Fantasy Focus End of the Year Top Five Books

Happy Holidays everyone! So as promised, the team at Fantasy Focus has come up with our top 5 reads of 2019. Now just to make it clear, these are Fantasy novels that were read by members of the team this year, and not necessarily books that were released this year.

In the case of my own list, I’ve chosen to list my top 5 traditionally published books that were actually released this year, and left the Indie books to the rest of the team. I did list a massive Indie favorites list on the Fantasy Focus group.

Each list is separated by contributor.

Michael Evan’s Top Five Books of 2019

TOP PICK

The Bard’s Blade by Brian D. Anderson
As a musician, Bards have always been fascinating to read about, and Anderson has created an enduring protagonist with Lem. This book has it all. A gripping and dangerous quest, a meaningful and intense love story, and a perfect mix of classic and more modern sentiment. Those that have given up on waiting for the next Kingkiller novel will find much to love in Anderson’s TOR debut. This is my TOP PICK. (From an ARC read)

Soul Keeper by David Dalglish
David Dalglish has created a stunning novel in a new series that combines elements of “The Stand”, with an incredible Fantasy world. While often dark, he alway keeps the fun present with whimsical characters, spectacular cinematic world building , and a strong emphasis on friendship.

The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft
Josiah Bancroft’s Books of Babel series has been nothing short of brilliant. What started as a story about a man trying to save his wife from the Tower of Babel, has transformed in to a massive sprawling epic, with airships, daring missions, eccentric side characters and some huge philosophical ideas, all told in Bancroft’s intelligent and witty prose. I can’t wait for the conclusion.

The Light of All That Falls by James Islington
What began as a coming of age story in the vein of The Wheel of Time has turned in to something far more intense. Islington’s use of time travel, and plot twists, have made The Licanius Trilogy a classic, and one of the most challenging and thought provoking series out there. It’s conclusion was perfect and I’m waiting with baited breath for where the author goes next.

The Bone Ships by RJ Barker
RJ Barker’s Wounded Kingdom series is one of my favorite trilogies. It was sad to say goodbye to that world, but RJ has not disappointed with The Bone Ships, which draws much from Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey/Maturin series, while maintaining a Fantasy element and all of the dark eccentricity that has made him one of the most exciting new writers on the scene.

Andy Peloquin’s Top Five Books of 2019

1: Orconomics by Zachary J Pike.
Hilarious, gripping, intriguing, enthralling, and an absolutely amazing read. I went into this story with no idea what to expect and had an absolute blast. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time!

2. Red Rising by Pierce Brown
The Hunger Games, but WAY darker. The beginning started off slow, but everything about this world and character got me hooked. I can’t wait to find out the rest of what happens!

3. Grey Bastards by Jonathan French
I’m not a Sons of Anarchy or motorcycle club fan, but I might become one after reading this book. Absolutely brilliant, and one hell of a fun read!

4. The Jigsaw Blades by Stevie Collier
It took me a bit to get into this book, but once I did, I found myself laughing at the most outlandish things you’ll ever find in a fantasy series. Plus, it’s got magical swords and dinosaurs. 

5. Paternus by Dyrk Ashton As a lifelong mythology fan, this book scratched all the right itches, and presented the “old” stories in an absolutely fresh and thrilling new way. I binge-read Books 1 and 2 (plus the prequel

E.G. Stone’s Top Five Books of 2019

1. The Ashen Levels by C.F. Welburn 
The Ashen Levels is a well-woven story with a huge amount of details that may or may not be important, required several uninterrupted hours to read, a goodly amount of tea for processing power and then had me pacing afterwards because I was just flabbergasted. How many books can you say that about? 

2. AlinGuard by Alexzander Christion 
This is one of the most entertaining fantasy books I have read in a good long while. I think this book explores a fascinating concept that I have not seen before, with characters who are flawed and highly suspect, but endearing and amusing all the same. The battles are definitely bloodied. The language is a bit over the top in spots. And it all works together to create one absolutely wonderful book. 

3. All the books by Jamie Davis (focusing on the Broken Throne Saga) 
This series has adventure, magic, prohibition-style bootleg charm running, a few near-death experiences, black magic, swords, monsters and huge amounts of trouble. There are parallels with early legends and characters I find hugely entertaining. Basically, pretty much what I’ve come to expect from Jamie Davis. Anyways, if you are in for some highly-entertaining, well-written and thought-out books in the urban fantasy vein, then this is a series I would highly recommend. (Oh, and by the way, the audiobooks are stunning.) 

