This week on #5OnMyTBR, we’re talking about challenging reads. I’ve chosen five books that are challenging to me for lots of different reasons. One is challenging because of the hype and sheer reverence with which it is discussed, others have some very challenging subject matter, whilst others are more challenging due to the writing style. I think the pandemic really impacted my ability to read challenging books, so much of what I wanted to read was joyful, escapist fantasy that could help distract me from the world. But hopefully in 2021 I’ll be able to bring myself to read some more challenging reads such as these again!
A Little Life is on my list of must read books in 2021. It’s a book I’ve been meaning to read for years and it is far past time that I actually read it. But it sits on such a high pedestal in the reading community that it has been so intimidating to actually pick it up! The blurb itself even mentions its challenging nature – “Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season.” It is known for being a book that rips people apart inside, so I’m preparing to be challenged and destroyed, in equal measures.
The Prophets is one of my most anticipated books of 2021, and as it was a January release, it means I get to read it very soon! The subject matter looks to be extremely challenging – it is set on a slave plantation and follows two slaves whose love for each other is turned into a sin when one of the other slaves starts preaching their master’s religion.
Plain Bad Heroines sounds like it could be amazing – sapphic horror set at a New England boarding school where lots of mysterious deaths took place, all things I love!! But I’ve heard it’s also quite dense and slow, so might be a bit of challenge to get through, we’ll see!
Shuggie Bain is another book with some difficult, depressing and challenging subject matter. It’s the winner of the 2020 Booker Prize, and as it’s written by a queer Scot, I obviously have to read it in support. It’s set in 1980s Glasgow and follows a young boy being brought up in run-down public housing as his mother succumbs to addiction.
And last but not least is the incredible Arkady Martine and the sequel to the most unique scifi I’ve ever read, A Memory Called Empire. I loved that book but it was definitely a challenging read. Half the book reads like a love letter to poetry, the language of the colonising power is poetry, so it is quite an intricate and challenging book to get through. And I’m sure A Desolation Called Peace is going to be just as challenging, but just as brilliant as well!
And those are some of the challenging books on my TBR right now! As I said at the start, they are all challenging for different reasons, from the writing style in Arkady Martine’s work, to the subject matter. What makes a book challenging for you? Do you have any challenging books on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!
Acclaimed author of Ash Malinda Lo returns with her most personal and ambitious novel yet, a gripping story of love and duty set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Red Scare.
“That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: “Have you ever heard of such a thing?”
Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.
America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.
What a really lovely first read of 2021! I’ve never read any Malindo Lo before, but I was very interested in this historical YA exploring the intersection of lesbian culture and Chinese American culture. And I’m so impressed! I thought this was a really excellent book, Lo really captures such a clear picture of life in the 50s. The book is absolutely dripping in lesbian culture, and I think the historic details and setting were written exceedingly well.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club follows Chinese American Lily, a baby gay who is just beginning to realise there is something different about her. She becomes friends with the only other girl in her advanced math class who introduces her to a lesbian club, the Telegraph Club, where she begins to explore her identity and tries to figure out how she can be both Chinese American and lesbian.
I thought Lo did an absolutely brilliant job of writing in this time period. You can really tell everything has been so excellently researched. It’s quite a slow book because a lot of time is spent on lots of small details and worldbuilding around the 50s time period, from larger details like the Red Scare/communism, down to the small things to do with clothes or food. I can definitely see that some people might not like this style. But I love books like this, ones that really give you such a perfectly clear vision of the world and setting. I loved the exploration of queer identity during this time period in particular, Lo drops subtle details that really help show what life was like for queer people in this era – my absolute favourite moment of this was Lily being fascinated by the lesbian pulp novels she found at the back of a drug store, and these being what led her to first start thinking she might be lesbian. It’s so funny to me that in the 50s queer people were discovering their identities in the same way I did 70 years later: just through a slightly different medium of literature (pulp novel in a drug store, vs fanfic online!)
The relationship between Kath and Lily was also expertly written. I think it might be one of my favourite relationships in YA. There was such a sense of magic and beauty that is so inherent in your first teenage relationship. It really captured that sense of first love, but in a very queer way – that sense of happiness when you first figure out what your feelings mean, that pure joy when you touch someone, but also that sense of shame and guilt that sometimes follows. The juxtaposition of the shame and happiness was written particularly well, and Lily’s journey to fit her lesbian culture into her Chinese American family was really exceptionally written and very honest.
There were some small issues I had. My main complaint is the small sections interspaced throughout Lily’s story where we got a POV from Lily’s parents or aunts from several years previously. I know these probably were included to give a better understanding of the time period and more history for the communism plot line but they felt very out of place to me. I didn’t really care about them at all, they just kept taking me out of Lily’s story – sometimes even at big cliffhanger moments!! Tell me what’s happening to Lily and Kath please and not her parents 20 years ago! It did also end quite abruptly. After quite a slow, tender and gentle story, the ending felt very rushed in comparison.
But overall, I thought this was a really excellent historical fiction YA. This book just exudes lesbian culture and it was fascinating to read about this time period and explore how queer culture developed during a time where it was illegal. I also thought Lo expertly explores the intersection of Lily’s lesbian and Chinese American culture, it felt like a very honest and very personal story and was beautifully written.
#5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @Local Bee Hunter’s Nook and you can learn more about it here or in the post announcing it. It occurs every Monday when we post about 5 books on our TBR. Thank you E. for the awesome graphic for these posts as well!
After my first full week back at work, I think I am slowly getting back into the whole ‘you don’t get enough sleep’ rhythm. Ah, the life of an insomniac. I also had to get a blood test at the weekend, and I’m writing this post immediately after, so I’m feeling very sorry for myself right now. (I am a Dr’s nightmare when taking blood because I always pass out/almost pass out.) But I have a mountain of creme eggs to cheer me up! And for today’s #5OnMyTBR, we’re talking about white covers and the cover theme posts are always my favourite to write! I hope everyone else had a good week!
Luster was one of my most anticipated books of 2020, but because of covid/delivery issues, my copy only just arrived before the end of 2020. But I’m hoping to read this one very soon! It’s about a young Black woman in her twenties who doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life, who meets a white family and becomes embroiled in their lives and their relationship.
YAAAAAS it’s one of my most anticipated books of 2021!! And as it was an early January release, my copy has already arrived!! I will be reading in the next week or two (as soon as I finish one more ARC and my current library book). It’s a novel about two enslaved young men who fall in love on a plantation but when an older man starts preaching the religion of his master on the plantation, their relationship is now seen as sinful and the enslaved start to turn on each other.
This book has been on my radar for a little while, but I grabbed a copy at the end of last year so finally I can read it! It follows a young Black babysitter, Emira, who is accused of kidnapping the (white) child she is looking after by a local security guard. The whole thing is filmed and goes viral, leaving Emira humilated and the white mother vowing to make everything right (even if Emira doesn’t want her to).
This book has been on almost every monthly TBR since last April. Which is really just embarassing at this stage. I am going to read it soon I promise. Cherry Beach is about two friends who move to Canada. One, the shy, wallflower back in Australia, finds herself in an intense affair with a woman she meets in an art gallery. The other, the life of the party back home, finds her whole life falling apart.
Some of these covers might be stretching it a bit to be defined as “white” but the base colour of all these is white so I counted them. Have you read any of these? What books with white covers do you have on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!
The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.
The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.
Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.
In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.
It’s my first review of 2021, and it’s for a really spectacular book! It is no surprise I went into Gods of Jade and Shadow with extremely high expectations. Mexican Gothic was my favourite book of 2020 and I wanted to fall in love this as much as I did with Mexican Gothic. Suffice to say: I definitely did. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is one of the most exciting authors writing today. Her ability to write across so many different genres is outstanding, and with another THREE book releases coming in 2021, I can’t wait to explore more of her work.
Gods of Jade and Shadow follows Cassiopeia, a young, rural woman in 1920s Mexico who lives with her grandfather and is pretty much treated as the household servant, bullied by her cousin and aunts. But then she accidentally awakens the Mayan God of Death, Hun-Kamè, and she finds herself caught up in an adventure. She and Hun-Kamè must race against time to collect the pieces of himself lost across Mexico before he sucks dry her energy, killing her and turning himself mortal in the process.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia has some of the best worldbuilding in fantasy. She has such a fantastic ability to perfectly describe a scene so that you can almost hear, smell and see the scenes yourself. From the bustle of Mexico City, to the desert city of El Paso, each place Cassiopeia and Hun-Kamè visit is so perfectly rendered in my mind thanks to her beautiful writing. It was such a wonderful world to be caught up in, full of pieces of Mayan history and lore. The creatures, demons, witches, gods, that Cassiopeia and Hun-Kamè meet on their journey are also pulled from Mayan culture. It was just so fun to learn about all these creatures, to hear about the mythology behind Xibala, the land of the dead and which Hun-Kamè is trying to win back from the brother who betrayed him.
Cassiopeia is such a brilliantly written character. She is so clear and certain as to who she is: at times she is a little naive and young, as you would expect given her upbringing. But she’s also so full of curiosity, has such a strong sense of adventure and desire for more, and she has such a lovely heart. I do love a villain, I love a good morally grey character, but I found Cassiopeia such a breath of fresh air. She has such a sense of goodness about her that I really loved, she is so kind – she does, after all, fight for Hun-Kamè the entire novel, and even though she is dying the longer she stays bonded with him, her death is not the reason why she is fighting for him.
I also was a huge fan of their slow burn romance. I mean, come on, falling for the god of death is exactly the kind of fantasy romance I love! I really appreciated the way we saw Hun-Kamè’s descent to humanity through his interactions with Cassiopeia. The longer they stay bonded, the closer Cassiopeia comes to death, but the closer Hun-Kamè comes to being mortal. And his journey to mortality is clearest when we see him with Cassiopeia. We see him turn from this distant, grateful but stilted newly awoken God, to someone who is as overwhelmed by Cassiopeia’s kindness as I am. The two fall beautifully for each other, and as a reader who NEVER CRIES AT BOOKS, I was close to tears at several moments near the end of this book when the two of them have some really beautiful, touching moments together. And speaking of endings, THAT ENDING!! Oh my god, I loved it. It was so perfect for this book, bittersweet but hopeful.
Also, I have a completely personal pet peeve about fantasy novels. Some authors spend too much time focussing on showing basic necessities being met during a journey (food, bathroom, sleep etc) in order to make it feel realistic, but of course, that is often very boring. But then others do it too little and it just feels rushed and unrealistic because like…when do people eat on this adventure?! But Silvia Moreno-Garcia struck the absolute perfect balance between showing realistic necessities of a journey (they even carry suitcases with clothes!) but without dwelling on it too much to make the book boring. So that just added to my love for this book. I know it’s such a weird pet peeve but it makes me so happy when I see authors do it well!
So basically this book is brilliant. It is dark at times, exploring love and sacrifice and gods hellbent on destroying Cassiopeia and Hun-Kamè. But it is also really hopeful, led by this kind and beautiful person in Cassiopeia and I think Silvia Moreno-Garcia really wrote such a brilliant relationship between her and Hun-Kamè. I’m going to be reading absolutely everything Silvia Moreno-Garcia writes forevermore.
