The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence
 

The Girl and the Mountain

New Release Review

 
Leather and Lace by Magen Cubed
 

Leather and Lace

New Release Review

 
The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
 

The Bone Shard Daughter

Review

 

Fantasy-Faction’s Favourite Books of 2020

As with any poll or list, it comes down to personal opinions and this list is the personal opinion of everyone who voted in our Facebook group. Take that as you will.

However, this year we went for the distinction between Favourite and Best. The former acknowledges that it is opinion, the latter leads to quite heated debates over, well, opinions. Anyway, here they are, Fantasy-Faction’s Favourite books of 2020 and we hope your TBR pile explodes!

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Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War (cover)After forming a coalition of human resistance against the enemy invasion, Dalinar Kholin and his Knights Radiant have spent a year fighting a protracted, brutal war. Neither side has gained an advantage, and the threat of a betrayal by Dalinar’s crafty ally Taravangian looms over every strategic move.

Now, as new technological discoveries by Navani Kholin’s scholars begin to change the face of the war, the enemy prepares a bold and dangerous operation. The arms race that follows will challenge the very core of the Radiant ideals, and potentially reveal the secrets of the ancient tower that was once the heart of their strength.

At the same time that Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with his changing role within the Knights Radiant, his Windrunners face their own problem: As more and more deadly enemy Fused awaken to wage war, no more honorspren are willing to bond with humans to increase the number of Radiants. Adolin and Shallan must lead the coalition’s envoy to the honorspren stronghold of Lasting Integrity and either convince the spren to join the cause against the evil god Odium, or personally face the storm of failure.

Everyone has heard of Brandon Sanderson by now, and it you haven’t, where have you been? This is the 4th book in the Stormlight Archives and drives the story onward. It has an impressive 16k ratings with a 4.7 average on Goodreads, so people truly love this book.

The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie

The Trouble with Peace (cover)Savine dan Glokta, once Adua’s most powerful investor, finds her judgement, fortune, and reputation in tatters. But she still has all her ambitions, and no scruple will be permitted to stand in her way.

For heroes like Leo dan Brock and Stour Nightfall, only happy with swords drawn, peace is an ordeal to end as soon as possible. But grievances must be nursed, power seized, and allies gathered first, while Rikke must master the power of the Long Eye . . . before it kills her.

The Breakers still lurk in the shadows, plotting to free the common man from his shackles, while noblemen bicker for their own advantage. Orso struggles to find a safe path through the maze of knives that is politics, only for his enemies, and his debts, to multiply.

The old ways are swept aside, and the old leaders with them, but those who would seize the reins of power will find no alliance, no friendship, and no peace, lasts forever.

Joe Abercrombie, Lord Grimdark, writes books that drag you in, kick you while you’re down, drain your spirit and then, just when you are your lowest (and enjoying the book obviously) teases you with that little bud of hope, a sprig of humour, a twig of optimism, and then hits you over the head with the heavy branch of realism. We read them for this reason.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (cover)France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

Living forever can seem like a thing most wished for, but when you’re forgotten by everyone, how do you make that life worthwhile.

V. E. Schwab writes books people love and live to read and this one has over 60k ratings on Goodreads. That has be a great recommendation to any and everyone!

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

Battle Ground (cover)Harry has faced terrible odds before. He has a long history of fighting enemies above his weight class. The Red Court of vampires. The fallen angels of the Order of the Blackened Denarius. The Outsiders.

But this time it’s different. A being more powerful and dangerous on an order of magnitude beyond what the world has seen in a millennium is coming. And she’s bringing an army. The Last Titan has declared war on the city of Chicago, and has come to subjugate humanity, obliterating any who stand in her way.

Harry’s mission is simple but impossible: Save the city by killing a Titan. And the attempt will change Harry’s life, Chicago, and the mortal world forever.

Harry Dresden is a wizard, and he is now in 17 books. 17! Jim Butcher has taken Harry from Private Investigator to, well, I can’t give too many spoilers for the series, but let’s just say everywhere.

Dresden himself has enough enemies to crew the Titanic and enough power to sink it without using an iceberg (sort of). Add to that the humour, and you’ve got a winning combination.

The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence

The Girl and the Stars (cover UK)On Abeth the vastness of the ice holds no room for individuals. Survival together is barely possible. No one survives alone.

To resist the cold, to endure the months of night when even the air itself begins to freeze, requires a special breed. Variation is dangerous, difference is fatal. And Yaz is not the same.

