This year saw an absolute truckload of grimdark material hit the shelves and now that the year's wrapped up, it's time to once again go to the GdM team for their picks of 2016.
Matthew Cropley | Red Tide by Marc Turner
Red Tide is a flawlessly executed fantasy novel. The first two books in Marc Turner’s Chronicles of the Exile were fantastic, but Red Tide exceeds them by drawing both discrete plot-lines together in a perfectly structured adventure. It’s my top pick for 2016 because I simply can’t think of a single criticism. Red Tide is a page-turner from the very beginning, filled with moral ambiguities, grit, visceral action, deep characters, wondrous magic, and horrifying monsters. It also succeeded in genuinely surprising me several times, and by the end all I wanted was for the next books in the series to be out already.
Kristy Mika | Those Below by Daniel Polansky
The best I've read from 2016 is Those Below (The Empty Throne #2) by Daniel Polansky. You know those photographers that go into complete disaster zones, where something absolutely catastrophic is occurring, yet they can take photographs that are stunningly beautiful? "Oh! See how pretty that nuclear bomb looked as it destroyed a civilisation! How spectacular!" is the best way I can describe it! The juxtaposition between Polansky's beautifully written prose, and the utterly ugly destruction perpetrated by the characters within the plot, made it the most disturbing book (duology really...) I've read in a long time.
Cheresse Burke | Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Crooked Kingdom, the stunning second half of the Six of Crows duology, is not just my favourite Grimdark read of the year, but possibly one of my favourites of all time. Bardugo gives us six compelling, emotional characters, who sacrifice morality, secrets and goodwill to settle their scores and pull the heist of a lifetime. The heist is also impeccably put together, making for a tight plot and deft writing that made the book seem far shorter than it actually is. If you don't like your bitter with a dash of sweet, the Six of Crows duology may not be for you. But I can't think of not recommending this book to anyone.
Durand Welsh | The Great Ordeal by R. Scott Bakker
The Great Ordeal, definitely. It's an assault on the senses, grimdark style. The prose is exquisite, the characters mean as starving pitbulls, and everyone is yoked to events spiralling towards apocalypse.
Mike Myers | The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence
Amazing conclusion to one of my favorite stories. Snorri and Jalan return from Hell and, oh, the places they’ll go. The conflicts get more complicated, the foes get more terrifying, the settings and situations get weirder, and the Wheel rolls on. Lawrence just keeps getting better. Superb writing, grand ideas, wide scope, great characters. Vivid and memorable. Can't wait for Red Sister.
Shawn Mansouri | The Vagrant by Peter Newman
While I kept to short form and manga the majority of this year, I was struck by the image of this cover when Newman’s new novel hit the shelves (reminding me so much of Koike and Kojima’s Lone Wolf and Cub). Newman’s post-apocalyptic world is mostly science fiction with bursts of dark, gritty fantasy. A goat and baby soften the sometimes somber and stoic lone wanderer on his way to the Shining City. Did I mention he doesn’t speak and carries a sword that sings and has wings and a newborn in his arms all while the world is teeming with demonic/alien forces? This book has it all. Cleverly written, cerebral at times, and just the right length (400 page I believe) to not worry about completion of a long series in the future. The ending leaves room for a sequel but doesn’t promise anything. With a cast of characters for just about any reader, The Vagrant hit the top of my list for best Grimdark read in 2016.
Tom Smith | The Mirror's Truth by Michael R. Fletcher
For my pick for book of the year, I really had to dig deep. While I read many great books in 2016, most of them were not 2016 books – for example John Gwynne’s Faithful and the Fallen series. I read 3 of his 4 books and absolutely loved them but will not finish his 2016 release Wrath by the time you see this in print. I think I will have to place my vote on the Mirror’s Truth by Michael Fletcher. Just don’t tell him because his head is big enough already. Ha ha. This book is dark and strange and still retains a sense of humor. I’m not sure if it was a quick read or if I just couldn’t put it down. Either way, it was thoroughly enjoyable. I will give an honorable mention shout out to friend of the magazine Peter Fugazzotto for his Rotting Empire book which I beta read this year. I was surprised not that I liked it (as I had read a few of Peter’s works already), but by how MUCH I liked it. Grim and dark in all the right places and flowed smoothly. I’m not sure about the availability of it, but use the interwebs and send him a message if you are interested. Wishing everyone a grimdark 2017!
Jinx Strange | Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher
Beyond Redemption is flawed, delusional and catastrophically likeable, much like its best characters. Starting with the interesting premise that certain people's delusions can shape reality, what Michael Fletcher does masterfully is create people who are damaged and sympathetic without going flat. It is by no means a perfect book, but Beyond Redemption is my top grimdark read for 2016 because I thought about it whenever it wasn't in my hands. The Mirror's Truth comes out in December, and it is going to the top of my list.
Editor's note: I recognise this was published in 2015. Jinx was such a raging fan, and he did read it in 2016, and we all rave about this book, so I just thought, "bugger it" and went with it.
Adrian Collins | A Blade of Black Steel by Alex Marshall
I continue to be a massive fan of the Crimson Empire series with A Blade of Black Steel hitting all the right notes. It's another barnstorming ride of action, intrigue, hilarity and downright brutality. Marshall's prose continues to crack me up on a regular basis. It's witty, cheeky, silly, fun, and downright brutal. A truly enjoyable voice. As with A Crown for Cold Silver it's downright refreshing for the topics of drugs and sexuality to be dealt with so well. They are there, but not on a pedestal, just a smooth part of this crazy world of Marshall's.
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