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John Gwynne Interview – Wrath and The Faithful and the Fallen
 

John Gwynne

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Larcout by K. A. Krantz – SPFBO Review
 

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Fantasy-Faction’s Best Fantasy Books of 2015

It’s getting harder and harder to be a well-read and up-to-date reviewer in fantasy these days. It’s also getting incredibly difficult to order the best of the year lists. I know that complaining that too many good books are being released probably isn’t an argument I will get much support for, but wow oh wow were there too many damned good books published in 2015, right? RIGHT!?

It’s not just the quality of the books, but the diversity of the fantasy genre worth applauding too. Take Empire Ascendant, The Grace of Kings, The Vagrant and Uprooted – these aren’t books being based on proven and familiar formulas. As I say though, this diversity does pose a problem for us in creating this Best Of list: how do you compare a grimdark book such as The Liar’s Key to a Pratchett novel to something as bold, grandiose and ambitious as The Grace of Kings?

Well, it has taken weeks and multiple debates/arguments amongst our community and staff members to come up with list and the order is still heavily debated. At the end of the day, the vast majority of fantasy fans will enjoy all 50 of these books. And how those fans rank them will depend on their particular preferences. The way we’ve tried to do it though is to imagine that a reader has come to us and asked, “What book published in 2015 should I read first?” We’d say ‘x’ (the book ranked at number one) and then, when they return and ask what to read next, we’d say ‘x’ (the book ranked at number two), and so on.

Before I leave you to check out our list, I’d just like to take a moment to say a huge congratulations and thank you to the authors and publicists across the world for continually raising the bar in our genre. I truly feel that in a few decades time 2014/2015 will be remembered as a highpoint in fantasy literature and a period where diversity was being encouraged, soaked up and appreciated.

Top 50

50. Skin by Ilka Tampke

Skin (cover small)

Southwest Britain, AD 43.

For the people of Caer Cad, ‘skin’ is their totem, their greeting, their ancestors, their land.

Ailia does not have skin. Abandoned at birth, she serves the Tribequeen of her township. Ailia is not permitted to marry, excluded from tribal ceremonies and, most devastatingly, forbidden to learn. But the Mothers, the tribal ancestors, have chosen her for another path.

Lured by the beautiful and enigmatic Taliesin, Ailia embarks on an unsanctioned journey to attain the knowledge that will protect her people from the most terrifying invaders they have ever faced.

Set in Iron-Age Britain on the cusp of Roman invasion, Skin is a thrilling, full-blooded, mesmerising novel about the collision of two worlds, and a young woman torn between two men.

49. The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic

The Dragon Engine (cover)

Five noble war heroes of Vagandrak get drunk one night and sign a contract – to journey to the Karamakkos in search of the Five Havens where, it is written, there is untold, abandoned wealth and, more importantly, the three Dragon Heads – jewels claimed to give unspeakable power and everlasting life to those who wield them.

But the Dragon Heads aren’t what they think, and the world has not encountered their like in generations!

Think Smaug was fierce? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

48. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the Forest (cover)

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

47. Sky Born by David Dalglish

Sky Born (cover small)

The first in an all new fantasy series from USA Today bestseller, David Dalglish.

The last remnants of humanity live on six islands floating high above the Endless Ocean, fighting a brutal civil war in the skies. The Seraphim, elite soldiers trained for aerial combat, battle one another while wielding elements of ice, fire and lightning.

The lives of their parents claimed in combat, twins Kael and Breanna Skyborn enter the Seraphim Academy to follow in their footsteps. There they will learn to harness the elements as weapons and fight at break-neck speeds while soaring high above the waters. But they must learn quickly, for a nearby island has set its hungry eyes upon their home. When the invasion comes, the twins must don their wings and ready their blades to save those they love from annihilation.

46. The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms

The Dragons of Heaven (cover small)

Missy Masters inherited more than the usual genetic cocktail from her estranged grandfather. She also got his preternatural control of shadows and his enduring legacy as the legendary vigilante superhero, Mr. Mystic.

After a little work, the costume fits okay, but Missy is far from experienced at fighting crime, so she journeys to China to seek the aid of Lung Huang, the ancient master who once guided her grandfather. She becomes embroiled in the politics of Lung Huang and his siblings, the allegedly mythical nine dragon-guardians of all creation.

When Lung Di—Lung Huang’s brother and mortal enemy—raises a magical barrier that cuts off China from the rest of the world, it falls to the new Mr. Mystic to prove herself by taking down the barrier.

It’s a superhero novel, a pulp fantasy novel, with lashings of kung fu, immense kick-ass dragons and an unfailingly sympathetic heroine—yes, it’s another wonderful Angry Robot title.

45. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Sorcerer to the Crown (cover)

Magic and mayhem collide with the British elite in this whimsical and sparkling debut.

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up.

But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

44. Trial of Intentions by Peter Orullian

Trial of Intentions (cover)

The gods who created this world have abandoned it. In their mercy, however, they chained the rogue god—and the monstrous creatures he created to plague mortalkind—in the vast and inhospitable wasteland of the Bourne. The magical Veil that contains them has protected humankind for millennia and the monsters are little more than tales told to frighten children. But the Veil has become weak and creatures of Nightmare have come through. To fight them, the races of men must form a great alliance to try and stop the creatures.

But there is dissent. One king won’t answer the call, his pride blinding him even to the poison in his own court. Another would see Convocation fail for his own political advantage. And still others believe Convocation is not enough. Some turn to the talents of the Sheason, who can shape the very essence of the world to their will. But their order is divided, on the brink of collapse.

