Best Fantasy Books of 2009

Below you will find a list of the fantasy books published in 2009 that we enjoyed most. Click on a book title to read the full review.

The Judging Eye by R Scott Bakker (The Aspect Emperor: Book 1)

This second series of Eärwa, titled The Aspect Emperor, continues twenty years after The Prince of Nothing series ends. The Three Seas are on the march under the leadership of Anasûrimbor Khellus. Khellus has spent these last twenty years conquering the various nations and forming the largest force he can to assault Golgotterath, the home of the No-god and his Consult, before they can gain full strength and begin their own assault on The Three Seas. A lot has changed in these years. Khellus and Esmenet have become Emperor and Empress and now rule the Three Seas completely since his half-brother Maithanet is the Shriah of the Thousand Temples, the dominant religion of the Tusk.

Published: 2009

Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson (A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen: Book 9)

We’re back with the Malazans marching into the Wastelands to meet up with their allies the Burned Tears and the Perish to head into territory where they believe they will have the final confrontation with the crippled god. But an uneasiness seems to have taken hold of the Malazans as their leader, Adjunct Tavore has grown even more distant and unfocused while crossing the Wastelands. This is added to by the feelings of betrayal from the “sensitives” in the ranks. Definitely a different view of the Malazans to see them so unsure of themsleves.

"As I stated before, a strength of this series is the way in which major characters are eliminated, but I never imagined the scale in which people disappeared this time. I was getting flashbacks of George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords. But for the first time in this series we have a cliff-hanger ending. With the good news is we only have to wait a year to see who survived"

Published: 2009

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett (The Discworld Series: Book 37)

It has taken me a little while to work up the courage to write this review. Terry Pratchett has always managed to write a book a year for the last little while, and as a result has provided me with a sure-fire birthday present for my father; no questions asked. This year was no different, and when I got my copy of Unseen Academicals in the mail I was stoked.

Published: 2009

Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines Quartet: Prequel)

Though I’m still trying to figure out whether its Reeves amazingly detailed imagination or the headstrong Fever Crumb is responsible for it, this book has taken its place in the pinnacle. My favourite. For now.

Published: 2009

Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud

Listen then, and I'll tell you again of the Battle of the Rock. But none of your usual wriggling, or I'll stop before I've begun . . .

Halli loves the old stories from when the valley was a wild and dangerous place - when the twelve legendary heroes stood together to defeat the ancient enemy, the bloodthirsty Trows.

Halli longs for adventure but these days the most dangerous thing in the valley is boredom. He tries to liven things up by playing practical jokes. But when one of his jokes goes too far, he reawakens an old blood feud and finds himself on a hero's quest after all. Along the way he meets a ruthless thief, a murderous rival, and a girl who may just be as fearless as he is . . .

"Written out of a deeply felt world, and with a taut, disciplined voice that knows its Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as well as its Harry Potter, Jonathan Stroud's new book is, quite simply, stunning." The Guardian

"It has been quite a long time since I have enjoyed a book this much. Although this may be my first encounter with Stroud'’s work it will certainly not be the last. An enthralling tale told by a master storyteller." Fantasy Book Review

Published: 2009

The Other Lands by David Anthony Durham (War with the Mein: Book 2)

In conclusion, this is a book which has lived up to the expectation of Acacia. In many ways it did not feel like a middle volume and in others it fulfilled a middle volume’s purpose. Durham is a very skilled storyteller and in this trilogy he has so far created a wonderful tale. The ending to this book is also worth savouring and the future looks bright. My only mild criticism was that Mena had a much smaller role, and I hope to see far more of her in the conclusion. The final telling of this story points towards an explosive and dramatic finale, and it has now become my most anticipated book of 2011.

Published: 2009

Tracato by Joel Shepherd (A Trial of Blood and Steel: Book 3)

I love this book, and the moment I finished it I ploughed on into the fourth and final book of the series (Haven). Tracato has kept me up late at night more than once, and diverted my attention from other tasks countless times. From the simpler beginnings in the first book (Sasha) and all the way through to the end of Tracato, I have become more and more impressed with Joel Shepherd’s ability to tell a story that both captivates, teaches, an horrifies me, and all to my betterment.

