Originally published in the Canberra Weekly on 1 July 2021.
This review can also be found on the Canberra Weekly website.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. The task for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday was originally to list the reasons why I love reading, however I am going to go off topic and instead look at something else. We have just crossed into the second half of 2021, which has already proven to be a pretty fantastic year for books. I have read some incredible novels so far this year, including impressive standalone books, amazing new entries in established series and fantastic debuts. Because of this, I thought that I would take the time to work out what my top ten favourite books from the first half of 2021 were.
Once I knew what I wanted to pull together for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, I started taking a hard look at all the different novels that I have read this year. To be eligible, a book had to be released in (or extremely close to) the first half of this year. I have also excluded any books released during this period that I have not so far read, although a couple of releases I have my eye on might have appeared on this list if I had had the chance to read them before now.
Coming up with this list proved to be a rather bigger task than I originally intended, as I ended up amassing nearly 20 different releases, all of which I consider to be some pretty outstanding reads. I ended up being able to eventually whittle this down to an acceptable Top Ten list, although I did include my typical generous honourable mentions section. I am rather happy with how this list turned out, although I am surprised at some of the great releases that ended up being excluded. Still, the books below represent what I considered to be some of the best books from the first half of 2021, and I would strongly recommend each and every one of them. So let us see what made the cut.
The first book on this list is the incredible and wildly addictive fantasy masterpiece, The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell. Serving as the sequel to last year’s amazing The Kingdom of Liars (which was one of my favourite books, audiobooks, and debuts of 2020), The Two-Faced Queen continues the compelling adventures of its angsty and relatable protagonist, Michael Kingman, as he attempts to uncover the mysteries and conspiracies of his home city. Containing a wild mass of unique opponents, plots and hidden secrets, this book holds your attention from beginning to end and is one of the best sequels I have ever read.
Next up we have the obligatory Star Wars entry on this list, Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed. While there have been several other great Star Wars releases this year (Light of the Jedi and Greater Good were both fantastic), none of them were as impressive as Victory’s Price. Serving as the third and final entry in the Alphabet Squadron series (which previously featured Alphabet Squadron and Shadow Fall), this incredible book features a powerful, character driven narrative that provides readers with tragedy, amazing character development and a full-on war story amid the Star Wars universe. Beautifully written and incredibly moving, Victory’s Price perfectly wraps up the Alphabet Squadron trilogy and is one of the best Star Wars novels out there.
Epic spy thriller author Mark Greaney returns with the 10th book in his outstanding Gray Man series, Relentless. I have been deeply enjoying the Gray Man novels over the last couple of years (check out my reviews for Mission Critical and One Minute Out), so I knew I was going to be in for a good time with Relentless. This was another particularly thrilling tale of international espionage and plots, as Court Gentry and his comrades go up against a sinister, world-changing conspiracy. A fantastic and action-packed read that comes highly recommended.
Next of this list we have the fantasy novel that everyone was talking about this year, The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne. Set in a Norse inspired dark fantasy world shattered by warring gods, The Shadow of the Gods contains a powerful and addictive narrative which sets three amazing protagonists on quests for redemption, honour, and family. Containing some extraordinary world building, great characters, and a really impressive story, this was one of the best fantasy books of the year, and I loved every second I spent reading it.
Superstar author Miles Cameron made his science fiction debut earlier this year with the captivating Artifact Space. Containing an epic voyage throughout the stars, Artifact Space was an awesome read, that takes its damaged protagonist to some amazing places as they try to save their ship from a dangerous alien conspiracy.
I doubt anyone is too surprised that the latest Usagi Yojimbo volume has appeared on this list. Written by one of my favourite authors, Stan Sakai, this latest volume of the long running series was extremely moving and deeply compelling, as Usagi goes through some harsh adventures near his long-avoided home province. With incredible art, powerful character work and some very elaborate stories, this was another excellent addition to one of the best comic series out there.
Another new to me author who blew me away this year was the outstanding Andy Weir, who produced one of the best science fiction novels of 2021. Project Hail Mary contains an extraordinary tale of an amnesiac scientist sent out into space to find out how to save the sun from burning out. Containing a deeply enjoyable and addictive story, I powered through Project Hail Mary in no time at all and loved every second of it. One of the easiest books of 2021 to recommend, you must check Project Hail Mary out.
After deeply enjoying her 2020 novel, Race the Sands, I was eager to explore another fun standalone fantasy novel from bestselling author Sarah Beth Durst, and boy was I in for a treat with The Bone Maker. This clever novel follows five former heroes who are once again drawn into a deadly battle for their nation. Readers will fall in love with the novels damaged heroes, especially after they once head the call to battle, even after all the loss and trauma they have suffered.
Now, technically this novel was released in 2020, however, considering it only came out 31 December (which was technically 1 January 2021 in Australia), I am choosing to count this as a 2021 release instead. Colonyside is the third novel in the fantastic and impressive Planetside science fiction thriller series. Following on from the amazing Planetside (one of the best books of 2018) and Spaceside (one of the best books of 2019), Colonyside places its infamous protagonist in the middle of another dangerous conspiracy, as he searches for a missing person on a hostile alien planet. A masterful and thrilling novel, I deeply enjoyed this amazing book.
The final entry on this list is the outstanding Protector from Conn Iggulden, which follows on the from the great 2020 novel, The Gates of Athens. Featuring an awesome story about some of the key battles between the Greeks and the Persians, this was a fantastic piece of historical fiction that is really worth reading.
That is the end of this list. As you can see, I have already read some amazing and epic books so far in 2021 and we are only halfway through the year. I am pretty happy with how this list turned out, especially as it features some extraordinary reads. It will be interesting to see which of these books ends up being amongst my top reads of 2020, and while I would assume all the above will make the cut, there is some pretty hefty competition coming up in the second half of 2021. Let me know what you think about the books that made my Top Ten list, and also let me know what your favourite releases from the first half of 2020 are.
Publisher: Michael Joseph (Trade Paperback – 18 May 2021)
Series: Athenian – Book Two
Length: 397 pages
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
One of the best authors of historical fiction, the incredible Conn Iggulden, returns with the second epic book in his Athenian series, Protector.
Following the devastating battles of Thermopylae and Artemisium, the Persian army reigns supreme in Greece as King Xerxes stands triumphant in the burnt ruins of Athens. However, despite his victories, Xerxes has not eliminated the threat of the Athenians, whose citizens have escaped by boat to the nearby island of Salamis. Determined to wipe them out, Xerxes commits his mighty navy in an attack of the Greek fleet off Salamis, initiating one of the deadliest naval battle of all time. Over three days of fighting, the Greeks and the Persians engage in a brutal battle, with boats destroyed and men killed in horrific numbers. In the end, only a act of subterfuge from the sly Athenian, Themistocles, will be enough to stop the attack, although this action may damn him for all times.
