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Fantasy-Faction’s Best Fantasy Books of 2018

Best Of (FF award logo) Happy New Year Factioners! 2018 was a difficult year for many of us, but it was an amazing year for fantasy! Our nomination list was the longest it’s ever been and we had a super hard time deciding who would make the cut. There were fantastic debuts, continuations of series, and series that reached their final climax. Door-stopper novels and short but sweet novellas. Gritty grimdark and fantastical fantasies.

Below are the highlights of the year as picked by our readers and contributors. We could have easily come up with a top 100 list, but at some point I’m going to need leave the land of spreadsheets and Word docs and clean my house and make sure my husband and children are still alive.

So here they are! Fantasy-Faction’s Best Books of 2018! Enjoy!

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Top 50

The Smoke by Simon Ings

The Smoke (cover)Humanity has been split into three different species. Mutual incomprehension has fractured the globe. As humans race to be the first of their kind to reach the stars, another Great War looms.

For you that means returning to Yorkshire and the town of your birth, where factories churn out the parts for gigantic spaceships. You’re done with the pretensions of the capital and its unfathomable architecture. You’re done with the people of the Bund, their easy superiority and unstoppable spread throughout the city of London and beyond. You’re done with Georgy Chernoy and his questionable defeat of death. You’re done with his daughter, Fel, and losing all the time. You’re done with love.

But soon enough you will find yourself in the Smoke again, drawn back to the life you thought you’d left behind.

You’re done with love. But love’s not done with you.

Hero Forged (Ethereal Earth #1) by Josh Erikson

Hero Forged (cover)Gabe thought he had covered all the angles, but it’s tough to plan a contingency for accidentally trapping an evil god in your brain.

Gabriel Delling might call himself a professional con artist, but when walking superstitions start trying to bite his face off, his charm is shockingly unhelpful. It turns out living nightmares almost never appreciate a good joke.

Together with a succubus who insists on constantly saving his life, Gabe desperately tries to survive a new reality that suddenly features demons, legends, and a giant locust named Dale—all of whom pretty much hate his guts. And when an ancient horror comes hunting for the spirit locked in his head, Gabe finds himself faced with the excruciating choice between death, or becoming some kind of freaking hero.

Hero Forged is the first book in the new series, Ethereal Earth, a modern fantasy adventure that challenges the natures of myth, humanity, and what it means to be the good guy.

The Deathless (Deathless #1) by Peter Newman

The Deathless (cover)The demons…

In the endless forests of the Wild, humanity scratches a living by the side of the great Godroads, paths of crystal that provide safe passage and hold back the infernal tide. Creatures lurk within the trees, watching, and plucking those who stray too far from safety.

The Deathless…

In crystal castles held aloft on magical currents, seven timeless royal families reign, protecting humanity from the spread of the Wild and its demons. Born and reborn into flawless bodies, the Deathless are as immortal as the precious stones from which they take their names. For generations a fragile balance has held.

And the damned…

House Sapphire, one of the ancient Deathless families, is riven by suspicion and madness. Whole villages are disappearing as the hunting expeditions holding the Wild at bay begin to fail. Then, when assassins strike, House Sapphire shatters.

Nothing lasts forever.

Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers #3) by Beck Chambers

Record of a Spaceborn Few (cover)From the ground, we stand. From our ship, we live. By the stars, we hope.

Centuries after the last humans left Earth, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. Humanity has finally been accepted into the galactic community, but while this has opened doors for many, those who have not yet left for alien cities fear that their carefully cultivated way of life is under threat.

Tessa chose to stay home when her brother Ashby left for the stars, but has to question that decision when her position in the Fleet is threatened.

Kip, a reluctant young apprentice, itches for change but doesn’t know where to find it.

Sawyer, a lost and lonely newcomer, is just looking for a place to belong.

When a disaster rocks this already fragile community, those Exodans who still call the Fleet their home can no longer avoid the inescapable question:

What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination?

Soulbinder (Spellslinger #4) by Sebastien de Castell

Soulbinder (cover)In the fourth book of an exciting adventure fantasy series from Sebastien de Castell, a failed mage learns that just because he’s not the chosen one it doesn’t mean he can’t be a hero.

For an outlaw spellslinger, the only way to survive is to hide.

Kellen’s curse is growing stronger, promising a future of madness and murder. And now that the bounty hunter sworn to kill every last shadow black has caught his trail, he knows his days are numbered.

Desperate, Kellen braves a barren desert to find a mysterious order of monks rumored to possess a cure. But there are secrets darker and more dangerous than Kellen expected, and the price of his salvation may be more than he’s willing to pay.

From Unseen Fire (Aven Cycle #1) by Cass Morris

From Unseen Fire (cover)The Dictator is dead; long live the Republic.

But whose Republic will it be? Senators, generals, and elemental mages vie for the power to shape the future of the city of Aven. Latona of the Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous men. Now that the Dictator who threatened her family is gone, she may have an opportunity to seize a greater destiny as a protector of the people—if only she can find the courage to try.