Tahn Junell remembers friends who despaired in a place left barren by war. One of the few who have actually faced the unspeakable horde in battle, Tahn sees something else at work and wonders about the nature of the creatures on the other side of the Veil. He chooses to go to a place of his youth, a place of science, daring to think he can find a way to prevent slaughter, prevent war.

And his choices may reshape a world . . . .

The second title in the Vault of Heaven series, Peter Orullian’s Trial of Intentions is a mesmerizing fantasy epic that turns the conventions of the genre on its head.

43. The Iron Ship by K. M. McKinley

The Iron Ship (cover)

The order of the world is in turmoil. An age of industry is beginning, an age of machines fuelled by magic. Sprawling cities rise, strange devices stalk the land. New money brings new power. The balance between the Hundred Kingdoms is upset. For the first time in generations the threat of war looms.

In these turbulent days, fortunes can be won. Magic runs strong in the Kressind family. Six siblings strive – one to triumph in a world of men, one to survive murderous intrigue, one to master forbidden sorcery, one to wash away his sins, one to contain the terrible energies of his soul.

And one will do the impossible, by marrying the might of magic and iron in the heart of a great ship, to cross an ocean that cannot be crossed.

42. The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

The Providence of Fire (cover)

Brian Staveley’s The Providence of Fire, the second novel in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, a gripping new epic fantasy series.

The conspiracy to destroy the ruling family of the Annurian Empire is far from over.

Having learned the identity of her father’s assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, the people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy.

Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, renegade member of the empire’s most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.

Between Valyn and Adare is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with the help of two strange companions. The knowledge they possess of the secret history that shapes these events could save Annur or destroy it.

41. The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan

The Autumn Republic (cover)

The capital has fallen…

Field Marshal Tamas returns to his beloved country to find that for the first time in history, the capital city of Adro lies in the hands of a foreign invader. His son is missing, his allies are indistinguishable from his foes, and reinforcements are several weeks away.

An army divided…

With the Kez still bearing down upon them and without clear leadership, the Adran army has turned against itself. Inspector Adamat is drawn into the very heart of this new mutiny with promises of finding his kidnapped son.

All hope rests with one…

And Taniel Two-shot, hunted by men he once thought his friends, must safeguard the only chance Adro has of getting through this war without being destroyed…

The Autumn Republic is the epic conclusion that began with Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign.

Top 40

40. The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette De Bodard

The House of Shattered Wings (cover)

A superb murder mystery, on an epic scale, set against the fall out – literally – of a war in Heaven.

Paris has survived the Great Houses War – just. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens continue to live, love, fight and survive in their war-torn city, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over the once grand capital.

House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation. They may be the architects of its last, irreversible fall…

39. The Price of Valor by Django Wexler

The Price of Valor (cover)

In the latest Shadow Campaigns novel, Django Wexler continues his “epic fantasy of military might and magical conflict” following The Shadow Throne and The Thousand Names, as the realm of Vordan faces imminent threats from without and within.

In the wake of the King’s death, war has come to Vordan.

The Deputies-General has precarious control of the city, but it is led by a zealot who sees traitors in every shadow. Executions have become a grim public spectacle. The new queen, Raesinia Orboan, finds herself nearly powerless as the government tightens its grip and assassins threaten her life. But she did not help free the country from one sort of tyranny to see it fall into another. Placing her trust with the steadfast soldier Marcus D’Ivoire, she sets out to turn the tide of history.

As the hidden hand of the Sworn Church brings all the powers of the continent to war against Vordan, the enigmatic and brilliant general Janus bet Vhalnich offers a path to victory. Winter Ihernglass, newly promoted to command a regiment, has reunited with her lover and her friends, only to face the prospect of leading them into bloody battle.

And the enemy is not just armed with muskets and cannon. Dark priests of an ancient order, wielding forbidden magic, have infiltrated Vordan to stop Janus by whatever means necessary…

38. The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

The Traitor Baru Cormorant (cover)

The Traitor Baru Cormorant is an epic geopolitical fantasy about one woman’s mission to tear down an empire by learning how to rule it.

Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home and see red sails on the horizon.

The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They’ll conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She’ll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she’ll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free.

In a final test of her loyalty, the Masquerade will send Baru to bring order to distant Aurdwynn, a snake pit of rebels, informants, and seditious dukes. Aurdwynn kills everyone who tries to rule it. To survive, Baru will need to untangle this land’s intricate web of treachery – and conceal her attraction to the dangerously fascinating Duchess Tain Hu.

But Baru is a savant in games of power, as ruthless in her tactics as she is fixated on her goals. In the calculus of her schemes, all ledgers must be balanced, and the price of liberation paid in full.

37. Sword of the North by Luke Scull

Sword of the North (cover)

Some legends never die…

In The Grim Company, Luke Scull introduced a formidable and forbidding band of anti-heroes battling against ruthless Magelords and monstrous terrors. The adventure continues as the company—now broken—face new dangers on personal quests….

As Davarus Cole and his former companions were quick to discover, the White Lady’s victorious liberation of Dorminia has not resulted in the freedom they once imagined. Anyone perceived as a threat has been seized and imprisoned—or exiled to darker regions—leaving the White Lady’s rule unchallenged and absolute. But the White Lady would be wiser not to spurn her former supporters: Eremul the Halfmage has learned of a race of immortals known as the Fade, and if he cannot convince the White Lady of their existence, all of humanity will be in danger.

