I've read my fair share of indie books, and let me tell you. All of them were good, but some were so AMAZING!!! 🤩 Like honestly, some of them likely could have been published by one of the Big 5; they're just that good!
In celebration of Indie Author Day, I'm going to be tier ranking all the indie books I've read (at least, those I've read more recently).
**NOTE: I am NOT saying that any books are "bad." This tier ranking will be honest, but I truly did like all of them, even if I didn't *absolutely love* them. No offense is intended; this is simply meant to be a fun ranking of a ton of some great indie books.
And now, without futher ado, the books!
Recent Indie Reads
**Organized by series and aesthetics, not ranking
Nokturn Rising Series ~ M.C. Clay
The Wakefield Chronicles ~ M.G. Hernandez
The Coseema Saga ~ Bridgette Dutta Portman
Tier 1: God Tier
Books on this tier I've absolutely loved and are some of my top favorites. While they may not be 100% perfect, I love them far too much to view them as anything less.
I. Cinders of Glass ~ Celeste Baxendell
Can we just talk about this masterpiece of a fairy tale retelling??? You may or may not know this about me, but I am a major sucker for retellings — any retelling! I'm also a sucker for Disney movies, and I've begrudgingly accepted that I do like a good romance. Put together a retelling combo of the Little Match Girl (which you should read if you haven't!) and Cinderella. Add in a little bit of mystery. Throw in a good helping of a swoonworthy romance, and BAM! You have me sold!
This amazing book checked all the boxes for me, and that's not even the tip of the iceberg. I love so much about this; I can't even list everything. COG is simply a book I see myself turning to again and again. It's simply such a fun and feel–good read.
II. The Night Orchid ~ M.G. Hernandez
TNO is nothing short of a YA romantic suspense MASTERPIECE! It may have ranked second on Tier 1, but that don't let that fool you! This book is just soooooo good, and it very nearly takes first prize. (Like seriously, it's only maybe half a point lower than COG.) However, I am a sucker for romantic fairy tale retellings, so even though TNO is pretty romantic, it's just not a fairy tale retelling.
I simply LOVED how everything wove together to create this stunning (upper) YA mystery. It just works so well. While TNO is not without flaw, reading this was just such a fun experience that I absolutely refuse to let a couple minor grammatical errors take away from everything else TNO is. It's simply a top tier read and an easy rec for me!
III. Followers of the Owl ~ M.G. Hernandez
Now, while I absolutely loved FOWL, I found TNO to be just a bit better. Nonetheless, FOWL was such a solid follow up. We got new MCs and a new mystery, while also including Julian and Jo from the first book. Everything that TNO had, FOWL has too. However, there is a different depth to it that TNO lacks (which is evident when you read it); FOWL simply tackles some other tough topics (in a frankly AMAZING way) that TNO doesn't.
However, I can't rank FOWL above TNO because I just love Julian and Jo far too much. They are my perfectly imperfect OTP — or at least, one of them. (Because a book nerd can never pick just one, lol!) Nonetheless, FOWL was just sooo good, that it simply must stay on Tier 1 (despite the internal debate to move it down to Tier 2, but you know which side won out 😉).
Tier 2: Mary Poppins
Just like Mary Poppins, books on this tier are practically perfect in every way. Drawing the distinction between this tier and Tier 1 is tricky, but the biggest difference is how I feel about them. After time has passed, I still consistently love Tier 1 books just as (or almost as) much as when I finished them. Tier 2 books are still amazing, but my feelings for them are slightly less than coming off of a book finish high — you know what I mean. :)
I. 100 Days of Sunlight ~ Abbie Emmons
See, this is hard because I loved 100 Days so much. The characters and the romance were utterly adorable, and the audiobook (narrated by Emmons herself!) was spectacular. However, I think that while I still love 100 Days now, my love for it is a little less in a way than it was coming off that inevitable book high. That's not to say that I don't love 100 Days anymore because I still do, but it just hasn't stuck with me as much as, say, COG has. I feel that this is partially due to that 100 Days is a romance. Any of my Tier 1 books are romances, but they're not just a romance. They have some mystery and a level of depth that 100 Days simply . . . lacks. Regardless, 100 Days is still an incredible, feel–good romance that will definitely allow you to escape your life for a few hours.
» Read my 5 star mini review (Full RTC)
II. Resistance ~ C.E. Ord
Resistance is just amazing, especially for a debut novel. I really enjoyed the elements of mystery and good vs. evil. I'm not going to lie and say that Resistance is without error because it's simply not. However, I don't really care. I think everything worked well and to the benefit of the overall plot.
Nonetheless, you may notice that this is the first 4.5 star review to make my list, and you would be right. I don't think I can really explain why this is the case, except that I rounded up to 5 stars on Goodreads. Regardless, I absolutely loved Resistance, and I truly can't wait to read its sequel (which I've unfortunately have been sitting on for months 😭)!