I started writing this post about all the fantasy I’m looking forward to this year, and oh my god, there are so many?! How am I going to possibly manage to read all of these?! But writing this just made me so excited for the state of fantasy right now, the brilliance on this list is unparalleled and I’m so happy I exist in a time where I get to read them. So without further ado, I have for you today a post with the 28 adult fantasy books and the 21 YA fantasy books that I want to read in 2021! Please cry with me in horror that there’s no way I can possibly buy this many books.
We all know this is my most anticipated book of the year, and I can now say, IT IS NO LONGER ANTICIPATED BECAUSE I’VE READ IT. I am deceased, and writing this post from beyond the grave. Holy fuck. All I can say is the hype is so worth it, I was already planning a quote tattoo before I reached the midway point. I would die for Ouyang. I would die for Zhu. There is so much pain and suffering all bound up in the most beautiful prose. My heart felt like it was being slowly ripped out the whole way through. So in summary: GO PRE-ORDER THIS BOOK.
Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy.
To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything.
“I refuse to be nothing…”
In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…
In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.
When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.
After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.
Dracula is my favourite classic and so I immediately want to buy any and all retellings. Particularly when they’re written by a Mexican author and are explictly queer. This is a reimagining of Dracula’s journey to England, published by the legendary Silvia Moreno-Garcia at her own mini-publishing company and I am eagerly awaiting my copy to arrive!!
A reimagining of Dracula’s voyage to England, filled with Gothic imagery and queer desire.
It’s an ordinary assignment, nothing more. The cargo? Fifty boxes filled with Transylvanian soil. The route? From Varna to Whitby. The Demeter has made many trips like this. The captain has handled dozens of crews.
He dreams familiar dreams: to taste the salt on the skin of his men, to run his hands across their chests. He longs for the warmth of a lover he cannot have, fantasizes about flesh and frenzied embraces. All this he’s done before, it’s routine, a constant, like the tides.
Yet there’s something different, something wrong. There are odd nightmares, unsettling omens and fear. For there is something in the air, something in the night, someone stalking the ship.
The cult vampire novella by Mexican author José Luis Zárate is available for the first time in English. Translated by David Bowles and with an accompanying essay by noted horror author Poppy Z. Brite, it reveals an unknown corner of Latin American literature.
This is one of my most anticipated releases of the year and I am so ecstatic it’s publishing in January because I do not have to wait long until I can read it. This is a superhero novel where a superhero and supervillain have lost their memories and must work together to reveal their pasts. It also has ON PAGE PAN REP yes this is amazing.
An extraordinary and emotional adventure about unlikely friends and the power of choosing who you want to be.
Jamie woke up in an empty apartment with no memory and only a few clues to his identity, but with the ability to read and erase other people’s memories—a power he uses to hold up banks to buy coffee, cat food and books.
Zoe is also searching for her past, and using her abilities of speed and strength…to deliver fast food. And she’ll occasionally put on a cool suit and beat up bad guys, if she feels like it.
When the archrivals meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize the only way to reveal their hidden pasts might be through each other. As they uncover an ongoing threat, suddenly much more is at stake than their fragile friendship. With countless people at risk, Zoe and Jamie will have to recognize that sometimes being a hero starts with trusting someone else—and yourself.
Check! Out! That! Cover! What a stunner. Son of the Storm is about a scholar who discovers an injured warrior in his barn, claiming she comes from a place which shouldn’t exist, and is brought on a adventure with her that will reveal the hidden truth of his city.
A young scholar’s ambition threatens to reshape an empire determined to retain its might in this epic tale of violent conquest, buried histories, and forbidden magic.
In the thriving city of Bassa, Danso is a clever but disillusioned scholar who longs for a life beyond the rigid family and political obligations expected of the city’s elite. A way out presents itself when Lilong, a skin-changing warrior, shows up wounded in his barn. She comes from the Nameless Islands–which, according to Bassa lore, don’t exist–and neither should the mythical magic of ibor she wields. Now swept into a conspiracy far beyond his understanding, Danso will have to set out on a journey that reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore.
Blessed are we with Dracula retellings!! A Dowry of Blood is a novella reimagining of Dracula’s Brides, but with a MOTHERFUCKING POLY RELATIONSHIP YES! And all four of the main characters are bi (my little bi heart is literally screaming out in love). I am so excited to read this gothic book, I will never get tired of Dracula retellings!
A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.
Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.
With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.
Loki is getting a lot of love this year with a TV show AND a wonderful retelling from Genevieve Gornichec about a banished witch who falls in love with him. And obviously I will consume as much Loki media as possible.
When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods in this moving, subversive debut novel that reimagines Norse mythology.
Angrboda’s story begins where most witches’ tales end: with a burning. A punishment from Odin for refusing to provide him with knowledge of the future, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the farthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be Loki, and her initial distrust of him transforms into a deep and abiding love.
Their union produces three unusual children, each with a secret destiny, who Angrboda is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin’s all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.
With help from the fierce huntress Skadi, with whom she shares a growing bond, Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family…or rise to remake their future. From the most ancient of tales this novel forges a story of love, loss, and hope for the modern age.
I read the first two books in Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga at the start of 2020 and have spent the entire last year longing for the finale, which is coming in September!! This is a series that will definitely break your heart, and Jade Legacy is a finale that I know will destroy me. So obviously, I can’t wait! Please destroy me, Fonda Lee.
Jade, the mysterious and magical substance once exclusive to the Green Bone warriors of Kekon, is now known and coveted throughout the world. Everyone wants access to the supernatural abilities it provides, from traditional forces such as governments, mercenaries, and criminal kingpins, to modern players, including doctors, athletes, and movie studios. As the struggle over the control of jade grows ever larger and more deadly, the Kaul family, and the ancient ways of the Kekonese Green Bones, will never be the same.
The Kauls have been battered by war and tragedy. They are plagued by resentments and old wounds as their adversaries are on the ascent and their country is riven by dangerous factions and foreign interference that could destroy the Green Bone way of life altogether. As a new generation arises, the clan’s growing empire is in danger of coming apart.
The clan must discern allies from enemies, set aside aside bloody rivalries, and make terrible sacrifices… but even the unbreakable bonds of blood and loyalty may not be enough to ensure the survival of the Green Bone clans and the nation they are sworn to protect.
TIME TO TALK ABOUT THE SEXY ARM BOOK. Look, if you don’t want to buy this book simply from looking at that cover, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. ‘Cause those arms are something else. But if you need more information, The Unbroken is a military fantasy about a soldier who is sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion but also, it’s really really gay according to the author.
Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.
Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.
Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.
Edinburgh is one of the best settings for ghost stories and I’m so happy we’re getting an adult fantasy set there!! (I grew up near there and am very excited to recognise all the places the author mentions). But even better, The Library of the Dead is inspired by Zimbabwean magic and has a girl who talks to ghosts and a monster who drains children of joy.
Sixth Sense meets Stranger Things in T. L. Huchu’s The Library of the Dead, a sharp contemporary fantasy following a precocious and cynical teen as she explores the shadowy magical underside of modern Edinburgh.
When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?
When ghosts talk, she will listen…
Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children–leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.
She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down.
Not much can get me more excited about a book than “government nuns who partake in ritualistic cannibalism”. Like seriously, what a fucking pitch point for a book. And according to a review on Goodreads this also has sexually transmitted zombieism?!?! Whhhhaaaaat. I’m ready to be fucked up by this book.
All martyrdoms are difficult.
Elfreda Raughn will avoid pregnancy if it kills her, and one way or another, it will kill her. Though she’s able to stomach her gruesome day-to-day duties, the reality of preserving the Sisterhood of Aytrium’s magical bloodline horrifies her. She wants out, whatever the cost.
So when a shadowy cabal approaches Elfreda with an offer of escape, she leaps at the opportunity. As their spy, she gains access to the highest reaches of the Sisterhood, and enters a glittering world of opulent parties, subtle deceptions, and unexpected bloodshed.
A phantasmagorical indictment of hereditary power, Star Eater takes readers deep into a perilous and uncanny world where even the most powerful women are forced to choose what sacrifices they will make, so that they might have any choice at all.
Aliette de Bodard is one of the most legendary novella writers around right now, and Fireheart Tiger sounds just as amazing as her others! It’s set in a Vietnamese inspired world, and follows a princess sent away as a hostage as she returns to her home, haunted by memories of her first love and a dangerous fire.
Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns with a powerful romantic fantasy that reads like The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a pre-colonial Vietnamese-esque world.
Fire burns bright and has a long memory….
Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to the powerful faraway country of Ephteria as a child. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, haunted not only by memories of her first romance, but by worrying magical echoes of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.
Thanh’s new role as a diplomat places her once again in the path of her first love, the powerful and magnetic Eldris of Ephteria, who knows exactly what she wants: romance from Thanh and much more from Thanh’s home. Eldris won’t take no for an answer, on either front. But the fire that burned down one palace is tempting Thanh with the possibility of making her own dangerous decisions.
Can Thanh find the freedom to shape her country’s fate—and her own?
T.J Klune is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, I have cried at every book of his I’ve read so far (and I rarely cry at books so this is quite a feat). And by the blurb alone, it looks like Under the Whispering Door will be much the same! This is about a ghost who doesn’t want to cross over into the afterwold, so sticks around in a small village on the ouskirts of the afterworld. There, he falls in love with the owner of a local tea shop, and is given just 7 days spend together until he must cross over. I CAN FEEL THE TEARS ALREADY.
Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy with TJ Klune’s signature “quirk and charm” (PW) about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with
When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.
Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.
But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.
When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.
By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this absorbing tale of grief and hope is told with TJ Klune’s signature warmth, humor, and extraordinary empathy.
On Fragile Waves, or ‘book with the most gorgeous cover of 2021’ is a magical realism novel about a pair of siblings who are children of fire, who are trying to travel from Afghanistan to Australia, which they see as a fantasy land of hope and opportunities. It sounds like such a moving portrayal of war and immigration and it is one of my most anticipated books of the year!
Firuzeh and her brother Nour are children of fire, born in an Afghanistan fractured by war. When their parents, their Atay and Abay, decide to leave, they spin fairy tales of their destination, the mythical land and opportunities of Australia.
As the family journeys from Pakistan to Indonesia to Nauru, heading toward a hope of home, they must rely on fragile and temporary shelters, strangers both mercenary and kind, and friends who vanish as quickly as they’re found.
When they arrive in Australia, what seemed like a stable shore gives way to treacherous currents. Neighbors, classmates, and the government seek their own ends, indifferent to the family’s fate. For Firuzeh, her fantasy worlds provide some relief, but as her family and home splinter, she must surface from these imaginings and find a new way.
Another one of the most gorgeous covers of 2021 is Rivers Solomon’s Sorrowland! This genre-bending gothic novel addresses the violence of America’s history and follows a pregnant woman escaping from a cult, whose body starts to change to perform incredible feats of brutality that shouldn’t be possible.
A triumphant, genre-bending breakout novel from one of the boldest new voices in contemporary fiction
Vern – seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised – flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world.
But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman. Forced to fight back against the community that refuses to let her go, she unleashes incredible brutality far beyond what a person should be capable of, her body wracked by inexplicable and uncanny changes.
To understand her metamorphosis and to protect her small family, Vern has to face the past, and more troublingly, the future – outside the woods. Finding the truth will mean uncovering the secrets of the compound she fled but also the violent history in America that produced it.
