Best Fantasy Books of 2013

Below you will find a list of the fantasy books published in 2013 that we enjoyed most. Click on a book title to read the full review.

The Aylesford Skull by James P Blaylock (A Tale of Langdon St. Ives #1)

The Aylesford Skull is for me a piece of art. James P. Blaylock has created a truly magical story, where most authors who write steampunk go for a direction of a more bold and brash steampunk setting he takes on another route by writing a more or less common story but elevating it with hints of steampunk and a supernatural aspect into it. For me it is truly magnificent display of how to elevate a story to the next level. It is a great story fully accented by enough hints of steampunk and magic.

Published: 2013

Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (Broken Empire: Book 3)

The path to the throne is broken – only the broken can walk it. The world is cracked and time has run through, leaving us clutching at the end days. These are the days that have waited for us all our lives. These are my days. I will stand before the Hundred and they will listen. I will take the throne no matter who stands against me, living or dead, and if I must be the last emperor then I will make of it such an ending. This is where the wise man turns away. This is where the holy kneel and call on God. These are the last miles, my brothers. Don't look to me to save you. Run if you have the wit. Pray if you have the soul. Stand your ground if courage is yours. But don't follow me. Follow me, and I will break your heart.

"Simply said, The Broken Empire is a brilliantly written series. Every sentence is just a pure joy to read and carefully crafted. Numerous words like wordsmith and modern fantasy poet spring to mind but you should just find it out for yourself. A perfect ending to a brilliant trilogy and an unpredictable, ruthless and poetic literary masterwork of a great mind."

Published: 2013

Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole (Shadow Ops series: Book 2)

Okay, I'm almost done gushing. Fortress Frontier is an excellent book, one that hits all the right notes for me. There might be a few people this type of book doesn't work for, the military jargon might be a little off-putting to others, but for those who like action packed military fantasy, you are in for a treat.

Published: 2013

Beyond The Veil by Tim Marquitz (Demon Squad: Book 5)

With Beyond The Veil, Marquitz is keeping the Demon Squad series up there amongst The Dresden Files, The Iron Druid Chronicles, and Sandman Slim as some of the best urban fantasy available. While the series has taken a turn away from light hearted and more towards the dark, it has not impacted on the entertainment value these books provide. Magic + Bullets + Explosions = Fun. If you like those series I mentioned above, then I think you will also like the Demon Squad series, especially Beyond The Veil.

Published: 2013

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

There are so many questions which lead you into dark places including: How does someone make the decision to kill people? Can a first kill be an accident? Does violence always escalate? Lauren Beukes has turned the gritty fantastic in a well thought out story set against the backdrop of Chicago through the ages. If you do not like realistic violence, you may not want to read this as the book is not for the faint-hearted but if you do read this you will be rewarded by being taken on a journey, where you are left guessing at the ending until the very last page!

Published: 2013

The Treasury of the Fantastic by David Sandner and Jacob Weisman

Ryan: The Treasury of the Fantastic is an amazing collection of 44 poems, short stories and novellas, all fantasy related, all published before 1923. The anthology editors, David Sandner and Jacob Weisman, should be congratulated for managing to collect the rights to so many amazing stories. At the start of the book they openly provide the criteria they used for putting together this anthology. Unfortunately their criteria mean we miss out on a few great authors who were producing their best work right around the cut-off data, authors like Lovecraft and Howard, but that barely takes away from the excellent 44 stories that made the cut and are celebrated in this anthology.

Published: 2013

Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper

In the winter of his eleventh year, Little Hawk goes deep into the forest, where he must endure a three-month test of solitude and survival which will turn him into a man. But outside the woods, the world is changing. English settlers are landing on the shores of the New World, and tensions between native tribes and the invaders are rising. Little Hawk's fate becomes irreversibly entwined with that of John, a young English boy who dares to question intolerance. He is witness to a secret murder - will he now be witness to bloodshed between nations?

