascinating to read about. Josiah turns the story of Thomas Senlin, an ordinary headmaster, into an amazing story as Senlin tries to climb the tower to find his wife. Conflict ensures as the tower tries its hardest not to be climbed. You can see my full review here.

3) Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3), by Brandon Sanderson

oathbringer1
I won’t say much about Oathbringer, I think it’s pretty much all been covered by now. Sharade, Hiu and I had great fun buddy reading this book together, lost several hours of sleep and overall just had a great time reading Oathbringer.

4) The Wolf of Oren-yaro (Annals of the Bitch Queen #1), by K.S. Villoso

Book 1 of K.S. Villoso’s new series, I was lucky enough (read I bugged the author enough) to receive an ARC. I loved this book, it’s a great tale of political intrigue, family conflict, love, loss and betrayal. First person POV was used to show the internal conflicts of the MC, and gave me a good view of the background and development of the main character. My full review is here.

5) The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1), by Becky Chambers

This was a great little story about friendship and family. It was very heartwarming and a great read. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is a slice of life Space Opera all about the characters, their relationships and development.


Kop

Kopratic’s List

I read a lot of books in 2017. It was a good year. In no particular order:

1) Catherynne M. Valente’s catalogue

I’m cheating, since this is around 25 or so books; but this year I read every single book Cat Valente has released so far. They were all great. The Bread We Eat in Dreams was one of my favorite short story collections by her. The Orphan’s Tales is my overall favorite of her series, with the second book (In the Cities of Coin and Spice) my all-time favorite book of hers.

2) The Terracotta Bride, by Zen Cho

This is a little novella that I read back in May. It tells the story of Siew Tsin, a woman who died and must face a strange afterlife. She becomes the second wife of a man, but soon a third wife, Yonghua, made from terra-cotta comes into the picture. What struck me about this novella is the deceptive simplicity of the prose. Every word counts, and the author uses that to her advantage. The prose is poetic in a quiet sort of way; it doesn’t draw attention to itself. It’s one of those books that once you’re finished, you feel like you’ve just woken up from a dream.

3) The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter (Riyria Chronicles #4), by Michael J. Sullivan

MJS2

Everyone I’ve seen has been recommending the Riyria books. During December, I decided to do a personal challenge and read mostly indie/self-published books (#indiecember). Michael very kindly contacted me and sent an eARC of his newest book; he specifically mentioned you could start with it. Disappearance was my first MJS/Riyria book, and wow. It was everything I could’ve hoped for and more. Plot. Characters. World building. Prose. I liked it so much I immediately bought the limited edition version from the author’s site. (It’s beautiful.)

4) The Wolf of Oren-Yaro (Annals of the Bitch Queen #1), by K.S. Villoso 

My last new read of 2017 was this book. Tam reviewed it on the blog. I’ve been wanting to read one of Kay’s books for a while, so I read the ARC she sent us (Thank you!). Wow. I need the next book now. What I liked is that, while this is a first book in a series, it has a complete story. It doesn’t fall into the First Book Setup trap. The main protagonist, Tali, is a badass. The grey morality of the entire cast is spectacularly well done. Also, the world building was seamless; I felt like I was in the cities and towns myself. I think fans of the Riyria books by Michael J. Sullivan and the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo would also enjoy this book.

5) Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel #1), by Josiah Bancroft

It’s all true. Every word. This book is amazing. I meant to read this in a week. I read it in two sittings. Just read it. It’s loosely inspired by Dante’s Inferno (at least that’s the vibe I got out of it). It’s just…everything I wanted and more.

Honorable Mentions (no particular order):

  • Skin & Earth by Lights
    • Fantastic graphic novel with a great album released alongside.
  • Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
    • Graphic novel that tells the story of one man who lives multiple lives. Very subtle magical realism. Heartbreaking at times. Gorgeous art and design. A must-read graphic novel.

Jenia

Jenia’s List

2017 was the year that plunged me back into reading, in a way I haven’t read since I was a teenager. I tried a lot of different books and loved most of them. So this is a bit difficult, but still, in no particular order(!!):

1) Thomas the Rhymer, by Ellen Kushner

A retelling of an old folktale: check; otherworldly, deadly and capricious fae: check; character-centric, with both character growth and an exploration of romantic and non-romantic relationships: check; beautiful, dreamy prose: check. So, everything Jenia loves, check. I wouldn’t say it has a sad ending, but (to my mild embarrassment) I teared up on the train when I finished anyway.

2) The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1), by N.K. Jemisin

This is such a gloriously angry book. I’d avoided reading it for a while because it’s always classified as apocalyptic fantasy, dark fantasy, griiim. While a lot of people gravitate towards those genres, I personally don’t. But. This isn’t a sad book, it’s an angry book. Angry about injustice, angry about systems that don’t work, angry about history and its effect on the present. I adored it.

3) The Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch

Sometimes you pick up a book that just happens to be exactly the book you need. I listened to the whole RoL series in two awesome weeks shortly after moving to London for an exchange semester. Smart-ass, nerdy, kindhearted PC Peter Grant became my guide to the metropolis, and I spent way too many hours wandering through its streets giggling to myself. (Kudos especially to the narrator!) My fave scene was the one where Peter fights a unicorn.

4) Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel #1), by Josiah Bancroft

Well, it’s the book that pulled me out of my years-long reading slump. I don’t think I can write a better recommendation than that simple fact.

5) The Winged Histories, by Sofia Samatar

winged

Oh god this book is just so beautifully written. It’s the story four very different women in the middle of a civil war. There’s a lot of other excellent stuff packed in too: deconstruction of the “warrior woman” trope, commentary on authenticity in relation to identity, exploration of writing yourself in/out of the historical narrative… But really it’s worth a read just for the prose alone.


cabtwit (1)

Hiu’s List

1) Assassin’s Fate (The Fitz and the Fool #3), by Robin Hobb

ROBINHOBB

Not everyone likes Fitz. In fact, recently it seems as though it’s the fashion to hate on him. For me though, Fitz is perhaps my favourite character in the genre. He’s the colossal fuck up, having to deal with the dire consequences of decisions made by both himself and others. Yet despite all the shit, Fitz keeps moving forward, willing to do anything to protect those he loves.

This book… It was just incredible. Immediately upon finishing, it became one of my favourite novels of all time. Assassin’s Fate isn’t ink or paper or binary numbers… it’s pure distilled emotion. It says a lot about the strength of this book that if the Realm of the Elderlings was to end here (God forbid), I’d be happy to accept it.

2) Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel #1), by Josiah Bancroft

I don’t know what to say about this book that hasn’t already been said. The writing is gorgeous, Thomas Senlin is wonderful, the setting is fascinating, and the plot is eerie, yet relatable. It’s an Alice in Wonderland-esque stumble through a steampunk universe, and it lives up to the hype. When I left my Goodreads review back when I initially read this, I believe I said that my only criticism was that the book “isn’t quite perfect”.

3) The Grey Bastards (The Grey Bastards #1), by Jonathan French

I believe this is the highest scoring SPFBO book to date, and you can definitely see why. The commonly touted comparison is Sons of Anarchy, except with half-orcs instead of bikers and hogs instead of motorbikes. That comparison is, to my mind, pretty spot on.

Jonathan got a well-deserved publishing deal following his SPFBO win last year, and I sincerely hope that this book gets the success that it deserves.

4) Inda (Inda #1), by Sherwood Smith

I came to this book pretty late, jumping in on the wonderful /u/wishforagiraffe’s read-along on /r/fantasy. I binged the entire quartet in January, when I should have been doing very important Masters coursework, and I fell in love with the story and its characters.

The Inda series is one of the very best series I’ve ever read at dealing with character relationships. In real life, relationships are complicated. Too often in books we have convenient two-people romantic relationships, and the cursed love triangle. Inda laughs at love triangles, and spits on them. Inda has something more like a love tetrahedron, but with friendships and family and everything else all tied up with the romance. Along with that we have an amazing magical setting, wars, piracy, laughter, tragedy… Just read it.

5) The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy #1), by Katherine Arden

I dunno if I’ve ever mentioned it, but I liked this book.

I picked up this book on a whim a couple of days after its release in January (i.e, before it was cool; I’m very hipster), and almost instantly fell in love. From the first page the prose hits you like an icey forest wind, and all of a sudden you’re in medieval Russia watching a little, magical girl grow up and rebel against her place in the world. Atmospheric is the word here, and The Bear and the Nightingale is an excellent example of how careful word choice can really enhance a reader’s enjoyment of the novel.

The sequel was pretty awesome, too.


Sam

Sam’s List

1) Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3), by Brandon Sanderson

I don’t think this one needs much reasoning. I read all of the Stormlight Archive this year and it is fantastic. Way of Kings (the first book in the series) has a slow start but if you can push past it the series is so good. I think everyone should at least give it a try.

2) Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1), by Robin Hobb

Fitz is the bastard child of a prince who finds himself living in the palace training to be an assassin.

Unlike the rest of my colleagues here, I haven’t finished Realm of the Elderlings yet. I read the first book this year and I enjoyed it a lot. I highly recommend this book, but the story isn’t the most optimistic so keep that in mind before you pick up the book.

3) Vicious, by VE Schwab

Vicious is about two college roommates who give themselves superpowers and the people they become afterwards. It’s a story of friendship and revenge and all that good stuff. It’s an easy read and I really enjoyed it.

4) Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel #1), by Josiah Bancroft

SenlinAscendsJB

Oh shit! Senlin’s wife is lost in the Tower of Babel and he can’t find her! Bumbling school teacher Senlin has to climb the giant tower in search of his wife. Along the way he encounters thieves, mob bosses, artists, friends, and enemies.

Senlin Ascends has a magnificent setting and I secretly (or not so secretly) hope it gets a TV or Movie adaption sometime because it would be so cool to actually see the inside of the tower. I highly recommend it!

5) A Star Reckoner’s Lot (A Star-Reckoner’s Legacy #1), by Darrell Drake

A quality book set in Iran with a badass lady protagonist who is on a journey for revenge. Along with her sexy cousin Tiridad and half-div Waray, Ashtadukat will find the Div that killed her husband.

Excellent book with a sequel coming (hopefully) in 2018!

 

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