The Top 25 Books of 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

 Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, runs down his list of Top 25 novels of the year, featuring novels from science fiction and fantasy genres, as well as young adult books. 

It’s the start of 2014, which means it’s time to look back at what 2013 has given us. I’ve already put up my thoughts on Films, Games & Comics over at The Fictional Hangout, my writing blog, but perhaps the biggest list of all is the books list – after all, I’ve read – including graphic novels and audios, approximately 141 novels released in 2013, so even getting it down to 25 was going to be a hard choice. The top two were clear cuts but the rest of the top ten are pretty much interchangeable, which shows you just how good this year has been for books when you consider we haven’t had a novel from either  Jim Butcher, Joe Abercrombie or George RR Martin, genre heavyweights.  I did this award last year, and whilst it may be without a name this year, undergoing the title of The Failed Apocalypse Awards” for reasons that should be obvious it was an interesting list and the titles on this list are just as great. So without further ado, let’s get on with the show.

All books on this list have blurbs taken from Goodreads and have original publication dates of 2013.  

25. HUNTED by KEVIN HEARNE (IRON DRUID CHRONICLES #6)

Hunted

For a two-thousand-year-old Druid, Atticus O’Sullivan is a pretty fast runner. Good thing, because he’s being chased by not one but two goddesses of the hunt—Artemis and Diana—for messing with one of their own. Dodging their slings and arrows, Atticus, Granuaile, and his wolfhound Oberon are making a mad dash across modern-day Europe to seek help from a friend of the Tuatha Dé Danann. His usual magical option of shifting planes is blocked, so instead of playing hide-and-seek, the game plan is . . . run like hell.
 
Crashing the pantheon marathon is the Norse god Loki. Killing Atticus is the only loose end he needs to tie up before unleashing Ragnarok—AKA the Apocalypse. Atticus and Granuaile have to outfox the Olympians and contain the god of mischief if they want to go on living—and still have a world to live in.

24. NO RETURN by ZACHARY JERNIGAN

No Return

On Jeroun, there is no question as to whether God exists—only what his intentions are.

Under the looming judgment of Adrash and his ultimate weapon—a string of spinning spheres beside the moon known as The Needle—warring factions of white and black suits prove their opposition to the orbiting god with the great fighting tournament of Danoor, on the far side of Jeroun’s only inhabitable continent.

From the Thirteenth Order of Black Suits comes Vedas, a young master of martial arts, laden with guilt over the death of one of his students. Traveling with him are Churls, a warrior woman and mercenary haunted by the ghost of her daughter, and Berun, a constructed man made of modular spheres possessed by the foul spirit of his creator. Together they must brave their own demons, as well as thieves, mages, beasts, dearth, and hardship on the perilous road to Danoor, and the bloody sectarian battle that is sure to follow.

On the other side of the world, unbeknownst to the travelers, Ebn and Pol of the Royal Outbound Mages (astronauts using Alchemical magic to achieve space flight) have formed a plan to appease Adrash and bring peace to the planet. But Ebn and Pol each have their own clandestine agendas—which may call down the wrath of the very god they hope to woo.

Who may know the mind of God? And who in their right mind would seek to defy him? Gritty, erotic, and fast-paced, author Zachary Jernigan takes you on a sensuous ride through a world at the knife-edge of salvation and destruction, in one of the year’s most exciting fantasy epics.

23. THE TOWER BROKEN by MAZARKIS WILLIAMS (THE TOWER AND KNIFE TRILOGY #3)

The Tower Broken

The world is at breaking point. The nothing, a terrible darkness caused by the festering wounds of a god, bleeds out the very essence of all, of stone, silk – and souls. Emperor Sarmin thought he had stopped it, but it is spreading towards his city, Cerana – and he is powerless to halt the destruction. Even as Cerana fills with refugees, the Yrkmen armies arrive with conquest in mind, but they offer to spare Sarmin’s people if they will convert to the Mogyrk faith. Time is running out for Sarmin and his wife, Mesema: the Mage’s Tower is cracked; the last mage, sent to find a mysterious pattern-worker in the desert, has vanished; and Sarmin believes his kidnapped brother Daveed still has a part to play. The walls are crumbling around them . . .

22. THE PRINCE OF LIES by ANNE LYLE (THE NIGHT’S MASQUE TRILOGY #3)

The Prince of Lies

Elizabethan spy Mal Catlyn has everything he ever wanted—his twin brother Sandy restored to health, his family estate reclaimed and a son to inherit it—but his work is far from over. The renegade skraylings, the guisers, are still plotting; their leader Jathekkil has reincarnated as the young Henry Tudor. But with the prince still a child, Mal has a slim chance of destroying his enemies while they are at their weakest.

