It’s the last Monday of 2022, so it’s time for my favorite list of the year – all the books I adored from my favorite genre of FANTASY (though I will try to squeeze in a couple of sci-fi books here too).
As expected, fantasy is my singular most read genre of the year, though I may have slowed down a bit towards the end of the year. However hard I try to diversify my genre reading, it’s hard not to gravitate towards secondary world fantasy because I love the escapism this genre offers me, and some days all I need is a good world to get myself lost in.
And I definitely have toooooo many books that I loved here, but I’m gonna try hard to keep this list manageable. And no, I’m not yet prepared to decide which of these are my top favorites because I love them all too much. I’ll leave that decision making for my last on the last day of this year.
For now, have fun checking out my list of favorite SFF novels I read this year, in no particular order….
I wanted to start my list with Kaikeyi because why not… It’s was my most anticipated release of 2022 and I tried every avenue possible until I managed to snag a physical arc of it, even though I was in India at the time. Then my stupid mood prevented me from reading it early, so I got the audiobook instead coz Soneela is an amazing narrator. And wow was that a killer combination. Vaishnavi’s beautiful prose and Soneela’s evocative voice made this an absolutely compelling novel to listen to, and the author took this story places I never imagined Kaikeyi’s retelling could go. Despite the criticism the author may have received, some very nasty, I loved her writing and imagination and now I’m waiting for her sophomore novel with bated breath, which I’m told is a surprise Mahabharata retelling. I’ll be first in line for that book when the arcs are out.
I didn’t even know much about the premise of Road of the Lost when I decided to read it. My only feeling was that I loved the author’s debut The Candle and the Flame and this cover was very captivating. And this turned out to be one of those fantasies which was unlike anything I read the whole year. On it’s face, you can call this a coming of age story of a young fae but the I’ve never read the faeries represented like this before. And it’s one of those books where the author just holds your attention with every single line. I have this bad (or maybe not) habit of skimming through endless descriptions in most books but I couldn’t do that here – every description just made me feel like a part of this world and it was just beautiful. If you haven’t read this but are a fan of fae books, do give this one a try.
I’m only using this cover of A Dowry of Blood because I listened to it before the author announced her Orbit deal and I actually like this cover instead of the new one. And this is another book where I was captivated right from the get go. Vampires, toxic love and obsessive relationships, kind of second person narration, enchanting characters who find their resilience in adversity – it all makes for very compelling and memorable reading. Abby Craden also does a wonderful job bringing the creepy vibes of this book to life.
I binge read The Rage of Dragons and The Fires of Vengeance at the beginning of the year and it was an intense few days because these books are dark and despairing and full of action, but also excellent world building, and characters whom you can’t help but root for. There’s just so much pain in these pages but also that tiny bit of hope which keeps the characters and us readers going and I can’t wait to what more the author will put us all through in the third book. I hope I will be able to get the third also on audio because Prentiss Onayemi is just a wow narrator.
Paladin’s Grace was my first experience with the bizarre genius that is T. Kingfisher’s writing and while I went in without any expectations, I was just blown away. I literally stayed awake the whole night listening to the audiobook (marvelously narrated by Joel Richards) and it just was such a strange but charming love story plus serial murder mystery, characters whose narrative voice felt very unique, and a world that was new and interesting and very lived in. I also read Paladin’s Strength and Nettle & Bone by the author later in the year and loved them too, but I will definitely cherish my first encounter with the author.
I don’t remember if I managed to finish any fantasy series this year except this one and finally getting to read Aru Shah and the Nector of Immortality was very satisfying. This series is five books worth of love letters to Indian mythology and it’s stories, but told in a more modern and accessible way, and I have loved all of them so much over the years. It felt very bittersweet but also nice to finally come to the end and I loved how the author managed to conclude it in a very profound manner, well suited to the person that Aru Shah has grown to be over the series. I may not read middle grade books much but I feel like I will still dabble in the age group as long as I find books like these.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge Game of Thrones fan. I can appreciate the show for the production, dialogue and sheer scale of it, as well as the so many lovely actors who were part of it. But I tried reading the first book and DNFd it three times. However, who would’ve thought it’s possible to reimagine the Mahabharata like GoT and create a grimdark fantasy world very much rooted in Indian culture and mythology. But that’s what debut author Gourav decided to do and gave us Sons of Darkness, which turned out to be an extremely compelling read with some stunning action sequences, dry humor and awesome characters, especially the women. And gave me the opportunity to imagine this story which I have loved since my childhood in a completely new manner. I can’t wait to see where he takes the story next.
