The OF Blog: Best of 2013: Debut Novels

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Best of 2013: Debut Novels

2013 Debut Novels Read

Helene Welker, The Golem and the Jinni
Sofia Samatar, A Stranger in Olondria
NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names
Matt Bell, In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods
J.M. Sidorova, The Age of Ice
Therese Anne Fowler, Z:  A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice
Bill Cheng, Southern Cross the Dog

It was a decent year for debut novels read.  Some writers who had previously published collections or novella-length work saw their first true novels released, while others were completely new to US print publishing.  The stories varied greatly in theme and narrative approach, from personal, autobiographical accounts to reconstructed histories of mythologized historical (and authorial!) characters to tales that contained at least a smidgen of the fantastical.  With one exception (already covered in another post), these books provided at least mild entertainment and some engaged me from start to finish.  But there shall only be three on this shortlist, so here they are (with a note that I was tempted to list a tie for third, as a very solid tale set in a non-quasi-European world did appeal to me):

3.  Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni

Wecker's book has the feel of a historical novel set in 1890s New York, the mythological typology of the better fantasies of that time, and a richness in prose and character development that make it a touching read.  Certainly a work that I'll be wanting to revisit in the years to come.

2.  Matt Bell, In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods

See the linked review for details as to why this was one of my favorite 2013 debut novels.

1.  NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names 

Not too often does a debut novelist see her work end up as a Booker Prize finalist.  The story moved me, short and simple, and that is why it is my favorite 2013 debut.  See linked review for more.

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