With that, 2016 is over. And thank god, because what a dumpster fire of a year it was. Can I get an amen??? Thankfully I had books (and friends, and wine…so much wine) to get me through, and I found some new favourites.
Some things change, and some things stay the same. While fantasy has consistently been my most beloved genre since I started blogging, this year the almighty romance novel also had an impressive showing. Since I didn’t review any of those books they aren’t listed below, but let me know if you think I should start reviewing romance novels here!
In no particular order, here are my favourite reads of 2016:
No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron: In the third Heartstrikers book, Rachel Aaron delivers even more delightful characters, expanded her unique world building, and raised the stakes higher than ever before. Dragons, mages, and ghost cats. What more could you want?
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova: This own-voices title is the first book in a series best described as a modern day, Latin American inspired Alice in Wonderland. Feminist role models abound in this YA novel that celebrates rather than denigrates family, and it features a bi love triangle. Instant favourite.
Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop: If a fantasy series with a unique magic system set in a small town that also manages to sneak in critiques of the colonization of North America sounds good to you, then you need to be reading this series. After four books, the world still feels fresh and I’m more invested in the characters than ever. Plus, my OTP.
City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong: Homicide detective Casey Duncan and her best friend move to Rockton, an isolated and off-the-grid shanty town to escape their dark pasts in this suspenseful thriller. It has all the goodness of a frontier town story with the modern dialogue and outlook of the 21st century…and it’s Canadian. #hellyes
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Mexico City is the star of the show in this gorgeously written standalone urban fantasy novel, breathing new life and culture into vampire stories. If you love (literally) bloodthirsty heroines who get shit done and take no prisoners, or if you’re looking to read more diversely, this is a must read.
A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet: A feisty seer is kidnapped by a warlord with a heart of gold and his gang of bros in this Greek mythology inspired fantasy romance debut. Amanda Bouchet has a talent for writing hilarious banter and heroines who refuse to be pushed around. I read it in one sitting!
Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen: Gunslinging, horse riding, and monster hunting propel this weird western story forward, even as it explores themes of identity and belonging. Queer, mixed-raced protagonist Nettie Lonesome is hands down the most compelling character I read about this year, and her quiet strength and inner wisdom had me in tears.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire: This novella is a clever twist on portal fantasy, exploring the idea of what happens when human children return to earth from their adventures in magical lands. Seanan McGuire introduces us to these kids as they deal with their experiences at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Beautiful, thoughtful, and queer as hell.
Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney: Combining the best elements of historical and epic fantasy, this book introduces a richly detailed world and features the first blind protagonist I’ve come across in SFF. The friendship (and hopefully, slow-burn romance) between Shironne and Mikael was a delight to read about, and I can’t wait for news about book two!
The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima: Princess Raisa and former street lord Han Allister are back at it again, dealing with politics, magic, and love in the world of the Seven Realms. These characters have my heart forever, and I consider this one of the best YA high fantasy series bar none.
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff: Sometimes you just want a fun, clever, bantery sci-fi romance, and ILLUMINAE delivers on all fronts. If you’re into metafiction, realistic portrayals of teenage texting behaviour (typos and all), and psychotic AIs, then this is sure to please.
Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier: Blackthorn and Grim broke my heart and put it back together again in this gorgeous book. Juliet Marillier was crowned Queen of My Heart in 2015 and she easily held onto her title in 2016. Something tells me that a number of Marillier’s backlist titles will make it onto my “best of” list next year, too.
I’m really happy with my reading in 2016: I discovered some new authors and read a number of new books from long-time favourite authors. I also kept to my resolutions, which were to read more science fiction, more queer books, and more books by non-White authors. In 2017 I’m aiming to continue my diverse reading, and to read more books by Canadian authors. I’ve also decided that 2017 is going to be the year of the DNF: if I’m really not liking a book by 50%, I give myself full permission to put it aside.