It might seem a bit late to be looking back at 2017, but as I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ve decided to start doing yearly round-ups of the award-winning fantasy books from the various awards of the past year. Since last year wasn’t all that long ago and had some intriguing prize-winning novels, I figured better late than never!
In this post, I’ll generally only be listing the novel-length fantasy works for adults or young adults that won an award in 2017 (I do make one exception for a novella at the end of this list). The other finalists are certainly also well-deserving of attention, as are the graphic novels, comics, short stories, novellas, science fiction novels, children’s books and other forms of work that won, but if I tried to include them all this list would get very long and overwhelming. If you’re interested in seeing other finalists and categories, the links below each book will take you to the full list of finalists and winners for the related award.
The book blurbs are from Goodreads (to go to the Goodreads page, click on the book cover). I’ve also briefly included my impressions and thoughts on whether I’ll read the each book – these are obviously just based on my own personal tastes and reading habits, and not an indication of whether other people should pick them up or not!
A note on publication dates: Most of these books were published in 2016, since almost all awards judge books published in the previous year. This can get confusing because a few call themselves ‘2016’ awards since they judge books from 2016, even though they were run in 2017. I’m going to keep things simple and call them all 2017 awards.
The Obelisk Gate
by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books), book #2 of The Broken Earth Series
The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.
It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.
It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.
The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.
My thoughts: I haven’t read this one yet – I’ve read a book in a different series by Jemisin, and didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped to, however I’ve heard great things about the Fifth Season (book #1 in this series) and to see the Obelisk Gate winning a Hugo makes me think I’ll give this series a go after all.
All the Birds in the Sky
by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor)
Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.
But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca of San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.
A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.
My thoughts: I’d seen this cover around a lot, but it didn’t look like a fantasy book so I confess I kind of ignored it (oops). Now that I see it’s won not one but two major fantasy awards, and I’ve read the blurb, I’m intrigued. I’ll definitely check this one out.
The Tiger and the Wolf
by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Pan Macmillan)
In the bleak northern crown of the world, war is coming
Maniye’s father is the Wolf clan’s chieftain, but she’s an outcast. Her mother was queen of the Tiger and these tribes have been enemies for generations. Maniye also hides a deadly secret. All can shift into their clan’s animal form, but Maniye can take on tiger and wolf shapes. She can’t disown half her soul, so escapes – with the killer Broken Axe in pursuit.
Maniye’s father plots to rule the north, and controlling his daughter is crucial to his schemes. However, other tribes also prepare for strife. It’s a season for omens as priests foresee danger, a time of testing and broken laws. Some say a great war is coming, overshadowing even Wolf ambitions. But what spark will set the world ablaze?
My thoughts: What a beautiful cover! And an intriguing blurb. I’d heard of this author before but not the book. I’m not quite sure how I missed it, because it sounds interesting and seems to feature a shapeshifter main character (and as I’ve said before, I love shapeshifters).
The Sudden Appearance of Hope
by Claire North (Orbit)
My name is Hope Arden, and you won’t know who I am. We’ve met before – a thousand times. But I am the girl the world forgets.
It started when I was sixteen years old. A slow declining, an isolation, one piece at a time. A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A teacher who forgets to chase my missing homework. A friend who looks straight through me and sees a stranger.
No matter what I do, the words I say, the people I hurt, the crimes I commit – you will never remember who I am.
That makes my life tricky. But it also makes me dangerous . . .
The Sudden Appearance of Hope is the tale of the girl no one remembers. But this gripping story – of love and loss, of hope and despair, of living in the moment and dying to leave a mark – is novel that will stay with you for ever.
My thoughts: This has a really awesome concept. I’m very curious, but I think I’ll have to read an excerpt for this one to see if it’s my kind of thing (the blurb is making me wonder if it’s literary fantasy, which isn’t always a style I enjoy, but I suppose I won’t really know until I try it).
by Jay Kristoff (Harper Voyager)
Destined to destroy empires, Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.
Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything.
But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult.
The Red Church is no Hogwarts, but Mia is no ordinary student.