"Indeed, in some ways it’s a book that rewards adult reading just as much as a child’s. I would recommend it for fluent readers of any age who love to be immersed in a no-holds-barred historical setting. If they also want to consider right and wrong, truth and tolerance, then so much the better. As C. S. Lewis said: "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest." K. M. Lockwood, Fantasy Book Review

Published: 2013

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (The Gentleman Bastard Sequence: Book 3)

The Republic of Thieves is not the explosive return that many people are probably hoping for, but it is still one of the best books I have read this year. There are problems with pacing and the ambitiousness of the plotting, but for me the characterisation more than makes up for it. Welcome back, Scott Lynch. I can't wait to see what happens to these characters next.

Published: 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Ryan: An intimate trip down memory lane to a time when things were much more fantastical than what they are now. This a story that is simple on the surface, but with a depth of immersion that depends entirely on how much you connect with the story. My guess is that the further you are away from your childhood, be it through age or experience, the more you will connect with this story and the more you will fall in love with it.

Published: 2013

Winter by William Horwood (Hyddenworld: Book 4)

Storms rage as the worst winter in living memory ravages the human and Hydden worlds. The prophesied End of Days is here and the universe is dying, yet only a few are even aware of the forces at work. Jack and Katherine must help their friend Bedwyn Stort halt this chaos by locating the last gem of Winter, something only he can do. Then it must be returned to the Earth’s unwilling guardian, their daughter Judith. She will need it to try and reignite the fires of the universe. Yet Stort is riddled with uncertainty. He yearns for Judith, as she does for him, but a love between mortal and immortal cannot be. To find the gem, he must solve this conundrum and vanquish death itself. But can he really lead mortalkind to salvation?

"It was a quartet of books I thoroughly enjoyed reading and I looked forward excitedly to each instalment's yearly publication. If you're a fan of Horwood, or simply a fan of excellent stories, particularly those with a strong ecological theme running through, then I would strongly recommend you read the Hyddenworld books. The journey has been a delight, the characters wonderful and the the story woven beautifully."

Published: 2013

The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker

Helene Wecker writes elegantly and fluently, her characters are constantly fascinating and exploring their histories is a joy. The main setting and the narrative evoke wonderful images of nineteenth century New York and we, as the fortunate reader, get to experience Jewish and Arabic folklore fundamental to the book’s being. Many authors have written about a golem, many have written about a djinni, but few have brought them both together in a story so seamlessly. The Golem and the Djinni is first rate historical fantasy fiction that consistently delights; a charming love story with pleasing emotional depth.

Published: 2013

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

Every year at an exclusive private boarding school in New York state, the graduating students uphold an old tradition – they must swear an oath of secrecy and leave behind a “treasure” for each incoming senior. When Duncan Meade inherits the room and secrets of Tim Macbeth, he uncovers evidence of a clandestine romance, and unravels the truth behind one of the biggest mysteries in the school’s history. How far would you go to keep a secret?

"The Tragedy Paper shows a great interconnection of two story lines. They are both about finding love but also on how difficult it sometimes can be and how hard when it is all of a sudden over, on how you try to do your best and it may still not be enough and a journey of getting to know yourself. The Tragedy Paper is a great debut and shows an amazing forte for writing this utterly unique and compelling story." Fantasy Book Reviews

Published: 2013

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Lockwood & Co #1)

The five books that make up the Lockwood & Co series are so good that's I'm currently re-reading them all. I also hold The Bartimaeus Trilogy and stand-alone novel Heroes of the Valley to be amongst the finest fantasy books I have read. The most enjoyable fantasy books always supply the reader with a healthy dose of wish-fulfilment. I think this was key to the success of the Harry Potter books and the Narnia Chronicles before that and one the greatest strengths of Lockwood & Co. is that readers will wish they could live inside the book - after all, what teenager would not want to live in a massive old house, looking after themselves with no adults to order them around? And then at night they get to strap on a rapier and go out to battle the unsettled dead… Who wouldn't get a little bit excited about the prospect of being a full-time ghost-hunter? In Stroud's world it is the kids that hold the power, not the adults.

