It’s that time of year again when we look back at the books we’ve read and loved this year, and while 2022 has been A YEAR, I was blessed with many fantastic books (and an evergrowing TBR from the ones I didn’t get too). It’s always difficult to narrow that down to ten (and I did sneak in an extra one), and then my absolute favourite on top of that (because I have no self control). Now these are my personal favourites, whether because of emotional resonance, sheer enjoyment, favourite characters or any one of the many criteria readers love books, and I’ve listed them in no particular order (because I can’t choose and they’re all bloody good and you should absolutely add them to your TBR for 2023 if you haven’t already read them.
This year, all the books featured are indie/self-published which reflects just how much of my reading falls into that category these days. There are wonderful trad books out there and I still really enjoy them, but indie books are just so wonderfully varied and the community so rich that I find myself leaning that way more and more.
Now without further ado…the list!
A Sorrow Named Joy – Sarah Chorn
Joy desires nothing more than her husband’s happiness. She spends her days creating the perfect life for him in their idyllic suburban home. Everything is neat, predictable, and in its place.
When Joy finds a picture that hints at a past she cannot remember, the facade cracks. As secrets are revealed, Joy realizes her blissful life is crumbling and to find herself, she must first lose herself.
Perfect, after all, is only an illusion.
‘This is a profound tale that will resonate with many people, in many different ways. It’s an amazing premise, that sings with emotion and it’s one of those books that has to be read to be experienced, so if you’re looking for something different, something that will leave an impression then A Sorrow Named Joy is a book you need to pick up.’
The Delve – Dan Fitzgerald
The sword wants what it wants.
The Deepfold mine has gone dark on the eve of war. Without its supply of brightstone, the Maer’s technological advantage over the humans will evaporate. A rising knight named Yglind has earned his Forever Blade and been sent on a quest to uncover the cause of the blackout. Joined by his trusted squire Ardo and a prickly mage named Aene, Yglind hopes to cement his legacy and the Maer’s chance at victory in the coming war.
Inside the Deepfold, they are plunged into a world of bloodshed and chaos. Unknown foes have slaughtered many of the miners, and a gruesome dragon stalks the dark tunnels. While taking refuge in the mine’s impregnable keep, Yglind and Ardo seek solace in each other’s arms and the courage to face the cruel forces arrayed against them.
With their civilization hanging in the balance, they strike out against the invaders as their quest hurtles toward its bloody end.
‘The Delve was one of those books that I ended up devouring in a matter of hours, I was so enthralled with the story and the characters. It is a wonderful blend of so many elements, and Fitzgerald balanced it all to create a book that is a fantastic starting point if you are unfamiliar with the world, and a tasty addition to an already rich world if you are familar with it.‘
Preorder Links: Amazon UK | Amazon US
(This one isn’t out until next year, but as I had the honour of reading an arc I am delighted to include it on this list… it may also be sneaking into another list before this year is out)
Titanhoppers (Titan Hoppers #1) & Death’s Beathing Heart (The War Eternal #5) – Rob J. Hayes
Courage Iro will shatter the Gates of Power to protect his fleet.
Born talentless, Iro has all but resigned himself to a life of drudgery, watching his sister hop across to the massive space titan for supplies. But when the titan explodes and his sister is killed, Iro finds a new determination to take her place. He’s not about to let weakness prevent him.
When the fleet encounters a new titan, filled with powerful monsters, deadly traps, and mysterious cloaked figures, Iro is the first to spontaneously manifest a new talent. Now sent to a different ship, to train with others far beyond his strength, Iro will have to train twice as hard just to catch up.
To protect his fleet, and to uncover the mysteries of the titans, Iro won’t just open the Gates of Power. He’ll break them.
‘This book was a non-stop, thrill ride that was just a joy to read; and one of the most compelling books I’ve had the pleasure of picking up lately (and I already want to read it again). This is a fantastic book for anyone who loves science-fantasy, progression fantasy and wants to just loses themselves in richly realised world and story.‘
Sirileth has broken the world. The ground bleeds, the seas rage, the skies are torn asunder.
Eska will not let her daughter face the consequences alone, but can she help without donning the mantle of the Corpse Queen once more? And will the people of Ovaeris accept help from a monster?
They might not have a choice as a stable portal to the Other World is now open, and the Beating Heart of Sevorai is ever ravenous.
‘Death’s Beating Heart is an epic and truly fitting ending to a series that has been phenomenal from start to finish, and I’ve already read it several times just trying to drink in all the details. We get payoff for everything that has happened in the first four books, along with the gift of so much more, as Hayes broke the worlds open for us to savour in all their glory. And we get to see the crowning glory of the character development that has featured so strongly throughout out, and I don’t think there was a single aspect of this conclusion, or a character thread, that wasn’t satisfying, no matter how brutal or abrupt or devastating the end was.’
The Children of Chaos (The Cruel Gods #2) – Trudie Skies
When the saints call, the sinners answer.