Far to the north, Brodar Kayne and Jerek the Wolf continue their odyssey to the High Fangs only to find themselves caught in a war between a demon horde and their enemy of old, the Shaman. And in the wondrous city of Thelassa, Sasha must overcome demons of her own.

36. Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan

Queen of Fire (cover)

In the thrilling conclusion to the “deftly and originally executed” (Booklist) New York Times bestselling trilogy, Vaelin Al Sorna must help his Queen reclaim her Realm. Only his enemy has a dangerous new collaborator, one with powers darker than Vaelin has ever encountered…

“The Ally is there, but only ever as a shadow, unexplained catastrophe or murder committed at the behest of a dark vengeful spirit. Sorting truth from myth is often a fruitless task.”

After fighting back from the brink of death, Queen Lyrna is determined to repel the invading Volarian army and regain the independence of the Unified Realm. Except, to accomplish her goals, she must do more than rally her loyal supporters. She must align herself with forces she once found repugnant—those who possess the strange and varied gifts of the Dark—and take the war to her enemy’s doorstep.

Victory rests on the shoulders of Vaelin Al Sorna, now named Battle Lord of the Realm. However, his path is riddled with difficulties. For the Volarian enemy has a new weapon on their side, one that Vaelin must destroy if the Realm is to prevail—a mysterious ally with the ability to grant unnaturally long life to her servants. And defeating one who cannot be killed is a nearly impossible feat, especially when Vaelin’s blood-song, the mystical power which has made him the epic fighter he is, has gone ominously silent…

35. Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier

Tower of Thorns (cover)

Award-winning author Juliet Marillier’s “lavishly detailed” Blackthorn & Grim series continues as a mysterious creature holds an enchanted and imperiled ancient Ireland in thrall.

Disillusioned healer Blackthorn and her companion, Grim, have settled in Dalriada to wait out the seven years of Blackthorn’s bond to her fey mentor, hoping to avoid any dire challenges. But trouble has a way of seeking out Blackthorn and Grim.

Lady Geiléis, a noblewoman from the northern border, has asked for the prince of Dalriada’s help in expelling a howling creature from an old tower on her land—one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Casting a blight over the entire district, and impossible to drive out by ordinary means, it threatens both the safety and the sanity of all who live nearby. With no ready solutions to offer, the prince consults Blackthorn and Grim.

As Blackthorn and Grim begin to put the pieces of this puzzle together, it’s apparent that a powerful adversary is working behind the scenes. Their quest is about to become a life and death struggle—a conflict in which even the closest of friends can find themselves on opposite sides.

34. Swords and Scoundrels by Julia Knight

Swords and Scoundrels (cover)

Two siblings.

Outcasts for life…together.

What could possibly go wrong?

Vocho and Kacha are champion duelists: a brother and sister known for the finest swordplay in the city of Reyes. Or at least they used to be-until they were thrown out of the Duelist’s Guild.
As a last resort, they turn reluctant highwaymen. But when they pick the wrong carriage to rob, their simple plans to win back fame and fortune go south fast.

After barely besting three armed men and a powerful magician, Vocho and Kacha make off with an immense locked chest. But the contents will bring them much more than they’ve bargained for when they find themselves embroiled in a dangerous plot to return an angry king to power.

Swords and Scoundrels is the first book in The Duelist’s Trilogy — a tale of death, magic, and family loyalty.

33. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses (cover small)

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it…or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

32. Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Firefight (cover)

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Words of Radiance coauthor of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, and creator of the internationally bestselling Mistborn Trilogy, Brandon Sanderson presents the second book in the Reckoners series: Firefight, the sequel to the #1 bestseller Steelheart.

They told David it was impossible–that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet, Steelheart–invincible, immortal, unconquerable–is dead. And he died by David’s hand. Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life simpler. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And there’s no one in Newcago who can give him the answers he needs.

Babylon Restored, the old borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic, Regalia, David is sure Babylon Restored will lead him to what he needs to find. And while entering another city oppressed by a High Epic despot is a gamble, David’s willing to risk it. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David’s heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic–Firefight. And he’s willing to go on a quest darker, and more dangerous even, than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

31. Lord of Ashes by Richard Ford

Lord of Ashes (cover small)

Ford’s acclaimed epic fantasy series comes to an exhilarating and bloody climax.

Fight to the death…

The queen of Steelhaven has grown in strength. Taking up her dead father’s sword, she must defend the city from the dread warlord Amon Tugha and his blood-thirsty army now at the gates. A vicious, unrelenting four-day battle ensues, the most perilous yet.

…Or bow to the enemy?

No side is immune from danger as all hell breaks loose, with the threat of coups and the unleashing of the deadliest and darkest magick. Loyalty, strength and cunning will be put to test in the quest for victory. What fate awaits the free states?

Top 30

30. The Death of Dulgath by Michael J. Sullivan

The Death of Dulgath (cover small)

Three times they tried to kill her. Then a professional was hired. So was Riyria.

When the last member of the oldest noble family in Avryn is targeted for assassination, Riyria is hired to foil the plot. Three years have passed since the war-weary mercenary Hadrian and the cynical ex-assassin Royce joined forces to start life as rogues-for-hire. Things have gone well enough until they’re asked to help prevent a murder. Now they must venture into an ancient corner of the world to save a mysterious woman who knows more about Royce than is safe and cares less about herself than is sane.

From the best-selling author of The Riyria Revelations comes the third installment of The Riyria Chronicles. Although part of a series, it’s designed to thrill both new readers looking for fun, fast-paced fantasy and Riyria veterans wishing to reunite with old friends.