Yaz is torn from the only life she’s ever known, away from her family, from the boy she thought she would spend her days with, and has to carve out a new path for herself in a world whose existence she never suspected. A world full of difference and mystery and danger.

Yaz learns that Abeth is older and stranger than she had ever imagined. She learns that her weaknesses are another kind of strength. And she learns to challenge the cruel arithmetic of survival that has always governed her people.

Only when it’s darkest you can see the stars.

Could there be a favourite list without a Mark Lawrence book upon it? (I paraphrase his editor here). Probably not and this list is no exception.

Mark Lawrence writes books that give you all the sharp edges and scars of living, but wrapped in stories and characters you can care deeply about (or hate, and that’s just as good.)

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea (cover)Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management, he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

When you look through Goodreads, which I did and do, to find out more about a book, specifically this one, you can be easily overwhelmed by all the praise. However, crucially, everyone agrees on this book: beautifully written, pure joy, warmth, full of humour.

The compliments don’t stop and over 31k ratings mean this book is loved and enjoyed by, well, more than 31k people! It’s going on my TBR pile!

Paternus: War of Gods by Dyrk Ashton

War of Gods (cover)From Africa to Asgard, to an invisible island in the Pacific and the Bone Road of a forgotten world, Fi and Zeke must come to grips with not only their newfound abilities but also who they are—and accept what they are becoming: wielders of ancient and dangerous powers, warriors, and maybe even heroes. But the end of worlds is coming, and time is short.

Titans will clash. Gods will battle. Monsters will swarm.

Can Peter and the Deva possibly defeat their age-old enemy in the face of overwhelming odds against them? There’s only one way to find out.

Dyrk Ashton is a phenomenon. Not like a hurricane or the sudden accrual of magical powers…though the last one might be true.

We had the first book in our SPFBO batch a few years ago and it blew us all away. The sequel did the same and this is next book on my pile to read—I am looking forward to it (with a glass of wine or whiskey to accompany my reading).

A Time of Courage by John Gwynne

A Time of Courage (cover)The Demon-King of the Otherworld is finally free. And armed with mighty new starstone weapons, Asroth prepares to lead his demonic war-host south. With the help of his dark bride Fritha, he plans to crush the warrior-angels and their allies.

In the shadows of Forn Forest, Riv and the surviving Ben-Elim hold a war council. After the catastrophic events at Drassil, they are desperate to unite those who would stand against Asroth and his army. So they fly west, to join the Order of the Bright Star. But Drem and the Order are besieged by a demon horde—and their fragile defence may soon shatter.

Across the Banished Lands armies are heading south, to settle ancient grudges and decide the fate of humanity. Drem, Riv and the Bright Star’s warriors will need every ounce of their courage if they are to join the final battle. But will their combined forces be enough to face down their greatest foe?

John Gwynne’s first book, Malice, launched all the way back in 2012 and the series has taken off to an incredible, and thoroughly deserved degree. You can read the author’s love and understanding of armour and battles, and his appreciation of character and drama on every page.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi (cover)Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

You loved Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell for its otherworldly sense of mystery and aura even though it was set in our world (mostly). You either read it, or you watched on TV. Well, Piranesi presents another surreal world for the enchanted reader to explore. Dive in, and don’t get lost!

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

The Once and Future Witches (cover)In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters—James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna—join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote—and perhaps not even to live—the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

“There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.”

How can that line not draw you in and make you want to read? A story that takes us back, but also forward as women seek a voice, power, to be heard and listened to. There is a lot to unravel in this book and the task is made worth it by the prose and storytelling.

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So, that was the Top Ten and those below (to make a Top 20(21)) came highly recommended by folks on the Facebook page. That is, they held places 11 to 21—obvious really. No idea why I explained it, but I did. Moving on!

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A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

A Deadly Education (cover)Lesson One of the Scholomance: Learning has never been this deadly.

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real)—until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets.

There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate…or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere.

El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard Daughter (cover)In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne.

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright—and save her people.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Harrow the Ninth (cover)She answered the Emperor’s call.
She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.
In victory, her world has turned to ash.

After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath—but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?

Call of the Bone Ships by RJ Barker

Call of the Bone Ships (cover)Dragons have returned to the Hundred Isles.

But their return heralds only war and destruction.

When a horde of dying slaves are discovered in the bowels of a ship, Shipwife Meas and the crew of the Tide Child find themselves drawn into a vicious plot that will leave them questioning their loyalties and fighting for their lives.