Her siblings—a widow who conceals a canny political mind in the guise of a frivolous socialite, a young prophetess learning to navigate a treacherous world, and a military tribune leading a dangerous expedition in the province of Iberia—will be her allies as she builds a place for herself in this new world, against the objections of their father, her husband, and the strictures of Aventan society.

Latona’s path intersects with that of Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious senator harboring a dangerous secret. Sacred law dictates that no mage may hold high office, but Sempronius, a Shadow mage who has kept his abilities a life-long secret, intends to do just that. As rebellion brews in the provinces, Sempronius must outwit the ruthless leader of the opposing Senate faction to claim the political and military power he needs to secure a glorious future for Aven and his own place in history.

As politics draw them together and romance blossoms between them, Latona and Sempronius will use wit, charm, and magic to shape Aven’s fate. But when their foes resort to brutal violence and foul sorcery, will their efforts be enough to save the Republic they love?

Empire of Silence (Sun Eater #1) by Christopher Ruocchio

Empire of Silence (cover)Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.

A Flicker of Steel (The Avalon Chronicles #2) by Steve McHugh

A Flicker of Steel (cover)Avalon stands revealed, but the war is far from over. For Layla Cassidy, it has only just begun. Thrust into a new world full of magic and monsters, Layla has finally come to terms with her supernatural powers—and left her old life behind. But her enemies are relentless.

Sixteen months after her life changed forever, Layla and her team are besieged during a rescue attempt gone awry and must fight their way through to freedom. It turns out that Avalon has only grown since their last encounter, adding fresh villains to its horde. Meanwhile, revelations abound as Layla confronts twists and betrayals in her own life, with each new detail adding to the shadow that looms over her.

As Layla fights against the forces of evil, her powers begin to increase—and she discovers more about the darkness that lies in her past. As this same darkness threatens her future, will she be ready to fight for everything she holds dear?

Skyward (Skyward #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Skyward (cover UK)From bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, comes the first book in an epic new series about a girl who dreams of becoming a pilot in a dangerous world at war for humanity’s future.

Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters.

Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her.

Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.

Son of a Liche (The Dark Profit Saga #2) by J. Zachary Pike

Son of a Liche (cover)A doubly disgraced Dwarven hero. A band of accident-prone adventurers. Giving redemption a second shot may have been a grave mistake.

Still bruised and heartbroken from their last calamitous quest, Gorm Ingerson and his band of washed-up heroes try to make amends for the Orcs they accidentally betrayed. But justice is put on hold when an old foe marches to the city gates. Gorm is horrified to discover a liche pitching the frightened city-dwellers on the merits of the undead lifestyle, at the head of a corpse army.

To save the city from high-pressure sales tactics and an inevitable siege, the Dwarf warrior and his misfit band hatch a harebrained scheme that lands them at the top of the king’s kill list. With death and dark magic on his heels, Gorm must craft his own pitch to round up the troops and put the undead snake-oil salesman and his army of pushers permanently out of business.

A Veil of Spears (The Song of the Shattered Sands #3) by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Veil of Spears front (cover)Since the Night of Endless Swords, a bloody battle the Kings of Sharakhai narrowly won, the kings have been hounding the rebels known as the Moonless Host. Many have been forced to flee the city, including Çeda, who discovers that the King of Sloth is raising his army to challenge the other kings’ rule.

When Çeda finds the remaining members of the Moonless Host, now known as the thirteenth tribe, she sees a tenuous existence. Çeda hatches a plan to return to Sharakhai and free the asirim, the kings’ powerful, immortal slaves. The kings, however, have sent their greatest tactician, the King of Swords, to bring Çeda to justice for her crimes.

But the once-unified front of the kings is crumbling. The surviving kings vie quietly against one another, maneuvering for control over Sharakhai. Çeda hopes to use that to her advantage, but whom to trust? Any of them might betray her.

As Çeda works to lift the shackles from the asirim and save the thirteenth tribe, the kings of Sharakhai, the scheming queen of Qaimir, the ruthless blood mage, Hamzakiir, and King of Swords all prepare for a grand clash that may decide the fate of all.

Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

Trail of Lightning (cover)While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small-town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.

The Willow by Your Side by Peter Haynes

The Willow by Your Side (cover)The woods. Dreams and portents. Youth. Magic runs through all of them. But in the aftermath of war a young boy is twisted and tested trying to hold his family together.

As his sister recovers from a terrible assault by her father, she teaches him about the magic in the land, the tombs of ancient kings and the wishing lake, about the treacherous Red Cap and the places deep in the woods where the adults don’t go.

But when she disappears, the balance fails. Parents divided by their pain and all eyes in the village turn to the father, a man who brought his own nightmares back from the war. They search the woods, pushing deeper into the strange spaces where myths grow with the trees. But only the boy knows the secret paths they took, and the way to the lake where wishes come true.