I had no idea that this trilogy was a self-published and then acquired by Orbit, but I just kept hearing about it all over booktwitter, so I had to give it a try. I read Half A Soul in a single sitting on a 16 hour flight journey and it was definitely my source of joy on a very exhausting journey. I was immediately taken in by the charm of the world that the author has created and the very lovely characters and their love stories. I couldn’t get to it immediately but later did pick up Ten Thousand Stitches, and adored it even more because I’m completely taken in by one of the main characters. I still haven’t managed to read Longshadow but I do have a copy and hope I’ll be able to get to it soon.
I have zero imagination so I never would’ve thought that the vampire lore we are so familiar with now can also be reimagined in a completely new way, and one example of it is The Book Eaters. This book and it’s characters are both horrific and fascinating and it was very hard to keep the book down, especially when Katie Erich brings her northern accent and a very emotional resonance to her narration. I’m not always impressed by antihero characters but the author depicts one here masterfully and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
I don’t know what I was expecting when I went into This Poison Heart but it wasn’t to be immersed in secret garden vibes and greek mythology connections and so much sapphic goodness – but I got it all alongwith a beautiful story and found family. And the author outdid herself in This Wicked Fate with some profound exploration of grief and painful family history, while giving us a very satisfactory and bittersweet conclusion.
I won’t be lying if I said Legends & Lattes is a 2022 sensation in SFF publishing because in a genre filled with epic fantasies and insane action sequences, Travis Baldree decided to bring us joy and charm and slice of life storytelling to the forefront. I’ve always had a soft spot for books which place a significant importance on food, and this book does it extremely well because we spend all the time in a cafe, amidst the smells of coffee and cinnamon rolls and other pastries. I was just hungry throughout but also loving this adorable love story.
Unfortnately the only Sci-fi books on this list, but I can’t even imagine not having them here. Nophek Gloss was my first read of 2022 and I can still remember how stunned I was with the author’s imagination, and even when I couldn’t understand all the sciency bits, I was deeply engrossed and invested in the main character’s journey. And the author just went and upped the ante in Azura Ghost by giving us more characters to care for and worry about, and just absolutely stunning action sequences one after the other. I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Ethera Grave because I can’t even guess how this story is gonna end.
I was eager to read The Justice of Kings at the beginning of the year because I had heard amazing things about it and I was so impressed with the premise. And the author threw me off the loop immediately when we realize that the narrator is not gonna be the larger than life Lawyer/investigator Konrad but his assistant Helena. And then we get an epic fantasy murder mystery novel which has a world teetering on the edge of revolution, a conflict between religion and the law, and a lot of philosophizing about the importance of following laws. It’s a superb debut and I can’t wait to read The Tyranny of Faith.
How could I resist such a beautiful cover? I was in love with The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea even before I read it and I was glad that the story lived upto and beat my expectations. Rosa Escoda narrates it so beautifully that that I was immersed in the story from the beginning and especially the Spirit Realm was absolutely gorgeous in my imagination, and we get a beautiful story of family, love and friendship to go with the charming setting. This is definitely one of those standalones that I wish was a series instead, because I want to be transported there again.
Another cover buy for this year was A Magic Steeped in Poison but it also helped that the author promised tea magic in it. As soon as I started reading it, I realized that it had everything I loved about my favorite cdramas and I was immediately in love with it. The author managed to make this cool story even better in A Venom Dark and Sweet, with some spectacular action and gut wrenching family drama. Nancy Wu is brilliant as usual in her narration but Joshua Chang also brought some lovely vulnerability to his character’s voice.
Sangu’s debut Celestial trilogy is one of my all time favorites, so I was gonna read The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches anyways but I wasn’t sure what to expect from it. But this has been a great year for cozy and charming fantasies and this was another great addition to the list. This book probably has one of my favorite found families of the year, an absolutely swoony love story and an adorable little trio of children. Samara Maclaren brings both uncertainty and generosity to the character of Mika and her narration, and it was a very lovely listening experience.
