Must Reads for 2021
Now that I’ve spent all of 2020 doing little monthly lookouts for books I’m excited for, I thought I’d spoil you all with one big list of a bunch of my most anticipated books for next year! This is probably not complete and I’ll very embarrassingly have forgotten something that I’ll remember in a few days, but here goes. I haven’t included any Middle Grade here, if I have the chance I’ll do a separate post for that later, this is all YA and adult! In chronological order of release dates as of November 2020:
Lore by Alexandra Bracken is out on January 5th in the US and January 7th in the UK. This is a modern-set, Greek mythology inspired story of gods, mortals, destiny and power. It sounds like a deliciously addictive read, and I’ve been really enjoying stories inspired by Classical mythology. This is definitely one I’ll devour quickly. Get a copy from Waterstones here.
Lockdown has given us a new appreciation for novellas (at least, in my case) and Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard promises to fill that niche nicely. Out on February 9th, this is a romantic fantasy set in a pre-colonial Vietnam-esque world. The main character is a princess sent away as a hostage as a child, now returned as a diplomat, it features a sapphic romance, and a magical fire that burned down the palace. Order a copy via Portal Bookshop here.
Sold as a cross between Madeline Miller and Norse Mythology, Genevieve Gornichec’s The Witch’s Heart is out on February 9th. I’m extremely excited for this one as it is another one based on mythology, the story of the witch Angrboda who falls in love with Loki. The synopsis really does remind me of Circe, which I loved so much, and I wish I knew more about Norse myths, so I am looking forward to this a lot, and have already been recommending it to a ton of people. It also has an absolutely beautiful cover! You can get a copy from Bookshop here. (affiliate link)
If you’ve listened to me talk about books for any length of time or asked me for queer recs, chances are I’ve been shilling one of Sarah Gailey’s books to you. On February 16th, their latest adult release, The Echo Wife will be published, and I can’t wait. I’ve loved almost everything of theirs that I’ve read, and I have an eARC of this that I really should get around to reading any day now. This story is about a scientist, whose husband cheats on her with the clone created from her own research… But now he’s dead, and they have a mess to clean up. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, get a copy from Bookshop here. (affiliate link)
The Black Coast by Mike Brooks is out on the 17th of February and is an epic fantasy novel featuring war-dragons. How could a list of exciting releases on a site like Libri Draconis not include a book featuring war-dragons?! Featuring a clash of cultures and a critical look on its society, this sounds like a fantastic novel for our times. Not least because it comes highly recommended by the Cabbage Man (I think I would face serious harm if I would dare to leave this one out…). Get a copy from Bookshop here. (affiliate link)
I don’t read a lot of contemporary or romance, but when I do it’s usually queer. I’ve been highly anticipating Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers since it was first announced and I preordered it months ago. A fresh PhD graduate goes to Vegas to blow off some steam after working hard for years – and ends up married to a girl she doesn’t know. A story about being a twenty-something in a messed up world. I think this will be exactly what I need right now. Out on February 23rd, get a copy via Portal Bookshop here.
So I have to preface this with the fact that I’m friends with the agent for this book and he called me excitedly to tell me that he’d just got an offer in on the very first book he was representing. So this was always going to be on this list. But The Second Bell by Gabriela Houston is also here because it sounds like THE most amazing book. Based on Slavic folklore, this is the story of the striga Salka and her mother, outcasts due to Salka’s nature. Striga are born with two hearts and Salka ends up in a life-threatening situation that tests her more than she ever expected… I’ve been begging for an ARC FOREVER but so far I still have to wait along with everyone else until release on March 9th. Get a copy via Waterstones here.
I have absolutely not been waiting for That Way Madness Lies since the anthology was but a rumour. Queer and diverse Shakespeare retellings? YA anthology edited by Dahlia Adler and featuring Anna-Marie McLemore, Cory McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta, Melissa Bashardoust and many more? Catnip. Out on the 16th of March this is so far up on my list that I will be heading out to the Globe to take celebratory pictures the moment I get my copy. Get a copy via Blackwell’s.
March 16th is an excellent day for YA releases, as we also get Anna-Marie McLemore’s latest, The Mirror Season. Most of their books have been five star reads for me, so my hopes are high. Filled with McLemore’s signature magical realism and wonderful prose, this novel tackles sexual assault and more difficult themes than their earlier work. It will be wonderful, tough and queer. And if the cover is any indication, trans as fuck. I can’t wait. Get a copy via Blackwell’s here.
