I haven’t read as much fiction as I usually read in a year, but there have been some stand-out novels and series this year. I read a few series that I’ve been meaning to read, such as A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, and I concluded A.G. Howard’s retelling of Alice in Wonderland with Ensnared (the first book is Splintered – a fantastic trilogy of YA fiction recommended by a friend). I’m looking forward to reading the pile of fiction books I’ve accumulated – next year’s reading list promises to be exciting (I’m currently reading The City’s Son by Tom Pollock).
1. Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig.
This was a great book, part of the new canon leading from the end of Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens. I haven’t read a Star Wars book before, so I was initially a little unsure about it, but because Chuck Wendig is treating this like writing any other novel (ie. no ‘movie tie-in formula’ as such), it is just a great read: pacey, fun, and feels like Star Wars should feel. I don’t read a lot of Science Fiction (although I think Star Wars is more like space-fantasy-opera), so I may just add a bit more Sci-Fi to my reading.
2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.
Although sometimes in this book I found it hard to connect to some of the characters, I enjoyed this because it added a travelling Shakespeare troupe to a post-apocalyptic world, which just seemed fresh and interesting. I liked the story-telling and it felt less like a fantasy book than something that could happen, with the loss of infrastructure, lawlessness, and cultists springing up in small American towns. There is an overarching sense of hope, though, that keeps you reading until the end, and though you want to know more, I found it a satisfying winter read.
3. The Humans by Matt Haig.
An unexpectedly affecting novel featuring an alien who possesses the life and body of an Oxford professor, after he solves a supposedly unsolvable mathematical equation. The alien race believe that humans are not advanced or peaceful enough to handle the repercussions of knowing this particular equation. After killing the man and possessing his body, the alien learns more about humans, love, family, depression and what it means to be alive. I wasn’t expecting it to be such a beautiful novel, but it has become one of my favourites, and no doubt I’ll read it again.
4. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman.
A brilliant new series with a capable, smart heroine – fully of literary and bookish delights. I knew this was going to be a good read and I wasn’t disappointed. At the heart of it is a hidden, secret library, where its agents (‘Librarians’ of course!) go into parallel worlds and universes to retrieve rare books and to right any issues that arise. It’s almost like a steampunk-style Terry Pratchett novel, where anything goes. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
5. Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine.
Another bookish themed novel, this time a YA (Young Adult) series. This is a spin on ‘what if the Library of Alexandria was never destroyed?’ and the library has raised itself into a superpower, with control over much of the world. The world-building was great, and the characters are also pretty wonderful – all complete bookworms, one way or another. It has strange magic, believable and creepy villains, and a realistic picture of war. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Honourable mentions, all worth a read:
1. The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey.
2. The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon (second in the series beginning with The Bone Season).
3. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.
4. Ensnared by A. G. Howard.
5. The Elusive Language of Ducks by Judith White.
6. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab.
“Isn’t it odd how much fatter a book gets when you’ve read it several times?” Mo had said…”As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells…and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower…both strange and familiar.” – Cornelia Funke, Inkspell.