My Ten Favorite SFF Reads of 2017

At the end of 2016, I set myself a goal to revive The Ranting Dragon in the new year. As it turns out, 2017 was not the year of The Ranting Dragon, but rather the year of dramatic life changes. My wife and I welcomed our first child into our family in July, and our lives have been permanently changed and improved as a result. While that meant I had absolutely no time for writing, it actually gave me more time for reading and listening. I discovered the wonders of syncing audio- and ebooks, and I found the combination of listening and reading to be quite stress-relieving.

I read 64 books in 2017. About half of those were speculative fiction, while the others were mostly American history or inspirational books, with a few on birth and babies. I’d like to share with you some of my favorite fantasy and science fiction reads of the year. This is not exactly a “Best of 2017” list. Though many of these books were published in the past year, this book will have older books as well. If you’re looking for something fun to read, however, I can very much recommend each of these books!

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1. The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson
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It’s almost a cliché to put these epic novels at the top—and Brandon Sanderson certainly doesn’t need the exposure—but I’d lie if I said these weren’t my favorite reads of the year. Stormlight novella Edgedancer came out at the end of 2016 and inspired me to reread The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. Both of these were, hands down, my new favorite book when they came out, and I didn’t think they could be topped—until Oathbringer came out this November. Sanderson outdid himself once again. It is a wonderful, well-paced, emotional read with a poignant focus on the brokenness of people and how to overcome your own limits.
2. Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers
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In second place, another series with two older books—though the third book will be published in 2018, so this is the perfect time to check them out. The two books in Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series are completely different. Reminiscent of Firefly, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet tells the story of a spaceship and its crew on an intriguing mission. A Closed and Common Orbit focuses on only one of the first book’s characters, an AI trying to fit into a world of humans. Both books are beautifully written, filled with weirdness and characters that will touch your heart.
3. The Core (The Demon Cycle #5) by Peter V. Brett
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Only very rarely does a long epic fantasy series conclude satisfactorily. With The Core, Peter V. Brett manages to hit all the right notes, delivering the perfect ending to a great series. Through the years, Brett’s Demon Cycle became one of my very favorite fantasy series. Everything that was started throughout the series, all the potential hinted at in previous books, it all paid off in the end. The Core is one of the best finales I’ve ever read. If you’ve been waiting to read The Demon Cycle until it’s completed, I can very much recommend you pick it up in 2018!
4. The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy by Brian Staveley
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Nowadays, I feel like there are too many epic fantasies that fit into one of two categories: classics or reinventions. While I adore both categories, it’s becoming exceedingly rare to find books that strike the perfect balance between both. Brian Staveley’s epic trilogy does strike that balance. Each of the three books in The Chronicle of the Unhewn ThroneThe Emperor’s Blades, The Providence of Fire, and The Last Mortal Bond—is filled with epic battles, gods with motives inscrutable to mortals, the right amount of darkness, and rollercoaster-paced action. These are everything I want out of epic fantasy.
5. The Witchlands series by Susan Dennard
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The Witchlands series was probably my biggest surprise of 2017. When I first heard of Truthwitch, the first book, in 2016, I was intrigued enough to get a copy on Kindle. However, there were other things I wanted to read at the time, and I promptly forgot about it. Until I found myself in need of something to read, without internet on my phone, and the book already on my device. I started reading and simply couldn’t put it down. This series is absolutely amazing. It has astonishing and original world building, great characters, fantastic magic, and great pacing. I’m now eagerly devouring book two, Windwitch, and I’m excited for future books.
6. The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga #1) by Kameron Hurley
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f you’ve been paying attention so far, there’s a theme to my 2017: I’ve been mostly reading epic fantasy (with a bit of science fiction). Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire, another book released before 2017, can definitely be classified as an epic, though I can promise you it is unlike any book you’ve read before. This is not a happy feel-good fantasy. The Mirror Empire certainly isn’t kind on its characters. It’s deep and unique, and you need to be paying attention at all times, as there is just so much going on. A sequel, Empire Ascendant, is also out, though I haven’t read it yet. The third book, The Broken Heavens, comes out in 2018.
7. Sins of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder #1) by Brian McClellan
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I loved Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy. These books pretty much defined the flintlock fantasy genre and were some of my favorite fantasy books ever. Therefore, I was excited to read Sins of Empire, which is set in the same world as Powder Mage, some ten years after the final book of that trilogy. Unfortunately, it had a bit of a slow start and I had trouble getting a feel for the new characters. About a fifth of the way into Sins of Empire, though, it really gets going, and it feels exactly like Powder Mage. Perhaps even better. With just the right combination of great new characters and familiar old characters and an amazing, edge-of-your-seat story, this is a fantastic book for both old fans and new readers.
8. The Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy by Chuck Wendig
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Pretty much the only thing I published on The Ranting Dragon in 2017 was a somewhat critical review of Aftermath, the first book in Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars series of the same title. While the trilogy—a new canon portrayal of the fight against the remnants of the Empire following Return of the Jedi—doesn’t start out great, it improves quickly. The middle book, Life Debt, is probably the best Star Wars novel I’ve read, from both Legends and the new canon. Empire’s End, the conclusion, is really good, too, and ends this part of the story in a satisfying way while also providing plenty of hints leading up to The Force Awakens. Oh, and if you’ve read Aftermath, you might be interested in Claudia Gray’s Bloodline, which is set quite a while later and includes a lot of references to elements explored in the Aftermath trilogy.
9. Collapsing Empire (The Interdependence #1) by John Scalzi
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I love John Scalzi’s writing, and his newest book, Collapsing Empire, does not disappoint. It’s a space opera that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet quickly delivers a thrilling story despite its humor. Set in a universe of interdependent planets, none of them self-sufficient, with a collapsing network of portals connecting the planets, this is a wildly imaginative and original story. The best thing about Collapsing Empire: the names of ships. Read the book to find out what I mean! The sequel, The Widening Gyre, is set to be published in October 2018.
10. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
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If, like me, your only exposure to Norse mythology is through Marvel comics, you’ll enjoy this book. In Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman delivers a wonderful retelling of stories about the Norse gods, from the creation to Ragnarok, the end. Some of these stories may sound familiar; most of them don’t. Norse Mythology is often hilarious, always easy to read. I started out reading Thor with the voice of Chris Hemsworth and Loki as Tom Hiddleston, but by halfway through, they had developed their own unique voices. I’d never known Thor was such a funny, dumb dude.

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What were the best speculative fiction books you’ve read in 2017?

I wish you all a very happy 2018 filled with amazing books!

About Stephan van Velzen

Stephan van Velzen
A 31 year-old Communications student, Stephan loves publicity and design, particularly web design. When he’s not designing websites, he can be found in a comfy chair reading a fantasy book. In The Ranting Dragon, he has found a way to combine these passions and discover a new love for writing to boot. Stephan lives in a small town in The Netherlands with his wife Rebecca, an editor for The Ranting Dragon, and their two cats.

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