The Fall of Koli – MR Carey

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The world that is lost will come back to haunt us . . .

Koli has come a long way since being exiled from his small village of Mythen Rood. In his search for the fabled tech of the old times, he knew he’d be battling strange, terrible beasts and trees that move as fast as whips. But he has already encountered so much more than he bargained for.

Now that Koli and his companions have found the source of the signal they’ve been following – the mysterious “Sword of Albion” – there is hope that their perilous journey will finally be worth something.

Until they unearth terrifying truths about an ancient war . . . and realise that it may have never ended.

Here we are. Book three in M.R. Carey’s Ramparts trilogy. We’ve followed Koli on his adventure for such a long way, from The Book of Koli back in April 2020, through The Trials of Koli late in September, and now to this final book, nigh on a year since we started.

And what an adventure it’s been. Regular readers of this blog will know how much I love Carey’s writing. And how much I love a good dystopian post-apocalyptic setting. Put those three things together and I’m a happy little reader. Just keep me topped up with regular cups of hot tea and a steady supply of biscuits and we’re good.

Reader, I loved The Book and The Trials. And of course you’ve listened to me banging on about them for the last year, and have read and enjoyed them, haven’t you?

HAVEN’T YOU. (right, you at the back, yes, you. Get thee to a bookshop, pronto)

The rest of you have? Excellent, excellent.

So, why do you need me to persuade you to read book three? You’re as invested in the adventures of Koli, Cup and the irrepressible, mischievous Monono as I am, surely? And not forgetting Spinner and the Ramparts back at home base in Mythen Rood of course!

The Fall of Koli finds our intrepid adventurers rather at sea in their hunt for the mysterious ‘Sword of Albion’. Quite literally. They’re rescued by Paul, Lorraine, and their something’s-not-quite-right-here son, Stanley, who are apparently alone on the megaship Sword of Albion. It’s up to Koli and the gang to figure out what’s going on, and not to put too fine a point on it, things escalate quickly…

Back in Mythen Rood, Spinner is facing some challenges herself, both from within the encampment and outside, with the Peacemaker from Half Ax determined to get hold of all the tech in Ingland. I was torn reading this book, as Carey knew just when to switch viewpoints from Koli to Spinner to ensure maximum tension! I really loved watching Spinner’s character grow across the three books, and become the fantastic, clever, resourceful woman we find here.

It’s these different viewpoints and wonderfully diverse characters that really make these books shine. It’s an exploration of identity and growth; from young, naive Koli Woodsmith, to the older, wiser Ursala, Cup – the young trans woman and the bouncy, virtual Monono Aware who helps Koli find his place in the world. Carey clearly loves these characters and it’s a testament to his writing that they all come across equally well-drawn despite their differences.

It’s hard to say more without giving away too much about this book. I’m confident that if you’ve read the first two, you’ll absolutely love this one too.

Hugely recommended.

The Fall of Koli by MR Carey is published by Orbit Books and is out now. Many thanks to Nazia Khatun at Orbit for the advance copy of the book, and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

The Unbroken – CL Clark

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Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.

Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.

Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale. 


The Unbroken took me a little while to get into, but once I’d hit my stride I found myself devouring it in hundred-page chunks, immersed in the beautifully drawn, albeit harrowing, world Clark has created. And what a world it is. We’ve got a heady mixture of military-based fantasy set against colonialist conquerors, with a rebellion brewing in the streets of Qazāl. One where the lines of good and bad are blurred. Characters make big, epic mistakes, and have to live with the consequences.

Speaking of characters, I loved the dynamic between the two main leads. Touraine, Lieutenant in the Balladairan army. A Sand conscript, taken from her Qazāli home some twenty years earlier, now returning. Hated by the Balladairans as the lowest of the low, but also hated by her people as a traitor, working for their enemy. She has a lot to prove, and boy does she not mess around.

