I've not ranked them within the top 10; that would be unfair since some of these books are hard to compare to each other as they are so very different. So I have listed them in alphabetical order.
Bloodrush Ben GalleyMy Goodreads review
It's a western set in an alternate universe with magic and faeries in. And it all works so wonderfully. Following the story of young Tonmerion Hark after his father (the Prime Lord of what is effectively Victorian Britain) is murdered as he is forced to travel to Wyoming where he discovers there is magick in every living creature.
I'm a fan of Galley's Emaneska series of books and the news that he was working on a fantasy western was an intriguing one. Thanks to an ingenious and consistent magick system, fantastic characters which are instantly recognisable from any western without being mere tropes and a driven but still immature hero this novel hums along at a rapid pace, leaving the reader breathless but never outpacing the need for proper exposition and descriptions.
Brood of Bones A.E. Marling
My Goodreads review
There is only one word to describe this book: Mesmerising. Hiresha is an Elder Enchantress who discovers something very wrong when she returns to her home town. All the women are pregnant and all due on the same day. But they are not carrying human children...
Hiresha must race against time as dark and unknown forces of evil move against her, but who can she trust and which is the lesser of two evils?
Anyone who is a fan of fantasy novels should read this book. Everything in it is carefully constructed and the reader really gets caught up in Hiresha's dilemmas until the twist laden climax.
Everything to Nothing Mark HenthorneMy Goodreads review
This is a stunning debut novel from Henthorne. Following the lives of three women who are connected by fate as events lead to an ultimate downward spiral for them all.
The book is quite slow at the start but once in its stride it packs a powerful emotional punch on all levels - from love and laughter to despair and ruin. It is not a book to be read lightly as the ending is far from happy - but there is always hope.
Half a King Joe AbercrombieMy Goodreads review
It's always got to be a risk for an author to leave the series of books that made their name and start a whole new world, a whole new cycle. Abercrombie has written the grim and indeed dark First Law novels. Gritty and hard, how would he manage a different setting, and a young adult audience at that?
The answer is: with ease. The hard bitten tough-as-old-boots characters are still here, the desperate and dangerous battles and the perilous fight for survival. This time told through the point of view of Yarvi, second son of the king but who was born with only half a hand. In a world where the strongest wins, what will become of Yarvi when he unexpectedly gains the throne?
Deceit and treachery follow as Yarvi is presumed killed in a coup but ends up enslaved and manning an oar, burning with the desire for revenge on what has been done to him. But is a keen mind any match for a keen blade?
Perfect Genesis Book One: The Adolescent Darla HoganMy Goodreads review
This book was one of the big suprises of the year for me. I had no particular expectations of the book beyond that it was essentially a science fiction novel set several hundred years in the future. What happened is that the story blew me away.
It is a multi-layered story. Very simply Leonardo is dying and when having is brain scanned to try to salvage some of his knowledge he has a very long and detailed dream where he roams across strange lands and meets other people and civilisations.
The story in itself would have been enough for most authors but Hogan adds deep layers of complexity around the philosophy, psychology and meta physics of Leonardo's travels. As he is aware he is in a dream, does that excuse him from his actions? Is it really a dream or has he travelled somehow into an even further future? What impact has this had on Leonardo himself. I'm still pondering some of these today. Not one for a quick skim but definitely thought provoking and interesting.
The Pilgrims Will ElliottMy Goodreads review
I was unaware of Elliott's previous work when I picked this book up but was impressed by the imagination of the world described and also by the handling of humans from earth travelling to 'fantasy' worlds.
The first of the Pendulum series of novels it follows Eric who discovers a door that leads to a land of magic, danger and strange creatures. But this is no Narnia and Eric and his companions are in constant danger in the strange world.
The characterisation in particular is phenomenal; everyone has their own agenda and believes they are doing what is right. Eric and his friend Case are both flawed characters in different ways and certainly are not simple heroes. The events happen around them largely out of their own control and they both struggle to just stay alive in a very hostile environment where very nearly everyone is out to capture them.
Prince of Fools Mark LawrenceMy Goodreads review
I was torn between this, the first in the Red Queen's War series of books and the previous trilogy by Lawrence - Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, Emperor of Thorns but on balance I think I preferred this book simple because the protagonist is so very interesting. Yes Jorg is an entertaining 'hero' but you just know he will thwart every problem with some over the top violence.
Prince Jalan is far more subtle, being basically a whining coward who just wants a quiet life of gambling, women and privilege at court. When fate binds him to Snorri, a norseman on a mission to the frozen north to find his family Jalan is forced to tag along. Dark forces are out to stop them and they are frequently under attack but Jalan proves to be remarkably resourceful whining coward. The chemistry between Snorri and the prince fizzes and keeps the story moving between fights really well, especially Jalan's self-mocking humour.
The Rise of the Iron Moon Stephen HuntMy Goodreads review
Stephen Hunt had managed to pass me by until I saw this and decided to give it a go. I was not disappointed. This is the third of a series of novels and it was very hard work at the beginning trying to work out what was going on since it is set in an alternate universe where very nearly everything is different. But it was worth persevering. Even better start where I should have at The Court of the Air which eases the reader in a lot more gently. This was still one my favourite reads of the year.
The Kingdom of Jackals is under threat but this time it is not alone. One by one all the countries of the world are falling before a new and terrible army sweeping across the globe. What has this to do with the Iron Moon? Can the traditional heroes of Jackals save the day with brains rather than brawn as their land-given powers are locked away? This book builds to an incredible climax.
The Sanctum Series Katrina CopeMy Goodreads review of Jayden and the Mysterious Mountain
My Goodreads review of Scarlet's Escape
My Goodreads review of Taylor's Plight
I have chosen a series rather than just one book for a couple of reasons; firstly because I read them all in 2014 and second because Taylor's Plight is unquestionably the best of the books the other two need to be read first.
These books fit neatly into the gap between children's books and 'young adult' and as the series goes on it slowly moves towards the latter, with slightly darker tones and themes around morality and respecting others. As such these are terrific books for children who are on the cusp of being teenagers.
The stories follow Jayden and his friends, homeless children who are taken to The Sanctum, as sort of high-tech school by friendly grandfather figure Avando. Here they take part in normal school lessons but also learn to control robot 'surrogates' to investigate and thwart possible terrorist activity. One of the places they investigate is another school, Ernest College, and the relationship between the schools and their pupils becomes more and more important as the books progress. The best description I have for these books is that they are techno-thrillers - Tom Clancy for young adults.
The Tournament Matthew ReillyMy Goodreads review
Australian author Reilly is best known for his fast paced adrenaline packed thrillers such as the Scarecrow and Jack West series. This book is not in the same mould but it is a terrific read.
Young Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII travels with her tutor, Roger Ascham, to a chess tournament held in Istanbul where the top players from the known world compete for glory and riches. But even before they arrive there have been a series of grisly murders. As the body count rises and the political tensions mount, can Roger Ascham save the day?
There's no escaping that this is a dark book; not only are the horrible murders described in considerable detail but there is sex and debauchery of all kinds clouding the investigation. The pace is slower that previous Reilly novels, which allows for a lot of depth to both story and character. Comparisons to the Name of the Rose are inevitable but entirely justified.