Last Dragon Standing (Heartstrikers #5) by Rachel Aaron

Last Dragon Standing (cover)Dear Reader,

There is no way to write a blurb for this final book without spoiling all of the others. Suffice it to say, mysteries resolve, dragons war, pigeons abound, and Julius must risk himself in ways he never dreamed possible, as Bob’s grand plan finally comes to fruition.

But the Great Seer of the Heartstrikers isn’t the only one whose schemes are nearing completion.

The Nameless End is coming, and even the machinations of the world’s most brilliant dragon seer might not be enough to stop it.

As the world comes crashing down, it’s up Julius to prove what he’s always known: that seers can be wrong, and Nice Dragons don’t always finish last.

The Armored Saint (cover)

The Armored Saint (The Sacred Throne #1) by Myke Cole

Myke Cole, military fantasy and ancient history author, debuts the Sacred Throne epic fantasy trilogy, a story of religious tyrants, arcane war-machines, and underground resistance that will enthrall epic fantasy readers of all ages.

In a world where any act of magic could open a portal to hell, the Order insures that no wizard will live to summon devils, and will kill as many innocent people as they must to prevent that greater horror.

After witnessing a horrendous slaughter, the village girl Heloise opposes the Order, and risks bringing their wrath down on herself, her family, and her village.

Iron Gold (Red Rising Saga #4) by Pierce Brown

Iron Gold (cover)They call him father, liberator, warlord, Reaper. But he feels a boy as he falls toward the pale blue planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy. It is the tenth year of war and the thirty-second of his life.

A decade ago, Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk everything he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?

And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever:
A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.

An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.

And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

High Voltage (Fever #10) by Karen Marie Moning

High Voltage (cover)There is no action without consequence.

Dani O’Malley was nine-years-old when the delusional, sadistic Rowena transformed her into a ruthless killer. Years later, she’s tough, hardened, yet achingly vulnerable and fiercely compassionate, living alone by her own exacting code. Despite the scars on her body, driven by deeper ones carved into her soul, no one is more committed to protecting Dublin. By day, she ensures the safety of those she rescues, by night she hunts evil, dispensing justice swiftly and without mercy, determined to give those she cares for the peace she has never known.

There is no power without price.

When the Faerie Queen used the dangerously powerful Song of Making to heal the world from the damage done by the Hoar Frost King, catastrophic magic seeped deep into the earth, giving rise to horrifying, unforeseen consequences—and now deadly enemies plot in the darkness, preparing to enslave the human race and unleash an ancient reign of hell on Earth.

There is no future without sacrifice.

With the lethal, immortal Ryodan at her side, armed with the epic Sword of Light, Dani once again battles to save the world but her past comes back to haunt her with a vengeance, demanding an unspeakable price for the power she needs to save the human race and no one—not even Ryodan who’d move the very stars for her—can save her this time.

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

Early Riser (cover)Every Winter, the human population hibernates.

During those bitterly cold four months, the nation is a snow-draped landscape of desolate loneliness, and devoid of human activity.

Well, not quite.

Your name is Charlie Worthing and it’s your first season with the Winter Consuls, the committed but mildly unhinged group of misfits who are responsible for ensuring the hibernatory safe passage of the sleeping masses.

You are investigating an outbreak of viral dreams which you dismiss as nonsense; nothing more than a quirky artefact borne of the sleeping mind.

When the dreams start to kill people, it’s unsettling.

When you get the dreams too, it’s weird.

When they start to come true, you begin to doubt your sanity.

But teasing truth from Winter is never easy: You have to avoid the Villains and their penchant for murder, kidnapping and stamp collecting, ensure you aren’t eaten by Nightwalkers whose thirst for human flesh can only be satisfied by comfort food, and sidestep the increasingly less-than-mythical WinterVolk.

But so long as you remember to wrap up warmly, you’ll be fine.

Darksoul (The Godblind Trilogy #2) by Anna Stephens

Darksoul (cover)The Wolves lie dead beside Rilpor’s soldiers, slaughtered at the hands of the Mireces and their fanatical army.

The veil that once kept the Red Gods at bay has been left in tatters as the Dark Lady’s plans for the world come to fruition. Where the gods walk, blood is spilled on the earth.

All that stands between the Mireces army and complete control of the Kingdom of Rilpor are the walls of its capital, Rilporin, and those besieged inside.

But hope might yet bloom in the unlikeliest of places: in the heart of a former slave, in the mind of a soldier with the eyes of a fox, and in the hands of a general destined to be king.

Aching God (Iconoclasts, #1) by Mike Shel

Aching God (cover)“Closer, mortal. You are here, finally, to feed the Aching God.”

The days of adventure are passed for Auric Manteo. Retired to the countryside with his scars and riches, he no longer delves into forbidden ruins seeking dark wisdom and treasure. That is, until old nightmares begin plaguing his sleep, heralding an urgent summons back to that old life.

