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Fantasy-Faction’s Best Fantasy Books of 2019

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Hello Factioners! I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season full of family, friends, food, and fantasy books!

We spent a lot longer working on our Best Of list this year than we normally do, as there were so many amazing titles to choose from. Even after weeks of debate, we couldn’t fit all of them in (the list would have to come out in June if we tried).

We hope you find your favorites here, but if yours didn’t make the list, please share it in the comments. We might all have towering to-be-read piles, but adding a few more (or a few dozen more) books always makes us fantasy fans all warm and fuzzy inside.

Without further ado, please enjoy or staff, contributors’, and followers’ fifty favorite fantasy reads of 2019!

Top 50

50. Sorcery Reborn (The Rebellion Chronicles #1) by Steve McHugh

Sorcery Reborn (cover)He doesn’t need a weapon. He is the weapon.

After losing his powers in an epic battle between good and evil, former sorcerer Nate Garrett finds himself living as a humble human in Clockwork, Oregon. While the world thinks Nate is dead, his friends continue to fight against Avalon and the evil it’s intent on spreading.

Avalon’s forces turn up in Clockwork, and Nate’s frustration grows with every passing day his magic doesn’t return. He finds himself trying to stop Avalon’s plans while hiding from enemies who would destroy everything in their path to see him dead.

Avalon’s darkness begins to threaten the people Nate cares about, and an old nemesis returns; magic or no magic, he has no choice but to fight. But will Nate see his magical powers reborn before the entire town—and everyone he loves—is destroyed?

49. The Blackest Heart (The Five Warrior Angels #2) by Brian Lee Durfee

The Blackest Heart (cover)Gladiator. Assassin. Thief. Princess. And Slave. The Five Warrior Angels have been revealed, one by one the mystical weapons they once wielded are being found, and an ancient prophecy is finally being fulfilled.

Or is it? For when it comes to recorded history, much is intended to manipulate and deceive.

Returning to the kingdom of Gul Kana, Princess Jondralyn has suffered a devastating loss, discovering not all prophecy is to be assumed, not all scripture to be trusted. At the same time, her younger sister, Tala, has found faith within herself while facing off against villains, who are using her for their own devices.

Hawkwood, the former Bloodwood Assassin, is captured. And the knight, Gault, betrayed by the Angel Prince, can only wonder of the fate of his daughter who has fallen into terrible hands.

All while Nail embarks upon the deadliest quest the Five Isles has ever known.

48. Age of Legend (The Legends of the First Empire #4) by Michael J. Sullivan

Age of Legend (cover)“Each culture has its own myths and legends, but only one is shared, and it is feared by all.”

With Age of MythAge of Swords, and Age of War, fantasy master Michael J. Sullivan riveted readers with a tale of unlikely heroes locked in a desperate battle to save mankind.

After years of warfare, humanity has gained the upper hand and has pushed the Fhrey to the edge of their homeland, but no farther.

Now comes the pivotal moment. Persephone’s plan to use the stalemate to seek peace is destroyed by an unexpected betrayal that threatens to hand victory to the Fhrey and leaves a dear friend in peril. Her only hope lies in the legend of a witch, a forgotten song, and a simple garden door.

47. Back In Blue (Corin Hayes, #4) by G.R. Matthews

Back in Blue (cover)Corin Hayes is back and he’s not happy about it.

In the corporation owned cities at the bottom of the ocean, life can be a struggle. The rich have it all, the poor have little but the air in their lungs and even that is owned by someone else. When war erupts between the corporations, Hayes finds himself caught in the middle of it all. Back in the navy and sent on missions which utilise the destructive power of his Fish-Suit, his life is in danger every moment.

An old comrade and a young recruit stand beside him as the submarines set sail and Hayes faces up to the truth of war.

Nowhere is safe and death is a single mistake away. However, the biggest threat may not come from the enemy across the ocean, but from the traitors and spies embedded in his own military. If Corin wants to survive the war, he must find the traitor and end their life before all is lost.

46. A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

A Brightness Long Ago (cover)In a chamber overlooking the nighttime waterways of a maritime city, a man looks back on his youth and the people who shaped his life. Danio Cerra’s intelligence won him entry to a renowned school even though he was only the son of a tailor. He took service at the court of a ruling count—and soon learned why that man was known as the Beast.

Danio’s fate changed the moment he saw and recognized Adria Ripoli as she entered the count’s chambers one autumn night—intending to kill. Born to power, Adria had chosen, instead of a life of comfort, one of danger—and freedom. Which is how she encounters Danio in a perilous time and place.

