This past year, I reviewed 37 books I’d consider to be mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy, including one I read last year but didn’t put up my review until this year, Quaking Soul by Jennifer M. Zeiger, which also turned out to be my favorite SFF read last year. We’ll be here forever if I go over all 37 books, some of which I didn’t even like or enjoy, so I’ve picked out my top 15 and from those I’ll pick my favorite.
Just like last year, I’ll go through them one by one in no particular order because SFF is my favorite genre and my heart will always want to give every book the space I think it deserves here.
Muckrakers & Minotaurs by Rebecca Chastain is the third and final book in the Terra Haven Chronicles series. It neatly wraps up all the story lines, but still has all the fun, mystery, romance, friendship, and adventure as the first two books. I love Kylie. She makes me think of Nancy Drew if Nancy Drew had magic. As a junior jounalist, Kylie doggedly follows stories, though this one hits far too close to home as it directly impacts her own family. Fortunately she has a loyal gargoyle companion named Quinn who will do anything to protect Kylie and the handsome Captain Grant Monaghan who will also do everything to protect Kylie and their city. This book was fast-paced, but also had some quieter, softer moments, and it all ended in the best way possible.
The Liar’s Knot by M.A. Carrick is the second in the Rook and Rose trilogy featuring an intricately detailed world and society and the orphan who cons her way into the register of a noble family, with her best friend posing as her maid. At this point the reader has found out who the Rook and who the Rose are, and watching them dance together in this book was so much fun. And Vargo cannot be missed. I felt so bad for him for so much of this book, but he still managed to carry himself with a grace I certainly could never. The character development is fantastic in this book, the city and larger world start to unfold, and there’s more around the corner than I could have ever guessed. I cannot wait for the third book to come out next year!
One Foot in the Fade by Luke Arnold is the third in the Fetch Phillips series about a human living in a city that was inhabited by magical creatures, until he accidentally made the magic die and stranded every magical creature without hope of every reclaiming their lives and magic. Fetch lives with that every day, but he also harbors the hope that the magic will return. This one sets him up on a path to try to bring it back, even if his hope feels like a long shot. I love Fetch. He has an amusing voice, but he also has a good heart, even if his intentions are sometimes misplaced. The rise and fall of hope in this series can hurt, but lives still march on and magical creatures still cling to what they can.
Primeval Fire by C.T. Rwizi is the third and final book in the African-inspired Scarlet Odyssey trilogy. After the way Requiem Moon ended, I really had no clue what could possibly happen in this last book. I literally spent months trying to puzzle it out. I could never have been prepared for what Rwizi threw into this book. It breaks the world wide open and blends magic and science. I was disappointed the main character wasn’t the primary voice, but his friends were, and I love his friends. Nothing about this book went anything close to what I thought, so I loved all the surprises and realizations. The ending was a little softer than I expected, but it was lovely and I just wanted it to keep going because I miss this world and these characters so much.
From Bad to Cursed by Lana Harper is the second book in the Witches of Thistle Grove series. Where the first book was set during the days leading up to Samhain, this one is set during the days leading up to Beltane. It follows the thorny relationship between Issa, a daughter of the Avramov family that deals with death magic, and Rowan, a son of the Thorn family who deals with life magic. Not only should their magic not mesh, but they themselves have a rocky past, one they’ll have to get over to figure out who is trying to sabotage the celebrations. I love Thistle Grove and I love these characters and this romance was just so much fun. It’s such a witchy book where the magic, romance, and mystery all worked perfectly together. I can’t wait to find out what happens to the third witchy couple as I have just started my eARC of the third book.
The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri is a sapphic romance mixed with fantasy in an Indian-inspired world, where heartache and heartbreak seem to be the order of the day. Oh, this one hurt so much, especially the end, but this book just drips with lushness. The world is gorgeous, and this one adds a clash of religious ideologies that ends up pitting our fledgling couple on opposite sides. The pain in their romance is excruciating, but, then again, so much of this book just hurts in the best way possible. The romance did steal the spotlight a little too much for my tastes, but it really did soften edges that could have been razor sharp. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a book that hurt so much before.
Light Years From Home by Mike Chen has convinced me that Chen could write about everything I typically hate and make me love it. I do not like reading about aliens and alien abductions, but the heart he injects into every book makes all of it absolutely worth it. This one is about an Asian American family whose son disappeared years before, leaving the daughters to care for their parents. But now their father is dead and their mother is battling dementia and the older daughter has everything on her plate while the younger daughter is working tirelessly, and possibly fruitlessly, to find their missing brother. When their brother is faced with having to return to Earth to save the universe, everything comes to a head. I loved that I couldn’t always tell what was real and what might have been made up. But my favorite part was the bonds between these family members, bonds that have been broken in so many ways. This family proves anything can be repaired, if only they want it. Far less about the aliens and much more about fixing a family, I loved every minute and I guess I can’t wait to read Chen’s next book, which appears to be about vampires (which I hate).
