2016: My Year in Books

Here you won’t find anything too deep or detailed, just a retrospective on my reading life over the past year, both good and bad.

Total number of books read in 2016: thirty-nine, not counting the two I didn’t read in their entirety.

Best books of the year, from as objective a standpoint as I can manage based on prose quality, characterization, and world-building: Django Wexler, The Price of Valor and The Guns of Empire; M.R. Carey, The Girl With All the Gifts; Karen Lord, Redemption in Indigo.

Favorite books of the year, from a subjective standpoint of pure enjoyment: Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law; Kate Forsyth, The Pool of Two Moons (second in the sadly underrated Witches of Eileanan series); Todd Lockwood, The Summer Dragon; Leigh Barduro, Six of Crows.

Favorite characters whose acquaintance I made this year: Nina Zenik, the funny, deadly, but decent Heartrender (Six of Crows); Melanie, the “little genius” who doesn’t know quite who or what she is (The Girl With All the Gifts); Norah Blackstone, the shy wallflower who stumbles into a career as a silent-film scenarist while working to save her sister-in-law from an ancient curse (Bride of the Rat God); Prunella Gentleman, the woman who has more magic in her little fingernail than most men have in their whole bodies but is nonetheless forced to prove herself (Sorcerer to the Crown); Paama, the brilliant cook who uses common-sense goodness to defy evil (Redemption in Indigo).

Most enjoyable working of a theme I’m tired of: Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown. I may be sick to death of the repeated-ad-nauseum “you can’t do (x) because you’re a woman” conflict, but Cho’s historical fantasy won me over, thanks largely to the charismatic character of Prunella, see above.

Most enjoyable working of a theme I’m NOT tired of: Todd Lockwood’s The Summer Dragon. Dragons! Female dragons! Give me more, give me excess of them! Lockwood’s debut fantasy novel delivers. (There’s a brave, stalwart human heroine here, too.)

Biggest disappointment: Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor. All my friends loved it, and considering its intricate world-building and highly sympathetic protagonist, I can certainly see why. But the dearth of significant sympathetic female characters kept me at arm’s length.

2016 read I would most like to see made into a movie: K.B. Wagers’ science-fiction action-adventure Behind the Throne, with its kick-butt gunrunner princess protagonist, practically screams out for the big-screen treatment.

“It just wasn’t for me” award: Jon Messenger’s Wolves of the Northern Rift. Note to publishers: if the most important female character in a book has barely any page time and readers are not encouraged to care much about her at all, do not put a gorgeous picture of this character on the cover of said book. Please.

Most infuriating read: Shana Abe’s The Sweetest Dark. Not even the promise of a dragon shifter heroine could surmount my irritation with that misogynistic “Not Like Other Girls” trope with which this book absolutely reeks. The exceptional heroine is indeed brave and capable, but every other female character — every single one — is some shade of icky and untrustworthy, and it’s impossible for me to overlook.

Books I liked but wish had been just a little bit better: Jim Butcher, The Aeronaut’s Windlass; Marshall Ryan Maresca, A Murder of Mages; Sharon Shinn, Heart of Gold.

Welcome to my world — new authors I’ve tried and enjoyed: Todd Lockwood; Zen Cho; Karen Lord; K.B. Wagers; Stina Leicht (Cold Iron).

Welcome back — favorite authors who have continued to please: Brandon Sanderson; Django Wexler; Kate Forsyth; Barbara Hambly (Bride of the Rat God); Violette Malan (Path of the Sun); Guy Gavriel Kay (Children of Earth and Sky), Max Gladstone (Full Fathom Five).

 

 

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