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A Fictional Escapist’s Favourite Reads of 2023

The promise of a new year is always exciting and a time of renewal and growth is just around the corner. TBR’s are being planned, new releases are getting hyped, and our favourites of the year are having some well-deserved light shed upon them, so here is my Favourite Reads of 2023.

As someone whose reading game has kicked it up a notch over the last few years, choosing a handful of books from 90-100 can be a daunting task. Gone are the days where I could just put a few 5 star reads into a list like this because, well, there are too many.

For my favourite reads of this year, I have come up with ten categories which highlight some spectacular books within the SFF genres. Some of these will be book categories and some will be elements within books that have wowed me over 2023.

In each of the below categories we will have one winner, and one honourable mention (but there are so many more fantastic reads I could talk about for an age). Without any further waffling from yours truly, here are Kris’s favourites of 2023!

Favourite Debut of 2023!

Of Thieves and Shadows by B.S.H. Garcia

Of Thieves and Shadows – B.S.H. Garcia

This debut was incredible, nearly every element was a hard hitter, the complex characters, the expansive worldbuilding, the political machinations, it was simply delicious. If this is where Garcia’s storytelling starts, I am so excited to see what comes next.

Check it out on Goodreads

Honourable Mention – Spark of the Divine, Louise Holland


Favourite Author Discovery of 2023!

Carved Amidst the Shadows by M.T. Fontaine

M.T. Fontaine – Carved Amidst the Shadows/Marked for the Pyre

I have never been so drawn into an enemies to lovers romance and political intrigue. M.T. Fontaine is a master of her craft when it comes to fun fantasy with so much more to offer the reader. Devastating magic, horrifying histories and an order that will not quit. Sign me up! I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up these books but holy smokes, were my socks, knocked.

Check it out on Goodreads

Honourable Mention – Tatiana Obey, Bones to the Wind/Sistah Samurai


Favourite Sequel of 2023! 

Chaos Risen by Mark Holloway

Chaos Risen – Mark Holloway

I’ve really loved what Holloway has done with The Aspect series thus far, closing out the first story arc with a different vibe to books one and two. What I loved about this was how risky it was, and how well it played into abstract body horror elements. These were dark, disturbing but provided a good look at what his magic system could do. If you like a bit of experimentation in your fantasy, Holloway is one to watch.

Check it out on Goodreads

Honourable Mention – No Safe Haven, James Lloyd Dulin


Favourite Novella of 2023!

The Rest to the Gods by Joshua Walker

The Rest to the Gods – Joshua Walker

This one is a little bit of a cheat, coming out Jan 9th of 2024. In my defence, I read it in 2023! A rich history, a well thought out magic system and a morally grey backstory all in 131 pages? Yes please! This little novella packed one hell of a political intrigue punch. Beautiful, yet snappy prose will have you turning the pages and before you know it, you’re at the end begging for more.

Check it out on Goodreads

Honourable Mention – A Dagger in the Dark, Tom Dumbrell


Favourite Prose of 2023!

Legacy of the Vermillion Blade by Jay Tallsquall

Curse of the Vermillion Blade, Jay Tallsquall

A look at love on the Asexual spectrum, written as if it were a song. This purple prose is sure to suck you in with imagery to fall in love with. This character driven fantasy showcases love in a way that you might not expect, and I was utterly enchanted.

Check it out on Goodreads

Honourable Mention – Apple Seeds in the Snow, Helen Rygh-Pedersen


Favourite Audio Narrator of 2023!

Malice by John Gwynne

Damien Lynch – Narrator of the Faithful and the Fallen, John Gwynne

What Lynch bought to the world of the Faithful and the Fallen was nothing short of incredible. The number of accents, tones, and vocal tricks throughout the series was outstanding. It was hard for be to believe that one person could do so much with their voice!

Check it out on Goodreads

Honourable Mention – Nick Podehl, Narrator of Bastion


Favourite Animal Companion of 2023!

The Sun Prince by Luke Shultz

Spike – The Sun Prince, L.R. Shultz

Now this one may not have been fair, I think Spike is my favourite animal companion to date. This little lizard turned GIANT … well that would be a spoiler now wouldn’t it. This little guy feeds off shine, the magic of the world, using it to become bigger and bigger, will he ever stop growing? Who knows. With the temperament of a golden retriever and the ability to … I love Spike ok!

Check it out on Goodreads

Honourable Mention – Craff, Faithful and the Fallen, John Gwynne


Favourite Side Character of 2023! 

Legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar

Ceridwen, Legacy of the Brightwash, Krystle Matar

Never in the history of reading has a character stolen my heart quite like little Ceridwen. This was one of the only things that ever made me question my decision not to have children. This little one was so, precious, so beautifully pure and it was a delight every time she was on the page. I am sure Matar is going to make me cry in this series with something Ceridwen does, and I will be thankful for the honour.

Check it out on Goodreads

Honourable Mention – Reevan, Spark of the Divine, Louise Holland


Favourite LGBTQIA+ Character of 2023!

Legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar

Tashué, Legacy of the Brightwash, Krystle Matar

Alright, alright, I know. Krystle Matar already had a go at a favourite, but can I help it if they are an absolute master at character work?!? Tashué was a breath of fresh, bisexual, chaotic air. A character that was so deeply complex that couldn’t give a toss about labelling his sexuality. This was a year of wonderful queer male characters for me and it was hard to pick a favourite. No that wasn’t a pun … anyway Tashué for life!

Check it out on Goodreads

Honourable Mention – Kiokharen, The Ruptured Sky, Jessica A. McMinn


Biggest Surprise of 2023!

Icebreaker by Steven William Hannah

Icebreaker, Steven William Hannah

Why, why isn’t this movie being adapted! We don’t need marvel we need some creepy, atmospheric sci-fi horror which gave me heart palpitations on the big screen please! This book was unputdownable. Dr Bear is researching the Phenomenon, only the entity causing havoc is so much more than it seems. If you’re up for a midnight panic attack of the best kind, you are going to want to pick up this book!

Check it out on Goodreads

Honourable Mention – Neon Ghosts, Daniel B. Greene

The Fictional Escapist

Kris has been an avid reader for most of his life, forever escaping into various worlds, far beyond his imagination. Now at the ripe old age of 32, he spends his days in a sea of authors, review copies and unedited manuscripts; and he is having a blast!

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