Published: 2013

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school. By chance all of their names contained a colour. The two boys were called Akamatsu, meaning ‘red pine’, and Oumi, ‘blue sea’, while the girls’ names were Shirane, ‘white root’, and Kurono, ‘black field’. Tazaki was the only last name with no colour in.

"Time skips serenely past as you immerse yourself in the faultless words of a master storyteller."

Published: 2013

Pantomime by Laura Lam

R.H. Ragona's Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass - remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone - are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It's a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimeras is still there. It's a place where anyone can hide. Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist's apprentice and soon becomes the circus's rising star. But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

"Pantomime is a remarkable debut novel, one of the best debut novels I have read, and one that I hope leaves its mark on the fantasy genre as a whole. Lam has taken a bit of a risk by dealing with themes that make people uncomfortable, but by doing this I think she shows that fantasy is still one of the best genres for providing social commentary on the world we live in. This is an easy recommendation from me - Pantomime is a book you really should read." Fantasy Book Review

Published: 2013

The Art of War by MC Scott (Rome: Book 4)

The novel is what I have come to expect of Manda Scott. It is different in style to her previous outing with Pantera. Personally, I prefer this style. The next will inevitably be different again. For those of you who like action over incense, like swordplay over oratory (i.e those who would prefer Ben Kane over Stephanie Dray) then this is for you. It's a great book. Read it.

Published: 2013

Poison by Sarah Pinborough

It’s Snow White, but not as you know her... Take a wicked queen, a handsome prince, a beautiful princess, and a poisoned apple... and now read the true story of Snow White, told the way it always should have been...

"I am a big fan of thrillers and action adventure, therefore probably not within the expected readership demographic for Poison. Yet I was thoroughly entertained and loved its irreverence and boldness. This is an engrossing, intriguing and fun new take on an old story." Daniel Cann, Fantasy Book Review

Published: 2013

No Return by Zachary Jernigan

On Jeroun, there is no question as to whether God exists--only what his intentions are. Under the looming judgment of Adrash and his ultimate weapon--a string of spinning spheres beside the moon known as The Needle--warring factions of white and black suits prove their opposition to the orbiting god with the great fighting tournament of Tchootoo, on the far side of Jeroun's only inhabitable continent. From the Thirteenth Order of Black Suits comes Vedas, a young master of martial arts, laden with guilt over the death of one of his students. Traveling with him are Churls, a warrior woman and mercenary haunted by the ghost of her daughter, and Manshep, a constructed man made of modular spheres possessed by the foul spirit of his creator. Together they must brave their own demons, as well as thieves, mages, beasts, dearth, and hardship on the perilous road to Tchootoo, and the bloody sectarian battle that is sure to follow. On the other side of the world, unbeknownst to the travelers, Ebn and Pol of the Royal Outbound Mages (astronauts using Alchemical magic to achieve space flight) have formed a plan to appease Adrash and bring peace to the planet. But Ebn and Pol each have their own clandestine agendas--which may call down the wrath of the very god they hope to woo.

"I haven't read a book this deep in quite some time. No Return is a book of contrasts, a book that not only shows the extreme ends of an argument, but all the shades of grey in between. If you are looking for a fun Sunday afternoon read then you might want to keep looking, but those who are looking for an entertaining yet challenging book, I think you will love No Return." Ryan Lawler, Fantasy Book Review

Published: 2013

Deadbeat - Makes You Stronger by Guy Adams

Max and Tom are old, old friends, who used to be actors. Tom now owns a jazz nightclub called Deadbeat which, as well as being their source of income, is also something of an in-joke. In a churchyard one night they see men loading a coffin into the back of a van. But, why take a full coffin away from a graveyard and, more importantly, why is the occupant still breathing? Tom and Max are on the case.

