Favourite Fantasy books of the year 2019

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There’s only so many times I can say I love reading and I’m sure I’ve said it more than anyone has the right to say. There is just something about disappearing into a fictional world and not recognizing your own world when you return. I notice the books I read linger with me because I’m still craving martial arts (after reading The Dragon Republic) and am going to start watching anime. No offense to this “real” world but book worlds are so much better. And I read so much, not just for escape, but to experience. Experience magic, medieval and futuristic times, and lean, muscular boys who know how to pick and win fights (God knows there’s such a scarcity of them in the real world). 

So without further listing of the qualities guys lack these days, these are some of the books I remember reading and enjoying this year. (PS: the reviews are very biased but you’re good if you trust my opinion). 

Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo

Of course this has to be number 1. If you know me, you’ll know how much I love this book. Read it 3 times (and I hardly reread books) and listened to the audiobook. The gist: Kaz Brekker is a barrel boss who earned himself the nickname DirtyHands because he will do anything, no matter how dirty it is for the right price. And when Van Eck, a wealthy merchant asks him to break out the world’s most wanted man from the most secure prsion in the world, he agrees for thirty million kruge. He assembles his team: Inej Ghafa, his spy (and crush), Jesper Fahey, a sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a gamble, Nina Zenik, a Heartrender Grisha, Matthias Helvar, a convict and Wylan Van Eck, demo guy but also Kaz’s insurance. These kids are great at what they do but even they have limits not to mention family, ego, past and heart issues. Their journey is a dangerous one but if they survive, they’ll be wealthy. And the sound of 5 million kruge each is as sweet as bells.

Honestly, this is the best heist book ever. 

Honorable Character Mentions

Kaz Brekker has ruined me for any other fictional male teenager. 

The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic by R F Kuang. 

And to think this is a debut novel. Abeg, she killed me with this book. When I was done reading, I started thinking of how to enroll in a martial arts school. The world of the story, Nikan, is based on Japanese history during World war II. 

The gist: 

Fang Run-in is a war orphan living in the small town of Tikany in Nikan working hard selling opium for her  foster parents. But when Aunty Fang wants to sell Rin off into a marriage to an older man, she knows she has to do something to change her life. So she takes the Keju tests, and to her and everyone’s surprise, she passes and gets into Sinegard Academy, the country’s top military school. There she makes friends and enemies and unlocks the rare and scorned ability to call a god. Specifically, the Phoenix, the god of fire and vengeance. But before Rin can finish military school, Nikan is at war again and only Rin’s powers can save her friends and country but at the cost of losing her sanity and herself.  

Honorable Character Mentions

Rin is a very strong main character but I just didn’t understand her craziness at times. Absolutely loved Altan but he was such a jerk. And I adored Kitay and I have a soft spot for Nezha no matter how stuck up he is. If you love martial arts, Japanese history, myths and crazy twists, this one will ruin you for any other book. Book 3 comes out in 2020

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor.

Nnedi is my writing hero and ever since reading this book I have realised so many things:

  • Nnedi is a witch.
  • African Futurism and African Jujuism is a real genre that I can write in.
  • The African pantheon and cosmology is the most powerful in the world.

The Gist:

Onyesonwu is an Ewu, a child born of an Okeke mother and a Nuru father. In the village she grew up with her mother and stepfather (both Okekes), she is discriminated against because of the colour of her skin. But Onyesonwu is no ordinary child. Her Nuru father is a powerful sorcerer hell-bent on obeying the Great Ani’s will by wiping out the Okeke from the face of the world. And so Onyesonwu must journey with her friends, Binta, Luyu, Diti, and her lover, Mwita, across the desert into enemy territory to stop him and save everyone they love. It is a dangerous journey, but who fears death?

Honorable Character Mentions

I was in awe of Onyesonwu and Mwita’s love and power. It was very unlike all the fantasy books I have ever read because this showed true African magic at its best. I also liked the pace of the story: starting from when Onyesonwu was six years old till when she was twenty. 

An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I like how the book started off and the storytelling was sweet. I have read three of the four books (last one’s not out yet) but I didn’t finish the 3rd book. I had already had enough heartbreak.

