Well, everyone else seems to be making these lists, so I may as well! I’ve read about 150 self-pubbed books this year and I’m approaching a grand total of 200 books for the year for both trad and self-pub. I’ll have a bonus top 5 trad pubbed books at the bottom!
21. Whom the Gods Love by MM Perry – 80/100
I read this one for last year’s SPFBO3 during my self imposed 100 book challenge. I really got on with this one, in no small part to a sassy as fuck old lady named Inez. This is a classic going on a quest story with a mismatched group that doesn’t always get along. It’s fun, it’s light, and it’s quick.
20. Lords of Asylum by Kevin Wright – 80/100
This was part of my batch for SPFBO this year and it came in second, nearly making the finals. This is a very different kind of book, a medieval noir with highly stylized writing. This will be for fans of Ana Smith Spark’s writing style and for those that like darker stories.
19. The Last Dragon Standing by Rachel Aaron – 81/100
This was the last book in the Heartstriker series! As many of you know, I adore this series and picked this up the day it came out. Pre-ordered the shit out of this book. We get a lot of Bob’s backstory and how he got his pidgeon which was really neat. Not to mention, Chinese dragons show up at Bethesda’s stronghold.
18. Kingshold by DP Woolliscroft – 81/100
Kingshold was put into Lynn’s Books grouping for SPFBO and is currently a semi-finalist! (Her batch isn’t finalized at the time I wrote this post) I found this book to be refreshing and different, it’s a story about the first elections in the beginnings of a post-monarch era. The ‘elections’ aren’t exactly fair, but it does give the people more options than just a progression of heirs. It’s fascinating watching the politics of it all and this is a multi-pov book that gives you a bunch of different sides to it.
17. Crosser’s Maze by Dorian Hart – 81.5/100
This is the sequel to Ventifact Colossus from last year’s SPFBO. I read that one and liked it, but I thought this one was a step above the first one. The writing was tighter, the plotting more focused and I really became attached to the characters. Multi-POV epic fantasy with a classic going-on-a-quest vibe.
16. Orconomics by Zachary Pike – 82/100
This is a finalist over on Booknest for SPFBO! I thoroughly enjoyed the audiobook for this one, props to the narrator Doug Tisdale. This follows a dwarf and his re-introduction to the world of raids after being cast aside by his peers when he botched a job and ended up running from a fight. He’s been blackmailed into a suicide mission and is paired up with a group, not of his choosing. There’s a drunken elf, a goblin that’s learning to speak the common language, two mages of opposing schools that hate each other, and a bard. It’s hilarious but also has a depth to it that reveals itself slowly, and by the end of it, I was 100% rooting for these characters to succeed. There’s probably a large crossover audience from Kings of the Wyld.
15. Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss – 82/100
This is the Weatherwax Report’s Finalist for SPFBO! This is a book where music can become magic if played by the right person, but that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. The MC accidentally killed her baby sister, stopping her heart with a song from her flute. She has to run from her home and hide out under the tutelage of a village healer. If people find out about her abilities she could be hunted down and killed.
14. We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson – 82.75/100
This book struck me from the first page as being fairly dark, as someone is beheading a fallen warrior and it goes into detail about what it’s like to do that. In this world, the spirit is stored in the head, and removing it can release the spirit, otherwise, it would stay trapped inside the corpse. So, there’s a lot of beheading in this. Epic multi pov fantasy in a nonwestern setting.
13. Ankaran Immersion by Will Weisser – 84/100
The only sci-fi on the list! I read this as a review request and I’m really glad that I did. It’s about a world where nanomachines have taken over basically everything. Humanity has split into two different factions, those that integrate the tech into their bodies creating superhuman abilities, and those that abhor the practice. We have POV’s from both of these factions and I found all of the characters engaging and fresh.
12. On the Shoulders of Titans by Andrew Rowe – 84/100
The sequel to the awesome Sufficiently Advanced Magic, this one continues Corin’s journey through his Academy and expands on some other characters as well. We get to see more backstory to both the world and certain mysterious characters from the first book. As some questions get answered, more get raised as strange people and strange occurrences aren’t entirely explained yet. I really recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the first book.
11. Sir Thomas the Hesitant by Liam Perrin – 84/100
This was a heartwarming story that I’m so glad I picked up. It’s an Arthurian legend satire of sorts with a haphazard ‘hero’ making his way to King Arthur’s Court in time for the wedding of the royal couple. Everyone family in the land can ask for one reasonable request, and our young MC wants to be a knight. However, his family wants him to get his brother out of prison, which will he choose?
10. Death March by Phil Tucker – 84.5/100
This would be a great place for people wondering if they want to read some LitRPG or not. Sometimes LitRPG’s can be left a little lacking in the character department, but I found this one with rich believable characters with a plotline that was much more than just exploring the world and adjusting to it. MC’s brother has been put in jail, and one of the only ways he can get him back is to appease the AI that currently rules almost everything. If a human goes into the game on Death March Mode, you die for real if you die in the game. If you dare to play on this difficulty level if you reach the end you get to ask for a favor, any favor – and he wants to ask for his brother’s freedom.