"I found Deadbeat – Makes You Stronger thoroughly entertaining and very, very funny. This has plenty of unexpected twists, nasty shocks and surprises. It is also ambitious, yet grounded, macabre, yet funny. Reading like a twenty first century Raymond Chandler novel with a supernatural twist... I cannot wait for the next one!" Fantasy Book Review

Published: 2013

Dreaming Of Zhou Gong by Traci Harding (Time Keeper Trilogy #1)

Harding should be praised for bringing something original and organic to the fantasy genre, and taking a chance on an ancient chinese backdrop more than pays off. If you are tired of reading the same generic fantasy stuff, then this is the book for you. I got so much joy out of reading this and has become a favourite in the genre.

Published: 2013

The Year of the Ladybird by Graham Joyce

It is the summer of 1976, the hottest since records began and a young man leaves behind his student days and learns how to grow up. A first job in a holiday camp beckons. But with political and racial tensions simmering under the cloudless summer skies there is not much fun to be had. And soon there is a terrible price to be paid for his new found freedom and independence. A price that will come back to haunt him, even in the bright sunlight of summer.

"With its strong visuals, compulsive mystery and high drama I heartily recommend this. The Year of the Ladybird is much more than a ghost story."

Published: 2013

Ninja: Death Touch by Chris Bradford (Ninja Trilogy #1)

Ninja: Death Touch is a fun, dangerous adventure where Lord Oda could be victorious in battle if Taka and his friends can't fend off his ruthless army. I liked the death touch aspects of the story at the beginning that the Grandmaster of the ninja clan teaches them. The story is short, but sweet and full of excitement that runs all the way through. Chris Bradford writes books that can grip readers worldwide. He has won several awards such as the Northern Ireland Book Award, enjoys Martial Arts and has trained in samurai swordsmanship, earning a black belt in Kyo Shin Tai-Jutsu, the art of the ninja. Chris knows that his passion for fighting keeps his writing sharp and thrilling, and his art can be seen on the Ninja: Death Touch photo-shoot.

Published: 2013

Chosen by Benedict Jacka (Alex Verus series: Book 4)

In writing this fourth book in his Alex Verus series, Benedict Jacka has written the most powerful and emotionally gripping entry into the series as well. Jacka has visibly grown as an author over this series, and I am thrumming with anticipation for what comes next.

Published: 2013

When the world was flat (And we were in love) by Ingrid Jonach

When sixteen-year-old Lillie Hart meets the gorgeous and mysterious Tom Windsor-Smith for the first time, it’s like fireworks — for her, anyway. Tom looks as if he would be more interested in watching paint dry; as if he is bored by her and by her small Nebraskan town in general. But as Lillie begins to break down the walls of his seemingly impenetrable exterior, she starts to suspect that he holds the answers to her reoccurring nightmares and to the impossible memories which keep bubbling to the surface of her mind — memories of the two of them, together and in love. When she at last learns the truth about their connection, Lillie discovers that Tom has been hiding an earth-shattering secret; a secret that is bigger — and much more terrifying and beautiful — than the both of them. She also discovers that once you finally understand that the world is round, there is no way to make it flat again.

"When the world was flat (And we were in love) is one of the best YA stories I've read this year. It was charming, it had heart, it had cool science fiction, and it made me feel stuff on the inside. Regular readers of YA will love this book, while I think there is plenty for casual and non-readers of YA too." Ryan Lawler, Fantasy Book Review

Published: 2013

Control by Kim Curran (Shift series #2)

Control improves on every aspect of Shift, just like a good sequel is supposed to do. It was a little slow in the middle but Curran seriously knocked the ending out of the ball park. The biggest problem for me will be the wait for the third book, Delete (yeah, the book titles are Shift, Control and Delete - how cool is that!).

