Hello! Well, November wasn’t the best month for writing, I didn’t win NaNoWriMo, in fact I only managed to crack 10k (which is an achievement in itself and I’m still pretty pleased with my progress). I’m attempting my first contemporary YA novel so it’s not flowing as easily as a fantasy maybe would, I’ve thrown in a few fantastical elements (because, why not) but I’m really trying to get the vibe right and it’s just a bit slower going than I’m used to.
But enough about my Nano fail, you’re here for my top five books of 2017! I’m cheating a little bit here, these aren’t all 2017 new releases, but books I’ve personally read this year and loved. So, if you’re looking for the perfect gift for a book lover check out these fabulous reads, and you might even get them a little cheaper because they’re not brand new! (You’re welcome.)
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (2017)
Let’s start with my Book of the Year 2017, the dreamy, magical and brutal Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. If you’re a Laini fan already and loved the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, you’ll adore this new novel in her signature style of YA fantasy (and the sequel is coming in 2018!).
Lazlo Strange is a librarian who, after years of reading about incredible adventures in far off lands, finally gets to go on one (every book lover’s dream). A war between gods and men years ago left an entire generation of orphans, all given the surname Strange as a permanent reminder of their status, and resulted in an entire city disappearing into legend, known only as Weep, as the memory if its true name is erased from history.
Lazlo dreams of a blue-skinned goddess, but he doesn’t discover his true destiny until a mythical hero named Godslayer arrives and Lazlo is whisked away on the journey of a lifetime.
It’s beautiful, captivating and utterly, utterly heartbreaking. You’re going to love it! (Don’t @ me when you’re a broken heap of feels.)
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (2017)
Looking for a hilarious historical romp across Europe? You’ve come to the right place. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is the funniest book I’ve read all year, but it’s also touching and heartwarming with a diverse cast of awesome characters.
Monty (a.k.a. Henry Montague) is the son of an English aristocrat, a loveable rogue, and completely in love with his best friend, Percy. After getting kicked out of boarding school for one transgression too many, Monty’s father sends him on a tour of Europe as a last ditch attempt to “straighten” him out before grooming him to take over the family business. Percy and Monty’s sister, Felicity tag along for what turns into a thrilling race against time across the continent.
The characters in this novel are some of the most inclusive and diverse I’ve ever come across in one single story. Percy is an epileptic, which was very misunderstood during this time period, and not only that but he’s dark-skinned and constantly assumed to be a servant despite his noble status. Felicity falls somewhere on the asexual/aromantic spectrum, and Monty is gay, which was illegal and considered a sin at the time (not least by Monty’s father).
If you’re looking for a funny and gripping historical read, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Nevernight (2016) & Godsgrave (2017) by Jay Kristoff
Can’t get enough of bloody, brutal fantasy? Pick up the Nevernight series by Jay Kristoff! It doesn’t get darker or more satisfyingly murderous than this.
Read my spoiler free review for Nevernight.
Mia Corvere is out for revenge, the kind that’s best served cold. After watching her father hanged for treason after a failed rebellion against the corrupt government, her mother and baby brother were thrown into the Philosopher’s Stone – a terrifying prison built into a mountainside. Mia is taken in and trained up by a cranky old antiques dealer with a secret life as a hired killer. Years later she’s finally ready to be inducted into the most brutal school for assassins in the Republic – the Red Church.
Like Hogwarts, but for murderers, the Red Church is a hidden sect that trains young assassins in the many skills necessary to be an elite killer. With only two Blade positions available, every student is out to win and every day could be Mia’s last. Can she achieve her lifelong goal of becoming a Blade of the Red Church and avenging her father’s death by killing the two officials who ordered it?
This is a super dark, sexy and graphic series, jam-packed with jaw-dropping fantasy elements and shocking twists and turns. Don’t expect a YA friendly experience, despite the protagonist’s young age, but if you’re OK with steamy sex scenes and visceral torture and murder then you’ve found your perfect series.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (2011)
Fans of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle or The Wolves of Mercy Falls, if you haven’t read The Scorpio Races you are missing out. This is my official favourite Stiefvater book, it’s a standalone fantasy about flesh-eating water horses and the jockeys who race them every November.
Read my spoiler free review of The Scorpio Races.
Puck is an orphan with two brothers and a family home she won’t let them lose just because the island of Thisby is tiny and there are no jobs to be had. Sean is a talented horse racer with a winning capaill uisce (water horse) and a famous father whose name weighs heavy on his shoulders. When November rolls around again, both enter the Scorpio Races in the hopes of winning the prize money. But catching, training and riding a water horse isn’t easy, in fact every year in November someone dies. But who will survive, and who will win the coveted prize money and escape their personal prison?
The magical elements in this book are so well crafted and blended into the plot that you could almost believe them to be real. The capaill uisce don’t seem so incredible, the strange belief system held by the residents of the island isn’t as unusual as it might be in the hands of another author. Stiefvater’s skills at blending reality and fantasy come into the fore in this novel, forming a background to the most important part of any of her stories – the characters and their relationships with one another. The Scorpio Races combines the believable fantasy elements of Shiver with the essence of friendship and individuality from The Raven Boys. Read it and fall in love with Thisby and her complicated inhabitants.
And I Darken by Kiersten White (2016)
Alternate history? Check. Gender bent? Check. Diverse? Check. And I Darken is a twisted retelling of the Vlad the Impaler legend with Ladislav (Lada, for short) in the lead role as the Daughter of the Dragon.
Read my spoiler free review of And I Darken.
Lada and her brother Radu are dragged from their home in Wallachia and abandoned in the Ottoman court by their father. A born fighter, Lada takes to training like a fish to water and soon makes a name for herself amongst the soldiers. Radu, on the other hand, is softer and gentler, with a natural charm that Lada envies. The Dragwyla children are schooled alongside the sultan’s son, Mehmed, forming bonds that are tested and broken and mended over the years in dozens of ways. Because Mehmed and his father are the enemy, and both Lada and Radu must fight their feelings if they are ever to return to Wallachia and their father’s kingdom.
We’ve all heard the Dracula legend several times, and this is yet another version, but with such an exciting new take on the original as to feel like a completely new story. A female Vlad the Impaler is a fascinating concept, especially as women were considered more like property than people in this historical setting. White’s Lada is a feisty, independent and complicated character, and she isn’t always likeable, which only makes me love her more. I cannot wait to read the sequel, Now I Rise, which came out this summer, and find out how Lada becomes the legendary leader and brutal killer we all recognise from the history books.
And those are my five favourite books of 2017! Have you read any of these? Let me know which was your favourite book of the year in the comments.
There’s still a couple of weeks left of 2017, and I’m currently reading Leigh Bardugo’s The Language of Thorns, which is a collection of fairy tales and fables from her Grishaverse, and a very festive read for this time of year! I haven’t quite managed to read my yearly target of 36 books, I’ll be at 30 once I finish my current read, but that’s still a massive improvement on last year’s 22 books, so I’m counting it as a win.
Have an absolutely fantastic holiday season, however you choose to celebrate, and I’ll see you in 2018!