My Favorite Reads of 2020

Well, this has been an… interesting year. If you can name it, chances are it’s happened. I’ve learned a lot about the strength many of my acquaintances possess. I truly wish they hadn’t needed to use so much strength and determination to make it through the year, but if wishes were horses, we’d all be eating steak. Anyway, I digress.

While the year has been all kinds of horrible for most, the books I’ve been fortunate to read were amazing. I rounded up my favorites but there is absolutely no way I can rank them in order from one to ten. Instead, they’re here with zero rhyme or reason, just a huge amount of appreciation. Without further rambling, here are my top ten 2020 reads:

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

This book was absolutely brilliant. I went into it with ridiculously high hopes, and they were more than fulfilled. There was a tension throughout that had me riveted, and Turton’s fantastic writing style kept me hooked from start to finish. Review

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

Holy guacamole, this book is awesome! My last book of the year (I might finish the sequel in time, but that’s a big might); I totally went out with a bang. The Queen of Blood had me riveted from start to finish. I should apologize probably to the family for all the things I didn’t get done while I was ignoring the real world to read this. Review

The Ventifact Colossus by Dorian Hart

This was a skillful and unique twist on questing fantasy. I loved all of the characters, each of which brought their own struggles and strengths to the group. This felt like a wonderful throwback to the type of book that spawned my love of the fantasy genre. The sequel was equally fantastic, and you can find my reviews for both books here: The Ventifact Colossus and The Crosser’s Maze.

Knight’s Ransom by Jeff Wheeler

I truly loved Knight’s Ransom. It had an Arthurian feel to it that I found engrossing. While larger things are going on in the world, the book followed mainly one man and focused on his character growth. There was no Big Bad poised to destroy life as everyone knows it, but the world still felt big, and the personal stakes felt just as important. Review

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn

This book was just flat-out fun. Ardor Benn, ruse artist extraordinaire, was an entertaining character, and his partners in crime were just as great. I particularly loved the heists they planned since they never ever worked out as expected. Review

Hollow Road Dan Fitzgerald

Hollow Road was extremely good. Its sequel, The Archive, made me tear up. That doesn’t happen often at all. This is an incredible series and I am dying to continue it. My review for Hollow Road can be found here. My review for The Archive can be found here.

The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold

Both this book and its sequel, Dead Man in a Ditch, were phenomenal. Gritty detective novel meets fantasy in this series and works extremely well. I loved the main character, Fetch Phillips, who is drowning in both regret and alcohol. His narrative voice was wonderful and I can’t wait for the next installment in the series. Review

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

If not for The Write Read Blog Tour that I took part in, this book wouldn’t have been on my radar. That would have been a shame, because it was so enjoyable. It was a bit like the movie Knives Out sans cable knit sweaters. I really liked going along with the main character as she tried to solve the mysteries presented to her. Review

Feathertide by Beth Cartwright

Feathertide was gorgeous. I really could stop there. The prose sucked me in and wouldn’t let go. It’s a masterpiece and I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t love about it. Review

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by K.J. Parker

This book was flat-out fantastic! It was the perfect combination of witty and thought-provoking. I highly recommend this one. I loved it so much! Review

So, there you have it. This was an extremely difficult list to narrow down. Have you read any of these books? Thoughts? Here’s to many more wonderful books in 2021!

Knight’s Ransom by Jeff Wheeler- ARC Review

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. A brutal war of succession has plunged the court of Kingfountain into a power struggle between a charitable king who took the crown unlawfully and his ambitious rival, Devon Argentine. The balance of power between the two men hinges on the fate of a young boy ensnared in this courtly intrigue. A boy befittingly nicknamed Ransom.

When the Argentine family finally rules, Ransom must make his own way in the world. Opportunities open and shut before him as he journeys along the path to knighthood, blind to a shadowy conspiracy of jealousy and revenge. Securing his place will not be easy, nor will winning the affection of Lady Claire de Murrow, a fiery young heiress from an unpredictably mad kingdom.

Ransom interrupts an abduction plot targeting the Queen of Ceredigion and earns a position in service to her son, the firstborn of the new Argentine dynasty. But conflict and treachery threaten the family, and Ransom must also come to understand and hone his burgeoning powers—abilities that involve more than his mastery with a blade and that make him as much a target as his lord. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on January 26th.

Reminiscent of Tad Williams’ The Dragonbone Chair, this book is obviously the work of a master. Every sentence, every word, is placed with care and precision. The story woven is a fantastic one, and I couldn’t put the book down.

This book follows Ransom- once a king’s hostage, now a knight hopeful- as he navigates the dangers involved in becoming a knight and in growing up. He finds himself in a very precarious position, in-between warring kingdoms. Threats, both from without the court and within, abound on all sides. One false step and Ransom could lose his sense of honor-or his life.

I loved absolutely everything about this book. The characters were fully developed, complex individuals, each with their own motivations and personalities. The book was told from Ransom’s point of view, interspersed with diary entries from Claire, the recipient of his affection. I loved Ransom, of course. He was often caught between his own sense of morality and the code of honor he swore to follow. It was fascinating and heartbreaking to see him realize that a knightly code of honor does not apply in every situation. His internal battles were just as interesting as his physical battles.

And what battles! They were so vividly painted, it was like being right in the middle of them. They all felt incredibly real. The adrenaline and bloodlust versus fear and even sadness at taking a life- it was all conveyed brilliantly. I often had my heart in my throat (a rather uncomfortable sensation, I might add), reading the fight scenes.

The secret deals and cutthroat politics were engrossing to say the least. Every time I thought I had a character pegged, they would do something completely unexpected. One particular person had me totally fooled. When they made their move, I was absolutely stunned. Even the smallest move can turn a chess game, I guess.

I was fully immersed in the world from page one. It was vast and so well described, I could picture everything perfectly. Honestly, from plot, to characters, to world development, there is nothing that wasn’t done wonderfully. This is an author I’ll be reading more from, I can tell you that.

If you like high fantasy, if you enjoy writers such as Tolkien, Tad Williams, and Sean Russell, if you like stories with a hint of Arthurian themes, you’ll love this book.