To round out my Favourite of 2013 posts, today I’m bringing you my Favourite 2013 Books, with books that were published in 2013, but weren’t a debut novel. With the amount of books I read this past year it was hard to whittle them down to ten. But I succeeded and here’s my list.
10. Richard Jay Parker – Scare Me
Parker’s Scare Me kept me riveted to the page from beginning to end. As I said of Parker in my review: “He’s not only able to evoke emotions clearly, he also imbues his writing with a sense of place, which makes the story feel grounded and despite all the plane-hopping I never lost sight of where we were on the planet. He also had me genuinely frightened for some of the characters at different points, thinking they’d come to harm. The story comes together back where it a started, at the Frost estate, in a crescendo of tension, drama and a tragic revelation, only to be followed by a satisfying, deliciously creepy end.” I could completely understand why the film rights to Scare Me were picked up soon after publication. I’m looking forward to Parker’s next book Stalk Me released in March.
9. Jo Baker – Longbourn
Retellings of classical works are a discipline in and of itself and one I enjoy quite a lot when done well. Longbourn was one of those that were done extremely well. A story that would have been strong enough on its own, but which is enriched by its connection to the book it’s based on. From my review: “I adore Jane Austen, have read all her books, and in fact it was Pride and Prejudice that made me realise I wanted to study English at university, [...] so to retell her most beloved work from a new perspective and have me like it without any reservations, is quite a feat. Baker has most certainly done so and in the doing has reminded me just how much I love Pride and Prejudice. If you’re an Austen fan, this is definitely a must-read, but even if you’re not familiar with Austen and Pride and Prejudice or didn’t really enjoy her work, Longbourn is still a great novel to read, with a compelling story and romance.” I’m looking forward to finding out what Baker will be writing next.
8. Tom Harper – The Orpheus Descent
Dual-timeline historical thrillers were a thing for me this year and with Harper’s The Orpheus Descent I finally realised it and realised why I liked them so much. What I liked about The Orpheus Descent was its focus on Plato and how Harper managed to incorporate many of his teachings in the book. From the conclusion of my review: “The contemporary timeline has more immediacy to it, which is logical due to its thriller-nature. However, even if Plato’s timeline is of a more historical bent, it is still an exciting read, and no less enthralling than its companion. In The Orpheus Descent, Harper blends historical fiction and thriller elements with classical Greek mythology, which ends in a gripping denouement in which the mystery of both timelines is revealed in a sequence that sucked me in and wouldn’t let go for the last four chapters of the book.” Harper’s next book doesn’t seem to have a historical component from its blurb, but it promises to be just as much of a thriller as The Orpheus Descent.
7. Lyndsay Faye – Seven for a Secret
It’s a testament to the quality of the books I’ve read this year that Seven for a Secret is only at number seven on this list. Faye’s first book in this series, The Gods of Gotham, made the number five spot in last year’s favourite’s list and I adored Seven for a Secret even more than its predecessor. From my review: “With Seven for a Secret Lyndsay Faye gives Timothy Wilde a triumphant return to the streets of New York, and I adored every minute of it. The same caveat that was true for The Gods of Gotham, holds true here though: if you don’t like slang and period language, then Faye’s flash-filled dialogues won’t be to your taste. For me it was the confirmation that Faye is a wonderfully talented writer, who can create a detailed, atmospheric historical world without info-dumping all her research.” Luckily, there will be at least a third book and hopefully more after that, but count on it, I’ll be there to read it!
6. Jared Shurin (ed.) – The Book of the Dead
It’s no secret I’m a fan of Jurassic London, the publishing house started by Jared Shurin and Anne Perry. In addition, I really like Jared and Anne personally. So reading and reviewing Jurassic’s anthologies always means that I worry about bias towards them, but luckily it always ends up fine, because their books are genuinely really, really good. As I concluded my review: “The Book of the Dead is the latest in Jurassic London’s stellar line-up of anthologies. And I stand by my tweet, this collection of short stories is disgustingly, gloriously good. Jurassic hasn’t yet let me down and I’m already looking forward to their next trick come spring when they publish The Rite of Spring. If you are looking to read some awesome short fiction, you don’t to look any further than The Book of the Dead.” That rather says it all really.
