Some people do a top ten list, others do a top eleven, yet others may only do five. My list is 9 books long. Why? Partly to be a little bit different and partly because I want the tenth spot on my list to be reserved for that really great book which I simply did not get the chance to read during 2009. That really great book may also be something I have only heard whispers about and I may not discover for several more years. Whatever that tenth great book is, I’m holding a spot for it on my list.
This Top Nine List is sort of / kind of in order. The first two on the list are very much in their proper order, but after that things get a bit trickier. Whichever order the list is in, these are the nine novels published in 2009 which I feel were the strongest titles of the year, popularity be damned.
1. By the Mountain Bound, by Elizabeth Bear: It seems I am not able to make one of these lists without placing one of Elizabeth Bear’s novels at or near the top, and for good reason. She’s really good. By the Mountain Bound is a prequel to All the Windwracked Stars. It ends where the first novel begins, and yet, knowing the ending, we find that we don’t know a thing about what came before. A surprising, beautiful, and heartbreaking novel. It changes our understanding of All the Windwracked Stars and makes the reader question what The Sea Thy Mistress will be.
2. Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest: This is Cherie Priest at the top of her game. Her richly imagined alternate history Civil War era steampunk novel, now with airships and zombies, is outstanding.
3. Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld: A steampunk novel set in an alternate World War I where the factions at war are split down technological lines. It treats both the history are its audience with respect and in the end, what matters is that Leviathan is a rollicking tale.
4. Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson: With his last novel before the publication of The Gathering Storm, Brandon Sanderson proved his versatility in creating another distinct magic system in a world built with secrets. This thick single volume fantasy raises the bar for what readers should expect from Sanderson’s fiction and helped build anticipation for what he would be able to do with the Wheel of Time.
5. City Without End, by Kay Kenyon: If you’re not reading Kay Kenyon, you’re missing out on some great science fiction. This is the third volume of a series that improves with each offering.
6. Best Served Cold, by Joe Abercrombie: Want some nasty violence that gets down in the mud? Want a novel of revenge filled with misplaced loyalty and double crosses? Want to expand on the world of the First Law trilogy which tells a completely different story? Joe Abercrombie gives the reader all that and much more in Best Served Cold, a nasty delight of a novel.
7. The Gathering Storm, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: It should perhaps go without saying that this was my most anticipated volume of the year, but the thing is, I was also the most nervous about it. Yeah, I like Sanderson’s original fiction, but would he be able to pull off a Wheel of Time novel? Could he make it as good as the best of Jordan’s work? The answer, I think, was a resounding yes.
8. The Quiet War, by Paul McAuley: This is a smart, smart novel dealing with the future humanity and who gets to choose it. I very much wish to read Gardens of the Sun, and sooner rather than later.
9. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins: Despite how awesome The Hunger Games were, my expectations were not exceptionally high for Catching Fire. The premise of the first novel did not seem to lend itself to a sequel and I wasn’t sure that Collins would be able to pull it off. She did, and then some.
All links are to the original reviews.
Previous Best Ofs
I'm really enjoying reading everyone's "Best Of 2009" lists and adding new books to my own TBR list. Warbreaker was definitely one of the best Fantasy books that I've read this year. I've never read anything by Elizabeth Moon though I know I really should. Leviathan has been on my list ever since I first heard of it. Boneshaker also looks interesting and I've recently entered a couple of contests in hopes of winning it.
Good luck finding your top ten book. I think Jasper Fforde was one of my favorite discoveries in 2009 (though his books were published years earlier)
Really fun list Joe. Boneshaker was my introduction to the work of Cherie Priest and wow!, what an introduction it was.
I've heard many wonderful things about Leviathan and the cover makes me want to grab it right off the bookstore shelf and run.
The Quiet War was in my hands the other day simply because I've seen it on these year end lists a couple of times, yet I left without it, citing the fact that I have a huge pile of stuff to read. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to hold out the next time I go to the bookstore.
As for Elizabeth Bear, I've only ever read some of her short fiction work, but your brief description makes it sound so amazing. Well done in the promotion department, with a few sentences you have me completely sold.
Simcha: I've never read anything by Elizabeth Moon either, but you should really try some Elizabeth Bear. :)
I'm really psyched about Boneshaker. It has such an interesting premise.
Warbreaker sounds great and I love Sanderson's work on Elantris.
I read Bright of the Sky but have yet to finish the rest of Kay Kenyon's series. I really need to get on that.
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