Then there’s Luca, princess and heir to the throne of Balladaire. She’s come to Qazāl to prove herself worthy of that throne, currently occupied by her uncle, the Regent. So for her, Qazāl is just a means to that end. She wants it sorted, and is prepared to compromise if she needs to – though at times she’s not too bothered what lines needs to be crossed to get there.

The action comes thick and fast from the outset, as these two women, wildly different in background and social status are thrown together. Can Tour help Luca see what needs to be done to help Qazāl? Or will Luca do whatever it takes to seal her place on the Balladairan throne and become Queen? And can she find the Qazāl magic?

Beautifully complex, layered characters. A solid, intriguing world which explores colonialism and oppression. A will-they-won’t-they dance between our two leads, in a society where same-sex relationships don’t raise an eyebrow. A supporting cast of devious generals, priests, soldiers and others.

You’ll find yourself alternately on #TeamLuca or #TeamTouraine, wanting to give them a hug one minute and berating them for doing something spectacularly dangerous/daft/stupid the next. Or admiring Touraine’s biceps. That seems to be a thing. I’m there for that.

Big, chonky epic fantasy. What’s not to like? The Unbroken leaves us with a nicely rounded story, though I’m very much looking forward to book 2 to see where Clark takes us next!

The Unbroken by CL Clark is published by Orbit Books and is out now. Many thanks to Orbit Books for the copy to review, and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part in the blog tour.

C.L. Clark

C.L. Clark graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. When she’s not writing or working, she’s learning languages, doing P90something, or reading about war and [post-]colonial history. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless SkiesFIYAHPodCastle and Uncanny.

Far From The Tree – Rob Parker

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Brendan Foley has worked to balance the responsibilities of a demanding job and a troublesome family. He’s managed to keep these two worlds separate, until the discovery of a mass grave sends them into a headlong collision. When one of the dead turns out to be a familiar face, he’s taken off the case. 

Iona Madison keeps everything under control. She works hard as a detective sergeant and trains harder as a boxer. But when her superior, DI Foley, is removed from the case, her certainties are tested like never before. 

With stories of the Warrington 27 plastered over the news, they set out to solve the crime before anyone else. The local constabulary is small and under-funded – Brendan knows they can’t crack this case alone, and he’s not letting a rival force take over. Not with the secrets he fears are lurking. Their investigations lead them into the murky underworlds of Manchester and Liverpool, where one more murder means little to drug-dealing gangs, desperate to control their power bases. 

But as Madison steps into the ring for the fight of her life, the criminals come to them. It’s no coincidence that the corpses have been buried in Foley’s hometown. The question is, why? Foley might not like the answer…

Browsing through the titles on Audible a while back I discovered Far From The Tree, an ‘Audible Original’. I’ve only read one other of Rob Parker’s books (the brilliant A Wanted Man) so jumped at the chance to have a listen to this.

Twenty seven bodies are found in an unmarked grave. Is this the work of a serial killer? DI Brendan Foley is on the case. Then it turns out that one of the dead is someone close to home, and what was initially ‘just’ a murder enquiry turns into something a lot more personal.

It’s a great story, and I loved the interplay between Foley and DS Madison as they work to uncover exactly what has been going on. There’s a real grittiness to the story, which feels worryingly plausible. It’s also not one for the faint-hearted, with some seriously visceral scenes of violence. It’s a story of family, of the hard men who run the streets and what they’ll do to keep control.

I love a good crime story, and this one is absolutely top notch. It’s got a real sense of place, which regular readers of this blog will know is something I really look for in a book. Parker is clearly at home here, and you can tell it’s his patch.

With audiobooks, the narration can be the make or break for me. Fortunately Far From The Tree is superbly narrated by Warren Brown (DS Ripley from Luther), I loved every minute of the near nine hour runtime. I’d plug my headphones in whilst walking the dogs, and must admit to going just once more around the block to get another chapter in. The dogs didn’t seem to mind!

Far From The Tree by Rob Parker, read by Warren Brown, is available exclusively on Audible.