To save his only daughter, Auric must return to the place of his greatest trauma: the haunted Barrowlands. With only a few inexperienced companions and an old soldier, he must confront the dangers of the ancient and wicked Djao civilization. Auric has survived fell beasts, insidious traps, and deadly hazards before. But can he contend with the malice of a bloodthirsty living god?

First book in the Iconoclasts trilogy, Aching God is the debut novel of RPG adventure designer Mike Shel.

Vengeful (Villains #2) by V. E. Schwab

Vengeful (cover)Magneto and Professor X. Superman and Lex Luthor. Victor Vale and Eli Ever. Sydney and Serena Clarke.

Great partnerships, now soured on the vine.

But Marcella Riggins needs no one. Flush from her brush with death, she’s finally gained the control she’s always sought—and will use her new-found power to bring the city of Merit to its knees. She’ll do whatever it takes, collecting her own sidekicks, and leveraging the two most infamous EOs, Victor Vale and Eli Ever, against each other.

With Marcella’s rise, new enmities create opportunity—and the stage of Merit City will once again be set for a final, terrible reckoning.

The Winter Road by Adrian Selby

The Winter Road (cover)A gritty and epic adventure, The Winter Road is a fantasy novel which remembers that battles leave all kinds of scars.

The greatest empire of them all began with a road.

The Circle—a thousand miles of perilous forests and warring clans. No one has ever tamed such treacherous territory before, but ex-soldier Teyr Amondsen, veteran of a hundred battles, is determined to try.

With a merchant caravan protected by a crew of skilled mercenaries, Amondsen embarks on a dangerous mission to forge a road across the untamed wilderness that was once her home. But a warlord rises in the wilds of the Circle, uniting its clans and terrorising its people. Teyr’s battles may not be over yet.

All roads lead back to war.

The Monster Baru Cormorant (The Masquerade #2) by Seth Dickinson

The Monster Baru Cormorant (cover)

A breathtaking geopolitical fantasy as fraught as Game of Thrones, The Monster Baru Cormorant is the long-anticipated sequel to Seth Dickinson gut-wrenching debut, The Traitor Baru Cormorant.

Her world was shattered by the Empire of Masks.
For the power to shatter the Masquerade,
She betrayed everyone she loved.

Baru Cormormant’s world was shattered by the Empire of Masks. To exact her revenge, she has clawed her way up razor-edged rungs of betrayal, sacrifice, and compromise, becoming the very thing she seeks to destroy.

Now she strides in the Masquerade’s halls of power. To save the world, she must tear it asunder, and with it, all that remains of her soul.

The Ember Blade (The Darkwater Legacy #1) by Chris Wooding

The Ember Blade (cover)A land under occupation. A legendary sword. A young man’s journey to find his destiny.

Aren has lived by the rules all his life. He’s never questioned it; that’s just the way things are. But then his father is executed for treason, and he and his best friend Cade are thrown into a prison mine, doomed to work until they drop. Unless they can somehow break free.

But what lies beyond the prison walls is more terrifying still. Rescued by a man who hates him yet is oath-bound to protect him, pursued by inhuman forces, Aren slowly accepts that everything he knew about his world was a lie. The rules are not there to protect him, or his people, but to enslave them. A revolution is brewing, and Aren is being drawn into it, whether he likes it or not.

The key to the revolution is the Ember Blade. The sword of kings, the Excalibur of his people. Only with the Ember Blade in hand can their people be inspired to rise up.

The sword is locked in an impenetrable vault in the most heavily guarded fortress in the land. All they have to do now is steal it.

Rosewater (The Wormwood Trilogy #1) by Tade Thompson

Rosewater (cover)

Tade Thompson’s Rosewater is the start of an award-winning, cutting edge trilogy set in Nigeria, by one of science fiction’s most engaging new voices.

Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien bio-dome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless—people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.

Kaaro’s life is far from the simple one he wants. But he left simple behind a long time ago when he was caught stealing and nearly killed by an angry mob. Now he works for a government agency called Section 45, and they want him to find a woman known as Bicycle Girl.

Kaaro has seen inside the bio-dome, and doesn’t care to again—but when something begins killing off other sensitives like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.

Master Assassins (The Fire Sacraments #1) by Robert V.S. Redick

Master Assassins (cover)Kandri Hinjuman was never meant to be a soldier. His brother Mektu was never meant for this world. Rivals since childhood, they are drafted into a horrific war led by a madwoman-Prophet, and survive each day only by hiding their disbelief.

Kandri is good at blending in, but Mektu is hopeless: impulsive, erratic—and certain that a demon is stalking him. Is this madness or a second sense? Either way, Kandri knows that Mektu’s antics will land them both in early graves.

But all bets are off when the brothers’ simmering feud explodes into violence, and holy blood is spilled. Kandri and Mektu are taken for contract killers and must flee for their lives—to the one place where they can hope to disappear: the sprawling desert known as the Land that Eats Men. In this eerie wilderness, the terrain is as deadly as the monsters, ghouls, and traffickers in human flesh. Here the brothers find strange allies: an aging warlord, a desert nomad searching for her family, a lethal child-soldier still in her teens. They also find themselves in possession of a secret that could bring peace to the continent of Urrath. Or unthinkable carnage.