T. L. Huchu’s debut The Library of the Dead is out on March 18th. It combines Zimbabwean magic with an Edinburgh urban setting. Mysteries, ghosts and LIBRARIES. What more does a girl want. I can’t wait to get my hands on the proof that’s currently winging it’s way to me (so expect a review soon). It features a pragmatic heroine and comes endorsed by the king of urban supernatural crime, Ben Aaronovitch! Get a copy via Bookshop here. (affiliate link)
One of my favourite YA books of 2020 was Aiden Thomas’ Cemetery Boys. And on March 23rd, my birthday, I get a second book by them: Lost in the Never Woods! This is a modern retelling of the Peter Pan legend featuring Wendy and a version of Peter and missing kids… It sounds intriguing and it’s the perfect birthday present. Thanks Aiden! Get yourself a copy via Blackwell’s here.
In April we go to space with Charlie Jane Anders’ YA debut out on the 13th. Victories Greater Than Death sounds like a space romp in the vein of Doctor Who, combined with Anders’ signature smart prose. I loved her All the Birds in the Sky and generally think that she’s an amazing person so I want to read everything she writes. From the blurb: “Tina has always known her destiny is outside the norm—after all, she is the human clone of the most brilliant alien commander in all the galaxies (even if the rest of the world is still deciding whether aliens exist). But she is tired of waiting for her life to begin.” And then Tina’s life begins… It sounds amazing. Get a copy via Bookshop here. (affiliate link)
Out on the 13th of April as well is Rena Rossner’s The Light of the Midnight Stars. Just like her first novel, The Sisters of the Winter Wood, this is a combination of fairytale, historical fantasy and Jewish folklore. I adored Rena Rossner’s first book and I’m sure this one will be just as wonderful. A Jewish family has magic descended from King Solomon, but is forced to flee after accusations of witchcraft and abandon their way of life while darkness spreads across Europe… Order a copy via Blackwell’s here.
This next book is one that I’ve been impatiently awaiting since I think Summer 2019? Sistersong by Lucy Holland is set in post-Roman Britain, around the period of the Saxon invasion. Based on legend, this is the story of three siblings, afraid of confinement. Their story will shape the destiny of Britain. This is one of the books on this list that I’m most keen on, so bring it on, April 15th. Order a copy via Bookshop here. (affiliate link)
Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart is a Jamaican-inspired witchy YA fantasy. A book about revenge and power, it sounds absolutely addictive and amazing. I absolutely love delving into different cultures via books, so this one is very high up my priority list and the stunning cover has only helped it. It’s out on April 20th and you can order a copy via Waterstones here.
P. Djèlí Clark is famous for his short fiction. In 2021, he will finally grace us with his full-length novel debut, A Master of Djinn! Out on May 11th, this is set in the same multi-award nominated alternate Cairo as some of his most famous work. He is a master writer, and I can’t wait to dive deeper into his imagination and read a longer work. Featuring Fatma el-Sha’arawi again, the novel revolves around a murderer claiming to be the famous al-Jahiz returned… Oh, and have I mentioned it’s queer? Get a copy from Portal Bookshop here.
After her regency England duology, Zen Cho treats us to a book set in her native Malaysia this time. Black Water Sister is also out on the 11th of May and features a reluctant medium. After moving back to Malaysia, Jess starts to hear a voice claiming to be her grandmother, Ah Ma, in her head. In life, Ah Ma was a spirit medium and avatar of the mysterious deity Black Water Sister. Jess finds herself drawn into a strange new world lurking with danger… Order this one from Bookshop here. (affiliate link)
A third book out on May 11th, Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa is just as exciting as the other two. This is a great day for new releases. The beginning of a trilogy set around a disillusioned scholar and a skin-changing warrior from a group of islands that supposedly don’t exists promises to sweep the reader away. Featuring conspiracies, suppressed histories and magic only found in lore, Son of the Storm is one to watch out for! Order a copy from Bookshop here! (affiliate link)
A week later, on the 18th, A. M. Strickland’s In the Ravenous Dark is released. The MC is a pansexual bloodmage, and the book features a love triangle with a princess and a spirit. She can’t trust either, and there’s rebellion and betrayal and I’m in love with the cover. Supposedly there will also be ace rep (confirmed by the author). A YA dark fantasy to look out for! Order a copy via Blackwell’s here.
