Below you will find a list of the fantasy books published in 2016 that we enjoyed most.
All the Birds in the Sky is an intense emotional roller-coaster that flits between genres, using both sci-fi and fantasy to get its message across and although it does pit them against each other, the novel never says one is better than the other, each has its place in this story and it is by both of these working together that the best outcome will be found. All the Birds in the Sky is also a very human story focusing on the confusion and mistrust that can come from not understanding the unknown.
If the Harry Potter series and The Lies of Locke Lamora ever got together and decided to have a dark book baby, they would call it Nevernight. This is the sort of book I dream about reading. Only a fantasy expert could have written one this well. It’s exactly why authors such as Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss are so successful: they know their audience. And here Jay Kristoff certainly knew his.
Series: The Nevernight Chronicle: Book 1
This fantasy novel had everything I love: fast-paced plot, fearless female main character, no-holds-barred fight scenes, some romantic/sexy moments and laugh-out-loud humour. It’s gritty, sweary, a bit different and has an intense grimdark feel.
Series: The Living Blade: Book 1
All the horrors of Hell stand between Snorri Ver Snagason and the rescue of his family, if indeed the dead can be rescued. For Jalan Kendeth getting back out alive and with Loki's Key is all that matters. Loki's creation can open any lock, any door, and it may also be the key to Jal's fortune back in the living world. Jal plans to return to the three Ws that have been the core of his idle and debauched life: wine, women, and wagering. Fate however has other, larger, plans... The Wheel of Osheim is turning ever faster and it will crack the world unless it's stopped. When the end of all things looms, and there's nowhere to run, even the worst coward must find new answers. Jal and Snorri face many dangers - from the corpse-hordes of the Dead King to the many mirrors of the Lady Blue; but in the end, fast or slow, the Wheel of Osheim will exert its power. In the end it's win or die.
"This book has everything - magic and sci-fi, humour and horror, truths and lies, and then some more lies. There is no unnecessary obfuscation of secrets within secrets behind secrets - the Red Queen's war is a rather transparent war that creates drama by putting characters in situations with many viable solutions, and not knowing which one the characters are going to pick. This trilogy is essential reading for all fantasy readers."
Series: Red Queen's War #3
The City of Wonders has been saved by nearly miraculous forces and the Silent Army is risen, ready to defend the Fellein Empire and Empress Nachia at any cost. The power that was hidden in the Mounds is on the move, seeking a final confrontation with the very entities that kept it locked away since the Cataclysm. Andover Lashk has finally come to accept his destiny and prepares to journey back to Fellein. The Sa’ba Taalor continue their domination over each country and people they encounter, but the final conflict is coming: The Great Wave of the Sa’ba Taalor stands to destroy an empire and the Silent Army prepares to stop them in their tracks. Caught in the middle is the Fellein Empire and the people who have gathered together on the final battlefield. The faithful and the godless, the soldiers and killers alike all stand or fall as old gods and new bring their war to a world-changing end. Some struggles are eternal. Some conflicts never cease. The Gods of War are here and they are determined to win.
"The Silent Army is a book that improves on every facet that made its predecessors great. This feels like a satisfying conclusion to the first arc of a much bigger story, because this book ends a bunch of plot threads that began right back at the start of the first book, but it leaves some big threads wide open begging for more. I need more stories set in this world. Please indulge me, Mr Moore."
Series: Seven Forges series #4
Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasures are in his possession. And together with Calidus and his ally Queen Rhin, Nathair will do anything to obtain the remaining Treasures. With all seven under his command, he can open a portal to the Otherworld. Then Asroth and his demon-horde will finally break into the Banished Lands and become flesh. Meanwhile Corban has been taken prisoner by the Jotun, warrior giants who ride their enormous bears into battle. His warband scattered, Corban must make new allies if he hopes to survive. But can he bond with competing factions of warlike giants? Somehow he must, if he's to counter the threat Nathair represents. His life hangs in the balance - and with it, the fate of the Banished Lands.
"If you follow the frequency of my reviews then you will be able to analyse that I have devoured the stories from John Gwynne's fantasy epic saga, The Faithful and the Fallen, at an inhuman pace, and the reason for this is that they are spectacularly envisaged works of art."