Published: 2013

The Clown Service by Guy Adams (The Clown Service #1)

The Department: Section 37 Station Office, Wood Green. The Boss: August Shining, an ex-Cambridge, Cold War-era spy. The Mission: Charged with protecting Great Britain and its interests from paranormal terrorism. The Threat: An old enemy has returned, and with him Operation Black Earth, a Soviet plan to create the ultimate insurgents by re-animating the dead.

"Once I started to read this I just couldn’t put it down and read it straight through to the end. August and Toby are well fleshed-out and a good match for one another, and the supporting cast, which includes August’s delightful battle-axe sister called April (apparently their parents had better things to be doing than thinking up names), keep the action flowing. I always find London a great setting for books, and this is no exception with its crumbling warehouses, seething crowds and a very British way of doing things. I would highly recommend this book and look forward to the next."

Published: 2013

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett (The Discworld Series: Book 40)

Terry Pratchett is simply one of the greatest writers to have ever lived. His prose, humour, insight, and imagination are individually rare in current literature, and absolutely unparalleled when combined. But all things fade, and the horrific disease which is Alzheimer’s is robbing us of one of the brightest stars, slowly, but inexorably.

Published: 2013

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen

Only very special people are chosen by children's author Laura White to join 'The Society', an elite group of writers in the small town of Rabbit Back. Now a tenth member has been selected: Ella, literature teacher and possessor of beautifully curving lips. But soon Ella discovers that the Society is not what it seems. What is its mysterious ritual, 'The Game'? What explains the strange disappearance that occurs at Laura's winter party, in a whirlwind of snow? Why are the words inside books starting to rearrange themselves? Was there once another tenth member, before her? Slowly, disturbing secrets that had been buried come to light...

"I found this book very interesting. It did start slowly and it did take time for me to warm to the characters, but this was more like unwrapping a pass the parcel, the more you read the more you want to know what is at the very heart, under all the layers that are being revealed one at a time. With a large cast of characters and back stories to delve into this book will not leave you disappointed, but will hopefully leave you as surprised and satisfied as I felt upon finishing the story." Michelle Herbert, Fantasy Book Review

Published: 2013

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan (Raven's Shadow: Book 1)

JJoshua: Beautifully written, wonderfully cast and populated, Anthony Ryan does indeed seem to be placing himself as one of the next master storytellers. The characters are brilliant, at once interesting and – despite their age – appealing to readers of any age. Their feats of strength are realistic, their stamina and abilities raw and limited, and their growth over the first half of the book comes slowly. Their mentors and teachers are fleeting, though important, and are obviously more than they seem to the young eyes of our protagonist.

Published: 2013

The Fell Sword by Miles Cameron (The Traitor Son Cycle #2)

Loyalty costs money. Betrayal, on the other hand, is free. When the Emperor is taken hostage, the Red Knight and his men find their services in high demand - and themselves surrounded by enemies. The country is in revolt, the capital city is besieged and any victory will be hard won. But The Red Knight has a plan. The question is, can he negotiate the political, magical, real and romantic battlefields at the same time - especially when intends to be victorious on them all?

"The Traitor Son Cycle (as this series is called) is definitely a book for fans of “good old fashioned fantasy”. Bastard sons, swords and shields, battle tactics and political intrigue, it’s all here and more, and worth every moment. Miles Cameron is approaching the throne held by writers like Jordan, Erikson, and Sanderson, with his own bag of medieval tricks thrown in for good measure."

Published: 2013

Dangerous Women by George RR Martin

Filled with the fantasy genres biggest names (and, I believe, big names from other genres), this anthology manages to compile together some of the best short stories around.