With Sandy’s help Mal learns to harness his own magic in the fight against the guisers, but it may be too late to save England. Schemes set in motion decades ago are at last coming to fruition, and the barrier between the dreamlands and the waking world is wearing thin…

21. THE ROSE AND THE THORN by MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN (THE RIYRIA CHRONICLES #2)

The Rose and the Thorn

TWO THIEVES WANT ANSWERS. RIYRIA IS BORN.

For more than a year Royce Melborn has tried to forget Gwen DeLancy, the woman who saved him and his partner Hadrian Blackwater from certain death. Unable to get her out of his mind, the two thieves return to Medford but receive a very different reception — Gwen refuses to see them. The victim of abuse by a powerful noble, she suspects that Royce will ignore any danger in his desire for revenge. By turning the thieves away, Gwen hopes to once more protect them. What she doesn’t realize is what the two are capable of — but she’s about to find out.

20. THE BIG REAP by CHRIS F. HOLM (THE COLLECTOR #3)

The Big Reap

Who Collects the Collectors?

Sam Thornton has had many run-ins with his celestial masters, but he’s always been sure of his own actions. However, when he’s tasked with dispatching the mythical Brethren – a group of former Collectors who have cast off their ties to Hell – is he still working on the side of right?

19. LIGHT by MICHAEL GRANT (GONE #6)

Light

It’s been more than a year since every person over the age of fifteen disappeared from the town of Perdido Beach, California. In that time, countless battles have been fought: Battles against hunger and lies and plagues and worse, battles of good against evil, and kid against kid. Allegiances have been won, lost, betrayed, and won again; ideologies have been shattered and created anew, and the kids of the FAYZ have begun to believe that their new society is the only life they’ll ever know. But now that the Darkness has found a way to be reborn, the tenuous existence they‘ve established is likely to be shattered for good. Will the kids of Perdido Beach even survive?

Light, the sixth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Gone series (which has spanned more than 3,000 pages!) asks as many profound and provocative questions as it answers, while bestselling mastermind and author Michael Grant creates an unforgettable, arresting conclusion that readers won’t able to stop talking about.

18. THE TYRANT’S LAW by DANIEL ABRAHAM (THE DAGGER AND THE COIN #3)

The Tyrant's Law

The great war cannot be stopped. 

The tyrant Geder Palliako had led his nation to war, but every victory has called forth another conflict. Now the greater war spreads out before him, and he is bent on bringing peace. No matter how many people he has to kill to do it.

Cithrin bel Sarcour, rogue banker of the Medean Bank, has returned to the fold. Her apprenticeship has placed her in the path of war, but the greater dangers are the ones in her past and in her soul.

Widowed and disgraced at the heart of the Empire, Clara Kalliam has become a loyal traitor, defending her nation against itself. And in the shadows of the world, Captain Marcus Wester tracks an ancient secret that will change the war in ways not even he can forsee.

Return to the critically acclaimed epic by master storyteller Daniel Abraham, The Dagger and the Coin.

17. THE 5TH WAVE by RICK YANCEY (THE 5TH WAVE #1)

The 5th Wave

The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

16. PROMISE OF BLOOD by BRIAN McCLELLAN (THE POWDER MAGE #1)

Promise of Blood

The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.

It’s a bloody business overthrowing a king…
Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.

It’s up to a few…
Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.

But when gods are involved…
Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should..

15. THE THOUSAND NAMES by DJANGO WEXLER (THE SHADOW CAMPAIGN #1)

The Thousand Names

Enter an epic fantasy world that echoes with the thunder of muskets and the clang of steel—but where the real battle is against a subtle and sinister magic….

Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, commander of one of the Vordanai empire’s colonial garrisons, was resigned to serving out his days in a sleepy, remote outpost. But that was before a rebellion upended his life. And once the powder smoke settled, he was left in charge of a demoralized force clinging tenuously to a small fortress at the edge of the desert.

To flee from her past, Winter Ihernglass masqueraded as a man and enlisted as a ranker in the Vordanai Colonials, hoping only to avoid notice. But when chance sees her promoted to command, she must win the hearts of her men and lead them into battle against impossible odds.

The fates of both these soldiers and all the men they lead depend on the newly arrived Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich, who has been sent by the ailing king to restore order. His military genius seems to know no bounds, and under his command, Marcus and Winter can feel the tide turning. But their allegiance will be tested as they begin to suspect that the enigmatic Janus’s ambitions extend beyond the battlefield and into the realm of the supernatural—a realm with the power to ignite a meteoric rise, reshape the known world, and change the lives of everyone in its path.

