1. Peter S. Beagle: The Innkeeper’s Song
I had read The Last Unicorn and got curious about what else Beagle had written. TIS was one of the first I got my hands on and WOW. The Last Unicorn is very much an untypical Fantasy novel but The Innkeeper’s Song is even more unconventional (and amazing).
2. Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto
After Northanger Abbey, I wanted to read some real gothic novels and since The Castle of Otranto was the shortest I thought “Why not start there?” And God it puts a lot in these few pages. It reads more like a parody than anything else. (Long-Lost heirs with conveniently identifying moles, heinous villains, damsels in so much distress…)
3. James Barclay: Dawnthief
When I recommend this book to people I always end up saying something like “It’s so amazing! So many people die!” Which are odd warm words but so many fantasy novels are about people getting from one incredibly dangerous situation to the next but the heroes always survive. Occasionally people get introduced only to die and if one of the actual heroes dies and they get a long and dramatic death scene. In Dawnthief and the sequels, the heroes die. No epicness involved, they’re just a tiny bit too slow or just unlucky.
4. Kerstin Gier: Ruby Red Trilogy
I admit it: the blurb made this book sound horrible. And occasionally I do enjoy reading bad books and then writing detailed gif-filled reviews about their badness. And then I read it…and immediately had to read the sequel…AND THEN THE THIRD AND FINAL BOOK WASN’T OUT YET AND I HAD TO WAIT A FEW DAYS! Reader, the waiting was horrible 😁
5. Carola Dunn: Lady Daisy Mysteries
Another book I started with low expectations. Cozies are great but so many are full of tstl-heroines who miss obvious clues and when they miraculously figured out who the murderer is, they decide to confront him alone.
I didn’t have much hope that Daisy would be any different but it was really cheap and the cover kind of cute. I am now on book 23 of the series, eagerly awaiting the next one.
6. Carola Dunn: Manna from Hades
Conversely, I then had very really high expectations for the author’s other series but ended up disappointed. A great thing about the Lady Daisy books is that while they are not some deep psychological studies about what drives a person to kill they still avoid painting things too black and white. Manna from Hades is very black and white…and has really annoying characters (not too stupid to live but still…annoying)
7. Tanja Kinkel: The Shadows of La Rochelle
The surprising thing was that in a novel that is otherwise a serious
and boring historic novel two ship captains appear that are called Picard and Riker.
8. Pierre Pevel: The Cardinal’s Blades
Here the surprise is that the author could take the concept The Three Musketeers in an alternate universe where dragons exist and make it so incredibly dull that I now fall asleep just thinking about this book. The heroes are all flawless, win all fights and have so little personality that I had trouble telling them apart while reading it.
9. Andreas Pittler: Tacheles
Now how do I put this? I was surprised by the cucumber. Or rather where the character had put the cucumber. That way you won’t get any vitamins from it. And now excuse me I have to drink a bottle of brain-bleach.
10. Lyndsay Faye: Dust and Shadow
To finish off, another positive surprise. Dust and Shadow is a story about Sherlock Holmes hunting Jack the Ripper and before reading it I had made many not great experiences with Holmes-pastiches, several bad experiences with Ripper-fiction, and utterly horrible experiences with Holmes-hunts-the-Ripper stories. But Dust and Shadow was great.