Top 5 Fantasy Novels Read in 2013

Kicking off the year-end lists, today’s post highlights the best 5 fantasy novels I read this past year. This list, and subsequent “Best Of” lists aren’t going to take into account the publication date of any of the novels. I’m culling them from what I read in 2013, not what I read that was published in 2013. You may see some familiar titles if you read my Top 10 Books Read in the 1st Half of 2013 list.

Suffice to say, if you haven’t read any of these books yet, then you’re really missing out!

Scott Lynch‘s The Lies of Locke Lamora, book 1 in the Gentlemen Bastards series, reviewed here.

An orphan’s life is harsh — and often short — in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. But born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains — a man who is neither blind nor a priest.

A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected “family” of orphans — a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke grows to lead the Bastards, delightedly pulling off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting.

Passing themselves off as petty thieves, the brilliant Locke and his tightly knit band of light-fingered brothers have fooled even the criminal underworld’s most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi. But there is someone in the shadows more powerful — and more ambitious — than Locke has yet imagined.

Known as the Gray King, he is slowly killing Capa Barsavi’s most trusted men — and using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr’s underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own brutal game — or die trying…

Courtney Schafer‘s The Tainted City, book 2 in the Shattered Sigil series, reviewed here.

Dev is a desperate man. After narrowly surviving a smuggling job gone wrong, he’s now a prisoner of the Alathian Council, held hostage to ensure his friend Kiran — former apprentice to one of the most ruthless mages alive — does their bidding.

But Kiran isn’t Dev’s only concern. Back in his home city of Ninavel, the child he once swore to protect faces a terrible fate if he can’t reach her in time, and the days are fast slipping away. So when the Council offers Dev freedom in exchange for his and Kiran’s assistance in a clandestine mission to Ninavel, he can’t refuse, no matter how much he distrusts their motives.

Once in Ninavel the mission proves more treacherous than even Dev could have imagined. Betrayed by allies, forced to aid their enemies, he and Kiran must confront the darkest truths of their pasts if they hope to save those they love and survive their return to the Tainted City.

Marie Brennan‘s A Natural History of Dragons, reviewed here.

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

Bradley P Beaulieu‘s The Winds of Khalakovo, book 1 of the Lays of Anuskaya series. No review as of yet.

Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo’s eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo’s future.

When an elemental spirit attacks an incoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigy believed to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy is an autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has been sweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? Can Khalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the Winds of Khalakovo…

David Walton‘s Quintessence, reviewed here.

Imagine an Age of Exploration full of alchemy, human dissection, sea monsters, betrayal, torture, religious controversy, and magic. In Europe, the magic is thin, but at the edge of the world, where the stars reach down close to the Earth, wonders abound. This drives the bravest explorers to the alluring Western Ocean. Christopher Sinclair is an alchemist who cares only about one thing: quintessence, a substance he believes will grant magical powers and immortality. And he has a ship.

4 comments on “Top 5 Fantasy Novels Read in 2013

    • I’ve heard that from a few people. I wonder if part of the reason I liked it so much is simply that I don’t have much experience with historical fantasy, and so don’t have much to really compare it to in terms of quality. I’ve noted that as I get more familiar with what a genre has to offer, books I rated fairly highly early in my experience tend to, in hindsight, not be as good as I thought they were at first.

      • I have that problem with Urban Fantasy at times, not enough experience to really feel I can properly critique it.

        #5 on your list is an example of what happens to me all the time. It was high on my TBR list at one time, butI had honestly forgotten about it until seeing it here, and now my fire to read it has dropped dramatically.

  1. I read Quintessence – it was good but I didn’t LOVE it. I did enjoy the science aspect of “magic” it was a cool way to approach it.

    I really need to read The Lies of Locke Lamora. Can you believe I met the author and didn’t even know who he was til after another author said that’s Scott Lynch. haha I’m a dork. Not that I could be expected to know them all on sight. Still I felt silly.

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