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Fantasy-Faction’s Best Fantasy Books of 2016

2016 was a great year for fans of fantasy fiction, my friends! The burden of choice weighed heavily on us and we’ll be catching up on 2016 titles for years to come. It says a lot about the authors writing today, the joyous direction that readers have pushed the genre in, and the people working behind the scenes at publishing houses that this list is not only incredibly competitive but full of an array of tales that anyone could pick up and lose themselves in.

Corrupted Dragon by Nakarin Sukontakorn

One thing I would say is that in comparison to last year, it seemed harder to find books by women writers that fitted the epic/grimdark mould that tended to do well. Perhaps it’s because some of our favourite women writers such as Robin Hobb, Trudi Canavan, Rebecca Levene, Julia Knight, and Kate Elliott had the year off. The women writers who did publish books this year: Susan Dennard, Cassandra Clare, Ilona Andrews, Anne Bishop, Maggie Stiefvater, Karen Moning, and Patricia Briggs were writing either later books in a series or urban fantasy tales – both of which don’t tend to do well in best of the year lists. However, we did feel ourselves scratching our heads, because, with our Facebook group and forum as evidence, there are lots of women writing epic and grimdark titles submitting their work. I am hoping when I put together the most anticipated list for 2017 we’ll see a better trend.

Back to this list: We’ve decided to break this top 50 down into a top 50-16 and then a top 15-1. The top 15 titles will get a short write up in addition to their covers and blurbs. The reason we’ve chosen to do this is because the margin is so incredibly narrow between, for example, book 20 and 25 that it’s not worth the hurt that comes with a title being five places further up or down the ladder. For all intense and purposes all books beyond place 15 are joint 16th place – we’ve put them in alphabetical order so no link between placement and quality can be made until you get to the top 15. And, even then, please do remember the enjoyment of a book is completely subjective and we totally anticipate some of you having our number 15 at number 1 or number 1 not even in your top 10.

Top 50 – A,K.A. Joint 16th Place Titles

A City Dreaming by Daniel Polansky

A City Dreaming (cover)It would help if you did not think of it as magic. M certainly had long ceased to do so.

M is a drifter with a sharp tongue, few scruples, and limited magical ability, who would prefer drinking artisanal beer to involving himself in the politics of the city. Alas, in the infinite nexus of the universe which is New York, trouble is a hard thing to avoid, and when a rivalry between the city’s two queens threatens to turn to all-out war, M finds himself thrust in thrust in the unfamiliar position of hero. Now, to keep the apocalypse from descending on the Big Apple, he’ll have to call in every favor, waste every charm, and blow every spell he’s ever acquired – he might even have to get out of bed before noon.

Enter a world of Wall Street wolves, slumming scenesters, desperate artists, drug-induced divinities, pocket steampunk universes, hipster zombies, and phantom subway lines. Because the city never sleeps, but is always dreaming.

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V. E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows (cover)It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2) by Sabaa Tahir

A Torch Against Night (cover)Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.

Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire #1) by Michael J. Sullivan

Age of Myth (cover)

One of fantasy’s finest next-generation storytellers continues to break new ground.

Age of Myth inaugurates an original five-book series.

Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between men and those they thought were gods changes forever.

Now, only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer; Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom; and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over; the time of rebellion has begun.

All the Birds in the Sky (All the Birds in the Sky #1) by Charlie Jane Anders

All The Birds In The Sky (cover)Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.

An Accident of Stars (Manifold Worlds #1) by Foz Meadows

An Accident of Stars (cover)When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, a magical realm on the brink of civil war.

There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled, runaway consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex’Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest.

Pursued by Leoden and aided by the Shavaktiin, a secretive order of storytellers and mystics, the rebels flee to Veksh, a neighboring matriarchy ruled by the fearsome Council of Queens. Saffron is out of her world and out of her depth, but the further she travels, the more she finds herself bound to her friends with ties of blood and magic.

Can one girl – an accidental worldwalker – really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she just die trying?

Calamity (The Reckoners #3) by Brandon Sanderson

Calamity (cover 2)When Calamity lit up the sky, the Epics were born. David’s fate has been tied to their villainy ever since that historic night. Steelheart killed his father. Firefight stole his heart. And now Regalia has turned his closest ally into a dangerous enemy.

David knew Prof’s secret, and kept it even when the Reckoners’ leader struggled to control the effects of his Epic powers. But facing Obliteration in Babilar was too much. Prof has now embraced his Epic destiny. He’s disappeared into those murky shadows of menace Epics are infamous for the world over, and everyone knows there’s no turning back.

But everyone is wrong. Redemption is possible for Epics—Megan proved it. They’re not lost. Not completely. And David is just about crazy enough to face down the most powerful High Epic of all to get his friend back. Or die trying.

Chains of the Heretic (Bloodsounder’s Arc #3) by Jeff Salyards

Chains of the Heretic (cover)Men are more easily broken than myths.

Emperor Cynead has usurped command of the Memoridons—Tower-controlled memory witches—and consolidated his reign over the Syldoonian Empire. After escaping the capital city of Sunwrack, Captain Braylar Killcoin and his Jackal company evade pursuit across Urglovia, tasked with reaching deposed emperor Thumarr and helping him recapture the throne. Braylar’s sister, Soffjian, rejoins the Jackals and reveals that Commander Darzaak promised her freedom if she agreed to aid them in breaking Cynead’s grip on the other Memoridons and ousting him.

Imperial forces attempt to intercept Braylar’s company before they can reach Thumarr. The Jackals fight through Cynead’s battalions but find themselves trapped along the Godveil. Outmaneuvered and outnumbered, Braylar gambles on some obscure passages that Arki has translated and uses his cursed flail, Bloodsounder, to part the Godveil, leading the Jackals to the other side. There, they encounter the ruins of human civilization, but they also learn that the Deserters who abandoned humanity a millennium ago and created the Veil in their wake are still very much alive. But are they gods? Demons? Monsters?