Series: The Faithful and The Fallen #4
In life I was a scientist called Fanning. Then, in a jungle in Bolivia, I died. I died, and then I was brought back to life… Prompted by a voice that lives in her blood, the fearsome warrior known as Alicia of Blades is drawn towards one of the great cities of The Time Before. The ruined city of New York. Ruined but not empty. For this is the final refuge of Zero, the first and last of The Twelve. The one who must be destroyed if mankind is to have a future. What she finds is not what she's expecting. A journey into the past. To find out how it all began. And an opponent at once deadlier and more human than she could ever have imagined.
"If you have already read the first two volumes, you probably need no encouragement to move on to the third. If not, you can be sure that this is one trilogy whose conclusion is in no way a let down, and seen as a whole, is a truly exceptional work, and one which I suspect will be joining [The Lord of the Rings] and the [Duncton Chronicles] on my frequent rereads list, quite astounding for something which I initially thought would be "a fun zombocalypse"."
Series: The Passage Trilogy #3
Olivia: Superb fantasy packed with daring pirates, brave warriors, intelligent thieves and revolution. Hope and Red is a phenomenal read with something for everyone.
Series: Empire of Storms #1
What do you do when your life crumbles around you? If you're Frank "Triggaltheron" Trigg you climb into a bottle looking for oblivion. Of course he couldn't even get that right. Alone and adrift, Frank's five month binge is interrupted with a boom. A nuclear one and every bit of chaos and treachery he tried to leave behind comes knocking once more. Caught up in a plot to foment a supernatural revolution, Frank is made into a pawn for both sides. But what does a man with nothing have to lose? Only everything.
"Aftermath is a fantastic Demon Squad novel, one that tells a compelling self contained story while also acting as set-up for the next half dozen books in the series. While it didn't have the emotional gut punches from the first book, it still made me laugh and laugh, and that's one of the main reasons why I read Demon Squad and Tim Marquitz books - to laugh."
Series: Demon Squad: Book 9
Fellside is a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. It's not the kind of place you'd want to end up. But it's where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life. It's a place where even the walls whisper. And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess. Will she listen?
"M. R. Carey has written a thought-provoking novel that crosses between the rational day to day running of a maximum security prison and gives some thoughts to how well these privatised prisons are run; to the unimaginable concept of the human mind and how it is linked to The Other Place."
Lucy has left Lockwood & Co. A freelance operative, she is hiring herself out to other agencies – agencies that might value her ever-improving skills. But now Lockwood needs her help. Penelope Fittes, leader of the well-renowned Fittes Agency wants Lockwood & Co. – and only them – to locate and remove the ‘Source’ for the legendary Brixton Cannibal. It’s a tough assignment. Made worse by the tensions between Lucy and the other agents – even the skull is treating her like a jilted lover! What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving their closest rivals may just do the trick. But not all is at it seems. And it’s not long before a shocking revelation rocks Lockwood & Co. to its very core...
"This is a grisly tale, in the best possible way. You’ll jump, laugh, be moved and be left wanting copious amounts of tea and biscuits. What else can I say? It’s brilliant, just as expected, just like every book I’ve read by Stroud. The scariest thing of all though is that the next book might just be the last... Please say it ain't true."
Series: Lockwood & Co #4
The season of endings grows darker, as civilization fades into the long cold night. Essun has found shelter, but not her missing daughter. Instead there is Alabaster Tenring, destroyer of the world, with a request only Essun can grant.
"This book is ‘gravitational’, you just can’t help reading further, wanting to know. You understand more about the opposing factions, and who all are involved in or perpetuating the war. And that a lot of these round about concepts of orogeny come to and through the discovery of magic. That’s plenty to think upon, and you should properly discover the rest yourself."
Series: The Broken Earth: Book 2
What would you sacrifice for everything you ever dreamed of? Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program - Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.
"One of my personal ideals in speculative fiction is beauty in darkness. To take basic human characters, with all their flaws and foibles, throw them into an alien other world, and see how they cope. This is exactly what Kat Howard gives us in Roses and Rot."
