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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Six Fantasy Reads I Loved in the Past Year

Six Great Bossy Fantasy Reads

I knew I was reading some gooood science fiction and fantasy, but didn't realize I'd read and loved enough of these titles in the past year to make up two Greedy Reading Lists of sci-fi and fantasy and one of fantasy alone.

If you've read any of these books, I'd love to hear what you think!

You can find last year's version of this list here: Six Favorite Bossy Fantasy Reads from the Past Year.

You can find my recent-ish two lists of favorite science fiction and fantasy reads from the past year here:

And you can click here for other science fiction and fantasy books that I've reviewed on Bossy Bookworm.

What are some of your favorite fantasy reads?


01 Hell Bent (Alex Stern #2) by Leigh Bardugo

In the second installment in Leigh Bardugo's Alex Stern series, Alex is as brave, scowling, and unapologetic as ever--and Darlington will need her mental fortitude, unorthodox thinking, and magical abilities if he has any hope of escaping from hell.

Ninth House was the first in Bardugo's Alex Stern series. I love returning to Alex's creative, irresistibly unorthodox approach to life and her grumpy, undying loyalty to her small group of trusted loved ones.

In Hell Bent, Alex Stern is determined to save Darlington from the clutches of hell, even if it costs her her precarious position as a student at Yale and her role at Lethe as an overseer of the university's secret society's magical goings-on.

Alex and Dawes must work secretly to try to figure out how to reach Darlington and bring him back, because their activities are unsanctioned. The outcome seems to have little hope of being anything but deadly.

Hell Bent is clever and sometimes darkly funny, yet a somber undertone runs throughout it. Alex's past is far from free of blemishes and pain, and some of her life-and-death decisions required fortitude that it's tough for her to lose in order to be vulnerable with those she cares about.

For my full review, please check out Hell Bent.


02 The Night Ship by Jess Kidd

Kidd's dual-timeline historical fiction, based on actual events, shines in its vivid settings, richly imagined characters, sea voyage details, and magical realism elements.

The Night Ship is historical fiction with a magical realism undercurrent that's told in two timelines. I didn't realize up front that this is based upon a true story, and now I'm even more deeply haunted.

The Night Ship centers around the dilemmas, conflicts, and discoveries of two characters separated by three centuries: Mayken, a Dutch girl on an ocean voyage who is shipwrecked off the coast of Australia, and Gil, an eccentric Australian boy living three hundred years later on the same island, trying to move past trauma and make a home with his grandfather, a stranger to him.

Jess Kidd is the author of Things in Jars, a mystery I gave four Bossy stars--and listed in two Greedy Reading Lists, Six Spooky, Gothic Tales and Six Historical Fiction Mysteries Sure to Intrigue You.

For my full review, check out The Night Ship.


03 The Golden Enclaves (Scholomance #3) by Naomi Novik

The more somber tone of book three and the focus on logistics feel appropriate as the recent graduates of the Scholomance desperately try to save everyone, friends and foes alike.

A Deadly Education is the first in Novik's Scholomance series, which begins the story of a magical high school with two routes out: a grueling path to graduation and beyond or, just as likely, death. Danger and darkness lurk around every corner for grumpy, powerful El and her classmates.

The second book of the Scholomance is The Last Graduate, which builds on book one's dark humor, dangerous forces, and the irresistible attraction between El and Orion. I loved it so much, I really tried to slow down and savor it.

In The Golden Enclaves, the third installment of the series, an allied force of students faces the aftermath of their ambitious book-two plan to save the world.

Much of the book is spent with El trying to figure out what's going on--who is behind attacks on the enclaves? Who might be allies for her, if anyone? This didn't make The Golden Enclaves the most darkly fun, deeply emotional, or captivatingly paced book in the series for me.

But I'm fully invested in this series. The largely somber tone appropriately reflects these kids' growing up and facing challenges more complex than they could have imagined. The young people feel the weight of the world on their shoulders--and it really does seem to be up to them to save everyone after all.

Novik is also the author of other fantasy novels featuring main protagonists I love: Uprooted and Spinning Silver as well as the first two in this Scholomance series, A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate.

Novik has also written a wonderful series of nine books about dragons, the Temeraire series.

For my full Bossy review of this book, check out The Golden Enclaves.


04 The Unmaking of June Farrow by Adrienne Young

June struggles with the complicated implications of her family's curse of hallucinations and mental illness...until she realizes that the red door and visions of the past are real memories from her own time-travel experiences.

June has been seeing and hearing visions for a year now, and she believes they're linked to the curse that the community believes has its hold on the Farrow women.

She would love to end the curse, the fraying of the Farrow women's minds, once and for all--by never having a child and allowing the mental illness to die with her.

But when she realizes she can walk through a magical red door, she finds unexpected circumstances--and realizes that she may be able to reinvent her path forward--and possibly also shift the events of the past.

The circumstances of the ending are largely satisfying, the emotional connections June ultimately makes are poignant, and there's a character-reveal twist that was sweet and lovely.

Adrienne Young is also the author of Fable, its sequel Namesake, and The Last Legacy--loosely set in the worlds of Fable and Namesake--as well as Spells for Forgetting.

Please click here for my full review of The Unmaking of June Farrow.


05 Gregor the Overlander (The Underland Chronicles #1) by Suzanne Collins

If you can focus on the positive qualities of the prominent (and giant...and talking) creepy-crawlies in this middle-grade novel, you'll find a noble quest, unlikely heroes, a mysterious dark land, chilling betrayals, humor, and lots of heart.

I tried to get my oldest to read Gregor the Overlander with me after the glorious Harry Potter Era and the exciting Hunger Games Period, but I wanted it too badly and the child was like a cat, solidly rejecting my overzealous interest for years. I set the book out and suggested it so often, Gregor became a joke between us--and remained unread.

Enter: a second child without any Gregor baggage or knee-jerk reactions to it, who was willing to dive in and who would maybe just maybe love this series that I was sure I was going to love too.

Gregor falls through a vent in his New York City laundry room while trying to keep his sister from doing the same--and they both end up in a dark, strange world, the Underland.

We laughed and cringed and sometimes held our breath while reading--even though we felt confident that things would work out for our hero. Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games series) offers a unique setting while doing something fascinating: turning the most detested and feared "Overland" pests (giant, talking cockroaches, rats, and bats) into essential allies and loyal partners in the Underland.

Gregor the Overlander is full of adventure, dialogue that made us laugh, gross-out moments, and heart. We're in for reading book two.

For my full review, check out Gregor the Overlander.


06 Weyward by Emilia Hart

Emilia Hart's debut novel links women in three timelines through blood and a powerful connection to the natural world as they resist male dominance and cruelty in various witchy ways.

In Weyward, Emilia Hart's story of witchcraft and the natural world, she explores three timelines of women connected through the ages by power and by society's historical suspicion of strong women.

The majority of the male characters in Weyward are unredeemable buffoons, at best ignorant and rigid and at worst neglectful and cruel--and always holding the power, at least before the Weyward women recognize and develop their own. The story features instances of rape, abandonment, witch hunting, and attempted suicide.

Yet Altha, Violet, and Kate persist, struggle against the binds society attempts to put upon them, connect powerfully with the natural world, and are linked by blood ties and echoes of hardship and overcoming.

I received an audiobook version of this book courtesy of ( supports local bookstores!) and Macmillan Audio. The story is wonderfully narrated by Aysha Kala, Helen Keeley, and Nell Barlow.

For my full review, please check out Weyward.


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