The Gist:

In Serra the Martials rule over the Scholars and Laia’s brother, Darin has been arrested for stealing Martian secrets. He will probably be tortured and executed and Laia must do everything in her power to save him even if it means going into BlackCliff Academy to spy on the cruel and evil Commandant for the Resistance. 

Elias Venturia is the Commandant’s son and one of the best students at BlackCliff Academy but he hates the school and the Martial Empire and wants to run away. Except the punishment for desertion is death. 

Laia and Elias meet at the school but the king of the djinn has awakened magic, is trying to free his people and has all but declared war on humans. Laia and Elais must save Darin before he is executed and also save the empire.

Honorable Character Mentions
  • This book made me cry so many times, I couldn’t finish it. But with all the hurt, I was also blushing at Laia and Elias’s love. 
  • I always knew Keenan was suspicious but my oh my, I didn’t expect what he did. 

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Another trilogy that I didn’t finish again because I was afraid of what was going to happen. Like in Who Fears Death, the first book starts with the main character, Fitz, as a child and the story follows as he grows up.

The gist:

FitzChivalry Farseer is the bastard son of Chivalry Farseer, the heir to the throne. When his father refuses to acknowledge him, he lives under the stablemaster, Burrich, learning to care for animals. But little Fitz has the Wit, an ancient forbidden magic that allows him to communicate telepathically with animals and bond with one animal. Soon after, King Shrewd acknowledged him and trains him to be his assassin. But the Red Ship Raiders are getting braver and forging the coast cities and it’s up to Fitz to not use his Wit, learn Skilling (ancient magic that allows royalty to telepathically communicate with humans), and save everyone or at least save the people who can save everyone. 

I was in love with the idea of the Fitz bonding with puppies because I am a puppy lover myself (Get me one for my birthday or Christmas?) And I absolutely related with Fitz. His journey from poor bastard boy to strong royal assassin with awesome magic gave me thrills. 

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

This was the first book by Nnedi I ever read and I cannot explain the feeling I got when I read a perfect young adult Nigerian fantasy book. It made me believe that anything was possible. 

The gist:

Sunny is an albino who was born in the US but brought to Nigeria when she was nine. Sunny loves playing football but she can’t play in the sun which is quite a bummer. But Sunny meets Orlu and Chi-Chi, her neighbours and finds out she’s a free agent, a leopard person whose parents are both non-leopards and she’s thrust into the world of magic and spirits. But someone is out there killing and maiming children and it’s up to Sunny (and her coven) to hide her powers from her family, get through school, figure out her powers and take down the bad guy. 

Even though Sunny was much younger than I am, I still loved her story. It had been long since I read such good, humour-filled, teenage-love-filled, fantasy (because nowadays, everyone’s a lone wolf and the love interest always does and it’s all so dark) and I enjoyed it.

Strange the Dreamer duology by Laini Taylor

This is my most recent read and the book that broke my no-reading spell. The title attracted me to it and I was hooked right from the beginning. 

The Gist

Lazlo Strange is an orphan, a junior librarian born to help great men, and a storyteller. But before he is any of those things, he is a dreamer. Lazlo has always been fascinated by the Unseen city, thousands of miles away where magic is said to exist but when he was six, the name of the city disappeared from his and everyone else’s memory and was replaced with, Weep. And soon everyone forgot about the city. Except Lazlo who dreamt of going to the city and when the Tizerkane, warriors from Weep come to Zosma to find scholars to help in their city, he decides to follow his dream. And even though he wasn’t a scholar, his ability to tell stories earned him a place as a delegate. He wants to know what happened to the city but the story of Weep is more strange and bizarre than anything Strange could ever dream up. 

Honorable Character Mentions

Thyon Nero, an antagonist, reminds me of Julian in DC’s The Flash. I finished the duology in less than two days. The storytelling was just too smooth and sweet. Plus mystery, plus plot twist, plus suspense, plus grief. 

Okay, that’s it for now. Over time, I will add my nonfiction list, other fiction list and longer book reviews (with or without spoilers) because if there’s one thing I love to talk about, it’s books.

Have you read any of the books above? Did you love them? What were your favorite fiction books of 2019? Let me know in the comment section below. 

Also, recommend anime that has Martials arts and lean, muscular bad boys.

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© Dee Caulcrick 2021