Rivers Solomon’s Sorrowland is a genre-bending work of Gothic fiction. Here, monsters aren’t just individuals, but entire nations. It is a searing, seminal book that marks the arrival of a bold, unignorable voice in American fiction.
Sapphic fantasy is going to make 2021 worth living. And this is one of them!! The Jasmine Throne is an Indian inspired fantasy about a princess and a maidervant trying to save their empire from the princess’s brother. It also has: enemies to lovers (well, ‘reluctant allies to lovers’), it’s all about the yearning™, wet sari scene, secret identities, tragic pasts, ReVENGE, the imperialist patriarchy is bad actually, burn it all down, the enemy of my enemy is my girlfriend, long lost siblings (from the author’s Twitter!)
Author of Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne, beginning a new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, in which a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess’s traitor brother.
Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.
Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.
But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.
I loved Uprooted so I have very high hopes for this book which is compared to it! This wolfy adult fantasy is about a woman who is due to be sacrificed to the Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom, and she’s kinda happy about it because she has a terrible power she can’t control and doesn’t want to hurt her loved ones. But not everything in the woods is as it seems… Dun dun duuuuuuun. I hope that sounded ominous.
The first daughter is for the Throne. The second daughter is for the Wolf.
For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark, sweeping debut fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.
As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.
Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.
But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.
Set in the same world as P. Djèlí Clark’s short story, A Dead Djinn in Cairo, A Master of Djinn follows a woman working at the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities who is tasked with hunting down the murderer of a secret brotherhood who is claiming to be the very person the secret brotherhood was dedicated to.
Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns to his popular alternate Cairo universe for his fantasy novel debut, A Master of Djinn
Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.
So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world 50 years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.
Alongside her Ministry colleagues and her clever girlfriend Siti, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems….
2021 is the year of historical fantasy!! Every single one sounds absolutely incredible and I don’t know how I’m going to find time to read them all. The Conductors is set in post-Civil War Philadephia and follows a magic user and former conductor on the Underground Railroad who now solves murders that the white authorities refuse to touch.
A compelling debut by a new voice in fantasy fiction, The Conductors features the magic and mystery of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files written with the sensibility and historical setting of Octavia Butler’s Kindred: Introducing Hetty Rhodes, a magic-user and former conductor on the Underground Railroad who now solves crimes in post–Civil War Philadelphia.
As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Hetty Rhodes helped usher dozens of people north with her wits and magic. Now that the Civil War is over, Hetty and her husband Benjy have settled in Philadelphia, solving murders and mysteries that the white authorities won’t touch. When they find one of their friends slain in an alley, Hetty and Benjy bury the body and set off to find answers. But the secrets and intricate lies of the elites of Black Philadelphia only serve to dredge up more questions. To solve this mystery, they will have to face ugly truths all around them, including the ones about each other.
In this vibrant and original novel, Nicole Glover joins a roster of contemporary writers within fantasy, such as Victor LaValle and Zen Cho, who use speculative fiction to delve into important historical and cultural threads.
This book sounds absolutely monstrorous and we’re all going to love it. It follows a woman whose brother is killed by police. But the killing reveals something strange underneath: monsters are real. And they are ready to come out of the shadows and show themselves to humanity. But what are they running from?
One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother was shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it.
As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened into silence. A professor follows a missing friend’s trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.
At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark?
Another gorgeous cover is here! Folklorn is a genre-bending novel about Korean myth and science, following a particle physicist running from her family ghosts, but is followed by her childhood imaginary friend – a spectral woman in the snow who has come to claim her, as warned in the myths of her family.
A genre-defying, continent-spanning saga of Korean myth, scientific discovery, and the abiding love that binds even the most broken of families.
Elsa Park is a particle physicist at the top of her game, stationed at a neutrino observatory in the Antarctic, confident she’s put enough distance between her ambitions and the family ghosts she’s run from all her life. But it isn’t long before her childhood imaginary friend—an achingly familiar, spectral woman in the snow—comes to claim her at last.
Years ago, Elsa’s now-catatonic mother had warned her that the women of their line were doomed to repeat the narrative lives of their ancestors from Korean myth and legend. But beyond these ghosts, Elsa also faces a more earthly fate: the mental illness and generational trauma that run in her immigrant family, a sickness no less ravenous than the ancestral curse hunting her.
When her mother breaks her decade-long silence and tragedy strikes, Elsa must return to her childhood home in California. There, among family wrestling with their own demons, she unravels the secrets hidden in the handwritten pages of her mother’s dark stories: of women’s desire and fury; of magic suppressed, stolen, or punished; of the hunger for vengeance.
From Sparks Fellow, Tin House alumna, and Harvard graduate Angela Mi Young Hur, Folklorn is a wondrous and necessary exploration of the myths we inherit and those we fashion for ourselves.
ANOTHER STUNNING COVER!! It is so so beautiful!! Black Water Sister is a Malaysian contemporary fantasy from fantasy legend Zen Cho and follows a medium who begins to hear the voice of her dead grandmother, who demands help to settle a score against a gang boss.
A reluctant medium discovers the ties that bind can unleash a dangerous power in this compelling Malaysian-set contemporary fantasy.
Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there’s only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma. In life Ah Ma was a spirit medium, the avatar of a mysterious deity called the Black Water Sister. Now she’s determined to settle a score against a gang boss who has offended the god–and she’s decided Jess is going to help her do it.
Drawn into a world of gods, ghosts, and family secrets, Jess finds that making deals with capricious spirits is a dangerous business. As Jess fights for retribution for Ah Ma, she’ll also need to regain control of her body and destiny. If she fails, the Black Water Sister may finish her off for good.
I’m yet to read a Natasha Pulley book but I’ve heard so many people absolutely rave about her books. I have a copy of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street and I’ll be getting a copy of The Kingdoms as soon as it’s released!! The Kingdoms is a historical fantasy in a nineteenth-century French colony of England following a man with amnesia whose only clue to his identity is a century-old postcard of a Scottish lighthouse.
For fans of The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and David Mitchell, a genre bending, time twisting alternative history that asks whether it’s worth changing the past to save the future, even if it costs you everyone you’ve ever loved.
Joe Tournier has a bad case of amnesia. His first memory is of stepping off a train in the nineteenth-century French colony of England. The only clue Joe has about his identity is a century-old postcard of a Scottish lighthouse that arrives in London the same month he does. Written in illegal English-instead of French-the postcard is signed only with the letter “M,” but Joe is certain whoever wrote it knows him far better than he currently knows himself, and he’s determined to find the writer. The search for M, though, will drive Joe from French-ruled London to rebel-owned Scotland and finally onto the battle ships of a lost empire’s Royal Navy. In the process, Joe will remake history, and himself.
From bestselling author Natasha Pulley, The Kingdoms is an epic, wildly original novel that bends genre as easily as it twists time.
A dark sapphic retelling of Sleeping Beauty where the princess falls in love with the evil sorceress?! Sign me the fuck up. I have been loving the dark sapphic fantasy retellings we’ve been getting recently, and I am sure I will love this one because this sounds perfect!!
A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” true love is more than a simple fairy tale.
Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.
You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.
Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.
Until I met her.
Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.
But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.
Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—
Not much can make me more excited than a queer, sapphic, Asian-American, fantasy retelling of a white man’s classic, in this case: The Great Gatsby!! The Chosen and the Beautiful follows Jordan Baker, immigrant, socialite and magician in the most exclusive circle in 1920s America.
Immigrant. Socialite. Magician.
Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society―she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.
But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.
Nghi Vo’s debut novel reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice.
The Wolf and the Woodsman is a book inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology and follows a young pagan woman who teams up with a one-eyed captain to overthrow a tyrant. It also has a magic system based on body horror which sounds incredible! And sexy kneeling! There can never be enough sexy kneeling in the world!! And in case you still need a reason to pick up this book, read this quote from Shelley Parker-Chan, author of sexy kneeling book She Who Became the Sun: “Do you maybe like beautiful, mutilated enemy love interests who look good on their knees? DO YOU?” As matter of fact, I DO like beautiful, mutilated enemy love interests who look good on their knees!!
In the vein of Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestseller Spinning Silver and Katherine Arden’s national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale, this unforgettable debut— inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology—follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.
In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.
But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.
As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.
Another sequel, The Thousand Eyes is the sequel to one of my favourite books of 2020, The Unspoken Name. The characters are some of my favourite characters in fantasy, and I cannot wait to see what happens to them next! Especially Shuthmili, powerful sapphic goddess CLINGING TO HUMANITY!
Two years ago, Csorwe and Shuthmili defied the wizard Belthandros Sethennai and stole his gauntlets. The gauntlets have made Shuthmili extraordinarily powerful, but they’re beginning to take a sinister toll on her. She and Csorwe travel to a distant world to discover how to use the gauntlets safely, but when an old enemy arrives on the scene, Shuthmili finds herself torn between clinging to her humanity and embracing eldritch power.
Meanwhile, Tal Charossa returns to Tlaanthothe to find that Sethennai has gone missing. As well as being a wizard of unimaginable power, Sethennai is Tal’s old boss and former lover, and Tal wants nothing to do with him. When a magical catastrophe befalls the city, Tal tries to run rather than face his past, but soon learns that something even worse may lurk in the future. Throughout the worlds of the Echo Maze, fragments of an undead goddess begin to awaken, and not all confrontations can be put off forever…
QUEER SCHOLARS ALERT! This should be a genre and I would like to read every book in it please. A Marvellous Light follows a civil service liason assigned to a hidden magical society. There’s also a murder mystery, it’s set in Edwardian England and it sounds VERY GOOD. From the publisher, this has: overthinking under-powered spiteful librarian/genial jock with surprising layers, UST (unresolved sexual tension), VRST (very resolved sexual tension), fantasy of very bad manners, hurt/comfort, Houses That Love You, bound by blood, bound by sexy magical restraints, gratuitous library porn, homicidal hedge maze, sleeves rolled up forearms, and Messing About In Boats.
Robin Blyth has more than enough bother in his life. He’s struggling to be a good older brother, a responsible employer, and the harried baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents’ excesses. When an administrative mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the unextraordinary reality he’s always known.
Now Robin must contend with the beauty and danger of magic, an excruciating deadly curse, and the alarming visions of the future that come with it—not to mention Edwin Courcey, his cold and prickly counterpart in the magical bureaucracy, who clearly wishes Robin were anyone and anywhere else.
Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and the mystery of what happened to him reveals unsettling truths about the very oldest stories they’ve been told about the land they live on and what binds it. Thrown together and facing unexpected dangers, Robin and Edwin discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles—and a secret that more than one person has already died to keep.
Imagine me emitting just a high pitched screaming noise right now. The first two books in the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen trilogy are incredible, and were two of my favourite books of 2020. They are SOUL-DESTROYINGLY good and I am scared about what K.S. Villoso is going to put these characters through in the finale!!
The stunning finale to the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen trilogy where the queen of a divided land must unite her people against the enemies who threaten to tear her country apart. K. S. Villoso is a “powerful new voice in fantasy.” (Kameron Hurley)
Queen Talyien is finally home, but dangers she never imagined await her in the shadowed halls of her father’s castle.