On their heels are the Prophet’s death squads. Ahead lie warring armies, sandstorms, evil spirits and the deeper evil of human greed. But hope beckons as well—if the “Master Assassins” can expose the lie that has made them the world’s most wanted men.

Cold Iron (Masters & Mages #1) by Miles Cameron

Cold Iron (cover) 2Aranthur is a student. He showed a little magical talent, is studying at the local academy, and is nothing particularly special. Others are smarter. Others are more talented. Others are quicker to pick up techniques.

But none of them are with him when he breaks his journey home for the holidays in an inn. None of them step in to help when a young woman is thrown off a passing stage coach into the deep snow at the side of the road. And none of them are drawn into a fight to protect her.

One of the others might have realised she was manipulating him all along.

A powerful story about beginnings, coming of age, and the way choosing to take one step towards violence can lead to a slippery and dangerous slope, this is an accomplished fantasy series driven by strong characters and fast-paced action.

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone (cover)They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe (cover)In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

Chasing Graves (The Chasing Graves Trilogy #1) by Ben Galley

Chasing Graves (cover)Meet Caltro Basalt. He’s a master locksmith, a selfish bastard, and as of his first night in Araxes, stone cold dead.

They call it the City of Countless Souls, the colossal jewel of the Arctian Empire, and all it takes to be its ruler is to own more ghosts than any other. For in Araxes, the dead do not rest in peace in the afterlife, but live on as slaves for the rich.

While Caltro struggles to survive, those around him strive for the emperor’s throne in Araxes’ cutthroat game of power. The dead gods whisper from corpses, a soulstealer seeks to make a name for himself with the help of an ancient cult, a princess plots to purge the emperor from his armoured Sanctuary, and a murderer drags a body across the desert, intent on reaching Araxes no matter the cost.

Only one thing is certain in Araxes: death is just the beginning.

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Top 20

There was a lot of back and forth with our top 20 this year. We would have loved to fit more books in here, but unfortunately numbers don’t work like that. But given the enormous amount of awesome reads that came out last year, I think we have come up with a great look at the cream of the crop. Side note: Have you seen all the amazing covers in this list?? Publishing really hit it out of the park this year! I’m glad we didn’t have to pick the best cover too. I would probably have been here till March trying to pick a winner!

Anyway, without further ado, our top 20 picks of 2018!

Best Of (FF award banner)

20. The Traitor God (Age of Tyranny #1) by Cameron Johnston

The Traitor God (cover)

“An assured and complex debut novel with a main protagonist of questionable loyalty and morals that, despite yourself, you can’t help but love. It’s not often you come across a fresh voice and a fresh take on magic, but The Traitor God gives both. Moments of absolute horror sit cheek by jowl with humour of the blackest kind and some of the monstrous creations in this book are nauseatingly wonderful. After a slightly slow start I found it increasingly difficult to put this book down. I dearly hope we get to see more of Magus Edrin Walker in future books.” – Anna Stephens, author of Godblind

A city threatened by unimaginable horrors must trust their most hated outcast, or lose everything, in this crushing epic fantasy debut.

After ten years on the run, dodging daemons and debt, reviled magician Edrin Walker returns home to avenge the brutal murder of his friend.

Lynas had uncovered a terrible secret, something that threatened to devour the entire city. He tried to warn the Arcanum, the sorcerers who rule the city. He failed.

Lynas was skinned alive and Walker felt every cut. Now nothing will stop him from finding the murderer. Magi, mortals, daemons, and even the gods—Walker will burn them all if he has to.

After all, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s killed a god.

19. The Tower of Living and Dying (Empires of Dust #2) by Anna Smith Spark

The Tower of Living and Dying (cover)

“Gritty and glorious! A great read.” – Miles Cameron, author of The Traitor Son Cycle

A powerhouse story of bloodshed, ambition, and fate, The Tower of Living and Dying is a continuation of Anna Smith Spark’s brilliant Empires of Dust trilogy, which began with The Court of Broken Knives.

Marith has been a sellsword, a prince, a murderer, a demon, and dead. But something keeps bringing him back to life, and now there is nothing stopping him from taking back the throne that is rightfully his.

Thalia, the former high priestess, remains Marith’s only tenuous grasp to whatever goodness he has left. His left hand and his last source of light, Thalia still believes that the power that lies within him can be used for better ends. But as more forces gather beneath Marith’s banner, she can feel her influence slipping.

18. The Hyena and the Hawk (Echoes of the Fall #3) by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Hyena and the Hawk (cover)

“It is unlike any other fantasy setting I’ve come across. If you enjoy fantasy with good worldbuilding, then this trilogy will not disappoint. I cannot say enough good things about the world.” – Pippa, contributor at Fantasy-Faction

The Hyena and the Hawk is the third book in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s epic fantasy trilogy, Echoes of the Fall, following The Bear and the Serpent.