What Braylar, Soffjian, Arki, and the Jackals discover beyond the Godveil will shake an empire, reshape a map, and irrevocably alter the course of history.

Chaosmage (The Age of Darkness Trilogy #3) by Stephen Aryan

Chaosmage (cover)Voechenka is a city under siege. Decimated by the Battlemage War, its dead now walk the city at night, attacking survivors, calling their names and begging the living to join them beyond the grave.

Tammy is a watchman sent to the city to investigate, so the ruling powers can decide whether to help Voechenka or leave it to its grisly fate.

Zannah is a pariah in Voechenka – making up for her people’s war crimes by protecting refugees who fear her far more than they fear their unearthly attackers.

Balfruss is a scholar, a traveler . . . and the infamous mage who single-handedly ended the war.

No one else may enter or leave the city – so if this ragtag group of survivors can’t figure out what is going on, they’ll live out their last few, short days within its walls. And night is coming on fast.

Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay

Children of Earth and Sky (cover)From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world.

Cloudbound (Bone Universe #2) by Fran Wilde

Cloudbound (cover)As children, we learned early that the clouds were dangerous. Turns out the city wasn’t all that much safer.

After the dust settles, the City of living bones begins to die, and more trouble brews beneath the clouds in this stirring companion to Fran Wilde’s Updraft.

When Kirit Densira left her home tower for the skies, she gave up many things: her beloved family, her known way of life, her dreams of flying as a trader for her tower, her dreams. Kirit set her City upside down, and fomented a massive rebellion at the Spire, to the good of the towers—but months later, everything has fallen to pieces.

In Cloudbound, with the Towers in disarray, without a governing body or any defense against the dangers lurking in the clouds, daily life is full of terror and strife. Naton, Kirit’s wing-brother, sets out to be a hero in his own way—sitting on the new Council to cast votes protecting Tower-born, and exploring lower tiers to find more materials to repair the struggling City.

But what he finds down-tier is more secrets—and now Nat will have to decide who to trust, and how to trust himself without losing those he holds most dear, before a dangerous myth raises a surprisingly realistic threat to the crippled City.

In the sky-high city of living bone, to fall beneath the clouds is to be lost forever. But Nat Densira finds more in the grey expanse than he ever expected. To survive, he must let go of everything he believes.

Dancer’s Lament (Path to Ascendancy #1) by Ian C. Esslemont

Dancer's Lament (cover)For ages warfare has crippled the continent as minor city states, baronies, and principalities fought in an endless round of hostilities. Only the alliance of the rival Tali and Quon cities could field the resources to mount a hegemony from coast to coast — and thus become known as Quon Tali.

It is a generation since the collapse of this dynasty and regional powers are once more rousing themselves. Into this arena of renewed border wars come two youths to the powerful central city state that is Li Heng. One is named Dorin, and he comes determined to prove himself the most skilled assassin of his age; he is chasing the other youth — a Dal Hon mage who has proven himself annoyingly difficult to kill.

Li Heng has been guided and warded for centuries by the powerful sorceress known as the Protectress, and she allows no rivals. She and her cabal of five mage servants were enough to repel the Quon Tali Iron Legions — what could two youths hope to accomplish under their stifling rule?

Yet under the new and ambitious King Chulalorn the Third, Itko Kan is on the march from the south. He sends his own assassin servants, the Nightblades, against the city, and there are hints that he also commands inhuman forces out of legend.

While above all, shadows swirl oddly about Li Heng, and monstrous slathering beasts seem to appear from nowhere to run howling through the street. It is a time of chaos and upheaval, and in chaos, as the young Dal Hon mage would say, there is opportunity.

Dead Man’s Steel (The Grim Company #3) by Luke Scull

Dead Man's Steel (cover)In the City of Towers, former rebel Sasha and her comrade Davarus Cole struggle to keep the peace between the warring mages who vie for dominion. But when the White Lady sends Davarus south to the Shattered Realms to seek allies among the fallen kingdoms, he finds that his hardest battle may be one fought within. The godly essence now residing within him offers power that could be used against the Fade—but with every death that feeds It, Cole risks losing a part of himself.

An association with a Fade officer grants the Halfmage Eremul a position of privilege among Dorminia’s new masters. He witnesses first-hand the fate that awaits humanity. But with his magic pitiful in the face of the Fade’s advanced technology, the Halfmage must rely on his wits alone to save whom he can.

And in the frozen north, the legendary warrior Brodar Kayne fights a desperate battle for his people. He is running out of time: an ancient evil sealed beneath the mountains is about to break free, an evil that is older than humanity, older than the Fade, older even than the gods—and it will not stop until the entire world is drowned in blood.

Dragon Hunters (The Chronicle of the Exile #2) by Marc Turner

Dragon Hunters (cover)Once a year on Dragon Day the fabled Dragon Gate is raised to let a sea dragon pass from the Southern Wastes into the Sabian Sea. There, it will be hunted by the Storm Lords, a fellowship of powerful water-mages who rule an empire called the Storm Isles. Alas, this year someone forgot to tell the dragon which is the hunter and which the hunted.

Emira Imerle Polivar is coming to the end of her tenure as leader of the Storm Lords. She has no intention of standing down graciously. She instructs an order of priests called the Chameleons to infiltrate a citadel housing the mechanism that controls the Dragon Gate to prevent the gate from being lowered after it has been raised on Dragon Day. Imerle hopes the dozens of dragons thus unleashed on the Sabian Sea will eliminate her rivals while she launches an attack on the Storm Lord capital, Olaire, to secure her grip on power.

