I’ve covered my top ten favourite video games of the decade, so now it’s time for my favourite books! There have been so many amazing books released this year alone, so it’s incredibly difficult to pick out my favourites and I’m totally going to cheat a bit here. As with my video game list, these are my personal favourite books over the past ten years: books which had a profound impact on me, and which inspired my own book, Sand Dancer. There are many more books that I enjoyed, but these are the ones I couldn’t stop raging about afterwards.
So here are my top ten books of the decade in order of their release:
Eona: The Last Dragoneye ~ 2011
The first of many cheats on this list! Eona: The Last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman is the sequel to Eon, a YA fantasy set in a fantasy Asia with dragon spirit animals and hurricane-controlling magic powers. The first book was about Eona, a girl who disguised herself as the boy Eon to train with her spirit dragon, the Mirror Dragon, whilst empire-destroying plots happen in the shadows. In the sequel, her secret is out and she’s now the last of the Dragoneyes apart from the attractive dark lord Ido. This sequel featured redemption, an emotionally painful love triangle, and epic battles, though you can find out more in my review!
This book crushed me when I first read it. I couldn’t get over the ending for literal weeks. It’s one of the few books where I needed to seek out fanfiction just to help me get the closure I needed. And of course it uses some of my favourite YA fantasy tropes.
Mastiff (Beka Cooker #3) ~ 2011
I’m a big fan of Tamora Pierce, as you’ve probably figured out by now, and Mastiff marks the last book in the Beka Cooper trilogy as well as the last of Pierce’s heroines for a while. Though this came out in 2011, Pierce didn’t release another new series until Tempests and Slaughter in 2019! Whilst I love all of her main heroines, from Alanna to Aly, Beka Cooper is the one I related to the most. The Beka Cooper books are a prequel of sorts and set during an older, rougher time in Tortall’s history. Beka is a socially shy commoner who chose to make a life for herself by training as a medieval cop. The first two books get her helping the poor, catching bad guys, befriendly the king of the thieves, and foiling plots from kidnapping to money laundering.
Book three features the greatest plot of all; the kidnapping of a young prince! I did thoroughly Mastiff, and the budding romance which takes place, though some people aren’t so keen on the shock twist at the end. What I loved most was the world that Pierce built. Too many books are based around the royal court, so it was nice to have a story from the other side. I’d love to see more Beka Cooper appreciation, and it makes me happy that familiar names from this series appears in Tempests and Slaughter.
Throne of Glass ~ 2012
Another cheat because I’ve read all the Throne of Glass books (Even the prequel and Tower of Dawn) so I’m going to lump them all together here. I’ll be honest, I didn’t get into Throne of Glass at first because the main character starts off quite bratty. However by the second book I was completely hooked, and the middle of Crown of Midnight broke me in a way no other YA fantasy has. If you’ve read it, you’ll know exactly what I mean! I read the whole series hoping my favourite ship would sail, but alas, it was never meant to be.
The Throne of Glass series really is one of the ultimate YA fantasy must reads in my opinion. Back in 2018, I got the chance to visit the Sarah J. Maas fan experience in Edinburgh for the launch of the last book in the series, Kingdom of Ash. I devoured that book in days so I could avoid spoilers so I’m hoping we haven’t seen the last of Celaena.. You can read my review if you want to know more!
The Vagrant ~ 2015
I first read The Vagrant by Peter Newman years ago and was spellbound by a dark and twisted world that dripped with atmosphere. It’s hard to describe what The Vagrant is. A fantasy? A futuristic dystopian? A post-apocalyptic adventure? In many ways, its a typical fantasy; a lone hero goes on a quest across the land, befriends a rag-tag group of weirdos, and slays monsters along the way, but of course The Vagrant is anything but typical. For a start, the protagonist is mute and does not speak throughout the entire book, which works surprisingly well, and he’s in charge of a baby and a goat. The world is full of demons, but they’re not always the monsters. And though this world is bleak, it has its funny moments.
There have been a few sequels since 2015 and I’m excited to read Peter Newman’s new series, The Deathless. Last year, I was lucky and got the chance to hear Peter Newman speak at Cymera in Edinburgh. What a lovely chap! The Vagrant isn’t YA Fantasy, but I do recommend it.
