2013 has been a pretty good year for speculative fiction reviews being submitted to the AWW Challenge. We had 258 reviews over the year, with more submitted during the first half of the year than the second, but in about the same ratios as the overall difference between first and second half of the year activity among participants. Overall, reviews tagged as speculative fiction made up 14% of all submitted reviews, which ain’t bad. By my count, 69 reviewers posted at least one review to the challenge and 105 authors were reviewed at least once. A pretty good turnout. Book title links below go to reviews participants have posted.
The most reviewed author this year may come as a surprise to some (but perhaps not to those who’ve read her): Andrea K Höst, the self-published author of And All the Stars, Hunting, The Touchstone Trilogy and Stained Glass Monsters (and others not reviewed this year). Her science fiction and fantasy books garnered a total of twelve reviews throughout 2013. Here’s a sample of what Heidi @ Bunbury in the Stacks writes of And All the Stars:
Twists? This book has them. Höst managed to completely surprise me multiple times in quick succession. This is what I love about a well-done limited perspective narrative—we really don’t see it coming if they don’t see it coming. It’s also one of those rare stories where I love the side characters even more than those featured.
Following closely being Andrea K Höst, with ten reviews each were Isobelle Carmody and Margo Lanagan. Isobelle Carmody had quite a variety of books reviewed, with only a couple reviewed twice: The Wilful Eye (as editor of the anthology), Green Monkey Dreams, Metro Winds, The Cloud Road, The Red Wind, The Keeping Place, The Stone Key and The Sending. It’s great to see a variety of books being reviewed, from anthologies, to books for younger and older readers.
By contrast most of Margo Lanagan’s reviews were for Sea Hearts, although the short story collections Cracklescape and Yellow Cake and the novel Tender Morsels also got a look in. Of Cracklescape, Mel @ Adventures of a Subversive Reader writes
Margo Lanagan’s writing is like poetry – even if you’re not exactly sure what’s going on in the story (and at times I definitely felt like this – it’s been great thinking it over for a couple of days) you’re carried away by the pure beauty of the words. Her characters feel very real, like people you should know, even if they’re ghosts who reside in a locked drawer. A lot of people talk about the genre bending quality of the author’s work and I can understand that – this is a very accessible collection of stories, even if speculative fiction isn’t really your thing. It wouldn’t be out of place with a literary collection of short stories.
A popular YA author I want to mention is Melina Marchetta, whose Lumatere Chronicles (Finnikin of the Rock, Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn) collectively gathered nine reviews. Several readers making their way through more than one book in the series throughout the year. Jess had this to say about the first book
‘Finnikin of the Rock’ is an exceptional narrative about the bleakness of the world, the struggle of humanity when exiled from everything we know and take for granted. It’s an honest, in your face sort of look at the varying levels of defeat and despair while also presenting a small spark of hope which grows as the story continues. It’s a world that although not our own, we can easily relate to.
Authors who got reviewed seven times are Patty Janesn, Kirstyn McDermott and Paula Weston, all of whom write quite different sorts of books. Patty Jansen mostly writes science fiction (His Name in Lights, Shifting Reality, Charlotte’s Army, The Shattered World Within, Trader’s Honour) with a bit of fantasy thrown in as well (Fire & Ice). Kirstyn McDermott mostly writes horror with two novels (Madigan Mine and Perfections) and a collection of short stories (Caution: Contains Small Parts) reviewed for the challenge. Paula Weston, on the other hand, writes YA, with her two books Shadows and Haze reviewed multiple times.
There were also three authors reviewed six times each. Keri Arthur, veteran paranormal romance author, was reviewed for her books Full Moon Rising, Dancing With The Devil, Chasing the Shadows, Hearts in Darkness and Kiss the Night Goodbye. Karen Miller, who writes BFF (big fat fantasy) novels as well as a series of steampunky urban fantasy under the name K E Mills, was reviewed for Blight of Mages and the K E Mills books The Accidental Sorcerer, Witches Incorporated, Wizard Squared and Wizard Undercover. A relatively new author of BFF is Jo Spurrier, whose first two books Winter Be My Shield and Black Sun Light My Way were both reviewed for the challenge, the latter five times.
Finally I want to mention the authors who got five reviews each. Ideally I’d love to mention every author and every review, but that might make this post a little unwieldy! With five reviews each we have Thoraiya Dyer, mostly for her short story collection Asymmetry, but also for her novella The Company Articles of Edward Teach. Glenda Larke, author of many BFF books, garnered reviews for her recently re-released first novel, Havenstar, as well as for her Stormlord trilogy (The Last Stormlord, Stormlord Rising and Stormlord’s Exile). Tara Moss, who also writes crime (but whose crime books I’m not counting here), gathered reviews for her two most recent urban fantasies The Spider Goddess and The Skeleton Key. And there was also Katie W Stewart, author of fantasy books for all ages. Her reviewed books in 2013 were The Dragon Box, The Mark of the Dragon Queen, Treespeaker and Song of the Jikhoshi, the latter two making up a series.
Of course there were a lot of other books and authors reviewed and unfortunately I can’t list them all here. You can browse all the reviews posted in 2013 here (first half of the year) and here (second half of the year). One last thing I noticed when I was preparing this wrap-up was that the majority of speculative fiction books reviewed were published very recently. 38% (more than a third) were published in 2013 and 66% (two thirds) were published in 2012 or 2013. Obviously it’s great that lots of new releases are being reviewed but it would also be great if more back-list titles were being reviewed and talked about, since that’s the sort of thing that keeps older books in print.
I’m Tsana Dolichva and I’ve been reading and enjoying Australian speculative fiction since I first started reading “grown up” books (back before YA was its own genre). More recently, I’ve been blogging my reviews over at the creatively titled Tsana’s Reads. I irregularly blog about science in science fiction over at the Science Fiction Writers’ Guide to Space. When not reading or writing, I’m probably working towards my PhD in astrophysics.