Below you will find a list of the fantasy books published in 2019 that we enjoyed most.
by Guy Gavriel Kay
In a chamber overlooking the nighttime waterways of a maritime city, a man looks back on his youth and the people who shaped his life. Danio Cerra's intelligence won him entry to a renowned school, though he was only the son of a tailor. He took service at the court of a ruling count - and soon learned why that man was known as The Beast.
Danio's fate changed the moment he recognized Adria Ripoli as she entered the count's chambers one night - intending to kill. Born to power, Adria had chosen a life of danger - and freedom - instead.
Other vivid figures share the story: a healer determined to defy her expected lot; a charming, frivolous son of immense wealth; a religious leader more decadent than devout; and, affecting these lives and many more, two mercenary commanders, whose rivalry puts a world in the balance.
"Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Brightness Long Ago is a masterpiece; perhaps the finest work of one of the world’s greatest living storytellers." Adam Weller, Fantasy Book Review
by Ann Leckie
For centuries the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by a god known as the Raven. But in their hour of need, the Raven speaks nothing to its people. It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo - aide to the true heir to the throne - arrives. In seeking to help his master reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven's Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself... and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.
"The Raven Tower is a magisterial tour de force of subverted narrative expectations that wrestles with what it means to find identity as a human, and as a god. Unlike anything being written, Ann Leckie will likely be remembered as a literary pioneer, and not as similar to someone else. A masterpiece of storytelling that leaves a willing reader humbled, The Raven Tower is quite simply the best book of the year – mighty, subtle, captivating, unputdownable."
by Samantha Shannon
A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
by Seanan McGuire
Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.
Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.
Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.
Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.
Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.
"Alternate timelines, manifestations, Hands of Glory, alchemy, Doctrine of Ethos and immortality and and and GODDAMN. McGuire provides a clinic in storytelling with Middlegame. This is her magnum opus (so far!) It’s magical... truly magical. I could not love it more!!!"
by Jay Kristoff
The greatest games in Godsgrave’s history have ended with the most audacious murders in the history of the Itreyan Republic.
Mia Corvere, gladiatii, escaped slave and infamous assassin, is on the run. Pursued by Blades of the Red Church and soldiers of the Luminatii legion, she may never escape the City of Bridges and Bones alive. Her mentor Mercurio is now in the clutches of her enemies. Her own family wishes her dead. And her nemesis, Consul Julius Scaeva, stands but a breath from total dominance over the Republic.
But beneath the city, a dark secret awaits. Together with her lover Ashlinn, brother Jonnen and a mysterious benefactor returned from beyond the veil of death, she must undertake a perilous journey across the Republic, seeking the final answer to the riddle of her life. Truedark approaches. Night is falling on the Republic for perhaps the final time.
"Conclusions are hard to do. How can you satisfy an audience after such a thrilling buildup? If you’re seeking Big Moments, this book is just lousy with them. Whether you’re pumping your fist or definitely-in-no-way-crying-nope-not-me, Kristoff has saved his best for last, delivering powerful, emotional, game-changing reveals meant to shock, stun, and grind you to a pulp. As Mia’s prestige rises, all her wins feels earned and it is immensely satisfying. Every victory, however small, is clawed for with every ounce of effort available. You feel with Mia. You hurt with Mia. And you certainly lose with Mia. If you’ve read this far, you don’t need my recommendation, you’ll be buying this book no matter what. Be assured that Darkdawn solidifies the Nevernight Chronicles as one of fantasy’s all-time greats."
Series: The Nevernight Chronicle #3
by Josiah Bancroft
Fearing an uprising, the Sphinx sends Senlin to investigate a plot that has taken hold in the ringdom of Pelphia. Alone in the city, Senlin infiltrates a bloody arena where hods battle for the public's entertainment. But his investigation is quickly derailed by a gruesome crime and an unexpected reunion.
Posing as a noble lady and her handmaid, Voleta and Iren attempt to reach Marya, who is isolated by her fame. While navigating the court, Voleta attracts the unwanted attention of a powerful prince whose pursuit of her threatens their plan.
Edith, now captain of the Sphinx's fierce flagship, joins forces with a fellow wakeman to investigate the disappearance of a beloved friend. She must decide who to trust as her desperate search brings her nearer to the Black Trail where the hods climb in darkness and whisper of the Hod King.
As Senlin and his crew become further dragged in to the conspiracies of the Tower, everything falls to one question: Who is The Hod King?