4. Dagger and Scythe by Emilie Knight 
I would say that this book is a very good one and I would highly recommend it. I think that the characters are well-developed and well-rounded. I think that the world is well-developed and there is a lot of interesting culture there. I would have liked a map, but I am directionally challenged and can hardly keep track of my own neighbourhood. If you are interested in a grim dark/macabre/dark fantasy/romantic story, give this one a read. Oh, and by the way, it’s perfect for Halloween. (Decor by human entrails and all that.) 

5. Pumpkin Spice Tales by R.M. Callahan 
The Dark Yule is a very good read for anyone interested in a Chthulian urban fantasy adventure in which the heroes of the day are the feline creatures doing their very best to wake us up at two in the morning. The characters are well-developed and fun to read and the story is a great progression from slightly-worrying to downright-dangerous. I would highly recommend this book to fans of the genre (and those outside the genre). This book, and its follow-ons, have made my list of best books read for 2019. Now, on to book four!

Jamie Edmundson’s Top Five Books of 2019

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence.
I actually read the full series so it’s a story that’s stayed with me. The first in the series was a fun fantasy meets A Clockwork Orange mash up. The highlights for me are a unique grimdark character with Lawrence’s sense of humour and writing style. One of those ‘must read’ books.

The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams.
One of my author heroes, Williams returns to the characters and location of his greatest work, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, for a sequel series. Yes, arguably his writing style, glacially slow, hasn’t kept up with modern trends. But nobody – and I mean that – can create as believable a world and weave a story together as well as this guy.

The Ashen Levels: Fledgling, by CF Welburn.
Every previous time I’ve tried Gamelit I’ve struggled, but this was just a great story, regardless of genre. A mysterious world, dark and creepy characters, this showed loads of originality and was written beautifully.

Shields in Shadow by Andy Peloquin.
The first in a military fantasy series, think The Dirty Dozen set in an Antiquity influenced secondary world. The crew come together and embark on their first mission, setting up the series nicely.

Touch of Iron by Timandra Whitecastle.
A strong and likeable female lead in a dark and gritty setting. The story develops well, with Nora finding herself on a fantasy mission, but with some deeply untrustworthy companions. This is the first in a trilogy and a very impressive debut novel.

Steve Caldwell’s Top Five Books of 2019

BORN OF SWORDS BY STEVEN SHREWSBURY
Gorias La Gaul is a 700 year old barbarian mercenary in the Hyperborean age. Hes the kind of guy Conan would go on adventures with. Ans that’s what makes this book and characters work. Its a callback to all the pulp era Sword and Sorcery books we grew up on, creating an endearing character who goes on a series of adventures with a great twist at the end.

THE KING’S HENCHMEN BY CRAIG HALLORAN
Abraham Jacobs is a former Major League pitcher, who, after his wife and child were killed by a drunk driver, fell off the map. Now driving a beer truck, he is running his route when he goes through a portal and ends up in the body of the head of the King’s Henchmen, his group of problem solvers. His body has fighting skills Abraham can use, but the Henchmen have had a string of failures, so Abraham is under pressure to succeed in his next mission, or he and the Henchmen will be put to death. This constant tension and adventure really creates an engaging story and some really engaging characters.

THINGS THEY BURIED BY AMANDA K. KING AND MICHAEL R. SWANSON
Sylandair and Aliara live in the island city state of Dockhaven. Aliara is an accomplished thief/assassin, while Sylandair is a Duke in another country. They do have a hidden past, though, a horrific past that ties into some of the most awful events of Dockhaven’s history. Its the unfolding of these discoveries that creates the tension, horror, adventure and even humor in this story.

OVER A GOD’S DEAD BODY BY JOEL SPRIGGS
Starting with a humorous encounter between a college coach, his unusual love interest and some football players coming across them in a compromising position, this book sets the tone early that it will have a lot of humor mixed into some serious urban fantasy situations involving various pantheons gods, zombie ducks, mages and spirits, all with an ancient grudge between gods in the background. So much for so many people to unpack and enjoy.

BRIGHTBLADE BY C.T. PHIPPS
Spun off from their United States of Monsters series, this book introduces Ashley Morgan, former operative of the Red House, who, with the fall of the House after vampires came out into the open, dragging the other supernaturals into the light with them, is now a bail bonds woman specializing in supernatural clients. This work accidentally ends up with her bonded to a magical sword, and having to stop a conspiracy that could have world shaking consequences. This seems totally out of the leagues of a woman who has some empathic power and telekinesis, but Ashley may be just the solution to the problem.

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