14. PANTOMIME by LAURA LAM (PANTOMIME #1)

pantomime

R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass – remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone – are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimeras is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.

Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star. But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

13. THE AGE ATOMIC by ADAM CHRISTOPHER (EMPIRE STATE #2)

The Age Atomic

The sequel to Empire State – the superhero-noir fantasy thriller set in the other New York.

The Empire State is dying. The Fissure connecting the pocket universe to New York has vanished, plunging the city into a deep freeze and the populace are demanding a return to Prohibition and rationing as energy supplies dwindle.

Meanwhile, in 1954 New York, the political dynamic has changed and Nimrod finds his department subsumed by a new group, Atoms For Peace, led by the mysterious Evelyn McHale.

As Rad uncovers a new threat to his city, Atoms For Peace prepare their army for a transdimensional invasion. Their goal: total conquest – or destruction – of the Empire State.

12. THE DAYLIGHT WAR by PETER V. BRETT (DEMON CYCLE #3)

The Daylight War

Continuing the impressive debut fantasy series from author Peter V. Brett, The Daylight War is book three of the Demon Cycle, pulling the reader into a world of demons, darkness and heroes.

On the night of a new moon all shadows deepen.

Humanity has thirty days to prepare for the next demon attack, but one month is scarcely enough time to train a village to defend themselves, let alone an entire continent caught in the throes of civil war.

Arlen Bales understands the coreling threat better than anyone. Born ordinary, the demon plague has shaped him into a weapon so powerful he has been given the unwanted title of saviour, and attracted the attention of deadly enemies both above and below ground.

Unlike Arlen, Ahmann Jardir embraces the title of Deliverer. His strength resides not only in the legendary relics he carries, but also in the magic wielded by his first wife, Inevera, a cunning and powerful priestess whose allegiance even Jardir cannot be certain of.

Once Arlen and Jardir were like brothers. Now they are the bitterest of rivals. As humanity’s enemies prepare, the only two men capable of defeating them are divided against each other by the most deadly demons of all: those that lurk in the human heart.

11. HAPPY HOUR IN HELL by TAD WILLIAMS (BOBBY DOLLAR #2)

Happy Hour in Hell

Bobby Dollar has a problem or four of epic proportions. Problem one: his best friend Sam has given him an angel’s feather that also happens to be evidence of an unholy pact between Bobby’s employers and those who dwell in the infernal depths. Problem two: Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell, wants to get his claws on the feather at all costs, but particularly at all cost to Bobby . Problem three: Bobby has fallen in love with Casimira, Countess of Cold Hands, who just happens to be Eligor’s girlfriend. Problem four: Eligor, aware of Problem three, has whisked Casimira off to the Bottomless Pit itself, telling Bobby he will never see her again unless he hands over the feather.

But Bobby, long-time veteran of the endless war between above and below, is not the type of guy who finds Hell intimidating. All he has to do is toss on a demon’s body, sneak through the infernal gates, solve the mystery of the angel’s feather, and rescue the girl. Saving the day should just be a matter of an eon or two of anguish, mutilation and horror.

If only it were that easy.

10. FORTRESS FRONTIER by MYKE COLE (SHADOW OPS #2)

Fortress Frontier

The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Suddenly people from all corners of the globe began to develop terrifying powers – summoning fire, manipulating earth, opening portals and decimating flesh. Overnight the rules had changed… but not for everyone.


Alan Bookbinder might be a Colonel in the US Army, but in his heart he knows he’s just a desk jockey, a clerk with a silver eagle on his jacket. But one morning he is woken by a terrible nightmare and overcome by an ominous drowning sensation. Something is very, very wrong.

Forced into working for the Supernatural Operations Corps in a new and dangerous world, Bookbinder’s only hope of finding a way back to his family will mean teaming up with former SOC operator and public enemy number one: Oscar Britton. They will have to put everything on the line if they are to save thousands of soldiers trapped inside a frontier fortress on the brink of destruction, and show the people back home the stark realities of a war that threatens to wipe out everything they’re trying to protect.

9. NECESSARY EVIL by IAN TREGILLIS (MILKWEED TRIPTYCH #3)

Necessary Evil

The history of the Twentieth Century has been shaped by a secret conflict between technology and magic. When a twisted Nazi scientist devised a way to imbue ordinary humans with supernatural abilities – to walk through walls, throw fire and see the future – his work became the prized possession of first the Third Reich, then the Soviet Army. Only Britain’s warlocks, and the dark magics they yield, have successfully countered the threat posed by these superhuman armies.

