Top Five Backlist Reads of 2020

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a bookworm will always be behind on their TBR. As someone who has “only” been hardcore devouring fantasy/sci-fi for the last four or five years, there will forever be series I haven’t gotten to yet and books that perennially languish on my TBR while I try to find time for them. As such, I always like to shout out my favorite reads of the year that WEREN’T released that same year, because these books still deserve love and praise and to be shared with others!

This list is in no particular order. If you want to check out the books for yourselves, I’ve linked the cover to their Goodreads pages!

 Spellslinger  Godsgrave  Kings of the Wyld

SPELLSLINGER by Sebastien de Castell
This was one of the first books I read in 2020 and I found myself tearing through it in a few short days. The first of six books, it tells the story of Kellen, a teenager who finds himself struggling with magic in a town where magic is prized above all. I’ve read the first three books in this series and have enjoyed every one of them. While dancing around spoilers, Kellen eventually leaves his hometown in the company of Ferius Parfax, a seemingly carefree woman who is surprisingly dangerous when the situation requires it. Ferius is an Argosi, a wanderer who seeks out events that look like they could have a significant impact on the world (and she’s getting a prequel book in 2021!). Despite the traditional fantasy look of the US covers, this book feels very much in the vein of a story in the Wild West, with dusters and saloons and a particular magic gesture that looks suspiciously like finger guns. If you like fast-paced tales with talking squirrel-cat sidekicks (and how can you not) I highly recommend this series!

GODSGRAVE by Jay Kristoff
I managed to read the full NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLE trilogy this year, and while I loved them all, GODSGRAVE was the one that completely and utterly hooked me. It has a stunning finale that caused me to text a friend several expletives and a pacing that almost never let up. Mia’s a girl bent on revenge, but GODSGRAVE forces her to confront how far she is willing to go to achieve her goals. What people will always be pawns to her, and who has a chance to be something more? The series is bloody and violent, but also manages to knife you right in the feels. Perfect for those who love assassins, gladiators, and dash of dark magic.

KINGS OF THE WYLD by Nicholas Eames
I had a deep worry going into KINGS OF THE WYLD that the book would end up being overhyped and that I would come away with a feeling of “I mean, it was fine….” Thankfully all those fears were dashed by this bombastic tale of former mercenaries “getting the band back together” to stage a rescue attempt of a band member’s daughter. (And lest you think this is a damsel-in-distress situation, that daughter is a bad-ass mercenary in her own right, she just happens to be stuck in a city under siege by a monstrous horde.) Taking the classic mercenary band and framing the groups as if they were rock bands works shockingly well. The “tours” from city to city, the managers, the groupies, the arena appearances, it all maps beautifully. And yet for a book about aging rock stars I STILL felt myself getting misty eyed in the final pages. This is a book that perfectly balances humor and heart and definitely deserves all the praise that was heaped upon it.

 The Last Sun  Oathbringer

THE LAST SUN by K.D. Edwards
Surprisingly, one of my favorite reads of the year started out as a book I initially bounced off of. Despite not falling in love with the characters at first blush, I found myself becoming more and more engrossed in the story, and was eventually utterly charmed by the found family of disasters that make up the cast. It was a feeling reinforced by the interstitial novella I read later in the year, and I am desperately trying to find time in my reading queue to get to the full sequel, THE HANGED MAN. I particularly love the magic system, which requires spells to be stored in sigils for later use. It’s the kind of magic system that requires planning and strategy from the characters, as it can take hours to prep the sigils, meaning what they walk into battle with is what they’re stuck with. THE LAST SUN was a complete adventure, but managed to drop some bombshells in the final pages that fully made up for its rocky start. Recommended for urban fantasy fans, especially those looking for LGBTQ rep.

OATHBRINGER by Brandon Sanderson
I’ve been reading one of the massive STORMLIGHT ARCHIVES books every year, slowly catching up to where the series currently is. While OATHBRINGER didn’t quite give me the same high as WORDS OF RADIANCE, I found myself moved to tears during the final battle sequence, not necessarily because of any kind of tragedy, but because of the emotional catharsis. One character in particular who had been struggling throughout the story finally had a lot of things click into place, and fully earned the 1200 pages it took to get to that point. These books are by no means fast-paced and require the commitment of someone who is ready to sign on for a slow and steady (but well-written) journey, until everything comes crashing down in the last 150 pages. A must for those who love thick, meaty fantasy.

16 thoughts on “Top Five Backlist Reads of 2020

Add yours

  1. Don’t get me started on “The Stormlight Archives,” I won’t be starting them any time soon. I’m glad you finished and enjoyed “The Nevernight Chronicle”! I’m going to try and read “Kings of the Wyld” next year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What’s the general vibe of the Spellslinger books? Are they quite humorous and light? Your mention of magic fingerguns and talking squirrel-cat sidekicks has given me a very different view of what I thought these books were haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are MUCH more light than their US covers make them seem – the UK covers captures it better. There is definitely some dark stuff that happens in them, but it’s definitely more of an adventure story than, say, a serious High Fantasy. I tear through these books in a few days at a time.

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