29. Starborn by Lucy Hounsom

Starborn (cover small)

Kyndra’s fate holds betrayal and salvation, but the journey starts in her small village. On the day she comes of age, she accidentally disrupts an ancient ceremony, ending centuries of tradition. So when an unnatural storm targets her superstitious community, Kyndra is blamed. She fears for her life until two strangers save her, by wielding powers not seen for an age – powers fuelled by the sun and the moon.

Together, they flee to the hidden citadel of Naris. And here, Kyndra experiences disturbing visions of the past, showing war and one man’s terrifying response. She’ll learn more in the city’s subterranean chambers, amongst fanatics and rebels. But first Kyndra will be brutally tested in a bid to unlock her own magic.

If she survives the ordeal, she’ll discover a force greater than she could ever have imagined. But could it create as well as destroy? And can she control it, to right an ancient wrong?

28. In Midnight’s Silence by T. Frohock

In Midnight's Silence (cover small)

The fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind…

Born of an angel and a daimon, Diago Alvarez is a singular being in a country torn by a looming civil war and the spiritual struggle between the forces of angels and daimons. With allegiance to no one but his partner Miquel, he is content to simply live in Barcelona, caring only for the man he loves and the music he makes. Yet, neither side is satisfied to let him lead this domesticated life and, knowing they can’t get to him directly, they do the one thing he’s always feared.

They go after Miquel.

Now, in order to save his lover’s life, he is forced by an angel to perform a gruesome task: feed a child to the daimon Moloch in exchange for a coin that will limit the extent of the world’s next war. The mission is fraught with danger, the time he has to accomplish it is limited…and the child he is to sacrifice is the son Diago never knew existed.

A lyrical tale in a world of music and magic, T. Frohock’s In Midnight’s Silence shows the lengths a man will go to save the people he loves, and the sides he’ll choose when the sidelines are no longer an option.

27. Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher

Beyond Redemption (cover small)

A darkly imaginative writer in the tradition of Joe Abercrombie, Peter V. Brett, and Neil Gaiman conjures a gritty mind-bending fantasy, set in a world where delusion becomes reality. . . and the fulfillment of humanity’s desires may well prove to be its undoing.

Faith shapes the landscape, defines the laws of physics, and makes a mockery of truth. Common knowledge isn’t an axiom, it’s a force of nature. What the masses believe is. But insanity is a weapon, conviction a shield. Delusions give birth to foul new gods.

Violent and dark, the world is filled with the Geisteskranken—men and women whose delusions manifest, twisting reality. High Priest Konig seeks to create order from chaos. He defines the beliefs of his followers, leading their faith to one end: a young boy, Morgen, must Ascend to become a god. A god they can control.

But there are many who would see this would-be-god in their thrall, including the High Priest’s own Doppels, and a Slaver no one can resist. Three reprobates—The Greatest Swordsman in the World, a murderous Kleptic, and possibly the only sane man left—have their own nefarious plans for the young god.

As these forces converge on the boy, there’s one more obstacle: time is running out. When one’s delusions become more powerful, they become harder to control. The fate of the Geisteskranken is to inevitably find oneself in the Afterdeath. The question, then, is:

Who will rule there?

26. The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick

The Boy Who Wept Blood (cover small)

A gripping new high fantasy set in the Gormenghast-like castle of Demesne, from the author of the acclaimed The Boy with the Porcelain Blade.

With his rich evocation of the Italian Renaissance-like realm of Landfall, his uniquely appealing way with flawed yet empathic characters and his ability to write gripping scenes of both action and subterfuge, Den Patrick has already established himself as a new favourite for fans of Scott Lynch and Robin Hobb alike.

Ten years have passed since the disappearance of Lucien and his protégé, the young swordsman Dino, is struggling to live up to Lucien’s legacy. Sworn to protect the silent queen Anea as she struggles to bring a new democracy to Demesne, Dino finds himself drawn into a deadly game of political intrigue as the aristocratic families of Landfall conspire to protect their privilege. Always ready to prove himself as a swordsman Dino is anguished to discover that in order to fulfil his vow he must become both spy and assassin.

And all the while the dark secret at the heart of Demesne is growing towards fulfilment.

25. Half a War by Joe Abercrombie

Half a War (cover)

Words are weapons.

Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. She must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge if she is to reclaim her birthright.

Only half a war is fought with swords.

The deep-cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on god, and put Bright Yilling at its head – a man who worships no god but Death.

Sometimes one must fight evil with evil.

Some – like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith – are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others – like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver – would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her iron wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness.

24. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (cover)

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

23. Ruin by John Gwynne

Ruin (cover small)

The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures. At his back stands the scheming Calidus and a warband of the Kadoshim, dread demons of the Otherworld. They plan to bring Asroth and his host of the Fallen into the world of flesh, but to do so they need the seven treasures. Nathair has been deceived but now he knows the truth. He has choices to make, choices that will determine the fate of the Banished Lands.

Elsewhere the flame of resistance is growing – Queen Edana finds allies in the swamps of Ardan. Maquin is loose in Tenebral, hunted by Lykos and his corsairs. Here he will witness the birth of a rebellion in Nathair’s own realm.

Corban has been swept along by the tide of war. He has suffered, lost loved ones, and sought only safety from the darkness. But he will run no more. He has seen the face of evil and he has set his will to fight it. The question is, how? With a disparate band gathered about him – his family, friends, giants, fanatical warriors, an angel and a talking crow he begins the journey to Drassil, the fabled fortress hidden deep in the heart of Forn Forest. For in Drassil lies the spear of Skald, one of the seven treasures, and here it is prophesied that the Bright Star will stand against the Black Sun.

22. Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

Shadows of Self (cover small)

Shadows of Self shows Mistborn’s society evolving as technology and magic mix, the economy grows, democracy contends with corruption, and religion becomes a growing cultural force, with four faiths competing for converts.

This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial’s progress in its tracks.

Shadows of Self will give fans of The Alloy of Law everything they’ve been hoping for and, this being a Brandon Sanderson book, more, much more.

21. The Hunter’s Kind by Rebecca Levene

The Hunter's Kind (cover)

Born in tragedy and raised in poverty, Krishanjit never aspired to be anything greater than what he was: a humble goatherd, tending his flock on the slopes of his isolated mountain home. But Krish has learned that he’s the son of the king of Ashanesland – and the moon god reborn.

Now, with the aid of his allies, Krish is determined to fight his murderous father and seize control of Ashanesland. But Dae Hyo, Eric and Olufemi, are dangerously unreliable and hiding secrets of their own. To take Ashanesland, Krish must travel to the forbidden Mirror Town and unlock the secrets of its powerful magic. But the price of his victory may be much greater than the consequences of his defeat.

For, deep in the distant Moon Forest lives a girl called Cwen – a disciple of the god known only as the Hunter. She believes that Krish represents all that is evil in the world. And she has made it her life’s mission to seek Krish and destroy all who fight by his side.

Top 20

20. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic (cover)

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

19. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

The Library at Mount Char (cover)

Neil Gaiman meets Joe Hill in this astonishingly original, terrifying, and darkly funny contemporary fantasy.

Carolyn’s not so different from the other human beings around her. She’s sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.

After all, she was a normal American herself, once.

That was a long time ago, of course—before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.

In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn’t gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient Pelapi customs. They’ve studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power. Sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library—and with it, power over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.

But Carolyn can win. She’s sure of it. What she doesn’t realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price—because in becoming a God, she’s forgotten a great deal about being human.

18. Guns of Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Guns of the Dawn (cover)

A standalone, action-packed pseudo-Napoleonic historical fantasy adventure from the esteemed author of the Shadows of the Apt series.

Denland and Lascanne have been allies for generations, but now the Denlanders have assassinated their king, overthrown the monarchy and marched on their northern neighbour. At the border, the war rages; Lascanne’s brave redcoats against the revolutionaries of Denland.

Emily Marshwic has watched the war take her brother-in-law and now her young brother. Then comes the call for more soldiers, to a land already drained of husbands, fathers and sons. Every household must give up one woman to the army and Emily has no choice but to join the ranks of young women marching to the front.

In the midst of warfare, with just enough training to hold a musket, Emily comes face to face with the reality: the senseless slaughter; the weary cynicism of the Survivor’s Club; the swamp’s own natives hiding from the conflict.

As the war worsens, and Emily begins to have doubts about the justice of Lascanne’s cause, she finds herself in a position where her choices will make or destroy both her own future and that of her nation.

17. The Builders by Daniel Polansky

The Builders (cover)

A missing eye.
A broken wing.
A stolen country.
The last job didn’t end well.

Years go by, and scars fade, but memories only fester. For the animals of the Captain’s company, survival has meant keeping a low profile, building a new life, and trying to forget the war they lost. But now the Captain’s whiskers are twitching at the idea of evening the score.

16. The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett

The Skull Throne (cover)

The first three novels in New York Times bestselling author Peter V. Brett’s groundbreaking Demon Cycle series–The Warded Man, The Desert Spear, and The Daylight War–set a new standard for heroic fantasy. The powerful saga of humans winnowed to the brink of extinction by night-stalking demons, and the survivors who fight back, has kept readers breathless as they eagerly turned the pages. Now the thrilling fourth volume, The Skull Throne, raises the stakes as it carries the action in shocking new directions.

The Skull Throne of Krasia stands empty.

Built from the skulls of fallen generals and demon princes, it is a seat of honor and ancient, powerful magic, keeping the demon corelings at bay. From atop the throne, Ahmann Jardir was meant to conquer the known world, forging its isolated peoples into a unified army to rise up and end the demon war once and for all.

But Arlen Bales, the Warded Man, stood against this course, challenging Jardir to a duel he could not in honor refuse. Rather than risk defeat, Arlen cast them both from a precipice, leaving the world without a savior, and opening a struggle for succession that threatens to tear the Free Cities of Thesa apart.

In the south, Inevera, Jardir’s first wife, must find a way to keep their sons from killing each other and plunging their people into civil war as they strive for glory enough to make a claim on the throne.

In the north, Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn struggle to forge an alliance between the duchies of Angiers and Miln against the Krasians before it is too late.

Caught in the crossfire is the duchy of Lakton–rich and unprotected, ripe for conquest.

All the while, the corelings have been growing stronger, and without Arlen and Jardir there may be none strong enough to stop them. Only Renna Bales may know more about the fate of the missing men, but she, too, has disappeared…

15. Gemini Cell by Myke Cole

Gemini Cell (cover)

Gemini Cell takes place in the Shadow Ops universe, but is a prequel, taking place many years before the events in Control Point.

Myke Cole continues to blow the military fantasy genre wide open with an all-new epic adventure in his highly acclaimed Shadow Ops universe—set in the early days of the Great Reawakening, when magic first returns to the world and order begins to unravel…

US Navy SEAL Jim Schweitzer is a consummate professional, a fierce warrior, and a hard man to kill. But when he sees something he was never meant to see on a covert mission gone bad, he finds himself—and his family—in the crosshairs. Nothing means more to Jim than protecting his loved ones, but when the enemy brings the battle to his front door, he is overwhelmed and taken down.

