I read 97 fictional novels this year, including re-reads. Most of them were fantasy, rest would fall under sci-fi and magical realism.

A few years back, I would finish a book no matter how difficult or boring it was. Not so anymore, I had at least two DNF this year — one was too dark for my tastes and the other was too boring.

Picking favorites is a tough task and choosing the order of presentation even more so. I've gone with books I enjoyed the most and these are all great candidates for future re-reads. I am not so good with rating prose, characters, worldbuilding, plot holes, etc anyway.

Wintersteel by Will Wight🔗

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About: This is the 8th book in the ongoing Cradle series. Falls under progression fantasy sub-genre.

I re-read the first 7 books earlier in the year, about 1 book per day. Wintersteel needed nearly two days, as it is longer than usual.

I was hoping for some reveals here and there, but there was something new almost every chapter. Witty dialogues and quips were present as ever along with so many laugh out loud moments. Was able to predict a few twists but didn't see many of them coming. I wasn't even expecting major twists in this book, so it was a pleasing surprise.

The writing style and length of the book changed for good compared to previous books in the series and I hope Will continues to improve on this style. It isn't easy to compare books, even within the same series, so I'd just say that Ghostwater and Wintersteel are my favorites for different reasons.

Age of Empyre by Michael J. Sullivan🔗

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About: This is the 6th and final book in the The Legends of the First Empire series, set more than 3000 years before the events of The Riyria Revelations. Reading Riyria Revelations before the Legends series is recommended.

Was lucky to be a gamma reader for the last three books in this series. Age of Empyre was a solid conclusion to the series, had a few pleasantly surprising twists despite knowing many details from Riyria Revelations. I would've liked to get a few more chapters at the end though. More than the plot, it is the characters, their journey and all the emotional feels that I loved the best about this series.

The Lost City of Ithos by John Bierce🔗

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About: This is the 4th book in the ongoing Mage Errant series. Falls under progression fantasy sub-genre.

Was a beta/gamma reader for this one as well. I re-read the first three books to prepare, and the timing was good as it helped me feel better after a bad week.

The Lost City of Ithos is the best book of the series yet. Like Wintersteel, this was much longer than the previous books. There was plenty of action, training, monsters, wonder cities and hilarious antics from a certain someone. The ending was very well played, wonder if the author can top that in the future. The last two/three books should provide an exciting finish, eagerly looking forward to them.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan🔗

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About: This is a standlone novel, as far as I know. This was a mix of sci-fi and magical realism, set in the modern world.

I enjoyed this a lot, especially the slice-of- bread life aspects. I didn't expect the climax to have such a big explosion, but it did help end the novel nicely. I'll be checking out other books from the author for sure. Hope they are as good as Sourdough, especially the characters.

Diamantine and The Torch that Ignites the Stars by Andrew Rowe🔗

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About: This is the 2th book in the ongoing Weapons and Wielders series. Falls under progression fantasy sub-genre.

I liked this one better than Six Sacred Swords. The tournament arc was nice and the plots running around it was cool as well. The power level at display was lot more than I was expecting and it was quite good to see our main characters progressing. The ending gave me the chills, has implications for the rest of the connected series.

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About: This is the 3rd book in the ongoing Arcane Ascension series. Falls under progression fantasy sub-genre.

Having re-read the first two books in preparation for this book, I was a bit surprised when I hit the last chapter. It felt as if I had missed the climax. In hindsight, I can understand why this book was structured differently.

That said, the book was entertaining as usual, especially the various scenes inside the different towers. There's lot of foreshadowing stuff planted in this book, would be interesting to see how they play out in the future.

Dawnshard and Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson🔗

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About: This novella takes place between the 3rd and 4th books in the Stormlight Archive series.

I enjoyed this novella more than Rhythm of War. Mostly on the lighter side, which is what I'm looking for these days. Loved the main POV characters, and some of the side characters were great too. The tidbits for overall Cosmere were unexpected. If I had to nitpick, there were plenty of things happening that it would've needed a much longer book to give them justice.

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About: This is the 4th book in the ongoing Stormlight Archive series. The series is part of Cosmere.

Unlike the first three books (which excludes novellas), I approached this book with a subdued attachment to the main characters (mainly to avoid feeling really bad when they suffer physical/mental setbacks). That definitely worked out, but I think the downside was that I couldn't enjoy the journey as much as earlier books.

I didn't re-read the previous books and long enough time has passed that I'm sure I missed a lot of things (reading reactions/theories on reddit, WOBs, etc helped to catch up with some of those).

As usual, the ending chapters were awesome with reveals and twists, including plenty of Cosmere tidbits. Once upon a time, I wanted bigger tomes, but I'm starting to feel that these books should get much shorter, not longer.

Super Powereds by Drew Hayes🔗

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About: This is a completed 4 book series. Falls under progression fantasy sub-genre.

Can you tell that I really, really like progression fantasy books? ;)

Overall a good series, especially liked the slice-of-life portions and various trials. Plenty of likeable characters, perhaps a bit too many likeable ones, but just like the slice-of-life aspects, it works for this series. First book felt okayish in terms of characters, but second book onwards we get plenty of depth on them. The pacing was too good, always wanted to keep reading and had to force myself to take breaks.

Catching Cinders by Kendra Merritt🔗

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About: This is a standalone novel, comes under the Mark of the Least series.

I enjoyed this romance novel despite being skeptical if I'll like yet another Cindrella story. I'd say the novel stands on its own — magic and politics nicely blended with the romantic stuff. The lead characters were both likeable, and the side characters were good too. The prose was easy to follow. I hope I can check out the other novels set in this world soon.