9. Black Gate Chronicles by Phil Tucker – 85/100
Back to back Phil Tucker books! This one is a classic epic fantasy complete with orcs. I rated this as a series instead of the first book since if I counted the books individually it would take up 1/4 of the list. I read this series in its entirety in less than a week. Completed series with an audiobook for each as well, teleporting dragons, a crown that makes you nearly omniscient, nonhuman pov’s, lots of action, lots of magic – people who love epic fantasy should give this one a try.
8. An Ill-Fated Sky by Darrell Drake – 86/100
This was the sequel to A Star Reckoner’s Lot and we follow Ash’s cousin. It’s too spoilery to get into what the plotline focuses on, but, I felt like this was a level above the first in the series. The writing was great and it really pulled on my emotions.
7. Aching God by Mike Shel – 86.5/100
A current semi finalist over at Qwillery, this one instantly grabbed my attention. The world building was fantastic, the dungeon crawl was so fucking cool, and I really loved the main character. It has an audiobook narrated by Simon Vance, so if you’re into audios I highly recommend it!
6. Hero Forged by Josh Erikson – 87/100
This was a semi finalist over at Fantasy Book Review, and came in second overall, just missing the finals. This is an urban fantasy with a con artist POV. It’s charming, witty, fast paced, and has a lot going on. I loved the side characters, I loved the magic in it, I loved the weird as fuck demon the MC is semi-possessed by. I SUPER loved the audiobook, if I were to do a top audio book of 2018 list this would be near or at the very top. I love books that are funny but also have depth and this ticked those boxes hard.
5. Kings of Paradise by Richard Nell – 88/100
I raved about this for a long time at the beginning of the year. It’s an epic low fantasy with seriously grey characters – I would imagine a decent crossover crowd from the First Law series. It’s a long book, and it’s pretty dark, there’s cannibalism on page one – so this won’t be for everyone. However, if you’re a fan of grimdark and nonwestern settings this could be for you.
4. Wrath of Gods by Dyrk Ashton – 88/100
Another second in a series, and another time where I felt like the second book was actually better than the first, not falling into the second in a series lull. This ramped up basically everything. If you liked the first one this has more gods, more demigods, it’s more tightly paced and plotted and the writing steps up a notch – I think you’ll love the second!
3. Threadbare by Andrew Seiple – 89/100
I love LitRPG, I love comedy, I love warmer stories with likable protagonists, and I love nonhuman pov’s. This is all of those things. A teddy bear golem stumbles his way through his newly formed sentience and explores his budding friendships – but it’s not all fun and games. Shit gets real later on, and more action comes into play as Threadbare unknowingly becomes entangled in a villain’s plot.
2. Ikessar Falcon by KS Villoso – 89/100
The follow up to The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, this is another one where talking about the plot would spoil things. Suffice to say that there were many moments in this where I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. Villoso excels in characters first and foremost, and they never cease to bring out the feels. Epic fantasy in a nonwestern setting, it will appeal to people who enjoy Robin Hobb.
1. Chasing Graves by Ben Galley – 90/100
This was incredibly original with a take on the undead I’ve never seen done before. It was a bleak storyline, but the main characters sarcasm and wit kept it from getting too dark. I’ve loved Ben Galley’s stuff before so it was no surprise that I took to this one so well.
Bonus Top 5 Trad Published
Two of these books are set to release in Jan of 2019. So, some people may be like “those don’t count!” But, they are on here because this is a post of what I read in 2018, not necessarily released in 2018 (many of the books on the indie list were published 2017 or earlier)
5. Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri 84.5/100
I really loved the world building in this, it’s pretty different from what I’m used to reading with much of it influenced by Indian culture and set in a desert. There’s Blood magic, a focus on forbidden religions/customs and a younger female pov.
4. Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers – 88/100
I’ve loved all of her books. They’re all very character focused, more like a character study than anything. Each book offers something a little different and focuses on different characters so they can be read as stand alones. This has an entirely new cast, but I loved them all the same. It’s like slice of life in fantasy almost, reminds me a lot of trek where it’s focused on characters and not space battles/alien issues.
3. Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence – 88/100
This is yet another second in a series, so I can’t reveal too much about the plot, however, I loved getting to know the side characters a little more, there’s even a couple POV’s that aren’t Nona in this one. The writing continues to be great and it was a solid second installment in the series.
2. Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan – 95/100
This is the most imaginative, the most original, and weirdest but also amazing story. I found the characters fascinating, I loved getting the perspective of a ghoul. Everything about this was unique and different, it was a huge breath of fresh air and has the second highest score I’ve ever given, let alone this year. This one comes out in January, but you can pre-order it!
1 Hod King by Josiah Bancroft – 97/100
So, here it is, the highest score I’ve ever given, period. Not just this year. I loved basically everything about this. The writing was gorgeous, the story was engaging, the characters gripped me, and it set my heart racing more than once. Take all of my yes. This one comes out in January, but you can pre-order it!
Great list! Now to find my wallet…