War is on the horizon. Her son has been stolen from her, her warlords despise her, and across the sea, a cursed prince threatens her nation with invasion in order to win her hand.
Worse yet, her father’s ancient secrets are dangerous enough to bring Jin Sayeng to ruin. Dark magic tears rifts in the sky, preparing to rain down madness, chaos, and the possibility of setting her nation aflame.
Bearing the brunt of the past and uncertain about her future, Talyien will need to decide between fleeing her shadows or embracing them before the whole world becomes an inferno.
This is the Camelot retelling but if Aruthrian legend was very queer and very violent. The author describes it as:
• it’s Camelot but in Gotham City. • Knights ride around on motorbikes instead of horses, in leather, with swords, because that is a world I’d like to live in. • There’s magic but also electric trains and television and urban wastelands and dive bars. • It’s sexy, and violent, and queer, and did I mention swords
So yes I want to read it.
Power always wins.
Imagine Camelot but in Gotham: a city where knights are the celebrities of the day, riding on motorbikes instead of horses and competing in televised fights for fame and money.
Imagine a city where a young, magic-touched bastard astonishes everyone by becoming king – albeit with extreme reluctance – and a girl with a secret past trains to become a knight for the sole purpose of vengeance.
Imagine a city where magic is illegal but everywhere, in its underground bars, its back-alley soothsayers – and in the people who have to hide what they are for fear of being tattooed and persecuted.
Imagine a city where electricity is money, power the only game worth playing, and violence the most fervently worshipped religion.
Welcome to a dark, chaotic, alluring place with a tumultuous history, where dreams come true if you want them hard enough – and are prepared to do some very, very bad things to get them
Yes, first up for YA is the sequel to one of the best YA novels of 2020, The Scapegracers. The Scapegracers was a fantasy novel about a group of teen witches that had one of the best portrayals of female friendship I’ve ever read in YA, so I am extremely excited to see where the sequel takes this coven!! Particularly given the title… (Mr Scratch is the BEST).
It’s been a wild year for Sideways Pike. She formed a coven with the three most popular girls in school, fell for a mysterious stranger, and threw a massive Halloween party with said coven to impress said stranger, only for her to literally rip Sideways’ specter out—a soul-like organ that gives witches the ability to perform magic. For Madeline, stealing Sideways’ specter was a necessary evil: after her witchfinder ex-boyfriend robbed her of her own, Madeline’s been hellbent on getting it back and exacting vengeance on the whole Chantry family, even if that means hurting another witch in the process. Sideways can have her specter back when Madeline’s done with it. She’ll be fine until then, right?
Except Winter break is looming and specter-less Sideways is feeling rotten. She can’t do magic on her own, parts of her mind are tangled with Madeline’s, and if it weren’t for Mr. Scratch, the inky book devil consensually possessing her, she’d probably be dead. Sideways and her fellow (much merrier) Scapegracers have set up shop as curse crafters for girls in their school who’ve been done wrong by guys, following dead-end trails in pursuit of Madeline where they can. But when Sideways comes up with a reckless plan to get her specter back, she finds the other Scapegracers think it’s too dangerous to proceed.
Well, Sideways is used to going it alone, and she’s desperate. She’s not going to let an ex-crush and six unhinged witchfinders stand between herself and her magic. But she, Mr. Scratch, and her trusty stolen bike are in for a bumpy ride…
This book sounds absolutely amazing, it’s a Jamaican-inspired fantasy all about a fight between mother and daughter – because the daughter of the queen has no intention of dying like sister, to strengthen her mother’s power.
Divided by their castes. United by their vengeance.
Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom—and vengeance.
Jazmyne is the queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.
Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain—except the lengths they will go to win this game.
Deadly, fierce, magnetically addictive: this Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut is a thrilling journey where dangerous magic reigns supreme and betrayal lurks beneath every word.
The angry trans book of your dreams is here!! The Witch King is one of my most anticipated books of the year. It has a trans witch, his fae ex-fiancé prince who is hunting him down to make him marry him, a grumpy/sunshine duo and one of the best tropes in the world, friends to enemies to lovers.
To save a fae kingdom, a trans witch must face his traumatic past and the royal fiancé he left behind. This debut YA fantasy will leave you spellbound.
Wyatt would give anything to forget where he came from—but a kingdom demands its king.
In Asalin, fae rule and witches like Wyatt Croft…don’t. Wyatt’s betrothal to his best friend, fae prince Emyr North, was supposed to change that. But when Wyatt lost control of his magic one devastating night, he fled to the human world.
Now a coldly distant Emyr has hunted him down. Despite transgender Wyatt’s newfound identity and troubling past, Emyr has no intention of dissolving their engagement. In fact, he claims they must marry now or risk losing the throne. Jaded, Wyatt strikes a deal with the enemy, hoping to escape Asalin forever. But as he gets to know Emyr, Wyatt realizes the boy he once loved may still exist. And as the witches face worsening conditions, he must decide once and for all what’s more important—his people or his freedom.
This is a book I’m going to be reading very soon, because I was lucky enough to get an ARC!! I’m heard so many amazing things about this gothic fantasy, it sounds to be lush and dark and I think it has lots of yearning?! Which is all anyone can want in a book right?!
He saw the darkness in her magic. She saw the magic in his darkness.
Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself.
The mansion is crumbling, icy winds haunt the caved-in halls, and her eccentric host forbids her from leaving her room after dark. Worse, Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria and her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, but the secrets in the estate may lead to both of their deaths.
With sinister forces at work, Wren and Hal realize they’ll have to join together if they have any hope of saving their kingdoms. But as Wren circles closer to the nefarious truth behind Hal’s illness, they realize they have no escape from the monsters within the mansion. All they have is each other, and a startling desire that could be their downfall.
Allison Saft’s Down Comes the Night is a snow-drenched romantic fantasy that keeps you racing through the pages long into the night.
I feel like I’ve been waiting on this one for years, because I think it got pushed back to 2021. But that doesn’t make my excitement any less than it was a year and a half ago when I first heard about it! It’s an East Asian inspired fantasy about a peasant who must save her grandmother from a cult of priests, and the exiled prince she allies with.
Told in a dual POV narrative reminiscent of EMBER IN THE ASHES, JADE FIRE GOLD is a YA fantasy is inspired by East Asian mythology and folk tales. Epic in scope but intimate in characterization, fans of classic fantasies by Tamora Pierce and the magical Asiatic setting of AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER will enjoy this cinematic tale of family, revenge, and forgiveness.
Her Destiny. His Revenge.
In order to save her grandmother from a cult of dangerous priests, a peasant girl cursed with the power to steal souls enters a tenuous alliance with an exiled prince bent on taking back the Dragon Throne. The pair must learn to trust each other but are haunted by their pasts—and the true nature of her dark magic.
Check out that cover?!?! It is incredible?!? I love it so much!? This witch book is about a girl who can summon the dead, and is warned by the dead to stop doing what she does or they’ll “burn everything down”. And then she accidentally raises someone from the dead…
For fans of Us and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comes a witchy story full of black girl magic as one girl’s dark ability to summon the dead offers her a chance at a new life, while revealing to her an even darker future.
Katrell doesn’t mind talking to the dead; she just wishes it made more money. Clients pay her to talk to their deceased loved ones, but it isn’t enough to support her unemployed mother and Mom’s deadbeat boyfriend-of-the-week. Things get worse, when a ghost warns her to stop the summonings or she’ll “burn everything down.” Katrell is willing to call them on their bluff, though. She has no choice. What do ghosts know about eating peanut butter for dinner?
However, when her next summoning accidentally raises someone from the dead, Katrell realizes that a live body is worth a lot more than a dead apparition. And, warning or not, she has no intention of letting this lucrative new business go.
But magic doesn’t come for free, and soon dark forces are closing in on Katrell. The further she goes, the more she risks the lives of not only herself, but those she loves. Katrell faces a choice: resign herself to poverty, or confront the darkness before it’s too late.
I finally read my first Anna-Marie McLemore book in 2020! Whilst I didn’t love it as much as expected after all the hype, I’ve heard that I started with the wrong one – so I will definitely still be picking up their newest book when it releases this year. The Mirror Season is a magical realist tale about two teens who were sexually assaulted at the same party.
When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly-magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season…
Graciela Cristales’ whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.
But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.
Another glorious cover!! There is such a trend of purples and pinks and golds in 2021 covers and I am LOVING it. This fantasy is about a teen whose mother is murdered and then finds out she’s actually part god when her never-seen-before-father turns up to take her away to an island of magic wielders. But when she breaks the rules and leaves the island to visit her sister, she finds out that Black kids are being forced into crime by an evil that lurks in the magic world as well as the human one.
In this riveting, keenly emotional debut fantasy, a Black teen from Houston has her world upended when she learns about her godly ancestry–and with evil sinking its claws into humans and gods alike, she’ll have to unearth the magic of her true identity to save both her worlds.
Perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Tomi Adeyemi, and The Hunger Games.
“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.
Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.
Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.
There’s just something about girls with sharp knives on covers that make me immediately need to buy a book. Especially when they’re sapphic. In A Dark and Hollow Star, a fae prince, a half-fae outcast, a Fury, and a bodyguard must work together to hunt down a murderer who threatens to expose faeries to the human world.
The Cruel Prince meets City of Bones in this thrilling urban fantasy set in the magical underworld of Toronto that follows a queer cast of characters racing to stop a serial killer whose crimes could expose the hidden world of faeries to humans.
Choose your player.
The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family. A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge. A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne. The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.
For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.
Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?
Yes I love tragic fantasies, I just like PAIN okay?!? Which means I’m going to adore Blood Like Magic, a book where a teen witch must save her family’s magic by sacrificing her first love. But since she hasn’t ever been in love, she has to first find the poor soul she’ll need to sacrifice, which she does through a new matchmaking program! Bring on the blood…
A rich, dark urban fantasy debut following a teen witch who is given a horrifying task: sacrificing her first love to save her family’s magic. The problem is, she’s never been in love—she’ll have to find the perfect guy before she can kill him.
After years of waiting for her Calling—a trial every witch must pass in order to come into their powers—the one thing Voya Thomas didn’t expect was to fail. When Voya’s ancestor gives her an unprecedented second chance to complete her Calling, she agrees—and then is horrified when her task is to kill her first love. And this time, failure means every Thomas witch will be stripped of their magic.
Voya is determined to save her family’s magic no matter the cost. The problem is, Voya has never been in love, so for her to succeed, she’ll first have to find the perfect guy—and fast. Fortunately, a genetic matchmaking program has just hit the market. Her plan is to join the program, fall in love, and complete her task before the deadline. What she doesn’t count on is being paired with the infuriating Luc—how can she fall in love with a guy who seemingly wants nothing to do with her?
With mounting pressure from her family, Voya is caught between her morality and her duty to her bloodline. If she wants to save their heritage and Luc, she’ll have to find something her ancestor wants more than blood. And in witchcraft, blood is everything.
I love pirates. Or maybe I love the pirate aesthetic? They just always have such great coats and eyeliner. Either way, it means I’m excited for In Deeper Waters, a book about a prince who is kidnapped by pirates on his coming-of-age tour and must appeal to one of his captors to help set him free and stop a war.
