top of page
  • Writer's picturePhil Parker

Recommendations for Santa sack 5

Looking for a book for someone special this Christmas? Not sure what to get them? We've asked some of our Speculative Faction friends to make some suggestions, hopefully they will present you with some great ideas! Why not check out their catalogue too? Here is the final collection in this series.

(There are links in the title to take you to Amazon, if that helps.)

Recommendations from Patrick Samphire

Patrick Samphire decided that he was going to be a writer when his English teacher said he could skip lessons to work on a book. In the intervening years, he has avoided many other responsibilities in order to write. He has published about twenty short stories in various magazines and anthologies, as well as two middle grade novels. His first fantasy novel is SHADOW OF A DEAD GOD, which is out now. When he’s not writing, he designs websites and book covers.





Blade’s Edge by Virginia McClain

This is a fascinating Japanese-inspired fantasy novel. Set in a world where girls are forbidden from having elemental powers, it follows two girls, Mishi and Taka, whose possession of such powers puts their existence in peril. There are horrifying secrets, plots, and peril in the story, as there are in any good epic fantasy. McClain is a highly compelling writer, and the world she describes is rich, believable, and well-researched.

A Wind from the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree

I don’t read a great deal of historical fantasy, but I’m very glad I picked this one up. Set in the time of the first crusade, it follows three characters, a Syrian boy, thrown forward in time almost 500 years and desperate to get back, a Turkish girl determined to get revenge against a mysterious Christian order who murdered her father, and a Frankish count leading one of the crusading armies. Despite it being a historical fantasy, the closest comparison I could come up with is George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, in terms of the mix of personal stories with politics, betrayal, and war. I don’t know enough about the period to say how much is historical and how much is fantasy, but it certainly felt authentic.

The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I doubt I’ll be the only person recommending this science fiction thriller by one of the UK’s most versatile and interesting SFF authors. Mixing conspiracy theory, spy thriller, and speculative evolution, The Doors of Eden is another imaginative triumph that moves along at a brisk pace. Branching universes, a non-linear climax, and well-rounded characters kept the story moving and gripping. If you’ve read Tchaikovsky’s science fiction before, you’ll know what to expect. If you haven’t, this is an excellent place to start.

Recommendations from Virginia McClain

Virginia McClain writes epic and urban fantasy novels featuring badass women. Not just sword-wielding, magic-flinging, ass kickers (although, yes, them too) but also healers, political leaders, caregivers, and more. She writes epic fantasy inspired by feudal Japan, and humorous urban fantasy inspired by the unanswered mysteries of science.





Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Epic fantasy at its finest. Expansive world building, intriguing characters, and a story that will make you desperate for the next installment.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Lesbian space necromancers. Do you need to know anything more? Fine. Murder mystery, haunted house, and slow burn romance between brawny warrior and brilliant mage is somehow also all in this book.

The Bone Ships by RJ Barker

Take Horatio Hornblower, drop him into a world far harsher than England in the Napoleonic wars, throw in some giant sea dragons, a fascinating matriarchy, and a captain to rival Sir Edward Pellew and you’ll have just the barest inkling of what The Bone Ships is all about. Only, it’s better than all that.

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater

I laughed. I cried. I cheered. I’m not entirely certain what I was expecting when I picked up Half a Soul back in August, but I don’t think I was expecting it to turn into one of my all time favorite reads of the year. Highly recommended if you need a comforting read (and in 2020 who doesn’t?). The characters are delightful and the banter as witty as you could want.

Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher

T. Kingfisher has created one of my all-time favorite fantasy worlds with this series (a duology with a few barely connected standalones), and I am honestly mad at the world for not having put these books in front of me sooner. There are troubled Paladins, there are talking badgers, there’s a stone cold killer with an attitude, and there is an entire religious sect dedicated to giving solid legal advice.

Blood of Heirs by Alicia Wanstall Burke

This brilliant SPFBO5 finalist made me like horror, and I hate horror. Alternating POVs take us through gripping plots on opposite sides of a beautifully crafted, darkly magical world. And, as a bonus, there is one very stabby scene that actually had me jumping out of my chair to cheer for a minute. You won’t want to miss this one.