"It’s been a wonder and a pleasure to experience Thomas Senlin’s progression from underconfident headmaster to competent, resourceful leader who not only demands respect but proves worthy of it through his loyalty and determination. The Hod King is an absolute classic, and while I did find myself eager to read the Senlin POV, and found myself heavily invested in the outcome for Tom and Marya, Bancroft’s impassioned writing and obvious enthusiasm for his creations made me care about the secondary characters almost equally. While Senlin Ascends remains my favorite Book of Babel thus far, I’d place The Hod King, by far the darkest of the three at a very close second. Bring on the finale! "
Series: The Books of Babel #3
by Mark Lawrence
THEY CAME AGAINST HER AS A CHILD. NOW THEY FACE THE WOMAN.
The ice is advancing, the Corridor narrowing, and the empire is under siege from the Scithrowl in the east and the Durns in the west. Everywhere, the emperor’s armies are in retreat.
Nona faces the final challenges that must be overcome if she is to become a full sister in the order of her choice. But it seems unlikely that Nona and her friends will have time to earn a nun’s habit before war is on their doorstep.
Even a warrior like Nona cannot hope to turn the tide of war.
The shiphearts offer strength that she might use to protect those she loves, but it’s a power that corrupts. A final battle is coming in which she will be torn between friends, unable to save them all. A battle in which her own demons will try to unmake her.
A battle in which hearts will be broken, lovers lost, thrones burned.
"An exceptional series and by far my favourite of Mark Lawrence’s work. It has that something that sets it apart. It has the deft, unexpected characterisation, the perfect turn of phrase, the killer hook we’ve seen before in his other series, but this has a magic all of its own. I can’t explain it and I’m not going to try. I cheered and I cried. Then I cried some more. I was surprised, amused, and devastated. The author snuck in some stuff that I can’t even talk about because its spoilery, but damn I didn’t see that coming. As for a happy ending? Well, you know who wrote it, right??? That’s all I’m saying. Make sure this is on your 2019 reading list. Highly recommended."
Series: Book of the Ancestor #3
by Joe Abercrombie
War. Politics. Revolution. The Age of Madness has arrived... The chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep as ever. On the blood-soaked borders of Angland, Leo dan Brock struggles to win fame on the battlefield, and defeat the marauding armies of Stour Nightfall. He hopes for help from the crown. But King Jezal's son, the feckless Prince Orso, is a man who specialises in disappointments. Savine dan Glokta - socialite, investor, and daughter of the most feared man in the Union - plans to claw her way to the top of the slag-heap of society by any means necessary. But the slums boil over with a rage that all the money in the world cannot control. The age of the machine dawns, but the age of magic refuses to die. With the help of the mad hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, Rikke struggles to control the blessing, or the curse, of the Long Eye. Glimpsing the future is one thing, but with the guiding hand of the First of the Magi still pulling the strings, changing it will be quite another...
"This book is exceptional. Indisputably, spectacularly, criminally good. Clever, funny, and packed with cutting commentary, it’s well worth the wait."
Series: The Age of Madness: Book 1
by Jen Williams
All is chaos. All is confusion. The Jure'lia are weak, but the war is far from over.
Ebora was once a glorious city, defended by legendary warriors and celebrated in song. Now refugees from every corner of Sarn seek shelter within its crumbling walls, and the enemy that has poisoned their land won't lie dormant for long.
The deep-rooted connection that Tormalin, Noon and the scholar Vintage share with their Eboran war-beasts has kept them alive so far. But with Tor distracted, and his sister Hestillion hell-bent on bringing ruthless order to the next Jure'lia attack, the people of Sarn need all the help they can get.
Noon is no stranger to playing with fire and knows just where to recruit a new - and powerful - army. But even she underestimates the epic quest that is to come. It is a journey wrought with pain and sacrifice - a reckoning that will change the face of Sarn forever.
"An exceptional finale that exceeded every expectation and which epitomises the kind of inventive, diverse, and emotional fantasy writing the genre really needs. Everything about this series is so creative, so vibrant and refreshingly different that it almost needs to come with a caution. Beware reader, this is ground untrodden, an exhilarating yet hazardous journey. Your heart is in danger. You have been warned." Emma Davis, Fantasy Book Review
Series: The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #3
by Sam Sykes
Among humans, none have power like mages. And among mages, none have will like Sal the Cacophony. Once revered, now vagrant, she walks a wasteland scarred by generations of magical warfare.
The Scar, a land torn between powerful empires, is where rogue mages go to disappear, disgraced soldiers go to die and Sal went with a blade, a gun and a list of names she intended to use both on.