A young prince must rely on a mysterious stranger to save him when he is kidnapped during his coming-of-age tour in this swoony adventure that is The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Pirates of the Caribbean.
Prince Tal has long awaited his coming-of-age tour. After spending most of his life cloistered behind palace walls as he learns to keep his forbidden magic secret, he can finally see his family’s kingdom for the first time. His first taste of adventure comes just two days into the journey, when their crew discovers a mysterious prisoner on a burning derelict vessel.
Tasked with watching over the prisoner, Tal is surprised to feel an intense connection with the roguish Athlen. So when Athlen leaps overboard and disappears, Tal feels responsible and heartbroken, knowing Athlen could not have survived in the open ocean.
That is, until Tal runs into Athlen days later on dry land, very much alive, and as charming—and secretive—as ever. But before they can pursue anything further, Tal is kidnapped by pirates and held ransom in a plot to reveal his rumored powers and instigate a war. Tal must escape if he hopes to save his family and the kingdom. And Athlen might just be his only hope…
The long-awaited sequel and conclusion to Faizal’s debut We Hunt the Flame is finally here!!! And there is one question on everyone’s mind: IS ALTAIR OKAY AND ALIVE PLEASE GOD!?
The battle on Sharr is over. The dark forest has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan he set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of Old to the minarets of each caliphate, and finally returning magic to all of Arawiya. But they are low on resources and allies alike, and the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night’s return.
As the zumra plots to overthrow the kingdom’s darkest threat, Nasir fights to command the magic in his blood. He must learn to hone his power into a weapon, to wield not only against the Lion but against his father, trapped under the Lion’s control. Zafira battles a very different darkness festering in her through her bond with the Jawarat—a darkness that hums with voices, pushing her to the brink of her sanity and to the edge of a chaos she dare not unleash. In spite of the darkness enclosing ever faster, Nasir and Zafira find themselves falling into a love they can’t stand to lose…but time is running out to achieve their ends, and if order is to be restored, drastic sacrifices will have to be made.
Lush and striking, hopeful and devastating, We Free the Stars is the masterful conclusion to the Sands of Arawiya duology by New York Times–bestselling author Hafsah Faizal.
This sounds like it will be one of the best YA of the year. Military fantasy is a genre less seen in YA than adult, so I’m really excited to see how Blood Scion adds to the genre. This is a West African fantasy inspired by the child soldier crisis and follows a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods when she is drafted into the military that hunts her kind.
Inspired by Africa’s child soldier crisis and set in a West African fantasy world, the novel follows a young Scion—the all but extinct descendants of the ancient Orisha gods—who is drafted into the very military that has hunted her kind for centuries. Stealing the opportunity to uncover what happened the night her mother disappeared, she will do anything to learn the truth —even if it means becoming the killer the army demands.
We really are blessed with a surge of sapphic fantasy in 2021 and I am so excited to read every single one. Sweet and Bitter Magic is about a witch who is cursed with the inability to love, who can only feel love by stealing it from others. She makes a bargain with a girl whose father is dying to try find the source of a magical plague!
In this charming debut fantasy perfect for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Girls of Paper and Fire, a witch cursed to never love meets a girl hiding her own dangerous magic, and the two strike a dangerous bargain to save their queendom.
Tamsin is the most powerful witch of her generation. But after committing the worst magical sin, she’s exiled by the ruling Coven and cursed with the inability to love. The only way she can get those feelings back—even for just a little while—is to steal love from others.
Wren is a source—a rare kind of person who is made of magic, despite being unable to use it herself. Sources are required to train with the Coven as soon as they discover their abilities, but Wren—the only caretaker to her ailing father—has spent her life hiding her secret.
When a magical plague ravages the queendom, Wren’s father falls victim. To save him, Wren proposes a bargain: if Tamsin will help her catch the dark witch responsible for creating the plague, then Wren will give Tamsin her love for her father.
Of course, love bargains are a tricky thing, and these two have a long, perilous journey ahead of them—that is, if they don’t kill each other first..
This has one of the most beautiful covers of 2021!! It’s so stunning, the covers are just so gorgeous I love it! And after the success of Cemetery Boys, this is sure to be one of the most talked about books of the year. Lost in the Never Woods is a Peter Pan retelling following Wendy and her brothers several years after they went missing in the woods, when more children begin to disappear.
When children go missing, people want answers. When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.
It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.
Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.
The publisher describes this as “the lesbian love story you’ve been dying to read” and I definitely believe them!! Ash is dead. In the afterlife, she becomes a reaper, someone who takes souls to their afterlife fate. But Ash is also determined to see her first love again, and will do anything to make it happen.
Ash Persaud is about to become a reaper in the afterlife, but she is determined to see her first love Poppy Morgan again, the only thing that separates them is death.
The last thing Ash hears is the snap of breaking glass as the windscreen hits her and breaks into a million pieces like stars.
But she made it, she’s still here. Or is she?
This New Year’s Eve, Ash is gets an RSVP from the afterlife she can’t decline: to join a clan of fierce girl reapers who take the souls of the city’s dead to await their fate.
But Ash can’t forget her first love, Poppy, and she will do anything to see her again … even if it means they only get a few more days together. Dead or alive…
Look, I’ve always wanted a queer Jesus retelling (I’m a queer teen who was brought up Christian, the Jesus/Judus story is literally made for a queer retelling). But I might finally be getting it! Second Coming is about a teen who falls in love with an immigrant who might also be the son of God.
Set in the near future, Second Coming follows Ebb, a teen with a traumatic romantic past; that is, until he meets Manny, an immigrant from Nicaragua who loves him openly—and might also be the son of God.
From Dust, a Flame (previously The Dust Alphabet) is a sapphic Jewish fantasy about a teen cursed by a Jewish demon!! They have to hunt back through their family history to the Golem of Prague to find a way to break the curse.
A contemporary YA fantasy about identity, faith, and fate. On her 17th birthday, Hannah is cursed by a sheyd (a Jewish demon) as the price for a desperate bargain that her mother made long ago. To break the spell, she and her brother must track down their mother’s estranged family and discover a legacy they never dreamed of—one that traces back to the famous Golem of Prague.
Look, I adore vampires. It is my dream to write (and sell) a vampire book one day! So I’m super excited for Isobel Sterling’s sapphic vampire book (especially since her witchy debut, These Witches Don’t Burn, was so much fun!)
The contemporary fantasy follows Elise, a mortal girl who feels the death of anyone she touches, and Claire, the vampire assigned to recruit her for the Order, as they team up to stop a paranormal killer and realise they might be falling in love.
Sapphic girl who is poisonous to the touch? Yes please!! I am a big fan of this trend (can you call it a trend if it’s only two books that I know of so far?!) I’m loving it either way!
Catherine Laudone at Simon & Schuster has bought Briar Girls, a queer YA fantasy by Rebecca Kim Wells (Shatter the Sky). Cursed to kill all those she touches, Lena endures an isolated life on the run from her fellow humans. But when an enigmatic stranger offers to help her break the curse in exchange for her aid in waking a princess hidden in an enchanted forest, Lena embarks on a quest to win her freedom, no matter the cost.
Yes, there are MORE sapphic vampires coming in 2021 which is exactly what I needed this year! The Lost Girls follows a girl who is turned into a vampire by the boyfriend who immediately breaks up with her once she’s turned. She joins up with two of his previous exes (also vamps) to try kill him before he can change anyone else. YES this sounds INCREDIBLE.
When the vampire who turned Holly into the undead in 1987 (leaving her as a 16-year-old with badly crimped hair for all eternity) breaks up with her, she’s approached by two girls he also claimed to love, turned, then ditched. But their plan to kill him before he can strike again grows complicated when Holly starts to fall for the mortal girl they’re trying to protect.
Dark Rise comes from the author behind the Captive Prince trilogy, and is her first foray into YA! We really know next to nothing about what this series might be about, but that doesn’t make me any less excited!
C.S. Pacat’s first YA series is set in an alternate London, and follow “the heroes and villains of a long-forgotten war who are being reborn, ushering in a dangerous new age of magic”.
And there you have it, my extremely long list of fantasy I want to read this year. I’m going to ignore the fact that there’s no way I can possible read this many books on top of all the other books I want to read for as long as humanly possible. But of course, I always love to hear about more! Are there any fantasy novels I’ve missed that you’re looking forward to? Or what fantasy novel are you most excited to read this year? Let me know in the comments!
#5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @Local Bee Hunter’s Nook and you can learn more about it here or in the post announcing it. It occurs every Monday when we post about 5 books on our TBR. Thank you E. for the awesome graphic for these posts as well!
It’s my first full week back at work this week, so goodbye to my long lie-ins! I will miss them terribly. The theme for this week’s #5OnMyTBR is graphic novels. I’m rather ashamed to say I’ve never actually read a graphic novel….But I think 2021 should definitely be the year that changes! I have no idea if it’ll be a media I enjoy, but I have to at least give it a chance! So here’s five graphic novels I’m hoping to get to in 2021.
The Magic Fish has been all over my Twitter/Insta timelines for the past few months, and absolutely everyone is raving about it. So this is likely to be the very first graphic novel I try! It’s about a boy trying to find the words to tell his parents he’s gay, “a beautifully illustrated story by Trung Le Nguyen that follows a young boy as he tries to navigate life through fairytales, an instant classic that shows us how we are all connected”.
All of these graphic novels come highly recommended from the online book community because I really had no idea where to start so these are all ones I’ve heard lots of people talk about! (And love). The Prince and the Dressmaker is about a genderfluid prince who dresses as a princess during the evenings and hides his secret during the day, and his best friend and, duh, dressmaker, who longs for greatness.
Gender Queer gets the award for graphic novel that has been on my radar the longest – since it came out in fact in 2019. So I really need to get a move on and actually read it. This is an autobiographical graphic novel about Maia and eir journey of self-identity that started as a way to explain to eir family about what it means to be nonbinary and asexual.
This witchy graphic novel follows a young witch who works in her grandmother’s bookshop and helps investigate any supernatural occurences in their small town. When she’s investigating a wolf, she runs into her childhood crush (A NONBINARY WEREWOLF!!!!!) fighting a demon.
This beauty is all about a supervillain & their shapeshifting sidekick who vow to prove the people at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are. But the sidekick’s powers are mysterious and she’s growing more unpredictable every day…. Yes please, a tale of superheroes and supervillains that subverts the usual media portrayal of the heroic law enforcement and shows them as the monsters they are!
And those are five graphic novels on my TBR! As I said at the start, I really have no idea where to start with graphic novels as I’ve never read any before so I would love some more recommendations. Let me know if you have any in the comments!
It’s the last of my posts looking back over my reading in 2020! Today’s post is the end of year book survey, which is an annual survey created by Jamie @ The Perpetual Page Turner to look back at your reading year. I first saw this survey on Laura’s blog @ The Book Corps, so do check out their post as well!
Best in Books
1. Best Book You Read In 2020?
My favourite book of the year is Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia! This book just blew me away. I read it as an eARC before it released, then of course immediately pre-ordered the hard copy and have since also gifted it to 3 or 4 different people. It is absolutely incredible. The atmosphere is so terrifying and chilling and everything is beautifully fucked up. It’s the kind of book you shouldn’t really read at night because it will give you the weirdest dreams (and also you really shouldn’t eat mushrooms whilst reading it…..just no).
