Six Favorite Bossy Fantasy Reads from the Past Year
Six Favorite Fantasy Reads
I love spending Fridays raving about books I've loved!
I've also recently posted about favorite reads from various genres that I've loved reading in the past year:
And check out My Very Favorite Bossy 2022 Reads for my absolute most favorite reads from last year.
If you've read any of the books mentioned here, I'd love to hear what you think!
What are some of your favorite fantasy reads, from the past year or from this one so far?
01 Steelstriker (Skyhunter #2) by Marie Lu
With intriguing questions about loyalties and motivations, gutsy skirmishes, deep friendships, familial duty, and a smoldering romance seen at a distance, Steelstriker wraps up the Skyhunter duology with action and also with heart.
In Skyhunter, the first book in Marie Lu's young adult Skyhunter duology, Lu offered complex motivations, clashes between idealism and realism, editorialization about class and race, and futuristic advancements.
In Steelstriker, the second and final book in the series, the last free nation in the world has been invaded. Our brave main protagonist (and rebel) Talin is forced to submit to the Federation's morally questionable and physically excruciating experiments. She must become a Skyhunter.
Steelstriker is almost 400 pages of action, deceit, political maneuvering, and gutsy skirmishes, and Lu made me question the motivations and loyalties of practically everyone in Talin's web. I wasn't sure who would prove to be the true enemy and who might reveal themselves to have been traitorous all along.
Click here for my full review of Steelstriker.
02 The Last Legacy by Adrienne Young
In Young's story, loosely set in the world of her Fable series, strong young Bryn fights for her own autonomy in an appealing tale of craftiness, determination, and love.
A letter from her uncle Henrik on her eighteenth birthday calls orphan Bryn back to the island of Bastion. It might be an understatement to say that she has mixed emotions about returning, but Henrik has plans for her that he's been building for ages.
Situations on Bastion are complicated by longstanding rivalries, the suspicious circumstances surrounding Bryn's parents' long-ago deaths, and an extended family with mysterious loyalties and plans of their own.
I was thrilled to find that Young's wonderful, signature strong-young-female protagonist-in-a-man's-world element is in full effect here. Bryn finds her footing in an appealingly realistic, indirect fashion. She has missteps and recognizes an immediate need to develop a thick skin—as well as feeling the complicated impetus to establish loyalties while retaining her own secrets and power.
This was satisfying and wonderfully immersive.
For my full review, check out The Last Legacy.
03 Herrick's End (The Neath #1) by T.M. Blanchet
The first book in Blanchet's Neath trilogy offers a bizarre dark underworld; cruelty and revenge; an unlikely hero; and heartwarming bravery and unexpected bonds.
In Blanchet's young adult fantasy debut, Herrick's End, Ollie's only friend Gwen has disappeared. He has no idea where she's gone, but he thinks her recent black eye, edginess, and her brooding jerk of a boyfriend have something to do with it.
He searches for her, then receives a mysterious note: "Still looking for your friend? I know where she is." A strange fellow offers to lead Ollie to Gwen. Ollie pushes down his panic and decides to push on bravely (and possibly foolishly), determined to find and save Gwen.
But the trail Ollie finds himself on leads to darkness and danger in a mysterious underworld. The land is odd, troubling, and filled with unexpected magic--as well as brutal vengeance. It defies much of what he has known as fact and reality up above. And, alarmingly, a powerful local legend has been expecting him.
The story is funny, sometimes grotesque, at other times sweet, and full of surprises. With zombified children; curses and prophecies; domestic abuse and revenge; bizarre creatures; impossible choices with enormous consequences; struggles with body image; and budding love.
I love this beautiful cover and loved how much heart Blanchet's story offered.
Click here for my full review of Herrick's End.
04 Six Crimson Cranes (Six Crimson Cranes #1) by Elizabeth Lim
I was captivated by Lim's fairy tale of a fantasy novel, particularly the vivid magical realism, Shiori's strength and abilities, and young looooove!
In this young adult novel, the first in a magical fairy tale duology from Elizabeth Lim, main protagonist Shiori is a princess trying desperately to hide the forbidden magic coursing through her veins.
But before her betrothal ceremony to the son of a distant royal, a stranger she's reluctant to marry, Shiori's power is dramatically revealed.
She is banished from her kingdom, her six brothers are turned into cranes, and Shiori is cursed to not speak a word--with each word she utters, one of her brothers will die.
I couldn't wait to find out how Lim would make this plot construct of a wordless main protagonist work in an engaging way, and with the help of a magical paper bird (its name is Kiki, and please just roll with this element, because it's actually amazing), Shiori's silence is made rich and intriguing.
The detailed magical realism is vivid and I was in for all of it. I found the hints at young love absolutely irresistible. I can't wait for the second book.
For my full review, check out Six Crimson Cranes.
05 Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
Rachel Hartman's young adult story follows irresistible, hardheaded, wonderfully faulted Tess as she breaks from rigid medieval gender roles in favor of adventure and discovery. It's captivating, sometimes weighty, and often playful, but never silly.
In Hartman's Tess of the Road, Tess doesn't fit the mold of an obedient, quiet young woman in her medieval kingdom of Goredd, where men rule the land and each household within it.
Without airing out all of the family's dirty laundry, let's just say that this time Tess has really taken things too far for fine society, and she's not a young lady who can be subdued. So Tess's family decides to send her to a nunnery. But Tess has other plans.
Hartman's 521-page story is immensely satisfying. Tess of the Road is playful yet never silly. The story zigzags in an appealing way through phases of Tess's young explorations. The tale is full of captivating discoveries of all kinds while also addressing deep issues about gender, power, and possibility. It addresses female empowerment within the frustrating constraints of the time, laying out some hopeful, plausible baby steps toward progress.
For my full review, check out Tess of the Road.
06 The Becoming by Nora Roberts
The second installment in Nora Roberts's Dragon Heart Legacy series is satisfying and comfortable, as Bree becomes more powerful, confident, and determined. Plus: more dragons!
In The Awakening, the first book in Nora Roberts's Dragon Heart Legacy series, she set up a romantic fantasy about a chosen one, a long-lost family, portals to a magical world, and a treasure of a best friendship.
In book two of the series, Breen Siobhan Kelly is coming into her own. She has conveniently shuffled off from Philly to the magical Talamh, where she revels in her new-found and strengthening powers (yet maintains her new, successful career as a children's author--with promise of becoming an adult author too. Why not take this fantasy all the way, after all?).
I enjoyed this second installment even more than the first book. Roberts has already set up the situation, and Bree is coming into her own, growing more powerful, figuring out her abilities, and gaining confidence in her role and her contributions. It's fun to have BFF Marco along, and it's satisfying to witness Bree attempting to understand with compassion her mother's reasoning for having kept her heritage secret (although the cutting down of Bree's confidence feels difficult to forgive).
For my full review, check out The Becoming.