best of 2020 (so far)

I’ve been in quarantine more than I’d like this year. Being trapped at home has pushed me to escape into other worlds, and many of the ones I’ve found have been utterly engrossing. Given the sheer amount of content out there, I usually find new things via word of mouth. Here’s what I’ve found and loved.

Tales From the Loop. I loved everything about this. Everything. The characters, the music, the directing, the writing. It left me in tears several times. While this is definitely sci-fi, its human touches will leave you bereft. I loved this. LOVED this.

Stray Souls, The Red King, and Love Advice From the Great Duke of Hell. I’ve devoured comics in all forms since I was eleven, and Webtoon is a gold mine of amazing stories. What do these three have in common? Great plots, great characters, killer art. The amount of talent these creators have is…staggering, and I look forward to every episode. It keeps me going.

THE FEVER KING and THE ELECTRIC HEIR, Victoria Lee. After reading the first few chapters of the graphic novel on Webtoon, I had to find out where the story went. Lee’s worldbuilding is staggering, and her characters will gut you. While the first book feels heavier on plot, THE ELECTRIC HEIR puts character dynamics front and center. It’s a story about what it is to be a survivor, and how difficult surviving truly is.

RUTHLESS GODS, Emily A. Duncan. The sequel to WICKED SAINTS is incredible, horrific, with deeper characterisation and a pulsating throb of dread throughout. As the mythology continues to unfold, it only makes me more curious. Brilliant dialog as always, with new characters that will make the hairs raise on the back of your neck. 

AGNES AT THE END OF THE WORLD, Kelly McWilliams. In this apocalyptic YA, a strange virus that turns living creatures into red crystal quite nearly ends the world. To save her brother, Agnes flees from the cult she was raised in to seek help in the outside world. I was absolutely fascinated by the virus, and a bit horrified. If you liked ANNIHILATION, you’ll dig this one.

THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE, V. E. Schwab. If you haven’t read this one yet, do it now. Addie is an incredible character, stubbornly choosing to live even as the centuries wear on her. The infuriating dynamic she shares with Luc, a primal god of darkness, is equally compelling. She seems utterly doomed until she meets Henry, a sad, sensitive bookseller who, unlike everyone before him, fails to forget her. To say anything further would spoil this one, and its unraveling tale is well worth your time.

FANGS, Sarah Anderson. At first take, I went “waitasec, is that the Odditorium? IT IS!” Seeing a local dive bar taken over by supernatural creatures was the hook for me, but its sweet, funny love story truly drew me in.

OLD GODS OF APPALACHIA has one of the most mesmerizing voices I’ve ever heard. Ghosts, witches, and haints dwell deep in an alternate Appalachia, where terrifying stags with luminescent antlers creep out to make terrible bargains with the locals. Do yourself a favor, give this one a listen. Start at the beginning–you’ll be glad you did.

THE MAGNUS ARCHIVES follows an archivist as he documents the various horrifying accounts of those desperate enough to seek an occultist’s expertise. I’m still working my way through season 1, but there are some stellar stories here. “The Piper,” “The Killing Floor,” and “A Father’s Love” were pure nightmare fuel of the best kind.

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