Thoughtful Thursday: Best of 2009

All of the FanLit reviewers got together and made a list of the best fantasy novels published in 2009.  The Thoughtful Thursday column this week is going to be dedicated to letting several of the reviewers explain why they chose the books they did. For our complete list, see this post.

In the order that I found them in my inbox, here are our reviewer comments:fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

From Stefan:

Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente. “This is a novel to read slowly and savor, because otherwise it’ll be over too soon and you’ll end up like me, re-reading entire chapters after finishing it.  Recommended to anyone who can appreciate a fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsslow-moving, lyrical and entirely unique story.  Absolutely gorgeous, and easily my favorite new fantasy of 2009.”

The City & the City: “Crime noir meets one of the strangest concepts I’ve ever encountered in speculative fiction: two cities, occupying the same geographical area, whose inhabitants have been conditioned to “un-see” each other. I’ve tried to describe the concept of the two cities to people who read lots of science fiction and fantasy, and to people who never read the genres, and from both I’ve fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsreceived blank, uncomprehending looks.  There’s a lot of forgettable fantasy out there, but this book is as unique and memorable as I’ve come to expect from China Mieville.”

Sasha by Joel Shepherd: “A huge and complex fantasy world, a fascinating heroine, heart-pounding descriptions of both small-scale sword fights and full-on warfare, several characters that genuinely grow and change, and — maybe most importantly — the hint that this is just the start of what could become a great series.  Excellent epic fantasy.”

From Kelly:fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

Elfland by Freda Warrington: Warrington develops her characters until they nearly jump off the page, builds a complex, long-simmering plot with painstaking care, and in the end, every little detail matters. Contemporary-fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbut-not-urban fantasy meets family saga.

Jasmyn by Alex Bell: This one sucked me in with its eerie fairy-tale mystery, and made me feel like I’d taken an enchanted vacation in Europe. Lovely and moving.

Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater: Stiefvater wrote two books I loved this year. I fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsliked Ballad just a hair better than Shiver, but both are very
much worth reading. Stiefvater is great at creating haunted yet relatable teen protagonists, and at bringing the sights, sounds, and scents of a season to life. Ballad is an autumn book; Shiver is a winter book. Both are beautiful.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsLips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor: Prose to die for. I’d never read anything by Taylor before, and didn’t know what to expect going into this one. I think I had vague expectations of a Twilight clone, and instead found myself blown away by a trio of dark, twisting fairy tales with a writing style that made me think of Angela Carter.fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

On the Edge by Ilona Andrews: Ilona Andrews is one of the most original voices in urban fantasy right now, and she just keeps getting better. Like Stiefvater, she published two fantastic books this year. It was hard to choose between On the Edge and Magic Strikes, but in the end I had to go with On the Edge because of the way it combined a fairy-tale feel with a hardscrabble, realistic setting.

From Justin:

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsI’m only picking two this year, and it was actually an easy task. My favorite book, hands down, was Mark Chadbourn’s The Silver Skull. I was so impressed with this novel that I have firmly placed myself in the Mark Chadbourn fanclub. I’m still waiting for my Will Swyfte decoder ring and laminated membership card. I was caught completely off-guard by the quality of The Silver Skull. First off, Pyr printings are awesome. Those guys know how to print books. Just look at Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy and have any doubts removed that Pyr isn’t completely awesome. So yeah, the book looked good in its shiny Chris McGrath cover. Just read my review to see exactly why this fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook is so good.

My second pick of the year is reserved for Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold. I was totally ready to hate this book. I was mad at Joe for how he ended The First Law, and I was prepared to unleash my reviewer fury upon this piece when I knew Abercrombie would end the story in devastating disappointment. I was wrong, well sort of. The whole book defied a lot of my expectations, and confirmed a few too. I think I have a better idea of what Abercrombie is trying to prove as a writer, and this is the book that finally made me understand. Excellent book, and easy choice for my 2nd pick of 2009.

From Robert T:fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsTwelve by Jasper Kent. Brilliantly blending together historical fiction with vampire horror, “Twelve” is one of the best debuts of the year, and quite possibly my favorite book of 2009.

Canticle by Ken Scholes. Superior to its predecessor in almost every way, “Canticle” is what a middle volume should be like: thrilling and rewarding while leaving the reader gasping for more.fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

The Price of Spring by Daniel Abraham. The fourth and final fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsvolume in The Long Price Quartet is a triumphant conclusion to one of the most unique and spellbinding fantasy series that I’ve read in the past decade.

The Rats and the Ruling Sea by Robert V.S. Redick. Possessing all of the same outstanding qualities of the first book, while fixing most of its problems, The Rats and the Ruling Sea is a vast improvement over its predecessor and easily one of the best fantasy novels of the year.fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

and from me (Ruth):

The Light of Burning Shadows by Chris Evans: Best described as what would happen if the British Empire invaded Middle Earth.  An elf who hates tree, an evil force let loose in the world, mysterious ancient artifacts reappearing – this book has all the elements of  epic fantasy delivered in a writing style the has fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewssparkle and razor sharp edge of a shard of crystal.

