Well, 2014 has almost come to an end. And in terms of quality SFF novels, it's been a decidedly dismal year. By far the worst since I created the Hotlist in 2005. Many of this year's new releases were so lackluster that they often took the love of reading right out of me. Indeed, 2014 marks my lowest output of book reviews since I started doing this. =(
Still, although it was far from a banner year, 2014 saw a number of noteworthy SFF titles get published. Here are the top 5 speculative fiction novels I've read this year! =) Click on each title to read my review. . .
1- Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole (Canada, USA, Europe)
Here's the blurb:
The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began “coming up Latent,” developing terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Those who Manifest must choose: become a sheepdog who protects the flock or a wolf who devours it.
In the wake of a bloody battle at Forward Operating Base Frontier and a scandalous presidential impeachment, Lieutenant Colonel Jan Thorsson, call sign “Harlequin,” becomes a national hero and a pariah to the military that is the only family he’s ever known.
In the fight for Latent equality, Oscar Britton is positioned to lead a rebellion in exile, but a powerful rival beats him to the punch: Scylla, a walking weapon who will stop at nothing to end the human-sanctioned apartheid against her kind.
When Scylla’s inhuman forces invade New York City, the Supernatural Operations Corps are the only soldiers equipped to prevent a massacre. In order to redeem himself with the military, Harlequin will be forced to face off with this havoc-wreaking woman from his past, warped by her power into something evil
2- Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb (Canada, USA, Europe)
Here's the blurb:
Nearly twenty years ago, Robin Hobb burst upon the fantasy scene with the first of her acclaimed Farseer novels, Assassin’s Apprentice, which introduced the characters of FitzChivalry Farseer and his uncanny friend the Fool. A watershed moment in modern fantasy, this novel—and those that followed—broke exciting new ground in a beloved genre. Together with George R. R. Martin, Robin Hobb helped pave the way for such talented new voices as Scott Lynch, Brandon Sanderson, and Naomi Novik.
Over the years, Hobb’s imagination has soared throughout the mythic lands of the Six Duchies in such bestselling series as the Liveship Traders Trilogy and the Rain Wilds Chronicles. But no matter how far she roamed, her heart always remained with Fitz. And now, at last, she has come home, with an astonishing new novel that opens a dark and gripping chapter in the Farseer saga.
FitzChivalry—royal bastard and former king’s assassin—has left his life of intrigue behind. As far as the rest of the world knows, FitzChivalry Farseer is dead and buried. Masquerading as Tom Badgerlock, Fitz is now married to his childhood sweetheart, Molly, and leading the quiet life of a country squire.
Though Fitz is haunted by the disappearance of the Fool, who did so much to shape Fitz into the man he has become, such private hurts are put aside in the business of daily life, at least until the appearance of menacing, pale-skinned strangers casts a sinister shadow over Fitz’s past . . . and his future.
Now, to protect his new life, the former assassin must once again take up his old one. . .
3- The Last Rite by Jasper Kent (Canada, USA, Europe)
Here's the blurb:
Russia – 1917. Zmyeevich, king of all vampires, is dead.
History records that the great voordalak – known across Europe as Dracula – perished in 1893 beneath the ramparts of his own castle, deep in the mountains of Wallachia. In Russia, the Romanov tsars are free of the curse that has plagued their blood for two centuries.
But two decades later and Tsar Nicholas II faces a new threat – a threat from his own people. War has brought Russia to her knees and the people are hungry for change. Revolution is in the air.
Mihail Konstantinovich Danilov – who himself carries Romanov blood – welcomes the prospect of a new regime. Like his ancestors he once fought to save the Romanovs from the threat that Zmyeevich brought them. Fought and won. But now he sees no future for a Russia ruled by a tyrant. He is joined in the struggle by his uncle, Dmitry Alekseevich - a creature born in a different era, over a century before. For more than half his existence he has been a vampire, and yet he still harbours one very human desire; that his country should be free.
But the curse that infects the blood of the Romanovs cannot be so easily forgotten and Mihail soon discovers that it – that he – may become the means by which a terror once thought eradicated might be resurrected . . .
4- Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence (Canada, USA, Europe)
Here's the blurb:
The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.
The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.
After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.
5- Operation Shield by Joel Shepherd (Canada, USA, Europe)
Here's the blurb:
Part military SF, part cyberpunk, part grand-scale space opera, and part techno-psychological thriller, the Cassandra Kresnov novels transcend the recently narrow segmentation of the science fiction genre.
In 23 Years on Fire, Cassandra discovered that the technology that created her has been misused in her former home and now threatens all humanity with catastrophe. Returning home to Callay, she finds that Federation member worlds, exhausted by the previous thirty-year-war against the League, are unwilling to risk the confrontation that a solution may require. Some of these forces will go to any lengths to avoid a new conflict, including taking a sledgehammer to the Federation Constitution and threatening the removal by force of Cassandra's own branch of the Federal Security Agency.
More frighteningly for Sandy, she has brought back to Callay three young children, whom she met on the mean streets of Droze, discovering maternal feelings she had not known she possessed. Can she reconcile her duty as a soldier, including what she must do as a tactician, with the dangers that those decisions will place upon her family-the one thing that has come to mean more to her than any cause she now believes in?
I'll post my entire Top 10 at the end of the year. Last December, a nasty virus that turned into an acute gastroenteritis prevented me from coming up with the annual Hotties awards. Hopefully they can return once more this year. . . =)