But for decades, this conflict has been manipulated by Gretel, the mad seer. And now her long plan has come to fruition. And with it, a danger vastly greater than anything the world has known. Now British Intelligence officer Raybould Marsh must make a last-ditch effort to change the course of history – if his nation, and those he loves, are to survive.

8. LONDON FALLING by PAUL CORNELL

London Falling

The dark is rising . . .

Detective Inspector James Quill is about to complete the drugs bust of his career. Then his prize suspect Rob Toshack is murdered in custody. Furious, Quill pursues the investigation, co-opting intelligence analyst Lisa Ross and undercover cops Costain and Sefton. But nothing about Toshack’s murder is normal. Toshack had struck a bargain with a vindictive entity, whose occult powers kept Toshack one step ahead of the law – until his luck ran out. Now, the team must find a ‘suspect’ who can bend space and time and alter memory itself. And they will kill again. As the group starts to see London’s sinister magic for themselves, they have two choices: panic or use their new abilities. Then they must hunt a terrifying supernatural force the only way they know how: using police methods, equipment and tactics. But they must all learn the rules of this new game – and quickly. More than their lives will depend on it.

7. STEELHEART by BRANDON SANDERSON (THE RECKONERS #1)

Steelheart

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.


Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart – the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning – and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

6. ABADDON’S GATE by JAMES SA COREY (THE EXPANSE #1)

Abaddon's Gate

For generations, the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt – was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artefact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has emerged to build a massive structure outside the orbit of Uranus: a gate that leads into a starless dark.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artefact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.

5. ANCILLARY JUSTICE by ANN LECKIE (IMPERIAL RADCH #1)

Ancillary Justice

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. 

Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren–a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. 

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

From debut author Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice is a stunning space opera that asks what it means to be human in a universe guided by artificial intelligence.

4. THE GLASS REPUBLIC by TOM POLLOCK (THE SKYSCRAPER THRONE #2)

The Glass Republic

Pen’s life is all about secrets: the secret of the city’s spirits, deities and monsters her best friend Beth discovered, living just beyond the notice of modern Londoners; the secret of how she got the intricate scars that disfigure her so cruelly – and the most closely guarded secret of all: Parva, her mirror-sister, forged from her reflections in a school bathroom mirror. Pen’s reflected twin is the only girl who really understands her.


Then Parva is abducted and Pen makes a terrible bargain for the means to track her down. In London-Under-Glass looks are currency, and Pen’s scars make her a rare and valuable commodity. But some in the reflected city will do anything to keep Pen from the secret of what happened to the sister who shared her face.

3. THE VIOLENT CENTURY by LAVIE TIDHAR

The Violent Century

They’d never meant to be heroes.

For seventy years they’d guarded the British Empire. Oblivion and Fogg, inseparable at first, bound together by a shared fate. Until a night in Berlin, in the aftermath of the Second World War, and a secret that tore them apart.

But there must always be an account… and the past has a habit of catching up to the present.

Recalled to the Retirement Bureau from which no one can retire, Fogg and Oblivion must face up to a past of terrible war and unacknowledged heroism, a life of dusty corridors and secret rooms; of furtive meetings and blood-stained fields, to answer one last, impossible question:

What makes a hero?

2. EMPEROR OF THORNS by MARK LAWRENCE (THE BROKEN EMPIRE #3)

Emperor of Thorns

The path to the throne is broken – only the broken may walk it.

***

To reach the throne requires that a man journey. Even a path paved with good intentions can lead to hell, and my intentions were never good.

The Hundred converge for Congression to politic upon the corpse of Empire, and while they talk the Dead King makes his move, and I make mine. The world is cracked, time has run through, leaving us clutching at the end days, the future so bright that those who see it are the first to burn. These are the days that have waited for us all our lives. These are my days. I will stand before the Hundred and they will listen. I will take the throne whoever seeks to thwart me, living or dead, and if I must be the last emperor then I will make of it such an ending.

This is where the wise man turns away. This is where the holy kneel and call on God. These are the last miles, my brothers. Don’t look to me to save you. Don’t think I will not spend you. Run if you have the wit. Pray if you have the soul. Stand your ground if courage is yours. But don’t follow me.

Follow me, and I will break your heart.

1. THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by NEIL GAIMAN

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.


A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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  • Zachary Jernigan

    Thanks for listing my book, Milo! Made my day — just like when you originally reviewed it!

    • BaneofKings

      No problem :). It’s an awesome book.

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