The Black Coast – Mike Brooks

Cover for The Black Coast by Mike Brooks

When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them, for they know who is coming: for generations, Black Keep has been raided by the fearsome clanspeople of Iwernia. Saddling their war dragons, the Naridans rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all. Driven from their own homeland by the rise of a daemonic despot who prophesies the end of the world, they have come in search of a new home. Meanwhile the wider continent of Narida is lurching toward war. Black Keep is about to be caught in the cross-fire of the coming war for the world – if only its new mismatched society can survive.

The Black Coast is one of the biggest books I’ve read for a long time. Often I’ll look at the size of a book and think that maybe I don’t have time to spend on such a chonky tome given the state of my TBR pile. But in this case I was invited to take part in the blog tour, thought that book sounds great! War dragons! Daemonic despots! Shenanigans!

Then the book turned up and it was (and indeed is) huuuuge, clocking in at nearly 650 pages.

Reader, I need not have worried. Yes, it took me a week to read rather than a weekend, but it was so worth it. Yes, there are a lot of characters to remember, and a lot of interweaving plots (and the aforementioned shenanigans). But it reminded me what I love about epic fantasy. The worldbuilding is splendid, told through the eyes of multiple characters. Saana, the chief of the raiders on the lookout for a new place to settle. Daimon, law-son of the leader of the Black Keep, who sees the approaching fleet and must battle with his conscience and family. Jeya, young thief who finds the purse she picked belongs to someone far different from who she expected.

And that’s just a few of the characters we follow through the book. There are war dragons, battles, skulduggery and political chicanery. The story looks at prejudice and what it means to change your mind, to look at things from another’s point of view and see that deep down, we’re all just people. It’s not done in a heavy-handed way, but feels like a natural part of the story.

The Black Coast by Mike Brooks is published by Orbit Books and is out now. Many thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, and to Nazia Khatun from Orbit Books for the advance copy to review.

Black Widows – Cate Quinn

Black Widows by Cate Quinn

The only thing the three women had in common was their husband. And, as of this morning, that they’re each accused of his murder.
Blake Nelson moved into a hidden stretch of land – a raw paradise in the wilds of Utah – where he lived with his three wives: Rachel, the chief wife, obedient and doting to a fault. Tina, the other wife, who’s everything Rachel isn’t. And Emily, the youngest wife, who knows almost nothing else.
When their husband is found dead under the desert sun, the questions pile up. What are these women to each other now that their husband is dead? Will the police uncover the secrets each woman has spent her life hiding?
And is one of them capable of murder…?

Told from the point of view of the three wives in turn, Black Widows is an ingenious murder mystery which will keep you guessing right up to the end. It’s a fantastic premise for a story. Each of the three wives loved their husband in their own way, and each had a reason not to.

The story jumps between the three women – Rachel, first wife, obedient and highly devout. Emily, the youngest sister wife. And Tina, ex-junkie who met Blake through rehab, the most streetwise of the three. But who could have done it?

I love a story which keeps you guessing like this one does. Each one tells a convincing story, but each one is convinced that the other wives aren’t telling the whole truth. It’s great fun watching it unfurl as the story progresses, and be warned, it goes to some very dark places indeed.

Blake and his wives live on an isolated farm in Utah. Their polygamous marriage is frowned upon by other members of their church (the Latter-Day Saints) and the book explores this lifestyle and why someone would choose to have multiple wives. I found the whole thing fascinating, and a great backdrop to the central murder mystery.

The three wives are very different people, and their individual voices really come through distinctly in the book, each with their own well-drawn backstory bringing them to the remote farm.

I really enjoyed Black Widows, though here are some very dark themes and scenes in here. Recommended.

Black Widows by Cate Quinn is published by Orion and is out now. Many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours and Orion for the review copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

The Last Thing To Burn – Will Dean

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On an isolated farm in the United Kingdom, a woman is trapped by the monster who kidnapped her seven years ago. When she discovers she is pregnant, she resolves to protect her child no matter the cost, and starts to meticulously plan her escape. But when another woman is brought into the fold on the farm, her plans go awry. Can she save herself, her child, and this innocent woman at the same time? Or is she doomed to spend the remainder of her life captive on this farm?

