It’s the first Thursday of the month. Time to report!
What is the best book you read in December 2021 and why did you love it? It doesn’t have to be a newly published book, or even SFF, or even fiction. We just want to share some great reading material.
Feel free to post a full review of the book here, or a link to the review on your blog, or just write a few sentences about why you thought it was awesome.
And don’t forget that we always have plenty more reading recommendations on our Fanlit Faves page and our 5-Star SFF page.
As always, one commenter with a U.S. mailing address will choose a book from our stacks. If you’re outside the U.S., we’ll send you a $5 Amazon gift card.
Prince of Fire (Gabriel Allon, #5)- Daniel Silva
Best of December: The God Is Not Willing is the first in a new Steven Erikson trilogy (follow-up to the Malazan Book of the Fallen) about Karsa Orlong, who was far from a favorite character for me. But he doesn’t appear in this installment…instead his son (by rape) Rant does. And this is a pretty great book, with much of the focus on a depleted company of Malazan army soldiers and marines going to defend the remote town of Silver Lake from apparently invading tribal peoples, just as Rant is making his escape from the town to search for the tribe from which his father started out many years before. This has some familiar beats from the ten book series: the outnumbered soldiers with their courage, sneaky martial prowess, and daffy Catch-22 style interactions; the naive outcast youth trying to find his place in the world; the magical environmental catastrophe that is pushing the tribes to come south; the heartstring-tugging human dramas large and small of outcasts and climate refugees; and the gods and goddesses in the background. Very much looking forward to the next one.
The rest: The Last Uncharted Sky (Curtis Craddock) ends the Risen Kingdoms trilogy in fine style. Isabelle captains an airship mission trying to penetrate the arctic vortex and find an unspoiled floating continent. Multiple factions are out to thwart her, including heretic church officials, agents of a hostile kingdom, and corrupt aristocrats of her own nation. Jean-Claude may be showing his age, but the musketeer can still be heroic in a crisis. Very enjoyable. Titanshade (Dan Stout) is a noirish police procedural on an alien planet with 8 intelligent humanoid species. Detective Carter and his young non-human partner have to solve a murder that is holding up a deal to convert depleted arctic oil fields to wind farms. Pretty ingenious. The Quicksilver Court (Melissa Caruso) is a slight improvement on the first book in the Rooks and Ruin trilogy. The number of demons who have escaped from Ryxander’s tower has more than doubled, but there’s an explanation for her seeming incompetence. And the Rooks finally manage some effective counter-measures here. Two decent short story collections: Looking For Jake (China Mieville) features apocalyptic strangeness invading, mostly, the streets of London (one New Crobuzon tale); and Sardonic Tales (Auguste Villiers de L’Isle-Adam) has short stories that generally have a cruel twist at the end, where the horror element is usually naturalistic but occasionally supernatural. Books I was less happy about: Far From the Light of Heaven (Tade Thompson) starts off as a murder mystery in space, but it felt like the rules for what the AIs could do kept changing, and it reminded me too much of some serial killer mysteries I’ve read where the villain has an almost supernatural ability to stay multiple steps ahead of the investigators…until it’s time for the story to end. Scribe (Alyson Hagy) I commented on in Marion’s review of the book–another one that started stronger but lost the plot around halfway through. The Blazing World (Margaret Cavendish) is a 17th century proto-SF novella, a curiosity that could only be of interest to hardened literature scholars and would be a chore for anyone else.
“The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires” by Grady Hendrix was pretty good, but not as stellar as I hoped. It took a lot longer to tell the story than I would have wanted.
I didn’t have as much reading time in December as usual, but ended up with four 5-star books. The two with fantasy/folklore themes were Becky Chambers’ “A Psalm for the Wild-Built Robot” which was a lovely, thoughtful tale about a tea monk and a robot who joins them on their journey and “Jackaroo” by Cynthia Voight in which a young tavern keeper’s daughter adopts the Robin Hood-like role. Loved both of them and keep trying to find people to recommend them to.
“True Grit” by Charles Portis was my favorite read this December. Not sci-fi or fantasy, true, but extremely well-written, funny, and hard to put down. Mattie Ross is unforgettable.
Under Pressure by Sara Driscoll. It’s part of her FBI K-9 series
I finished “Empire of the Vampire” by Jay Kristoff. It was very good!
Alright, I’ll ignore my zillion romance novels and focus on the SF/F books.
AJ Demas’s Strong Wine is the 3rd (and last, maybe) of Damiskos’s and Varazda’s story. It’s set in an alternative Mediteranean, roughly ancient Greece-type time period.
Fugitive Telemetry was a fun entry in Martha Wells’s Murderbot about a SecurityUnit (who freed itself) working with the authorities on a space station to solve a murder.
Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell–so tropey. Two space princes, one recently widowed, must marry to keep an interstellar treaty valid. But was the dead husband killed by accident or murdered?
Magician by K.L. Noone was one my favorite’s of hers that I read this year, but I like most of her books a lot. A very strong and not quite human magician (sorcerer) has isolated himself on a tropical island. It keeps him from doing harm after he almost destroyed the country where his ex and daughter live. A prince (hah!) from a small mountain kingdom shows up and asks him to help.
The best book I read was Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson. This installment was slower, but Brandon Sanderson can do no wrong.
“Treachery at Lancaster Gate” by Anne Perry
“Dark Angel: After the Dark” brings the trilogy of Dark Angel novels and the myth arc set up by Season 2 of the TV series to a conclusion, with the revelation of why Max is special and why the Familiar cult consider her such a threat. Also, Max and Logan’s relationship hits a speed bump when he confesses that her late brother Seth from “Before the Dawn” used to work with him, which is how he got killed, and he didn’t tell her all this time.
Mental Floss delves into the dark and altogether inappropriate side of history with “Forbidden Knowledge: A Wickedly Smart Guide to History’s Naughtiest Bits”.
Jeff Maxim,if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks. If your address is outside of the USA, you will get a $5 Amazon gift card.
Please contact me (Marion) with your choice and a US address. Happy reading!