It should be the end of the story. But Jim is raised from the dead by a sorcerer and recruited by a top secret unit dabbling in the occult, known only as the Gemini Cell. With powers he doesn’t understand, Jim is called back to duty—as the ultimate warrior. As he wrestles with a literal inner demon, Jim realizes his new superiors are determined to use him for their own ends and keep him in the dark—especially about the fates of his wife and son…

14. Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (cover)

Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings—cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens, and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.

Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.

13. The Dread Wyrm by Miles Cameron

The Dread Wyrm (cover)

Some are born to power.
Some seize it.
And some have the wisdom never to wield it.

The Red Knight has stood against soldiers, against armies and against the might of an empire without flinching. He’s fought on real and on magical battlefields alike, and now he’s facing one of the greatest challenges yet.

A tournament.

A joyous spring event, the flower of the nobility will present arms and ride against each other for royal favour and acclaim. It’s a political contest – and one which the Red Knight has the skill to win. But the stakes may be higher than he thinks. The court of Alba has been infiltrated by a dangerous faction of warlike knights, led by the greatest knight in the world: Jean de Vrailly – and the prize he’s fighting for isn’t royal favour, but the throne of Alba itself.

Where there is competition there is opportunity; the question is, will the Red Knight take it? Or will the creatures of the Wild seize their chance instead . . .

12. The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

The Aeronaut’s Windlass (cover)

Jim Butcher, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Dresden Files and the Codex Alera novels, conjures up a new series set in a fantastic world of noble families, steam-powered technology, and magic-wielding warriors.

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

11. The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

The Shepherd's Crown (cover small)

A shivering of worlds.

Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.

This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.

As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.

There will be a reckoning…

Top 10

10. The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

The Grace of Kings (cover)

Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty.

Ken Liu is known in the SFF community for writing wonderful short stories like “The Paper Menagerie”, which uses an inventive, fantastical plot to tell a moving story about living between cultures. The Grace of Kings is his first full novel, book one in the Dandelion Dynasty series, lives up to the promise of his earlier work, translating his skill with strong characterisation and evocative prose to full-blown epic fantasy with ease and panache.

As the story unfolds, Liu explores the nature of politics, the ease of seizing power compared to the difficulties of keeping it, and the limitations of our moral codes when we are forced to think about what’s best for large numbers of people over long periods of time. The Grace of Kings is an ambitious and thought-provoking read, Liu’s understanding of human emotion makes it incredibly powerful and provides a reading experience you are unlikely to forget.

9. Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley

Empire Ascendant (cover)

In this thrilling sequel to The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley transports us back to a land of blood mages, sentient plants, and warfare on a scale that spans worlds.

Every two thousand years, parallel dimensions collide on the world called Raisa, bringing a tide of death and destruction to all worlds but one. Multiple worlds battle their dopplegangers for dominance, and those who survive must contend with friends and enemies newly imbued with violent powers.

Now the pacifist country of Dhai’s only hope for survival lies in the hands of an illegitimate ruler and a scullery maid with a powerful – but unpredictable –magic. As their dopplegangers spread across the world like a disease, a former ally takes up her Empress’s sword again to unseat her, and two enslaved scholars begin a treacherous journey home with a long-lost secret that they hope is the key to the other worlds’ undoing.

But when the enemy shares your own face, who can be trusted?

The first book in this series was different, difficult, wildly inventive, risky, and provocative. Well, Empire Ascendant levels up on all counts! In classic book two fashion, Empire Ascendant introduces new threads, existing threads are twisted, earlier actions have consequences, and the bad guys are on the march. It’s all straight out of the Empire Strikes Back playbook. But whereas that movie ended with a bit of hope, this book never promises to end in a similar manner. Empire Ascendant is dark, brutal, and heartbreaking—grimdark pushed an extreme. The book reminded us of Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel:

“It’s like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.”

Which is all to say that Kameron has continued to push the envelope of epic and grimdark fantasy.

8. The Vagrant by Peter Newman

The Vagrant (cover)

The Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape, carrying nothing but a kit-bag, a legendary sword and a baby. His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the sword, the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war. But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.

There are very, very few authors who write in the abstract manner that Peter Newman does. Having met Peter in real life, you’d never picture The Vagrant being the kind of book he’d write. Or maybe you would. Peter is charming and as dark as his work is, it has a charm to it too. How many books could get away with featuring a hooded character that does not speak, a goat and a baby as the supporting cast and a plot that essentially is a journey to…we don’t know where.

Peter’s secret is the unique, abstract experience he provides the reader. The world is strange, yes, but it is Peter’s ability to make it feel strange through prose that really sets this book apart from anything else I’ve ever read.

7. The Iron Ghost by Jennifer Williams

The Iron Ghost (cover)

Beware the dawning of a new mage…

Wydrin of Crosshaven, Sir Sebastian and Lord Aaron Frith are experienced in the perils of stirring up the old gods. They are also familiar with defeating them, and the heroes of Baneswatch are now enjoying the perks of suddenly being very much in demand for their services.

