2013 in books, part 1: adult fiction

This was a great year for finding new-to-me adult authors! There were a few in particular whose backlists kept me happy for most of the year.

I love Laura Florand’s books a lot. A LOT. I’m consistently wowed by her writing chops and her wonderful characters. I’m so glad I found her this year, and am definitely looking forward to whatever she publishees in 2014.

I started C.J. Cherryh’s ongoing, massive Foreigner series this year, and loved the sense of politics and scope, the complicated society of the atevi, Bren Cameron and his dogged determination to do what’s right even when it seems impossible (see this great post from Ann Leckie). I also read two of her other books, with mixed results (disliked Rusalka, liked Angel with the Sword a lot), and am looking forward to reading my way through the rest her backlist.

I had read one or two books by Martha Wells before this year, but then I read almost all of them either again or for the first time. And I can’t believe that more people don’t know about her books, because they are marvelous! Wonderful settings, wonderful characters, sometimes heartbreaking plots.

I heard about Doris Egan somewhere–one of Jo Walton’s posts on Tor.com, I think–and was intrigued. So when I discovered an omnibus of her Ivory books in the system, I promptly requested them. And then they became one of my favorite reads all year. Hijinks! Provincial trousers! Complicated but marvelous relationships, romantic and otherwise! Worldbuilding!

I am pretty picky when it comes to historical fiction, so whenever I find a really wonderful author who writes in that genre, I’m basically ecstatic. This year, Gillian Bradshaw was that discovery for me. I started off with The Beacon at Alexandria, which I loved, and then really enjoyed Island of Ghosts. While I didn’t like her Arthurian trilogy as well, she’s still someone I would recommend, especially for fans of Rosemary Sutcliff.

Last year was the year of Tiffany Aching, but early on this year I tried some of Terry Pratchett’s other Discworld books, hoping I would now be able to see the heart under the cleverness, and promptly bounced right off of them AGAIN. Then Rachel Neumeier and Charlotte suggested the Watch books, specifically Night Watch. Which I read and LOVED and cried over and read again and loved it again and cried over it again. The earlier books are not quite as good, but from Feet of Clay on, the Watch books are exactly what I always want Pratchett to be.

I’ve read a few books by Guy Gavriel Kay, including Under Heaven. But I haven’t really loved any of them, until Tori suggested Sailing to Sarantium and its sequel, Lord of Emperors. Historical fantasy in an alternate Byzantine empire, with a title taken from W.B. Yeats? YES PLEASE. Fortunately, I did really like them, the first perhaps a little more than the second. Although the scope is sweeping and broad, Kay also manages to keep a focus on individual characters that keeps the story from becoming simply a history textbook.

I’ve liked Ellen Kushner’s Riverside books, especially Swordspoint, so when I heard that she had written a Thomas the Rhymer/Tam Lin retelling, I knew I had to read it. It was oddly constructed in some ways–with four different narrators and several time jumps. And yet, I really fell for her Thomas and Elspeth, and her version of Elfland. And as a bonus, the ending made me cry a lot.

This year was the first time I’d ever read any Sarah Addison Allen, despite having heard her name floating around for some time. I started with The Girl Who Chased the Moon, but my favorite is undoubtedly Garden Spells. I love the mix of quiet fantasy and lovely relationships that she creates. And her writing is effortlessly lovely, perfect for the kind of story that she tells. She has a new book coming out in 2014, and I’m really excited.

A friend recommended Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax books to me earlier this year, and I decided to give them a try. They’re really fun–completely ridiculous, but the kind of thing that I can read without taking too seriously. I like to describe them as a cozy spy mystery, which sounds weird but is fairly accurate.

I still don’t know how I feel about Cinnamon and Gunpowder, by Eli Brown and especially its conclusion for certain characters. (See my linked review for more about that.) But I do know that I’m still thinking about it, months after reading it.

I reread Tam Lin by Pamela Dean in July and fell in love with it all over again. Janet and her college experiences, which rang so true to me and which lie at the heart of this book. Plus the weird and wonderful friendships she builds, and the Classics department. This is a book that’s a joy to read.

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3 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, reviews

3 responses to “2013 in books, part 1: adult fiction

  1. Maureen, I already have a twin and you’re not him. But from this list, it’s hard to believe we’re not twins, too! I want to jump and down and applaud because so many of these are favorites of mine! Please read Cherryh’s Chanur series in 2014, okay?

  2. Kim

    I am so excited to have these lists as recommendations for this year! 🙂

    (I’m also super excited you’ve enjoyed some of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books!!! Have you read Small Gods? It was the first one I read – slightly different than the night’s watch-focused ones, but really good!)

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