Chaos stalks the steam-powered city of Chime and threatens the existence of the gods and their domains. Kayl swore to protect Chime’s mortals from their gods’ cruel whims, but when she agrees to represent the mortals of a god long thought dead, Kayl is thrust into a political role that goes against everything she’s ever stood for.
As the newly appointed ambassador to the god of time, Quen’s goal is clear – protect Chime and the domains by any means necessary. But as the gods make their demands, Quen is caught between his loyalties and his conscience.
To ensure a future for all mortals, Kayl and Quen must unite the gods against the threat of chaos and decide what they’re willing to sacrifice for Chime – before the gods choose for them.
For the gods are capricious and have their own divine plans.
‘The Children of Chaos felt like a political thriller, mystery, action adventure and fantasy all rolled into one, without ever losing any of the aspects that have made this series so gripping and refreshing. I loved every moment spent with this book (even the ones that had me shouting at what was happening to the characters), and honestly there aren’t words for how strongly I recommend Children of Chaos and the whole series.‘
The Monsters We Feed – Thomas Howard Riley
The morning before he found the dead body, Jathan Algevin thought he had his whole life just the way he wanted it.
He knows his city inside and out, and doesn’t bother carrying a sword, trusting his wits and his fists well enough to get by, hustling extra coin by ratting out loathsome magi to the law for execution.
He and his sister, Lyra, have watched out for each other ever since the day they were orphaned by a bloodthirsty rogue sorcerer, and now they finally have steady work, good friends, and the freedom to spend every night laughing at the bottom of a bottle.
But nothing lasts forever.
When he stumbles across a brutal murder, Jathan discovers a strange crystal lens that opens his eyes to an invisible world of magick and terror lurking just beneath the surface of his own, making him question everything he thought he knew.
But will gazing into this new arcane realm lead Jathan to save lives, or help destroy them?
With dangerous people hunting for the lens, monstrous lies unraveling his life, and a hidden underworld calling to him, it is only a matter of time before his whole world comes crashing down.
Will he find the answers he is looking for, or will he only find a monster needing to be fed?
‘This book holds so much within its pages, from a murder mystery to gang conflicts, to an intimate, personal unravelling of a character, to an exploration of the relationship of lies and truths and the power and corruption of memories, to friendship and family and love. It also has an undercurrent of almost philosophical discussion of lies and truth, and the human inclination to feed the monsters we shouldn’t. And all of this is contained within a compelling story, in a well-realised world that I want to see more of, and with a cast of characters that can be scarily relatable. ‘
The Pact (Black Hind’s Wake #2) – J. E. Hannaford
‘How, can you let things fade so far? I had a reason. I had cause, I was limited. You – you hide in your lakes playing games. This world crumbles, the last refuge north of the Everstorm is Mynyw and you have let it fall into jeopardy.’
The new King of Terrania may no longer hunt for Old Ones, but the world is far from safe. As the crew of Black Hind continues to search out the Old Ones and return them to their rightful homelands, the reach of a dead consort haunts the new king from beyond the grave.
In distant Mynyw a loyal guardian discovers the unravelling of an ancient pact. As Black Hind sails into his territory, he has a decision to make. Can he overcome his prejudice and ask for help from the strangers before the last refuge falls?
‘The Pact took everything that I loved about The Skin – and there was a lot – and just lifted it, like Zora raising a wave. Everything felt more – the world was bigger, and we got to discover more layers of the world and its people, as well as the mythology and lore, the cast of characters grew and those that had been lost were not forgotten. The stakes, and the price of failure and success were higher too. It felt like a world on the edge of a tipping point, and there were moments where the darkness, and the sharp edge of that tipping point sliced deep – and blood was shed (and tears) and no one felt safe. Yet, at the heart of this story there was always a heartbeat of hope.‘
Blackthorne – Clayton W. Snyder
Orphan. Conman. Conscript. Inmate. Haunted by the ghosts of his past, Mattias Temple, a failed cadre necromancer, is mauled by fate. When a rogue military squad kidnaps the governor and threatens the city with a magical plague, he has a shot to redeem a lifetime of mistakes and be the one thing he never thought possible: A hero.
Freed from prison, paired with Bridget, a Blackthorne operative, he sets out to right the one crime that truly haunts him.
As the body count rises Mattias finds himself neck-deep in trouble and drowning in ghosts. Hunted by the mercenary company he betrayed and facing the horrors of feral witchcraft, the question remains: who is Mattias Temple, and what does he want? Revenge, or something more?
‘Blackthorne is absolutely one of those books that you need to experience for yourself to fully understand the impact that this story has, and be prepared to be consumed and entertained, and for your heart to be put through the wringer. You’ll find yourself rooting for questionable characters and questioning the things that you think you know as the story progresses.‘
Strange Cargo (Mennik Thorn) – Patrick Samphire
What do a smuggling gang, a curse that won’t go away, and a frequently lost dog have to do with each other?
