The Fantasy Hive 2019 Year-End Awards
As we reach the end of another year, it’s time to look back at the books we’ve read in 2019. Here at the Hive, we just love celebrating awesome fantasy fiction, so please sit back and enjoy the following awards – and be sure to check out each of the awesome winners!
(All titles below were nominated and voted for by our team of contributors. Special thanks to T L Greylock for suggesting the categories and organising the voting!)
~ Best Dressed ~
The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Alix E. Harrow
Readers have unanimously described this debut novel’s prose as ‘beautiful’ and ‘stunning.’ What better way to advertise that than with a cover (designed by the epically talented Lisa Marie Pompilio) that looks the same?
Sometimes a publisher goes above and beyond when it comes to presentation, and a lucky handful of bloggers were blown away when they received their ARCs of this gorgeous novel. Our reviewer Nils Shukla said she “really loved discovering all the surprises that were included at the beginning of various chapters, such as fabric leaves, pressed flowers, and our very own key. This copy was as magical as the story itself.”
In this case, you should absolutely judge a book by its cover. Nils “devoured every single page and revelled in this immersive tale.” In her review, she called it “beautifully heartbreaking,” and finished by saying, “The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a celebration of books; it is a reflection of the power of stories, of words, and it is, honestly, a remarkable read to escape into.”
~ Most Likely to Win a Nobel Prize ~
Dogs of War
His name is Rex. Rex is a good dog. Rex is also seven feet tall at the shoulder, bulletproof, and bristling with heavy calibre weaponry. He’s is a genetically engineered Bioform, a deadly weapon in a dirty war. He has the intelligence to carry out his orders and feedback implants to reward him when he does. All he wants to be is a Good Dog. And to do that he must do exactly what Master says and Master says he’s got to kill a lot of enemies.
But who, exactly, are the enemies? What happens when Master is tried as a war criminal? What rights does the Geneva Convention grant weapons? Do Rex and his fellow Bioforms even have a right to exist? And what happens when Rex slips his leash?
Rex is a good dog. But is he a Good Dog?
~ Most Likely to Induce Emotional Trauma ~
In the final instalment of any epic grimdark trilogy, no one is safe. In Stephens’ case, this includes the reader. Legions of Godblind fans were left in a state of ‘book heartbreak’ after finishing Bloodchild, and many were so devastated they actually needed therapy (probably).
In the words of our reviewer Mike: “Bloodchild taught me two things about my emotions. First, there are three types of tears: sad, happy, and angry (I shed them all). Second, I am an ugly crier. (Apologies to my 7-month-old son who saw me CRUMPLE on the last page, then copied me when I started crying. When you’re old enough to read Bloodchild, you’ll understand.)”
~ Class Clown ~
River of Thieves
Making readers cry is a difficult feat. Perhaps even more difficult is making them laugh. On the opposite end of the spectrum from Bloodchild, Clayton Snyder’s River of Thieves is a darkly funny adventure that perfectly captures the author’s unique (monstrous) brand of humor.
As our reviewer Justine said: “The pages are literally oozing with an unapologetic, sarcastic, and refreshing humor I’ve rarely encountered in books I’ve read over the years. And if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard reading a story in my life…ever. River of Thieves is highly imaginative, wildly hilarious, and so very weird – in the best way possible.”
~ Most F***ing Sweary ~
The True Bastards
“I am Fetching, leader of the half-orc hoof known as the True Bastards. I need to know who you cocksuckers are and what you are doing in the fucking Lots.”
Profanity, sexual references, crude behaviour – the sequel to SPFBO winner The Grey Bastards has it all, and we’d expect nothing less. As Nils said in her review: “This was one awesome hog ride. If you’re looking for a filthy, fierce, fun-fuelled read, then the Bastards have got you covered.”
~ Most Athletic ~
A Tale of Stars and Shadow
The Fantasy Hive’s SPFBO finalist is a tale of one woman’s bravery. Talyn Dynan takes on a near-impossible task in an unfamiliar place and refuses to give up on it, even though the option is always there. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is a literal reality in Dock City, particularly for humans, and Talyn puts her ragtag new squad through rigorous physical (and emotional) training to prepare them for their new role as royal protectors.
Her triumphs against extreme adversity are exhilarating to read, and Talyn’s personal growth – and that of her equally fragile new Wing – is heartwarming. And the all-important high-stakes game of alleya is genuinely thrilling, even for those who (like me) usually have zero interest in sports!
