Also, yay for awesome books! They are so good, that I can`t simply make do with a Top Ten (Or So) list of favourite covers or favourite books. I've got to celebrate the best of a whole bunch of different categories, and a whole bunch of different kinds of awesome. And what better way to celebrate than my very special RED Book Awards of 2015:
Favourite Central Female Character: Winter from Winter. She is literally crazy, and how often do you get YA heroines with actual mental illnesses? (It was a fictional illness caused by something in the scifi world, and I'm not sure if it represented mental issues very accurately. But I appreciated it all the same.) Unfortunately however, despite also loving her other attributes, I felt she was a little short-changed. Unlike the other Lunar Chronicle heroines, she only got one book with her point of view. And that book was taken up with so many other characters, that she didn't get nearly as much focus as I wanted her to.
Runners Up: >>Crescent Moon "Cress" Darnel from Cress and Winter: a hacker and fellow computer-girl, plus very unique among YA heroines for her timidity and romanticism. >>Ada Byron from The Case of the Missing Moonstone: she's brilliant and strange, plus she's based off Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer and one of my heroes. >>Cinder from the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter): a stubborn princess/mechanic who's also a cyborg. >>Knife from Knife: for her name, her tiny ferocity, her pretty hair, and the beautiful cover that goes with her book. >>Isobel Lanley from Enshadowed and Oblivion: her devotion and firmness of purpose carry you through all the vagueness and poetry of the Poe-like dreamscape she travels through. >>Agatha and Sophie from The School for Good and Evil: Agatha is terribly grumpy and insecure, and looks a bit like a female Snape; Sophie is self-assured, self-centered, and sociable; together, they complete each other.
(Also, wow, this category did so much better than last year. Eight women versus three, and all of them great.)
Favourite Central Male Character: a tie between Maia Drazhar from The Goblin Emperor and "Captain" Carswell Thorne from Scarlet, Cress, and Winter (though he was more of a secondary character in Scarlet).
Maia is an unusual male protagonist for fantasy. Introverted, compassionate, socially awkward... I can't even explain him properly, but I love him dearly. His growth into one of the best rulers his country has had is FANTASTIC.
Thorne is as opposite to Maia as you can be. He's a scoundrel and a rogue in the style of Han Solo or Mal Renolds, but his cockiness is without the kind of knowing arrogance that drives me crazy. And he's so funny.
Runners Up: >>Drizzt Do'Urden from Homeland: it's all in the struggle against his evil heritage and the awesome fighting skills. >>Alexandre, called "Sand", from The Castle Behind Thorns: I don't remember him too well by this point, but I remember loving his determination to mend things. >>Joel Saxon from The Rithmatist: I didn't love his character, but I really, really appreciated his Ravenclaw attitude and wish it appeared in so many more characters.
Favourite Secondary Female Character: Iko from Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter. She is just so funny. And she's an AI. As a computer programmer, I have quite a fondness for fictional androids.
Runners Up: >>Vierna Do'Urden from Homeland: I can actually hardly remember anything about her by this point, except that she was probably the most interesting character in the book, being a great moral shade of grey. She seemed to feel actual love for people, unlike pretty much everyone else, but she was still tragically influenced by her culture's violence and hatred. >>Myrtle Sunderly, Faith's mother, from The Lie Tree: I can hardly remember her either, unfortunately. But I found her complex and interesting as well. And there was one female on this Runner Up list, which was just too weird, so I had to add a second.
(It's interesting that this isn't nearly as awesome a set of people as the Central Female Character category.)
Favourite Secondary Male Character: The servants of the emperor from The Goblin Emperor: Deret Beshelar, Cala Athmaza, and Csevet Aisava. Beshelar and Cala are a lovely study in contrasts, both fiercely devoted to their emperor, but in such different ways. And Csevet is just awesome all on his own, so clever and dedicated. And...I'll have to read it again to remember more. I know it seems that if I liked them that much, I'd remember them. But you are not giving my lack of memory enough credit! It really is bad!
Runners Up: >>Lord Byron from The Pirates! In an Adventure With the Romantics: all the characters are hilarious and awesome in this book, but I'll use Byron to represent all of them, since particularly surprised me with his funniness. >>Lieutenant Lockwood from Illusionarium: he toed the line between being almost too much for me, and not being enough. I wanted more developed relationships with the other characters, but he was still extremely charismatic, and that made up for a lot. >>Heckleck from Tin Star: very alien, which can be a bit unusual for YA books. He was also a good enough character that the author wrote a special short story all about him, "Useless Wings". >>George Cubbins from The Hollow Boy: he's been on this list every single year so far, because he's that awesome. He has many obvious faults, like fatness and crabbiness, but they just make him more appealing to me. Plus he's delightfully sarcastic and quite Ravenclaw. These books always make me wish they could be all about him and his research, and less about the adventurous members of the group.
Runners Up: >>The whole gang from the Lunar Chronicles--Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter: despite the fact that I loved these people as a group (only group that reminded me a bit of Joss Whedon's ensembles), I was a bit disappointed that they didn't appear together as a group more often. In the later books, this caused a bit of a fractured feel, because there were so many characters doing so many different things in different places.
(Not many good ensembles this year, which is sad because they're one of my favourite things to find in books/TV. I was thinking of adding the great group of ghost hunters from The Hollow Boy, but the rivalry between Lucy and Holly annoyed me a lot, and was an essential part of the group dynamics.)