I’ve been a huge fan of Will Dean’s books ever since an early copy of his debut novel Dark Pines popped through my door in early 2018. I’ve watched as he’s built on that strong start to just get better and better with every Tuva book he writes.

Then we come to this book, The Last Thing To Burn. And it’s like until now he was just coasting, and has just put his foot to the floor.

It’s not an easy read, and the subject matter is horrifying, and horrifyingly plausible. A young woman lives on a huge farm in the middle of nowhere, held captive by her husband. He calls her Jane.

That’s not her name. Her name is Thanh Dao, and she’s been brought over to the UK from Vietnam by traffickers promising a new life, only to find herself captive of the most hideous of men. Who keeps her by his side by threats against her sister, safe in another part of the country. Trapped in a vast, flat landscape, with a badly damaged ankle and no hope of escape.

Thanh Dao is our narrator and takes us through her life with Lenn, with his bland food and bland life, living in the shadow of his beloved, dead mother. But make no mistake, he’s pure, distilled evil. Everything has to be just so, or she’ll lose another of her dwindling collection of personal possessions. A photo of her parents. Letters from her sister. A book. Hers, hers hers. Not his.

Lenn is the most unpleasant, unredeemable character I’ve read for a long, long time. Utterly controlling, utterly convinced by his rightness, utterly nasty.

It’s a bleak book, set in a bleak landscape, but at every step of the way we’re rooting for Thanh Dao. Tiny slivers of hope keep her, and us, going.

It’s an astonishing book, a world away from Tuva Moodyson and her Swedish forest. And one where the subject may be too much for some. It’s a nail-biting, compelling, just one more page book, one where you’re willing Thanh Dao to get away from the very first page.

Unforgettable.

The Last Thing To Burn by Will Dean is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is out now.

Body Language – A.K. Turner

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Camden mortuary assistant Cassie Raven has pretty much seen it all. But this is the first time she’s come face to face with someone she knows on the slab. Someone she cared about. Her friend and mentor, Mrs E.

Deeply intuitive and convinced that she can pick up the last thoughts of the dead, Cassie senses that there must be more to the ruling of an accidental death. Is her grief making her see things that aren’t there, or is her intuition right, and there’s something more sinister to her friend’s death than the ME thinks? Harbouring an innate distrust of the police, Cassie sets out to investigate and deliver justice to the woman who saved her life.

Body Language is a cleverly plotted mystery, with a pair of engaging characters in mortuary technician Cassie Raven and the very uptight DS Phyllida Flyte. The two couldn’t be more different, and the interplay between them as they both strive to solve the various deaths really drives this book along.

I loved Cassie – pierced, tattooed goth living with her Polish grandma (another fabulous character), a cynical loner with a distrust of the police who works with the dead, and with an intuitive ability to hear the dead’s last thoughts. Diametrically opposite, we have DS Phyllida Flyte. Immaculately turned out, very process-driven and logical. It was fascinating watching the two bounce off each other before they start working together.

Cassie is shocked to find her former teacher and mentor Mrs E turns up at the mortuary. She was responsible for helping Cassie off the streets and through education into the job she now loves. Cassie has to try and discover what happened – was it natural causes, or something more sinister?

Body Language is a well-written and neatly plotted crime fiction story which I read over the course of an afternoon. I enjoyed it enormously, and highly recommend it.

Body Language by A.K. Turner is published by Zaffre, and is out now.

Stone Cold Trouble – Amer Anwar

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Trying – and failing – to keep his head down and to stay out of trouble, ex-con Zaq Khan agrees to help his best friend, Jags, recover a family heirloom, currently in the possession of a wealthy businessman. But when Zaq’s brother is viciously assaulted, Zaq is left wondering whether someone from his own past is out to get revenge. 