Tier 3: Solid Reads
Maybe this is self–explanatory, but books on this tier are solid reads. They are easily books that I will pick up again and again. They have their flaws, but while they are not "perfect" (or even"practically perfect"), they are still highly enjoyable.
I. The Eye of the Storm ~ James R. Hughes
As Hughes' debut novel, TEOTS was honestly very well done. Having read this roughly six months ago, I can barely remember any of the problems I had. Honestly, I feel like the only thing I had against it was the marketing of it. The plot was there; the character development was there. The world building? Nearly flawless. However, the religious aspects were just a surprise to me, which ties into the marketing of it.
TWOTS was marketed to me as a "YA novel that combines Narnia, Divergent, & Jurassic Park" and "Christian Fiction." Based on this description alone, I was expecting something more subtle, more along the lines of The Chronicles of Narnia. However, the religious comparisons were not at all subtle.
However, don't let that dissuade you! If you read TEOTS expecting dinosaurs, great character development, a stunning plot line, and a wonderful built world complete with a very descriptive and involved religion system, you will most likely enjoy it. TEOTS truly does combine all the best aspects of the Chronicles of Narnia, Divergent, and Jurassic Park. And even if you aren't a Christian, I still highly recommend it!
» Read my 4.5 star review (Full RTC)
II. A Sword of Greed and Envy ~ M.C. Clay
The best comparison I can make for M.C. Clay's debut is to Kiera Cass' The Selection. Don't get me wrong — The Selection is good, but it's also kinda trashy but in a good way. Similarly, ASOGAE is also kinda trashy, but it's also such a feel–good read. I mention in my full review (linked below) that, under more "normal" (read: critical) conditions, I would probably rate this lower than the 4.5 stars I actually gave it (i.e. probably somewhere between 3 and 4 stars). However, I bumped up the rating for the experience.
As a slight tangent, the reasoning is because I believe reading is more than checking boxes. Reading, for me, is primarily for enjoyment, and therefore my enjoyment is a large factor in my starred ratings. The more I enjoy a book, the more inclined I am to rate highly. When I don't like a book, I tend to be more critical and more likely to rely solely on the book's merits.
ASOGAE sits solidly in the top 3 of Tier 3 because I enjoyed it so much. I still would return to it for a fun, feel–good read. However, it's for its more technical aspects that I can't love it more. Thus, ASOGAE cannot belong to Tier 1 or Tier 2 as I can't overlook some of the trashier parts. However, it's still is such a solid read that it absolutely cannot belong to Tier 4.
IV. A Reign of Thorns and Fire ~ M.C. Clay
I'm not gonna lie and say I remember every single detail with perfect clarity. I simply don't. It's been almost a year since I read this fourth installment to M.C. Clay's debut series. However, I do remember just how much I enjoyed this particular installment. A ton of interesting events took place, both in terms of plot and character development. Like ASOGAE, AROTAF is also the best kind of trashy YA literature there is. Would I read AROTAF again? Most definitely. (And I definitely intend to when I go to write my full review.) However, it's for its trashier aspects that AROTAF gets placed on Tier 3.
» Read my 4.5 star "review" (RTC)
III. A Crown of Chaos and Vengeance ~ M.C. Clay
Clay's third installment is just like her first and third installments — in all the best ways. It's just as trashy but also so utterly fun. Tons of interesting things happened with Ash and Lark, and I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns. I wish I could do better justice for ACOCAV, but alas, my memory kinda sucks. Just know that in light of the fact that I can't remember specifics, I do remember how much I truly enjoyed ACOCAV. It's just that perfect combination of trashy and feel–good content.
» Read my 4.5 star "review" (RTC)
V. A Cage of Teeth and Betrayal ~ M.C. Clay
While ACOTAB may be my lowest ranked of the Nokturn Rising series, it's still is undoubtedly a solid read and a delightful sequel to ASOGAE. The dual POVs made for a very interesting plotline, and the characters and their development are just as interesting. Overall, ACOTAB is just as trashy as all the others in the series, but it is far from bad. This entire series is honestly the best combination of trash, feel–good moments, and great story elements (e.g. plot, characters, world, etc.).
» Read my 4 star "review" (RTC)
VI. 10 Little Dandelions ~ Isaiah Morgenstern
It's probably worth noting that I know this author personally. However, I truly think that my review is fair and that 10 Little Dandelions deserves its place in this tier. 10 Little Dandelions is a delightful children's picture book. Like many other picture books, it's also got a nice lesson to go with it. Had this been published when I was a little kid, I have no doubt that I would have thoroughly enjoyed it. Regardless of the fact that I am no longer as young, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It's most definitely a solid children's book, and I would not be surprised if I returned to this whenever I feel nostalgic, just as I do with The Berenstain Bears.