2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, I longed for more YA scifi just like this! Unfortunately, it was just far, far, far too cringey for me. I almost couldn’t get through because I was literally cringing on every page at all this awkward singing to each other at the silliest moments. And I think because I was so, so excited for this book, it made the disappointment even greater. I was also exceedingly disappointed in Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran, it was my only DNF of the year. It was described as a political fantasy with a sapphic relationships between a Queen and her spymaster (literally everything I’ve dreamed of in a book?!) but it just didn’t make a lot of sense, the characters were very inconsistently written and I had to give up about 40% through.
3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett surprised me in such a good way! It was a book I randomly picked up from the library without knowing anything about it, and it was such an amazing read! It was so visceral and so raw and so sensual, it created such a powerful reading experience. And this completely random library pick became one of my favourite books of the year!
4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?
Alongside Mexican Gothic, I also recommended The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey a lot this year. This was such a wonderful debut and I feel it didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved as a sapphic, gothic historical fiction novel. Also that cover?! Is gorgeous?! Please pick up this beautiful book!
5. Best series you started in 2020? Best Sequel? Best Series Ender of 2020?
I read both Jade City and Jade War this year, the first and second novels in Fonda Lee’s epic gangster fantasy series. Both are absolutely incredible, but Jade War stood out to me in particular. I am so excited for the the trilogy finale, Jade Legacy, which is releasing later this year! I need to find out what happens to the Kaul family!!
6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2020?
Silvia Moreno-Garcia wrote TWO of my favourite books of the year, horror Mexican Gothic and fantasy Gods of Jade and Shadow. Both were such different books, but had me absolutely enraptured. And I can definitely say that she is now one of my auto-buy authors. Which is excellent given she has THREE books releasing in 2021!
7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
2020 was a year I started exploring nonfiction and memories, and it’s a goal for 2021 to further expand this area of my reading! I really adored the memoir How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones. You can really tell that Saeed Jones has a background as a poet, because the prose was so beautiful and powerful and intense.
8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
This book. THIS BOOK. H-O-L-Y-F-U-C-K. The Ikessar Falcon by K.S Villoso is the second book in the Chonicles of the Bitch Queen trilogy. Both The Ikessar Falcon and the first book in the series, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, could fit this question, but I went for the second one because it is truly a rollercoaster of terrible events. I was blown away just 20% in when something shocking happens and then shit KEPT GETTING WORSE. I love K.S Villoso because I really never know if the characters that I love will win, or even if they’ll still be alive at the end… So this book definitely fulfiles all three qualities for this question: action-packed, thrilling and unputdownable!
9. Book You Read In 2020 That You Would Be MOST Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
I actually have quite a few books I read in 2020 that I’m planning to reread this year, including the gorgeous The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. But The Unspoken Name by A. K Larkwood was the book that jumped to mind immediately, not least, because the sequel is coming later this year and I will definitely need to reread this book before it arrives. This was one of my favourite books of 2020 and I can’t wait to re-immerse myself in this world!
10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2020?
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender has one of the most gorgeous covers ever created (and it is an incredible book as well). I love everything about this cover, the colours are so bright and happy, the flowers spark so much joy, and I adore the top surgery scars ON A YA COVER?!? This is amazing! It feels like such a step forward for trans rep with this cover and I just love love love love looking at it.
11. Most memorable character of 2020?
Yes, I have chosen the epic Cara from The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson for most memorable character of the year! This book was incredible, but Cara is definitely one of the best written characters I read about all year. A mere 9% in and one of the biggest twists of the year happened, and I was just in shock?! I loved the way the multiverse background to this book gave such a fantastic opportunity to show what parts of Cara differed and what stayed the same depending on how she grew up in that particular universe. It made for such an interesting read, and one I’m not going to forget any time soon!
12. Most beautifully written book read in 2020?
Erin Morgenstern has some of the most beautiful writing, in both her debut The Night Circus and her second novel, The Starless Sea. She creates the kinds of worlds you just never want to leave, that feel like a dream as you are reading. I am in awe of how beautiful her writing is, every single word is so perfectly chosen to create the most lush and delicate prose.
13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2020?
N.K Jemisin is always an author who embeds science fiction and fantasy with social commentary, and so always creates incredibly thought-provoking books. The City We Became, the first book in a new series, is no different. Different to her previous trilogies, The City We Became is set in our world, in New York, but in a world where cities can become alive once they reach a certain size and culture. It explores the way racism is upheld in society through the work of The Enemy, who uses those susceptible to bigotry to try and kill the city of New York. It is incredibly well done and is a book I want all white people to read.
14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2020 to finally read?
The Secret History by Donna Tartt is a book I’ve been meaning to read for soooooooooooo long. Like years long. But I finally bought a copy last year and eventually read it in the last month of the year! It was definitely a very interesting read. It probably didn’t quite live up to the hype in my mind after waiting to read it for so long, but I still very much enjoyed reading it!
15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2020?
“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is one of my all-time favourite books, and it was one of my only rereads of 2020! This quote is one of the most beautiful quotes in the world, and I shall love it always.
16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2020?
The longest book I read this year was the chonkiest baby The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon at 848 pages. The shortest was the wonderful fairytale novella Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh at 112 pages!
17. Book That Shocked You The Most
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters is a book literally full of plot twists that left me hanging on the edge of my seat. I like to think I’m generally fairly good at spotting plot twists, but I saw NONE OF THESE COMING. Holy shit. The shock I was in at the end of Part 1 is possibly the most shocked I have ever been at a book.
18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
How could I choose anyone other Kiem and Jainan from Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell?! This book is an absolute delight, it was my last read of 2020 and it was absolutely incredible. This was such a fun book, it was full of tropey goodness and Kiem and Jainan were utterly perfect.
19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke has one of the best portrayals of female friendship I’ve ever read! It takes the high school mean girls trope and completely twists it on its head with this coven of witches who will do anything for each other and who welcome Sideways Pike, outcast lesbian witch, with open arms in contrast to everything you expect from a group of mean girls.
20. Favorite Book You Read in 2020 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
T.J Klune is fast becoming a favourite author of mine. I read some of the novels in the Green Creek series last year and then a couple more of his this year, including adult fantasy The House in the Cerulean Sea. This book is just such a beautifully joyful story with some of the most perfect characters, including several hilarious children who have the most soul and heart in the entire world.
20. Best Book You Read In 2020 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure/Bookstagram, Etc.
Anna-Marie McLemore is an author who keeps getting recommended on pretty much every single bookish platform there is. So I finally decided to pick up one of their books in 2020, their newest one, Dark and Deepest Red! I was definitely enthralled by McLemore’s writing but a little underwhelmed after all the praise to be honest…. I definitely think I need to try out some of their earlier novels instead.
21. Best 2020 debut you read?
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson is one of the most outstanding debuts I’ve ever read. The skill in the worldbuilding, the social commentary, the depiction of trauma, the sapphic yearning, the plot twists, everything about this scifi novel was absolutely outstanding and it’s fast gone to being one of my favourite books that I am absolutely longing to reread!
22. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
There were several books I considered for this question, I read so much fantasy that there are so many choices for best worldbuilding! But I decided on The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang which is the first of a four-part novella series. I was particularly impressed with the worldbuilding in this book beacuse it is a novella, and the world and setting that Neon Yang managed to create in such a small book felt as detailed and expansive as books four times its size!
23. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
This was another book I read late in the year in December, and oh my god, it was the most fun!! It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian is a book all about changing the direction of your life for pleasure. It gave me so much to think about how I currently live my life and why I don’t put my own happiness at the centre of my actions and it was just such a romp. Also the beautiful depiction of bisexuality is absolutely fabulous!
24. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2020?
I really don’t often cry at books – at all. But I do get teary-eyed and no one can make me teary-eyed as religiously as T.J Klune! I love that his books are the perfect example for writing that has you laughing on one page and crying the next. They are so full of heart, he has such an emotional way of writing every single word that you can’t help but cry.
25. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans was an absolute delight and I need more YA readers to know about this book! It is the perfect book for all the plant gays out there. It is such a magical, hopeful little read full of magic about dryads and nature and fairies, and has a nonbinary lead, a f/nb relationship, a trans boy. It is just such a lovely and gentle book about friendship and love.
26. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
Look, if you’ve read The Dragon Republic by R.F Kuang, I have no need to explain why this book is the one that crushed my soul into smithereens. And if you haven’t read it, all I have to say is WHY HAVEN’T YOU READ IT please go read it now.
27. Most Unique Book You Read In 2020?
In my review of A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, I have the sentence “It is one of the most unique science fiction novels I’ve ever read.” So obviously, I had to pick this one for this question! The book is part murder mystery, part political thriller, part a love letter to poetry and on top of all that, a science fiction novel. And it is utterly marvellous!
28. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
I’m so sad this one made me mad! Because unfortunately, The Empire of Gold by S.A Chakraborty is not here because it made me mad with joy. I’m just so mad because one half of this book was some of the most incredible, heart-renching, soul-destroying fantasy I’ve ever read (the sections in Dara’s POV). But Nahri and Ali’s journey was some of the worst. It made no sense compared to the previous two books and created this really bad juxtaposition of Dara going through some of the worst things of life, whilst they did nothing but moon over each other despite Nahri never showing feelings for her friend, yes friend, before…. Fairly shocking ending to be quite honest.
1. New favorite book blog/Bookstagram/Youtube channel you discovered in 2020?
It’s so difficult to choose just a few wonderful new accounts I discovered in 2020, everyone has such wonderful content. But I adored exploring Hsinju from Hsinju’s Lit Log’s blog and bookstagram and watching them read Cantoras THREE TIMES even though they knew it would break their heart! They read so widely across so many different genres and put so much effort into supporting LGBTQIA+ indie publishers – go check out their post with all the sapphic indie books publishing this year!
2. Favorite post you wrote in 2020?
I hate looking back at things I’ve written lol….But I think my favourites posts were the series on SFF fiction after the mass harassment allegations in the community were revealed during the middle of last year. I looked at the adult fantasy, YA fantasy, horror, adult science fiction and YA science fiction you could be reading instead of books by old, white racists!
3. Favorite bookish related photo you took in 2020?
I really love this photo of a stack of trans, nonbinary and gender diverse books I took! I love the colouring of the books with the colouring of the candles, and it shows off one of my favourite plants! (Which has since now…..kind of died….Here’s hoping I can bring it back from the brink of death).
4. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2020?
In December, I managed to hit over 1000 hits in one month on my blog for the first time! I never thought anyone would want to hear me talk about books so to know so many people came to my blog?! And read the nonsense I wrote?! I LOVE YOU ALL THANK YOU.
6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
The most challenging thing about blogging this year was probably my 30 Days of Pride series. I posted every single day in June to celebrate Pride month, and holy fuck, it was so much work. Since I moved jobs earlier last year, I’ve also had less time to work on my blog and reading, as I now often have manuscripts to read for the day job on top of doing all my own reading and blog work.
7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
My most popular posts of last year were the YA fantasy books to read instead of books by old, white racists, and my most anticipated books of 2021! The latter definitely contributed to the increase of views I saw in December which helepd me reach the 1000 total views milestone that month.
