Top Five Novels of the First Half of 2012

July 1st marked the halfway point of the year. That means it’s time to look at those books of 2012 that have been The Ranting Dragon’s favorites thus far.

It’s been a great half year already, with lots of amazing book releases. We’ve seen new releases from many giants of speculative fiction, like Alastair Reynolds, Naomi Novik, N.K. Jemisin, Patricia Briggs, and Stephen King. Most notably, though, the first half of the year was a time dominated by stunning and wonderful debuts. As such, it should come as no surprise that two of The Ranting Dragon’s favorite books of the first six months of 2012 are debuts.

This list isn’t all-encompassing, of course. We’ve missed reviewing many of the most anticipated releases so far, like Beaulieu’s Straits of Galahesh and Hearne’s Tricked. We will definitely remedy this before the year is through. That does, however, make this list an interesting and surprising one, and we feel the five titles below definitely deserve their spot on it.

Without further ado, here are The Ranting Dragon’s favorite reads of the first half of 2012:

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1. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Saladin Ahmed isn’t a usual name for an epic fantasy author, but it is not an unfamiliar name, either. After all, Ahmed is already renowned for his short fiction—he was a finalist for both the John W. Campbell Award and the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Now, with his wonderful, Arabian-influenced atmosphere, marvelously crafted story, and detailed sense of history in Throne of the Crescent Moon, Ahmed is definitely an epic fantasy novelist to watch. Don’t be surprised if you see it leading all the best debuts lists at the end of the year. Ahmed has delivered a captivating debut with a gorgeous world, intriguing world-building, masterful storytelling, and fantastic characters.
Read our review here. Buy this book from Amazon Find this book on Goodreads
2. Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
As is often the case with McGuire’s work, Discount Armageddon is a novel unlike most anything else you’ve ever read. You see, it has a fantasy system that is completely different from most any other urban fantasy: there is no magic. The main character isn’t a gunslinger wizard or a shapeshifter, and the characters don’t battle demons or other practitioners of magic. Instead, this novel centers around hunted and prosecuted beings (much like humans) that are normal to the world. Therefore, Discount Armageddon is one for the urban fantasy enthusiasts out there—as well as for anyone who wants something different from most anything else on shelves today. This is an exceptionally well-written tale with a unique premise, fantastic character work, and a plot that just pulls you along until you finish.
Read our review here. Buy this book from Amazon Find this book on Goodreads
3. Control Point by Myke Cole
Debuting author Myke Cole is a military man through and through—formerly active duty, currently a reservist—a fact that is evident in his writing. Branded as “Black Hawk Down meets The X-Men,” Control Point is a work of military fantasy that focuses on what would happen when random people start developing magical abilities and the governments take control. With amazing skill, Cole manages to capture the intriguing and intense moral conflicts at the heart of this story. Control Point is a military masterwork that grips you from start to finish until your eyes practically devour the words as you approach the thrilling ending. This is a world where soldiers are also sorcerers and can fight with both conventional and unconventional means, narrated through Cole’s impressive eye for factual detail. It’s bloody amazing!
Read our review here. Buy this book from Amazon Find this book on Goodreads
4. Greatshadow by James Maxey
You can’t judge a book by its cover. James Maxey’s Greatshadow proves that once again. On the surface, it is a tale about stereotypical heroes straight out of 1980s fantasy pulps, befitting its cover. However, Maxey does a fantastic job, creating an intense spectacle narrated from the unique viewpoint of a ghost, and filled with deeply flawed characters, each with their own innovative and fascinating superpowers. Above all else, Maxey’s sword and sorcery novel is just plain fun. It plays with archetypes, it’s intense with just a bit of silly, and there’s a nice romantic arc. For all its gruesome violence and deep tragedy, this is a surprisingly feel-good read that will make you laugh on several occasions.
Read our review here. Buy this book from Amazon Find this book on Goodreads
5. Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
The fifth and final book in this list is again an urban fantasy with a unique premise. Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds is about a woman who has visions of people’s deaths in vivid, excruciatingly gruesome detail, down to the date, time, and cause of death. She is always right, and fails miserably when trying to prevent fate. With the ending being already known to the reader forty pages in, Blackbirds focuses on the journey, and does so incredibly well. This dark novel is not for the weak of heart, for some of the profanity gets so creative that you could call it gorgeous. With near-surgical, intoxicant-fueled precision, Blackbirds cuts directly to where it hurts the very most and yet keeps you coming back for more, a stellar example of what truly dark and personal urban fantasy should be.
Read our review here. Buy this book from Amazon Find this book on Goodreads

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What were your favorite reads of the first half of 2012? Let us know in the comments below, or on the forums!

About Stephan van Velzen

Stephan van Velzen
A 29 year-old Communications student, Stephan loves publicity and design, particularly web design. When he’s not designing websites, he’s busy being a total geek for fantasy. In The Ranting Dragon, he has found a way to combine these passions and discover a new love for writing too. Most of all, though, Stephan is just a crazy Dutch guy who enjoys doing things that people don’t expect.

View all articles written by Stephan van Velzen.

5 comments

  1. Janea S

    I’m currently enjoying Control Point, and I really need to get around to Throne of the Crescent Moon.

  2. I second Control Point.  If the English translation counts, The Scar by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko has to top my list.  One of the top fantasy books, period.

  3. I am in needlessly good company here. Thank you so much!

    — Chuck

  4. I have to catch up on my reading!

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