Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Uprooted is fantasy book about a girl called Agnieszka, who is chosen by the wizard known as The Dragon who protects the surrounding lands from a magical, corrupted wood. She has to go back to his tower home and act as his servant, but all sorts of amazing, enchanting, exciting things happen instead. Not only is this book cover great, but I loved the story itself too (it got a rare five star rating from me), and it is one I would highly recommend.
It is probably the most beautiful book I own, and because I have it in all its hardback glory, it's probably also the book which most stands out. It's also the only book I have displayed outwards on my bookshelf (I used to be against this kind of thing originally, and would scoff at people who did so because they were wasting precious shelf space, but since this book I've been converted).
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
I believe this book is classed as fantasy, even though no actual magic appears in it. It's about Kestrel, the daughter of a General in a huge and kind of bloodthirsty empire, and one day she buys a slave on a whim. Eventually she and her new slave, Arin, develop a romantic relationship, but, true to form, he has his own secrets, and then serious stuff goes down and it all spirals a little out of control. I was surprised by how much I liked this book, as I'd suspected I would end up just dismissing as another silly YA romance.
Even though this has made by Best Book Covers list, I don't actually own the physical copy of this book yet. I haven't read the rest of the trilogy yet, but I know they have covers just as lovely as this one, so they're pretty high on my book wish list, and I'm hoping to get my hands on their actual covers sometime soon.
Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve
That's what this book is; an Arthurian retelling, but through the eyes of Gwyna, a slave-girl taken in by Myrddin, magician to Arthur (aka Merlin!), and who sees Arthur's rise and fall and the secrets behind his success. It's a beautifully told story, and Gwyna is maybe one of my favourite characters ever, but all the characters in this story are incredible and memorable. There's nothing magic about this story, but the author (Philip Reeve - one of my favourites) explains how the modern tales of magic and enchantment, which are so integral to the figure of King Arthur, arose anyway. Simply put, it's a great book and I'd highly recommend it.
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
The Distant Hours is a mystery, and while the majority of the book wasn't amazing, I loved the reveal at the end so much that I am still impressed by how much it managed to surprise me. The book follows the stories of Edie Burchill, the protagonist, her mother, who was evacuated to Milderhurst Castle during WWII, and the three now elderly Blythe sisters (twins Percy and Saffie, and their mentally unstable younger sister Juniper) whose family has always lived in the castle.
There are some great characters and lovely description in this book, as well as the wonderfully creepy story of "the Mud Man". This book is packed with secrets and mystery, just like all her other books, but - like I said before - I think this one has the ending that stood out to me most - I just wasn't expecting it at all!
Mighty Fizz Chilla by Philip Ridley
It is actually telling the story of thirteen year old Milo Stick, sent by his despairing mother to spend a little time with old friend of the family, Cressida Bell. While there he meets Dee Dee Six, Spock-like but hilarious, and the intriguing Captain Jellicoe, and first hears of the mysterious Mighty Fizz Chilla. There are loads of different stories told by the different characters and woven together expertly, including the truth of what happened to Milo to make him so angry.
This book looks chunky, but it flies by. I think the first time I read it was on a school trip aged about 8 or 9, and I still love it now. It's got everything, the amazingly crazy characters you expect from Philip Ridley, the incredible illustrations you expect from Chris Riddell, and an exciting, twisting and turning, surprisingly touching story at its centre. I remember being spell-bound by all the different tales that come together and then twist off in different directions again, as well as the various mysteries and secrets which are gradually revealed. An amazing book with a fantastic cover.