5. Al Ewing – The Fictional Man
Al Ewing’s The Fictional Man blew me away with its complexity and themes of identity and self. As I ended my review: “In the end, Niles does get his fictional, even if it isn’t the fictional he expected. It’s a satisfying ending, even if a little disturbing and sad. I was blown away by Ewing’s The Fictional Man, not in the least because the more I think about it, the more layers I discover and the more impressive it becomes. There is so much to unpack in this story, it’s amazing. This is definitely a contender to make my best of year list at the end of the year, in quite a high place as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find it on awards ballots next year.” I still think this book is awards material, though I’ve seen some less-than-positive reviews of it. I’ll be curious to see whether it gets on the ballots!
4. Lavie Tidhar – The Violent Century
Another book with themes of identity and the nature of humanity, I really loved this stylistically-strong, atmospheric book. The conclusion for my review reads: “The Violent Century was my first long-form encounter with Lavie Tidhar and hopefully it won’t be my last. I was very impressed by this war torn superhero narrative, which touches upon sensitive topics such as the Holocaust, the Eichmann trial, World War II atrocities, but also on less well-known wars such as the Laotian Civil War and US involvement therein and ever holds up a mirror asking us: “What makes a man?” A story that sings around for a bit and got stuck in my head, The Violent Century is a strong contender for my top ten this year.” Tidhar struck it out of the park and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this book turn up on people’s ballots next year either.
3. Guy Gavriel Kay – River of Stars
Guy Gavriel Kay is a master of the fantasy genre. His books are exquisite, at least the ones I’ve read, and his story-telling is beyond compare. As I put it in my review: “The writing is glorious. Kay is a wordsmith of the highest order and at times his prose took my breath away. It was immersive and poetic, quite fitting for a story that is partly told from the point of view of a poet and which is set in a culture that prizes words, calligraphy and art most highly. The plot unfolds slowly and especially in the early parts the true scope and direction are a little obfuscated, but once you are immersed in the story, it all becomes clear and the narrative is quite compelling.” But River of Stars isn’t just gorgeously written, it’s also a book with quite a lot of social commentary embedded in the text, ostensibly on the society contained within the narrative, but it can easily be extrapolated to the world beyond. River of Stars is a stunning book which I devoured and savoured at the same time.
2. Cassandra Rose Clarke – The Mad Scientist’s Daughter
I absolutely loved The Mad Scientist’s Daughter and I don’t think I could explain it any better than through this quote from my review: “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is stunning. A gorgeous exploration of love, the ability to feel it and other emotions, and the lies we tell ourselves in order to attain happiness that probes the border between human and AI to see how far they stretch. Perhaps it has a little too much romance in it for those who think all SF should be hard, but for me it was a perfect blend.”
1. Emma Newman – Between Two Thorns
Sometimes books and worlds just make you happy and Emma Newman’s Split Worlds universe is one of the ones that make me happy. I just can’t help but loving the short fiction and novels set there. I know it says Between Two Thorns, but it should be Between Two Thorns and Any Other Name. If I’d read All is Fair in time for this post I would have just listed the series – the only reason I’ve not read it yet is because I’ve been dangling it in front of my nose as a motivational carrot – but as it stands I just went with the first book. I absolutely fell in love with the Split Worlds and Newman’s writing. As I said in my review: “Between Two Thorns really was an unalloyed pleasure to read and it’s hard to write a review for it that isn’t just gushing. From her short fiction I knew I liked her writing style, but with her novel Newman has landed me hook, line, and sinker, and I can’t wait for the next book to drop in July. Newman has created a unique blend of urban, historical, and crime fantasy clothed in a Regency veneer. Between Two Thorns is delicious, engrossing, and enchanting and, so far, my debut book of the year.” I know it says debut, but I’m an idiot because it isn’t, it was actually Newman’s second novel to be published after her YA novel 20 Years Later. Between Two Thorns and its sequel were two of the books that had me reading with a smile continuously, except when they were sad or scary, because I just couldn’t help myself. In many ways Newman’s writing has the same effect on me Mercedes Lackey’s has. If I feel down or sad just reading a short story or a chapter can cheer me up immensely. If that doesn’t make a book a favourite of the year, then I don’t know what does.