BooktubeSFF Awards: Shortlist Opinions

The shortlist for an SFF award has been announced, and as usual, here’s my opinions! If you want to see the announcement, it’s here.

I’ll probably do the same for the Hugos later in the year if I have time; what doesn’t work so much for me about the BooktubeSFF is that there’s not a true “short story” category. I just want more occasions to discover interesting short fiction, really.

As far as this year’s line-up goes, I really like it! That was not the case for last year’s at all, but this time, there are several books I read and loved on here.


Technically, this is the “short work” category; in practice, I don’t think anything shorter than a novella ever made it to the shortlist in recent years.

The Test by Sylvain Neuvel – no interest
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone – read
To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers – no interest

36516585I find it really interesting how – maybe for the first time? – there are no Tor.com novellas in this line-up. Kind of sad, because I do really think The Haunting of Tram Car 015 deserved to be on here, but understandable, as rules say books after the third of a series can’t be nominated – and two of 2019’s best Tor.com novellas were fourth installments (In An Absent Dream, The Ascent to Godhood).

As I have no interest in The Test (just really doesn’t seem my kind of thing) or To Be Taught, If Fortunate (I’ve systematically disliked everything I’ve tried from this author), I don’t think it’s difficult to imagine what book I’m rooting for. It was one of my favorite books of last year, after all, and I really do think it’s a masterpiece.

Middle Grade

34966859This is not an age range I often reach for, and my attempts usually end up in DNFs – but this time there’s an exception, as one of these happens to be one of my favorite books of 2019.

Dead Voices by Katherine Arden – no interest
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee – read
Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez – no interest
Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab – no interest

Dragon Pearl was the only middle grade I read in 2019, so I don’t have that many opinions, nor do I know the age range enough to say anything about how it fits in a wider context.

Young Adult

This is a category I’m finding myself less and less interested in as time goes on, so this time I only read one of these (2016 me would be so disappointed) – but, surprisingly, here’s finally a book on my TBR.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi – to read
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson – read
Starsight by Brandon Sanderson – no interest
The Wicked King by Holly Black – no interest

I still have to read The Gilded Wolves, and I almost can’t believe that. Roshani Chokshi wrote two of my favorite YA books, but I think the amount of hype + discourse kind of put me off this one? I’ve absorbed so much of what happened, spoilers included, through book twitter. Still, I do want to get to it – I’m not sure that will happen in time for the awards but eventually it will.

I’m glad to see Sorcery of Thorns on here, though I’m not completely sure it’s award material. On one hand, it’s exactly what I think YA fantasy should be like – fun, aimed at teens, not afraid to be trope-y but without finding excuses to be bad – but apart from the characters (Silas, mostly), I didn’t find it that memorable? It might be that I’m now not the target audience at all and starting to feel it, though.

I haven’t read The Wicked King (sequel to a book I didn’t care about) or Starsight (it’s Brandon Sanderson) and don’t mean to.

Debut Novel

I often don’t even pay attention to what’s a debut in adult SFF – more often than not I already know the author from short fiction (as it was the case for two of the authors here).

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – to read
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine – read
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – read

I mean, I think that if you’ve been here at all it’s pretty obvious what my choice would be, as one of these is literally my favorite book of 2019! That’s A Memory Called Empire. As far as The Ten Thousand Doors of January goes, I wasn’t impressed, but I didn’t hate it either.


I’m mostly just sad Middlegame didn’t make it. Apart from that, this looks really interesting!

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – read
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon – to read
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern – to read

I don’t know if I’ll be able to get to the two novels I didn’t read in this line-up in time for the awards – they’re so long – but I really want to read both. Gods of Jade and Shadow, the only one I read, is award-worthy, that I can say.

Sci-fi Novel

I mean, I knew Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear would have never made it here, but… I’m still kind of sad.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – to read
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine – read
Recursion by Blake Crouch – no interest

I don’t have much to say this time, as two of these are duplicates and I have no interest in the third. (If there’s one thing I don’t love about the BooktubeSFF awards as a whole, that has been true through the years, is that books are usually repeated across categories and that’s boring.) Still, I hope A Memory Called Empire makes it at least in one of the two categories!