Published: 2009

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games: Book 2)

You want to read this book. There is no other recommendation I can give than that. No matter your age, sex, or favoured genre, Catching Fire will leave you breathless with equal measures of excitement, heartbreak and anticipation for more.

Published: 2009

Azazeel by Youssef Ziedan

Set in the 5th century AD, Azazeel is the tale of a Coptic monk's journey from Upper Egypt to Alexandria and then Syria during a time of massive upheaval in the early Church. Azazeel highlights how the history of our civilization has been warped by greed and avarice since its very beginnings and how one man's beliefs are challenged not only by the malice of the devil, but by the corruption with the early Church.

"One sentence leapt out as I read this novel, a question Azazeel asks of Hypa but also one that provokes uneasiness in any author: “Was your soul immaculate…before you began to write?”. The answer to that can only be glimpsed when the pages of any book come to their end and a reader is able to sit in judgement on a soliloquy by form, an imagination by desire, a skill by method. I found that Youssef Ziedan spoke to me on history, on early Christianity, on politics, on logical and madness. I read of fear and hope, of joy and sadness. Watched passion and rage both within a single person and inside an entire city. Out of it all comes the theme that life is what Azazeel craves to indulge in. For Azazeel death has no meaning. For Hypa life is a voyage with several stopping points, where solitude and calm are needed and craved as much as passion and fervour. It is a novel with something for everyone, a novel that lends to the personal knowledge of the author, a novel that is accessible by the intellectual and the dreamer." travelswithadiplomat, Fantasy Book Review

Published: 2009

I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells (John Cleaver series: Book 1)

I'd heard a lot about this book before I finally got the chance to read it. Dan Wells is close friends with Brandon Sanderson, one of my favourite authors, so many of my web searches often turned up interviews with Brandon Sanderson telling the world just how good an author Dan Wells is. This is not just lip service to help raise the profile of a friend, Wells is an incredibly talented author and his 2010 debut novel I Am Not A Serial Killer is one of the best, and creepiest, debut novel's I have ever read.

Published: 2009

Dragonfly Falling by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Shadows of the Apt: Book 2)

The story is action packed and Tchaikovsky’s handling of the fight scenes is thrilling. The characters are continuing to grow and we learn more of their motivations. We are also introduced to new characters such as Drephos the Imperial auxiliary-artificer, and Uctebri a sort of vampire-kinden. Although the book is close to seven hundred pages long it never feels it, as the pace and action drive the story ever on. The world is greatly expanded and we learn more of the various insects and their ways. We are also introduced to the Emperor, and a side story is told. Thalric continues in the rich vein that we saw him develop in the first book and brings an occasional humour to the proceedings. Every book needs a baddie and Thalric is a great character.

Published: 2009

Palimpsest by Catherynne M Valente

Sei, November, Ludov, and Oleg -- four people unknown to each other but united by grief and their obsession with the city of Palimpsest. Located beyond the human realm, Palimpsest is accessible only by those who sleep after generating the energy which comes from sex. Once anyone arrives in the city, they indulge in sense pleasures and are able to obtain their innermost desires -- two things which ensure that Palimpsest visitors return.

"Like other Cathryn Valente books (Orphan's Tales, In the Garden of Coin and Spice), this poignant poetic work is a feast for the mind. Palimpsest is the gift of a fairy tale wrapped in an allegory and tied with a mystical ribbon. A gift that readers can enjoy again and again." Fantasy Book Review

Published: 2009

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey (Sandman Slim series #1)

Life sucks and then you die. Or, if you’re James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles. Now Stark’s back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you’d expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future. Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse.

"Sandman is dark, funny and well written. Kadrey isn’t afraid to slap the bad guys about in inventive and descriptive ways."

