...The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta will blow your mind.
I know, I know. I'm like, so late to the game. I've read all of Melina's contemporary books and they're all so incredible, every single one. I was waiting to read Finnikin of the Rock, though. I was waiting because everyone told me that it was incredible, and so was Froi of the Exiles, and Quintana of Charyn, and even though those names stumbled around on my tongue, I trusted the people who told me I would be blown away and I wanted to love them and I wanted to time to read them and love them. And that meant waiting until grad school was (mostly) done.
But now I've read them, and I don't know what to say, except, READ THEM. I feel like Melina Marchetta has just shot me in the face with the full range of human emotions. I want to throw a temper tantrum because there isn't MORE.
I don't know why, but the books that hit me the hardest like this tend to be fantasy novels. I don't think it's the genre, per se. I think it's what the author manages to accomplish within the genre. A full world, brilliantly plotted and depicted. Characters--not just main characters but secondary characters and even tertiary characters--that I adore. Plotting that is complex and brilliant. And above all, an emotional arc that is so strong it demands to be felt deeply.
I live for these types of books.
And if you do too, go pick up Finnikin of the Rock. (And do yourself a favor and have Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn on hand. Ignore the questionable covers. If ever there were a time to place your trust in me, it's now, my friend. You can thank me later.)
Now excuse me while I go plot a way to convince Melina to write more fantasy.