Vivid figures share the unfolding story. Among them: a healer determined to defy her expected lot; a charming, frivolous son of immense wealth; a powerful religious leader more decadent than devout; and, affecting all these lives and many more, two larger-than-life mercenary commanders, lifelong adversaries, whose rivalry puts a world in the balance.

45. The Ruthless (Deathless #2) by Peter Newman

The Ruthless (cover)The Rebel.

For years, Vasin Sapphire has been waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Now, as other Deathless families come under constant assault from the monsters that roam the Wild, that time has come.

The Ruthless.

In the floating castle of Rochant Sapphire, loyal subjects await the ceremony to return their ruler to his rightful place. But the child raised to give up his body to Lord Rochant is no ordinary servant. Strange and savage, he will stop at nothing to escape his gilded prison.

And the Returned.

Far below, another child yearns to see the human world. Raised by a creature of the Wild, he knows its secrets better than any other. As he enters into the struggle between the Deathless houses, he may be the key to protecting their power or destroying it completely.

The wild has begun to rise.

44. Queenslayer (Spellslinger #5) by Sebastien de Castell

Queenslayer (cover)A failed mage learns that just because he’s not the chosen one doesn’t mean he can’t be a hero in the fifth book of the adventure fantasy series from Sebastien de Castell.

Kellen and Reichis finish fighting a duel in the desert when Kellen inadvertently smears blood on the Daroman flag—an act of treason for which the Marshals have no choice but to arrest him.

Just before he’s put before the Queen to be executed, Kellen is given a strange piece of advice from one of his fellow prisoners: kill the Queen and he’ll be given clemency by those who take power.

But when Kellen comes face-to-face with the eleven-year-old monarch, he realises she’s vastly smarter than he expected—and in a great deal more danger.

43. Empire of Grass (The Last King of Osten Ard #2) by Tad Williams

Empire of Grass (cover)The kingdoms of Osten Ard have been at peace for decades, but now, the threat of a new war grows to nightmarish proportions.

Simon and Miriamele, royal husband and wife, face danger from every side. Their allies in Hernystir have made a pact with the dreadful Queen of the Norns to allow her armies to cross into mortal lands. The ancient, powerful nation of Nabban is on the verge of bloody civil war, and the fierce nomads of the Thrithings grasslands have begun to mobilize, united by superstitious fervor and their age-old hatred of the city-dwellers. But as the countries and peoples of the High Ward bicker among themselves, battle, bloodshed, and dark magics threaten to pull civilizations to pieces. And over it all looms the mystery of the Witchwood Crown, the deadly puzzle that Simon, Miriamele, and their allies must solve if they wish to survive.

But as the kingdoms of Osten Ard are torn apart by fear and greed, a few individuals will fight for their own lives and destinies—not yet aware that the survival of everything depends on them.

42. Blood of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder #3) by Brian McClellan

Blood of Empire (cover)The Dynize have unlocked the Landfall Godstone, and Michel Bravis is tasked with returning to Greenfire Depths to do whatever he can to prevent them from using its power; from sewing dissension among the enemy ranks to rallying the Palo population.

Ben Styke’s invasion of Dynize is curtailed when a storm scatters his fleet. Coming ashore with just twenty lancers, he is forced to rely on brains rather than brawn—gaining new allies in a strange land on the cusp of its own internal violence.

Bereft of her sorcery and physically and emotionally broken, Lady Vlora Flint now marches on Landfall at the head of an Adran army seeking vengeance against those who have conspired against her. While allied politicians seek to undo her from within, she faces insurmountable odds and Dynize’s greatest general.

41. We Are the Dead (The Last War #1) by Mike Shackle

We Are the Dead (cover)The war is over. The enemy won. Now it’s time to fight back.

For generations, the people of Jia—a land where magic has long since faded from the world, clinging on in only a few rare individuals—have been protected from the northern Egril hordes by their warrior caste, but their enemy has not been idle. They have rediscovered magic and use it to launch an overwhelming surprise attack. An invasion has begun.

And in moments, the war is over. Resistance is quashed. Kings and city leaders are barricaded in their homes awaiting banishment and execution, the warriors are massacred, and a helpless people submit to the brutality of Egril rule.

Jia’s heroes have failed it. They are all gone. And yet, there is still hope.

Soon the fate of the kingdom will fall into the hands of a schoolboy terrorist, a crippled Shulka warrior and his wheelchair bound son, a single mother desperate enough to do anything she can to protect her baby, and Tinnstra, disgraced daughter of the Shulka’s greatest leader, who now lies dead by Egril hands.

