Top Ten Tuesday sponsored by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday covers the most unique books I’ve ever read. Or, if we are choosing to be nit-picky with grammar, Top Ten Unique Books I have read, as “unique” cannot be modified by words like “most” and “very” since it already implies something that is singular, standing alone in it’s style or category.
Grammar aside, this list seems like a tall order and one that can be broadly interpreted. Does that mean top ten strangest books that I’ve read? Did I have to like the book? Is unique a good or a bad thing? I think I finally decided to boil it down to most unique books in terms of concept and/or characterization in books I’ve read in the past 3-4 years. So here we go.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
At some point readers are going to get sick of me beginning every list with this book. But it was just truly that incredible. As I’ve iterated before, The Night Circus is a unique, masterful stroke of mood and plot. Morgenstern immediately sets the tone using second person narrative, which is interwoven throughout the third person narration from which we get at least fifteen different character POVs through the rest of the book. Besides the unorthodox writing style, Morgenstern’s world is dripping with magic and mystery, at once a fantasy novel blending with magical realism blending with historical fiction. It is her blending of genres, in a way that you cannot pin down which category the book fits into, that is unique.
The Native Star by MK Hobson
Genre: Historical fantasy, steampunk
This book is pure, unadulterated fun. Emily and Stanton are thoroughly likable and real, but it is the setting of The Native Star that had me giddy with excitement. The Native Star is like Old Western America meets steam punk meats magicians meets Indian folk lore meets zombies meets earth goddesses meets demon possession. It is a wild ride of one genre bending element after another. I mean, we even get a feminist Warlock, which is wonderfully, hysterically delightful. But the fun often takes an unexpectedly dark turn as well, which keeps the stakes and the characters real.
Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox
This book was an unexpected gem. It starts out part alternate history, part coming of age tale, and transforms into part fairy-tale, part mystery, part horror story. It is an intricate blend of genres, with compelling, unique characters and a story that keeps you guessing until the end.
The Archived by VE Schwab
The Archived is by VE Schwab, so of course it’s amazing. Once again, this book is genre defying, a moving family drama and historical fiction, with an overlay of fantasy elements. The concept of the Library of Souls was absolutely fascinating. I mean, a secret dimension where souls are stored after death, and sometimes they wake an try to escape into the real world?! Sign me up!
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick
Genre: Fantasy, magical realism
Marcus Sedgwick is known for his genre defying YA novels in recent years. This book was no exception. A sort of tribute to Cloud Atlas, Midwinterblood follows the stories of seven lives, and two souls inextricably intertwined through the ages. Their stories converge again and again in a cycle that doesn’t seem to break, back to the primal heartbeat of ancient, pagan times. I found the idea fascinating, but the ending Sedgwick seemed to build toward was . . . rather flat. For that reason, I felt disappointed, though I had enjoyed the book up to that point.
Mistwalker by Saundra Mitchell
Genre: Fantasy, magical realism
I was not expecting this book. Mitchell weaves a compelling ghost story and coming of age tale as a teenage girl wrestles with her brother’s death, her town’s blood feuds, and the inexplicable compulsion she feels to approach the mysterious lighthouse on the point. The story is set in modern day, but it feels much older–the way of life of the townspeople stuck in the past, forever frozen in time.
Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow
Sorrow’s Knot read like Native American folklore, and the magic system developed with stories as power was certainly unique. Bow did an excellent job of building mood as well, which, I’m sure readers are coming to notice, is extremely important to me.
The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
The Queen of Attolia is one of the best books I have ever read. It is rife with complex political maneuvering, and, most excitingly of all, fashions one of the most fascinating romances I have ever encountered, through truly the most unlikely pair. Eugenides is easily one of my favorite characters of all time, and is easily one of the most complex I have ever encountered in YA fantasy.
Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson
What to say about this book. It was everywhere. It starts out as a psychological thriller and suddenly switches genres into more sci-fi. It was a bit ridiculous, but I loved every second of it and I found the author’s exploration of mental health to be well done and fascinating.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
While not my favorite book and containing a number of inconsistencies, Scythe certainly had a unique premise. The world Shusterman builds is more utopia than dystopia, but he uses it to just as poignantly explore what it means to be human. Shusterman builds a world that has conquered death, where sickness and pain are a thing of the past, and in order to control world population, Scythes act as the harbingers of death, choosing who to kill. While I found elements of the world building to be difficult to swallow, it was the world building that kept me reading until the end, because I wanted to see if Shusterman could pull it off.