So another year has come to a close. I've read 86 books in 2018 and whilst there have been a couple I've not finished and a further few that have failed to set my passions aflame there have been so many amazing books I've had the pleasure of enjoying this year.
It's been a hard list to compile but here are my top ten books of 2018 counting down from 10 to 1....
10) The Dollmaker of Krakov by R. M. Romero
This was a magical realism book about a doll named Karolina who escapes from her homeland of the Land of the Dolls and finds herself in Krakov in a toymakers store in 1930's Poland just before the invasion of Hitler's troops.
Looking from Karolina's perspective we follow the impact upon a Jewish musician and his daughter as they are marginalised and then driven from their home. With the toymakers help and Karolina's magic they try to help get people to safety even though this may endanger themselves.
This book was a really short read and was full of such poignant moments. Taking the reality of life in the war in Poland as the persecution of the Jewish people was played out and placing it against a magical background of the toystore and the story of the war in Karolina's homeland of the dolls made it a marvellous and very emotional story. It was a different way of telling this wartime tragedy.
9) Vox by Christina Dalcher
This dystopian thriller was one of the surprises of the year for me, coming totally out of nowhere having never been on my radar I fell headlong into this story of a world where women are resigned to almost total silence with no rights in a world ruled by men.
When the government decrees that women be allowed to say no more than 100 words per day and fit them with bracelets that will provide electrical shocks if they do women are cast into the world of the past as their rights to work, free speech, financial and sexual freedom are taken from them by a world of men.
What struck me most about this book was how thought provoking it was, how the removal of woman's liberties could be driven by our constant quest for equality. How easily it could turn from the #MeToo world we've lived in this year to one where men decide perhaps the best way to safeguard themselves is to take back control and limit us in our choices. The impacts in this book were far reaching and especially when you look at the impact on the young children raised under this new belief system.
It was a book that perhaps didn't end as strongly as I wanted but for the overall story arc and the questions it raised it has earned it's place on this list.
8) The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
Starting off in the sands of the Egyptian city of Cairo we meet Nahri, an orphan girl who has skills in healing but must use her skills to survive as she struggles to eat and live. When she manages to accidentally call forward a Djinn called Dara she finds out that she is the last member of the old ruling tribe known as the Nahid who have all been hunted to extinction. Dara tells her she must journey with him to the ruling city of Daevabad to try and bring hope to her people and lay claim to her right to the throne.
Running in parallel we have the story of Prince Alizyad, the younger son of the King who dislikes the way that the half-blood people of his land are treated and seeks to find ways to right the imbalance by involving himself in a local rebellion. Contrary to his father's policies he walks a dangerous line between doing good and being a traitor to his family.
Set against a complex political world where pure blood Djinn battle against those of mixed blood known as the Shafit we follow Nahri, Dara and Ali as they seek to uncover the politics of the past and to determine how to help their people and bring change.
The first in a series City of Brass was a rich and atmospheric novel and is due to be followed up by Kingdom of Copper in 2019 which will continue on the tale of Nahri as she finds herself under the control of Daevebad's King and without the guidance of her friends. This novel was not for the faint hearted, it was politically intense and the magic system at times confusing but the rewards were worth it.
7) An Ember In The Ashes/A Torch Against The Night/A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir
Yes, I'm totally cheating here I know but as part of the same series I'm going to include all 3 of these in this slot and it's the Ember In The Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir.
With a Roman inspired fantasy setting this series follows Laia, a Scholar, who's brother is taken one night by the guards of the empire known as masks because of his involvement with a possible rebellion. Laia approaches the rebellion and because of her parents past role as the leaders of the underground group she is taken in and given the task to go undercover as a slave at the local training college for Mask soldiers where she will be slave to the evil, vicious Commandant of the school.
In An Ember In The Ashes we follow Laia as she infiltrates the college and befriends Elias, the son of the Commandant, who is conflicted by the politics of his land and is looking for a way out. Together they are drawn into the rebellion and look for a way to help Laia's people, the Sholars, to fight back against the repression they face.