In Ora: The Land of the Superior by Sotto Voce was the first non-series indie book that really caught my attention this year. I’ll freely admit the writing was a bit rough, but the story it told captured my heart. It’s a beautiful love story set in a world literally divided between those who have technological advancements and those who do not. This story and world offer a great deal of food for thought, offering both sides and telling the reader the decision is theirs. But I absolutely loved the male lead and his devotion to the woman he loved, even in the face of temptation, and the lengths he would go to for her.
The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah is a gorgeous Arabian-inspired fantasy. Set in the desert, it involves a journey for a woman with secrets, her secret jinn companion, a prince who spins stories, and a jinn hunter. The journey itself isn’t exactly the most fascinating, but what I loved were all the stories. This is a story of stories mingled with memories, painting a vivid world with a great deal more under the surface to be discovered and explored.
Resembling Lepus by Amanda Kool is a short and quick read, but it packs it in. I was drawn to the rabbit part of this story, but the murder mystery was a bit chilling as it forces readers to ruminate on the idea of humans and android-like creatures and where the line between them should be drawn. This is set in a post-dystopian world and the story is only possible because of the world, so the world building is incredible and intricate, but my favorite part was how this one really made me think.
The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings really immersed me in an alternate New Orleans. The world building was incredible and every tiny detail built on it. There was one story line I felt didn’t really add much outside of building up to, basically, one scene, but I loved how New Orleans and music and magic were wrapped up into a story that, at times, just boggled my mind. And yet there’s no apology for it, leaving the reader to puzzle through it as three children are set on a path to save their world.
The Daughters of Firth Tales by Willow is a collection of stories set in the same world as On a Blue Moon, but cracks it wide open. I’m not usually a fan of story collections, but I adored On a Blue Moon, so was excited to read more about the characters I loved. There’s an interesting undertone of revenge that winds its way through these interconnected stories that span many years, but it’s also a beautiful story of family, love, and hope. That thread of hope and goodness just grabbed my heart and hung on.
The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez tells a brutal and bloody story of two warriors sent to escort a once imprisoned goddess while her keepers chase after them. That’s the simple story. I’m certain there are layers upon layers, but I don’t think I’m quite smart enough to puzzle it out. The storytelling is complex and intricate and I don’t pretend to fully understand it, but I fell in love with the writing, and my heart just swelled when I discovered the hidden love story. I have no idea what this book is, but I thought it was beautiful.
Redspace Rising by Brian Trent is a sequel, of sorts, to Ten Thousand Thunders in that it’s set in the same world, but many years later. Characters from the first book pop up, but Redspace Rising follows a soldier instead, though he does encounter the earlier characters and ends up working alongside them. It can absolutely be read as a standalone. I loved, loved, loved the humorous voice of the main character. He’s a bred soldier who will always do his job no matter how much he’s jerked around because that’s who he is, but he’s also just so funny, and the ending takes the cake for my favorite book ending of all time.
A Pinch of Distrust by D.T. Bella blends fantasy and mystery as a fairy travels to a land inhabited by human-like beings in order to discover who maimed him and murdered a colleague. This was a perfect blend of fantasy and mystery, even if the world building wasn’t quite as intricate as I would have liked. It’s still quite incredible, and I loved that it has fairies and magic and even a bit of science. All the elements just blended together so well, each depending on the others. The characters irritated me a little at first, but I adjusted to them and had a great deal of fun solving this mystery with them.
And that’s the 15 SFF books I loved from this year. They’re all so different and interesting in their own ways, and I took so much away from all of them. From the books with beautiful worlds to the ones with gorgeous messages, it’s hard to choose just one favorite because I loved them all in different ways.
But I must pick one. So which one was my favorite?
Redspace Rising by Brian Trent
This is probably an odd choice for me since I dislike violence and blood, and this is about a soldier who engages in plenty of bloody battles with other violence in the story on the side. This is graphic and brutal and, well, violent. But I loved Harris, the main character. His humor managed to offset all the violence, blood, and gore. More than that, there’s a bit of a disturbing thread that winds through this book that just came to the most incredible culmination to being that ending I just love so much. Beyond that, this was just so well written with a vast, intricate world. I loved feeling fully immersed in this story and hated it whenever I had to put it down.
What was your favorite fantasy and science fiction read of 2022?