But Imerle is not the only one intent on destroying the Storm Lord dynasty. As the Storm Lords assemble in Olaire in answer to a mysterious summons, they become the targets of assassins working for an unknown enemy. When Imerle initiates her coup, that enemy makes use of the chaos created to show its hand.

Drake (The Burned Man #1) by Peter McLean

Drake (cover)

Hitman Don Drake owes a gambling debt to a demon. Forced to carry out one more assassination to clear his debt, Don unwittingly kills an innocent child and brings the Furies of Greek myth down upon himself.

Rescued by an almost-fallen angel called Trixie, Don and his magical accomplice The Burned Man, an imprisoned archdemon, are forced to deal with Lucifer himself whilst battling a powerful evil magician.

Now Don must foil Lucifer’s plan to complete Trixie’s fall and save her soul whilst preventing the Burned Man from breaking free from captivity and wreaking havoc on the entire world.

“The plot moves quickly and consistently to the end where – pleasingly unpredictably – the story is left happily concluded yet unresolved enough to welcome in the next Don Drake adventure, which no doubt will be as entertaining as this one.” – The British Fantasy Society

Empire Ascendant (Worldbreaker Saga #2) by Kameron Hurley

Empire Ascendant (cover)Every two thousand years, the dark star Oma appears in the sky, bringing with it a tide of death and destruction, but also great magical powers. Saiduan already lies in ruin, decimated by invaders from another world who share the faces of those they seek to destroy.

Now the nation of Dhai is under siege. Their only hope lies in the hands of an illegitimate ruler and a scullery maid with a powerful but unpredictable magic.

As the foreign Empire spreads across the world like a plague, two enslaved scholars begin a treacherous journey home with a long-lost secret that they hope is the key to the Empire s undoing. But when the enemy shares your own face, who can be trusted?

Fall of Light (The Kharkanas Trilogy #2) by Steven Erikson

Fall of Light (cover)The winter is bitter. Civil war threatens Kurald Galain for the warrior Urusander’s army has begun its march on the city of Kharkanas. Led by the ruthless Hunn Raal, it intends to cast aside Mother Dark’s consort, Draconus, and set Urusander himself on the throne beside the Living Goddess. Those who would stand in the way of the rebels lie scattered and weakened – leaderless since Anomander went in search of an estranged brother. In his stead, Silchas Ruin resolves to gather the Houseblades of the Highborn families to him, and to resurrect the legendary Hust Legion, but time is not on his side.

Far to the west, an unlikely army musters. It seeks an enemy without form, in a place none can find. And yet Hood’s call has been heard and the long-abandoned city of Omtose Phellack is now home to a rabble of new arrivals: Dog-Runners from the south, Jheck warriors, and blue-skinned strangers from across the Western Sea have come to offer Hood their swords. From the distant mountains and isolated valleys of the North, Thel Akai arrive to pledge themselves in this seemingly impossible war. Soon, they will set forth with weapons drawn under the banners of the living in pursuit of Death itself.

Such events presage chaos, and now magic bleeds into this realm. Unconstrained, mysterious and savage, it begins to run loose and wild and following its scent, seeking the places of wounding and hurt – new and ancient entities gather.

In a world becoming rotten with sorcery, can honour truly exist?

In the Labyrinth of Drakes (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #4) by Marie Brennan

In the Labyrinth of Drakes (cover)Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent’s expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there are the stuff of romantic legend, catapulting her from scholarly obscurity to worldwide fame. The details of her personal life during that time are hardly less private, having provided fodder for gossips in several countries.

As is so often the case in the career of this illustrious woman, the public story is far from complete. In this, the fourth volume of her memoirs, Lady Trent relates how she acquired her position with the Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled both her work and her well-being; and how her determined pursuit of knowledge took her into the deepest reaches of the Labyrinth of Drakes, where the chance action of a dragon set the stage for her greatest achievement yet.

League of Dragons (Temeraire #9) by Naomi Novik

League of Dragons (cover)The final adventure in the New York Times bestselling Temeraire series that started with the beloved His Majesty’s Dragon which has won fans of Napoleonic-era military history, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels, and Patrick O’Brian’s seafaring adventures.

Napoleon’s invasion of Russia has been roundly thwarted. But even as Capt. William Laurence and the dragon Temeraire pursue the retreating enemy through an unforgiving winter, Napoleon is raising a new force, and he’ll soon have enough men and dragons to resume the offensive. While the emperor regroups, the allies have an opportunity to strike first and defeat him once and for all—if internal struggles and petty squabbles don’t tear them apart.

Aware of his weakened position, Napoleon has promised the dragons of every country—and the ferals, loyal only to themselves—vast new rights and powers if they fight under his banner. It is an offer eagerly embraced from Asia to Africa—and even by England, whose dragons have long rankled at their disrespectful treatment.

But Laurence and his faithful dragon soon discover that the wily Napoleon has one more gambit at the ready—one that that may win him the war, and the world.

Red Tide (The Chronicles of the Exile #3) by Marc Turner

Red Tide (cover)The Rubyholt Isles is a shattered nation of pirate-infested islands and treacherous waterways shielding the seaboards of Erin Elal and the Sabian League. The Augerans approach the Warlord of the Isles, seeking passage for their invasion fleet through Rubyholt waters. When an Erin Elalese Guardian assassinates the Augeran commander in the Rubyholt capital, the Augerans raze the city, including its Temple of the White Lady. Just as Shroud comes calling on the goddess for help in settling a certain debt.

Avallon Delamar, the Emperor of Erin Elal, requests a meeting with the Storm Lords to discuss an alliance against the Augerans. When the Augerans get word of the gathering, strike, in the hope of eliminating the Erin Elalese and Storm Lord high commands. They have not counted on the Rubyholters, however, who come seeking revenge for the destruction of their capital.
But the battle lines for the struggle are not as clearly drawn as it might at first appear.

