12. The Tyrant’s Law, by Daniel Abraham
Why it made the list: Ignore the George R. R. Martin kiss of death quote. Daniel Abraham’s Tyrant’s Law boldly follows in the footsteps of Martin and Joe Abercrombie and does them one better by creating a truly sympathetic villain.
Read if you like: political intrigue, slow burn fantasy, moral conundrums.
11. The Promise of Blood, by Brian McClellan
Why it made the list: One doesn’t often find oneself siding with the military establishment in the fantasy genre, but that is just what Brian McClellan is asking you to do in his excellent Promise of Blood. Add to that a unique magic system and some steampunk aesthetics and you have the first piece of a ripping yarn.
Read if you like: muskets, men in uniforms, regicide.
10. A Memory of Light, by Brandon Sanderson (and Robert Jordan)
Why it made the list: Brandon Sanderson was asked to land a 747 without a scratch after the pilot died enroute. The fact that he delivered a book that millions of people were clamoring for with a minimum of criticism speaks to the enormity of his accomplishment.
Read if you like: sweeping fantasy epics, the best works of fantasy, getting a merit badge for reading 14 books over a course of 20+ years.
9. Emperor of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence
Reason it made the list: There are a ton of complaints that once a fantasy author launches a successful series, the original trilogy will turn into a seven book cycle which will then be further expanded into a series with no end date. Mark Lawrence could have made that choice with his successful Thorns Trilogy, but he ended it with a big fat PERIOD and even explained why in the afterword.
Read if you like: moral ambiguity, sociopathic behavior, interesting segue sequences.
8. The Tattered Banner, by Duncan M. Hamilton
Why it made the list: Sometimes you just need a good sword fight. Or a ton of sword fights. In the vein of last year’s Blood Song, Hamilton’s The Tattered Banner takes the “poor boy made good” arc and turns it into something more than the sum of its parts.
Read if you like: swords (duh), a dash of romance, classroom settings.
7. Luminous Chaos, by Jean-Christophe Valtat
Why it made the list: Valtat’s first book in his Mysteries of New Venice series Aurorarama was an almost impenetrable novel of Victorian explorers, steampunk airships and the binge drinking of absinthe. Luminous Chaos takes that up a notch by adding Paris, time travel and the reaffirmed belief that no one should see a lady’s ankles.
Read if you like: tea etiquette, time travel and masquerade balls.
6. The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker
Why it made the list: Wecker’s Golem and Jinni is an amazing accomplishment as she analyzes the immigrant experience of turn of the century New York through the eyes of a Polish Golem and an Arabian Jinni. The characterization is deft as is the combination of fable and metaphor.
Read if you like: Old New York, Ellis Island, myth and fables, visiting the Tenement Museum.
5. The Thousand Names, by Django Wexler
Why it made the list: Imperialist fantasy seems to be all the rage, but no one did it better in 2013 than Django Wexler. Take one part colonialism, mix in some demons and you get Raiders of the Lost Arc meets Gunga Din.
Read if you like: exploration, unreadable superiors, women pretending to be men in military settings.
4. The Red Knight, by Miles Cameron
Why it made the list: This came out of nowhere. Miles Cameron managed to take more than ten different viewpoints, put them all in the same novel along with some incredible world building and come out with a story that breaks several conventions of traditional fantasy and demonstrates a new way to write fantasy going forward. Why have one hero when you can have nine?
Read if you like: multiple narrators, mercantilism, old gods that need worship or they get super duper angry.
3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
Why it made the list: It’s Neil Gaiman.
Read if you like: bucolic horror, Neil Gaiman’s adult fiction, precocious children who are wise beyond their years.
2. Babayaga, by Toby Barlow
Why it made the list: A quarter part existentialist drama, a quarter part humor novel, another quarter of cold war politics and finish with a final quarter part witches. Mix until well blended and have your mind completely blown.
Read if you like: Kafka, sad Russian novels, Hercule Poirot.
1. London Falling, by Paul Cornell
Why it made the list: Gritty police procedural meets supernatural terrors with enough drugs, internal strife and gripping narrative to make it the best fantasy book of the year. Every character is well rounded, the conceit is well though out and you won’t want to put this book down nor read it past midnight.
Read if you like: Urban horror, the London police force, Luther and Inspector Lewis get sent to an alternative reality.