Wanting answers and retribution, Zaq and Jags set out to track down those responsible. Meanwhile, their dealings with the businessman take a turn for the worse and Zaq and Jags find themselves suspected of murder. 

It’ll take both brains and brawn to get themselves out of trouble and, no matter what happens, the results will likely be deadly. The only question is, whether it will prove deadly for them, or for someone else . . . ?

Stone Cold Trouble marks the second adventure for Zaq and Jags, first seen in Amer Anwar’s brilliant debut, Brothers in Blood which I read towards the end of last year. As with the first book, I polished it off over a couple of sittings – I settled down with a cup of tea to finish the last hundred or so pages, only to discover that my tea had gone cold.

Stone cold.

Yeah, it’s that good. I love the banter between Zaq and his best mate Jags, and it really makes this book stand out. Of course a book needs more than just a great pair of protagonists, and Anwar delivers another cracking read. Though he does seem to rather enjoy putting our boys through a bit of a wringer this time round – I thought that Zaq took a bit of a battering in the first book, but the poor lad takes another pummelling here!

Not quite as much as his brother Tariq – set upon by some thugs and left in a bad way, Zaq and Jags set out to track down his assailants, whilst at the same time trying to get their uncle’s heirloom back from a very shady businessman who you do not want to be on the wrong side of.

I loved this book, and it’s great to kick 2021 off on a high note. Solid five stars, and I’m looking foward to finding out what Amer Anwar has in store for his boys next!

Oh, and be prepared to be hungry reading it – there’s a lot of delicious food in there, and you may find yourself (as I did), craving a couple of pakora or samosas!

Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar is published by Dialogue Books and is out now.

Books of the year 2020: crime & thrillers

Right, we’ve looked at my favourite fantasy and sci-fi books of the year, so it’s time to investigate the murky world of crime & thrillers. Hopefully something here will pique your interest!

Brothers in Blood – Amer Anwar

I love a good crime book, and Brothers In Blood is a cut above. What really lifts it is the dynamic between Zaq and his mate Jags – these two just bounce off the page with their easy friendship, not afraid to take the piss out of each other for any and everything. It’s this lightness sprinkled through the book that gives a sharp contrast to the dark underbelly of the story. Absolute cracker of a book.

A Wanted Man – Rob Parker

Ah, Rob Parker. I’ve listened to a lot of his excellent Blood Brothers podcast and his love of the genre is just infectious. I realised that I’d not read any of his books, so quickly rectified that with A Wanted Man, the first in his Ben Bracken series. The book kicks off with a bang, and doesn’t let go until the very end. Parker’s writing is sharp and snappy, his plot taut as a wire and it’s just a great read. Proper page turner.

The Man On The Street – Trevor Wood

Another CWA Debut Dagger winner, Trevor Wood’s The Man On The Street (and the follow-up One Way Street) are just brilliant. Set in my home town of Newcastle, they follow the escapades and investigations of homeless veteran Jimmy and his mates Deano and Gadge. I love a book with a great sense of place, and this has it in spades. Cracking books, the pair of them.

Hinton Hollow Death Trip – Will Carver

Oh my, what to say about this book? One of the most original, dark, disturbing and downright weird (but in a good way) books that I’ve read in years. Told from the point of view of Evil itself, and what a fascinating perspective that is. 

You see, it takes just a small nudge to this person here, a gentle prod to that person there and before you know it, chaos ensues. And boy, does chaos ensue. Easy read it might not be, but an utterly compelling delve into the human condition it is. 

The Big Chill – Doug Johnstone

The Big Chill follows on from the wonderful A Dark Matter in which we met the Skelf clan – Dorothy, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah, proprietors of a funeral home and also private investigators on the side. It’s an absolute pleasure to be back in the company of the Skelfs again. Johnstone’s writing is, as ever, a joy to read and the intricate, interwoven plots a delight to untangle. It’s a real character piece in which our trio bounce to life off the page, full of life, death, regrets, issues, love and loss. Oh, and embalming fluid. I love the way we see the story (or rather stories) from the viewpoints of the three women and watch them play out alongside each other.