Following this battle, the Athenians attempt to rebuild their once beautiful city; however, the threat of the Persians remains as a massive army lurks within Greece. To finally cripple the Persian ambitions for Greece, famed Athenians, Aristides, Themistocles and Xanthippus, will work to bring together an army of free Greeks. Led by the powerful armies of Sparta, the Greeks will face the Persian army as the plains of Plataea, while their navy faces them at Mycale. Can the Greeks overcome the superior numbers of the Persian army to survive, or will the Persian dominion of Greece continue, wiping out their fledgling democracy? The future of Athens is written here, and the world will never again be the same.
Wow, that was another exceptional historical novel from the always impressive Iggulden. Iggulden has been one of the leading historical authors for years, and I have deeply enjoyed several of his works, including his epic War of the Roses series and the fantastic standalone novel, The Falcon of Sparta. Last year, he introduced The Gates of Athens, the first novel in his new Athenian series, which will cover some of the most iconic formative years of ancient Athens. The Gates of Athens was an excellent novel that was one of my favourite historical books of 2020. As a result, I have been eagerly awaiting the next entry in the Athenian series, and Iggulden really did not disappoint with Protector.
Protector contains an epic and intense narrative that highlights the chaotic events following the battle of Thermopylae. This novel has a fantastic start to it, as the story immediately shows the iconic battle of Salamis, a deadly battle of ships and men as the fate of the entire population of Athens hangs in the balance. This first battle is pretty damn intense, and you get a real sense of the fatigue, despair and destruction that the participants and observers of the battle are feeling. This battle lasts for a good while, and I loved that Iggulden did not waste any time getting into it, ensuring that the reader is pretty hooked for the rest of Protector. Following Salamis, the narrative focuses on the rebuilding of Athens and the attempts to bring the Spartans into the war to face the lurking Persian army. While not as exciting as the start of the book, this central part of Protector is deeply fascinating, and I personally enjoyed the interplay of politics and historical fact, as Iggulden expertly depicts the lead-up to the next battles against Persia. It also perfectly sets up the epic two battles that are the defining part of Protector, Plataea and Mycale, which occurred around the same time as each other. Both these battles are pretty intense and action packed, although the elaborate and bloody battle of Plataea is the real highlight, especially as the stakes surrounding it are extremely high. I deeply enjoyed seeing these two amazing historical battles unfold, and Iggulden ensures that they are bloody, action-packed and compelling. It was also really cool to see the fascinating, if occasionally tragic aftermath of these battles, and it sets up some intriguing historical storylines for future entries in this series.
I really appreciated the incredible historical detail that Iggulden brought to Protector. The author has clearly done his research when it comes to this iconic historical battles and he does an incredible job bringing them to life. So many key moments from the battles are fantastically captured throughout Protector, and the reader gets an amazing idea of the tactics, armaments and movements of the participants, as well as their chaotic flow and carnage. While the battles themselves are pretty amazing, Iggulden also ensures that the underlying politics, motivations and historical figures associated with them are also detailed, ensuring that the reader gets a full view of why these events are happening and their overall impact on the people of Greece and Persia. All of this is extremely fascinating, and I personally loved learning more about this period, especially as Iggulden presents it in a compelling and exciting manner.
One of the things that I most enjoyed about The Gates of Athens was the amazing portrayal of several major historical figures. Iggulden continues this fantastic trend in Protector, as he once again looks at several major Greek and Persian characters. The most prominent of these are probably the three Greek strategos, Aristides, Themistocles and Xanthippus. Despite their political conflicts in the first novel (Themistocles orchestrated banishments for both), the three are forced to work together for the greater good of Athens and prove to be an effective team. Iggulden does an amazing job getting into the heads of all three of these figures, and it was interesting to see how the author envisions what these great men would have been thinking or doing during these historical events. All three have a significant part of Protector told from their perspective. In particular, each of the three major battles featured within this novel is primarily told from one character’s perspective, with Aristides leading the Athenian force at Plataea, Xanthippus fighting at Mycale, while Themistocles unleashes his cunning during the battle for Salamis. I really enjoyed the portrayals of all three characters, and it was interesting to see them during some of their most iconic moments. In particular, Iggulden provides some intriguing insight to Xanthippus’s mental state after Mycale and some explanation for why he participated in several massacres. I also deeply enjoyed the way in which Iggulden portrays the tragedy of Themistocles, whose own cleverness and guile eventually catches up with him.
In addition to these three main Athenian characters, Iggulden also spends time with some younger Athenian figures, particularly Cimon and Pericles, Xanthippus’s youngest son. This proves to be an intriguing examination of the younger Greek characters and Iggulden is setting up some new protagonists for the later entries in the series, particularly with Pericles. There is also some significant focus on several great Spartan characters, such as the war leader, Pausanias, who also provides an excellent alternate viewpoint to the battle at Plataea, as well as an alternate way of thinking from the democratic Greeks. I also liked the way in which several Persian characters were featured, include Xerxes and General Mardonius, especially as it allowed for another fascinating viewpoint that paints the Greek characters in a whole new light. All these great historical figures are expertly brought to life by Iggulden, and I had a wonderful time learning about their stories and tragic fates.
In his second entry in the Athenian series, Conn Iggulden once again demonstrates his mastery of the historical fiction genre by crafting a captivating and addictive tale of war, intrigue and personal ambition from iconic moments in Greek history. Protector is an exceptional and fast-paced novel that presents a powerful vision of the unique and world-changing battles of Salamis, Plataea, and Mycale. This is a clever and intense historical novel which comes highly recommended, and historical fiction fans will deeply enjoy the cool and fascinating tale within. I look forward to the next chapter in the Athenian series and I cannot wait to see the war and politics that is yet to be unleashed on this city.
WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?
So, let’s get to it.
Small Acts of Defiance by Michelle Wright (Trade Paperback)
I just started reading this really interesting and cool historical drama from Australian author Michelle Wright. Small Acts of Defiance, which is Wright’s debut novel, is set in occupied Paris during World War II, and follows an Australian teenager as she rebels against the Nazi regime. I am only about 50 pages in at this point, but so far this book is very compelling and moving.
