Yesterday I gave you my top ten books I read in 2012, but which were published prior to that. Today I’m posting my top ten 2012 debuts. This year I read so many debut novels, they warranted a list of their own. And this is that list. So without further ado, my top ten debuts of 2012!
10. Evie Manieri – Blood’s Pride
I’d seen a lot of people be very enthused about Blood’s Pride, so being able to review it was a treat. This epic – both in subgenre and in size – fantasy debut depicts the struggles between two peoples, the Norlanders and the Shadari and features wonderful world-building and character development. I flew through this book and really enjoyed it. I said of it in my review: “…Blood’s Pride was a wonderful debut. It is a wonderful epic fantasy tale, with a close personal feel.” I really can’t wait for the second book in the trilogy, Fortune’s Blight, which is due for publication in the autumn of next year.
9. Lou Morgan – Blood and Feathers
Blood and Feathers was one of my very much anticipated debuts this year, not in the least due to the stunning cover. And the book made good on every bit of anticipation. Lou Morgan gave us stunning world-building, a fantastic mythos, great characters and an interesting plot. I really fell in love with Morgan’s world and I tore through the book and then kicked myself for finishing it so fast. I as I said in the concluding paragraph of my review: “From the moment Alice steps inside out of the rain until the final line of the coda, the story flies past, it never loses pace, without going so fast that it leaves the reader breathless and confused. Blood and Feathers is a great debut novel, in which Morgan displays a distinctive voice and a great sense of humour.”
8. Jeff Salyards – Scourge of the Betrayer
Scourge was a surprise entry for me. After reading Justin’s review, I thought this sounded like a book I might enjoy, but I hadn’t expected to enjoy it as much as I did. Its narrator Arki was fantastic and I really liked him a lot. The only problem I had with the book was the fact that it took a while before it got clear where it was going, but as I said in my review: “Scourge of the Betrayer is a wonderful read, even with the question of ‘where is this going?’ haunting me for most of the book. There are some major questions raised in this first book in Bloodsounder’s Arc – what is Bloodsounder anyway, beyond a really scary flail? – and I can’t wait for book two return to Arki and the Syldoon and get some answers.” I’m hoping to do just that with Veil of the Deserters, the next book’s working title, which hopefully will be out some time in 2013.
7. Cassandra Rose Clarke – The Assassin’s Curse
With The Assassin’s Curse we’ve come to the one what I like to call marmite books on this list. Marmite is something you either love or hate, there doesn’t really seem to be an in-between. I had been looking forward to reading the book, as I said in my review: “Besides, pirates, assassins, and dark curses, all set in a strange desert land—who could resist? And not only did I like The Assassin’s Curse as much I thought I would, I was blown away by this amazing debut! Clarke shows she’s a deft hand at her craft and creates a wonderful and unique voice for her heroine Ananna, one that I found impossible to resist.” But it’s that unique voice that might cause people to choke on this book. I loved it though and I’m eagerly awaiting the concluding volume for this duology, The Pirate’s Wish, due from Strange Chemistry Books next June.
6. Chris F. Holm – Dead Harvest
Another surprise discovery this year was Chris F. Holm. I’d downloaded the e-ARC from the Angry Robot Army site, because a) the cover was amazing and b) it reminded me of Dead Like Me and Reaper, two TV shows I adored. Add to that the fact that the cover copy gave off a definite hard-boiled, noirish detective vibe and I was completely sold. I thought it would just be a nice quick, pulpy read. Instead I got a fantastic story with wonderful characters and an exciting plot. Holm created a fabulous lead in Sam and surrounds him with equally cool secondary characters. The narrative moves at a break-neck speed and doesn’t always brake in time for corners. As I put it in the review: “Holm is merciless on his characters, the amount of damage Sam has to take is frightening and he doesn’t hesitate to kill of characters either, some of which really made me sad. But it also gave the book an intensity that said ‘trust no one’ and nothing is as it seems.” And so the ending is quite surprising. Dead Harvest was followed by The Wrong Goodbye in November, a book I liked equally much, and will be followed by The Big Reap next summer.
