The best fantasy novels of the past decade


And sure, I’m at least mildly curious. I do think this sort of thing should generally be phrased: 42 Of My Personal Favorite Fantasy Novels Of The Past Ten Years, because even if you start off by trying to list THE BEST, you’re probably going to slide toward your own personal favorites before you get to forty-two.

Also, why forty-two? Besides the obvious reason, I mean. Why not ten, which is the correct number for a Top Ten list, or twenty, which is a sensible number people can realistically consider in a single post? Or, if you’re going for a longer list that is really (in my opinion) too long, why not fifty?

Also, I have to say, limiting the list to “the past ten years” is all very well, there are good reasons to do that, but you DO REALIZE that you’re cutting Patricia McKillip off your list when you do that, right? Because she did have one book come out in the past decade, but it was by no means her best. I’m sure there are other authors in the same category of THE BEST EVER but not in the past ten years.

But sure, fine, the past then years, lots of great books, of course.

Are any of the fantasy novels I personally think might reasonably be included actually on this list? I’ve read a lot fewer books in the past ten years than I did in the years previous to that because writing takes up a lot of time, so I feel like I’ve probably missed practically everything. Also, I haven’t wanted to read high-tension books for the past couple of years. Besides that, I think some of the self-published books I’ve read in the past few years have been absolutely stellar, and there’s no chance they’ll be on a list like this.

I might pick … hmm … in no order whatsoever:

The Goblin Emperor, which I do think might also be on this list. Of course you know how much I loved this book.

Piranesi, and I feel this is a no brainer and will also probably be on this list, or if it’s not, I don’t know why not. It was a highly visible work since it’s the only other novel Susannah Clarke has written, everyone has heard of it and probably read it, and it’s beautiful. Here’s my review.

The Scholomance trilogy, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of that first. You all know I loved that one.

But I’m also going to add From All False Doctrine, which is so well put together, so beautifully written, and so coherent in theme that I think it could arguably belong on a list of The Best Fantasy of the past ten years. Here’s my review.

And then I’d have to pause and consider. Rather than doing that, let me click through to the Book Riot post and see what’s actually on there …

Oh, yes, there’s The Goblin Emperor! Well, good. I’m a little surprised, and also, has anybody read the second book where Celehar is the pov protagonist? I found the first book frustrating, partly because it just wasn’t the book I wanted for the sequel, but largely because Celehar is such a doormat. Has he begun to overcome that problem in the second book? Because, sheesh.

What else? Let me see … lots of titles I recognize but haven’t read; a few I tried but didn’t finish; at least one I tried and found thoroughly underwhelming. Oh, there’s Uprooted. Well, you know I eventually turned out not to like this book very much even though I loved it the first time I read it.

So many books that are on my radar, some of which I actually own, such as Jade City.

Despite many, many interesting and enticing books on the Book Riot list, and despite Sarah Beth Durst being a bit hit or miss with me, I nevertheless find Race the Sands maybe the one that draws me the most:

This is a splendid cover, and although I didn’t much care for National Velvet as a kid, when I read practically nothing but animal stories, describing this one as a retelling of that classic story does draw me toward this book. Here’s the description:

Life, death, and rebirth—in Becar, who you are in this life will determine your next life. Yet there is hope—you can change your destiny with the choices you make. But for the darkest individuals, there is no redemption: you come back as a kehok, a monster, and are doomed to be a kehok for the rest of time.

Unless you can win the Races.

After a celebrated career as an elite kehok rider, Tamra became a professional trainer. Then a tragic accident shattered her confidence, damaged her reputation, and left her nearly broke. Now, she needs the prize money to prevent the local temple from taking her daughter away from her, and that means she must once again find a winning kehok . . . and a rider willing to trust her. Raia is desperate to get away from her domineering family and cruel fiancé. As a kehok rider, she could earn enough to buy her freedom. But she needs a first-rate trainer. Impressed by the inexperienced young woman’s determination, Tamra hires Raia and pairs her with a strange new kehok with the potential to win—if he can be tamed.

But in this sport, if you forget you’re riding on the back of a monster, you die. Tamra and Raia will work harder than they ever thought possible to win the deadly Becaran Races—and in the process, discover what makes this particular kehok so special.

I’m drawn in by all these characters, I’m curious about the kehok lion, and hey, this is a standalone, which is a plus. I think I might actually have this downstairs in paper! If not, I should at least pick up a sample.

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8 thoughts on “The best fantasy novels of the past decade”

  1. I didn’t notice that, Jo. I think that could be legitimate — general acclaim might make me put certain books on a Best Ever list without reading them — but I do think it would be BETTER to have made that judgment myself.

  2. Kathryn McConaughy

    I did read both of the Celehar books. Although he seemed passive at first, he gradually started becoming more active. He’s the kind of person who will act from conviction despite just wanting to hide in a hole for the rest of his life. He grew on me!

  3. I agee that Celehar is growing out of being a doormat. He is beginning to forgive himself for the death of his former lover and almost believes he has a right to friendship and perhaps love.

    I would put The Hands of the Emperor on any list of recent best.

  4. Well, Jeanine, PROBABLY they didn’t have that in mind — but every time someone chooses 42 instead of 40 or 50 or some other round number, the possibility crosses my mind.

    OtterB, I think The Hands of the Emperor exemplifies the tendency to switch from “Best” to “Personal Favorites.” It definitely belongs on any list of my personal favorites, but imo it’s too seriously flawed to belong on a list of The Best. The plotting needs to be tighter for me to put a book on a list of The Best.

    I’m glad to know that Celehar might be a bit more willing to stand up for himself. Maybe I’ll wait till the third book is out and then read the whole series again from the top.

  5. Loved… *loved* The Goblin Emperor. Not so taken with the The Witness for the Dead and not at all with The Grief of the Stones which felt as if it cut off half way through and hadn’t said anything. Truly not worth it. But The Angel of the Crows, which came after TGE (I think) is outstanding – well worth the time. A kind of alternative Sherlockian mystery with a genuinely fascinating premise surrounding the Angel and how it arises and where it might go. And a couple of lines of dialogue that had me spitting [nameless hot beverage] all over the keyboard. That one’s ace, though not up to TGE.
    I did enjoy the ones Katherine Addison wrote as Sarah Monette with Elizabeth Bear. A Companion to Wolves and its sequels were amazing, though the cast of characters was as wide and as confusing as any I’ve come across. I also rather imagine the premise (men bind with wolves to become semi-superhuman) and the integral ‘what happens when a bloke bonds with a she-wolf and then the bitch comes into season and is covered by all the wolves and the bloke is likewise served by all the men?’ might be the reason it didn’t take off more. Good though. Worth a try.

  6. Oh, I loved A Companion to Wolves! And the second book, though … they took the third book in one direction, and I’d kind of written that book in my head in a completely different way. So … not their fault, but I didn’t love that one.

    Dreadful names. I mean, I love names, even confusing names, but wow, not those names. And I couldn’t help but overthink trellwolf behavior.

    Here are my comments after reading the first two.

    I’m glad to see your comments abut Angel of the Crows. I’m not really a Sherlock Holmes fan, so I haven’t been inclined to look at it. But given it’s by Sarah/Katherine, I’ll probably take a look at it eventually.

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