Top Ten Fantasy Novels of 2014

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It was great fun choosing our top ten fantasy novels of 2014 and we've come up with a selection of big names and new names, books to keep you going through the holiday and short stories for when you haven't got quite so much time. We've avoided books which are not first in a series, but there are a few which look as though they might be the start of something really good. Here they are, in alphabetical order, by author:

Dead Man's Hand by John Joseph Adams (editor)

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Dead Man's Hand features short stories with themes ranging from time travel and vampires to theology; at first glance it definitely appears to be an eclectic mix. These stories are linked by the genre of the weird west, which is defined by its elasticity. John Joseph Adams' helpful introduction outlines the main features of the weird west and provides a clear, insightful guide to this little-known genre. Far from being mismatched, the eclectic nature of this collection is in fact the greatest strength of the weird west genre. Unconstrained by narrow generic conventions, the authors in this collection have plundered the deepest depths of their imaginations. The result? A colourful, memorable and, above all, imaginative collection of fiction. Full review...

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan

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We could all wish for a little of Lady Trent in ourselves. It's obvious what she feels she has inside her, for ever since she was a young girl she ignored society and decorum and was interested in science, nature, and the discovery of all that was unknown about dragons. She even went on a hunt for wolf-drakes, disguised as a male, and that's a species that prefers female prey. But as renowned a pioneer as she is, she has never told anyone in such detail of her life stories, starting with this one – a journey to the cold, mountainous land of Vystrana, which successfully uncovered a lot of the truth about dragons – but also a lot that was much harder to explain… Full review...

Kindred by Octavia E Butler

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Life is a nightmare for black women (and indeed men) back in the southern USA in 1815. For Dana that's just history as she lives over a century away with her husband in their new LA apartment. However one day everything changes: Dana starts to feel faint, the edges of her modern life blur and she's back in the era that can take more than her liberty. She knows her time travel is somehow linked to plantation owner's son Rufus but that doesn't help. In fact its knowledge that could make matters worse. Full review...

The Girl With All the Gifts by M R Carey

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Meet Melanie. Not something that's likely to happen, but it's a standard introduction and I'll run with it. If you do find her, it's either in a subterranean cell, or a classroom. Or the shower-room, where she and the other children get disinfected, and get to eat a bowl of maggots – the only nutrition they have all week. All this is on a military base so secure they've only seen a few members of staff – either military or mostly lacklustre teachers – and they've certainly no real hope of seeing sunlight. They are there because of the Breakdown, when most of the world got turned into ravenous, mindless hungries. But these children did not turn all the way. And as unlikely as it is, as implausible a heroine as she is, young Melanie might just be the saviour of mankind. Full review...

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M Harris

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Loki is a shape shifter and the most recent addition to the Norse gods in the halls of Asgard. He’s there to help the likes of Odin and Thor but sometimes things go wrong or his actions are misunderstood. Loki definitely doesn’t deserve his ‘Trickster’ nickname and will explain why to anyone who will listen. This is Loki's gospel, his long-overdue side of the story and it’s all here: how he arranged a mason to rebuild Asgard (shame about the horse), his marriage to Sygni, the problems fathering a werewolf and giving birth to a foal, what Freyja’s gold necklace cost mankind and, of course, that day Thor became a beautiful bride. (An occasion Thor has never spoken of since for some reason!) Indeed, Loki is there to help and facilitate - if anyone tells you differently, don’t believe them! Full review...

The Enchantment Emporium (Enchantment Emporium 1) by Tanya Huff

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All the Gale family have powers and there are many in the clan, mostly women. This is one of the reasons that 24-year-old Allie (or Alysha Catherine Gale to the aunties) jumps at the chance of moving to the other side of Canada when her gran leaves her a junk shop. Ok, it may not be an ordinary junk shop and it could mean that Gran is dead but the fact that the love of her life has left her for a man makes her mind up. With the help of Joe O'Hallan, a tall leprechaun with a gift for selling yo-yos, Allie sorts out the Enchantment Emporium but once there she hasn't escaped all supervision. Indeed, someone is watching her closely; very closely indeed. Full review...

The Wolves of London - The Obsidian Heart Trilogy (Book 1) by Mark Morris

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Alex Locke has grown from the young petty criminal he once was. Now a psychology lecturer with a beautiful 5-year-old daughter he has every incentive he needs to stay straight. It would take something devastating to make him return to his former life but devastation happens. Alex is coerced into doing on last job: stealing a piece of heart shaped obsidian from someone it didn’t belong to in the first place. What are the consequences? What's so special about this piece of rock? As all hell breaks loose, Alex is about to find out. Full review...

The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet

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Philip Murdstone is becoming a bit of a has-been. The once-acclaimed children's author has won literary awards, dontchaknow. Literary. Got that? But these are past glories. His novels about young outsiders are no longer anything new. In fact, his agent can't even sell his latest. And Minerva Finch, said agent, is all about what she can sell. There's nothing for it, she tells Philip, but a foray into fantasy. He's going to have to write a sword-and-sorcery epic. She's even got an A4 blueprint of what's required: realms, minions, dark lords, dwarves, elves, swords, and all the rest of it. Fantasy, you see, is selling by the 'bucketloads, containerloads, downloads'. Full review...

Dirty Magic: Prospero's War: Book One by Jaye Wells

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Gray Wolf is the new magic drug in town but it's a mite more evil than the usual sex potions and enchanted uppers and downers. Gray Wolf ensures that the user becomes a craven devourer of flesh - human flesh. Kate Prospero, cop seconded to the MEA (the government agency charged with clearing the streets of dirty, illegal magic) has her work cut out. Unfortunately this work includes having to go into the Cauldron, the dangerous underbelly of a town called Babylon. However Kate has a lot to prove, having been born an adept in that very underbelly and now having to face the forces that helped create the tragedy still haunting her. Also, if she didn't have enough to worry about, her ex-lover is implicated in Gray Wolf's manufacture and her kid brother is choosing his own way in life; not a good thing, not a good thing at all. Full review...

The Copper Promise by Jen Williams

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Former knight Sir Sebastian Caverson and Wydrin of Crosshaven (aka Copper Cat) are swords for hire. On this occasion they're hired by Lord Aaron Frith of Blackwood to enter the Citadel, of which dark legends abound. They don't know what they need to do once in there, but that doesn't matter. The trip unleashes something that would have made them forget their purpose anyway, not to mention their pay: they awake Y'Ruen, the last god. In return for the alarm call, Y'Ruen breathes death across the known world with a little family assistance but that's not the worst bit. The worst bit (at least for them) is that Sebastian and Wydrin are the only ones who can stop her. Full review...

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