Purple and Black by K.J. Parker: A slim novel written as official dispatches combined with the personal letters between the new Roman Emperor and his best friend that he has named general on the frontier. A funny yet heartbreaking examination of political idealism, friendship and ambition, with a perfectly



depicted long term friendship at its core.  You must love a novel that starts, “You are, of course, an unmitigated bastard.”

So, it’s your turn to weigh in.
What was your favorite book published in 2009 and why?
Leave a comment and we’ll enter you in a drawing to win a hardcover copy of  Chelsea Quinn Yarbro‘s Burning Shadows.
Check back Monday to find out who won.

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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  1. My favorite book of 2009 was Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire. The heroine is tough and gritty but far from invulnerable. I couldn’t put it down and am waiting eagerly for the second book in the series.

  2. I finally got my hands on Rosemary and Rue last week, and I can’t wait to read. I’ve heard so many good things about it.

  3. I would have to say that my favorite book of 2009 is the Beka Cooper book 2 Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce. Not only is Pierce one of my favorite authors, her Alanna series was one of three that started my love of fantasy, but how can you not love a character who shares your name.
    It took an agonizing three years after the first book was published for this one to be printed but the wait was worth it, especially when it came out just in time to be an extra birthday gift. I was so happy when I got the book that I couldn’t put it down. I am now currently waiting for book 3.

  4. I’d have to agree with Maggie Stiefvater’s books. The best find of 2009 for me. I’d add the book Lament in there as well. Lament was the first book before Ballad. It really sets up things for Ballad (which I liked better).

  5. Anonymous /

    I had one favorite that I know was published in 2009. The Heart of Veridon by Tim Akers. It was a great read and I’m hoping he gets to publish the rest of the series sometime. Non-stop action. Not my usual read, but this one grabbed me and took me for a ride.

    Honorable mention (I think it’s a 2009 book) Strange Brew. Collection of UF short stories. Only one real stinker in the bunch, and I found some more authors to read.

  6. I loved Lament! :-)) It was one of the best books I read last year.

  7. Quite a solid and diverse list. i don;t think anyone could go wrong with reading any of these. I know my TBR list expanded quite a bit when going through these.

  8. I didn’t actually read that many books published in 2009 (there are so many older ones I’m still catching up on). Of those I did read, the best three were:
    * Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carrey (arguably SF and not fantasy)
    * In Shade and Shadow by Barb and J.C. Hendee
    * White Witch, Black Curse by Kim Harrison
    probably in that order.

  9. My favorite book was The Help-the characters were very realistic and came to life.

  10. I am reading Ballad now…. but so far I like Lament just a little more then Shiver but they are about tie!!

  11. I would pick Twelve by Jasper Kent.

    I must admit I haven’t read most of the others on your list though !

    I also liked the mix of historical and horror as I haven’t read anything like that mix in a long time (if ever).


  12. I liked several of the books mentioned. I’ll add Marjorie Liu’s Darkness Calls, for the sparkling prose. A lot of the best boooks I read in 2009 were either classics, non-fantasy, or, in the case of Midnight’s Daughter by Chance, a 2010 release I got a few weeks early.

  13. Neville, if you enjoyed Twelve then you should love the sequel, Thirteen Years Later. It’s just as good, if not better, than the first one…

  14. @Stephen: I can never argue with a mention of Marjorie Liu. :thumb: Her writing style is just gorgeous. I liked The Iron Hunt just a little bit better, but they’re definitely one of my favorite UF series.

  15. @Mike: LOVED Santa Olivia. Such a great story.

  16. I have a couple of favorites, but three favorites were On the edge by Ilona Andrews, Rosemary and Rue by Seanan Mcguire, and The better part of Darkness by Kelly Gay.

  17. My favourite book was Turn Coat by Jim Butcher. The Dresden Files series is one of the few ones that just keep getting better and better.

  18. I agree that Turn Coat was overlooked by most this year. Tends to happen to novels that are placed deep with in a series. Of all the books I bought this year Turn Coat was the only one I waited in line for 4 hours to buy and get signed. I was second in line though, and got front row seat to the Q&A..woohoo!

  19. My favorite book of 2009 would be Divine Misdemeanors by Laurell K. Hamilton. I have always been impressed with Hamilton’s Gentry series, and it only gets better and better. It also helps that she keeps finishing her books early and/or releasing them on time. Hamilton’s book is my favorite one published in 2009 because it has allowed fantasy to enter my life, and I am grateful for her creative ingenuity.

  20. Our book winner is ck.twilighter!
    Contact Kat for the book, ck.


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