A small group of commuters and tube workers witness a fiery apocalypse overtaking London. They make their escape through a service tunnel. Reaching a door they step through... and find themselves on a wild shore backed by cliffs and rolling grassland. The way back is blocked. Making their way inland they meet a man dressed in a wolf's cloak and with wolves by his side. He speaks English and has heard of a place called London - other people have arrived here down the ages - all escaping from a London that is burning. None of them have returned. Except one - who travels between the two worlds at will. The group begin a quest to find this one survivor; the one who holds the key to their return and to the safety of London. And as they travel this world, meeting mythical and legendary creatures, split between North and South by a mighty river and bordered by The White City and The Crystal Palace they realise they are in a world defined by all the London's there have ever been.
"This is a very fast paced book, with intense moments of danger as well as being full of wonder. There are so many things to discover in Down not only geographically but historically. I really enjoyed reading about both Mary and Dalip’s journey."
Series: Down Station #1
Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends space and time. On the way we follow our heroine as she attempts to track down a killer in the body of another man, and the man who has been taken over, his will trapped inside the mind of the being that has taken him over. And at the centre of it all a briefcase that contains countless possible realities.
"Occupy Me is very funny and highly unusual, not least of which is having a main character who isn’t just an angel, but a middle aged, black lesbian. It’s highly imaginative, difficult to categorise, and frequently bizarre. But what it has done is inspired me to go and read Sullivan’s other work because like Lauren Beukes, her stories certainly stand out out from the pack."
Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay until death. Whoever comes to stay, never leaves. Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Blind and silenced, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children's beds for nights on end. So accustomed to her have the townsfolk become that they often forget she's there. Or what a threat she poses. Because if the stitches are ever cut open, the story goes, the whole town will die. The curse must not be allowed to spread. The elders of Black Spring have used high-tech surveillance to quarantine the town. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town's teenagers decide to break the strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into a dark nightmare.
"I do not believe that there has been anything lost in the translation by Nancy Forest-Flier from the Dutch original. Olde Heuvelt has written a compelling story rich in imagination and history which is undeniably haunting. Hex is truly absorbing with an easy style of writing that leads you into the world of Black Spring and keeps you locked into the horrifying events as they unfold."
If you visit the Temple and ask nicely for forgiveness, you might get it - assuming you aren't Lord Archias and you haven't killed the Goddess's favorite musician, Lysippus. But even goddesses are expected to follow certain rules, and as much as she wants to punish Lord Archias it seems her troublesome, all-powerful father forbids it. So the Goddess will just have to get around that by forgiving Lord Archias if he can manage some simple - or, rather, seemingly impossible - tasks. A Goddess has to do what a goddess has to do.
"This book is more about the journey, the exploration, and the arguments that lead to the titular downfall of the gods. I can't really tell you what this book has to offer because it is something you have to see for yourself. This is story that needs to be experienced, and I will wholeheartedly recommend that you experience what it has to offer."
The Sudden Appearance of Hope is an excellent novel, one that looks at complex themes with much more depth before providing a biased social commentary. There is barely any escapism to be found here. This book will engage you with the prevalent social issues of today (mid-2016), making you pause and think about our pursuit of perfection as defined by Hollywood and the mainstream media.
Kell is plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, he is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila. As Red London prepares for the Element Games - an extravagant international competition of magic - a certain pirate ship draws closer. But another London is coming back to life, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning. Black London has risen again - and so to keep magic's balance, another London must fall.
"Although I wasn't a big fan of A Darker Shade of Magic, I found that I was unable to put down A Gathering of Shadows. The characters are a lot more engaging and the supporting characters feel more well rounded, with the inclusion of other empires the world is far larger and it was really interesting to get other points of view on magic in a world full of it. There are many plot points leading into the next novel, but the cliffhanger really does make you hope that the third book will be coming sooner rather than later as it leaves you wondering what will happen to each of the characters!"