40. The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons #1) by Jenn Lyons

The Ruin of Kings (cover)“There are the old stories. And then there’s what actually happens.”

Kihrin is a bastard orphan who grew up on storybook tales of long-lost princes and grand quests. When he is claimed against his will as the long-lost son of a treasonous prince, Kihrin finds that being a long-lost prince isn’t what the storybooks promised.

Far from living the dream, Kihrin finds himself practically a prisoner, at the mercy of his new family’s power plays and ambitions. He also discovers the storybooks have lied about a lot of other things, too: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, true love, and how the hero always wins.

Then again, maybe he’s not the hero, for Kihrin isn’t destined to save the empire.

He’s destined to destroy it.

39. Storm Cursed (Mercy Thompson #11) by Patricia Briggs

Storm Cursed (cover)My name is Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman, and I am a car mechanic.

And a coyote shapeshifter.

And the mate of the Alpha of the Columbia Basin werewolf pack.

Even so, none of that would have gotten me into trouble if, a few months ago, I hadn’t stood upon a bridge and taken responsibility for the safety of the citizens who lived in our territory. It seemed like the thing to do at the time. It should have only involved hunting down killer goblins, zombie goats, and an occasional troll. Instead, our home was viewed as neutral ground, a place where humans would feel safe to come and treat with the fae.

The reality is nothing and no one is safe. As generals and politicians face off with the Gray Lords of the fae, a storm is coming and her name is Death.

But we are pack, and we have given our word.

We will die to keep it.

38. Grim Solace (The Chasing Graves Trilogy #2) by Ben Galley

Grim Solace (cover)“Nothing is certain in Araxes. Not even death.”

Stolen from the widow’s clutches, master thief and ghost Caltro Basalt must learn new ways to survive the cutthroat society of the Arctian Empire. His one hope for freedom and justice? A gift from the dead gods, who continue to beg for a saviour.

Breaking a soul takes time, and Caltro’s spirit is far from broken. Many try to weave him into their plots, but he is set on salvation by no means but his own.

As Caltro finds himself ever ensnared in Araxes’ cruel games, Nilith fights to survive the Dune Plains in her quest for redemption, Sisine continues her game of claiming ruler, and Temsa works toward his reign of chaos, one noble at a time.

The board is set. The players chosen. Who will win the great game of Araxes?

37. Steel Crow Saga (Steel Crow Saga #1) by Paul Krueger

Steel Crow Saga (cover)A soldier with a curse

Tala lost her family to the empress’s army and has spent her life avenging them in battle. But the empress’s crimes don’t haunt her half as much as the crimes Tala has committed against the laws of magic, and her own flesh and blood.

A prince with a debt

Jimuro has inherited the ashes of an empire. Now that the revolution has brought down his kingdom, he must depend on Tala to bring him home safe. But it was his army who murdered her family. Now Tala will be his redemption—or his downfall.

A detective with a grudge

Xiulan is an eccentric, pipe-smoking detective who can solve any mystery—but the biggest mystery of all is her true identity. She’s a princess in disguise, and she plans to secure her throne by presenting her father with the ultimate prize: the world’s most wanted prince.

A thief with a broken heart

Lee is a small-time criminal who lives by only one law: Leave them before they leave you. But when Princess Xiulan asks her to be her partner in crime—and offers her a magical animal companion as a reward—she can’t say no, and soon finds she doesn’t want to leave the princess behind.

This band of rogues and royals should all be enemies, but they unite for a common purpose: to defeat an unstoppable killer who defies the laws of magic. In this battle, they will forge unexpected bonds of friendship and love that will change their lives—and begin to change the world.

The Killing Light (cover)36. The Killing Light (The Sacred Throne #3) by Myke Cole

The thrilling conclusion to Myke Cole’s Sacred Throne trilogy.

Heloise and her allies are marching on the Imperial Capital. The villagers, the Kipti, and the Red Lords are united only in their loyalty to Heloise, though dissenting voices are many and they are loud.

The unstable alliance faces internal conflicts and external strife, yet they’re united in their common goal.

But when the first of the devils start pouring through a rent in the veil between worlds, Heloise must strike a bargain with an unlikely ally, or doom her people to death and her world to ruin.

35. Kings of Ash (Ash and Sand #2) by Richard Nell

Kings of Ash (cover)“One day he would grieve, and accept the price for all the lives snuffed for the great cause of the future, and suffer whatever came. But not today.”

The much-anticipated continuation of the Ash and Sand trilogy.

