The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Books I Read in 2019

I’ve been a bit absent online these past two months, both because of the holiday period but also because I was trying to finish editing my novel-in-progress before the new year. It took longer than expected, but in the end I managed to send it off to beta readers just after Christmas, so that’s at least one resolution achieved! (even if others fell by the way side).

Now that I’m finally back to blogging, I figured I’d start the new year by looking at my favourite reads from the last one. I picked up many great books in 2019 but I’m only going to list the 5 that most impressed me, and I’ll do my best to keep my ramblings on each brief and spoiler-free (if you want to know more about any of them you can click the links to see the blurbs on Goodreads).

Spinning Silver

Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: Fantasy / Fairy Tale Retelling
Published: 2018

Book Cover: Spinning SilverI already mentioned Spinning Silver as my favourite novel from the Hugo finalists last year, and now it’s making it onto my overall favourites list too. I’d previously enjoyed Novik’s Uprooted, but for me, this topped it.

The rich, wintery, fairy tale world was fun to get lost in and I loved all the distinctive characters. I found it hard to put the book down, particularly toward the end. I also liked that the main character’s strength was her cleverness, especially when it came to accounting and money-making – not skills I often see lauded in fantasy. She was a perfect example of how inspiring heroines don’t necessarily need to wield swords to succeed, or be flawless all the time.

Children of Ruin

Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Genre: Science fiction
Published:
2019

Book Cover: Children of Ruin by Adrian TchaikovskyTchaikovsky’s Children of Time made my favourites list in 2018, and its sequel Children of Ruin is now following suit for 2019. Even though it didn’t have quite the same novelty factor as the first, it was an awesome read and kept the bar high. It had a lot of the old elements I loved (e.g. fascinating inter-species communication issues) but introduced enough new elements that it didn’t feel like a simple re-hashing of its predecessor.

It was nice to spend time with my favourite arachnids again, but also to be introduced to two new alien species – the more disturbing of which I particularly loved. Once again, I feel like one of Tchaikovsky’s greatest strengths is turning sci-fi tropes on their head and showing you the perspective of the “monster”.

The Call

Author: Peadar Ó Guilín
Genre: Young Adult Dystopia / Horror
Published: 2016

Book Cover: The Call by Peadar Ó GuilínThe Call is another one I discovered because of the Hugos (its sequel was a Lodestar Award finalist). I’ve read a lot of YA dystopias, but this one felt a little different – something about the horror elements, the Irish setting and the way it was written meant that even though it had a lot of the usual tropes, it didn’t just seem like another Hunger Games copy. It was also incredibly suspenseful!

The central premise is that when teens get “the Call” they are instantly transported to a horrific magical world where they have to survive for a day (3 mins in our world) before they’re transported back… which means that at any moment any character can just vanish, and 3mins later they reappear either alive, dead, or magically disfigured depending on what they endured. Suffice to say, it makes for a very tense read, and it kept me up late at night turning pages.

Scythe

Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Young Adult Dystopia
Published: 2016

Book Cover: Scythe by Neal Shusterman Many people have recommended Scythe to me and I’ve had it on my list for a while, but last year I finally read it. Like The Call, its a YA dystopia that manages to be different enough not to trigger the fatigued feeling I sometimes get in this genre.

I think the most interesting thing about this book is the uncomfortable moral questions it poses… how do you control population in a world where no one dies naturally? Is there a good or noble or fair way to do so? Does life have meaning without death? The story explored these ideas without presenting clean or easy answers, and did so in a very entertaining way. There were lots of surprises I didn’t see coming, and I liked that it often did the opposite of what I expected: e.g. the artificial machine intelligence that controls everything is not automatically evil, and the characters whose job it is to kill aren’t necessarily villains. I didn’t see the ending coming and I loved it – it was even more satisfying that I’d thought it would be.

The Cruel Prince

Author: Holly Black
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Published: 2018

Book Cover: The Cruel PrinceThe Cruel Prince has been mentioned so often online and won so many popularity contests that it feels almost clichéd to mention it here… but hey, I really enjoyed this book. It was one of those addictive stories I just didn’t want to stop listening to (I had the audiobook version) and it had me gobbling up the sequels in quick succession. I enjoyed the romance, the conflict, the plot twists, the suspense… not to mention the enemies-to-lovers trope which I’m always a sucker for.