When a job comes up in the distant city of Skaldshollow, it looks like easy coin – retrieve a stolen item, admire the views, get paid. But in a place twisted and haunted by ancient magic, with the most infamous mage of them all, Joah Demonsworn, making a reappearance, our heroes soon find themselves threatened by enemies on all sides, old and new. And in the frozen mountains, the stones are walking…

Jennifer Williams is a Fantasy-Faction favourite. In fact, we had about ten offers from staff to review this title in 2015! It’s because her books are a return to what so much of us love about fantasy: dragons, heroes, fun, adventure, silliness without ever feeling retro or archaic.

The Iron Ghost deftly escapes middle-book syndrome and her huge array of POVs and varied plot threads ensure that the ride is blisteringly quick. All that said, this is far more than just a rollercoaster ride, it’s a clever novel too and human nature is philosophically explored. Just read it already!

6. Black Wolves by Kate Elliott

Black Wolves (cover small)

For readers of Brent Weeks and fans of Netflix’s Marco Polo comes a rich and inspired fantasy tale of warriors and nobles who must take the most desperate gamble of all: awaken allies more destructive than the hated king they hope to overthrow. Kate Elliott’s new trilogy is an unmissable treat for epic fantasy lovers everywhere.

An exiled captain returns to help the son of the king who died under his protection in this rich and multi-layered first book in an action-packed new series.

Twenty-two years have passed since Kellas, once Captain of the legendary Black Wolves, lost his King and with him his honor. With the King murdered and the Black Wolves disbanded, Kellas lives as an exile far from the palace he once guarded with his life.

Until Marshal Dannarah, sister to the dead King, comes to him with a plea-rejoin the palace guard and save her nephew, King Jehosh, before he meets his father’s fate.

Kate Elliott is another one of those authors who isn’t celebrated enough amongst the fantasy community. She has been writing vast, epic fantasy series for years, but it is hard to find readers who have enjoyed the entirety of her work. If you are a reader of epic fantasy, the Spirtwalker Trilogy or Crown of Stars series are must reads.

With Black Wolves though Kate Elliott has written her best book to date. The majority of characters are beyond their best years, the pace is perfect and even when it falters slightly, the mystery that drives the plot keeps you tearing through the pages. More important than all of that though is the masterful way that Elliott subtlety worldbuilds – ensuring that readers have a full grasp on the political and religious systems in place. It’s a unique read, it’s an absorbing read and it is one that will not feel 800+ pages.

5. The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence

The Liar's Key (cover)

The Red Queen has set her players on the board…

Winter is keeping Prince Jalan Kendeth far from the longed-for luxuries of his southern palace. And although the North may be home to his companion, the warrior Snorri ver Snagason, he is just as eager to leave. For the Viking is ready to challenge all of Hell to bring his wife and children back into the living world. He has Loki’s key – now all he needs is to find the door.

As all wait for the ice to unlock its jaws, the Dead King plots to claim what was so nearly his – the key to the underworld — so that his dead subjects can rise and rule.

The Red Queen series is not The Broken Empire series. Mark Lawrence showed readers with his last book, Prince of Fools, that he was capable of writing more than just the brutal, grimdark experience provided by Jorg.

With Liar’s Key, Mark has done it again, providing his fans with a dark and inescapably fun ride. Prepare to lurch from laugh out loud hilarity to gut wrenching sadness, from casual disregard for fellow human beings to witnessing sacrifices that will break your heart as Mark gives us a perfect second book that, just like Jalan, is far more faceted that most.

4. Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb

Fool's Quest (cover)

Acclaimed and bestselling author Robin Hobb continues her Fitz and the Fool trilogy with this second entry, following Fool’s Assassin, ramping up the tension and the intrigue as disaster continues to strike at Fitz’s life and heart.

After nearly killing his oldest friend, the Fool, and finding his daughter stolen away by those who were once targeting the Fool, FitzChivarly Farseer is out for blood. And who better to wreak havoc than a highly trained and deadly former royal assassin? Fitz might have let his skills go fallow over his years of peace, but such things, once learned, are not so easily forgotten. And nothing is more dangerous than a man who has nothing left to lose…

If Robin Hobb writes a novel you can almost guarantee it’ll be in every fantasy bloggers Top 10 List for that particular year. Fool’s Quest could easily be number one for many readers, but we felt that there were a few books that we’d recommend reading before it due to their freshness, originality or unique take on a busy genre. Make no mistake about it though, Fool’s Quest is a return to everything you love about Robin Hobb’s emotionally charged writing. Assassin’s Fate, due in 2017, will likely be the last book we spend with Fitz and it’s going to be incredibly hard to say goodbye.

3. The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season (cover)

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

This is a strikingly original fantasy novel. Whether through its usage of second person narrative, blend of post-apocalyptic sci-fi and fantasy or effortless diversity – there is almost nothing out there like it. It’s not just the unique feeling to this book that deserves praise though, the book is unsparing in its portrayal of the horrors meted out by people in power on those they view as less than human. Jemisin is interested in how dehumanisation allows people to do utterly morally reprehensible things, and she explores this unflinchingly. It’s the kind of book that changes your perception of the world and that’s a rare, powerful talent for an author to possess.

2. Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien De Castell

Knight's Shadow (cover)

Following his beloved debut, Traitor’s Blade, Sebastien de Castell returns with volume two of his fast-paced fantasy adventure series, inspired by the swashbuckling action and witty banter of The Three Musketeers. Knight’s Shadow continues the series with a thrilling and dark tale of heroism and betrayal in a country crushed under the weight of its rulers’ corruption.

