The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Both a tale of adventure and a meditation on world politics, Ken Liu's debut novel The Grace of Kings not only received incredible praise from bloggers and critics alike, but it's also created a new term: Silkpunk. Liu, who invented the word for his novel, uses it to "straddle the boundary between science-fiction and fantasy." Grounded in epic poems of Chinese folklore (with a little bit of Homer, as well), Liu is playing the long game in establishing the groundwork for a grand epic starting with a rebellion that turns into a political tug-of-war for control, deeply entrenched in ideology. It's ambitious, smart, and, above all, beautiful in how it is presented. This is to be expected from a writer whose short story "The Paper Menagerie" become the first piece of fiction, at any length, to sweep the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. Quite possibly the best first book in a series this year, The Grace of Kings will undoubtedly be compared to A Song of Ice and Fire in its vast and rich storytelling. It's an ambitious start to a new series worth beginning.