Published: 2009

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (The Magicians series: Book 1)

The fantasy genre always needs an author to come along a show it in a different light and this is exactly what has Grossman has done with The Magicians. He has injected sexual tension and questionable morals into a school for wizards and the result is a rousing, perceptive and multifaceted coming of age story that is both bright and beguiling. The Magicians is a perfect fantasy book for older teens that will find that the author understands them, and their feelings, possibly better than they do themselves.

Published: 2009

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs (Mercy Thompson: Book 4)

Mercy Thompson couldn't keep herself out of trouble if her life depended upon it - and it does. After killing one more vampire than the head vampiress commissioned her for Mercy is once again in hot water. As if this wasn't enough an old college friend comes to town asking for help with a mysteriously powerful ghost. Add on top of that the fact that her relationship with the devilishly handsome Alpha werewolf, Adam still needs to be clarified. Maybe getting out of town for a while wouldn’t be an entirely bad thing. A girl wouldn't think that it could be any more complicated, but then it wouldn't be Mercy's life. Thankfully being able to turn into a coyote, having powerful fae and vampire friends, and being followed constantly by an enchanted fairy stick (guaranteed to make sure all your ewes give birth to twins) takes a lot of surprise out of life and makes you expect the unexpected.

Published: 2009

The Spook's Stories: Witches by Joseph Delaney (The Wardstone Chronicles)

This gathering of five short stories is an invaluable addition to The Wardstone Chronicles; much is explained in detail and Delaney gives Spook’s devotees a greater insight into some of his most beloved and intriguing characters.

Published: 2009

Dead And Gone by Charlaine Harris (Southern Vampire Series: Book 9)

Now it's the turn of the weres and shifters to follow the lead of the undead and reveal their existence to the ordinary world. Sookie Stackhouse already knows about them, of course - her brother turns into a panther at the full moon, she's friend to the local Were pack and Sam, her boss at Merlotte's bar, is a shifter. At first the great Were revelation seems to go well - then the horribly mutilated body of a were-panther is found outside Merlotte's. Though Sookie never cared that much for the victim, no one deserves such a horrible death, so she agrees to use her telepathic talent to track down the murderer. But what Sookie doesn't realise is that there is a far greater danger than this killer threatening Bon Temps: a race of unhuman beings, older, more powerful and far more secretive than the vampires or the werewolves is preparing for war...

Published: 2009

Tallow by Karen Brooks (The Curse of the Bond Riders: Book 1)

When Pillar, a simple tradesman from Serenissima, catches the bundle thrown to him by a mysterious, dying rider, he has no idea that he is holding the child who will one day decide the fate of the world. Identity carefully hidden, the child is taught the art of candlemaking. But as Tallow comes of age and unusual talents start to manifest, a homely craft transforms into a deadly one. As understanding of Tallow's power grows, so does the interest of those who watch from the shadows: a vengeful, bitter aristocrat, an exotic queen, and the lethal creatures known as the Morte Whisperers, all of whom realise that Tallow is far more than a mere apprentice. To survive, Tallow must deceive friends and allies as if they were the deadliest enemies . . . Set in a fantastical city akin to Renaissance Venice, the first volume of The Curse of the Bond Riders trilogy is a richly woven tapestry of intrigue, romance, mystery, political corruption and dark magic.

Published: 2009

The Dragon Whisperer by Lucinda Hare (The Dragonsdome Chronicles: Book 1)

Reading Lucinda Hare’s debut novel The Dragon Whisperer is like riding a dragon. You have to hold on tight during the twist and turns, take time to stop and enjoy the breathtaking view (in the form of David Wyatt’s wonderful illustrations), prepare yourself for the sudden lows, enjoy the soaring heights and make sure you’re not on the wrong end of that fiery breath!

Published: 2009

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

1910. A cabin north of the Arctic Circle. Fifteen-year-old Sig Andersson is alone. Alone, except for the corpse of his father, who died earlier that day after falling through a weak spot on the ice-covered lake. His sister, Anna, and step-mother, Nadya, have gone to the local town for help. Then comes a knock at the door. It's a man, the flash of a revolver's butt at his hip, and a mean glare in his eyes. Sig has never seen him before but Wolff claims to have unfinished business with his father. As Sig gradually learns the awful truth about Wolff's connection to his father, his thoughts are drawn to a certain box hidden on a shelf in the storeroom, in which lies his father's prized possession - a revolver. When Anna returns alone, and Wolff begins to close in, Sig's choice is pulled into sharp focus. Should he use the gun, or not?