The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin is an exciting YA fantasy debut that does exactly what it says in the title. It is story about witches based on nature and a world where they maintain the climate. Out on June 1st, The Nature of Witches features Clara, a rare witch whose powers are tied to every season. It is sapphic, it is apocalyptic, and it sounds glorious. The witches’ power is faltering as their control over the atmosphere becomes erratic and Clara is the only one that can save them… Get a copy via Blackwell’s here.
Linsey Miller’s last fantasy, Belle Révolte was one of my favourite YA titles of 2020, so I’m very excited for What We Devour, out on June 6th. Promising to be a dark fantasy with an ace protagonist, in a world demanding sacrifice, this sounds like a great book addressing some heavier subjects. Keep in mind that the author has already added some trigger warnings on Goodreads for self-harm among other things, so this does go into the darker side of the protagonist’s mind. It still sounds like a book ultimately trying to send a hopeful message and I’m very keen to read it. Order a copy from Blackwell’s here.
Another entry in the stunning book covers of 2021, Daughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews is a YA debut out on June 8th. A feminist reworking of the myth of Daphne and Apollo has young Daphne retrieve nine mysterious items stolen from Mount Olympus to save her brother, the Gods of Olympus and the entire mortal world that hangs in the balance. An epic adventure based on Classic mythology, this sounds like a fantastic read. Order a copy via Blackwell’s here.
Sapphic Indian fantasy? Yes please! The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri is out on June 10th and I can’t wait. I need more sapphic books in my life, and forbidden magic and captive princesses sound like the perfect things to attract me to a book. Oh and have I mentioned that there’s morally grey characters and vengeance? Get yourself a copy via Bookshop here. (affiliate link)
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan is out on July 20th, finally. The wait for this book has been excruciatingly long. This epic alt-history set in medieval China features a genderqueer MC… A tale for those of us who grew up on Mulan but crave more – a queerer, more authentic story without the interference of Disney. Order a copy via Bookshop here. (affiliate link)
I’ve been a huge fan of Victoria Lee’s writing since her debut and A Lesson in Vengeance sounds amazing. Dark academia featuring lesbians, rumours of witchcraft and mysterious deaths? Please give it to me now! Sadly we all have to wait until August 3rd to meet disaster girls Felicity and Ellis… This one will break our hearts and keep us up at night. Order your copy via Blackwell’s here.
Jay Kristoff, author of the much beloved Nevernight series is finally back with a new adult series! Empire of the Vampire is out on September 3rd after a verrry long wait – I for one am ready to get back into vampires. It’ll be dark and edgy and awesome. This world hasn’t seen the sun in twenty-seven years, making it an ideal environment for the creatures of the night. The MC, Gabriel, an ex-monster slayer tells the story of his eventful life and the Grail, prophesied to bring an end to the eternal night… Order a copy via Bookshop here. (affiliate link)
T.J. Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea was one of the most heart-warming books of 2020. So I can’t wait for his 2021 book Under the Whispering Door, out on September 21st. This is a story about a man who refuses to cross over into the afterlife and instead falls in love with the ferryman. It sounds just as adorable, heartbreaking and amazing as the last book and I hope it will be just what I need once more. Get a copy via Blackwell’s here.
There isn’t too much known about Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood yet. It’s supposed to be published in Fall 2021 as part of Wednesday Books series of diverse retellings of classic novels – reinterpreting Jane Eyre based on Ethiopian mythology. Jane has always been my favourite of the Gothic heroines, so I’m very much looking forward to this! No pre-order links are available yet, so make sure to save it to your Goodreads by clicking on the title above.
Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan will be released on November 2nd. It is a YA fantasy inspired by Chinese mythology and features catnip such as an adorable lesbian couple, a revenge plot, a dodgy priest, a sad reluctant prince and more. This was already supposed to come out in 2020 but moved imprints, so I’ve been waiting for this for a LONG TIME and I need it in my hands NOW. There is also stealing souls. It sounds so good. No pre-orders here yet either…
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske does not have a release date yet at all. We just know it’s coming out in 2021 and it’ll be a good one. Announced as a historical fantasy full of magic and conspiracies set in Edwardian England, it features Robin and Edwin, and “rather a lot of sex” as the author herself said. Sounds like another hit for Tor.com! Again, no pre-orders yet, but keep an eye out!
Slated for publication in Winter 2021, The Book of Living Secrets by Madeline Roux is one of those delicious books about books. A standalone YA about a girl following her best friend into their favourite fantasy novel… Only to find out that the novel’s heroine hasn’t actually been told the whole story and now she doesn’t want to let them leave again. Sounds like a fantastic concept and I’m looking forward to it! Again, no order link, but add it to your Goodreads!