Tier 4: Not a Top Favorite, But Still Quite Good
As evident by the tier name, these books are were not top favorites. Nonetheless, they were still very good. Would I pick them up again? Maybe, maybe not. However, don't take that to mean these were "bad!" Far from actually! These books are also solid reads — they have the makings for AMAZING books — so why aren't they on Tier 3? Well, these books were good, but they just weren't the best fit for me.
I. Meara: A Legacy of Love ~ Anya Wylde
Okay, so I really hate that Meara made Tier 4 and not a higher tier. I really quite liked Meara, and I'm not sure that it really deserves Tier 4. However, I'm not sure I want it on Tier 3 either. I mean, is it a solid read? I mean, kind of; it's certainly written pretty well. But is it a top favorite? Not really; it didn't even made make my favorites shelf on Goodreads. Really, the most accurate would probably to have a tier in between Tiers 3 and 4, but I'm not making a tier for just one book. Furthermore, Meara is honestly only like 10% — maybe 15? — on the Tier 3 side, so I don't have too much of an issue placing it here on Tier 4.
That all being said, I though Meara was a really good read, and I'm not saying that because I hosted a Meara giveaway in partnership with the author herself earlier this year. It most definitely was good. The romance was good, the characters were good, and the plot was good. However, that's all it was — good. I really would have liked more from this than I had gotten.
Now, I do acknowledge that I can be . . . scratch that, most definitely am (that's better) very picky with romances that are pretty much strictly a romance. I've said this before, and I'll say it again: I'm a sucker for a good romance (and not good in the sense of "just good," but like good), but sometimes I want more than a nice romance. Sometimes I want a really good plot driving the romance, not the other way around. And Meara felt like the plot was built solely around the romance. I just wanted a bit more out of this.
Don't get me wrong though! Meara was written quite well, and it has such good potential! I'm just being my annoyingly picky self. This is part of a planned trilogy, so it definitely has room to grow. I honestly can't wait to see what Wylde does with the series, and I do recommend this, especially if you're looking for a slightly paranormal fantasy romance!
II. The Silver Sail ~ Bridgette Dutta Portman
Sometimes a series starts out great and tanks; sometimes it starts out lackluster and gets better. I really anticipate the latter. I'm not going to talk much about the first book because it follows this one immediately after in my tier ranking, but I will say that TSS is so much better. Before I really start, I need to say that the Coseema Saga has ALL the makings for a stellar (pun intended XD) portal x space fantasy. It just wasn't quite for me. That being said, with the way TSS ended, I'm really interested in seeing what's next, so much so that I might consider buying a copy myself if I can't get an ARC. Finally, I won't talk as much about TSS (or, for that matter, TTS) since I have a full, detailed review linked below.
Anyways, in terms of TSS, I think where it really excels is in the world building. BDP has created such a descriptive world, and I can't get enough of it! She really has a knack for descriptive writing, and it really bleeds into her character descriptions and her plot development. However, it's also where it fails for me. I didn't like Olive the MC in TTS, and I didn't really like her through the first half of TSS, which is really quite unfortunate. However, I really love all the development Olive's gone through.
Personally, I wish I could have gotten more invested in the series earlier on because I think I really could have loved it. As it is, this series hasn't really meshed with me and my tastes. However, I really think that if this sounds interesting to you, you should definitely pick it up. I sincerely hope you like it more than I had.
III. The Twin Stars ~ Bridgette Dutta Portman
Just like with TSS, TTS checks all the boxes for a good fantasy novel and series. Honestly, if I were judging on merits alone, I'd probably give both books at least 4 stars. However, I also take personal enjoyment into account; thus, since I didn't get into the series as much, I gave it the lower ratings.
Don't let my ratings deter you though! I truly believe that TTS objectively excels in every important aspect. I've mentioned it above when I was talking about TSS, and I mention it in my review, so I won't bore you with repetition. If you want more, go ahead and read my review, linked below.
I guess why TTS (and also TSS) were placed on Tier 4 is because I . . . didn't like them? I actually kind of liked them, so it's more that it just didn't work for me? I really don't know exactly why TTS fell flat, but it did. I'm just left here trying to give a (really crappy) explanation of why it didn't work for me when I'm not even sure myself. As I said above, I really do wish I could have gotten more invested as I probably would have loved it. Regardless, go ahead and read the description for TTS, and if this sounds interesting to you, I highly recommend trying it for yourself!
IV. Fire Wave ~ Ana Stanojevic
The biggest explanation for my rating is just too many conveniences and not enough struggle. However, 3 stars (after rounding, since Goodreads still doesn't do half stars :\) is a good rating. FW is actually pretty interesting, but I think it could have used some more development overall to be even better. Personally, I'm not a fan of how sPeShUl Aiyana, the MC, is; a lot of stuff came far easier than I thought it should have. Nonetheless, the entire concept was very interesting, and given that FW is part of a planned trilogy, it definitely has plenty of room to grow.