The Coward by Stephen Aryan (Audiobook)
I am also currently enjoying the cool new fantasy novel from Stephen Aryan, The Coward. The Coward, which starts a whole new series from Aryan, follows a former hero who is forced to journey back to the scene of his legendary fight against a monster and investigate a new emerging threat. The only problem is that the hero’s entire legend is a lie, and he wants nothing to do with his former adventures. This is a very clever and entertaining fantasy novel and I love the cool story premise behind it. I am currently making some good progress with this novel and should hopefully finish it by next week.
Falling by T. J. Newman (Trade Paperback)
Protector by Conn Iggulden (Trade Paperback)
Trollslayer by William King (Audiobook)
The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry (Trade Paperback)
That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.
WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?
So, let’s get to it.
Falling by T. J. Newman (Trade Paperback)
I started reading Falling by T. J. Newman this week. Falling is a compelling thriller novel set aboard a plane whose pilot must choose between the lives of his family or the passengers aboard his plane. This is a fantastic and exciting debut novel from Newman and I am really enjoying it’s clever and fast-paced story.
Trollslayer by William King (Audiobook)
I was in the mood for something a little different this week and decided to check out the classic Warhammer novel, Trollslayer by William King. Trollslayer is set in the Warhammer fantasy universe and follows the adventures of a doom obsessed, death seeking dwarf slayer and his human companion as they go up against every monster, demon and fiend that lives in their terrible world. I am only an hour in so far, but I am already enjoying this great novel, which contains several exciting short stories.
Artifact Space by Miles Cameron (ebook)
The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne (Audiobook)
That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.
It has been a little while since I have done a Book Haul post, so I figured it was a good time to look back at some of the amazing books that I have received in the last couple of weeks. I have actually received quite an impressive haul recently, made up of a number of exciting and intriguing books, including a few novels that I have been looking forward to for some time. Each of the books below have a lot of potential and I am really keen to check them all out as soon as I can.
Let us start this post off with one of my anticipated reads of 2021, Protector by Conn Iggulden. Protector is the sequel to one of my favourite books from last year, The Gates of Athens, and will continue to follow the epic events of the Greek war against Persia. Set to feature some major battles and Athenian politics, this is going to be an awesome and compelling novel and I look forward to checking it out.
Next we have this intriguing science fiction debut, Rabbits by Terry Miles. Rabbits, which I have already read, is a weird and unique novel that sees a brilliant, yet troubled, protagonist attempt to play a legendary game with the fate of the universe in the balance. A fantastic, if unusual read, I am hoping to get a review up for it soon.
Another book that I have already read, The Ninth Metal is an exciting and interesting science fiction read that follows the chaotic events occurring around a small-town in America that was the site of a meteor strike, leaving a vast amount of a rare, alien metal. Featuring feuding companies, strange abilities and a fantastic goldrush mentality, this was a captivating and fun read.
I also received a copy of the latest thriller from Australian author Tim Ayliffe, The Enemy Within. This latest novel contains an intriguing narrative about neo-Nazis in Australia and a dangerous cover-up surrounding them. I very much enjoyed Ayliffe’s first novel from a few years ago, The Greater Good, and I was honoured to see that my review for it was featured in the inner-cover of The Enemy Within. I am looking forward to checking this novel out, although I may have to read the second novel, State of Fear, first.
Another great book that I have received is the fantastic sounding thriller, Falling by T. J. Newman. Falling contains a great story that sees a plane full of people at risk when their pilot’s family is kidnapped and threatened. This debut novel from Newman already has a lot of buzz around it and I am very keen to check this one out.
I am also very excited to check out another great debut, Small Acts of Defiance by Australian author Michelle Wright. Small Acts of Defiance is a compelling historical drama set in occupied Paris. I imagine this is going to be a pretty intense and impressive read and I am very excited to check it out.
The final novel I have received is the fun sounding thriller, The President’s Daughter by the remarkable team of Bill Clinton and James Paterson. The President’s Daughter is the follow-up to the pair’s first novel, The President is Missing, and looks set to be another exciting and fantastic adventure of a rogue president going off on his own to save the people he loves.
In addition to some of the books I have received from publishers, I also went out on a bit of a shopping spree the other day and grabbed several amazing novels and comics that I have been really excited for.
There was no way that I could avoid getting a copy of the latest Flavia Albia novel by Lindsey Davis, A Comedy of Terrors, especially after how much I enjoyed her 2020 release, The Grove of the Caesars. This latest novel sets professional informer and investigator Flavia Albia up against a new and dangerous foe during the middle of a massive festival. It sounds like a pretty awesome novel and I cannot wait to explore it’s brilliant mystery and fantastic humour.
Blackout is a novel that I have been hoping to read for a very long time. Written by one of my favourite authors, Simon Scarrow, Blackout is an excellent sounding murder mystery set in the midst of Nazi Germany during the war. While I do prefer some of Scarrow’s Roman historical fiction novels, such as last years exciting The Emperor’s Exile, Blackout sounds like an exceptional read and I am very keen to check it out.
Another novel that I have been hoping to read for a while is the amazing thriller Breakout by Paul Herron. Breakout has a fantastic sounding plot which forces a violent criminal and a forgotten prison guard to work together to survive the horrors of a flooding super-max prison with all the inmates let out. This novel has so much potential for fun, action and excitement, and I imagine I will get through it in a very short amount of time.
The final entry on this book haul post is the second volume of the fantastic Star Wars (2020) comic series, Operation Starlight. Operation Starlight continues to follow the adventures of Luke, Leia and Lando following the events of The Empire Strikes Back, and this latest volume forces them to face off with a dangerous foe. I deeply enjoyed the first volume of this series, The Destiny Path, and after reading this second volume, Star Wars (2020) is swiftly becoming one of my favourite Star Wars comic book series of all time.
Well that’s the end of this latest Book Haul post. As you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do at the moment thanks to all these awesome books that have come in. Let me know which of the above you are most interested in and make sure to check back in a few weeks to see my reviews of them.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. For this Top Ten Tuesday, participants need to list the top releases that they are looking forward to reading in Spring (or Autumn for us down here in Australia). This is a fun exercise that I have done for each of the preceding seasons, and it is always interesting to highlight the various cool sounding books that are coming out in the next few months.
For this list I have come up with 10 of the best novels that are coming out between 1 March 2021 and 31 May 2021. I have decided to exclude novels that I have already read, so that took a couple of key books off the list. Still, this left me with a rather substantial pool of cool upcoming novels that I am excited for, which I was eventually able to whittle down into a great Top Ten list (with a few honourable mentions). I have previously discussed a number of these books before in prior Top Ten Tuesdays and Waiting on Wednesday articles and I think all of them will turn out to be some really impressive and enjoyable reads. I am actually really excited for the next three months as there are some incredible novels coming out, several of which I already know are going to be amongst the best books of 2021.
