Yesterday I gave you my top ten books I read in 2013, but which were published prior to that. Today I’m posting my top ten 2013 debuts. Debut novels are always exciting as you’re not only discovering a new world but a new writer as well and any writer you read might be your next favourite writer. This year I collected several new must-read authors. So without further ado my favourite 2013 debuts!
10. Clifford Beal – Gideon’s Angel
Historical fantasy has more and more become a favourite sub-genre of mine and Gideon’s Angel fits in there quite snugly. Had a great time with Beal’s debut, because it mixed all my favourite things from historical fiction with that of supernatural fantasy with a dash of conspiracy added for spice. As I concluded my review: “Gideon’s Angel is an exciting and compelling debut. Beal shows a deft hand at mixing historical fact with fantasy and mimicking the period’s language without becoming incomprehensible to modern readers. I really enjoyed the resolution of the novel and the choices Treadwell makes for his future. While Gideon’s Angel is a story complete in and of itself, Treadwell’s choices and profession leave an opening for more tales of his adventures and I would love to spend more time with him.” Hopefully more adventures starring Treadwell will be announced soon.
9. A.S.A. Harrison – The Silent Wife
One of the books with the biggest buzz surrounding it published in the past year was The Silent Wife. I came rather late to the party, but I had to agree with all I’d heard about this book. The Silent Wife was a gripping read, if not a comfortable one. As I said in my review: “There’s also the sense that at several points this story could have taken an entirely different direction, if only one of the lead players had made a different decision or had a different reaction. It creates an atmosphere of inexorable fatedness, of an inescapable ending, just until Harrison pulls the rug out from under you and ends the story on such a magnificent twist that it will leave the reader blinking for a bit after finishing the book.” Unfortunately, we won’t have the chance to see what else Harrison might have surprised us with as she passed away just before the publication of her debut.
8. Peter Higgins – Wolfhound Century
I was really impressed with this Russian-flavoured SF debut. I think I said it best in the concluding paragraph of my review: “Wolfhound Century is a fascinating read, if not always an easy one. Higgins takes his story to some dark and strange places. Especially the passages which convey the intrusion of another possible reality on Lom’s world can get a little strange and disorienting to read, which is probably the sense the author wants to convey, but it also holds up the momentum of the story. However, there is also a lot of intricate prose that draws you right into the scenes it describes. [...] The ending to the book is somewhat abrupt, but as it’s the first in a trilogy it does present a natural break in the story, even if that break is a rather big cliff hanger. Peter Higgins has created an awesome debut with his Wolfhound Century and I’m really looking forward to the next book in the series to learn more about the nature of the Angels and about Lom’s and Maroussia’s respective heritages.”
7. Wesley Chu – The Lives of Tao
So sometimes I get things wrong. As the conclusion of my review for this book proves: “Lives of Tao, Wesley Chu’s debut novel, does what it says on the tin amazingly well; it is above all amazingly entertaining to read; it gives us geekery, aliens, and hijinks; and it gives a whole new spin on the gods-are-aliens theory that has been around for decades. That isn’t to say there aren’t any beauty flaws, because there definitely are, mostly in the shape of some debut author mistakes: clunky sentences, odd phrases, some strange plot leaps, and a convenient appearance of a character in an inconvenient place. However, I didn’t really mind any of it, as the book was just so freaking fun to read. Lives of Tao might not make my ‘Best of’ list, but if I had a Most Entertaining Read category in my end of year posts, it would definitely come out in one of the top spots! If you’re looking for a funny, entertaining, and exciting read, you can’t go far wrong with Wesley Chu’s Lives of Tao.” Yet here we are. My favourite debuts for 2013 and Lives of Tao sits in seventh place; which goes to show that entertainment value counts for a lot as well. I still need to read my eARC for Deaths of Tao, the second book in this series, but I should be getting to it soon.
