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The Eloquent Page Review of the Year – 2017

Welcome to The Eloquent Page’s annual awards/review of the year (2017 Edition). Ten awards created at random for your delectation and delight. The rules remain deliciously simple. I make up a series of categories and I choose a winner. Eligibility is also easy, if I’ve read it this year, it’s eligible.

First some stats (I apologise, I’m a stat whore and so I’m often compelled to start throwing numbers around). I’ve read sixty-one books this year. There were an additional fifteen I started but didn’t finish. Fantasy fiction featured most heavily with twenty-two books, while Horror came a close second with seventeen. My longest review was one thousand two hundred and thirty-four words long, my shortest was four hundred and twenty-eight. The total number of review words written in 2017? A suitably satisfying fifty-two thousand and sixty-six words.

Enough of this statistical folderol”, I hear you cry. Alrighty then. Please take your seats and direct your attention towards the stage. Without further ado on with the show…

The “They’re Good Dogs Brent” Award for Canines in Fiction – For some inexplicable reason, 2017 seemed to feature more dogs in fiction than in previous years. Adrian Tchaikovsky brought us Dogs of War. I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist featured a dog and a cat as characters, but the winner for me was The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J Walker. Lineker is such a foul-mouthed joy. I couldn’t help but be won over by his filthy canine charm.

Pablo Cheesecake’s Bookish Soundtrack Award – This year, around February, I made a decision to start recommending music to accompany each of the books I review. I do a lot of my book reading while listening to sounds on Spotify and I find the perfect soundtrack enhances my enjoyment of any story. What was the best match I came up with in 2017? This was quite an easy choice. A Mighty Dawn by Theodore Brun and the album Ragnarok by Wardruna fit perfectly. I suggest checking them both out at the same time. Talk about atmospheric.

The “For the Love of God What Did You Do That For?” Award – Sometimes characters are idiots. It’s often the case that an entire novel can be built around that one act of supreme stupidness. Don’t get me wrong, I know these things need to happen in order for a plot to evolve, but there are moments when you just want to shout at a character “Oi, NO!” This year’s winner is The Ritual by Adam Nevill. Here’s the thing, if you’re on a camping expedition and see any sort of disembodied corpse, be it human or animal, hanging in a tree, you turn around and go back the way you came. This advice has served me extremely well in the past. As an aside, I was very pleased to see The Ritual has made it to the big screen as well. Happy days.

The “Ones That Got Away” Award for Books I Didn’t Manage To Review – Each year, there are some books that, for a host of reasons, I don’t manage to review. It doesn’t mean they are bad, just that I couldn’t fit them into my schedule. This year has been no exception. I am but one man, after all. There are four in particular that wish I could have read, but didn’t. Blackwing by Ed McDonald and Gnomon by Nick Harkaway and The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark fell by the wayside. I’ve heard nothing but good things about them all but I just didn’t manage to fit them in. The winner though was To Kill A President by Sam Bourne. I’ll be honest, I did try and read it but it felt way too realistic in the current political climate. More like a blueprint than a work of fiction. I suppose in a roundabout way that is a compliment of sorts? I’ll go back to it at some point. Possibly in 2020 or if necessary 2024.

Debut of the Year – This category was quite hotly contested, in my head at least, but I eventually decided on a winner. Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames is great fun, has some splendid characters and a premise that offers boundless possibilities. It strikes me that is exactly what I’d hope for from a debut novel. Extra kudos to Orbit for all of their debut authors in 2017, they have all been all kinds of wonderful.

Back Once Again For The Renegade Master” Award for Best Sequel – In a shocking turn of events we have a tie for first place. (I’ll be honest I just couldn’t decide between the two). First we have Beyond the Empire by K B Wagers. The final book in The Indranan War trilogy continues the journey of Hail Bristol, ex-gunner runner and now empress. I love this series. The characters are great and the action is first class.

The other winner is Skitter by Ezekiel Boone. It does a near perfect job of continuing the plot of The Hatching and upping the action to apocalyptic levels of bonkersness. Plus, millions of killer spiders is both cool and gross at the same time. Icky. I have to also admit to a certain amount of childish glee as the title means something completely different from where I’m from.

“Short Stack in the Window” Award for Short Story of the Year – Loaded by Joe Hill (ok, ok. Yes, I know that technically it is a novella but please remember – my site, my rules.) Strange Weather is a cracking collection, but for me Loaded really stood out. The novella is a damning indictment of gun culture. Horrific and thought provoking in equal measure. Fiction that makes you think doesn’t get any better than this. This isn’t an upbeat story, in fact it is pretty bleak, but damn it is so good.

The “I Want to Live There” Award for EPIC Worldbuilding – I was spoiled for choice in this category.  The faux Venetian grandeur of Raverra, the city in The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso, sounds beautiful and deadly in equal measure. The concept of the Falcons and the Falconers is a winner as well. Rotherweird in Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott sounds wonderfully bizarre. Ultimately though, I had to go with Jade City by Fonda Lee. The rich culture she has created as a backdrop to her novel is just perfect. There are so many little touches that enhance the narrative and give you a real feel for the locations the characters find themselves in. Even with all the gang wars and whatnot, I’d move to Janloon in a heartbeat.

The “Please Be My BFF” Award for Character of the Year – Oh this was another toughie. Stephen Greaves from The Boy on the Bridge is fascinating. Torval from First Watch by Dale Lucas may be the surliest dwarf ever committed to paper, and the entire cast of You Die When You Die by Angus Watson are uniformly bonkers. After much pondering, I think I’m going to go with Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon in The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams. I’m not even sure I can properly express why I chose this character. Let me try. Vintage is like a force of nature. She’s pragmatic, doesn’t suffer fools gladly and you get the distinct impression she always knows what is going on, even when she probably doesn’t. There is just something wonderfully disarming about her that clicked with me straightaway. The Bitter Twins is out soon so I’ll have more of this sublime character to look forward to.

The Eloquent Page Book of the Year Award – Ohh how I agonised over this one. I’ve read a hell of a lot of blistering fiction in the last twelve months. After copious cups of coffee and an entire packet of biscuits I finally managed to come to a decision. My top book of 2017 is… The End of the Day by Claire North*. Putting it simply, I loved every single word. It is an amazing work that managed to push just about every one of my emotional buttons. Subtle and affecting writing like this is always a joy. The End of the Day is one of those books that leaves an impression. It promotes introspection, any book that makes you think is a winner in my opinion. My advice is buy it, read it and become wise. I feel honourable mention should also be made of Defender by G X Todd and Age of Assassins by R J Barker. Both are exceptional and came very close to winning.

So that is 2017 done and dusted. I’m off to eat mince pies and revel in the festive spirit for a couple of weeks. Who knows what delights we’ll uncover in 2018. Enjoy the holidays. May all your presents be readable, and I’ll see you in January, my little virtual book pixies.

*In a weird moment of synchronicity, I met the author not long after making my decision. She couldn’t have been nicer. We discussed working as a contract killer, trampolines and waffles, as you do.

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