This year I’ve had some real reading highs, from having my own Bookstagram and reviewing on there, to joining the wonderful team at FanFiAddict. I’ve read so many amazing books that it was really hard to pick favourites this year, however I’ve managed to whittle down to a top 5, followed by some worthy honourable mentions.
My Top Reads of 2023
5. The Ferryman – Justin Cronin
I was sent an ARC of this and it sits proudly on my shelf, both because the cover is gorgeous and the Truman Show-esque plot is pure genius. The Ferryman has a carefully weaved and detailed world that I was fully invested in. The characters were filled with such emotional depth and Cronin’s writing style is an enveloping mass of mystery and science. This was not just a novel, but a dystopian experience that many authors strive to achieve. We examine social and human nature set in a seemingly ideal world managed by the wealthy, served by those less fortunate. There are secrets and truths to be discovered if you pay attention, and trust me, it’s worth it. Not a typical read for me, but The Ferryman has found it’s way onto my favourites shelf.
4. Yumi & The Nightmare Painter – Brandon Sanderson
Being a big Sanderson fan, it was refreshing to delve into a completely new and truly magical world in Yumi and the Nightmare Painter. A Final Fantasy X-inspired book with calls to Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name is something that I will immediately love and it feels like Sanderson has really upped the game here.
From completely different worlds, when Yumi and Painter are unexpectedly forced together, their test is to put their differences aside to uncover the mystery of their situation and save each other’s community for disaster. No book can be truly perfect, but this reading experience certainly felt that way. Our heroes feeling utterly hopeless within themselves contradicts everything we come to expect in our leading characters, but Sanderson’s poetic exploration of these relationships helps them and us discover what it truly means to be a hero.
Yumi is a great starting point for new fans looking to enter into the Cosmere, and a thrilling addition to the Universe for OG fans like myself.
3. The Will of the Many – James Islington
I haven’t read Islington’s work before, so picking up The Will of the Many was purely based on the hype around it.
A young fugitive finds himself at the Catenan Academy, an elite magic school, where he must uncover the mystery behind a recent murder and an ancient weapon that have the potential to change the world as he knows it.
This was a momentous story that reminded me just how much I adore breathtakingly new ideas and worlds. I was incredibly invested in this story and I couldn’t stop turning the pages until that very last shocking page. A brilliant Roman-inspired fantasy with a touch of academia and a whole load of secrets that took me by surprise. With book two hopefully set for release soon, this is going to be a series that I will reread for many years to come.
2. Of War and Ruin – Ryan Cahill
It’s no secret that I’m a Bound and the Broken fanboy and Of War and Ruin was no exception. At a whopping 1477 pages, I somehow still needed it to be longer to satiate my need for more stories set in Epheria. The sheer imaginative nostalgic fantasy that Ryan Cahill has produced is unmatched and it is evident throughout this brilliant series. Of War and Ruin lives up to its name and is a testament to modern fantasy. Ryan has not only cemented himself as the fantasy author to watch out for, but his emotional scenes coupled with incredible action sequences make him stand out as one of the greats. This is the series at its highest point and with book four on the horizon, it’s going to be really hard for me to focus on anything else in 2024.
1. In Ascension – Martin MacInnes
I think In Ascension landing my number one spot may come as a surprise to people, myself included! At the beginning of 2023 this book was not on my radar, and so to be ending the year with it as my favourite read is a testament to how mind-blowing this novel truly is.
Our lead character Leigh joins an exploration team who have discovered a trench in the Atlantic, where they come across something that calls into question everything we think we know about our own beginnings. In Ascension was thrilling and engaging from the very start. MacInnes writing is profound and mysterious, and whilst at times complicated, this feels fitting for the momentous journey we take from the deepest depths of the ocean to the farthest reaches of space. MacInnes has written a genre-defying novel of science and fiction that makes us question everything we thought we knew. The way that MacInnes has written the complexity of relationships through memory is incredibly emotive and relatable as a reader, and really makes you think about personal growth and how events truly effect us. Martin MacInnes has written In Ascension to be the epic illumination of hope that lights up the human heart.
Let’s move on to the Honourable Mentions that were so close to being at the top of the pile and deserve the spotlight here.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Holly Jackson
I listened to the audiobook of this which was fantastic. The production of this murder-mystery novel was top notch and really elevated the experience. Highly rate this one for fans of mystery books. It kept me guessing until the very end.
Thrice – Andrew D. Meredith
I picked this up on a whim and I read books one and two back to back. I was fascinated by just how much Meredith fit into these stories and I cannot wait for book three. A small fantasy book with a massive impact that had me rooting for these characters from the very beginning. This is on track to be an absolute favourite series of mine.
Eleventh Cycle – Kian N. Ardalan
Ardalan gifts us with incredible writing that slowly unravels in such a satisfying way, creating a brutal world full of gods and monsters in which he manages to both horrify and entice us at the same time. This is shaping up to be a truly spectacular series and I cannot wait for book two.
Assassin – Andy Peloquin
This was a grim story filled with an epic mythology and Andy immersed us in how vast the world is. There are gods, wars, secrets and I was fascinated by how grand this story was and how it held my attention. This is a book of hurt and hope and Andy deserves to be on everyone’s radar. I’ll be reading more of this series as soon as possible.
The Shadow Gate – LL MacRae
Book One, The Iron Crown, already held a massive scope but The Shadow Gate built on this tenfold. Some exciting new characters join our well-loved cast, and this leads to some really interesting interactions created by MacRae which feel unique and refreshing. MacRae doesn’t shy away from letting us work out the plot for ourselves, fully immersing us into her creation of dragons, magic and crafting, that leaves us yearning for more.
Seeds of War – João F. Silva
Silva masterfully tells his tale from the perspective of different generations in a way that evokes a great empathy for these well developed characters. The unique magic system of inhaling smoke to harness new abilities is effortlessly woven into the story, and I am really looking forward to seeing where Silva takes things in book two.
The Fear of Moncroix – Bryan Asher
Whilst this was a quick read, the author doesn’t fail to deliver a brilliant new world full of action and an eclectic cast of characters. In a market saturated with Vampire novels, Asher has managed to create a truly special interconnected universe that I highly recommend delving into.
The Rivener – Garrett Godsey
The Rivener itself is evolutionary and unravels vividly as we read. The point-of-views of the characters are well-balanced and Godsey investment into their personalities really paid off. The plot was impressive and on a constant rise. Whilst the story may have been slightly confusing in the beginning, once it found its feet, the journey was an interesting mix of supernatural reminiscence and philosophical reality that gut-punched us at every turn.
The Crystal Shore – Jo de-Lancey
For a character-driven adventure set on the seas filled with great plot and a unique story, classic banter, and hints of magic, check out Jo de-Lancey’s The Crystal Shore and be excited for book two with me. Highlights of the book for me was the nod to the classic Final Fantasy games, and that shocking ending.
The Seam of Eternity – Rocco Levitas
The story was a classic fantasy telling but it had enough uniqueness in itself to keep me entertained and intrigued. Like Jordan did with Tolkien, Levitas does with Sanderson and adds such a creative development of characters, world, and magic that I’m all aboard the Seam-train.
A Dagger in the Dark – Tom Dumbrell
I credit Tom with a lot of my indie reading journey, and A Dagger in the Dark was something truly special. Tom has taken the quintessential pirate story and created a high stake swashbuckling adventure that is a unique storytelling experience, and I was left kind of gutted it isn’t a full novel.