I’d like to begin by saying this is in no way a comprehensive list of my favorite books. Throughout the year, I read roughly 120 books, so to narrow this down, I went through my reading log spreadsheet and picked through my top 5 star books. The following books are in no particular order, but I did group them together by semi related genres/feelings.
Jade War by Fonda Lee– book 2 in the Green Bone Saga (see Jade City for book 1) did not disappoint. I actually had a hard time getting through parts of Jade War because I needed to put the book aside and calm down. This book of magic, family, political intrigue, and the brutality of street wars is incredibly intense but worth the heart palpitations.
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse– a multi-POV fantasy set in an alternate version of Central America where colonialism didn’t destroy the Nahuatl/indigenous cultures. If you’re into soft but dark magic ridden boys, headstrong female captains who are a bit of a mess, and incredibly intriguing mysteries, Black Sun is one to pick up.
Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark– What is the KKK were actual monsters? Ring Shout tells the story of a diverse group of resistance fighters who decide to take on the KKK and bring them down once and for all. What I absolutely loved about this was the way African root/folk magic was interwoven with historical events and eldritch abominations. All of Clark’s works are a must read for me.
Tommy Cabot Was Here by Cat Sebastian– While narrowing down my list, there were 3 Cat Sebastian books with 5 stars that I read this year, so take it as a blanket statement that I love her work. Tommy Cabot Was Here is deliciously filled with hurt-comfort as Tommy deals with a divorce and making a new life with his son while grappling with feelings for his best friend (his son’s teacher at the boarding school they attended as boys). If you love queer historical fiction, Cat Sebastian is a fav of mine.
Seducing the Sorcerer by Lee Welch– Goofy magic horse? Check. Middle aged protagonists in a queer romance? Check. A Diana Wynne Jones magical vibe? Check. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you aren’t into BDSM (it was pretty light overall), but this just hit the spot for me. Charming, complex, yet easy to sink into.
Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert– As soon as I see a book with neurodivergent love interests, I am sold. I love Eve and Jacob’s dynamic, both messes in their own way. Tornado of chaos meets stuffed shirt to create the perfect balance. All of the books in the Brown Sisters series are wonderful, but I think this one is my fav.
Into New Worlds
An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley– This is another one that I think hit all my sweet spots. It reminded me of Hocus Pocus in terms of the brother-sister would kill for you dynamic. I’m also a sucker for Louis XIV/Rococopunk type stories, and this doesn’t disappoint with a plot to kill Louis XIV while overthrowing the government and creating an even worse one featuring magic and poisons.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRou by V. E. Schwab– A girl in 17th century France sells her soul to have a different life and quickly finds herself in a Monkey’s Paw situation where no one remembers her. Until she meets Henry. This one is a slow start, but once it got going, I was hooked and finished it in like two days.
Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko– If this sounds good to you, make sure to read Raybearer first. Both books follow Tarisai as she joins the future emperor’s court, finds a new family, and discovers that she is so much more than she thought. I always worry a second book in a fantasy duology will be too samey-samey with the first one or go totally off the rails. Ifueko creates an interesting world filled with so much magic and how one deals with a legacy of pain to make a better future.
Life Is Complicated
Yolk by Mary H. K. Choi– Talk about complicated sibling relationships. June and Jayne are sisters who seem a world apart when in reality, they are both messes. Jayne is envious of her corporate, high-rise sister while she is struggling through college and clout-chasing friends in a crappy apartment. When June steals Jayne’s identity, the sisters are drawn together and deal with their new realities and futures. I’d also like to mention that I love Mary H. K. Choi’s books, and if you haven’t read Emergency Contact, you should.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston– time traveling lesbian, need I say more? After spotting a leather jacket lesbian on the train (Jane), August takes the train to get to know her and quickly realizes Jane has been stuck on the same train since the 70s. It’s a story as much about NYC and queer history as it is a sapphic romance and begs the question, will August and Jane get to be together?
Little Thieves by Margaret Owen– Vanja has been impersonating Princess Gisele for over a year, but her deception comes crashing down after being cursed for her greed and discovering her horrid betrothed is plotting something horrific. Vanja has to team up with a motley crew, complete with a stuffy inspector, to save her country and maybe even save herself. Set in a German-like fantasy world, the folklore and magic was *chef kiss*
Let me know in the comments what are your best books of 2021!