Best of 2014

December 19, 2014 Bookish 6


It’s been another great year full of new and exciting books. Here are some of the highlights:


Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de Castell

The perfect balance of fantasy, action, and comedy, Traitor’s Blade is an accomplished début that I think a lot of people will like.

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen

I have really high expectations of my YA fantasy, but The Queen of the Tearling exceeded all of them. A perfect read for those who enjoy Trudi Canavan and Sarah J. Mass.

Her throne awaits . . . if she can live long enough to take it.

It was on her nineteenth birthday that the soldiers came for Kelsea Glynn. They’d come to escort her back to the place of her birth – and to ensure she survives long enough to be able to take possession of what is rightfully hers.

But like many nineteen-year-olds, Kelsea is unruly, has high principles and believes she knows better than her elders. Unlike many nineteen-year-olds, she is about to inherit a kingdom that is on its knees – corrupt, debauched and dangerous.

Kelsea will either become the most fearsome ruler the kingdom has ever known . . . or be dead within the week.

Australian Talent

Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule #1) by Trudi Canavan

I loved the world Canavan has created! The protagonist are a bit on the young and naive side but they show a lot of promise. Straddling somewhere between YA and not (like the Black Magician books), this one’s not to be missed!

In a world where an industrial revolution is powered by magic, Tyen, a student of archaeology, unearths a sentient book called Vella. Once a young sorcerer-bookbinder, Vella was transformed into a useful tool by one of the greatest sorcerers of history. Since then she has been collecting information, including a vital clue to the disaster Tyen’s world faces.

Elsewhere, in an land ruled by the priests, Rielle the dyer’s daughter has been taught that to use magic is to steal from the Angels. Yet she knows she has a talent for it, and that there is a corrupter in the city willing to teach her how to use it — should she dare to risk the Angels’ wrath.

But not everything is as Tyen and Rielle have been raised to believe. Not the nature of magic, nor the laws of their lands… and not even the people they trust.

The Sky so Heavy by Claire Zorn

This book highlights some of the best and worst aspects of human nature in a setting I don’t see very often: Australia (more accurately, Sydney) after a nuclear mishap. Not to be missed by fans of Australian fiction.

For Fin, it’s just like any other day – racing for the school bus, bluffing his way through class, and trying to remain cool in front of the most sophisticated girl in his universe, Lucy. Only it’s not like any other day because, on the other side of the world, nuclear missiles are being detonated.

Series Starters

Half a King (Shattered Sea #1) by Mark Lawrence

Half a King is a book you’ll want on your book shelves. If you’re a fan of Abercrombie’s work and think that he’s diluted himself to write YA, give it a chance! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. And fans of YA will love this book – it’s what quality YA fantasy is all about.

“I swore an oath to be avenged on the killers of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy…

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1) by Claudia Gray

I loved everything about A Thousand Pieces of You! It’s a beautiful book that combines science, great characters and kick-ass world-building to create a wonderful tale of hopping between parallel universes to find a killer.

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.


This Shattered World (Starbound #2) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

I love this story-world and the amazing science in each novel. This Shattered World is superb, and I can’t wait to see what these two amazing ladies have in store for us next year.

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

Shimmer (The Rephaim #3) by Paula Weston

Best angel books ever. Gabe’s lost her twin brother. Rafa knows something about it. Rafa’s also a hot angel. Gabe’s really growing into herself, and I can’t wait for Burn!

Gaby thought her life couldn’t get more complicated.

She’s almost used to the idea that she’s not the nineteen-year-old backpacker she thought she was. She can just about cope with being one of the Rephaim – a 140-year-old half-angel – whose memories have been stolen. She’s even coming to grips with the fact that Jude, the brother she’s mourned for a year, didn’t die at all.

But now Rafa—sexy, infuriating Rafa—is being held, and hurt, by Gatekeeper demons. And Gaby has to get the bitterly divided Rephaim to work together, or Rafa has no chance at all.

It’s a race against time – and history. And it may already be too late.

Creepy stories

The Child Eater by Rachel Pollack

The Child Eater is a fantastical story about two boys born in different worlds and centuries apart, who are bound together by magic and fate, and a monstrous creature known only as The Child Eater. He has preyed on generations of children and their ghostly voices cry out for help. For someone to end their curse.

On Earth, the Wisdom family has always striven to be more normal than normal. But Simon Wisdom, the youngest child, is far from normal: he can see the souls of the dead. And now the ghosts of children are begging him to help them, as they face something worse than death. The only problem is, he doesn’t know how.

In a far-away land of magic and legends, Matyas has dragged himself up from the gutter and inveigled his way into the Wizards’ college. In time, he will become more powerful than all of them – but will his quest blind him to the needs of others? For Matyas can also hear the children crying.

But neither can save the children alone, for the child eater is preying on two worlds…

Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

Razorhurst is a brilliantly crafted story that will keep you flipping pages until the wee hours of the morning, despite being slightly lighter in speculative fiction elements than what I usually read.

