Part 1: Books.
When the news gets sometimes scary, other times depressing, or both at once, fiction becomes more important to me than ever. While the news may show me the sad state of society and politics, fiction can offer hope, or at least a sense that things don’t have to be like this. The act of writing in itself is hopeful, as we take bits and pieces from the world around us, both light and dark, and knit them together into something new and potentially beautiful. While stories of sexual harassment and assault and violence motivated by racism have been buzzing in my ears, I’ve been hammering away at my most ambitious fantasy novel project to date, as well as crafting plays about Santa Claus’s elves and reindeer. And of course, I’ve been reading.
Some highlights of my year in books:
Most Epic Epic Fantasy: Kate Elliott’s Black Wolves, a 780-page feast featuring a myriad of complicated and intriguing characters, vivid world-building, and clashing cultures and belief systems. I need the next book ASAP.
Most Epic YA: Leigh Barduro’s Crooked Kingdom, the sequel to Six of Crows. Six outlaw heroes deal with conflict between nations and potentially deadly skirmishes between rival gangs on the streets of a quasi-17th century Ketterdam (Amsterdam). Tamora Pierce meets George R. R. Martin.
Most Lyrical Urban Fantasy: This one doesn’t have much competition, but it’s Patricia McKillip’s Kingfisher. McKillip brings her distinctively luminous style to the usually gritty urban fantasy genre, with (for me) satisfying results. If only more urban fantasy were written like this.
Most Underrated Read: Intisar Khanani’s Memories of Ash, the novel-length sequel to her novella Sunbolt. Khanani’s lovely, fluid prose and skillful characterizations deserve far more attention.
The “Welcome to My World” Prize: This one goes to the authors whose work I’ve read for the first time this year, whose future efforts I intend to seek out. N.K. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun), Robert Jackson Bennett (City of Stairs), Michael J. Sullivan (Age of Myth, Age of Swords), Becky Chambers (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet), Melissa Caruso (The Tethered Mage), Mickey Zucker Reichert (Beyond Ragnarok), M.H. Boroson (The Girl With Ghost Eyes), Adrian Tchaikovsky (The Tiger and the Wolf), Mark T. Barnes (The Garden of Stones), Ken Liu (The Wall of Storms), Phil Tucker (The Path of Flames), Mark Lawrence (Red Sister).
The “Continues Awesome” Prize: For authors I already love and whose works I read this year didn’t let me down. Kate Elliott (Black Wolves), Kate Forsyth (The Cursed Towers), Patricia McKillip (Kingfisher), Daniel O’Malley (Stiletto), Terry Pratchett (Witches Abroad), Brandon Sanderson (The Bands of Mourning, Arcanum Unbounded, Oathbringer*). *– Still in progress, but I’m listing it anyway, because what I’ve read so far is just that good.
Favorite Female Heroes Who Have Passed Their Prime: Marshal Dannarah (Black Wolves), Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg (Witches Abroad), Persephone (Age of Myth, Age of Swords), Silence Montane (“Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell,” Arcanum Unbounded).
Favorite Female Heroes Who Are In Their Prime: Hanani of the Hetawa (The Shadowed Sun), Li Lin (The Girl With Ghost Eyes), Shai (“The Emperor’s Soul,” Arcanum Unbounded), Suri (Age of Myth, Age of Swords), Hitomi (Memories of Ash), Shara Khomayd (City of Stairs), Marasi and Steris (The Bands of Mourning), Zomi and Thera (The Wall of Storms).
Favorite Female Heroes Who Are Children (Sort Of): Lift (“Edgedancer,” Arcanum Unbounded).
Favorite Female Supporting Characters: Kizzy and Sissix (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet), Sunandi (The Shadowed Sun), Highmarshal Azure (Oathbringer), Jane (A College of Magics), Mulaghesh (City of Stairs), Lifka (Black Wolves), Arion, Brin, and Roan (Age of Myth, Age of Swords), Dame Scotia Malory (Kingfisher).
Favorite Male Supporting Characters: Sigrud (City of Stairs), Kellas (Black Wolves), Adolin and Rock (Oathbringer), Wylan (Crooked Kingdom), Mni-inh (The Shadowed Sun), Wayne (The Bands of Mourning), Gaetona (“The Emperor’s Soul,” Arcanum Unbounded), Luan Zyu (The Wall of Storms).
Favorite Male Heroes: Dalinar Kholin (Oathbringer), Kelsier (“Mistborn: A Secret History,” Arcanum Unbounded), Asho (The Path of Flames), Indris (The Garden of Stones), Captain Ashby (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet), Rudy Solis (The Time of the Dark).
Favorite Audiobook: A three-way tie: Arcanum Unbounded (read by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading), A Darker Shade of Magic (read by Stephen Crossley), and The Curse of Chalion (read by Lloyd James).
Disappointments: Barbara Hambly’s The Time of the Dark, K.B. Wager’s After the Crown, Sharon Shinn’s Wrapt in Crystal, Kristen Britain’s The High King’s Tomb, and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven. None of these books were terrible; I just didn’t love them quite as much as I have these authors’ other work.
Books I’m Most Looking Forward To in the Coming Year: Django Wexler’s The Infernal Batallion, Mark Lawrence’s Grey Sister, Michael J. Sullivan’s Age of War, Melissa Caruso’s The Defiant Heir, and Kate Elliott’s Dead Empire, all to be published (hopefully) in 2018.