Tuesday, December 11, 2018


After going back and forth about whether or not I should compile an end-of-the-year top 10 list of my favorite reads of 2018, I finally relented and decided to create said list. Partly because that's just what you do in the month of December isn't it?  And partly because I truly believe that these books should be recognized once again because they were that good and left quite a mark on me as a reader.  Another point of pride with this list is that it contains many self-published authors, which just goes to show that you don't have to be signed up with a big time publisher to put out work of the highest quality.  Hopefully in 2019 I can read even more self-published titles (I am definitely making a concerted effort to try and do so).  It was really difficult to pick just ten books when I read so many great titles this year, but I have tried to highlight the ten that I thought stood out just a tad more in my mind. So without further delay, and for what it's worth, here are MY TOP 10 SFF READS OF 2018:

10. THE BLIGHTED CITY by Scott Kaelen (Self-Published):  This book made it all the way to the semifinals in Mark Lawrence's hugely successful Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off contest.  And deservedly so in my opinion because it really is a captivating read.  Scott's creepy and atmospheric medieval fantasy with a heavy dose of the undead and supernatural really made this book an instant favorite.  For anyone looking for a different kind of fantasy that doesn't follow the usual farmboy turned hero tropes, look no further than this fantastic read!

9. BLOOD OF HEIRS by Alicia Wanstall-Burke (Self-Published):  This was a book that totally appeared on my radar by accident, but I am so glad that it did.  I was on Twitter one day and Alicia had posted that she was giving out ARCs for any bloggers that wanted one.  Well, I read the synopsis and was all in.  BLOOD OF HEIRS is a brilliant dark fantasy that deals with warring clans, invading armies, and characters who are tested beyond measure as they attempt to discover their true selves.  I highly recommend this amazing book for anyone who likes their fantasy dark, brutal, and with lots of action and intrigue.

8. A GATHERING OF RAVENS by Scott Oden (Thomas Dunne Books):  Scott Oden's masterful fantasy book steeped in Norse Mythology came at a time when I was reading a lot of the same style of fantasy.  To say that it was a breath of fresh air would be an understatement.  If you like fantasy that includes folklore, mythology, gods, medieval locales, and characters who are unforgivingly menacing, then A GATHERING OF RAVENS is a book that you should pick up very soon.  Simply one of the more original fantasy reads I have ever encountered.

7. KINGSHOLD by D.P. Woolliscroft (Self-Published):  This book simply took my breath away when I had the pleasure of reading it earlier this year.  KINGSHOLD is a book that slowly builds to a magnificent crescendo and is to be savored with every page.  If you like your fantasy with a great deal of court intrigue and intelligence, then this book should be at the top of your reading list.  A wonderful medieval fantasy peppered with politics and skulduggery, I loved every paragraph of this superbly-written tome.  I plan on reading the follow-up very soon and can't wait to immerse myself in this world again.

6. PRIEST OF BONES by Peter McLean (Ace Books):  This book was a tremendous read and I enjoyed the grimdark setting.  The thing that separated this book from the usual grimdark fare however was its main character Tomas Piety.  A very complex character who vacillates between the brutality and coarseness of his past self and his newly transformed nature as a person of forgiveness and spirituality.  This was described by someone as 'grimdark with heart" and I couldn't agree more with that assessment.  Definitely one of my favorite reads of the year and one that I highly recommend to fans of Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, and Ed McDonald.

5. RAVENCRY by Ed McDonald (Gollancz):  Speaking of Ed McDonald, his book RAVENCRY comes in at number five on my list.  This fabulously stunning follow-up to his first book Blackwing really solidified him as an author who I must read every time a new book comes out.  This book is at once violent, emotional, action-packed, compelling, and absolutely an assault on the senses.  I described it in my review as "a blistering symphony replete with eruptions of woodwind, string, and timpani."  I think that pretty much sums up the feel of this book.  A true treasure that you should not miss.

4. PATERNUS: RISE OF GODS by Dyrk Ashton (Paternus Books Media):  This book is incredibly hard to describe to someone who asks what genre it is.  It incorporates so many styles: action adventure, urban fantasy, horror, mythology and folklore etc... Regardless of the fact that all of those genres play a part in this tale, Dyrk juggles them deftly and combines them into one seamlessly brilliant story that will have you on the edge of your seat from the opening page to the last.  This book is filled with twists and turns and it made me a huge fan of Dyrk's writing.  Just amazing!

3. FOUNDRYSIDE by Robert Jackson Bennett (Crown Publishing): I am a huge fan of Bennett's Divine Cities trilogy and when this first book in his new series became available, I requested it and then subsequently gobbled it up in a week's time.  FOUNDRYSIDE has the most original magic system that I have read in quite some time.  The setting is dark and atmospheric and the characters are at odds with an oppressive government that looks down upon those who they deem inferior.  There is so much that I loved about this book and I also really enjoyed the fact that it was a total departure in style and feel from his previous series.  I thought that it just served to show Bennett's versatility as an author, all the while delivering as good if not a better story than his previous work.  This is a must-read for any fantasy fan in my opinion.

2. SENLIN ASCENDS by Josiah Bancroft (Orbit):  One of the best success stories in the book industry, SENLIN ASCENDS went from a self-published first novel to a best-selling sensation after being discovered years after its initial release.  This isn't just one of my favorite reads of 2018, it is among the best books I have ever read in my life.  A wonderful fantasy adventure story that tells the tale of Thomas Senlin and his desire to scale and explore the legendary Tower of Babel with his wife on his honeymoon.  When they are separated in the swarming masses visiting the tower, Thomas must find her inside the mysterious and bizarre levels that make up the structure.  Thomas soon finds that he may have gotten a little more than he bargained for as the mysteries of the Tower begin to be revealed in a series of events that may or may not lead to his eventual demise.  Definitely recommended for anyone who enjoys a great overall story, let alone a great fantasy story.

1. A TIME OF DREAD by John Gwynne (Pan Macmillan):  For those who are unaware, John Gwynne's The Faithful and The Fallen series is in my top 10 fantasy series of all-time.  So John was already a favorite author of mine before this first book in his new series was released.  A TIME OF DREAD takes place in the same world as that previous masterpiece of a series and the story is taken to another level altogether in this entry.  This was clearly my favorite read of 2018 and I knew that it probably would be even though I read this one way back in April.  If you are looking for a fantasy read that has it all, I mean all of the check boxes checked, then A TIME OF DREAD should be tops on your priority list.  The second book in the series A Time of Blood is due out in early 2019, so I'm already gearing up to acquire an advance copy of that one.  But definitely read A TIME OF DREAD if you haven't already.  This one ranks right up there with the absolute best books in the genre.

And there you have it, My Top 10 SFF Reads of 2018.  If you are looking for something new to read, maybe you will find something on this list to tickle your fancy.  You really can't go wrong by choosing any one of these fine stories. For those who would like a more detailed review of any of these books, you can find the full reviews in my blog's review archive. I feel incredibly lucky that I got to read so many great books this year and am looking forward to reading even more come 2019.  Hope you liked the list and as always, thanks for taking the time to visit Out of This World SFF Reviews.  Happy reading!  - Nick

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