I’ve mentioned in a couple posts about wanting to do more weekly features here on the blog, specifically about backlist books. The Thursday BackLIST will appear each week with different themes. Every book listed on one of these feature posts qualifies for the current Beat the Backlist challenge.
Everyone is welcome to join in each week! The theme for the following week will appear at the bottom of the post so you can prepare. If enough people start doing it, I’ll add a link-up but for now you can drop your links in the comments!
For the very first Thursday BackLIST of the year, I decided to do a round-up of some of my favorite reads from 2018!
I wanted to do a favorites list instead of a “Best Of” because I feel like reading is just so subjective to each person that a best-of list just wouldn’t seem right? If that makes sense.
Books are split between Young Adult and Adult fiction, and I’ve linked them to my (spoiler free) review in case you’re curious!
Beat the Backlist Readers
Many of these books will fit at least one BINGO prompt for 2019, as well as count for “rec’ed by someone else.” And if you plan to read new releases this year too, several of these have sequels coming out!
Young Adult Fiction
Although I read a pretty even amount of YA and adult fiction, I definitely had more favorites in the YA category. All of them were 2018 releases too! It was a pretty good year of reading, I have to say.
Fantasy gangs, interesting magic, and a dangerous secret hanging overhead? Cool, I can work with that. Ace of Shades was a solid start to a new series and while the characters didn’t 100% sell it for me, the atypical world (based on what I’ve read lately) definitely did and I’m excited to see where it goes next!
Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.
Frightened and alone, Enne has only one lead: the name Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.
Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless Mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…
And she’ll need to play.
This series is likely one of the only historical fiction and/or mystery one that I not only like, I LOVE. The third in the series follows Audrey Rose and Thomas aboard a ship across the Atlantic and murders abound! Not only can you try to solve the mystery but the tension is quite perfect. Maniscalco knows how to write characters you can’t help but love.
Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.
But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?
This is a story of female empowerment. Of defiance and sisterhood and fighting against the way of things because tradition doesn’t mean something is right. Think The Selection meets The Handmaid’s Tale. If you’re looking for a little rebellion (or a lot) in your YA fantasy, I recommend Grace and Fury.
Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace – someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir’s eye, it’s Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.
Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.
YOU ALL KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVED CARAVAL, RIGHT?!?! LEGENDARY WAS BETTER! But seriously, I had such a hard time deciding if I liked this one better than the first and I love both for different reasons. And Legendary was jam-packed with SO MANY SECRETS and twists and turns and I literally am dying for the last book!
After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister, Scarlett, from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.
The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice, but now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever…
Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . the games have only just begun.
Fighting robots, a spin on the Romanovs, and questioning humanity as we know it? Obviously a winner. I really enjoyed the Illuminae Files which Kristoff co-authored so I jumped at the chance to read a new sci-fi by him. The characters are interesting as I’ve come to expect and the story doesn’t stop from start to finish. AND THAT ENDING! Can’t wait for the sequel!
Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.
But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past.
Even if those secrets were better off staying buried.
Now THIS is the dark gritty fantasy I’ve been waiting for. It’s harsh, it’s downright evil at times, and I LOVED IT SO MUCH. Monsters, black markets, and trafficking at its worst. Honestly I never expected to love this book as much as I did based on the synopsis but I couldn’t put it down! Schaeffer doesn’t pull punches on this one so be prepared.
Nita doesn’t murder supernatural beings and sell their body parts on the internet—her mother does that. Nita just dissects the bodies after they’ve been “acquired.” Until her mom brings home a live specimen and Nita decides she wants out; dissecting a scared teenage boy is a step too far. But when she decides to save her mother’s victim, she ends up sold in his place—because Nita herself isn’t exactly “human.” She has the ability to alter her biology, a talent that is priceless on the black market. Now on the other side of the bars, if she wants to escape, Nita must ask herself if she’s willing to become the worst kind of monster.
It’s rare that I like a book involving the undead so heavily, and this is one book I LOVED! It’s diverse and original and I absolutely adored it! If you’re not usually a zombie fan, cast that aside and give Reign of the Fallen a try! It gives a different spin to the undead.
A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears among Odessa’s necromancer community. Soon a crushing loss of one of their own reveals a disturbing conspiracy: someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead–and training them to attack. Odessa is faced with a terrifying question: What if her necromancer’s magic is the weapon that brings Karthia to its knees?
This fabulous YA fantasy is the start of a new series all about elemental magic. While the elements aren’t a particularly unique form of magic, Gaughen did a fantastic job developing this world and creating intriguing characters you want to know more about. It hits on some harsh, potentially triggering topics, but is done so in a way that I can’t help but love it at the same time.