6. Rosie Best – Skulk
Foxes, butterflies, and rats, oh my! Well and spiders, but those didn’t fit the reference. And all of these shapeshifters find themselves in a magical London, which is guaranteed to make me pay attention to a book. From my review: “I had a fabulous time with Skulk. Best has created a great version of London and an intriguing shapeshifting mythology and used it as a base for an exciting and intricate puzzle of a mystery. Skulk was just the first book in Meg’s adventure; its sequel Rabble will be out in the fall of next year and I’m really looking forward to find out what happens next.” Is it autumn yet?
5. Stephen Lloyd Jones – The String Diaries
From a cunning presentation of the arc to making good on its promises, The String Diaries was a great experience. The conclusion of my review says it all: “The String Diaries is a fantastic debut that, while firmly rooted in the fantastical, will also have an appeal to more mainstream readers. If you are a fan of The Historian, A Discovery of Witches or the works of Kate Mosse, you’ll definitely want to read this one. If you enjoy a well-constructed thriller, then this is also a book for you. I enjoyed The String Diaries immensely – it’s definitely one of my top three debuts so far this year – and I can’t wait to discover more of Stephen Lloyd Jones’ work in the future.”
4. Geoffrey Gudgion – Saxon’s Bane
Another debut that hasn’t had as much coverage as it deserves and one of my most recent reads, Saxon’s Bane was a great read. I really enjoyed this mix of fantasy, history and horror. I concluded my review as follows: “I really loved Saxon’s Bane. Gudgion’s writing swept me away and had me feeling as if I was walking the bridle paths with Fergus. The narrative was atmospheric, spooky and absolutely convincing. It is a wonderful and powerful debut for Gudgion and one that hasn’t had as much coverage as it deserves in my opinion. For my part, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for any future work from Gudgion.”
3. Snorri Kristjansson – Swords of Good Men
One of the books that gave me all the feels, rather surprisingly as it is a raging, berserk Viking novel, it’s also one of the two books that I got to share with Wiebe, who loved it as much as I did. We even got into a bit of an argument as to the meaning of some of the events, quickly arbitrated by the author via email. I concluded my review: “One thing Kristjansson succeeded very well at with Swords of Good Men is eliciting strong reactions. The appearance of the berserkers had me go oooooohhh, like one of those little Martians from Toy Story. He also had me exclaiming in protest at some of the twists in the book and there were tears, I won’t deny it. At one point I even took to Twitter to tell Kristjansson that he was an evil, evil man (he’s not, really.) Swords of Good Men is a fabulous debut and a gripping read, which I enjoyed so much I found myself putting off reading the final pages because I didn’t want it to end. More please!” I can’t wait for the second book and I hope Wiebe and I will have plenty of chances to discuss new Kristjansson novels in the future.
2. Rosie Garland – The Palace of Curiosities
A book that has gotten far less coverage and acclaim than it deserves is Rosie Garland’s The Palace of Curiosities. A book I read at the start of the read, it’s a read that haunted me after finishing it. I finished my review as follows: “The Palace of Curiosities is a curious beast; part fantasy, part historical fiction, part magical (sur)realism, it’s all parts amazing. For such a slim book, it contains a big story, with deep themes and wonderful characters. It was an enchanting read, which deeply impressed me. I think this will be one of the must-read books on 2013, though not everyone might be as taken with it as I am.” Hopefully the book will get more attention in next year’s awards because it really is an exquisite read. I can’t wait to see what Garland brings us next.
1. Stephanie Saulter – Gemsigns
Gemsigns blew me away. That’s the short and long of it. Another book that had me and Wiebe have some long and thoughtful discussions and which we both loved. My final paragraph of my review looked like this: “In Gemsigns Saulter has delivered an amazing debut, which had me pondering its themes long after closing its pages. Within the parameters of her world, she answers the question asked at the outset – what makes someone human – in a way that shows that humanity isn’t in how your DNA is configured, it’s in how you approach and treat others. But those answers provided engender a slew of new questions. What now? How do we reconcile the different parties? Who will step up and lead? I can’t wait to see what answers Saulter will come up with.” Not long now until I’ll be able to get answers to my questions as Binary, Gemsigns‘ sequel will be out in only a few months. The question is whether I’ll be able to fight of Wiebe to read the book first.