The 5 Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Books I Read in 2017

Happy New Year! It seems the feasting and drinking are over and it’s time to start making good on those resolutions… one of which, in my case, was to return to blogging – so I’m back! I thought I’d kick off 2018 by taking a look at some books that brightened the past year for me. These aren’t necessarily books published in 2017 (in fact, most weren’t), simply a selection from the books I happened to read over the last 12 months.

I’ve picked 5 favourites – I read and enjoyed other wonderful fantasy and sci-fi books in 2017, but these were the ones that most stood out, enchanted or impressed me:

Strange the Dreamer

Author: Laini Taylor
Published: 2017

Book Cover: Strange the DreamerThis was probably my favourite of the year. This book had an enchanting, dreamy, fairy-tale-like quality to it, and was brimming with mystery and romance. I fell in love with the characters and found myself furious at the injustices they faced, and rejoicing at their triumphs. The world also felt very unique, and the story was beautifully written, which made it a real pleasure to listen to it as an audiobook. I’ve read Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, which I love, but Strange the Dreamer topped even that.

I should say not everything about this read was perfect for me – there were a couple of things I took issue with toward the end (to avoid spoilers I’ll simply say that there was a twist that conformed to a cliché that often frustrates me, so I found that a little disappointing… especially because the rest of the book felt so fresh and unique). However, on the whole it was such an entrancing, enjoyable read that it is still a 5-star favourite.

Crooked Kingdom

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Published: 2016

Book Cover: Crooked KingdomAfter loving Six of Crows (a book that made it onto my 2016 favourites list), I read Crooked Kingdom in 2017 and was not disappointed. Once again I was drawn in by this cast of great characters and offered a suspenseful plot full of ups and downs and twists I didn’t see coming.

One of the strengths of this duology is that it’s basically a heist story set in a fantasy world, which means it’s a high fantasy but without a trek-across-a-continent-and-battle-the-dark-lord storyline, so that makes it feel quite fresh. Don’t get me wrong, important things are still at stake in the story (things that also affect the wider world), but the characters aren’t chosen-ones or royal heirs battling to save humanity, just a group of skilled criminals and fugitives fighting to achieve the impossible, keep each other alive, and in some cases, take revenge on those who’ve crossed them.

The Lightbringer Series

Author: Brent Weeks
Published: 2010-present

Book Cover: The Black PrismThis was probably the series that dominated my year – I started with The Black Prism in March, and then listened to all four currently-available (and rather sizeable) audiobooks.

The magic system is creative and complex (based on ‘drafting’ different colours of light) and the cast of characters is large and varied, but I think the thing I like most about this series is the mind-blowing twists. The first book throws a jaw-dropping one at you about half way in, and the sequels consistently pivoted around incredible, unexpected twists. Even though I’m four books in, I’m still not entirely sure who is good and who is evil (in terms of their ultimate goals anyway), and I kind of like that moral ambiguity.

While I love this series, there are a few small things that irk me about it. One is that although it has some of the most interesting, complex and powerful female characters I’ve ever encountered, one of whom is an all time favourite, occasionally it feels like there is an unnecessary focus on their female-ness or sexuality (with some male vs female stereotypes presented)… which admittedly may be because they are sometimes being seen through the lens of the male characters, and because the whole series is quite sexual with regard to both men and women, but it just irritated me a little when there was a focus on the gender of characters at times when it seemed irrelevant. But this was a fairly minor quibble and on the whole I’m loving the series. It looks like the fifth book might be coming out this year, so I’ve got some more Lightbringer adventuring ahead!

Wool

Author: Hugh Howey
Published: 2012

Book Cover: WoolI read this book on a recommendation from a friend, and I’m so glad she brought it to my attention. I sometimes get a bit fatigued by dystopias as many of them follow the same pattern, but Wool didn’t follow the patterns I expected. In fact, in the first few chapters it shocked me and gave me goosebumps.

It was a very bleak story – I know all dystopias are bleak, but I found this one more so than most. It wasn’t without hope, however, and it explored human behaviour and the survival of our species in ways that other books I’ve read haven’t. It had some highly suspenseful parts and incredible twists and reveals, and although these were tempered by slower more reflective parts that weren’t as riveting, I didn’t mind. The characters all felt very real and complex, and the line between right and wrong was often hazy.

This isn’t a Hunger Games or a Red Rising – the tone is very different, and it’s also not a young adult novel – but it’s a brilliant story, and I’m looking forward to reading the next books in the trilogy.

Dragonflight

Author: Anne McCaffrey
Published: 1968

Book Cover: DragonflightI finally read Dragonflight last year (rather late, considering it was published well before I was born). I’d been dragging my feet on this one, since the cover and blurb made me wrongly assume it was simplistic, clichéd story aimed at young children, but I saw enough glowing recommendations that I decided to read it anyway. I’m glad I did!