A Court of Thorns and Roses ~ 2015
Whilst Sarah J. Maas was hard at work on her Throne of Glass series, she also gave us the ACOTAR series! Technically set in the same universe, A Court of Thorns and Roses takes place in a mysterious fantasy world ran by fae courts based on the seasons among others. Feyre is a human who finds herself trapped in the Spring Court in what starts off as a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but certainly takes a twist by the second book. There’ is some debate whether this series is Young Adult or New Adult because of the more adult scenes, so be warned!
Whilst the first book starts off slow, the second one really changes pace and I keep going back to it as a comfort read. Rhysand is everything!
An Ember in the Ashes ~ 2016
One of my surprise favourites of the past few years as I usually prefer my protagonist to kick more ass and Laia is, well, she gets there eventually! An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is one of the more violent YA Fantasy books I’ve read. It’s set in a bleak world inspired by Ancient Rome where slavery and torture is commonplace. Half the book is about sneaking into an evil academy to spy on a truly evil villain, and the other is about fighting in various trials to become the next emperor. Whilst there’s certainly a lot of bloodshed in this series, there’s also a lot of hope as the main characters fight against their fate, and that’s one of my favourite themes in YA.
The last book of the series hasn’t been released yet, so I’m excited to hopefully conclude the series in 2020!
Rebel of the Sands ~ 2016
One of my favourite YA Fantasy series, and if you know anything about my book Sand Dancer, you can probably guess I like stories set in a desert world! In fact, I read this after I wrote the first draft of Sand Dancer and the first thing I did was swear at the similarities. The Rebel of the Sands trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton takes inspiration from the Middle East and merges it with the Wild West. The main character of Amani isn’t a sword-fighting type, but instead is a gun-toting sharp-shooter with sand-summoning powers! The trilogy focuses on a band of rebels trying to overthrow the tyrant Sultan. Whilst the first book was too short for my liking (a good problem to have), the second one amazed me with its world building, shock ending, and the suave Sultan. Also the UK book covers are AMAZING.
Read my review if you want to know more! In 2019, Hamilton announced her new series which is set in the same universe but wildly different: The Notorious Virtues! I can’t wait to give it a read in 2020.
The Tethered Mage ~ 2017
I was introduced to The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso by a good friend who recommended it because it shared similar themes to my book Sand Dancer. Namely, an angry girl with fire magic and a world that tries to control magic users. The first book in the trilogy features a lot of politics and I wasn’t sure I would be able to enjoy it, but by the half-way point I was hooked, and the rest of the series found a balance between political intrigue and fiery action. The main character of this series, Amalia, isn’t the fighting type but instead uses her wit and intellect to manoeuvre herself around political and foreign enemies, and that’s something I found quite refreshing. The magic system and world building was also a breath of fresh air.
Whilst technically not a Young Adult series despite the younger characters, I think YA readers would really enjoy The Tethered Mage as I have! Read my review to see why. Caruso has a new series set in the same universe with the first, The Obsidian Tower, coming out in 2020.
The City of Brass ~ 2017
One of my favourite adult fantasy books of the past decade, The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty features an amazing world where djinn have their own city full of political intrigue and backstabbing. It’s similar to The Tethered Mage in the sense that the main character of Nahri is a lover, not a fighter, and uses her smarts to keep up with powerful magical beings. Forced to leave her human life in Cairo, Nahri discovers she belongs to a long line of ancient healers and becomes trapped in this legendary city. If you love heavy world building in your fantasy, then The City of Brass is dripping with it! Though of course my favourite thing is the sweet cinnamon roll boy of Alizayd.
I own the second book, The Kingdom of Copper, but haven’t finished reading it yet! Shame on me. The third book of the trilogy, The Empire of Gold, comes out on 2020.
We Hunt the Flame ~ 2019
My favourite book of 2019! We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal has all my favourite YA Fantasy tropes, from angry girls who disguise themselves as men to broody dark princes, and an adventure across the sands! Zafira is The Hunter, a woman armed with a bow and a quest to restore magic to the land. Nasir is the Prince of Death, an assassin sent to kill her. The two of them couldn’t possibly fall for each other, could they? I’m batting my eyelashes here. If you want to learn more, read my review! Also, have you seen that amazing cover???
The worst thing about We Hunt the Flame is that it’s only a duology! Sad times! But I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, We Free the Stars in 2020!
As you can see, I’ve read a lot of fantasy, especially Young Adult fantasy! You can tell where my Sand Dancer inspiration comes from.
Have you read any of these books or series? Do they make it onto your books of the decade? Or do you think I’m missing some books I need to start reading now, like The Priory of the Orange Tree? I’m always up for recommendations!