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Tuesday, January 5, 2021

2020 Review/2021 Preview - Caitlin Grieve

 


When it came to books in 2020, there were treasures to be found in every one of my reading niches. From standalones to series finales, YA to adult, there were a LOT of good books in 2020. Below are my absolute favorites, in no particular order.  

 


SHOREFALL by Robert Jackson Bennett
OK, I know I started this post by saying this list was in no particular order, but if I’m being honest this was my top read of 2020. Nothing else released this year has come close for me. I really enjoy everything about this world: the characters, the magic system, the plot. SHOREFALL is the kind of book that put me on the edge of my seat fairly early on, and I remained there for the rest of the story. Action-packed, tense, with moments that broke my heart and a jaw-dropping ending. If you’re looking for a hard magic-system and action, you should absolutely pick up FOUNDRYSIDE and SHOREFALL.



RACE THE SANDS by Sarah Beth Durst
While I’ve been aware of Durst as an author, this was the first book of hers that I read and it did not disappoint. A standalone fantasy novel about an older woman who works as a monster-rider trainer, and the young woman she takes under her wing to train as a rider, RACE THE SANDS appears to simply be a fantasy girl-and-her-horse story. But what the jacket doesn’t tell you is that there’s also a fairly tense political situation happening in the palace at the same time, and the two storylines eventually intersect in both expected and unexpected ways. If you like monsters, kick-ass-women, and some light contemplation on what makes a person choose to be good or bad, add this one to your stack.



NIGHT OF THE DRAGON by Julie Kagawa
The final book in the SHADOW OF THE FOX trilogy continues the feat of somehow feeling like an anime in written form. It originally focused on Yumeko, a half-kitsune, half-human girl, and Tatsumi, a fully human samurai, but since then has broadened to include a ronin, a prince, and a cleric. Together, the band is trying to stop the Master of Demons from unleashing an army that will end this world. The action scenes are dynamic and captivating, and the finale left me sobbing, a truly rare accomplishment. If you’re looking for a Japanese-inspired tale with all kinds of weird monsters and villains and sword fights that feel lifted from an anime, this one is for you.



THE BURNING GOD by R.F. Kuang
Another finale broke me this year, but we all knew it would. THE BURNING GOD is the third book in THE POPPY WAR trilogy, a series that has gained a reputation for its brutal depictions of the horrors of war. The “hero” of the story, Rin, began her journey simply as an orphan trying to get a better education, but now she’s leading armies in nationwide wars. THE BURNING GOD continues a blistering look at war, colonization, and the compromises one makes in order to survive. Rin continues to be complex and flawed, and her descent into paranoia towards the end of the book was a tragedy you couldn't look away from. A perfect read for those who like their fantasy dark with characters you find yourself rooting for, even if you would NEVER be friends with them.



THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE by Victoria Schwab
ADDIE LARUE to me comes off as an adult fairy tale, a standalone novel that compelled me to keep reading “just one more chapter” to see how the story would unfold. Addie LaRue is a woman who made a deal with a devil to live forever. She quickly discovers, however, that the cost is that no one will ever remember her once she leaves their sight. Addie continues with this existence, figuring out the boundaries of her curse and how to live it until the day she walks into a bookstore in 21st century New York and the proprietor manages to remember her. ADDIE LARUE alternates between the modern storyline and Addie’s past, and eventually introduces Henry as a POV character, who has his own secrets. For those who like light fantasy and romance, this is worth a read.

 

VIDEO GAMES

But it wasn't just books that kept me sane this year. More than ever, video games stepped up to keep me from going completely stir crazy. Whether it was wandering spooky halls haunted by paranormal entities in CONTROL or swinging through New York as it's newest hero, SPIDER-MAN: MILES MORALES, I found plenty to keep me entertained. And let's not forget the many MANY times I died trying to escape the underworld in HADES or the many MANY hours I have so far put into being a Viking in ASSASSIN'S CREED VALHALLA. 

But what am I looking forward to in 2021? Certainly more books! At the moment, three in particular have caught my eye, with many more on my list!

 


THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN by Becky Chambers
Becky Chambers has earned an amazing reputation for her sci-fi books that are full of emotional heart. They focus on the people, not intergalactic situations, while still painting a fascinating future world. This book will be the fourth and final entry in her loosely connected WAYFARERS series, and I'm very much looking forward to some sci-fi hot cocoa. 

 


A DESOLATION CALLED PEACE by Arkady Martine
A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE was one of my favorite reads of 2019, so it's not shocking that I am extremely excited for the sequel. This time, our heros are dealing with first contact with a new species, something that was teased at in book one. Martine walked a line of space politics and murder mystery in her last outing, and I can't wait to see what direction the series takes from here.

 


THE JASMINE THRONE by Tasha Suri
Thus far, I've only read Suri's EMPIRE OF SAND, but I'm very eager to read more of her work. EMPIRE OF SAND featured a heroine that proved you don't have to be an action star to save the day, and I applaud the quiet strength that managed to shatter the evil that held onto the land. THE JASMINE THRONE begins a new trilogy inspired by Indian epics, with a queer romance at the center. 

 And that's a wrap on a look back and a look forward! Here's to 2021, may it be in all ways better than the disaster year of 2020, and may it continue to bring us incredible books to read!

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