2021: Fantasy Books In Review

Hello everyone! I hope you are all keeping well.

I was going to do my 2021 review a little later in the year, but Europe seems to moving towards another lockdown, and so I thought some book recommendations might be useful.

I’ve invented quite a few categories – mostly so I can highlight all of my favourite fantasy books that I’ve read this year. Hopefully one or two catches your eye – or will give you some ideas for Christmas presents.

Best Fantasy Debuts

The Blacktongue Thief book blew me away. This is no easy feat, I’ve been reading prolifically since I was about seven. Now nearly thirty years later, I’d say I’ve read more than most. It’s not so easy to topple me from my reading perch.

Absolutely hilarious – it follows a thief called Kinch who is in debt to his guild. To repay the debt he much complete a mission for them, one that he may or may not want to actually do. There is so much magic in this world that it will enthral you. From magical tattoos to legless witches to the measuring of luck, it turns every trope you know on its head, and does so with style.

Seven Deaths of an Empire was a page-turner. Set in a fantasy Roman Empire, which is a period of history I love, this moves along at a brisk pace.

The Emperor is dead. Who killed him and why? Who will replace him? His children have the best claim, but magic also plays a part.

There were also some shocking twists. On two occasions I was very sure I knew where the story was heading, only to have the opposite happen. This again really elevated the story and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

Favourite Series I completed in 2021

Okay – so this dark. Very dark. Not for the faint-hearted and it’s rather violent. Consider yourself warned! However, if grimdark is a genre you like, this trilogy is a masterpiece. So well written, beautiful at times, this story follows Jorg, a completely unlikeable prince, as he begins his quest to avenge the death of his mother and brother.

Every novel gets better and better. There is Prince Jorg, King Jorg – and the would-be Emperor. Each incarnation is more understandable than the last, however, much inner turmoil and redemption must be earned to get there. I honestly just couldn’t look away once I started reading, and this is a series I will definitely go back to one day.

Best Novella

I love a novella! Perfect for when you have a free hour or two, and want to read a complete story by the time you are done.

These two novellas are brilliant and I would recommend them to anyone.

Fireheart Tiger – excellent for those looking a bit of sapphic romance within a court intrigue. I loved the Vietnamese inspired kingdom and mythology too.

Tower of Mud and Straw is brilliant.

If you like literary books, or have ever dabbled in Russian or East European literature, give this a go. As you can imagine from that description, the prose is beautiful. Also the characterisation is brilliant and set in a rather unique SFF world.

Biggest Surprise 5* Read

I’m usually an epic and grimdark fantasy lover. I’d heard amazing things about Senlin Ascends but initially the concept didn’t overly draw me in.

Big mistake. Huge.

This book is amazing, as is the sequel Arm of the Sphinx, and I’m very excited to start The Hod King, which comes next.

Thomas Senlin is an amazing character – who visits The Tower of Babel. En route, he loses his wife, and thus begins a quest to find her. Intricate, thoughtful, and full of insight and humour, this is going to be a classic of the fantasy genre.

Series I’m most Looking forward to completing

I think 2022 might be the year of the First Law. The Blade Itself was an amazing read. Logan is my favourite character so far, though I have a soft spot for all of them, even grumpy Glokta.

Also, I very much want Ardee to find some happiness, though considering this is grimdark, I know I must lower my expectations! 😢

I really enjoyed my first foray into Ursula Le Guin. I can tell from reading A Wizard of Earthsea, that she has had a big influence on the fantasy genre. A little old fashioned in style, which was actually quite nice, the story really pulled me in.

Cold from the North and the sequel The Darkest Dusk are both great reads. It’s classical fantasy adventure and full of feisty princesses, magical artefacts, druids, and warriors. I’m hoping the third book is out next year so I can find out what happens. I’d definitely recommend this series for those with older teenagers who are interested in fantasy. This would be a great series to read together.

Best New Series by an Established Author

This story starts with the downfall of Ithrace, one of the five kingdoms of Garn – which has now become four.

The Firemane royal family are caught and executed once the battle ends, however, the youngest son, only a baby, is rescued and given to an old friend of the now-dead Firemane King.

And this is how our adventure begins. We have a child growing up as an orphan in a island of assassins, a girl assassin who has an uncertain future, a king who is using a new religion to cement his power, a baron who believes a new war is coming, and a young blacksmith looking to find a home and wife.

Raymond E. Feist is an excellent writer and you will not be disappointed with this series. If you enjoyed the political intrigue of Game of Thrones, this is for you.

What can I say about John Gwynne that hasn’t been said? He’s a masterful writer and for those who followed #Norsevember – this will be your cup of tea, believe me!

There are lots of eerie monsters, warriors, kings and thralls. There are three perspectives to read from and the story is brilliantly woven together. And because it’s John Gwynne get ready to shed a tear or two.

My Christmas Reads

These are the two books I’ve been saving for the Christmas period. To savour them, I need blocks of time to left alone, hopefully with a lovely fire and maybe a glass of wine in hand.

Both these series are releasing the second book in the series next year too – which is always nice to know.

Anthony Ryan is one of my favourite authors of all time, so I just know I’m going to devour The Pariah.

The Jasmine Throne – well, the blurb just sounds amazing. I’m really excited about this book and have heard lots of wonderful reviews.

I hope you enjoyed the blog! For the rest of 2021, I will be posting book reviews of what I’ve been reading.

Then at the end of the year, I’m going to do a review of what books I will be reading in 2022. If that interests you, please follow my blog or Twitter account.

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Shauna Lawless is an author and her upcoming series is a historical fantasy set in 10th century, Ireland. The first book, The Children of Gods and Fighting Men, is now available to pre-order.

She lives with her husband, three children, and a cheeky sproodle called Chewy.

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