The first entry on this list is a rather intriguing fantasy debut from Australian author E. J. Beaton. The Councillor looks set to contain a thrilling and clever tale about politics, murder and betrayal in a cool new fantasy realm. This book has a lot of potential and I am rather keen to check it out.
I had to include at least one Star Wars book on this list (it’s practically a tradition for me at this point), and while I was very tempted to include the new Thrawn Ascendency novel, Greater Good (especially after how much I enjoyed the previous book, Chaos Rising), I instead decided I am a little more excited for Star Wars: Victory’s Price. Victory’s Price is the third and final entry in Alexander Freed’s excellent Alphabet Squadron series which follows a rag-tag group of New Republic pilots in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi. The last two books, Alphabet Squadron and Shadow Fall, have been really exceptional reads, and I am very excited to see how this amazing series ends.
Last year I was lucky enough to enjoy fantasy author Sara Beth Durst’s work for the first time when I checked out her 2020 release, Race the Sands, which featured a captivating conspiracy around monster racing. Race the Sands was an epic read that I deeply enjoyed and it ended up being one of my favourite books (and audiobooks) of 2020. As a result, I have been rather keen to check out Durst’s next standalone fantasy book, The Bone Maker. I actually started reading The Bone Maker today and have made a fair bit of progress already. So far it has been pretty amazing and I cannot wait to see what happens next.
Another intriguing debut, Breakout is a fantastically fun sounding thriller which sees a mostly innocent man attempt to escape from the most secure prison in the planet, whilst it is in the process of getting flooded during a raging storm. This has so much potential for action-packed fun and I am sure it is going to be an absolute blast to read.
Another fantastic tie-in novel that I am looking forward to reading this month is the awesome sounding Firefly: Life Signs. I have been really loving the awesome batch of Firefly novels that have been released recently (Big Damn Hero, The Magnificent Nine, Generations and The Ghost Machine), and Life Signs sounds particularly good, especially as they revisit an interesting, unused storyline from the show. This should be an outstanding read and I am looking forward to it.
Last year, Nick Martell had one of the best debuts of 2020 with The Kingdom of Liars, a clever and captivating fantasy novel, set in a world where magic steals people’s memories. The Kingdom of Liars was an exceptionally amazing read and I have been really keen to see how the sequel turns out. I have already heard some intriguing things about this book and I am hoping that it will be just as good, if not better, than Martell’s impressive first novel.
I am always very happy when a new Lindsey Davis novel is released, and her current body of work, the Flavia Alba Roman historical fiction series, has featured some exceptional novels in recent years (check out my reviews for The Last Nero, Pandora’s Boy, A Capitol Death and The Grove of the Caesars). The next book in the series, A Comedy of Terrors, has an incredible sounding story to it, with murder and treason occurring during a popular festival. I am extremely keen to unwrap this latest historical mystery and I am hoping for another clever and entertaining read.
It has been a long year, but my favourite comic book series, the incredible Usagi Yojimbo series by the legendary Stan Sakai, is finally releasing another volume. The upcoming Usagi Yojimbo comic, Homecoming, is the second volume to be released completely in colour (the other being last years Bunraku and Other Stories), and has an intense sounding story and will no doubt be filled with exciting characters, impressive art work and Sakai’s trademark love for Japanese culture and heritage. I already know that I am going to deeply love this amazing comic and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.
The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence – 5 May 2021
Last year I finally got around to reading one of Mark Lawrence’s impressive fantasy novels, The Girl and the Stars, which followed a young women forced to survive in the dark and dangerous world beneath a desolate ice planet. I had an outstanding time reading this book and I am now extremely keen to read Lawrence’s next novel, The Girl and the Mountain. This cool sounding upcoming sequel looks set to continue the epic story started in The Girl and the Stars, and I am really excited to see what happens next.
The final book on this list is Protector, the next novel from the always incredible Conn Iggulden, who is one of the best authors of historical fiction in the world today. Protector is the sequel to last year’s awesome read The Gates of Athens and is part of a great series that will chart the rise and fall of ancient Athens. This next book will continue to detail the war against the Persians while also highlighting some of the leading figures in the city, and I already know that this is going to be an exceptional and epic read.
Well that is the end of my Top Ten list. I think it turned out pretty well and it does a good job of capturing all my most anticipated books for the next three months. Each of the above should be pretty epic, and I cannot wait to read each of them soon. Let me know which of the above you are most excited for and stay tuned for reviews of them in the next few months.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. The official topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday was to list a participant’s favourite purple, yellow, and/or green Book Covers in honour of Mardi Gras, however, I really did not have any great book covers to feature on this list so I am going to do something a little different and list my top viewed posts of 2020.
Over the last month or two I have been having fun listing some of the top releases I enjoyed in 2020, including my favourite debuts, audiobooks, new to me authors, pre-2020 novels and books that I read last year. However, it is probably time to finish this line of Top Ten Lists off and move onto different topics, so I thought that I would do something new as a closing act and decided to take a quick look at which of my posts got the most views in 2020. Not only this a fantastic way to finish highlighting some of the best novels released last year, but I am also genuinely curious to see which posts people were most interested in last year as this may some impact on what I try and read going forward.
To fill out this list I checked out the nifty stats section of my WordPress website to see which of my posts got the most views last year. While some of the posts I wrote before 2020 did get a lot of attention last year, I decided to limit this list to those blog entries that I published in 2020 and I only ranked them by views received last year. This resulted in a rather interesting collection of posts and I was so intrigued by this I decided to expand the selection out to my top 20 posts rather than 10, which I think created a much more varied and captivating list. The final list contains a great combination of different posts, including reviews, Waiting on Wednesday posts and even a few other Top Ten Tuesday lists. I am really happy with how this latest list turned out, so let us see which posts made the cut.
The top scoring post was the Waiting on Wednesday post I did for the latest Ken Follet novel, The Evening and the Morning. I was a little surprised that this Waiting on Wednesday did so well last year, especially as a lot of the views on it occurred after the book got released, but the view count on this post has continued to grow and grow. A lot of this is probably down to how impressive each of his massive novels are, as readers know they are in for a good time and keep an eye out for the latest Follett book.
After the fantastic first entry there is a bit of a drop in views, but second place is held strongly by my review for House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas. This is not too surprising, considering that Maas has a pretty substantial fanbase, and House of Earth and Blood was one of the most anticipated fantasy releases of 2020. This was only the second novel from Maas that I have read (the other being Catwoman: Soulstealer) and the first adult fantasy novel from an author that specialises in young adult fiction. I ended up really enjoying the complex and lengthy story that Maas created for House of Earth and Blood and I am looking forward to seeing how the series continues in the future.
