Julia’s Favourite Self Published SFF Books – Update 2
I noticed it has been almost exactly a year since I last updated my list of favourite Self Published SFF books. Oops!
It is more than high time to do so again. Apparently Wyrd & Wonder always needs to be my reminder…
This list is again roughly sorted by style:
I’ll start it off with the grim side of life,
then a more classic tone,
Finishing off the list with some YA titles that are more than good enough to appeal to adults as well!
Dark & Bloody
As you can see I went on quite a Rob J. Hayes binge lately. That has been due to an audible bundle of the Mortal Technique books as well as the fourth book in The War Eternal Series being in sight.
These two series are rather different, but both amazing!
War Eternal 2 & 3 sees Eska growing out of her rage filled teen years, and into an adult life that is still shaped by violence and vengeance. It also gets tempered by friendships, family and loyalties as well as some reflection of the past. I adore her character development and love and hate the author equally for what he subjects one of my favourites characters to…
Mortal Techniques however is a loose series of books that are heavily Asian inspired, and work as stand alones as well as they do as a series. I liked the first, but took a bit to warm to it. Not so with these sequels which I devoured right from the start! Both have a lot of action, banter and a witty tone to them that kept me well entertained, while still including heavy and thought provoking topics that give them depth.
Pawn’s Gambit is about meddling gods and trying to outwit those who are mightier than you.
Spirits of Vengeance deals with topics of loss, redemption, forgiveness, vengeance and sense of self.
Blackcoat by Steve McHugh is a SciFi story about a young woman who is out to right wrongs and avenge her friend. Not an easy thing to do if you live in a city that is corrupt down to the steel bones of its skyscrapers. I especially enjoyed it for the action and sarcasm!
We Men of Ash and Shadow by HL Tinsley is a gaslamp fantasy that has knives, guts and politics. The main character is quite different, and in his very own world, which made him all the more interesting to me! He is neither good nor bad. He simply is himself, in all his weirdness. If you are looking for a hero, you won’t find one in this book. But you’ll find all sorts of shady people as well as plenty of blood and gore. There’s apparently some head hopping some people don’t like – to be honest, as this is exactly how my brain works, I didn’t even notice. If anything it only made it all the more engaging to read for me.
She Dreams in Blood by Michael R. Fletcher is – just like the first book in the series – for those who like their grim really dark. The blood almost flows off the pages, and there’s all sorts of monsters, murder, slaughter, necromancy and whatnot. However it is not just a gore fest, but also features the “who are you really, and can you decide who you want to be, or is it fated?” question, which nicely balanced out the book for me. Very addictive!
Beyond Redemption, also by that Fetcher guy, is even bloodier and definitely more insane. It is the weaker book, as it was his debut, and he has definitely honed his craft since then. However, the hook of the book is so fascinating you hardly can put it down! A world shaped by what people believe. The insane are obviously better at believing the most outrageous things than any normal person. So you think you can just imagine the world this might form? I bet Fletcher’s world is much more insane than what you would come up with.. And very compelling as well!
Classic Style & Epic
I’ve reviewed The Skin by JE Hannaford in full here, but in short – this is a genre defying story that mixes Science, mythology, near future dystopia and a crew of great characters who grow together nicely throughout the book. Action, twists, politics, revenge, the quest to get free and found family made for one of the best fantasy debuts I’ve read!
Shadows of Ivory by TL Greylock and Bryce O’Connor features something I adore in my fantasy: Sciencey ladies! Archaeologists to be precise. The book isn’t flawless and it took me a while to really sink into the world. However the science aspects and a friendship (instead of a romance), which I hope to see a lot more off in book two, made it for me!
Sairō’s Claw by Virginia McClain is an action paced fantasy with plenty of cool fight scenes. It has a female couple and their little daughter as main characters. All very capable women (even the tiny one!) and I loved their dynamic and especially how different their strengths and weaknesses were. Instead of romance drama or anything of the sort, they are a stable couple, and one needs to rescue the other. Or not? I definitely want to see more relationships like this in my books!
Legacy of Ghosts by Alicia Wanstall-Burke is the second book in the recently finished Coraidic trilogy. I especially enjoyed the Australian inspired world and the female lead. There are no pure heroes or villains here. Instead it is a bunch of flawed people who all work towards their own goals.
Scars of Cereba by Rachel Emma Shaw is the second and final book in the Memoria Duology. It has less travelling about, and instead explore more of the history and magic in the world. I really loved the new direction, and enjoyed it even more than Last Memoria!
Bloodwitch by Timandra Whitecastle is a small novella that was a perfect quick bite between the big tomes. It explores the younger years of one of the main characters in Touch of Iron, and definitely wetted my appetite to try out the main series! For such a short story it packed in quite some action as well as some pondering about deeper meanings.
