Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Shocking twists

Okay, so, having damned Patrick Lee’s most recent title with faint praise (“It’s fine, I guess, but it doesn’t provide the shocking plot twists of his other books), I guess this post is topical: 13 SFF novels with shocking twists.

A good twist is always fun, no matter what genre you’re reading. But a head-spinning twist in a science fiction or fantasy novel is extra special. You might think twists are easier in these books because an author could just change the rules and make anything happen — but the opposite is true. Sci-fi and fantasy authors have to be careful not to destroy the “rules” of their world, lest they destroy readers’ suspensions of disbelief. This makes pulling off a twist is a huge challenge. Here are some sci-fi and fantasy books with the best twists.

This post is from BookBub, and I would lay out quite a bit of money that their list does not include the top five SFF novels with shocking (but believable, which not all authors can pull off) twists that leap to my mind.

Mine:

  1. The Breach and sequels by Patrick Lee. Marketed as thrillers, but definitely SF thrillers.
  2. And All the Stars by Andrea K Host
  3. The Demon’s Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan
  4. The Queen’s Thief by MWT, but you could make a case for any book in this series.
  5. Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby

Now that I’ve picked out five, let’s see what the BookBub post includes on their list. Okay, yes, none of the ones above. They’ve got some good candidates, though. for example, they’ve got Ender’s Game on their list. Okay, yes, that one is a good choice.

Lots I haven’t read. Some I have. Childhood’s End — there’s a classic. I didn’t much care for it decades ago when I read it and I liked it less when I went back to it much later. Arthur C Clarke never was an author whose work really appealed to me.

Several others here I started but couldn’t finish — Three-Body Problem, The Fifth Season. Others look like horror more than SFF. Nineteen Eight-Four is here. That seems justifiable.

All right, if you were making a top-ten or top-five list for Great SFF With Stunning Twist, what would be on it?

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5 Comments Shocking twists

  1. Meera

    I really like Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series. The first novel (The Steerswoman) has a kind of slow burn twist in the whole world building; and the second (The Outskirter’s Secret) has a character twist that got me. Plus they’re generally great books – fabulous conceit and world building, awesome female characters, really well written, and the whole series is strong.

  2. Alison

    How about the Castings Trilogy by Pamela Freeman? Great story, beautifully written , with a shocking twist .

  3. rilkefan

    The third book in the Steerswoman series has a pretty shocking series of twists for that matter. I’d say the first book is very good, the second and third are fabulous, and the fourth is ok.

    The First Law Trilogy is up there in shock.

    One might consider the events on Mt Doom.

  4. SarahZ

    I’d say there’s a very good twist in The Raven Boys, and I haven’t read it recently but I remember being impressed by one in Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy.

    I think the Megan Whalen Turner ones are my favorites, with the best reread impact.

  5. Rachel

    I hadn’t thought of the Steerswoman series for this, but yes, there are some really nice twists in that one. The series is wonderful except, alas, not finished.

    I haven’t read the Castings trilogy — I’ll have to take a look at it.

    Fine, yes, I agree that the First Law trilogy and also BEST SERVED COILD all have quite a few shocking twists. I loathed all of the twists, so yeah, did not think of these books, but twists certainly are all through these stories.

    I loved most things about The Raven Boys series, but the think I’m thinking of that was a shocking twist … that element didn’t work that well for me. As opposed to MWT’s Attolia stories, where every twist makes me cheer.

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