The Bird and The Sword (The Bird and the Sword Chronicles #1) by Amy Harmon

The Bird and The Sword (cover)Swallow, Daughter, pull them in, those words that sit upon your lips. Lock them deep inside your soul, hide them ‘til they’ve time to grow. Close your mouth upon the power, curse not, cure not, ‘til the hour. You won’t speak and you won’t tell, you won’t call on heav’n or hell. You will learn and you will thrive. Silence, Daughter. Stay alive.

The day my mother was killed, she told my father I wouldn’t speak again, and she told him if I died, he would die too. Then she predicted the king would trade his soul and lose his son to the sky.

My father has a claim to the throne, and he is waiting in the shadows for all of my mother’s words to come to pass. He wants desperately to be king, and I just want to be free.

But freedom will require escape, and I’m a prisoner of my mother’s curse and my father’s greed. I can’t speak or make a sound, and I can’t wield a sword or beguile a king. In a land purged of enchantment, love might be the only magic left, and who could ever love . . . a bird?

The Burning Isle by Will Panzo

The Burning Isle (cover)A man has only three reasons for being anywhere: to right a wrong, to earn a coin, or because he is lost.

Cassius is not lost…

The mage Cassius has just arrived on the island of Scipio. Five miles of slum on the edge of fifty miles of jungle, Scipio is a lawless haven for criminals, pirates, and exiles. The city is split in two, each half ruled by a corrupt feudal lord. Both of them answer to a mysterious general who lives deep in the jungle with his army, but they still constantly battle for power. If a man knows how to turn their discord to his advantage, he might also turn a profit.

But trained on the Isle of Twelve, Cassius is no ordinary spellcaster, and his goal is not simply money. This a treacherous island where the native gods are restless, and anything can happen.

The Fate of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #3) by Erika Johansen

The Fate of the Tearling (cover)In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne. So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will be revealed.

The Great Ordeal (Aspect-Emperor #3) by R. Scott Bakker

The Great Ordeal (cover)Praised by fans and critics worldwide, R. Scott Bakker has become one of the most celebrated voices in fantasy literature. With The Great Ordeal, Bakker presents the long-anticipated third volume of The Aspect-Emperor, a series that stands with the finest in the genre for its grandiose scope, rich detail, and thrilling story.

As Fanim war-drums beat just outside the city, the Empress Anasurimbor Esmenet searches frantically throughout the palace for her missing son Kelmomas.

Meanwhile and many miles away, Esmenet’s husband’s Great Ordeal continues its epic march further north. But in light of dwindling supplies, the Aspect-Emperor’s decision to allow his men to consume the flesh of fallen Sranc could have consequences even he couldn’t have foreseen.

And, deep in Ishuäl, the wizard Achamian grapples with his fear that his unspeakably long journey might be ending in emptiness, no closer to the truth than when he set out.

The Guns of Empire (The Shadow Campaigns, #4) by Django Wexler

The Guns of Empire (cover)As the roar of the guns subsides and the smoke of battle clears, the country of Vordan is offered a fragile peace…

After their shattering defeats at the hands of brilliant general Janus bet Vhalnich, the opposing powers have called all sides to the negotiating table, in hopes of securing an end to the war. Queen Raesinia of Vordan is anxious to see the return of peace, but Janus insists that any peace with the implacable Sworn Church of Elysium is doomed to fail. For their Priests of the Black, there can be no truce with heretics and demons they seek to destroy, and the war is to the death.

Soldiers Marcus d’Ivoire and Winter Ihernglass find themselves caught between their general and their queen. Now, each must decide which leader truly commands their loyalty—and what price they might pay for final victory.

And in the depths of Elysium, a malign force is rising—and defeating it might mean making sacrifices beyond anything they have ever imagined.

The Guns of Ivrea (Tales of Valdur #1) by Clifford Beal

The Guns of Ivrea (cover)Acquel Galenus, former thief and now monk, uncovers a terrible secret under the Great Temple at Livorna, one that could shake the faith to its core. A secret that could get him killed. A secret that could enable an older, more sinister form of worship to be reborn.

Pirate princeling Nicolo Danamis, mercenary to the King and captain of the largest fleet in Valdur, has made one deal too many, and enemies are now closing in to destroy him.

Citala, fair-haired and grey-skinned, the daughter of the chieftain of the merfolk, finds herself implacably drawn to the affairs of men. She puts events in motion that will end her people’s years of isolation but that could imperil their very existence.

All their fates will intertwine as they journey across the land, through duchies and free cities riven by political intrigue, religious fervour, and ancient hatreds. Alliances are being forged anew and after decades of wary peace, war is on the wind once again.

The Immortal Throne (The City #2) by Stella Gemmell

The Immortal Throne (cover)The emperor is dead…long live the emperor!

The fervent hope of the victorious rebels and the survivors of the uprising that liberated the City from tyranny is that the accession of Archange to the imperial throne will usher in a new era of freedom, peace and stability. If only that were so.

As the City struggles to return to something resembling normal life after the devastation brought on by the rebellion, word arises of a massive army gathering to the north. No one knows where it has come from or who leads it, but it soon becomes apparent that its sole purpose is to destroy the City and annihilate all – man, woman and child – who live within its battered walls. And while warriors go forth to fight and die on the battlefield in defence of their homeland and all that they believe in, bitter family feuds and ancient rivalries, political and personal betrayals, and mindless murder surface within the palaces and corridors of power: it seems the City is under siege – from both without and within.

The Last Mortal Bond (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #3) by Brian Staveley

The Last Mortal Bond (cover)The climactic third and final novel in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne – the trilogy that began with The Emperor’s Blades and continued in The Providence of Fire reaches its epic conclusion, as war engulfs the Annurian Empire.

The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all–Valyn, Adare, and Kaden–come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.