Follow the long, bloody journey of Ruka, son of Beyla through the islands of Pyu and the frozen wastes of the Ascom.

See the return home of Ratama Kale Alaku, the ‘Sorcerer-Prince’, and the terrifying rise of his ‘miracles’.

Before the end, a shocking history will unravel, ancient connections unfold, and all will learn the cost of unleashing the Kings of Ash.

34. The True Bastards (The Lot Lands #2) by Jonathan French

The True Bastards (cover)Fetching was once the only female rider in the Lot Lands. Now she is the proud leader of her own hoof, a band of loyal half-orcs sworn to her command.

But in the year since she became chief, the Lots have tested her strength to the breaking point. The Bastards are scattered, desperate, their ranks weakened by a mysterious famine, their fortress reduced to smoldering slag. And their troubles are only growing. A pack of ravening beasts circles their camp, while grasping human nobles hatch a plan that will shift the balance of power in the Lots.

Fetch and her comrades are still standing defiant—they’re Bastards, after all—but even the toughest half-orc can take only so much; and Fetch knows they’re on the verge of ruin.

As she strives to lead her hoof to safety and unravel the plots set against them, Fetching must journey through forbidden elven lands, overcome long-standing hatreds, battle a monstrous wizard of terrifying power—and, worst of all, delve into the dark truths of her own existence.

She’s no stranger to fighting the world, but on this journey, sharp steel and a strong hog won’t be enough. To survive these trials, she’ll have to defy not just her foes but the very nature of the Lots.

33. God of Broken Things (Age of Tyranny #2) by Cameron Johnston

God of Broken Things (cover)An outcast magician must risk his body and mind to save the world from horrifying demons, in the heart-pounding epic fantasy sequel to The Traitor God.

Tyrant magus Edrin Walker destroyed the monster sent by the Skallgrim, but not before it laid waste to Setharis, and infested their magical elite with mind-controlling parasites. Edrin’s own Gift to seize the minds of others was cracked by the strain of battle, and he barely survives the interrogation of a captured magus.

There’s no time for recovery though: a Skallgrim army is marching on the mountain passes of the Clanhold. Edrin and a coterie of villains race to stop them, but the mountains are filled with gods, daemons, magic, and his hideous past.

Walker must stop at nothing to win, even if that means losing his mind. Or worse.

32. Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy #1) by Marlon James

Black Leopard, Red Wolf (cover)Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say.

Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.

Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written an adventure that’s also an ambitious, involving read. Full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf explores the fundamentals of truths, the limits of power, the excesses of ambition, and our need to understand them all.

31. Never Die by Rob J. Hayes

Never Die (cover)“Honour can be lost a dozen times and regained. Life can only be lost once, and never regained.”

Ein is on a mission from god. A god of death.

Time is up for the Emperor of Ten Kings and it falls to a murdered eight-year-old boy to render the judgement of a god.

Ein knows he can’t do it alone, but the empire is rife with heroes. The only problem; in order to serve, they must first die.

Ein has four legendary heroes in mind, names from story books read to him by his father. Now he must find them and kill them, so he can bring them back to fight the Reaper’s war.

30. Magic for Liars: A Novel by Sarah Gailey

Magic for Liars (cover)Ivy Gamble was born without magic and never wanted it.

Ivy Gamble is perfectly happy with her life—or at least, she’s perfectly fine.

She doesn’t in any way wish she was like Tabitha, her estranged, gifted twin sister.

Ivy Gamble is a liar.

When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where Tabitha teaches Theoretical Magic, reluctant detective Ivy Gamble is pulled into the world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister?without losing herself.

29. Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #1) by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth (cover)The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.

28. The Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy #2) by S.A. Chakraborty

The Kingdom of Copper (cover)Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family and one misstep will doom her tribe.

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid, the unpredictable water spirits, have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates, and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

27. Jade War (The Green Bone Saga #2) by Fonda Lee

Jade War (cover)On the island of Kekon, the Kaul family is locked in a violent feud for control of the capital city and the supply of magical jade that endows trained Green Bone warriors with supernatural powers they alone have possessed for hundreds of years.

Beyond Kekon’s borders, war is brewing. Powerful foreign governments and mercenary criminal kingpins alike turn their eyes on the island nation. Jade, Kekon’s most prized resource, could make them rich—or give them the edge they’d need to topple their rivals.

Faced with threats on all sides, the Kaul family is forced to form new and dangerous alliances, confront enemies in the darkest streets and the tallest office towers, and put honor aside in order to do whatever it takes to ensure their own survival—and that of all the Green Bones of Kekon.

