In 2021 I finished 70 books, with an average rating of 4.24. It’s been a pretty awesome year and I’ve discovered a lot of new favourites.
In no particular order, here were my top reads:
Hostage of Empire series by S. C. Emmett
Two queens, two concubines, six princes.
Innumerable secret agendas.
A single hidden blade.
The imperial palace — full of ambitious royals, sly gossip and unforeseen perils — is perhaps the most dangerous place in the Empire of Zhaon. Komor Yala, lady-in-waiting to the princess of the vanquished kingdom of Khir, has only her wits and her hidden blade to protect herself and her charge, who was sacrificed in marriage to the enemy as a hostage for her conquered people’s good behaviour, to secure a tenuous peace.
But the Emperor is ageing and the Khir princess and her lady-in-waiting soon find themselves pawns in the six princes’ deadly schemes for the throne — and a single spark could ignite fresh rebellion in Khir.
Then, the Emperor falls ill — and a far bloodier game begins…
The Throne of the Five Winds is the first instalment of the Hostage of Empire series, an intricate and ruthless East Asia-inspired epic fantasy trilogy perfect for fans of George R. R. Martin, Ken Liu, Kate Elliott, and K. Arsenault Rivera.
I read books one and two in Hostage of Empire in 2021, and they both deserve to be on this list.
At first I was afraid The Throne of the Five Winds wouldn’t quite be my style, because it has a certain intricacy to it that isn’t normally to my taste. There’s a large focus on small details and propriety, like the way you pour tea. It’s very much a “read between the lines” kind of book… and I adored it.
I was a little nervous going into The Poison Prince because I loved The Throne of the Five Winds so much and I was afraid book two wouldn’t live up… but it absolutely did! Book two solidified by love for this series as a whole.
I’m more excited than ever for the third book, The Bloody Throne.
The Last Watch (Divide Series, #1) by J. S. Dewes
The Expanse meets Game of Thrones in J. S. Dewes’s fast-paced, sci-fi adventure The Last Watch, where a handful of soldiers stand between humanity and annihilation.
It’s the edge of the universe.
Now it’s collapsing―and taking everyone and everything with it.
The only ones who can stop it are the Sentinels―the recruits, exiles, and court-martialed dregs of the military.
At the Divide, Adequin Rake commands the Argus. She has no resources, no comms―nothing, except for the soldiers that no one wanted. Her ace in the hole could be Cavalon Mercer–genius, asshole, and exiled prince who nuked his grandfather’s genetic facility for “reasons.”
She knows they’re humanity’s last chance.
Both The Last Watch and the sequel, The Exiled Fleet, are on my top reads of 2021 list. The Expanse meets Game of Thrones (specifically the Night’s Watch) is a pretty accurate representation. This series has a brilliant cast of characters and an exciting plot. It’s getting a third book and I’m so thrilled that we’ll have more to the story! (I heard the author is actually hoping it will be five books overall.)
Of Blood and Fire (The Bound and The Broken, #1) by Ryan Cahill
Born in fire. Tempered in blood.
Epheria is a land divided by war and mistrust. The High Lords of the South squabble and fight, only kept in check by the Dragonguard, traitors of a time long past, who serve the empire of the North.
In the remote villages of southern Epheria, still reeling from the tragic loss of his brother, Calen Bryer prepares for The Proving – a test of courage and skill that not all survive.
But when three strangers arrive in the village of Milltown, with a secret they are willing to die for, Calen’s world is ripped from under him and he is thrust headfirst into a war that has been raging for centuries.
There is no prophecy. His coming was not foretold.
He bleeds like any man, and bleed he will.
If you’re a fan of Eragon (and don’t mind some pretty large similarities), then you have to check out Of Blood and Fire. This is the new dragonrider book you’ve been waiting for! I devoured this book and I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about book two from the early reviews.
Lot Lands series by Jonathan French
I read all three Lot Lands books in 2021 and I adored them all. This series is crass, vulgar, and misogynistic, but I adored it. This is the first series in a long time that really absorbed me. It builds an amazing world, culture, and friendship between the characters that’s completely addicting.
Jonathan French really nailed the ending too. Oats is a wonderful character, and the second half of The Free Bastards in particular really took off in an intense, emotional, heart-wrenching way. This was probably one of my most emotional reads this year. It’s one of those few times where instead of rushing through to the end, I really savoured every moment. I didn’t want the series to be over!
“Live in the saddle, die on the hog.”
The Jasmine Throne (The Burning Kingdoms, #1) by Tasha Suri
One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne.
The other is a priestess searching for her family.
Together, they will change the fate of an empire.
Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of powerful magic – but is now little more than a decaying ruin.
Priya is a maidservant, one of several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to attend Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, as long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides. But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled . . .
I had high expectations for The Jasmine Throne but it lived up to all of them! I adored the empire setting, the two main characters, the romance potential…
The Oleander Sword is definitely on my most anticipated list for 2022!
The Unbroken (Magic of the Lost, #1) by C. L. Clark
In a political fantasy unlike any other, debut author C. L. Clark spins an epic tale of rebellion, espionage, and military might on the far outreaches of a crumbling desert empire.
Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.
Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.
Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.
Here’s another book that was on my most highly anticipated books of 2021 list, and I’m thrilled that it’s now making my top reads. The Unbroken was everything I hoped it would be. Rebellion, military, loyalty… I’m so excited about the rest of this series!
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
A lone astronaut.
An impossible mission.
An ally he never imagined.
Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission – and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.
Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.
All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.
His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery-and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.
And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone.
Or does he?
An irresistible interstellar adventure as only Andy Weir could imagine it, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian — while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.
I think we all had high hopes for Project Hail Mary. For me, at least, it exceeded them all.
This book was just pure fun. A tad less science-intense than The Martian, but with more lighthearted fun and discovery.
I remember this book sending me into an awful reading slump. Nothing I read after could even remotely compare. It took me a long time to enjoy a book again after this!
The Age of Madness series by Joe Abercrombie
I actually got off to a semi-rough start with Joe Abercrombie. I first tried The Blade Itself but couldn’t finish it. I might give it another shot now though!
Then I decided to try The Age of Madness series and I absolutely adored it! I think The Trouble with Peace ended up being my favourite of the lot, but all of them were very good.
The Stone Knife (The Songs of the Drowned, #1) by Anna Stephens
A fantasy epic of freedom and empire, gods and monsters, love, loyalty, honour, and betrayal, from the acclaimed author of GODBLIND.
For generations, the forests of Ixachipan have echoed with the clash of weapons, as nation after nation has fallen to the Empire of Songs – and to the unending, magical music that binds its people together. Now, only two free tribes remain.
The Empire is not their only enemy. Monstrous, scaled predators lurk in rivers and streams, with a deadly music of their own.
As battle looms, fighters on both sides must decide how far they will go for their beliefs and for the ones they love – a veteran general seeks peace through war, a warrior and a shaman set out to understand their enemies, and an ambitious noble tries to bend ancient magic to her will.
I had some initial doubts about liking The Stone Knife. It’s the monsters. “Monsters” aren’t usually my type of read. However, I finally decided to give it a shot so I could decide if I wanted to buy the Goldsboro edition of the second book, and I’m glad I pushed myself!
The Stone Knife really shines in its portrayal of empire and freedom. This book is pretty heart-wrenching, as you watch the empire try to conquer the final nations that have no desire to be anything but free. And despite its length (600 pages), it’s actually a pretty quick and eventful read.
So, yes, I absolutely will be preordering The Jaguar Path!
Embers of War (Embers of War, #1) by Gareth L. Powell
The sentient warship Trouble Dog was built for violence, yet following a brutal war, she is disgusted by her role in a genocide. Stripped of her weaponry and seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress. When a civilian ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, are sent on a rescue mission.
Meanwhile, light years away, intelligence officer Ashton Childe is tasked with locating the poet, Ona Sudak, who was aboard the missing spaceship. What Childe doesn’t know is that Sudak is not the person she appears to be. A straightforward rescue turns into something far more dangerous, as Trouble Dog, Konstanz and Childe find themselves at the centre of a conflict that could engulf the entire galaxy. If she is to save her crew, Trouble Dog is going to have to remember how to fight…
Embers of War was my second to last read of 2021, and it was AMAZING! I had so much fun with this book; it’s exactly the kind of sci-fi I love.
I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy in 2022!
Rhythm of War (Stormlight Archive, #4) by Brandon Sanderson
Rhythm of War was my first book of the year, and what a way to start it off! This continued to solidify my love of the Stormlight Archive series. I ended up going a little crazy and bought prints of the official artwork to put all around my house.
Voice of War (Threadlight, #1) by Zack Argyl
The world will change forever…
While preparing for the birth of his first child, Chrys Valerian is tasked with uncovering the group responsible for a series of missing threadweavers–those able to see and manipulate threadlight. With each failure, the dark voice in his head grows louder, begging to be released.
A young girl from a secret city in the center of the Fairenwild veers off course to explore the streets of Alchea, never expecting that her journey would end in chains.
Far in the deserts to the south, a young man’s life changes after he dies.
When Chrys learns who is responsible for the missing threadweavers, they come for him and his family. He must do everything in his power to protect those he loves, even if it means trusting strangers or, worse, the growing voice in his mind.
Together, these three will change the world–whether they intend to or not.
I highly recommend Voice of War for fans of The Stormlight Archive. The magic system is very similar, but there are still plenty of unique elements. I bought this one kind of on a whim (The Broken Binding was selling signed and numbered copies!) but I’m so glad I did.
Riyria Revelations series by Michael J. Sullivan
I didn’t actually read the entire series in 2021 — just books one and two. But book three will be my first read of 2022!
The Riyria Revelations series is everything that I heard people say about it: good fun, adventures, and one of the best friendships between two characters.
I’m thrilled to know that once I finish Riyria Revelations there are still so many other books in the world to read (including Legends of the First Empire and The Rise and Fall).
Overall I consider 2021 to be pretty amazing books-wise. I continued to DNF ruthlessly, which left me loving nearly everything I did finish.
There’s so much to look forward to in 2022. Be sure to check out our list of 13 fantasy 2022 releases to put on your radar!