In the last list I went over my top novellas released this year. In this final list, as an homage to 2022, we’ll cover my 12 favorite new releases for this year, complete with a few honorable mentions, just before it comes to a close.
• Mindwalker – by Kate Dylan •
We begin with Mindwalker, a book that I initially skipped, only to pick up on the recommendation of several reviewers touting its YA and cyberpunk themes. While it barely cracks the Top 12, this is a very good read—though maybe not as great as the rest.
• Return of the Whale Fleet – by Benedict Patrick •
The latest Darkstar book was actually the one that shook up my first draft of the Top 12, as I’d completely forgotten that it released THIS year. Yeah, I know. While not quite as good as its predecessor, Return of the Whale Fleet was still an immersive and vivid ride through the Darkstar Dimension and parts beyond, while harboring an unexpected bit of darkness behind.
• The Martyr – by Anthony Ryan •
“Devotion is inherently nonsensical.”
Sequel to last year’s Pariah—which snuck into the Top 5 at #4—the Martyr wasn’t quite as good, but still managed to deliver on a brilliant fantasy followup, and one of only three sequels on this year’s list (compared to five in 2021).
Honorable Mention: Black Heart
I haven’t completed all three parts of Black Heart, and as such it won’t make this list. While I did enjoy the first two parts enough that it could have been on here, I’d really like to have a somewhat sensical review of it up first—which I won’t until I finish the damned thing. So just know that yes, it’s out, and yes, it’s good, and yes, I’ll have a recommendation on what to do with/how to handle this news when I do eventually finish it. In the meantime I’d say, maybe go check it out yourself? Or have a look at the Barrow, the comics, or my reviews of any of the parts under Mark Smylie’s name here?
• Hide – by Kiersten White •
In the end, twelve contestants get massages. They wear beaded masks, so they can’t see the older woman massaging then cries the whole time. She wishes the other two had allowed her to perform this kindness. It’s the only thing she can offer them, the final gift of gratitude for what they’re going to do.
A supernatural thriller from YA fantasy author Kiersten White, Hide was one of my most anticipated releases this year—and one of the rare few that I thought lived up to the hype. Sure, the characters were sometimes a bit over the top, and occasionally the choices they made weren’t great either, but humans do do stupid things and this definitely related that through. The setting—and abandoned amusement park—and the supernatural elements more than made up for anything the characters lacked, however, and I’d gladly read this one again anytime!
• The Oleander Sword – by Tasha Suri •
He watched his sister walk around the ceremonial wedding fire, garbed in resplendent red, and thought, My country is dying.
He watched her bow for the garland, and thought, Our father is dying.
He watched her as she lowered her head for the wedding garland, and thought, My sister will die.
And there is nothing I can do.
My last—and highest ranked—sequel of the year cracking the Top 12, Oleander Sword capitalizes on the successes of Suri’s Jasmine Throne, while throwing some additional surprises in as well. The most unexpected of them all (for me, at least) was of a romance done right. I’m now highly anticipating the Burning Kingdoms’ finale, due in late 2023.
• Our Crooked Hearts – by Melissa Albert •
So. Magic. It is the loneliest thing in the world.
This paranormal novel highlighting witches and oaths also features a mother-daughter dual POV to tell a highly interesting, immersive tale of love, life, and coming of age. If you weren’t aware that Melissa Albert’s stories often harbor a darkness within them, then you must be new or naïve—something you’re sure to grow out of soon enough.
• Mickey7 – by Edward Ashton •
He runs both hands back through his hair. “I don’t know… I don’t know… they didn’t cover this situation in training.”
That’s the truth, anyway. Training was one hundred percent about dying. I don’t remember them dedicating much time at all to staying alive.
After a piece of science fiction about learning to love yourself, about life, love and… um, double-penetration? Well, look no further than Mickey7, a novel that truly answers the question ‘If you can, then why not?’ In addition to being interesting, often thrilling, immersive, entertaining, and funny Mickey7 doesn’t waste time trying to take itself too seriously or really even trying to address the dark, almost black humor pervading every part of it. Instead, this novel just incorporates all of these aspects into a story that is wrong on so many levels that it’s somehow so, so right.