A brilliantly imagined saga of honour, glory and warfare, Call of the Bone Ships is the captivating epic fantasy sequel to RJ Barker’s The Bone Ships.

The Bone Ships is excellent. Aside from the standout writing, it’s one of the most interesting and original fantasy worlds I’ve seen in years.” – Adrian Tchaikovsky

Network Effect by Martha Wells

Network Effect (cover)Murderbot returns in its highly-anticipated, first, full-length standalone novel.

You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.

Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.

When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.

We Ride the Storm by Devin Madison

We Ride the Storm (cover 2)In the midst of a burgeoning war, a warrior, an assassin, and a princess chase their own ambitions no matter the cost in Devin Madson’s visceral, emotionally charged debut.

War built the Kisian Empire. War will tear it down.

Seventeen years after rebels stormed the streets, factions divide Kisia. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the empire together. But when a shocking betrayal destroys a tense alliance with neighboring Chiltae, all that has been won comes crashing down.

In Kisia, Princess Miko Ts’ai is a prisoner in her own castle. She dreams of claiming her empire, but the path to power could rip it, and her family, asunder.

In Chiltae, assassin Cassandra Marius is plagued by the voices of the dead. Desperate, she accepts a contract that promises to reward her with a cure if she helps an empire fall.

And on the border between nations, Captain Rah e’Torin and his warriors are exiles forced to fight in a foreign war or die.

As an empire dies, three warriors will rise. They will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.

The Shadow Saint by Gareth Ryder Hanrahan

The Shadow Saint (cover)Thieves, dangerous magic, and a weapon built with the power to destroy a god clash in this second novel of Gareth Hanrahan’s acclaimed epic fantasy series, The Black Iron Legacy.

Enter a city of spires and shadows.

The Gutter Miracle changed the landscape of Guerdon forever. Six months after it was conjured into being, the labyrinthine New City has become a haven for criminals and refugees.

Rumors have spread of a devastating new weapon buried beneath the streets—a weapon with the power to destroy a god. As Guerdon strives to remain neutral, two of the most powerful factions in the godswar send agents into the city to find it.

As tensions escalate and armies gather at the borders, how long will Guerdon be able to keep its enemies at bay?

Light of Impossible Stars by Gareth L. Powell

The Light of Impossible Stars (cover)Low on fuel and hunted by the Fleet of Knives, the sentient warship Trouble Dog follows a series of clues that lead her to the Intrusion–an area of space where reality itself becomes unstable. But with human civilisation crumbling, what difference can one battered old ship have against an invincible armada?

Meanwhile, Cordelia Pa and her stepbrother eke out their existence salvaging artefacts from an alien city. But when Cordelia starts hearing the city’s song in her head, strange things start happening around her. What extraordinary affinity does she have for this abandoned technology, and how can it possibly help the Trouble Dog?

Award-winning author Gareth L. Powell delivers an explosive conclusion to his epic Embers of War trilogy.

Horsemen’s War by Steve McHugh

Horsemen's War (cover)It’s a dark day for the Earth realms. Will it be the last?

Sorcerer Nate Garrett lost much in the battle that devastated Asgard, but the war against darkness is far from over. He’s spent a year searching for Arthur, hell-bent on stopping the evil leader of Avalon and rescuing his friend Tommy from his clutches. Nate’s investigation brings him to Washington, DC, where he finds the city under siege. Just when all hope seems lost, Layla Cassidy and her team arrive to join the fight, but Avalon’s deadly plan to conquer the Earth realm is underway.

Meanwhile, Mordred is on a quest to find allies in the upcoming war against Avalon, hoping to find Arthur and stop him before it’s too late.

As the rebellion forces close in on Arthur, each of them know this could be their last fight. But with Arthur massing an unstoppable army of his own, will Nate’s fury be enough to defeat him once and for all?

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun (cover)A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

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And there it is, our favourite books of 2020—as voted for In the Fantasy-Faction Facebook Group anyway. I’m sure you have your own favourites, so feel free to pop over and let us know or add it to the comments below!

Onwards to 2021, and the list of most anticipated books!

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3 Comments

  1. Avatar Jodie says:

    Ooh, great list!

  2. Avatar Mark C says:

    Thanks for the list, but just curious..
    Much shorter (20 entries vs 50 in prior years) and not ranked? Will there be a longer list? Some of my favorites in past years have come from the 21-50 rankings. Would love to see more…

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