The Curator – M.W. Craven

Bit festive, this one. A serial killer is leaving bits of their victims all over Cumbria, at Christmas. Poe and Tilly investigate. Craven clearly loves these characters (as do we) and a large proportion of the fun is watching them bounce off each other as they work towards solving whatever crime they happen to be investigating. I’m going to sneak in a recommendation for Cut Short, a selection of Poe & Tilly short stories too.

Craven is also a deft hand at a devious plot, with plenty of twists and turns along the way, red herrings strewn across our path like some kind of biblical plague. You’ll think you’ve got it sussed, only for something to pop up, whallop you across the chops with a large fish (like that Monty Python sketch) and run off, leaving you confused but still determined to work out what’s going on.

The Devil and the Dark Water – Stuart Turton

Regular readers will be aware that Stuart Turton’s debut, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, is one of my all-time favourite books. So it was with some trepidation that I ventured into his second book. Reader, I need not have worried. Turton has delivered yet another fantastic mystery which kept me guessing the whole way through. I enjoyed that the story’s ‘great detective’ is locked up, forcing his ever-loyal assistant Hayes to take up the mystery solving. And what a mystery! The cast of suspects is splendidly broad and everyone has a secret to hide, as you’d expect. Murder, superstition, storms, ghost ships, this book has it all!

Three Hours – Rosamund Lupton

Utterly absorbing, utterly terrifying, and one you will be utterly unable to put down. Three Hours is beautifully written, nail-bitingly tense and at times, heartbreaking.  A school under siege from a gunman, the story plays out over the three hours of the title. It’s nerve-wracking from the off, and not an easy read. But one which is so very well done. Phenomenal.

Black River – Will Dean

Tuva Moodyson is back for a third mystery in Will Dean’s superb Black River. While Dark Pines was firmly rooted in the creepy Utgard forest, with its host of slightly odd inhabitants, and Red Snow took place in and around the equally odd Grimberg Liquorice factory, Black River sees the action move out of Gavrik to Snake River. And yes, the inhabitants there are just as strange…

The story fair rattles along, intense and scary at times, and there’s a real sense of panic in the air. You hope that all will turn out well in the end, but you can never tell until you turn the final page…

I Am Dust – Louise Beech

I Am Dust is a story of love and loss, of murder and mystery, of the glam and glitz of showbusiness in a small theatre, haunted by the spectre of its greatest success, the musical extravaganza that is Dust. The book is just a lovely, lovely thing. Fiercely funny, heartbreaking and just beautifully written. Louise Beech is one of my favourite authors, and this is my favourite of her books. So far…

Blood Red City – Rod Reynolds

Another Orenda Books offering, Blood Red City sees Rod Reynolds swap the small-town 1940s Americana of his first three books for present day London and a prescient thriller. It’s gritty and brutal and falls firmly into the ‘just another chapter’ which you just know will mean a few too many very late nights! Reynolds is one of those authors where I’ll read anything he does, because he does it so very well.

We Begin At The End – Chris Whitaker

Speaking of authors who do things so very well, we’re here with my book of the year. And it was the very first book I read of 2020, finishing in the early hours of January 1st. Given I’d started it on December 31st 2019, it has the added bonus of not only book of 2020, but also book of 2019. I’ve banged on about this book to anyone who’d listen (and to a fair few who wouldn’t). It’s just so, so good. Whitaker’s skill at evoking small town Americana, polished and honed over the course of the first two books, absolutely shines here.

Don’t tell him I said so, but Whitaker is a phenomenal writing talent.

I’d give this six stars if I could, and it would deserve every one of them and more.


When I Was Ten – Fiona Cummins

A little sneak peek into 2021 here – I was lucky enough to snag an advance copy of Fiona Cummins’ When I Was Ten earlier this year and absolutely loved it. Alas what with *waves hands* everything going on, it’s been pushed back to 2021. Get it on your lists now. It’s bloody brilliant. And while you wait, go read Cummins’ other books.

