The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (aka Sarah Monette): Definitely one of my favorite books of the year and maybe of all time. Complex, fascinating world and a main character I loved, this one also delves into big questions about change and revolution, about how to find your path when it looks like all the options are bad. It’s one I would recommend to so many people, but I think it has an especially good chance with Megan Whalen Turner fans.
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine: There was a certain point in this story when I didn’t see how it could end as anything but a tragedy. And yet Valentine writes past that, into a slightly ambiguous but wholly beautiful place. I loved the writing, the focus on sisters, and especially Jo, who stole my heart.
Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie: Technically I read Ancillary Justice last year, but I didn’t have time to add it to the favorite books. These books are complex, complicated, wholly immersive. They’re at the same time incredibly enjoyable as reading experiences and thought-provoking. I can’t wait for the third.
Imperial Purple and The Bearkeeper’s Daughter by Gillian Bradshaw: I continued to wend my way through Bradshaw’s backlist. Of the ones I read this year, these two were my favorites, although they’re more on the level of purely enjoyable books than the wonderful Beacon at Alexandria. I appreciate so much the way that Bradshaw conveys a sense of a time; I never feel like her characters are modern people slightly disguised.
The Chocolate Temptation, Sun-Kissed, and Shadowed Heart by Laura Florand: Basically, if Laura Florand writes it, I will read it and love it. Chocolate Temptation was, I thought, especially strong; the storyline could so easily have been super iffy, and instead I completely bought it. Sun-Kissed and Shadowed Heart are definite best read in sequence, because they’re shorter and also rely on prior knowledge of the characters, but for people who are already Florand fans, they’re wonderful.
Medair by Andrea K. Host: Host’s books are going to make several appearances on this year’s lists, but of the books I’ve read to date, Medair might be just a tad my favorites. I loved Medair herself, and her dilemma as she struggles to make sense of the world she’s thrown into. The choices she makes and their consequences are dealt with thoughtfully, and I liked the sense that she’s a little older and a little more complicated than some of the characters I’ve enjoyed reading about.
Destroyer, Pretender, and Deceiver by C.J. Cherryh: I read A LOT of Cherryh this year as I worked my way through the Foreigner series. Despite some minor annoyances related to the depiction of Barb (which does seem to be improving), this has remained one of my great joys for this reading year. Smart character-driven science fiction with a healthy dose of not-real-world politics. (While I disagree with the ultimate conclusion, this post nails the peculiar joys of Cherryh, Leckie, and Addison.)
Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson: Hopkinson’s book is weird and wonderful and challenging; I could feel myself stretching as I read it. Makeda is a riveting character, and I loved the texture of the writing. One of my goals for 2015 is definitely to read more Hopkinson.
Hild by Nicola Griffith: Hild is brilliant and wide-reaching; the imagined life of St. Hilda of Whitby. Griffith has a wonderful descriptive gift, and like Bradshaw gives a sense of time and place that I loved. It writes against a certain mainstream fantasy tradition (I’m thinking specifically of Game of Thrones here) but does so in a way that has integrity. It’s also one I want to re-read because I think the depth and detail of the book will reward a second look.