It definitely wasn’t aimed at children – and it surprised me in other ways too, proving to actually be a science fiction novel (or at least, a science fantasy). The evil threat in the book came from an unusual and intriguing source, and the dragons were presented in a very realistic way. I also liked that most of the time the main character wasn’t battling evil, but fighting against a stuffy, old, patriarchal society, and the power-hungry nay-sayers whose prejudices, ignorance of history, and refusal to heed warning signs would lead everyone into disaster if left unchecked.

 

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As an honourable mention: I also finally read Pillars of the Earth this year and loved it. Since it’s not fantasy or science fiction (it’s historical fiction set in the middle ages) it’s not on the above list, but it was definitely a favourite.

If you also enjoyed any of these books, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

< My top fantasy and sci-fi reads from 2016

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34 thoughts on “The 5 Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Books I Read in 2017

  1. I’m always looking for new fantasy books to read, so thank you for the reviews. I noted with pleasure the last item. It’s so many years now since I read McCaffrey’s Dragon’s of Pern, but I do remember, as the series progresses, so they become more obviously science fiction. Having said that, I always preferred her Crystal Singer series, and the ‘Ships’ (e.g. The Ship Who Searched’. Thanks again for the reviews. There’s at least one there I’ve starred to read this year.

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    • I’m really happy to hear that, I love helping people find good fantasy books (and I’ve been helped in turn by recommendations myself – I read most of the above books due to other bloggers’ reviews and lists). I haven’t read the Crystal Singer series or the ‘Ships’ books – I am obviously a McCaffrey novice! But if they are as good as or even better than Pern, I’ll have to check them out.

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  2. Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are two of my recent favorites! I’ve seen Strange the Dreamer all over the place, but I’ve never heard of the Lightbringer Series. I love complex magic systems like in Mistborn, so I will probably be checking this one out. Thanks for the recommends!

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    • Great you like them too, they are such good books! And yes I think if you like Mistborn there’s a very good chance you will enjoy Lightbringer. The tone and style are a bit different, but they have a lot of similarities, especially when it comes to the complex magic system. I hope you enjoy it!

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  3. Wool is one I’ve wanted to read but kept forgetting about. Thanks for reminding me of it.
    Also, congrats! Your blog was featured in the Editor’s Picks of WordPress Discover. I saw it in my Reader feed. That’s pretty awesome. 🙂

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    • Oh good, well I hope you like Wool as much as I did when you get to it.
      And thanks!! That’s really cool you saw it in your feed – I noticed about a week ago that I was getting a lot more traffic and WordPress referrals than usual, so I realised something must be up. It was very exciting to discover my blog had been featured – a nice New Year’s surprise! 🙂

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  4. I loved Wool, I’m trying to remember where I’m up to with the series (how bad is that) I think I just had the last book to pick up but never got round to it so this is a timely reminder,
    Lynn 😀

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    • Haha I used to have that problem with the Lightbringer series, I could never remember what book I was up to (I also listened to them all as audiobooks and they kind of blurred into one another). Now I know though because there aren’t any more available (yet anyway) 🙂 Cool you loved Wool too, I’m yet to read any of the sequels, I hope they’re good?

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  5. I liked Dragonflight so much that I stole it from my high school library! (Never fear, I eventually bought my own copy and returned the school’s book.) I lived and breathed Perm for so many years!

    But I do remind myself to pick up new things, too. I might have to give the Taylor a try.

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    • Haha I love that it was so good it turned you into a book thief (though I’m glad you brought it back eventually!). I need to get back to Pern myself and pick up the sequels.

      I can highly recommend Taylor, especially Strange the Dreamer – its such a magical, fairy-tale-like story.

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  6. Brent Weeks is great, isn’t he, and The Lightbringer Series is one of my favourites.

    I read Wool a few months ago too, and I totally agree with you about finding dystopian novels a bit depressing, but I found myself so addicted to this one that I went and bought Shift and Dust and read them immediately, I couldn’t wait to find out how it ended.

    Strange the Dreamer was also one I read this year, and I liked it too, it was different to what I’d expected.

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    • Yes Weeks is great! I’ve only read Lightbringer so far but I’m thinking of trying his Night Angel series as well.

      Great you liked Wool, I found it really addictive too – I’m keen to get on to Shift and Dust myself and see how it ends!

      Strange the Dreamer surprised me too actually – I expected something quite different when I first picked it up (and I felt like the story also changed quite a bit during the novel from what I was initially set up to expect at the start, which was interesting).

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  7. Pingback: The 5 Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Books I Read in 2017 — Thoughts on Fantasy – Mtongori Juma

  8. I am glad you enjoyed ‘Dragonflight’. I first read Anne Mcaffrey novels as a teenager but I have continued to enjoy them as an adult. You should definitely try her other Pern novels. I have not read the other novels you have mentioned, but will certainly add them to my (way too long) to-read list.