~ Best Song and Dance Routine ~
Soulkeeper has a colourful cast of characters that banter together and kill monsters. In other words, they make a song and dance all together, with witty humour mixed with violent monster slaying. The best combination!
~ Most Crushworthy ~
Winter of the Witch
Tall, dark, and handsome? Moody mythological beings? Tart-tongued heroines breaking the patriarchy? Yes, please!
Alluring, sensual, and brimming with will they/won’t they, Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy is delicious and more than worthy of your next crush. The final book in the trilogy, Winter of the Witch, is a beautiful conclusion to a dazzling, evocative story. We won’t tell if you daydream about Morozko and Vasya. But we know you will.
~ Most Likely to Acquire Superpowers ~
In the VR game world of Titan Online, players get the chance to live out their cape-donning fantasies. But when the heroes can’t be trusted, it’s up to the villains to save the (virtual) world.
~ Most Likely to Hulk Out ~
The Chasing Graves trilogy is, ultimately, a tale of revenge, and of restoring balance to a corrupt and selfish world. Our reviewer Dorian Hart described the setting as “relentless,” adding that “every chapter, every scene, relies upon and is strengthened by the unique characteristics of this odd society, in which enslaved souls are both a currency and an indication of power. It’s a grimdark world out there, full of crime, slaves, and backstabbing.” As you might expect, there’s only so much people can take before chaos breaks out and the oppressed finally hulk out.
~ Most Likely to Start a Revolution ~
We Are the Dead
On a similar theme, this story of a nascent rebellion against overwhelming odds set in an alternate Grimdark orient was an easy choice for ‘most likely to start a revolution’. Our reviewer Mike described it as “A pull-no-punches account of the realities of war, complete with a cast of humans (key point: not heroes) whose efforts will likely fail. But if they don’t try, then who else will?”
~ Best Pack Leader ~
The Wolf of Oren-yaro
A queen of a divided land must unite her people, even if they hate her, even if it means stopping a ruin that she helped create. Tali is a complex hero, and Filipino author K.S. Villoso is a bold new voice in the genre. Both she and the Bitch Queen are pack leaders worth following.
Like any alpha wolf worth its salt, Tali takes care of her pack. As the author said in an interview about The Wolf of Oren-yaro: “Where Western ideals value the individual, Filipino ideals value family, blood, and togetherness. There is a term called amor propio, for instance, which translates to a sense of “self-worth” or “self-respect” or maybe even “pride”… and not only must you be watching this in yourself, it is required that you take care of another person’s. So Tali refusing to talk about certain issues, despite the power she holds, is her maintaining amor propio in her husband, her family, and her husband’s family. This doesn’t make her a “weaker” character—she is simply holding true to her cultural values. She’ll still bust your face open if you piss her off…”
~ Most Likely to Start a Band ~
The Poison Song
The heroes of the Winnowing Flame trilogy are the most unlikely band of adventurers you can imagine. But what if they started an actual musical band? True, they’d be constantly splitting up and getting back together (Noon and Tor in particular are like Ross and Rachel, or the Gallagher brothers from Oasis), but that’s all part of their charm.
Hits include: ‘The Monster’s Arse,’ ‘Shush, Darling,’ ‘Touched by the Crimson Flux,’ ‘Don’t Lock up your Daughters,’ ‘Helcate,’ ‘When the War Beasts Roamed,’ and fan favourite, ‘Get Back on your Bat (and Fuck Off).’
~ Most Likely to Start a Cult ~
Fonda Lee’s Godfather-esque tale of clan loyalty and political warfare contains two rival clans: Mountain and No Peak. The main characters are the leaders of the No Peak clan, and they are hugely popular; in fact, lots of readers took to Twitter to declare their allegiance to the No Peak clan. Jade War literally started a (small-scale) cult following.
~ Most Likely to Accidentally Summon a Demon ~
The Syraeic League specialise in raiding tombs and uncovering lost artefacts from ancient times. Every now and then, one of their explorers will accidentally set off a deadly trap or activate a curse, or even awaken 30-50 long-forgotten feral gods. It’s not too hard to imagine them also summoning a demon by mistake.
Fortunately, Syraeic expeditions are well equipped to deal with such threats, and the demon in question would likely find itself un-summoned (or simply un-alive) in a heartbeat.
That concludes our 2019 Year-End Awards! Which books would you have chosen? Are there any categories you’d like to see next year? Let us know in the comments!