The shadows love her. And they drink her fear.
My thoughts: This is actually the only book on this list I have read. I’m sorry to say I didn’t love it as much as others (I didn’t get drawn in to the story till about halfway though the book, and the tone grated a little bit, though I started skipping the footnotes and that helped) but it had some very suspenseful parts and creative elements, so I can see why other people love it and why it won this award. I may still read the sequel to see where it goes.
Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact
by Alison Goodman (HarperCollins Publishers), book #2 of the Lady Helen Series
June 1812. Just weeks after her catastrophic coming-out ball, Lady Helen Wrexhall—now disowned by her uncle—is a full member of the demon-hunting Dark Days Club. Her mentor, Lord Carlston, has arranged for Helen to spend the summer season in Brighton so that he can train her new Reclaimer powers. However, the long-term effects of Carlston’s Reclaimer work have taken hold, and his sanity is beginning to slip. At the same time, Carlston’s Dark Days Club colleague and nemesis will stop at nothing to bring Helen over to his side—and the Duke of Selburn is determined to marry her. The stakes are even higher for Helen as she struggles to become the warrior that everyone expects her to be.
My thoughts: This reminds me that I’ve been meaning to read something by Alison Goodman for a while now, but I’ve been wondering whether to start with Eon or with this series. Both have won Aurealis Awards so that isn’t really a decider. I guess I’ll have to think about it some more.
Gav Thorpe (Black Library), The Realmgate Wars #6
Lord-Celestant Arkas Warbeast of the Celestial Vindicators returns to restore order to the lands that he ruled in his mortal life, lands now befouled by the verminous hordes of the skaven Clans Pestilens.
The once noble tribes of Ursungorod in Ghur have almost entirely fallen to Chaos, and an infestation of Clans Pestilens skaven has amassed in the caverns beneath the snowy tundra. There, Poxmaster Felk is on the brink of opening a vital realmgate – but Sigmar intends to seize this portal for himself. Arkas Warbeast, Lord-Celestant of the Celestial Vindicators, was once a mortal ruler of these lands. Now, with the aid of the Knights Excelsior, he has returned to free his kingdom from the clutches of Chaos and claim the realmgate in his God-King’s name. But first he must vanquish the ghosts of his past and overcome his own conflicted nature, in order to unleash the beast within.
My thoughts: Heroic sword & sorcery fantasy isn’t generally my thing, so any Gemmell winner is probably going to have a hard time wooing me, this one included. But I definitely respect the sub-genre and its history, so I encourage anyone who loves this kind of fantasy to check it out.
by Patricia A. McKillip (Ace)
Hidden away from the world by his mother, the powerful sorceress Heloise Oliver, Pierce has grown up working in her restaurant in Desolation Point. One day, Heloise tells her son the truth about his father, a knight in King Arden’s court; about an older brother he never knew existed; about his father’s destructive love for King Arden’s queen; and, Heloise’s decision to raise her younger son alone.
As Pierce journeys to Severluna, he learns that things are changing in that kingdom. Ancient magic is on the rise. The immensely powerful artifact of an ancient god has come to light, and the king is gathering his knights to quest for this profound mystery, which may restore the kingdom to legendary glory—or destroy it.
My thoughts: I read McKillip’s Riddlemaster of Hed and it wasn’t my cup of tea, however I’m keen to try something else by her to see if it’s more to my liking. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is very popular and won a World Fantasy Award, and I haven’t read it, so I think I’ll probably try that before I try this one.
The Grey Bastards
by Jonathan French
Such is the creed of the half-orcs dwelling in the Lot Lands. Sworn to hardened brotherhoods known as hoofs, these former slaves patrol their unforgiving country astride massive swine bred for war. They are all that stand between the decadent heart of noble Hispartha and marauding bands of full-blood orcs.
Jackal rides with the Grey Bastards, one of eight hoofs that have survived the harsh embrace of the Lots. Young, cunning and ambitious, he schemes to unseat the increasingly tyrannical founder of the Bastards, a plague-ridden warlord called the Claymaster. Supporting Jackal’s dangerous bid for leadership are Oats, a hulking mongrel with more orc than human blood, and Fetching, the only female rider in all the hoofs.
