The Best Grimdark of 2016

Best Novels

1. Dancer’s Lament by Ian C. Esslemont

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Dancer’s Lament was easily my favorite read of 2016. Esslemont really steps out of Erikson’s shadow and the newest trilogy in the Malazan world demonstrates the very best of Esslemont’s contribution to the Malazan universe.

2. Chains of the Heretic by Jeff Salyards

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The Bloodsounder’s Arc is one of the most unsung fantasy trilogies I know of. Chains of the Heretic captured everything I could have wanted in an ending. This series remains one of my favorite trilogies in all of fantasy fiction and Jeff Salyards, though unsung now, is one of the masters of the genre.

3. The Mirror’s Truth by Michael R. Fletcher

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The Mirror’s Truth is the sequel to Beyond Redemption, one of the grittiest fantasy stories I’d read. I enjoyed getting my hands on an early copy of The Mirror’s Truth  and was thrilled with the ever dark but compelling characters and story at play here.

Honorable Mention: The Immortal Throne by Stella Gemmell

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I’d never read The City, the first book in the series. But when I received an ARC of Stella Gemmell’s The Immortal Throne, I was blown away but the brilliant writing and story-telling skills. She wasn’t on my radar before, but after tearing through this novel I am eager to go back and devour The City.

Best Novellas

1. The Builders by Daniel Polanski

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Picking up The Builders was a little bit of a stretch for me. The main characters are animals which is a POV choice I’m normally turned off by. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by the swashbuckling and bloody tale of vengeance and depth of character that Polansky presents in such a limited form.

2. A Song for No Man’s Land by Andy Remic

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A Song for No Man’s Land is perhaps the first time I’d heard of WW1 fantasy. The trippy nightmarish adventures of Jones, a soldier in the trench warfare battle of the Somme, were some of the most interesting takes on psychological horror I’ve read.

3. The Emperor’s Railroad by Guy Haley

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A tale of a knight fighting the undead to escort a mother and son to safe harbor presented in a post-apocalyptic United States. An odd and interesting premise that lent itself to a gritty story about the morals of man when pressed to their limits.

Honorable Mention: Cold-Forged Flame by Marie Brennan

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Though it could have been longer, Cold-Forged Flame stuck a chord with me due to its immense similarities to Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion sequence, one of my all-time favorite fantasy series.

Best Short Stories

1. Islands of Light in a Sea of Darkness by Mike Jansen in The Singularity Issue #3

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2. Walls of Nigeria by Jeremy Szal in Nature: Futures

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3. Fire and Flesh by Michael R. Fletcher

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Honorable Mention: For The Glory Set Before Them by Matt Karlov

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Best Novels of 2015 I read in 2016

1. The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence

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I wasn’t big on Jalan in Prince of Fools but I did enjoy his relationship with Snorri. Watching Jalan develop in book two has me changing my opinion on him and I’m eager to get to book 3. This book really poured a lot into the relationship between Jalan and Snorri and I thoroughly enjoyed this romp.

2. Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan

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The Raven’s Shadow trilogy will go down as one of the best series of all time. The conclusion was everything I could have hoped for. Though some dislike the series past Blood Song, I liked the shift in POV and enjoyed the struggle between the last free men and the Volarian slavers across the sea.

3. Sword of the North by Luke Scull

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Sword of the North stepped out of the shadow of Glen Cook’s The Black Company that The Grim Company struggled with. The story really spends time investing in its characters backstory and I am very pleased with the way this series is shaping up.

Biggest Novels I Missed in 2016

1. The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

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2. The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence

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3. The Burning Isle by Will Panzo

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