But vengeance is a flame swift extinguished. Betrayed by those she trusted most, her magic torn from her and awaiting execution, Sal the Cacophony has one last tale to tell before they take her head.
All she has left is her name, her story and the weapon she used to carved both.
Vengeance is its own reward.
"At almost 700 pages, I can't help but admire the sheer skill and cleverness of the plot that unfolds throughout this wrist-breaker. It never felt bogged down or excessively long. Sal's blood-soaked backstory was handled brilliantly by Sykes and added some truly gut-punchy moments. His timing is just utter perfection! Complex characters, great dialogue, intense action, a compellingly bonkers magic system, intricate worldbuilding, brutal violence, humor, romance, A FUCKING GIANT RIDING BIRD NAMED CONGENIALITY. I just adored this book so completely!"
Series: The Grave of Empires: Book 1
by Angela Boord
A secret affair. A disfiguring punishment. A burning need for revenge.
Kyrra d’Aliente has a bad reputation and an arm made of metal.
Cast out of the safe and luxurious world of silk to which she was born, played as a pawn in a game of feuding Houses, Kyrra navigates a dangerous world of mercenaries, spies, and smugglers while disguising herself as a man.
War destroyed her family and the man she loved.
Vengeance is within her grasp.
But is she willing to pay its price?
"Boord has given us a rare novel that combines crisp, cadenced prose with wonderful, deep, complex characters and a twisting plot that keeps you guessing all set in a brilliantly realized fantasy world. It will appeal especially to fans of Robin Hobb, with prose every bit as evocative and characters every bit as authentic as that master storyteller. Fortune’s Fool should be on the top of your TBR pile. This is a rare piece of storytelling that is beautiful, compelling, and demands to be read. I can’t wait for the sequel and to see what gems Boord shares with us next."
Series: Eterean Empire: Book 1
by Richard Nell
Follow the long, bloody journey of Ruka, son of Beyla through the islands of Pyu and the frozen wastes of the Ascom; see the return home of Ratama Kale Alaku, the 'Sorcerer-Prince', and the terrifying rise of his 'miracles'. Before the end, a shocking history will unravel, ancient connections unfold, and all will learn the cost of unleashing the Kings of Ash...
"Nell is one of fantasy’s most underrated (for now) talents, and I find it difficult to fathom how good this series is coming from an author so early in his career. I can only imagine what heights the future has in store for Nell, but I selfishly hope it consists solely of writing Kings of Heaven for now. In Kings of Ash, Nell has crafted a rare and unforgettable sequel that exceeds its predecessor. It will surprise and haunt you, while playing your emotions like an unfinished symphony. I give this series my highest recommendation. "
Series: Ash and Sand #2
by Evan Winter
"The Rage of Dragons explodes at a breakneck pace. Complex characters, dragons, revenge, ALL THE STABBY-STABBY-STAB-STAB. I adored everything about this book! The cover, the chapter titles, the maps, the wee dragon on the spine, the notes from Winter at the back... it was just fucking phenomenal. Truly. What a brilliant debut!"
The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable war for generations. The lucky ones are born gifted: some have the power to call down dragons, others can be magically transformed into bigger, stronger, faster killing machines.
Everyone else is fodder, destined to fight and die in the endless war. Tau Tafari wants more than this, but his plans of escape are destroyed when those closest to him are brutally murdered.
With too few gifted left the Omehi are facing genocide, but Tau cares only for revenge. Following an unthinkable path, he will strive to become the greatest swordsman to ever live, willing to die a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill three of his own people.
Series: The Burning #1
by R F Kuang
The war is over.
The war has just begun.
Three times throughout its history, Nikan has fought for its survival in the bloody Poppy Wars. Though the third battle has just ended, shaman and warrior Rin cannot forget the atrocity she committed to save her people. Now she is on the run from her guilt, the opium addiction that holds her like a vice, and the murderous commands of the fiery Phoenix—the vengeful god who has blessed Rin with her fearsome power.
Though she does not want to live, she refuses to die until she avenges the traitorous Empress who betrayed Rin’s homeland to its enemies. Her only hope is to join forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who plots to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new republic.
But neither the Empress nor the Dragon Warlord are what they seem. The more Rin witnesses, the more she fears her love for Nikan will force her to use the Phoenix’s deadly power once more.
Because there is nothing Rin won’t sacrifice to save her country . . . and exact her vengeance.
"This is a story of self-worth and determination, of finding value in life when your strengths are stripped away. It shines a light on some of the worst aspects of humanity which are sadly still reflective of our current society. It is a story of tragedy and loss, of anger and hypocrisy, of perseverance and triumph. Kuang excels at wreaking emotional havoc while delivering a powerful meditation on war and survival. It is a compelling follow-up to a landmark debut, so make sure you visit The Dragon Republic."
