Yoon Ha Lee’s Favorite Reads of 2016

Welcome to Smugglivus 2016! Throughout this month, we will have guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2016, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2017, and more.

Today Smugglivus 2016 welcomes to the blog Yoon Ha Lee, author of one of our favourite books of 2016, Ninefox Gambit.

Ninefox Gambit


Possibly my favorite was the Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat, which I discovered this year–it meant that I didn’t have to wait for each volume as it came out!


The three books are The Captive Prince, Prince’s Gambit, and Kings Rising; Kings Rising came out earlier
this year. It’s no-magic fantasy about Damen, prince of Akielos, who is betrayed by his half-brother and sent to be a pleasure slave in the neighboring kingdom of Vere. Even worse, Damen winds up in the hands of Vere’s Prince Laurent–and Damen was the one who killed Laurent’s beloved older brother in battle several years ago. But despite knowing he needs to return to Akielos to oust his brother, Damen starts falling for sharp-tongued, twisty Laurent…There’s plenty of erotic romance, intrigue, and witty dialogue in this.


I also loved Zoe Chant’s shifter romances Firefighter Pegasus and Firefighter Griffin, which are follow-ups to Firefighter Dragon. These are mostly lighthearted and extremely funny, with the premise of “mythic shifters” (you can guess from the titles!) who work in a special firefighter unit in the UK. Each firefighter finds his destined mate in turn, and hijinks ensue. I loved fast-talking manic Chase, the pegasus shifter of Firefighter Pegasus, but I think the one I really have a
crush on is Ash, the commander, who is a phoenix shifter.


For science fiction adventure, I had a lot of fun with Sean Danker’s Admiral, which also came out this year. A mysterious “admiral” wakes up with three inexperienced newly-graduated officers on a crashed and abandoned starship. Not only do they have to figure out where they are and how to escape, they soon have to race against time to survive as it becomes clear that they’re not alone on the planet–and whatever’s out there isn’t friendly.


Alastair Reynolds’ Slow Bullets painted a vision of the future simultaneously brutal, bleak, and beautiful. A woman soldier nearly dies and wakes up on a badly damaged ship (I guess I have a thing for this type of scenario?). Not only must she and the rest of the crew figure out what happened to the ship, they must keep from destroying each other. It’s hard to describe how much this story affected me without spoiling the whole thing to hell and gone, but it’s a great ride.


For clever if cruel, K.J. Parker’s The Last Witness is a mystery with a magical ability at its heart. If you like Parker, this is definitely worth checking out; if his works are not your thing, this one won’t be either.

In short fiction, my favorite story of the year was Ursula Vernon’s “Razorback.” I started following Vernon’s art something like fifteen years ago and was delighted to find that her fiction is just as wonderful. In this retelling of an American folktale, my heart was won over by the relationship between a witch and her razorback hog friend. I cried buckets, but it was completely worth it.


Others I really liked: Alex Kreis’s “Calligraphy,” which was published as part of the ebook anthology Islamicates Vol. 1: Anthology of Science Fiction Short Stories Inspired from Muslim Cultures, ed. Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad. “Calligraphy” beautifully interweaves Muslim architecture and the mathematics of aperiodic tessellations. Sonya Taaffe’s “The Choices of Foxes,” from the zine Not One of Us #55, is a jeweled piece of flash describing the temptations of fox-lovers. Seth Dickinson’s “Laws of Night and Silk” posits a fantasy society that makes use of deprived children–abnarchs–in its horrifying war-magic, and explores the relationship between one abnarch and her handler.

Things in 2017 I’m looking forward to include: Robert Bennett’s City of Miracles; I thought City of Stairs was one of the best fantasy novels I’d read in the past decade and am looking forward to reading City of Blades (I am behind on all my reading, I’m afraid!). Max Gladstone’s Six Feet Over–the Craft Sequence is another series I enjoy very much although, again, I’m a couple books behind. I’m looking forward to Sean Danker’s Free Space, the sequel to Admiral. And I’ll be watching Zoe Chant’s mailing list like a hawk for the sequel to Firefighter Griffin!


Thanks Yoon!

1 Comment

  • Pamela
    December 18, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    I loved Slow Bullets, and anything by Reynolds is top-notch sci-fi.

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