Of the fantasy novels that I was able to read in 2019, three of them stood out as my favorites. These are the ones I’d recommend for anyone looking for a great book to read in the genre of fantasy. Although I enjoyed all 3 immensely, I’ve ranked them here in order of how much I loved them, with #1 being my absolute favorite of the year.
As always, I wanted to point out that I do not get any kickback from these authors or Amazon for highlighting their books on my blog. My motivation is simply to give honor where honor is due. These are great books that deserve attention.
#1 – THE ELECTRICAL MENAGERIE – by Mollie E. Reeder
(If it was a movie) Rated PG
MY REVIEW – The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder is the delightful story of magic and the entertainers whose lives are defined by the magic they create. The time and setting are never defined, but the story seems to be set in some alternate universe that looks a lot like Earth in the late 1800s but it includes certain technological advancements, like robots, that could never have existed back in those days. However, the author weaves these hi-tech elements so masterfully into the story that they felt natural to the world of the Electrical Menagerie. The plot follows an illusionist named Carthage and his friend and manager, Huxley as they compete with other performers in a once in a lifetime contest that will leave them either wealthy and famous or financially broke and in jail. Their magical act is polished and amazing but their competition is steep and becomes more and more dangerous as the competition goes on.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Electrical Menagerie and I have nothing but praise for it. The plot is fun, exciting, and sweet in all the right places. In the main characters of Carthage and Huxley, Ms. Reeder has given us two fully developed characters that are interesting, lovable and easy to root for. There are many other colorful characters that are also masterfully painted throughout the story including a mysterious love interest, a couple of shady characters, and one endearing robot.
I also applaud The Electrical Menagerie for staying away from the coarse language and sexual escapades that most novels include these days. This book is squeaky clean in those areas but still contains enough adventure, heroics, and foul play that it does not miss the negative content at all. On the contrary. The Electrical Menagerie fires with every steam-filled cylinder in its effort to entertain. It’s a thrilling ride full of magic, adventure, and wonderful characters.
#2 – METAL AND BONE – by C.I. Chevron
(If it was a movie) Rated PG
MY REVIEW – Metal and Bone by C.I. Chevron is inspired by the classic story of Cinderella, broadly reinterpreted through a steampunk science fiction lens. The main character is called Ella by the poor oppressed people that she calls her friends while the wealthy aristocrats know her as a mysterious thief named Cinder. She is beautiful and kind, as we would expect, but she is also smart, brave, and resourceful. The world that Ella lives in is marred by poison gases in the air and a whole class of citizens who have been crippled or maimed by war and disease. Ella is one of them and she wears a mechanical arm and foot that she displays proudly around the poor, but hides among the rich. In the process of doing her wicked stepmother’s dirty work, robbing the rich, she accidentally meets a handsome prince, the unwilling heir to the throne. Although the two are instantly attracted to one another, life for both becomes much more complicated after that. There are many in London, rich and poor, who will stop at nothing to keep the two of them apart.
I found Metal and Bone to be wonderfully clever in the way it took a familiar tale and weaved it into a fantastic new fantasy that felt completely unique and fresh. Although set in the 1800s, it had plenty of science fiction elements including early versions of robots, mechanical arms and legs that operated like real limbs, airships, and an assortment of other gadgets. Author C.I. Chevron has a poetic style of writing that makes every sentence a joy to read. Chevron’s style can especially be seen in the romantic relationship between Ella and the prince. The love that grows between them is complex yet pure, frustrating yet sweet, and beautifully written from start to finish. I highly recommend Metal and Bone for an original retelling of the Cinderella story that is exciting, romantic, creative, and fun.
#3 FAWKES – by Nadine Brandes
(if it was a movie) Rated PG
MY REVIEW – Fawkes by Nadine Brandes is a historical tale that draws from real historical events and combines them with a magical element that is pure imagination. The result is an exciting coming-of-age story about a young man named Thomas Fawkes in a world full of magic. It’s set in Great Britain somewhere around the 1600s or 1700s. Thomas wants more than anything to be given a magical mask that can only be given to him by his father. When his father doesn’t arrive on the appointed day to give him his mask, Thomas sets out to find him. His search takes him into a world where everyone but him has the power to control colors to do all kinds of amazing things. Some use their powers for good while others for evil. When he finally finds his father, the lines between good and evil color power become blurred and Thomas must decide on which side he belongs.
There is much to love about Fawkes by Nadine Brandes. It has lots of action with fights between the forces of good and evil, sometimes with swords, sometimes with magical powers, and sometimes with both. Fawkes also contains a sweet love story between young Thomas and a girl named Emma who turns out to be one of the more interesting characters due to a few secrets that I won’t give away in this review. The historical backdrop provided a cozy framework for this entertaining tale. I highly recommend it for teens and adults.