Recommendations from Jamie Richardson

Jamie Richardson is a psychiatrist from Leeds who has been writing in his spare time since he was a teenager. A fan of fantasy and dystopian fiction, his work tends towards exploring the darker side of the human condition. His debut novel Free City is set in a world where automation is on the rise, poverty is rife and there is a killer on the loose. When he is not working or writing, he enjoys travelling with his wife, both at home and abroad, and with a daft dog in the house, they are always kept on their toes.

Blog/Self-Indulgent Twaddle;




The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua

Yes it is a graphic novel. Yes it is heavy on the maths and computer science (and footnotes). But it is also extremely funny, entertaining, enlightening and informative. Telling both the real and imagined lives of the founders of computer science with a heavy steampunk vibe, Padua manages to weave what could be a rather dry story into an intriguing book which I read from cover to cover in just two sittings. If you loves maths and computers this is the book for you. If you hate maths and computers, this is still the book for you.

Fen by Daisy Johnson

Have you ever considered your house might be in love with you? No, me neither, but Johnson clearly has. Her short story collection is bizarre and magical and gripping. Exploring some of the exciting milestones of people’s lives through a prism of darkness and magic, the characters are instantly relatable, even when the situations are far from it. If you are new to short story collects or a seasoned pro, Fen is a lovely little book of weirdness to get your teeth into.

Notes from Small Planets by Nate Crowley

To complete my not-a-typical-novel trio, I offer you a travel guide. But not just any travel guide, a travel guide to those speculative worlds which will be at once familiar and exotic. In short, Notes from small planets is brilliant. Coming from an obvious love for speculative fiction, Crowley takes a reverent jab at the tropes and fictional worlds we all hold dear. The attention to detail and research which must have gone into this book is phenomenal, which just adds to the joy as you skip from world to world as you might country to country here on Earth. This is the book I wish I had written, and should certainly have a place under the Christmas tree this year for you, with additional copies for every single member of the family and all of your friends to boot.

Recommendations from Jacob Sannox

Jacob Sannox is a 36 year old writer from the sunny climes of Bedfordshire, England. He is the author of a dark epic fantasy series, The Dark Oak Chronicles. Book one, Dark Oak, is currently available and book two, Age of the Dryad, will be released shortly. He has also released The Ravenmaster’s Revenge and Agravain’s Escape, both part of his Arthurian fantasy series, The Return of King Arthur. Follow the legendary king and his knights from the 5th century into the 21st century. You can find out more at

Instagram: @jacobsannoxwriter

Twitter: @jacobsannox


Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike

I fell into this book and felt instantly content on arrival. Although Orconomics is a satire and highly amusing, it is moving too, with a sense of jeopardy. Very cleverly written, in a world combining D&D with economic theory. I fell in love with the adventuring party and the world they explore. The second book, Son of a Liche, is also a must read!

Paternus: Rise of Gods by Dyrk Ashton

Man, this book grips you by the throat and doesn’t let go, hauling you spluttering through a version of our own world, populated by every god you’ve ever heard of and plenty that you haven’t. Meticulously researched and cannily put together, Rise of Gods will make you laugh, cry and stare into the void, wishing you had written it yourself. I’m on book three of the trilogy now. Keep reading.

Never Die by Rob J. Hayes

Never Die is an Eastern-inspired fantasy novel with a fascinating premise; an 8 year old given a mission by the god of death puts together a band of heroes to achieve his goal, but to serve him, first they must die. You meet them one by one as you progress through the book. Their individual stories are compelling and the relationships between them are convincing. Never Die felt like a legend passed down through the centuries. I was enthralled from beginning to end.

Many thanks to Patrick, Virgina, Jamie and Jacob for their recommendations. Hopefully they (and the others in previous collections) have introduced you to some great books, ones you may not have known about. I'd also recommend checking out the books of these good folk because they are all awesome writers!

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page