Published: 2009

Crown of Vengeance by Stephen Zimmer (Fires in Eden: Book 1)

The underdog versus a ruling elite is something that we can all relate to no matter what world you are from and there are plenty of parallels with our own history and culture to keep the reader on their toes. This reads like a modern day C.S. Lewis and Zimmer manages to pull it all off with great aplomb. I cannot wait to read the next in the series.

Published: 2009

Stormslayer by Jonathan Green (Fighting Fantasy: Book 4 (Series 2))

I wouldn’t ordinarily review a book without having reached the end, something I’m determined to do. I’ve lost a fight with a Manticore and fallen from a great height into a lava pit already, so let’s hope it’s third time lucky for me and Erien Stormchild.

Published: 2009

The Prodigal Mage by Karen Miller (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker: Book 3)

The constant swearing and angry out-bursts are very similar to Karen Miller’s first series, yet it doesn’t feel old. The tensions are very realistic and the outlook throughout the book is very, very grim. Perseverance and determination are once again key points in her work, and the plot-twists are well-timed and surprising. The Prodigal Mage ends with a humongous cliff-hanger, so for your own good you should buy the next installment of the series too! This was truly a perfect sequel to the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker series and I’m looking forward to finishing The Reluctant Mage. The bluntness of the characters and the pure emotions are just so incredibly refreshing!

Published: 2009

Avilion by Robert Holdstock (Ryhope Wood: Book 7)

This book also shows the evolution of Robert Holdstock’s writing, especially if you were going to read Mythago Wood and Avilion in that order. I felt that the book flowed really well, whether it was because of the familiarity of the characters or knowing that this was closure to a very good series, but I felt satisfied with this conclusion.

Published: 2009

IQ84 by Haruki Murakami

The year is 1984. Aomame sits in a taxi on the expressway in Tokyo. Her work is not the kind which can be discussed in public but she is in a hurry to carry out an assignment and, with the traffic at a stand-still, the driver proposes a solution. She agrees, but as a result of her actions starts to feel increasingly detached from the real world. She has been on a top-secret mission, and her next job will lead her to encounter the apparently superhuman founder of a religious cult. Meanwhile, Tengo is leading a nondescript life but wishes to become a writer. He inadvertently becomes involved in a strange affair surrounding a literary prize to which a mysterious seventeen-year-old girl has submitted her remarkable first novel. It seems to be based on her own experiences and moves readers in unusual ways. Can her story really be true? Both Aomame and Tengo notice that the world has grown strange; both realise that they are indispensable to each other. While their stories influence one another, at times by accident and at times intentionally, the two come closer and closer to intertwining.

"At times the book is shocking in its sexual brutality and violence given life in Aomame, at others breathlessly poignant in Tengo's elegance; yet, for all that this is a novel that left me slightly dis-satisfied. It satiated my craving as I flicked through the pages, left me not particularly wanting more as Aomame and Tengo climbed back up the ladder to the Expressway. I would encourage people to read it, which might be slightly odd as I believe you will put it aside with a sense of losing a moon, but there is no denying the beauty of the prose, the deft handling of the characters, the futility of their motives." Fantasy Book Review

Published: 2009

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (Shades of Grey Trilogy #1)

Hundreds of years in the future, after the Something that Happened, the world is an alarmingly different place. Life is lived according to The Rulebook and social hierarchy is determined by your perception of colour. Eddie Russett is an above average Red who dreams of moving up the ladder by marriage to Constance Oxblood. Until he is sent to the Outer Fringes where he meets Jane -- a lowly Grey with an uncontrollable temper and a desire to see him killed. For Eddie, it's love at first sight. But his infatuation will lead him to discover that all is not as it seems in a world where everything that looks black and white is really shades of grey...

