We’re halfway through the year, I’m 55 books down and I thought I’d have a closer look at my favourite books of the year so far. As usual, I struggled immensely to actually narrow down this list to just 10 books. I feel like I have so many others I loved just as much as the ones on this list. Alas. I stuck to my 10 book limit for pretty much the first time ever so clearly my decision making is improving in 2020. Although to make life easier for myself, I decided to not feature any of the three incredible sequels I read this year (so apologies to The Kingdom of Copper, The Dragon Republic and Jade War, you were all fucking amazing but this saves me three spots on this list!)
So without further ado, in no particular order, here’s my top 10 favourite books of 2020 so far! To no one’s shock, it is a sea of fantasy…
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
If you read my mid year freakout book tag post, it’ll be no surprise to see this book here as I said this book, along with Felix Ever After, are my favourite books of the year. Mexican Gothic just absolutely blew me away. I went in having just read one of Moreno-Garcia’s other novels (Untamed Shore) which I wasn’t the biggest fan of so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. And then I just about died at how creepy and suspenseful this book is. This gothic horror is just so fucked up and I love everything about it. Set high in the mountains of Mexico at a musty manor called High Place, Noemí has come to figure out why her cousin, Catalina, thinks her husband is trying to kill her. Noemí is an absolutely wonderful character, I fell in love with her confident and sassy voice from the very first page and was drawn into this tense and horrifying world at High Place that I couldn’t stop thinking about for weeks! You can read my full review here.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
The one and only contemporary in a sea of fantasy, sci fi and horror, Felix Ever After must surely be something special to have made it here. Felix Ever After follows Felix, a queer Black trans demiboy as he decides to catfish his bully to get revenge. What really makes Felix Ever After special is the deep and meaningful exploration of gender that Felix goes through. I didn’t realise going in that there would be such a focus on questioning your identity and exploring the fluidity of gender, and this part of the story was just so incredibly powerful and validating. It’s a dark story at times, with Felix bullied using his deadname and old photos of him before he transitioned, but I loved that Felix Ever After confronted the transphobia and other hate not just from outsiders but also from those within the queer community. This book was just so so special and validating and I hope it reaches everyone who needs this book. You can read my full review here.
The Unspoken Name by A.K Larkwood
I want to sing and dance my praises for The Unspoken Name forever. I wanted to reread this book from the second I finished the last page. This book is such an expansive and impressive world full of necromancy, powerful gods, wizards, portal magic, flying ships, lesbian orcs, it has so much to take in and yet Larkwood was able to combine so many different elements into one incredible fantasy book. The Unspoken Name follows Csorwe, an orc priestess, as she’s due to be sacrificed to her god. But instead of dying for her god, Csorwe runs away with a wizard who trains her to be his sword. She is sent out to find an artifact for the wizard that claims to hold incredible magical knowledge and is drawn into a mammoth adventure to hunt down this artifact. This book has such an imaginative and immersive world but the characters were what really shone. This book is definitely a more slowburn, character driven fantasy but I think that’s why I loved it so much. You can read my full review here.
The Library of the Unwritten by A.J Hackwith
The Library of the Unwritten is probably the fantasy that stands out the most among this list, and that’s because it has a completely different vibe and attitude to every other book on this list: this book is just pure fun. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book as I hadn’t heard too many people talking about it, but I expected something similar to the dark, gritty, heavy on the social commentary SFF seen on the rest of this list. But this book was so so different to that. Instead, this was filled with so much fun and humour and joy, so much sass and snark. It resulted in one of the most enjoyable reading experiences of my life because I was just so in love and so happy reading this book. It follows Claire, the librarian in Hell’s Library, a library where all unwritten manuscripts are housed. But when a character escapes from a book, Claire has to track them down and ends up in the middle of a war between heaven and hell. It’s the book about a pansexual librarian, angels and demons that you’ve always dreamed of! You can read my full review here.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
The Starless Sea was everything I dreamed of and more, and of Morgenstern’s two books, this one is my favourite. It is a love letter to books and stories and reading with the most beautiful, flowing, poetic prose. It follows Zachary who reads a book and is surprised to see it’s about him. But pages have been ripped out so he doesn’t know how his story ends so he begins a quest to track down the origins of this book and ends up walking through a door to a magical library. This book was just so special, I was utterly entranced as I read it. It is so full of love for mythology and fantasy and storytelling, and that moment when you start to realise how the paths of all the different characters connect together is just one of the most satisfying moments possible. You can read my full review here.
