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  • Writer's pictureMegan Formanek

My Best Books of 2023

There are millions of books to read in the world and not enough time to read everything. With so much on offer, it can be difficult to find something you know you're going to love just by reading the blurb and staring at those pretty covers. I read almost every day. This year I've finished more than 70 books. Some I loved, some not so much but I bring you my top ten reads of 2023. But before we countdown there are some things you need to know:

  • I rarely read off-genre, except for recommendations from people who know me very well.

  • My preferred genre is Historical Fiction, specifically Viking/Dark Ages.

  • In 2023 I've been on a mission to discover more female writers and strong female MCs, so you might see this list skewed that way.

  • I enjoy action, adventure, amazing world-building, and a character-driven plot.

  • I don't like giving the blurbs or content of the books, just my thoughts, then I go off and explore the content before making my decision (and that's the way I'm presenting my list).

Let's get going!

10. Uhtred's Feast, Bernard Cornwell and Suzanne Pollack

Bernard Cornwell, Uhtred's Feast

At the tenth spot is a well-known author with a massive backlist. Known for his massive TV adaptation of The Last Kingdom, Bernard Cornwell rounds out the franchise with a book that is part cookbook part short stories. Fans of Uhtred will be able to recreate several Saxon recipes from the series. I've played around with quite a few and can report they work well and are pretty accurate.


9. House in the Cerulean Sea, T.J Klune

TJ Klune, The House in the Cerulean Sea

When this was recommended to me by a friend, I didn't know what to expect. I found it slow at first but found the characters unique and enthralling. It didn't take long for Klune's writing style to take hold and I dusted off the book quickly. I particularly loved the sense of environment and individual voice of each of the eclectic cast of characters.

For readers who love whimsy, MM romance subplots with positive LGBTIQ+ representation, unique character voices, and light fantasy.


8. The Witch's Heart, Genevieve Gornichec

The Witch's Heart, Genevieve Gornichec

Going into this book I was aware that it was pitched as a saga retelling, specifically telling Loki's side of the story through his wife Angrboda and the three children/monsters they produce. What I wasn't expecting, was how much I loved it. Now, there are a few provisos here; I feel like the author's writing style is much better/engaging in her second book (more on that later), and there were no distinct chapters. I found this difficult as a reader who sets my reading time by chapters. I know it seems silly but it made it harder to read for me.

This book is for someone who loves the Viking Age, sagas, and strong female leads with a positive LGBTIQ+ representation.


7. The Circle of Ceridwen, Octavia Randolph

 The Circle of Ceridwen, Octavia Randolph

Let's start this short review by saying this series has 10 books and is complete. That in itself is a massive bonus for readers wanting a series to sink their teeth into. The buy-in is a first installment that is large enough to do considerable damage if dropped on one's head, but the writing is great! Full of archaic words and spelling, epic description, and realistic daily life. Fans of fantasy look away, this feels like a real-world first-hand account of life in "England" during the Viking invasion.

If you're looking for a long adventure with a loveable MC who develops and grows, this is it. Later in the saga, the MC changes to different characters.


6. No One's Viking, Megan Formanek

No One's Viking, Megan Formanek

Released this year (2023), the second installment of the Viking Trading Lands series is full of fast-paced adventure, building on characters, relationships, and worlds built during the first novel. If you're looking for a read demonstrating female strength in all it's forms during the Viking Age, and want to learn more about the Viking Rus, this has it all.


5. The Widow Queen, Elizbieta Cherezinska

The Widow Queen, Elizbieta Cherezinska

When I picked this up from my local library I was intimidated. My copy was 512 pages of bible thin paper, with tiny tiny writing. It took me almost two weeks to get through (which is quite slow for me) but it was in no way boring, I could barely put it down. It's lovingly crafted through painstaking research, rich with detail, overflowing with unique characters who all have a strong voice and I particularly loved that the author did not change the Polish names to make them easier for the English speaking reader. I'm all about authenticity.

Read this if you want something really different, dark, and based on scheming families with evocative characters in the Viking world.


4. Flame Bearer, Lord of the North (Saxon Stories Series), Bernard Cornwell

Flame Bearer, Lord of the North (Saxon Stories Series), Bernard Cornwell
Flame Bearer, Lord of the North (Saxon Stories Series), Bernard Cornwell

I'm lumping both of these together because they're part of the same series, The Saxon Stories, which has also been turned into both a TV show (The Last Kingdom) and a movie (Seven Kings Must Die). Now, I will say I didn't love the entire series. There are 13 (14 if you include the cookbook) books and you just cannot love them all, but these two were my favourite in the series and I believe, if you love the Viking Age and want to read about it from the Saxon point of view, this is well worth the investment. I liked these more than the others because of the believable emotion, character development, and environment that may have been absent in other installments.

Lovers of adventure, male MC, event driven plots, and lots of gore will enjoy these books.


3. Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus

Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus

I read this on my holiday to Bali. From the cover I was expecting a fun, potentially romantic quick read that would be enjoyable and light. Boy! Was I wrong. Not even a quater of the way in, I'd already cried three times and I was questioning my holiday read choice, not because it was bad (it was brilliant) but because it wasn't what I expected.

But I like being surprised.

This book will grab you by the collar, look you dead in the eyes and tell you, "Oh, Honey, just you wait!"

Read this if you want an emotional journey, amazing writing, an all too-real experience of the life of women in earlier times.

P.S yes, I've seen the TV show. In my opinion it doesn't capture the essence of the book.


2. The Weaver and the Witch Queen, Genevieve Gornichec

 The Weaver and the Witch Queen, Genevieve Gornichec

As I alluded to earlier, this Gornichec's writing style in this book is supurb. It's verging on modern, but entirely believable, whilst still making you feel as if you're walking around a Viking Age settlement with all the fears, hopes, and thoughts that come along with that. I'm also happy to report that this book has chapters (cheers for all those countdown focused readers). It's another saga adaption, this time about the oaths sworn by three women to always help eachother.

Read this if you want to be emmersed in a world of wonder and explore Viking Age magic.


1. Viking Women: Life and Lore, Lisa Hannett

Viking Women: Life and Lore, Lisa Hannett

Want to read something with a unique approach to Viking Age sagas and women's place within it? This is it! Part non-fiction research presentation and part short story saga adaptions, this book is a revelation. Hannett's writing style is evocative, taking the reader into an all-consuming world that feels so real.

Readers looking for evidence based literature with a novel presentation will love this.


What's going on your TBR? Drop a comment below.

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