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic #2
THE CHECQUY: A centuries-old covert organization that protects the nation from supernatural threat. THE GRAFTERS: A centuries-old supernatural threat. After centuries of rivalry and bloodshed, two secret and otherworldly organisations - The Checquy and The Grafters - are on the verge of joining forces, and only one person has the supernatural skills - and the bureaucratic finesse - to get the job done: Myfanwy Thomas. But as a wave of gruesome atrocities sweep London, ingrained paranoias flare, old hatreds ignite and negotiations grind to a halt. It is up to Myfanwy to find the culprits before they trigger a devastating, all-out, supernatural war between the reluctant allies.
"Stiletto will make you laugh out loud and cringe in horror, but will never leave you bored. Whether you’re a fan of urban fantasy, London, or whether you just enjoy good writing, Stiletto must make an appearance on your bookshelf, electronic or wooden, soon. This is definitely one of my favourite books so far this year, and I can’t wait for more."
Series: The Checquy Files #2
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city, a grisly metropolis where the violence has begun to create real and deadly monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the inhabitants pay for his protection. August just wants to be human, as good-hearted as his own father but his curse is to be what the humans fear. The thin truce that keeps the Harker and Flynn families at peace is crumbling, and an assassination attempt forces Kate and August into a tenuous alliance. But how long will they survive in a city where no one is safe and monsters are real...
"This is an intriguing start to a new series, there are a lot of questions about who ultimately benefits from the truce ending, will it be humanity or the monsters?"
Series: Monsters of Verity #1
Alex Verus has a magic shop in Camden, London, and an uncanny ability to see the future. But suddenly everyone can see Alex's future. Because the Mage's Council of Great Britain just named him a traitor and ordered his death in seven days' time, and there's no way anyone can get out of that. Alex's friends - Luna and the other apprentices he's taken in - are tainted by association. They'll be marked for death too when the ruling comes into play, and Alex becomes locked in a race against time to save them. But with only seven days to work with, will he have time left over save his own skin?
"Benedict Jacka books, no matter how far into the series we progress, remain must-reads for anyone reading this review. Benedict Jacka writes books that I can’t put down, turn aside, or sleep on. They must be read immediately, and I am left an emotional wreck once they finish, knowing that I have to wait months until I can return to the company of some of my favourite characters."
Series: Alex Verus series: Book 7
Labrys Town, home to a million humans cut off from the rest of the universe, has been invaded. Those who protected it have been deposed. The Relic Guild are scattered across the worlds of the Aelfir. Many of them are dead or dying. The Genii control everything. The war is almost over. Clara, a young woman barely able to control her werewolf side, has seen her friends and mentors killed in front of her. She is the last hope for Labrys Town. But someone else is watching...
Series: Relic Guild Trilogy #3
Set 'In Britain's land beyond the seas' during the Age of Chivalry, The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun tells of a childless Breton Lord and Lady (the 'Aotrou' and 'Itroun' of the title) and the tragedy that befalls them when Aotrou seeks to remedy their situation with the aid of a magic potion obtained from a corrigan, or malevolent fairy. When the potion succeeds and Itroun bears twins, the corrigan returns seeking her fee, and Aotrou is forced to choose between betraying his marriage and losing his life.
"The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun is a wonderful addition to any Tolkien fan's collection, and in a way other editions haven't, expands our knowledge of Tolkien's ability and interests."
When it's your job to save the day - where do you start? Librarian spy Irene has standards to maintain, especially while on probation. And absconding from a mission via a besieged building doesn't look good. But when her escape route home goes up in flames, what's a spy to do? However, it seems Gates back to the Library are malfunctioning across dozens of worlds. Worse still, her nemesis Alberich is responsible -and he plans to annihilate the Library itself. Irene and assistant Kai are posted to St Petersburg, to help combat this threat. Here Alberich emerges, as Irene tries to save her friend Vale and foil assassination attempts. Then one incredibly dangerous opportunity to save the Library emerges. Saving herself would be a bonus…
"This is not just an admirable follow up, but an author in complete control of her talent and her characters. The Burning Page is not only hard to put down, it’s hard to walk away from."
