Monday, December 31, 2018

My favorite reads of 2018

There’s not a lot to recap as the calendar runs out on 2018. It was a slow and strange reading year for me. It was a year of less reading time and more DNFs than I can ever remember. I probably abandoned more books than I finished.

Wrapping up

Even some of those that I stayed with disappointed. A couple of series that I had enjoyed in the past came to very unsatisfying conclusions for me, but I felt I had to see them through. One bright spot in the series conclusions is also the first of my favorite reads of the year (not No. 1, mind you, just the first to be mentioned).

“Assassin’s Fate” by Robin Hobb. This was a very bittersweet book for me, so much so that I put off reading it for a long time after its release. I’ve known and loved FitzChivalry Farseer for more than two decades, and I felt certain this would be my last journey with him. It was not a perfect book nor the best in his tale, but it was, at least, a satisfying conclusion.


As in past years, thanks to the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, I delved into more self-published books this year, and I found three winners there, including my favorite read of the year.

“Orconomics” by J. Zachary Pike. This book is a finalist in the current edition of the SPFBO, but I discovered it before it was an entrant. Suffice it to say it was just what I needed in a blah reading year. “Orconomics” is a sharp and witty satire that’s laugh-out-loud funny, but Pike brings an impactful human element that you don’t often find in humorous fantasy. It’s a very emotional ride, and though I don’t generally like to rank my books in the year-end wrap, this was easily my favorite of the year.

“Where Loyalties Lie” by Rob J. Hayes. I’m a firm believer that there are not enough good pirate fantasy novels, and this winner of last year’s SPFBO contest gives us a very promising beginning to a saga. Hayes’ cast of characters is colorful and engaging, and the story is gritty and intense. There are a few pirate clichés to be found, but this is certainly no Disney production.

“Sufficiently Advanced Magic” by Andrew Rowe. The second place finisher in the SPFBO was not without its issues for me. Heavily inspired by RPGs and video games, those elements did, at times, take me out of the story, but in the end, Rowe managed to take those game puzzles and battles and infuse them with drama and tension. His characters and story won out over the gaming conventions that initially bothered me, and the book earned its place among my favorite reads.

Old favorites

As always, there are going to be some favorite authors that make the list year-after-year, and this year was no exception, though it did come with a couple of surprises.

“Christmas Eve” by Jim Butcher. It’s only a short story, a Christmas gift to fans, but for someone longing for the next visit with Harry Dresden, it was the best gift Butcher could have given (other than possibly a release date for “Peace Talks.”) It’s a story that entertains as only Butcher can, and also spoke to me personally as a parent. After some upheaval in his life the last few years, Butcher is apparently well underway with the next book. Fingers crossed it makes this list next year.

“Wrath of Empire” by Brian McClellan. As with all of McClellan’s books over the past several years, I went into this one expecting something great. I was not disappointed. I didn’t think he could possibly top the Powder Mage trilogy, but he’s reloaded with some of the smaller characters from those books and is delivering a tale just as compelling.

“Child of a Mad God” by R.A. Salvatore. This was one of the bigger surprises of the year for me. Once a favorite author, it had been about 15 years since I picked up a Salvatore book. I was initially disappointed that this was not a completely new project, but set in his Demon Wars world (which I was not a great fan of), but his protagonist Aoleyn won me over.


There are also a couple of favorite authors that I feel that I owe a bit of an apology, too. These are writers whose works I usually grab as soon as I possibly can, and I didn’t manage to make it to either book this year. Rest assured, though, “Grey Sister” by Mark Lawrence and “Iron Gold” by Pierce Brown will be my first two reads of 2019.

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