The setting: Razorhurst, 1932. The fragile peace between two competing mob bosses—Gloriana Nelson and Mr Davidson—is crumbling. Loyalties are shifting. Betrayals threaten.

Kelpie knows the dangers of the Sydney streets. Ghosts have kept her alive, steering her to food and safety, but they are also her torment.

Dymphna is Gloriana Nelson’s ‘best girl’, experienced in surviving the criminal world, but she doesn’t know what this day has in store for her.

When Dymphna meets Kelpie over the corpse of Jimmy Palmer, Dymphna’s latest boyfriend, she pronounces herself Kelpie’s new protector. But Dymphna’s life is in danger too, and she needs an ally. And while Jimmy’s ghost wants to help, the dead cannot protect the living …

Surprising Reads

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland #1) by Catherynne M. Valente

I picked this up because of the super-cute cover and before I knew it I’d fallen in love with the world and its characters: September, Saturday, and the Wyvern. I’ve read the other two novels and am eagerly awaiting the fourth: The Boy Who Lost Fairyland.

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

The Falcon Throne (The Tarnished Crown #1) by Karen Miller

I shouldn’t have been surprised: Karen Miller writes lovely stories! But I think I was surprised because the blurb made it sound like one type of story and it’s so much more than that.

In the distant past, the Kingdom of Harcia was torn apart by royal brothers who could not accept a lesser inheritance. Now, the consequences of their actions are coming to light.

Balfre, son of Aimery, Duke of Harcia, is his father’s heir. But he has dreams of a crown, not a coronet. He dreams himself the king of a Harcia re-united, but his brother Grefin, their father’s favorite, stands in his way.

Harald, debauched Duke of neighboring Clemen, is feared and despised by his nobles. He thinks he can trust his bastard-born cousin Ederic … but Ederic fears for the duchy and will do what he must to save it.

And caught between dangers is Harald’s infant son, Liam. Stolen by his nurse, vanished into the lawless Marches, he is the spark that will grow to set the world on fire.

Half Bad (Half Life Trilogy #1) by Sally Green

I got this as an unsolicited review book, and although I had my misgivings, I found the writing very engaging and can’t wait to discover more about the world of witches in Half Wild.

Wanted by no one. Hunted by everyone.

Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it’s too late. But how can Nathan find his father when there is no one safe to trust, not even family, not even the girl he loves?

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris

A cleverly written, brilliantly imagined retelling of Norse mythology from the point of view of everyone’s favourite hard-done-by Trickster. I’ve bought of all Joanne’s published books now, I want to read them ALL!

Loki, that’s me.

Loki, the Light-Bringer, the misunderstood, the elusive, the handsome and modest hero of this particular tissue of lies. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s at least as true as the official version, and, dare I say it, more entertaining.

So far, history, such as it is, has cast me in a rather unflattering role.

Now it’s my turn to take the stage.

With his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge.

From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.

Special Mentions
  • The Distance Between Us, and On the Fence by Kasie West – Kasie’s contemporary romances are super cute and her speculative fiction is mind-blowing;
  • Out of Control by Sarah Alderson – the newest offering from one of my favourite writers tackles an issue rarely seen in YA: human trafficking;
  • Our Lady of the Streets (The Skyscraper Throne #3) by Tom Pollock – Beth and Pen team up against Mater Viae’s mirror sister in an epic showdown which made me CRY;
  • Every Word (Every #2) by Ellie Marney – Watts and Mycroft take on London, and the series cleverly explores humanity’s darkness with a backdrop of wit and humour;
  • Shatterwing (Dragon Wine #1) by Donna Maree Hanson – there’s lots of blood and killing and DRAGONS in this Australian dark fantasy; and
  • The Boy with the Porcelain Blade (Erebus Sequence #1) by Den Patrick – a character driven book that suffered a little in the world-building because of how amazing the characters were. The titular Boy with the Porcelain Blade is amazing.

6 Responses to “Best of 2014”

  1. Dragana

    I loved ‘Traitor’s Blade’ too. Humor was so… funny? 😀

    I have read ‘A Thousand Pieces of You’ and although I liked it, especially part in Russia, I didn’t love it.

    I’ve got ARC of ‘The Queen of the Tearling’ but didn’t read it. I’m pushing it at the top of my tbr.

    And the rest on your list? I don’t own them, but all of these are books I want to read. Now even more. 🙂

  2. Michelle

    Great selection of books Shaheen! The Sky So Heavy and Razorhurst were definitely standouts for me too – here’s to many more good books in 2015!

  3. Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews

    Nice picks here Shaheen^^ I have ALL the love for Fairyland and The Traitor’s Blade 🙂 I still need to read Queen of the Tearling, These Broken Stars, A Thousand Pieces of You, The Rephaim books AND The Falcon Throne but they are ALL on my tbr shelf! Happy holidays hun and all the best in the new year xx

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