5. Anne Lyle – The Alchemist of Souls
A historical fantasy, set in my favourite city, in my favourite historical era? Yes, please! I’d been really looking forward to reading The Alchemist of Souls ever since I’d found out about it and after I finished it, the only bad thing I could say was that I’d have to wait a year to read the next instalment. That statement turned out to be wrong, because the second book, The Merchant of Dreams, is out next week and I finished reading it earlier this week (the review will be up tonight). The world Lyle creates is fantastic. It’s easy to go overboard when writing historical fantasy, so it flips to either historical or fantasy, but Lyle trod that fine line with great care. From my review: “The Alchemist of Souls is a book that will appeal to both fans of fantasy and of historical fiction. Lyle manages to blend both of these genres in a masterful way, where the fantastical elements are an enhancement of history and don’t stand out as sore thumbs.” The Alchemist of Souls was everything I hoped it would be and more and slight spoiler for my review of The Merchant of Dreams; I loved its sequel too! Here’s hoping that the third book, The Prince of Lies, out in November will be equally awesome.
4. Janet Edwards – Earth Girl
The second YA entry on this list, this time SF, Earth Girl bowled me over. I couldn’t put it down while reading it and Jarra remained with me for quite some time after finishing it. An intriguing view of what the future might be, plus a jealousy-inducing teleportation network, make Jarra’s world fascinating and the sociological and archaeological development were stunning. I concluded my review as follows: “Earth Girl is a fantastic debut, with a voice I really, truly loved. The book is an interesting exploration of what it means to be different and how hard it can be to hate the ‘enemy’ once you put a face to them and really get to know them. Edwards swept me away with her story and made me fall in love with her world and her heroine.”
3. Tom Pollock – The City’s Son
The easiest way to get me interested in an urban fantasy is to tell me it is set in London. Why? Well, London is hands down my favourite place on Earth. So any book that allows me to walk its street even if only in my head, will at least always get a look in. And I loved the time I got to spend there courtesy of The City’s Son. I ended my review like this: “The City’s Son is a stunning debut from Tom Pollock; his is a unique voice and vision of London. His love for the city bleeds off the page and makes me long to be able to visit the city once more.” and went on to predict that the book would most probably make my ‘best of-list’, which turned out to be correct! What’s more, Pollock has made me look at my own urban landscape differently, seeing the Reaches in my own town and wondering what lurks beyond the corner in that little old alley. I can’t wait to go back to his London when reading The Glass City, which will be out in August.
2. Madeline Ashby – vN
For a long time, vN was a shoe-in for favourite debut of 2012. If Wiebe hadn’t convinced me to read the number one at the last minute, it would have been. Because vN gave me ALL THE FEELINGS. I adored this book with a passion that was almost unholy and it really blew my mind. In fact, were I a gif-using blogger, this would just be the entry here and it would have said it all. Since I don’t, these words from my review will have to suffice: “Coupled with a writing style that reads super smoothly, the quality of the world building and characterisation create a powerful narrative that’s immersive and compelling. […] The acquisition of vN must have pleased Angstrom A. Robot, as this book is all about his kind, even if, in the main, they aren’t as angry. Madeline Ashby’s debut novel blew my mind and I can’t imagine where she’ll go next.” I do know I intend to find out, come the summer when the sequel to vN, called iD, is due for release.
1. Tanya Byrne – Heart-Shaped Bruise
Heart-Shaped Bruise was the book that blew all the ‘made in my head’-lists out of the water. This book blew me away and not just me, but Wiebe as well. But I think this quote from my review says it all: “The plot is rather brilliant, as we’re kept in suspense almost until the last page, even if from page one we know she did it. The suspense here is concerned with what and how, not with whether she did it or not. And even while I knew that there wasn’t going to be a happy ending for Emily, as we know she’s in prison when we meet her, I kept hoping that she would get one, that she wouldn’t do whatever horrible thing she was going to do and just sail off into the sunset to a happily ever after. That is how powerful Byrne’s writing is.” Like vN it gave me ALL THE FEELINGS and I can’t wait to discover what else Tanya Byrne is capable of writing in the future.