This year, perhaps because I’ve read so many books or perhaps because I’ve gotten so good at tracking them through the Reading Round-ups, I had a really hard time narrowing down my list. But because I feel like I can’t break tradition at this point, I did the work. And so! Herein lie my favorite books of the year of our pandemic 2021! Reminder that these are books I read in 2021 and not all of them came out this year, but if they’re on this list you should definitely consider reading them!
Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews
If you’ve been intimidated by the Kate Daniels books but really like the concept of magical, post-apocalyptic Atlanta, this might be a good place for you to jump in. The start of a new series, Blood Heir is set after the events in Magic Triumphs, the end of the Kate Daniels series. It follows a grown-up Julie, Kate’s adoptive daughter, as she faces new and powerful threats. I’ve seen other authors attempt to reboot successful series and been underwhelmed, but I think this new book is really good, giving us a new character with an arc that creates powerful parallels with the narrative arc her mother went through in the previous books. There’s action. There’s magic. There’s a really hot werewolf love interest who spends a lot of time brooding. What more could you want? I originally reviewed this here.
Winter’s Orbit by Evarina Maxwell
I love space romance. I wouldn’t have necessarily known this before it became more of a thing in the past couple of years, but it’s true. I love space romance, and Winter’s Orbit is pretty excellent space romance if you’re looking for it this year. Read my full review here.
A Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec
If I had to pick one book from the list this year, this would probably be my favorite. It has all the things I love: Norse gods being queer and strange, a badass female heroine who doesn’t have to Strong Female Character her way through the plot in order to have meaningful things to say, and the end of the world. You can read more thoughts in this post.
Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom/King of Scars/Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo
So I couldn’t really pick one of these books and I had to list them all, even though they are technically two separate duologies. They do, however, exist in the same world and have some of the same characters, so I don’t feel that I’m cheating too much, and Rule of Wolves actually did come out in 2021. I was not as big of a fan of the original Grishaverse Trilogy, but the Crows are some of my favorite characters and I absolutely loved Zoya in Rule of Wolves. This is wonderfully rich epic fantasy, and my only complaint is that despite the age of the characters I don’t really feel that these books were entirely YA, though I see why they were marketed that way. So don’t sleep on them if YA tropes are not your thing — you won’t be bored. My original review of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom is here.
Black Water Sister by Zen Cho
This book was such a fun read for me, and is the beginning of my sharp skew towards horror and horror adjacent works this year. It’s not a genre I traditionally read a huge amount in, but I am really enjoying doggy paddling about in these very deep waters. Zen Cho has written other things I’ve loved and is rapidly becoming one of my preferred authors. Black Water Sister cemented that deal by providing a story that was at once incredibly relatable and wonderfully new to my own experiences. You can read my original review here.
We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
Grady Hendrix is another new-to-me author I’ve been enjoying the past couple of years. This particular tale will appeal to metalheads everywhere. Though I am only metalhead-adjacent in my life, I really enjoyed reading it and felt the themes of this book were massively topical. You can read my original review here.
A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson
This is technically a novella, but it’s a lot of book in a very small package. If you like lyrical prose, unusual story structure, and vampires, it should be at the top of your list. I think people who love A Witch’s Heart will love this, too, so go check it out. My original review is here.
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
Did you know I tried to read this book several times and put it down? Yet, when I finally read it, it ended up on my favorites for this year. This just proves sometimes timing is important for how you receive a book, and it’s worth it sometimes to give a book a few pages to grow on you. My full review is here, but I think the most notable thing about this book is the genre blending — this is an urban fantasy that takes place in a secondary world, and while I was skeptical at first I found myself really loving the whole concept. If that appeals to you, check it out.
The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
One of my favorite books growing up was Jane Eyre, and reading The Beautiful Ones was a little bit like reading Jane Eyre again for the first time. While The Beautiful Ones is set in a secondary world and doesn’t rely on Jane’s spiritualism to resolve conflicts, it tells a similar story of a lonely, talented young woman finding love — and all the heartbreak and hurdles along the way. Read my original review here.
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
This is a late entry to the list, but I absolutely loved this book. It was beautifully written, the characters were people I wanted to be friends with, the magic system was buckets of fun, and it made me cry and laugh out loud. What more is there to want? I’ll be doing a more comprehensive review of this book in next week’s Reading Round-up, but don’t miss the chance to go check it out.
Special mention: L’Esprit de l’Escalier by Catherynne Valente
This novelette is available for free on Tor.com. I reviewed it back in October, so check it out! It’s a lovely lyrical horror retelling of Eurydice and Orpheus.