• The Immortality Thief – by Taran Hunt •
There were shadows in the room, Brigid had told me; shadows that wanted to do her harm. Little shadow people, only as tall as she was, half the height our parents were. They gathered in doorways and crouched beside the dresser, and in the dead of night they came out and gathered around her beside like viewers at a funeral while she lay paralyzed.
• The Stardust Thief – by Chelsea Abdullah •
Legend had it that after slaughtering the marid, the humans hung their corpses from the tops of the cliffs, and there had been so much silver blood running down the rocks, it had transformed into a cascading stream of water. Sometimes, when Loulie stared hard at the streams winding through the city, she thought they glittered like stardust.
It was beautiful, and it was horrible.
The second debut in the top five, the Stardust Thief is a gripping fantasy about stories, adventure, love, and finding one’s place in the world. Four and five were so tight it could’ve gone either way, but I gave the edge Chelsea Abdullah’s book on the grounds that while it was released longer ago, it was still able to make the same impact as an entry released months later.
• Seven Deaths of an Empire – by G.R. Matthews •
“If you stopped struggling to get free, the guards would not beat you,” Astenius pointed out.
“Life is struggle,” the warrior said.
“We only stop when we are dead,” Emlyn finished and the warrior’s gaze snapped around to her.
“Who are you to know the sayings of the forest?”
“I am of the forest,” she answered.
“Yet you stand with them,” he accused.
“Not through choice.”
“Then you struggle.”
“I am not dead yet,” she answered.
“Why attack us?” Astenius asked once more.
“You are here to be attacked,” the man answered.
“How many of your warriors were with you?”
“Not enough,” the warrior answered.
“How many more are there?”
“More than enough.”
“Are you sure you wish to do this?” Astenius said to the trapped warrior.
“I struggle,” the man replied, gritting his teeth.
“I applaud your bravery,” Astenius said, sweeping his hand to point at the brazier, “but your stupidity astounds me.”
“Life is disappointment,” the man said.
An unapologetic grimdark about a Roman Empire that could’ve well been, Seven Deaths of an Empire was technically a re-release from last year that I nevertheless included as it was an incredible read that I ended up adoring. My biggest surprise of the year—and a book I ended up requesting on a whim—it creates a vibrant and beautiful world full of deep characters before ultimately tearing everything to shreds. And it provided the (extended) quote of the year for me as well!
• Spells for Forgetting – by Adrienne Young •
“There are spells for breaking and spells for mending. But there are no spells for forgetting.”
While this was definitely my book of the second half of the year, it wasn’t quite good enough to take the top spot. I mean, I was definitely splitting hairs at this point, but the fact that I wasn’t completely in love with the true love story ended up costing Spells first place.
• Daughter of Redwinter – by Ed McDonald •
Friendship is easy to claim and dangerous to test.
What do you really expect me to say about my favorite work of the year? For most stories I give you the good, the bad, and why you should care. For a best of list? I feel like when all the nitpicking is done, I should be able to simply stand back and let this book speak for itself. A fantastic tale about a girl with nothing and no one trying to carve a life for herself out of cold, unyielding stone and red, weeping flesh—all the while dreading to expose her greatest secret, that which literally anyone might kill her over. There, that should be enough—now go read it.
Well, this completes the year! It was… well, it was a whole year that done and happened in 2022, and I’d love to say I won’t miss it at all, but then I said the same for 2019, so who’s to say. I guess I’ll just say that it wasn’t the best year and leave it at that. Luckily, there were some good books—hey like those above, you should really go check them out again!—good games, and good people that made everything worthwhile. Thanks for coming around and reading my nonsense for another year, and stay tuned for more things in 2023, where I’ll probably be less here, but should still be here enough to rant/rave about somesuch. Hope everyone had a good year, and thanks as always for reading!