Throughout this series we follow Laia and Elias' journey towards changing their land. Alongside them we follow Elias' friend Helene who has faith that the rules of the Empire must be upheld and that she must try and stop the rebellion. As she is drawn into the world of the Emperor and her family becomes a political pawn we follow her discovery that perhaps her destiny might not be to uphold things as they are but to invoke change.
A hugely popular Young Adult series this book is strongly character driven and contains elements of magic, friendship and political oppression. Wonderful series.
6) Queen of the Tearling (Tearling Trilogy #1) by Erica Johansen
One of the first books I read in 2018 this book was a Christmas gift from my husband last year and boy did he pick a good one. The first in The Tearling Trilogy this book was a wonderful story of Kelsea, a girl who is taken from the home of her foster parents in the countryside back to the Kingdom in which she was born and which she has now been told she is to rule.
Raised away from her kingdom Kelsea doesn't understand the world she is to inherit and the world of New London is one ruled by politial manipulation and a long held contract with a neighbouring kingdom to provide shipments of prisoners to them on a monthly basis. A deeply divided kingdom where the rich thrive and the poor struggle to survive and to avoid being sent as prisoners to fulfil the monthly contract Kelsea must try and claim her throne and find a way to try and stop this injustice and set in motion a better world but this will be difficult against the powerful Regent, her Uncle who has held control over the land.
A book where we have a heroine who admits she is not beautiful but who is smart and kind and caring and who has to find her own confidence and ways to build loyalty of those around her in order to begin to rule this was a wonderful read. I am definitely keen to continue this series in 2019.
5) Nevernight/Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff
I know, I know it's cheating again to include two in one but as they are part of the same series I'm hoping you will forgive me.
Before reading the Nevernight series I had only read one of Jay Kristoff's novels before and that was Illuminae, his collaborative series with Amie Kaufman which is more a science fiction novel and very different to the fantasy setting of Nevernight. Nevernight is the story of Mia Corvere who as a child is forced to watch as her father is hung for his part in an attempted rebellion and her mother is sent to prison. Left alone on the streets Mia is taken in by a retired killer who trains her to be able to join the country's deadliest group of assassins, The Red Church. Driven by her need to extract revenge for her father's killing Mia is determined to assassinate the men responsible but in order to get close enough she needs to gain access to this secretive group of assassins and learn their secrets and skills.
In Nevernight we follow Mia's journey to The Red Church and her time training there whilst in Godsgrave we find ourselves following her plan to get close enough to her father's killer to be able to assassinate them as she joins a band of gladiator slaves who must fight their way to the top of all gladiators and gain honour for their slave masters house.
The first thing I love about this series is just how amazing Mia is a character, she's fierce and fiesty, she's always seeing things ten steps ahead of where she currently is and just when you think she's been beaten she pulls something out of the bag that turns everything on it's head. The other thing I adore about this series is that Kristoff is not afraid to sacrifice characters we love. He's fearless and brutal and his writing is oft times violent and dark, it's not a fluffy story for the light hearted reader. It's politically intense and the intensity level is top notch.
With Book 3, Darkdawn due for release in late 2019 I am literally on the edge of my seat waiting for what will happen next after that intense ending in Godsgrave. I will definitely be delving straight in upon it's release.
4) Nevermoor Series by Jessica Townsend
I have had the privilege of reading both books in the Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend this year, this wonderful children's series has been hugely successful since it's release and everywhere you look people cannot wait to sing it's praises and it's not without good reason.
The story of Morrigan Crow, a girl born on a cursed day and blamed for every bad thing that befalls the people around her she lives with the knowledge she will die on the eve of her eleventh birthday but just as this prophecy is about to come true she is whisked away to the magical land of Nevermoor by an unusual man called Jupiter North. In the world of Nevermoor nothing is quite as it seems, animals can talk, the hotel she lives in is constantly changing it's furnishing and it's quirky guests and the antics of her friend Jupiter mean we are in for a whole lot of adventure.