Number three on this list was a bit of a surprise. While I enjoyed Lost, I must admit that it was not one of my favourite books of 2020 and I did not expect my review of it to get as much attention as it ended up getting. Still, with Patterson’s immense number of fans and followers, I guess it makes sense that people would be interested in seeing how one of his books would turn out, and I really need to check out some more of his novels this year.
The next entry on this list is the Waiting on Wednesday article that I did for legendary fantasy author R. A. Salvatore’s second 2020 novel Relentless. Relentless was a particularly cool fantasy novel from last year which followed on from Salvatore’s previous novels Timeless and Boundless. There ended up being a good amount of interest in this post, and it looks like there are a lot of fans of Salvatore and his amazing fantasy novels. I actually just posted a slightly belated review of Relentless, and it will be interesting to see how much attention it gets this year.
Next up we have a Waiting on Wednesday post of three thrillers released in early 2021. Each of these novels, Relentless by Mark Greaney, The Kaiser’s Web by Steve Berry and Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz, are the latest entry in a popular and established thriller series, and each of these authors already have a lot of dedicated readers. I have already read Prodigal Son (review coming soon, but in short it is pretty awesome), while I have copies of Relentless and The Kaiser’s Web currently sitting on my table. It will be interesting to see how they turn out, but I am predicting some epic and amazing reads from them.
Naomi Novik is a talented fantasy author with a lot of buzz surrounding her, so it is no surprise that a lot of people were interested in her latest book, A Deadly Education. A Deadly Education was an outstanding and captivating read that proved to be extremely inventive and addictive. I deeply enjoyed reading and reviewing A Deadly Education last year, and Novik’s upcoming sequel, The Last Graduate, is one of my most anticipated reads of 2021.
This post listed my absolute favourite books of 2020. Featuring 20 novels, including impressive reads like The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie and Battle Ground by Jim Butcher, this was always going to be a post that a lot of people would be interested in, and I was very happy with how many views it got in closing days of 2020. I cannot wait to list my favourite books of 2021 in 10 months’ time.
Considering how much attention that the above Waiting on Wednesday for Greaney’s next book got last year, it is not surprising that a lot of people also checked out my review for One Minute Out. Serving as the ninth book in Greaney’s impressive Gray Man series, this was a fantastic read that got a full five-star rating from me. I cannot wait to read the next book, especially if turns out to be as good as One Minute Out.
Another Top Ten List with a lot of major and popular entries in it, including How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It by K. J. Parker and Call of the Bone Ships by R. J. Barker. This was a fun and intriguing list to pull together, especially as I ended up reading and loving every book featured on it.
It looks like a lot of people were interested in historical fiction last year as my review for The Gates of Athens by the always impressive Conn Iggulden got viewed more than 200 times. The Gates of Athens was a particularly awesome novel as well, and I am looking forward to reading the sequel, Protector, soon.
I actually reviewed two books from iconic crime fiction author Michael Connelly last year, Fair Warning and The Law of Innocence. While both were fantastic reads, it seems more people were interested in my review of The Law of Innocence, which saw the return of the Lincoln Lawyer. This was a particularly fun and enjoyable read and I am glad that so many people were keen to see what I thought about it.
I did quite few reviews of Usagi Yojimbo comics in 2020, all of which proved to be rather popular, which was great considering how niche these comics are. Out of all these, the one that got the most attention was for the 2020 release, Bunraku and Other Stories. I had an amazing time writing a passionate review for this comic, the first to be released completely in colour, and it was great to see so much interest in it. My Waiting on Wednesday article for the next Usagi Yojimbo volume, Homecoming, has already gotten a substantial number of views in 2021, so hopefully readers will also enjoy my review for this upcoming volume.
A continuation of a previous Top Ten Tuesday list I did, I spent a bit of time working out the longest audiobooks I have ever read. This is a post I will probably revisit again this year, although I very much doubt that the current longest audiobook, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, is going to be unseated from its top position on the list.
Another Waiting on Wednesday that got a lot of attention last year was one I did for the cool science fiction thriller, Colonyside. Serving as the third book in Michael Mammay’s Planetside series (which also includes Planetside and Spaceside), this article got a bit of attention after a timely retweet from Mammay. I recently read and reviewed Colonyside a few weeks ago and it really lived up to the hype.
Now, this was a fun book to review. Demon in White is the third epic entry in impressive new science fiction author Christopher Ruocchio’s outstanding Sun Eater Sequence, which previously featured Empire of Silence and Howling Dark. Considering how amazing this latest entry in the Sun Eater series was, I am very glad that my review for his book got some attention last year, and I would strongly recommend this impressive, gothic read.
I always really enjoy reviewing or promoting anything written by Jonathan Maberry, and this Waiting on Wednesday I did for his standalone horror novel, Ink, ended up getting a lot of attention in the end. Maberry has a new novel coming out in a few months, Relentless, which I am very excited for, and I anticipate a lot of views for that review when I get it written up.
One of the funniest books of 2020, The Constant Rabbit was a lot of fun to review and I am glad that a lot of people checked it out last year.
While it may not have gotten as many views as its Waiting on Wednesday article, my review for The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett did make the Top Twenty list. Serving as a prequel to Follett’s iconic The Pillars of the Earth, this was one of the best historical fiction novels in 2020 and is a strongly recommended read.
The penultimate post on this list was an interesting Top Ten Tuesday I did for Halloween, listing my favourite horror novels I have ever read. I honestly am not the biggest fan of the horror genre, but I was able to rustle up a good Top Ten list for this post, including some great reads like Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant and Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry. It looks like a lot of horror fans were out in force last Halloween as people were quite interested in this list, and I hope I recommended a few good reads for any fans of the genre out there.
The final entry on this list was a Top Ten article that highlighted some of the best books from the first half of 2020. Featuring some particularly cool reads, including Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz and Song of the Risen God by R. A. Salvatore, this one got a bit of attention early in the year and it was interesting to see which of the books featured eventually made their way onto my overall favourite reads of 2020 list later in the year.
While mainly a conduit for my ego, I think this list turned out pretty well, and I really enjoyed seeing which of my posts got the most views last year. I had a lot of fun pulling this list together and I think this might be something I will revisit in the future. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a happy and safe Mardi Gras.
Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy. I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings. Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them. For my latest Waiting on Wednesday article, I have a look at some epic upcoming historical fiction novels that I think could be amongst some of the best releases of 2021.
