2020 isn’t a year that feels like it’s flying by. Rather, time has become a little meaningless. It wasn’t until I saw Mayri the BookForager and Dr Laura Tisdall post mid-year freak-outs that the penny dropped that yes, the end of June does mean we’re halfway through the year… so let’s take stock!
Best Book You’ve Read So Far This Year
AAAAH this is such a tough question. The Library of the Unwritten was so much fun. Mexican Gothic had so much atmosphere. Silver in the Wood was all the feelings. But I think it comes down to an arm wrestle between two of our Subjective Chaos fantasy nominees: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow or Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri.
…and if you think I’m picking between them, you haven’t heard the anguished screaming every time I look at my notional Subjective Chaos ballot.
Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far This Year
I feel odd picking Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri as it’s a very loose sequel, set many years after Empire of Sand with the ‘facts’ skewed by ignorance, lies, and racism. It’s one of those sequels / sidequels that has you reaching for the first book muttering ‘wait, did that happen?’ and a powerful, moving stand-alone tale of identity and heritage.
The best direct sequel – continuing a multi-book story arc – was The House of Sundering Flame by Aliette de Bodard (which I’ll review this weekend). The tension was undercut slightly by knowing some characters would survive to feature in Of Dragons, Feasts and Murder, but it was a very satisfying conclusion to the series narratives of compassion vs control, colonialism and complicity. Also, the most adorable dragon prince trying to do his best.
New Release You Haven’t Read Yet but Want To
I have a stack of 2020 releases I have not yet read, of which the most surprising are Empire of Gold by S A Chakraborty (…which I bounced off. That’s how bad lockdown has been for my reading health) and the most overdue is The Unspoken Name by AK Larkwood …but the one I’m likely to tackle first is A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians by HG Parry, just as soon as my Goldsboro box arrives. I am excite.
Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year
While there are stacks of amazing books coming up, if I’m entirely honest about my secret heart, I’m most looking forward to the final volume of The Expanse (nominally ‘due’ end of year, and I’ve not quite given up hope).
In releases that are more likely to actually happen, there are two more sequels dominating my Must Read Immediately list – Last Stand in Lychford (Paul Cornell) and Call of the Bone Ships (RJ Barker) – along with the epic glory of Unconquerable Sun, Kate Elliott’s gender-flipped Alexander the Great in space.
And no, I’m not ever going to give a single answer to any of these big questions.
Sadly, this one goes to Bone Silence by Alastair Reynolds. It’s not terrible, but it’s not the end to the trilogy I was hoping for so the disappointment factor was very high. My problems here are largely technical; I think it would benefit from a ruthless edit – the world, characters and ideas are brilliant, but the execution left me very frustrated.
I think this has to go to The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K S Villoso, which I wrestled with a little whilst reading as it wasn’t at all what I expected – but which settled well, leaving me well-disposed to the series and keen to read the sequel.
Favourite New Author
Emily Tesh nips around Alix E Harrow to claim the title with Silver in the Wood, a simmering romantic fantasy of the greenwood and its spirits. Or possibly, if I’m honest, for the redoubtable Mrs Silver, about whom I could stand to read a Whole Lot More. Yes, I’ll be reading sequel Drowned Country the day it comes out.
Newest Fictional Crush
I don’t really understand the concept of fictional crushes. Call me old (working on it) and grumpy (regularly).
Newest Favourite Character
…I think we all know this goes to Mrs Silver, who has already made one sneak appearance in this list.
Book that Made You Cry
ALL OF THEM.
Okay, I exaggerate. But quite a few, so picking one that will surprise nobody that knows me: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers for tackling how deep space exploration is inevitably about turning your back on home; for exploring the many shapes of love; for the gift of crowd-funded science for the good of all mankind; and for starting and ending with a question that goes straight to the heart of hope.
Oh look, I’m crying again.
Book that Made You Happy
Most of them, to be honest – I’m having a good year! A special shout-out goes to Triggernometry by Stark Holborn for being a rip-roaring good time in a Wild West that never was, where cash is illegal and mathematicians are outlaws. Expect epic gun battles with precisely calculated angles, unreliable allies, bar fights, train jobs – and an array of fabulous characters (crucially, not just men).
Favourite Book to Film Adaptation
You what now? No.
The best film I saw at the cinema was Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which I cannot wait to see again for its gorgeous images of women having difficult feelings.
Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year
What Books Do You Need to Read by the End of the Year?
More than I’m going to be able to fit in. I’ve got an ARC backlog, a backlist backlog, a Subjective Chaos backlog, and new books keep coming out…
That said, I am absolutely determined to read The Dragon Republic and The Burning God by R F Kuang. The Poppy War is seared on my memory and I need to see how this trilogy develops and ends.