The Mortal Tally (Bring Down Heaven #2) by Sam Sykes

The Mortal Tally (cover)The heart of civilization bleeds.

Cier’Djaal, once the crowning glory of the civilized world, has gone from a city to a battlefield and a battlefield to a graveyard. Foreign armies clash relentlessly on streets laden with the bodies of innocents caught in the crossfire. Cultists and thieves wage shadow wars, tribal armies foment outside the city’s walls, and haughty aristocrats watch the world burn from on high.

As his companions struggle to keep the city from destroying itself, Lenk travels to the Forbidden East in search of the demon who caused it all. But even as he pursues Khoth-Kapira, dark whispers plague his thoughts. Khoth-Kapira promises him a world free of war where Lenk can put down his sword at last. And Lenk finds it hard not to listen.

When gods are deaf, demons will speak.

The Spider’s War (The Dagger and the Coin #5) by Daniel Abraham

The Spider's War (cover)Lord Regent Geder Palliako’s great war has spilled across the world, nation after nation falling before the ancient priesthood and weapon of dragons. But even as conquest follows conquest, the final victory retreats before him like a mirage. Schism and revolt begin to erode the foundations of the empire, and the great conquest threatens to collapse into a permanent war of all against all.

In Carse, with armies on all borders, Cithrin bel Sarcour, Marcus Wester, and Clara Kalliam are faced with the impossible task of bringing a lasting peace to the world. Their tools: traitors high in the imperial army, the last survivor of the dragon empire, and a financial scheme that is either a revolution or the greatest fraud in the history of the world.

The Summer Dragon (The Evertide #1) by Todd Lockwood

The Summer Dragon (cover)Maia and her family raise dragons for the political war machine. As she comes of age, she anticipates a dragon of her own to add to the stable of breeding parents. Her peaceful life is shattered when the Summer Dragon—one of the rare and mythical High Dragons—makes an appearance in her quiet valley. Political factions vie for control of the implied message, threatening her aspirations, her aerie, her entire way of life.

The bond between dragons and their riders is deep and life-long, and Maia’s desire for a dragon of her own to train, ride, fly, and love drives her to take a risk that puts her life at stake. She is swept into an adventure that pits her against the deathless Horrors, thralls of the enemy, and a faceless creature drawn from her fear. In her fight to preserve everything she knows and loves, she exposes a conspiracy, unearths an ancient civilization, and challenges her understanding of her world—and of herself.

The Tiger and the Wolf (Echoes of the Fall #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Tiger and the Wolf (cover)In the bleak northern crown of the world, war is coming.

Maniye’s father is the Wolf clan’s chieftain, but she’s an outcast. Her mother was queen of the Tiger and these tribes have been enemies for generations. Maniye also hides a deadly secret. All can shift into their clan’s animal form, but Maniye can take on tiger and wolf shapes. She can’t disown half her soul, so escapes – with the killer Broken Axe in pursuit.

Maniye’s father plots to rule the north, and controlling his daughter is crucial to his schemes. However, other tribes also prepare for strife. It’s a season for omens as priests foresee danger, a time of testing and broken laws. Some say a great war is coming, overshadowing even Wolf ambitions. But what spark will set the world ablaze?

The Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoria #1) by Anthony Ryan

The Waking Fire (cover)The Waking Fire is set in a vibrant new world where the blood of drakes—creatures similar to dragons—is valued beyond reckoning, and can be distilled into elixirs that grant fearsome powers to those who are “blood-blessed.” The novel follows an unregistered blood-blessed as he searches for an elusive variety of drake so potent, its capture would mean unrivalled riches; the second in command of a blood-burning ironclad ship; and a young woman in a lifelong contract to a trading syndicate, whose espionage mission places her on the front lines of a newly declared war.

As empires clash and arcane mysteries reveal themselves, these characters are tested again and again and soon discover that the fate of the world rests on their shoulders.

The Draconis Memoria is a remarkable new epic fantasy series with steampunk flavor, full of the phenomenal worldbuilding and non-stop action that have gained Anthony Ryan a global fan base.

The Wall of Storms (The Dandelion Dynasty #2) by Ken Liu

The Wall of Storms (cover)In the much-anticipated sequel to the “magnificent fantasy epic” (NPR) Grace of Kings, Emperor Kuni Garu is faced with the invasion of an invincible army in his kingdom and must quickly find a way to defeat the intruders.

Kuni Garu, now known as Emperor Ragin, runs the archipelago kingdom of Dara, but struggles to maintain progress while serving the demands of the people and his vision. Then an unexpected invading force from the Lyucu Empire in the far distant west comes to the shores of Dara—and chaos results.

But Emperor Kuni cannot go and lead his kingdom against the threat himself with his recently healed empire fraying at the seams, so he sends the only people he trusts to be Dara’s savvy and cunning hopes against the invincible invaders: his children, now grown and ready to make their mark on history.

Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch (UK cover)In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home. Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Twilight of the Dragons (The Blood Dragon Empire #2) by Andy Remic

Twilight of the Dragons (cover)Part two of the high-octane fantasy series, from the natural successor to David Gemmell. A group of heroes makes dangerous bargains in order to overthrow the dragonlords and their Dragon Engines.

During a recent dwarf civil-war deep under the Karamakkos Mountains, the magick-enslaved dragonlords have broken free from centuries of imprisonment and slaughtered tens of thousands throughout the Five Havens before exploding from the mountain and heading in fire and vengeance for the lands of Vagandrak.

Two once-noble war heroes of Vagandrak – Dakeroth and his wife Jonti Tal, an archer and scholar, the Axeman, the White Witch and a Kaalesh combat expert find themselves in a unique position: for they have discovered the ancient dragon city of Wyrmblood, and a thousand unhatched dragon eggs.

