These thrilling space operas, magical historical fantasies and frightening post-apocalyptic tales pushed the boundaries of the possible and took SFF to new heights in 2019.
Erin Morgenstern had the unenviable challenge of following up her beloved debut, The Night Circus, and she succeeded with this dreamy tribute to books and bibliophiles.
Alexandra Rowland continues to play with form and perspective to thrilling effect in the footnote-laden, metafictional A Choir of Lies. Our sweet hero Ylfing gets embroiled in a tulip mania-esque conspiracy, an experience he relates in a manuscript that’s being commented on by a very irritated and mysterious editor, whose character evolves as they progress through the book alongside the reader.
The ever-wonderful Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s superb world building and lush prose bring Jazz Age Mexico to life in this stunning historical fantasy that plays with archetypes from Greek and Mayan mythology alike.
It’s hard to talk about why Lent is so great without spoiling Lent, so let’s just say that Jo Walton takes the already unusual setting of religious life in 15th-century Florence and goes all-in on all the Catholic guilt and metaphysical weirdness that entails.
R.F. Kuang’s fabulous series continues to evolve the grimdark strain of modern fantasy into something more complicated and psychologically realistic in her sequel to The Poppy War.
Leigh Bardugo’s delicious, unrepentantly dark adult fantasy debut proved the YA phenom is more than ready to welcome new readers into her legions of devoted fans.
Shannon’s sprawling doorstopper clocks in at an intimidating 848 pages, but keep in mind that this is a self-contained, one-installment-and-done fantasy saga with a queen who reads like a mash up of Elizabeth I and St. George. And dragons. So many dragons.
This eerie, ultimately moving tale of the apocalypse is deeply rooted in the America of today and showcases Chuck Wendig’s ability to inhabit the lives and hearts of multiple characters.
A meditation on linguistics and imperialism wrapped in a political drama, Martine’s debut delves into the nitty gritty details that many other space operas ignore, resulting in an enthralling, richly detailed start to a bold new trilogy.
One of the most audacious, entertaining debuts in recent memory, Tamsyn Muir’s super goth, gleefully baroque fantasy murder mystery in space was a bracing and bone-chilling breath of fresh air.