This is the third year running that I’ve cobbled together a list of self-published gems from my reading over the year. For anyone who’s not tried self-published books before, it can be difficult to find quality reading among the morass of poorly-edited and derivative junk out there. I’ve learned to be very selective about what I spend time on, but even so, there are still a lot of not terribly good books around.
BUT if you look carefully, there are plenty of gems around. The best self-published books bring a freshness and vitality to their genres that make them a delight to read. These are some that I loved wholeheartedly.
PART 1: FANTASY:
The Proving series: Marina Finlayson
Urban fantasy at its best – dragons and a whole panoply of shifters, a heroine who’s a mother of a young son (a refreshing change from the usual teenage kickass protagonist), a setting in Sydney, Australia, and a wonderful line in dry Aussie humour. Oh yes, and non-stop action right the way through the trilogy. All 3 books are now published; start with Twiceborn. My review.
Daughter of the Wildings series: Kyra Halland
This is a Western fantasy romance series, with a pair of charmingly old-fashioned main characters, some intriguing magic and plenty of no-holds-barred wizard-battles. Great fun. 5 parts of the 6-book series published so far; start with Beneath The Canyons. My review.
The Living Throne: H Anthe Davis
I’ve been raving about the War of Memory series ever since I discovered the first in the series, The Light of Kerrindryr. Industrial-strength world-building, compelling characters and a vivid style of story-telling that verges on horror in places, this is epic fantasy in every sense. The Living Throne is the third of the series, with more to come. My review.
White Blood: Angela Holder
An unusual book, in many ways. Firstly, it’s a stand-alone. Then, it’s about a wet-nurse, that unsung heroine of history, who fed and essentially raised the sons and daughters of noble houses. And thirdly, it features an unusual kind of blood magic, intertwined with the religious system. There is a lot of detail about breast-feeding and small babies in general, but if you don’t mind that, you’ll be rewarded with a charming story with solid world-building, plenty of dramatic action in the second half, and a perfectly judged romantic ending. My review.
Echoes of Imara series: Claire Frank
Another series for fans of true epic fantasy, with gloriously detailed world-building, a large cast-list and spectacular wizardy battles. Unusually, the two main protagonists are a happily-married couple, which I found refreshingly different, especially as it’s the husband who gets himself kidnapped and the wife who has to set out to rescue him. Two parts already published, a third due out soon; start with To Whatever End. My review.
Theft and Sorcery series: Erica Dakin
A little bit different: a sexy romance involving half-elves, this series started as a frivolous bonk-a-thon, and ended up as something much more interesting, with the third book of the series, The Coup, having a finely-wrought political plot and some interesting world-building going on in the background. A series that gets better with each book. But be warned: there’s a lot of graphic sex and robust language. My review.
Watersmeet: Rachel Cotterill
A pleasant, if undemanding, read, less action-filled than a lot of fantasy, but with intriguing world-building, some terrific characters and enough surprises in the plot twists and turns to keep me happy. One of those books that’s very satisfying without being ostentatious. The first of a series, but I’m hoping for more to flesh out the details of the setting. My review.
PART 2: NON-FANTASY:
See You: Dawn Lee McKenna
This is an extraordinary book. I cried almost all the way through, yet I couldn’t put it down. Actually, I laughed almost as much as I cried. It’s a love story, and no, that’s not a euphemism for romance, this really is a story about love. And not your conventional couple, either. Jack was raised by his best friend’s mother, Miss Margret, and returned every year to visit her and her granddaughter, Emma Lee. When Miss Margret died, the visits stopped but now Jack’s back, and finds Emma Lee still living in the same house, and raising her own daughter. Jack has some secrets to share, but Emma has a secret of her own – she’s been in love with him since she was a child. And that doesn’t even begin to convey the atmosphere, the depth of the characters and the sheer wonder of this book. Please read it. My review.
The Angela Marchmont series: Clara Benson
A 10-book murder mystery series, set in – or rather, steeped in – the twenties, which brilliantly evokes the atmosphere of the times. The opening story is a little wobbly, but the author soon settles down, the characters come to life and the gentle humour and charm are quite wonderful. Recommended for fans of Agatha Christie. Start with The Murder at Sissingham Hall. My review.