Series: The Poppy War #2
by Melissa Caruso
While winter snows keep the Witch Lord Ruven's invading armies at bay, Lady Amalia Cornaro and the fire warlock Zaira attempt to change the fate of mages in the Raverran Empire forever, earning the enmity of those in power who will do anything to keep all magic under tight imperial control. But in the season of the Serene City's great masquerade, Ruven executes a devastating surprise strike at the heart of the Empire - and at everything Amalia holds most dear.
To stand a chance of defeating Ruven, Amalia and Zaira must face their worst nightmares, expose their deepest secrets, and unleash Zaira's most devastating fire.
"A phenomenally well-written, engrossing political fantasy series with fine dialogue throughout. Swords and Fire is a series that many more people should add to their reading list."
Series: Swords and Fire #3
by M H Boroson
The adventures of Li-lin, a Daoist priestess with the unique ability to see the spirit world, continue in the thrilling follow-up to the critically-acclaimed historical urban fantasy The Girl with Ghost Eyes.
It’s the end of the Nineteenth Century. San Francisco’s cobblestone streets are haunted, but Chinatown has an unlikely protector in a young Daoist priestess named Li-lin. Using only her martial arts training, spiritual magic, a sword made from peachwood, and the walking, talking spirit of a human eye, Li-lin stands alone to defend her immigrant community from supernatural threats.
But when the body of a young girl is brought to the deadhouse Li-lin oversees for a local group of gangsters, she faces her most bewildering—and potentially dangerous—assignment yet. The nine-year-old has died from suffocation . . . specifically by flowers growing out of her nose and mouth. Li-lin suspects Gong Tau, a dirty and primitive form of dark magic. But who is behind the spell, and why, will take her on a perilous journey deep into a dangerous world of ghosts and spirits.
With hard historical realism and meticulously researched depictions of Chinese monsters and magic that have never been written about in the English language, The Girl with No Face draws from the action-packed cinema of Hong Kong to create a compelling and unforgettable tale of historical fantasy and Chinese lore.
"I cannot recall a book that has taken me out of my own head and pulled me this deep into its lore. If you have any interest in any of the topics mentioned above, go grab a copy off NetGalley now, pre-order it off a retailer, or go pick up the first volume of the series."
Series: The Daoishi Chronicles #2
by Peter McLean
Tomas Piety has been many things: soldier, priest, gangster...and spy. As Tomas's power grows, the nobility better watch their backs, in this dark and gritty epic fantasy series.
People are weak, and the poorer and more oppressed they are, the weaker they become--until they can't take it anymore. And when they rise up...may the gods help their oppressors.
When Tomas Piety returned from the war, he just wanted to rebuild his empire of crime with his gang of Pious Men. But his past as a spy for the Queen's Men drew him back in and brought him more power than he ever imagined.
Now, with half of his city in ashes and the Queen's Men at his back, the webs of political intrigue stretch out from the capital to pull Tomas in. Dannsburg is calling.
In Dannsburg the nobility fight with words, not blades, but the results are every bit as bloody. In this pit of beasts, Tomas must decide once and for all whether he is truly the people's champion...or just a priest of lies.
Series: War for the Rose Throne #2
by Justin Call
You have heard the story before - of a young boy, orphaned through tragic circumstances, raised by a wise old man, who comes to a fuller knowledge of his magic and uses it to fight the great evil that threatens his world.
But what if the boy hero and the malevolent, threatening taint were one and the same?
What if the boy slowly came to realize he was the reincarnation of an evil god? Would he save the world . . . or destroy it?
Among the Academy's warrior-thieves, Annev de Breth is an outlier. Unlike his classmates who were stolen as infants from the capital city, Annev was born in the small village of Chaenbalu, was believed to be executed, and then unknowingly raised by his parents' killers.
Seventeen years later, Annev struggles with the burdens of a forbidden magic, a forgotten heritage, and a secret deformity. When he is subsequently caught between the warring ideologies of his priestly mentor and the Academy's masters, he must choose between forfeiting his promising future at the Academy or betraying his closest friends. Each decision leads to a deeper dilemma, until Annev finds himself pressed into a quest he does not wish to fulfil.
Will he finally embrace the doctrine of his tutors, murder a stranger, and abandon his mentor? Or will he accept the more difficult truth of who he is . . . and the darker truth of what he may become . . .
Series: The Silent Gods #1