Dakeroth and his companions must work with their enemies, Skalg and the Church of Hate, in order to bring down the dragonlords and save the world of men and dwarves. But there is no bartering with these ancient dragons; for they seek to hatch their eggs and rebuild the cruel Wyrmblood Empire of legend.

Top 15… Kinda

15b. The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn, #6) by Brandon Sanderson

The Bands of Mourning (cover 2)

“Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.

The Bands of Mourning are the mythical metal minds owned by the Lord Ruler, said to grant anyone who wears them the powers that the Lord Ruler had at his command. Hardly anyone thinks they really exist. A kandra researcher has returned to Elendel with images that seem to depict the Bands, as well as writings in a language that no one can read. Waxillium Ladrian is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate. Along the way he discovers hints that point to the true goals of his uncle Edwarn and the shadowy organization known as The Set.”

If you want a little bit of Hollywood in your Fantasy then the second Mistborn series has proven to be for you. In Mistborn: The Bands of Mourning you have a novel that reads as though someone has sucked up a 1960s gangster/PI movie, spat it out into literary form and sprinkled a magic system into it. The characters of Wax and Wayne get further developed. Wax’s flashbacks are particularly interesting and there’s a twist that will rival even the one that awaited in Shadows of Self.

I would say, however, that you can feel a little of inauthenticity with this third book. Scenes feel dot-to-dot as opposed to naturally occurring. The cheesy narrative has its charm, but can get a little (I hate this word) cringe-y. And the further extension of the metals systems feels a little unneeded.

15a. Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom (cover large)

“Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets—a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.”

Okay, Okay, I know, I’m cheating by creating two at rank 15! It’s not my fault though, I just couldn’t decide which of the two – The Bands of Mourning or Crooked Kingdom – to knock off the list. They are both very, very good and very entertaining titles that have similar strengths and similar weaknesses. Just like Sanderson’s work, Bardego’s is full of memorable action, cheesy dialogue and clever twists.

I think Bardego’s work is more authentic feeling, but it suffers with a few needless events and a step backwards compared to Six of Crows, in terms of feeling as though it is aimed at younger readers. That said, if you are after a book that’s Oliver Twist crossed with Ocean’s Eleven crossed with Gentleman Bastards hybrid with all the fun and emotion you’d expect from a novel marketed towards a YA audience then pick this up ASAP!

14. The Mirror’s Truth (Manifest Delusions #2) by Michael R. Fletcher

The Mirror's Truth (cover)

“Bedeckt defined himself by the list of crimes he was unwilling to commit. It was such a short list. How could straying from it have gone so wrong?

Bedeckt must undo the damage caused by wandering from his precious list. The Geborene god seeks to remake the world with his obsessive need for cleanliness and perfection, but Bedeckt is going to bring him down. Nothing can stop him. Not even death.

The two friends he abandoned in the Afterdeath chase after Bedeckt, bent on revenge. Psychotic assassins hunt him. Something cold and evil follows, lurking in the clouds above, shredding reality with its delusions. Madness and sanity war, stretching and tearing the very fabric of existence.”

Who needs a publishing house? Michael R. Fletcher proves that self-publishing is a viable option should you end up out of contract.

The Mirror’s Truth is a page turner. The dynamic nature of the story, not only the twists and turns, but the changes in the characters’ moods and attitudes as they try to cope with the difficult situations and mayhem abound. The grimdarkness of this series may not be for everyone, but if you’re one of those heavily invested in this sub-genre then look no further, because Fletcher is one of its champions.

13. Stranger of Tempest (The God Fragments #1) by Tom Lloyd

Stranger of Tempest (cover)

“Lynx is a mercenary with a sense of honour; a dying breed in the Shattered Kingdom. Failed by the nation he served and weary of the skirmishes that plague the continent’s principalities, he walks the land in search of purpose. He wants for little so bodyguard work keeps his belly full and his mage-gun loaded. It might never bring a man fame or wealth, but he’s not forced to rely on others or kill without cause. Little could compel Lynx to join a mercenary company, but he won’t turn his back on a kidnapped girl. At least the job seems simple enough; the mercenaries less stupid and vicious than most he’s met over the years. So long as there are no surprises or hidden agendas along the way, it should work out fine.”

No Joe Abercrombie this year? Don’t worry, Tom Lloyd has you covered. Actually, that’s a little unfair: although the style and banter is familiar, Tom’s work is laden with magical creatures and magical devices (literally magic guns, people!) that you won’t find in most of the fantasy being written by Joe A or those who have tried to replicate his style. The result is superb: fast, fun and full of action – this is a book you will devour in a couple of days and wonder where all the pages went.

12. The Malice (The Vagrant #2) by Peter Newman

The Malice (cover)

“Gamma’s sword, the Malice, wakes, calling to be taken to battle once more.

But the Vagrant has found a home now, made a life and so he turns his back, ignoring its call.

The sword cries out, frustrated, until another answers.

Her name is Vesper.”

Once you settle into The Malice, which is a very different book to The Vagrant, the struggle between Vesper and the Malice as each strives to do what they consider right is an exceptional accomplishment – the tale of a child against the last relic of a demigod. The Malice promises huge things to come in The Seven (book 3) and I’d be shocked if it didn’t make its way into the top 10 next year.

11. A Plague of Swords (The Traitor Son Cycle #4) by Miles Cameron

A Plague of Swords (cover)

“One enemy has fallen … a greater one remains … now it’s war The Red Knight withstood the full might of his enemy and won the day. In a victory which will be remembered through the ages, he brought disparate factions together and turned them into allies against a more powerful foe than they had ever seen. Now, he will need his allies more than ever. Because behind one adversary hid another–one with allies of their own–whose goal was never to destroy Alba, but to distract the Kingdom while achieving his true aim. And whatever it is, it’s probably not in the Red Knight’s interest. With one army defeated, now the Red Knight must fight again–and for every one of his allies there is a corresponding enemy. Spread out in different lands, and on sea, it will all come down to one last gamble. And to whether or not the Red Knight has guessed their foe’s true intentions. With each throw of the dice, everything could be lost.”

