At the end of 2019 I gave myself a list of 20 fantasy books I wanted to read in 2020 but, let’s be honest, 2020 was a shit show of a year and I’m not going to hold it against myself that I only crossed six of them off my TBR.
This year I still want to challenge myself to cross some books off my TBR, but I’ve narrowed it down to a list of ten that I really want to make time for in 2021. Some of them have been on my TBR for years and others are more recent, and I’m hoping to enjoy all of them!
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb
From the author of the classic Farseer trilogy, Ship of Magic is the first part of the Liveship Traders. Set in a land bordering the Six Duchies, Robin Hobb begins her epic of pirates, talking ships, magic, sea serpents, slave revolts, dashing heroes and bloody battles.
Wizardwood, the most precious commodity in the world, comes only from the Rain Wilds. But only a liveship can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain Wild River, and liveships are hard to come by. They quicken only when three family members from successive generations have died upon their deck.
The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening: Althea Vestrit waits for the ship that she loves more than anything in the world to awaken. But her dream of taking her father’s place at Vivacia’s helm is not to be, for her family have other plans…
And the dark, charming pirate Kennit also lusts after such a ship: he well knows the power of wizardwood and has plans of his own…
I’ve heard so many amazing things about this second trilogy in Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings and, now that I’ve read the first trilogy in this huge series, I can finally dive into it myself. I’ve got my fingers crossed that this will be a five star read!
Jade City by Fonda Lee
Jade is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. It has been mined, traded, stolen, and killed for — and for centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their magical abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.
Now, the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.
When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone — even foreigners — wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones — from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets — and of Kekon itself.
Another novel I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about and one I need to cross off my TBR, especially with the final book in the series coming out this year!
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
I’ve started this one before I was enjoying it, but I’ve heard such mixed things about it that I’m a little nervous about reading an 800+ page novel only to think it’s ‘fine’. There’s an f/f romance, though, and I want to fill 2021 with f/f fantasy so I need to read it!
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?
Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?
I heard amazing things about this debut in 2020, and I want to make more of an effort to read the books I own by Black authors this year. I’m still not entirely sure what this book is actually about, but I quite enjoy going into a book knowing as little as possible.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón; translated by Lucia Graves
Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the ‘cemetery of lost books’, a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out ‘La Sombra del Viento’ by Julian Carax.
But as he grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. Then, one night, as he is wandering the old streets once more, Daniel is approached by a figure who reminds him of a character from La Sombra del Viento, a character who turns out to be the devil. This man is tracking down every last copy of Carax’s work in order to burn them. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind. A page-turning exploration of obsession in literature and love, and the places that obsession can lead.
This novel has been on my TBR for years and I need to read it. I’ve heard such good things about it and I’d like to read more translated fiction.
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya–but neither wants to be.
War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds–and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.
2020 was the year in which I discovered my love for desert fantasy, so it’s about time I read this debut novel which I’ve owned a copy of since its release.
The King of Crows by Libba Bray
After the horrifying explosion that claimed one of their own, the Diviners find themselves wanted by the US government, and on the brink of war with the King of Crows.
While Memphis and Isaiah run for their lives from the mysterious Shadow Men, Isaiah receives a startling vision of a girl, Sarah Beth Olson, who could shift the balance in their struggle for peace. Sarah Beth says she knows how to stop the King of Crows-but, she will need the Diviners’ help to do it.
Elsewhere, Jericho has returned after his escape from Jake Marlowe’s estate, where he has learned the shocking truth behind the King of Crow’s plans. Now, the Diviners must travel to Bountiful, Nebraska, in hopes of joining forces with Sarah Beth and to stop the King of Crows and his army of the dead forever.
But as rumors of towns becoming ghost towns and the dead developing unprecedented powers begin to surface, all hope seems to be lost.
In this sweeping finale, The Diviners will be forced to confront their greatest fears and learn to rely on one another if they hope to save the nation, and world from catastrophe…
This is the final book in The Diviners series, which has quickly become one of my favourite series, and I need to stop putting this finale off. Bray isn’t afraid to hurt her characters and I’m very worried about my 1920s children, but I want to see how this story ends!
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there’s anything I’ve learned from him in the years since, it’s that the dead hide truths as well as the living.
When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.
In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha-one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.
I love my witch stories and this is another book I’ve heard so many good things about, so it’s about time I picked it up!
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
This was never the story of one woman, or two. It was the story of all of them…
In the middle of the night, Creusa wakes to find her beloved Troy engulfed in flames. Ten seemingly endless years of brutal conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans are over, and the Greeks are victorious. Over the next few hours, the only life she has ever known will turn to ash…
The devastating consequences of the fall of Troy stretch from Mount Olympus to Mount Ida, from the citadel of Troy to the distant Greek islands, and across oceans and sky in between. These are the stories of the women embroiled in that legendary war and its terrible aftermath, as well as the feud and the fatal decisions that started it all…
Powerfully told from an all-female perspective, A Thousand Ships gives voices to the women, girls and goddesses who, for so long, have been silent.
It’s been a little while since I read a novel inspired by Greek myth—even though I love Greek mythology, I’ve been feeling a bit over-saturated with it lately—but I bought this novel after seeing Natalie Haynes at the Hay Festival back in 2019 and she was fantastic. This is another book I’ve heard brilliant things about!
Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron
A girl with no gifts must bargain for the power to fight her own mother’s dark schemes—even if the price is her life.
Heir to two lines of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. Yet she fails at bone magic, fails to call upon her ancestors, and fails to live up to her family’s legacy. Under the disapproving eye of her mother, the Kingdom’s most powerful priestess and seer, she fears she may never be good enough.
But when the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, Arrah is desperate enough to turn to a forbidden, dangerous ritual. If she has no magic of her own, she’ll have to buy it—by trading away years of her own life.
Arrah’s borrowed power reveals a nightmarish betrayal, and on its heels, a rising tide of darkness that threatens to consume her and all those she loves. She must race to unravel a twisted and deadly scheme… before the fight costs more than she can afford.
I’ve seen very good reviews from readers I trust about this YA African-inspired fantasy about witchdoctors, so I want to read it this year. I love my stories about witches, but I’ve yet to read a book about witchdoctors…