What can I even say about The Stardust Thief which can do it justice? Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, an ode to oral storytelling, an eclectic cast of characters, perilous journeys across dangerous landscapes – this debut has everything I could ask for and more from an epic fantasy and I was deeply impressed. Another book where I’m just dying to read the sequel and I’m so sure that it’ll be even more amazing than the first.
I really liked the Iron Widow and I love Xiran’s youtube videos even more, so I had a feeling that Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor would be a good one too. And wow was this an absolute riot from get go. This book is full of heists and adventures and also felt like a test of all the Chinese mythology/history I’ve learnt in the past couple of years and it was a delight to read. It was probably the most fun I had the whole year, and I can’t wait to see what more wacky things our characters do in the next book.
I had a feeling when I went into A Strange and Stubborn Endurance that I would like this a lot but I didn’t realize it was gonna turn out to be my favorite romance of the year. It starts off with some horrific scenes but the rest of the story is all about love and getting to know each other and healing from trauma and I completely fell in love with our main couple. Cae and Vel have my heart and I can’t believe we are lucky enough to get more of their story next year. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve listened to parts of this audiobook but I just can’t resist relistening to the beautiful narration of Vikas Adam and James Fouhey.
Another book I was highly anticipating this year was Strike the Zither because while I know Joan He is an excellent author, I was even more excited about the fact that it’s a reimagining of Three Kingdoms and I just wanted to know how the author would do it. And it turned out to be as amazing and adventurous and twisty as I expected it to be. I even abandoned my plan to annotate the book because I just couldn’t go that slow and wanted to rush through the book and get to know what was gonna happen. Joan stabbed me in the heart a couple of times here and I thank her for it, and I’m sure she will thrill me even more in Sound the Gong next year. Ofcourse, this is another lovely addition to Nancy Wu’s audiobook repertoire and at this point, I can surely say that she can make any book better with her narration.
Mashup of genres – gimme gimme gimme..!!!! Empire of Exiles is an epic fantasy in the best possible way – it has some of the most detailed and extensive worldbuilding among all the books I’ve read this year and I don’t think I even remember all that was presented to us, but I was definitely very enthralled by this world the author has created. But it is also a murder mystery – where multiple characters with varied motivations decide to solve this mystery and it’s a thrill ride. We also have an extremely cool magic system which is modeled on anxiety (genius really..), a possible repeat of a coup, two maps to die for – and we get an almost perfect book. My copy also had a little glimpse into the sequel and the anticipation of exploring new settings and characters already has my expectations sky high.
Wow did this take me a long time to decide on and type up. Definitely one of the hardest posts to write of the year because how can I choose from among so many amazing books. But I’ve somehow managed it and if you are still here, I hope you liked reading my post. I also hope we have some favorites in common, so that we can gush about them in the comment section below.. I’m just relieved that I’m done making bookish lists… for now. I still have a couple to do but they’ll come in Jan or Feb, so it’s over for 2022. Ofcourse, do be on the lookout for my non bookish favorites coming up in a couple days, and my annual survey post on the 31st.
Another vote for Empire of Exiles! Maybe I can squeeze it into my schedule in 2023! ^_^
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I hope you do!! It really is a wonderful book.
Lot of good books this year! I may have to try Sons of Darkness, been seeing good things.
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Thanks Caitlin !!! I hope you will get to read Sons of Darkness.. it’s just hard to find copies right now coz the author cancelled his contract with his publisher 😟😟 I hope things get resolved and many others like you get to read it 😊😊
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What a great list! I see some of my own favorites like Irregular Witches and The Stardust Thief. I am really looking forward to Ten Thousand Stitches. I’ve seen many people say they enjoyed it more than the first. Great post!
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Thank you Alicia !!! And I hope you do get to Ten Thousand Stitches… it really was so much fun…
I love your list! The Book Eaters also made it onto my favorites list 😁
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That’s awesome!!!! Did I miss your list??? Link pls…
No, I’m posting it tomorrow!
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Looking forward to it 👍👍