2023 was my best reading year yet, both in quantity as well as quality. I am currently sitting at 95 books read, all of them either sci-fi or fantasy. This was the year I discovered the wonderful self-published SFF community, which completely derailed my reading plan for the year (sorry Wheel of Time), and also skewed my list heavily towards self-pub. Narrowing down the list to only 10 was extremely challenging, but it had to be done. I present my top 10 reads for 2023, with a few caveats.
- Numbers 10-4 are in no particular order, only 1-3 are ranked
- If I read multiple books in a series, I just included the series as a whole instead of singling out one entry
- Rereads were not included
10) Dune – Frank Herbert
I probably don’t need to say much about this one, it is a classic for a reason. It’s certainly a unique style of book, and probably isn’t for everyone, but I think every SFF needs to at least give Dune a chance. The themes Herbert explores and the masterful prose blew me away, I never though 3rd person omniscient narrator could be done as well as it is in Dune. I think it does show its age in certain aspects but I know it is a book I will return to many more times in the future.
9) The Blood Stones – Tori Tecken
This first entry to the Legends of the Bruhai series is a slow burn that develops beautiful characters in a world begging to be explored. Tori Tecken writes like a true veteran in her adult fantasy debut The Blood Stones. As anyone who knows Tori could guess, this book features a motley crew/found family that is among the best I’ve read, and I can’t wait to see their group develop as the series continues. The world she has built is vast but intimate and the characters diverse and compelling.
8) Dark Age – Pierce Brown
I was unfortunately unable to read Light Bringer this year (see the aforementioned discovery of indie SFF), but I did read up to Dark Age in the Red Rising series. After what I felt was a slight dip with Iron Gold, Brown found his groove again in Dark Age. A brutal combination of epic interplanetary war and devastating personal tragedies, Dark Age lives up to its name. Probably my second favorite of the series, and Light Bringer is very high on my 2024 TBR.
7) Brands of Taelgir – M.T. Fontaine
I read the first two books in the series this year, Carved Amidst the Shadows and Marked for the Pyre. As a massive worldbuilding nerd, this series is everything I could ask for in epic fantasy. The world itself, the magic, the creatures, the kingdoms and divided factions, all of it combine to form a stunning backdrop to the story. But the true stars of the series are the characters. They are all beautifully flawed and compelling, and Fontaine will frustrate you with your favorite characters while empathizing with characters you hate.
6) Dark Legacies – Yuval Kordov
I also read the first two books of this trilogy in 2023, and trust me you do not want to miss out on these books. Kordov channels the metaphysical and philosophical feeling of books like Dune in a dark alternate earth ravaged by two apocalypses, one man-made, the other supernatural. Though inhabiting an extremely bleak and dangerous world, the themes of the novels focus on hope and family. It is difficult to classify or describe the feeling of these books, they don’t really fit neatly into a classic genre definitions. In this way they might not be for every reader, but I absolutely loved them and I cannot emphasize enough how much I want everyone to give the series a try.
5) Sundered Nation – Vaughn Roycroft
4) Fallen Light – H.C. Newell
My Top 3 Reads of 2023
3) The Will of the Many – James Islington
2) Edan Trilogy – Philip Chase
1) The Kallatian Saga – Andrew D. Meredith
Coming in at the number one spot for 2023 is the Kallatian Saga. The first book, Deathless Beast, was the book that convinced me that self-published fantasy could be just as good, if not better, than traditionally published works. It is also the book that started my reviewing journey. It was so good that I couldn’t not review it. So aside from forever having a place in my heart for that, the first 3 books have firmly placed the series as one of my favorite of all time, and not just for indie books. The worldbuilding is beyond expansive, but never bogs down the story in the slightest. I have rarely seen an author skilled enough to craft a world like Kallattai without ever infodumping. And everything else about the series is just as good, the characters, themes, plots, I could rave about it all for hours. There is a planned 8 books in this series, and several other series in the same world planned after that, so I know I will be living in Kallattai for many more years to come, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
I hope you have had as good a reading year as I have, and I hope you pick up a few books from this list that caught your interest. I want to end with a thank you to all that wonderful authors, reviewers, and readers I have met this year. This community is amazing and every one of you help make it the special place that it is. Happy holidays and happy reading in 2024!