It’s been an epic year in the real world—it seems only fitting that science fiction and fantasy should follow suit. When we asked Barnes & Noble’s team of experienced booksellers to name their favorite SFF books of the year, the list they produced—filled with titanic clashes between good and evil, last-ditch rebellions against the powers that be, and triumphant tales from cultures whose stories have been too-long ignored—felt oh-so-very 2019. These are our booksellers favorites, and each and every one of them will show you a whole new world. (Explore all of our booksellers’ 2019 favorites.)
The Burning White, by Brent Weeks
Brent Week’s massively popular Lightbringer saga reaches a glorious end in the fifth and concluding volume. As the White King stands ready to deliver his death blow to the Chromeria, Kip Guile prepares to use his polychromatic drafting abilities to defend his people. The Prism, Gavin Guile, has lost all his power, and languishes in a prison of his own creation, penned in and with no hope of escape—though he may be the ruined key to the empire’s salvation. As armies clash and old gods are reborn, one remaining question needs to be answered: will the Lightbringer come—and who will it be? Weeks took an extra year to fine-tune this book before publication, and it shows: packed with all of the rich characterization, political intrigue, frenetic action, and clever color-based magic a fantasy lover could ask for, it may even be the best of the lot. Read more about the Lightbringer series.
Dark Age, by Pierce Brown
The fifth entry in the Red Rising series, Pierce Brown’s epic, bestselling space opera saga, is as complex and compelling as the previous four—and perhaps more harrowing and thrilling than all of them put together. Darrow—once a lowly Red in a galaxy stratified by color, later the breaker of chains and the hero of the revolution that destroyed an empire—has angered the wrong people. Once again an enemy of the republic, he continues to wage his lonely war with the allies he has left. The heir to the lost throne returns to the core of the system to rally the untrustworthy Golds to the cause of restoration, while the leader of the new Republic, Mustang, struggles against an array of enemies both hidden and overt. Brown’s universe has all the gravitas and blood-soaked politics of Ancient Rome—and his far-future solar system could be heading toward a similar fall. Read our review.
A Little Hatred, by Joe Abercrombie
In Adua, science is beginning to rise even as violence remains the most reliable force in the world. Hillwoman Rikke tries to control the Long Eye, which gives her a glimpse of war to come, but doesn’t warn her of the arrival of Stour Nightfall and his armies—looking for her. She flees with a band of friends and her father, the Dogman. As they fight Nightfall’s forces, Prince Orso in the south marches to support them for his own ends. But a rebellion in the city of Valbeck draws him away, leaving Rikke and the others to fend for themselves. Returning to the harsh but richly imagined world of the First Law trilogy, Joe Abercrombie moves the action forward a generation, welcoming in new readers and offering new surprises for those already following along. Read our review.
The Rage of Dragons, by Evan Winter
Evan Winter’s debut epic fantasy explores the power of rage in a land defined by war. The Omehi have been fighting for centuries—their whole society is built around it, their leaders the rare women who can call forth dragons and the rare men who can transform themselves into super soldiers. Tau is neither, which makes him meat for the endless war’s grinder—unless he simply opts out, arranging for a convenient injury that will allow him to retire to a farm and a peaceful life. But before he can escape his fate, betrayal decimates his world and kills everyone he loves. Transformed by rage, he sets off to become the greatest swordsman of his age—the better to help him as he cuts and slashes his way to vengeance. Drawing from African traditions, this epic fantasy that does something different while delivering everything you love about the genre. Read our review.
Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Infused with and inspired by Mexican folk stories, the latest novel from the author of Certain Dark Things is a Mexican folklore-inspired epic that tells the story of young Casiopea Tun, who slaves away keeping her wealthy grandfather’s house until she stumbles on a mysterious wooden box. When she opens it, she releases the Mayan god of death—a curiously charming entity who asks Casiopea to help him regain his throne from his treacherous brother. Casiopea knows the risk—failure means her death—but the rewards are too tempting to pass up. Accompanying the charismatic god to the Mayan underworld and beyond, Casiopea is determined to have a life that goes far beyond the small Mexican town she was born in, even if it costs her everything. Read our review.
The Priory of the Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon
The Bone Season author Samantha Shannon’s latest eschews the series format, packing an entire trilogy’s worth of story into a standalone epic following three remarkable women whose fate is bound to the survival of an entire world. Sabran IX is Queen of Inys, last of an ancient magical bloodline whose very existence binds the Nameless One, a terrible dragon that could end the world, at the bottom of the ocean. Ead Duryan is one of Sabran’s ladies-in-waiting—but she is actually a secret agent, serving a hidden cabal of mages protecting the queen with magic. And across the ocean, Tané is a dragonrider about to break a societal taboo, with unforeseen consequences that will reverberate all the back to Inys. As Sabran discovers she isn’t who she thinks she is, she must reckon with the fact that her family’s bloodline may not be what’s keeping the Nameless One slumbering after all. Read our review.
These are our booksellers favorite science fiction & fantasy books of 2019. What are yours?