I have long been a lover of the fun, intriguing and often action-packed genre that is historical fiction, especially as I cut my reviewing teeth primarily on historical fiction novels for several years. Even now that I review a wider range of novels, this still remains one of my favourite and preferred genres, and I always have an amazing time getting through a compelling historical read. Last year proved to be an exceptional year for historical fiction, including The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett, The Emperor’s Exile by Simon Scarrow and Execution by S. J. Parris, and several historical fiction novels were easily amongst the best books I read in 2020. Now that we are into 2021, I thought I would take this opportunity to look at three historical fiction releases from some of the leading voices in the genre that are coming out soon. All three of these upcoming novels have an immense amount of potential and will probably be some of my favourite books of 2021.
The first of these books is A Comedy of Terrors, the latest entry in the incredible Flavia Alba series by one of my all-time favourite authors, Lindsey Davis. Davis is an impressive and exceptional author who has been writing historical murder mysteries for years, first with her long-running Marcus Didius Falco series and then with the sequel Flavia Albia series. Set in ancient Rome, the Flavia Albia books follows the titular protagonist as she investigates several grisly murders which are often tied to a unique element of the city or Roman history. I have had an amazing time reading all the Flavia Albia novels over the last several years and I deeply enjoy the cool mix of fantastic mysteries, intriguing historical detail, and some outrageous humour. All the previous entries in this series (including The Third Nero, Pandora’s Boy, A Capitol Death and The Grove of the Caesars) have been exceptional reads, and every new Flavia Albia novel is an amazing treat in my reading calendar.
Luckily for me, a brand-new Lindsey Davis Flavia Albia is just around the corner with the ninth entry in the series, A Comedy of Terrors, currently set for release on 1 April 2021. A Comedy of Terrors looks set to be another entertaining historical crime novel with a series of crimes taking place during a rowdy Roman festival. There is a great synopsis out for this book already, as well as two fantastic looking covers.
Saturnalia, the Romans’ mid-December feast, nominally to celebrate the sun’s rebirth but invariably a drunken riot. Flavia Albia needs a case to investigate, but all work is paused.
The Aventine is full of fracturing families. Wives plot to leave their husbands, husbands plot to spend more time with their mistresses. Masters must endure slaves taking obscene liberties, while aggressive slaves are learning to ape dangerous masters. But no one wants to hire an investigator during the holiday.
Albia is lumped with her own domestic stress: overexcited children and bilious guests, too many practical jokes, and her magistrate husband Tiberius preoccupied with local strife. He fears a Nut War. Nuts are both the snack and missile of choice of tipsy celebrants, so there is a fortune to be made. This year a hustling gang from the past is horning in on the action.
As the deadly menace strikes even close to home, and with law and order paused for partying, Albia and Tiberius must go it alone. The Emperor has promised the people a spectacular entertainment – but Domitian himself is a target for the old criminals’ new schemes. Can the Undying Sun survive the winter solstice, or will criminal darkness descend upon Rome?
This sounds like it has all the ingredients for an incredible Flavia Albia novel, and I am extremely keen to check it out. The whole concept of the protagonist attempting to solve crimes during a lawless and chaotic festival with no official law enforcement backup sounds really fun, and having a gang trying to corner the market on festival nuts should be very entertaining. I am particularly hoping that the author includes another large-scale comical scene, such as has appeared in several of her prior novels, and the whole festival seems like an ideal set up for such an event. A Comedy of Terrors may also have some intriguing connections to Flavia’s past as the criminal organisation mentioned above possibly relates to an antagonist who kidnapped Flavia as a child (during the Falco book, The Jupiter Myth) and who was hinted to have returned in Pandora’s Boy. All of this should lead to an entertaining and intense novel for the protagonist, and I look forward to seeing what sort of impressive mystery Davis comes up with this time.
The next cool upcoming historical fiction novel that I want to highlight in this article is Crusader by Ben Kane. Kane is another well-established historical fiction author who is probably best known for his impressive Roman historical fiction books, such as The Forgotten Legion trilogy, the Hannibal series, and The Eagles of Rome series. Last year, Kane turned his attention to a different period of history with his captivating and exceptional novel, Lionheart, which showcased Richard the Lionheart’s rise from rebellious prince to King of England as seen through the eyes of his loyal squire, Rufus.
Crusader will be the second entry in the Lionheart series, and it will follow the newly crowned King as he begins his iconic crusade to the Holy Lands to face off against Saladin. This second novel, which is currently set for release on 27 April 2021, will have a wide and impressive focus on vast swathes of Richard’s unique history and I look forward to seeing how it all comes together.
1189. The long-awaited goal of Richard Plantagenet, the Lionheart, comes true as he is crowned King of England. Before he can set off on crusade and retake Jerusalem from the Saracens, he must set his own kingdom in order, and deal with his half-brother Geoffrey and younger brother John, both of whom pose threats to the throne.
These matters settled, Richard’s incredible journey to Outremer, the Holy Land, begins. With him at every step is Ferdia, also known as Rufus, his loyal Irish follower. From southern France to Italy they travel, and on to the kingdom of Sicily, ruled by the scheming Tancred. Delayed on the island for military and political reasons, Richard must deal not only with its ruler but also King Philippe of France, his erstwhile ally on the crusade and long-time bitter rival. There is occasion for some levity, however; in Sicily, the king marries Berengaria, daughter of a Spanish king.
Voyage continuing, he comes into conflict with the ruler of Cyprus, the self-styled emperor Isaac. Richard’s tactical brilliance sees the island fall to the crusaders in a whirlwind campaign. At last he is poised to sail to the Holy Land. There a bitter two-year-long siege awaits his army, at Acre. Waiting for him too, is Saladin, the iconic Saracen leader responsible for the loss of Jerusalem.
Triumphant at Acre, Richard must again play politician before the crusade can continue. Philippe of France seeks to thwart him at every turn. No one can agree who should fill the empty throne of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. When at last the king is able to lead his army south, Saladin’s huge army shadows its every move. In the height of summer, the conditions are brutal, the temperatures boiling. On the dusty field of Arsuf, the Lionheart and his soldiers will face the ultimate test. Battle is inevitable, but victory is not.
This next Lionheart novel sounds pretty damn awesome and it looks like Kane is planning to explore a huge amount of Richard’s life during this book. Based on what was featured in Lionheart, Crusader will contain all the politics, battles, family drama and betrayals that were in the background of these exciting events, and I am really looking forward to seeing the author’s fascinating take on what happened during this period. From some pre-released chapters of Crusader, it looks like Kane will also continue the compelling story of Richard’s fictional companion Rufus, who serves as the series’ main point-of-view character. Rufus was an outstanding protagonist to follow in Lionheart, and it will be interesting to see how his tale continues in Crusader, especially as he is engaged in a deadly rivalry with fellow knight Robert FitzAldelm. This rivalry was an exciting addition to Lionheart’s plot, and I look forward to seeing it get ramped up in Crusader, especially now that FitzAldelm knows that Rufus murdered his brother. So far this has been one of the most impressive series to focus on Richard the Lionheart that I have read, and I cannot wait to see where Kane’s outstanding new series goes next.
