Top Ten Tuesday: fantasy debuts

Text only: top ten TUESDAY

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl to share our love of books and lists with our bookish friends. This week I’m ignoring the official prompt in favour of a Wyrd and Wonder fantasy-themed topic…

Everybody has to start somewhere and sometimes they start on a stellar high that leaves you whimpering with joy. That’s right, this week I want to take a look at some of my favourite fantasy debuts. Some of these are now icons of the genre. Some may be on your TBR. I say they all deserve your time.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant – Seth Dickinson

Honestly, it’s almost inconceivable that this beautifully crafted, devastatingly good novel is a debut. I have nothing but awe for its intricacy and its ruthlessness. I didn’t pick this Top Ten Tuesday prompt purely so I could say READ THIS BOOK but, erm, do.

The City of Brass – S A Chakraborty

A richly-imagined period portal fantasy of djinn, which incorporates social commentary and religious prejudice into a rip-roaring tale of unexpected heritage. I love the characters as much as the world-building, and the plot had me in its grip from practically the first page.

The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch

Look, it’s one of my all-time favourite books for a reason. Everybody likes a thief with a good heart, but we like them better when they can trade barbed comments whilst making you dinner. Fantasy heists, political machinations and a dark mirror of Venice – immersive entertainment from start to finish.

To Kill A Kingdom – Alexandra Christo

To be honest, if ‘a retelling of the Little Mermaid where she rips princes’ hearts out’ doesn’t have you at hello then there’s nothing I can say that will persuade you this swashbuckling tale of sirens and pirates is worth your time. She buries the hearts under her bed, if you were wondering.

Empire of Sand – Tasha Suri

A Mughal-inspired fantasy world that takes familiar themes – finding yourself; being true to your heritage; the conflict between love and duty – and weaves them into something new. Dance magic has never been so awesome, nor consent so sexy. But mostly I love it for evoking the desert.

The Tethered Mage – Melissa Caruso

Yes, I rave about this book at the least opportunity but this is the perfect opportunity. Tightly-plotted, with vibrant characters and a world that leaps off the page, this is high stakes fantasy that cherishes friendship, family and feminism – whilst finding fault with its own world-building and demanding better. Fabulous.

The Rook – Daniel O’Malley

Myfanwy Thomas has no idea who she is; which is awkward, because she’s a senior office of the secret service tasked to keep Britain safe from the supernatural. An urban fantasy told with charm and humour, which I love all the more for making its villains Belgian.

The Poppy War – R F Kuang

2018 was a strong year for debuts, and this may be the strongest of the lot: welcome to an alternate China and a conflict that will leave scars on your soul. A magical military college, a coming of age saga, and an unflinching take on the horrors of war – and the lure of revenge.

Under the Pendulum Sun – Jeannette Ng

Of course, 2017 wasn’t bad either. My pick of the bunch is Jeannette Ng’s unusual Victorian fairytale, in which sibling missionaries to Fairyland find themselves toyed with by a faery queen. Measured and atmospheric, I loved this for its unnerving whimsy and bloodied fangs.

Kushiel’s Dart – Jacqueline Carey

Another titan of the genre, and another book it’s hard to believe is a debut. A god-touched courtesan is trained as a spy. Her particular talent – to bear pain – will take her further than her mentor ever imagined as she puts it to the service of queen and country. This is epic fantasy writ lush, with as much adventure and intrigue as sex appeal.

What debuts have knocked your socks off?