Series: The Invisible Library Series #3
As the roar of the guns subsides and the smoke of battle clears, the country of Vordan is offered a fragile peace... After their shattering defeats at the hands of brilliant General Janus bet Vhalnich, the opposing powers have called all sides to the negotiating table in hopes of securing an end to the war. Queen Raesinia of Vordan is anxious to see the return of peace, but Janus insists that any peace with the implacable Sworn Church of Elysium is doomed to fail. For their Priests of the Black, there can be no truce with heretics and demons they seek to destroy, and the war is to the death. Soldiers Marcus d'Ivoire and Winter Ihernglass find themselves caught between their general and their queen. Now, each must decide which leader truly commands their loyalty--and what price they might pay for final victory. And in the depths of Elysium, a malign force is rising--and defeating it might mean making sacrifices beyond anything they have ever imagined.
"The Guns of Empire serves to further cement Django Wexler as one of the best authors currently writing, and his work as truly spellbinding. I am as excited and eager for the next book in the series as I am any author’s work, and am secretly pulling for a deus ex machina plot twist to save at least one of the characters from being stone dead."
Series: The Shadow Campaigns #4
Ceda, now a Blade Maiden in service to the kings of Sharakhai, trains as one of their elite warriors, gleaning secrets even as they send her on covert missions to further their rule. She knows the dark history of the asirim--that hundreds of years ago they were enslaved to the kings against their will--but when she bonds with them as a Maiden, chaining them to her, she feels their pain as if her own. They hunger for release, they demand it, but with the power of the gods compelling them, they find their chains unbreakable. Ceda could become the champion they've been waiting for, but the need to tread carefully has never been greater. After their recent defeat at the hands of the rebel Moonless Host, the kings are hungry for blood, scouring the city in their ruthless quest for revenge. Ceda's friend Emre and his new allies in the Moonless Host hope to take advantage of the unrest in Sharakhai, despite the danger of opposing the kings and their god-given powers, and the Maidens and their deadly ebon blades. When Ceda and Emre are drawn into a plot of the blood mage Hamzakiir, they learn a devastating secret that may very well shatter the power of the hated kings. But it may all be undone if Ceda cannot learn to navigate the shifting tides of power in Sharakhai and control the growing anger of the asirim that threatens to overwhelm her...
"The pacing in With Blood Upon the Sand is great, it is very descriptive and yet never boring. You really get a sense of fear for the characters wellbeing, not just physically, but emotionally. The story is very inventive with lots of twists making it heart-rending. Çeda’s story has a long way to go and I can only imagine that we are in for a tempestuous ride, especially with how the book ended on such a fantastic cliff-hanger."
Series: The Song of the Shattered Sands #2
Lovelace was once merely a ship's artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has to start over in a synthetic body, in a world where her kind are illegal. She's never felt so alone. But she's not alone, not really. Pepper, one of the engineers who risked life and limb to reinstall Lovelace, is determined to help her adjust to her new world. Because Pepper knows a thing or two about starting over. Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that, huge as the galaxy may be, it's anything but empty.
"I really loved A Closed and Common Orbit and although I thought I would miss the characters from the previous book, after the first chapter I was engaged with the new direction this book was taking as both Sidra and Pepper are so compelling that you find yourself being drawn into their world with all of its intricacies, leaving you with little time to think about Jenks, Kizzy and the others. Chambers brings so much warmth to her characters that I never want the story to end."
Series: Wayfarers #2
This world and all worlds are fated to end. The prophet, Jychanumun, has tried to prevent it. He has spent millennia walking between life and death to find a way. The powerful Shaa-kutu have tried to prevent it. They have fought with wits and weapons and given their all. Despite their best, nothing seems capable of stopping the formidable Arrunn from completing his final fateful move. So, can Tachra change that fate? Tachra stands between shadow and light. She has no tools or weapons, only the Earth power and true-vision. Perhaps her fellow humans will ascend to greater knowledge and unlock a new discovery. Or, if she can decipher the Book of Fate, perhaps that will hold a key to saving them all. But when that last prophecy comes, will she make the right choice?
"I have been highly impressed by Turner’s trilogy throughout. I’ve loved the ambition, the attempt to bring something fresh to the genre and I’ve also liked the style, the pacing and the thoughtfulness imbued throughout the work."
Series: The Chronicles of Fate and Choice: Book 3