Books of the year 2020: sci-fi & fantasy

I know that you usually wait until the year is over before you do a books of the year list, but I figured you might appreciate some ideas for christmas books. So, for the science fiction and/or fantasy fan in your life, here’s a list of the books I’ve enjoyed this year. They’re all fantastic, so in no particular order, here we go!

The Dark Archive – Genevieve Cogman

Ah, the return of everyone’s favourite Librarian spy Irene. Adventure, hijinks, peril and books. What more could you possibly want? It’s book 7 in the series, so perhaps not the best place to start, but if you haven’t already started then you’ve got seven books to read rather than one! Don’t say I never give you anything. One of my favourite series, and each new chapter is a welcome chance to curl up on the sofa for an afternoon.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

I listened to this in audiobook over the course of a couple of long car journeys, and blimey, what a book! As you’d expect from Claire North it’s beautifully written, the plot is tauter than a piano wire with more layers than one of those really complicated cakes you see on that cookery show in a tent. Harry August is fated to live life after life, returning each time to the same point in time. But with the memories of his previous lives intact. Time travel novels are notoriously tricky to pull off, but North manages it with a deft ease that makes it look effortless.

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue – V.E. Schwab

Addie LaRue, a girl with seven freckles, one for every love she will ever have. A girl who wants a life of her own. A girl who made a deal with the gods who you definitely should never, ever pray to after dark. A girl who is unable to leave her mark on the world. A girl who everyone forgets.

Then one day she meets a young man who remembers.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is like a meal from a Michelin starred restaurant. Layer upon layer, expertly combined. A hint of something you can’t quite put your finger on, but which gives it that certain… je ne sais quoi that will linger in the memory for long afterwards.

It is… wonderful.

Grave Secrets – Alice James

Sometimes a book comes along at exactly the right moment. Grave Secrets is one of those. It’s just enormous fun, with a delightful sense of humour and a marvellous lead in Lavington Windsor, estate agent for the undead by day, necromancer by night. Zombies and vampires, gallons of blood (most tastefully handled) and a cheeky glint in the eye. I await the further adventures of our Tori with great interest.

Seven Devils – Elizabeth May & Laura Lam

A group of rebels out to smash the patriarchy in space? A feminist space opera with a hint of Rogue One, a dash of Firefly and a heady dose of bad-assery? A Guardians of the Galaxy type heist, but with way more gay?A princess, a soldier, a courtesan, a pilot, a mechanic, a leader and a child genius hacker. What could possibly go wrong?

Glorious fun, with a wonderfully diverse group of characters, Seven Devils is the sci-fi book you didn’t know you needed. Roll on book 2!

The Library of the Unwritten – AJ Hackwith

I’m a sucker for a good library book. Or a good book about libraries. And this one is quite splendid. In short, there’s a library in Hell, looked after by Claire, the Head Librarian. Her job is look after all the unwritten books. Shouldn’t really be that taxing. Should it? Except that some of the characters tend to escape from time to time, and it’s Claire’s job, along with her apprentice Brevity (ex-Muse) to keep things in order. 

The worldbuilding is marvellous, the action sharply written, and the plot fits together as neatly as an expertly shelved set of books. On a bookshelf. In Hell. I enjoyed this so much I ordered the US edition of the sequel as I couldn’t wait until next year to read it.

The City We Became – NK Jemisin

What a book this is. It’s glorious in its scope, worldbuilding (albeit atop our own world) which is second to none, and characters? Oh, the characters.

I do love a story with a sense of place, and this book is ALL about place. Some books you feel that the location could almost be a character in itself, but in The City We Became, that is literally true. You see New York City is made up of five boroughs: Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. And it’s these five parts which make up the whole, which must come together to fight off the ancient evil which lurks beneath.

Jemisin’s writing is never short of spectacular, and this book is just superb.


Right, those are my choices for fantasy and science fiction. Have you read any of them? What else would you add to the list?