Ranger’s Justice is a prequel novella to Ranger’s Rebellion by J.D.L. Rosell. I really loved both of these, especially for it finally giving me a great archer! I love archery myself, but so often the way people use bow and arrows in books makes me flinch instead of gripping me. Rosell definitely knows how to use a bow, and it made me so happy! I also enjoyed the world we get to explore, the strong female lead, and the epic feel of the whole story.
Dragon Mage by ML Spencer is an epic tale that has all I want in a classic fantasy. If you like your fantasy very unique and don’t like tropes, this might not be for you. But if you sometimes crave a good nostalgic read that reminds you of the classics, this is a great choice! I especially loved the main character being on the autism spectrum, and it not being a big thing. It’s just who he is.
The Mortal Blade by Christopher Mitchell also is a bit on the tropey side, and the characters were a bit stereotypical at times. However the sheer amount of magic, gods, monsters and a dragon more than made up for it. I breezed through this fast paced and fun story, and am really looking forward to reading the sequel!
Stones of Light by Zack Argyle is the second book in the Threadlight series, and a definite step up to Voice of War. Almost all my gripes with book one have been polished out in book two, and I devoured it! Like with Mortal Blade I especially loved the sheer amount of magic and action! another very positive point for me was the good balance of the cast, with plenty of female characters.
This Quest is Broken by J.P. Valentine (Depending on your region it could also be called “This Quest is Bullshit”) is a really fun romp that had me well entertained and giggling through the whole book. Perfect for a light break, or when the concentration isn’t at its best.
On the Shoulders of Titans by Andrew Rowe is the second book in the Arcane Ascension series. I enjoyed it even more, as the characters gained some depth, and I especially enjoyed how the cast got more diverse. From not being sure if there is any romantic inclination at all, or if there is, then to whom, to not liking being touched, and a gender fluid character, this just made it a natural part of the story instead of a focus. Paired with that, we have a lot of great action scenes, characters I really feel connected with and world mechanics I enjoyed learning! I am currently reading the third one.
Unsouled by Will Wight is the first book in the cradle series – one of the best selling self-published series out there. I am very late to the party, but I can see why it is so popular! It’s a gripping, fast paced and easy read that I more or less devoured in one sitting. Plenty of action and adventure kept me glued to the pages all the way through.
Light & Fun
Thornbound by Stephanie Burgis is the second book in the Harwood Spellbook series. With it’s novella length it is a good choice for a quick bite, and felt like Jane Austen meeting magic. I really love the main characters being a stable couple, which I’d like to see a lot more in books, instead of all the relationship drama romance often has. Here the tension comes from fighting for women’s rights, and some pesky magical problems…
Good Neighbours is a collection of two very short and two longer stories. A necromancer and a metal mage, who refuse to stick to societal rules and pretend they are normal. I loved the snarky tone and the feel good character of the story, even though it does handle some harder topics. It definitely left me with a smile and a warm feeling!
Manners and Monster Collection 1 one is a bundle of 3 books. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I bought it, but quickly became addicted to this series. The romance is a slow burn, and when it starts it isn’t the focus of the book, or big relationship drama at all. No instead the focus is on murder mysteries and all sorts of monsters!
The first book is high society ladies turned into zombies. As they aren’t just poor paupers instead of being killed off, society adjust to their needs… The second one has random body parts stitched together, or even with a life of their own… The third has people turned into stone.
Suitable to YA as well as 35 year old me
I just discovered both of these authors during this year’s QuaranCon, and I am so glad I found them!
Urchin’s Gambit by Levi Jacobs is a prequel novella to his Resonant saga. It was a good little glimpse into his writing style, and immediate made me pick up one of his novels. So I’d say it is safe to say I enjoyed it! Especially for the snarky female lead, who just can’t help herself from commenting, even if just shutting up might be best.
Daughter of Flood and Fury is the first book in the Tidecaller Chronicles, and I got hooked right from the start. Again a good female lead, who I instantly clicked with and plenty of action. She has male magic, and it opens the questions of different gifts and treatment depending on gender. I especially liked how it was a main topic of the book, but wasn’t handled heavy handed, but felt like a natural part of the world and story.
Brambles by Intisar Khanani is a prequel novella to Thorn. Again I enjoyed it enough to instantly pick up a novel as well. Another good female lead, but for once not a strong fighter, rather just a normal young woman who dreams of a quite and peaceful life. She has lived through quite some family trauma, and hopes to escape her life as it is. I loved the different setting, and especially how this story shows that not every female lead needs to be an action heroine to make a gripping read.