2021 Favorites: Fantasy

We come to it at last. My favorite genre: Fantasy. I don’t know what it is about magical worlds that so captures my attention, but if I had to choose only one genre to read forevermore, it would be fantasy.

I read a lot of great fantasy books last year. Most of my favorites of the year, in fact.

So in no particular order, here are my favorite fantasy books of 2021:

Thara Celehar, the Witness for the Dead of the city of Amalo, wants little more than to live a quiet life and fulfill his duties. But his past doesn’t rest easily, and his duties are far from simple- and more controversial than he imagined they would be. Yet his own sense of justice will not allow Celehar to take the easy road, and so he travels a treacherous path that puts him in danger’s path, but will grant him– and the dead– a greater peace, if only he can survive to complete his missions.

When the assassination of the Iron Queen Sarelin Brey threatens to fracture the realm of Elira, it falls upon the queen’s closest friend, Lysande Prior, to choose the next ruler from four city-leaders, each of whom has their strengths, flaws, and hidden agendas. But for all her intelligence, Lysande has weaknesses of her own- she carries secrets that could get her killed if anyone finds out, and the more time she spends with the city-leaders, the more her taste for power grows.

On a gloomy winter’s day, Penric is summoned from his home to investigate a strange occurrence: a body pulled from the harbor is suddenly alive again, but no one can make sense of what it is saying. Penric has an idea of what has happened, but the more he investigates this strange happening, the more twisted– and tragic– the tale grows.

  • Jade Legacy (The Green Bone Saga #3)
    by Fonda Lee
    736 pages

In this brilliant finale to Lee’s Green Bone Saga, the No Peak Clan faces the future– and its destiny– as it faces enemies on all sides. Every member of the Kaul family has their part to play in determining the clan’s fate, but not everyone agrees on how they should deal with societal pressures and the increasing pace of change. But one thing is certain: if they don’t face what’s coming together, the No Peak Clan is doomed.

A young princess from the far north is sent south to marry the emperor. Alone and reviled, she has only her servants at her side to keep her company- and to help her plot a path to freedom. Her story is told from the perspective of her most beloved handmaiden, a young woman whose secret could bring down the empire.

In 1915, the racist film Birth of a Nation sweeps across the country and swells the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan, opening its more ardent members to vile possession by demonic Kluxes. Maryse Boudreaux and her group of resistance fighters do what they can to fight back the Kluxes, but when they discover something hellish brewing in Macon, they know they’re fighting a losing battle. Unless, that is, Maryse can dig deep within herself and face a frightening truth about herself she’s spent her life trying to bury.

Of the western coast of Ireland lie the Aran Islands, three rocky points of land scoured by sea and wind, whose inhabitants are a hardy and insular people. Every once in a while, though, a fourth island, Inis Caillte, appears. Its inhabitants are those who found their way in moments of despair. Believed dead by their friends and families, they work to find hope and healing in their new home. But gone is not forgotten, and the dark emotions that draw people to Inis Caillte are spreading to other lands.

Born with her father’s courageous spirit, Omat is determined to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and help keep her family on good terms with the spirits of their Arctic homeland. The spirits have turned their backs on Omat’s people, though, and no matter how far they go or how much they hunt, they cannot find enough food. When a strange ship carrying tall, fiery-haired warriors appears amidst the ice, Omat embarks on a quest to save her brother. When she crosses paths with a strange warrior cast out by the fiery-haired people, they must work together to prevent their worlds from colliding and bringing an end to everything they know and cherish.

Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, and has proved herself more than once– especially by saving the world last summer. So when the members of a secret brotherhood are all murdered, Fatma is called in to investigate. The brotherhood was devoted to Al-Jahiz, the mysterious figure who summoned magic back into the world decades earlier. A charismatic figure appears, claiming to be Al-Jahiz reborn. While Fatma is initially skeptical, more occurrences seem to back up the man’s claims until his followers threaten to bring about a revolution that threatens Cairo– and the rest of the world. With help from a figure from her past, it’s up to Fatma to unravel the webs around this impostor before he upends society as they know it.

6 thoughts on “2021 Favorites: Fantasy

  1. I loved The Witness for the Dead as well (and will probably re-read it before the next book comes out.) I really should get to the Jade books, which everyone seems to rave about! And I’d like to read The Fourth Island too.Looks like you did some great fantasy reading last year!

  2. I can certainly understand why The Wolf in the Whale made your list, such a great story. And great job to P. Djèlí Clark for making it twice.

  3. P. Djèlí Clark is such a fantastic writer! I’ve loved everything I’ve read by him. The Wolf in the Whale was a fantastic surprise. I figured I would like it, given the subject, but I couldn’t put it down.

  4. I’ll probably reread The Witness for the Dead, too, before the next one comes out. I just love Addison’s work here! Too bad I didn’t love Angel of the Crows as much. And yes! The Green Bone Saga is fantastic! I highly recommend it.

  5. Love the variety of books on your lists. There are several on here I’d like to read as well, like Witness for the Dead, which I’m overdue on reading.
    From your nonfiction list, the hummingbird book and Clean have stuck with me since your review of them. I am curious about both.

  6. Witness for the Dead is so good! I could read a whole book about Thara Celehar drinking tea and looking for a new jacket… Give the others a try! Clean was a pretty quick read and gave me plenty to think about. Glitter in the Green is a little denser, but I thought it was worth it.

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