8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
I really wish my creation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show book tag had gotten more attention! I had so much fun writing it, I love that film so much and I love doing book tags so I wish others had done it too. Maybe next Halloween?!
1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2020 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2021?
A Little Life has been a book I’ve been meaning to read foreeeever, and 2021 is going to be the year, I promise! It is top of the list of my ‘must read books of 2021’. I’m hoping to start it near the end of January, or in February. Although February is F/F Feb, so maybe March….? And before I know it, it will be 2022…
2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2021 (non-debut)?
Like I was going to pick just one!! These are some of the books I am hugely excited for in 2021!
A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee
We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen
Under the Whispering Door by T.J Klune
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
3. 2021 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
And here are another five, debuts this time which I am absolutely so excited for (especially since I have an ARC for several of them!!)
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu
The Unbroken by C.L. Clark
The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2021?
In 2021, we have Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee, The Thousand Eyes by A.K Larkwood and The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S Villoso! These are all the finales/sequels to three of my favourite fantasy series so I am incredibly excited.
5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2021?
This year, I’m hoping to actually work on my physical TBR! Last year, I had several months that were so focused on library books and ARCs, that my physical TBR got a little out of control. So this year I need to actually finish the books I own!
6. A 2021 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone (if applicable)
Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell is absolutely glorious – it is the direction I want to see more of in SFF. Brilliant tropey fun, a wonderful romance, and the kind of characters that make you want to give them a hug and never let go! It was such a funny read and I had an absolute blast reading it.
And that’s the last of my posts looking back over my 2020 reading year! I’m hoping to have a more relaxed reading year in 2021, I don’t want to put the same kind of pressure on numbers that I did last year as I think it made me struggle to actually enjoy the books I was reading, in the race to try and read as many books as possible. I hope everyone has a good first month of the year!
#5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @Local Bee Hunter’s Nook and you can learn more about it here or in the post announcing it. It occurs every Monday when we post about 5 books on our TBR. Thank you E. for the awesome graphic for these posts as well!
Happy New Year!! Here’s to having a better year than the last one… We’re starting off 2021 with a #5OnMyTBR all about the 2021 releases coming. I’m so excited for so many, but I decided to choose this week’s titles based on what ones I’ll be reading the soonest – aka, which ones I currently have ARCs for and need to read in January!
This book has been on my TBR for ages as it was a book pushed back because of the pandemic last year, but it’s finally releasing in February so it is time to read the ARC! This is a West African inspired YA fantasy about a girl who discovers she is near-immortal when her blood runs gold rather than red during a blood ceremony, and goes to fight for the emperor rather than facing a fate worse than death in the village she grew up in.
Sophie Gonzales’ Only Mostly Devastated was one of my favourite books of 2020 so when her 2021 release, Perfect on Paper, was on Read Now on NetGalley, I absolutely flew to grab a copy! I can’t wait to read her newest book that celebrates bisexuality! This biconic read is about a girl who runs an annoymous sex/relationship advice clinic at school and gets blackmailed to help someone get their ex back.
I don’t know huge amounts about this one because I was pretty much sold on only “Zimbabwean magic”, “adult fantasy” and “set in Edinburgh” (which is very close to where I grew up in Scotland!) So of course I wanted to read the fantasy novel set there?! Especially when it’s all about ghosts because Edinburgh is one of the best settings for ghost stories. But it seems to be about a woman who can talk to the dead and carries messages from them the living and a new creature that is bewitching children and taking all their joy.
As much as I dislike this cover (seriously, what on earth is that?! It’s so bad?? It looks like one of the fake ones you do before the real cover release??), I have heard nothing but incredible things about this book. It has a bisexual mc and, I’ve been told, so much yearning we might all die. Also it’s a gothic novel set in a creepy mansion with a lord with a mysterious illness…
Yes so this one doesn’t release until July and I have so many other ARCs I need to read before it, but there is NO WAY I can let this go unread until I’ve finished them all. I’m trying to be responsible and read the ones due in February/March first but really, I give me a week before I’ve caved and read this baby, my most anticipated book the year! It’s an adult fantasy reimagining of the rise to power of the founder of the Ming Dynasty. It’s tragic and queer and has a genderqueer lead and I literally will die the moment my eyes read the first words of this book.
And there’s a very short snippet of some of the 2021 releases I’m planning to read this month! They all sound absolutely exceptional and I think we’re going to have a really stand out year of books! What 2021 release are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!
Today I’m looking back at all the books I read in 2020, and seeing how sucessful I was at meeting my goals! I opened up my 2020 goals post from early last year before writing this post and…..well I can’t say I did too sucessfully. It was actually rather depressing to see how much I’ve failed. I think I’ll need to make my 2021 goals a lot more manageable this year so I have even the slightest chance of meeting them.
My reading stats
Let’s start with the really fun stuff: statistics! I love doing different stats on my reading to see where I need to improve and get a more holisitc view of what I am reading. Across 2020, I read 109 books for a total of 37, 436 pages! This is 9 over my goal of 100, but 1 less than my stretch goal of 110 (which was what I managed in 2019 and so I wanted to match or beat it). But I’m still really happy with this figure, particularly as I haven’t counted any of the reading I needed to do in my new job this year (where I now get to read lots of manuscripts to assess for acquisition!)
The longest book I read was of course the magnificent The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon at 848 pages! My shortest read was the novella Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh, at 112 pages. My average rating across the year was 4.1 – my average rating usually sits quite high because I’m generally pretty good at picking books I know I’ll like to read.
Of the 109 books I read this year:
49 were fantasy
12 were science fiction
13 were horror
20 were contemporary
4 were mystery/thriller
5 were nonfiction/memoirs
6 were historical fiction
I am very unsurprised by the fact more than half of my reads – or 68%! – were speculative fiction (fantasy, scifi, horror). 61% of all the books (or 66 in total) were queer, with 20% being about or by trans, nonbinary or gender diverse people. I’d love to get the percentage of trans/nonbinary/gender diverse books up, and I definitely think I’ll be able to since there are so many great trans books coming this year!
Of the 109 books, 47% were by authors of colour (or 51 books). This is another area I want to improve on in 2021, I’d like to get to 50% at a minimum, but I’ll be aiming for 60%. For a more specific goal, I’d like to focus on reading more books by Indigenous Australians in particular.
My favourites of the year
Here are five of my favourite books of the year. I also have a longer post talking about my 17 new favourites of the year, which you can check it out here! But for this post, I thought I’d just pick five from different genres for variety!
Annnnnd these are my least favourites of the year. This list is filled with several of my most anticipated books of 2020! And it particularly breaks my heart to see Empire of Gold here. Because half of that book was pure excellence (yes hi Dara, you carried that book). Still one of my favourite series of all time though!
And now it’s time to go through my list of 2020 goals and embarass myself with how much I failed. Pretty sure I completely forgot about most of these goals by the second week of January
I want to review at least 60% of the books I read – and ALL of the 2020 releases I read.
Well this was definitely a fail, what was I thinking?! Reviewing every single 2020 release? WHAT. I think I reviewed approximately 64 books in 2020, which actually, having now counted it up, is still 57% of all the books I read so I almost got there. However, I definitely didn’t review every single 2020 release, particularly the ones I read in the last few months of the year when I just needed a bit of a break.
Read 100 books.
Woohoo, okay this one I managed!! Go me. I did find myself rushing at the end of the year to try get it completed, so I might lower it for 2021 to reduce the pressure on myself.
Year of the Asian Readathon – get the Malayan Tapir award, which is reading 21-30 books by Asian authors.
And I managed to sucessfully complete this one too! I was aiming for 30 books, but I’m still happy I reached the range for the Malayan Tapir award with 23 books by Asian authors!
I also had several very intense writing goals, including finishing my WIP (which I failed), researching two other books (also failed both these) and joining a writing group (failed). Although to be fair to the last one, I did try go to a writing group in early January but did not click with any of the people and then covid happened. So at least that one isn’t totally my fault?
Anyway here’s to making more achievable goals in 2021!
This year, I’m trying to make more sensible, achievable, less overwhelming goals. So far, I’ve got:
Read at least 1 nonfiction book every month.
Read 75 books total – I’ve reduced this from my 2020 goal, even though I did sucessfully read 100 books, because I’d like to put less pressure on myself.
Read 60% books by authors of colour.
Read 75% queer books.
Read 30% books by/about trans, nonbinary and gender-diverse people.
Work on my physical TBR instead of getting overwhelmed with ARCs and library books. I can’t remember who, but someone on Twitter said their goal was going to be for every ARC read, they must then read a book they own and I absolutely love that! So for every ARC or library book I read, I immediately need to read a book I own after it! Hopefully that will get me get my physical TBR down.
I’m also putting finish my current writing WIP on here as well – and that’s my only writing goal after having four or five last year failed me horrifically.
Regarding all my social media, I would love to reach 300 followers on my blog and bookstagram, and reach 450 on Twitter! It’s approximately an increase of 100 followers on each platform….Is that achievable in a year??? I hope so!
And that’s my 2020 wrap-up, as well as a sneak peak at the goals I’m hoping to achieve in 2021! I’m excited to get started on my 2021 reading. This year has so many incredible books coming and I can’t wait to read them all! What goals have you made for 2020? Let me know in the comments!
What a year. All I can really say is thank god for the books that got me through it, that distracted me from the hell outside, that kept me going through the 23-hour-a-day, over 100 days long lockdown here in Melbourne. Thank you to the bookshops and authors who were able to keep supplying us with magical worlds to escape into, during a time where we really needed an escape. So I’m going to jump straight in to this post without saying anything else – here are my favourite books read in 2020!
If I had to choose just one book, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic is my book of the year. It’s the book I read as an ARC earlier this year, immediately pre-ordered my own hard copy, and have since gifted to 3 or 4 other people. Because I need as many people as possible to read this. This is the modern gothic novel of my dreams. It is dark and twisted and the atmosphere is utterly captivating. Set in 1950s Mexico, it follows Noemí, a young socialite who goes to visit (and potentially rescue) her cousin after she receives a letter hinting that her cousin is in danger. Up high in the misty mountains of Mexico is a world of dangers, many mushroom related, and all equally terrifying and atmospheric, the tension in this novel is absolutely sublime.
YA contemporary is a genre I only came to last year, but I have loved exploring the new releases in this genre, years after I myself was a teen, because we just have so many more diverse reads than when I grew up. And it really just makes my heart sing when I see myself in books that never would have been published when I grew up. Felix Ever After is one of these books. It is one of the most personal and heartfelt stories I’ve read, and I connected so closely with Felix. It is a story about a young trans man who decides to catfish his bully and ends up in a quasi-love triangle. But what Felix Ever After does best is really explore the fluidity of gender and sexuality and it is this that made this book connect so personally to me.
Much like Mexican Gothic, The Space Between Worlds was a book I snagged an ARC of and then immediately upon finishing had to buy the hard copy. Because this book is spectacular. It’s probably my favourite science fiction novel of all time. It’s a twist on the parallel universe trope, but in this world, you can only travel between parallel universes if the parallel you is already dead. Otherwise you’ll be gruesomely torn apart in the process of travelling. But this book is so much more than that trope: it’s a catastrophic take down of capitalism, it’s like a glimpse into our future if we carry on down the track we’re heading, set in this world ravaged by climate change and where the divide between poor and rich is so glaringly horrific. From the way Johnson depicts trauma and portrays Cara in the aftermath of this trauma, to the intense, full-of-yearning sapphic relationship, everything about this book is just excellent and Johnson has found a reader for life in me.