From the depths of the darkest myths, the soulless Plague People have returned. Their pale-walled camps obliterate villages, just as the terror they bring with them destroys minds. In their wake, nothing is left of the true people: not their places, not their ways. The Plague People will remake the world as though they had never been.

The heroes and leaders of the true people—Maniye, Loud Thunder, Hesprec and Asman—will each fight the Plague People in their own ways. They will seek allies, gather armies and lead the charge. But a thousand swords or ten thousand spears will not suffice to turn back this enemy.

The end is at hand for everything the true people know.

17. Ravencry (Raven’s Mark #2) by Ed McDonald

Ravencry (cover)

“McDonald continues to build on the strengths that made Blackwing compelling: tense and violent action, genuinely disturbing settings and creatures, and bursts of morbid humor. Readers who can handle the stomach-turning gore and high body count will appreciate that they’re tempered with Galharrow’s genuine—if reluctant—heroic nature and warm heart.” Publishers Weekly

Four years have passed since Nall’s Engine drove the Deep Kings back across the Misery, but as they hurl fire from the sky, darker forces plot against the republic.

A new power is rising: a ghost in the light known only as the Bright Lady manifests in visions across the city, and the cult that worship her grasp for power even as the city burns around them.

When Crowfoot’s arcane vault is breached, an object of terrible power is stolen, and Galharrow and his Blackwings must once again find out which of Valengrad’s enemies is responsible before they have a chance to use it.

To save Valengrad, Galharrow, Nenn and Tnota must venture to a darker, more twisted and more dangerous place than any they’ve walked before: the very heart of the Misery.

16. Paternus: Wrath of Gods (Paternus Trilogy #2) by Dyrk Ashton

Wrath of the Gods (cover)

“It is clear the author is well-read in theoretical physics as he incorporates Stephen Hawking’s Grand Unification Theory, quantum mechanics, and ideas of the multiverse. In this, the story goes beyond just a work of fiction, and becomes a plausible possibility. As an intersection of faith and science, it could explain mythology more convincingly than the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens.” – J. C. Kang, author of The Dragons Songs Saga, and contributor at Fantasy-Faction

On the run from an ancient evil and his army of terrors straight out of myths from around the world, Fi and Zeke aid Peter in his globe-trotting quest to seek out the remaining Firstborn, uncover the enemy’s plans, and gather the Warriors of Old for what may become the final battle in the world’s oldest war.

Along the way, Fi and Zeke discover that they, too, have strengths of their own—though they come at a cost neither may wish to bear.

15. Paris Adrift by E. J. Swift

Paris Adrift (cover)

“As well as being a profound mediation on history and the need to defend democracy, Paris Adrift is also a gorgeous evocation of youth and growing up. Swift perfectly captures that period in one’s life when one is stretching one’s wings and discovering one’s independence for the first time.” – Jonathan Thornton, contributor at Fantasy-Faction

The Time Machine meets Midnight in Paris.

Determined to escape her old life, misfit and student geologist Hallie leaves England and heads to Paris. She falls in with the eclectic expat community as a bartender at the notorious Millie’s, located next to the Moulin Rouge.

Here she meets Gabriela, a bartender who guides her through this strange nocturnal world, and begins to find a new family. But Millie’s is not all that it seems: a bird warns Hallie to get her feathers in order, a mysterious woman shows up claiming to be a chronometrist, and Gabriela is inexplicably unable to leave Paris.

Then Hallie discovers a time portal located in the keg room. Over the next nine months, irate customers will be the least of her concerns, as she navigates time-faring through the city’s turbulent past and future, falling in love, and coming to terms with her own precarious sense of self.

14. Empire of Sand (The Books of Ambha #1) by Tasha Suri

Empire of Sand (cover)

“Empire of Sand is astounding. The desert setting captured my imagination, the magic bound me up, and the epic story set my heart free.” – Fran Wilde, author of the Bone Universe series

A nobleman’s daughter with magic in her blood. An empire built on the dreams of enslaved gods. Empire of Sand is Tasha Suri’s captivating, Mughal India-inspired debut fantasy.

The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.

When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.

Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance.

13. Blood of the Gods (The Ascension Cycle #2) by David Mealing

Blood of the Gods (cover)

“You can really see the time and effort that Mealing’s put into his world. The magic systems and worldbuilding feel more assured in this sequel. There is so much depth to the world and I loved that we got to explore more of it.” – Pippa, contributor at Fantasy-Faction

The battle is over, but war lies ahead in the second book of the epic fantasy trilogy that pits humans against gods in a contest for the fate of the world.

The battle for the city is over, but the aftermath of a revolution is never simple.

Sarine begins to experience visions, ones which make her dragon familiar sicker every day. Erris pushes toward conquest and the need to expand her territory and restore her power. And, exiled from his tribe, Arak’Jur apprentices himself to a deadly master.

Faced with the threat of a return to the days of darkness, the heroes begin to understand the depth of the sacrifices required from them. To protect their world, they’ll have to stand and fight once more.

