2015 was not the best year for me due to several factors, including but not limited to moving with very little notice (after having just moved to a new state 6 months before) and fun health issues that made it difficult for me to eat anything for most of the month of December (just in time for the holidays!). These types of things definitely impacted the amount of reading and reviewing I did last year. I read fewer books than usual during the year, and unfortunately, I haven’t yet read many of the 2015 releases I really wanted to read.
However, I have read some of those 2015 releases I really wanted to read as well as a few books published before then—certainly enough to have found excellent books that I want to highlight! My favorite books read in 2015 are below, divided by 2015 releases and books released prior to last year.
Favorite Books Released in 2015
1. Fool’s Quest (Fitz and the Fool #2) by Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb is a phenomenal writer who is particularly skilled at creating memorable characters. Her Farseer, Liveship Traders, and Tawny Man trilogies are among my favorite fantasy series of all time, and I was thrilled to hear she was writing more about the main character from the first and third of those in this latest trilogy. I was impressed by how immersive Fool’s Assassin was, especially considering it largely seemed to be set up for the rest of the trilogy, and a lot more did indeed happen in Fool’s Quest than in the first volume. It was an immensely satisfying book as a longtime fan of the series, and even though it was a massive book, I did not want it to end. It’s easily my absolute favorite book read in 2015 regardless of publication year (which is quite a feat considering how much I loved some of the other books on this list!), and I can hardly wait for the next book.
2. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Uprooted drew me in from the very first paragraph and kept me captivated until the last. It’s a fairy tale in which the main character, Agnieszka, must contend with the creepy Wood, an ill-tempered wizard, a crisis involving her dearest friend, and the discovery of her own magic. I particularly loved that Agnieszka herself is the driving force for change in this story. Much of her success is not just because of the great power she finds she has but because she is persistent and willing to think about and do things differently than others. I also very much enjoyed the emphasis on the friendship between her and Kasia and the romance (which was secondary to the friendship in this story).
3. Ash and Silver (Sanctuary #2) by Carol Berg
(Not Yet Reviewed)
Technically, I finished this book four days after 2016 began but I’m including it anyway since it is a late 2015 release! Carol Berg is one of my favorite fantasy authors due to her tendency to write excellent books containing rich themes and characters—and this conclusion to the Sanctuary Duet certainly met these expectations. I particularly enjoyed its exploration of memory, identity, and personality, and of course, I also enjoyed finding out what happened to Lucian after the end of Dust and Light!
4. The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N. K. Jemisin
(Not Yet Reviewed)
N. K. Jemisin’s novels keep ending up on my year-end favorites lists because she consistently writes amazing books. The Fifth Season has a lot in common with her other novels—it’s a smart, wonderfully written story set in a fascinating world with complex, thoughtfully designed societies—but it’s also very unique and very unlike any of her other novels I’ve read. Her compelling narratives are another reason I appreciate her work so very much, and that’s also excellently done in this novel.
5. Dark Ascension (Generation V #4) by M. L. Brennan
The Generation V series is one of the best urban fantasy series I’ve read, and I enjoyed the fourth installment every bit as much as the previous ones. The vampire mythology is different, and M. L. Brennan doesn’t shy away from examining the darker (or stranger!) aspects of being a vampire as Fort learns more about what it means to be one. Most of all, I love reading about these characters and found Fort’s complicated relationship with his sister Prudence particularly fascinating to read.
6. The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1) by Genevieve Cogman
Genevieve Cogman’s debut novel, which is about a woman who travels to alternate worlds collecting books for an organization existing outside of time and space, is a strong start to a new series and so much fun. Irene, the main protagonist, is an extremely competent Librarian Spy due to her ability to think and act quickly, and her practicality and sense of humor shine through her narrative voice.
7. The Best of Nancy Kress
This collection of 21 short stories, novelettes, and novellas selected by the author is impressive, and I’m in awe of her ability to pack so much into shorter fiction. Nancy Kress is fantastic with both concepts and characters, and even the most succinct stories contain more intriguing ideas and stronger characterization than many novels I’ve read. Her protagonists aren’t always completely likable people, but I thought they were compelling and real due to their complications and flaws.
Favorite Books Published Before 2015
Two of my three favorites are previous books in two of the series mentioned above (Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb and Tainted Blood by M. L. Brennan) so I’m just going to highlight the one that’s not in one of those previously mentioned series.
Cagebird (Warchild Universe #3) by Karin Lowachee
The Warchild series is excellent character-driven science fiction comprised of three interconnected tales that build on each other while telling completely separate stories from three different viewpoints. It is unflinchingly brutal in its focus on the effects of war on young people, and Yuri’s tale is the most horrific of the three as he’s quite candid about his more painful experiences (unlike Jos in Warchild). Although character is a large part of each book, I thought this one was more about the main protagonist than the other two as it delves into Yuri’s past and present—how he became trapped in his life and his attempts to free himself and find his own place in the universe. It was extremely difficult to put down and is one of my very favorite books I’ve read this year.