This was a book I read fairly early on in the year (April) just as the pandemic started ramping up and anxiety was at its highest. And god, it just blew me away. I was completely immersed in the world created by Larkwood and it was such a perfect distraction. I’ve spent the entire year since April thinking ‘yes, I need to reread this book’. And since we now have confirmation of a sequel coming this year, I’ll definitely be rereading it in advance of that! The Unspoken Name has everything I adore about fantasy: sapphic orcs escaping from gods who want them as a sacrifice, necromancy, slowburn sapphic romance, very powerful women totally losing their shit, wizards, tusks, portal travel, and so much more! The worldbuilding is so brilliant, this world is just absolutely huge and full of so much amazing detail. It really reminded me of the DragonAge games, which I also adore, so really it’s no surprise that this is one of my favourite books of the year! Bring on the sequel!
This book holds a particularly special place in my heart for several reasons. Firstly, it is the only book I have ever received a physical ARC of – I won it in the bushfire auctions at the start of 2020. And secondly, the Melbourne book launch for this was the very last event I went to before Covid hit and the entire country went into lockdown. And that’s before I even talk about the actual content of the book. This was just such a perfectly fun, lighthearted queer Grease retelling. The main character, Ollie, has such a funny voice, he was so sarcastic and self-deprecating which is one of my favourite voice styles to read in YA. And Gonzales absolutely nailed it. It also has some really fantastic discussions around queerness, particularly bisexuality. Only Mostly Devastated really reminded me of all my favourite 90s romcom films, like Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You, and it was such a brilliant, positive book to read in a time when the world was crashing apart around us.
One of my first reads of 2020, this one managed to stay on my favourites list for the entirity of 2020! It is quite possibly the most fun fantasy book I’ve ever read, just so full of joy and laughter. It’s set in Hell’s library, a place where all the unwritten manuscripts are housed. When a character escapes from one of the books, the librarian must hunt them down, but somehow ends up in the middle of a war between Heaven and Hell. The writing style is so funny and snarky, I absolutely loved it. And the casual queerness in the world is perfect – even more so because the word pansexual is actually used on the page to describe the main character!! Which is the first time I think I’d read that in a fantasy book! The worldbuilding also felt very hopeful – there are no guns in the library because humans stopped imaginning them – small inserts like that really gave this book the happy and joyful atmosphere that had me so in love with it.
One of my goals for 2020 was to actually read some nonfiction/memoirs for the first time, and it makes me so happy that one of them actually made my favourite books of the year list! How We Fight For Our Lives is a memoir from award-winning poet Saeed Jones, and you can definitely tell Jones’ background is in poetry. The prose in this memoir is absolutely stunning. It felt like someone had punched me in the chest the whole through, like there was this gaping hole inside me, the way that only the most special of books can make you feel. Stunning and heartbreaking and a book I am longing to reread.
Mostly Dead Things is the book that most surprised me in 2020. It was a book I randomly saw on a library shelf and picked up with absolutely no expectations (especially given the Goodreads rating is also fairly low – so let me preface this by saying, GOODREADS PEOPLE WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!). But I was absolutely blown away by this adult contemporary. It is one of the most visceral, sensual books I’ve ever read, which created such an intense reading experience. It is definitely a strange book: it follows a taxidermist whose father commited suicide and whose mother now makes erotic art out of the taxidermy animals. It is dark and follows a lot of selfish, unlikeable characters making really shitty decisions. But I was just completely enthralled by Arnett’s writing, it is such a raw, agonising portrayal of grief that I felt like someone clawed me open the whole way through. Absolutely stunning!
I read The Wolf of Oren-Yaro back in January, and The Ikessar Falcon when it released in September, and this series immediately moved to my all time favourite fantasy series. I am so excited for the finale to this trilogy (coming in May!) Villoso is one of my favourite fantasy authors for a very particular reason: I like pain. I read this series, I think my favourite characters are at absolute rock bottom, that things can only go up! And then Villoso just smashes me and the characters with a rock and we tumble even further. There is such power in knowing that anything could happen to these characters, that they actually might not win. They all fill me with such passion, both fury and fierce loyalty. Villoso embeds her writing with such excellent character development, alongside so much action in a way that not many fantasies do (usually we see a focus on either one or the other). This series in an absolute masterpiece of fantasy and I need more people to read this so we can scream about it together.
N.K Jemisin is one of my all time favourite authors and writer of one of my favourite fantasy series The Broken Earth trilogy, so of course I had very high hopes for the start of a new trilogy, The City We Became. And of course, this is N.K Jemisin, so all my hopes were met! What a start to a new trilogy! This is extremely different to the Broken Earth trilogy. In The City We Became, we are in modern day New York, in a world where cities can become alive when they reach a certain size and develop a unique enough culture. New York is waking up, and six individuals suddenly find themselves with the soul of the city inside them. They have to fight back against The Enemy, who wants to destroy the city so New York doesn’t destroy other worlds when it wakes up. This was such a unique and creative concept but my favourite thing about Jemisin’s writing is the way she blends science fiction and fantasy elements with the insidiousness of racism and otherness to create this spectacular commentary on our current world. It’s just absolutely incredible. Jemisin really has a way of combining these huge creative powerhouse concepts with vicious take downs of societal structures and the racism they uphold.
T.J Klune is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, I haven’t read a single book of his that I didn’t love. The House in the Cerulean Sea is probably the most comforting book I read all year. It felt like a hug. It’s that simple. It follows a caseworker from the Department in Charge of Magical Youth as he goes to check on some very special children at a very special orphanage. There, he finds even more than he ever dreamed himself worthy of: family. This book was just the sweetest, happiest, most joyful book I read all year. It is full of Klune’s trademark emotional wringing, from laughter on one page, to tears on the next, but it is so full of hope and joy that I want everyone to have the most magical of times reading it.
The Mercies was my first Kiran Millwood Hargrave book, and Hargrave’s first adult book. And what a fucking book it is. I haven’t traditionally been the biggest reader of historical fiction – there’s a reason this list is mostly SFF after all! But I am so glad I decided to give this book a try, because it was absolutely beautiful. This book almost felt gothic in its atmosphere, set in this far-away, cold, and lonely village in Norway. It follows a group of women after the menfolk of their village are all killed in a violent storm, and suddenly they have to fend for themselves. But then a new commissioner, a witch hunter, is sent to the village, and as he tries to take back control from the women, friendship is weaponised and the women are manipulated into throwing about rumours of witchcraft that result in the most horrific of acts. This was such a beautifully destructive book, really showing the way power, and the desire for power, can warp and destroy everything you hold dear.
Jade City and Jade War were my first two reads of 2020 and they stayed at the top of my favourites list ALL YEAR! These two chonky books follow the Kaul family crime syndicate as they try to wrest control of their city from their rival clan. I am so phenomenally in awe of Fonda Lee’s ability to write battle scenes. The intensity, the fear, the panic that claws through me when I read these fight scenes is absolutely unparalleled, I absolutely race through them, desperate to know if my favourite characters will still be alive at the end. The worldbuilding is also exceptionally well done, the world is so huge and yet I feel like I know the city of Kekon so well through Lee’s writing. The magic system is so cool – using jade to grant almost superhero like abilities, but ones that require huge amounts of training to achieve? Perfection! So in summary, I love everything about this series and I am shaking with excitment (and perhaps fear) to read the finale which is publishing in September!
This really was the year I learned that happy books can be good too….I am such a sucker for a SFF novel that brutally tears me apart, but this year I really learned the benefit and necessity of a pure comfort read. And adding to my other new comfort reads on this list Only Mostly Devastated, The Library of the Unwritten, and The House in the Cerulean Sea, is It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake! Not only is the cover absolutely beautiful in real life (the pink is so bright, my heart just sings looking at it), but this book is such a beautiful and positive outlook on life. It made me think about the way I view the world and how I think and how I can be a more positive person. It’s a book all about making yourself find pleasure in life, about doing the things you’ve always dreamed of doing. It’s sex-positive, the representation of bisexuality is phenomenal, and Christian has such humourous writing that I laughed my way through this book from start to end.
Queer novellas are really in a golden age right now, and it makes me so happy that one of the ones I read this year made it into my favourites! Neon Yang’s novella series is incredible. Currently, there are 4 parts, the first being The Black Tides of Heaven. I am so impressed at the detail and standard of worldbuilding Yang was able to incorporate into such a small book. It is by far some of the most impressive novella writing I’ve ever read. The casualised queerness is exceptional, and I was overjoyed to see the way gender is explored in this world, with children growing up gender neutral until a time when they are ready to make a decision. Can we do that in real life please? I have also read (and loved!) the fourth novella in this series, The Ascent to Godhood, and plan to read the middle two asap because I long for more time spent in this beautifully created world.
Yes, Silvia Moreno-Garcia has such power that TWO of her books are on my favourite books of 2020 list!! I will literally buy everything she writes from now until eternity. This fantasy was one of my last reads of the year, and it was such a beautiful way to finish it. Gods of Jade and Shadow is set in 1920s Mexico, and follows Casiopea, a young woman who accidentally awakens the Mayan God of Death. Oops. It follows them on an adventure across Mexico as the two try to restore his power before he sucks her energy dry, killing her in the process and turning himself mortal. This book was just so full of adventure and curiosity and hope. Moreno-Garcia’s writing is absolutely picturesque, I felt like I could see each of the places they visited so clearly, from the bustling heart of Mexico City, to the desert of El Paso. The romance is spectacular – accidentally falling in love with the Mayan God of Death is exactly the type of fantasy romance I love. You know how it must end, and yet your heart is just torn apart watching them fall more and more in love. The yearning in this book is just out of this world. I never cry at books, and there were so many tender, beautiful moments between the two of them near the end, that I was tearing up so much!! Silvia Moreno-Garcia is one of the most exciting authors writing right now, and I cannot wait to read her THREE, yes THREE, releases coming in 2021.
Last on my list, but very much not least, is my final read of 2020! Winter’s Orbit is a 2021 release (coming February!) that I had an ARC for, and I really cannot express how much I need everyone to pre-order this book. It is the exact style of SFF that I have been longing for. Winter’s Orbit follows two men, Kiem and Jainan, after they are made to marry shortly after the death of Jainan’s first husband, in order to sign a treaty that keeps their empire safe from invasion. This book is just so full of joy: it is full of some of your favourite tropes including a variation of a personal favourite of mine, there’s only one tent… The romance and pining is so beautiful, the way their relationship develops is just perfect – from the uncommunicative, forced marriage start, to the foolhardy resuces to save the other! I also thought the writing about domestic abuse and the trauma from Jainan’s first marriage was really well handled, and written really beautifully. Please no one ever hurt sweet Jainain again!!! This book is the tropey fun I have been longing to see in SFF and I can’t wait to get a hard copy and reread it when it releases in Feb!
And another year is now passed, along with 17 new favourites to add to my bookshelves! What were your favourite books of 2020? Do we have any of the same ones? Let me know in the comments! I wish everyone a Happy New Year, and let’s make 2021 less shit, yes!