In Nevermoor we follow Morrigan as she undertakes magical trials to try and gain entrance to the magical Wondrous Society whereas in Wundermith, the second book we are taken inside the school that Morrigan attends and the exploration of her magical gifts. Both books are enchanting and full of little quirks and magical touches that make them a delight to read. The magic along with the story of friendships and growing trust make for a wonderful series.
Both these books were 5 star reads this year for me, they remind me of the early Harry Potter novels before things began to got too dark and sinister. The series is full of wonderful innocence and magical storytelling and is one not to be missed.
3) Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
My very first book by Brandon Sanderson, I had no idea how to begin with his books so I opted for one that as of this moment sits as a standalone, although it is rumoured more will come in this series in the future.
The first thing that struck me about Warbreaker was that whilst I had anticipated perhaps quite a dry and dense book I instead found it was funny, had great charm and moved with pace.
The story of two sisters, one who has been raised to fulfil a contract made years ago to wed the powerful God King and the other who has always enjoyed the freedom of being the youngest sibling with no obligations to fulfil. When their father changes his mind and instead decides to send his youngest daughter as the bride of the God King we follow both sisters as they try to cope with their sudden role reversals and the world they must now navigate unprepared. As one sister tries to break down barriers and political intrigues and get to know her strange and powerful husband the other finds herself living with a group of criminals as they try to stop war breaking out in her homeland.
Alongside this we have the humorous world of a lesser god Lightsong who is viewed as a deity by his followers. There's only one problem, however, Lightsong doesn't see himself as a god and takes every opportunity to point out to everyone how he's not very bright of special. His hilarious adventures in this book make for entertaining reading and fun times.
I adored this story, it was such an enjoyable read full of amazing characters and allowed me to introduce myself to Sanderson outwith his series.
2) Traitor's Blade (The Greatcoats #1) by Sebastian De Castell
Any story that mimics the wonderful feeling of The Three Musketeers is bound to be a hit in my book and Traitor's Blade by Sebastian De Castell does exactly that with enormous success.
The first in a series this book introduces us to The Greatcoats, a band of soldiers who used to travel the kingdom ruling over justice in the land but following the execution of the King they have been exiled and are known as traitors and cowards.
Following 3 of the bravest Greatcoats Falcio, Brasti and Kest as they are blamed for the murder of their employer, a prominent nobleman. As they go on the run and get wrapped up in all kinds of battles and political intrigue we just fall in love with their camaraderie. It's full of action, sword fighting, political power plays and even some magic. All in all a winning combination.
I have the next 3 books in this series on standby for early 2019 and cannot wait to spend more time with the three friends as they continue their adventures.
1) The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson
This was the last book I read in 2018 and yet it made it straight to the top of this list! Everywhere I went for book recommendations in the Fantasy genre this year always seemed to tell me the same thing, if you are looking for top notch fantasy plot, storytelling and quality writing then Sanderson is where you go and you cannot call yourself a true Fantasy lover unless you've read this series.
I read Warbreaker as an introduction to Sanderson's writing and worlds but my goal for 2019 is to read my way through the rest of his novels and series by the end of the year.
So yes, I've cheated and kind of started the challenge a little early but it was worth it. I loved this book! It was such an intriguing story and had an amazing cast of characters that I fell in love with. The story of a band of misfits coming together to try and overthrow the Lord Ruler, the dark ruler who has ruled over the Empire for over a thousand years was epic. The first in the Mistborn trilogy it introduced us to the magic of the world and took us through intricate plan of Kelsier and his band of heroes as they use magic, cunning and sheer wits to try and do the impossible and topple the immortal all powerful Lord Ruler who keeps the masses of the population in slavery.
I cannot wait to delve into the rest of this series in 2019.