Queer romances, badass heroines, magical worlds and amazing stories… In today’s post I’m going to share with you my favorite books of 2018. And although these are in no particular order, I did save my most favorite one for last.
2018 was a great reading year for me. I managed to complete my Goodreads reading goal of 200 books by reading 246 books. And starting a new job as a school librarian certainly helped. I mean, there’s nothing like being surrounded by books all day to keep a book lover happy.
If you’ve read any of the books listed below, do share your thoughts about them with me in the comments. And now, on to the books.
1. Bring me their hearts by Sara Wolf
Years before, Zera was saved from the bandits who killed her parents by the witch Nightsinger. The witch then took Zera’s heart and placed it in a jar, thereby binding Zera to her and turning the young girl into a Heartless – an immortal and eternally young soldier. The years pass and Zera one day finally gets a chance to win back her heart when Nightsinger agrees to release it if Zera will complete a task for her. The witch will give Zera back her heart on the condition that Zera infiltrates the royal court and returns with the heart of the prince, Lucien d’Malvane. I devoured this book! Zera was such a fun and badass main character. She was sassy and witty and despite coming off as arrogant and overconfident at first, we soon learn that this is just a facade to mask the pain and dark memories she struggles with. Fans of Celaena Sardothien will definitely love Zera’s story. Read more about this book here.
2. An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Isobel is a portrait artist who caters to a very unusual clientele: the fair folk, immortal beings who cannot use human crafts without turning to dust, be it poetry writing, cloth weaving or even baking bread. Paintings being something they are incapable of producing themselves, Isobel’s beautiful portraits are highly prized by the fair folk. One day, Isobel is commissioned a painting by Rook, the legendary Autumn Prince of the fair folk. The portrait is near perfect save for one unforgivable taint: Isobel has painted human sorrow in Rook’s eyes. Human emotions being highly spurn by the fair folk, Rook comes for Isobel and whisks her away to the autumnlands so that she may stand trial among his kind for her crime. Their journey however takes an unexpected dangerous turn when they are attacked by creatures under the influence of the ancient and powerful Alder King. Thrown into an unexpected alliance as they fight their way through the land, Isobel and Rook soon start to grow closer. Although this book received mixed reviews, I personally really enjoyed it. The characters were amazing, the prose was gorgeous and the story was definitely not as predictable as the premise may seem. Also, this is a standalone novel and I do love me some good standalone YA Fantasy. Read more about this book here.
3. Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston
In this sci-fi retelling of the legend of Anastasia, Ana was found drifting through space as a child and saved by a sentient android called D09. She was then rescued and taken in by a fearsome space captain and given new a home among her crew. Now, many years later, D09 has started to glitch. Refusing to give up on her companion of many years, Ana is ready to do anything to fix him. Ana learns of coordinates rumored to lead to a lost ship that could the answers she’s been looking for. Just when Ana thinks she has finally found what she’s looking for, she’s beaten to the prize by an Ironblood boy, a member of one of the most prominent noble families of the kingdom. Things then take a turn for the worst when both Ana and the Ironblood boy suddenly end up as fugitives and the entire kingdom begins to hunt them down. This book is perfect for fans of the Lunar Chronicles. You have a long-lost princess in disguise, scheming nobles, dark political machinations, a cast of unforgettable characters, and just the right dose of good, old YA romance. This book was a lot of fun and I can’t wait for the sequel to come out later this year. Read more about this book here.
4. The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork
Combining elements from the story of the Pied Piper, awesome characters, gorgeous prose and a good dose of cheeky humour, The Enchanted Sonata is a wonderful retelling of The Nutcracker. Clara Stahlbaum dreams of becoming a renowned pianist and marrying the handsome Johann Kahler, whose own gift with the piano was what won her over in the first place. Everything seems perfect until one Christmas Eve that forever changes her life. Clare receives a mysterious nutcracker and before she can understand what is happening, a strange magic whisks her away to the homeland of the nutcracker, a magical world taken over by a mysterious curse that seems to have turned all the children into toys. The nutcracker, who turns out to be the prince, enlists Clara’s help to break the curse and save the children and the kingdom. And thus begins a journey full of enchanting places, capricious fairies and evil rats. Having read the original story of The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman and being a huge fan of the ballet adaptation, I was very pleasantly surprised by how good of a retelling The Enchanted Sonata was. Fans of both the ballet and the original story will definitely love this book. I read it for Christmas last December and was simply blown away by how magical the story was. I now very eagerly await the author’s next book. Read more about this book here.
5. Peter Darling by Austin Chant
After leaving Neverland to grow up, Peter Pan returns ten years later to find the magical world of his boyhood completely changed. His Lost Boys are now not boys at all but grown up men and the war games they used to play as children have turned into real, deadly battles. But worse of all, as Peter crosses paths again with his old nemesis, Captain Hook, he is shocked to find himself developing feelings for him. As their paths inescapably lead them to a confrontation neither of them can – or want – to avoid, Peter starts to wonder who really is the true villain of the story. I completely fell in love with this book. The world, the prose, the characters… Everything was executely really well. And of course, there’s the romance as well! If you’re looking for a good queer romance without the usual aggravating clichés and tropes, and without the unnecessary overdramatification that queer love stories often suffer from, this is the book for you. This was also definitely one of the best Peter Pan retellings I’ve ever read, and if you check out my Goodreads, you’ll see that I do read a lot of Peter Pan retellings. Overall, this was a delightful book and I highly recommend it to everyone. Read more about this book here.