12. A Time of Dread (Of Blood and Bone #1) by John Gwynne

A Time of Dread (cover)

“The book reminded me in the very best way of the sort of fantasy I loved in years gone by. Exciting, well-written, swords and sorcery. Try it on for size.” – Mark Lawrence, author of The Broken Empire trilogy

The Ben-Elim, a fierce race of warrior-angels, burst into the Banished Lands over a hundred and thirty years ago. They were in pursuit of their eternal enemy, the Kadoshim demon-horde. On that day a great battle was fought, the Ben-Elim and Kadoshim joined by allies from the races of both men and giants, and a great victory was won.

Now much of the Banished Lands is ruled by the Ben-Elim, who have made this world their home, extending their influence and power as they swallow ancient kingdoms into the protective grasp of their ever-extending borders. But peace is fragile within the realm and the Kadoshim that remain are now amassing on the edges of the empire.

Threats long in the shadows are about to strike.

11. Wrath of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder #2) by Brian McClellan

Wrath of Empire (cover)

“Once again, McClellan manages to combine action, intrigue and magic to create a fantastic fantasy story.” – Pippa, contributor at Fantasy-Faction

The country is in turmoil. With the capital city occupied, half a million refugees are on the march, looking for safety on the frontier, accompanied by Lady Flint’s soldiers. But escaping war is never easy, and soon the battle may find them, whether they are prepared or not.

Back in the capital, Michel Bravis smuggles even more refugees out of the city. But internal forces are working against him. With enemies on all sides, Michael may be forced to find help with the very occupiers he’s trying to undermine.

Meanwhile, Ben Styke is building his own army. He and his mad lancers are gathering every able body they can find and searching for an ancient artifact that may have the power to turn the tides of war in their favor. But what they find may not be what they’re looking for.

10. Priest of Bones (War for the Rose Throne #1) by Peter McLean

Priest of Bones (cover large)

“Managing to be exciting, narratively taut, and a commentary on the terrible things war and violence do to people is no mean feat, but Peter McLean manages it with Priest of Bones. I wish I had written this.” – RJ Barker, author of Blood of Assassins

It’s a dangerous thing, to choose the lesser of two evils.

The war is over, and army priest Tomas Piety finally heads home with Lieutenant Bloody Anne at his side. When he arrives in the Stink, Tomas finds that his empire of crime has been stolen from him while at war.

With his gang of Pious Men, Tomas will do whatever it takes to reclaim his businesses. But when he finds himself dragged into a web of political intrigue once again, and is forced to work in secret for the sinister Queen’s Men, everything gets more complicated.

When loyalties stretch to the breaking point and violence only leads to violence, when people have run out of food, and hope, and places to hide, do not be surprised if they have also run out of mercy. As the Pious Men fight shadowy foreign infiltrators in the backstreet taverns and gambling dens of Tomas’s old life it becomes clear: the war is not over.

It is only just beginning.

9. We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire #1) by Devin Madson

We Ride the Storm (cover large)

“The kind of book that will have you out on the streets, throwing paperbacks at passersby like a shit darts player on acid…It is—hands down—one of the best self-published books I’ve ever read.” – The Fantasy Inn

War built the Kisian Empire and war will tear it down. And as an empire falls, three warriors rise.

Caught in a foreign war, Captain Rah e’Torin and his exiled warriors will have to fight or die. Their honour code is all they have left until orders from within stress them to breaking point, and the very bonds that hold them together will be ripped apart.

Cassandra wants the voice in her head to go away. Willing to do anything for peace, the ageing whore takes an assassination contract that promises answers, only the true price may be everyone and everything she knows.

A prisoner in her own castle, Princess Miko doesn’t dream of freedom but of the power to fight for her empire. As the daughter of a traitor the path to redemption could as easily tear it, and her family, asunder.

As an empire dies, they will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.

8. The Bitter Twins (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #2) by Jen Williams

The Bitter Twins (cover large)

“Whether it’s a big battle scene or some quiet exploration of relationships, Williams does a wonderful job at keeping you engaged and glued to the page. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to put it down.” – Pippa, contributor at Fantasy-Faction

The Ninth Rain has fallen, the Jure’lia have returned, and with Ebora a shadow of its former self, the old enemy are closer to conquering Sarn than ever.

Tormalin the Oathless and the Fell-Witch Noon have their hands full dealing with the first war-beasts to be born in Ebora for nearly three hundred years. But these are not the great mythological warriors of old; hatched too early and with no link to their past lives, the war-beasts have no memory of the many battles they have fought and won, and no concept of how they can possibly do it again. The key to uniting them, according to the scholar Vintage, may lie in a part of Sarn no one really believes exists, but finding it will mean a dangerous journey at a time of war.

Meanwhile, Hestillion is trapped on board the corpse moon, forced into a strange and uneasy alliance with the Jure’lia queen. Something terrifying is growing up there, in the heart of the Behemoth, and the people of Sarn will have no defence against these new monsters.