26. Bloodchild (The Godblind Trilogy #3) by Anna Stephens

Bloodchild (cover)The great city of Rilpor has fallen. Its walls have crumbled under the siege by the savage Mireces; its defenders have scattered, fleeing for their lives; its new rulers plot to revive the evil Red Gods using the city’s captured, soon-to-be-sacrificed citizens.

Now, with the Fox God leading the shattered remnants of the Rilporian defence and the Mireces consolidating their claim on the rest of the country, it’s up to Crys, Tara, Mace, Dom and the rest to end the Red Gods’ scourge once and for all.

While the Rilporians plan and prepare for one final, cataclysmic battle to defeat their enemies, the Blessed One and the king of the Mireces have plans of their own: dark plans that will see gods resurrected and the annihilation of the Dancer for all time. Key to their plan is Rillirin, King Corvus’s sister, and the baby—the Bloodchild—she carries. As both sides face their destinies and their gods, only one thing is clear: death waits for them all.

25. The Rage of Dragons (The Burning #1) by Evan Winter

The Rage of Dragons (cover)The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable war for almost two hundred years. Their society has been built around war and only war. The lucky ones are born gifted. One in every two thousand women has the power to call down dragons. One in every hundred men is able to magically transform himself into a bigger, stronger, faster killing machine.

Everyone else is fodder, destined to fight and die in the endless war. Young, gift-less Tau knows all this, but he has a plan of escape. He’s going to get himself injured, get out early, and settle down to marriage, children, and land. Only, he doesn’t get the chance. Those closest to him are brutally murdered, and his grief swiftly turns to anger.

Fixated on revenge, Tau dedicates himself to an unthinkable path. He’ll become the greatest swordsman to ever live, a man willing to die a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill the three who betrayed him.

24. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea (cover)Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.

A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for.

Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction.

As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.

23. The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3) by Anna Smith Spark

The House of Sacrifice (cover)Marith Altrersyr has won. He cut a path of blood and vengeance and needless violence around the world and now he rules. It is time for Marith to put down his sword, to send home his armies, to grow a beard and become fat. It is time to look to his own house, and to produce an heir. The King of Death must now learn to live.

But some things cannot be learnt.

The spoils of war turn to ash in the mouths of the Amrath Army and soon they are on the move again. But Marith, lord of lies, dragon-killer, father-killer, has begun to falter and his mind decays. How long can a warlord rotting from within continue to win?

As the Army marches on to Sorlost, Thalia’s thoughts turn to home and to the future: a life grows inside her and it is a precious thing—but it grows weak.

Why must the sins of the father curse the child?

22. Crowfall (Raven’s Mark #3) by Ed McDonald

Crowfall (cover)A sorceress cataclysm has hit the Range, the final defensive line between the Republic and the immortal Deep Kings.

Tormenting red rains sweep the land, new monstrosities feed on fear in the darkness, and the power of the Nameless, the gods who protect the Republic, lies broken. The Blackwing captains who serve them are being picked off one by one, and even immortals have learned what it means to die. Meanwhile the Deep Kings have only grown stronger, and are poised to deliver a blow that will finally end the war.

Ryhalt Galharrow stands apart from it all.

He has been deeper into the wasteland known as the Misery than ever before. It has grown within him—changed him—but all power comes with a price, and now the ghosts of his past, formerly confined to the Misery, walk with him everywhere.

They will even follow him, and the few surviving Blackwing captains, on one final mission into the darkness.

21. The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang

The Dragon Republic (cover)In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies.

With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do.

But the Empress is a more powerful foe than she appears, and the Dragon Warlord’s motivations are not as democratic as they seem. The more Rin learns, the more she fears her love for Nikan will drive her away from every ally and lead her to rely more and more on the Phoenix’s deadly power. Because there is nothing she won’t sacrifice for her country and her vengeance.

Top 20

20. Realm of Ash (The Books of Ambha #2) by Tasha Suri

Realm of Ash (cover)

The Ambhan Empire is crumbling. A terrible war of succession hovers on the horizon. The only hope for peace lies in the mysterious realm of ash, where mortals can find what they seek in the echoes of their ancestors’ dreams. But to walk there requires a steep price.

Arwa is determined to make the journey. Widowed by a brutal massacre, she’s pledged service to the royal family and will see that pledge through to the end. She never expected to be joined by Zahir, the disgraced, illegitimate prince who has turned to forbidden magic in a desperate bid to save those he loves.

Together, they’ll walk the bloody path of their shared past. And it will call into question everything they’ve ever believed, including whether the Empire is worth saving at all.

19. Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

Middlegame (cover)

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.

Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.

Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.

Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.

Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.

18. Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House (cover)

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players.

But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

17. Smoke and Stone (City of Sacrifice #1) by Michael R. Fletcher

Smoke and Stone (cover)

After a cataclysmic war of the gods, the last of humanity huddles in Bastion, a colossal ringed city. Beyond the outermost wall lies endless desert haunted by the souls of all the world’s dead.

Trapped in a rigid caste system, Nuru, a young street sorcerer, lives in the outer ring. She dreams of escape and freedom. When something contacts her from beyond the wall, she risks everything and leaps at the opportunity. Mother Death, a banished god seeking to reclaim her place in Bastion’s patchwork pantheon, has found her way back into the city.

Akachi, born to the wealth and splendour of Bastion’s inner rings, is a priest of Cloud Serpent, Lord of the Hunt. A temple-trained sorcerer, he is tasked with bringing peace to the troublesome outer ring. Drawn into a dark and violent world of assassins, gangs, and street sorcerers, he battles the spreading influence of Mother Death in a desperate attempt to save Bastion.

The gods are once again at war.

16. The Burning White (Lightbringer #5) by Brent Weeks

The Burning White (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?

15. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Gods of Jade and Shadow (cover)

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

14. Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicle #3) by Jay Kristoff

Darkdawn (cover)

The Republic of Itreya is in chaos. Mia Corvere has assassinated Cardinal Duomo and rumors of Consul Scaeva’s death ripple through the street of Godsgrave like wildfire. But buried beneath those same streets, deep in the ancient city’s bones, lies a secret that will change the Republic forever.

Mia and her brother Jonnen must journey through the depths of the ancient metropolis. Their quest will take them through the Godsgrave underdark, across the Sea of Swords, back to the library of the Quiet Mountain and the poisoned blades of Mia’s old mentors, and at last to the fabled Crown of the Moon. There, Mia will at last discover the origins of the darkin and learn the destiny that lies in store for her and her world.

But with the three suns now in descent, and Truedark on the horizon, will she survive?

13. The Poison Song (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #3) by Jen Williams

The Poison Song (cover)

Ebora was once a glorious city, defended by legendary warriors and celebrated in song. Now refugees from every corner of Sarn seek shelter within its crumbling walls, and the enemy that has poisoned their land won’t lie dormant for long.

The deep-rooted connection Tormalin, Noon and the scholar Vintage share with their Eboran war-beasts has kept them alive so far. But with Tor distracted, and his sister Hestillion hell-bent on bringing ruthless order to the next Jure’lia attack, the people of Sarn need all the help they can get.

Noon is no stranger to playing with fire and knows just where to recruit a new—and powerful—army. But even she underestimates the epic quest that is to come. It is a journey wrought with pain and sacrifice—a reckoning that will change the face of Sarn forever.

12. Seven Blades in Black (The Grave of Empires #1) by Sam Sykes

Seven Blades in Black (cover)

Among humans, none have power like mages. And among mages, none have will like Sal the Cacophony.

Once revered, now vagrant, she walks a wasteland scarred by generations of magical warfare. The Scar, a land torn between powerful empires, is where rogue mages go to disappear, disgraced soldiers go to die and Sal went with a blade, a gun and a list of names she intended to use both on.

But vengeance is a flame swift extinguished. Betrayed by those she trusted most, her magic torn from her and awaiting execution, Sal the Cacophony has one last tale to tell before they take her head.

All she has left is her name, her story and the weapon she used to carved both.

Vengeance is its own reward.

11. A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness #1) by Joe Abercrombie

A Little Hatred (cover)

The chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep as ever.

On the blood-soaked borders of Angland, Leo dan Brock struggles to win fame on the battlefield and defeat the marauding armies of Stour Nightfall. He hopes for help from the crown. But King Jezal’s son, the feckless Prince Orso, is a man who specializes in disappointments.

Savine dan Glokta—socialite, investor, and daughter of the most feared man in the Union—plans to claw her way to the top of the slag-heap of society by any means necessary. But the slums boil over with a rage that all the money in the world cannot control.

The age of the machine dawns, but the age of magic refuses to die. With the help of the mad hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, Rikke struggles to control the blessing, or the curse, of the Long Eye. Glimpsing the future is one thing, but with the guiding hand of the First of the Magi still pulling the strings, changing it will be quite another.

10. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January (cover)

Harrow has created a mythology that is both tangible and tantalizing, and has injected that vision into turn of the 20th century America. – Josiah Bancroft

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger.

Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

9. Priest of Lies (War for the Rose Throne #2) by Peter McLean

Priest of Lies (cover)

It was even better than Priest of Bones! I absolutely loved it!! Can’t wait for the next, Thomas and Bloody Anne are among my all-time favorite characters now. – Mariëlle Ooms-Voges

People are weak, and the poorer and more oppressed they are, the weaker they become—until they can’t take it anymore. And when they rise up, may the gods help their oppressors.

When Tomas Piety returned from the war, he just wanted to rebuild his empire of crime with his gang of Pious Men. But his past as a spy for the Queen’s Men drew him back in and brought him more power than he ever imagined.

Now, with half of his city in ashes and the Queen’s Men at his back, the webs of political intrigue stretch out from the capital to pull Tomas in. Dannsburg is calling.

In Dannsburg, the nobility fight with words, not blades, but the results are every bit as bloody. In this pit of beasts, Tomas must decide once and for all whether he is truly the people’s champion, or just a priest of lies.

8. The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden

The Winter of the Witch (cover)

Once again Arden has woven together a compelling story, fantastic characters and an atmospheric world. From the very beginning, I knew I was going to love it as much as the previous two books. – Pippa Sainsbury

Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame.

Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures.

But she may not be able to save them all.

7. The Sword of Kaigen by M. L. Wang

The Sword of Kaigen (cover)

The Poppy War’s darkness meets Avatar: The Last Airbender’s elemental magic…I haven’t been so emotionally moved by a book in a long while. – J. C. Kang

High on a mountainside at the edge of the Kaigenese Empire live the most powerful warriors in the world, superhumans capable of raising the sea and wielding blades of ice. For hundreds of years, the fighters of the Kusanagi Peninsula have held the Empire’s enemies at bay, earning their frozen spit of land the name, The Sword of Kaigen.

Born into Kusanagi’s legendary Matsuda family, fourteen-year-old Mamoru has always known his purpose: to master his family’s fighting techniques and defend his homeland. But when an outsider arrives and pulls back the curtain on Kaigen’s alleged age of peace, Mamoru realizes he might not have much time to become the fighter he was bred to be. Worse, the empire he was bred to defend may stand on a foundation of lies.

Misaki told herself that she left the passions of her youth behind when she married into the Matsuda house. Determined to be a good housewife and mother, she hid away her sword, along with everything from her days as a fighter in a faraway country. But with her growing son asking questions about the outside world, the threat of an impending invasion looming across the sea, and her frigid husband grating on her nerves, Misaki finds the fighter in her clawing its way back to the surface.

6. The Bone Ships (The Tide Child #1) by RJ Barker

The Bone Ships (cover)

One of the finest nautical adventure fantasies I’ve ever had the immense pleasure to feel a part of. Upon finishing I had the sudden urge to go and sign up to crew aboard the biggest boat I could find, tell the captain the legend of an ancient sea dragon and suggest in no uncertain terms that we should set out to find it and to hell with the consequences. – Charlie Hopkins

Two nations at war. A prize beyond compare.

For generations, the Hundred Isles have built their ships from the bones of ancient dragons to fight an endless war.

The dragons disappeared, but the battles for supremacy persisted.

Now the first dragon in centuries has been spotted in far-off waters, and both sides see a chance to shift the balance of power in their favour. Because whoever catches it will win not only glory, but the war.

5. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree (cover)

This magnificent epic of queens, dragonriders, and badass secret wyrm-slaying priestesses is a tour de force, and my new absolute favorite epic fantasy. – Laini Taylor

A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

4. The Gutter Prayer (The Black Iron Legacy #1) by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan

The Gutter Prayer (cover)

It’s hard to believe this is Gareth Hanrahan’s debut novel. Besides the characters and the worldbuilding, the author’s use of word choice and figurative language—especially allusion—reminds readers to pay attention to any small details found within the pages of the novel…The dark and twisted narrative will leave readers craving more from Hanrahan! – L. A. Young

The city has always been. The city must finally end.

When three thieves—an orphan, a ghoul, and a cursed man—are betrayed by the master of the thieves guild, their quest for revenge uncovers dark truths about their city and exposes a dangerous conspiracy, the seeds of which were sown long before they were born.

Cari is a drifter whose past and future are darker than she can know.

Rat is a Ghoul, whose people haunt the city’s underworld.

Spar is a Stone Man, subject to a terrible disease that is slowly petrifying his flesh.

Chance has brought them together, but their friendship could be all that stands in the way of total Armageddon.