A series that hasn’t quite found the wide fan-base it deserves, but has loyal fans who smile smugly that they’ve discovered it early. In books four, although the plot has become more epic in scale, the novel has fewer viewpoints and benefits from a quicker pace and more concise story as a result. If you like knights, political plots, sea monsters, gritty battles and medieval settings and still haven’t picked this series up yet, you’re truly missing out!

10. The Silver Tide (The Copper Cat #3) by Jen Williams

Silver Tide (cover)

“Tales of the Black Feather Three and their exploits abound far and wide, and Wydrin of Crosshaven, Lord Aaron Frith and Sir Sebastian have become sell swords in demand. Having foiled powerful mages and evil magic, they now face a challenge unlike any before – in the form of Wydrin’s mother.

Devinia the Red, notorious pirate and captain of the Poison Chalice, is intent on finding the fabled treasure hidden within the jungles of the cursed island of Euriale. She needs the skills of her daughter Wydrin and her companions to get there, and our heroes cannot resist the lure of coin and adventure. But no explorer has returned from the heart of the island, and it’s not long before the Three find themselves in the clutches of peril. Deep within the island of the gods, there are remnants of forces best left undisturbed.”

The Copper Cat Trilogy is a well-written series which manages to be fun, serious, and topical at the same time and it’s surely destined to become a twenty-first century fantasy classic. It’s also full of heart. It will make you laugh, cry, smile – reactions that only the best books elicit. Jen’s characters are incredibly human; it’s her gift and ability as a writer that makes you feel so close to them, to want to see them achieve their goals and to find happiness.

In a world where grimdark is laughing gleefully as it kicks lighter-hearted books off shelves, it’s nice to have an author who leaves you with a smile on your face or tear in your eye rather than a “well, everything does kind of suck, doesn’t it?” feeling.

9. Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1) by Jay Kristoff

Nevernight (cover)

“In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?”

If you read the Harry Potter series and thought, “This is a pleasant little story and all, but I just wish everyone at Hogwarts was a blood-thirsty sociopath and the instructors should stop wasting everyone’s time with all these pointless classes and just teach the students how to f— and kill one another.” Then I’ve got two things to say:

Number one, you should probably see a mental health specialist.

Number two, you’re going to love Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight.

8. This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song (cover)

“There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwaba young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.”

Victoria Schwab is quickly proving herself another Brandon Sanderson. She is not only writing a number of on-going series (one of which appears later in this list), but she is coming up with new ideas and working on various other projects away from her books – such as a screenplay.

This Savage Song is a great example of this. Schwab’s work tends to get labelled as young adult, but I’d call it universal. The book has a deep message and that message is that humans are reaping the results of bad choices. It serves as a wakeup call because although it’s unlikely our evil will spawn literal monsters, destruction and distress await if we continue making wrong turns.

7. The Blood Mirror (Lightbringer #4) by Brent Weeks

The Blood Mirror (cover)

“Stripped of both magical and political power, the people he once ruled told he’s dead, and now imprisoned in his own magical dungeon, former Emperor Gavin Guile has no prospect of escape. But the world faces a calamity greater than the Seven Satrapies has ever seen… and only he can save it.

As the armies of the White King defeat the Chromeria and old gods are born anew, the fate of worlds will come down to one question: Who is the Lightbringer?”

I don’t think there is an author writing today who is better at pacing their sentences and chapters than Brent Weeks. You never find yourself peaking to see how many pages you’ve got left of a chapter, because the story is thrown at you at just a relentless pace. Whether it’s hot sex, action scenes, political plots, assassinations, there’s always something to keep you on your toes. Book four is Brent Weeks’s best book to date and it’s hugely distressing that there are still people who have not got past book one (which was pretty heavy on the exposition, worldbuilding and explanation of the magic system), because this is one of the very best series actively being written today.

Another book I was expecting to be higher, but can understand perhaps the hyper-focus on sex – especially early on – could have been serving more as filler forcing the fifth book (in a series where three/four were originally planned).

6. Hope and Red (Empire of Storms #1) by Jon Skovron

Hope and Red (cover 2)

“In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two young people from different cultures find common purpose. A nameless girl is the lone survivor when her village is massacred by biomancers, mystical servants of the emperor. Named after her lost village, Bleak Hope is secretly trained by a master Vinchen warrior as an instrument of vengeance. A boy becomes an orphan on the squalid streets of New Laven and is adopted by one of the most notorious women of the criminal underworld, given the name Red, and trained as a thief and con artist. When a ganglord named Deadface Drem strikes a bargain with the biomancers to consolidate and rule all the slums of New Laven, the worlds of Hope and Red come crashing together, and their unlikely alliance takes them further than either could have dreamed possible.”

In a year without Scott Lynch and Chris Wooding, I felt very grateful for the appearance of Jon Skovron on the adult fantasy shelves. So few books are able to balance the gritty and the deep, and even those that do don’t do it in the same way that Skovron does. Action, violence, vulgar language, and yet moving relationships and a captivating world that you won’t want to leave. By far, this was the most fun book I’ve read in 2016 and one of the first I will recommend to people, from now on, who ask for a book similar to that of Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series or Brent Weeks’s Night Angel trilogy.

5. The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2) by N. K. Jemisin

The Obelisk Gate (cover)

“The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.

It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.”

Similar to Robert Jackson Bennett’s work, N. K. Jemisin explores areas of humanity: from race to sexuality and class to gender. Diverse worlds and characters come easily to Jemisin and it’s easy to see the author’s passion for creating cultures. This second book in the series was perhaps a little slower than the first, which is why it is further down the list than some may expect, but for those who pick it up for the exploration of fantastical societies that reflect our own, there’s not a better book for you.

