Random (but not really)

Saturday, December 30, 2023

The Books of 2023: Fantasy

I backed off reading straight-up fantasy more than a decade ago; I got tired of series that never ended and chose more series with self-contained plots. Sure, there is continuity from book to book, and you should read them in order, but you don’t have  to do a complete reread to remember what happened in the previous book, which came out two to five years earlier.

So mostly I’ve read urban and supernatural fantasy–and I do love a good paranormal mystery. But I do come across the occasional stand-alone fantasy, or one that is part of a series where each book has a complete story arc.

But these are stories that stand on their own–even when part of a series.


Once a Rogue

Once a Rogue (2023) by Allie Therin

Queer, Historical, Supernatural, Romance, Boinking

Technically, by my own rules, this shouldn’t have made the list. But I think the slightly lower rating had far more to do with my state of mind than with the book itself.

The Proper Scoundrels series follows the Magic in Manhattan series an continues to build upon that world, but switching the main characters.

Wesley & Sebastian are far more broken than Rory & Arthur, so their stories are in some ways harder to read.

Men like Wesley and Langford wore their scars on the outside, where everyone could see and know to keep their distance. Sebastian kept his inside, where they couldn’t hurt anyone else.

But the fact I really want more stories with these characters and in this world is something in and of itself.

Published by Carina Press

Rating: 7/10

Magic in Manhattan: Spellbound (2019), Starcrossed (2020), Wonderstruck (2021)
Roaring Twenties Magic: Proper Scoundrels (2021), Once a Rogue (2023)

Winter's Gifts

Winter’s Gifts (2023) by Ben Aaronovitch

Supernatural, Mystery

This is a Rivers of London story, but instead of Peter Grant we’re in America with Kimberly of the FBI.

“There’s no mesocyclone!” shouted Bill. “That had better be down to magic, or otherwise we can kiss goodbye to the laws of thermodynamics.”

“They’ll have to rewrite all the textbooks,” I said, marveling at how calm I was given the circumstances.

“Nah,” said Bill. “The science has to be obsolete for at least twenty years before they do that. Forty years, if we’re talking about Texas.”

I read this story too quickly when I was distracted, so I really need to reread it, which might bump the rating up a hair.

Published by Subterranean Press

Rating: 8/10

Rivers of London: Midnight Riot (2011), Moon Over Soho (2011), Whispers Under Ground (2012), Broken Homes (2014), Foxglove Summer (2014), The Hanging Tree (2017), The Furthest Station (2017), Lies Sleeping (2018), The October Man (2019), False Value (2020), Tales from the Folly: A Rivers of London Short Story Collection (2020), What Abigail Did That Summer (2021), Amongst Our Weapons (2022), Winter’s Gifts (2023)

The Gorgon Agenda

The Gorgon Agenda (2023) by Lisa Shearin

Mystery, Supernatural

I do love a good supernatural mystery, and this series has been delightful.

Thick glass walls along both sides of the hall provided an unobstructed view into the labs. That way, if an experiment or subject got out of control, those windows let the folks across the hall know that all hell had broken loose and to please, when they had a minute, call for help.

A couple books back she switched to self-published, so I’m wondering if this is the last book in the series. A police procedural or private detective series is always easier to keep going than a cozy–at least if you want to keep the mysteries at least somewhat realistic, but I’ll be ok if this is the end.


Rating: 8/10

SPI Files: The Grendel Affair (2013), The Dragon Conspiracy (2015), The Brimstone Deception (2016), The Ghoul Vendetta (2017), The Myth Manifestation (2018), The Phoenix Illusion (2018), The Solstice Countdown (2021), The Gorgon Agenda (2023)

Paladin's Faith

Paladin’s Faith (2023) T. Kingfisher

“Shane,” she said, turning to look at the paladin, “when a woman is lamenting that she doesn’t feel attractive, you’re supposed to tell her she’s beautiful. Not that you’re honored to kill people with her.”

He looked at her blankly, then said, “Oh.”

Published by Red Wombat Studio

Rating: 8/10

The Saint of Steel: Paladin’s Grace (2020), Paladin’s Strength (2021), Paladin’s Hope (2021), Paladin’s Faith (2023)

Legends & Lattes

Legends & Lattes (2022) by Travis Baldree

Queer, Romance

This story was completely unexpected and completely delightful.

After twenty-two years of adventuring, Viv had reached her limit of blood and mud and bullshit. An orc’s life was strength and violence and a sudden, sharp end— but she’d be damned if she’d let hers finish that way.

It’s a cozy low-stakes fantasy, and I could reread it right now and remain delighted.

Published by Tor

Rating: 8/10

Lamplight Murder Mysteries by Morgan Stang

Murder at Spindle Manor Murder on the Lamplight Express

Queer, Mystery, Steampunk/Gaslamp

This was another unexpected series. It’s steampunk/gaslamp mystery.

“You must notice what’s not present in addition to what is, Evie. What have we not found in this bedroom so far?”

Evie looked about and shrugged. “Happiness of any kind?”

Parts of the first mystery might have been a bit weak, but it was fun and a lovely escape, and the second book actually addressed my problem with the first book.


Lamplight Murder Mysteries: Murder at Spindle Manor (2022) 8/10, Murder on the Lamplight Express (2023) 8.5/10

The Eidolon

The Eidolon (2023) by K.D. Edwards

Queer, Supernatural

This occurs during the events of The Hourglass Throne but gives us what happened to the teens during that time. Quinn is the main focus of the story, but we get to see all the teens coming into their own.


Rating: 8.5/10

The Tarot Sequence: The Last Sun (2018), The Hanged Man (2019), The Hourglass Throne (2022)
Magnus Academy: The Eidolon (2023)

A Power Unbound

A Power Unbound (2023) by Freya Marske

Queer, Historical, Romance, Boinking

The conclusion to The Last Binding series.

Published by Tordotcom

Rating: 8.5/10

The Last Binding: A Marvellous Light (2021), A Restless Truth (2022), A Power Unbound (2023)

The Bookshop and the Barbarian

The Bookshop and the Barbarian (2023) by Morgan Stang

Queer, Mystery

This is another cozy low-stakes fantasy, and like Legends & Lattes was the perfect escape from reality.


Rating: 9/10

The Books of 2023: Yearly Reading Roundup

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