I had originally planned for a Top 10 of 2017 post (I still may after the holiday break), but while scouring through my list, I realized I read a ton of incredible books this past year! So today I thought I would share 10 of my favorite fantasy reads for 2017. So here are my favorites!
This list is in no particular order and includes any titles I read throughout the year, ranging from older publications to ARCs.
The Top 10
The Bear and the Nightingale (The Winternight Trilogy #1)
By Katherine Arden
At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
Why this should be on your shelf: Russian folklore. Plenty of it. This is an original take on timeless tales and a prime example of the best adult fairy tale presentation I have encountered. This is one of two series to appear twice in this list for great reasons. You can see my full thoughts here.
Kings of the Wyld (The Band #1)
By Nicholas Eames
Glory never gets old
Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best — the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.
Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.
It’s time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.
Why this should be on your shelf: Rowdy, good fun! Kings of the Wyld weaves humor and adventure into a brilliantly odd and rag tag group of aged mercanaries that equals nonstop fun. Full of wit and nostalgia, this is hard to put down. You can find my review here.
The Lies of Locke Lamora
By Scott Lynch
An orphan’s life is harsh — and often short — in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. But born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains — a man who is neither blind nor a priest.
A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected “family” of orphans — a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke grows to lead the Bastards, delightedly pulling off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting.
Passing themselves off as petty thieves, the brilliant Locke and his tightly knit band of light-fingered brothers have fooled even the criminal underworld’s most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi. But there is someone in the shadows more powerful — and more ambitious — than Locke has yet imagined.
Known as the Gray King, he is slowly killing Capa Barsavi’s most trusted men — and using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr’s underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own brutal game — or die trying…
Why this should be on your shelf: Honestly, I cannot think of any reason it should not be on your shelf. The Lies of Locke Lamora defines the very reason I love fantasy. Diverse, well developed characters, in depth world building and nonstop adventure all beautifully encompassed in an incredible plot. You can read my thoughts here.
The Queen of Blood (The Queens of Renthia #1)
By Sarah Beth Durst
An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure
Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .
But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.
With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.
Why this should be on your shelf: The Queen of Blood presents with an invigorating pace and memorable characters surrounding a nature based magic system that is distinct without being unnecessarily complex. A promising start to a series for fans of high magic fantasy. You can read my review here.
The Girl in the Tower (The Winternight Trilogy #2)
By Katherine Arden
Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.
Why this should be on your shelf: The Girl in the Tower is proof that sequels can actually surpass their predecessor. Phenomenal character development and immersive settings centered around Russian folklore, place this atmospheric read easily among my all time favorites. You can find my review here.
Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1)
By Mark Lawrence
I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.
But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.
Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…
Why this should be on your shelf: This is a savory read, where slow and steady wins the race. Red Sister is a highly character driven experience that offers fantasy fans something of great sophistication and promise. It also presents one of the must unique magic systems I have encountered. Here is my full experience.
Spindle Fire (Spindle Fire #1)
By Lexa Hillyer
A kingdom burns. A princess sleeps. This is no fairy tale.
It all started with the burning of the spindles.
It all started with a curse…
Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.
And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.
As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.
Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape…or the reason for her to stay.
Why this should be on your shelf: Ripe with magic and engaging writing, Spindle Fire offers a refreshing take on a classic tale. The addition of a second protagonist adds a new level of depth, building on the familiar and promising something new with a nice element of darkness. You can find my review here.
Quest of the Dreamwalker (Corthan Legacy Book 1)
By Stacy Bennett
A perfect captive, Cara didn’t know her will had been stolen until she escapes with borrowed courage.
Cloistered in the Black Keep with only her father for company, Cara is an unwitting prisoner bound by chains of ignorance and lies rather than iron–until she meets a captured mercenary in her father’s dungeon. He kindles within her a spark of compassion she never knew she had and lends her an unfamiliar strength. But, the mercenary is slated to die, sacrificed to her father’s magic like all the others. Only this time, Cara can’t turn a blind eye. Unable to endure her father’s cruelty any longer, she vows to help the mercenary escape.
Now, as they flee to a world she’s only dreamed of, she finds defiance has a steep price. Her very existence endangers everyone she has come to care about. Who is she that her father refuses to let her go? To uncover the secret of her past, she must unravel the mystery of her dreams and claim the heritage of her own magical blood—before her father claims her as the last sacrifice.
Why this should be on your shelf: Epic fantasy that packs a punch with a diverse cast of characters and ever changing setting, Quest of the Dreamwalker offers something for everyone. It boasts a plot that easily plays on all emotions while supplying nonstop adventure and all of the elements you expect in a fantasy novel. Here is my recent review of the audiobook.
The Reluctant Queen (The Queens of Renthia #2)
By Sarah Beth Durst
Not long ago, Daleina used her strength and skill to survive those spirits and assume the royal throne. Since then, the new queen has kept the peace and protected the humans of her land. But now for all her power, she is hiding a terrible secret: she is dying. And if she leaves the world before a new heir is ready, the spirits that inhabit her beloved realm will run wild, destroying her cities and slaughtering her people.
Naelin is one such person, and she couldn’t be further removed from the Queen—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Her world is her two children, her husband, and the remote village tucked deep in the forest that is her home, and that’s all she needs. But when Ven, the Queens champion, passes through the village, Naelin’s ambitious husband proudly tells him of his wife’s ability to control spirits—magic that Naelin fervently denies. She knows that if the truth of her abilities is known, it will bring only death and separation from those she loves.
But Ven has a single task: to find the best possible candidate to protect the people of Aratay. He did it once when he discovered Daleina, and he’s certain he’s done it again. Yet for all his appeals to duty, Naelin is a mother, and she knows her duty is to her children first and foremost. Only as the Queen’s power begins to wane and the spirits become emboldened—even as ominous rumors trickle down from the north—does she realize that the best way to keep her son and daughter safe is to risk everything.
Sarah Beth Durst established a place of dark wonder in The Queen of Blood, and now the stakes are even higher as the threat to the Queen and her people grows both from within and beyond the borders of Aratay in this riveting second novel of the Queens of Renthia series.
Why this should be on your shelf: This is another rare example of the sequel surpassing the first in a series. The addition of some wonderful new characters and dynamics provide a progressive plot-line that manages to build on an already successful story. Here is my complete take on the sequel.
One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns #2)
By Kendare Blake
The battle for the Crown has begun, but which of the three sisters will prevail?
With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent.
In this enthralling sequel to Kendare Blake’s New York Times bestselling Three Dark Crowns, Fennbirn’s deadliest queens must face the one thing standing in their way of the crown: each other.
Why this should be on your shelf: Because the wait was worth it! While Three Dark Crowns was a satisfying read, it certainly offered a slower pace with less action. But this is the reward for those whose chose to continue with this dark and cunning series that pits sisters against one another in the ultimate battle that promises to play on your emotions and question your alliances. Read my review here.
There you have it, my top 10 fantasy reads of 2017. It was a close call for many titles. There are some I still feel shameful for not including. What were your favorites this past year? Have you read any on my list? If so, what were your thoughts?