This is the post where I note the top Indie/Self-Published, and the top Traditionally-Published books for Sci-Fi & Fantasy that I read in 2023!
It's always hard to choose "top books of the year" from so many fantastic books that I read in 2022. However, every reader has individual tastes, and when one makes a top book list, one needs to remember that someone else's top list will be completely different. Thus, these lists can be useful in helping guide readers towards a variety of books that perhaps they might not have otherwise discovered.
Additionally, I want to state here that I believe books are books, whether self-published or traditionally published. The manner in which a book is published has no bearing whatsoever on how well it is written. I only separate my top traditionally published book from my top self-published book in order to let more than one book share the spotlight!
I love reading fantasy and science fiction books. There are some fantastic books out there in those categories. I had the privilege of reading some of these books, and posting reviews of what I thought of them on Goodreads. If you haven’t read these books, and if you don’t know about these authors, you’re definitely missing out! Let’s celebrate some awesome books! There are so many incredible books that are not listed in this post!
Below I will note the books, with cover attached, and a quick blurb about why I think the books are so good!
May you and yours have a safe and happy holiday season, and all the best for a prosperous 2024!
P.L.’s TOP 10 SELF-PUBLISHED SFF BOOKS FOR 2023
1. Return to Edan
Chase burrows deep into the human experience, with fabulous wordsmithing that has plenty of morals for the story, emotional depth, compelling characters grappling with internal and external conflicts, and give us a trilogy laden with myth, legend, song, incredible battles, love, heroism, and ultimately, greatness.
2. A Quiet Vengeance
The Samarak fighting spear - a devastating weapon in the hands of an expert fighter, that Hardie has created in his world - will finally strike, blood will be spilled, and you'll be on the edge of your seat as this battle unfolds.
3. Finding Your Way
"Finding Your Way" is a rare novel that will transport you to a wondrous country you might not have been to before, written from a fascinating perspective, with awesome characters, elegant prose, and delightful story of a girl entering womanhood, with all its adult freedom and responsibilities
4. Elder Epoch
The “Gunmetal Gods” series is epic grimdark fantasy, set in a fantastic Eastern-inspired world, blended seamlessly with cosmic horror at its finest. With this series, Akhtar has become one of my favourite Indie authors.
5. The Skin
So just the combination of the outstanding prose and phenomenal character work would have been enough to catapult "The Skin" into one of my top 10 Indie SFF books of the year. Adding the exceptional prose, fantastic storytelling, and overall uniqueness of the story, all combine to propel it to near the top spot. I had to blow up the cover for this one because among a lot of great covers, this is my favourite.
6. The Severing Son
An author who is clearly quite attuned to the type of heroic fantasy that so many people love, in the mode of David Gemmel and John Gwynne, Roycroft shows a ton of promise. Epic and historical fantasy fans will delight in this book - it ticks all the boxes.
7. Legacy of Brick and Bone
One of the best character-driven writers in the SFF Indie fantasy sphere, Matar swirls heart-break, gritty violence, complex characters, romance, lust, corruption, tragedy, hope and magic in the glass, adds a dose of grimdark and Gaslamp, and serves it neat. An incredibly potent and intoxicating mix.
8. The Prophet of Edan by Philip Chase
No dreaded "second book syndrome" here. Book Two of the "Edan Trilogy" takes so much of what was amazing about the first book, and improves upon it, thus making this trilogy one of the standouts in recent Indie SFF series.
9. The Way of Unity
This dark, traumatic, intriguing, hypnotic, and poignant book, set in a harsh world, is truly a unique and bold work, that does not feel derivative of anything else I’ve read recently.
10. Aiduel’s Sin
The accomplishment of making the sequel to “Illborn” even BETTER was no small feat, but the author delivered. "Aiduel's Sin" has cemented Daniel T. Jackson as, very quickly, becoming one of the most exciting writers in Indie dark fantasy.
The Way of Edan, Gates of Hope, A Troll Walks Into a Bar, Heliotrope
P.L.’s TOP 10 TRADITIONALLY-PUBLISHED SFF BOOKS FOR 2023
1. Peril’s Gate
"Wars of Light and Shadow" is also my favourite fantasy series of all-time, and thus far, "Peril's Gate" is my favourite book in that series, and is the true tipping point in the soon-to-be 11-book masterpiece.
2. Dark Forge
Cameron is also a brilliant historical fiction author, and his knowledge of what makes great lore and history, blended with his expertise in ancient combat, has helped him craft "Dark Forge" into an amazing book.
3. The Grace of Kings
The switches in allegiance, turns of fortune, back-stabbing, love, infidelity, sacrifice, heroism, utter barbarity, despair, and hope, heart-breaking moments, and bloody battles are quite the heady mix that, paired with the epic scope and feel, make this book a mammoth achievement to match its word-count.
4. Grand Conspiracy
Stunning magic, dizzying plots, countermoves and betrayals, blistering fights, stirring nautical scenes, rising tension to a fever pitch, desperate flight, an unrelenting thirst for vengeance, loyalty, sacrifice, guilt and depression, joy in service, the beauty of music, and more, this book is yet another in a series that will have your emotions bobbing like a boat on stormy waters.
5. Traitor’s Knot
The adventure and stake factor has never been higher. The plot drives relentlessly forward. The action contained therein is a gut-punch. Yet all the while, nary a loving detail is skipped, and the writing continues to be a thing of pure beauty and a revelation. Yet in the end, this books serves to truly propel the overall series in startling, exciting, and in many cases, unnerving new directions.
6. The Children of Gods and Fighting Men
“The Children of Gods and Fighting Men” is a perspicacious, epic, enchanting, ambitious first installment, centered on fabulous female main characters, in what promises to be a lauded and exciting historical-fantasy series.
7. Destiny’s Conflict
Wurts’ gives the reader another emotional maelstrom, full of darkness balanced with light, poignancy, intrigue, incredibly immersive worldbuilding, stunning action scenes, and everything else one could want from an epic fantasy novel.
8. Initiate’s Trial
As per all of her books, Wurts' writing will leave you breathless. Every single word is written with purpose, and holds meaning. The exactitude, the punctiliousness with which Wurts writes, is like nothing I've ever encountered before. The sheer beauty of the prose continues to be staggering.
9. The Forgetting Moon
A very dark, bloody, immersive and engaging tale, with fascinating characters, about capricious prophecies, a holy war, destiny, magic, with familiar tropes done well, book one of the “Five Warrior Angels” for me is a very under-recognized fantasy book that deserves to be read more widely.
10. Stormed Fortress
This is the best siege depiction I have read in fantasy thus far. If you've read this far in "Wars of Light and Shadow", you are no doubt, by now, convinced that Wurts is one of the greatest fantasy authors of the past fifty years, on par with Jordan, Martin, Le Guin, Hobb, Erikson and the like.
Cold Iron, Jade War, A Master of Djinn, The True Bastards, The Lonesome Crown, The Unbroken
P.L. Stuart's Blog
I am a Canadian high fantasy author. My debut novel, A Drowned Kingdom - first in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, is now available! Book 2 in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, The Last of the Atalanteans, is now available here!