I also appreciated that the main character wasn’t by any means a morally pure and perfect – yes, she’s courageous and clever and generally tries to do the right thing, but she also has an ambitious, murderous streak that helps her contend with all those devious fairy folk, not to mention makes her more interesting.

Honourable Mentions

While it didn’t make my top 5, I also really enjoyed the final instalment in the Throne of Glass series, Kingdom of Ash. It’s a series I’ve been journeying with for a long time (7 books!), and I know some readers weren’t happy with the conclusion, but on the whole it left me satisfied and at one point even provoked a few tears.

And it’s not fantasy or science fiction, so I didn’t include it above, but I loved the autobiography Lion: A Long Way from Home by Saroo Brierley. The film based on Saroo’s story amazing, but I wanted to read the book to learn what happened in more detail from his perspective, as well as to see what was changed for the screen. The film made me cry but I thought I’d at least manage to make it through the book without waterworks since I knew the story already… no such luck 🙂

_____________

So those are my top picks. If you also enjoyed any of these books, or have your own favourite from 2019, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

< The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Books I Read in 2018

19 thoughts on “The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Books I Read in 2019

  1. I have the Tchaikovsky books on my TBR, but I should probably move them up the queue, given that I read and loved all your other choices! Have you finished the Scythe series? I’m curious to see what you think about the last book, as I was a little let down by it. (And actually, the same for the Cruel Prince trilogy. It’s strange because often book 2 in a trilogy is a struggle, but I thought both trilogies had really top-notch seconds.) And, if you ever want more beta readers, I’m available!! (It’s on my bucket list to be one someday so I tell all of my friends who write, lol.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can recommend moving up Children of Time! I’m not sure if it’s everyone’s thing but several people I’ve suggested it to so far have loved it. I did try another of his books (The Tiger and the Wolf) but gave up a short way in, which is odd because I wanted to love it… it’s a very different kind of story though so I guess it just wasn’t for me. I plan to try others of his in future though.

      I’ve only read Scythe but am curious to continue the series, so I’m glad to hear book 2 strong! We’ll see what happens when I get to 3 🙂 I really loved the second Cruel Prince book too, and quite liked the third (not as much as the first two but still gave it 4 stars). I know several other people who were also disappointed by it though and when I read their reviews I could understand the reasons.

      As for beta reading, believe it or not I’ve actually been looking for one more reader! (in particular someone who likes fantasy romance since it’s in that genre – and I know we share quite a few favourites on that front, some which you probably even recommended to me). I’ll send you a message on Goodreads about it 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh I’m so excited if it works out! (No pressure at all, of course!!) Yes, I love fantasy romance! Feel free to email me at anjviola@hotmail.com.

        I did really enjoy The Queen of Nothing, but I thought the first 2 books were stronger. I’m still sitting with the Scythe finale. I didn’t hate it, it just didn’t quite live up to the love I had for the first two.

        Have you already read the Katherine Arden trilogy that starts with The Bear and the Nightingale? I can’t remember. If not, I think it’s one you’d really enjoy. Also, I just finished the standalone SF The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez and it was incredible.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Awesome, I’ll email you then! 😀
          And yeah Queen of Nothing definitely wasn’t as strong as the previous two – sounds like the Scythe finale is similar. Always a shame not to finish out with the same great 5-star feeling… but at least they were still enjoyable.

          I‘ve read The Bear and the Nightingale and I really enjoyed it! Spinning Silver reminded me a lot of it actually. I haven’t read the other books in the trilogy yet but have heard good things. I also haven’t read The Vanished Birds but it sounds awesome and the blurb looks super intriguing – just added it to my TBR!! 🙂

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    • Thanks!! And admittedly the pacing of that book isn’t always the fastest, esp. at the start – but I hope when you’re in the mood you like it (for me I particularly loved the spider&ant stuff and all the spider chapters after that… funnily enough the human chapters only mildly interested me by comparison)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An interesting post and I’ve read two of the books (Children of Ruin and The Call) and liked them pretty much for the reasons you set out.
    I haven’t read the other three, but I have read other books by the authors.
    Neal Shusterman’s Unwind – which had the same query about what value society puts on life and
    Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Cold Town which were good fantasy and urban YA. Authors to watch!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting you’ve read other books by several of these authors but not necessarily these ones. I haven’t read Unwind but I’ve heard good things. Someone even said it was better than Scythe, so I guess I’ll have to try it at some point too. The Coldest Girl in Cold Town rings a bell but again, I haven’t read it yet. Definitely all authors whose other books I’m keen to try too!

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