7. The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1) by R. F. Kuang

The Poppy War (cover large)

“A blistering, powerful epic of war and revenge that will captivate you to the bitter end.” – Kameron Hurley, author of The Stars Are Legion

When Rin aced the Keju, the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies, it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard, the most elite military school in Nikan, was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away.

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity, and that it may already be too late.

6. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver (cover large)

“There’s a quote by G. K. Chesterton that goes, “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” Naomi Novik is an expert in dragons…But with Spinning Silver, she does Chesterton one better: She tells children that sometimes it’s not the warrior who can swing the biggest sword or rides the most powerful horse that slays the dragon. Sometimes it’s the woman with the keenest intellect, the fiercest determination, and the deepest love for others.” – Eric Christensen, contributor at Fantasy-Faction

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty—until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed—and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth—especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

5. King of Assassins (The Wounded Kingdom #3) by RJ Barker

King of Assassins (cover large)

“Reveals its mysteries with the style of a magic show and the artful grace of a gifted storyteller.” – Nicholas Eames, author of Kings of the Wyld

The king is dead, long live the king!

Many years of peace have passed in Maniyadoc, years of relative calm for the assassin Girton Club-Foot. Even the Forgetting Plague, which ravaged the rest of the kingdoms, seemed to pass them by. But now Rufra ap Vthyr eyes the vacant High-King’s throne and will take his court to the capital, a rat’s nest of intrigue and murder, where every enemy he has ever made will gather and the endgame of twenty years of politics and murder will be played out in his bid to become the King of all Kings.

Friends become enemies, enemies become friends and the god of death, Xus the Unseen, stands closer than ever—casting his shadow over everything most dear to Girton.

4. Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor #2) by Mark Lawrence

Grey Sister (cover large)

“Vivid worldbuilding and fast-paced action…Readers who loved Red Sister will find this second series outing even more compelling.” Library Journal

In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of Sweet Mercy Nona must choose her path and take the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor and a life of prayer and service.

All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the ambition of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a blade, and the vengeance of the empire’s richest lord.

As the world narrows around her, and her enemies attack her through the system she has sworn to, Nona must find her own path despite the competing pull of friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty.

And in all this only one thing is certain.

There will be blood.

3. Foundryside (Founders #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside (cover large)

“Not only was it set in an atypical early industrial oligarchy, but it’s also asks big questions about this kind of setting. As a reader, I got to explore Tevanne physically, economically, politically, and philosophically by asking questions like how wealth is created, how the haves exploit the have-nots, and how ultimately fragile unequal societies really are. There are questions about morality here—who should have power? What are the responsibilities of those in power? What do the powerless owe the powerful who fail to uphold those responsibilities? When someone or some institution becomes too big, must they obey traditions and mores? Like I said, it’s deeper and richer than your typical heist novel.” – Eric Christensen, contributor at Fantasy-Faction

In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself.

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic—the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience—have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

2. City of Lies (Poison Wars #1) by Sam Hawke

City of Lies (cover large)

City of Lies is thought provoking and original with a wicked pace that makes it impossible not to get sucked into. The threat of poison is a lurking menace and gives the story an undercurrent of tension with readers unable to escape the fact that at any second a touch, a fall, a bite, even a breath could be the end of a character they’ve come to like. Overall Hawke’s debut is fantastic and whilst this is part one of a series it is truly a complete and beautiful story all on its own.” – Charlie Hopkins, contributor at Fantasy-Faction

I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me.

Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he’s a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery.

When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state.

But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising, and angry.

– – –

And our number one fantasy read of 2018 is:

1. Bloody Rose (The Band #2) by Nicholas Eames

Bloody Rose (cover large)

Bloody Rose solidifies what Kings of the Wyld proved. Eames writes like a hurricane and has a voice like no one else in this genre.” – Sam Sykes, author of the Bring Down Heaven series

Live fast, die young.

Tam Hashford is tired of working at her local pub, slinging drinks for world-famous mercenaries and listening to the bards sing of adventure and glory in the world beyond her sleepy hometown.

When the biggest mercenary band of all rolls into town, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, Tam jumps at the chance to sign on as their bard. It’s adventure she wants—and adventure she gets as the crew embark on a quest that will end in one of two ways: glory or death.

It’s time to take a walk on the wyld side.

Best Of - Bloody Rose (award)

A special congratulations to Nicholas Eames for his second win in a row! It is well deserved and we look forward to seeing what you have in store for us next!

– – –

And a big congratulations to all our winners! Thank you for the fantastic stories you’ve given us and thank you to everyone who helped us pick out their favorite reads of 2018! If you’ve not read any of these amazing works then you need to get them now!

Happy New Year Factioners! And Happy Reading! 🙂

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  1. […] you’ve not see Fantasy-Faction’s Best of 2018 list yet, then you are missing out on some great reads. But lucky for you, we have the author of one of […]

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