"This is a very detailed book with lots of comedic and dark moments hidden within this seemingly idyllic world. If you have never read anything by Jasper Fforde this may be a good book to start with." Michelle Herbert, Fantasy Book Review

Published: 2009

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus

The rumours are true – Christopher Robin is back in the Hundred Acre Wood. From the excitement of Christopher Robin’s return to the curious business of learning to play cricket, Return to the Hundred Acre Wood allows readers to spend a few more treasured hours with the Best Bear in All the World.

"I think that David Benedictus has done a sterling job in taking on such a difficult task and has created a book that will be as much a companion of today’s generation as its predecessor was for those who are now parents and grandparents. Mark Burgess’s decorations, in the style of E.H. Shepard, are the ideal accompaniment to this charming and delightfully entertaining book. Highly recommended." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

Published: 2009

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff (Enchantment Emporium #1)

Alysha Gale is twenty-four, unemployed, and tired of her family meddling in her life personally and magically. So when a letter arrives from her missing grandmother, bequeathing her a junk shop on the other side of Canada, Allie jumps at the chance to escape.

"The Enchantment Emporium can be confusing at the start (but whose family isn’t?) as you try to get to grips with the numerous layers of aunties, cousins, brothers, sisters and various other family members. But once you get past the first couple of pages it gets easier to understand as the story gets going. It is the mystery of who and what the family is that makes this book such a compulsive and enjoyable read. There are family secrets that need to be shared, loves lost and found and a whole lot of dragons. This is urban fantasy at the top of its game with a strong central focus and engaging characters who really come to life. Once I had finished the book, all I wanted to know was what happens next!"

Published: 2009

The Ghost of Shadow Vale by Jonathan Stroud

Glam killed the monster of Shadow Vale-but he also died in the fight. Now Glam's ghost has come back and he's worse than the monster ever was... Barrington Stoke specialise in books for reluctant, struggling and dyslexic readers.

"With a scary cover image from artist Siku, showing ghostly Glam ready to fight the monster, there are interior illustrations in ink drawn by the same artist in a shonen manga style. Jonathan Stroud's The Ghost of Shadow Vale is the perfect read near a roaring fire with a slice of cake and a hot drink. All Barrington Stoke novels are designed to be dyslexia friendly and other titles are; The Goblin of Tara by Oisin McGann, Young Merlin by Tony Bradman, Thor and the Master of Magic by Kevin Crossley-Holland and Samurai by Ian Beck."

Published: 2009

Darkborn by Alison Sinclair (Darkborn Trilogy: Book 1)

For the Darkborn, sunlight kills. For the Lightborn, darkness is fatal. Living under a centuries-old curse, the Darkborn and the Lightborn share the city of Minhorne, coexisting in an uneasy equilibrium but never interacting. When Darkborn physician Balthasar Hearne finds a pregnant fugitive on his doorstep just before sunrise, he has no choice but to take her in. Tercelle Amberley's betrothed is a powerful Darkborn nobleman, but her illicit lover came to her through the daytime. When she gives birth to twin boys, they can see, something unheard of among the Darkborn. When men come for the boys, Balthasar is saved by the intervention of his Lightborn neighbor-and healed by the hands of his wife, Telmaine. Soon he finds himself drawn deeper into political intrigue and magical attacks, while Telmaine must confront a power she can no longer keep sheathed in gloves, a power she neither wants nor can control.

"My great love in fantasy is seeing human, flawed characters cope with an unknown and alien world. Even though the world of Darkborn isn’t quite as alien as it could be, in terms of having complex, likable characters thrown into circumstances they are totally unprepared for, and up against threats far stronger than they can deal with, Darkborn succeeds hands down. Any lovers of dark fantasy should definitely be at home, indeed I find myself a little confused at how many reviews call the book “romantic fantasy”, since even counting Ishmael and Telmaine’s mutual attraction or the deeply loving marriage of Balthasar and Telmaine, the only thing romantic here is the world’s resemblance to the nineteenth century Romantic period, and there is absolutely nothing fluffy here at all."

Published: 2009