1. The Blight of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler
Hands down, this was my favourite book of 2019. Somehow I stumbled onto “The Queen’s Poisoner” – the first book in the “Kingfountain Series” – early last year and fell headfirst into the worlds of Jeff Wheeler. A fantastic author who liberally peppers his work with underlying Christian themes (à la C.S. Lewis), I’ve read almost 14 of his books since that first one.
But the singular novel that has stuck with me is “The Blight of Muirwood.” It’s actually the second book in the initial Muirwood trilogy, and though the prose isn’t as delicately refined as his later books, it’s the characters, story, and core values that stood out to me. I fell in love with the main character, Lia, and related to her so much. As I was listening to her story, her struggles became my struggles, her victories, my victories, her steadfastness to her convictions and beliefs, my steadfastness.
I truly believe this book will stick with me as one of my favourite books of all time.
2. Project Starfighter by Stephen J. Sweeney
This book nearly took the top spot. Science fiction is just as dear to my heart as the fantasy genre, and this is a true space adventure. I already wrote quite a long, adoring ode to this book in 2019, so I will copy portions of that below, and link to it here.
As a kid I played the game released by Parallel Realities over and over again. It wasn’t easy, as timed missions, heavy artillery from the WEAPCO ships, and literal minefields made completing it difficult at the best of times. But I loved the challenge, playing over and over and over, memorising the dialogue from the cut scenes, and falling in love with the characters – Chris, Phoebe, and Ursula.
You can imagine my excitement when I discovered that the creator of the game had decided to write a novel based on it.
I was not disappointed. Yes, the writing and dialogue could have been stronger in parts, and there were some disturbing events that happened to the characters that I could have done without, but overall, the story was well told. The novel greatly expanded on the world I’d been introduced to in the “Project Starfighter” game, taking us down onto the planets and interacting with the characters at a personal level.
The ending was fantastic and didn’t let me down in the slightest, topped off with a short, well crafted epilogue that brought me to tears. This book took me back to my childhood and teen years, and I got to relive some of my fondest memories while experiencing something new. I definitely recommend “Project Starfighter” to anyone who loves sci-fi, gaming, or both.
Suffice to say, another book that is going on the permanent favourites list!
3. Urban Heroes by T. J. Lockwood
The twist, the twist, the twist.
This book gutted me – not so much emotionally, but on a thematic and storytelling and structural level. It asks (and answers) such a huge question, one posed by media such as “Almost Human” and “Detroit Become Human” and by the works of sci-fi legend Isaac Asimov. I can’t reveal it here, because that would involve ruining the near-perfect slow moment of revelation, but I hope that everyone who reads this book will feel the same wonder and shock that I did when I finally understood what the novel was saying.
And of course, the in-media-res start, almost non-stop action, excellent writing, and wonderful characters round out this absolute gem of a story.
4. Twilight to Son Shine by Jim McDonald
This is a beautiful book of poems documenting the transformation of man from darkness into light. A few of them (“Depression” and “It Comes in Threes” in particular) really touched my heart.
I’m not usually much for poetry, but: 1. I’d recently read a story that changed my perspective on the purpose of poetry that put me in a more curious mindset, and 2. I had the great pleasure of meeting the author at a book fair, and his life story and genuine manner convinced me to give his works a try. I’m really glad I did!
5. Warmaiden of Arna by JT Archer
This book was long – but the wonderful kind of long. From the very first pages I wanted to sink into the world of this story and never leave. I listened to it while riding my bike. I listened to it running the track at the gym. I listened to it while practising piano, and while driving in my car.
I couldn’t get enough of this book, and I can hardly wait to read the sequel.