Another great year of books is behind us. As usual, I read a lot of YA fantasy, but I also read a good mix of other stuff, too (partly thanks to the bimonthly GeekyNerdy Book Club).
This year I read 35 books and graphic novels (not counting re-reads). Here are some of my favorites:
- Cinder and the Lunar Chronicles series (a cyborg Cinderella, with some Sailor Moon and other fairy tales mixed in)
- Walk on Earth a Stranger (Historical fiction/light fantasy about the California gold rush)
- Masque (a murder mystery Beauty and the Beast retelling)
- Records of the Ohanzee (a fantasy story in parts, currently awaiting the fourth)
- You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) (Felicia Day’s memoir, especially about starting The Guild)
There are also a few other genre books that really stood out, but I haven’t gotten around to reviewing them yet, so I’m making some space for them here.
Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology
This was hands-down my favorite series of 2016. I wrote previously about the first book, Six of Crows, and I’m now here to tell you that the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, is an immensely satisfying conclusion. The characters are still amazing, and continue to be challenged in new, different ways. The fantasy aspects also continue to be developed.
It’s not an entirely happy ending, but there was never going to be a perfectly happy ending to this story, and honestly it was happier than I was expecting. I’m even considering buying the hardcover set, which I never do, because the books themselves have the pages edged in color: black for the first and red for the second.
If you like YA fantasy, grey characters, and complex plots, this one is for you.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
There has been so much buzz around this book since it was published last year (it was nominated for a Hugo and won the Nebula), and I was not disappointed at all. The story is a kind of original fairy tale, eastern-European inspired, and walks the line between YA and regular adult fantasy. The main character Agnieszka is “taken” by the local lord, called the Dragon, and is eventually trained by him as a magical apprentice to help defeat the evil Wood.
There’s plenty of magic, and although the magic system is not well-defined, the book does give us an interesting sense of the different methods of working it (the Dragon is more precise and scientific, while Agnieszka works more based on feel and intuition). There’s also a great female friendship at the core of the story, and some romance—it wasn’t my favorite ever, but I thought it was done well for the story.
The Wood is a surprisingly good villain, and the story’s resolution seemed very fitting. Even after everything that’s happened, Agnieska can still empathize with the Wood and tries to work out a solution for everyone’s benefit (it’s very Wonder Woman ^_^).
Also, I pictured the Dragon as looking like Rumpelstiltskin from OUAT, so there’s that.
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
I’ve been reading CJA for years, as one of the founders of the website io9.com; her movie reviews are the most entertaining I’ve ever read (some of my favorites are Transformers: ROTF, Gods of Egypt, The Force Awakens, The Martian, and The Huntsman: Winter’s War).
I also loved her short story (and Naomi Novik’s) in our recent GeekyNerdy Book Club selection, The Starlit Wood. So it’s safe to assume that I love her writing style, and it definitely carried me through this story, which was wonderful and memorable, though perhaps not perfect.
A witch girl and a tech-genius boy grow up together as school outcasts, grow apart, then meet again as adults, which is convenient because one or possibly both of them need to save the world from near-imminent destruction. I loved that there is both fantasy and science fiction mashed up here. It was fascinating to me that the witches would have destroyed humanity to save the planet, while the scientists were willing to risk destroying the planet to save humans. It was nice to see scientists wrestling with ethical questions, too.
Overall, this book is a little weird, which is why I loved it. The narrative is a bit uneven, but you just kinda have to go along for the ride.
Here’s to more great books in the new year. What books did you enjoy most in 2016?