Top 5 Books Published in 2015

Well it’s that time of the year. The time of lists. And no review site would be complete with a list of the top books I read this year. In the interests of inclusion and staying topical, I’m publishing two separate lists; one of my top five books I read which were published in 2015, and one for my top five books I read which were not published in 2015. I don’t generally apply ratings or scores to my reviews, but this is a ranked list showing the book’s spot on its own list, as well as its spot out of ten inclusive of both lists. So without further ado, let’s get to listing!

Top Five Books Published in 2015

5) The Left-hand Way, by Tom Doyle (9th Overall)
Full Strange Currencies Review

Really interesting magic system, great characters, and a well-paced plot in a book that deftly avoided all of the pitfalls of a second book. The series starts with American Craftsmen, and is highly recommended for anybody who enjoys Urban Fantasy, Military Fantasy, and lots of talking to ghosts. There’s a fine balance when you have a contemporary world that has magic in it, between overdoing how widely known it is that there is magic on the one hand, and requiring some massive global conspiracy to conceal that there is magic on the other hand. Doyle, I think, hits exactly the right balance here. Important and powerful people know what’s going on, but they know better than to publicize it, and rightly fearing what might happen to them, the practitioners are just as willing to keep it mostly under wraps. A solid book, and well worth a read.

4) A Crown for Cold Silver, by Alex Marshall (8th Overall)
Full Strange Currencies Review

Probably the best treatment of sex, gender and social politics I’ve ever seen in a piece of fantasy writing. Marshall basically creates the kind of world we can only dream of being able to live in, and then treats it exactly how it should be treated: Entirely unremarkably without drawing any attention to it. While the story dragged a little in the middle, the characters were more than compelling enough to make up for it. An important novel for the treatment of social issues whether you enjoy the story or not, and yet still a perfectly enjoyable story in its own right. A heroic tale from the villain’s point of view, Marshall manages to communicate the slightly darker, slightly more ‘grey-area’ vibe that has become so popular lately, without making their characters into anti-heroes instead. I look forward to more novels in this setting.

3) Gemini Cell, by Myke Cole (5th Overall)
Full Strange Currencies Review

This novel is essentially a prequel to his previous three novels, showing us the origin of the military unit that is the focus of his other works. A military man himself, Cole does a phenomenal job really communicating the reality of military life. I’m not normally much for the hard MIlitary SF, but I think Cole’s changed my mind on it. He presents the modern soldier that is so often lacking in military novels by people who don’t have recent experience in it. His soliders care about the team, and the mission, and not personal glory. They have feelings about the people they kill as part of their job. As part of the generation raised on ‘heroic’ military stories of people doing things single-handedly, as part of the generation of Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Van Damme, I’ve grown used to that ‘one man does great things’ portrayal of the military. Cole isn’t just doing a service to the readers of military SF, he’s doing a service to the entire conception we have of the military and how it works. Definitely earned its place on this list.

2) The Skull Throne, by Peter V. Brett (4th overall)
Full Strange Currencies Review

Penultimate books are always tricky. You still need plot progress, you still need to keep the book exciting, but you have to save the best for the big finish. This was the first out of the four books that I did feel dragged a little, and it felt like it ended very suddenly, but it was still an awesome book. (Being in my top 5 of the year, and number 2 of 2015 novels should show that pretty clearly!) The year I started this series with The Warded Man, I did more of a ‘things about books that I liked’ sort of list, and Brett was a lock for ‘Best Magic System’. And he still is. Every year a book in this series comes out, I’m as much excited for another round of awesome rune magic as I am about the plot of the story. One of the best original magic systems I’ve ever read.

His characters are also one of the many reasons he lands so high up my list. To have created in only four books of a five book series so many compelling secondary characters is a testament to Brett’s skill as a writer. To keep the story focused on two main characters but still fill in the world around them with characters who also have some depth, and have things going on besides just following the protagonists around really kept the books moving, and created the kind of sense of the world it took Robert Jordan 7 or 8 books to pull off. His take on the chosen one story as a plot too really sets the series apart from others of the same ilk. We’re headed into the final book about a chosen one and still don’t actually know who the chosen one is. I love it! And you will too.

1) The Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu (1st Overall)
Full Strange Currencies Review

A year in which Guy Gavriel Kay doesn’t publish a novel is a year in which the top spot is actually a competition. Well, until I read this debut full-length novel from Ken Liu, who has won multiple awards for short stories and translations. I now live with a mild state of anxiety for the year where they both publish a novel and I’ll have to choose. It might seem like slightly poor form to start off my blurb about my favourite book of the year by referencing another author, but in this case I think it’s justified. While the other books on this list were great, in some cases tremendous, Liu just hit all of the right marks for me story-wise to take my top spot.

Absolutely marvellous characters, primary and secondary. An interesting plot with enough trope to make it easy to follow and engh departure to make it compelling and original. An excellent setup to upcoming novels. The Grace of Kings really did have it all for me this year. I don’t even want to say any more than I already included in the full review linked above for fear of spoiling any more content, so I’ll just leave it at that. This was the best book I read all year. Read it.

So this concludes the list of my top 5 books published in 2015. I hope you enjoyed reading it, and that you may have been inspired to pick one of these books up and try it out!

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Author: Dan Ruffolo

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