Favourite Romance: Tula Bane and Tournour from Tin Star. Spoilers for the books ahead!
I have a thing for unusual romances, and the fact that Tournour was an alien was quite cool to me. Unfortunately, there was too much time spent on the love triangle, and not enough on their relationship for my taste, particularly in the sequel. But part of the reason why this annoyed me so much was because I did feel quite a lot for the two of them as a couple. Though, as is often the case with romances, I haven't totally been able to figure out why (other than the aforementioned unusualness). Perhaps it's because of the lack of passionate attraction and the presence of friendship and protection instead.
Runners Up: >>Cress Darnel and Carswell Thorne from Cress: they might have won this category except that a) I didn't like the conclusion of their romance in Winter as much as I was hoping, and b) this series has swept the awards too much, and I think other books deserve some love. But they still were adorable and very nearly won anyway. >>Maia Drazhar and Csethiro Ceredin from The Goblin Emperor: this might have won too except that it was such a tiny part of the book. But what there was, was wonderful, quiet, and complex. >>Isobel Lanley and Varen Nethers from Enshadowed and Oblivion: I didn't like the romance nearly as much as in the first book, Nevermore. So part of this is just in honour of the first book, and the elements of it that were still present in the second and third books. But I also wanted to honour Isobel's tenacity and Varen's suffering, which were displayed even more in the second and third books, and made me love their relationship despite the sad lack of time in each other's company.
(This wasn't a great year for romance. There were only two proper romances that I really felt something for, and both of those were lessened a bit for me after reading the sequels.)
Favourite Bromance: And another Lunar Chronicles/Goblin Emperor tie, between Linh Cinder and"Captain" Carswell Thorne from Scarlet, Cress, and Winter; and Maia Drazhar and his nohecharis, Deret Beshelar and Cala Athmaza, from The Goblin Emperor.
Cinder and Thorne are possibly my favourite relationship of the series. You don't get many male/female friendships between two young, attractive, and eligible people. These two end up quite a lot like siblings, with their squabbling and casual affection. I love it.
It's the growing of respect and love towards Maia by his servants that's one of my favourite things about their book. That one scene near the end... sigh. So good.
Runners Up: >>Agatha and Sophie from The School for Good and Evil: their relationship was central to this book, where other books might focus on the romance. It's rare for a friendship to be so concentrated on, and even rarer for that friendship to be female. I have had bromances with other women myself, so I appreciate it. >>Ada Byron and Mary Godwin from The Case of the Missing Moonstone: more female friendship! Both remarkably clever! And they have such great adventures together! >>Tula Bane and Heckleck from Tin Star: their relationship was the primary one for the first half of the book, and it's one of the main reasons why I liked the book so much. As a bonus, it grew from a mentor/student relationship, which is another of my favourites. They helped each other grow as people and to understand their distinct alien cultures.
Favourite World: The Goblin Emperor. This one wins by a landslide. Language, culture, politics, expressions and emotions and physicality--it's all unique and excellently built and seems as real as any actual society. I loved it so much.
Runners Up: >>The Rithmatist: I procrastinated like crazy on reading this book because the cover and description made the world-building sound boring. But it's so not! I can't explain it well except to say that it's the world-building that made me want to read everything Sanderson's ever written, and I'm not even someone whose primary focus is the world-building. >>Steelheart: The same author as The Rithmatist. Sanderson obviously has talent in this area. Superheros have been done to death recently, be he manages all these clever little twists that make the world fascinating. >>The Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter): more fun than brilliant, but so much fun. Marissa Meyer took inspiration from Firefly and "Star Wars", and you can tell (thought it is not derivative). >>The Cracks in the Kingdom: The living colours are fascinating and poetical. >>The Forever War: bleak, but really interesting. What would a war with extreme time-dilations look like?
Runners Up: >>Cinder: this wins over Homeland in the "Good" part, but not the "Surprising" part quite as much. I thought it was going to be standard YA fare, because it was a retelling of Cinderella, but I'd heard some really good things about the sequels. So I was surprised, but only somewhat, when this series turned out to be a lot of fun. >>Tin Star: like Cinder, I thought this was going to be more a stereotypical YA book. And there was still a love triangle that bugged me. But there was also an unusual romance I loved, some survival through learning alien cultures and setting up a trading business, and some great secondary characters. I really liked it. >>The School for Good and Evil: people said it was good. But there was just something about the cover and the presentation that turned me off, and I didn't believe them. Turns out I was quite wrong. It was lots of fun and much more well-written than I expected. (Though the sequels did lessen my enjoyment a bit.)
Favourite Book Not Getting Enough Awards: The Uninvited Guests. I actually really liked this book, though I'm not entirely sure why. I'm pretty sure the cover and feel of the paperback helped a lot. But I also found the characters and the weirdness and the creepiness endearing. A strange little book, but I want to have it on my bookshelf and admire it all the same. So it deserves a bit of recognition.
Runners Up: Firefight: I liked this book almost as much as the first book, Steelheart. Sanderson is a wonderfully entertaining writer. But for some reason it didn't stand out in my memory as much, so it hasn't been mentioned in these year-end summaries. >>Gay and Catholic, Making Habits, Breaking Habits, You're Never Weird on the Internet, Arriving at Amen, Opening to God, Fluent in 3 Months, Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores: the RED Awards are mostly about aspects only applicable to fiction, but I read a bunch of really great nonfiction this year, and it feels sad not to include them. So here's a small shoutout to them!
P.S. See also the previous years awards: 2013, 2014.