2016 brought me so many new authors! I have my list of go-to favourites, but in 2016 I scoured lists of anticipated upcoming authors and found some solid, and wonderfully strange, gems I may have never otherwise discovered.
I read 22 books in 2016. 10,484 total pages. And my longest book was roughly 742 of those pages.
Here’s a list of my best and worst reads from 2016 (note: not necessarily published in 2016, but simply what I read last year).
The Good Stuff
The Builders, Daniel Polansky
I’m a huge Redwall fan. I can still picture the rows and rooows of Redwall books stacked on my bedroom shelf as a child. So when I saw animals on the front cover of an adult book, I think it took me three seconds before I decided YES PLEASE.
This novelette was short and punchy. When your book is only 226 pages long, every sentence counts, and Polansky’s writing is precise, vivid where it needs to be, and makes these characters memorable even a year later. You should read this. It features a mouse and a stoat. A STOAT.
The Vagrant, Peter Newman
I wrote a review on this book earlier in the year because it was THAT GOOD. The cover greedily grabbed at me when I first saw it. A guy with a sword and a baby? What??
This novel is a stunning journey through a devastated world with a mute man, a baby, and a goat.
Depravity is pitted against virtue as the Vagrant struggles against demon invaders and humans alike that seek to scrape raw the human sense of love, generosity, and kindness. Each interaction is a risk, a gamble, a battle.
Newman’s writing is beautifully wrought and wrenchingly grotesque. The characters are layered, complex, and hilarious. The plot takes you through towns, cities, and memories that linger long in your mind afterwards, like twining smoke.
Pick this book up for incredibly rich writing, a twisted take on an apocalypse, and the degradation of human nature. Highly recommended.
–Newman’s follow-up book, The Malice, is already out! It was also AMAZING.–
The Library at Mount Char, Scott Hawkins
What a messed up, psycho-freaky trip through the lives of abused demi-gods. I was horrified, deeply intrigued, and glued to the story the entire way through.
This is…fantasy. Sure. Yes. The story of a girl named Carolyn, her fellow librarians with unique powers, and their grasping for control of the universe held within their library. God did go missing after all. Carolyn’s got a shot at being top librarian, but has she lost everything that once made her human in return?
If you want something totally different, this is totally different.
The Blood Mirror, Brent Weeks
This is probably the most well-known series I read this year. The Lightbringer trilogy is four books in, and has been thoroughly enjoyable. Weeks’ magic system is based on manipulating light, and he’s got a broad spectrum of interesting characters with a twisting plot that keeps you guessing what’s real or not. Over the four books, the series has been strong.
I struggled with his second book (his portrayal of women and sexuality sometimes made me cringe). And I struggled a touch with this fourth book as well. I found myself less interested in Kip’s tactical journey, and yearning for more character-driven struggles. Also, Weeks’ choice of personal struggle for Kip with his lady friend seemed a bit…oddly specific. He chose to particularly focus on a strange physical issue, and it took up much more of the plot than it needed to. I won’t go into details lest I spoil things.
Gavin goes through some fantastic mental twists, but he seemed to revert to ‘sexually objectifying full-on jerk Gavin’ instead of the more nuanced Gavin I was enjoying. The flip flop from jerk to thoughtful and then jerk again has been frustrating between his books. Just when I start to feel like his character has grown, he returns to his previous behaviour. This feels like inconsistent writing rather than a deliberate character trait choice. Overall, I didn’t get the same rush of tense excitement as I did with his previous books, but it took me less than a week to read it, and when I read books fast, it means I’m enjoying them.
The Bad Stuff
Going Grey, Karen Traviss
I know Traviss best from her very well-written Star Wars books, so when I saw she’d published a new book in a new world of her own making, I was eager to dive in.
It started strong. A young boy in an isolated community, suddenly orphaned, with a secret his family has tried to keep from him. A government experiment that wants the boy back. And the two family military men determined to keep him safe. It’s a thriller…but I never felt thrilled. The plot lumbered through large stretches of plodding manly bonding. Her writing is usually so thoughtful and descriptive in ways that surprise you. By halfway through, I started reading faster and faster to get through it, and never missed a darn thing. There was nothing to savour or sink your teeth into. I was bored. I skimmed, shrugged at the end, and was more than happy to move onto something else.
Children of Fire, Drew Karpyshyn
I wanted to read this primarily because of Karpyshyn’s work with BioWare and my favourite videogames of all time. But alas, the writing I hoped for did not translate into a novel.
Children of Fire started off with an intriguing idea: a few select children are cursed with a chaotic power that will inevitably twist their lives with strife and sorrow. The first 1/3 of the book follows them from birth, how their lives are warped by this event, and the terrible things that happen to them. I read fairly quickly through this part, but then my reading abruptly slowed.
For me, it became a popcorn read. It was a fantasy involving a chosen one with a global destiny, a big bad antagonist, magic systems and histories too often reiterated, with characters that never quite clicked for me. I read pages in a skim and never felt the prose needed any concentration.
If you want a light read with a basic bad guy who wants to destroy the world because he just needs to, magic explosions, and a few violently gory fight scenes, this might be right for you. If you’re looking for challenging prose that’s gets you thinking or complex characters, this isn’t it.
Did you read something last year that made you want to hold the book up like Simba on Pride Rock and proclaim to the world everyone should read it? Or read something that just stank? Tell me in the comments!