Answer: they’re all here to disrupt Mennik Thorn’s hard-earned peace and quiet.
As the sole freelance mage in the city of Agatos, Mennik is used to some odd clients and awful jobs. But this time, one of his clients isn’t giving him a choice. Mennik might have forgotten about the smugglers whose operations he disrupted, but they haven’t forgotten about him. Now he is faced with a simple ultimatum: help them smuggle in an unknown, dangerous cargo or flee the city he loves forever.
Time is running out for Mennik to find an answer, and things are about to get completely out of control.
‘Strange Cargo also added some fascinating elements to the world of Agatos, and in particular I enjoyed exploring the different Temples and the differences in worship (even if Nik’s motives for providing that exploration was less than holy), and seeing the slightly less chaotic, but no less impactful influence of a piece of a Dead God. We also got to learn a bit more about the magic of the world, and the differing effects of raw magic (I loved the Jaunt’s Ghost), and I felt that we really got to see Nik in his element here as he explored and tried to solve and remove some of those effects, from tracing the source, to researching at the library and as I said it really did feel that he is coming into himself.‘
Bonds of Chaos (Threadlight #3) – Zack Argyle
TO BREAK THE BONDS, THERE WILL BE SACRIFICES
When all was lost, the Heralds returned, and the world embraced them as gods and saviors. But there are some who know the truth: the Heralds are not what they seem.
Now, in a desperate attempt to stop them, Chrys and the others travel to Cynosure with hopes of enlisting the only Amber threadweaver with the power to help.
Chrys, Laurel, Alverax, and those they love.
Together, they will stop the gods…or they will die trying.
‘Argyle adds so much to the melting pot that is this series, and it gives that feeling of a world and story that is ever moving and living, even beyond what we can see in the moment. It could have become chaotic, instead what we get is a thrilling, breath-taking crescendo with twists and turns, including those you don’t see coming, that brings together all those elements that have brought us to this point. There isn’t a thread forgotten, and this is a conclusion that is so rich and satisfying in its payoff, not only for the story as a whole, or the individual characters, but for all the events that have happened previously across this world.‘
The Alchemy of Sorrow – Sarah Chorn & Virginia McClain (ed)
Here be dragons and sorcery, time travel and sorrow.
Vicious garden gnomes. A grounded phoenix rider. A new mother consumed with vengeance. A dying god. Soul magic.
These stories wrestle with the experience of loss—of loved ones, of relationships, of a sense of self, of health—and forge a path to hope as characters fight their way forward.
From bestsellers and SPFBO finalists to rising voices, 13 exceptionally talented authors explore the many facets of grief and healing through the lens of fantasy and sci-fi.
*I had intended to get my review for this one up this week, but I’ve done something to my hand/wrist which makes typing incredibly painful and that combined with work means I have to accept it’s not going to happen. Instead, The Alchemy of Sorrow will be my first review of 2023. But, I will say that is an exceptional and powerful collection and you should absolutely pick it up now.*
I mentioned this was a stellar reading year, right? Well there was no way I could do this post and not mention these four books. You can find my reviews for each one by clicking on the cover, but each of these books are excellent in their own way and ones that I would highly recommend.
Stellar Instinct – Jonathan Nevair
Through Dreams So Dark (Rai Ascendant #1) – Angela Boord
Starbinder (The Eye of Eternity #0.5) – Mark Timmony
Where Blood Runs Gold – A.C. Cross
NOW WITHOUT FURTHER ADO…
MY FAVOURITE BOOK OF 2022 IS…
A Cup of Tea at the Mouth of Hell (Or, an Account of Catastrophe by Stoudemire McCloud, Demon) – Luke Tarzian
BRIELY, A WORD ABOUT ORDER
Order is the focal point around which existence revolves. Without order there is only chaos. And in the halls of Damnation (pronounced Dam-NAWT-ion, thank you kindly) the first sign of impending chaos is a cup of tea made without the water having first been well and properly boiled in a kettle.
Why is this relevant, o nameless narrator? you ask. Who cares about the preparatory order of tea in the fires of Hell?
Lucifer, dear reader. After all, how does one expect to properly greet the newcomers to Hell without having first had a hot cup of tea to bulwark the cold?
Behold The Morning Star, frantic on the annual Morning of Souls, the arrival of Damnation’s newest recruits.
Someone has misplaced the kettle.
‘It’s a book that will have you soul searching alongside Lucifer, it will have you looking at your dreams, yourself, and your demons, and make you feel. This is a small book that packs one hell of a punch, and it’s a book that examines and talks about so much that we often keep buried, that we try to hide from even to our detriment. It’s an incredibly important book, that’s so personal and yet so encompassing at the same time.’
So there we have it, my favourite reads of 2022. Have you read any of them? Are they on your favourites list? What other books have been a highlight of your year? Let me know!