The 2012 Barney Awards

Update: 11/18/13 -Series consolidated into one post.

It wouldn’t be a fantasy review blog without year end awards!  God knows we don’t want to disappoint, but with two reviewers, how do we do a ‘best of’ list?  We are rarely reading the same things.  So we will do this our own way.

Starting Christmas Day, at a one-a-day pace, we will present the first annual Barneys.  Please be prepared for complete irrelevancy, as we scan our pre-blog reads and highlight a few books that haven’t been reviewed  here before.

Day 1- The Barney for best mix of a mythological creature and a library goes to..


….The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente!

One of the best YA books I have ever read, and it should be enjoyable for any adult lover of fantasy.  A clever take on the trip through fairyland, this is a YA book that made me break out the dictionary at one point.

At one time Valente could be considered underrated, but I doubt there are many who are not aware of her wonderful works at this point, the sequel even got a short article in Time Magazine.  Hopefully I will read and review the sequel very soon.

Day 2- The Barney for best jolly caper involving an assassin and a cop goes to…


Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker

This is a really fun read, set in an atmospheric wintry steam-punk setting. Lots of humour, lots of action, no gore or graphic anything, some splendidly baroque characters and a likeable heroine (who’s the cop, actually – sort of). The assassin is surprisingly likeable, too. And it’s free, as the first of a series.

Day 3- The Barney for best cameo of Doc Holiday in a fantasy novel goes to….. 
‘Territory’ by Emma Bull!
A really excellent historical fantasy novel that gives a new twist to the story of Tombstone, Arizona.  With a little magic in the background, Wyatt Earp and Johnny Ringo work to extend their influence and power over the town.  Throw in a couple of protagonists to root for, including a young reporter who secretly writes trashy serials, and you get a strange but fairly unique read.

Day 4- The Barney for best use of a magically evil shrub goes to…

Champion of the Rose by Andrea K Höst

Strictly speaking, it’s not really evil so much as pursuing its own agenda, and if you’ve never encountered a rose bush with its own agenda before, it’s very creepy. It gives the main character some neat abilities, but at a terrible price. This is an original, intelligent and quirky story, with characters who act in sensible, believable ways. And completely gender neutral, which is a rare trick to pull off. A terrific pacy read, which I highly recommend.

Day 5- The Barney for best monster made entirely from trash goes to……

‘A Madness of Angels’ by Kate Griffin.

With a lot of similarities to Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere,” this is one of the more enjoyable urban fantasy novels I have read.  I felt the book is worth reading for the prologue alone, which even alone would have been short story.  Mathew Swift and the Angels from the title have a relationship completely unique in my reading.  While the first in a series, the book can be read as a stand alone.

Day 6- The Barney for best inter-species sex goes to…

Babylon Steel by Gaie Sebold

This is a riot of sci-fi/fantasy fusion, with portals, gods and demi-gods, fey folk, were-beasts, lizardy things, caterpillary things, you name it. Saddest were the fades, who didn’t quite make it through a portal. And there’s sex. Lots of sex, everyone having sex with everyone else, furred, scaled or feathered, male, female or hermaphrodite. So if you think mildly graphic lizard/human sex would turn your stomach, this is not the book for you. Beneath the inventive surface is an excellent multi-layered story with a feisty female protagonist, and a nicely humorous writing style.

Day 7- The Barney for Best Scrabble Reference goes to…..

Gods Behaving Badly’ by Marie Phillips.

Not my usual read, an urban fantasy with romantic elements.  But show me Greek gods in the modern world and I am intrigued.  A tight, mostly light hearted story in which Gods mess with mortals, mess with each other, and almost kill the world.  Geeky, mortal love may be needed to save the day.  Good stuff all around.

Day 8- The Barney for best all-the-things-I-hate goes to…
Thorn by Intisar Khanani

So this is YA, it’s a romance, it’s about a princess who doesn’t quite fit in, it’s a fairy tale, it’s written in first person present tense and it features a talking horse… it only lacked zombies to hit all my not-for-me buttons. And guess what, it turned out to be one of my most enjoyable reads of the year. Some great characters, who behave believably and a brilliantly unexpected and intelligent ending, and it addresses some profound questions, too. If all YA fantasy is like this, I need to read more of it.

Day 9-  The Barney for best appearance by a chaos demon goes too…

‘Eisenhorn’ by Dan Abnett.

I am not above reading the occasional tie-in or trash fiction novel.  Once in a while an author really stands out from the pack though.  Dan Abnett writes real smart sci-fi under the Warhammer 40k name.  The ‘Eisenhorn’ omnibus and its follow up, ‘Ravenor’ are the best books I have read in the world of tie-ins by quite a long ways.  Expect a review of the follow up to these two series in the near future, I always keep an eye on Abnett’s growing library.

Day 10-  The Barney for most amusingly self-centred characters goes to…


The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

If you like your fantasy characters to be the most devious, crafty, selfish, scheming bastards imaginable, this is the book for you. Double-dealing and treachery abound, but while the humans are focused on their political games, the dragons have plans of their own… A breathtaking pace, great fun and totally awesome dragons. Just don’t get too attached to any of the characters, the survival rate is very low.

Day 11-  The Barney for Best Book That Shows How Much Footnotes Suck on an Old Kindle goes too…

‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’ by Sussanna Clarke!!

Really not much I can say, it is one the the best books I have ever read.  But if you pick it up on the Kindle, beware!!  This book is loaded with footnotes, and going back and forth using an arrow pad sucks, sucks, sucks.