3. A Time of Blood (Of Blood and Bone #2) by John Gwynne

A Time of Blood (cover)

Gwynne writes very good fight scenes, all the way from duels through skirmishes to pitched battles…There are, however, a good number of pauses in which more character is built, and in which the plot is thickened and stirred…The title is no lie. It’s a time of blood. Lots of it. And our heroes take a pounding as they fight the good fight. If you loved book 1, like I did, then book 2 will not disappoint! – Mark Lawrence

Defy the darkness. Defend the light.

Drem and his friends flee the battle at Starstone Lake to warn the Order of the Bright Star. They’ve witnessed horrors they’ll never forget, such as magic warping men into beasts. But worst of all, they’ve seen a demon rise from the dead—making it even more powerful. Now Fritha, the demons’ high priestess, is hunting Drem’s party.

Concealed in Forn Forest, Riv struggles to understand her half-breed heritage. She represents the warrior angels’ biggest secret, one which could break their society. And when she’s found by the Ben-Elim’s high captain, he swoops in for the kill.

As demonic forces multiply, they send a mighty war-host to overthrow the angel’s stronghold. This could decimate the fractured Ben-Elim. And their allies in the Order may be too overwhelmed to send aid—with Fritha and her monstrous beasts closing in. Like heroes of old, Drem and the Bright Star’s warriors must battle to save their land. But can the light triumph when the dark is rising?

2. Holy Sister (Book of the Ancestor #3) by Mark Lawrence

Holy Sister (cover 2)

Holy Sister is an amazing ending to this wonderful trilogy. The action is built up by Lawrence through his characters leaves readers with a conclusion that is audacious and poignant. The pacing and the worldbuilding provide answers to the questions the characters and the readers had throughout the trilogy. This novel demonstrates the excellence of this series and it should NOT be missed. – L. A. Young

They came against her as a child. Now they face the woman.

The ice is advancing, the Corridor narrowing, and the empire is under siege from the Scithrowl in the east and the Durns in the west. Everywhere, the emperor’s armies are in retreat.

Nona faces the final challenges that must be overcome if she is to become a full sister in the order of her choice. But it seems unlikely that Nona and her friends will have time to earn a nun’s habit before war is on their doorstep.

Even a warrior like Nona cannot hope to turn the tide of war. The shiphearts offer strength she might use to protect those she loves, but it’s a power that corrupts. A final battle is coming in which she will be torn between friends, unable to save them all. A battle in which her own demons will try to unmake her. A battle in which hearts will be broken, lovers lost, and thrones burned.

– – –

And Our Number One Fantasy Read Of 2019 Is:

1. The Hod King (The Books of Babel #3) by Josiah Bancroft

The Hod King (cover)

Reading Bancroft makes me want to be a better writer. He is one of the authors I hold up as an example as to why fantasy fiction should be taken seriously alongside traditional literature. This book gives the me the same feeling I got when I first read one of Patrick Rothfuss’s books, and I don’t say that lightly.

Normally I would say that you should read this book if you like certain things. But I’m not going to qualify my recommendation this time. Read this book and keep reading everything that Bancroft ever writes. If you like fantasy or sci-fi you might get more out of it, but even non-SFF readers should give this series a go. – Richard Marpole

Fearing an uprising, the Sphinx sends Senlin to investigate a plot that has taken hold in the ringdom of Pelphia. Alone in the city, Senlin infiltrates a bloody arena where hods battle for the public’s entertainment. But his investigation is quickly derailed by a gruesome crime and an unexpected reunion.

Posing as a noble lady and her handmaid, Voleta and Iren attempt to reach Marya, who is isolated by her fame. While navigating the court, Voleta attracts the unwanted attention of a powerful prince whose pursuit of her threatens their plan.

Edith, now captain of the Sphinx’s fierce flagship, joins forces with a fellow wakeman to investigate the disappearance of a beloved friend. She must decide who to trust as her desperate search brings her nearer to the Black Trail where the hods climb in darkness and whisper of the Hod King.

As Senlin and his crew become further dragged in to the conspiracies of the Tower, everything falls to one question: Who is The Hod King?

– – –

Congratulations to Josiah Bancroft! We can’t wait to read the next (and final!) installment!

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 2019! If you’ve not read any of these amazing works, then you need to get them now!

Happy Reading! 🙂

Title image by hanan.

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2 Comments

  1. Well, looks like that terrible fad of using edited stock photos for covers is finally over.

  2. …..been waiting for this post for awhile, been out of touch from 2019 fantasy books due to personal reasons, now I can add stuff into my TBR list as I am gonna be quite free from next month, thanks a lot, guys…..

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