When the troubling appearance of a foreign sorcerer comes upon the heels of a faceless betrayal, Jackal’s plans are thrown into turmoil. He finds himself saddled with a captive elf girl whose very presence begins to unravel his alliances. With the anarchic blood rite of the Betrayer Moon close at hand, Jackal must decide where his loyalties truly lie, and carve out his place in a world that rewards only the vicious.
My thoughts: This looks like heroic sword & sorcery style fantasy, which isn’t always my thing, however I’m inclined to try it anyway since I’m keen to read an SPFBO winner and to see what the judging bloggers liked about it. Even if I don’t, I’ll certainly be giving other finalists that seem up my alley a look in. For example, this book, which was close to being selected as Fantasy Faction’s finalist, seems to have been eliminated in large part due to it being a fantasy romance, but I love fantasy romance, so I plan to read it (I tried to buy it but it turns out it’s been taken on by a publisher and is due to be re-published this year, so I’m waiting for a hard copy or audiobook to become available).
Fantastic Beasts: The Original Screenplay
by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic)
When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt’s fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone…
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved and internationally bestselling Harry Potter books. Featuring a cast of remarkable characters, this is epic, adventure-packed storytelling at its very best.
Whether an existing fan or new to the wizarding world, this is a perfect addition to any reader’s bookshelf.
My thoughts: Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I feel like screenplays are meant to be turned into movies and watched, not read, and a cynical part of me wonders if this is just benefitting from the giant fan base. Don’t get me wrong, I also love all things Harry Potter, it’s just that if this were a novel I could understand the win more. I haven’t read it though, only seen the movie, so I suppose I can’t really comment from experience.
A Court of Wings and Ruin
by Sarah J Maas (Bloomsbury), Court of Thorns and Roses series #3
Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.
As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.
In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.
My thoughts: I love Maas’s Throne of Glass series, but I wasn’t so into the first book of this series. However, I’ve heard it improves in the sequels, and it’s certainly very popular, so maybe one day I’ll return to it.
by Drew Magary (Brilliance Audio), Narrated by Christopher Lane
When Ben, a suburban family man, takes a business trip to rural Pennsylvania, he decides to spend the afternoon before his dinner meeting on a short hike. Once he sets out into the woods behind his hotel, he quickly comes to realize that the path he has chosen cannot be given up easily. With no choice but to move forward, Ben finds himself falling deeper and deeper into a world of man-eating giants, bizarre demons, and colossal insects.
On a quest of epic, life-or-death proportions, Ben finds help comes in some of the most unexpected forms, including a profane crustacean and a variety of magical objects, tools, and potions. Desperate to return to his family, Ben is determined to track down the “Producer,” the creator of the world in which he is being held hostage and the only one who can free him from the path.
At once bitingly funny and emotionally absorbing, Magary’s novel is a remarkably unique addition to the contemporary fantasy genre, one that draws as easily from the world of classic folk tales as it does from video games.
“Narrator Christopher Lane keeps to crisp enunciation and a tongue-in-cheek tone throughout this weird adventure, which is by turns heartwarming, bone chilling, and utterly absurd.” – AudioFile Review 2016
My thoughts: this sounds very quirky and unique, and I do love a well-read audiobook. For some reason it doesn’t seem to be available on Audible in my region, which is a bit of a hurdle, but I’ll keep an eye out to see if that changes.
Every Heart a Doorway
Hugo Awards, Nebula Awards & Locus Awards – Best Novella
by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com)
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. No matter the cost.
My thoughts: I know I said I wouldn’t include novellas, but I’m breaking my own rules and making an exception, since this novella won no less than three different awards last year. I don’t often read novellas, but this one has me intrigued.
As I said, I couldn’t include all the award-winners as I didn’t want this list getting any longer, but I hope I’ve given a significant selection at least.
Have you read any of these books? Or do you plan to read any because of their win?