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
This book is my most recent read and it is spectacular! It doesn’t release until August 4 so I beg you all to go pre-order this one because it is breathtaking. The Space Between Worlds is a science fiction novel set in a world where the multiverse exists and can be travelled to. But there’s a catch: you can only travel to another universe if the parallel you is dead. That makes Cara very important, because of the 372 universes that can be reached, the other Cara is only left alive on 8 of them. Cara’s job is to travel to the other multiverses to get information on their world. But when one of the other Cara’s is killed in mysterious circumstances, she is drawn into a dangerous secret that could endanger the whole multiverse. The worldbuilding in The Space Between Worlds is exceptional – Johnson manages to subtly challenge and confront issues from climate change to gun violence in the way she builds this world. But what I found most powerful was the stark depiction of trauma that Cara has gone through and the way she learns across the book how to use her history and her pain to change the world. I’ll have a full review for this one coming on the day it releases so check back for my full thoughts in August!
The Extraordinaries by T.J Klune
It took me so long to decide which Klune book to feature on this post, The Extraordinaries or The House in the Cerulean Sea. But in the end, I chose this one, because I had the most fun reading this, I laughed so much (and then I sobbed so much, because duh, it’s a Klune book). The Extraordinaries follows Nick, an ordinary teen with ADHD who is obsessed with the real life superheros (Extraordinaries) PyroStorm and Shadow Star. After an accidental run in with Shadow Star, Nick decides he’s going to do whatever it takes to become extraordinary himself. I really don’t know how Klune does it, everything he writes has me in absolute stitches of laughter and then I’m just sobbing. This book is so full of joy and heart and is all about learning to see yourself as extraordinary even if you aren’t a superhero. I’ll have a full review coming next week when this book releases!
The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Historical fiction sapphics are just killing it right now, and this is my favourite one I’ve read so far this year. The Mercies is inspired by the real life Vardø storm in the 1600s, a storm which wiped out all the men in a small fishing village in Norway. With the men dead, the women of the town are left to fend for themselves, growing independent and fighting for power amongst themselves, until a new commissioner is appointed to bring the town back in line, a witchhunter from Scotland. This commissioner is a terrifying figure and one who will manipulate these women against each other to tear the town apart. This book had such a gothic feel to it, which I absolutely loved. The setting is so haunting and icy and is the perfect mirror to these women turning on each other and destroying their friends. Alongside this witch hunt, we see a beautiful friendship and romance blossom between Maren, a villager, and Ursa, the new commissioner’s wife. Their relationship was so soft and so delicate and touching, and created such a warmth in this dark novel. You can read my full review here.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K. Villoso
All hail the Bitch Queen. This book has the accolade of being my first read of 2020 and it’s still sitting strong as one of my favourite books of the year! This epic fantasy is an absolute whirlwind of action and a dark and ruthless show of politics, following Talyien, the Bitch Queen, as she chases her long lost husband across the sea to bring him back to the country to prevent war. Talyien is one of the most fantastic characters in fantasy, so complex and morally grey, but so bloody stubborn and strong, she is somehow able to keep fighting despite everything that happens to her (which is a lot). It blows my mind that more people aren’t talking about this book, it somehow has under 1000 ratings on Goodreads so what are you all doing, please go out and read this brilliant fantasy! Sadly, I don’t have a full review for this one as I read whilst I was still on holiday and resting but just know that it’s brilliant and has one of the best female characters in fantasy.
The City We Became by N.K Jemisin
I am unsurprised to see a N.K Jemisin book on this list because she’s one of my favourite authors and as soon as I knew she had a new book coming, I knew I would love it. The City We Became is this incredibly imaginative and creative novel where cities have souls. Six individuals in New York wake up one day with the soul of their boroughs inside them. They must find each other and fight against an evil from another world that threatens to destroy the entire city. The City We Became revolves around New York, and as someone who is not American and has only ever spent 5 days in New York, I was completely enthralled by this city Jemisin writes about. But Jemisin also manages to parallel this inventive world with social commentary on our current environment, and showcases the insidious way racism can destroy the world. This book is just phenomenal! You can read my full review here.
And that’s my favourite 10 reads of 2020 so far! Are any of these books favourites of you as well? What are your favourite books of 2020?