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Jia’s Best of 2013

Sadly, the fantasy novel drought continues. I still read fantasy novels, of course, but they’re usually by my tried and true favorites. It’s been a long time since I last got excited about a debut author or a new series. (N.K. Jemisin and Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker books, in case you’re wondering.) I’m not ready to give up on the genre yet but prospects look bleak. Where are the up and coming Jemisins and Elliotts and Careys?

There are books I intended to read but didn’t get around to this year. Maybe next year. After all the talk about Last Hour of Gann around these parts, I never picked it up. Maybe 2014 will begin with an R. Lee Smith glom. Maybe that’ll inject some freshness into my dull SFF reading landscape.

Leaving that familiar complaint aside, here are my favorites from 2013 in order by author’s last name.

Also Known As by Robin BenwayAlso Known As by Robin Benway. A fun novel about a teenager who comes from a family of international spies. Better yet, the heroine Maggie is a safecracker, not something you run across often in this category of novel. While the plot was solid, I loved the friendship Maggie formed with social pariah Roux. I just learned there’s going to be another book coming out next year so I’m looking forward to seeing what shenanigans the two of them get up into.

coldest girlThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. If I could have a do-over, I would have labeled this one was recommended read back when it came out in September. I have no idea why I didn’t; I must have been grumpy that week. It’s a book that I still remember and like even more the further I am away from it. It’s a callback to the vampire novels of my teenage years: The Silver Kiss and Lost Souls, where the vampires were beautiful but deadly and truly monstrous and that the reason they were attractive was because of their alien nature and questionable morality. Before I read this book, I was done with vampires. After I read it, I wanted more vampires but more along the lines of the creatures in Coldest Girl in Coldtown.

sorrows-knot-bowSorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow. This YA novel caught me by surprise with its worldbuilding based on Native American culture and drew me in with its depiction of a world inhabited by ghosts and deadly magic. The matriarchal society was a plus and the story was packaged in prose both haunting and lovely. This book was my introduction to Erin Bow and it certainly put her on my to-watch list.

Cold Steel by Kate ElliottCold Steel by Kate Elliott. After a middle book that disappointed me, the Spiritwalker trilogy concludes in a grand and ultimately satisfying fashion. I can never get enough about girls and women adventuring in fantasylands (who are friends with each other and not the lone girl in a group of men!) So more books like this, please.

Dare You To Katie McGarryDare You To by Katie McGarry. Beth’s story edges out Isaiah’s as my favorite of McGarry’s two books released this year. What I can say? I love the difficult heroines.

Rose-Under-FireRose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. Those going into this book expecting another Code Name Verity will surely be disappointed because this isn’t that. It’s very hard to top the power of that novel. But Rose under Fire has power in its own way. It is a holocaust novel but instead it tells the story of the other people affected by the internment camps, those who weren’t Jewish. It’s a story of grief and recovery and forging friendships in the most unlikely of places.

Mind Games by Kiersten WhiteMind Games by Kiersten White. A tale of two sisters as told through the lens of a fast-paced thriller. Filled with corporate espionage and assassination, the novel is by turns unexpectedly brutal and heartbreaking. It is ultimately the story of two sisters who’d do anything for each other and the tragedy this unleashes upon their lives. Very excited for the sequel coming out in early 2014.

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!


  1. Jane
    Dec 26, 2013 @ 12:00:12

    I feel like you had a marginally good year, yes?

  2. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 26, 2013 @ 12:11:27

    Jia, have you read Miserere by Teresa Frohock? It’s…fascinating. I haven’t read much fantasy lately but it kinda blew me away.

  3. Jia
    Dec 26, 2013 @ 12:54:29

    @Jane: I think so. I feel like it’s better than previous years although once again, my “top 10” list didn’t actually reach 10.

    @Shiloh Walker: That title sounds familiar but I don’t think I’ve read it. I’ll look it up!

  4. Willaful
    Dec 26, 2013 @ 13:14:29

    Hey, some crossover! If these lists show nothing else, I think they show that the DA reviewers are a diverse bunch. Most of the books on other people’s lists, I haven’t even read. I have been meaning to read the Wein, though might wait for the audio.

  5. Willaful
    Dec 26, 2013 @ 13:15:45

    P.S. I like how you alphabetized instead of going numerically. I wish I’d done that.

  6. Susan
    Dec 26, 2013 @ 14:33:12

    I have a number of these on my TBR list, but the only one I’ve actually read is The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, which I did like but apparently not as much as everyone else seemed to.

    (And I’ve had Miserere on my list ever since Ilona Andrews recommended it, erm, quite awhile ago now.)

  7. Sirius
    Dec 26, 2013 @ 15:18:22

    There are at least three books on your list I am tempted to buy like right now, thank you :). May I ask whether “Also known as” and “Mind games” end with the cliffhanger or no? Thanks again.

  8. Michelle
    Dec 26, 2013 @ 16:43:23

    Have you read Karen Lord’s The Best of All Possible Worlds-it may be listed as scifi, but works well as fantasy. If you like Vulcans you will love it.

  9. Jia
    Dec 26, 2013 @ 16:53:06

    @Willaful: I hate using numbers because I feel like it inadvertently ranks the books, which is something I generally avoid. I’ve made alphabetizing by author’s surname a habit the past few years.

    @Sirius: Also Known As has no cliffhanger — it ends in a good place but Mind Games does.

    @Michelle: I’ve heard of that one. I’ll check it out. :)

  10. Sirius
    Dec 26, 2013 @ 22:05:59

    @Jia: Thank you. Sold :). “Mind games” will wait though :)

  11. Sirius
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 09:08:02

    I really enjoyed “also known as” thanks so much Jia. Not sure whether to be happy or worried that next novel is coming soon.

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