The final book to be featured is Protector by Conn Iggulden. Without a doubt, Iggulden is one of the best authors of historical fiction in the world today, having written some spectacular novels across a range of different historical periods. This includes his epic Emperor series, which explored the life and death of Caesar, his Conqueror series, which followed the creation of Genghis Khan’s empire, his War of the Roses series which catalogued all the insanity that occurred during the titular English civil war and the outstanding standalone novel, The Falcon of Sparta. All of his previous novels have been truly exceptional reads that showcase the author’s mastery of all things historical.
His latest body of work is the Athenian series, which charts some of the most significant moments in the history of ancient Athens. This series started last year with the sensational The Gates of Athens, which focused on the war against the Persians, with this novel examining the origins and outcomes of the battle of Marathon and Thermopylae. The Gate of Athens was an incredible read that I deeply enjoyed, and I have been eagerly waiting to see how Iggulden would continue the cool story he set up in this first novel. The second Athenian novel, Protector, will be released on 18 May 2021, and while the official cover is not out yet, the synopsis makes it clear that this upcoming book will feature some fascinating battles and conflicts.
TWO LEGENDARY BATTLES.
ONE FEARLESS WARRIOR . . .
THE BATTLE OF SALAMIS
Persian King Xerxes stands over the smoking ruins of Athens, an army of slaves at his back. Come to destroy, once and for all, everything that the city stands for, he stares pitilessly at the hopelessly outnumbered Greeks.
Veteran soldier Themistocles cannot push the Persians back by force on land, and so he so does so by stealth, at sea. Over three long days, the greatest naval battle of the ancient world will unfold, a bloody war between the democracy of Athens and the tyranny of Persia.
THE BATTLE OF PLATAEA
Less than a year later, the Persian return to reconquer the Greeks. Tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides ready themselves for war. For the Spartans, Plataea is chance to avenge their defeat at Thermopylae. For the people of Athens, threatened on all sides, nothing less than the survival of democracy is at stake. And once again Themistocles, the hero of Salamis, will risk everything – his honour, his friendships, even his life – to protect his country.
Protector looks set to be an exciting and captivating read that will continue to explore some of the most fascinating periods of Greek history. It looks like each of the novels in the Athenian series will focus on two battles, in this case the battles of Salamis and Plataea, and Protector will no doubt contain Iggulden’s trademark deep dive into the intriguing history behind both epic conflicts. The previous entry in the series, The Gates of Athens, contained an impressive examination of the politics, key events and preparation each side did before the battle, as well as the impacts the battles had on both nations, and I think we can expect the same for Protector. I am deeply excited to find out more about each of these battles and I cannot wait to see the background battles for supremacy that occurred between some of the leading men of Athens. This novel has so much potential to be incredible, and I know that I am going to get through this novel extremely quickly.
As you can see above, 2021 is looking extremely awesome on the historical fiction front. All three of novels featured in this article are going to be absolutely incredible and, based on my prior experiences with each of these amazing authors, they all have the potential to easily receive a five-star rating from me. It is already certain that I am going to love all three of these cool books and I am extremely keen to read them as soon as possible.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. In the final Top Ten Tuesday for the year, participants needed to list their favourite books of 2020. This is a bit of a continuation of a series of lists I have been doing over the last month which highlighted some of the authors and books I have been most impressed with this year, including my favourite audiobooks and my top pre-2020 books I read this year. However, I am extremely excited to showcase my absolute favourite releases of the year, of which there are quite a few.
While most of 2020 has been absolutely shitty, I think we all got a little bit of solace out of the fact that it was a pretty amazing year for books, with a huge range of incredible releases coming out across the genres. I have had the great pleasure of reading or listening to so many outstanding books this year, and quite a few of this year’s releases have become instant favourites of mine. I must admit that I somewhat struggled to pull this list together, as there were so many books that deserved to be mentioned. Therefore, because I am a soft touch, and because the quality of the books I read this year is so impressive, I have decided to expand this list out to 20 entries. These 20 books are my absolute favourites from 2020, and I would strongly recommend every one of them to anyone who is interested.
Now, I should mention that there is going to be a bit of a crossover between the below entries and some other previous lists I have done before. In particular, several of these novels appeared on my Top Ten Favourite Audiobooks of 2020 list and my Top Ten Favourite Books from the First Half of 2020 list which I ran back in July. To make it onto this list, a book needed to be released here in Australia during 2020 and had to be a top quality read. I have not included any novels that I have not read this year, even they sounded awesome, and I am sure that several, such as The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso, would have made the cut. I have also excluded Call of the Bone Ships by R. J. Barker, as I am only partway through it at the moment. I decided to leave off my usual Honourable Mentions section, as the extra 10 entries kind of make it unnecessary. Overall, though, I have fairly happy with how this Top 20 list turned out and I think it contains a pretty good range of novels that really showcases the different types of books I chose to read this year. So without further ado, here is the list:
Let us start of this list with the masterclass in dark fantasy fiction that was The Trouble With Peace by the always awesome Joe Abercrombie. The sequel to last year’s A Little Hatred (which also made last year’s Top 20 Favourites list), The Trouble With Peace presents the reader with another exceptional and deeply entertaining read that places its damaged protagonists onto a whole new battlefield. Easily one of the best books I read all year, I have no doubt that the final book in this trilogy is going to top all my 2021 favourites lists.
The moment I heard that a new Ken Follett book was coming out in 2020 I knew that it was going to be one of the best historical fiction reads of the year, and boy was I right. The Evening and the Morning is an addictive and deeply compelling read that serves as a clever prequel to Follet’s iconic The Pillars of the Earth. Featuring an impressive historical backdrop and some great point-of-view characters, The Evening and the Morning was an exceptional novel that is really worth checking out.
There was no way that I could exclude the latest Usagi Yojimbo from this list. Readers of this blog know I am a major fan of the awesome and criminally under-read Usagi Yojimbo comic series by the masterful Stan Sakai, which follows a rabbit samurai in an alternate version of Feudal Japan. 2020’s entry, Bunraku and Other Stories, was another impressive entry in the series which easily made it onto this list due to its fun collection of stories, including one great entry that re-imagines the original Usagi Yojimbo comic (as seen in Volume One: The Ronin). This was a great read, and I cannot wait to get my next fix of Usagi Yojimbo.