A few days after the horrifying murder of a duke and his family, Falcio val Mond, swordsman and First Cantor of the Greatcoats, begins a deadly pursuit to capture the killer. But Falcio soon discovers his own life is in mortal danger from a poison administered as a final act of revenge by one of his deadliest enemies. As chaos and civil war begin to overtake the country, Falcio has precious little time left to stop those determined to destroy his homeland.

Castell’s next installment of the series takes everything that made the first book great and gives it a little extra kick. The plots get more intricate, the stakes get higher, the villains get more sinister, Brasti gets even more obnoxious. The pages are filled with gripping swordfights, desperate circumstances and a cadre of excellently written characters who are all so human that they bring real life to the story.

Castell came out of nowhere just a couple years ago with his first book proving to be something special in a sea of grimdark titles. Book two solidifies him as one of that particular genre’s top authors, but also shows his work is also easily consumed by fans of more conventional fantasy too. If you’ve not joined the Greatcoats yet, you’re truly missing out!

Best Fantasy Book of the 2015

1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted (cover)

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Occasionally you find a book that calls to something in you – it goes beyond loving into the realms of mild obsession. When I saw the blurb for Uprooted, I knew it would be right up my street. It’s the epitome of everything I love about fantasy: wild magic, fairy tale, mysterious woodland, an enigmatic sorcerer, a feisty, likable protagonist, poetic language, and it made me feel like a teenager, discovering this wonderful genre all over again. Perhaps it’s these elements, or something more indefinable that ensnared me so completely I felt I too was a victim of the Wood. Whatever it is, there can be no doubt that Novik is a master of her craft.

Naomi Novik’s Tremeraire series has never got quite the recognition it deserved. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of people read them and they rank highly on sites like Goodreads, but because they straddle genres (fantasy and historical), they’ve not quite accumulated the kind of readership that authors such as Peter V. Brett or Joe Abercrombie or Trudi Canavan, etc. have.

I think that Uprooted will change this for Naomi. Uprooted is one of the best one shot fantasy novels of all time, it is a book anyone can read and it showcases Naomi as an author that readers – whether fantasy, historical, or anything else – need to keep a close eye on. Easily our favourite reading experience of 2015.

Best Fantasy Book of 2015 Award

Thank you to everyone from Twitter, Facebook and our forum who helped put this list together. We hope this becomes a useful ‘To-Be-Read’ list for fantasy readers going into 2016 (in addition to our most anticipated list being published in a few days’ time!).

Again, this has been an incredibly tough year to put this together with any kind of accuracy – there have just been so many titles and so much variety. Naturally, as a result, there will be books that you’d have put higher, there will be some you’d place lower, others maybe missing and there may even be one or two that you are shocked to see make the cut. If that’s the case we’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

Congratulations again to all he authors who made the list and to the publicists who made sure these 50 books made it on our shelves and on our Kindles!

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Rating: 9.5/10 (21 votes cast)
Fantasy-Faction’s Best Fantasy Books of 2015, 9.5 out of 10 based on 21 ratings
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17 Comments

  1. Yora says:

    2015: Empires, Assassins, and Dead Kings.

  2. Taha Iqbal says:

    NO GOLDEN SON??

    • Overlord says:

      It was up there, but the judges decided it was Sci-Fi, so it got removed. Same goes for A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

      • Taha Iqbal says:

        just curious… where would it have been if it had stayed?

        • Overlord says:

          Both Golden Sun and A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet were in the top 10 🙂 We will likely do a short Sci-Fi list in a few days and they will both be on there.

          • Taha Iqbal says:

            The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu…. while I agree with alot of your choices, his book just didnt do it for me.. the characters I did not get, the situations and circumstances they find themselves in were also a lil far fetched. It was a slog to get thru this book to be honest.. but ive seen it in alot of best of 2015 lists..

  3. […] posted the list of the 50 best fantasy books released in 2015 at Fantasy Faction today and it made me realize that I have not read any book that has been […]

  4. Caleb Ross says:

    This is an awesome list. I’m just starting up Traitor’s Blade, love me some Dumas inspired fantasy, and am so glad to see Knight’s Shadow in second place. It’s an encouraging placement that gives me a lot of hope that this will be one of the better fantasy series I’ve started recently.

    However, the number one choice, is definitely the most deserving. While I’ve read a quite a few fantasy novels this year (although I did end up leaning more towards mystery on the tail end of the year, and now into 2016), none were as deserving of the first place as Uprooted. Novik’s fairy tale of a novel was a wonderful read and wholly deserved the spot it holds.

  5. Isom Allan says:

    Awesome list! I look forward to it every year. I now have to slowly make my way through the top picks. Keep it up you are always on point!

  6. Gabriel Cruz says:

    Every year I wait for this list, now I just have to read every single one of them. And wait for the most antecipated books for 2016

  7. Norm says:

    Argh – I’ve only read 15 of them. Loved the whole Anthony Ryan and the Sarah J. Maas series’. I love anything by Holly Black and the Zen Cho was a surprisingly polished romance which I devoured in two days. Teresa Frohock made the list which is awesome. I loved her first book and was bummed when the sequel couldn’t find a publisher.

    Maybe the Ann Leckie books and the James S. A. Corey novels will end up on the scifi list? I loved those too.

    Yes, too many great books this year and more on this list I will read now that I know about them.

  8. Tipwell says:

    Disappointed that A Crown for Cold Silver wasn’t listed. My favorite book that came out last year.

  9. […] genre fans that want nothing more than to deliver us incredible books… Just look at our Best of 2015 Post to see how they’re nailing […]

  10. […] on our desks today: V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade Of Magic, which we named as one of our best books of 2015, has been picked up for a television […]

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