Nils’ Top Reads of 2023
As we come to the end of another year it’s time for me to reflect upon my favourite reads and this year I’ve got a ton of them.
From nautical fantasy, to unique genre blends, epistolary and light academia my reads have taken me on many epic and magical adventures.
I’d like to thank every publicist, publisher and author who has reached out to me and sent review copies or given me opportunities to interview authors. You all do a fantastic job which I truly appreciate.
Without further ado, here’s my Top reads of 2023, starting with my three outstanding books of the year. The rest follow in no particular order but I loved them all.
Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs (Standalone, debut)
Buzzing with atmospheric prose, charismatic characters and a cryptic plot, this sumptuously bleeds magic from every page.
Recommended for people who like: Magical books, dark academia, secret libraries, themes of loneliness.
Shark Heart by Emily Habeck (standalone, debut)
An innovative and inspirational story that emotionally captures its readers until the end. This is not just a story of love, it’s a story of goodbyes.
Recommended for people who like: poetry and 3rd person prose, past and present timelines, animal mutants, themes of transformation and grief.
A Letter to the Luminous Deep by Sylvie Cathrall (first book in the Sunken Archive series. Not out until April 2024)
Deeply romantic and achingly beautiful in every way. This book delves readers into a fantasy with both warmth and charm whilst tenderly revealing a story of unsettling discoveries and tragic loss.
Recommended for people who like: Epistolary novels, mystery, underwater worlds, slow-burn romance and cosy reads.
The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty (first book in the Amina al-Sirafi trilogy)
An epic feminist tale quite like no other. This is a story which celebrates being a mother who longs for more, it is a celebration of faith and a stark reflection upon colonialism.
Recommended for people who like: Middle Eastern mythology, adult characters, nautical fantasy, themes of motherhood and invasions, a fun fantasy adventure.
Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson (first of Sanderson’s Secret Projects)
A wild seafaring adventure with charm, whimsy, visual beauty and Sanderson’s trademark inventiveness.
Recommended for people who like: complex magic systems, incredible worldbuilding, subtle romance, nautical fantasy, pirates and witches.
The Hunters by David Wragg (first book in the Tales of the Plains trilogy)
Packed to the brim with madness and mayhem, humour and anarchy, mysticism and alchemy, but most of all it holds characters you will absolutely love, and those you will love to hate!
Recommended for people who like: Humour, Westerns, low-key magic, chaotic shenanigans and themes of motherhood.
The Jasad Heir by Sara Hashem (First book in The Scorched Throne duology, debut)
Blazes with rich worldbuilding, compelling characters and magic that will leave you singed.
Recommended for people who like: Egyptian and Middle Eastern mythology, unhinged main character, banter, themes of colonialism, war and PTSD, forbidden magic, slow burn enemies to lovers and magical training scenes.
Starling House by Alix E Harrow (standalone)
A deeply gothic and heartfelt tale featuring a house plagued by ghosts, curses and monsters, and characters wronged by small town mentality.
Recommended for people who like: Haunted houses, gothic atmosphere, themes of grief, loneliness and finding a place to belong, sibling relationships and fairytales.
The League of Gentlewomen Witches by India Holton (book two in the Dangerous Damsels trilogy)
With playful dialogue, openly crafty characters and a sizzling romance, this is truly a tale to enchant.
Recommended for people who like: witches, banter and humour, quirky characters, chaotic shenanigans, spicy romance and cosy feel-good reads.
The Tyranny of Faith by Richard Swan (book two in the Empire of the Wolf trilogy.)
Filled with political intrigue, religion, law, philosophy and necromancy this is a richly layered medieval fantasy.
Recommended for people who like: the first book, necromancy, morally grey characters, strong themes of religion and zealotry and mystical books.
The Magician’s Daughter by H.G. Parry (standalone)
Beautifully captures a classic fairytale-esque tale, filled with whimsy, magic and bittersweet longings. This is a historical fantasy which will delight cosy fantasy lovers who want a nostalgic read.
Recommended for people who like: Howl’s Moving Castle, whimsical and secret magic, cosy reads, animal companions and coming of age stories.
And Put Away Childish Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky (novella, standalone)
A story of resilience in a surreal world and the search for meaning. It is Narnia on a much darker, comical and riotous scale.
Recommended for people who like: portal fantasy, blends of fantasy and horror, humour and a fast paced plot.
The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams (second book in The Winnowing Flame trilogy)
Wrapped in humour, heart racing action, a mesmerising world and the most loveable heroes.
Recommended for people who like: the first book, dragons, fantastical creatures, complex and political worlds, high fantasy and diversity.
Mothtown by Caroline Hardaker (standalone)
A story that is both strange and haunting but also raw and incredibly tender.
Recommended for people who like: genre blends, mystery, atmospheric prose, themes of loneliness and mental health and a melancholic main character.
The Bone Shard War by Andrea Stewart (book three in The Drowning Empire trilogy)
Dazzling, addictive and moving, this is an excellent end to a fantastic series.
Recommended for people who like: the first two books, animal companions, complex magic, political worlds, Asian inspired worlds, POC characters and environmental themes.
The Revels by Stacey Thomas (standalone, debut)
A witchy tale that both challenges and sympathies with its characters as they journey through a world that would rather condemn them for being alive than see them prosper.
Recommended for people who like: historical fiction, witchcraft, witch trials, slow burn plots and flawed characters.
Starter Villain by John Scalzi (standalone)
A hilariously bizarre, rip roaringly fun sci-fi where villainy is a family business.
Recommended for people who like: outrageous shenanigans, humour, sentient cats and dolphins, villainy and fast paced reads.
Thirteen Ways to Kill Lulabelle Rock by Maud Woolf (standalone, debut, out January 2024)
A stunningly layered, genre blending quirky noir with a surprising tender exploration of experiencing the highs and lows of life and finding love.
Recommended for people who like: sci fi thrillers, quirky settings, clones, assassins, razor sharp prose, diverse female characters and stories with many layers.
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (first book in The Bone Season series, reissued for 20th anniversary)
Dazzles with its complex worldbuilding, enigmatic characters and a twisty fast paced rollercoaster of a plot.
Recommended for people who like: clairvoyants, complex magic systems, political intrigue, morally grey and non human characters and unique fantasy worlds.
Read my review here
A Midwinter’s Tale by Lili Hayward (standalone, novella)
One of those reads that envelopes you in warmth, magic, and the power of stories and leaves you purring with glee.
Recommended for people who like: close-knit small village settings, themes of Christmas, Cornish folklore, animal characters, magical realism, cosy reads, and subtle romance.
Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands by Heather Fawcett (book two in the Emily Wilde series. Out January 2024)
Takes us on another light academia adventure with a slice of prickly romance and a world of Fae which both dazzles and terrifies.
Recommended for people who like: light academia, scholarly characters, whimsical and eerie worlds, faes and animals.
Yumi and the Nightmare Painter by Brandon Sanderson (Sanderson’s third secret project)
Masterful worldbuilding, compelling characters and such a tender exploration of loneliness, acceptance and love.
Recommended for people who like: Cosmere, unique magic systems, slow burn romance, body swap trope, Asian inspired worlds, anime and themes of loneliness.
Dark Water Daughter by H.M Long
A Jacobean period flintlock fantasy with pirates, weather witches, mages and monsters.
Recommended for people who like: characters with unusual magical abilities, nautical fantasy, high fantasy, flawed characters, original folklore and many many pirates.
I know there are a lot of favourites here, a few which won’t be released until 2024 and I also know Sanderson appears twice, but my list, my rules! If I read them and loved them then I’m going to shout about them!