But she soon learns that her husband, Calix, is motivated only by his desire to exterminate the Elementae—mystical people who can control earth, wind, air, and fire. Even more unsettling are Shalia’s feelings for her husband’s brother, which unleash a power over the earth she never knew she possessed—a power that could get her killed. As rumors of a rebellion against Calix spread, Shalia must choose between the last chance for peace and her own future as an Elementae.
This intense, richly drawn high-fantasy by the author of Scarletwill hold readers spellbound.
Though this YA fantasy didn’t really feel like a fantasy (more of a historical fiction vibe, really), Sky in the Deep was an interesting take on Viking-esque fiction that addressed the “quieter” side (vs lots of action and violence that I often see portrayed, though there’s some of that too).
Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.
Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.
She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.
Don’t read this book if you don’t like tragic endings. No, that’s not a spoiler. This book is a re-telling of an opera, a tragedy to be more precise, and wow was that ending crushing. But don’t let that deter you because this book is SO. GOOD. Worth the heartache. Promise!
Jinghua’s already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand—and if they fail, they die.
Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom—and his very life—on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of … even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart.
The Bird and the Blade is a lush, powerful story of life and death, battles and riddles, lies and secrets from debut author Megan Bannen.
This. Book. I don’t even think I need to give a reason why it’s on this list but in keeping with the format, I’ll just say that Holly Black’s books are freaking fantastic and after growing up with her Modern Faerie Tale series, I KNEW I’d love The Cruel Prince. And I did. A lot.
And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.
Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
Magic, time travel through history, and plenty of action and adventure? SOLD. The sequel to The Last Magician, this book rocked and I loved how immersive the world is. With an alternate history timeline involving lots of magic, this is perfect for fantasy lovers and history buffs alike!
Hunt the Stones.
Beware the Thief.
Avenge the Past.
Esta’s parents were murdered. Her life was stolen. And everything she knew about magic was a lie. She thought the Book of Mysteries held the key to freeing the Mageus from the Order’s grasp, but the danger within its pages was greater than she ever imagined.
Now the Book’s furious power lives inside Harte. If he can’t control it, it will rip apart the world to get its revenge, and it will use Esta to do it.
To bind the power, Esta and Harte must track down four elemental stones scattered across the continent. But the world outside the city is like nothing they expected. There are Mageus beyond the Brink not willing to live in the shadows—and the Order isn’t alone in its mission to crush them.
In St. Louis, the extravagant World’s Fair hides the first stone, but an old enemy is out for revenge and a new enemy is emerging. And back in New York, Viola and Jianyu must defeat a traitor in a city on the verge of chaos.
As past and future collide, time is running out to rewrite history—even for a time-traveling thief.
I never thought a book about supervillains could be fluffy but this one was! I loved that it had the vibe of a Disney movie about a villain rather than hardcore “I am fire. I am death.” (Which I also enjoy, but a change is nice)
In Abby Hamilton’s world, superheroes do more than just stop crime and save cats stuck in trees—they also drink milk straight from the carton and hog the television remote. Abby’s older brother moonlights as the famous Red Comet, but without powers of her own, following in his footsteps has never crossed her mind.
That is, until the city’s newest vigilante comes bursting into her life.
After saving Abby from an attempted mugging, Morriston’s fledgling supervillain Iron Phantom convinces her that he’s not as evil as everyone says, and that their city is under a vicious new threat. As Abby follows him deeper into their city’s darkest secrets, she comes to learn that heroes can’t always be trusted, and sometimes it’s the good guys who wear black.
This book is so hard to describe and yet SO GOOD. It takes genre mash-up to a whole new level, catering to fantasy, sci-fi, thriller, mystery, and horror lovers alike. Honestly the ending left me both wanting more and knowing that if I had a sequel I probably wouldn’t get any sleep (for multiple reasons). Definitely worth picking up!
On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home—on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.
Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.
As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible—something that threatens reality itself.
I was introduced to Laura Trentham’s books late 2017/early 2018 and ended up reading a few books mid series but they were so good! The 4th, 5th, and 6th Cottonbloom books act as a mini series of their own, with Set the Night on Fire as the 6th with a great story and small-town romance featuring characters you can’t help but ship together!
Ella Boudreaux has a lot to prove to her family, friends, and foes–and to herself. So when her marriage ends she decides to invest her energy and money into a place that brings back some of Ella’s happiest memories: the Abbott brothers’ garage. Maybe, if she puts her mind to it, she can teach skeptical, stubborn Mack Abbott how to make the business a true success. Which would be a lot easier if the hunky mechanic didn’t make her motor run quite so fast…and hot.
