Praise for the speculative fiction books of 2019 that have transported me from my couch to more exciting realms. I had a hard time narrowing down all the amazing titles that dropped this year because they all made my inner-nerd squeal in glee. Pull out your credit cards and let them take your money. These are the best speculative fiction books of 2019.

Middle Game by Seanan McGuire

Roger and Dodger are twins that are separated at a young age. They aren’t human but are creations of an evil alchemist named Reed, whose goal is to use them for his agenda. Striving to survive their ordinary lives, they become allies through telepathy. The sibling’s journey of self-discovery is thwarted at every turn. People are dying, memories are stripped from them and most importantly, they are being watched. Will they be able to break free and reach their destiny, or stay stuck as a pawn in someone’s game? 

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie

Epic, witty and not for the faint of heart, A Little Hatred is the first in this fantasy trilogy. Abercrombie’s ability to weave such intricate storylines and characters is not something to overlook. In his novel, we follow a prince, a businesswoman, a prophet and seasoned soldiers (familiar to anyone who has read Abercrombie’s earlier series). The industrial age has arrived. There are battles on the Northern borders, but even if the army were to succeed against the invaders, there’s no guarantee the regime can win against the revolution within its walls.

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

This bright and bold cover caught my eye while perusing my local bookstore, Changing Hands. It was recommended as being hilarious, so I snatched it up and don’t regret that decision. This post-apocalyptic novel is told from the point of view of the animals. The main character is a domesticated crow named S.T. After his owner becomes a zombie, the reluctant crow is forced to leave home with his goofy but loveable dog, Dennis. Together they embark on a journey to stay alive and figure out how to carve out a place in a world where humans are the enemy and Cheetos are almost a thing of the past.

No Country for Old Gnomes by Delilah Dawson and Kevin Hearne

This is book two in a series peppered with pun-filled jokes and pop-culture references for some added pizazz to the usual fantasy tale. The cheerful, anti-aggressive gnomes don’t want a fight, but the halflings and their war-thirsty alpacas are looking for blood. In this story, we follow a group of misfits on a journey to confront the troublesome villain, but get sidetracked with mermaid fights, growing alliances and an angry occurrence with one unruly raccoon. This light-hearted, creative tale is a fun read for anyone in need of a break from the darker fantasy tropes.

Dark Age by Pierce Brown

This one is named Dark Age for a reason. Pierce Brown dives into Book 5 of his sci-fi series at a breakneck pace and with a multitude of characters. Darrow of Lycos is back for that sweet revenge, after being outlawed by the Republic he created. While he is off building an army, we follow Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile, that is trying to reignite peace in a not so diplomatic way. An innocent girl is accused of treason and must escape with the help of dubious new allies, and these are only a few of the characters in this epic whirlwind. Don’t get too attached. Risks are necessary and not always at the benefit of the gambler.

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

On the first page, I learned that the main character has a prosthetic leg – I was hooked. A virus has taken out most of the population. Well-read and untrusting of people, Red takes us on her journey through the woods, to Grandma’s cabin where she has to avoid humans more predatory than wolves.

The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare

Magnus Lane finally lands the shadow hunter of his dreams. Using the momentum of their new relationship, Magnus plans a lavish trip to Europe. An old friend arrives with bad news of a chaos-causing cult and Magnus can’t ignore their hostilities because he founded them… on accident. Their trip now in shambles, they must tackle demons, and test their trust because who doesn’t have secrets to hide?

Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake

Katharine still holds the crown, amid an unraveling rebellion. With Jule’s lesion curse unbound, urgency is key to finding a cure. Queen Katharine wants to be close to her sister Mirabella but is warned against it. The sisters’ trust will be tested, and allegiances will sway. Who will win this fight when secrets are revealed? There can only be one queen. This is the final book in the Three Dark Crowns series.

Seven Blades in Black by Sam Sykes

The Scar is a destroyed wasteland between two empires at war. This is where Sam Sykes places Sal, the MC on her quest for revenge. A gunslinger wielding a magic weapon, Sal is tracking down the mages that have betrayed her by stealing her magic. Unfortunately, things go worse than expected and now she is awaiting her execution. Before she goes, Sal recounts the happy place she started, and her mission to take the lives of the ones that ultimately destroyed her. Twisty, personal and uniquely in-depth, Seven Blades in Black needs a spot on your TBR.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The East and the West are torn on the idea of Dragons. One worships them and the other fears them. An unwed queen must birth a daughter to protect her kingdom. A secret mage tries to protect her queen using forbidden magic. A dragon rider across the sea has to make a decision that will change her life. Meanwhile, an ancient dragon is rumored to be on an end-the-world bender. The divided kingdoms won’t parley, and everyone is in danger as a result.

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

Fatima, the only remaining Circassian concubine to the sultan, befriends a mapmaker with secret powers. Hassan can draw maps of unseen places and bend the nature of reality. The Spanish monarchy arrives to negotiate the sultan’s surrender. Hassan’s powers are accidentally revealed by Fatima’s misplaced trust. Will they be able to escape the palace walls, and what will they need to risk to gain their freedom?

Finale by Stephanie Garber

I love me some Caraval. Finale follows both Dragna sisters through a bunch of drama and angst. This finale is a little romance heavy. The center of this story revolves around unraveling the emotions of all the players. There’s more insight into the Fates who are running wild, and we can’t have that. Secrets get revealed, people get hurt or die. The game is no longer just a game.

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