Once again, it is that time of year. We have read many books this year. Some we loved, and some we didn’t. Of course, this is a list of the former. Now, there we reviewed many books worthy of recognition, so this list has been trimmed down to the best of the best. Before we list our nominees, let’s take a moment and look at what we were looking for in our book of the year.
What Makes A Book Great?
This is a question that likely bothers many a reviewer. While we have admitted that there is something subjective about book reviewing, we often try to be as objective as possible. To try and achieve objectivity, we look at the different facets of speculative fiction and attempt to rate each book we read on each of these pieces. For our book of the year, we have boiled these facets down to three main categories. These categories are Literary Value, World-Building, and Story. While there is certainly some crossover between the categories, we feel these exemplify what good speculative fiction entails. Let’s go into detail for each of these pieces and outline what we want to see.
A bit of a holdover from our early reviews. Literary Value is probably the most difficult to explain to a casual reader. We look for a few things to decide if a tome holds literary value. Does the book tackle any serious issues? What about hold a mirror up to our society? Does it change the way we view the genre? As you can see, there are many ways that we see literary value, but the way we define it is simple. At the end of the day, what have we taken away from the book? A book that gives us nothing is deficient in this category. A book that gives us something to consider beyond mere words on a page is a book that ranks high in this category.
What is speculative fiction without world-building? Needing to create a world is at the heart of the genre. Whether an entirely new world is made, or our world is augmented, a well-built world is key to good speculative fiction. When we read a book, we want to see worlds with internal consistency. A good world is vibrant, beautiful and alive. It should feel like a real place, though maybe not always one we want to visit. A poorly build world is like a poorly built ship. It may float fine in the beginning, but you wouldn’t want to take it through a storm. We would expect nothing less than a beautiful world from our 2017 Book of the Year nominees.
The story is the final piece of the puzzle. The story is the plot and the characters of the book. Often times, the story is why we pick a book up in the first place. It is the conflict, it is what makes us care. It is also the most fundamental part of a book. A good story can, for some, make up for deficiencies in other areas. Even for us, we can forgive a lot, but we can never forgive a bland or lazy story. A good story does something we’ve never seen before. It makes us feel for the characters. It surprises us without disappointing us. In the end, we’re all suckers for a good story.
So, with that out of the way, let us take another look at our nominee’s for Fantasia Reviews’ Book of the Year 2017.
Autumn M. Birt’s Gates of Fire & Earth
Miss Birt has presented us with a magical world full of wonder and intrigue. Perhaps its greatest strength lays in the way the characters and plot are folded together, woven as an intricate tapestry. It is the sort of read that reminds us of how great fantasy can be. Readers will enjoy the vivid characters and realized world. They will be happy to know that they won’t have to wait long for the third part of the trilogy, which is due out in January. Check out the full review here.
James Aldercice’s Brutal
Brutal roars straight out of the eights with a vengeance. Part dark fantasy, part adventure, Brutal is everything that the name promises and then some. James Alderdice, aka David J. West, delivers a dark story with vivid descriptions. Lovers of the genre will enjoy the fast pace and fresh take. One thing we can say for certain about Brutal: few books exceed our expectations like it does. We look forward to seeing what else Mister West has up his sleeve in the future. You can read our review of Brutal here.
Jordan Rivet’s Night of Flame
Much like Gates of Fire and Earth, Miss Rivet’s book is part of a series. Night of Flame is the culmination of a couple years of work. The whole series took an immense amount of talent and imagination to conceive and execute and each page feels better than the last. Each book in the series builds eloquently upon the last, allowing Miss Rivet to state more in each tome than she ever wrote. As the series wraps up in Night of Flame, we found ourselves saddened that it will mark the last time we get to adventure with Dara, but we count ourselves fortunate that Miss Rivet does not seem to be anywhere close to finished writing fantasy. You can check out our review of Night of Flame here.
Amie Irene Winter’s A Darling Secret
Another culmination of years worth of work, A Darling Secret delivers a stunning finale to the Strange Luck series. Each novel in the series differs enough that they feel like a catalog of Miss Winter’s growth as a writer, and yet, they are all beautifully linked, giving readers vivid characters and dark mysteries. Young adults will especially find themselves taken in by Miss Winter’s charm. That said, the Strange Luck series is made for anyone, and is well worth the read. You can read our review of A Darling Secret here.
P. H. Solomon’s An Arrow Against the Wind
Mister Solomon presents the second chapter of his hero’s journey. It is familiar, yet new. Somehow, it is both safe and daring. This is Mister Solomon’s gift, the gift of subtlety. When we first read the Bow of Destiny over a year ago, we were stunned. Stunned by the simple eloquence of his story, the power of his prose, and his fearless presentation. Now, we don’t want to give readers the wrong idea, Mister Solomon has not reinvented the wheel, but rather improved it at each and every turn.
If the Bow of Destiny was a fresh take on a classic tale, An Arrow Against the Wind seeks to refine it all further still. Here, Mister Solomon has grown bolder, but wiser. We see more of his own wit, charm, and mind, while at the same time providing all of the safety that readers need. He never strains credulity, and always delivers what he promises. We are eagerly awaiting the next book in his Bow of Hart Saga. You can read our review of An Arrow Against the Wind here.
These Are Our 2017 Book of the Year Nominees
We would say give them a round of applause, but better yet, read the books! Now, these books are the best of the best that we read this year, however, we have read so many books that we want to give out a few more honorable mentions in the days to come. These will be genre specific, praising certain aspects of books that may have not made our top five, but are certainly worth looking at one more time. Stay tuned, as later this month we will reveal our choice for 2017 Book of the Year.