Mack was furious when his brother, Ford, sold his share of the business. He’s in no rush to team up with a wealthy divorcee who shows up to the garage in stilettos–and the longest, sexiest legs he’s seen in forever. But Ella’s grit and determination won’t quit…and soon Mack can see that she’s been down a few rough roads herself. Neither Mack nor Ella can deny the fierce attraction that’s revving up between them. Could it be that true love has been in the backseat all along…and they’ve finally found the key?
I LOVE Jeaniene Frost’s books. All of them. No question. And I think Shades of Wicked might be her best book yet. It’s the start of the 3rd series in the Night Huntress World so you can read it on its own, but things will make more sense if you also read the Night Huntress and Night Prince series (both come before Shades of Wicked). Let’s bring vampires back!
The Rule Breaker
Master vampire Ian is unrepentant, shameless…and every shade of wicked. He’s made one too many enemies in his two centuries of existence, including Dagon, a demon who now lays claim to his soul. Ian’s only chance to escape Dagon is to join forces with a Law Guardian, but he’s never been able to abide by the rules for long.
The Law Maker
Veritas’ normal role is police, judge and jury to reprobates like Ian. But she has her own ax to grind with Dagon, so if she can use Ian as bait…well, all’s fair in law and war. As they scour supernatural hotspots to perfect their trap, Veritas soon realizes Ian’s devil-may-care, roguish image hides something much more powerful. And Ian discovers that Veritas has shocking secrets of her own. As they’re drawn to each other with a passion as intense as their peril, either love or justice will prevail. But each will have devastating consequences…
A fun Christmas romance featuring the brother’s best and the brother’s younger sister (I love this romance trope, y’all). The leading gentleman was actually a gentleman, not someone in need of a major redemption arc which was a nice change. And Daphne was inspiring. Easily the best in the series so far, for me at least.
Lady Daphne Hallworth is ready to celebrate the holidays with her family. But when they accidentally leave her home alone, Daphne uses the time to work on her dream—opening a home for unwed mothers. But her quest isn’t problem-free: She’s in a battle to win the property for the home against her brother’s best friend-turned-enemy, Paul Barstowe, Duke of Southart. And that’s not all: someone has stolen her personal diary, which holds secrets that could devastate her family. Daphne has always harbored private feelings for the man her family scorns…though perhaps striking a bargain with the handsome Duke will solve both their problems?
Paul, long considered good for nothing, aims to open a hospital to honor his brother and restore his reputation. So when a conflict over the land brings him straight into Daphne’s life, they make a deal: He will help her find her diary if Daphne can change her family’s opinion of him. But before he can win her family’s affection, he has to win hers first. Maybe love was the answer to their family feud all along?
These books continue to be some of my favorite adult fantasies. Featuring dragons, fae, a little magic, a dash of steampunk, PLENTY of books, and lots of adventuring, there’s something for everyone! For the 4th in the series, The Lost Plot took a slightly different approach to the story I’ve come to expect and I can’t wait to see where it goes in the next installment!
In a 1920s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force; fedoras, flapper dresses, and tommy guns are in fashion: and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon political contest. It seems a young Librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can’t extricate him, there could be serious repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.
Irene and Kai are locked in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They’ll face gangsters, blackmail, and the Library’s own Internal Affairs department. And if it doesn’t end well, it could have dire consequences on Irene’s job. And, incidentally, on her life…
This is the last in this trilogy of utterly unique fantasies from one of my favorite indie authors! I can honestly say I’ve never read books quite like these, featuring humanoid dragons, the perfect combination of science and magic, and breathtaking world-building. Her books are all amazing so don’t just check this series out!
This final installment of USA Today bestselling author Elise Kova’s Loom Saga, The Rebels of Gold will reveal the fate of Loom’s brilliantly contrasting world and its beloved inhabitants.
This was my first read of Ryan’s work and while this book is pretty epically massive (as I’ve come to expect and love from adult high fantasy), I found the world intriguing and unique enough to keep my attention. And the characters were well thought out and executed. Highly recommend to fantasy and dragon lovers alike!
Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from the veins of captive or hunted Reds, Green, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that give fearsome powers to the rare men and women who have the ability harness them—known as the blood-blessed.
But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighboring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate’s last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.
Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered blood-blessed, who finds himself pressed into service by the protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted territories in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin, facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an ironship, whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.
As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war, or drown in its wake.
The Thursday BackLIST is a new weekly feature on NovelKnight where I post lists of backlist books based on a specific category. All books included in the post (unless otherwise marked) are eligible for the current year’s Beat the Backlist reading challenge.
Want to join in next Thursday?
January 10 Theme
If you decide to post your own list each week, add your link in the comments!