4. Saint’s Blood (Greatcoats #3) by Sebastien de Castell

Saint's Blood (cover 2)

“How do you kill a Saint?

Falcio, Kest, and Brasti are about to find out, because someone has figured out a way to do it and they’ve started with a friend.

The Dukes were already looking for ways out of their agreement to put Aline on the throne, but with the Saints turning up dead, rumours are spreading that the Gods themselves oppose her ascension. Now churches are looking to protect themselves by bringing back the military orders of religious soldiers, assassins, and (especially) Inquisitors – a move that could turn the country into a theocracy. The only way Falcio can put a stop to it is by finding the murderer. He has only one clue: a terrifying iron mask which makes the Saints vulnerable by driving them mad. But even if he can find the killer, he’ll still have to face him in battle.

And that may be a duel that no swordsman, no matter how skilled, can hope to win.”

This is a one in a million series. Each book is fantastic yet manages to be better than the last and with Saint’s Blood Castell takes the characters and readers into some hugely unexpected and exciting places with the consummate precision and skill of a master dueller. There is actually not a high enough recommendation I could give that would reflect how much I truly think people should pick this series up. It’s amazing and will leave you desperate for more. And with only one more book in the series it promises to be an explosive finish. I’d step over my mother for a copy of the finale known as Tyrant’s Throne, even if she were having a really rotten day and just needed a tiny bit of human decency. Sorry mum.

3. The Wheel of Osheim (The Red Queen’s War #3) by Mark Lawrence

The Wheel of Osheim (cover)

“All the horrors of Hell stand between Snorri Ver Snagason and the rescue of his family, if indeed the dead can be rescued. For Jalan Kendeth, getting back out alive and with Loki’s key is all that matters. Loki’s creation can open any lock, any door, and it may also be the key to Jalan’s fortune back in the living world.

Jalan plans to return to the three w’s that have been the core of his idle and debauched life: wine, women, and wagering. Fate however has other plans, larger plans. The Wheel of Osheim is turning ever faster, and it will crack the world unless it’s stopped. When the end of all things looms, and there’s nowhere to run, even the worst coward must find new answers. Jalan and Snorri face many dangers, from the corpse hordes of the Dead King to the many mirrors of the Lady Blue, but in the end, fast or slow, the Wheel of Osheim always pulls you back. In the end it’s win or die.”

A stunning conclusion to an incredible trilogy. Despite a larger cast and more twists, the tone remains mostly light and humorous throughout, even when the mood is tense or the subject matter dark. As hardly needs to be said when it comes to Mark Lawrence’s writing, each page is a pleasure to read. His prose is poetic and flowing, frequently beautiful and never less than engaging. Lawrence is without doubt one of the finest voices in modern fantasy, and The Wheel of Osheim his most outstanding contribution to the genre so far.

(Oh yeah, and we see Jorg again too.)

2. City of Blades (The Divine Cities #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Blades (cover 2)

“A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions.

Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.

So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh — foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister — has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.

At least, it makes the perfect cover story.

The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery. For while the city’s god is most certainly dead, something is awakening in Voortyashtan. And someone is determined to make the world tremble at the the city’s awful power again.”

Robert Jackson Bennett’s novels explore topics such as oppression, colonization, religion and mortality. They are powerful to the extent that they can open your eyes and reshape your views. This is a powerful thing, a book that has the ability to renew your opinions, having been encouraged to consider difficult questions. In my opinion, Robert Jackson Bennett is one of the most talented authors writing in SFF today and this is his finest work to date.

And Finally…

Best Fantasy Book of 2016

1. Wrath (The Faithful and the Fallen #4) by John Gwynne

Wrath (cover)

“Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasures are in his possession. And together with Calidus and his ally Queen Rhin, Nathair will do anything to obtain the remaining Treasures. With all seven under his command, he can open a portal to the Otherworld. Then Asroth and his demon-horde will finally break into the Banished Lands and become flesh.

Meanwhile Corban has been taken prisoner by the Jotun, warrior giants who ride their enormous bears into battle. His warband scattered, Corban must make new allies if he hopes to survive. But can he bond with competing factions of warlike giants? Somehow he must, if he’s to counter the threat Nathair represents.

His life hangs in the balance – and with it, the fate of the Banished Lands.”

Since 2012, John Gwynne has been promising us that ‘even the brave will fall’ and dear god, they have. Each successive instalment in the epic Faithful & Fallen quartet has seen greater numbers of beloved characters succumb to a rising tide of evil. Casualties of war, victims of treachery – with each novel the death toll has mounted. And so have the stakes.

Far too often the final book in a series leaves a reader disappointed and wishing that the author hadn’t tried too much or shied away from what should have been. John Gwynne did quite the opposite with Wrath. He has crafted a breathtakingly perfect finale to a series that has grown from strength to wonderful strength. Poignant, pulse-pounding and phenomenally paced, Wrath is a satisfying – and heart-breaking – climax that Tolkien himself would be proud to have penned.

Title image by Nakarin Sukontakorn.

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Rating: 8.9/10 (30 votes cast)
Fantasy-Faction’s Best Fantasy Books of 2016, 8.9 out of 10 based on 30 ratings
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One Comment

  1. Great list – there are some I’ve read, many I have not. My TBR list grows.

    Meanwhile, I join the horde of authors who published a book last year and have our noses pressed against the cold glass of the window looking into the warm glow of listed best books of 2016
    One day – one fine and sunny day – my book too, will be on such a list. Luckily, it has been nominated for the David Gemmell Morningstar Award, which holds back the frostbite of being left out in the cold

    All said with tongue firmly in cheek – It makes me sound odd, but everything has it’s downsides, right?

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