Top Ten Tuesday: 2019 discoveries

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. It’s all about books, lists and sharing the love we have of both with our bookish friends. Today we’re looking back at what we learned to love in 2019, which for me means new-to-me authors!

It was only when I sat down to compile this week’s top ten that I realised how many of my favourite reads of 2019 were by authors I hadn’t read before. Sorry not sorry for the repetition – as I genuinely believe these debuts are worth raving about to get them into as many hands as possible.

No, I won’t ever stop going on about The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. I know I’ve been raving about it for nearly a year, but with book three coming out this summer you can expect to hear a good deal more about it yet (sorry, not sorry). I’ve also spoken a few times about how much I loved Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri – the companion novel, Realm of Ash, is one of my most-anticipated reads for 2020.

Sue Burke’s Semiosis was one of our Subjective Chaos nominees, and I really must get around to reading the sequel. It’s an unusual story in both the form of alien intelligence contacted and in how it explores the progression of an idealistic utopian society over multiple generations. Thought provoking!

Brightfall by Jaime Lee Moyer and Foxfire, Wolfskin And Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women by Sharon Blackie are both magical re-imaginings of classic tales. Moyer gives us Marian as a middle-aged hedge witch, trying to solve crimes while a waspish Robin struggles to come to terms with his many misdemeanours. Blackie gives her fairytale heroines teeth and new endings that sidestep many of the issues inherent in our traditional stories.

Not a retelling but a stylish take on classic tropes, Soon by Lois Murphy is outside the run of my usual reading: a claustrophobic horror that is all the better for focusing on character, relationships and mental health.

Sometimes a debut comes along and is so outrageously deft that you’re signed up for all the author’s future works before you’re even halfway. Sometimes, you read three such books in a year.

Arkady Martine delivers a political space opera full of poetry and imperialism in A Memory Called Empire (bonus points for a delightful queer romance). Andrew Skinner stole my heart with his tale of an aged battle mech forging an unexpected connection with convict pilot Rook as they fight off an ancient viral menace in Steel Frame. Last but not least, Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells is a dystopian space western in which two headstrong – and very different – ‘sisters’ find themselves at the forefront of a fight with a major corporation to protect their community. Magic in my space opera? Don’t mind if I do.

Book cover: The Bone Ships - RJ Barker

I read RJ Barker’s debut (Age of Assassins) early in 2019, but it was the first book of his second trilogy that left me begging for more. The Bone Ships is one of the best fantasies of last year, a wild sea adventure as a boatload of the condemned challenge the convictions of their culture and sail in search of a fabled sea monster.

What authors did you read and love for the first time last year?