Here we are at the end of the year. There have been highs, and there have been lows, but when it comes to the books we have read, we have had a good year. If you want to skip to the end, you can find our Book of the Year, but we want to talk about each of the contenders and discuss what they did right where others went wrong. It will be a bit of a compare and contrast as we go over the things we loved and the things we hated this year. While there can be only one Book of the Year, we wanted to honor the other books we considered for their strongest points, they’re just too good to not hash over one last time.
Best Story of the Year – The Nightmare Birds by Amie I. Winters
Without a doubt, The Nightmare Birds is one of the best books we read this year, and while Miss Winters is a talented writer, her greatest gift is her ability to weave a believable and beautiful tale. While both Strange Luck and The Nightmare Birds are fantastic, we believe The Nightmare birds to be superior, which is quite the feat for a sequel. With terrific characterizations, Miss Winters advances Daisy to the point of almost being real. We empathized with her as she discovers more about herself. Daisy was propped up with some elegant and intimidating supporting characters, each with the breath of life that makes it all feel like so much more than words on a page. That is what a good story should do, a good story enhances our lives and our struggles as we watch them play out in new and unexpected ways, with characters we can recognize and understand. We look forward to seeing more from Miss Winters in the years to come.
Worst Story of the Year – Elven Borne by Scott Marcy
While a lot was going on here that we didn’t like, we could never make it past the contrived plot and strange happenstance. While we certainly cannot argue with the originality of the story, sometimes there is a reason that you have not seen something before. A Colorado town is hit by an earthquake, and people become elves. That is the gist of it. While we can’t say we have read anything like it before, we don’t even think writers the caliber of Tolkien or Martin could have salvaged the concept. Mister Marcy is not a bad writer, but we found it difficult to follow the story, which on its surface is pretty easy to surmise. Sometimes it is easy for writers to fall in love with bad ideas. Don’t fall into that trap.
Best Writing of the Year – The Rose Crown by Catharine Glen
With some strong feminist themes and an overall good story, Miss Glen wows us with her impeccable style. Her dialogue looks like dialogue, with all of the wit and brevity, while her exposition is thoughtful and her descriptions are beautiful. The book is a pleasure to read. While no one could have made it to this list if they did not write well, Miss Glen has practiced, and it shows. She delights us at each turn despite the dark nature of her tale. No word is out of place and each sentence is balanced. It reminds us of a long-forgotten melody, of which you can only remember when you hear it aloud, and it warms the cockles of your heart. We look forward reading more of Miss Glen’s work.
Worst Writing of the Year – Elven Magic by Daniel Chay
The story is poor, perhaps worse than even Elven Borne, but it is the terrible execution that puts Elven Magic in the spotlight. If there is a style here, we could not find it. Written as if your inebriated friend was trying to explain a dream to you, Elven Magic makes about as much sense as a chow chow in a parka, but at least the latter is cute enough for pictures. At times, we had to re-read the words on the page to make sure we were understanding them, we even began to doubt our own literacy. While there are ways to replicate the experience of reading Elven Magic, we cannot recommend them due to possible wrongful death lawsuits that could arise.
Best Literary Value of the Year – Knight of Coins by David Humphrey
We are still impressed by Knight of Coins. The epitome of dark fantasy, Knight of Coins transported us to a world of gray, where Mister Humphrey reveals human nature bare to the world. This is the true nature of the dark fantasy genre, it is more than writing a gruesome tale, it is about showing the world, not how we wish it to be, but how it truly is. That is the contrast between high (light) fantasy and dark fantasy. High fantasy originated in the minds of people preoccupied with how they believed the world ought to be, while dark fantasy presents the same fantastic situations, but with real people, reacting in real ways. Mister Humphrey nailed it on the head in Knight of Coins, and if the quality of work he presented in this short is any indication of Ten of Swords, we look forward to everything that is to come.
Worst Literary Value of the Year – The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler
We loathed this book. Maybe we wanted to, but Mister Wheeler gave us no reason to change our minds. This retelling of a Shakespearean play does nothing to add to the original story other than transporting it to a two-dimensional version of Westeros. This book was written to sell, it was not written with purpose or heart, and it shows on each and every page. It is not uncommon to take inspiration from old literature, but if you are going to take so much from one place, you ought to at least try and make it your own. Mister Wheeler did so little of that here that he should have been required to list Shakespear as a coauthor, not that Bill would want his name associated with such a book.
We have nearly arrived at our destination. We did not make this decision lightly, and in the end, it came down to two very different and fantastic contenders. So before we look at our Book of the Year, let us take a quick look at the one that could have been, a dark horse who raced up at the end.
Runner-Up Book of the Year – Quest of the Dreamwalker by Stacy Bennett
We don’t have words for how much we loved this book. We didn’t expect to like it as much as we do, but Miss Bennett has taken a story she has been working on for some time and made it into something wonderful, something beautiful and something worthy of praise. She did everything well, from her carefully crafted prose to her beautiful and varied characterizations, there is a lot to love here, and a lot to get into. We have loved few characters as much as Cara, a girl more sheltered from the world she lived in than perhaps any other. Despite that, it was Khoury, a man who is better than he thinks, who stole our hearts. When this much love and passion is poured into a work, it shows. This book exemplifies everything that good writing should be, a mixture of great storytelling and a mastery of the language that we expect from any book that was a contender for our top spot.
To anyone who has been following us from the beginning, our Book of the Year will be no surprise. While it was not a certainty by any means, when we looked at them all, it was the one that captivated us first that stood out the most. Mister Solomon shaped our outlook for the year, he showed us what was possible and what we should expect, and we thank him for that. And with that, here is the reason you have been reading.
Fantasia Reviews’ Book of the Year – The Bow of Destiny by P. H. Solomon
Our book of the year is not necessarily the book we loved the most but the book we believe best exemplifies our expectations and the genre as a whole. Mister Solomon has taken a story we have seen so many times before and given it new life. Athson is a beautifully crafted character, whose backstory is understandable, his actions relatable and his progress believable. However, that is not why we hold this book in such high regard. It is Mister Solomon’s attention to detail that makes just book great, while the story is good and his writing beautiful, it is the world that Mister Solomon has built that makes The Bow of Destiny our Book of the Year.
To have a good book you need an original story and solid writing, but to have a good fantasy you need to build a beautiful and believable world, and Mister Solomon has done just that. Making a complete world, one that moves and breathes as freely as our own is no easy task. Each and every author we have discussed here has done a commendable job at just that, but that attention to detail, his finely tuned maps, his various races and places, as well as the tremendous breadth of the world he sought to create is what sets Mister Solomon apart. As any author will admit, world building is one of the most difficult parts of writing a story, and it is best done before any of the other work has even begun. We love Denaria, and while we don’t know if we could handle living there, we can venture there vicariously through Athson as he continues his journey in Mister Solomon’s other books, and hopefully in other adventures for years to come.
That is all for now. We look forward to reading more books in 2017. We hope that we continue to be amazed and surprised by what we find and we hope that you are too. With that, we bid you adieu, and we wish for you to have a happy new year!