Have you read any of these? Who would you like to see win?

14 thoughts on “BooktubeSFF Awards: Shortlist Opinions

  1. I’ve read Priory of the Orange Tree and my review when I get around to writing it) will most likely be an unpopular one. For me it’s one of the worst, most uninteresting fantasy novels I’ve ever picked up. A shame as I had hoped to love it given the fact it seems to be everyone’s favourite.


  2. I loved seeing your opinions on the shortlist! 😊 I loved Sorcery of Thorns, so I’m rooting for it to win! But I also can’t believe I haven’t read The Gilded Wolves … the book has been sitting on my shelf since last year and I definitely need to pick it up sometime soon 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s great that both in the sci-fi and in the debut category, two out of three of the options are f/f! A few years ago, I would have never thought this was possible, it was hard enough to find sapphic SFF at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s sort of a weird list, at least the first three categories are, to me. I’m wondering how many people actually submitted nominations? But I agree, it would have been nice to see Middlegame on the list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I do kind of get the impression that the people involved in making this aren’t reading a lot of short fiction and middle grade, and it would make sense that a lot of their audience doesn’t either. Especially with the middle grade category, three out of four of those authors are mostly famous for their adult books…


  4. I have mixed feelings about the shortlist this year! I love the Fantasy and Science Fiction shortlists (I LOVED Gods of Jade and Shadow and I’m thrilled Silvia Moreno-Garcia is finally being recognised as a brilliant author) and I’m currently reading The Priory of the Orange Tree and enjoying it – plus it has an f/f romance, which is what I want in my fantasy. I should have guessed The Starless Sea would be on there. I’m currently in line to borrow it from the library so I’m glad I don’t have to spend money on it simply because I didn’t really love The Night Circus. I didn’t dislike it, but it felt very style over substance to me.

    A Memory Called Empire and Gideon the Ninth I really want to read, and while Recursion isn’t something I’d’ve reached for on my own I am going to give it a try because it’s another one I can get from my library.

    I’m a little disappointed by the repeats too, but I adored The Ten Thousand Doors of January, so I’m pleased that one’s there, and I’m also a tad disappointed by YA and Middle Grade? I loved The Wicked King (I’m trash for that whole trilogy, I found it so fun) and I’d like to try Sorcery of Thorns, but I ended up not liking The Gilded Wolves and I tried reading the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s series last year and I thought his writing was really juvenile. He’s clearly a very popular author, but his YA read more Middle Grade to me.

    I’m definitely interested in reading Dragon Pearl – I need to try Yoon Ha Lee’s work – and I wouldn’t mind trying Katherine Arden’s Middle Grade just because her writing is beautiful. I think I’m always going to be slight disappointed by the Middle Grade shortlist, though, just because none of the British Middle Grade SFF I nominate ever ends up on there – and I can completely understand why! Ultimately the majority of people nominating will be based in North America and reading books from North America, but if there’s one thing I can say for UK publishing it’s that we publish a lot of really lovely SFF Middle Grade and I think it’s a shame it’s not better known outside of the UK.

    I hope you enjoy all the shortlisted books you’re planning to read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you end up liking them!

      Oh, definitely, Erin Morgenstern’s books are mostly about the… style? the experience? than the actual content. I like that, I think it’s a really unique set of priorities to have, but it’s true that what I’ve seen of her characters was forgettable for the most part.

      I think one of the issues here – both in the YA and middle grade categories – is that a lot of the audience of those who host the Booktube SFF awards are primarily upper-YA-and-adult-SFF readers, which is why a lot of the middle grade (and at least one the YA) nominations are of authors that are mostly known for something else. For example, I would have never picked up Dragon Pearl if it hadn’t been Yoon Ha Lee. These books just have a lot more visibility in these circles because of the authors’ other adult works. And yes, US media basically dominates most of the worldwide book market, which is a shame.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Was a Memory Called Empire good? I’ve seen it on a few blogs and am curious?? I haven’t read any of these except the Wicked King but I’ve heard great things about all of them! Lovely post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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