6. The Captive Prince series by C.S. Pacat
Damen, famed warrior and rightful heir to the throne of Akielos, is captured and stripped of his title and identity when his half-brother seizes power. In an effort to establish new political ties with the enemy nation of Vere, his brother offers him as a pleasure slave to the Veretian prince, who accepts the gift without knowing that his new slave is none other than the enemy prince he has sworn to destroy. Damen hates his master the moment he is presented to him. As beautiful as he is cold and deadly, Prince Laurent proves to be a cruel master. When dark threats begin to stir at court though, Damen and Laurent have no choice but to work together to navigate the treacherous machinations of the Veretian court. Now, I know that this is quite the polarizing book and I understand completely how some people might find the theme of sexual slavery offensive. However, once you get past this element of the book, a deeper story soon begin to emerge. A story full of political intrigue, war campaigns and secret court plots. In fact, I wouldn’t even categorize this as a romance series, even though romances do develop later in the series. If you do stick around beyond the first book, I promise that the series takes an epic turn very different from what the first book’s premise originally lets on. Read more about this book here.
7. English Animals by Laura Kaye
After becoming estranged with her family, Mirka moves from Slovakia to rural England. She starts a new job at Fairmont Hall, working as an assistant to Richard and Sophie, the owners. The chaotic and often drunken couple are immediately warm and kind to Mirka and quickly make her feel at home at Fairmont Hall. When Richard asks Mirka to assist him in his taxidermy venture, the woman is initially very reluctant and more than a little disturbed but soon begins to enjoy her new work, eventually even surpassing Richard in skill. But just as things seem to be going great, Mirka unexpectedly finds herself starting to develop feelings for the last person she would be falling in love with… Even if you don’t read lots of literary fiction, you might still really enjoy this one. The prose was very clear and fluid and the character-focused story really helped bring all the characters to life. There is a bit of a romance as well going on in this book, but it’s unique enough to set this book apart from others in the genre and stay with you a long time after you’ve put the book down. For a book that wasn’t actually very plot-driven, it was quite fast-paced. I really enjoyed it and this is one I know I’ll definitely read again at some point. Read more about this book here.
8. Alice by Christina Henry
Alice has spent the better part of a decade locked away in an asylum, abandoned there by her own parents years ago, after a traumatic incident of which Alice barely has any memory of. All she can remember is a tea party, a rabbit and blood. When a fire breaks at the asylum, Alice finally finds a chance to escape. With the help of Hatcher, a fellow inmate and her only companion during her solitary years at the asylum, Alice journeys to the Old City, the town’s capital of corruption and wretchedness. There she hopes to finally find out the truth of what really happened all those years ago. Unbeknown to her though, something else has escaped the confines of the asylum with her. An enemy as ancient as it is powerful. And as Alice and Hatcher begin their journey, somewhere in the heart of the Old City, the Rabbit awaits the return of his Alice. This was the darkest Alice in Wonderland retelling I’ve ever read. This book is definitely NOT YA. It’s definitely intended for a much older audience as it features lots of horror, gore and sexual violence. If these are themes that make you uncomfortable, then you might want to skip this one. Fans of dark retellings will however really like this book. Definitely a spin on Alice in Wonderland that I have never seen before. Read more about this book here.
9. The Three Dark Series by Kendare Blake (Books 1 & 2)
On the island of Fennbirn, every generation’s queen gives birth to a set of triplets. The queen’s reign then comes to an end and she forever leaves the island for the Mainland. The newborn triplets then become the island’s new queens, all equally entitled to the throne and all born with powerful magic. Mirabella, Katharine and Arsinoe are this generations triplet queens. Mirabella is an elemental, known to command the greatest of storms and fires. Katharine is a poisoner, rumored to be able to ingest and survive even the deadliest of poisons. Their sister Arsinoe is a naturalist and is said to have command of even the wildest of animals. Raised separately as per the island’s customs, the sisters are now nearing their sixteenth birthday. On the night they turn sixteen, the Ascension Year begins, a year-long battle during which the sisters will compete for the throne. And the only queen to become the Queen Crowned will the last sister left standing. This series has also received a lot of mixed reviews. And I do agree that it has its flaws and tropes. However, I also found it very entertaining. I mean, if you’re able to overlook the flaws and just read it for the mere enjoyment of it, you’ll have a great time reading this series. It’s fast paced, the character arcs are pretty good, it has a nice magic system and there are enough shocking reveals and twists to keep things action-packed and exciting. If you’re looking for a fun and fast-paced YA fantasy series to read, do give this one a try. Read more about this book here.
And now, for my top favorite book of 2018, we have…
10. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Patroclus, a young exiled Greek prince, is sent away by his father to the court of King Peleus. There he meets Achilles, the king’s son. Shy and awkward, Patroclus is nothing like Achilles. Born to the sea goddess Thetis, Achilles has been groomed from birth for the glorious destiny of a hero. However, against all odds, a deep friendship blossoms between the two boys. As they grow older, their friendship turns to love, to the great displeasure of Thetis, who deems Patroclus unworthy of her son. And then one day, word arrives that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. As all of Greece prepares for war, Achilles and Patroclus joins the army and set out for Troy. And thus begins the great Trojan War. A war that will forever change their fates. Every so often, you stumble across that one perfect book that hits you right in the feels and completely takes over your heart. This was exactly what this book was to me. I went into this hoping I would enjoy it, and ended up completely falling in love with it. The prose was beautiful, the characters were very well portrayed and the romance was executed to perfection. Going into this book, I already kind of knew where the story was headed because I was already familiar with the Trojan War and the story of Achilles and Patroclus. But even if you’re familiar with the story, trust me, this book will still manage to keep you on the edge of your seat. Read more about this book here.
So those were my top favorite books of last year. What were your favorite books of 2018? Drop me a line below and do let me know 🙂