I have long meant to check out the highly acclaimed Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, and 2020 was the year that I finally did, with the action-packed Battle Ground. Battle Ground was an exceptionally fun and exciting read that puts the protagonist in the middle of a massive supernatural war to decide the fate of Chicago. Epic in every sense of the word, I powered through Battle Ground in extremely short order and had an outstanding time listening to it. I am now a mega fan of this series and I plan to go back and listen to some of the older novels in the series next year.
Next we have one of the best debuts of 2020, The Thursday Murder Club by comedian Richard Osman. The Thursday Murder Club was a captivating and awesome murder mystery novel with strong comedic elements that sees a group of retirees attempt to solve a series of murders taking place around their retirement village. Funny, sweet, and containing an impressive mystery, this was a fantastic book from a great new author.
After writing one of my favourite debuts of 2019, Gideon the Ninth, up and coming author Tamsyn Muir, rockets her way onto my favourite reads of 2020 list with Harrow the Ninth. Harrow the Ninth is an exceptional read that follows a group of half-insane necromancers deep in space. Containing an extremely complex but ultimately exceptional narrative, this second book in the series proves to be an amazing read that I deeply enjoyed.
You have no idea how excited I was when I heard that bestselling author K. J. Parker was releasing a sequel to Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, which was one of my favourite books of 2019. This sequel is an awesome and entertaining continuation of the first book’s story, and this time it follows an actor who attempts to con everyone to save his city. Easily one of the funniest books I read all year, How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It was an automatic inclusion on this list, and I cannot wait to see if Parker is going to continue this fantastic series in the future.
Another great read from one of my favourite historical fiction authors, Lindsey Davis, The Grove of the Caesars was a compelling historical murder mystery which sees a sassy private investigator hunt a serial killer in ancient Rome. Highly recommended.
For the third year in a row, science fiction supernova Christopher Ruocchio makes his way onto my favourite books of the year list with the epic and impressive Demon in White. Serving as the third entry in his Sun Eater Sequence (which has also featured Empire of Silence and Howling Dark), this was an expansive and powerful science fiction novel that follows a doomed protagonist across a dark gothic universe. An absolute masterpiece, I guarantee that the next book in the series will be one of my top books of 2021.
Another new author I decided to check out this year was Sarah Beth Durst and her standalone fantasy novel, Race the Sands. This was an incredibly fun and intriguing read that sees the future of a distinctive fantasy realm decided with monster racing. I had a great time reading this fast-paced and exceptional book and I cannot wait to see how Durst’s next novel, The Bone Maker, turns out.
I do not think anyone is surprised that I included the latest Jonathan Maberry novel on this list. Ink was another captivating, if disturbing, novel from Maberry, who provides a more horror based read about a memory-stealing, tattoo-absorbing vampire who is hunting the haunted town of Pine Deep. I really enjoyed this book, and it proved to be another exceptional release from this clever author. Make sure to keep an eye out for Maberry’s next novel, Relentless, which will serve as the second entry in the Rogue Team International series (the first entry, Rage, was one of the best books of 2019), which will no doubt appear on this list next year.
What is an Unseen Library Top Ten list without a piece of Star Wars tie-in fiction on it? While there were some great Star Wars novels and comics this year (Doctor Aphra and Shadow Fall come to mind), this first volume of the new Darth Vader comic book series was easily the best piece of Star Wars fiction I read all year. Diving into the psyche of Darth Vader right after he reveals his identity to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, Dark Heart of the Sith is a deep and rich Star Wars tale that was one of the best comics of 2020.
Another great debut from 2020, The Kingdom of Liars was an impressive and inventive fantasy novel that sets a traitor’s son on a journey of redemption. Loaded with a compelling story and set in a great new fantasy setting, The Kingdom of Liars was an addictive read, and I think Nick Martell has a very bright future indeed.
I read quite a few good murder mysteries this year, but one of my favourites was Fair Warning by the always amazing Michael Connelly. Featuring his journalist protagonist Jack McEvoy, Fair Warning features a superb mystery that I had a wonderful time unravelling. While I did also enjoy Connelly’s other novel of 2020, The Law of Innocence, I think Fair Warning had the stronger story and it was another classic from Connelly.
If you are need of a laugh after 2020, do yourself a favour and check out this wacky and weird new novel from Jasper Fforde. Set in an alternate Britain where rabbits have become anthropomorphised and are now demanding equal rights, The Constant Rabbit is a wildly entertaining and amazingly clever read that contains some comedy gold. While I am a big fan of Fforde’s unusual novels (such as his last book, Early Riser), I was surprised by how funny I found The Constant Rabbit to be, and I honestly could not stop laughing as I read my way through it.
One of my favourite thrillers of the year was this latest entry in the Gray Man series by veteran author Mark Greaney (who made last year’s list with his military thriller Red Metal). One Minute Out sees Greaney’s assassin protagonist hunt down a group of human traffickers and engage them in all out war. An enjoyable, action-packed read, One Minute Out is an amazing novel and I cannot wait to read Greaney’s next book, Relentless.
An extremely fun fantasy novel set in a deadly magical school where everything tries to kill the students, need I say more? This was an epic and captivating novel that I ended up reading in a single night.
One of the top authors of historical fiction, Conn Iggulden, returned in 2020 with a brand-new series that chronicles the various wars the plagued ancient Athens. The first book in this series, The Gates of Athens, was an exceptional read that showed a whole angle to war against the Persians and which was an absolute treat to read. Highly recommended.
Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke
While I still have to pull a review together for this book, I had to include Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke on my favourites list. The sequel to one of my favourite books of 2018, City of Lies, Hollow Empire is loaded with intrigue, assassinations, and poison eaters in this great fantasy thriller.
The final entry on this list is the deeply thrilling horror novel, Devolution, which sees a small community cut-off from the rest of America attempt to survive an ancient terror, Sasquatches. Devolution was a fantastic novel from Max Brooks, author of World War Z, and it was another fun book that I smashed out in a day. I loved the action-packed and extremely clever narrative that Brooks cooked up for this novel and it was one of the most exciting and enjoyable books of the year.
Well, those are my 20 favourite books of 2020. It turned out to be quite a good list in the end, and I am very glad that I was able to highlight so many fantastic books. 2021 is set to be another excellent year for amazing reads (and let us face it, we all want out of 2020), and I will be examining some of my most anticipated books for the first half of the year next week. In the meantime, let me know what your favourite books of 2020 were in the comments below, and make sure you all have a happy and safe New Years.