I could pick out a top-ten list of titles, or of authors, but I kind of feel like I have more or less done that already this year. So instead, a slightly different kind of Best Of 2013 List:
Best male protagonist: It’s a tie between Kaoren Ruuel from Andrea Host’s Touchstone Trilogy and Shevraeth from Sherwood Smith’s A Stranger to Command. I have a massive weakness for intelligent, dedicated, intense, do-the-job uber-competent guys.
Best female protagonist: Tremaine from Martha Wells’ The Fall of the Ile-Rien trilogy. I also definitely have a weakness for ruthless practicality. Besides, Tremaine is a perfect example of why, when you talk about “strong” female protagonists, the goal should be complexity rather than kickass. Not that there’s anything wrong with a kickass female protagonist (Kate Daniels, I’m thinking of you), but that is not what should leap to mind in the perennial discussion about “strong” female protagonists.
I also really loved Hanani, the female lead from NK Jemisin’s The Shadowed Sun. Hanini is far more classically feminine than Tremaine, but just as real. Actually, you could do worse than look at Hanani as a model of feminine strength.
Best older female protagonist: Believe me, there are nothing like enough older women who get to play leading roles. Young protagonists are all very well, but it IS nice to every now and then get acquainted with a protagonist my age or older. Maskelle from Martha Wells’ The Wheel of the Infinite is pretty fabulous. Samarkar from Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts is also a fantastic example of an older woman protagonist.
Sweetest romance: Oh, come on. Is there any question? Dom and Jamie in The Chocolate Touch, obviously.
Best animal character: Bansh, the horse in Range of Ghosts. “Bansh” means “dumpling”, btw. Extra points for naming a magic horse “dumpling” – but of course it’s not obvious she is a magic horse when Temur first meets her. I love it when a well-drawn animal character supports a great protagonist. I’m so looking forward to the third book of this trilogy; I will love re-reading Range of Ghosts and then tearing through the second and third books.
By the way, Here’s a review I particularly like for Range of Ghosts .
Most tense: In the Shadow Unit series? When Chaz is being held prisoner by his creepy father? Whoa. I’m telling you, I could not turn the pages fast enough.
Most moving: Moon’s reintroduction to his natal clan and his mother. That whole scenario, which took up a big chunk of the third Raksura book by Martha Wells, The Siren Depths. And that part when Stone arrives. Yeah. That part, too.
Most elegant writing: For sheer elegance and quality of writing, it’s hard to beat River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay. Or, actually, though obviously very different, 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson also stands out for elegant prose. To me, this rather implies that experience does matter, given that a writer starts off with a natural feel for beautiful prose and then (perhaps) improves.
Snappiest dialogue: Hector Lear in Sinner by Greg Stolze. I think Sinner may have been the single *wittiest* book I read this year.
Best vampire: Nobody is ever going to beat Barbara Hambly’s Simon Ysidro. This series has it all if you enjoy historical settings and great characterization. This year’s installments were Blood Maidens and Magistrates of Hell.
Most elegant book design: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennen. That one has just every detail in perfect harmony with the story. It is definitely one to pick up in paper rather than e format.
World I would like to visit or live in: Generally fantasy worlds are not anyplace you would want to visit, much less live in — unless you get to specify that you have amazing super powers. Welce, from Troubled Waters and Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn, is an exception.