5) Tori Amos: Piece by Piece (Tori Amos, Ann Powers). Didn't I say that I loved Tori Amos? This book shows a lot of Tori's insights and reveals a lot of the things that Toriphiles have been wondering about. With that said, it's a book that non-Tori fans might be able to appreciate only for its lyrical writing and for Tori's unique views (fans of The Da Vinci Code may like her treatise on Mary Magdalene here), but Tori's trademark oddness might not get across to those not accustomed to it. I, along with other Toriphiles, love that oddness, so this book is a real treasure and rare opportunity for us to share in everything that is real Tori.
4) Eldest (Christopher Paolini). The sequel to the immensely popular Eragon, Eldest manages to maintain that sense of exhilaration and excitement felt in the first book, with its tale of dragons and dragon-riders and lost legacies re-discovered. It's easy to sympathize with Eragon, though not necessarily with his world, which as far as fantasy worlds go isn't very well-detailed or involving. I hope that changes in the third, which I look forward to.
3) A Feast for Crows (George R.R. Martin). Just like Tori Amos in my list of favorite albums, my favorite author has to take only the third spot this year. His writing is still top-notch and better than any other fantasy author alive, but the absence of my favorite Song of Ice and Fire characters, Jon Snow and Daenerys, takes away a significant bit of delight. Still, I loved reading about Jaime and Arya and Cersei (not so much Sansa) again, and if anything, my excitement over the release of A Dance with Dragons has been multipled at least five-fold. Can't wait to get my hands on that.
I rather agonized over which of the Top 2 books to name number 1. I immensely loved both books and believe that both are among the best in their respective series (in the case of my #1, it's the best), of which they are both the penultimate installments. But in terms of sheer readability and emotional involvement, I finally decided that the less "high-fantasy" type had to take the top spot this time.
2) Knife of Dreams (Robert Jordan). Book 10 in the series, Crossroads of Twilight, is by general consensus the worst and most useless one in the series. So of course, Jordan had to make up for that with the 11th, right? In my opinion, he did. I still have no idea how he can finish the whole story in the next book short of making it at least 1,500 pages long, but more than enough of the big, heart-stopping events Jordan was once known a lot for were present in Knife of Dreams. A lot of loose ends were finally resolved, and Tarmon Gai'don is palpable. My favorite plot-lines here: Elayne's and Egwene's, with the former taking the top prize for "It's about freakin' time" (the second doesn't make the cut; it's moving along but far from being resolved). Actually, that or Mat's story, which progresses finely. Mr. Jordan: please finish this series before you write anything else. We've had too long a wait already. Hehe, talk about pressure.
1) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling). With a few expert strokes of her wand, J.K. Rowling managed to propel her series from children's book to epic fantasy. The book has lost none of its predecessors' readability or innocent wonder, but the story ripens beautifully (and I'm not just talking about the three leads' significant...maturity). Without giving any spoilers, I'm saying that you'd have to be a complete stiff not to be moved by the events in the last few chapters, or stirred by excitement over how potentially magnificent and huge in every sense of those words Book 7 could be. I believe it will be, if J.K. Rowling's great writing magic so far is any indication.