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The Eloquent Page Review of the Year – 2016 Edition

For the uninitiated – The Eloquent Page is just me, on my own. There are guest reviews from time to time but I read 99% of the books myself. I’m most definitely not a writer, I’m just a collector of stories, so I don’t bother with negative reviews. Life, as I have discovered, is way too short to be reading books you don’t enjoy.

As has become habit over the last few years, I like to round off the reviewing calendar with a look back over the last twelve months, and dispense some awards that are entirely of my own devising. In 2016, I’ve read sixty-five books and the only criteria to be in the running for an award, except for one category, is that I’ve read and reviewed the book.

Now that we’ve sorted that waffly preamble out… on with the show.

“It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” Award – I enjoy a good apocalypse as much is the next person so I read as many of the Armageddon-esque gems as I can lay my hands on. This year I read some corkers. The Ship by Antonia Honeywell, Bite by K.S. Merbeth and The Last of Us by Rob Ewing all deserve a mention, they are uniformly superb, but I think the winner has to be The Fireman by Joe Hill. His work reminds me of the early books of another author, can’t for the life of me remember who. Must be the vagaries of old age creeping up on me.

The “WTF Was Going On” AwardThe Ice Lands by Steinar Bragi is an odd book. The further I got into it, the odder it got. I’ll be honest, I still don’t know what to think about the ending even now. It did leave me with a profound desire to visit Iceland mind you.

The “It Never Gets Old” Award – Sometimes I worry that if I revisit a favourite novel from years past, it won’t live up to my rose-tinted memories. The best books though I suppose are timeless. This year, I re-read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Still an absolute joy, and now with illustrations by Chris Riddell. Pure unadulterated genre perfection.

The “One That Got Away” Award – As I mentioned before, I am but one man. No matter how hard I try, there is a limit to the number of books I can fit into my schedule. This year, as with previous years, there were a few books I very much wanted to include but through cruel happenstance I didn’t manage it.  The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp is right at the top of this list. As is The Watcher of Dead Time by Edward Cox. I’ve heard nothing but good things about both and I have review copies awaiting my attention so I will endeavour to remedy these vast oversights as soon as I am able.

The “Screaming Abdabs” Award for Properly Icky HorrorThe Hatching by Ezekiel Boone is flesh-munchingly nasty. Bugs always make my skin crawl. Bugs destroying mankind even more so. The best part is there is going to be a sequel in 2017. I can’t wait. Proper horror should leave you with a squirmy feeling in your guts. You just need to hope it’s not something trying to get out.

The Best Ongoing Series Award – This was another tricky one to pick. After the Throne is the utterly sublime second book in The Indranan War series by K B Wagers. I loved every page. It was just beaten by Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson. Each new book in the Fractured Europe sequence manages, somehow, to outshine the book before. Book three is an absolute gem. Seriously, if you’re not reading this series you are missing out on a grand story expertly told. I wasn’t kidding when I said in my review that we should get Dave Hutchison preserved in amber so future generations can marvel at him. Bare minimum, we need to retain a DNA sample on file*1

Character of the Year – A relatively easy choice for this category though, there was a bit of conflict, you’ll see why in a minute. My favourite character of 2016 was Jim Francis. Oh, I’m sorry, you don’t recognise the name? How about if I use the name he is more commonly known as… Francis Begbie. I’m a sucker for an anti-hero, and think it is fair to say Begbie falls squarely into that category. Reading about his return to Edinburgh in The Blade Artist by Irvine Welsh, and learning more of his early history, was just brilliant.

Debut of the Year Chasing Embers by James Bennett is exceptional. If you’re looking for a pitch perfect blueprint for modern urban fantasy then this is the book your need to be reading. The plot is loads of fun and Red Ben Garston very nearly won character of the year is well. It was damned close, but Begbie narrowly edged him out. Also, an honourable mention in this category goes to Infernal by Mark de Jager, another thoroughly splendid debut.

The “We Hardly Knew Ye” Award – All good things come to an end. It was a sad year for some of my favourite series. The final books in trilogies from Jen Williams (The Copper Cat trilogy), Liz de Jager (The Blackhart Legacy), Den Patrick (The Erebus Sequence), Mark Morris (The Obsidian Heart series) and Edward Cox (The Relic Guild Trilogy) all arrived. This makes me sad. I miss all of the characters already *sniffle*, so this award is going to be a five-way split between them all. Don’t like my wishy-washy decision? Tough. My website, my rules 😛

And now the category I know that you’ve all be waiting for. The Big Enchilada, The Grand Fromage…

Book of the Year 2016 – This is always the trickiest one for me to choose. In all honesty, I would happily recommend any of the books I’ve reviewed in 2016 but to paraphrase Highlander “there can be only one”. My book of the year 2016 is…A City Dreaming by Daniel Polansky. You know that wonderful feeling when you read a book and you realise very quickly it is something a bit special. A City Dreaming was exactly that for me. I raved about it in my original review, and I’m happy to continue raving about it now. This book is superb. You must read this. You need to read this. Your life will be all the better for it. Trust me.

So there you have it. Ten random awards highlighting some of the best books I’ve read this year.

Now on to a couple of thank yous.

  • Thanks to all the publishers and publicists that send me stuff or approve my requests on NetGalley. I’d imagine it would be difficult to review books if I didn’t have any books to review. I know I am terrible at replying to requests. I promise I will try to get better in 2017.
  • Thanks, as ever, to my better half. I read and write the majority of reviews on The Eloquent Page, but @MadNad is my editor-in-chief. If it weren’t for her eagle eye there would be extra commas all over the place. I’d be completely and utterly lost without her. She makes me smile.
  • Thanks to you, the person reading this. If you’ve got this far then I tip my hat to you*2 I’m not great at the social interaction side of book reviewing. I try, but I tend to manage awkward at best. Though I’m not the most vocal or thrustingly dynamic member of the book reviewing community, I do love it and I am nothing if not an enthusiastic supporter of genre fiction. (I’m just enthusiastic in a very reserved manner.)

I’m off on holiday now for a couple of weeks, so enjoy the festive season. I wish you and yours all the best. Till 2017, stay frosty people. Oh, and for goodness’s sake, read a bloomin’ book!

*1 I’m picturing a kind of Jurassic Park with clones of authors sort of deal. I’m sure you get the gist.

*2 I’m not literally tipping a hat you understand. I have a very large head and suitable hats are very difficult to source. It’s more a metaphorical thing. Got it? Good, I’m glad we’re on the same page.

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