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    • Yes I certainly plan to read the others, I’m very curious what happens as I’ve heard good things about the sequels. I just haven’t had a chance yet because my to-read list is also way too long and other books keep getting in the way! Seems to be an eternal problem 🙂

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  9. OMG, to hear Strange the Dreamer topped DoSaB gives me such high hopes for it! Which I already had before but still!
    Bardugo is another favorite author of mine and after Grisha I really, really couldn’t wait to try her new duology but never managed to. I don’t know why, exactly. But I need to try it out soon!
    Also heard amazing things about Wool when it first came out, so I’m quite late to the game I guess.
    Lovely to hear you enjoyed these so much, Nicola! Thank you for the wonderful list/post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sophie! Yes it’s a brilliant book – it’s got quite a different tone/style to DoSaB, so I know some people who prefer DoSaB, but even they still really enjoyed Strange the Dreamer so I think your high hopes are warranted 🙂 Bardugo is also a favourite for me, and funnily enough I also prefer her new duology to the Grisha trilogy. That’s possibly just personal taste again, but I feel like both she and Taylor improved in their second series. Anyway, I hope you like them when you get to them! And Wool too if you read it. I will be interested to see what you think if you review them!

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      • Ah yeah, I keep seeing tons of mixed reactions to StD but overall, I’m really excited for it!
        Did you read SoC before or after Grisha? I heard that plays a big part on how people view the two… I, for instance, read Grisha first and have yet to try the duology so I’m not sure but I know I love the former 🙂
        Thank you!

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        • I read SoC after Grisha, with a couple of years in between I think, and I preferred SoC… that said, I did have a few problems with Grisha when I read it (even though I still liked it overall) – the biggest one being that Alina and Mal annoyed me a lot in books 2 and 3 – whereas I pretty much couldn’t fault SoC, so maybe that played a role!

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        • Really? I really liked them together, to be honest. Even though most people didn’t seem to and generally preferred the Darkling (whom I love but could see having a romantic relationship with Alina) I always shipped them.
          Well, that’s great! A book with no flaws to speak of is definitely a winner 🙂

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        • Yes I normally always want the two original love interests to be together in a series, and this was one of the rare ones where I didn’t. I guess I just felt like Mal became quite moody and self-centred and blamed Alina for things that were out of her control instead of supporting and trusting her (though she also didn’t handle the situation wonderfully – it’s been a while so I can’t remember the exact details). I actually shipped her and Nikolai instead… at one point Nikolai was proposing they get married and I was thinking ‘great idea!!’. I never wanter her to be with the Darkling though, he was too evil. But hey, I guess that just shows we all have different preferences 🙂

          Maybe you will see flaws in SoC that I was blind to, but I hope you like it regardless!

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        • I thought Mal dealt quite well with the situation considering how he was thrown into it with no preparation whatsoever hahaha If I had been in his shoes, I don’t know how I’d react either.
          Although, yes he might have been a bit selfish at times, I guess that made him human? If he’d been too supportive and completely on board with everything Alina said and did, then I’d find it a bit unrealistic. I don’t know.
          A lot of readers say he held Alina back from becoming her best self and I don’t really see that? Her “best” self was nothing but a powerful but soulless person who was just as selfish and uncaring as people accused Mal of being. So I don’t quite get the double standard. He loved her almost unconditionally and it was mostly her doubts that held her back, not him. To say he was responsible for all her misery is quite naive; the Darkling gave her a false sense of power and certainty, which would never last. Mal gave her a reality check and still wanted her to be just her, not anyone else. At least in my opinion. It’s been a while since I’ve read it too hahaha
          The Darkling was completely evil and very toxic as a romantic partner. I don’t think ANYONE should date him lol
          As for Nikolai, I don’t know, I never felt the appeal. To me, he was a lot like Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles: super funny, witty, and great as a character but I never quite trusted him either? Mal gave me a sense of security and of coming home, if you know what I mean. Nikolai just felt like walking the plank and see what happens hahaha
          I really hope I don’t see those flaws either, and I’m rooting for it to be an amazing read! 🙂

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        • Yes true, Mal certainly did ground her and in the end he was very devoted to her, and I know exactly what you mean about that sense of security and coming home, since they knew each other from childhood. He was also definitely not responsible for all of her misery, the Darkling was ultimately behind most of that! I think my problem was in the second book I just got so annoyed at both of them for making silly decisions and fighting all the time when they should have been working together. I know that made them human but it still irritated me to read it, so when they were finally apart and the fighting stopped, and Nikolai seemed to be the only one not despairing and actually whole-heartedly trying to finish the Darkling off (I agree, no one should date the Darkling! 🙂 ), I liked the prospect of her spending more time with him.
          That probably seems like a fickle reason but I guess I just have a low tolerance for characters being miserable for a long time if I feel like they are making their misery worse through their own decisions and stubborn-ness… even if it is very realistic and human of them to do so! (One of the Harry Potter books is my least favourite in the series for that reason)
          I think you’re probably right though that Alina and Mal were more suited to each other in the end, I just sadly didn’t care as much about their relationship as I did at the start.
          Anyway, SoC has no competing love interests as far as I can remember so if we have different opinions about the characters it won’t be on that front 🙂 I hope you enjoy it!

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