Doing a top reads post sounded very exciting until I actually had to do it. Good thing is I don’t have to do one for another whole year. I will say straight up that following Indie authors on Bookstagram/Twitter is destructive to one’s TBR. They keep bigging up one another’s books and have nice covers that any sort of planned TBR I attempt to hold on to is just fruitless. But on the flipside, I am really, really loving Indie Fantasy- 7 out of my top 10 are Indie books.
Also, there is no ranking order within my top 10. I love all of them.
- The Soul’s Aspect by Mark Holloway
This was a book I read in January and I still haven’t recovered from it. You can be a newcomer/well-versed/veteran of the fantasy genre- Mark Holloway is still going to break your heart. Every review I have seen for this book talks about how much pain the readers were caused by the author. It is one of the most well written books and accomplishes so much in so few pages. A medical apprenticeship, a magic school, a unique magic system, plot twists, some of the best friendships, a jungle battle royale, well developed side characters, religious differences, warring nations, heartbreak- the list goes on and on. I don’t know how the author blended a cozy story, a coming of age story, and an adult dark fantasy all within just one book but he nailed it. This is a direct quote from the author – “I love inflicting emotional damage on my readers.” So I’m cordially inviting all of you who haven’t tried the book yet to come suffer the same fate.
- Shadowless by Randall McNally
Again another read from January that still remains one of my top favorites for the whole year. One of the most unique fantasy books I’ve read. 20 chapters following 20 different characters with 20 different super powers. It takes a bit to adjust initially but when you start recognizing the overlap, it becomes as delicious as solving a jigsaw puzzle. Oh and dragons. I cannot wait to read the next book.
- Seeds of War by João F. Silva
Smoke magic + Adult protagonists + non stop action. There’s a reason multiple FFA reviewers have this book as one of their top favorites for 2023. All ye who enjoy ‘flawed protagonists who try their best while the world throws its worst at them’- You will have a feast with this book. The three main characters are so unique and so well developed that I always see new readers pick a different one as their most favorite. There is no consensus. Also, definitely try the prequel novella – it deserves its own spot on this list too. My subjective opinion is to read it after the first book for maximum enjoyment but it can be read before too.
- Stones of Light, Bonds of Chaos by Zack Argyle
Speaking of books deserving its own spot on this list, Zack Argyle actually takes up two spots on this list. It is a double feature because both of these books are so extraordinarily good. For all intents and purposes, I am like many fantasy readers allergic to picking up sequels. I am pretty sure I have 25+ ongoing series that I need to finish. I read the first chapter of Book 2 and I just couldn’t stop. It redefined the standards for middle books in an epic fantasy trilogy for me, there is only 1 chapter (out of 50) where people sit and talk, every other page something is going on.
Bonds of Chaos is simply a masterpiece. Stunning conclusion to an already awesome series.
Special plaudits to the audiobook version – Adam Gold has done top notch work.
- Jade City by Fonda Lee
I always have multiple current reads but this book stopped my other current reads and made me completely devote myself to this one. It had me waking up early just so I could read it before work. It made me think about the characters during work meetings. In short, it just devoured me. Minute spoilers – I was fortunate to attend a book signing event by the author and during the Q & A session, she was asked who’s her favorite character to write. Her answer – Bero. A character I’m certain is universally hated by the Green Bone fan base. Fonda Lee (affectionately & respectfully) is ruthless.
- The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
I know I’m 15+ years late to the party but The Blade Itself should just be classified as the 8th wonder of the world. It has become (and will always be) an all time favorite for me. I couldn’t stop raving about it after I finished the book and it took me 9 instagram story slides and a 6000 letter essay on goodreads to get it out of my system. Joe Abercrombie and Steven Pacey have become my top fantasy duo of all time and the audiobook version is the finest of all fantasy audiobooks.
- My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
This is the only non fantasy/sci-fi book in this list but I couldn’t not include it. No other author has extracted so much and such varied emotions from me. Hurting, Healing, Poignance and unbelievably funny – Backman can do it all. I have read 4 of his books so far and all 4 have made me laugh and made me cry. Välspelad Backman, riktigt välspelad.
Once again, special plaudits to Joan Walker for the audiobook version. Splendid work.
- Wistful Ascending by JCM Berne
Sentient Space Stations. Sentient SpaceShips. Sentient Space Bears. I am yet to write my full review for this one but it is easily, absolutely one of my top reads for the year. Fun, great action scenes, MC with depth, sarcasm, and an overall cozy vibe has been the bedrock of the Murderbot series for me. With just one book, JCM Berne has stolen the space opera part of my heart that Martha Wells was safeguarding previously and Hybrid Helix has become my new comfort sci-fi series.
- Sistah Samurai by Tatiana Obey
This is the only novella in my list. Even though it is a novella, it tells as complete and satisfying a story as any epic fantasy book. From the blurb: Afro Samurai meets The Sword of Kaigen in this anime-inspired novella. It has been my go-to recommendation for all of the ‘12 books to read in 2024 recommended by a friend’ challenges on Bookstagram. It is short and spectacular.