George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have put together a towering anthology of specially-commissioned stories from the most stellar names in the genre, set in a number of readers' favourite fantasy worlds. George R.R. Martin is the bestselling author of A Song of Ice and Fire, the inspiration for HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones. The collection will also feature a new and unpublished 100pp novella by George R.R. Martin set in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire – now the award-winning HBO show, Game of Thrones. The novella, entitled 'The Princess and the Queen', will reveal the origins of the Targaryen Civil War, otherwise known as 'The Dance of the Dragons', a war that split a then-fledgling Westeros in two, pitting Targaryen against Targaryen and dragon against dragon. The Dangerous Women anthology also contains contributions from the following worldwide bestselling authors: “Some Desperado” by Joe Abercrombie – A Red Country story; “Nora’s Song” by Cecelia Holland; “Bombshells” by Jim Butcher – A Harry Dresden story; “Wrestling Jesus” by Joe R. Lansdale; “Neighbours” by Megan Lindholm (who also writes as Robin Hobb); “Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson; “A Queen in Exile” by Sharon Kay Penman; “The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman – A Magicians story; “Virgins” by Diana Gabaldon – An Outlander story.

Published: 2013

The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu (Tao #2)

The Prophus and the Genjix are at war. For centuries they have sought a way off-planet, guiding humanity's social and technological development to the stage where space travel is possible. The end is now in sight, and both factions have plans to leave the Earth, but the Genjix method will mean the destruction of the human race. That's a price they're willing to pay.

"Wesley Chu is an author on the rise, proving that the success of The Lives of Tao was no fluke. The Deaths of Tao is an explosive action adventure from start to finish, one that easily kept me happy and entertained. I think fans of urban fantasy or action movies will get a good kick out of this book."

Published: 2013

Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton

The monarchies of the Royal Vispasian Union have been bound together for two hundred years by laws maintained and enforced by the powerful Sun Chamber. As a result, nations have flourished but corruption, deprivation and murder will always find a way to thrive... Receiving news of his father’s death Sun Chamber Officer Lucan Drakenfeld is recalled home to the ancient city of Tryum and rapidly embroiled in a mystifying case. The King’s sister has been found brutally murdered - her beaten and bloody body discovered in a locked temple. With rumours of dark spirits and political assassination, Drakenfeld has his work cut out for him trying to separate superstition from certainty. His determination to find the killer quickly makes him a target as the underworld gangs of Tryum focus on this new threat to their power. Embarking on the biggest and most complex investigation of his career, Drakenfeld soon realises the evidence is leading him towards a motive that could ultimately bring darkness to the whole continent. The fate of the nations is in his hands.

"I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of Drakenfeld. Mark Charan Newton is an author who is not afraid to try something new, and I believe he is pushing the boundaries of what fantasy can be in exciting ways. I don't think it strictly falls into "New Weird" territory like his Legends of the Red Sun books seemed to, but it is refreshing to read a style of fantasy that I have not read before."

Published: 2013

Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft (The Books of Babel #1)

An extraordinary debut that is well worthy of the hype. A beautifully written, highly engaging page-turning masterpiece where I was on Tom's side every step of the way. This isn't the most action-packed spectacle but the way Bancroft presents, with slower moments and emotional flashbacks intertwined, the more action-oriented scenes have great impact. Especially the ending. The future possibilities seem awesome with the way things concluded. The ending convinced me this was definitely a 10-star read.

Published: 2013

Cold Steel by Kate Elliott (Spiritwalker: Book 3)

Trouble, treachery and magic seem to follow Cat Barahal wherever she goes. The Master of the Wild Hunt has stolen away her husband. The ruler of the Taino kingdom blames her for his mother's murder. An enraged fire mage wants to kill her. And Cat, her cousin Bee and her half-brother Rory aren't even back in Europa yet, where revolution is burning up the streets.

Rebellions to plot. Enemies to crush. Handsome men to rescue. Cat and Bee have their work cut out for them.

Published: 2013

Countdown City by Ben H Winters (The Last Policeman Trilogy #2)

Countdown City explores themes and asks the questions that every good work of dystopian should: How would people behave? What would happen to society? Would shops stay open? Would food be easily available? Simply put, how long would it be before civilization completely broke down? But the question that I think is most pertinent for each individual reader is: What would you do under these circumstances?

Published: 2013